My Last Prayer

Fiction by | February 22, 2021

 It was just a little after lunch and the sun was high up but the forest around felt colder as we ventured deeper, the trees felt as though they had eyes, looking directly at us from all directions, above, the tree branches served as a canopy for the whole area, casting grotesque shadows on the ground and in the river parallel to our path, each step we took wearied us down as though the very earth had little hands that gripped our feet. The wind howled and moved through the plants around, making them dance, I felt as though I was in the middle of some kind of strange ritual, no words were spoken among the three of us since the trip started. I wanted to rest, I wanted to stop, I wanted to turn back. But I couldn’t. I was the one who suggested this, I was the one who invited them, I was the one who asked for this.

A shadow, a sound, a movement in the thick bushes around, the forest seemed to play tricks on us. JC stopped abruptly halting the movement of the whole group. We stood there for what felt like ten seconds or a whole eternity. “Maybe we should rest here for a while,” Irene said. “No, I feel like there’s something bad here. Let’s rest when we get there,” JC replied. It was only two in the afternoon but the forest felt really cold, and my wet clothes gave me chills whenever the wind howled. My head was spinning and I felt like throwing up. I felt like there were chains attached to my feet, and it was the forest holding the handle at the other end of it. We have been walking for two hours but I had a feeling we weren’t any closer to our destination.

 A fork in the road appeared upon us. JC took a minute before deciding which way to go. The path we took went outside the forest and up a slope that was filled with jagged rocks, pain for my exposed foot. The skies opened before us but it was slowly turning gray, signaling rain. The road continued to a narrow path on the side of a mountain where we had to walk in single file, to the right was the face of the mountain, and to the left was a steep downward slope. We kept looking at the sky, praying that the rain wouldn’t come.  The path went down and into the forest again. It was the same forest but this part felt totally different. I felt like it was another world; I felt like it was from a different time, a time long past and forgotten. The trees were bigger, and there was a feel to them that made it seem like they moved every time we weren’t looking, their roots intertwined with everything on the ground, covering everything.

It was dark and I was sure it was close to dusk. Just a little further we walked, and there it was, the tree with the red stripe painted around its trunk, and to its right was the spring, it was dim but the water sparkled, we climbed upwards through the spring rocks, one little slip to what would be a dangerous fall but onwards we climbed, carefully planning each step. It should have been getting lighter because we were climbing upwards into the open space but the light remained the same; it seemed that the rain would pour any minute. My body felt so exhausted, every flex and contraction of my muscles caused me searing pain, and my feet felt like they had needles pinned to them but at last, we were there. Atop the spring rocks was a small cave, the darkness inside of which was a totally different kind of darkness and the light from our matches only managed to illuminate our hands. I felt for something in the darkness with my feet, a rock with a depression in its center that made it look like a moon crater. Beside the rock, was our destination.

“How long has it been, since we last saw you, John?” The words echoed in the cave and sounded like they were not words. The wooden cross beside the rock illuminated by the weak firelight had no words engraved in it, a marker with no name, it lay motionless and dead, like the person buried under the rocks beneath it, but I felt it calling out to me.  My knees finally gave out, maybe it was fitting for me to kneel before it, emotions and memories ran wild in my thoughts, JC and Irene stood there behind me, silent. In the quiet dark I kneeled, In the quiet dark I remembered. In the quiet dark, I started to pray.

__________________

 

Jose Francis R. Sycip is from Bukidnon. He is a 1st year Creative Writing major from the University of the Philippines Mindanao.

Ayuda in Five Acts

Nonfiction by | February 8, 2021

ACT ONE: Homecoming

By a stroke of luck, or divine intervention, I had a pre-scheduled trip home to Mindanao and was already armed with a plane ticket for March 14th. I had been studying at a university in Manila, and decided in early February that I needed a short break from the rigorous academics. Because of that spur-of-the-moment decision, I missed getting caught up in the Manila lockdown by mere hours; my flight was one of the last they allowed to take off. My grandmother and uncle met me at the Ozamiz airport, expressing their disbelief at how close I had gotten to waiting out the pandemic alone and in a city that did not speak my mother tongue.

But I had only traded one prison for another – a cage of smog and neon lights for a cage of the over-familiar. The moment I returned to my hometown, they put me in quarantine – a kinder word than ‘house arrest’, though similar in its rigidity. I was lucky enough to live just ten paces away from my extended family, so though I was a prisoner, I had fellow inmates willing to spend their afternoons playing badminton with me. For two weeks, I was content with watching shuttlecocks arc gracefully over my grandmother’s garden while outside our gates, the town became quieter and quieter.

And then, on the fourteenth day, I was informed that one of the people on my flight home had tested positive, and so my sentence was extended. We waited to see if I would end up on death row.

I paced aimlessly, a nameless, nebulous fear breathing down my neck. The virus had been a distant thing – someone else’s problem – but now it was knocking at my door. All too suddenly, the panic and apprehension that I had only seen on the news were now my own. Obituaries were only words until you recognized the names.

Every small cough was proof against my innocence. My family watched from afar as I obsessively monitored my temperature – the numbers that would determine my fate. Through it all, I could not find comfort in their arms; I was Judas in the garden and my kiss could doom them all.

Eventually, I was cleared of all charges. I did not lose my sense of smell, I did not get feverish, and my lungs did not collapse. But the rest of the world did.

No matter, I thought to myself, trying to scrounge up some inkling of hope as I watched a lone tricycle driver pedal down the empty road from my bedroom window. No matter. This, too, shall pass. 

ACT TWO: Perspective

It could have been worse. I heard it in the weary sigh of my dormmate, a probinsyano stuck in our sprawling dorm complex, doomed to numbly pace the hollow hallowed halls like an addition to its pantheon of ghosts and trickster elves. “I want to go home.” His voice cracked from the weight of his isolation. “I just want to go home.”

It could have been worse. I saw it in the unending march of Facebook posts across my timeline – ayuda, they called out in a colonizer’s language reclaimed, help. I send as much aid as I can to as many people as I can, and still here was another, and another, and another. Ayuda, ayuda, ayudame. Ayúdanos. 

It could have been worse. I felt it in the despair of my fellow citizens. They wasted away while the government wasted time, occupied with senseless nonsenses (many of their own invention). The masses took to the streets – organized, following all protocols, armed with righteous fury and cardboard signs. They were dispersed by the boys in blue whose father’s crimes still go unpunished. And across the country, I languished alone, my nails digging crescent-moon dents into my palms.

ACT THREE: A Video Call

“I know, I know, I miss you, too. It’s been too long since—yes, yes, I promise, after the lockdown, we’re going—okay, okay. How’s your boyfriend? What? What do you mean you broke up? When? Four months ago? Why didn’t you tell me? You could have at least called, you know! … I’m sorry. It’s just… I’m not used to not seeing you every week, I guess. I used to know you so well and now it’s… yeah. Yeah. I know. It’s not our fault. It’s been tough for everybody. Don’t apologize. Don’t be sorry. No, please don’t cry, it’s—Hello? Hello? … Damned PLDT.”

ACT FOUR: Perspective (Reprise)

And life went on. Lockdowns were lifted. People strolled leisurely through the park, their words muffled by cloth masks. I looked outside my bedroom window one day and, for once, was grateful to see traffic. I paid tricycle drivers twice as much as the usual fare, and I toasted to my stranded friends’ homecoming.

And life went on. On my flight home so many months ago, the pretty attendant had gestured to the place above our heads where the oxygen masks would drop down in case of an emergency. “Please mind your own mask first before tending to others,” she’d told us then, repeating the instructions from the laminated manual I had not bothered to pick up. I now understood that, sometimes, the best advice you could ask for can be found on the back of an airplane’s safety information card.

And life went on. Classes were now held online, substituting blackboards with laptop screens, and chalk with Google Docs. I was hounded by deadlines and requirements, but it was better than being hounded by fear.

Still, some days, I found myself counting how many times my classmates got disconnected from a Zoom meeting. I counted how many times they apologized for slow signals and brownouts. I watched news of jeepney drivers begging for food, frontliners begging for hazard pay, teachers begging for time. Because life went on – but not for all of us.

ACT FIVE: Respite

We went to the beach last week. When our car stopped at the edge of the surf, my young cousins were quick to remove their clothes and stumble into the shallows, heedless of their mothers’ cries of, “You forgot your sunblock!” One cousin dove at the other, their small heads disappearing under the murky water for a few seconds before they resurfaced, guffawing. I couldn’t help but smile. I had forgotten how sweet laughter sounded under an open sky.

“Are you coming?” my grandmother asked.

“Maybe later,” I said, and kissed her cheek.

I sat back, watching her wade into the ocean, her little body cutting through the waves with ease. The sun was scorching my skin; I imagined it burning away the paleness I had acquired in my eight months of captivity. I breathed in, out, in, out. I tasted salt on my tongue, felt the sea breeze toying with my hair.

The sea stretched on, farther and farther, into the blue horizon. And though the tide had pulled away, I knew it would always come back to the shore.

 


Kyndra Lei “Kyle” Yunting is from Zamboanga del Sur and currently a BA English student of UP Mindanao. She credits her passion for writing to reading the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series at a formative age, and also to her high school paper adviser.

 

Maria Al Qibtiyya

Fiction by | February 1, 2021

(For All The Sitties And Josephs)

Forgive me, Mother, for I may have sinned. I am with someone.

You taught me to cover my head, which I followed all through my adult life. But one morning I grew impatient. I discovered it was less stifling to let loose some strands of hair. The wind was cold, so I let it through.

Sinned, in the language of Baba. But you, you did not teach me to guard my heart. You encouraged me, in your silence, to find happiness as long as I kept my virtue, especially my faith. I am keeping my word. Would sin then include welcoming into the fold a man who has willingly embraced our beliefs and customs? That he and I shall serve the Almighty together. I am always to remember that Jannah1 is beneath a husband’s feet.

[Photo by Jhoanna Lynn B. Cruz]

Forgive me, Mother, for I may have failed you. I chose someone for myself.

I know the story of Umm Sulaym and Abu Talhah2. I learned how she was told it was better for her that Allah guided one person to Islam through her. I followed the honorable woman of the past like a dutiful daughter. I know the standards, beginning with a man’s religious commitment, seconded by his attitude and then physical attributes and financial ability. Most importantly, I am empowered by our faith to choose my own husband.

I chose well, I must say. Would you still think me as a failure when he has passed the test?

You made sure I was wrapped with royalty. I assure you the sound of the kulintang follows me everywhere. Once, when I visited his home to meet everyone, I thought I heard an agong cheering me on.

They too are royalty. They talked casually about their jobs at topmost government offices and trips to Europe. I saw attractive wood carvings and fine china. The decorations on that particular December night were so refined I invoked Astagfirullah3 for yet again appreciating the season. I invoked Astagfirullah many times as I let myself hum along Christmas carols that danced around me.

How sophisticated they are and well-mannered, the crowd in Montiya would surely be mesmerized. They said my hijablooked delicate and beautiful as my skin. Would you feel betrayed if I say I like them better than some of our inquisitive relatives?

Mother, I wear my dignity like a crown. He has committed himself to Allah so that he can marry me.

Would you dispute the holy words now and blindly call me a sinful woman or a failure of a daughter?

Hear me. Hear this verse as it was constantly recited in the halls of matrimony, “And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your hearts.”

Mother, I have already made up my mind. Please bless us with your consent and acceptance.

 

 

Notes:

1 Paradise. Islam says a woman who prays her 5 obligatory prayers, fasts during Ramadan, and honors and respects her husband may enter Paradise by any of its gates she wishes. Islam likewise teaches the equal obligation of men to live with their wives in kindness and devotion—“the best among you are those who treat their wives well.”

2 One of the finest men in Madeenah during Prophet Muhammad’s time. He converted to Islam to marry Umm Sulaym.

3 Invocation for repentance


Arifah Macacua Jamil was raised in Lanao del Sur. She graduated from the BA English program of UP Mindanao. Currently based in Manila, she likes to talk to children.

 

Dili Nato Pugson Atong Kaugalingon sa mga Butang nga Dili para sa Atoa

Fiction by | January 18, 2021

 

I. Quirino Avenue

Dumarating ang oras na iyon, hindi mo kailanman inanyayahan, ngunit dumarating. Tulad, halimbawa, isang gabi noong Enero 2015 habang nag-aabang ka ng masasakyang jeep mula Quirino Avenue patungong Mintal matapos makipagkita sa dalawang kaibigan. Sadyang mahaba ang paghihintay at sadyang punum-puno ang trapiko sa lungsod – maging sa sariling utak, sintindo, at kamalayan.

Inilabas mo ang iyong cellphone, sinubukan kung makakaya ng kamera nitong bihagin ang sandali sa espasyo ng lungsod kung saan nagdidigmaan ang dilim at panglaw. Malugod mong tatanggapin ang mumunting liwanag ng anino ng mga nagdaraang sasakyan kahit na pilit mong itinatago ang iyong mukha. At saka mo sasabihin sa sariling, “Ngayong gabi, maalinsangan, pinalalaya na kita.”

 

II. Bago Oshiro-Mulig-Manambulan-Calinan

Ipinapalagay ng isang historyador at mananaliksik na Hapones na ang kalawakan ng Bago Oshiro, Mulig, Manambulan, at Calinan ang siyang sinaunang pinaglagakan ng abaca sa dalawang bugso ng pananakop ng mga Amerikano at Hapones sa Mindanaw. Ang plantasyon ang isa sa mga itinuturong dahilan sa tuluyang pagkatiwalag ng mga Bagobo sa kanilang yutang kabilin.

Kung sakaling babaybayin ang ruta ng Bago Oshiro, Mulig, Manambulan, at Calinan gamit ang bisikleta, malalantad ka sa isang daigdig na hiwalay sa kung ano ang nahahagip ng mata sa sentrong bahagi ng lungsod. Malayo sa nagtataasang gusali, maingay na busina ng sasakyan sa trapiko, at epidemya ng sibilisasyon na sa halip na maging makatao ay higit na nagdudulot ng karahasan.

Magsisimula ka sa pagbibisikleta sa Bago Oshiro, babagtasin ang lagusan mula Mintal patungong Toril at saka liliko sa daanan patungong Mulig. Masyadong mahaba ang kinakailangang tahakin na daanan sa bahaging ito. May mga sandaling mapapatigil ka na lang, uupo sa lilim ng puno ng aratilis na humahangos at tumatagaktak ang pawis, at mumultuhin ng realisasyong hindi ka sapat. Hindi ka sapat. Sa pananaliksik, pagtuturo, pangangarap, at pangingibig, hindi lahat ay nananatiling sapat. Patuloy kang tinitimbang ngunit lagi’t lagi, nagkukulang.

Matapos makapahinga, magpapatuloy ang iyong pagpadyak sa bisikleta hanggang Manambulan. Matatarik ang bangin at daanan, walang pangalan ang mga kalye, at tila walang hanggan pa ang babaybayin. Halos isang oras pa na pagpadyak bago mo marating ang Calinan, ngunit hindi mo iindahin ang pakiramdam ng pagod. Sa buhay at pagpadyak sa pedal ng bisikleta, mahaba at pasikot-sikot ang daanang nagbibigay imbitasyon at kumikiling sa pagiging manhid.

Minsan ay dadalawin ka ng isang panaginip: Nasa isang hindi pamilyar at lumang silid ka sa Calinan, walang damit, tumakbo ka ng tumakbo paalis ng silid at nagpatuloy hanggang sa marating mo ang highway na siyang nagdurugtong sa Davao at Bukidnon. Walang tao sa paligid, mapanglaw ang langit, tiningnan mo ang iyong katawan, heto sa balikat ang nunal ng pagnanasa, nasa kaliwang hita ang pilat ng paglimot, at nasa talampakan ang marka ng pangungulila. Ilang saglit pa, tatawa ka ng malakas na malakas. At ang tawang iyon ay para sa lahat ng hindi marunong tumawa.

 

III. Bangkerohan

Matingkad sa alaala mo ang sandaling iyon noong Hulyo 2014, unang araw mo sa lungsod, at napatigil ang sinasakyan mong taksi sa Bangkerohan River. Pamilyar ka sa hugis at anyo ng ilog lalo na’t ilang beses na itong itinampok sa mga pelikulang piniling gawing lunan ang marahas na espasyo nito na nagkakanlong sa iba’t ibang kulay ng krimen sa lungsod. Sityo ang ilog ng prostitusyon ng mga maralitang bata na sa murang edad ay nalantad na sa mga usaping seksuwal sa Imburnal habang ito ang altar ng krimen sa Sheika kung saan pinatay ang dalawang magkapatid na naging biktima ng mapaniil na sistema ng droga at kahirapan.

Isang gabi, matapos makipagtalastasan sa harapan ng gintong likido ng alak – animo’y bumubulang luha mula sa pingas na bibig ng bote – nasumpungan mo ang sarili kasama ang ilang kaibigan sa palengke ng Bangkerohan. Bulcachong ang sagot sa mga gabing tanging alak ang iyong kaniig. Bulcachong ang hihigupin sakaling lango ka sa paghahanap ng kahulugan at sagot. Bulcachong ang pupuno sa lahat ng pagkakasala ng lungsod. Bulcachong ang simula at wakas.

 

IV. UP Mindanao

Malaki ang naitulong ng Unibersidad sa iyong paglago bilang tao. Marami kang natutunan sa mga tao na nakasalamuha mo rito – kaibigan, katrabaho, at estudyante. Kung kaya sa tuwing may nagtatanong kung bakit sa UP Mindanao ka nagtuturo, ang sinasagot mo ay bakit nga ba hindi?

Ngunit isang tanong iyon mula sa iyong ina, “Hindi ka pa ba uuwi dito sa atin sa Laguna?”

Isang beses na bumisita ang nanay at kapatid mo sa siyudad, inihatid mo sila sa paliparan pauwi ng Maynila ngunit hanggang sa gate ka lamang ng gusali ng paliparan. At saka mo nadatnan ang sariling nakatayong mag-isa sa paliparan, hindi lilisan o nagbabalik, kundi naghihintay lamang sa paglipad ng eroplano.

 

 V. Roxas

Apat na punto ang maaari sandigan sa pagharaya sa Roxas. Apat ang maaaring maibigay dahil bumubuo ang apat na sulok nito ng isang kahon, iba sa pagiging limitado at panaklong, kundi dahil sa tatag nitong tumayo mula sa pagkakaroon ng apat na dako.

Unang punto:

Maaari mong libutin ang Roxas kasama si J — at papanoorin mo kung papaano niya kikilatisin ang mga paninda sa night market. Maibubulong mo sa iyong sarili, narito sa harapan ko ngayon, ang tao na gusto kong makasama habang buhay. Natagpuan ko na siya. Ngunit ang pinakamasaklap na realisasyon sa lahat, hindi sapat ang pagharaya. Hindi maikukulong ng bibig sa bibig at kamay at ari ang pagsinta.

Pangalawang punto:

Lalakarin mo ang kahabaan ng kalye habang tuliro hinggil sapagdidiskurso sa pinanood na pelikula, at ilang sandali pa ang lilipas, maririnig ang isang malakas na malakas na pagsabog. Uulan ng pulbura mula sa langit, tataghoy ang hangin, at magkukumpulan ang mga katawan sa daanan. Nag-aanyaya ang mga apoy ngunit magpapatuloy ka sa paglalakad ng mabilis, ng mabilis na mabilis. Bumabagsak na ang mga apoy mula sa bulalakaw at hindi sapat ang pananampalataya sa iisang tao.

Pangatlong punto:

Minsan, naisipan mong tumungo sa Roxas ng mag-isa.Umupo sa hagdanan sa entrance ng isang unibersidad doon at saka tanawin ang lahat ng nahahagip ng mata. Nakakalula ang kawalang hanggahan ng lahat.

Pang-apat na punto:

Napapalitan lamang ang pangalan ng mga nakaupo ngunit iisa ang mukha at anyo ng pang-aabuso at paniniil. Hindi titigil ang mga ibon sa pagdapo sa Roxas hangga’t hindi napapawi ang pananamantala. Magpapatuloy ang paghuni ng mga ibon hangga’t hindi naibabalik ang mga nawawala. At walang hanggan ang paglipad ng mga ibon kahit na walang pakpak.

 

VI. Bajada

Hindi lamang minsan ngunit malimit kang makaramdam ng lungkot. At sa tuwing dinadalaw ka nito, pinipili mong magpakaligaw-ligaw sa ibang bahagi ng siyudad. May panahong nagtutungo ka sa coffee shop sa Bajada kasama ang ilang kaibigan at saka kayo mag-iiyakan tungkol sa lahat ng sama ng loob sa isang daigdig na tila hindi ninyo mawari ang galaw at timbang. O kaya ay ang magbasa ng mga lumang libro sa BookSale at saka manood ng sine. O maaari rin naming magpakalasing sa Secret Shop at Laysa’s upang mapawi kahit papaano ang sama ng loob. At pagkatapos ay kakain ng pares sa Comedor.

Ngunit kapag tapos na ang lahat, kapag wala na ang lahat, mararamdaman mong muli ang pag-iisa.

 

VII. Mintal

Paborito mo ang mga gabing payapa kung kailan marahan, banal, at sagradong dumadaloy ang mga sandali. Habang nakahiga sa kama sa iyong nirerentahang silid sa Mintal, iniisip mo ang iba’t ibang posibilidad at pagkakataon ng pamamalagi sa lungsod. Nariyan ang mga plano sa pananaliksik at pagtuturo, ang pagbili ng lupa sa Marilog kung saan maaari kang magtanim, at ang pagtanda sa lugar kasama ang ilang kaibigan at mga iniingatang gamit. Isang tahanan ang Mintal. Isa itong tahanang malayo mula sa pinagmulan.

 

VIII. Francisco Bangoy International Airport

 13 Marso 2020. Bitbit ang isang maliit na bag na mayroong laman na kakaunting gamit, nagtungo ka sa Francisco Bangoy International Airport dahil sa nalalapit na lockdown na ipapataw ng gobyerno bunsod na rin ng lumalalang pandemya ng CoViD-19. Punum-puno ng pangamba at walang katiyakan ang lahat – maging ang nagsasala-salabid na hibla ng buhay at kamatayan.

Sa loob ng eroplano, habang umaakyat na ito sa himpapawid, tanaw sa labas ng bintana ang kalmado na gulpo ng Davao, naaarawang mapunong isla ng Samal, banayad na daloy ng buhay sa siyudad, at saka ka bumuntong-hininga. At sa isang iglap, dahan-dahang maglalaho ang natatanaw sa lawas ng mga ulap. Tulad ng isang alaala.


 

Kasalukoyang nagtuturo sa Unibersidad ng Pilipinas si Jay Jomar F. Quintos. Isa siyang manunulat at filmmaker.

Coming Home: A Study in Disaster

Nonfiction by | January 4, 2021

 

 

Every love has its landscape.

~Rebecca Solnit

 

In December 2014, almost eight years since leaving Baguio, I took my children back there for a quick vacation. It wasn’t my idea. As a matter of principle and practice, I do not travel during the Christmas season because all the airports and bus terminals and piers spill over with overseas Filipinos coming home to spend the holidays with their families. In fact, December is officially recognized as the Month of Overseas Filipinos. That year, 487,654 tourist arrivals were recorded. The Dalilings in the US were no exception. The parents of my ex-husband and the whole Filipino- Korean-American family of his sister Joy were coming home from Arizona so a grand reunion was scheduled.

My ex, Jeremy, wasn’t going to be there because he was still out at sea, where he worked as an assistant cook in a cruise ship, as an overseas Filipino worker. I didn’t want the Dalilings to think that I was keeping my children from them, so I agreed to go despite all my reasons not to. Jeremy sent money for the airfare of the kids.

One week before their flight, I was informed that his parents were not going to be there after all because Papa was still waiting for his immigration interview to be scheduled. It would have been a greater loss if he had left and it pushed through during his absence. He would have had to go back to the end of the line. So the reunion was reduced in scale. I almost decided not to go anymore, but I didnt want to waste our tickets, which cost twice as much because of peak-season demand. It hinted at a disaster waiting to happen.

“Disaster [is] a processual phenomenon rather than an event that is isolated and temporally demarcated in exact time frames,” Anthony Oliver-Smith writes. Before reading this I didn’t think “processual” was a word. But there it is.

Taken out of the context of natural disasters, it suggests that our trip back to Baguio wasn’t a disaster per se. Each of the events in that trip was part of a process that actually goes back in time, to my marriage and how it failed.

A few days after we had left Baguio to move to Davao in 2007, my mother-in-law sent me a text message saying, “We are still recuperating from our lost to you.” I still believe that she meant “from losing you,” but maybe that was really at the heart of the problem. Aside from the miscommunication wrought by translation, my marriage to their son was a battle with them from the beginning and now that I was gone, they had lost it. But didn’t they actually win it? I threw in the towel after one dead dog, two hybrid children, four transient houses, and seven years of struggling to make it work. It wasn’t how I wanted it to go. I still remembered all our good intentions when I decided to merge my Manila girl with their handsome Igorot boy.

She also wrote, “How I wish I have done more . . . you must know that your Papa and I suffered most.” Even in the suffering, they had to win. I assured her that they were not to blame for what happened. We really should never have lived with them in their house when we returned to Baguio to try to save our marriage. Or maybe we shouldn’t have married at all. They had disapproved of it in the first place. They were right about the “curse” on the second marriage in the family within the same year. But it wasn’t about their family; I just wanted to stop trying. I lost.

I was not the one who suffered most.

Oliver-Smith says, “The question of time is crucial if vulnerability is to be considered essential to the definition of disaster.” Returning to Baguio with my children for a few days gave me a clearer understanding of the battle. No matter how much I wanted to make light of it, we remained vulnerable to aggravating factors during that trip. If Jeremy had been there, it would have made more sense. I would not have had to come. Have I mentioned I didn’t want to go?

I had actually gone back to Baguio on a side trip two years before, for nine hours. I didn’t tell any of them. Even though the bus trip was longer than my visit (normally six hours each way), I just wanted to spend some time with my dear friends, eat strawberries, and buy coffee beans. I didn’t have time for pleasantries that I had already rejected. But the December trip promised to be all about pleasantries.

Their family, like many Filipino families, had always been about ignoring the elephant in the room. They liked to act as if the elephant can be part of the home décor. That was why I never fit in. I was the one who kept shouting, “Look at that monstrosity! Do something!” Or else I was, in fact, the elephant. I should have been grateful for the tolerance. But I didn’t want to disappear into Gilman’s “yellow wallpaper.” It was only a matter of time.

Eight years after the disaster of our leaving, we were in postrehabilitation. I felt strong enough to go back to the old house and mingle. I had once written a poem, “To Get to Our House,” about the road home, the home in which I felt most alienated. I searched for the old markers:

find the house of

Muling Ligaya,

pass the Calvary

Tabernacle Church,

the Assembly of God,

the Bible Believing Baptist Mission, rising from the ashes

of a long-abandoned structure.

Finally, our Lady of Fatima,

at the jeepney turning point.

 

They were all still there, and standing more impressive, perhaps testament to the tenacious faith of the community. And the winding Mangga Road down was still planted to jackfruit trees, but the narra tree marking the junction between Upper and Lower Mangga was much taller than it used to be. I stopped there to take photos of the view of the mountains, but also to take a breath before I entered the old neighborhood. I had sent the kids ahead so they could spend time with their cousins while I stayed in the transient room I had rented for the week.

The neighborhood had changed quite a bit, with the neighbors building concrete fences. Good fences make good neighbors, I thought. I really couldn’t remember how to get to the house. Hoping they didn’t have ferocious dogs, I entered one of the houses with an open gate to ask where the Daliling house was. When I finally found it, I was surprised by the home renovation: a new porch, a new kitchen, and a new bathroom with a separate toilet. By then, only one family lived there, where there used to be two plus one bachelor brother, and which doubled during the Christmas holidays. Maybe this was the new “house of Muling Ligaya”—happy again after all these years.

As it turned out, the relatives from the US were leaving early on December 31 so the New Year’s Eve celebration had to be done earlier. But I had scheduled our trip back to Manila on January 3 expecting to welcome New Year’s Eve with them and to avoid the rush of travelers going back to work. I was not prepared to serve a media noche feast in a house where I wasn’t even allowed to cook. But no one in the Daliling family invited us to stay. I supposed that was fair enough. Why should any of them have bothered with entertaining us? They didn’t owe us anything. They had already hosted the reunion requested by the American contingent, which had left. They were eager to get some rest.

And frankly, I didn’t want to have to sing “Happy New Year to You” to the tune of the birthday song again. Besides, there was a better view of city fireworks from our transient room in the area called Military Cut-off. So I served a simple scaled-down feast of a fruit salad, bread, wine, and more strawberries than we had eaten in the past eight years. I apologized profusely to my children, who really did not care about the food, as long as I served Coke.

But I admit I felt sore about it. After all the trouble of making the trip, my children and I ended up spending New Year’s Eve in a stranger’s house instead of spending it for the first time in our new house in Davao, with my new partner. It felt like an evil plan, sabotaging our own “house of Muling Ligaya.”

What’s worse was that afternoon, when we had gone to the market to buy strawberries and gifts to bring home, Sachi’s new smartphone was snatched. It was her own fault because she had placed it in her jacket pocket and it took only two seconds for the pickpocket to take it. The guy was probably following her and just waiting for his chance, which she obliged. I dragged the kids to the police station to report the crime, but the police officer on duty only reprimanded Sachi for her stupidity. It was hopeless. Later, my friends said that it was no secret to residents that Baguio police were in on the profits from fencing.

Fencing can refer to several things, the most common of which is the barrier erected between two areas to mark a boundary and to prevent entrance. It also means the Olympic sport escrime that uses special swords in a martial arts dance mimicking combat. In statistics, it is “a value beyond which an observation is considered an outlier,” something that may indicate an error in measurement.

None of these senses connect directly to the crime, which involves the sale of stolen goods through a fence, the intermediary between thief and buyer. While the law has been revised to impose higher penalties on the fence, who is now considered an active player and not simply an accessory to the crime, it requires that the stolen item be retrieved.

For many, retrieval of the item may be enough to solve the crime. In fact only in exceptional cases are the police able to find the stolen item, especially when they do not try. I insisted on filing the report in case anyone in the police station was actually concerned about the number of cases of thievery in the market, where huge signs warn, “BEWARE OF PICKPOCKETS” and “KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR BELONGINGS.”

Signs that put the blame on the victim.

Feeling defeated, we decided to have an early dinner at a Chinese restaurant I used to frequent when we lived there. We all deserved a plate of lechon rice. After we had ordered, I took Raz to the barbershop down the road. I reminded Sachi to watch our bag of gifts from the market because they might be taken.

I really should have just brought the bag with me.

If I had any doubts that lightning could strike the same place twice, that evening I was certain. I just hoped that the thief might feel a little guilt when he opened the bag and saw the hand-carved driftwood crucifix I had bought for my mother. She had asked for that specifically to drive away the evil curses that she believed a neighbor had been casting on her. I knew we had to go back to get her another one.

My mother had never been religious when I was growing up. She never forced me to go to church on Sundays nor pray the rosary every day. I liked that she was not a hypocrite like that. She knew she was living in sin, being a mistress, and it was no use pretending she wasn’t by going to church.

When I was thirteen, I decided I had to try doubly hard if I didn’t want to go to hell. I joined the parish choir and served in the 6 p.m. Mass every day, sometimes as offertory collector and as lector. As if that weren’t enough, I also attended the Friday prayer meetings after Mass, where we sang and lifted up our hands in praise, and cried to show remorse and joy at the same time. I joined a Life in the Spirit seminar where I pretended I had received the gift of tongues by speaking in gibberish. It was there that I got my first menstrual period. That was the true gift of the Spirit but I didn’t recognize it at the time—it was not listed in the Bible. I read the Bible from cover to cover, using a special colored pencil to mark verses like: “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,” and “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

My friends and I played Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” record backward on the player and heard the masked Satanic reversed message, “Dog si natas” (Satan is god), over and over so we burned the record, along with “Hotel California” and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” We listened only to Amy Grant from then on.

I hoped my fervent devotion would save me from my mother’s sinfulness.

I learned later that it was my own “sinfulness” I should have worried about. By the time I was sixteen, I had lost Jesus. Or Jesus had lost me. Depending on who was looking.

My children and I ate our New Year’s Eve dinner sullenly. I cursed my decision to come to Baguio. I declared it our worst New Year’s Eve ever, one like Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach,” which “hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light” and no pasalubong for my mother. I declined an invitation from an old friend to spend New Year’s Eve with his family because I was afraid that our bad luck might come in three. I didn’t want to risk taking a taxi to a far-flung neighborhood near the Philippine Military Academy and getting mugged. I know I would have felt better spending media noche with them and not having to worry about preparing a traditional feast, but I was too afraid to take any chances.

So we made do with a meager table in a dimly lit room on the fourth floor, which had a terrace from which to view the New Year fireworks every household had. A fruit salad with fresh Shoga strawberries available only in Baguio wasn’t so bad. It never made sense to me to have a heavy meal at midnight anyway just because of a tradition. And the cheap wine I got from the old Tiong San supermarket somehow tasted better while watching the fireworks, even though the display was incoherent. Living in Davao, where fireworks are illegal, has made us an audience easy to please.

We went to bed feeling grateful to be together, just the three of us, not having to be nice to anyone just because they’re relatives. So much of the Philippines is propped up by empty family traditions; it’s like the traditional Christmas lantern, the parol, and its hollow bamboo stick base. And yet it does serve to illuminate the dark; it may just be a matter of seeing.

I promised myself I would prepare a proper table on the (real) Lunar New Year in our new house, where instead of fireworks, we would bang our stainless steel washbasins to drive away the bad luck of the past.

Bad luck did come in three that day. At around 4 a.m., I was roused by Sachi’s whimpering. I thought she was crying belatedly over the loss of her phone. When I checked on her, she said her left ear was painful, like it was being poked with a barbecue stick. I gave her a painkiller so we could all get some more sleep before going to the hospital.

We spent New Year’s Day in the emergency room of Baguio General Hospital, along with some victims of firecracker accidents. Sachi’s complaint seemed trivial alongside patients with bleeding hands, but I was grateful the doctor who attended to her didn’t rush through the examination, for which we did not have to pay a peso. It turned out to be a simple ear infection, which I hoped would easily clear with otic drops.

Even when she was a baby, Sachi had been prone to ear infections caused by hardened cerumen or the common cold. I’ve had to bring her to the pediatrician to irrigate her ears a few times. I wondered if it wasn’t because there were some things she didn’t want to hear. I admit I yell a lot at home.

I yell because I do not want to hit my children. But I know yelling also hurts. Every year I make a New Year’s resolution to yell less, but the older my children get, the harder it becomes to keep it. Yelling makes me feel like I have control. What it really does is make my kids afraid of me, like Raz, or defiant, like Sachi. The louder I yell, the higher the fence it erects between us.

The trip wasn’t entirely a waste of time and resources, even though it felt like it at that time. I was able to reconnect with my old friends, who were my true family in Baguio: teacher-friends, former-student-friends, writer-friends, lesbian-and-gay-friends, almost-exes-friends-if-only. Even though I’m not very good at keeping in touch across the distance, I never throw away any friends. I take every opportunity to reconnect and to feel at home somehow because of a shared joy or pain in the past.

Even more, we ate at every favorite restaurant and ordered all our favorite dishes because food is memory. I was sorry we missed Rito’s of the Baguio beef shank bulalo soup because we couldn’t find its new location. I really wanted Sachi to taste it because it was the dish I had craved for during the first trimester when I was pregnant with her. I ate it every day for two weeks and then I moved on to native green mangoes from Pangasinan. ‘Lihi’ is one of those Filipino mysteries no one can explain: why do pregnant women crave the strangest things? Some say the body craves food with the nutrients it needs to have a healthy pregnancy; others say it’s only meant to get the attention of our partners. Whatever it is, I did have the excessive food cravings for both my pregnancies. But I didn’t demand any extra attention from anyone else to satisfy them. Always the DIY kind of woman that I am, hormones notwithstanding.

On our last day in Baguio City, we had to go to the market again to replace some of the stolen goods. Got the second crucifix for cheaper with my sad story, but the carving on the first one was really finer. Part of me wished I had more time to visit the secondhand clothes shops, but I remembered that I was through with buying discarded clothes.

No, it wasn’t quite the disaster it had threatened to be. Every disaster is, after all, a matter of vulnerability. But after eight years, surely I had prepared myself for the onslaught of memories and the actual friction caused by our inherent differences. I was an outlier in that family and nothing was going to change that. All I wanted to focus on at that point was finally moving forward.

Going back there somehow showed me how. What my children and I lost in Baguio City was only the sunk cost someone had to pay.

And like I had learned before in Baguio, when we left the transient house, I called out to our karkarma spirits, “Umay kan, Jhoanna, Sachi, Raz! Agawiden! Awan mabat-bati!” Time to go home; no one gets left behind.


 

Jhoanna Lynn B. Cruz teaches creative writing in UP Mindanao. This essay appears in her memoir, Abi Nako, Or So I Thought, published recently by the UP Press. The book, revolving around the first ten years of rebuilding her life in Davao City after the end of her marriage, is available in Shopee and Lazada.

 

 

Mga Tagsip

Poetry by | January 2, 2021

–Hubad sa Binisaya ni John Bengan

Silaab sama sa kandila
lumbay sa ulan
nga duna nay nanag-iya.

Ang Sapat sa mga tigmo mitubo
og mga gamut diin kini mitindog ug milingkod
mga gamut sa ka taas milapos
sa pikas bahin sa kalibutan
mihugpo ug gilubok hangtod
nahimong lanot nga gibuhat og sinina.

Ikaw akong panit sa suwa
Akong ilimnon
Akong damgo nga gapadasig
ang kasubo nga mahanaw.

Ang kamingaw usa ka dahon
nabilin sa bentana
mansa sa habol
o kun panahon sa usa ka adlaw.

Kon kining paghimamat nimo
naghingapin ug halawom
pahiri kini sa salisi sa kahilom
o kun pagsambit kunohay
unsa kadugay ning adlawa.

Hayag ug sayo ba kang nimata
dagom taliwala sa kasagbutan?
Sa pagsubang sa adlaw
nasaag ug hikalimtan?

Imong kasingkasing himoang itlog nga bulawan
himoa kining tam-is
o kun bulak sa kahayag
nga gipatik sa batiis.

 

*

Fragments

Burn bright as candle
column of rain
spoken for.

The Sphinx grew roots
where it stood or sat
roots so long they broke
out to the other sided globe
gathered and pounded out
into fibers to make a robe.

Be my lemon peel
be my drink
be the dream that drives me
the despair that wilts.

Nostalgia is a leaf
lying on a window
stain on a sheet
or a day’s weather.

If you think this encounter with you
excessive and deep
wipe it away with a rain of silence
or inanely remark
how long the day is.

Are you bright and early
needle in the hay?
Are you lost for granted
at the break of day?

Turn your heart to candy
or a golden egg
or a bright sunflower
tattooed on a leg.

 


Usa ka gipasidunggan nga tagsulat og sugilanon, magbabalak, dibuhista, ug payoner nga tigmantala si Tita Lacambra Ayala. Mipanaw siya kadtong tuig 2019.

Langub

Fiction by | December 14, 2020

Dili maihap ang mga langub sa Kulaman Plateau, ang lugar sa mga Dulangan Manobo nga naa sulod sa probinsiya sa Sultan Kudarat.  Sa akong pagpuyo didto sa tulo ka tuig, sobra 30 kabuok ang akong nasudlan isip usa ka spelunker (ang English adtong ganahan mo-explore og mga langub).

Pero matud pa sa naila-ila nakong mga Lumad sa maong lugar, sobra pa daw sa gatos ang mga langub, kung ang usa ka spelunker dunay igong panahon ug andam nga mobaklay og mga bakilid kaayo nga bukid aron makasulod aning daghan kaayong langub. Ang uban gani ani naa sulod sa mga lasang ug lisod toltolon kung walay kaubang kahibalo asa kini pangitaon.

Lahi ang  kalibutan sulod sa langub, alang niadtong nakasulod na niini.  Tinuod dulom kaayo, apan kung kumpleto ka lang og gamit – sama sa hayag sa suga parehas sa ginagamit sa mga minero – dili ra man kahadlokan nga mosulod ani. Dunay mga langub sa Kulaman nga daw morag katedral and kahabog ani sa sulod.

Daghang matang nga parte sa langub ang makit-an – ang mga “stalactites ug stalagmites” – kini tong mga nagbitay nga daw corals. Ug kung puti ang kolor sa maong mga stalactites ug stalagmites – daw mora silag snow tungod sa kaputi niini. Naa say mga “lowstones, helictites, soda straws ug columns.

Naay mga langub nga makasulod ka lang kung imong kamangon ang pultahan ani, naa say angay kang motakilid kay igo rang makalusot ang payat nga lawas. Dunay mga langub nga naay sapa sa sulod, ug usahay mabaw, usahay lalom.  Lahi gayod ang katahum sa sulod sa langub, apan klaro nga kung naa ka sa sulod ani, daw daku kaayo ang misteryo nga imong gi-atubang. Matud pa sa pipila ka mga psychiatrists  ang pagsulod sa langub kuno morag sama nga nibalik ka sa sabakan sa imong inahan.

Daghang mga istorya sa mga Dulangan Manobo bahin sa mga sugilanon nga ilang nadawat gikan sa ilang mga katigulangan. Dunay nag-ingon nga dihay usa ani ka langub diin nagpuyo ang usa ka higante’ng bitin, ug matag karon ug unya magpakita kuno kini.  Pero kasagaran naa ra sulod sa labing suok sa langub, busa wala’y usa kanila nga mangahas mosulod aning maong langub.

Naa say nag-ingon nga kini ang mga pinuy-anan sa mga “dili ingon nato.”  Pero kung mag-ritwal una mosulod sa maong mga langub, wala ra may mahitabo sa mosulod. Kapanginabuhian man god ang pipila aning mga langub kung modagsa sa sulod niini ang mga langgam nga gitawag og  balinsasayaw (swiftlets that resemble the swallows). Kini tong mga langgam nga ang ilang mga salag – nga gikan sa ilang laway (solidified saliva) mahal kaayo, kay mahimong bird’s nest soup. Kinaham kini sa mga Intsik, ug mahal kaayo ning maong sabaw kung order-on sa mga restaurant.

Naa say katingalahan nga istorya sa mga katigulangan nga ang uban aning mga langub magbalhin-balhin kuno.  Kay pas-anon man ang maong langub sa likod sa busaw, ang gitoohan sab sa karaang mga katigulangan nga parte sa mga “dili ingon natu.” Daghang klase sa mga busaw ang ilang gitoohan gawas aning nagpas-an og langub, dunay mga morag kapre o engkanto. Gani sa usa ka lugar sa tapad sa usa ka langub  dunay dagkung puting bato mismo sa tunga sa sapa, magtapok ang mga matahum nga mga diwata ug gakanta sa tunga’ng gabii kung takdol ang bulan.

Apan ang mas taas nga akong i-apil ani nga sugilanon dili katingalahang panghitabo kondili makalagot nga panghitabo. Bahin kini sa usa ka kulturanhong gawi sukad pa sa linibo na nga katuigan sa karaang panahon. Adtong mga panahona, dunay mga lumadnong katilingban nga ang mga patay nilang mga kaparyentihan isulod sa banga ang na-ugdaw nga lawas sa namatay nga paryente. Dayon ang maong banga sulod sa langub nila tipigan.

Ang labing nikaylap ani nga historical narrative ang gihimo sa mga Lumad sa Palawan. Dunay gitawag nga Tabon cave, ug dinhi nadiskobriha ang usa ka dakung banga.  Maayo kaayo nga pagkahimo kining maong matahum nga banga, kay sa taklob niini, dunay usa duha ka tawo nga nisakay og banka. Ang naa sa atubangan maoy nagbugsay, ug nilingkod lang ang naa sa likod. Sumala sa kahulugan nga gibatbat sa mga antropolohista, simbolo kuno kini sa usa ka tawong namatay, ug gi-ubanan sa iyang paryente o ulipon sa iyang panaw padulong sa laing kalibutan.

Sa sulod sa maong banga, dihay mga timaan sa mga bukog sa usa ka tawo, kansang patay nga lawas gipa-ugdaw ug ang nahabilin aning mga bukog gisulod sa banga. Mao nga gitawag pod kini nga burial jar. Ug aron walay magpatamas-tamas sa maong giila nila nga sagradong butang, gitipigan kini sulod sa langub kay lisod sudlon ang langub nga naa sa kilid sa bakilid.  Ang maong banga naa na karon sa National Museum sa Manila.

Duna pay laing mga banga nga gi-exhibit sulod sa National Museum.  Kini ang nakolekta sa taga National Museum sa Maitum, Sarangani Province. Dunay ilang gihimong diorama sa sulod sa langub dihang nakit-an nila ang maong mga banga, ug sobra sila gatos. Ug maayo kaayo ang pagkaporma sa gitawag nga anthrophomorphic  jars o mga banga nga mohulagway sa lawas sa tawo. Kay dunay mga banga nga dunay mga kamot, ug daghan ang taklob mao ang ulo.  Sama sa nakuha sa Tabon cave, kini nga mga banga mao say ilang gisudlan sa nahabilin sa parte sa lawas human kini naugdaw.

Apan naa pay laing mga banga nga gikolekta sa langub ug karon gi-exhibit sa museum sa San Carlos University (USC)  sa Cebu City.  Mga anthrophomorphic jars sab ang nakoleta, pero dili kaayo pino pagkahimo kumparar sa mga banga nga nakuha sa Maitum. Ang maong langub naa kaniadto sa sulod sa  barangay sa Menteng, sa munisipyo sa Senator Ninoy Aquino aning kabukiran sa probinsya sa Sultan Kudarat nga yutang kabilin sa mga Dulangan Manobo.

Adtong tuig 2001-2004, ang among mission team didto ma-destino sa maong lugar. Gi-imbita mi sa mga misyonaryong OMI nga tabangan sila sa ilang mga programa, labina ang kabahin sa pakigduyog-ambit sa pakigbisog sa mga Lumad. Usa sa ila si Padre Miguel Triunfante, usa ka antropohista nga hanas kaayo sa pinulongang Dulangan Manobo kay dugay na sab siyang nagpuyo dire.

Usa ka adlaw iya ming gi-istoryahan sa unsay nahitabo aning langub diin gikuha ang mga banga. Ang maong nangulo sa team nga niabot sa Kulaman aron kolektahon ang mga banga  mao si Marcelino Maceda. Sumala sa gihimong pagsusi kung kanus-a gihimo ang mga banga, mobalik kuno sa late Neolithic (or Early Iron) Age nga possible sa tuig 585 AD (plus or minus 85 years).

Ang nigasto sa maong prohikto ang USC, mao nga naa sa ilang museum sa Cebu ang maong mga banga hangtud karon. Adtong tuig sa 1962 kini nahitabo, nidtong panahon nga wala pay klarong dalan gikan sa patag sa may Isulan-Tacurong pasaka sa bukid hangtud moabot sa Kulaman Plateau. Sa mga 1970s, diha nay mga dalan tungod  nasugdan ang logging sa maong lugar.

Mao nga si Mr. Maceda ug iyang mga kauban didto nisugod sa ilang panaw pasaka sa Kulaman sa pikas bahin aning probinsya. Nanukad sila gikan sa munisipyo sa Lebak. Sumala sa istorya lima ka kabayo kuno ilang gidala ug maoy gisakyan pasaka ngadto sa Kulaman kay daghan pod silang dalang mga butang.

Nahibaloan nilang Mr. Maceda kining maong mga jars, kay diha na may pipila ani nga jars nga niabot sa museum as University of Sto. Tomas adto pang 1954. Dili na mahibaloan kinsay nakakuha niini ug gidala sa Manila. Mao nga na-interes siya ug ang USC nga pangitaon ang langub diin daghan pang mga banga ang ilang makuha og madala sa USC museum.

Sa mubo nga pagka-istorya, dunay naila-ila si Mr. Maceda nga maoy nipahibalo sa iya nga ang maong langub naa sa Kulaman ug pinaagi sa iyang mga kontak sa gobierno, nahibaloan ra niya unsaon pag-abot sa maong lugar. Kahibalo siya daan nga kinahanglan siya og permiso ani gikan sa mga Lumad nga nagpuyo sa maong lugar, busa nakapangita sab siyag paagi nga maila-ila ang datu pag-abot niya didto sa Kulaman.  Nisugot ra man sab ang maong datu nga puede silang mosulod sa langub ug kuhaon ang mga banga.

Unsaon ta man lagi, nga tungod sa kataas sa dagan sa panahon, nalimtan na sa mga kaliwatan sa mga Dulangan Manobo ang dakung kahulugan aning mga banga. Daw wala nay bili kining maong mga banga alang kanila, kay dili na man sab gani nila mahinumduman ang kasaysayan niini. Ug dugay na sab nga naputol ang maong gawi nga manghimo og banga ug sudlan sa nahabiling na-ugdaw sa namatay nga paryente.

(Ang wala pa mawala hinoon – bisan og nagka-anam na sab nio nga wala na kaayo nila buhata karon – mao ang pagsulod sa patay nga lawas sa ilang mga minahal nga namatay sulod sa gibuak nga kahoy ug gihimong morag lungon. Naa man silay mga pamaagi sab nga dili kini manimaho kay ibutang man nila kini sulod sa ilang mga balay. Gani duna koy nabisitahan nga panimalay, diin sa sulod mismo sa balay gipatong ang lima ka mga longon – gikan sa dagku ngadto sa gagmay. Dili pa man god nila ilubong kini, samtang wala pa mahupay ang ilang kaguol. Sa karaang panahon, abrihan nila ang mga longon ug unsay naa na-ugdaw maoy isulod sa banga, ug ibutang sulod sa langub. Apan karon ila na lang ilubong sa yuta).

Duna man say gibaylo nga mga gasa si Mr. Maceda sa datu ug iyang mga sakop busa nalipay ra sab sila sa maong panagtagbo nga duna silay nadawat. Tungod kay limitado ra ang ilang madala, gipilian lang ni Mr. Maceda ang mga banga nga ilang dalhon, pero ubay-ubay sab kini (nga makit-an diha sa USC museum karon). Gibilin nila tong dili na kaayo maayo ug matahum og porma.

Ang problema lang, kay nisaad si Mr. Maceda nga mobalik sa Menteng ug magdala pa siyag dugang nga mga gasa sa mga Lumad nga naghandum sab sa maong pagbalik.  Apan wala na kini nahitabo, ug nasuko daw ang maong datu.  Nisulod kuno sa langub ang maong datu ug pipila ka kauban ug tungod sa ilang kalagot sa wala pagtuman ni Mr. Maceda sa iyang saad, ilang gipang-buak ang nahabilin nga mga banga.

Pagkadungog naku ani nga istorya, na-curious na dayon kaayo ko unsay dagway ani nga langub ug unsa pay nahabilin nga artifacts sa sulod niini. Busa nisakay mig habal-habal hangtud sa masudlan sa maong sakyanan. Dayon  gi-hike namo ni Padre Miguel ang bukid pasaka sa Menteng. Mga tunga sa adlaw sab ang among hike. Dihay mga Dulangan Manobo nga among nahimamat pag-abot namo sa ilang barangay.

Sa gawas lang sa maong barangay, diha ang langub. Pagsulod pa lang nimo daan dunay nasulat sa bongbong sa pultahan sa langub ang ngalan ni Mr. Maceda ug ang petsa sa ilang pag-abot dire. Pagsulod namo sa langub, niguot akong dughan ug kahilakon kaayo ko sa akong nakit-an. Diha tuoy mga nahabilin, pero mga tipik na lang sa maong mga banga, ug mora na lang kining mga gagmay’ng bato, kay gipangbuak lagi kini. Subo kaayo palandongon nga adtong pagsulod nilang Mr. Marcelo ani nga langub, intact pa ang tanan.

Alang kanako usa kini ka tragedy kung pamalandongan ang dakung kahulogan aning maong mga artifacts, kay gamay na lang kaayo ang nahabilin sa atong mga katigulangan sama ani.  Ug daku sila bili sa paghatag og kasayuran unsa ang klase sa ilang kinabuhi niadtong panahona.

Dihang nakit-an ko ni Fr. Miguel nga nasubo kaayo, iyang kung gihonghongan. Matud pa niya, dunay datu sa ilang barangay nga nag-ingon sa iya, nga duna pay laing langub diin intact pa ang mga burial jars. Wala na lang nila ipahibalo kini sa ma taga-gawas kay hadlok sila nga ang nahitabo sa Menteng nga langub, mahitabo na sab. Ug karon mas duna silay kahimatngon unsa diay ka importante kining mga banga alang kanila, busa dili na nila gustong kuhaon pa kini dire sa maong lugar.

 

*

 

Postcript:  Sa usa ka konperensiya sa Philippine Anthropological Association of the Philippines (UGAT) sa USC, akong gipadayag sa mga taga-USC nga nangindahay ang mga taga-Kulaman nga i-uli ning mga banga sa ilang lugar. Apan gitubag ko sa taga-USC nga dili nila kini puedeng himoon samtang ang munisipyo sa Senator Ninoy Aquino o di kaha ang Probinsya sa Sultan Kudarat dunay klarong museum nga mosiguro nga tipigan gyod ang mga banga aron magpabilin nga mahimo kining makit-an sa umaabot pa nga mga henerasyon.  Apan klaro nga ang munisipyo ug Probinsya wala pay giplano nga maong museum – o dili ba kaha nga dili sila interesado? – mao nga lisod ma-pressure ang USC nga ibalik ang mga cultural artifacts asa nila ni kuhaa.

 


Nasulat ni Melchor M. Morante ang mga nobela nga Ugma Puhon, Junjun (1994), Tuburan sa Handurawan (1995), ug Si Menda ug ang Bagani’ng gitahapan nga maong si Mangulayon (2015). Kauban ang “Langub” sa umaabot nga Mga Lumadnong Sigulanon nga Mahinuklogon.

 

 

Where are my poetry books?

Poetry by | December 14, 2020

Fine collections of dust
form an archaeological site,
a bereavement, of words left buried,
where we usually call rainy days days of solace.
Dust accumulates with neglect.
We dig deep Pinter, papers of his verses a home
to endless questions. When I ask, sometimes,
out of the sheer distance that separates us,
about ends, your reply, about impermanence,
does not fail to travel miles for days,
reaching me through whispers
of the cold summer, telling me death
is a practice of forgetting love.
Where is love when it is written only
on yellowed paper. What is love
when it is lost among pages of unreasonable
thoughts. Spines of books shiver when touched.
Shelves of languages produce soft bones,
preys to the hungry. But I can only imagine
about voids, now that I am far, and nothing more.
You think impermanence is constant,
and indeed it is. What misses constancy
is a blank page, waiting for ink, formed from dust,
the end of death. If it becomes so that we move
out of sheer love, it is bad luck
that I see you in the dark and still I keep moving.
Darkness is a vision of neglect, a letter
without response, left to crumple.
Death is a decay of all that lives outside you.
Poetry, language, love. Death is a buoyant mirror,
without darkness I see through you.


Ian Salvaña writes from Cateel.