Counting, October 1950

Nonfiction by | March 25, 2024

An excerpt from House, Tree, Person

For my great grandmother
Who bore my grandmother
Who bore my mother

I was chasing the chickens outside our home. The early morning dew had settled finely on the shrubs that grew around the perimeter. One, two, three, the chickens lay on their backs to expose their bellies toward the sun.

Later that day, our town would hold a celebration for the annual feast of Sta. Maria. Segundo would be there. During practices for the parada, we had to march side-by-side with my hand around his arm. We both looked down and saw the fine blonde hair on his fair skin, touching against my scaly, browned arm. “It’s from helping my parents with the chickens,” I defied.

We were to lead the entire congregation of pious young people, just behind a tow of men carrying Maria herself. On the last day of practice, he told me he would wait for me at the corner near our home, so we could walk to the town center together.

After I went about my rounds and click-click-click went the grains to the feeders, I suddenly remembered that I forgot to hang my bestida. It lay on my bed, freshly hand-washed, but how I feared it would become wrinkled!

I ran to our backdoor, past the charred coco lumber from last night’s cooking. It was quiet at home. All my siblings had already gone for early preparations—the four of us each given a task as important as the next. As the youngest, I was only too glad to be a part of the festivities. Even if it meant I had to go straight home after practices, unlike my elders.

Save for my older sister’s side of the bed, which was unkept, my white dress lay quietly in order. I took a hanger out of the closet and hooked the dress next to our mirror. I avoided my reflection, as my face would be flushed and as brown as ever from heat and sun. I can already surmise what neighbors and relatives would tell me today: you look so much like your mother.

I was meaning to ask mama if I should be getting ready by now. When she found the white, tiered dress for me at the tailor shop where she worked, she was told it had many tatters beneath the ruffles. The shop owner, a Chinese-American woman, told her to take it home, without asking so much as a sentimo. I look back now and realized I must have looked disappointed when she came home with it. It took her many bright afternoons to sew in the gaps between the delicate lace. Then she made alterations to the fit, submerged the garment in water and cornstarch (twice), and for good measure added a small bow by the collar. When she saw my face in the mirror wearing the dress, she put her hand on my cheek then went to fix herself sweetened kape nga mais in the kitchen.

She must have been up late last night again.

A few nights ago, near midnight, she was called outside by one of our neighbors. None of us could hear the entire conversation, but it seemed severe. Our eldest, Panchito, closed the windows when we heard raised voices. Then we heard our mother wailing. When she came back inside, Anita, my elder sister, offered her a glass of water. My mother waved her hand and said: “Dili. Kape.” She wanted corn mix coffee.

Our father was not home yet, but in due time would come barging in our front door with treats. All of us listened intently to his voyages to lands like Butuan, Leyte, and Cebu. “It was raining hard one night, and the very roofs over our heads were beginning to come off—luckily Dodong (our long-time family friend) found shelter for the three of us down by road. It turns out to be a chapel of San Pedro. Dodong had to make the sign of the cross before busting open the chains with a heavy rock. Hopefully God and all the saints can forgive us!”

I saw my mother make a face.

For an entire year, papa frequented Bohol, where he said the pristine beaches had sand like milk powder, and there were strange creatures that made noises at noon, and again at sunset.

“These were the Alimokon,” he said. “If you are on a journey in the morning and an Alimokon coos in front of you, turn back and go home. You have been warned of impending danger.”

Before departing again, he kissed mama good bye and left money for a month’s spending. But mama learned quickly to be tight-fisted, as papa was known to be gone for much longer. He left only last month.

The next afternoon, as they were repairing a sacristan’s robe for the parada, she looked at my sister Anita with her suha-shaped eyes and asked about Roldan, one of the men who accompanied father at work. That morning, Anita had just seen Carmen, Roldan’s wife, front-heavy and heaving. “They have to make do without a third man until I give birth,” Anita heard Carmen prattling to a choir of helpers sweeping the steps of the rebuilt St. Augustine Cathedral. “Roldan has been home for seven months now. He’s a good, loyal husband…” Carmen trailed off as she fanned herself with a thin, Mama Mary paypay. Through the fan, she peered at Anita passing by.

“’Nang Carmen will be giving birth soon so she forbade ‘Nong Roldan to Papa’s trips,” my sister told my mother. “There’s no Manong Roldan, only Papa and Dodong. Just the two of them.” Mama looked at Anita calmly. After that, Anita thought none more of it. But after Mama’s death, my siblings and I learned she went a little further. Mama had sought the cousin of a distant relative who once lived in the same town Father frequented. She was told it was no secret that her husband strolled about the plaza with a young lass tied to his hip, with the loyal Dodong trailing behind. One, two, three, and a fourth, growing inside my Father’s mistress.

“She bore a child! The boy has your husband’s eyes, and his love for women. How the boy clings to his young mother’s breast like a tarsier.” This was what we heard before our mother awoke the entire neighborhood with her wailing.

I knocked on the door to my parents’ room. “Ma?” Sometimes she overslept. At odd hours of the night, light would still flicker beneath the space of her bedroom door.


“Ma! Ma! Mama!”

Mother was hanging from the ceiling. I stood on the chair just beneath her and ached my limbs to untie her overhead. I dared not look at her face.

When her body came down, I untangled the many layers of cloth straining her neck. I crouched down with her and held her close, my arms wrapped around her to keep the warmth from leaving her body.

Panchito saw us like this. My father eventually took the handsewn cloth made of retaso when he got home a week later, and we never saw it again. Papa would cease his travels and stay home to take care of us, eventually working at a soda plant until he died in his 70s. Through the years, his handsomeness faded until it was apparent that he was much lonelier than he liked to admit. Papa never remarried.

It was much, much later when I found out that Segundo had been waiting for me nearby when they took my mother’s body away. He must have seen me in house clothes, crying for God.

Anna Miguel Cervantes (b. 1993, Cagayan de Oro) is a writer & artist interested in the nexus of her identities as maker of text, moving images, and installation.

Spectacle in the Dark

Nonfiction by | March 18, 2024

It’s June and I sit inside a 7-11 that is below an old house located between old buildings that line Claveria, one of the oldest streets in Davao. This 7-11 branch is small, so it had to maximize space inside to make way for some tables and benches. While waiting for my grilled four-cheese sandwich, a guy sat beside me; I realized that it was impossible to have someone sit across from you – all four tables are positioned facing the street.  There were more seats outside, but I chose to bask in the cold of the AC, having walked a kilometer under the midday sun. Just across the next block facing the spot in 7-11 where I am sitting, is the Lawaan Theater and behind me are the Odeon and Eagle theaters, run-down and crumbling. The guy sitting next to me on the same bench moved to the adjacent table when it was vacated. The grilled cheese sandwich took longer than I expected.

Shake Rattle and Roll

It’s December 1990 and Papa took me to see Shake Rattle and Roll Part 2. It was my first memory of going to the movies. Even though we lived that time in the slum area (called Barrio Pogi) directly in front of the cinema complex. Entering a different world for two hours is just a walk across. SRR 2 was sort of an upgrade from the horror komiks that I read for 50 cents from Pogi’s suking tindahan. The monsters seemed more real and scarier in the dark, larger than life. The old standalone cinemas of my childhood were really dark, made more overwhelming by the only light emanating from the silver screen. The darkness was vivid and the memory of it was. I even remember sitting along the aisle.

The episodic Shake Rattle and Roll horror film series began in 1981. It took 9 years for Part 2 to happen, but the 90s made up for its absence in the 80s as it became an annual staple during the Metro Manila Film Festival, a festival that, although named after the country’s capital region, happens throughout the entire Philippines, or at least in cities where there are theaters.1 SRR 2’s first episode is about a ghostly possession, where Eric Quizon’s character succumbs to the evil spirit of a mad doctor played by Eddie Guttierez. After wearing the doctor’s ring, the husband becomes murderous and torments his wife, played by Janice de Belen. The episode features a flashback scene that shocked me when I saw it again as an adult. In it, Gutierrez’s mad doctor performs a forced abortion to a young schoolgirl, played by the late Isabel Granada. Papa covered my eyes during the scene, but I managed to peek a split-second and remember seeing blood dripping onto the white basin. Rewatching it, I was amazed at how nerve-wracking the scene was – aside from the abortion scene, there was copious bloodshed when the doctor blew his brains out and when Quizon cut off his finger – and even more amazed that I was actually let in. I guess the rating would have been PG 13, which meant kids can go with an accompanying adult. 

Godzilla vs.?

It’s July 2023 and I just watched two Godzilla movies back-to-back. The Japanese ones. Godzilla vs. King Ghidora and Godzilla vs. Biollante. I watched them to conjure up a memory. I wanted for a particular scene to match a certain image and unlock a more vivid childhood memory of me watching it alone inside the Lawaan Theater. I later learned that the name alludes to the province of Davao, then an undivided Region 11, being a logging haven. Davao also became a stronghold during the Japanese occupation, and many Japanese migrated to Davao to engage in abaca business even before the war.

I watched King Ghidora first because I am certain that it came after SRR 2 but then if foreign films often get screened late in the provinces, there was a chance that the 1989 film with Biollante might be the one that I saw. If it was King Ghidora, I might have seen it in 1992 when I was eight. The faint image I had in my head was Godzilla in a city with buildings around him. But isn’t this scene a given in any Godzilla film, as he is wont to wreak havoc in the city at some point?

In the mid-90s, we moved from the downtown area to a suburban village, closer to the cement factory where Papa once worked. I got a Godzilla toy from Papa, and grew fond of it, the memory of watching the Godzilla movie fading away. When I saw (larger-than) life-sized Godzilla lording it over a building in Shinjuku in 2017, two months after Papa died, I couldn’t summon the memory to life, more preoccupied by the need to record the moment on Instagram. Of course, I would later learn of Godzilla as an anti-imperialist cautionary tale amidst remnants of Japanese occupation in the city kept alive by tourism. And I would later be involved in organizing a film festival that started as a collection of Davao-made horror short films that express the urban anxieties of living in post-EJK of Duterte’s Davao.

There is a bias for things from the past that comes with age and nostalgia that when our memories of it become hazy, we try to salvage it from oblivion and obsolescence. But a certain ‘spirit of the times’ decides which ones are worth remembering, Annie Ernaux says. Like reviving a certain grandeur and feeling of awe from the crudeness of visual effects in monster movies of our childhood. Even with the spectacle of CGI, some of us harp on the pre-digital effort of make-believe. From the aswangs in SRR 2 with its boar-like fake fangs that ate its own kind in a clever body-swapping narrative to the giant kaijus that exude menace even when they are sloppy. They were my spectacle, and I followed it into the dark.

Despite its present shabby structure, the old Lawaan theater still stands. It was turned into a headquarters of a Hindu religious group though I haven’t really figured out how the building would still have inhabitants. Prominent in what used to be its marquee’s place is a streamer of then-congressional candidate and civil society leader Mags Maglana who dared to go against the reigning Paolo Duterte during the last elections. On one side, part of the Odeon-Eagle complex has been demolished and part of it is now a Victory praise and worship center. Amidst the rising towers that are now threatening to swallow downtown, the detritus of my childhood adventures, memories etched in the dark, may have found their own light.

[1] I am not sure if throughout its history the MMFF happened simultaneously all over the country. I imagine carrying the reels outside Manila then would have been more laborious and time-consuming.

Jay Rosas is a film programmer, critic, organizer, and filmmaker based in Davao City. Recently, he was selected as one of the Southeast Asian fellows for the Arts Equator Fellowship.

Trials of the Flood and a Side of Fried Chicken

Nonfiction by | March 11, 2024

Reeling in Hunger

Reels on Facebook really know how to test me when I’m at my lowest point: scrolling through food shorts at 2 AM while my gut punches my brain for craving food that won’t be available until later. But among these food clips, fried chicken is the frequent visitor to my phone-bleached eyes. I let these reels torment my dinnerless soul while rain relentlessly pounds the metal roof outside. And the only thing I can do is imagine that I was the content creator dipping that drumstick in gravy.

Everyone on social media is in search of the Holy Grail recipe of perfectly cooked fried chicken. Some say wet and dry batter is the secret; others, buttermilk and brine. Use a variety of spices, and double fry it for that “extra crunch.” There’s also the simplicity of the Kanto fried chicken: big pieces deep-fried and sold in batches that pack street stalls with hungry customers regardless of the weather. Each recipe boasts quality with these adjectives: tender, crispy, juicy, sarap to the bones. Chicken, hot fried chicken, was man’s friend amidst life’s woes. I had to bring these recipes to life, but little did I know that the pitter-patter outside brewed something else.

From Prison to Prison

As the university finally granted us a much-needed escape after grinding and floating throughout the first semester, my focus shifted from studying to spending hours laughing and craving on whatever reel that appears on my feed. I scrolled on Facebook away from the readings, away from the recitations, and away from the academic pressure cooker. Additionally, due to my dormitory’s prohibitions on using cooking appliances for safety concerns, I longed for the taste of home-cooked meals and fried dishes that I would prepare myself. Upon returning to Tagum for a twenty-day escape, I relished the opportunity to cook meals by myself and serve them to my family. Frying chicken was more than just satisfying my mother and younger brother’s cravings. It was a closure I sorely needed and a refuge.

However, my stay was plagued with persistent rain . We’re used to searing temperatures from 9 AM to 12 noon, with the sky becoming dark and cloudy as early as 3:45 in the afternoon. Around 5:30 PM came the rain shower that persisted until midnight. We found ourselves trapped indoors as the water levels gradually rose, encroaching on our doorstep with ill intent. Who knew rain could be a prison? Fortunately, my mother and I had secured a week’s worth of groceries—including the chicken pieces I’d been planning to cook—by going to the mall early. What’s more, the clouds had spared us from their weeping. Otherwise, the fares would have doubled or added twenty pesos more, and we’d be left stranded at the mall’s entrance waiting for a ride.

Recipe for Disaster

There are areas in Tagum City with low elevation, and these are vulnerable to flooding even with the slightest drizzle. During the night, when it rains for an extended period, people would hastily pack their essentials and evacuate to the nearest gym or school to seek shelter for the night. Then they’d go back home the next day to check for the things they left, even if it meant wading through the muddy waters once again and facing possible health risks. This practice, and the deluge that necessitated it, has existed across generations; even my mother once braved these conditions before finally moving downtown.

But this time was different. What began as brief showers and small puddles escalated to nightlong downpours and stagnant waters. These floods not only swallowed roads but also crawled into and engulfed house floors in some areas. This time, it spared no corner of the city, reaching even the previously untouched neighborhoods and causing city-wide blackouts that plunged barangays into darkness. Because of this, evacuation efforts became increasingly hazardous, with residents navigating solely by the faint light of LED flashlights. Widespread class suspensions were declared, and many students and their families were displaced. Worse yet, the water buildup due to days of heavy rainfall further exacerbated the crisis by rendering crucial entry points inaccessible and causing soil instability in some areas.

I was back on the kitchen, preparing lunch by placing the ingredients and mentally seasoning the chicken by scrolling on Facebook when suddenly the city government’s page issued a road advisory:
“NOT PASSABLE TO ALL TYPES OF VEHICLES: Tagum to Carmen via Guadalupe”

The reported Low-Pressure Area (LPA) hovering over Southern Mindanao created an impact that was anything but low. All travelers to and from Davao City and nearby areas were cut off. We were trapped, and my father, who was planning to go home, was stranded on the other side of the flooded fence.

Marinating in Uncertainty

We spent the following days glued to updates on the flood situation, watching the road status fluctuate from “NOT PASSABLE TO ALL VEHICLES” to “PASSABLE TO HEAVY TRUCKS AND LIGHT VEHICLES” and vice versa. Large crowds sought refuge at evacuation centers as their homes were inundated with the flood. And there were no signs of it subsiding anytime soon due to intermittent showers. Students and employees who had classes and work were in a state of limbo: anxiously waiting for the Guadalupe bridge to become passable.

Luckily, there was an alternative route people could use; albeit a lengthy slog that cuts through many towns before arriving at Panabo — one more city before Davao. However, even this detour offered no guarantee as the roads became impassable once the Pagsabangan River overflowed. I, on the other hand, chose to wait for the bridge’s water to recede so that my father could finally go home. My mother and I would get elated whenever the road advisory said that the bridge was passable for heavy vehicles like trucks as it meant that the water was starting to ebb; and worried when it rose again.

Meanwhile, I saw some individuals force themselves to take the route despite the treacherous currents. A motorcycle driver almost got swept away if it weren’t for the people who jumped out of their vehicles and dragged him to safety. Families waited on the other side, while it was work and school for others. No deluge can simply overturn the unwavering demands of life.

Serve Hope (and Sensitivity) on a Platter

Despite the relentless downpour and turmoil the LPA brought to the city, it did not completely submerge its spirit. There were institutions and concerned citizens that led donation drives toward flood-driven barangays and puroks and offered essentials such as food, water, and clothes. Volunteers and rescue teams spent nights tirelessly wading through the waters to help evacuate those who were still trapped and stranded. A prominent social media influencer even posted a video on Facebook cooking adobong manok and showing dozens of packed meals ready to be delivered. Unlike the hapless chicken thigh, the people did not succumb to the prospect of being fried in its own predicament. Instead, what I saw were struggling citizens offering aid to other struggling citizens without any second thoughts. People helping other people without the need of national broadcast, although it would certainly help boost awareness. A celebrity breakup hounded the headlines at the time.

While excessive promotion of resilience risks romanticizing disaster, we were fortunate that the city government wasted no time in spearheading relief efforts. We did, however, expect someone from the upper echelons of government to express a tinge of sympathy and compassion on Mindanao’s situation. But he was busy, for reasons I couldn’t fathom, and it wasn’t the time to look for someone who wasn’t there.

We continued to chat with my father via video call to check on each other, waiting for the flood to subside. I then left my mother and younger brother to the conversation and headed back into the kitchen to take out a Crispy Fry packet. There were still some drumsticks left over, and I needed to cook supper before the flood cuts the power out.

Clint Jovial Delima is currently a first-year BA English (Creative Writing) student at the University of the Philippines Mindanao.

Thin Skins in Short Supply

Nonfiction by | January 1, 2024

Last January, I bought three onions for 75 pesos. It’s known that they can make people cry. Now, they can break hearts, too.

We started 2023 with a shortage in full swing. It’s a crisis, you might say. We have those all the time. True, but this is a different kind of crisis. This isn’t a state of emergency declared when a typhoon floods your house. This isn’t the kind of threat that happens when men with guns show up unexpectedly, or when you see the face of a friend on the police’s wanted poster for alleged charges of attempted murder. We learn to expect these things when the language of justice is money. It says what’s right and what’s red.

This crisis is the kind that creeps up on your windows or darts across your kitchen floor. It’s quiet, insidious. The worst kind. You go about your chores, go to work, grate your fingertips on a keyboard for chump change. You don’t notice it until it’s staring you in the face. By then, it’s too late.

Continue reading Thin Skins in Short Supply

The Barfly

Nonfiction by | November 13, 2023

For the very first time in a long time, I’d decided to bar-hop. I couldn’t remember exactly when was the last time. But tonight I knew I was back. After a hard day’s work. After tasks were done in the domestic affairs department and in the business department.

It had been a long time since I had extra money in my wallet. How I obtained them is an entirely different story to what I am going to tell you now. I want to tell you what happened to me that night. I want to share to you because it was a beautiful night. Beauty is something worth sharing. Is it not?

So I had enough money to spend. I wanted to get rid of this extra money, immediately. Why? Because I’m not really a fan of money. Relax, drink a cold beer and get drunk was the quickest way possible to spend them.

As I’ve said, tonight, tasks were done in the domestic affairs and business department, as it had always been for quite a time: household chores, cooking and dishwashing, laundry, my creatives, self-indulgent pursuits like writing and vlogging. I was done for the day.

Since there was no bar in sight here in our place, even after roaming around with tricycle, unlike before I can just visit a bar in my shorts and pang-balay nga t-shirt and slippers (in my case, my Sperry Topsider), I’ve decided to go downtown, the city proper, to find a bar to drink cold beer, with my shorts and polo shirt and my six-year-old, usable Sperry Topsider. Yes. Alone. Not lonely. Alone. Big difference.

After telling the taxi driver to find me one, I spotted a familiar place, a few kilometers away from our village. I’d gone to this place many times in the past. And here I was again.

This time I didn’t go through the door. I’ve decided to just stay outside, at their front bar, the kind that you see in taverns and clubs and pubs in Hollywood movies, where guests sip their favorite liquor on a rotatable tall chair. This one looked like an abandoned front bar where you can see no wines and liquors and a bartender in front of you.

“Hi sir, dire ta solod sir, unsa imo?” said the lady waitress on her black skirt and long sleeve polo and tie, as I was walking in their direction.

He was with a guy. They were both waiters, or waitresses, gender aside.

I said: “Dire lang ko sa gawas.” I wanted to stay right there, exactly where they sit together.

I asked, “naa moy Red Horse?”

Naa kaayo sir, replied the guy.

“Unya, bugnaw?” I asked, teasingly.

Bugnaw kaayo sir, he replied with a smile.

“Gai kog usa.”

After a few minutes the waiter ushered me to go inside. So I changed my mind. I went through the glass door.

There, at last, I was back. I was back in my solitary world. Enjoying my own company. The itch, that terrible itch of solitude was back at me again. Like addiciton to drugs. It relapsed. I always enjoyed being alone in a place like this, where you see couples, girlfriends with their boyfriends, group of friends, a family of four or five. While me just watching them.

It wasn’t just a bar. It was a typical Filipino resto bar where they serve dinner while a duo, a male keyboardist, probably almost sixty-years-old, and a singer, a lady who looked younger, probably forty-years old, was in front, playing standard songs like Fly me to the Moon and O Lumapit ka.

The waitress arrived at my table and served me the beer with a napkin tucked inside the mouth of the bottle for reason I didn’t know. I just thought maybe for hygienic purposes. But couldn’t they just wipe it off with a clean cloth or something? Anyway, so I noticed the temperature was so cold because of the air conditioner was way too strong for few individuals inside the room: I, the duo, and maybe five other people, except the waiter and waitress. So I left the table and went outside.

The main reason I left was because I wanted just to grasp a breeze of natural air and just listen to the sound of automobiles running on the streets while I drink my cold beer, watching the passers-by, some bystanders and tricycle drivers and passengers alighting on and off in the corner. Just watching the beauty of it, the nightlife of a city. Things you can’t experience inside an air-conditioned room. So I was back again at the front bar, the abandoned front bar.

Two probable reasons, I can think of, they wanted me to go inside the bar was, one, they wanted to fill an almost empty space of the room, and two, they thought I was lonely because I was alone, even though I didn’t look lonely. A brotherly gesture to let me know they care, and that they probably didn’t want me to be lonely… or see me lonely. But I honestly wasn’t lonely. In fact, I looked so enthusiastic you can see the smile in my eyes. Curious, intrigued, scheming, waiting for something to happen…

After consuming two Red Horse stallion, a man went to sit beside me. I acknowledged his presence by nodding my head. Some minutes earlier inside the bar, I remembered he was the one who told me to sing. That it was allowed to sing on stage. That I just have to choose a song I desire, or at least any song I like, that was on the bands’ repertoire or list.

“Tugnaw kayo sa sulod noh?” he said.

“Mao lagi,” I replied.

Then I asked, “ga togtog sad ka dire?”

“Dili. Ga sayaw ko.”


“Oo kanang nay mga babaye manayaw akong tudluan. D.I ko sir. Dance Instructor.”

“Ahhh I see.”

“Pero mingaw lagi kaayo ron.”

“Mao ba?”

“Pero kung biyernes og sabado, daghan tao?”

“Usahay sir. Pero kasgaran mingaw na jod. Dili na pareha sa una.”

Before he could ask me some personal stuffs like “ikaw ra lagi usa sir” because he was displaying curiosity, looking straight to my eyes, I told him, “Ing ani jod ko bai. Ganahan ko mag inusara.”

I further told him that I was still single. Haven’t married all my life. Had I been married he won’t see me hanging around in this bar, all alone. There was a high level of freedom when you’re alone, I said to him. And also I didn’t like to be with friends most of the time, because, to be honest, talk were always boring, insincere, monotonous, and unproductive. I seek a different experience like talking to strangers like him. I had always wanted to talk to strangers in a place like this, in a bar, in a jeepney, bus, in a grocery store or just about anywhere where you can a have a chance to talk to anyone, whom you had no idea about his/her background and circumstances in life, his journey, his struggle and all. It made me feel good to talk to strangers. That’s why I was here, I said. He smiled and showed interest to what more I had to say.

I asked him his age. 48, he replied.

Then to my surprise, I said, “Really? I’m 48 too.”

We both laughed. He said his name was Jim and I said my name was Nonoy. So we talked about music and rock n roll. Nirvana and Metallica. That I had been a musician and most active in the mid-to-late 90’s. I told him about the time when we were so young and wild and free. The rock n roll scene in Davao we used to play at gyms every Saturday night for months. An era where Davao City was still not as peaceful as it is now. Infested with gangs, drug addicts, drug pushers, robbers and those troubled teenagers who just wanted to get into fistfights. We also talked some other things about the 80’s. Times when life was so simple and happy and not difficult. Then he began to share his circumstances. That he had two kids but had no mother to turn to, for reason I didn’t bother to ask.

Some moments later he said he needed to get inside the room. I beckoned to the waiter to order another bottle of Red Horse Stallion. He went out together with the waitress. Then, as I wasn’t expecting, he asked me “Nganu ikaw ra man usa ya?” as he handed me over the beer. I smiled. I told him the same thing that I told Jim. That I felt comfortable being alone. That I didn’t want being around with friends or group of friends. I didn’t feel comfortable when I was with them. I quoted Charles Bukowski even though I knew they didn’t have a slightest idea who it was: “Ingon pa ni Bukowski, ‘I don’t hate people. I just feel better when they’re not around.’”

“I cannot take advantage the essence of drunkenness of being alone when I’m with them. I just want to watch the vehicles running, the passers-by walking, bystanders idling, passengers in jeepneys and tricycles alighting in the corner, while I am gulping my beer. The beauty of the city. Its nightlife. That was more pleasurable to me than talking to old friends who say things over and over again.”

“That’s the problem with people,” I continued. “They feel lonely when they’re alone. They also have that uncomfortable feeling of overthinking that people would see them awkward or embarrassing when they’re alone. That it’s not normal for you to be seen with no company. So they don’t want to be left all by themselves.

“Hala!” he said. “Ing anah sad ko ya bah. Mas ganahan ko ako ra isa ya.”

I asked how old he was. He said he was 24. Then I turned toward the girl, the waitress, with a name tag on his right polo shirt “HONEY.”

“Ikaw Honey pila nay edad nimo?”

“22 pa ko oi.”

“Unsa name nimo?” I asked the waiter.

“Christian, ya. Ikaw?”

“Nonoy ko.”

“So you belong to the generation z, right?” Then he laughed. “No. Millennials mi ya oi.”

“Generation X man ko. Unsay sunod sa Generation X?”

“Generation Y,” Christian scoffed.

Yes it’s Generation Y, but it is called millennials because you grew up at the time of the new millennia. Year 2000 onwards.

Then I asked: “Ikaw Honey unsa ka nga generation, Generation Z?”

“Nah ambot ya oy.”

“Don’t you know your generation is the most complicated one among other generations in the past? And the most entitled generation in the history of mankind,” I said, smirking.

“Mao lagi ya,” said Christian.

“Because you were born in the age of Internet,” I said.

Then I asked. “Unsay music ang ginapaminawan ninyo? K-pop noh?”

“Dili ya oi.”

“Really. So what do you listen?”

“Sagol man ya. Mga r and b, raps.”

“Nagapaminaw ka og Eraserheads?”

“Yes ya.”

“Ikaw Honey kaila ka anang Eraserheads?”

“Oo ya.”

“The thing I like about the millennials and generation z is that even though the music in our era isn’t your music now, you still have the zest of listening to it. Some I know, my nephews and nieces, sing my favorite songs in the 90’s, when I was your age. They even memorize and understand the lyrics.”

Honey suddenly asked me: “Naa na kay anak ya?”

“Yes I have one daughter but she’s with her mom, I replied.

“Nagakita pa mo ron?”

“Wala na.”

“Nganu man?”

“Well, let’s just say I’m only the biological father, not the legal one.”

“Ay kadali lang ha,” Honey said, as she was giving hand signals to somebody inside the room. Christian followed her.

I felt like I wanted to smoke. I went to a store, just across the bar, to investigate. There were no cigarettes for sale. I asked one tricycle driver where can I buy some. He brought me to a store with his tricycle just about a hundred meters away.

After the tricycle dropped me at one sari-sari store to buy cigarettes, the driver and I had a brief chat as we’re going back to where I previously flagged him off, across the bar.

“Mingaw na kayo ang Davao noh?” I said. “Dili na parehas sa una ba.”

“Mao jod. Sa una daghan pa kaayog tawo direng dapita mag lakaw lakaw.”

“Tungod sa pandemya ni bah nya gi samotan pa jod sa gira sa Ukraine.”

Then suddenly he said to me as I noticed he had been examining my face: “familiar lagi ka sa ako boss.”

“Mao ba?”

“Lagi murag nakita na taka sa una bah.”

“Basin nakita ko nimo sa YouTube.”

He laughed as if somebody cracked a good joke.

“Daan pa lagi ko bah. Cebu and Davao man to boss noh?”


“Kadtong naa mo sa Times Beach; pirting katawa nako oi.”

I laughed, a bit awkward but flattered at the same time. He continued to laugh.

“Shoutout. Unsay name nimo?”

He mentioned his name but now as I’m writing this, my mind can’t grasp that memory anymore when he told me his name.

So he pulled over to the side of the bar as I reached into my front pocket to get some bills. I handed him two hundred-peso bills. “Imuha nana bai.”

He laughed as I also laughed.

“Salamat kayo boss.”

“Way sapayan boss.”

I came back with my warm bottle of beer, waiting for me on the table like a stone. Christian was already there with Honey before I arrived. Some moments later Jim appeared from nowhere. Our conversation began again.

“Asa man ka gikan ya?” asked Honey.

“Nagpalit ko og yosi,” I replied.


Christian looked to be desperate. He wanted to tell me something.

“Ya, naa koy pangutana nimo ya bah?”

“Unsa man?” I asked as I lit my cigarette with my cricket lighter.

“Minyo na ka ya?”

“Wala pa,” I replied.

Some moments, Honey left the table. Christian turned toward her as if he was pleased that she left, probably because he didn’t want her to hear what he was going to ask me.

“Pero daghan na ka experience sa mga uyab, ya?”

“Nah. Di na nako ma ihap.”

“Daghan na man jod kag experience about kanang uyab ya, unsa man akong buhaton ya kung ganahan ko sa babaye pero di ko gusto nga masakitan siya?”

“Nah. Ayaw nag panguyab. Better when you’re single.”

“Tarung ya bah.”

I gave him a wide smile.

“Nganu naka ingon man ka anah?” I asked.

“Kuan man gud ya… kanang…”

Christian told me a lot of things, about his life, his problems, love, his family, about the girl he was courting. He said the girl he was pertaining to was Honey, the waitress he’d been accompanying all this time.

I finally told him that you better not delay if you’re sure about what you feel. Otherwise, you’ll regret it. If you love someone, deep in your heart, with all the instincts inside you, you feel you want her, you like her, you love her, do not waste time thinking whether she would give in to you or not. Go ahead and tell her that you like her, you love her.

Then he told me he was afraid to tell his feelings for it might be the reason for her to avoid him.

“Just have some balance. Don’t play games. Try to ask her out. Get to know her as she would get the chance to get to know you. Do that maybe 2 or 3 times. Then if you still like her qualities, excluding her physical aspects, then tell her you like her and that you wanted her to be your girlfriend. Tell her why you like her. If she won’t give in doesn’t mean she doesn’t like you. Maybe she needs time. At least you told her what you feel. After telling her that, be cold. Play heart-to-get. But no games. She will give in to you. If she won’t, you got nothing to lose. You told her you love her. It’s her loss not yours. It’s a win-win situation.”

I put my cigarette in an ashtray as I dunked the remaining beer in my mouth.

“‘Cause you know, sometimes it’s better to live without a woman in your life. Don’t get too attached. Avoid them as much as possible,” I said.

Afterwards, Honey appeared. As Christian went away to the room to attend to new customers who had just arrived. Then a few moments later, Jim arrived.

We talked again for almost an hour. Then he went back inside the air-conditioned room.

Afterwards, I followed him and ordered another Red Horse Stallion. I have already consumed 7 bottles of Red Horse stallion. Then I was beginning to tap my hands and my feet with the song the band were performing. I was beginning to enjoy the moment. I thought this was what I wanted after all. Talk to strangers, listen to good music, drink beer and get drunk.

After a while, I felt I had already too much to drink. I knew myself when I get drunk. I might do something that I will regret the next day. You know, like do some obnoxious things, offend people. I decided to leave.

Jim, on the other side of the table called my name. I went to him.

Then he said, “Pait kaayo karon bah. Walay customer; walay mga babae nga manayaw.”

“Mao ba?”

I can sense that he needed some money. Any amount I guessed. This was because I mentioned to him, while we were having that small chat some hours ago, that I gave some money to people in my vlogs during Christmas time some months ago. He took advantage of it and he knew I had some with me since I was having a good time in the bar. He took advantage of it. He took advantage more because he knew that I was drunk. Problem was, he was right: I’m a compulsive spender, an unreasonable giver when I’m not sober.

I reached out my wallet and got out 3 hundred-peso bills. I handed them to him.

“Salamat kaayo Noy,” he said as he smiled.

“Way sapayan bai. ayo ayo. amping sa imong life. Be happy.”

“Salamat Noy.”

Then I left the bar.

I walked myself drowsily at the sidewalks as I kept flagging occupied taxis. Finally, some moments later, a taxi pulled over to the side as I got on board.

A week later I came back. Christian came to me at one of the tables outside the room. I was already drunk from a friend’s party, so I decided to only consume one bottle of San Mig Light. Honey wasn’t around. He said she had fever that’s why she was absent. Christian still kept on talking about her for maybe about 10 minutes. We couldn’t talk more because there were many guests he had to attend to. I told him to message me in Messenger.

A few days later, he PMed me. He told me he had just gotten herself a girlfriend, and her name was Honey.

Honesto Avellanosa III is a 48-year-old guy who creates content for his Youtube channel Cebu and Davao Journey and Cebu-Davao Adventures. He used to sing and write songs for his rock band The Happiest.

I Get To

Nonfiction by | August 7, 2023

I am afraid of the baby waking up. I am afraid that the baby won’t wake up. I have been afraid of a lot of things since I gave birth to my son.

I spend the whole day with my baby and my second child, D, alone. Day after day, I spend it dreaming of having some help around the house. I wish someone would spend the day with me, not to do the household chores, but to take care of my children, so that I can focus on my work. The mere thought of it makes me feel guilty. Am I a bad mother for secretly wishing I could spend a little less time with my kids?

I want to call my mother and ask her to come to our house. I want to tell her that I need her help, but I know I can’t. My 64-year-old mother has a limp and moving around with the baby is just impossible. I need my mother, but I don’t want a smoker around my kids. That’s the real reason why I don’t call her for help.

Maybe today wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe it wouldn’t feel so arduous having to take care of two kids while working a full-time job and doing household chores in between. At least, I get to it. I get through it and tomorrow is a different story.

I was in the middle of speaking to a client when I heard my daughter shouting. She was calling for me saying that the baby was awake and was crying because he wanted some milk. I had to apologize to my client for I needed to cut the call. I told him I’d call again as soon as I calm the baby down.

I get to the baby and lay down beside it for a good thirty minutes or so. Then we both got out of bed and walked to the playroom where we would spend the rest of our day playing, cuddling, working, and all of it all at once.

“What’s for lunch today, Mama?” D asked kindly.

“I don’t know,” I quietly replied. I have always been honest with D. Since she was young, I have always been open to her about a lot of things, something I taught myself to do. I wasn’t like that with my first child. This is me trying to unlearn things to be a better mother.

I honestly didn’t know what to feed my kids for lunch. My morning was spent juggling work and motherhood.

“What about breakfast for lunch?” D suggested.

“That sounds like a good plan,” I said with motherhood guilt slowly kicking in. I quietly walked away and prepared hotdogs to cook. I should be feeding D healthier food, but it’s the only thing I could think of at that time. I get to feed D with food and that’s enough for today.

Nighttime came and my eldest daughter L and my husband were home. I was excited to welcome them, thinking I can finally get my hands free from the baby, but they both looked exhausted. I don’t want to add to their burden. A part of me wants to say that I was burdened by the fact that I have to take care of the kids and earn a living. But I am the mother. Everyone expects me to take it all in.

And so, I get to the crying baby. I comforted him like the good mother that I am. Today, I chose my baby over the urge to let him cry until he gets tired. I am tired, so I cried while my baby was sleeping soundly in my arms.

We took the kids out last weekend. I bumped into an old classmate of mine and we exchanged smiles. She asked me where I was connected and I told her I was working from home. She told me she was still working with the same bank. She wished she could stay at home with her kids like I do. I just smiled.

It was the only thing acceptable at that time. I didn’t have the courage to tell her that I thought she was lucky to be away from home for a few of hours every day. I wouldn’t dare tell her how tiring it was to be with my kids the whole day everyday 24/7. So I smiled. Anyway, she didn’t ask me how I was doing. Nobody does.

I clean our floors more than three times a day. As my son crawls and D plays on the floor, I feel like I need to clean our floors as often as I could. The hair on the floor didn’t bother me before, but now, I can’t go on three hours without giving in to the compulsion to clean the floors.

A friend I haven’t spoken to in months asked me about my routine. She sent me a message telling me how incredibly amazing I was for being such a hands-on Mom. I told her how I get to things everyday. That started it all. I told her how frustrating it can be to teach D a simple math problem and she still ends up getting the wrong answer when asked to do it alone. I told her how angry I was that my husband can get to hang out with his friends while I am at home with the kids.

I went on telling her how no one in the house can get things done in ways that I consider right. And that no matter how seemingly important my concerns are, there is this baby whose needs will always be my priority. It is oppressive.

I realized I must have said too much because our chat fell quiet. She didn’t send any reply to anything that I said. It must have overwhelmed her.

I wished she has something, anything. I wanted to tell her about my good days as a stay-at-home mom too. I wanted to tell her how proud I was when L came home with a perfect score in her Elective Math quiz. When I congratulated her, she simply replied, “Thank you Mama for helping me.”

One of my proudest moments as a mom was when D was picked for the special dance. She was one of the few students in her ballet class that was in the Director’s List this year. Her teacher said she is showing a lot of promise. I came home smiling.

I was already 37 when I gave birth to my son, so I took special interest in his development. I read books about baby milestones and became nearly obsessed about whether my son was hitting it or not.

Imagine my happiness when he rolled to his tummy for the first time. Oh, I couldn’t stop talking about it that I actually annoyed the people around me. But I didn’t care. That was one of my proud mama moments.

I feel like I am capable of doing so little, but I am asked to do so much. Yet again, I have to remind myself of the mantra that has got me going all this time. I get to the crying baby, teach D how to read CVCs, assist L as she learns how to balance equations in Chemistry, and give my husband a massage after a day’s work.

I get to witness my children grow up and get to be there when they need me. I get to teach my daughters with what I think they need to know to survive the world while I teach myself how to survive my days. I get to mother this baby boy and show him how it is to love and be loved.

The next day, I do it all over again, only it’s not like I’m at war. It’s not as awful. It entails a lot of work, but days are no longer impossible. I get to experience all of motherhood and its quirks.

Little by little, I get to live.

Lysette lives in Davao City with her husband and 3 children. She is passionate about homeschooling.

In the Solitude of Wisteria Trees (Part 2)

Nonfiction by | July 31, 2023

In that moment, I just listened.

I stopped in front of one of the trees, taking in all the details. Its imposing trunk stood far behind a low fence. Lines and grooves ran across the dark brown bark and revealed its age. The healthy branches stretched towards different directions, leading to the smaller vines and finally the blossoms.

It was a much bigger tree. But the fascination felt familiar.

As a child, I have always been fond of flowers and gardens. I spent many hours playing and picking apart the flowers in my grandmother’s yard in Davao.

I marveled at the fruits that grew from the trunk of her cacao tree. I admired the papaya tree fronds which reminded me of the tree star leaves in the 90s movie Land Before Time.

I would climb up the sprawling gumamela shrub that seemed like a tree to the tiny five-year-old me.  I nimbly made my way through the branches to pick blossoms.

I also plucked flowers from the santan bush next to it, and linked them to make garlands and bracelets to wear for the day. One of my cousins taught me how draw out nectar from them too.

I was a flower maiden in my own right. The garden was my playground. There were no toys in our ancestral home. There weren’t any children my age, well except for my sister. Though an aunt and my then-teenage cousins lived on the second floor, my usual babysitters did have their own lives and romps to attend to. If I was left there for the weekend afternoon, the garden was the escape.

I made the gumamela my toys, pretending they were flower folk with the petals as skirts and the stems as bodies. I imagined them to be like whimsical characters from the cartoons I watched. I built dialogues. I narrated. Perhaps the grownups never understood the narrative they overheard. Perhaps they never will. But it never really bothered me.

Exploring the garden was a pastime I enjoyed in solitude. It was a pastime buried under the other pastimes I discovered over the next years of my childhood, only to be unearthed when I moved to Japan. I would head out to gardens, get lost in thought, then snap away with my camera phone.  I followed the plum blossoms and camellias of early March, the cherry blossoms and baby blue eyes of April, and even the irises and hydrangeas of June. I didn’t mind the alone time. I guess my only problem was if there was a very scenic backdrop and I wished I could get a full-body picture with it.

Sumimasen! (Excuse me)” called a woman from behind, her voice laced with a Vietnamese accent. “Sasshin, torimashouka? (Shall I take your picture?)”

I came out of my meditation. I turned to see a group of travelers, some of whom were dressed to the nines. The offer came from the woman with a smile on her face and a camera on hand. “Hai, onegaishimasu (Yes, please),” I stuttered in surprise and handed my phone.  She toggled with it a little, took some photos, and gave it back. I took it as my sign to move on.

The clouds were slowly clearing up to reveal the rich indigo shade of twilight. I explored more of the wisteria groves the park boasted of. I discovered the double-flowered wisteria tree with puffy blossoms and filled the air with a delicate, floral scent. I saw the trellis of pink wisterias that trailed down like rain, its vines growing to nearly two meters long. Then I ended up in a slightly smaller but solitary trellis that was bathed in an ethereal purple light and invited another moment to contemplate.

The wisterias were all aglow as dusk slowly crept in. I walked to the park exit with a gallery full of whimsical trees. And a few pictures of me and hundred-year-old wisteria trees.


“In the pale moonlight
The scent of the wisteria
Comes from far away”
-Yosa Buson, In the Moonlight


Stephanie Puyod is an alumna of the BA Communication Arts program of the University of the Philippines-Mindanao.

In the Solitude of Wisteria Trees (Part 1)

Nonfiction by | July 24, 2023

“Come join me in the regrets for the passing spring
And wisteria aglow in the evening light”
-Murasaki Shikibu, Tales of Genji


The sky was overcast from the afternoon rain. Gray but thankfully not too dreary. All that was left was a slight drizzle. Some of these raindrops have settled on my glasses, but I didn’t bother to brush them away.  I maneuvered my phone through the clusters of wisteria before me. My goal was to achieve a “peering through the vines” self-portrait.

Little by little I found my groove and my angle. I was pleased.

I was doing yet another hitori tabi—or solo traveling in Japanese—this time in Tochigi, a prefecture north of Tokyo. Since I moved to the Land of the anime and kawaii things in October 2017, I’ve slowly cultivated a tradition of chasing and documenting perennials. It began on my first spring here, when I chanced upon cherry blossom sightseeing maps at the train station. I sought to check out the accessible spots, and from there I was hooked. The following month, I was in the company of friends and roses. The next year I added hydrangeas and irises to this list. Yes, I travel for flowers.

Over the next years, I made it a goal to visit a wisteria garden—the ones that lead you through winding pink tunnels or expansive trellises. I finally ticked it off in April 2022.

Tochigi’s Ashikaga Flower Park is home to some of the largest and oldest wisteria trees in Japan. I came there in search of the famed hundred-year-old wisteria trees that were said to inspire the Tree of Life in James Cameron’s Avatar. To be honest, I’ve forgotten how it looked like, but I do remember being amazed by the gigantic tree with pink cascading vines and a soft glow about it.

The one before me wasn’t as majestic. Neither were the other ones in the grove I was in. These looked young but approachable. They allowed me to study the flowers up close.

The purple blossoms dribbled down the vines like droplets of water. They could easily fall off with one wrong move. Wisteria is known as fuji in Japan. (Similar but not to be mistaken for the mountain. Their kanji characters are different.) I find it amusing that the flower’s kanji is a combination of the symbols for grass and water rising. It put me in a glass-half-empty-half-full kind of quandary.

After all, the wisteria is also admired for its form, with its arched trunks and its blossoms facing downwards. It was as if the whole plant was deep in prayer. Fittingly, the flower is used in the crest of a branch of Buddhism in Japan, using it as a symbol of humility and reflection.

I pulled away from this grove and navigated my way to the center of the park. The afternoon light was waning. The night illuminations would begin soon. I stopped to take photos of yellow and orange poppies. Even the azaleas. A tall pergola of baby pink wisterias snaked around the courtyard. The cherry blossoms were long gone, but spring was still in full swing.

While cherry blossoms or the sakura is the first flower that come to mind whenever one speaks of Japan, wisteria have earned a place in the country’s history and art.

We can see these viny blossoms as a common motif in kimonos and ceramics. Fuji Musume or Wisteria Maiden has been a favorite theme in paintings. Much like the goddess Venus, this woman has been reinterpreted many times. It has also inspired a traditional dance which tells the sad tale of Fuji Musume that came to life, longing for man who viewed her painting. She walked around with a stalk of wisteria as she waited a reply to her love letters.

True enough, wisteria has a character that evokes longing and nostalgia. Perhaps it’s in the tranquil purples and blues mixed with whites and pinks. Perhaps it’s in the manner the flowers dangle and seemingly float midair. Or perhaps it’s in the melancholic way the vines droop, as if longing for a past that may either be happy or sad. In this light, wisteria has frequently been tied to nostalgia in Japanese literature.

The 11th century masterpiece Tale of Genji describes fuji as a companion to the sadness that comes in the passing of springtime. Author Murasaki Shikibu compares it to the snowlike sakura which, while beautiful, is fleeting in nature. The wisteria comes out at an opportune time, much later in April, sitting with observers to lament time gone by.

Taking my sweet time around the park, I followed another path of young wisteria shrubs. A mix of excitement and longing bubbled up in my chest. Then through a clearing, I finally saw it: a trellis more than a thousand meters wide.

Over it hung a curtain of lilac and purple flowers with the specks of royal and sky blue.  Bumblebees buzzed through the vines as if they too were on holiday. Underneath, people milled around with their eyes fixed on the blossoms overhead.

On opposite sides stood two grand wisteria trees. There was a sense of wisdom and strength told in the way they stooped down with the breadth and abundance they carried. They commanded attention the way soft-spoken mentors draw your interest. You listen to every word they say.

Stephanie Puyod is an alumna of the BA Communication Arts program of the University of the Philippines-Mindanao.