Notebook

Nonfiction by | June 7, 2021

Gamit ang notebook sa among panahon. Kini uban sa mga butang nga amo gayung isulod sa bag nga bala-balahon ngadto sa eskwelahan ug pauli. Makahinumdom ko nga init-init pa ang akong notebook sa akong una nga subject human sa matag buntag nga pagpanghinlo.Tungod kadto sa pagdap-ig sa balonan nga nagkupot sa akong paniudto.

Matag subject sa eskwelahan nagkinahanglan ug notebook. Kabahin na ang pagsulat sa among notebook sa among adlaw-adlaw nga gimbuhaton—usahay katunga sa panahon, usahay sab sa tibuok oras sa among klase. Ang katong naay pinakanindot ug agi maoy mag-una sa pagsulat. Mao bitawng ginganlan namo siya’g board secretary kay mao ni iyang papel. Dali niyang kurisan ang isig ka kilid sa blackboard hangtud kini mapuno. Ug sa dihang mapuno na kini, mobalhin siya sa pikas blackboard ug didto na usab magpadangat sa iyang walay puas nga pagdukdok.

Dili laay ang pagsulat sa notebook sulod sa klase. Lingaw hinumdoman nga kami murag mga lagong nga magbalhin-balhin sa isig ka kilid sa klasrum, magtabi, magsinikohay, magsininggitay kay naay nagsalipod nga dakong ulo sa atubangan, apan hilom sa kinatibuk-an kay nagkapuliki ug apas sa tigsulat. Talagsaon ra sab sa amoa ang dili magsulat kay isa man gyud nis mga susihunon sa among mga maestra inig abot sa tinggrado.

Dako akong pagtuo nga sama sab niini nga mga kasinatian ang gidak-an sa akong mama sa dihang siya nag-eskwela pa. Apan dili parehas sa among naagian, siya ug ang iyang magulang naay taas-taas nga baklayon gikan sa ilang gamay nga yuta sa bukid nga karon bag-o lang nahalin. Sama siguro siya kahinay molakaw niadtong gamayng bata nga nagbala sa iyang dakong bag nga akong nalabyan sa karsada usa ka buntag, unya diay pagkahapon mipabuhagay sa iyang kasiaw uban sa panon sa mga sama niyag edad sa ilang pagpanguli, gawas nga mga balili ug mananap ang sagad niyang mahimamat sa dalan nga nagliot ilalom sa kagulangan kaniadto. Dako siguro niyang pasalamat sa mga rebelde nga maoy hinungdan sa pagkahalin sa ilang mga kabaw ug sa pagbakwit nila padulong duol sa highway.

Among mama ang among magtutudlo sulod sa balay. Siya ug ang among lola ang mag-agak namo sa paghimo sa among homeworks kaniadtong gagmatitoy pa mi. Magbasa mi ni mama sa textbook sa English. Kauban sab mi ni lola pagsulbad sa mga problema sa kwarta nga gipabalon sa akong maestra sa Math. Inig kabuntag mamangon mi sa akong mga igsoon human sa napulo ka damgo sa usa ka mahinanukon nga gabii. Magdungan mi ug pangaligo sa karaang goma nga tab, samtang ang init nga pamahaw ug adlaw-adlaw nga gatas nagpaabot na sa kan-anan. Unya malibang. Unya manutbras. Tanan ilalom sa ilang makanunayon nga pag-atiman.

High school na mi nakamatikod sa ilang dakong pagpangandam aron kami magtubo nga himsog ug naay kahibalo, gikan sa ilang pagduol sa lainlaing utanganan alang sa adlaw-adlaw nga panginahanglan hangtud sa pagpamalit ug school supplies duha ka bulan sa dili pa ang ting-enroll. Magtubo man sab gud ang mga presyo inig abot sa Hunyo, gawas nga mag-aginod ang linya sa mga tawong maglumba ug bayad. Nag-una sa lista ni mama ang notebook para sa kada subject namong upat, ug ang usa ka rolyo sa yarn nga iyang ipuli sa spring nga naghawid sa mga palid aron mahimo kining pulido ug lig-on sa pagsugakod sa usa ka tuig nga pagkuriskuris. Hinay-hinay niyang tahion ang kada notebook sa iyang bakante nga oras sulod sa balay.

Daghang siaw sa eskwelahan. Daghang bulas ug sugilanon kabahin sa umaabot—mga panghupaw nga unta dili gayud matungnan nga mamaestro kay lagi budlay na ang pag-atubang sa blackboard human sa daghang tuig nga pagsulat. Usahay naay manghagit ug sumbagay sa kilid-kilid agig pagpaila sa ilang gimanggad nga kaisog. Ug kini usab kabahin sa talagsaong kalisud ug kalipay nga anaa sa pagtuon, ug sa iyang nag-inusara nga pamaagi sa paglutas. Usahay naay mawad-an ug notebook, ug milagro nga kadto mangakit-an dis-a ulahing gihipos sa tag-iya human sa pipila ka adlaw sa wala pa ang exam. Apan wala ni sukad mahitabo nako kay naay dakong timailhan nga dili mabulag sa akong sinulat, nga akong gidala-dala kaniadto sulod sa akong bag nga nag-alisngaw sa kainit.
kaniadto sulod sa akong bag nga nag-alisngaw sa kainit.

 


Dodong Isco is a visiting lecturer at JHCSC, San Miguel, Zamboanga del Sur. He has just received his job order for DepEd. He was born in Buug, Zamboanga Sibugay.

Ako

Nonfiction by | May 31, 2021

báyot n. 1 sissy¹. 2 male homosexual².

source: A Dictionary of Cebuano Visayan, by John U. Wolff


¹ Gisumbag ko ni Papa kay hinhin daw ko molihok. Ana siya di daw kini angayan para nako nga iyang bugtong anak nga lalaki. Unsa na lang daw ingnon sa iyang mga kompare (nga mga palahubog ug bahog ilok)? Maayo na lang dawat ko ni Mama. Unsaon ba uroy pagpagahi og nilihokan oy? Wala man nako na tuyo-a kon ganahan ko molakaw pina-Pia Alonzo Wurztbach ba. Ay, Catriona Gray diay.

Idol jod nako na sila ay. Kabalo ko sa akong kaugalingon, nga pareho nila, aduna koy kapadulngan sa akong kinabuhi. Silver lining ba, matod pang Catriona. Nga dili lang matanggong akong kinabuhi isip mamaligya-ay og bulad sa Cogon. Not that I’m complaining, apan naa pay mas dakong mahitabo angay para nako. I could feel it! Nga akong pangandoy nga mahimong English teacher mas mohatag og kahulogan sa akong kinabuhi. Dili lang para nako, para pod sa akong matudloan puhon. Pak! “Beauty with a purpose” ba! Ganern!

Apan si Papa mga boxing man nuon ang ipatan-aw nako oy. Dapat daw pareho kong Manny Pacquaio kagahi. Para niya, kini daw ang sukdanan sa usa ka lalaki. Frustrated boxer daw jod si Papa ingon pang Mama. Iya daw jod ning pangandoy atung bata-bata pa siya kay kini daw ang moluwas kaniya sa kapobrehon, apan wa madayon katong nag-ila silang Mama. Mao nang makahunahuna pod ko kon mao ba ni ang rason ngano masumbagan niya si Mama inig mahubog siya. Magawas kaha niya sa pagsumbag ang kalagot sa mga wa madayon nga mga pangandoy? Pamaagi kaha niya kini aron mas mahilwas niya ang kapait sa kinabuhi pamaagi sa mga bugno sa bukton ug paa ni Mama?

That’s why, I never glorify the violence in boxing. Yesss! Kasugakod akong English noh? Of course, I’m both beauty and brains! Charot! Bitaw, mao nga naningkamot jod kong makahuman sa kursong AB English para mapadayon nako akong pangandoy. Reading Roland Barthes by day, selling bulad by night ang drama, sizt! Kon kinahanglan nako antoson ang baho sa bulad nga mopilit sa akong uniform kada magbantay ko sa among pwesto samtang gabasa kog libro, antoson nako, apan dili nako maantos ang pagpasakit ni Papa kang Mama.

Niabot ra jod ang panahon nga ang pagbinat nako sa respeto para kang Papa, sama sa usa ka lastiko, naputol na. Ug kabalo ang kinsa may nakasinati sa pagbugto sa lastiko nga aduna kini pataban nga kasakit.

“Mga yawa! Wala na sa’y kwarta?” ingon ni Papa nga nanimahong RH (Red Horse). Wala mitingog si Mama. Nagpadayon si Mama og hugas sa kusina.

“Amang man diay ning akong mga kauban aning panimalaya! Animal!” miduol siyang Mama ug mi-aksiyong birahon iyang buhok.

“Tistingi!” misyagit si Mama ug gitutok niya ang kutsilyo kang Papa.

Sa unang higayon nako nakita ang kakurat ug kahadlok sa mga mata ni Papa nga wala mamilok. Mora siyag nakakita’g aswang. Katong higayona ra pod nako nakita ang mga ugat sa kamot ni Mama nga milatay morag halas padulong sa kutsilyo nga gikaptan niya og pag-ayo. Gapangurog iyang kamot apan dili sa kahadlok, kon dili sa kasuko—kasuko nga dugay na niyang gitanom sa iyang dughan sa mga tuig nga minglabay. Iyang mga mata napuno sa pagmahay ug pagdumot nga mingdagayday pinaagi sa iyang mga luha.

Sa unang higayon pod nako nakita mihilak si Mama. Morag gikumot akong dughan. Wala ko kabantay nangurog na diay akong kinumo. Ug dadto nako nailhan ang akong inner Darna. I knew I was more than just that stunning beki selling bulad in the market.
Mipaspas ang pagpitik sa akong dughan nga mora bag mobuto ko. Ingon ani pod seguro si Narda inig mo-transform siya og Darna noh? Midagan ko paingon kang Papa ug gisumbag iyang namulang aping tungod sa kahubog. Nahapla siya sa salog. Dili lang ko segurado kon sa kakusog kaha to sa akong sumbag o sa iyang kahubog, apan katong gabhiona segurado ko nakita na niya ang gipangitang kagahi nako.

² Bayot ko apan dili ko talawan.


Gilford was a student of the BA English (Creative Writing) of UP Mindanao, and now he is currently taking up his graduate studies in history at UP Diliman.

 

The Bone Collector (part 2)

Nonfiction by | May 3, 2021

Mr. Blatchley visited us often. During his visits, I learned that he devoted himself to collecting debris of animals found in coastal areas or in jungles of places I had never heard of. He told us about his adventures, his finger trailing around his palm as he spoke. He looked like he was locating new bones to find on the map of his palm.

On some days, he would bring a couple of bread for us, tearing and spreading the paper bag on our table so that all of us could have a share. Bottles of fermented fish and a plate of burned rice didn’t disturb him as he sat with circles of light spat by the holes of our roof. I wished I had the courage that time to ask more about the complications he had survived before reaching this city. But I was more eager to know how he knew where we lived. Was our house a random spot in his never-ending map of discovery for bones?

 

Even before the bone collector heard about my Lola’s small business, we had already nailed a recatangular signage at our fence facing the road: For Sale: Frog Skeleton, Frog Alive. It was inscribed with a fancy depiction of stick drawings on both sides of the signage.  It was something I was never ashamed of. Lola had been doing this business before my siblings and I were born, with a help of a man suffering from a polio, who taught her how to debone. She had taught this skill to Mr. Blatchley who eventually became dear to us even if he never asked for our names.

He also became a friend of my half-brother, who sooner worked with him. They visited places and seas where whales and other trapped animals were found dead. A few years later Mr. Blatchley built his own museum at Bucana. It was named D’Bone Collector Musem with over 700 specimen. It instantly became a tourist spot here in Davao City.

 

One afternoon, during the celebration of my newphew’s christening, in a resort, I surprised to see the bone collector, bringing his family with him. It was the last time I saw him. My half-brother had stopped working in the museum, when he caught by the forbidden madness of this city.

I didn’t want to look for him. Maybe Lola would think that I miss the things that he had given me or the money he had offered her. So I kept my thoughts to myself and stared at our signage as often as I could, as if it was the landmark that the bone collector used to find us, and maybe, he could find us again.

What the signage kept reminding me was its message that our very own survival was rooted into something private. We have been surviving on our own with this peculiar business even before Mr. Blatchley came and gave us a taste of what could be a better life with higher business income. Or a better life with a father-figure.

 

I was often told by Lola and my half-brother to visit the museum, to look at how each animal, once lost in the entanglement of time and place, had been gathered for humanity to witness that life matters.

The bone collector had discovered a place where children wanted to escape from the misfortunes created by their fathers, the way I and my half siblings suffered. I had wondered what it felt like to be complete as a child, but it cannot be, even how many times I imagined it to happen. Some pieces of myself fell before I was aware of it.

Has something in me died? Did I need to be saved to tell people how dangerous or sad my younger years were? The only thing I am sure of is this: I am a person lost in the wildlife of my foolishness and happiness because some parts of me are still missing. My wholeness is yet to be found.

 

***

Neil Teves is a young writer from Davao. His two previous works of nonfiction appeared here Dagmay. He essay “Paghanaw sa Iyang Anino” will appear in the second volume of Libulan Queer Anthology of the South. He is involve in poverty alleviation charity.

 

The Bone Collector (part 1)

Nonfiction by | April 26, 2021

I met the bone collector when I was six or seven years old. He was tall. He wore a black shirt tucked in his loose brown cargo pants. On his belt, assorted keys along with tiny bones and sharp fangs of unknown creatures made clinking sounds as he moved. His body loomed over me as he dragged the dead crocodile inside our house to meet my Lola.

Mao ni akong ipatrabaho, nay,” said the bone collector. He spoke in Binisaya which surprised me. I had never met a foreigner who could speak my language fluently. “Pila man imong pangayo nay?”  he  asked as he spread his wallet that bulged with papers bills.

Baki ra man intawn akong ginaihaw dong. Kon kani, medyo dako akong singil,” Lola told him, assuring that she would be paid as soon as she would  be done deboning and assembling.  Then, the bone collector handed Lola a couple of one-thousand bills before he instructed lola to buy all the materials she needed.

 

I later found out that his name was Darrel Dean Blatchley, an American Marine Biologist who had been exploring the wildlife from different countries for a very long time. I wondered how he came here to Mindanao and settled particularly here in Davao City aside from the fact that he had married a Filipina.

Maybe someone had told Mr. Blatchley about my Lola—that she used to debone frogs and other animals for students taking medical courses like Nursing. Although the process had always been laborious for her part, the money paid to her was generous enough to support us.

No part of the bone must be lost, even the thinnest, tiniest on, I heard my Lola explain. She even  added that the arm, leg, and tail of the crocodile must be boiled to make it tender for deboning. Mr. Blatchley was attentive but he chimed in with a light joke once in a while. During his visits, I learned that he devoted himself to collecting debris of animals found in coastal areas or in the jungles of a far away place. He told us his adventures, his finger trailing around his palm as if it was a map.

It wasn’t too long before the crocodile was assembled. Each part was placed back from where it was taken. I could see he was amazed. When he left with the skeleton in his cab, I felt my heart sank. What if we would never see him again? What if Lola would never be paid with that kind of amount?

 

But Mr. Blatchley came back, bringing a black disposable bag that held a dead reindeer.

“Nagtuon naman diay imong apo,” Mr. Blatchley when he saw me gathering the plywood filled with bones of frogs.

Lola had always commanded me to separate the parts that were all scattered on a round wooden plank: limbs on the upper left; arms on the upper right; heads and pelvises at the center, making sure that they were lined accordingly to their sizes. I was often tasked to separate the bones, so lola wouldn’t find it difficult to match them.

Meanwhile, Mr. Blatchley asked if he could do it on his own. He reached for the Elmer’s glue and snatched a piece of cardboard from the pile next to me. He began to place the spine at the center, dropping a dew of glue at its two end points, so that the head, particularly the jaw would be attached to it. But the head was too large for the spine. I picked the smaller one, slowly putting it on his cardboard.

Kini and maigo diha kol o.” I blurted out. I should have not spoken to him, but it would have been a mistake if he forced those pieces to fit. I should have realized at that time, that some things were not meant to be pieced together.

 


Neil Teves is a young writer from Davao. His two previous works of nonfiction appeared here Dagmay. He essay “Paghanaw sa Iyang Anino” will appear in the second volume of Libulan Queer Anthology of the South. He is involve in poverty alleviation charity.

 

 

 

Weave (First of two parts)

Nonfiction by | March 15, 2021

I start to count the years since I came to Manila for work. How the walls in my rented room went through five repaints of eggshell white. The paint can only attempt to cover the fact that I live in a building where my mother used to stay when she went to college. It is a different structure now, having gone through several refurbishing, including changes in the establishment’s name. But it is still situated in the same area as in 1981 when my parents, who were in their late teens, were wed.

 

I listen to Fleetwood Mac, trying to interpret the lyrics of “Landslide” in my head again. Stevie Nicks’s voice has a certain calmness to it that makes me want to sit down and ponder about being bolder in my decisions.

 

I learned to adapt by myself. True, I was born in Quezon City. We left for the province for good when I was going on four after my father completed his degree. However, I have been living on my own these days; no longer the kid that I was when we lived in Lerma Street.

 

I was fifteen when I actually left Malabang for university in Davao. I have never come back home permanently. I carry around with me my father’s enthusiasm and my mother’s prudence. These virtues make me constantly remember who I am as a daughter of Malabang and as a descendant of one of Lanao del Sur’s oldest families. Tucked in my pockets are faint memories of my early childhood in Sampaloc. There are fleeting moments when I cannot decide where to put my loyalties—in the city of my birth or in the region of my heritage. Whatever happens though, I will tell myself I may come from different places but at the end of the day, I remain a Maranao.

 

People say I speak with a Manileño accent now. I say I may have some occasional slips. I casually walk the streets with my hijab on. I can tell when a tricycle driver overcharges fare. I became friends with the LBC attendants in Bustillos. I go to the same street in Quiapo where you can buy sasati[1] at a cheap price. I know when is the best time to leave Roxas Boulevard before you get stuck in the traffic rush. I look forward to January and February when it is the coldest.


 

Basa (Language)

 

My first language was Tagalog, just as it was for all of my younger siblings. It was most likely the environment that influenced my parents to make me speak Tagalog first.  It is quite different for my younger siblings who were born in Iligan City. Three of them still use Tagalog as their primary language so do some of my younger cousins. Although it may not be the Tagalog that is spoken here in Manila, those siblings and cousins still speak Tagalog.

 

I certainly speak Maranao on a regular basis with my parents and the rest of the family, friends, and strangers who speak to me in our tongue. I also speak fluent Bisaya just like everyone in my hometown. In Malabang, we have cultural harmony. Maranaos there speak excellent Bisaya as if it has always been our first language. Our fellow Christians on the other hand talk to you in Maranao so flawlessly you would think they were born as Maranaos.

 

One time, a friend insisted Malabang is “christianized,” and therefore is some sort of a half-breed municipality. I did not understand because I was raised in a town where fiestas and beauty contests are held flamboyantly but the adhan[2] is heard consistently and beautifully at the designated hours of the day. Bisaya was also the same language spoken in Davao and Cagayan de Oro where I studied my undergraduate course and law school. This is perhaps the reason why my “occasional slips” are mostly caused by “binisaya accents.”

 

At the office, the fondest thing told me was that I am a “Bisayang Muslim.”

 

It gets tricky though when I switch from one language to another. For instance, I answer “Oway,” which means “yes” in Maranao to somebody who asks, “Kumain ka na ba?” or “Wala pa lagi,” which means “not yet” in Bisaya. Let me throw in some “Wen ngarud” for constantly hearing some friends and officemates speak Ilokano. I have discovered that some Ilokano words are quite close to Maranao terms, including emphasis on some syllables that sound angry to ears not used to hearing passion and force in phrases and sentences.

 

Language is very much fascinating to me. In UP, I had Nihongo and French as course electives. I can still understand some “hai” and “yokatta” here and there or a little bit of “oui, s’il vous plait.” I wish I pursued learning Japanese and French harder than just getting a passing mark. I am likewise learning Italian through a phone application that reminds of progress by the day. Juggling letters and words in different languages is exhilarating, offering me windows where I can explore beyond the “5 Ws and   1 H” of Lanao del Sur.

 

On the other hand, Arabic is closer to home. It is expected of Muslims to know how to read Arabic in order to recite the Qur’an. I can fairly read verses and scripts, having gone to Madrasah during my elementary years. However, I quit Arabic school too soon to learn diacritics. I rely on familiarity in order to identify phonetics, vowels, and consonants. Mastering diacritical marks takes time.

 

Please do not ask me about speaking Arabic. I have not yet learned to speak the Islamic language. I think it is not too much trouble if I leave it all to my brother, Alrahji, who studies at the Islamic University of Madinah. He mastered guttural sounds and speaks like a true Arab man it makes us giggle.

 

I remember my professors in the UP Creative Writing program who suggested I write in Maranao.      I fear my knowledge of the language is not enough. I cannot even manage to say the “proper” words in specific situations. I gave in to my Omie’s[3] sharp criticism of the expressions I thought were correct but turned out mispronounced or simply inappropriate. Once, I told my Abie[4]of my plans to write in Maranao. He firmly said it would be difficult for me and that I should not venture into matters that are outside my capacity as a writer. Especially not at the expense of the basa-a-Maranao. But while I admit to being linguistically impaired on the subject, it is my hope that I will not be seen as a traitor to my own heritage. When I was growing up, my parents forbade me to read Tagalog materials for my leisure. They instead fed me English books and magazines that filled my stomach to the fullest, I burped with pleasure.

 

When I was around nine, my maternal grandma said in one of her family speeches that Islam encourages continuous learning—one that is beneficial to you and to others around you. I kept that in mind as I consciously left Malabang to satiate my yearning to learn anything that nudges my curiosity.

 

-to be continued-

 

[1] fish nuggets

[2] call for prayer

[3] Arabic term for “mother”

[4] Arabic term for “father”

 


 Arifah Macacua Jamil writes short stories. “Weave” is her first essay.

 

The Journey of Harriet Pat and Her Hat

Nonfiction by | March 8, 2021

Several years ago, I was uncertain where to begin my writing journey. Diving into the writing rollercoaster was overwhelming. Just imagine balancing balls of your ideas with what the reading market wants versus what the publishers expect, navigating the publishing industry, and securing the stability of your finances all in one act. At one point, you will be strained to make a decision and you might end up dropping one ball or two. The question is which one are you willing to sacrifice?

 

In my case, there was no doubt that I was keeping my ideas. I wanted my books to sell but I was more resolved in shaping up the stories in my head. I was unwilling to sacrifice the idea of writing the kind of children’s books that came to me ten years ago while reading to kindergarten students. During that time, I found myself nitpicking the books I used in my reading-aloud sessions. I entertained so many ‘unta’ (the closest translation was ‘I wish’). I wished that the book sizes were larger. I wished that they used bigger fonts that young learners can identify and teachers can read with ease. I wished that they used more vibrant colours. I wished rhythm and rhyme were applied. But my biggest ‘unta’ was wishing for serious life skills to be tackled as I have always believed that children were more perceptive than what we gave them credit for. It was frustrating how adults continued to think that we can put off revealing the harsh realities of our world to children, leaving them vulnerable when these realities hit them on moments when we were not around. As much as we wanted to shield them, children were bound to encounter these realities at some point. I felt that it was best to prepare them early on.

 

During that same period, I was specifically moved by someone very close to me who was pouring himself to make things possible for other people. It broke my heart how he sacrificed everything and left nothing for himself. Back then, I wished that he would hold back even just a little and also take care of himself as he was dangerously enabling others to rely on him so much. The more I thought of him, the more people came to mind. He was not alone. I knew so many others like him who were in the same predicament and who also never had the heart to say ‘no’ or ‘stop’ to those who repeatedly asked for help, to the point that they were taken advantage of.

It was while I was reflecting on how one’s excessive kindliness could breed dependency and subservience that Harriet Pat and Her Hat began to take form. Most children’s books would dabble into the values of helping others but will not dare touch that part of the narrative that discussed the possibility of ‘help’ being exploited. Adults would argue that children are not ready for these topics and such values can be taught later. At a mature age, restructuring values can become tricky however it can go a long way if introduced while still young. The best feature of children’s literature is converting big serious topics into more relatable or easier-to-digest messages by using the lens of a child. With the play of simple words and the lightness that illustrations offer, readers will become more receptive and the said topics will not materialize as being too heavy for children to comprehend.

 

My main character, Harriet Pat, was inspired by that loved one and all other people who selflessly helped others but have forgotten about themselves. These real-life Harriet Pats were heroes but what I really wanted was for people around these Harriet Pats to realize that anyone can be a hero by harnessing their uniqueness (and sometimes they just needed to be shown how). In the book, this uniqueness was represented by a hat – an object that can be made and then put on or taken off, thus an acquired characteristic that a person would consciously choose to create and wear.

 

I elaborated the concept further by injecting diversity with the use of varied names. The decision to use names that were ‘common’ in their respective regions came with the hope of emphasizing that every person was unique. I imagined that this can be a window of opportunity for acknowledging different cultural backgrounds where curiosity can pave the way for new knowledge. Maybe after being introduced to such names, readers will start wondering where they came from, what the people there were like, and what languages they used. They would become curious about other cultures and understand that each person is blessed with a set of characteristics that he or she can utilize for himself or herself.

 

Although I had most of the components set in place, completing Harriet Pat and Her Hat took several years to finish because I had many excuses and dilly-dallied on my decisions out of fear. I was immobilized by my doubts about whether people, other than my family, would be interested to read my book and by how others would perceive it. It was in my 9th year of playing around with the writing project that I finally decided to get the manuscript published. If there was anything that 2020 taught me, it was to stop putting things off and start making things happen. From there on, everything was a blur of movement. My only regret now is that I wasted more time worrying about my book’s reception than the actual time for work that I invested in creating it. On the bright side, this regret is fueling my drive to finish my next children’s book which again will dabble into a big serious topic such as depression.

 


Daniel Ceeline Ramonal,  is a Filipino dance anthropologist, artist, and writer currently based in Serbia. She completed a Bachelor of Arts in Speech Communication from the University of the Philippines and an International Masters in Dance Knowledge, Practice, and Heritage under the Erasmus Mundus Choreomundus program in Europe. She collaborates on various projects which have taken her from the Philippines to Bahrain, India, Tanzania, Hungary, Sierra Leone, France, UK, Morocco, and UAE. To get copies of Harriet Pat and Her Hat, the book is available in both physical and online shops of Central Books. Visit the FB page “The Book Den” for more information.

Words Keep Me (In)Sane: I Count Time By My Mania

Nonfiction by | March 1, 2021

Work 1: this sound is all that lingers, 2.4k words, Pining, No Dialogue

 

Everybody fears the outside. I write of storms, where the thunder and lightning are free to do as they please, where they reach places I’m afraid to want to visit again. I draft my first sentence in the middle of March during the lockdown, when school said we’ll be back by April 12 to have final examinations. Nobody cared, we just wanted to graduate. I draft my first paragraph, I’m still afraid. Teachers are silent even through online chats, and we are left to fend for ourselves. I turn to open a Word document, determined to at least add another word as testament to my nostalgia.

 

Pining: I want. There are relationships lost, conversations halted by distance, hands unheld, aches that I’m hoping are just strictly platonic; but how do I know which one to want first? Am I even given that much liberty? I’m aware I want so much that I still long for. How does one turn feelings into words? You don’t. You slap paper against your chest and hope the words bleed through your skin enough so they’d show in the print. No Dialogue: I have no one to talk to. This is evident in my drafts. The conversations are awkward, I have forgotten how one talks to people, Practice Makes Perfect but I don’t have anyone else.

 

“This sound is all that lingers” is the story proof of my maddening loneliness, my first supposed-upload, but I didn’t finish writing the story in March.

 

Work 2: summer all year round, 4.4k words, Pining

 

I turn 18. Does one choose celebration over limiting the budget so the family would last another week? I turn 18 and I pass UPCAT and some of my friends cry over their own rejections. I turn 18 and there is no pancit, no noodles, no anything that wishes me longevity. I’m lonely and afraid and I finish my first story and I upload it through a weak mobile data connection. I’m afraid. The story’s about wanting relationships and it reeks so much of longing the feeling urges me to immediately start drafting another story.

 

Pining, yet again: These are all the leftover wants I’ve kept buried. Part of these are thoughts of hands holding mine. I think of showing these wants to the world, of coaxing my vulnerability so it comes out to burn under the sun.

 

I finish and upload both stories.

 

Work 3: Take Him Mad, 5.3k words, Greek Myths

 

I start reading Donna Tartt’s The Secret History in hopes of distracting myself. I don’t listen to the news. The television stays off to reduce the bills— no internet connection, no means of reaching out. I have nothing but words and words and a surplus more of words. I find that I grow tired of it easily, that mothers are angered more easily when they’re alone and tired, that you can go mad without going insane; I find myself learning more reading more writing more.

 

Works 4, 5, 6: Greek Myths, a total of 27.3k words

 

“What about the internet connection?” “Don’t worry, I’ll think of something.” The next day, our neighbor—my godmother, who remembered me only when I said I had passed UPCAT—gives me a piece of paper with a scribbled code and wishes me luck on college. I start classes and my hair is a blaze of orange dye. I hoped nobody would mind and they didn’t, and I don’t know why but I was a little disappointed. My mind has been empty for so long I struggled to wrap it around the fact that I’m studying again. My mother has a job now: she cooks for someone wealthier in the subdivision and she can afford all the pancit and spaghetti dishes I could ever want as compensation for their absence on my birthday. I don’t want any of them now. Every time she goes out I think of a better alternative to the simple “Take care.” I look for words and prayers that would protect her more than any masks could.

 

Thumbs aching and phone overheating, I know I obsess only because I write under a pseudonym, that I’m maniacally loud only because I have this mask. I learn that my case is called “touch starvation.” I’ve uploaded so many words in less than a couple of months. Writing has become a hobby, a love, and an ache. It keeps me awake long enough to write of the sunrises I witness through my window.

 

Work 7: Hymn Him Sun, Greek Myths, (?) words—Ongoing

 

I go online. I meet other writers and befriend other writers and find happiness with other writers. They’re all older than me but no one mocks me for writing fantasy fiction. They know we’re all in need of escapism, and we offer each other just that. I eat more and my mother is happier and I encounter a plot hole I can’t seem to solve. But despite the busyness I find myself in a state of lethargy, and I just can’t seem to make time for writing anymore. This is trouble; I have readers now. I have comments saying they are waiting for the next installment.

 

I like my course. I get to do what I’ve wanted to do for two years now. But even through this achievement, I’m still afraid and nervous and unsure. There are too many things going on and I’ve been too used to doing nothing. Characters stare at me from the drafts and I turn a blind eye, because I have to write other things now, because I have to prioritize academe now.

 

Everything’s emotionally and mentally the same except for the fact that I now know it hadn’t been platonic aching all along! It took me months to realize that I did not want just platonic hand-holding! I let out a laugh, bitter and cold and a little too throaty to be of mirth. For I honestly thought writing would help me, but I fear it has only served as a self-brewed concoction of what I have been missing. I’ve been tasting my own medicine this whole time.

 

But I am a writer, and in that I have not changed. The awareness of your own cowardice doesn’t magically turn it into courage. Guess what my latest work is about. I think the answer’s clear. Nothing has truly changed, after all, for still I long, I pine, I write.


Blessie Bruce is a BA English-Creative Writing student of UP Mindanao and a content writer specializing in real-person fiction as an outlet for writing exercises. Her work can be read on the website AO3 (Archive of Our Own).

Ayuda in Five Acts

Nonfiction by | February 8, 2021

ACT ONE: Homecoming

By a stroke of luck, or divine intervention, I had a pre-scheduled trip home to Mindanao and was already armed with a plane ticket for March 14th. I had been studying at a university in Manila, and decided in early February that I needed a short break from the rigorous academics. Because of that spur-of-the-moment decision, I missed getting caught up in the Manila lockdown by mere hours; my flight was one of the last they allowed to take off. My grandmother and uncle met me at the Ozamiz airport, expressing their disbelief at how close I had gotten to waiting out the pandemic alone and in a city that did not speak my mother tongue.

But I had only traded one prison for another – a cage of smog and neon lights for a cage of the over-familiar. The moment I returned to my hometown, they put me in quarantine – a kinder word than ‘house arrest’, though similar in its rigidity. I was lucky enough to live just ten paces away from my extended family, so though I was a prisoner, I had fellow inmates willing to spend their afternoons playing badminton with me. For two weeks, I was content with watching shuttlecocks arc gracefully over my grandmother’s garden while outside our gates, the town became quieter and quieter.

And then, on the fourteenth day, I was informed that one of the people on my flight home had tested positive, and so my sentence was extended. We waited to see if I would end up on death row.

I paced aimlessly, a nameless, nebulous fear breathing down my neck. The virus had been a distant thing – someone else’s problem – but now it was knocking at my door. All too suddenly, the panic and apprehension that I had only seen on the news were now my own. Obituaries were only words until you recognized the names.

Every small cough was proof against my innocence. My family watched from afar as I obsessively monitored my temperature – the numbers that would determine my fate. Through it all, I could not find comfort in their arms; I was Judas in the garden and my kiss could doom them all.

Eventually, I was cleared of all charges. I did not lose my sense of smell, I did not get feverish, and my lungs did not collapse. But the rest of the world did.

No matter, I thought to myself, trying to scrounge up some inkling of hope as I watched a lone tricycle driver pedal down the empty road from my bedroom window. No matter. This, too, shall pass. 

ACT TWO: Perspective

It could have been worse. I heard it in the weary sigh of my dormmate, a probinsyano stuck in our sprawling dorm complex, doomed to numbly pace the hollow hallowed halls like an addition to its pantheon of ghosts and trickster elves. “I want to go home.” His voice cracked from the weight of his isolation. “I just want to go home.”

It could have been worse. I saw it in the unending march of Facebook posts across my timeline – ayuda, they called out in a colonizer’s language reclaimed, help. I send as much aid as I can to as many people as I can, and still here was another, and another, and another. Ayuda, ayuda, ayudame. Ayúdanos. 

It could have been worse. I felt it in the despair of my fellow citizens. They wasted away while the government wasted time, occupied with senseless nonsenses (many of their own invention). The masses took to the streets – organized, following all protocols, armed with righteous fury and cardboard signs. They were dispersed by the boys in blue whose father’s crimes still go unpunished. And across the country, I languished alone, my nails digging crescent-moon dents into my palms.

ACT THREE: A Video Call

“I know, I know, I miss you, too. It’s been too long since—yes, yes, I promise, after the lockdown, we’re going—okay, okay. How’s your boyfriend? What? What do you mean you broke up? When? Four months ago? Why didn’t you tell me? You could have at least called, you know! … I’m sorry. It’s just… I’m not used to not seeing you every week, I guess. I used to know you so well and now it’s… yeah. Yeah. I know. It’s not our fault. It’s been tough for everybody. Don’t apologize. Don’t be sorry. No, please don’t cry, it’s—Hello? Hello? … Damned PLDT.”

ACT FOUR: Perspective (Reprise)

And life went on. Lockdowns were lifted. People strolled leisurely through the park, their words muffled by cloth masks. I looked outside my bedroom window one day and, for once, was grateful to see traffic. I paid tricycle drivers twice as much as the usual fare, and I toasted to my stranded friends’ homecoming.

And life went on. On my flight home so many months ago, the pretty attendant had gestured to the place above our heads where the oxygen masks would drop down in case of an emergency. “Please mind your own mask first before tending to others,” she’d told us then, repeating the instructions from the laminated manual I had not bothered to pick up. I now understood that, sometimes, the best advice you could ask for can be found on the back of an airplane’s safety information card.

And life went on. Classes were now held online, substituting blackboards with laptop screens, and chalk with Google Docs. I was hounded by deadlines and requirements, but it was better than being hounded by fear.

Still, some days, I found myself counting how many times my classmates got disconnected from a Zoom meeting. I counted how many times they apologized for slow signals and brownouts. I watched news of jeepney drivers begging for food, frontliners begging for hazard pay, teachers begging for time. Because life went on – but not for all of us.

ACT FIVE: Respite

We went to the beach last week. When our car stopped at the edge of the surf, my young cousins were quick to remove their clothes and stumble into the shallows, heedless of their mothers’ cries of, “You forgot your sunblock!” One cousin dove at the other, their small heads disappearing under the murky water for a few seconds before they resurfaced, guffawing. I couldn’t help but smile. I had forgotten how sweet laughter sounded under an open sky.

“Are you coming?” my grandmother asked.

“Maybe later,” I said, and kissed her cheek.

I sat back, watching her wade into the ocean, her little body cutting through the waves with ease. The sun was scorching my skin; I imagined it burning away the paleness I had acquired in my eight months of captivity. I breathed in, out, in, out. I tasted salt on my tongue, felt the sea breeze toying with my hair.

The sea stretched on, farther and farther, into the blue horizon. And though the tide had pulled away, I knew it would always come back to the shore.

 


Kyndra Lei “Kyle” Yunting is from Zamboanga del Sur and currently a BA English student of UP Mindanao. She credits her passion for writing to reading the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series at a formative age, and also to her high school paper adviser.