One sunny day when green snakes basked by the dormitory gates, and the warty toads came out of the toilets, and trolls from the adjacent rooms were creating such a ruckus that my headache had a headache too, I decided to go to the mall for some peace and normalcy. The dormitory of the University of the Philippines in Mindanao was situated literally in the boondocks, and it was a 2 kilometer ride down unfinished roads to the highway. The only available transport was the habal-habal: a motorbike turned rough-road-taxi, whose driver ferried up to 4 to 6 passengers at a time.
To the people of Davao, this was a way of life. To me, it was a learning experience. On my first semester at the university, I was literally stuck at the dorm. I did not know how to ride a habal-habal. I was terrified of it, being the size of two normal Davaoeño. When an errant jeep or bus chanced by, I hailed it with so much zest that people thought my armpits were on fire. On one particular day, when I was desperate to get off the mountain, I begged for a ride on a meat delivery truck, and hung on a hook in its cargo bay like one of its produce. I knew, despite my circumstances, that I was blessed, since the truck’s cargo was long delivered and the bay was freshly cleaned.
Continue reading One Sunny Day in Mintal, Davao City
If I lie down Saturday afternoons in front of the TV, flipping cable channels – I’m alright. Or, if I close my eyes until the feeling goes away, and wake up at the exact moment my wife is serving dinner – I’m safe.
But the moment I venture out of the house, whether on an errand or after a phone call from a friend – I’m in trouble. The first shots offered are always refused. They are merely bait, dangled by istambays and kanto boys so that I will have the privilege of paying for whatever they’re drinking.
No, the first shot is best savored with a friend (usually the one who called.) The battleground is his sala or front porch with corned beef and lunch leftovers for pulutan, amidst loud laughter or whispering if the misis is around.
Continue reading Observations of a Drinking Man
All your life you believe that you are happy, that everybody in the world is content with his own life. You believe that there is no such thing as being two-faced. You believe that people are like you, gentle and kind. When something bad happens, you forget that incident; that information is stored in a place where nobody else knows. All of you live in a lie and create a façade to cover up the grime. But what you don’t know is that the world mirrors the way you act and the lies slowly begin to build up. These days, the entire world is simply one big fat lie, hiding behind a mask that shows luxury, wealth and happiness. We’re all living in one great illusion, which we all believe is reality.
Continue reading Kyouka Suigetsu / Mirror Flower, Water Moon
Kahirap namang kadiskurso ang mga kasama. Sinabi nang hindi pesante at hindi ptb ang uring kinabibilangan ko. Aba, nagsitawa lang sila. Ang lolo ko lang ang uring magsasaka, gentle peasant stock iyon, mind you, pero ang nanay ko, pagkatapos iwanan ang lasenggerong tatay ko at umuwi sa nilakihang baryo na pinagsanglaan ng bahay, lote, at sakahan ng lolo at lola ko, magsasakang manggagawa po, talaga. Ako at ang mga kapatid at pinsan ko, lumpen na magsasaka. Nagnanakaw kami ng tubo, bayabas, singkamas, nangka, pakwan, tinaliang manok, at ligaw na pato; nag-iihaw ng dalag, hito, palaka, aso, at nakikipagbakbakan sa mga anak ng sanggano sa baryo. (Nung nagsilakihan, meron naging sundalo, pulis, CHDF; merong naging titser, madre, weytres, prosti, maid sa HK; merong naging holdaper, inte, at traysikel drayber. Pero di ko na iyon ipinaalam sa mga kasama.) Kahit anong paliwanag ko, ayaw maniwala ng mga kasama. Sa urban poor communities raw matatagpuan ang mga lumpen, hindi sa farming villages. Maiiling sila na matatawa. Iba na raw talaga ang nakapag-aral ng Literatura, nakakaimbento ng sariling mga kategorya.
Continue reading Usaping Uring-Pinanggalingan
(Excerpted from the book Diary of the War: WWII Memoirs of Lt. Col. Anastacio Campo by Maria Virginia Yap Morales, published by Ateneo de Manila University Press, Quezon City, 2006)
Grandfather is remembered as the provincial commander Capt. Anastacio Campo (provincial inspector) of Davao, his last assignment before he retired after twenty-four years of military service in December 1939. He was farming when Davao was bombed by the Japanese forces. He promptly joined the United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) which was organized by Pres, Franklin Delano Roosevelt in July 1941. At that time, the Philippines was in a transition period called the Philippine Commonwealth under U.S. rule. Grandfather was promoted to major during the war. He finally retired thereafter, in July 1948, with an upgraded rank of lieutenant colonel.
After the war, Grandfather lost the strength of both of his legs and walked with the aid of a cane. But he always stood tall and lean, with a straight back owing to his military training. He had deep-set and attentive eyes, a tall nose, and a calm manner. He was fondly called “Tacio” by my Grandmother Remedios whom he called “Meding.” All of us grandchildren called him “Lolo Tacio.”
Continue reading War Diary
By a great coincidence, the title I chose for the American overkill that occurred eighty years ago on a hill outside Jolo town matched that of the recent Tausug youth musical theatre entitled “Ang Antigong Agong.” These very creative descendants of a massacre by the American military of more than 1,000 Moros at Bud Dahu recreated symbolically through the search for the antique agong the agony and psychological black-out still lurking in the Moro soul.
Continue reading The Bullet-Ridden Agong
To my beloved ones: If I had chosen to stay in law school, I would not be here doing the most important things in the world. Like lying flat on my belly and looking up at the ceiling while dialing the numbers of my friends and lost loves. Or memorizing my Kanji and Hiragana. Or “googling” for scholarships abroad. Wondering what Warren Buffet’s Cherry Coke tastes like. Trying to recount all my significant and memorable days and then feeling sorry for myself after knowing that I only have a few memorable events to recall. Knowing that, at least compared to the others, I am more blessed—never made it easy. Trying to fool myself I am great. Deleting the memories of courtrooms, case digests, case recitations, exams, articles, statutes, and ordinances from my brain and digging deep into my heart for that feeling of integrity and honor I used to have for myself. Playing with my shadow and the shadows of my study lamp, law books piled on top of my study table littered with post-its. Languidly staring at my reflection through the mirror. Wanting to feel remorse for the people I had hurt or hated. Examining the consequences of my choices and finding my way out through literature—I am now, in fact, beginning to read about elves and the geisha. Part of my brain is saying something is missing. There is something I had failed to understand. Is the time to reason all I have now left? Has my time to go back and analyze that missing something passed me by?
Continue reading Law school, anyone?
The members of the Davao Writers Guild regret the passing of fellow writer Josie C. San Pedro and express herewith our condolences to her bereaved family. In her memory, I would like to publish here for the first time an essay that I asked her to write sometime in 2004 for possible inclusion in an anthology I was then editing with Agnes Prieto. The book, Fallen Cradle: Parents on the Loss of a Child, was eventually published by Anvil in 2006, but did not include her piece on her son Mandy because she was not able to return it to me on time after I gave her suggestions for its revision. It was a loss for the book. Now with her passing, she has taken with her a substantial amount of Davao history yet to be written. It will be some time before Davao will find another chronicler of its peoples and times as fervent and well-loved as Tita Josie.
Ricardo M de Ungria
All his friends were there—during the wake in the house, at the church, and at the memorial park. They had sent him off with an affectionate farewell.
When Mandy left for work on that fateful morning of April 26, 1996, it was with his usual jauntiness on board his prized motorcycle. The next time I saw him was in a corner of the emergency room of a hospital as a doctor and several nurses were to work up his heart.
He never woke up. I wonder if he had heard me imploring,” Mandy, don’t give up. Fight, Mandy, fight. Don’t leave us.” Did he hear me praying to God Almighty to give him a little more time with his children?
His life was just beginning, with a loving wife and three beautiful children—ages seven, five, and three, and with another on the way, still floating at four months in his/her mother’s womb. This one will never see the smile on his/her father’s face or feel the warmth of his loving embrace or taste the sweetness of his kisses.
Continue reading Mandy