Flightless Cormorants

Poetry by | November 16, 2020

i. Ecological Naïveté

It was on our fifth day in Galapagos
that my mother, a biologist, and I
first caught sight of a flock of flight-
less cormorants in the north western coast
of Isabela, at a thorn-scrub land-
scape at the side of a slippery slope,
swathed with cat’s-claw bushes and
thin-leafed daisies. In
front of them, those birds: a young
man hefting a massive rock, his sweat-slick
forehead glistening under the sun.
The birds’ wings, at this, did not kiss
the scorching equatorial sky;
they remained still as the tree-covered hills
behind them. Even their eyes merely slid
past him languidly, over at
the primordial landscape,
where other endemic species resided.
The birds’ wings echoed their own eyes.

ii. Evolution of Flightlessness

Terrestrial mammalian predators’
nonexistence in the islands of Galapagos
had undressed flightless cormorants’
vulnerability millions of years ago,
said my mother years before we went
to that place. Those birds,
therefore, had grown downright
accustomed in the stretches of coastline
and in the fluorescent-blue sea,
where they foraged for fish
and other aquatic organisms,
without dread of being devoured.
In the long run, their wings
had morphed into stubby garments
that were only utilized as
an armor to battle the bone-
chilling ocean of the archipelago.

iii. Ode to the Flightless Cormorants

The isolation bubble of Galapagos,
O flightless cormorants, had already burst,
pierced by the thirst of humans
for dreamscape, their presence,
like waves, lapping on the archipelago
every once in a while. You don’t swim
against the current. In truth,
danger to you has been a wind.
This what you deem as wind,
however, has magnitudes.
And when its strength slaps the sea,
tidal waves—say, bird hunters—
can wipe you all out. Start flapping
your wings, flightless cormorants.
Metamorphose them into massive ones.
The cloud-thronged sky is a place
where waves can’t reach you.
Sail through it. I would love to see
you there enacting a metaphor,
beside the other flying species,
rather than in a book in which you are
a mere history—an aftermath
which will occur if those waves
devour your existence whole.


Michael John Otanes, 25, was born and raised in General Santos City, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in English at Mindanao State University. He was a fellow for Poetry in the 2018 Davao Writers Workshop.

Pulang Ani

Fiction by | November 2, 2020

Papadilat pa lang ang araw ngunit siya’y gising na gising na. Agad na papasok sa banyo, maliligo para linisin ang duming nakabalot sa katauhang hindi madaling tanggalin kahit pa ng kapangyarihan ng konsensya. Lalabas ng banyo na mabango, mistulang dala-dala pa rin ang dangal ng pagiging isang masunuring magsasaka sa kanyang diyos. Marahil ay mapagpala nga siya. Sa lahat ng mga magsasaka, siya lang ang may piging sa lamesa. Sa lahat ng mga magsasaka, siya lang ang may asukal ang kape. Sa lahat ng mga magsasaka, siya lang ang may pulang ani.

Iniwanan niya ang magarang bahay para magsaka sa kanilang bayan; hindi sa sakahan kundi sa lansangan. Papunta na siya sa kanyang opisina kung saan madadatnan niya ang iba pang katulad niyang mga magsasaka at kanilang mga pananim. Naroon din ang sandamakmak na biktima ng nangangalawang na’ng sistema ng hustisya gaya ng pagkakalawang sa nagkakatandaan na’ng mga rehas. Doon ay maghihintay siyang sumapit ang dilim; para magtanim, para mag-ani.

Natulog ang araw at napalitan ng hindi gaanong maliwanag na nakangising buwan. Dahan-dahang pumalibot ang mga ulap dito, kaya tila rosas sa alapaap ang imaheng maiguguhit sa langit, kasabay ang pagtatago ng mga bituin sa likod ng mga ulap. Dito lumabas ang mga magsasaka, dala-dala ang mga semilyang itatanim sa mismong pinagsasakahan.

Nagsisipag-alulong ang mga aso habang sila’y umaali-aligid sa mga eskinitang masasangsang ang amoy. Dikit-dikit ang mga bahay, kaya ang lahat ay pinagpapawisan sa kanilang nag-aasulang mga uniporme, na puno ng kung ano-anong mga tsapang pangsalsalan lamang ng pagkakapitagan ang gamit. Tahimik na rin ang paligid dahil tulog na ang bayan, at sila na lang ang gising. Madilim din ang buong lugar dahil sa mga power interruption.

Maya-maya pa’y may kumaluskos na kung ano sa bandang kanto ng eskinita. Marahang sila’y dumako roon habang dinig ang mga sariling kabog ng dibdib. Takbuhan sa balat ang pawis mula ulo hanggang leeg. Pagdating sa dulo, tanaw nila ang isang lalaking papaalis, dala ang kanyang pagkaing Jollibee na tila galing pa sa supot na nakatambak sa basurahan. Pagkakita ng lalaki sa kanila, nanlaki ang mga mata nito at agad na kumaripas ng takbo.

Isang putok. Dalawang putok. At balik sa tahimik ang lahat. Kinuha ng magsasaka ang dala-dalang semilya at itinanim sa katawang kasing tahimik at lamig ng eskinitang kinalagyan. Aani siya ngayo’t nagbunga na ng dugo ang kanyang ipinunla.

Bakas pa sa uniporme ang kanyang pulang ani. Uuwi sa tahanan, lalabhan ang uniporme, at matutulog nang mahimbing. Kinabukasan, magigising na para bang walang nangyari. Maliligo para linisin ang duming nakabalot sa katauhang hindi madaling tanggalin kahit pa ng kapangyarihan ng konsensya. Lalabas ng banyo na mabango, mistulang dala-dala pa rin ang dangal ng pagiging isang masunuring magsasaka. At ito’y magpapatuloy pang matagal, sa utos ng panginoon nilang diyos.





John Llyod is a third-year student from the University of Southeastern Philippines. He is currently taking up Bachelor of Arts in Literature and Cultural Studies.

Welcome Home

Poetry by | November 2, 2020

I dreamt that I came back
to find our living room
strangely empty, as if all life
one day went up and left
and not even a chair
or the carpet remained,
yet somehow I heard my sister
saying something about the TV
that no longer sits on the shelf
where it should.

Perhaps the reasons scuttled away
on eight limbs across cobwebs,
melting into damp, unlit corners
too quickly to catch, or perhaps
they were never wanted at all
within those pale, cracked walls
and doors that never locked.

In the kitchen, a cinnamon bun
sat on a counter whose trays
burst with plates no one used anymore
but there it was, a lone piece
of sweet bread sitting on a saucer
if someone got hungry. We are.


John Oliver Ladaga hails from Iligan City but is currently based in Davao, and hopes to teach writing classes for a living one day.

Before Sundown

Fiction by | October 26, 2020

It was almost sundown and I was on my way home from Aling Taling’s to get trays of eggs and some chicken meat for the fiesta the following day. My mother was always excited for those kinds of celebrations; she would exhaust all our hard-earned money just to fill our tables with different dishes for other people to eat. I cannot forget how mad my father was one night when he found out that she sold one of our two kalabaws to have a grand celebration for her birthday; my itaydid not say a word to her for a week.

I trod on the dusty road of our little barrio and took a glance at the golden haze of rice field that stretched far in the horizon. At the end of it, I saw the tip of the sun peeking in between the two mountains; the sunset yesterday was golden with screaming orange clouds splattered across the sky, but now it appeared rather pale along with custard-colored sky. I did not notice that I was already watching the sunset far too long until one of the light posts lit up. As much as I loved staying in that place because of the cool breeze from the field, the fear of the stories about the aswang taunted me.

It had been two weeks since our barrio experienced distress over some incidents of frequent knockings on their door, some flapping sounds over roofs, and the death of goats with suspicious teeth marks on their necks. For a boy who stayed in the city for years to study and work, these rumors still had me terrified and anxious.

I walked faster as the light posts ahead of me started to light up as well. I came across little children hurrying home, some being chased by their nagging mothers.

“I told you to be home before sundown! Do you want the aswang to come after you?!” a woman shouted at her little boy as she hit him with a long thin stick.

My chest pounded upon hearing her words; the aswang might be true since it was already the talk of the town and many of the villagers had stepped forward to attest to its existence. I remembered how my inay warned us about these creatures when we were young, and I guess the fear still lived inside of me up until now. It never left me — even when I went away. When I was living in the city, my roommates would always tease me because I easily got scared of ghost stories and horror movies, even if I was already a grown man. The little noises in the kitchen made me stay up all night, wondering if what would happen if a ghost pull my feet and drag me to the abyss of darkness.

“Excuse me.” I heard a voice from behind. It was a girl with long blonde hair and pink nails. “May I know which way I should take to reach Aling Manda’s home?” She took a final chew and spit her bubblegum to the ground.

I was in awe for several seconds; her fragrance smelled like freshly picked fruits and her long wavy hair dangled on her shoulders. Her eyes reminded me of the city lights I used to stare at by the windowsill at night. I could tell how caked her face was with make-up because her cheeks looked like full-bloomed tomatoes.

She must be new here.

“Aling Manda?” I tried to confirm, “The one who sells gayuma?”

She nodded. “Can you show me the way?”

I looked at my watch and it was almost six o’clock; my inay would probably wonder why it took me so long to get home, but my manoy had always reminded me to help other people and always look out for women and children. It was dark and the girl was not familiar with our place; her safety was my responsibility. Even if the thoughts of aswang came rushing to my mind like waves on the shoreline, the words on my manoy weighed heavier than my fear.

I decided to accompany her. As we went our way, the girl couldn’t stop talking. I grew up as a rather shy boy, so I just listened to her telling stories animatedly.

She seemed…bubbly and carefree.

I learned that she was from the city and worked as a cashier; I didn’t mind asking why she wanted to see Aling Manda because there was only one reason why people came to visit Aling Manda — it was her love potion. She was quite famous because of it.

Her house was located at the end of the corn field so I instructed her to be careful with her steps the moment we got through it since it was already getting dark. The haunting beam of moonlight stealthily peeped in between the tall crops of corn which made it easier for me to see the face of the woman. She had thick eyebrows and her mascara started to smudge underneath her eyes; she must have a long and tiring travel just to get here.

While we were exchanging remarks, I suddenly wondered why she needed a potion; she was beautiful and charming, and she spoke nicely — who wouldn’t fall for her?

“Your town shuts down before six, eh?” she said.

“Yes. People are rushing home before sundown because of the aswang,” I answered her. I felt my arms getting numb; the trays of eggs and meat started to weigh heavier; I had been carrying them for almost an an hour now.

“Do you believe in aswang?” she said while smiling sweetly as the moonbeam shone on her eyes. A city girl like her might find it these mythical creatures funny.

I shrugged my shoulders and looked at the sky; the clouds started to dim the light of the moon. I must hurry home after, my inay and itay were probably worried about me.

I heard a rustling sound that made me shift my eyes to look for the girl but she was suddenly gone. I looked around and started calling her out even if I didn’t know her name.

“Do you believe in aswang?” I heard someone whisper in my ear. I held my breath as shivers went down to my spine.

I looked around but suddenly there was no one. My feet were frozen though I wanted to run away and ask for help.

I slowly turned around to run out of the cornfield when I saw her from afar, staring at me. Her once beautiful eyes turned all white, and her brown skin appeared like silver now.

She grimaced and her face became distorted. “That’s why they said you should hurry home before sundown.”

Thea Margarette R. Elipio is a teacher at a senior high school and part-time brand manager of an app in development.

That Leaf

Poetry by | October 19, 2020

a tree judges not a leaf’s triumphs,
but its crushing defeats;
and when that leaf falls
it serves its purpose;
it alone exists for the tree,
and to nothing else,
lest it tries to be everything
to everyone:
it is no longer a leaf.

Paulo is a senior high school master teacher.

Another Day Ends

Poetry by | October 19, 2020

She pulls her long skirt up as she skips from rock to rock avoiding the ankle-length deep water of the silent gushing river on her way home.


Her knees sunset red for kneeling hours until she reached the Fifth Glorious Mystery her Wednesday routine with the Virgin of the grotto outside the church.


It was a rather peaceful evening save for some old ladies trying to tell her fortune of a strong man husband and healthy children by Her intercession.


Full of grace she hails the remnants of the day ending in pink violets and orange reds as she carefully climbed the bamboo stairsteps waking up her aging Tagpi from its afternoon siesta.


Then just as the crickets’ and kamarus’ chorus signal her to cook the dinner rice her Tiyo appears banana leaves on shoulders wrappings for tomorrow’s lunch at Junjun’s first day of school.


“Mano po,” as she brings her Tiyo’s calloused hands to her forehead smelling of sun sweat and the lingering image of a carabao pulling her skirt.


Rory is currently based in Petropavlovsk, Kazakhstan and dreams of going home one summer to Davao Oriental.

Timyas ng Dapithapon

Interview, Nonfiction by | October 19, 2020

May kakaibang hatak ang dapithapon sa aking kalooban. Para itong pagbabadya ng katapusan ng isang buong araw ng pakikibaka at pakikisalamuha. Panahon na para ipahinga ang pagal na isipan at katawan at harapin ang panibagong bukang-liwayway na may buo at bagong sigla.

Ang pagsabog ng samu’t saring kulay sa alapaap – pula, dilaw, lila, abo, luntian, asul, kahel, atbp. ay tila paghahabi ng Dakilang Lumikha ng kanyang obra maestra sa buong kapaligiran. Habang minamasid ang pag-iiba ng kulay ay magkahalong pagkamangha at pagpapatiwasay ng kalooban ang nadarama habang unti-unting binabalot ang araw ng gabi. Mamaya lamang at magsisilabasan na ang mga kumukutikutitap na mga tala at ang maliwanag na buwan.

Ang marahang hampas ng hanging-amihan habang nakatuon sa dapithapon ay dampi sa puso. Dahan-dahang lumalamig ang panahon. Oras na para magmuni-muni. Mag-iisip ng kung anu-anong bagay – ang mga nagawa, ang mga gagawin, mga tagumpay at kabiguan sa buhay, mga mahal sa buhay, at isang libu’t isang isipan ang namumutawi habang minamasdan ang paglubog ng araw. Kakaiba ito sa pagsalubong sa bukang-liwayway na tila nagsisilakbo sa init at may nakaatang na mabigat na gawain sa mga susunod na oras.

Ang hampas ng alon sa dalampasigan habang nakatingala sa langit ay tila oyayi na musika sa pandinig. Magkahalong lumbay, kapanatagan sa kalooban at pagpapasalamat sa Diyos sa kagandahan ng kalikasang nakaharap sa iyong paningin. Ang alon ay parang isang mapanghalina na gayumang humahatak sa iyo na samahan siya sa pag-indayog at paglutang sa karagatan bago tuluyang balutan ng kadiliman ang buong kapaligiran.

Habang tinitingnan ang dapithapon, patuloy akong namamangha sa kalawakan ng sansinukob at katiwasayan sa kalooban na dulot nito. Higit sa lahat, sa kadakilaan at kakayahan ng Diyos na makalikha ng kagandahan na tanging sa Kanyang makapangyarihang mga Kamay lamang maisasakatuparan.


Melchor is School Director of Davao Chong Hua High School.  He finished his Master of Education from UP Diliman and is working towards his PhD in Education (Major in Educational Administration) at the same university.  He has visited the whole Philippines from Batanes to Tawi-Tawi, and only recently moved to Davao.

The Hunt for ‘IH’ — An Excerpt from “The Battle of Marawi”

Nonfiction by | October 12, 2020

To order a copy of The Battle of Marawi, please go to facebook.com/thebattleofmarawi and follow the pinned instructions for payment and delivery. For the ebook version, please visit pawikanpress.selz.com and follow the payment instructions. Readers in Mindanao may also visit facebook.com/pawikanpress to purchase copies in Cagayan de Oro City and Davao City.

It was almost midnight of May 22, a Wednesday, when Com1 held them up. May niluluto pa. Something is being cooked up. Apparently, new ‘intel’ was on its way. The subject of the meeting was about a target.

In Marawi, it seemed like just another ordinary day, as the people began preparing for the start of Ramadan four days hence.

Azalea thought that, in the spire of events running though his mind in the past days, it might be more about the Maute brothers. Their latest assignment had been a step-up from a series of military operations and other incidents taking place in the province since 2014. When he was put on hold again, Army intelligence officers were planning to raid a politician’s safe house where Abdullah Maute was supposed to be hiding, in the vicinity of the campus of Mindanao State University. Something was really going on but they could not pin it down. That it was Com1, no other, calling for the meeting brought Azalea to the conclusion that it was a bigger target than he thought. A plan was to be executed and a final briefing was to be held early the following day, Thursday of May 23.

Continue reading The Hunt for ‘IH’ — An Excerpt from “The Battle of Marawi”