Paingon, Pauli (Part One)

Fiction by | April 5, 2021

Bisan layo pa ang piggery trak ni ‘Nong Boyet, dungog na ni Bernard ang saba niini. Sa halos adlaw-adlaw niyang sakay niini sa upat ka tuig niya sa hayskul, nasayod na siya sa matag detalye sa saba sa trak: ang kagang-kagang ug tayaong makina nga daw gi-asthma, ang agiik sa ligid nga galugos og subida, ang iwik sa mga baboy sa likod sa trak.

Kon madungog na gani kini ni Bernard, dayon siyang mutindog ug mukapkap sa iyang bag aron siguraduong wala siya’y nalimtang gamit: notebook, ID, balonan, cellphone, ug guna nga hangtod karon ginapadala pa gihapon sa ilang maestro sa TLE aron gamiton sa gardening.

Apan karong adlawa, si Bernard wala nagdalag bag.

Iya rang gibitbit ang pinilo nga toga, ang kalo sa graduation, ug ang kodigo sa ilang kantahong graduation song. Mas puti iyang uniporme, mas plantsado ang slacks, ug mas sinaw ang hinirmang itom nga sapatos nga gisudlan pa gyod niyag kinumot nga dyaryo aron muiho ra gyod sa iyang mga tiil.

Nihunong sa iyang tungod ang piggery trak ni ‘Nong Boyet.

Ang katiguwangon ni ‘Nong Boyet daw sama sa gidrayban niining trak: gaubo, pasmado ang kamot, ug lugos makakita kung dili niini ipiyong ang mga mata.

Ang piggery trak dili iyaha. Panag-iya kini sa tiguwang nga intsik nga adunay dakong babuyan sa ilang Sitio. Apan sa pila ka tuig nga pagdrayb ni ‘Nong Boyet niini, nahimo na pud kini niyang personal nga sakyanan. Naniguwang na pud siya dungan ang trak.

“Oy, Bernard!” ni ‘Nong Boyet samtang gi-abrihan ang purtahan sa front seat. “Pagpagi nang lingkuranan dong kay na, maabugan ‘nya nang imong uniporme. Hastang puti-a ra ba.”

Nagkatawa si Bernard samtang gasaka sa sakyanan. “Maayong buntag, ‘kol. Mao na gyud ni ‘kol.”

“Mao na gyud ni, dong.”

Nilarga ang sakyanan.

“Nagdala ka’g pahumot? Basin manimaho kag tae sa graduation.”

Nangatawa silang duha. Ang katawa ni ‘Nong Boyet natapos sa usa ka hutoy.

Sa paglabay sa panahon, naanad na si Bernard sa baho sa mga baboy. Niadtong una, mao gyod ni ang rason nganong dili gusto makisakay si Bernard sa piggery trak bisan pa og ma-late na siya. Dili siya gusto munaog nga manimahog baboy. Apan nihit gyod ang sakyanan nga gaagi paingon sa ilang Sitio. Ang dyip pirme gahunong – bisan kahoy hunungan – hangtod mapuno kini. Ang habal-habal, dili mularga kon dili kini muguot, hangtod sa lubot na lang ang magpabiling gakapyot. Mahal ra sab mupakyaw. Maong napugsan si Bernard usa ka adlaw nga musakay sa piggery trak.

Si ‘Nong Boyet maoy namugos niya. Sa iyang kauwaw, ginapahunong na ni Bernard ang trak wala pa lang kini kaabot sa eskuylahan. Dili siya gustong makita sa iyang mga klasmeyt nga gasakay niini. Apan kinaugmaan, gihinungan na pud siya ni ‘Nong Boyet, ug kinaugmaan pa. Hangtod naanad na lang si Bernard ug anam-anam nga duol sa eskuylahan ipahunong ang trak.

“Mag-speech ka ‘dong? Naa kay honor?” pangutana ni ‘Nong Boyet.

“Wa ‘kol oy. Usa ra’y ribbon nako. Graduate.”

Nihutoy og katawa si ‘Nong Boyet.

“Duha diay. Naa pay ribbon sa parent diri o.”

“Basta nakagradweyt,” ni ‘Nong Boyet. “Muapas ra imong mama?”

“Maoy ingon niya, ‘kol.”

Apan sa tinuod, wala kasiguro si Bernard kung makaapas pa gyud ang iyang mama.

(To be continued…)

***
Reil teaches Calculus. He lives in Davao City.

Awtopsiya

Poetry by | March 15, 2021

Hindi umiigkas na bala ang iyong naririnig kundi ang kikislot-kislot niyang laman. Hindi laman ang sinisiyasat ng iyong nanginginig na kamay kundi takot na tinutuklap ang lalim ng kanyang balat. Hindi takot ang pumapalahaw sa loob nitong malamlam na silid kundi dalamhati ng inang naulila, napagkit sa kanyang nakatiwangwang na dibdib. Hindi dalamhati ang iyong nadaratnan kundi kanyang anino, kasama mong nakamasid sa katawan. Hindi anino ang natitistis ng iyong metal na kasangkapan kundi kanyang kaluluwa, nanlilimos ng mga mata. Halughugin mo man ang bodega ng kanyang konsensiya, hindi mo mahahanap ang sagot kung sa paanong paraan siya nanlaban. Mababaklas mo ang lahat ng katotohanan.


Leo Cosmiano Baltar studies BA Journalism at the University of the Philippines in Diliman. Their articles can be found in Tinig ng Plaridel, while their poems have appeared in The New Verse News, Hong Kong Protesting, Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine, and elsewhere. They hail from Sultan Kudarat, Mindanao.

Weave (First of two parts)

Nonfiction by | March 15, 2021

I start to count the years since I came to Manila for work. How the walls in my rented room went through five repaints of eggshell white. The paint can only attempt to cover the fact that I live in a building where my mother used to stay when she went to college. It is a different structure now, having gone through several refurbishing, including changes in the establishment’s name. But it is still situated in the same area as in 1981 when my parents, who were in their late teens, were wed.

 

I listen to Fleetwood Mac, trying to interpret the lyrics of “Landslide” in my head again. Stevie Nicks’s voice has a certain calmness to it that makes me want to sit down and ponder about being bolder in my decisions.

 

I learned to adapt by myself. True, I was born in Quezon City. We left for the province for good when I was going on four after my father completed his degree. However, I have been living on my own these days; no longer the kid that I was when we lived in Lerma Street.

 

I was fifteen when I actually left Malabang for university in Davao. I have never come back home permanently. I carry around with me my father’s enthusiasm and my mother’s prudence. These virtues make me constantly remember who I am as a daughter of Malabang and as a descendant of one of Lanao del Sur’s oldest families. Tucked in my pockets are faint memories of my early childhood in Sampaloc. There are fleeting moments when I cannot decide where to put my loyalties—in the city of my birth or in the region of my heritage. Whatever happens though, I will tell myself I may come from different places but at the end of the day, I remain a Maranao.

 

People say I speak with a Manileño accent now. I say I may have some occasional slips. I casually walk the streets with my hijab on. I can tell when a tricycle driver overcharges fare. I became friends with the LBC attendants in Bustillos. I go to the same street in Quiapo where you can buy sasati[1] at a cheap price. I know when is the best time to leave Roxas Boulevard before you get stuck in the traffic rush. I look forward to January and February when it is the coldest.


 

Basa (Language)

 

My first language was Tagalog, just as it was for all of my younger siblings. It was most likely the environment that influenced my parents to make me speak Tagalog first.  It is quite different for my younger siblings who were born in Iligan City. Three of them still use Tagalog as their primary language so do some of my younger cousins. Although it may not be the Tagalog that is spoken here in Manila, those siblings and cousins still speak Tagalog.

 

I certainly speak Maranao on a regular basis with my parents and the rest of the family, friends, and strangers who speak to me in our tongue. I also speak fluent Bisaya just like everyone in my hometown. In Malabang, we have cultural harmony. Maranaos there speak excellent Bisaya as if it has always been our first language. Our fellow Christians on the other hand talk to you in Maranao so flawlessly you would think they were born as Maranaos.

 

One time, a friend insisted Malabang is “christianized,” and therefore is some sort of a half-breed municipality. I did not understand because I was raised in a town where fiestas and beauty contests are held flamboyantly but the adhan[2] is heard consistently and beautifully at the designated hours of the day. Bisaya was also the same language spoken in Davao and Cagayan de Oro where I studied my undergraduate course and law school. This is perhaps the reason why my “occasional slips” are mostly caused by “binisaya accents.”

 

At the office, the fondest thing told me was that I am a “Bisayang Muslim.”

 

It gets tricky though when I switch from one language to another. For instance, I answer “Oway,” which means “yes” in Maranao to somebody who asks, “Kumain ka na ba?” or “Wala pa lagi,” which means “not yet” in Bisaya. Let me throw in some “Wen ngarud” for constantly hearing some friends and officemates speak Ilokano. I have discovered that some Ilokano words are quite close to Maranao terms, including emphasis on some syllables that sound angry to ears not used to hearing passion and force in phrases and sentences.

 

Language is very much fascinating to me. In UP, I had Nihongo and French as course electives. I can still understand some “hai” and “yokatta” here and there or a little bit of “oui, s’il vous plait.” I wish I pursued learning Japanese and French harder than just getting a passing mark. I am likewise learning Italian through a phone application that reminds of progress by the day. Juggling letters and words in different languages is exhilarating, offering me windows where I can explore beyond the “5 Ws and   1 H” of Lanao del Sur.

 

On the other hand, Arabic is closer to home. It is expected of Muslims to know how to read Arabic in order to recite the Qur’an. I can fairly read verses and scripts, having gone to Madrasah during my elementary years. However, I quit Arabic school too soon to learn diacritics. I rely on familiarity in order to identify phonetics, vowels, and consonants. Mastering diacritical marks takes time.

 

Please do not ask me about speaking Arabic. I have not yet learned to speak the Islamic language. I think it is not too much trouble if I leave it all to my brother, Alrahji, who studies at the Islamic University of Madinah. He mastered guttural sounds and speaks like a true Arab man it makes us giggle.

 

I remember my professors in the UP Creative Writing program who suggested I write in Maranao.      I fear my knowledge of the language is not enough. I cannot even manage to say the “proper” words in specific situations. I gave in to my Omie’s[3] sharp criticism of the expressions I thought were correct but turned out mispronounced or simply inappropriate. Once, I told my Abie[4]of my plans to write in Maranao. He firmly said it would be difficult for me and that I should not venture into matters that are outside my capacity as a writer. Especially not at the expense of the basa-a-Maranao. But while I admit to being linguistically impaired on the subject, it is my hope that I will not be seen as a traitor to my own heritage. When I was growing up, my parents forbade me to read Tagalog materials for my leisure. They instead fed me English books and magazines that filled my stomach to the fullest, I burped with pleasure.

 

When I was around nine, my maternal grandma said in one of her family speeches that Islam encourages continuous learning—one that is beneficial to you and to others around you. I kept that in mind as I consciously left Malabang to satiate my yearning to learn anything that nudges my curiosity.

 

-to be continued-

 

[1] fish nuggets

[2] call for prayer

[3] Arabic term for “mother”

[4] Arabic term for “father”

 


 Arifah Macacua Jamil writes short stories. “Weave” is her first essay.

 

Afternoon Quarantine

Poetry by | March 8, 2021

It was almost dusk.
Filled with lethargy
and sitting on a carapace-themed chair,
I resigned.
I creatively died.

My core muscle aching.
My spirit wasted.
My corporal presence,
a washed, crumpled paperback coupon booklet,
is thrown into a bin.

Dazed and confused,
I look at the octothorpe-themed clock.
(tick, tick, tick, tick)
I then realized that the hours fade away
leaving me motionless and desolate.

As I lifelessly consume chips while on the couch,
An army of ants start their death march from their nest
heading towards my couch in search
for worthless morsels that fall into the ground

My mind feels hollower than an octothorpe on Twitter.
It keeps on numerously bootlegging original yet banal ideas.
I tried to sketch an exact replica of Michelangelo’s ‘Mona Lisa’
But turned out to sketch Kirk Van Houten’s ‘Dignity’.

I further attempted
to reinvigorate my moribund self
by consuming a plate of eggplant omelette
as I believed that through its nutritional benefits,
I will be rejuvenated.

But Alas, it instead turned my mind
into a peristeronic state,
vanilla like a pigeon’s dropping
or eggplant leaves in the summer
that wilt when unnurtured for.

My sense of creative sensibility is watering down
evoking a reverse Cana
turning wine into water
or from Sauvignon Blanc to plain cane vinegar.

I tried to out-muscle my physical limitation.
The atmosphere’s lethargy
however, chewed my motivation,
leaving me mentally immobilized and
also rendering me without a muscle nor a limb
to move or to spare.

***


David Paolo Brigole graduated at the University of Winnepeg with a BA English degree. He grew up and studied in Davao City during his primary years. His passion for poetry stemmed from when he used to play with words as a toddler. He is also passionate about drawing bizarre and beautiful objects and loves to indulge in gastrointestinal delights.

The Journey of Harriet Pat and Her Hat

Nonfiction by | March 8, 2021

Several years ago, I was uncertain where to begin my writing journey. Diving into the writing rollercoaster was overwhelming. Just imagine balancing balls of your ideas with what the reading market wants versus what the publishers expect, navigating the publishing industry, and securing the stability of your finances all in one act. At one point, you will be strained to make a decision and you might end up dropping one ball or two. The question is which one are you willing to sacrifice?

 

In my case, there was no doubt that I was keeping my ideas. I wanted my books to sell but I was more resolved in shaping up the stories in my head. I was unwilling to sacrifice the idea of writing the kind of children’s books that came to me ten years ago while reading to kindergarten students. During that time, I found myself nitpicking the books I used in my reading-aloud sessions. I entertained so many ‘unta’ (the closest translation was ‘I wish’). I wished that the book sizes were larger. I wished that they used bigger fonts that young learners can identify and teachers can read with ease. I wished that they used more vibrant colours. I wished rhythm and rhyme were applied. But my biggest ‘unta’ was wishing for serious life skills to be tackled as I have always believed that children were more perceptive than what we gave them credit for. It was frustrating how adults continued to think that we can put off revealing the harsh realities of our world to children, leaving them vulnerable when these realities hit them on moments when we were not around. As much as we wanted to shield them, children were bound to encounter these realities at some point. I felt that it was best to prepare them early on.

 

During that same period, I was specifically moved by someone very close to me who was pouring himself to make things possible for other people. It broke my heart how he sacrificed everything and left nothing for himself. Back then, I wished that he would hold back even just a little and also take care of himself as he was dangerously enabling others to rely on him so much. The more I thought of him, the more people came to mind. He was not alone. I knew so many others like him who were in the same predicament and who also never had the heart to say ‘no’ or ‘stop’ to those who repeatedly asked for help, to the point that they were taken advantage of.

It was while I was reflecting on how one’s excessive kindliness could breed dependency and subservience that Harriet Pat and Her Hat began to take form. Most children’s books would dabble into the values of helping others but will not dare touch that part of the narrative that discussed the possibility of ‘help’ being exploited. Adults would argue that children are not ready for these topics and such values can be taught later. At a mature age, restructuring values can become tricky however it can go a long way if introduced while still young. The best feature of children’s literature is converting big serious topics into more relatable or easier-to-digest messages by using the lens of a child. With the play of simple words and the lightness that illustrations offer, readers will become more receptive and the said topics will not materialize as being too heavy for children to comprehend.

 

My main character, Harriet Pat, was inspired by that loved one and all other people who selflessly helped others but have forgotten about themselves. These real-life Harriet Pats were heroes but what I really wanted was for people around these Harriet Pats to realize that anyone can be a hero by harnessing their uniqueness (and sometimes they just needed to be shown how). In the book, this uniqueness was represented by a hat – an object that can be made and then put on or taken off, thus an acquired characteristic that a person would consciously choose to create and wear.

 

I elaborated the concept further by injecting diversity with the use of varied names. The decision to use names that were ‘common’ in their respective regions came with the hope of emphasizing that every person was unique. I imagined that this can be a window of opportunity for acknowledging different cultural backgrounds where curiosity can pave the way for new knowledge. Maybe after being introduced to such names, readers will start wondering where they came from, what the people there were like, and what languages they used. They would become curious about other cultures and understand that each person is blessed with a set of characteristics that he or she can utilize for himself or herself.

 

Although I had most of the components set in place, completing Harriet Pat and Her Hat took several years to finish because I had many excuses and dilly-dallied on my decisions out of fear. I was immobilized by my doubts about whether people, other than my family, would be interested to read my book and by how others would perceive it. It was in my 9th year of playing around with the writing project that I finally decided to get the manuscript published. If there was anything that 2020 taught me, it was to stop putting things off and start making things happen. From there on, everything was a blur of movement. My only regret now is that I wasted more time worrying about my book’s reception than the actual time for work that I invested in creating it. On the bright side, this regret is fueling my drive to finish my next children’s book which again will dabble into a big serious topic such as depression.

 


Daniel Ceeline Ramonal,  is a Filipino dance anthropologist, artist, and writer currently based in Serbia. She completed a Bachelor of Arts in Speech Communication from the University of the Philippines and an International Masters in Dance Knowledge, Practice, and Heritage under the Erasmus Mundus Choreomundus program in Europe. She collaborates on various projects which have taken her from the Philippines to Bahrain, India, Tanzania, Hungary, Sierra Leone, France, UK, Morocco, and UAE. To get copies of Harriet Pat and Her Hat, the book is available in both physical and online shops of Central Books. Visit the FB page “The Book Den” for more information.

First sign of land

Poetry by | March 1, 2021

It’s not the flight
nor the landing, not
the wind
slightly fried slapping
at a chapped lip. In the upwind,
the hawk hovers
over new ground
for opportunity, the tides
of its lonely heart bared
against the elements. No,

not the humidity, the sudden
bright but the body. The skin
prickles like a tropical fruit
ripe from sun and swelling
of earth. It is, first,
the tongue flexing,
inside its shell, remembering
the brine that bore
its atrophied heart. From memory,
it calls green by names familiar –
lubi, tanglad, alugbati.
The kamunggay sheds gold
confetti in the rising winds,
home, land
at first sight.


Zola Macarambon is a professor at the Language, Humanities, and Philosophy Department, Capitol University in her hometown Cagayan de Oro City. She has fiction and poetry awarded, commended, and published in various national and international publications.

Words Keep Me (In)Sane: I Count Time By My Mania

Nonfiction by | March 1, 2021

Work 1: this sound is all that lingers, 2.4k words, Pining, No Dialogue

 

Everybody fears the outside. I write of storms, where the thunder and lightning are free to do as they please, where they reach places I’m afraid to want to visit again. I draft my first sentence in the middle of March during the lockdown, when school said we’ll be back by April 12 to have final examinations. Nobody cared, we just wanted to graduate. I draft my first paragraph, I’m still afraid. Teachers are silent even through online chats, and we are left to fend for ourselves. I turn to open a Word document, determined to at least add another word as testament to my nostalgia.

 

Pining: I want. There are relationships lost, conversations halted by distance, hands unheld, aches that I’m hoping are just strictly platonic; but how do I know which one to want first? Am I even given that much liberty? I’m aware I want so much that I still long for. How does one turn feelings into words? You don’t. You slap paper against your chest and hope the words bleed through your skin enough so they’d show in the print. No Dialogue: I have no one to talk to. This is evident in my drafts. The conversations are awkward, I have forgotten how one talks to people, Practice Makes Perfect but I don’t have anyone else.

 

“This sound is all that lingers” is the story proof of my maddening loneliness, my first supposed-upload, but I didn’t finish writing the story in March.

 

Work 2: summer all year round, 4.4k words, Pining

 

I turn 18. Does one choose celebration over limiting the budget so the family would last another week? I turn 18 and I pass UPCAT and some of my friends cry over their own rejections. I turn 18 and there is no pancit, no noodles, no anything that wishes me longevity. I’m lonely and afraid and I finish my first story and I upload it through a weak mobile data connection. I’m afraid. The story’s about wanting relationships and it reeks so much of longing the feeling urges me to immediately start drafting another story.

 

Pining, yet again: These are all the leftover wants I’ve kept buried. Part of these are thoughts of hands holding mine. I think of showing these wants to the world, of coaxing my vulnerability so it comes out to burn under the sun.

 

I finish and upload both stories.

 

Work 3: Take Him Mad, 5.3k words, Greek Myths

 

I start reading Donna Tartt’s The Secret History in hopes of distracting myself. I don’t listen to the news. The television stays off to reduce the bills— no internet connection, no means of reaching out. I have nothing but words and words and a surplus more of words. I find that I grow tired of it easily, that mothers are angered more easily when they’re alone and tired, that you can go mad without going insane; I find myself learning more reading more writing more.

 

Works 4, 5, 6: Greek Myths, a total of 27.3k words

 

“What about the internet connection?” “Don’t worry, I’ll think of something.” The next day, our neighbor—my godmother, who remembered me only when I said I had passed UPCAT—gives me a piece of paper with a scribbled code and wishes me luck on college. I start classes and my hair is a blaze of orange dye. I hoped nobody would mind and they didn’t, and I don’t know why but I was a little disappointed. My mind has been empty for so long I struggled to wrap it around the fact that I’m studying again. My mother has a job now: she cooks for someone wealthier in the subdivision and she can afford all the pancit and spaghetti dishes I could ever want as compensation for their absence on my birthday. I don’t want any of them now. Every time she goes out I think of a better alternative to the simple “Take care.” I look for words and prayers that would protect her more than any masks could.

 

Thumbs aching and phone overheating, I know I obsess only because I write under a pseudonym, that I’m maniacally loud only because I have this mask. I learn that my case is called “touch starvation.” I’ve uploaded so many words in less than a couple of months. Writing has become a hobby, a love, and an ache. It keeps me awake long enough to write of the sunrises I witness through my window.

 

Work 7: Hymn Him Sun, Greek Myths, (?) words—Ongoing

 

I go online. I meet other writers and befriend other writers and find happiness with other writers. They’re all older than me but no one mocks me for writing fantasy fiction. They know we’re all in need of escapism, and we offer each other just that. I eat more and my mother is happier and I encounter a plot hole I can’t seem to solve. But despite the busyness I find myself in a state of lethargy, and I just can’t seem to make time for writing anymore. This is trouble; I have readers now. I have comments saying they are waiting for the next installment.

 

I like my course. I get to do what I’ve wanted to do for two years now. But even through this achievement, I’m still afraid and nervous and unsure. There are too many things going on and I’ve been too used to doing nothing. Characters stare at me from the drafts and I turn a blind eye, because I have to write other things now, because I have to prioritize academe now.

 

Everything’s emotionally and mentally the same except for the fact that I now know it hadn’t been platonic aching all along! It took me months to realize that I did not want just platonic hand-holding! I let out a laugh, bitter and cold and a little too throaty to be of mirth. For I honestly thought writing would help me, but I fear it has only served as a self-brewed concoction of what I have been missing. I’ve been tasting my own medicine this whole time.

 

But I am a writer, and in that I have not changed. The awareness of your own cowardice doesn’t magically turn it into courage. Guess what my latest work is about. I think the answer’s clear. Nothing has truly changed, after all, for still I long, I pine, I write.


Blessie Bruce is a BA English-Creative Writing student of UP Mindanao and a content writer specializing in real-person fiction as an outlet for writing exercises. Her work can be read on the website AO3 (Archive of Our Own).

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.