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.”

“Sayaw?”

“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?”

“Oo.”

“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.

“Ahh.”

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.

Under the Covers (excerpt)

Nonfiction by | June 5, 2023

It starts this way: 

You stare into their eyes. They flash like all the stars are out. They look at you seriously, their eyes at a low burn and their hands no matter what starting off shy and with such a gentle touch that the only thing you can do is take that tenderness and let yourself be swept away. When, with one attentive finger they tuck the hair behind your ear, you— 

You do everything they want. 

Then comes after. After when they don’t look at you. They scratch their balls, stare at the ceiling. Or if they do turn, their gaze is altogether changed. They are surprised. They turn casually to look at you, distracted, and get a mild distracted surprise. You’re gone. Their blank look tells you that the girl they were fucking is not there anymore. You seem to have disappeared. 

-from “Lust,” by Susan Minot

 

My high school life isn’t something I would like to recall.  I can’t help but feel a sense of shame and regret. I was reckless, driven by the allure of love under the cover of darkness, only to find myself exposed and vulnerable in the harsh light of day. That time, I had to leave everything behind just to keep my sanity. To save myself.

In my pursuit of a fresh start, I disconnected from my friends without any notice or goodbyes. I disappeared completely from their lives; the pull to start anew was too strong to ignore. I knew that I had to break free from my past and start fresh, even if it meant leaving my loved ones behind. I envisioned a new place with new experiences and new people, where I could start fresh and avoid making the same mistakes. It was a tempting proposition, one that promised a respite from the weight of my shame and confusion.

My mother’s offer to move with her to Davao was like a ray of light shining through the dark clouds of my life. It was a chance to start over, to leave behind the pain and turmoil that had been consuming me for so long. And even if we had to leave our grandparents with my abusive uncle, I seized the opportunity with closed eyes.

The decision to leave was not an easy one, but I knew it was the right one. Once again, I was pulling the cover over myself, to shield me from my past. I was finally able to escape the shadows that had been haunting me. The new environment was a breath of fresh air, a clean slate where I could start anew. Like being wrapped in a comforting blanket, I didn’t have to worry about being judged. No one knew me unless I told them about myself. I felt like I was under a protective cover.

As I entered my new school in a public institution, I felt like I was entering a world of possibilities. Here, I had the chance to be whoever I wanted to be, without the weight of my past pulling me down. I was determined to leave the past behind. As I interacted with my new peers, I was careful to guard my secrets and maintain my cover. I didn’t want anyone to know about my past mistakes, to judge me for the person I once was. In this new environment, I felt like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon, ready to spread its wings and soar.

It was liberating to know that I had a blank slate to work with, that I could mold myself into the person I wanted to be. No one knew about the girl who used to make out in alleys, and that was a relief. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I had a chance to truly be myself, under the cover of a new identity.

 I used to believe that my worth as a woman was defined by my virginity, thanks to society’s constructed belief that “Virginity is a gift.” Despite knowing the foolishness of this belief, I still give myself credit for not giving away everything to someone I would regret.

Then something happened in September 2018, five years after I left my life in Butuan. I realized the power of death, and how it can both be a relief and a tragedy. I was relieved when Death took my abusive uncle away from us, exactly one year after my grandfather passed away. It was a burden lifted from our shoulders, except for my cousin, his son, who couldn’t even eat for days. He was traumatized by his father’s death, which he witnessed. My cousin didn’t even inform my grandmother, who was sleeping in the next room. She only woke up to the sound of faint sobbing and witnessed my cousin holding his father’s head gently. Despite the countless lashings and scars inflicted upon him, my cousin loved his father dearly.

When my siblings and I returned home to attend my uncle’s funeral, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of detachment towards the situation.  It was a strange feeling, to be attending the funeral of someone who had caused me so much pain, and not feel an ounce of sadness. Finally, we were all free from his grasp. I felt nothing but a sense of peace knowing that he could no longer harm anyone. it allowed me to let go of the anger that had been consuming me for so long.

As we gathered around his casket, my siblings and I exchanged quiet glances, understanding each other’s unspoken thoughts. We had all suffered under his abuse, but now, we could find solace in the fact that he could no longer hurt us.

During a long road trip with my boyfriend, my gaze fixated on the seemingly endless road ahead. The monotonous hum of the car’s engine and the rhythmic passing of scenery outside did little to quell the thoughts racing through my mind. Memories of my past mistakes flooded my thoughts, the shame and disgust feeling just as palpable as they did back then.

Before my boyfriend and I started dating, I knew that if we were meant to do life together, I needed to come clean. I wanted to be honest with him so that I could finally be honest with myself. After school, he offered to drive me home, which was an almost twenty-kilometer ride. During the ride, I asked him to pull over near the fields of calamansi. The moonlight illuminated our surroundings, and I could see his face clearly. We sat in silence for a while, but it felt comforting.

“Would you still like me if I told you that I had kissed a lot of guys before?” I asked, my gaze fixed on the fireflies fluttering around the lemon tree. From the corner of my eye, I saw him turn his head and look at me. He held my hand to get my attention.

I finally mustered the courage to tell him about my past school, the bullying, the rumors about me being the girl who made out in a dark alley, and how I had to leave and hide from the shame. Throughout my confession, he held my hand tightly.

“I’m sorry that you had to go through that, and I’m sorry that you feel like you have to explain it,” he said. “Please know that you are more than your past. It doesn’t matter to me, or to us now. I want you today and in the days that will follow,” he reassured me before pulling me closer to him for a hug. It was the first time in a very long time that I cried about it, but this time, I no longer felt ashamed about it.

When I entered UP and met my first circle of friends, Jo and Chan, I finally found people whom I could be real with. It was a normal Tuesday, during our PE gymnastics class, we were lying down facing each other, casually talking about our high school memories instead of practicing our routines. I don’t know what came over me, but I finally opened up about my “secret” high school experience. It was the second time I had shared it with anyone. To my surprise, Jo had gone through a similar experience. She also transferred to another school after a rumor spread about her having sex with her ex-boyfriend.

Those moments, I felt like I had finally found my place and my circle of friends. I felt like I belonged, knowing that I wouldn’t be judged for the mistakes I had made in the past. It was a relief to know that I had friends who understood me and accepted me for who I was. It was a liberating feeling to finally be able to share my secret with someone who could relate to me. It strengthened our bond, and it gave me the courage to be easy and more honest with myself.

Moreover, I began to realize that I had been denying myself the peace and forgiveness that I truly deserved. For so long, I had believed that it was all my fault for being too naive, trusting, and perhaps too horny, and that I deserved the pain and shame that followed. I have seen that I was only keeping myself trapped under a cover of guilt and self-blame. It’s like I’ve been hiding under a thick, suffocating cover for so long that I forgot what it felt like to breathe fresh air and feel the warmth of the sun on my face. I am finally pulling back that cover and allowing the light to shine on my past mistakes, letting the air in to start the healing process.

Just as I felt myself spiraling, my boyfriend’s touch jolted me out of my reverie. He reached out for my hand and gave it a gentle squeeze.

We have been together for almost five years now.

_____________________

Rasmia Ruiz is a 4th year BA English (Creative Writing) student of the University of the Philippines Mindanao.

A Walk of Faith: Nine Weeks of Redemption (excerpt)

Nonfiction by | May 22, 2023

Weeks 6 and 7: Discover the Secret That Will Transform Your Life

“Like newborn babies, crave spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.”

(1 Peter 2:2)

I was still in the pre-encounter weeks of Life Class in this Christian church when I discovered I was bisexual. And when it happened, it wasn’t a surprise to me. Some of the things that happened in the past suddenly made a lot more sense when I realized that I was also attracted to girls.

In 8th grade, I had a friend named Jen. She wore black rectangular glasses, had mid-length hair that went a little below her shoulder, morena or tanned, and she had a mole on the left side of the bridge of her nose. She looks chinita when she’s not wearing her glasses, but when she does, they make her eyes look a little bigger, and she looks really cool and smart.

I was fond of her and wanted to get close to her. I felt happy when she invited me to come to her house. I watched the anime that she likes, begged my mom to buy me eyeglasses because she also wore them, and I even tried to get close to her barkada or her friend group. I wanted to make a good impression on her friends, something I never really felt the need to do with other people I wanted to be friends with. There were also times that I felt an unreasonable annoyance that I couldn’t explain or understand whenever I saw her going home or hanging out with other girls. I think I might have had a crush on her then because I remember asking myself if I liked her, but I can also recall telling myself, “There’s no way I’m a lesbian” because I was still attracted to men. So, I convinced myself that what I felt was simple and pure fondness. I didn’t know anything about bisexuality back then.

I knew that I was not going to tell this to my spiritual mother, and Rica agreed with me. Again, cell groups ideally work like a family, so it is encouraged for a disciple to introduce the person that they are dating to their spiritual leader. Rica didn’t have any problem with sexual preferences; she was actually supportive. Our visits to church also became more frequent as she had a lot of problems at home and in her love life, and I was also too busy with school and extracurricular activities.

Despite the disappointing homily I experienced with the pastor that Rica had told me about, I still wanted to go to church, and I still wanted to give it a try. And so, I attended the Sunday morning mass.

            “We have three testimonies, three people transformed through Christ, amen!” the pastor said, and the crowd replied with a cheer, “Amen!”

            When the third clip rolled, the screen showed a person wearing a black t-shirt sitting with the back facing the camera. I watched as the camera moved toward the front of a person showing a girl about my age.

            Everyone in the room was silent, and all our focus was on the clip. The person introduced her name, and at the end of her introduction, she said, “And I was transformed through Christ.”

            The next parts were interviews with her. She was talking about how she had a relationship with a girl. I remember her using the phrase, “niabot ko sa point,” like it was a negative thing. She called her old self a lesbian, saying, “Tomboy ko sa una.” And then she proceeded to say that because of the bible, and when she started coming to church, she realized that what she was doing was wrong. At the end of the video, she opened the church doors wearing a white dress.

They made her wear a white dress.

“Wow! Isa na pod ka tao ang nabago ni Kristo! Amen!” the speaker happily announced that another person had been changed through Christ, and the audience replied with an amen.

“Naa ba siya diri?” the speaker asked if the person in the video was present.

I searched around the room, and in the right corner of the church, just a few rows in front of me, people started to point their fingers.

A girl wearing a simple white shirt and denim pants stood. The people around her started tapping her back and her shoulders as if saying that she had done a good job. Everyone cheered and kept on saying, “Amen,” like the pastor. She still had her boy-cut hair, and from my point of view, I could see that she was smiling but slightly bending down like she was embarrassed by all the attention and slightly nodding at all the people that were looking, smiling, and cheering for her.

She was young like me. With how the church works in expanding its numbers through invites, I just had the feeling that she was a newcomer. Also, the people beside her were teenagers like us, probably her friends. So it must be that she was an invitee and not someone like Rica, whose whole family goes to the church.

And then the pastor talked again, saying praises to the girl and to how great the Lord is. But one word that struck me the most was that the girl had been “cured by Christ.”

I was stuck in my seat. I didn’t know what to feel about everything I saw and heard from the screen and the people around us. I didn’t want to make assumptions that the girl was not being herself and was merely manipulated by the church. But I knew it wasn’t okay. I, someone who was also romantically and sexually attracted to girls, just watched a video about a lesbian being converted into a straight girl in a room where everyone was cheering about it. I just listened to everyone glorifying how she had been cured.

But there was nothing to cure about her. She was totally fine. I am fine.

That’s when I made up my mind that I would never be welcomed there. I will never be able to be my true self, and if I am not, I will not be able to express my faith and love in God freely.

And that was the last time I went to Buhangin Community Church.

Weeks 8 and 9: A New Beginning

And Ruth says to Naomi, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”

(Ruth 1: 16-17)

When I was in 1st year college, I met Yel. We were close when we were in senior high, and she was also the first person I told when I realized I liked girls. Yel is also bisexual, and she came out around the same time as I did. It has been almost a year since I last saw her.

            As we sat down and waited for our order, she immediately perked up as if she had just remembered something important.

            “I told my mom about you, but I didn’t say your name. I just said that I have a female friend who’s also dating a girl.”

“And?”

“Girl, she wasn’t pleased and told me, ‘I hope you’re not doing that.’”

I kind of understood her mother’s reaction because when she came out, her mother told her that she might have been just confused.

“I told her that she knew I’m gay, and she told me that it’s okay to be gay as long as I’m not acting out on it like dating the same sex,” she continued, her face and tone showing her annoyance.

I chuckled because that answer wasn’t surprising.

“Kaya nga gay, di ba, because we like the same sex. Ambot ni mama, oy,” she said, looking defeated.

 It made me think about the lesbian who made a testimony. I wondered if she was still going to that church. And I wondered if she really did change. I hope she’s in a better and safer place now, wherever that may be.

            As for me, I don’t think I ever will go back to church hopping or even enter church except for weddings, burials, baptisms, or when my whole family forces me to.

I have stopped church-hopping and trying to find a ministry where I’ll be able to fit in because I have learned that I don’t have to, and most of the churches I tried to get into made it very clear to me that they see homosexuality as a sin.

            I thought that if I stopped attending, the only times I would hear or see people’s homophobia would be from my extended family, the news, or social media–but that was me being too much of an optimist. Because just this year, as I and my girlfriend Lally were walking along Roxas Avenue, we saw a woman with a megaphone yelling bible verses and preaching on the street, saying, “Panghinulsol namo sa inyong mga sala,” repent for your sins. She was the same woman that I and a college classmate once saw on our way to a bar.

I remember her telling me that the woman was homophobic.

And so, as I and my girlfriend went past her at the corner along the pedestrian lane just in front of Ateneo de Davao University, I told my girlfriend what I heard from my classmate.

            “Should we lock our hands and kiss to see if it’s true?” she asked as she laughed. I knew she meant it as a joke, but I did take her hand and held it as we crossed the street. We giggled as we walked, and we were almost at the entrance of the City Triangle, a distance from the woman, when she kissed my hand out of habit. We could still hear the woman preaching, but we had forgotten about the whole kiss thing because we started talking about something else. And then suddenly, we heard the woman’s voice getting louder behind us.

 “Ang mga tomboy, bayot, pangundang namo ug panghinulsol! Kamo mga hugaw sa kalibutan!” she yelled at her megaphone, obviously making her voice even louder, maybe for us to hear. She must have seen what my girlfriend did, or maybe she saw another queer couple on the street that made her say that we are the filth of the world and must repent.

I turned my head towards my girlfriend, and she did the same, and we burst out laughing.

____________________

Jovi

Heat Index

Nonfiction by | May 15, 2023

At thirty-two degrees temperature, an adolescent boy strips and plunges into the Sarangani Bay sans diving equipment as his partner reels in the day’s tuna catch—the fish’s yellow fins and iridescent scales glistening off of his eyes. At eighteen degrees ambient air temperature, office workers with faces as white as the porcelain tiles aimlessly encode paper ream-thick data as they gossip about the incompetent freshly recruited accountant. Their boss would shush them and everyone would go quiet except for the distant buzzing of someone’s printer and when he’s gone, the noise returns. At thirty-four degrees temperature, the Sama-bajau children patintero their way across the road to ask anyone for loose change. At the red light, drivers would slowly roll up their windows as the malong-clad children sneak up behind them.

Over the years, the world has seen a drastic change in climate, from frequent typhoons to rising sea levels. The environmentalists’ mascot is always the melting icebergs in the North Pole. In General Santos, it is the heat. The temperature of the outdoors. The mirage on the road. And the clear blue sky. When TV Patrol GenSan reports the weather forecast for the day, the heat is always in Celsius. Centigrade, as it was once called, is a unit of measure for temperature based on the freezing point of water (0 °C) and its boiling point (100 °C). But when we step outside with our skin-thin, single-layered, loose garments, the heat is inside our brains. A switch clicks and heat takes over. When road rage and car accidents happen, it is because of heat. When bottled water’s price spikes, it is because of heat. And when you start desiring an air-conditioned office job, that’s heat talking.

It was 2008 when we moved to Barangay Apopong in General Santos City. Our house was still unfurnished. Wood planks scattered around the area, hollow blocks stacked on top of each other in one corner of the yard, and sacks full of cement rested against the wall. Our mango plant was still a sapling back then and so the only shade we had was our equally unfinished porch. One morning, I woke up early in our one and only room. We didn’t have a proper kitchen yet, so we made do with four propped-up stones. Mama lit up the plastic and charcoal. Fire consumed the charcoal as I watched it dance against the cool breeze. The heat that day was gentle: it was like Mama’s touch as she pulled me away from the makeshift stove. From afar, I promise you could see the fire alive in my eyes. Perhaps, during that time, it was. And perhaps it still is. But I know something has changed. Fire learned to bite back. Seven in the morning and you’re already sweating from every pore of your body as you’re chasing the 7:30 a.m. check-in time of your office or your factory or, perhaps, your fast-food chain restaurant work, whichever you’re qualified to work for.

It was not only the heat that changed. The people and the whole of GenSan, too. The hustle and bustle of the crowd grew as new malls were constructed and businesses opened; the number of tricycles boomed, congesting the road even more. However, among the most noticeable changes was the increase of the Sama-bajau population. Most of them reside by the shore of Queen Tuna Park, which was once called Lion Beach, and some in other residential areas. The city once tried to rehabilitate the beach to attract more tourists, so they relocated the Sama-bajau somewhere else. But not long after, the Sama-bajau came back. As for the land the government gave to them, I didn’t know what happened, but Papa said they must have sold it.

I’ll tell you a secret: no one in GenSan really cared about the Sama-bajau people. No one really cared about the dark-skinned woman carrying a baby across the street or the children selling rugs and oranges by the drive-through of fast-food restaurants. If you’re new to GenSan, you’ll notice these kids in every corner of every crowded establishment: pharmacies, restaurants, 24/7 grocery stores, gas stations, and even churches. At first, you may sympathize with them for their worn-out clothes and doe-eyed faces and perhaps, a sob story, too, so you decide to give them loose change. You know, just so they would have something to eat that night. But not soon after, you’ll realize that they’re relentless. Now that they know you can provide an opportunity for them, an opportunity to be profited from, they will hog your attention and suddenly, you’ll notice how everyone turns their heads the other way as soon as these children come over, oftentimes while quickly handing them coins just so they could get away from them. Perhaps, if the fire is still dancing in your eyes, you will think to yourself, this is not right. The city government should fix this. Well, I’ll tell you. They can’t—or rather, they won’t. They couldn’t even bother to fix the potholes and the unfinished roads constructed in Barangay Malakas that’s been there for months. What makes you think they could provide solutions for the Sama-bajau, who have been in GenSan for years?

Once, when we were on Pioneer Avenue with my friends to eat pastil, a Sama-bajau kid approached me. I knew he was a Sama-bajau because not far from him was his mother, sitting by the steps of an ukay-ukay store with a baby cradled on her breast. This is one trait you learn after living here for so long: figuring out which one is a Sama-bajau and which one is not. I didn’t give him any change, so he ran to another person and begged for money. But when one of my friends gave a bill to one of them, I suddenly felt guilty. Should I have given them money? Perhaps, food can compensate for that, right? And then I remember all the times I’ve turned a blind eye to their solicitations. I surmise I couldn’t stay consistent, so changing now would only be performative and self-gratifying. So I pretended they never existed at all.

Perhaps this is our punishment: our apparent indifference and continuing inwardness invoke the wrath of some fire deity, and the only way to appease him is for the community to unify and develop a sense of belongingness. That won’t happen, though. I know. Because we don’t care about the Sama-bajau people. We treat them as a nuisance. It only takes one careless Sama-bajau kid crossing the street for the heat to take control of the driver’s brain—a loud and stretched out honk!—and he’ll start cursing the kid and his mother, then his father, then his ancestors, and lastly the whole ethnolinguistic group for simply existing and living in their own land.

The mango plant in our house is no longer a sapling; it has become a fruit-bearing tree that provides shade for us. However, I can’t help but think about all the people walking under the sun right now like a zombie whose life has evaporated out of their heads, enduring the pain of the searing heat, sweating profusely and cursing under their breath, “‘Tang-ina, inita ba!” Just like the Sama-bajau do.

________________________

Elio Balan is a 4th year BA English (Creative Writing) student of UP Mindanao. This essay won 1st prize in the Life UPdates literary contest organized by the Likhaan UP Institute of Creative Writing in April 2022. He likes to cosplay.