Hide Me till I’m Ready to Come Out

Nonfiction by | January 16, 2023

I was reluctantly headed towards the gate of my condo with the intent of going to a nearby supermarket under the heat of the blazing four o’clock sun. I decided on wearing a bright teal colored hoodie that day, paired with my baggy pajama pants, and my go-to sneakers that apparently hadn’t been cleaned from my last escapade. “No one will probably call you out for your footwear anyway,” my nonchalant inner voice advised.

The request was definitely sudden but wasn’t that unexpected seeing as my mom’s belly had been looking more and more like a watermelon each passing day. Anyone could tell that she was about to give birth this month or even the next and that obviously meant it was time for the only other person at home to step up and become the other adult in the house. This was my moment. My time for maturity had come.

“Feels like the sky’s glaring on me today,” a random thought came as grey clouds were suddenly starting to form from above.

I had prepared for every eventuality that I might come across for this sudden mission. I had my pink sling bag stuffed with everything, literally everything from my QR card, credit card, vaccination card, ID card—you get the picture. 

Shopping for groceries may be a normal thing for anyone at the age of eighteen, or even younger, but for a sheltered only child for most of my life, it honestly felt like entering society with a “stare at me” sign taped on my forehead, specifically printed in bold and all caps. If you couldn’t tell that this long ranting monologue was proof of my nervousness, then the sweat dripping down my forehead was definitely a sign. Or it could just be the sun.

Getting out of my thoughts, I made my way through the narrow sidewalk while putting on a pair of knockoff AirPods, now listening to a random song I clicked from my BTS playlist. In times like this, a good jamming session from your favorite band is best for calming nerves. I didn’t get to finish the song, though, since it didn’t actually take a full minute for me to reach my dreaded destination, unfortunately. 

With only being a few inches away from the entrance, I could actually feel my anxiety steadily surfacing on my prepared and calm exterior from moments ago. Between me and the entrance, there were merely two steps of stairs that I had to cross. Easy, right? “More like crossing the Korean DMZ” is what actually came to mind.

I took the leap in, but now came the harder part: shopping to get out.

I wanted to end this trip as fast as possible. I quickly navigated my way through the path of consumers that made this very small grocery store even smaller. I only had a few things on the list that my mom gave me to shop for: a few canned goods, alcohol (the safe kind), hand soap, laundry detergent, food, a broom, a rag, and a few other things. Basically, if you need it at your home, that’s what I’m buying.

After a few minutes of roaming around the store, squeezing my way through people in crowded aisles including their unattended shopping carts that frustratingly blocked the wider paths, I still managed to find most of the things on my list. I suddenly missed my life before I took a step out of my home, the safety of being indoors, relying on foodpanda whenever we got lazy to cook at home, not being surrounded by people who were most likely judging your pajama-like outfit. Deciding to stop the rambling, I just carried on living in reality rather than wishing to be in the fantasy. By then I was almost done with my list.

I only had two items left, the broom and the rag. I struggled the most to find these since despite being in a store that made you feel claustrophobic, I found out there were actually a lot of areas where needed items could be hidden. The meek extrovert in me needed to come out by now, it was getting late and I couldn’t handle the place anymore, so I mustered up the courage and just asked a nearby saleslady at the aisle where on earth the broom and the rag were.

Coincidentally, both were literally at the aisle behind the one I was in. That lady must be laughing deep down at the situation I was in. She was just focused on her job, though, minding her own business after the help.

Now back to my situation, the items were placed at the very back of the store and you’d have to worm your way in just to get them, and I did just that. I won’t lie to you and say that it was a pleasant experience, especially since I had to put myself in and out of there twice to get both separately. Gotta admit I might have silently yelled my profanities at the time, low-key regretting all the take out I had while being a subterranean and lacking the communication skills to ask help from that saleslady earlier. Couldn’t do much about it now, the only thing left was to finally pay and leave the store. I made my way through the counter.

“Your credit card isn’t working, ma’am,” the cashier in front of me mentioned out of the blue.

I had no cash except for twenty pesos in my wallet that could only cough up flies, my mom wasn’t with me to help with the situation, she didn’t reply to my texts either, there were several people behind me waiting for their turn while I was holding the line up front—you couldn’t see it, but I was definitely panicking. I instantly wanted to go back to that broom aisle and hide, just like I always had at home. Well, I wasn’t at home, I was here in trouble, in the real world.

I was now headed towards the gate of my condo, bag of groceries in hand, and it was extremely heavy. I finally made it back to our unit, and my mom welcomed me for a successful trip. She asked me how it went and I really told her everything that happened, the claustrophobic atmosphere, asking for help, even the credit card problem. She asked me what you’re probably wondering.

“How did it end?” she asked.

“I tried it again,” I replied.

That answer somehow became a very important lesson. One will never be completely prepared for what life throws at you. The nervousness and anxiousness one has is a normal feeling, and trying over and over again is what matters. We shouldn’t stop ourselves from facing reality or society just because we aren’t ready. Rather, we try to emerge and face our insecurities. And that’s when we know we are truly ready—when we come out.

Fionin Maer Tagimacruz is currently taking up BS in Psychology and has always had a soft spot for all things fiction. She takes inspiration for her literary pieces from everything around her since her youth, spending hours indoors reading fantasy novels and watching sitcoms.


Through a Spyglass Darkly

Nonfiction by | September 26, 2022

My father is a seafarer. For the most part of my childhood, I’ve only been able to see him once or twice a year, and only briefly. When I was told about his new job, the younger me had imagined that Daddy was going to be a pirate who will be setting off on a voyage to find treasure for me, thanks to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and my overactive imagination. Having an OFW parent is never easy on a child nor the seafaring father. The first time he had to leave, I was crying oceans almost every night for weeks. “What if he gets eaten by an enormous sea monster?” I frequently thought to myself. I couldn’t imagine how hard it was for him too, having to celebrate his children’s birthdays in the middle of the ocean, having to send a birthday message in a bottle, and having to look at his children grow up through a spyglass.

Now that I’m older, I realize that there are bigger monsters to worry about. Before I took the UPCAT in 2019, he told me that UP is just another school, perhaps in an effort to alleviate the pressure I was under. I replied that no, it isn’t – to which he replied “Yes it is, useless people nga karamihan sila.” I immediately knew what he meant. He has always been antagonistic towards UP students, as he had repeatedly said how some students are “baliw,” on a couple different occasions. In the irony of it all, several months later, his own daughter would pass the UPCAT and be one of those “baliw” and “useless” students.

I couldn’t blame him for not knowing who his daughter is. How does one get to know a person when both are oceans away from each other? The high tides and trade winds won’t allow it. One time, he sent me a message asking why it seems as if I’m drifting away, why we weren’t as close as we were before. The easy way out was to put all the blame on the distance and the tides pushing and pulling, hence slowly separating us, but I know all too well that distance and ocean tides weren’t the ones to blame. I could have said, “Because you support Duterte and defend his misogyny,” or “Because you share posts on Facebook spreading misinformation about the OVP,” or “Because you think student activism is crazy and useless when your own daughter is a student activist, but of course you don’t know that,” but I couldn’t. All I could manage to say was how college life in UP had kept me too busy.

This year, my brother and I flew to Baguio City, our hometown, to spend time with Daddy as it was time for his ship to dock. I call Baguio my hometown not only because it’s where I was born, but also because I take pride in being Kankanaey Igorot. We usually only get a month with him at most, but this time he was here for a generous two months before he boarded a ship again and began another journey at sea.

“Biglang nag-blackout, tapos dumami bigla boto ni Leni,” my father declared at the dinner table, referring to the 2016 elections in which Leni Robredo won the seat for the vice presidency. It was only a couple of weeks away before the May 9 elections, and political family discussions during dinner were, well, inevitable. Leni is running again, this time for the presidency, and my grandmother was a Kakampink, just like the rest of the family except for Daddy. Every evening, as the whole family gathered for dinner, Lola would bring up Leni, to which my father would never fail to refute: “‘Di ‘yan mananalo.” I kept quiet. I’ve never been a fan of confrontation. I don’t want to rock the boat; I just want to enjoy my bowl of sinigang.

Days before the Leni-Kiko grand rally in Baguio City, Daddy saw the materials I had laid out on the floor to make a placard. I didn’t tell him ahead of time that I was going. The night before the rally, he went into my room and said, “Bukas na yung rally, ‘di ba? Ba’t ‘di mo pa ginagawa ang placard mo?” I was caught off guard. Why was he encouraging the behavior he once said was useless? The following day, he offered to drive me and my brother to the venue. He also came back to pick us up after the event. We didn’t talk much about it, just a few questions on how it went and how we were.

Three days later, it was our flight back to Davao City – where my mother, younger brother, and I moved fifteen years ago when my parents separated – and Daddy was also going back to work and boarding a ship again soon. As I was packing my bags the evening before the flight, he saw the pink placard I had used for the rally, folded and slightly crumpled on the floor. “Hindi mo iyan iuuwi? Sayang, pwede mo ‘yan ipa-frame, remembrance,” he told me. I was stunned. It could have been a sarcastic remark, but I know that my father is a good man and he wouldn’t mock me like that. I didn’t know how to respond, so I just let out a little laugh.

I did bring the placard home to Davao, but not so I could frame it as a remembrance like he said. It might just be a piece of paper, but I choose to see it as the treasure Daddy had voyaged for many years ago across the ocean to find and bring to me. He needed to set sail all those years ago and he knew the younger me wouldn’t have fully understood why he had to do what he did. Even if he might not fully understand who I am and why I do what I do, it is more than enough for me that he sees me. Maybe he actually knows me, maybe he still doesn’t and just chooses to support me in whatever I do, who knows? The coast is far from clear, but he tries.

“Sa radikal na pagmamahal,” one side of my placard read. On the other side, I wrote “Pag- asa ay iiral.” With the loss of Leni and Kiko, and the seeming triumph of misinformation and historical revisionism, many of us don’t understand what went wrong. But I still continue to believe that the fight for the Filipino people to be seen and heard is far from over. These are difficult times for the Philippines, but we will keep trying.


Vida Sachi Daliling studies communication and media arts at the University of the Philippines Mindanao.

A Dam in Calinan

Nonfiction by | August 29, 2022

We stood at the foot of a tree-studded hill in Calinan. Mia, my classmate, seemed just as eager as I was to climb it, as we looked at the steep path we were about to take. I took the lead, with each mindful step at every convenient tree root that stuck out like nature’s staircase. It was clear that there was a trodden path ahead, as the rest of the hill was filled with cogon grass and trees too close to each other to walk through. About a third of the climb, sweat started to soak my neck and back. The Saturday afternoon sun wasn’t the one to blame, as the path was mostly shaded by mahogany trees that lined the hill. I remembered Troy, my classmate, saying that he used to climb this same hill every week for his taekwondo training. Despite being half my size, Mia managed to keep up with me and after a hundred sweaty steps and dirt-covered limbs, we reached the top. It was anticlimactic. I thought I would hear Howard Shore’s “Concerning Hobbits” at the supposedly majestic sight, but the feeling was mundane, at best. At least I got to feel what it must be like to train as a taekwondo athlete.

We rested just right on the path we took and had a chat. She opened up to me and wondered if she was worthy as a scholar of UP. I mean, how am I supposed to answer? I was at the edge during that semester and years later I would shift from my computer course to creative writing. I was just as, if not more, anxious as she was. All I told her was that everyone has their own insecurities, and how we adapt to them is how we succeed. Or at least that’s what I thought I said. I was a naive 19-year-old back then.

But the hill wasn’t why we were here.

One requirement for Comm 3, Effective Speech Communication, was to interview a community. The pairwork task was mostly focused on the techniques, methods, and ethics of interviewing. Simple enough. The harder part, however, was selecting what community I should go to. The only places that I was familiar with in Davao were the Roxas Avenue-Mintal jeepney travel route and their adjacent landmarks like Gaisano Mall and Ateneo de Davao University. So communities within the city were a no-go. I thought about going back to my hometown, Banaybanay in Davao Oriental for it, but I didn’t want to think about the fuss of bringing a girl back home. Mia was probably thinking the same thing as well. The only idea that we agreed upon, after much deliberation, is to visit a nameless dam in Calinan. The climb up the hill was just an excursion after a long ride from Calinan market.

Yes, it doesn’t have a name. Even Google couldn’t provide an answer. We agreed on it because it was the only place we were both familiar with in Davao. We had both been to a half-built resort owned by Troy’s uncle right next to the dam. We could’ve just been casual about it and interviewed anyone in the Mintal market, but we were UP students chasing excellence even if it meant a dangerous journey to the Calinan outskirts. Damn, we were really trying hard.

We took the same steps in our descent and walked towards the dam, as dry and rusty as we had seen before. On the reservoir side was a knee-deep stream and the downstream hardly had any water in it. What it had, however, were large rocks and patches of cogon grass, as if the last time it had water flowing was a decade ago. The concrete parts of the dam itself were covered in green and yellow slimy moss. The metal gears, screws, and platings were caked in orange rust. There were no maintenance buildings, no workers in the vicinity, and no cable lines for power. Just an antiquated, derelict structure.

So imagine my surprise when I found out that it was still working.

The fact came from the villagers near the dam, who seemed watchful of the two young visitors. It was as if they hadn’t seen another soul in years. We ignored them for a while but appreciated that we didn’t have to search hard for anyone for the interview. After about an hour of chatting, it was about three in the afternoon so we hopped through the large rocks on the downstream side towards the village when we saw one of the women standing beside the dam as if she were waiting for us. When she thought we could hear her, she said, “Why did you climb that hill? It’s extremely dangerous up there!”

My nonchalant heart suddenly jumped. The woman’s words sounded more concerning when a few of her fellow villagers walking by suddenly turned to us as if their everyday activities shifted into our supposed trespass.

“Why is it dangerous?” Mia asked.

“There are tulisan up there!” the woman answered.

Bandits? I felt a sudden and more sinister atmosphere in the area. Up there on the hill, it was a deafening silence, and we didn’t feel any souls hiding, waiting to pounce on us and have their way.

We were led to a sort of a wooden shed in which the woman, accompanied by her husband and some of her neighbors, told us that the hill and the nearby dam are witnesses to robbery, rape, and murder. The woman, as she relayed her story to us, spoke in hushed tones as if talking about it loudly would attract the malicious entities that lurk in the place. She mentioned a couple who were attacked when they were taking a bath at the reservoir. Then she answered no further questions about the matter, emphasizing that we should avoid that place from now on.

Duterte would win the elections as president the following year. When the rumors of him running for the presidency ran rife, the posts, images, or testaments on social media of how peaceful Davao City is also increased. Oppressive policing aside, the city was indeed relatively peaceful. But with their focus on urban security, it seemed they had forgotten that the dam, the village, and the hill were still part of their jurisdiction. So it seemed that the wicked lurked in the outskirts, away from the public.

As soon as I returned to my boarding house, I went online to search for any reported crimes in Calinan. The villagers in the nearby dam treated the atrocities as frequent occurrences so surely the authorities or the local news have information about it, right? The internet said no. But, I couldn’t blame the lack of coverage. Most of the news on TV is focused on the National Capital Region so local reports are mainly available only in the local news, amidst the titillating and sensationalized gossip about Filipino celebrities.

What made me more uncomfortable about all of this is that even though it was clear that the villagers were fearful about what was happening near them, they just agreed to avoid being involved when it happens. As the woman spoke of the couple, I imagined that if one of them had screamed, the villagers could’ve heard them. Perhaps they thought that apprehending the criminals at the scene would have consequences they were not willing to face, so they simply chose to be deaf to what happened. They had no reason to kid us. The woman stood there waiting when we were hopping on the large rocks as if we were her children caught lollygagging in the middle of the night.

But am I being a hypocrite? Because after the trip, I wished that we could’ve just settled for points of interest within the Mintal neighborhood of UP and be done with it. Screw grades and all that. I admit that Davao would’ve felt safer for me if I didn’t know what was happening near the dam. Bliss in ignorance was something I couldn’t deny. I would’ve just been fine with nothing but fascination that the dam was still working. I felt this not because I don’t feel pity, but because like those villagers, I was just as powerless. How could a listless, uninspired 19-year-old college student be able to do anything about that situation? How could I have made things better in that place when even the local police didn’t seem to help? And what about the local government?

I don’t see myself returning to that dam anytime in the foreseeable future. I can’t see myself willfully continuing to ignore what was happening on that hill. My conscience would be banging my head until it couldn’t be ignored anymore. But, years later, I still think about the dam, and how on earth it is still working. I think about the villagers, who kindly offered to take us home as one of them owned a jeepney that delivers the village’s vegetable produce to the Mintal market.

Carl Undag proudly lives in a small town in Banaybanay, Davao Oriental. He is currently completing his BA English course in UP Mindanao to fulfill his dream of writing a novel.

Editor’s Note: The research project referred to in the essay was conducted in 2015. We assure the public that UP Mindanao has since created a Research Ethics Committee and is currently implementing a standard protocol on all research on human subjects conducted by its community. 

Daddy Would Forget

Nonfiction by | August 22, 2022


July 15, 2021, 7:58 pm

Daddy still remembers me.

My grandfather has seen lots of things in his time. His children growing up. Their belongings being loaded onto a truck because they couldn’t pay the rent. Plaza Miranda right before it was bombed. Sometimes I think Daddy has seen too much.

In 2018, he was a victim of a motorcycle hit-and-run and had to get stitches. In 2019, he was rushed to the ICU for septic pneumonia where he was also diagnosed with dementia. These things seemed to happen more and more frequently.

I prayed then. I asked that Daddy live long enough to see my cousin finish med school and become a doctor. That’s all I asked. And He knows I don’t ask for much. I don’t ask; I don’t dream. No, that was my cousin. That was Ate Hannah.

And in 2021 she finally got her dream. The first doctor in the family. And the way Daddy smiled when it sunk in will always be how I remember him.

I have to check my UP results.

8:12 pm

I didn’t get in. 

I’ll appeal. Everything’s going to be fine. I told myself this. Then:

My mother’s going to be upset. Then:

Mama Ving must be so proud of her daughter, Ate Hannah.

July 18, 12:38 am

I was helping Daddy to bed.

“Anong pangalan mo?” he asked me.

“Bea po.”

“Ilan kayo magkakapatid?”

 “Dalawa po.”

 “Sino ‘yong isa?”

“Si Carlos po.”

“Ahh! Si Caloy!” No one has called my brother that nickname since he was small.

“Tumakbo na ba si Robredo?” he asked suddenly.

“‘Hindi pa po natin alam.”

“Dapat manalo ‘yon… kasi… babae… taga-Bicol…” My grandmother was from Bicol. “Saka Katoliko, katulad ko… naniniwala sa Diyos… hindi tulad ni Duterte… ‘di ‘yon naniniwala sa Diyos.” How could a man who has been put through so much still have this much faith? “Mananalo ‘yon… kasi… natalo niya na si Marcos noon eh.” I thought he was confusing timelines again for a moment then I realized he was referring to the vice-presidential race in 2016. 

It must be nice, I thought, to have so much faith in something.

11:45 am

 Daddy asked again, “Anong kurso mo?”

Literature po.”

“Saan ka mag-aaral?”

La Salle po.”

 “Eh ‘di ba sa Ateneo ka may scholarship?”


It was quiet for a while.

“Mahal ang tuition sa La Salle, ‘di ba?”

“Hanapan po namin ng paraan.”

As soon as I let go of those words I wanted to take them back. This man has heard them enough. We’ll find a way. Probably mostly from himself. For his family. For us. Too much. Too much.

It’s fine, I sighed, he probably doesn’t remember.


 July 18, 10:31 pm

I was holding Daddy’s hand. He wore a bracelet that had his name and my aunt Mama Lou’s number in case he wanders again. This same hand handed my mother a hammer at the noise barrage in 1978 when supporters of Ninoy Aquino flooded Metro Manila’s streets in an act of defiance against Marcos. I wonder if he remembers that. He looked down at the bracelet.

“Sinong nagpagawa nito?”

Mama Lou was also in the room. She answered, “Nanay niya, si Memen.”

Earlier this year, January 31, Daddy wandered out of the house in Manila before dawn without a face mask on and wearing just a sando and boxer shorts. Barangay tanods found him and asked for his name and address but he couldn’t answer. All he said was that he fell asleep at his daughter’s house looking after Bea and Caloy and wanted to go back home to his wife Nora.

His heart and mind were in Davao. The bracelet was meant to bring him back.



July 21, 9:17 pm

He asked, “Kailan ang kaarawan ko?”

“Sa Biyernes.” Daddy would turn ninety on July 23. We would attend mass at Quiapo Church. My grandmother would always attend mass there. She would fall on her knees and move closer and closer towards the altar. Closer and closer.

“Naku! Bawal ang karne!”

“Daddy, hindi naman Lent ngayon.”



 July 23, 8:07 pm

Mass ended at 8:00 pm.

“Saan si Nora? Nakasimba ba siya? Hindi nagpaalam?” Daddy looked hurt.

“Nasa Davao siya.” Mama Lou answered.

Technically this wasn’t a lie. My grandmother was buried in Davao.

“Paano siya nasa Davao, eh katabi ko lang siya kagabi?”

Too close, Mommy. Too close.



July 26, 1:09 pm

A commercial came on.

“Tatakbo pala si Villar?” I started. The conversation rolled on. Daddy was quiet.

To test his memory, Mama Ving asked, “Gusto mo si Marcos, Daddy?”

“Hindi.” He didn’t hesitate.

This man would forget us, himself, time, and that it had taken his wife. But he had Plaza Miranda branded onto the insides of his eyelids. The clang of Nanay’s hammer against the metal pole still echoes in his ears.


Bea Gatmaytan lives in Davao City. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in English (Creative Writing) at the University of the Philippines Mindanao.

All Roads Lead Home (Part 1)

Nonfiction by | July 4, 2022

Three years ago, on my first trip home from college, Isulan felt like home for the very first time. As soon as I stepped out of the van I took a picture of the Roundball, which was another first. The Roundball wasn’t a grand architectural feat—it’s just a rotonda—it was rugged and unkempt, yet its concrete base never seemed shaken. The statue of Sultan Kudarat stood on top, collecting dust from thousands of vehicles passing by each day, off to their own destinations. For something that stood there as long as I can remember, it’s anything but new. It reminded me that I was home. And I wanted to immortalize that moment. Perhaps it was that exact feeling of home, of warmth, that I wanted to carry with me wherever I went. Or maybe it was just an impulse.

After that spontaneous flick, I took a stroll on the empty highway—it was eight o’clock in the evening. The dust in the air stung my eyes and filled my lungs as I kept on looking and walking around streets and buildings that I would have overlooked if it had been any other moment than that. A couple of minutes later, I reached the old market, the palengke, and I noticed that a statue of a golden eagle has been erected in front of an old bakery, barbecue stalls with disco lights lined the pathway, street lights no longer flickering, tarpaulins and colorful banners of politicians flitted by the warm evening wind. The moon seemed to project a vague film on the concrete, the stars hummed, and street dogs sang. For a while, it looked like a Vincent van Gogh painting. Were all of these like this before?

I was taken back to reality when I checked my phone and saw four missed calls from Tatay. I realized then that I was truly back, but somehow I knew something was different. I felt like I needed to write about this moment, to translate my feelings on paper, to write a story. Such an impression made me reflect about the reality of the people selling barbecue every night, what their economic status was and how the political system affects their lives, their stories and motivations. How I could give them justice through my writing, one that could never be given by the faces on political campaign materials. I had never thought about these before. Perhaps nothing really changed in Isulan, I just didn’t care enough to look and see.

Still enamored by how mundane and peaceful everything felt, I thought to myself, “I am home.”

I told Tatay where I was.


Today, after being caged here for almost two years, I have yet to find another thing to try and write about. Isulan, a town of ninety-thousand in the province of Sultan Kudarat, has become sort of an enigma. I used to think that nobody cared about politics, about art, or the looming dread of capitalism. I was bored out of my mind. I wanted to prove to myself that there has to be more, here in my hometown. There were people I’ve met that made me reconsider my previous thoughts. One of them was a man I’ve only known for a month; he calls himself Mark, I call him Kuya. As I do every guy I think is older than me.

One day, I found myself in Kuya’s home. I accompanied my girlfriend to a business meeting there. He asked her to model for an “essential oils” promotional shoot. I made sure it was nothing shady, hence my unsolicited presence. The compound was big. Hundreds of plants organized in tight little spaces, some in pots, and others on the ground. “These plants weren’t here before the pandemic,” Kuya said. “Nanay really turned out to be a plantita.” I feigned a smile.

After the meeting, Kuya lit a cigarette and started to puff away; we were in a bahay kubo. Later I found out that Kuya’s father knew Tatay, and they were relatively close. It piqued my interest. I didn’t know if I was glad that Kuya and I had something in common, or annoyed because it really had nothing to do with me.

“Did you know I was in the PNP for five years?” Kuya said.

This fully-bearded man, riddled in tattoos, used to be a police officer? A promising one at that, too, as he later revealed. I asked why he broke away from the organization.

“I couldn’t see myself doing the same thing for ten, twenty more years,” Kuya answered. “I only wanted to prove myself to Tatay.”

He referred to his father as “Tatay,” as I did mine. And he was also the eldest son trying to prove himself to his father. I saw myself in him, and perhaps he saw himself in me. It felt easier to talk to him, to confess my deepest worries and curiosities. But I didn’t, I’ve only known him for a day. That afternoon, I knew I had to write about what happened. To immortalize the moment I met someone who I might, and could, have been.

The following day, I asked my girlfriend to come with me to Kuya’s house because I wanted to buy a plant. She was in disbelief because I had never been interested in plants. On the way there, I told her that it was for a school requirement about taking care of plants (it really wasn’t). I didn’t want her to think I wanted to visit Kuya for no reason, or anyone for that matter.

When we arrived, I saw Kuya smoking under the shade of a small coconut tree in the farthest corner of their garden; his little sanctuary. He seemed dazed by the lush greenery. Waking from his stupor, he grinned and waved at us. It was 11 a.m., just in time for lunch. I told Kuya why we were there.

“I’m sorry, Dave, I don’t think these are for sale,” he said. “Wait here, I’ll ask Nanay.”

I wanted to buy a pretty plant that was easy to take care of; low maintenance and beautiful to look at. Since we arrived, my girlfriend had already been scouting every inch of the garden, leaving no flowerpot unchecked. When Kuya came back, a woman who looked a little over sixty wearing a blouse as colorful as the garden, trailed beside him.

“This is the one I was talking about, ‘Nay,” Kuya said to his mother. “‘Tong bata ni Madriaga haw?”

“Oh you look like your father, ga,” auntie said. “So, how is he?”

“Police gihapon ah,” I answered. “He’s still on duty.”

“Oh, now I remember, you were that kid who ran back and forth and played all day in the barracks, like a kiti-kiti,” Auntie wiped a drop of sweat from her forehead with her blouse. “Ti, ano aton?”

I told her that I wanted to buy a plant for a school requirement. I nudged my girlfriend to point out which one she chose for me, as well as the one she wanted.

Aring duha ho?” Auntie pointed to the monstera and Pink Princess. “These are tiny.”

“It’s okay, auntie,” I said. “I only need it for school anyway.”

Auntie picked up the two pots of plants and put them in a plastic cellophane.

“How much for these po?” I asked.

Inyo na na ga,” Auntie said. “Give my regards to your father.”

I turned to Kuya. He nodded in approval. “Thank you po.” I said.

As we were about to go home, Kuya asked us if we already had lunch. That was the invitation I hoped for. “Not yet, Kuya.” I answered.

The inside of the house was spotless. It had a slightly modern look with all the right angles and monotonous colorway, perfect complement to the rustic atmosphere of the garden. Medals and photos were hung on every side of the wall. I didn’t recognize Kuya in the photos; he was clean shaven and youthful, there was a spark in his eyes. Now, Kuya wore sunglasses wherever he went, even when we were having lunch.

Auntie served fried fish and homemade longganisa along with a huge bowl of steaming white rice. Kuya didn’t wait for us to scoop the rice first; he broke the awkward ritual of making visitors begrudgingly scoop rice first—I think I prefer it this way now.

“How do you like Isulan, Kuya?” My girlfriend asked.

“It’s all right. Peaceful,” he said. “Closer to family. It’s been two months since I came back.”

I thought he lived here his whole life.

“What did you do before then?” I took a bite of the longganisa.

“A lot of things, Dave. But I guess I’d call myself a businessman. See this?” Kuya took out shards of wood from his sling bag. “Do you know what this is?”

I had no idea.

“This is agarwood,” he said. “I used to sell this for a living.”

Aquilaria malaccensis. He handed me one of the wooden shards. It felt and looked normal, until I smelled it. It was unlike anything I smelled before. My girlfriend later told me that it was illegal to possess agarwood, much more sell it. Kuya said that a kilo could go up to a hundred thousand pesos, and the cost came from how scarce it was. Since Kuya immersed himself in this line of work, it took him two years to locate agarwood from all over the country. He also sold all sorts of illegal items—mostly nature-related— in the black market.

I knew then that he was a criminal. I started to feel uneasy, but he piqued my interest yet again. Kuya gave me one of the shards. “That’s worth five thousand pesos,” Kuya said. “Keep it.” I hesitated. Partly because of how expensive it was, but mostly because I didn’t want to feel indebted to him. I didn’t have a choice, he was basically shoving it inside my pocket.

At that time I didn’t know why I kept it, I wasn’t used to receiving gifts from strangers. But looking back, I might have kept it as a reminder of the troubles Kuya went through, and the sacrifices he had to make to find something valuable. Not just during his days as an illegal trader, but his time as a police officer; what made him change? If I were in his situation, would I have done what he did?  As it turns out, agarwood is the byproduct of the tree’s defense mechanism after enduring years of damage. It is said that the most damaged trees produce high quality agarwood.

We thanked Auntie for the meal and the plants before we went home. I nodded at Kuya and smiled before saying goodbye. I knew that wouldn’t be the last time Kuya and I would meet. On our way home, I realized that I haven’t paid a single penny for the things we were given. This was quite unusual since we were at the peak of the pandemic.


At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the people of Isulan panicked. Borders were closed, quarantine passes were issued, vehicle sterilization drive-throughs were in every street, and nobody ever went outside without a facemask on. People started to hoard groceries; some people I knew bought five months worth. Others even stockpiled on liquor, the higher the alcohol content the better. It was said that drinking liquor could kill the coronavirus. Most people didn’t think twice about these kinds of information even when they only stumbled upon it on social media. Everyone was desperate when it came to battling the virus. (To be continued)

David Madriaga is a writer from Isulan, Sultan Kudarat. He is a graduating student of the University of the Philippines Mindanao’s BA English – Creative Writing Program.

Wheel of Emotions

Nonfiction by | December 13, 2021


I am scared of the dark. I sleep with a nightlight on. Just to disinfect the city. That’s what the mayor said when she cancelled classes that day. It was the first time I saw Tarlac so empty. I don’t know what day it is anymore. I know the churning feeling in my gut hasn’t left since then. People have stopped saying “See you soon.” I feel like I’m losing my mind. Dinner looks good tonight. My mom tells me to stop bouncing my leg. I heave half of what I ate in the bathroom. Twenty-eight. That’s how many excruciating breaths I take before getting up in the morning. The clouds are so big. It covers everything in the shadows.


I break down crying. Like second nature, I grab my blanket and put it in my mouth. I bite down hard. It’s an effective way not to disturb my sleeping sister. She has her own problems. I don’t bother her with mine. My friends and I are on a Zoom call. We laugh and joke and smile. My eyes are burning from staring at the screen. We say our goodbyes. The four walls of my bedroom suddenly feel so much closer. Too close. I miss my friends. I miss people I shouldn’t miss. There it is again. My tears are leaving scorching trails on my cheeks. I type out a message to a friend. I don’t hit send. How many of my friends didn’t hit send? I go and take a shower. The cold water is welcome against my skin. A feeble substitute for human touch everyone is deprived of. I step out of the bathroom shaking.


I deactivate my Twitter account. I hate myself for it. I have food on the table. A roof above my head. I am healthy. The people around me are all getting sick. No one in my immediate family of five has gotten sick. I am sick to my stomach. There is so much death. I am still alive. I know someone who knows someone who has died. I can’t even handle the news. It feels like a cycle. Every day is the same. Is this the beginning, the middle, or the end? Shame is such a heavy thing to bear. I am tired. Who am I to get tired?


I scroll through Facebook and see a familiar man throwing a party. No physical distancing. No masks. Isn’t this the same person who preached about safety protocols? The one who blames the rising numbers on the people’s “indiscipline”? Well, it’s easy to tell people to stay at home when your fridge is all stocked up. When you don’t have to depend on your day-to-day jobs. When your stomach isn’t growling from hunger. The resiliency spiel is getting old. The nurses are already tired. We take advantage of them. Why? I am in front of my laptop. The malls are open. Why? The rich are getting richer. The poor, poorer. Why? I am angry. Helplessness angers me. I am but one person. What can I do? I am no longer alone in demanding answers now. Not as helpless. But anger still burns in me red.


There it is. In the easy smiles of kids. In the voices of the youth. In the welcoming ways of a mother. In the selfless dedication of the farmer. In the rasp in the voice of a teacher discussing to their student. In the furious typing of an impassioned writer. In the ducked head of an artist dipping their brush in paint. In the eyes of the photographer who captures more than the obvious. In the outstretched hand of one to another. In the linked arms of the people. In their fists high up in the air. In the masses. There I find it.

Born in Davao yet currently living in Tarlac City, Paige Ingrid D. Alovera is taking up BA English (Creative Writing) at UP Mindanao. She loves reading, writing, and dogs.

Days of the Days

Nonfiction by | November 22, 2021

The Sudden Shift- End of the Victorious Days

It was March 15 of 2020, just after our preliminary examinations. I was exhausted after the mind-boggling exam I’d taken. After I left the room, my friends were celebrating as if it were New Year’s Eve. I thought it was because we had finished our exams. I had no idea that it was just posted on Facebook that there was a weeklong class suspension due to the “COVID-19” virus. As expected of students who treat class suspensions as blessings in disguise, we went out for lunch happily. I never knew that that break would feel like going on a full stop after a speed of 80kph—from a very fast-moving routine to a life of forgetting what day of the week it was.

The Joy of the Days

The weeklong suspension recharged me. So, I texted my friends and planned a meet-up lunch; we met at the same mall, SM, but nothing was ever the same. After the sudden shift, it felt like I arrived in a different world. I noticed that people were wearing facemasks and face shields. Everything seemed so foreign to me. We had ours too, but it felt new seeing people in those “suits.” We were asked to practice social distancing inside the restaurant and in the bookstore—our go-to stop every time we visited the mall. While browsing these newly-released books, my phone rang—it was an announcement that Tuguegarao City will be under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ). I went back to my normal routine when I buy books: I proceeded to the counter and paid for it—I bought a Tagalog boys’ love novel entitled “Kadenang Bahaghari,” written by John Jack G. Wigley. As usual, we bid our goodbyes and went home. Little did I know, it was going to be the last human interaction that I will have for a long time.

The Long Days

It had been months and the name of the supposed weeklong lockdown had evolved—we were now under the Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ). Only one member of the family can go outside for essential transactions. Fortunately, cell phones, laptops, and online modes of communication were invented before the pandemic took place. My devices were my bridges to reach my friends and family. I spent the next few days communicating with them, scrolling on social media, and watching shows on Netflix. Sometimes I took my time while drinking a cup of iced coffee on our balcony and watching the sunset. Those days had been long and exhausting, it felt like I was sitting in my math class because of how the time slowed down—except that I was missing my friends and I was in my room, alone. The isolation and disconnection were different; from there, I knew that the joy of the days was over.


The Blank Days

A year has passed, and nothing has changed. This pandemic came to us like a thief –we were unguarded, and we did not know what it would bring. It stole the supposed milestones of my life, such as senior high school graduation and my time as a college freshman. My long days were filled with longing – both for the people that I love and for the life that I had. I never loved the idea of a traffic jam, but I started thinking about the last time that I felt a stranger’s sweat against my skin. The thief left me with nothing but an empty room where I can think of all my “could-have-beens.” Luckily, this room had windows that shed light—it reminded me that I was blessed enough that none of my family members caught the virus and we were able to sustain our daily living.

The Silent days

It has been a year and seven months of lockdown. I was awakened by the continuous ringing of my phone. I was still sleepy due to the medicines I took for my headache. It was my ate messaging me, informing us that our Aunt Norma died because of the virus and her family was under quarantine and isolation. I was in shock; a sudden ring consumed my ears—it was like I was swallowed by the silence. Aunt Norma and I were just talking through Facebook the other day, and now she was gone. Weeks had passed, and still, I couldn’t move on; it was my Psych check-up, and later, I was diagnosed with “Severe Depressive Disorder.” We were silent again. No one talked after we bought my medications. We went home, and I went straight up to my room to read the book I bought a year ago; it was “Kadenang Bahaghari.” Who would have thought that the joy of the days will turn into the long days filled with melancholy that would soon remind me of how my victorious times turned into the blank days, and were now the silent days?

Benjamin Ambros King G. Sumabat is a student writer currently studying Bachelor of Arts in English (Creative Writing) at the University of the Philippines Mindanao.

How He Responds (Part 2)

Nonfiction by | October 11, 2021

III. Ayaw paghilak kay makahilak pud ko.

After my mother left, I swore to make Papa happy. Maybe not as happy as he would have been when we were still complete. But proud and happy of the pieces of our family left with him. I promised myself I would never be the reason for his tears.

I knew Papa never loved the idea of me enrolling to a Special Program in my Junior High School. I was 13 years old that time and it was already three years since my mother left us and I thought making him proud with academic achievements was the best way for me to cope.  But Papa didn’t want me to pressure myself. He had always wanted me to enjoy my life without academic responsibilities or burden. He wanted me to have a “normal life.” And it took me a few years to realize that I, my family, was not meant to have one.

Although I knew him as a quiet man, Papa talked more over the years. Most often about my mother. Whether it was through text or over merienda in his payag whenever I visited him after school, I would shiver at how angry his voice sounded.

Unsa imong gusto, ipa-taurpalin ko nang dagway sa imohang mama kauban iyang lalake?

Do you want me to print a tarpaulin of your mother flexing her lover?

He told me this on one of the days I went straight to his payag after training for a writing competition. I was tired that day, both from my training and from dealing with this “not normal” but “not extraordinary” family. Hearing him say those words made me feel more drained. Even when those words were true, that my mother left us for another man, I never wanted to hear those things from Papa. I was convinced that she will always be my mother regardless of everything.

At that moment I tried to think of an appropriate response for what he said. Should I agree? Should I tell him not to talk about mother that way? So I just bowed my head until my eyes gave out. I cried in silence, as I had always done in the nights where I didn’t get to sleep next to Papa or next to my mother, or even next to both.   Crying in silence was not enough for all the things I felt at that time, so I sobbed without daring to look at him.

While I cried, I thought about my mother. Where was she now that her little girl is crying? Should I still call her “mama”? What should I refer to her then? It was funny how kirida and mistress became names for women who have affairs with married men. But how about a single word for widowed men who steal wives from their respective home? Was there any word that could describe how painful it is to the husbands and children to see their wives and mothers lighting up somebody else’s tahanan?

But then Papa did something unexpected, he hugged me. I stopped crying almost immediately out of shock. I could feel his dry and chapped skin against my arms, and I could smell the sweat on his faded blue loose t-shirt with little holes and ripped hem. He must have worked the whole day here in the store, I thought. And here I was adding more stress to his already tiring day.

“Anak,  sorry na. Ayaw pag hilak kay makahilak pud ko,” Papa said in a voice so soft I almost didn’t hear him. Papa was not a fan of hugs or physical affection, but this hug was not the biggest shock to me. It dawned on me that no matter how sad he was about losing my mother to another man, what pained him more was seeing me lose myself in all the stress and hurt I had been feeling.

So I hugged him back in silence. The most comforting silence we had ever shared.


There were those times in my life where I have wondered a lot about my father’s behavior. Is it true that he is psychologically incapacitate, like what the annulment papers say? He could have hurt my mother. He could have left us before my mother did. But why does he always remain calm even when it hurts? How does he manage to choose peace most especially when his whole family is hurting? Papa always knew better. He knew just how to respond to how I feel, to how my mother left, and to how he could keep this family “normal.”

I knew I had to stop taking note on how he handles every situation. It was time to show him the aftermath of his responses.

IV. Nakauli na ka?

“Papa, 3rd place ko!” I called him, crying. I won 3rd Place at a SciTech Writing competition when I was in Grade 10 and about to graduate from my Special Program.

He was silent at first and I didn’t really expect any reply. Letting him know that his little girl achieved something was surely enough for me to be proud of. I was still at school that time, fixing my things in our publication office. My fellow campus journalists who also won in their different categories invited me to celebrate with them in the sugbahan in Torres, just in front of our school.

“Congrats anak, proud kaayo ko sa imo,” he finally said. I heard his voice crack on the other line. He was crying.

I cried harder. My tears were not from my achievements, but it was from the tears I heard from him. No award could equal to the satisfaction I felt. It was as if I was a child again being given all the gifts she had asked from all her relatives on Christmas. I could not ask for more.

His payag was just a five-minute walk from school, so I started to walk home. When Papa asked if I had told my mother about my win, I mumbled a yes.

Ever since I was a child, and years later when I won in writing competitions or in other school events, my mother would just reply with a simple “Congrats.” Now that she knew how to use Messenger, she would send a large thumbs up emoticon. But Papa’s bragging of our, me and my brother’s, achievements would not end there. He would spend weeks telling his friends about how I placed 1st at writing competitions and how my brother had a published article at the University of Mindanao. He never seemed to have few words when he talked about us—his family.

When Papa noticed I was not talking on the other line, he asked me what he always asked before he would end a phone call or a text conversation: Nakauli naka? Are you home?

Home. I lived in different houses because of my parents’ separation. I was already used to not going home to the same house I had slept a night before. Back then, Papa would ask me to stay with him in Catitipan, then I would come home to my brother in Ubalde the following day, but most of the time I stayed with my late grandparents. Regardless of that setup, I always knew that I was welcome in his place.

Papa was never perfect. He had his lapses and limitations. He had his share of bad times and breakdowns. But he always knew what to do. He always knew how to respond.

So when he asked that question whether I arrived home or not, I found myself just a couple of steps away from his little sari-sari store. When he saw me by the small bamboo fence, he rushed to me immediately and we shared a hug. He didn’t even wait for my response, but I was always glad for his.

“Yes, Pa. Nakauli nako.” I’m home. Pa.

Reggie Faye is from Los Amigos, Tugbok, Davao City. She is a freshman from University of the Philippines – Mindanao, under the degree program Bachelor of Arts in English (Creative Writing). She graduated from Davao City National High School, where she took up the Special Program in Journalism during her Junior High School and the Humanities and Social Sciences (HUMSS) strand in her Senior High School.