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 and follow the pinned instructions for payment and delivery. For the ebook version, please visit and follow the payment instructions. Readers in Mindanao may also visit 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”

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



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.


Pakigbugno sa Kagahapon

Fiction by | September 21, 2020

Way pu-as ang pagkalansing sa mga kutsarag baso sa kusina ug ang pagkulamos ni Dodoy sa uban pang hugasonon. Puwerteng tagninga sa panagpingki sa mga basiyo nga bag-ohay lang gigamit sa ilang panag-ambitay sa panihapon ni Lolo Temio.


“Doy! Puwerte man nimog pakigbugno sa mga plato. Labaw pa man nimo ang sundalong nakigkombate sa mga gerilya sa Mindanao,” siyagit sa tigulang ngadto sa iyang apohan nga bisan pa og naa na kini sa sala ug gaatubang sa TV, gibanhaan gihapon sa kabug-at sa kamot sa apong nanghugas. Way tubag nga mibalik sa tigulang. “Oy! Paghinay diha kay dili ko kadungog aning akong gitan-aw!”


“Da! Mora sad kag kasabot anang gitan-aw nimo, Lo, oy,” tubag ni Dodoy nga mibalik sa dunggan ni Lolo Temio daw sama sa usa ka lanog nga gakahanap.


“Nakaminos gyod ka aning akong pagka-tiguwang ha,” nawala na ang pagkalagsik ug panagpingki niya, nga gisundan sa bug-at nga mga tunob. Mora sad kag nakigkombate sa mga Intsik da.”


“Naa na sad ka anang istorya nimo sa mga Instik. Ikapila pa man na nimo balik-balikon, Lo?” pangutana sa apo nga mihalok sa bugnaw ug gipaningot nga ulo sa lolong sapoton.


“Wa pa gyod ka nakasinati ning akong sugilanon ba. Ayaw patakag sambat diha. Nakaminos gyod kag ayo nako, ha. Kanang edara nimo, dako na kaayo ang akong kapuslanan dihang unang mitampi sa dunggoanan sa nasod ang mga warship sa Intsik. Unya ikaw, unsa may gibuhat nimo ron? Gasige ra man gani kag padako ana imong mga itlog, unya makaminos ka nako kon makasabot kos ginayawyaw sa TV. Wa ka kuyapi?”


“Aysos. Dili man god, lo, dili man god ana…” Wala pa gipahuman sa tigulang ang pagpaklaro ni Dodoy.


“Saba diha. Kon wala ka nasayod, kining akong mga palad miagi na og gubat …”


“Lo, kinsa naman sad ang nangaway nimo, oy,” sambit ni Dodoy nga morag nagpakalma og gamayng bata. “Sige natag balik-balik anang storya nimos gubat…” Gikuha ni Dodoy ang remote ug gipakusgan ang tingog sa TV, bag-o gilabay ang kaugalingong kabug-aton sa kutson abay sa walang bahin sa gilingkoran sa iyang Lolo.


“Awa na, o. Awa na,” gihit ni Lolo Temio ang iyang lawas sa direksyon sa TV ug gitudlo-tudlo ang liboan ka mga sundalong Instik ug gatosan ka mga tangke de gira nga nagbahis-bahis sa lawak diin mapamahitas-on nga nagbarog si Jose Rizal nga karon gipakambayotan sa pulang tela nga morag usa ka sash sa beauty pageant.


Mipadayon kini: “Ka bagag nawong gyod aning pikot og mga mata nga motunob sa yutang natawhan sa mga tawong ngilngig og kasaysayan. Wa guro ni sila kaila nilang Dagohoy ug ni Sultan Kudarat. Nagaparada naman nuon sa tiilan ni Rizal.”


“Pirme naman ni sila, Lo ug dugay na…”


“Unsay dugay na? Dugay na na namo silang gipildi tuig 2022 pa, dihang gisulong na sila sa halos tanang dakong dunggoanan sa nasod. Insigida, isip usa ka Mindanaoan diin gagikan sad ang Presidente kaniadto, nga maoy labing unang taga-Mindanao nga naglingkod sa Malacañang. Nagboluntaryo kong nagpaatubang aning bagag nawong nga mga Ching-chong. Kanang ilang mga warship ug mga tangke, matay pa, amo ra nang ginapatimbang sa Santiago sa Iligan. Pamati nilang makaya nila ang Pilipinas pero wala sila kasagang sa kinangilngigang armas sa nasod kaniadto nga nagpaulbo gyod sa ilang mga kaspa: ang mga military grade, Mambabarang ug mga Doktor kwak-kwak didtos Siquijor. Kon makakita pa lang ka sa mga pikot dihang mayamyaman na silag urimos, maglumbaanay lage na silag panagan samtang gipangtublan og gabas nga gaandar o diba kahag gasikmag Durian.

Makatawa na lang god mig tan-aw ana nila nga mag-isig-isa sa ilang mga Good morning towel. Pero wala ra gihapon, kay ang tanang muserender, ang dangat, mahimo ra sang subak sa Chao Fan.”


Napuno og hagikhik ang kwarto sa tigulang dihang naghanduraw siya sa kalibotan nga siya ray nakasakop, nga siya ray na sayod. Pero si Dodoy nga nagtan-aw ug gipatuyangan lang ang iyang Lolo, wala napugngan nga maigo sa sentimentalidad nga dili niya masuta kon diin parte sa iyang pagkatawo ang natandog. Pero wa ray minuto kalit napulihan sa pagpanghangos ang mga hagikhik hangtod ang iyang kasadya ug kaalegre ganina anam-anam nga nalumos sa iyang pagpangbakho nga giubanan sa pag-ikyas sa mga luha nga ganina pang nagpugong.


Padayon nga madungog ang hinagawhaw nga tingog sa TV nga morag nagpasamot lang sa gibati sa tigulang.


“Tara, Lo,” giagda ni Dodoy ang iyang Lolo nga magpahuway na. Kamulo kinig pikpik sa iyang likod. “Okay na, Lo. Wa nay makapasakit nimo diri, ta na.”


Gi-alalayan ni Dodoy si Lolo Temio nga inanay makatikang ngadto sa iyang lawak-katulganan. Usa pa man sila makasulod milukop sa ilang balay ang tingog sa Pilipinong news anchor:


“…Ito ang unang pagkakataon sa kasaysayan ng China na isinagawa ang selebrasyon ng ‘Guóqìng jié’ sa Pilipinas at dinaluhan ng lahat ng nasa sentral komite ng CPC…Balik sa inyo sa studio.”


Insigidang mihunong si Lolo Temio diha sa ganghaan sa iyang kwarto. Nakabatig kabalaka si Dodoy sa kalit nga paghunong sa tigulang. “Lo?”


“Kinsa ka? Unsa gani to imong ngalan?”


Si Angelito (Gil) Nambatac Jr usa ka lumulupyo sa Dakbayan sa Iligan ug kasamtangang naghuman sa kursong Masters in Culture and Arts Studies (MCAS) sa MSU-Iligan Institute of Technology. Sakop sa sumusunod nga hugpong sa mga magsusulat: BATHALAD-Mindanao ug Tigsugilon. Link for bio: