When a Frog Escapes

Nonfiction, Poetry by | September 28, 2020

The sack was too heavy to carry. Lola told me not to drag it because it might shred off the ground and that the frogs inside it might escape. But the thought didn’t bother me. Besides, I was just a few meters away from Bukagan near Bankerohan Public Market, a stall where differently-sized baskets were created and sold. It was also where lola had stayed over the course of three decades to sell frog skeletons for medical college students.

I kept dragging the sack with my thin arms along the pebbly street as if I was carrying a corpse. It was knotted, which made me wonder if the frogs were still breathing. They were all croaking but the larger ones seemed uneasy. They were jumping as high as they could to escape. I stumbled and my hands accidentally unclasped the sack. But I stood up, clutching the sack again. The frogs didn’t defeat me. I reached our house but there was no one home. I went to the corner where lola used to slaughter the frogs and dumped the sack there.

 

As a child, I was never bothered that animals like frogs also had lives and needed to survive. The act never mattered to lola because she once told me that if being merciless is the only way to survive a day, she would kill frogs forever. It was for our own good, she said. I had long understood that we were poor—no each single kind of request would be granted instantly. But I also that if it was really for our good, then why would my ates and kuyas leave the house every day, only to return by past midnight? They said they wanted to be happy. I somehow agreed. Who could even stay in our house with all its unpainted brick walls? There were only two windows, both had no curtains. There were empty containers wedged at the corner so that if it rained, we would placed them where drops of water raced to fall. The wires of television entangled around a brittle wooden pole that supported our roof.

 

There was no good memory of me and ates and kuyas eating on the same table together when we were young. But if there was something that made us close to each other as friends, it was the large pre-loved bed where we slept next to each other.

A neighbor who’d migrated to Japan gave that bed to lola. The old covering was scraped off. It made my skin itchy when we slept on it, so lola fixed it all by herself. She brushed and washed the used sacks where the frogs had been once kept. She cut each sack on both sides and hand them on our clotheline. For days, she stitched the sacks together and laid it on the old bed as it cover.  I could no longer identify the color of each sack, but I remember that it looked like a single side of an unsolved rubik’s cube. When lola finished mending the furniture, my ates and kuyas found their places on the bed. We would sleep together like we were inside a can of tinapa and would wake up each morning to share the dreams or  nightmares we had the night before.  But where would ate Jelly sleep? There was no space on the for her. None of us were willing to sleep to sleep on the ground with patches of brown cardboards.

But one day ate Jelly didn’t come home. A few days we learned that she eloped with a man ten years older than her. It angered mama. She scolded lola for being neglectful.

At those times, I couldn’t sleep. I would look up the open window beyond the passing trycicles and hoped that ate would come back home and would sleep beside us. I had always wanted to talk to ate, to know why she had run away. Maybe I should have asked what she was thinking. The thoughts she had while she was sitting by our window, combing her hair with her fingers. She was sweetly humming a song I had no idea what it was. She said it was from a dream she had sung. She told me I couldn’t understand yet because I was too young to talk about love, family or forgiveness.

 

After a few weeks, mama and I finally knew where ate Jelly was staying with the man. I was nervous when we started walking down the rocky paths going to an unfamiliar neighborhood. We both ducked as if we were hunchbacks because our heads almost hit the floors of the stilted houses made of plywood and Amakan walls. We passed through trails of barricading stilts and clothelines where panties and briefs were hanging. We were in the darkest slums of Bankerohan. We reached the shack were ate Jelly and the man lived. A palm crucifix was nailed at the center of the wooden door. We knocked on the door for a couple of times, but we realized that no one was really inside. We were told by the man’s neighbor that he’d left with a young lady. By the time mama realized that ate Jelly was hiding in a different place, she decided not to bring me anymore. She told me to stay with lola and I was back carrying sacks of frogs again, still deeply thinking where my sister was really hiding.

 

This time, I dumped the sack without talking to lola as she began to talk about ate Jelly while rubbing her long knife against a whetstone. “Imong magulang wa na gyud kaantos diris balay. She never returned,” she said bitterly.

She prepared boiling water inside the large tin can. She placed the long knife beside her small chair with a folded cloth so her back wouldn’t hurt. She would be sitting for an entire day again. But before anything, she would count and check how many frogs were still alive. She untied the sack I had just brought. All the frogs were jumping as high as they could.

Guniti og tarong ang pikas sako, ayawg buhi. Don’t let go no matter what.”

Lola would get them one by one. Each frog would stretch its limbs, helpless as it would be transferred to another sack after counting. But I clumsily dropped the sack as one frog had accidentally touched my hand. I couldn’t help it. All the frogs were jumping anywhere.

Lola cursed at me and pinched my waist. I cried aloud almost to the point of wailing. Lola bent and tried to catch the other escaping frogs.

Dakpa ang isa, dakpa!” She screamed at me. “Catch them before they leave!”

She was looking at the frog that was on its way toward the hole of a ditch. But I really couldn’t stop that frog from leaving this house.  Lola beat me with a broom. It bruised my legs and arms. I stared  at the window exactly where ate Jelly was sitting and thought of the world outside where all the frogs return to.

 

***

Neil Teves has been a fellow for Creative Nonfiction to the Ateneo de Davao Summers Writers Workshop, the Cagayan de Oro Young Writers Studio, and the Davao Writers Workshop, all during 2018.

Tender Like A Bruise

Poetry by | September 21, 2020

He tells me to stop crying.

He had the most beautiful,

most cruel mouth: gums pink

as Mother’s expensive lipstick, tongue

soft and sharp.

His lips are tight like a vice

around the end of a withering cigarette—

Marlboro Red, no longer

than my thumb.

We lie in the quiet aftermath

of us fading. We do

nothing,

salvage

not one body of memories.

 

He reminded me of my father,

smelling of smoke in the early evening, sitting

on the curb in front of the house

in Laguna.

It had been years since I last saw him.

 

I dress in haste, body scarred

by his constant

effortless nonchalance.

He says goodbye like an afterthought:

a stray bullet shot with eyes turned

the other way.

 

Weeks later, he calls.

I’ve missed your body.

His words are now tender,

like a bruise

pressed by young, curious fingers, wondering:

Would the skin open up to let the purple

            and yellow spill out like paint?

He is there and not there

at once.

 

When we are done, I leave,

stomach full

of melancholy.

Lamp posts line the streets; raining down

pools of orange light.

Tears dripping, I walk through them.

I bathe,

I bathe,

I bathe.

 

 

***

 

Nina Alvarez is a writer and illustrator based in Davao City. A graduate of Creative Writing from the University of the Philippines Mindanao, Nina Alvarez believes that the best way to show gratitude for experiencing good stories is creating more for others to experience as well.

 

Pagprotesta Panahon sa Pandemya

Poetry by | August 17, 2020

Luyo sa nakatabon nga mga nawong

ang mga baba nga andam mopadayag

og kaguol, kasuko, ug paglaom

nga ang moabotay nga ugma hayag na unta.

 

Sa pagpahid sa singot sa agtang

sa pila ka oras og siniyagit sa kalsada,

dili moundang ang pagtuo

nga ang kainit sa mga panawagan ug pangamuyo

mudalag alimuot nga moalisngaw

sa bugnawng kalag sa gaharing buraot.

 

Mutulo man ang luha o

mokurog man ang tingog sa kasuko,

maski pa og tutokan og pusil ang baba

arun muhilom,

walay makapatay sa tawong

kamatuoran ang anting-anting.

 

Murag aso nga bisag kapila pa taguon

gamit ang kinumo,

mangita gihapon ang kamatuoran og

kagawasan.

 


John Gilford Doquila is a graduate of the BA English (Creative Writing) program of UP Mindanao. Presently, he is taking his graduate studies in history at UP Diliman.

Mababasa Rin ang Lupang Tuyo

Poetry by | July 13, 2020

Mababasa rin ang lupa
Ng pawis
Na tumatagaktak
Mula sa balat na nakabilad
Sa araw, sa kamay na makalyo,
Sa dumi ng mga kuko, sa mga paang pasmado.
Tuloy ang pagtatrabaho.

Mababasa rin ang lupa
Ng mga luhang
Tumatagas
Mula sa mga matang malabo
Ang paningin, sa sikmurang walang
Makain, sa ulam na palaging asin.
Tuloy ang pagtatanim.

Mababasa rin ang lupa
Ng marahas na ulan mula sa umuulang
Bala—
Mga balang dadanak ng dugo,
Mga balang sa bibig isinubo.

Mababasa rin ang lupa
Hindi ng pawis, hindi
Ng luha, hindi ng ulan.
Dugo ang siyang didilig sa
Lupang tuyo.


Luis B. Bahay Jr. hails from the Municipality of Tampakan, Province of South Cotabato. He graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Elementary Education major in General Education at Mindanao State University-General Santos City. A Licensed Professional Teacher. Also, an elected Sangguniang Kabataan Kagawad in their Barangay, Barangay Maltana.

Pulaw

Poetry by | July 13, 2020

Nakamata kog tungang gabii;
nalisang tungod sa uwan nga
gahaguros sa amoang atop
Mibakod ug milantaw sa taboanan
ug nasinati ko ang panuyo sa kilat
samtang ginlapdos niini ang mga panganod
Mihigda kog balik, naglaom nga hinaot
muhunong ang danguyngoy sa langit,
hinaot mahimotang na ang kilat;
apan wala. Mipadayon og bundak ang
uwan, ug ang kilat nagpirmi
gihapon og lasong. Ug ako; ako
naghinuktok samtang galantaw sa
gadagayday nga lusok-uwan; imong
nawong iyang ginahuwad.


Sums Paguia is an English teacher at Xavier Ateneo – Senior High School.

Sa Pilipinas May Batas, Batas Ng Mga Payaso

Poetry by | June 22, 2020

Sa gitna ng pandemya, gobyerno’y may batas
Bawal lumabas! O, bawal lumabas!
Baka’y ikaw mahawa o makahawa ng sakit na korona
Kung ika’y mahirap at nasa labas pa
Tiyak iilang oras lamang ang hantong mo ay sa pulisya,
At ayon, may mug shot ka na
Ang nakalagay, lumabag sa batas
“Wag pamarisan!” aba’y idinagdag pa
Kasong laybel at pagmumura sa mga awtoridad ang isasampa
Kung di kaawaan, tadyak, bugbog. at hindi korona ang ‘yong makukuha
Hay! Kawawang maralita, naghihikahos na nga,
Pinasanan pa ng kaso na hindi n’ya naman gawa

Oo nga’t batas ang bawal lumabas, o bawal lumabas,
Pero kapag apilyedo mo ay Pimentel
Ay nako ‘wag kang mag-alala kahit may dala ka pang korona
Ayos lang na nasa labas, kahit magliwaliw at gusto mong gumala,
Aba’y hindi iyan problema
Hindi ka huhulihin ng pulisya at hindi ilalagay sa selda,
Bagkus KoKosentihin at malayang-malaya ka
Okay lang lumabas, may “compassion” naman ang batas
Lalo’t kung isa ka naman sa lumikha ng mismong batas.

Oo, sa Pilipinas may batas, bawal magkalat ng maling impormasyon
O, bawal magkalat ng maling impormasyon,
Kung ikaw ay ordinaryong Pilipino,
Nagsulat ka sa Facebook nang birong premyong singkwenta milyon,
Pabuyang matatanggap ang makakapatay sa tuta’t buwayang
Patuloy pa rin sa pagkatay ng mga inosenteng buhay ng maralita,
Naku-nako! Sinasabi ko sayo, iilang oras lang at may subpoena ka na
Lumabag ka di umano sa batas laban sa pambabanta,
Nagkakalat ka din raw nang mga maling balita,
Kahit walang warrant of arrest,
‘Wag ka ng pumalag ‘pagkat sa mga mata ng mga taga-implementa ng batas,
Ika’y nararapat sa loob ng rehas
Pero kung pangalan mo ay kasintunog ng sorbetes na may flavor na Mocha,
Wag kang mag-alala kahit araw-araw ka pa magkalat ng mga maling balita,
Hindi ka makukulong sa loob ng selda,
Pagkat ang nagawa mo ay “honest mistakes” lang,
Ipapatawag ka lang sa opisina at papaliwanagin,
Makalipas ang ilang saglit, aba’y abswelto ka na,
Iba talaga kung kasing lasa mo ang Mocha.

O ha bawal ang pagbabanta, O bawal ang pagbabanta
Pero kapag ika’y pangulo ng bansa ay ayos lang pala ang magbanta,
“Hala sige baralin mo yan! Kumonista yan, buang!”
Huwag daw sa panahon niya,
O, makinig at sumunod ka nalang,
Wag mo ng kwestiyunin,
Baka bukas makalawa’y nakakahon ka na
Susunod sa mga mahal mong namayapa,
O, seseryosohin mo ba ang banta? Naku-nako, ‘wag na,
Pagkat ito’y pawang biro lamang
Tingnan mo ang mga mambabatas-militar panay ang palakpak at halakhak
Napakakomedyante talaga nitong Pangulo,
Sa mga birong hindi ko rin lubos maunawaan.

O, bawal ang pagtitipon-tipon ha,
O, bawal ang pagtitipon-tipon
Kaarawan mo? Naku! Kayu-kayo muna
At wag ng mag-imbita pa,
Baka mahawa at magkahawaan pa kayo ng korona
Liban na lang kung ang apilyedo mo ay kasintunog ng Sinas,
Wag kang mag-alala, ayos lang mag-imbenta
Kahit may rosas pang dala ang mga bisita sa iyong mañanita,
Wag kalimutan, ikaw rin ang taga-hawak ng susi ng mga selda.
Sige lang magpakasaya ka, magaling ka naman sa trabaho mo,
Bilib na bilib ang pangulo, mahirap ka nga raw’ng palitan
Para kang ginataang mongo na paborito n’yang ulam.
Kaya ang bilis mong makapagsabi sa amin ng move on,
Kahit ikaw naman ang may ginawang pamimintas at kasalanan.

O, makinig! Hindi batas ang mass testing,
O, hindi batas ang mass testing.
Pagkat mga opisyales, hindi alam anong ibig ipahiwatig ng gayong salita,
Sakit sa kanilang mga tenga, ika nga,
Sa kanilang mga KoKote, hindi natin kaya magsuri,
Isang daang milyong populasyon ay ‘di nila mawari,
Sabi nila’y, hindi nga nakaya ni SoKor, ni Pinas pa kaya?
Kawawang mga Pilipino, kailangan pang turuan ang mga polpolitiko nito.

O, sinasabi ko sayo, bawal lumabag sa batas,
O, bawal lumabag sa batas
Pero, pag kaibigan at kaalyado mo ang nasa gobyerno,
Ay pwede na pala ika’y lumabag sa batas
Walang subpoena at wala ka rin sa selda
Nasa labas, malaya, at nagpapakasaya ka sa pera,
O, kay gandang isipin hawak mo ang pulitika
Kahit taong-baya’y kumakalampag na,
Hayaan mo na yang mga aktibista lalo’t may kapangyarihan ka.

O, diumano ang batas ay batas,
Walang sinuman ang nakakaangat at nakakatakas sa batas,
Liban na lang kung ikaw ay payaso at pangulo,
Batas ay nasa bunganga at mga kamay mo.
Ang batas ay batas ngunit ito rin ay nababali,
Parang pangako niya sa atin noon at tayo’y nadali,

Kawawang Pilipinas. O, kawawang Pilipinas!

*Ang mga salitang bawal lumabas ay hango mula sa mga pahayag ni Kim Chiu, isang aktres


Jeo Olar (Ariana Maureen) is a graduate of BA Communication Arts major in Speech and Corporate Communication in the University of the Philippines Mindanao. She was the former Research Conference Coordinator of the UP Mindanao College of Humanities and Social Sciences 1st Mindanao Studies Interdisciplinary Research Conference. Currently, she is a writer of the Nonoy Librado Foundation, Inc. She writes news, organizational statements, and research. She is a trans woman activist. Sa Pilipinas May Batas, Batas Ng Mga Payaso was first published in Hentulon Nawa: Reflections in the Time of COVID-19.

On A Cliff

Poetry by | June 8, 2020

I no longer believe
in a god hiding behind clouds.
In the sea, the sky a lover of the water
sees itself fragmented.
What does it search, here and then?
God must be sleeping inside
the womb of the ocean. I knew this
as I have seen light sparkle from down
below. I imagine standing at a cliff’s edge.
I let go of the wind’s touch. I let go
of sight. Hairs lapping to my cheeks.
Sea foams crashing occasionally.
I no longer believe in pain.
No mystery would explain human sadness
like it is different from any other
breathing life. If there is a god
and god is indeed the sea,
why does it need to fake horizon?
Regardless, ends exist in so many things.
I imagine opening eyes for the first time
in years. I see an endless blue.
I see depth but I also see shallowness.
I must be missing something
now that my shoulders are cold.
Has someone touched them before?
My age fails me one more time,
but I am still young.
If there is a god, maybe god knows
all memories forgotten.
But I no longer believe
in a god who contemplates,
either on a cliff high above
or within many shades of abyss
drowning itself. If indeed god
does not exist, the world remains
fragmented. Young people wait to be old
only to wither, only to forget love.
What is it, then, that brought me here?
I no longer believe in life.


Ian Salvaña is currently doing his MA in Political Science at Central European University, Vienna and Budapest. His poems have recently appeared in New Contrast: The South African Literary Journal. He hails from his ethnic Mandayan hometown of Cateel, Davao Oriental.

Sang Bangin

Poetry by | June 8, 2020

Dugay da ako wa too
sang ginoo na ag magtago sang mga panganod.
Sang dagat, yang langit na yahigugma sang tubig
yakita ng kanaan kaogalingon na yaboak.
Onan yang kanaan piyagahanap ngani haw doon?
Gapatoratoy siguro pagtuog yang ginoo sang sod
ng tiyan ng kadagatan. Yasayod ako san-e
kay yakita ako ng suga na yagkidlap-kidlap gikan
ubos. Ihuna-huna ko yang pag-indog sang kilid ng bangin.
Ibuhian ko yang hawid ng hangin. Ibuhian ko
yang pagkita. Yalapdos yang mga buhok sang kanak pisngi.
Yakorosob usahay yang mga bowa ng dagat.
Dugay da ako wa too sang kasakit.
Ampan misteryo na makapasabot ng kagool ng otaw
na ama isab ng yalahi sang iban pa
na gaginhawa na kinabuhi. Kung awon agaw ginoo,
kung yang ginoo kay yang dagat,
nasa kinahanglan pa naan mangatik na awon kapunaw-punawan?
Bahala da, awon kataposan sang madaig na butang.
Ihuna-huna ko yang pagbuka ng kanaan mga mata sang pinaka-una na higayon
sang kadaig ng yalabay na tuig. Ikita ko yang way kataposan na asul.
Ikita ko yang kalawom pero ikita ko isab yang kababaw.
Awon siguro kanak kiyalingawan, kiyamingawan,
doon na matignaw da yang kanak abaga.
Awon kaha yahawid san-e sang-awon?
Siguro kay tungod ipakyas ako ng kanak edad,
pero bata pa sa ako.
Kung awon agaw ginoo, basin yasayod pa yaan
ng mga kiyalingawan da na panumduman.
Pero dugay da ako wa too
sang ginoo na ag mamalandong,
usahay sang bangin sang taas ng bungtod
o sang yagkalahi-lahi na itom ng lawod,
piyagalumos yang kaogalingon. Kung ampan
gayod agaw ginoo, magpabilin yang kalibutan
na boak. Yagtagad yang mga batan-on na tatigowang
para lang malanta, para lang makalingaw ng gugma.
Onan kaha doon ngidtong yagda kanak ngani?
Dugay da ako wa too ng kinabuhi.


Ian Salvaña is currently doing his MA in Political Science at Central European University, Vienna and Budapest. His poems have recently appeared in New Contrast: The South African Literary Journal. He hails from his ethnic Mandayan hometown of Cateel, Davao Oriental.