Color Game

Fiction by | November 17, 2019

Nangiyugpos si Lisa samtang nagtan-aw sa bola nga bag-o lang gibuhian ni Jude. Iya gyod kining gihatod sa iyang panan-aw sa matag kanto nga ligiran niini samtang gapugong sa iyang gininhawa. Ang kakulba nga dugay niyang gipahiluna sa iyang kaugalingon mora na pod og bomba nga mipaulbo sa kapuwa sa iyang dagway ilabi na sa higayon nga mohinay na ang pagligid sa bola ug mosimhot sa numero nga iyang gipustahan.

“Onse lang!” siyagit ni Lisa samtang nagkumo sa duha niya ka kamot.

“Baynte singko!” matod pa sa bolador nga midali-dalig hakop sa mga pusta nga nangapilde.

“Peste baya aning yawaa, uy! Mipusta ko ganiha sa baynte singko, ang migawas onse. Karon nga mipusta ko sa onse, mibalik na pod ang baynte singko. Animal baya ani, uy!” yawyaw ni Lisa nga nagpangawot sa iyang ulo human mapilde ang iyang baynte pesos nga sugal.

Taudtaod, miabot si Lloyd. “Ayay! Daogan na ka diha, Sang? Daghan na man lagi kag gikumo,” bugalbugal niini dalang kusog nga agik-ik. “Manglibre na man sad kaha ni ron, ha-ha!”

Naa na sad ning sige og paghingi, ay. Nagdala lang nis malas ang buang, bawong pildero ta, ni Lisa sa kaugalingon samtang mihatag og taphaw nga katawa kang Lloyd.

“Unsay sige og gawas, Sang?”

“Bisan unsa man lang. Pusta na diha, kaganiha ra baya na sige gawas imong numero.”

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Beside them, the body

Fiction by | November 10, 2019

Is all that matters, is the most precious thing in the basement of Memorial Medical Center. Outside the mortuary, by the landing of the stairs, a laboratory technician taps her foot against the white tiles, lays a hand on her cheek. She thinks this gesture implies innocence or ignorance. This will improve her image for the officers in uniform trying to reach the body. But they are not looking at her, because for them, the body is all that matters.

The body is the person stripped of subjectivity. It is futile to describe the body to evoke the reader’s horror at the mangled state it’s in. It is enough to say that, in addition to subjectivity, the body is stripped of many things. The transition from person to body has been violent. As a person, she was Justine Fuego, 19, a chemistry student from the state university. During the Diliman Commune, she helped her fellow batchmates make Molotov cocktails to throw at military helicopters hovering overhead that attempted to disperse their collective. That was six months ago. Five months ago, she joined Kabataang Makabayan. Four months ago, she lived with farmers in Davao del Norte. Two months ago, she was organizing workers in Tondo. Now, she is the body in the mortuary.

There is a group of students and a teacher keeping watch over the body. The teacher is a math instructor at Justine’s university. She teaches Introduction to Calculus. She was supposed to introduce derivatives to her class earlier that morning. But after finishing breakfast, she received a call that Justine’s remains had been found, prompting her to meet up with some other Kabataang Makabayan members to retrieve the body. When they reached it, the operation turned from retrieval to protection as the officers in uniform arrived.

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Lila

Fiction by | October 20, 2019

BAI LOOKED AT me again and again. Maybe it was because my eyes were so puffy from barely having any sleep, but that was no excuse to keep glancing at me in class. I gave her a look.

“Did she talk to you again?” Bai whispered.

I turned towards the blackboard and nodded.

“Do you want to share baon today?” she asked. I told her yes.

After class, we waited until everyone else went to the canteen. Bai swiveled in her chair to face me and crossed her arms.

“Inah says we should choose our own friends. She’s right, you know.”

“Did she make you tuna sandwich?” I asked. “You can’t eat mine, it’s eggs and pork.”

“That’s three days now. Mrs. Corazon probably knows we’re sharing.”

“You can have my juice.”

Bai spent the rest of recess trying to help me understand the math lesson ahead. She explained things simpler than the teacher. As always, I understood better with her.

By the time the bell rang, I was feeling proud of myself. Bai pinched both of my cheeks.

“You did it!” she said. “You should smile more, Lila. You look like a teddy bear.”

“Teddy bear?” I asked. I thought of a huge, brown thing, the one people won at carnivals for hitting the bull’s eye. “That big?”

“Oh, I didn’t mean it like that, Lila!”

“It’s fine,” I said. “Mama says I should start exercising, anyway.”

“What did she say this time?” asked Bai.

“The same,” I said in a tiny voice. “She said I’m not supposed to be friends with you anymore.” I pursed my lips and busied myself with putting away my lunch box. When she was sad, Bai pouted and widened her eyes like a puppy. She only did that when she felt really bad for me, which was becoming more and more often.

Bai adjusted the veil covering her hair. It was pink today. She held my arm and said, “Let’s go buy some stuff at the mall after class, okay? I’ll tutor you on the way.”

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Gunting

Fiction by | October 7, 2019

Pinagmamalaki ko ang itay ko! Bakit? Kasi marami siyang kwentong barbero. Malamang, barbero siya e. Sa dinami-rami pa naman ng kanyang ginugupitan araw-araw, marami na siyang istoryang nakalap. Bawat kostumer, may tsismis. Ngunit ang nakapagpapasaya na usap-usapan sa kanya nang lubusan? Ang tungkol sa kanyang galing sa paggupit.

Nakakahamangha si itay sa bawat seryosong tingin niya sa tamang anggulo ng gupit ng kanyang ginugupitan. Nakakaaliw tingnan ang kanyang malilikot na kamay at daliri sa kakagupit at kakasuklay ng mga hibla ng buhok. Nakakatuwa ang bawat ngiti niya kapag nakukuha niya nang sakto ang gusto niyang kahihinatnan sa kanyang obra. Oo, ito ay kanyang obra. Obrang gawa sa kamay. Obrang gawa sa pawis. Obrang gawa sa bahing. Obrang gawa sa kati. Obrang gawa ni itay.

Subalit iyon lahat ay naging isang kwentong barbero na lamang.

Hindi na marunong gumupit si itay. Dalawampu’t-limang taon na ako ngayon. Sampung taon na rin nung huli ko siyang nakitang humawak ng gunting na panggupit. Ang kanyang mga gamit pambarbero ay nakatago na lahat sa kanyang silid. Hindi na siya nagtatrabaho… ngayon. Hindi na siya barbero… ngayon. Nawala na ang kanyang angking galing sa paggugupit. Nakalimutan na niya lahat.

Nakalimutan na niya.

Araw ng Linggo, wala akong trabaho sa ospital. Kaya sinama ko si itay mamasyal. Pumunta kami sa isang peryahan. Doon ay nagliwaliw kami nang sobra. Sinakyan namin halos lahat ng rides doon nang magkasabay. Naglaro pa si itay ng baril-barilan kung saan kung may matamaan kang target ay iyon ang iyong premyo. Napatawa pa nga ako dahil ang natamaan niya ay isang wig. Magkasabay din kaming kumain ng hapunan doon pa rin sa peryahan. Maraming natutuwa sa amin kasi magkamukha kami ni itay, siguro ay dahil sa parehas kami ng damit, nga lang may suot akong bonnet. Lapitin din kami ng mga babae nang mga panahon na iyon. Napapatawa nalang kami ni itay.

Kalat na ang dilim nang pagpasyahan naming umuwi na, pero umangal ako. May pupuntahan pa kami. Saan? Sa barber shop ni itay.

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Home (Part 2)

Fiction by | September 8, 2019

They were having dinner at home later that evening. Aunt Laura had prepared bihon and fried tuna. Alegria made a joke about politicians, which caused Uncle Reyes to spill bits of bihon on his shirt. They were eating and laughing together. Then Tristan said, “I want to go back to Zamboanga.”

“Are you tired?” Alegria said. “Do you miss it there?”

“I just want to go home,” Tristan said.

“Don’t act like a child,” Alegria said. “It’s better to visit Mom and Dad in November. You still have classes. And I’m busy with work.”

They did not understand. Tristan again stuffed a large amount into his mouth, that he could not completely close it while chewing. “One at a time, Tristan!” Aunt Laura reprimanded. “Equal to the size of the spoon.”

“He’s not a child anymore, Laura,” Uncle Reyes said.

“He sure is acting like one.”

Tristan dropped his spoon loudly on the table, which only Alegria noticed.

“Hey!” Alegria said. “What’s the matter with you? Stop saying nonsense like that. Finish your food.”

Then the anger of Tristan was kindled against his sister. “Who attacked our city?!” Tristan shouted. Uncle Reyes stopped midway, and Aunt Laura, drinking water, spilled some on her neck. “Wasn’t it the MNLF? They separated us from mom and dad. Aren’t you angry at all?”

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Home (Part 1)

Fiction by | September 1, 2019

Tristan was twelve years old when they invaded. His family lived in the barangay near the coastline where the rebels landed. They burned down his family’s home, one of the many. The four of them fled on foot: Tristan, his father, mother, and older sister Alegria. None brought anything with them except the clothes on their skins. Alegria was falling behind. Tristan’s mother pulled his hand tightly as she called out to his father, who ran ahead, shouting at him to slow down. His father said something Triste could not remember, because halfway through his sentence his father suddenly stopped speaking.

His mother screamed just as she fell on the asphalt, dragging Tristan down with her. He fell open-mouthed, and a piece of his front tooth broke when his face hit the ground. His mother became voiceless.

He could not remember his mother’s exact final moments. Alegria grabbed him before the image could sink in, carried him on her shoulder as he continued to cry, and ran as fast as she could, never looking back. Tristan didn’t want to, but he looked back.

How long had they been running? He had lost the will to cry. He seemed like a corpse on her sister’s shoulder. Alegria struggled to carry him; he was not a small child anymore, and he was almost as heavy as she was now. But she pushed on, like there was some invisible force screaming at her that she must carry him, else he dies. When she could no longer bear her brother’s weight, she stumbled in an abandoned street and scraped both her knees, as her hands embraced Tristan so he wouldn’t fall with her. Then there were people in the distance, running toward them. Alegria’s legs couldn’t muster the strength. They were coming closer. And they were carrying guns.

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Banig

Fiction by | August 11, 2019

“Kanus-a di–diay mouli si Mama, Pa?” pangutana sa siyete-anyos nga bata.

“Katulog na lagi! Ayaw na og pangutana, Rem. Lili-a ra god ang langit. Talagsaon na lang kaayo moduaw ang ulan. Nag-problema nako. Unsaon na lang ang atong kahumayan. Ako na lang biya usa ang nag-atiman ato.” tubag dala singhag ni Dodong samtang gahapnig sa banig aron higdaan nila sa iyang anak nga si Rem-Rem.
Mabatian sa amahan ang pagkabalaka apan nakita niini nga dili gyod madala og kasaba ang iyang anak matag udto. Ikapila na sad niya mabantayi ang anak nga gahinuktok sa paborito niining ginapongkoan nga bangko.

Dili mapugngan sa amahan nga mabalaka. Ug sa walay pagduha-duha, gihawiran niya sa abaga ang bata ug gidala niya kini padulong sa bintana nga gama sa kawayan. Padayon silang gatan-aw sa dag-om nga nakahatag og rason sa amahan aron mobuhig tam-is nga ngisi.

“Milagaro! Usa ka milagro! Salamat, Ginoo.” ingon sa amhan. Hinay-hinayng mibuhi ang amahan sa abaga sa iyang anak. Nabantayan kini ni Rem-rem ug nahilom siya.

Sukad mibiya ang inahan ni Rem-Rem sa ilang panimalay sa bukid, mao pud ang pagkawala sa iyang gana nga matulog kada udto. Maski si Dodong wala nasayod sa tinuod nga rason nganong kalit kining mibiya. Walay pagpananghid kaniya o kay Rem-rem. Kon buot hunahunaon, kuwatro anyos pa si Ren-ren sa pagbiya sa iyang asawa. Walay rason para layasan ang anak sa iyang pagkapuya.

Usa lang ka rason ang iyang nahunahunaan: posibleng milayas kini sa ila ug miuban sa iyang ka-textmate sa pikas baryo. Ambot lang sad kon unsa ka tinuod ang mga tsismis nga gapanglupad sa ilang lugar. Pero kini ra ang mahunahunaan ni Dodong luyo sa pagkawala sa asawa sama sa usa ka bituon nga hagbay rang mibuto.

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Seat Plan

Fiction by | August 4, 2019

An excerpt

You are at school. The teacher decides to change the seat plan since the current one isn’t working out. It’s her fault for putting the good kids on one side and the shitty ones on the other. What did she expect you shitty students do? Actually study? Of course you’re going to cheat. Too bad one of your friends got caught writing keywords on the palm of his hand. You told Jimmy to write on the sides of his fingers instead so he can cover them up. He didn’t listen, and now he’s serving a week of community service while the rest of you have to transfer seats. The teacher talks about this phenomenon called the ripple effect where the “actions of one can have an indirect and drastic effect on others”—her words, not yours. She is in a good mood, so she decides to let everyone pick where they want to sit. Of course, she’ll make some changes once everyone has settled down. But for the most part, the students’ choices matter.

Miraculously, Jade Teñoso is absent. Apparently, she’s off attending some relatives’ wedding somewhere in Davao. You think it’s most likely at Eden Resort. Jade’s relatives are loaded, except for her family, though. Jade’s father got into a fight with his father who decided to disown him and his family. The grandfather’s long been buried six feet under so everyone’s welcomed them back with open arms. They’re still poor, though. No one’s bothered to give them a million pesos or something. And how do you know all this? Well, you learn a lot about someone if you’ve lived beside them for the past sixteen years.

You’ve wanted her seat for a long time. Besides the fact that you can’t see shit from where you’re sitting, which really far from the board. She sits beside that friend of hers you think is quite the looker. Nadine’s her name, and you usually waste the hours in class staring at her back, at the cost of your quiz scores.

With Jade out of the way, you’ll get to spend the rest of the year besides your one and only love (your Ate laughed at you when you told her this and shook her head).

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