Fiction by | May 8, 2023

The vigorous lapping of the waves signaled the arrival of Omar first, even before his

brother heard the familiar sound of the outrigger boat. Perhaps it was the six-hour bumpy van ride from downtown pueblo, followed by the stomach-churning two-hour banca ride until the easternmost coast of the Moro Gulf, but Omar swore there was that persistent low-pitch vibration that filled his ears with a whimper. Omar held his nose shut, and then blew into it. The whirring sound was still there. He yawned a couple of times—POP! Pressure finally equalized in his Eustachian tube. It had been years since he last visited his hometown, but one did not simply forget the lessons of one’s youth.

His brother, Abdel, was waiting for him by the docking site at the edge of a makeshift hut on bamboo stilts. What he lost in weight, he gained in the length of beard that now reached up to his chest. With his plain white robe and black skull cap, Omar thought Abdel looked like an Imam and felt suddenly uncomfortable in his sweat-drenched shirt and jeans.

Abdel extended his arms to welcome his little brother. “As salaam alaikum,” he said, and proceeded to engulf Omar in a tight embrace.

Omar was caught off-guard, but managed a meek “Wa alaikum saalam” in response. The words rolled out strangely in his tongue. He glanced at his phone that he had been clutching and realized, much to his dismay, that there was no signal on this island.

“Can you believe it? After decades of hiding, Tigburacao finally decided to resurface.”

Abdel gestured to the island before them—their hut was the only establishment there, the sand pink-and-white and pristine, huge casts of crabs skittering about, and lush mangrove forests that seemed appealing and uninviting at once.

Omar looked around. The mainland coast was practically invisible here. Their hut, although glaringly basic, had solar panels rigged up on its roof. Inside, there were only a couple of mats rolled neatly and stacked against one side, a laptop on a table made from a century-old tree trunk, the tail of a ray fish hung by the window for protection. A smaller shack was set not too far from their hut, which Omar guessed was their outdoor toilet.

And then there was the sea itself, so vast and incredibly blue, that Omar thought it was Photoshopped. The sky was already a burst of pink and orange swirls when Omar arrived, as the great ball of fire made its descent. It was an overwhelming sight to behold.

“Do you hear that?” Omar asked Abdel, his attention suddenly drawn to the humming of a strange melody.

“It is the sama-sellang, they say,” Abdel replied. “They sing the ancient song of the seafolks as they return down to unknown depths. That way, the seafloor would grant them entrance to their homes.”

Omar shook his head at how his brother was always the first to believe such preposterous tales, until Abdel’s laughter finally broke through his deadpan countenance. “Boy, the look on your face! You hardly changed, Omar!”

As they entered their hut, Abdel began explaining about the camera set on a tripod outside and how they could monitor the view while inside their hut through the laptop. “But this is no rocket science, I’m sure you’re used to setups more elaborate than this,” Abdel added after his short lecture.

“How many times do I have to tell you? I’m no scientist.”

It had always been a misconception at home that Omar’s degree in Applied Mathematics meant he was dabbling in Science as well. In exasperation, Omar admitted before that the most advanced equipment he had ever owned were a whiteboard with slider and some markers.

“I didn’t mean to put it that way,” Abdel said, unable to look at his brother in the eyes. “I will never understand what it is you do, Omar. But I hope you would tell me more about how you’re doing, you know? Ina had to learn about it from Bai Karim. You remember Bai

Karim? The old professor?”

Omar remembered him alright, his father’s close friend and his first Math mentor, but the embarrassment that the news had reached Bai Karim rendered him speechless.

“And what did Bai Karim have to say?” Omar managed to ask.

“That it was only a matter of time before you find the correct solution to the Na…Na…”

“The Navier-Stokes equations,” Omar finished for his brother. “Unfortunately, Abdel, the media doesn’t look at it that way. All they care for are clickbait headlines: Filipino Mathematician’s Solution to Million-dollar Problem Proved Wrong! As if monetary prize is the best way to describe a problem as elegant as that.”

Abdel could only stare at his brother, unsure how to comfort him or if he ever did want comforting. Before he could come up with an empty response, Abdel’s phone alarm blasted.

“It’s time to pray. Go wash up and I’ll roll the mat.”

Abdel checked his rusty compass so that they were facing the angle towards Mecca.  The two brothers, two dots in the sapphire blanket right before them, raised their hands and fell to their knees. Omar managed a self-conscious reply, Allah Akbar, as his brother intoned the opening line. The roaring of the waves drowned their voices, but Abdel did not seem to mind. As Omar placed his head on the bamboo floor, he heard once more the strange melody that seemed to emanate from the deepest depths of the ocean.

Omar woke up to the unrelenting hissing of an impatient kettle. His brother was nowhere in sight, he realized, as he rubbed sleep from his eyes. It had been so long since his slumber was not invaded by snippets from that nightmare of a press conference—a room full of people, most of which had no clue what fluid flow was, let alone the Navier-Stokes equations that he had been working on; the incessant camera flashes; the follow up questions that had little to do with Math; and the hounding demand for when the correct solution would be finished.

“Omar! Quick, you have to see this!” A harried Abdel, dripping with sea water, called out to Omar from the shore.

Outside, the graying dawn still engulfed the whole of the island and the sky was speckled with dusts from the cold, distant stars. An umboh, a floating hut, made its slow way towards the shore as two other houseboats tailed behind it. A melancholic tune echoed throughout, and even the waves changed its sound to a gentle swoosh.

“Look at the intricate structure of the umboh,” Abdel pointed at the meticulous carving that adorned the piece of wood where a covered body was laid to rest. “That person must be a chief or something.”

The two maintained a respectful distance as the group of Badjao finally made it to the sandy shore and into the mangrove forest. Although not an uncommon sight in downtown pueblo, it was the first time that the two witnessed the Badjao practicing their age-old traditions. Back in downtown Zamboanga, they were regarded as street urchins who played music for some loose change.

The excitement of that morning’s sight did not change the two’s appetite for coffee. “Didn’t Tigburacao just resurface recently? How come those Badjaos seemed sure of entering the mangrove forest?” Omar asked after his first cup.

“My guess is that they weren’t really heading for Tigburacao. It just so happened that this was the first island they sighted, and they had to bury the dead the soonest possible.”

“I wonder where they came from before arriving here. Are there other islets beyond

Tigburacao still within the waters of Zamboanga?”

“That we know of? Only a couple, according to marine surveillance, but both get swallowed by the sea at, say, past 5 pm.”

It was a gusty day, with the wind whipping through the bamboo stilts and howling all around them, that Omar and Abdel both decided it was best to stay indoors. The hum of the wind bored into Omar’s head, but Abdel seemed unfazed by it all. He monitored the image of the sea through the laptop, peacefully soaking in the varying shades of blue that the screen projected.

“Omar, Bai Karim told me a little about what it is you’re working on, you know. In terms I can understand, of course.”

“Really? And what did he say about it, pray tell.”

“Well, from what I understood, it is an incredibly tricky problem that bothered Mathematicians for years. Has something to do with modelling ocean currents and weather patterns, if I remember correctly.”

Omar nodded, keeping his face expressionless despite the mild surprise that people from back home were actually aware of his work. “It is precisely that…tricky. Years ago, a professor from Kazakhstan thought he had the answer to it as well, only to be proved later on by Terry Tao, from Los Angeles, that such approach wouldn’t work. The ocean isn’t exactly well behaved, so the three-dimensional global regularity for the equations is very challenging.”

After a lengthy pause, Abdel said with absolute certainty, “If anyone understands the irregularities of the ocean, it is you.” He then stood up and motioned for the mats, “Prayer time, little brother.”

Wild waves banging on the shore, static from what seemed like a radio transistor, the whistling of brazen wind. Omar felt beads of sweat roll down his temples. His lips were dry, and it took a huge amount of effort for him to straighten his numb legs. He had fallen asleep in the hammock made out of fishnets which they set just outside their hut. He judged by the sun’s position high up that it was close to midday, and confirmed this guess by checking the time on his phone.

Abdel stood at the shoreline, staring at the farthest reach of the water, his hand shielding his eyes from the blinding light. He sensed that his brother had already woken up and made his way back to Omar. “You were sound asleep! There was that loud one-note whistle and the sea was moving, like something was coming from underneath and the—”

“W-wait, what? Of course the sea is moving—they’re called waves!” Omar’s buzzing head made him impatient with his brother’s ramblings.

“No—no, I would know if it were only waves. It was a strange motion. Like something really huge was coming out of the water! Oh, I knew I should’ve woken you up!”

Omar surveyed the peaceful waters and could not help but roll his eyes in exasperation. The sun caught a shimmer on the metallic casing of his phone, displaying a no network coverage icon still. “There is nothing here, Abdel.”

Abdel looked at Omar pityingly, “Nothing in the waters? In the olden days, large fleets of mighty Sultans and the humblest of houseboats have sailed the seas for months on end. Without their phones! Out there, it was just them and Allah, and the journey made them a thousand fold wiser than us all!”

“This is nonsense! I should have known better than returned home for this.”

Abdel clucked his tongue, “I know you did not buy my sorry of a reason—survey the waters for research? It sounds stupid even to me. But you wanted to come home. There’s nothing wrong in admitting that.”

The wind hissed between the two of them: Omar, red and seething with rage and denial, and Abdel, calm with a stubborn smile plastered on his face. Omar stood his ground glumly, allowing heat to further soak his already drenched shirt in more sweat. From above, the sky was almost cloudless, save for the finger-like wisps that drifted aimlessly.

A few tense moments, until Abdel broke the icy silence with his hearty laughter, “Look at us! So foolish and full of ourselves! The outhouse—I just remembered now.”

“What about it?” Omar asked tentatively.

“Stand under the awning of the outhouse so that you’re facing the back end of our hut. You’ll get that elusive one signal bar there if you’re lucky. I’m guessing a few more minutes with you not checking on your emails and I’m good as dead meat. Go. Go there now.”

By the time Omar finished checking his email and halfheartedly browsing his Facebook for news of the outside world, he went back inside their hut, only to be welcomed by the scent of dark chocolate drink from cacao tablea. A warm cup was set on the table near the laptop, and Omar slurped his drink with abandon.

“So Apu still makes this stuff, eh?”

“Look who’s in a jolly good mood now,” Abdel teased. “I’m guessing you were lucky with the signal? But to answer your question, yes, Apu still makes the best tablea. She doubled the portions in the last package she sent when she learned you would be coming, too.”

There was no response for a moment, so Abdel turned his attention to the unchanging image of the sea on the laptop screen.

“I should’ve at least visited home before heading here. I could’ve spared a few hours at


Abdel only gave a faint nod.

Omar turned to the window and added bitterly, “I’m sorry. I’m such a disappointment to you all.”

Abdel sighed. “You’re never that to us, Omar. We are mighty proud of you! Besides, between a college dropout and a—what are you again? A PhD holder?—who do you think is the main source of pride at home?”

Omar remained silent.

“You just need to reflect some more, little brother. Seek help in patience and prayers.”

“And then I just wait for the ideas to come in while meditating, I suppose?” Omar asked.

“Inshallah,” Abdel responded.

His family’s favorite conversation ender, especially when the topic begged for more inquiry. Omar sighed, yet he felt the tension ease from his shoulders. Without being prompted by his brother, he unrolled the prayer mats and rinsed himself with water. He checked Abdel’s rusty compass and made sure they were facing the right direction.

On the island of Tigburacao, days bled into each other, one fiery sunset after another. Omar had learned to predict the incoming weather just by the sound of the wind. Today, the calm was absolute and it cocooned him. He knew that it was to be a stormy night, and he braced himself for it.

Resting on the wooden plank, his hand toying with the rope that held their outrigger boat was Abdel. The past few days, Abdel took to staring into the sea in the afternoon heat, only to be followed by obsessively monitoring the laptop screen that displayed the same body of water in the wee hours when it was too cold to stay out. When Omar called out to him, his gaze lifted past the cobalt blue waters, where it turned into a blanket of blackness as it touched the horizon.

“Abdel, I’ll unroll the mats now. Get inside before it starts to rain.”

Omar fumbled for Abdel’s rusty compass, which had been in his possession for days now. On nights like this, when the thrumming of the sea sounded like helicopters hovering close, Omar knew better than to leave his brother alone in quiet contemplation, so he kept a watchful eye on Abdel as he swept the floor inside. Abdel always seemed detached in those moments, his thoughts sailing away to the vast deep sea.

Omar cleared up the desk where the laptop remained plugged. As he lifted the laptop, he noticed a strange motion on the screen—a shadow of a hill, gradually mounting up into a tower, only to fall into shallow holes, exposing what seemed like bodies of land. Swollen waves poised to reveal the secrets from below, yet ready to crash over anyone who came near.  There was that deafening sound of a one-note whistle, and then ferocious waves came out lashing from all directions.

“Abdel! Abdel! You’ve got to see this!”

Omar sprang up from his position, just in time to catch Abdel who was already boarding their boat. Without much thought, he joined his brother and the two set out on their tiny boat, threading their way among great waves.

The sea whipped at them and they were drenched through and through. Their lungs ached for hungry gulps of air, but the waves were unforgiving. Around them were shades of blue and black, and cascading water from a nightmare that seemed to only increase in intensity. Omar couldn’t help but wonder, that in the random lashing of the water, there could be patterns that his limited perception was too slow to realize. As his mind drifted off to fanciful ideas, the hysterical whistling grew louder in strength and volume, pulling his mind into utter blankness. So this is how I die, Omar thought, only to be unceremoniously dragged by his brother back to reality.

“Omar!” Abdel grabbed him by the shirt and hauled. Amidst spits of seawater, Abdel managed to cough out his brother’s name and pointed at the spot in the ocean where the stars burst out their collective radiance.

Where the starlight cut through the void, creatures that seemed like a cross between man and fish walked through the now calm water, their footsteps in the form of ripples. Their faces were fluid and ever changing, and instead of skin they had scales the color of bright emeralds. A melody unheard of enveloped their small group, and as they descended into the unknown depths of the ocean, they turned their gaze up to the crescent moon.

“They’re beautiful,” Abdel whispered.

Omar rose to a diving position, but his brother stilled him and whispered into his ears, “It’s time to head back.”

The thunderous engine of a motorboat could be heard for minutes, and not long after, a worried Bai Karim appeared in their hut.

“Abdel and Omar—good to see you have all your limbs in place!” The old professor engulfed the two in a bear hug. He grinned from ear to ear when he turned to Omar, and he clasped the young boy’s hand, salaam.

“We were worried sick. We tried to contact you, Abdel, but all the networks were jammed last night. And the coast guard refused to let any vessel leave the mainland so early in the afternoon.”

“Nothing to worry about, Professor,” Omar gave a hesitant glance toward his brother, but Abdel seemed intent on the tobacco cigarette that the Professor had brought with him. “It was a rather peaceful evening here.”

Abdel laughed from the doorway, “Too peaceful, I think Omar couldn’t wait and head back to the University.”

“Ahh…about that, are you still pursuing that research, Omar?” The Professor asked.

Omar nodded. “But maybe after some more careful meditation,” he added sheepishly.

“Ask guidance from Allah all you want, but let me warn you that excessive meditation on your part can turn you into this hermit here.” The Professor gave Abdel a pointed look, but all three burst out laughing.

“That’s not so bad, actually,” Omar replied. “But I’m afraid I don’t have the facial hair for it. My flight back to Manila won’t be until three days. I’d like to spend my last few days at home, with Ama, Ina and Apu. Will you come with me, Abdel?”

“For a day, but I have to come back here.”

The old professor nodded his understanding, “You two are bound to do amazing feats,


The two brothers exchanged looks. Outside, the rhythmic pulse of the sea softly doused the sandy shores. There was a humming that was almost hypnotic, and the whole island of Tigburacao seemed threaded with fine gold.

“Inshallah,” Omar and Abdel answered in unison.


Sigrid Marianne Gayangos teaches in the BA English Creative Writing program of UP Mindanao. Her book of stories, Laut, published by the University of the Philippines Press in 2022 is available on Lazada and Shopee.

T. Wannee (Part 3)

Fiction by | March 27, 2023

Gaakal ang amoang class schedule sa tibuok semester. Diri man gud diay sa Thailand, isagol nila ang regular ug students with special needs. Ibutang ta, naay tulo o lima ka estudyante nga special. Pun-an pa sa 35 ka regular unya magdungan ni silag salida — mora gyod kag mayawaan. Naay magdagan-dagan libot sa klasehanan. Naa puy mokalit lang og tibi unya motiyabaw sa way daghang rason. Lahi pod ng magsirko-sirko sa imohang atubangan. Dayon duna puy lain nga magsigeg tahal sa iyang lapis hangtod kini mapudpod. Unya kani nga istilo nila ilabi na og matunong ka og First Period sa hapon, magsunod ni sila og pananghid nga moadto sa pansayan. Inosente pud tawon tang nitugot sa ilahang gipangayo. Dakong kahibulong nako nga taud-taod naman wala pa man nahibalik. Ug sa dihang akong giapas, nakit-an nako didto nga gadula ug gasinabligay og tubig. Nakaingon gyod kos akong kaugalingon og unsa ni silang klaseha sa mga mananap. Mayawaan gyod diay tuod ka. Bantog ra niana akong mga kauban nga mag-andam gyud sa gira kay lahi ni silag timplada. Tinuod gyod diay tong ilahang giingon nga Lunes pa lang, maluya ug mapagaw naka. Bantog ra pud diay nga dunay koy usa ka kaubang Pinoy nga gabalon permi og luy-a ug unsa pa tong klaseha sa habak ug panawal sa kalawasan. Panagang diay to niya aron dugay siyang malup-og.

Kabahin ni T. Wannee, nakabantay ko nga bugnaw ang iyang tinagdan nako sa unang semana sa akong pagtudlo. Paminaw nako, naniid kini sa akong batasan ug gawi ilabi na sa paagi sa akong pagtudlo. “Nakamenos man tingali ni nako si T. Wannee tungod kay dili ko Native English Speaker o NES. Bahala uroy siya sa iyang uray. Basta ako, magpadayon ko sa akong misyon diri” pag-alam-alam nako sa akong kaugalingon. Dili nako ikaulaw sa pag-angkon nga dunay mga higayon nga mokalit lang og tulo akong mga luha. Tingali agi sa akong kahiubos sa  akong pares. O kaha, agi pod sa kamingaw sa akong mga minahal sa kinabuhi nga nahibilin sa Cebu. Kamingaw, ilabi na gyod sa akong pinangga nga inahan nga maoy nagtuboy ug wala gyod gaduhaduha pagpugong kanako nga mangempleyo sa laing nasud.

“Master Glenn, you do traffic duty now!” pinabundak nga sugo ni T. Wannee sa akua samtang gapuliki kog check sa test papers. Apil man sa amoang tahas kada alas kwatro sa hapon ang pagbantay sa trapiko sa sulod-gawas nga mga pribadong sakyanan nga gimaneho sa ginikanan o bantay sa mga bantay. Mao pod ni ang oras nga tingpanguli nila. Ang klase sa prathom mahuman inig alas tres sa hapon. Dayon naa silay usa ka oras nga igahin para sa nagkadaiyang club. Wala ko kamatikod nga oras naman diay aron moabag ko sa mga Tayutay nga mangulohan pagka traffic enforcer. Oras pud ni sa laing papel namo aron mag-yaya ug yoyo. Tuod man, akong nasaksihan ang mga bata nga morag nagkadaiyang klase sa mananap nga nakabuhi sa kuwadra.

Naandan na nako ang maong bulohaton. Mausab lang kini kon adunay laing importanteng isugo nako si T. Wannee. Sama pananglitan kon naay umaabot nga English InterSchool Competition diin akoy patudluon niya og Extemporaneous Speech, Oration, o Spelling Bee sa amoang mga representante.

Katapusang semana sa Septiyembre, nagpahigayon og field trip ang Prathom 6. Adunay gigahin nga tagsa-tagsa ka mga bus ang matag seksyon diin ang class advisers maoy mangunay sa pag-uban ug monitor sa ilahang hinsakopan. Human namo napahimutang ang tanang mga bata ug wala nay mga kakulangon, padulong nako lingkod sa akuang pwesto duol sa drayber.

“Master Glenn, you sit beside me” maabi-abihong pagtawag ni T. Wannee nako. Tuod man, isip pagtahod kaniya ug sa mainitong imbitasyon, gidawat ko kini. Ang amoa diayng lamisa sa lawak-tunghaanan ni T. Wannee tapad ug buyon ra. Gamay ra ang gintang sa kalay-on niini. Apan bisan pa man sa maong sitwasyon sulod sa upat ka bulan, aduna gihapon koy kahingawa. Lahi ning kahimtanga karon. Magtapad mig lingkod sulod sa pipila ka mga oras. Usa pa, walay daghang babil tali namong duha.

“Tabang tanang mga Angheles ug Santos sa kalangitan! Tabang tanang mga kalag sa purgatoryo!!!” pangaliya nakog taman nga ako ra puy makadungog sa dihang nilingkod nako tapad ni T. Wannee.

Didto inanay nga gipaambit niya ang mabulokon nga tipik sa iyang kinabuhi. Nagdako siyang ilo ug maoy namat-an sa iyang buot ang pagpadako kaniya sa mga madre. Niya pa, pinikito ug inihap ang iyang lihok didto sa kumbento. Isip pagtan-aw nga dakong utang kabubut-on sa pagpadako, pagbuhi, ug pag-alima kaniya — giduphan niya ang maong bokasyon. Apan makadiyot ra ang iyang pagdawat sa papel isip kapikas ni Hesus tungod sa iyang sakit. Wala na niya gisugid kon unsa ning klaseha. Wala pod ko nangutana kay igo ra kong naminaw sa iyang pagpaambit. Tungod sa giaguman niyang sakit, nibiya siya sa iyang pagkamadre. Ug nakahukom nga magtudlo. Mathematics gyud iyang major pag college ug dili English. Dugang pa niya, nakita sa tag-iya ang talagsaon niyang hiyas sa pagtudlo ingon man usab ang kahaniti niya sa pag-Iningles. Gawas pa nga pinaagi sa maayo niyang pagpangulo sa SMGSP, kanunay kini nga makadawat sa nagkadaiyang klase sa pasidungog. Usa na niini ang kanunay nga pag-una sa listahan sa tinuig nga Ordinary National Educational Test kon O-NET nga pagasalmutan sa tanang tinun-an sa Prathom 6, Mathayom 3 ug 6. Mora pud ni og National Achievement Test o NAT sa atua. Dili momenos sa 95% ang overall performance rating sa maong tunghaan. Ang way samang dedikasyon ug ang paglaban sa dungog sa SMGSP mao gyuy pinakadakong rason  og nganong dili gyod buhian sa tag-iya si T. Wannee. Baynte ka tuig na diay siyang gatudlo sukad sa among panagkauban.

Samtang padayong gadagan ang gisakyan namong bus, padayon pod sa pag-asoy ang akong pares. Gisultian ko niya sa mga kanhi nakauban na niya nga Pinoy ug ang dili niya malimtan nga mga kasinatian uban nila. Ubay-ubay napod diay nga mga nasud ang iyang naadtuan. Daghan napod siyang nahimamat nga nagkadaiyang klase sa rasa. Apan usa sa mga wala nako damha nga gipaambit niya mao ang pagpakita sa hulagway sa iyang kanhi kapuyo nga farang. Usa kini ka retired US Army. Gipakita dayon niya sa akua ang pipila ka mga litrato nilang duha nga naa sa iyang selpon. Gikan ang maong hulagway sa una nilang panagkita sa Pattaya. Sweet kaayo silang duha. Kon hukman mo ang maong talan-awon, makaingon ka nga gikan ga-honeymoon.

Gitutokan ko ni T. Wannee. Dayag ang kaseryoso sa iyang nawong. Morag gisukod niya akong katakos. Nisugod og lagubo ang akong dughan kay basig mitukar napud iyang uray. Nikalit dayon kini og pahiyom. Laing klase sa Thai smile nga kato pa nako nabatyagan. Ang maong pahiyom daw sama katam-is sa dugos sa putyokan. Ug unya, iyang gipaak ang ubos ug pula niyang ngabil. Nagpitok-pitok iyang mga mata morag tamsi nga bag-ong natughan.

“Good guys go to heaven. Bad guys go to Pattaya. Are you bad, Master Glenn?”

Si Gerwin Vic Evarretta Bhuyo usa ka magtutudlo nga OFW sa Bangkok, Thailand. Kinaham niya ang pagkuha og mga hulagway, pagsulat og balak ug sugilanon. Kon walay kakulian, magyampungad ni siya sa mga ipahigayong book sale event.

T. Wannee (Part 2)

Fiction by | March 20, 2023

Natunong to nga wala koy klase sa First Period ug siya ang sa unang nitudlo sa Prathom 6/1 nga mao puy iyang advisory. Kani diayng Prathom 5 ug 6 nga akong pagatudluan, adunay lima ka seksyon matag grado. Ug ang kada seksyon adunay 35 ngadto sa 40 ka mga estudyante.

Samtang gasulat og writing exercises sa pisara si T. Wannee aron pagakopyahon ug pagatubagon sa iyang mga tinun-an, adunay usa ka tambokikoy nga lalaki nga nagmugna pud og iyang salida. Ungas kaayo ni og panagway. Makaingon ka nga mahimo ning barumbado bataa kon dili magtarong og eskweyla. Gapunay kini og pangdistorbo sa iyang mga kasaring. Kon dili kuwaderno, bolpen ang kuhaon niini. Usahay pud, maggama kini og papel nga eroplano ug unya ipalupad padulong sa iyang target. Mahikurat nalang tawon ang nagdiniyos og kopya kay adunay nihagsa nga abyon sa iyang nawong.

Duna puy higayon nga nagpakita kini sa iyang abilidad nga daw nagpalupad siya og tabanog. Sa makadaghang higayon, gisaka-kanaog niya iyang wala nga kamot. Inay nga gikumo,  nihimog dakong lungag ang maong kamot timailhan nga naghawid siya og lambo. Apan sukwahi sa iyang panagway ang imong masaksihan. Mora man kini og gilamian. Kon buot hunahunaon, gapalupad raman unta siya og tabanog. Kanus-a gud mahitabo nga mosulirap ang mata sa magpalupad og tabanog? Tuod man, nasaba ug naukay ang tibuok klase.

Nihatag og unang warning si T. Wannee pinagi sa pagpahilom kanila samtang padayon kining gasulat. Naigking ug nahilom ang tanan kay daw sama siya sa usa ka kumander nga nimando sa iyang batalyon. Naundang pud ang tambokikoy sa iyang pasundayag. Modagan pod og singko minutos diin ang imuhang madunggan sulod sa maong lawak-saringanan mao lamang ang pagpakli sa panid sa kuwaderno. O kaha ang diyotay nga agiot sa lamesa ug lingkuranan sa mga tinun-an.

Gitan-aw dayon kos tambokikoy nga nagbungisngis sama sa irong buang samtang naglingkod kini. Nidali og sulat sa papel gamit ang asul nga marker pen ug iyang gipabasa nako, ‘C H A K W O W’.

Nikunot akong agtang kay wala ko kasabot sa iyang gisulat. Abtik kaayo niyang nabasa akong ekspresyon. Nibalik kini pag-arte sa pagpalupad og tabanog uban sa pagsulirap sa iyang mga mata. Niining higayona, gapanilap pa ang tunto!

Wala pa niirog og ikaunom nga minuto, nibalik napod sa naandang pagbinuang ang tambokikoy. Niining higayona, laing binuhat napud iyang gibiktima. Nasaba napod pagbalik ang maong klase. Hastang agik-ik sa tambokikoy nga morag gigitik sa dili ingon nato.

Ug sa ikaduhang higayon, gibadlong napod sila pagbalik ni T. Wannee. Kon unsa kaisog ang unang pagbadlong, nisamot kini. Natul-id ug nitisar ang tanan. Apan ang tambokikoy gakinengkoy. Giawat niini ang postura sa maestra samtang padayon kining gasulat. Nindot ra ba kaayo og agi si T. Wannee. Bugnaw ug hamugaway sa panan-aw ang iyang pinakatay. “Smooth as Thai silk”, matod pa.

Tungod sa klase sa salida nga gipakita sa tambokikoy, nagmuok-muok og katawa ang kadaghan sa mga tinun-an. Hilabihan niyang kurata kay kalit nga nihagsa ug nilagapak ang papas sa walang bahin sa iyang liog. Nagkamurecheng iyang nawong ug nagkatisas ang unipormeng puti nga adunay mubo nga manggas ug asul nga shorts.

Didto nako unang nasaksihan ang kabangis ni T. Wannee. Nisiga iyang mata sa hilabihang kasuko. Girapido niyag pasa-Thai ang tambokikoy. Wala koy kabangkaagan sa ilahang pinulongan. Dili gani ko kahibalo mobasa ug mosulat aning ilahang alpabeto nga murag bitok gahiko-hiko. Apan sa gipakitang gawi ni T. Wannee, mora gyud siya’g gipanulayan sa tumang kasuko.

Abi nakog mohilom ang tambokikoy. O kaha mangayo og pasaylo. Kay sa kulturang Tayutay, daw sama sa monghe ang ilahang pagtahud sa magtutudlo. Naunsa ba nga nitubag ug nitibad man hinuon kini kang T. Wannee. Gidali dayon niya pag-adto ang tibaran sa iyang nahimutangan nga padulong ng molingkod. Gidapog niya ang likod niini. Kusog kaayo. Nilagubo gud. Morag nataktak ang baga.

Apan wala matandog ang tambokikoy. Padayon gihapon siya sa iyang pagtibad. Gapungasi kini sanglit napakgang man ang iyang pasundayag. Nakigtigi man hinuon siya sa pagyawyawa sa maestra.

Gipangayo ni T. Wannee ang duha niya ka kamot ug gipalpal pag-ayo gamit ang plastic apan mabawog nga klase sa ruler. Ug sa pagpalpal niya, durong muro sa tambokikoy. Bahi kaayo. Kublan. Naluya nalang siya og pinalpal apan wala gyud maparog ang tampalasan nga tinun-an.

Kon wala ko masayop, morag kanapulo gyud to kahigayon nga gidurog palpal ni T. Wannee ang iyang mga kamot. Gihangos si T. Wannee human siya nayawaan. Makaingon gyod kog nayawaan kay nawala iyang katahom. Unya nag-apol-apol sa kapula ang tibuok niyang nawong. Gihangos ang akong kauban human sa gihimo niyang talagsaong klase sa paugnat sa kusog nga nakapaigking nako. Nakurat ko sa maong panghitabo nga nikilab sa akong panan-aw. Tiaw mo ba ng unang adlaw pa sa klase unya mao natoy akong nasaksihan. Wala gyod gaduhaduha si T. Wannee sa pagsalida sa akong atubangan uban ang buhing saksi nga 40 ka mga tinun-an. Sa akong kakurat, nakahigop kog kalit sa gaaso pa sa kainit nga Kafae Boran, tradisyunal nga klase sa kape nga namugna panahon sa Unang Gira sa Kalibotan. Ang maong kape naa sa gwapa kaayo nga seramikong tasa gikan pa sa Lampang. Maayo nalang kay wa nako nabugwak sa dapit nga nahimutangan sa duha. Unsaon nalang kon maingon. Basig apilon pod kog palpal ni T. Wannee.

Human makatilaw ang tambokikoy sa kamangtas ni T. Wannee, napuyo na kini. Gamuro siya pag-ayo. Ang simod morag kasang-atan og kaldero tungod sa hilabihang pagkusmod. Sa wala pa nibalik si T. Wannee atubangan sa lawak-saringanan aron magpadayon og sulat, nipasiatab kini og litanya. Ambot og unsay pasabot sa iyang gilitanya. Pero dili ko makalimot sa iyang panapos nga gimando, “Niyap!” o Hilom! kon sa ato pa. Nangutana dayon ko sa usa ka tinun-an kung unsay pasabot ato sa dihang nigawas kadiyot si T. Wannee. Nagtigom tingali tog igong hangin aron ibuga kon motukar napod ang kabail sa tambokikoy.

Nabunyagan ang akong unang adlaw sa klase sa kulbahinam nga salida tali nilang T. Wannee ug sa tambokikoy. Unang adlaw pa lang gani, nisugod na dayon silag arangkada. Abi ko  man og ang maong klase sa pagdisiplina sa magtutudlo-tinuan sa atua ra nauso. Ilabi na sa akong panahon kaniadto sa dekada otsenta. Normal ra pod diay na diri sa Siam, ang karaan nga ngalan sa Thailand nga naila pud isip “The Land of the Free” kanhi sila raman ang nasod sa habagatangsidlakan sa Asya nga nakalingkawas sa kolonyal nga hulga sa mga Uropano. Laing bansagon pod sa maong nasud ang “The Land of Smiles”. Pero ayaw ka kay naa koy nabasahan nga aduna diay kini 13 ka klase sa pahiyom. Matod pa nga sila rang mga Tayutay ang nakahibalo sa gapahipi nga kahulogan niini. Dugang pa nga kitang mga langyaw dili gyod mokompyansa kay basig kapaakon na diay ang nitibo nga nipahiyom kanato.

Gipangomusta dayon kos mga kaubanang Pinoy sa akong unang adlaw sa dihang gabaklay mi pauli padulong sa staff house. Giasoy dayon nako kon unsa ka hugyaw ang panghitabo. Didto nako nasayran nila nga ang tambokikoy mao gyod diay giilang haring-gangis sa kasipat. Bantug rang wala gyoy niako og sukol o badlong sa iyang pagsalida. Prathom 1 pa lang diay ni gasugod sa iyang abilidad. Kapila na kahigayon nga gipatawag ug gihusay kini uban ang iyang ginikanan sa opisina sa prinsipal. Apan ang maong taras magbalik-balik. Kahibalo napod ang tanang daan nga magtutudlo sa elementarya sanglit niagi naman sa ilahang mga kamot ang maong bata. Pero dili ni basta-basta mapalagpot sa maong tunghaan kay anak diay kini sa gamhanan nga pamilya. Ug sa tanang magtutudlo nga Tayutay, si T. Wannee ra gyod ang bugtong makapitol sa iyang kalabad. Gawas pa nga ang akong pares maoy lider sa Prathom 5 ug 6. Siya pod ang usa sa pinakatinahud ug giila nga magtutudlo sa tibuok eskuylahan nga adunay duha ka sanga nga nahimutang sa Sattahip ug Bowin.

Dakong pasalamat nako sa Ginoo nga nakalabang ko sa unang bulan sa pagtudlo kauban si T. Wannee ug ang halos dul-an 400 ka mga tinun-an nga akong gitudloan. Hapit nakong mohural. Tiaw mo ba ng kada adlaw magsige kog check, stamp pad alang sa petsa, unya pirma  sa gapatongpatong nga notebook ug libro. Lupig pay artista sa kadaghan nimog pirmahunon! Pasiaw pa sa mga kaubanan nako, “Makapahulay ra gyod ta ani kong mangihi.”

Si Gerwin Vic Evarretta Bhuyo usa ka magtutudlo nga OFW sa Bangkok, Thailand. Kinaham niya ang pagkuha og mga hulagway, pagsulat og balak ug sugilanon. Kon walay kakulian, magyampungad ni siya sa mga ipahigayong book sale event.

T. Wannee (Part 1)

Fiction by | March 13, 2023

Mayo 4, 2012, unang adlaw nako diri sa Thailand isip usa ka OFW. Kadali ra ba diay sa dagan sa panahon. Morag kanus-a lang man to nga gi-Indiyan ko sa Thai teacher nga gitahasan sa akong agalon aron sugaton ko sa airport. Gisultian ko niya sa katapusang minuto nga dili ko niya matagbo. Nidugang pa siya nga mag-taxi nalang ko gikan sa Suvarnabhumi Airport sa Bangkok padulong sa Pattaya. Tiaw mo ba ng kapin kon kulang 143 kilometro ang biyahion nako sa taxi. Makabayad gyod tingali kog 1,000 baht kon maingon.

Maayo nalang kay gakasinabot ra mi. Matod pa sa akong nadunggang taho, kadaghanan sa mga Thai kay menos gyod mo-Iningles. Dili parehas natong mga Pinoy nga mosukol og sinampangkol nga inistoryahay ilabi nag makasugat ba ron og mga langyaw. Dili gyod moatras og Ininglesay. Modasdas pa gani.

Wala diay ko nisangon sa iyang mando. Nangita kog laing paagi. Niadto ko sa Tourist Service Center aron pagpangayo og dugang kasayoran kon unsay laing masakyan padulong sa Pattaya.

Ang Suvarnabhumi Airport mao ang nag-unang tugpahanan sa ayroplano dinhi sa Thailand. Gani, niadtong 2012, nakuha niini ang pasidungog nga “World’s 6th Best Airport By Size” nga gihatag sa Airports Council International kon ACI. Niadtong tuiga, nakigtigi kini sa laing 17 ka mga airport nga adunay 40 milyon nga mga pasahero.

Ang akua diayng desisyon nga mosulay pagtrabaho dinhi sa Thailand isip usa ka OFW, tungod ni sa sugyot-tampo ug pagdasig ni Nanay Fe.

“Sulayi Dong og trabaho sa Thailand. Daghang Pinoy nga gatudlo didto. Maayo nalang pod magamit imohang Teacher’s license. Kon dili ka makauyon, bisag usa ka tuig lang god ka didto. Pero kon ganahan ka, pwede pod ka magdugay unya mangasawa kag Thai,” matod pa sa akuang inahan nga kanhi English ug History teacher sa usa ka government school. Kay lagi buotan ug masunoron ko nga anak, walay laing gikawilahan o kaha mopugong sa akuang hukom kon uganing mobiya ko sa atuang nasud, nangabkab dayon kos internet.

“English teacher, Filipino, Thailand.” Tuod man, gapusot-pusot dayon ang mga inpormasyon nga nigawas sa akuang monitor.

“Oi, murag nindot ni nga eskuylahan ay: Santa Maria Gorretti School. Ngalan pa lang daan, naa na si Birheng Maria. Dako akuang pagtuo nga usa ni ka Catholic school,” kumpyansa nakong gipamulong. Tuod man, wala gyod ko masayop sa akuang pangagpas. Bisan pa man og usa kini ka Catholic private school, modawat gihapon kini og mga tinun-ang Budhista, Muslim, ug uban pa. Ang maong tulonghaan anaa nahimutang sa Pattaya City, Chonburi.

Nangaykay napod ko og dugang inpormasyon kon asa ni dapita ang Pattaya. Kay kon makadungog na gani ko og Thailand gikan sa mga higala nga nag-tour sa maong nasud, Bangkok ug Phuket dayon ang mapasigarbuhon nilang ipaukyab. Dili ko suhito aning Pattaya. Ug sa akuang pagpadayon og pakigsusi, akong nasayran nga ang maong lugar anaa diay mahimutang sa sidlakang bahin sa Thailand. Unya daghang maanindot nga white sand beaches. Ug usa diay ni sa mga kinaham nga destinasyon sa mga turista gikan sa Uropa ilabi na gyud sa mga Ruso. Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Ayutthaya, ug Pattaya — mao diay ni ang “Big Five” tourist attractions sa Thailand. Ang Pattaya naila usab sa bansagon nga “Hawaii of the East.”

Samtang padayon ko sa gihimong pagpangaykay, nasugatan nako ang usa ka hulagway diin adunay usa ka lalaking farang o foreigner, hitsuraan, ug maskulado bisan pa man sa katigulangon niini ang gasul-ob og itom nga t-shirt. Adunay panultihon nga nakapatik sa puti nga  mga letra ang unang duha ka bahin sa linya. Dayon ang nahibiling laing duha ka linya nakaimprinta sa pula nga letra. Ug may desinyo kini nga iconic landmarks imabaw sa maong lugar:


Nahugyaw ko sa makadiyot. Ginganlan pud diay kini og “Sin City.” Nisamot akong kaikag nga makalarga na dayon padulong sa Thailand aron sa pagsusi kon unsa ba gyuy tanghaga aning siyudara. Nag-email dayon kos akong application sa tag-iya sa maong eskuylahan. Motuo ka o sa dili, ang maong tunghaan ra maoy akong gi-aplayan. Wala ko naikag nga mangaplay sa Bangkok kay para nako pareho ra ni sila sa Manila: trapik, bahaunon, nagkadaiyang klase sa polusyon, ug uban pa. Wala nako giseryoso ang maong aplikasyon kay kon kontakon ko sa tag-iya, maayo. Kon dili, okay ra pud. Mabuhi ra bitaw ko diri sa atua.

Sa padayon nako nga pagpangalap, nalakbitan pud nako nga ang opisyal diay nga pangalan sa Bangkok kay Krung Thep Maha Nakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit. Sa inato pa ug sa hamubong bersiyon, “Siyudad sa mga Anghel.” Gipanag-iya usab niya ang pasidungog isip adunay pinakataas nga ngalan sa lugar sa tibuok kalibotan.

Dangtan lang og duha ka adlaw, nakadawat ko og tubag gikan sa maong eskuylahan. Gipapili ko og adlaw alang sa pagahimoon nga Skype interview. Sa laktod nga pagkaistorya, nadawat ko. Gipadad-an dayon ko og kontrata ug gibatbat didto ang mga angay nakong buhaton aron mahimong legal ang akuang pagpangempleyo.

Isip pagsaulog sa akong ikanapulo nga kasumaran dinhi sa Thailand, buot nakong ipailaila kanimo ang pinakaunang magtutudlo nga Thai diin nahimong kabahin sa akong kinabuhi, si T. Wannee.

Mayo 17, Huwebes. Opisyal nga unang adlaw sa pagbukas sa klase sa halos tibuok tunghaan sa Thailand. Gikan sa anuban o kindergarten hangtud na sa mathayom o secondary. Unang adlaw pod nako sa Santa Maria Gorretti School Pattaya o SMGSP. Kon unsa ko kahinamhinam alang sa unang adlaw sa akong pagtudlo, mao pud ang gibati sa mga estudyante. Pratom o Grades 5 ug 6 ang gisangon nako para sa tuig-tingtungha. English Conversation ang akong itudlo nga magpunting sa Speaking ug Listening unya lakbitan pud og Reading ug Writing skills. Pero akong kaabag nga Thai maoy magtudlo sa English grammar. Ang akong lisensiya sa pagtudlo sa Pilipinas alang sa secondary school. Pero sa dihang personal nakong nakahinabi ang tag-iya sa maong eskuylahan, gipangutana ko niya kon mosugot ra ba ko nga motudlo og prathom sanglit wala pay bakante ang mathayom. Kay lagi tumong ug tinguha nako isip usa ka OFW ang makatrabaho ug dili ang paglulinghayaw, gidawat nako ang maong hagit sa walay daghang pagkusmod.

Sa wala pa diay nako nahimamat ang akong pares nga Tayutay, inato nga angga sa mga nitibo, gipahimatngunan nakong daan sa mga kaubanang Pinoy nga karaan na sa SMGSP nga magbantay kay nabaniog na siya sa tibuok tunghaan nga istrikta, mangtas, bangis, ug terror. Hinuon, giasoy pud nila nga kon dili kuno siya dug-on, maayo kaayo kini motimbaya. Gani, dili siya dalo nga mopaambit sa iyang gibalon nga pagkaon.\

“Good luck Kuya!” matod pa nila. Paminaw nako mora kog si Daniel nga gibahug ngadto sa langob sa liyon.

Sawasdee T. Wannee,” pasiunang pagtimbaya nako niya isip pagtahud.

“Good morning Master Glenn” tubag niya apan wala kini nitan-aw nako kay aduna siyay gikurikuri sa iyang lamesa. Ambot kon unsa. Basin og gituyo niya kay sayo nisuol iyang takig.

Ang Sawasdee kon Hello maoy naandan nga pagtimbaya sa mga Thai. Ubanan mo ang maong pagtimbaya sa usa ka Wai nga sa kinatibuk-an mao ang pagbutang sa duha ka palad diin ang mga tumoy sa tudlo mohikap o motandog sa ilong. Matod pa, ang Wai nagpakita sa ang-ang sa pagtahod sa laing tawo ug usa ka pag-ila sa magulang niini og pangidaron o kaha isip pagrespeto sa usa ka magulang o senyor sa katungdanan. Sa imong paghatag og Wai, kinahanglang iduko nimo imuhang ulo uban sa pagduot sa imong mga palad timailhan sa pagpakita sa pagtahod. Ang kanhi nahisgutan mao ang unang duha ka klase sa tawo nga hatagan mo sa maong pagtimbaya. Ang ikatulo mao ang Wai alang sa mga monghe isip pagyukbo timaan sa dakong pagtahod. Makahuloganon ug ispesyal ang pagpadayag ug pagbuhat niini ngadto kanila. Human mo diay ibungat ang maong pagtimbaya nga mao pud ni katumbas sa atong ‘Po’ ug ‘Opo’, pakapinan mo kini og Khrap kon ikaw lalaki ug Kha kon ikaw babaye. Alang sa mga hinsakopan sa LGBTQ+, kahibalo naka og unsay ilabtik sa tumoy sa ilahang mga dila.

Mao kadto ang unang panaghimamat namo ni T. Wannee. Sa akong tan-aw, 50 anyos na siya. Pero ayaw ka, mora pa kini og kuwarenta. Dayag ang iyang katahom bisan pa man sa iyang gisul-ob nga uniporme. Puting taas nga manggas nga adunay kwelyo ug itom nga palda. Hapsay pud kaayo ang pagkapangko sa iyang itom ug lumoy nga buhok. Unya sakto ra pud ang gihidhid niya nga pagwapa sa iyang pormag kasingkasing nga nawong. Natural ang kurba ug kalabong sa itom niyang mga kilay ingon man ang gabawod niyang pilok. Medyo taliwtiw ang iyang ilong nga nitakdo ra pud sa kadak-on sa iyang baba. Modan-ag ang kaputi sa iyang panit ilabi na og mabantang kini sa adlaw. Sakto ra pod iyang kaligdong ug pamayhon. Naa tingali kini sa lima ka piye ug upat ka pulgada. Kon wala nagtudlo si T. Wannee, angayan gyod kaayo ni siya mahimong usa ka flight stewardees sa Thai Airways.

Tuod man, tinuod gyod diay ang taho gikan sa mga kaubanan nako. Lahi gyod og birtud si T. Wannee. Nakasaksi gyod ko sa gipakita niyang taras ilabi na sa mga estudyanteng lalaki nga sipat.

Si Gerwin Vic Evarretta Bhuyo usa ka magtutudlo nga OFW sa Bangkok, Thailand. Kinaham niya ang pagkuha og mga hulagway, pagsulat og balak ug sugilanon. Kon walay kakulian, magyampungad ni siya sa mga ipahigayong book sale event.

What Happened in El Mañana (Part 4)

Fiction by | February 26, 2023

When Bri hesitated to wear it, I hurriedly locked myself in the cubicle out of shame. A knock got me out of my thoughts. It was Joey.

“Thanks for the piss. Worked wonders.” Joey put out a thumbs up below the cubicle door as I tried to pace with my breathing. “And by the way, Bri is mad at you because she heard something, not because you’re here or anything like that.”

“Something?” I was curious.

“Something about you having a baby with another woman–” What did Joey just say– “and you walking away from it.”

“Where in the world did you hear that?” I asked.

“Her kababata told her,” Joey said as she dusted the sand off her palms.


“Yeah, Chris.” Joey went back to the kubo.

I was too taken aback by what I heard that it took me forever to walk back to the kubo. The sun was setting. I was barefooted but I did not mind the sand. When I was near the kubo, I heard Lyn. I felt some kind of relief.

“Yanggg, why won’t you selfie with me, yang?” The tipsy affectionate Lyn was always the first to show up when alcohol hits her. Judging by the bottle on her hand, she was drinking the Soju straight up. I forgot to buy the chaser.

“Yang, take a picture of me baaa.” Lyn pleaded as she became extremely touchy with Bri.

The pep talk I gave Bri was probably working because she was tolerating her mother’s behavior, “I’m not in the mood, ma.”

“Ay uy! I think you don’t love me anymore, Yang. You don’t take pictures of me anymore.”

This was Lyn’s attempt at convincing Bri. I knew how much Lyn loved having her pictures taken, but I thought if I went inside the kubo, Lyn’s attention would be directed to me and not to Bri. This was their bonding time after all. And I was running out of energy to deal with Bri right now, especially from what she thought she knew. Besides, I would have better chances of making amends with Bri when Lyn and her are on good terms. So I decided to stack on the sand that was already on my feet and sat on a bench beside the kubo. That was not so bad

“Babe, palihog gud ko.” Bri asked Joey to take a picture of her and her mother. Joey was happy to do so as she pointed her polaroid and counted for them. As she clicked the button Lyn suddenly brushed the camera off, knocking Joey’s camera into the sand. All Lyn could say was how the flash was too bright.

“Ma, don’t be a maoy,” Bri said in a gentle but firm voice.

“Why’d you have to bring her here… You’re always together.” Lyn was making faces and she uttered, “Can’t you see I’m jealous?”

“Joey offered me a ride here, and I don’t want her to drive in the dark so I made her stay.”

Bri probably was probably tired of answering. So her deep sighs served as a response. She even had her mother’s temper. Joey got the cue and tried to console Lyn.

“I’d shower first na lang po, tita, so you and Bri could talk.”

 Joey stood up and grabbed her towel. Bri wanted the both of them to just go at the same time, but Joey insisted on going first. I guess their bickering ticked something inside Lyn’s head, “No, no, no, no.”

“That’s it. I’m out of here.”

Bri walked out of the kubo grabbing Joey’s hand when Lyn got a hold of Joey and hugged her, “I’m not against you… I just want some time with my daughter. But you’re here.”

“Ma, enough,” Bri asserted. “I could say the same thing with Bud.”

 “So you’d go there, Yang?” Lyn said as Joey wiggled her way out of her arms. “You don’t know him.”

 “Well, you don’t know him well enough,” Bri said. Joey tried stopping her but not before she blurted something out.

“Did you know he ran away from his baby?”

That was it. I was at my third layer of sand castle when I heard that. I interrupted, still sitting on the sand.

“Nonsense!” I said. “The only baby I have is your mom.”

“Could you take anything seriously?”

“I am taking your mom seriously,” I said. “You’re the one not taking me seriously.”

At this point, I knew I was on the verge of losing my faith in gaining Bri’s approval. I could not convince anyone that was already convinced. Besides, I was a man after all. If I could not take home my woman, the least I could have was an unshattered pride.

“Is that true, Bud?” Lyn’s voice darted my guts.

“Of course not.” I should leave while I could still keep my mouth shut.

“Why would Chris lie about that?” Bri asked. “Why–”

“Bri, that’s enough,” Joey said.

Until everyone in that kubo had something to say. Something about me. Bri insisted that I was a fuck boy that hits and run. Lyn kept asking me to speak up. Joey, well, she probably regretted going with. The voices grew loud but my inner monologues grew louder. I no longer wanted to explain. I was an alpha male. I had kept my mouth shut, I could still keep it in. I could… Who was I fooling?

“I’m a virgin!” My voice earned their silence.


“I am a raging romantic that never got laid,” I explained. “Everybody got it?”

Bri, Joey, and Lyn looked at each other, dazed and confused. Lyn sat down. Joey sighed reaffirming, “huh.”

“Why–” Bri was at a loss for words– “why would Chris lie then?”

“Well, I don’t know, Bri.” I dragged her name as long as I could. “Maybe your first childhood crush had the biggest crush on your mom and got mad at me for not being rejected.”

Then I realized that was still a possibility, “…Yet.”

Joey spoke up, “What about the baby issue?”

“A co-worker that liked me owed me money and did not wanna pay,” I said. “Got upset when I ghosted her for your mom, so she faked a pregnancy rumor.”

Everybody was processing everything down. I know, for sure, Lyn sobered up. The sun was setting and I no longer had anything left to say, no pride left to protect. We all just sat there silently until Bri raised my 13th reason in the form of a question.

“So you’re a virgi–”

I ran to the shore. I stumbled on the hollow ground Bri was buried from earlier. I caught my breath and decided to sit. I could not look at the kubo; shame stiffened my neck. There were a lot of scenarios I had run down my mind about this day and what had unfolded still came as a shock. But at least, that was over. The sun was setting.

I was burying my face on my palms when a shadow fronted me. She raised my chin up, took away my palms from my face, and sat herself beside me. She fixed my sight to the horizon.

“About the rejecting,” Lyn said.

Just like that, my heart began racing again. I was no longer the cool guy. Just the embarrassment that pissed her daughter’s foot. Nothing could’ve prepared me from what she had said after.

“That’s not going to happen.”



Princess “Preng” Arguelles is a twenty-something Creative Writing major at the University of the Philippines Mindanao. She attempts to capture reality-based ordeals in her fiction

What Happened in El Mañana (Part 3)

Fiction by | February 19, 2023

I could swear Bri and Joey were looking at us from the far side of the shore. Their flirty splashes with each other became a wrestle on the sand before they were finished off by the waves that crashed the shore. But I was more concerned about cheering Lyn up than whatever Bri was thinking about us. I thought I was doing a pretty good job until Lyn leaned on my shoulder, burying her face on my sleeve. She was silent. But I could feel my sleeve getting wet. I could hear nothing but the shortness of her breath. I let her be for quite a while before I wrapped my arms around her. I would pat her shoulder then her head.

 “What would I do without you?” she asked. My thoughts, exactly.

“I only want to have fun with her, Bud.” She managed to ask me that even with her sharp breaths every word after another. Her voice changed from a strong chest voice to a nasally tone. “Well, the day’s not over yet so why don’t you have fun?” I told Lyn while massaging the nape of her neck, “This is your vacation too.”

A bulb lit her mind because she actually agreed with me. “You know what…” Lyn said as she grabbed one of the bottles of Soju Joey was carrying. Lyn shook the bottle. She always told me it was to wake up the alcoholic demon inside the bottle, “You’re right.”

But I was quite hesitant with the idea of Lyn becoming even remotely tipsy around her daughter here. On one hand, although alcohol really helped her lighten up and transformed her to a total goofball, it might worsen Bri’s hostility toward her. On the other hand, if what had begun went on further, she might break down in front of her Bri. I know for sure Lyn would not want to lower her walls down, especially in such a public place.

“What do you think?” Lyn asked as her swollen eyes twinkled. Even when she was crying, she was still beautiful.

“That is a really bad idea, Lyn,” I said to her and the light in her eyes was ready to flow out of her lids. “That’s a really bad idea if you don’t have ice. Let me see if I can buy some.”

It took me a while to finally manage to buy ice as I had to go outside of the resort itself. El Mañana had some but would not sell it to me for some reason. I was headed back to the kubo when I decided to have a little chat with Bri and Joey who were sunbathing. From the seaweed crown on their hair, I could tell they swam around the beach, perhaps from the farther left below El Mañana foot bridge where they could have space of their own. Bri had sunglasses on while Joey was burying her in the sand. I did not know how to interrupt best than to clear my throat loud enough.

“I know I’m not in the position to talk–”

Bri was always quick to interrupt.

“Right. You are in no position to talk,” She managed to articulate every single word in such a way that I was momentarily stunned. Bri was ready to drag Joey back to the foot bridge when I mustered up the courage to continue on.

“I may not know what your real issue is with your mother,” I said. Bri stopped, not looking at me. “But could you please cut her some slack? She’s trying, she arranged this, everything… just to be with you.”

While I was explaining, I realized I use my hands too much when I feel so strongly about what I was talking about. While I was talking, I saw Joey tell her, “Give it a listen.”

My voice broke a bit, which was pretty embarrassing, but this is for Lyn. I cleared my throat, took a breath before continuing,  “So why don’t you give her a chance?”

I did not waste a second and started walking away before I felt a tear escape my eye.

“What makes you think my mom was my issue?” she asked behind my back. “If I did not make it clear enough, my problem is you.”

I froze where I stood as I heard Bri invite Joey back under the bridge. How could Bri have such a handsome problem?

When I was no longer paralyzed by Bri’s sass, I was finally ready to go back to the kubo when I heard Bri scream. I initially stepped towards the direction of the couple but if I did not go back to the kubo, all the ice I would give Lyn was water. So I rushed back.

At the kubo, Lyn had already taken a nap. It was no surprise that Joey’s screaming did not wake her because she had always been a heavy sleeper. I placed the ice on the ice bucket and glanced at the bridge. As my eyes scanned, I noticed Bri was helping Joey walk to the comfort room.

I knocked on the only locked cubicle door when I heard Bri. “What?”

“I heard you scream, are you okay?” I asked.

“How could anyone screaming be okay?” She clapped back. “How stupid could you be?”

I knew she was the daughter of the woman I want to spend my sunsets with but if she did not stop talking down on me, I would honestly find it hard to grow my balls back… I want her to like me for her mom so much, I would still cave.

“She stepped on something sharp,” Joey said.

I had a feeling of what it might have been. “Can I see?”

“If you don’t say something stupid,” Bri said. When Joey helped her extend her leg out of the cubicle I immediately recognized the black spike.

“We have to pee on it,” I said.

“That’s it, you’re out.” Bri brushed me away. She must have thought I was fooling around. “Piss off.”

“Gladly,” I replied. “Any way I could help.”

I unzipped my shorts, comfortable that the resort was private and Bri and Joey were inside the cubicle. I aimed my piss gun toward Bri’s foot when she tried pushing the spike out with her hand. I swerved it away from the initial target but not before my golden shower hit her hand.

“Is that–” Bri took a second to realize– “Ahh!! Damak!”

I apologized in a hundred languages and Bri was still inconsolable. I could hear Joey muffling her chuckles but Bri was not having it. She opened the door after I hurriedly put my shorts on. Her eyes had a laser beam.

“What did you just do?” she asked.

I answered, “I cured it.”

“Cured it?” Bri was livid. “When I told you to piss off, I- you, aaah!”

She was mad she could barely put out a sentence so I explained that she had stepped on a tuyom and peeing on it was what would get rid of the sting. I had to do it while rinsing her hand with water. She refused to let me touch her so I had to help from a distance. Joey was still laughing inside the cubicle.

“What did mama ever see in you?” Bri slammed the door.

I felt a lump in my throat. Out of all Bri had said to me, those words stung. “What can’t you see in me?” I mumbled.

Bri replied, “What was that?” And all of a sudden, I could feel the lump slid down my tongue.

“What is your deal? What’s with all your taray? You, of all people, should be happy! Your mother loves you. You have a girlfriend that loves you. Your mother loves that someone loves you. You’re so angry for someone who has a girlfriend. I don’t even have a girlfriend! I’m trying to. So why can’t we just skip pause with this teenage angst and be adults so I could finally be laid.”

As embarrassing as my thoughts spiraled out, it silenced Bri. I had not noticed Joey was already out of the cubicle. When she was out, Bri did so too. Bri took a step, wanting to walk away from me. I was embarrassed and upset that I could not look at her. When she took another step, I could not bear it anymore and did the impossible. I lend her my jesus flops. She was barefooted.

To be continued…



Princess “Preng” Arguelles is a twenty-something Creative Writing major at the University of the Philippines Mindanao. She attempts to capture reality-based ordeals in her fiction.

What Happened in El Mañana (Part 2)

Fiction by | February 12, 2023

Not an ounce of hesitation was heard from Bri. Lyn was taken aback. I could tell by how her eye twitched for a split second. By now, I had mastered reading the most subtle cues in Lyn’s body language to avoid misunderstandings.

“You didn’t tell me Joey was a girl.”

“My bad.” Bri rested her head on Joey’s shoulder’s. “But does it really matter, ma?”

“W-well…” Lyn stuttered. It was astonishing to witness; I thought nothing could faze her. “I’m just shocked, that’s all.”

In all honesty, I was, too. But Bri looked happy. Personally, I think I was happier because they looked cute together.

“That’s exactly why I brought her here,” Bri said. “So you could finally meet her.”

“Mano po, tita,” Joey said.

“Kuya, are you lost? This isn’t your kubo,” Bri said, only looking at me after saying so and for a moment. I choked on my embarrassment. I was at a loss for words so I looked at Lyn for rescue and she saw the perfect segue. Lyn, this could be the perfect time to tell her.

“Yang, ay, Bri diay. Remember Buddy? He’s the–” Bri interrupted with the most time-killing “-Hmm”- I have ever heard, along with her continuous nod while looking at me from head to toe. She took some time looking at my toes before letting out a smirk after a quick sigh. Thankfully, I had trimmed my toenails before going to the resort.

“Makes sense,” she said when she finally stopped piercing me with her dead stare to reach for the tray full of lumpia. What the heck did she mean by that?

 She took a bite of the lumpia and double-dipped to offer Joey a bite. “I never would have pegged you for a jesus flops kind of guy.”

I did not like Bri very much. Not because of what she said about my flops but because of her double-dipping. But I had to earn her trust so I was willing to postpone my disgust.

Bri proceeded to stand directly in front of me. “What are you? Like a 5’6?”

Wow. It had just become apparent to me that crushing egos run in their family. Sure, I was not the tallest, but I was not that short either. Bri was just unfortunately taller than me. I could not get over how Bri went for my height but I felt like I had to say something.

So I said, “Grilled bangus.”

Could I have been any dumber? Lyn went to save the dying conversation by offering the girls with paper plates.

“I bet you skipped lunch. You must be starving!” Lyn opened each Tupperware container to reveal all the food she had prepared earlier that morning. I could see Joey’s delight in her eyes. She must be a foodie like me. I wish I could say the same about Bri.

There were lumpiang shanghai, adobong manok, pancit, coffee jelly, mangoes,  chicken lollipops, cassava cake, basically everything Bri used to love was set at our table. Lyn has excellent taste. That was why I recommended her to be our office cook. And that was also why I was her guy. She had been begging Bri for weeks to come home to her but Bri would always decline with a string of excuses.

“Maybe later, ma. Your lumpia went soggy na,” Bri said as she scanned the array of food prepared for her. She must be kidding me. “And this is just too much. I feel bad.”

Lyn looked down at the sand before answering. “Oh, I just wanted to prepare your favorites. You must have missed them for sure.”

“You really didn’t have to,” Bri said. “ But I don’t want to eat just because I feel bad.”

“No prob,” Lyn had to swallow a lump on her throat. “It’s not like I made these, we, we, I only got it from a paluwagan. Yep. Just a food bundle.”

I know for a fact that was not true. Lyn had been saving all a month’s worth of salary just so Bri could feast. She would stick to isaw and pastil to save when she could not eat a portion from what she cooks in our office. She had to go to the merkado at dawn so we prepared everything on time. I was only her personal lifter and kitchen assistant but even I was tired. I could only imagine how defeated Lyn was feeling. Extending my patience and trying to understand Bri’s cold shoulder was becoming a challenge to me. I was jealous that Lyn did not get me anything for my birthday last week because she was saving up for this. I did not understand what Lyn could have possibly done to deserve that treatment. And whatever it must be, Lyn’s still her mother after all. A sufficient amount of pleasantries would have just made her mother happy. I would be happy if she cooked me just any one of those meals.

“We’re going to roam around, ma, take pictures,” Bri said walking away, avoiding  Lyn’s eyes. Joey took out a polaroid camera out of her bag. Before heading out, she grabbed herself a cup of coffee jelly.

“Tita, I’d have some of this, if you don’t mind. I’ve been craving for this po kasi,” Joey said to my Lyn, who could not look away from the sand she was kicking as she swung her legs to and fro. Her breaths grow sharper. A few seconds later, Bri called out for Joey so she left the kubo without waiting for Lyn’s reply. When we were left alone, I moved closer to her seat.

“Uy,” I said, trying to lighten up her mood.

I recalled why Bri became distant toward Lyn. Something about Lyn being a one-day millionaire and almost using up all of Bri’s college fund on Lyn’s 4Oth birthday. I met Lyn there so if you’d ask me, I’d say it was money well spent. It must have been a different case to Bri that she was that aloof.

“She really is your daughter ha.” I poked the side of her belly trying to imitate Bri. “Feisty. Hmmm!”

Lyn burst out laughing. She was quite loud, she hit me a few times. I did not expect I’d be that funny but I ended up imitating Bri more- dragging the vowels as she did. “I’m Bri now. BRI.”

Times like that hit me with a brick. Shit. I was so head-over-heels with the woman in front of me. Not even when she had those vacuum laughs. Lyn’s birthday was the 31st of December which made it easy for me to have a free meal that night. I was helping myself with Lyn’s mango graham when I noticed she was killing it on Celine Dion’s “I Love You Goodbye” in the videoke. Her every note was tickling my eardrums and I was not even a Celine Dion fan. That caught my attention. But what drew her to me more was how she let out her vacuum laugh when her voice cracked at the very last note. I thought, if I could make her laugh like that all the time, I’d be happy too.

“Earth to Buddy, Earth to Buddy.” Lyn joked as she pinched my nose. My perfect, slightly disappointed nose. “If you could stop daydreaming about me for a second, I have a teen daughter bringing her girlfriend situation here.”

“How could I if every day I’m dream girl?” I could see her blush.

“Bud, I’m serious,” she said. “I don’t know how to talk to her.”

“But you are,” I said, “talking to her.”

She leaned on the chair. “No, but really talk to her, you know?” she asked. “Like I used to.”

“What’s stopping you?” I asked.

“Well, for one, I don’t want to offend her,” she said. “Girlfriend, boyfriend, I don’t really care about it. We’re–”

“Just on different vibrations.” I helped her find the words.

“Exactly.” She started stress-eating the chicken lollipops. I got stressed looking at her maneuvering those with a plastic sfork.

“Give me that.” I snatched it from her plate and started feeding it to her. I knew she hated having greasy hands.

To be continued…



Princess “Preng” Arguelles is a twenty-something Creative Writing major at the University of the Philippines Mindanao. She attempts to capture reality-based ordeals in her fiction.

What Happened in El Mañana (Part 1)

Fiction by | February 6, 2023

I could never understand why anyone would love feeling sand between their toes. That tickly sticky sensation stuck in the middle of the toes and those lingering stubborn bits forcing its way into my ingrown. This is why I’d never walk on beaches barefooted.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a strong believer of beach trips supremacy. Especially here in El Mañana. Think about it. No corkage fees. Crystal clear water. No algae build up, not a single random urchin to stab my feet, no yellow submarines creeping at you out of nowhere when you’re swimming about. It’s nothing short of a remote paradise.

 The first time I went here was for work. Back when almost all of their kubo was termite-infested. An El Mañana problem that would occasionally garnish their visitors’ precious handa with wood dust and feast on any unfortunate thigh that would sit on them. Good thing, your boy, Buddy, is a master termite-nator. Because of me, El Mañana became pest-free once again.

I should also tell you how El Mañana went viral for its breathtaking sunset view. I longed to watch it for quite some time now but I thought sunsets are too magnificent to be enjoyed alone. So I promised myself I’d come back here with someone I’d watch the sunset with. The one who won’t be gone by sunrise. I have to admit, I was pretty desperate in fulfilling that promise, I had been here with several women my age. But none of them to share the sunset with, really. It was always either raining, or the woman I was with just was not cut out for my Buddy romance, or the vibe was completely off. But I am not giving up on that quest yet. Which was why when Lyn asked for resort recommendations to treat her teenage daughter, Brianna, El Mañana easily came up to mind.

I had only been seeing Lyn for a couple of months and I must admit, our thing not being official yet was quite a sore spot. More than her ex-husband finding out, she was too worried any relationship she’d have would just be another reason for Brianna to pull farther away from her. So against my better judgment and pride, I settled with the title of a suitor. A single mom’s suitor, at that.

Initially, Lyn wanted her and Brianna’s reunion to be just the two of them but I insisted on going with. I told her I could help with the heavy lifting, earning discounts with the fees, and who wouldn’t want a macho gwapito like me as a beach chaperon, right? But if I were being honest, I wanted to meet Brianna in person. Perhaps, this way, I could charm her into giving her blessing and I could finally truly be someone’s person. Lyn’s, preferably. I was growing impatient with what Brianna called, “a whatevership.”

I was grilling the bangus Lyn marinated the night before while she was anxiously fanning our food from flies while waiting for Brianna’s arrival. I can tell she’s agitated. The signal in the resort was spotty and the unconscious lip biting gave it away. That, and the fact that she had not seen her daughter for almost a year because Brianna chose to study in a university miles away from her mother out of spite. But there was something about the way the seabreeze blew Lyn’s yellow summer dress, her wavy copper hair brushing against her face, and her tucking her hair over her ears as she sported those sunglasses bigger than her sun-kissed cheeks. She was stunning even at 42.

The sight of her distracted me from the distress knowing that I had no indicator whether or not this bangus was cooking as it should be. Lyn had told me peeking through the foil cover would make all the moisture from the bangus escape so I was trying my hardest not to do so. Brianna liked the bangus juicy filled with ripe tomatoes, diced onions, ginger, and a bundled tanglad. It took me quite a while to keep the charcoal burning, but I managed by fanning every now and then. That was the good thing about Brianna being almost an hour past merienda late; she would not see me struggle with grilling her favorite dish. When I thought the bangus was good to go, I hurriedly sprinted to our kubo while juggling the hot bangus when a woman dashed to the step, her elbow striking the bangus to the sand.

“Yang!” Ah, so this was Brianna.

“I’m sorry, you didn’t think to put that on a plate,” Bri said.

Was that even an apology? Wow! She was really Lyn’s kid. Lyn approached her with an embrace when she swerved to the side to put her bags down. Lyn’s attempt for a hug landed as mere shoulder strokes. Brianna asked to bless from Lyn’s hand instead. Although I only saw her in pictures, her hair used to be raven black, not blonde. And she did not have pin cushions for ears. Even so, it must be awkward for them to meet after such a long time.

“Don’t call me Yang now, ma,” she said as she sprung back up again, flipping her hair up, and finally tying it together. “I go by Bri now.”

I have to say, although I did expect the two’s physical resemblance, their sassiness was uncanny. While Yangyang, or shall I say, Bri took a good long while before sitting to complain about how long the drive was to enter the resort, I quietly picked the bangus. I placed it on the table first, peeling off the foil before putting the fish on a foil tray. Good thing it was sealed or else Bri would have wasted my effort grilling her favorite dish. I tried my best not to interrupt their conversation because I was quite curious whether Lyn would introduce me to Bri or not. And if she did, what would she introduce me as.

“You did not have to spend this much for a vacation, ma. We could have just stayed home. Could we afford it?” Bri asked as she applied sunscreen.

As far as I’m concerned, the entrance fee for the three of us was already included with the kubo, which I had already settled on when I booked the resort exclusively. I just knew Lyn would ask, “It was Buddy’s treat! Why did they ask you to pay? That guard rea–”

Before Lyn could full-on complain, another woman entered our kubo carrying a box full of Soju with a pink ribbon bow.

“You didn’t have to,” I said to the woman thinking she was El Manaña’s new manager. I did not know when El Manaña began welcoming their guests with complimentary drink, but I wouldn’t complain.

“Sorry what?” the woman said.

I repressed my urge to repeat what I said to her when I saw car keys hanging on her denim shorts just as Bri uttered, “Joey, come here.”

And Joey did. Unlike Bri, Joey had a nicer vibe, a bit demure. Humbler, even. It usually does not matter to me but I could tell Joey was well-off. She wore a hat without the cap, the ones similar to golfers. I would bet her top was just a scarf wrapped around her torso. She had braces even though her teeth seemed fine as it was. Fair skinned.  And if it was not a solid case, her nails were pointy, long, had gemstones, and held an iPhone with three eyes. How could I mistake her for a manager? She could easily be a resort owner, for all I know.

“Joey?” Lyn wondered. “I thought Joey was your uyab, Yan–” Bri’s nose scrunched so Lyn corrected herself, “I mean, Bri.”

I could tell Joey wanted to introduce herself but while she was just recalibrating her tongue, Bri already mouthed an answer– “Exactly, po.”


To be continued…



Princess “Preng” Arguelles is a twenty-something Creative Writing major at the University of the Philippines Mindanao. She attempts to capture reality-based ordeals in her fiction.