Fellows to the 2019 Davao Writers Workshop Announced

Editor's Note | October 7, 2019

The Davao Writers Guild is pleased to announce that fifteen (15) writers from various parts of Mindanao are this year’s fellows to the 2019 Davao Writers Workshop, to be held this October 31, 2019 to November 4, 2019, at Casa Leticia Boutique Hotel, J. Camus St., Davao City.

Workshop Director Jeffrey Javier and Deputy Director Gracielle Tubera released the official announcement on the acceptance of the following:

For Fiction

Liane Carlo R. Suelan (Davao City)
Jasmin C. Arcega (Davao City)
Marylie E. Noran (Digos City)
David F. Madriaga (Isulan, Sultan Kudarat)
Raphael Luis J. Salise (Davao City)

For Poetry

Sunshine C. Angcos (Davao City)
Mary Divine C. Escleto (General Santos City)
Chris John Reeve A. Dela Torre (Dapa, Surigao del Norte)
Renner A. Sasil (Iligan City)
Tara Yakob O. Montiflor (Davao City)
Marielle Angela C. Pagoto (Tagum City)

For Creative Nonfiction
Khamille Ann A. Linsag (Mati City)
Samaira T. Guro (Davao City)
Hannah Joy T. Luyao (Cagayan de Oro City)

For Drama
Sean Jhon C. Anecio (Dapitan City)

This year’s panelists are Macario D. Tiu, John Bengan, Errol Merquita, Lualhati Abreu, Jay Jomar Quintos, Lakan Umali, Michael Aaron Gomez, Ria Valdez, Nathan Go, and Farrah Virador. Cagayan de Oro writer Lina Sagaral-Reyes is returning as this year’s guest panelist and keynote speaker for the workshop’s opening program on October 31, 2019, 9:00 AM.

The workshop is open to those who are interested to listen to the discussions and learn from the panelists’ craft lectures.

The 2019 Davao Writers Workshop is organized in cooperation with the University of the Philippines Mindanao.


Fiction by | October 7, 2019

Pinagmamalaki ko ang itay ko! Bakit? Kasi marami siyang kwentong barbero. Malamang, barbero siya e. Sa dinami-rami pa naman ng kanyang ginugupitan araw-araw, marami na siyang istoryang nakalap. Bawat kostumer, may tsismis. Ngunit ang nakapagpapasaya na usap-usapan sa kanya nang lubusan? Ang tungkol sa kanyang galing sa paggupit.

Nakakahamangha si itay sa bawat seryosong tingin niya sa tamang anggulo ng gupit ng kanyang ginugupitan. Nakakaaliw tingnan ang kanyang malilikot na kamay at daliri sa kakagupit at kakasuklay ng mga hibla ng buhok. Nakakatuwa ang bawat ngiti niya kapag nakukuha niya nang sakto ang gusto niyang kahihinatnan sa kanyang obra. Oo, ito ay kanyang obra. Obrang gawa sa kamay. Obrang gawa sa pawis. Obrang gawa sa bahing. Obrang gawa sa kati. Obrang gawa ni itay.

Subalit iyon lahat ay naging isang kwentong barbero na lamang.

Hindi na marunong gumupit si itay. Dalawampu’t-limang taon na ako ngayon. Sampung taon na rin nung huli ko siyang nakitang humawak ng gunting na panggupit. Ang kanyang mga gamit pambarbero ay nakatago na lahat sa kanyang silid. Hindi na siya nagtatrabaho… ngayon. Hindi na siya barbero… ngayon. Nawala na ang kanyang angking galing sa paggugupit. Nakalimutan na niya lahat.

Nakalimutan na niya.

Araw ng Linggo, wala akong trabaho sa ospital. Kaya sinama ko si itay mamasyal. Pumunta kami sa isang peryahan. Doon ay nagliwaliw kami nang sobra. Sinakyan namin halos lahat ng rides doon nang magkasabay. Naglaro pa si itay ng baril-barilan kung saan kung may matamaan kang target ay iyon ang iyong premyo. Napatawa pa nga ako dahil ang natamaan niya ay isang wig. Magkasabay din kaming kumain ng hapunan doon pa rin sa peryahan. Maraming natutuwa sa amin kasi magkamukha kami ni itay, siguro ay dahil sa parehas kami ng damit, nga lang may suot akong bonnet. Lapitin din kami ng mga babae nang mga panahon na iyon. Napapatawa nalang kami ni itay.

Kalat na ang dilim nang pagpasyahan naming umuwi na, pero umangal ako. May pupuntahan pa kami. Saan? Sa barber shop ni itay.

Continue reading Gunting

In the Open Water

Poetry by | October 6, 2019

I’ve paddled for too long, have
gotten sucked in whirlpools of grief,
maelstroms that are not mine.
The boat has capsized and my lungs are
life jackets, my tongue, an oar,
my body a raft and an anchor.
There is no telling in the water
where I’m about to go, only,
that I am always going, until moored.

(I was holding the moon inside me
when the ocean had invited me over.
Now I don’t remember why I stay
And yet, like the waves that go back and forth
I do, I do, I do, I do, I do,…)

David Jayson Oquendo is an Electrical Engineer based in Davao City, Philippines.


Nonfiction by | September 22, 2019

I have always been blessed with good hair – thick, straight, silky. I’ve never dyed it my whole life for I love its natural color – like pitch-black night, like charcoal.

“Ipa-opaw nimo ini lang? Nanga baya? Kinahanglan gayud? Ay ay kasayang isab,” Kuya Rho asked, quite distressed when I told him to have it skinhead.


“It’s okay Kuya, just like last time- it’s alopecia or hair loss. I am undergoing chemotherapy again. It’s really necessary to shave it all off as it is getting messy – my hair falling out everywhere – in my bed, pillow, t-shirt,” I replied.

Kuya Rho seemed to forget that this is the second time he shaved my head off. The first time was nine months ago, during my initial diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma – a common cancer in my age bracket starting in infection fighting cells called lymphocytes that grew out of control. Alopecia is no longer a stranger to me for I have witnessed it happen to my aunt who succumbed to breast cancer about seven months ago. She was 66 years old. The day she shaved her head off, her hair was still intact, alopecia has not started yet. The doctor advised her to shave it as early as possible so she will get used to not seeing it for a while. Before we went to the salon, she combed her hair while looking at herself in the mirror and said in a small voice, “I guess I will stop using you for a while”, referring to her comb. I pretended I didn’t hear her but hearing what she said broke my heart.

Cancer as portrayed mostly in television and movies show someone lying in a hospital bed, tubes in hands, legs or nose, bald, skinny and with a pale complexion and dark circles under the eyes. My Aunt Nelda’s battle against cancer is almost like that taking away tubes in the picture. Her body deteriorated each day. Her muscles shrunk, lumps were found all over, her bones became weak and the length of her left leg is longer than her right leg. Worst of all, her eyesight weakened to the point that the only thing she can see is a speck of light. She could no longer recognize anyone’s face and in order to know who she is talking to, she would need to listen carefully to the sound of the person’s voice and when she fails to recognize it, she would ask the name. When in deep pain, my Aunt Nelda prayed even more.

Cancer indeed is vicious but through the scientific advancements that are enjoyed today, treatments are available and the earlier the diagnosis, the higher the chances for it to be treated. Unfortunately for my aunt, she underwent chemotherapy already at stage IV. She completed the first line treatment but needed further chemotherapy after her cancer didn’t go away completely. When I was put into a similar situation, after finishing the first line chemotherapy for six months and three months after, my symptoms came back- my temperature went up to 39 degrees Celsius every day, I have night sweats and my hemoglobin dropped that I needed to have Epoietin injection once a week, I almost gave up but it was the memory of my aunt’s faith and courage that helped me continue. That is why when my doctor told me that I needed further chemotherapy; I took a deep breath and welcome alopecia again.

Continue reading Alopecia


Poetry by | September 15, 2019

In church, my God hangs
half-naked, stuck
to a wooden cross.
In front of him
is a sea of heads.
The fans attached to their hands
swivel back and forth;
gusts of air
gently dry off sweat
from their overdressed bodies.

In church, my God is a disk
as small as a thumbnail.
The hands that receive Him
are decorated in gold, silver,
and dirt. His taste is far from
godly. His heavenly crisp
is softened when he rests
on our ungrateful tongues.

In church, my God hangs
stuck to a wooden cross.
His gaze is always fixed.
He does not go anywhere
even when the seats He faces
become empty.


Koko is a graduate of Ateneo de Davao University. He is currently a public school teacher. He loves vanilla-flavored smoothies.



The Goldfinch 

Poetry by | September 15, 2019

after Carel Fabritius’s The Goldfinch (c.1654)

Chained to the feedbox
That is nailed against the day-
Light-plastered, unadorned,

Yellow wall, the goldfinch
Looks out at us, its grave
Gaze unflinching as a hill.

See the sun’s glare?
It is the grin stretched across
The face. The chain, the black-

Obsidian, rain-swollen
Clouds shrouded at the crys-
Talline sky. This taut knot

Is sewn on Earth’s palm.
You are within this world’s
Grasp. You, too, are the bird.



Michael John Otanes, 24, was born and raised in General Santos City, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in English at Mindanao State University. He is a fellow for Poetry in the 2018 Davao Writers Workshop.

At the Transom Window

Nonfiction by | September 15, 2019

A transom window is a framework made of wood or metal that is built into a wall just below the roof. In post-colonial Philippine Architecture, a transom has ornamental moldings with holes carved through to allow light passage and proper ventilation. It is usually installed in the living room on the top of a 10-feet tall wall. One needs to use a ladder or can levitate to reach the transom.

I used to rent a space with such post-colonial Philippine Architecture. I shared the space with two other women renters, but I stayed in a separate room. One of the renters was a former secretary who had to stop her work because she was under chemotherapy for kidney cancer. The two women belong to the same Seventh day Adventist Church.

Two weeks into my stay there, a new lady joined us. The owner of the house, herself a breast cancer survivor, needed a new cleaning lady. This cleaning lady looked very interesting. She had thin lips that allowed her big teeth to cover most of her face whenever she managed a smile. Her long black hair matched the deep dark color of her eyes. She was a 5-foot-tall woman in her fifties. Her name was Ate Liling.

Every day, Ate Liling would bring me biko. She said that I needed to eat because I was very thin. But I wasn’t a fan of the food she offered, so I left it to rot. Ate Liling didn’t like this lack of attention so she would visit me every so often just to chat.

Sometimes, Ate Liling would tell me tales about her family. She missed them so much.

Once, I asked where they were. She said they were gone. They died a tragic death. She said that food served from a wak-wak transformed them into such local beasts so the people in her community hunted and burned them to ashes. Ate Liling was a very good storyteller. Often, as she laid down the details of her past, I would find myself wandering into the darkness of her eyes convinced of the madness. As soon as she noticed that I was drawn into her tale, Ate Liling would laugh so hard, her face smothered by her big set of teeth. If I didn’t understand her humor, I would have thought that Ate Liling was deranged. “You know what wak-wak wants?” she would ask,”they want to feed on fresh babies. But sick people are tasty to them, too.” Her stories were wild, so I gathered that she probably had a traumatic childhood.

Continue reading At the Transom Window

Home (Part 2)

Fiction by | September 8, 2019

They were having dinner at home later that evening. Aunt Laura had prepared bihon and fried tuna. Alegria made a joke about politicians, which caused Uncle Reyes to spill bits of bihon on his shirt. They were eating and laughing together. Then Tristan said, “I want to go back to Zamboanga.”

“Are you tired?” Alegria said. “Do you miss it there?”

“I just want to go home,” Tristan said.

“Don’t act like a child,” Alegria said. “It’s better to visit Mom and Dad in November. You still have classes. And I’m busy with work.”

They did not understand. Tristan again stuffed a large amount into his mouth, that he could not completely close it while chewing. “One at a time, Tristan!” Aunt Laura reprimanded. “Equal to the size of the spoon.”

“He’s not a child anymore, Laura,” Uncle Reyes said.

“He sure is acting like one.”

Tristan dropped his spoon loudly on the table, which only Alegria noticed.

“Hey!” Alegria said. “What’s the matter with you? Stop saying nonsense like that. Finish your food.”

Then the anger of Tristan was kindled against his sister. “Who attacked our city?!” Tristan shouted. Uncle Reyes stopped midway, and Aunt Laura, drinking water, spilled some on her neck. “Wasn’t it the MNLF? They separated us from mom and dad. Aren’t you angry at all?”

Continue reading Home (Part 2)