Poetry by | January 17, 2022

Waiting on a bench at Big Tom’s,
I watch the child riding a thin wooden horse,
staring at his own reflection in the mirror before him,
one hand holding a lollipop to his mouth.

The buzzing hair clipper starts grazing
the back of his head. And then against his sideburns
running its cold metal base up his scalp
in a slow, even motion,
following the shape of his head.

When I was his age, wide-eyed and baby powdered,
my father would bring me to Mr. Uy’s,
a cheap, run-down barbershop,
the one with dull scissor blades
and a hair clipper that stung
when hot metal base touched the skin.

As soon as the elderly barber
draped the white cape around my shoulders,
he would tip my head slightly forward
pressing the clipper shakily on my nape,
moving it upward along the back of my head.
No wooden horse, no lollipop to lure me there.
I could’ve jumped out of the barber chair,
and screamed my way out.

Now I come here alone and sit up straight on my seat
stiff as a Chinese ear picker.
I sit on my fear that if I move a little
the barber might snip off my ear
and I would bleed to death,
the voice of my father inside my head
cursing me for giving his words of advice
a deaf ear.

Chris David F. Lao lives in Davao City. He earned his BA in English Creative Writing degree from UP Mindanao and MA in English degree from Ateneo de Davao University. His works have appeared in Mindanao Harvest 4: A 21stCentury Literary Anthology.

Temple Visit

Poetry by | August 18, 2013

Entering Longhua temple the first time,
I pause to take pictures of the fat Buddha.
Three twittering birds perch atop his head.
I thought it must tickle him and yet
he sits perfectly still on a lotus pedestal—
right leg raised, right hand resting on his knee,
rolling mala beads between his fingers
all day, an icon of concentration.
Today, soft sunlight illuminates his face—
placid as the pond below him
where fish flash glimmering fins and tails
in hues of tangerine and lemon
circling round and round in still water.
Day after day, he smiles and sits in welcome
as though content to hear birdcalls in trees,
the whistle of a kettle, the tinkle of wind chimes
hanging by the doorway,
or the sudden silence of the afternoon
after an airplane passes overhead.
Tonight, his gaze reaches distant stars.
He must be thinking of an old craftsman
in a small fishing village in Fujian Province
whose calloused hands chiseled him fat and full
of warmth and love.
His heart has shunned hunger since then,
desiring all, desiring none.

Chris David F. Lao studied Creative Writing in UP Mindanao. He was a fellow for poetry in the 2011 Davao Writers Workshop.


Play by | August 4, 2013

Mga Tauhan:
Rick, 25, nars, nagtrabaho sa call center pero agad nag-resign
Nimfa, 28, pulubi, nagkukunwaring bulag
Mga taong dumadaan

Hapon. Sa labas ng simbahan. Sa may bangketa. May lata sa harap ng nakaupong pulubi. Tumutugtog siya gamit ang harmonika. May mga dumadaan na mga tao. Paminsan-minsan sila ay naghuhulog ng barya sa lata. At paminsan-minsan din ay palihim na nagrereklamo si Nimfa sa mga baryang hinulog.

Nimfa: (Sa sarili.) Ang babarat naman! Ang gagara ng mga damit pero singkwenta sentimos lang ang binibigay. Pero ayos na rin ‘to kaysa wala. (Bibilangin ang mga barya at mabilis silang ibubulsa.)

(Mapapadaan si Rick sa harap ng pulubi. Mahahalata niya ang ginagawa nito. Mapapansin ni Nimfa kaya’t pasimpleng hihirit ng…)

Nimfa: Limos… Palimos po… Maawa po kayo…

Rick: Anong palimos-palimos ka diyan? Hey! I saw you. I saw what you just did, Ate. Kitang-kita ng dalawang mata ko. Binibilang mo yung mga coins.

Nimfa: Kuya… Konting tulong lang po…

Continue reading Limos

Friday Night At Famous

Poetry by | May 13, 2013

The elderly waitress placed before me
a bowl of steaming Gou Maki.
She must’ve thought I would order it
after all those years eating with my Angkong
at Davao Famous Restaurant.

Tonight I took the table facing the entrance.
It has been years since I last ate here but
the noodle soup still tasted the same.
Perfect for tonight’s cold October weather.
Does their cook never die?

Angkong used to bring me here on Fridays
or whenever he had time.
We used to own a small junk shop in Matina.
All day, he would stay there to watch over
or negotiate with clients selling scraps.

Conscious of his hairstyle,
he wouldn’t go out without fixing his hair—
he’d comb his hair forward
and flip it up backwards, creating a pouf
like James Dean’s.

He was a jolly man. Once,
he showed me how to slurp a noodle soup.
I watched him hold his bowl of Maki
with both hands, ready to slurp.
His face fitted nicely in the bowl.

Then he started coughing and coughing hard
his false teeth came off his mouth
and fell into his bowl.
I laughed. But I was quick to pinch my legs.
Lola used to do that to me when I misbehaved.

Hurriedly I brought him a glass of water
to make him feel better.
The same way he woke me up
that night I dreamt of him inside a casket
slowly lowered down the pit.

With my fingers, I combed my hair
styled like James Dean’s in memory of Angkong.
Old enough to pay for it now
I lift this bowl of Maki to my mouth.
Hot soup steam rising, fogging up my glasses.
I slurped it the Angkong way!


Chris David F. Lao recently graduated Magna cum Laude from the BA English Creative Writing program of UP Mindanao.

Chen Wei’s Magic Amulet

Fiction by | February 10, 2013

Chen Wei threw his socks, school uniform, and Math exams across his room. But not the golden dragon amulet he found while exploring at the botanical garden that afternoon. He made sure nobody, not even the school janitor, was watching when he pocketed it. He thought it had magic powers like those he saw on Wansapanatym. He wiped it clean with his shirt and wore it like a necklace.

Chen Wei had a terrible day in school but there was nobody at home he could talk to about it. His parents were away again for some business trip in Cebu and he wasn’t sure when they were coming back. His aunt Betty stayed at the house, but they seldom talked to each other during the day; most of the time, after she would finish doing all her household chores, she would go outside and chat with the neighbors. She loved to talk about the latest showbiz buzz.

Continue reading Chen Wei’s Magic Amulet

Okey Ra, Basta Gwapa: A Monologue

Play by , , | June 3, 2012

Character: Miranda, a 27 year-old saleslady. Wears a white long-sleeved blouse, a navy blue knee-high skirt, and black high-heeled shoes. Her long black hair is neatly ponytailed.

Setting: At a department store. Men’s wear section, outside a fitting room.

A male customer exits from the fitting room. He hands over two t-shirts to Miranda, pretends to be on the phone, and quickly walks away. Miranda folds one t-shirt neatly and hangs the other back on display.

She smiles.

Miranda: Uy! Ikaw man diay na. Kumusta naman? Ako? Okey ra. Mao lang gihapon, trabahante diri sa G-mall. Sa una sa pangkids ko na assign. Pero karon nabalhin ko sa men’swear. Dali ra tong pambata. Dali ra kaestorya ang mga mama. Dali ra atimanon.

Kapoy kaayo manarbaho uy. Mag make-up pa ka. Kailangan puti imong nawong, unya pula og lips, human pink og blush-on para dili murag luspad ba, para presentable gyod. Sige na lang kay malingaw man pod ko mangarte sa akong kaugalingon. Bahalag tag-isa ko ka oras sa samin basta motrabaho ko nga gwapa. Siyempre no! Human naa pa gyod ning mag-heels-heels ba. Dili ra baya gyod ko anad mag-heels-heels kay naga tsinelas ra man tawon ko kon molakaw. Natakilpo bitaw ko ton kas-a. Da! Danghag man. May gani sulbad ra og tutho-tutho ug haplas-haplas og dahons bayabas. Pero unsaon ta man wa man koy mabuhat. Mao man ang rules. Maong mutuman na lang pod ko kay mawad-an man sad kog trabaho kon di ko mosunod.

Naa pa ning palda-palda na hastang mubua. Tong kas-a lagi sa jeep. Wa ko kabantay. Hapit lagi milugwa akong bilat. Nipis pa ra ba tawon akong panting gigamit kay wa pa ko kapalit og bag-o. Hasta lagi. May na lang gani gi-alerto ko ni manang mamaligyaay og kinason sa akong atbang. Ulaw kaayo to ba.

O! lagi sa men’s wear ko na assign. Sus kining mga lalaki mas pili-an pa man intawon sila kaysa sa mga bayi. Pili diri, pili didto. Ukay diri, ukay na pod didto. Mosukod ani nga mga design human lahi nga size kuhaon. Dayon, mu-ingon rag…

Continue reading Okey Ra, Basta Gwapa: A Monologue