Poetry by | August 23, 2007

On our sixth anniversary
your parents surprised us
with ice cream and cake.
You cooked my favorite
dish and I brought sweet
red wine. We drank
to each other’s
happiness with a dagger
gleam in the eye. A toast
to a long life, knowing
this would be our last.


Nonfiction by | August 19, 2007

The members of the Davao Writers Guild regret the passing of fellow writer Josie C. San Pedro and express herewith our condolences to her bereaved family. In her memory, I would like to publish here for the first time an essay that I asked her to write sometime in 2004 for possible inclusion in an anthology I was then editing with Agnes Prieto. The book, Fallen Cradle: Parents on the Loss of a Child, was eventually published by Anvil in 2006, but did not include her piece on her son Mandy because she was not able to return it to me on time after I gave her suggestions for its revision. It was a loss for the book. Now with her passing, she has taken with her a substantial amount of Davao history yet to be written. It will be some time before Davao will find another chronicler of its peoples and times as fervent and well-loved as Tita Josie.

Ricardo M de Ungria
President, DWG

All his friends were there—during the wake in the house, at the church, and at the memorial park. They had sent him off with an affectionate farewell.

When Mandy left for work on that fateful morning of April 26, 1996, it was with his usual jauntiness on board his prized motorcycle. The next time I saw him was in a corner of the emergency room of a hospital as a doctor and several nurses were to work up his heart.

He never woke up. I wonder if he had heard me imploring,” Mandy, don’t give up. Fight, Mandy, fight. Don’t leave us.” Did he hear me praying to God Almighty to give him a little more time with his children?

His life was just beginning, with a loving wife and three beautiful children—ages seven, five, and three, and with another on the way, still floating at four months in his/her mother’s womb. This one will never see the smile on his/her father’s face or feel the warmth of his loving embrace or taste the sweetness of his kisses.

Continue reading Mandy

Me, the Keymaker, and the Quantum Mechanics Bar

Fiction by | August 12, 2007

One day, just as I expected it to be, I met the Keymaker in the cyber highway. So I told him “Hey, let’s go to the quantum mechanics bar and order a shot of neutrino. It’s cool, we don’t have to pay anything because the glass is empty anyway. Then, let’s chat about the keys to the mysteries of the universe.”

So off we went and entered into the weird quantum mechanics bar, for it only has one door from our Present, the only one there is in the entire universe for us to enter. Yet once inside, the quantum mechanics bar peeks into countless portal doors of multi-universes that co-exist with the universe behind our Present door. Rumor has it that, along with the Present Door where we entered, there are other distinct portals with doors from our past, to the future, and to our parallel Present universes. The strange thing about the rumor was that there will appear an inevitable portal that sooner or later we must enter because that portal leads to our Future. Yet, in the quantum mechanics bar, anything can happen, though the bartenders and customers who patronized the bar smugly treated such inevitability as ‘rumor.’

Continue reading Me, the Keymaker, and the Quantum Mechanics Bar

The Rebirth

Poetry by | August 12, 2007

it was not the sun
that died that morning
but us finding darkness
more comfortable.
we dropped our tools,
dropped to our knees
and crawled back to
the womb of memory
and there we dreamt
of better mornings, warmer sunshine.
But how could we know
while we floated in the belly
of silence and cold?

limbo is the worst place.

in another world,
we were ready to die again
suffocated in this sac of stagnancy–
but a push and a heave,
a breathe of protest
against the bred silence,
and we pass through another birthing.
this one slower and more painful
until we see
the light
and burst out laughing.

My father standing very still

Poetry by | August 12, 2007

His face half-lit by the sun
half-lost in a thought that follows someone
from the window he sees his children
faces brightly packed with purpose
impatient with a pet sunning on the driveway
and their mother’s first message of the day

He knows the fine hours are over
the neighborhood cars all starting
grinding to dust the singing of neighborhood birds
then they will roam the streets and the city
will growl like an awakened beast
he loves the beast nevertheless

He loves what he does not have to get used to
if at its designated time and place
because everything moves a little closer home
he says to himself
including those that hurt my ears
and those I have never heard

In the evening my father tells his story
in a voice ripened by his own silence he says
a street is stretched longer
by cars that speed on it
the length shoots beyond space
beyond what men see and know

When cars speed on
they iron out the heavy trudges
left by men whose footsteps know
the weight of the universe
cars have no feelings
they do not understand what footsteps are all about

My father comes to stand very still
by the window late in the dark
when he finally goes to bed he speaks
to himself his hands clasped as in prayer
a day always turns itself in he says
no more innocent than men it needs sleep

Review: The House on Calle Seminario and Other Stories

Nonfiction by | August 12, 2007

Josie Carballo Tejada. The House on Calle Seminario & Other Stories, A Collection of Short Story Fiction & Essays. Published by The Davao Writers Guild, Davao City, Philippines as part of its Tubao Books Series 2007. Printed by DCT Printshop. Davao City, Philippines, 2007.

Josie Tejada’s collection of short fiction and essays are a unique contribution towards exploring the as-yet unilluminated area we call the Filipino Soul. It includes an introduction by Aida Rivera-Ford.

Josie’s use of Ilonggo lends a regional ambiance to the already unique Filipino taste of the parochial worlds she paints with her words. Mention of the proverbial Ilonggo “lightning” brings a smile. The period piece entitled “The Magician” elicits a slight melancholy one associates with memories of childhood innocence swept away by the passage of time. There is also the exquisitely painful story of anticipating a friend’s death in “Lunch with Victoria” that reminds us of our, and our friends’, mortality.

From Rosa’s quietly emotional typhoon while looking for her father in the title story, on through “Tales from the Lap,” local folk tales as seen and heard from a child’s perspective of tamawo in “The Maid’s Daughter,” and finally to her eulogic essays on her parents and a sister, one cannot help but identify with emotions bared and experienced. Indeed, it is easy for one to come out of the book with the conclusion that the author is all the protagonists she has created in her fiction, and that she finally admits it through her essays at the end of this slim volume of works.

It is, all in all, a truly delightful book to read in this age of computers and a public media that is out of control.

Prayer for Mother Earth

Poetry by | August 5, 2007

We foolish mortals, not knowing when the rain is coming nor the comet; theorizing in our ignorance, at last we begin to behold our very home crumbling in smoke and poison air. Our own destructiveness is hypnotizing in its intensity; this is madness.

The groans of earth can be heard by your saints; while the poets are appalled, feeling in their bones the future not so future debacle, yet their warnings remain unheeded, the public go their merry way, ignorant that the end of their world was long ago prophesied.

Your majesty divine creator; No one can measure your understanding of us foolish mortals. Nothing is hidden from thee, and most surely thou art aware of those small places of the planet where the integrity of your creation is respected and preserved. And as for the rest of us, it is cosmic destruction. The overripe fruit awaits the moment to drop in the furnace.

I do not presume to know where are your human saints that obey your laws and respect your eco-balance, but my prayer is for them, that thou would protect these few, that they would be strong enough to continue as they are so that there would still be a remnant of beautiful earth where birds sing, where grasses wave, where the leaves of the trees would clap their hands, as your word goes forth and returns, O god of mystery, O consuming Fire!

Dance of Life

Poetry by | August 5, 2007

It is funny how leaves dance on their branches.
They spin
With a magnificent finale of letting go
Gracefully playing with the wind.

People dance too.
They hold on
To their dreams, loves, ideologies
As they move on the dance floor.

My dance is limited to swaying and spinning.
My leading man-
My dance partner
Myself too
Still groping for steps.
Sometimes I lose the beat
Go whirling with no direction.

Today my feet are tired.
My toes are beginning to hate me.
My fingers are crying.
I have been dancing wildly.

I feel myself rebelling.

I trip.

I watch the dancing others…

On my shoulder,
I feel a tap.
I see a hand.

I take it.