A Portrait of a Young Man as a Banak

Nonfiction by | September 10, 2017

(This Essay was first published in Cotabato Literary Journal)

From time to time, almost to the point of rarity, a school of peculiar banak visited Panacan, the place where I grew up. They were a spectacle: if they had visited more often, the place would have been a tourist spot. Unlike the common one-footers that could be caught using lanit, they were roughly two feet long and swam in a group of around twenty to thirty. Nobody knew when they would visit, and when they did the place would immediately come to life: the children, barely catching a glimpse of them, would run over the wooden bridges that connected, like a web, our little coastal community; the fishermen would hastily equip themselves with harpoons, although nobody, as far as I can remember, would catch a single one of those elusive banak. Nobody was ever prepared for their swift, unannounced appearance.

Our community was a small purok in Panacan, a barangay in Davao City, but to this day I still wonder whether the purok was named Jasa or Jacona. When somebody asked me where I lived, I found it difficult to answer. Perhaps it is one of the usual difficulties you encounter when you live in an informal settlement, in which you develop a rather unusual sense of home. “Sa Trese,” or at Trese, was the most convenient reply, but it was not that specific. So most of the time I would say, “Atbang lang sa Macondray,” or just in front of Macondray.

Over the phone Mama told me she would meet me at 7-Eleven, in front of the flyover at Agdao, Davao City. I had just arrived after a three-hour ride from General Santos City. Standing in front of Ecoland terminal, I told her I did not exactly know where our meeting place was.
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Eh di Howl! (after Ginsberg)

Poetry by | January 1, 2017

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by Internet memes, historical revisionist Youtube clips, dragging themselves through the darkest, amnesiac streets of remembering, Marcos apologist hipsters and bloggers burning to ashes the miserable memories of Martial Law,

who bared their image-driven brains to froth for the good-looking grandson who was London-educated but undeniably unknowledgeable about undervoting,

who Facebook-floated across virtual Wi-Fi waters and stayed on top Twitter trends, contemplating the alleged cheating in the vice-presidential race in order to pave and force the way of the unapologetic son to Malacañang,

who unwittingly sent their souls to Hell for promoting the banality of evil and saw Mephistophelian angels promising the hero’s burial and ascension of the wax-and-plastic-and-formaldehyde-long-rotten patriarch, but didn’t see the irony,

who passed through illumined universities yet spent more time in status-symbol coffee shops, discussing fashion styles and sheers, crop tops and jogger pants, ending up inadequately informed or misinformed or uninformed about the naked and obscene terrors of the autocratic rule and the detritus thereof,
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Poetry by | August 7, 2016

You often ask me what I believe in.
Both the Bible and Pablo Neruda talk
About biting into an apple:
And I choose to believe in Neruda.
So forgive me if sometimes I bite your apple-like lips.
Because, to quote the poet, I want to fill my mouth with your name.

So here we are in the throes of Passion.
As our fingers intertwine, I hear the clank of nails.
My love, you twist together a crown of thorns and set
It on my head while, cloth by cloth, I undress myself.
Using the veil of Veronica, you trace the stars
And the scars on my face, and your hug covers
My body with the Shroud of Turin.

Like hammer against nail, your lips touch
My lips. Your tongue is a rattlesnake
Whose tail shakes and dances inside my mouth,
And all the time I dance with it, following
Its steps, movement, and rhythm, setting
Aside that it carries with it some poison.

Is it just me, or you can turn your saliva into wine?
Or better yet, your kiss tastes like a whole vineyard.
Even your breasts smell of freshly-baked bread,
And it is where my tongue always end up to.
I remember carrying the cross to Calvary
As I crawl and find my way around
And across your neck, towards those hills,
On top of which you nail and crucify me.

Forgive me if sometimes you think
I do not know what I do. But perhaps I do.
Truly, I say to you, today you will
Be with me in Paradise.
But even then, there, I shall thirst,
And it shall never be finished.
My love, it is into your lips that I commend my spirit.

All this is a giant leap of faith.
I believe in the scriptures that I taste from your holy lips.
I believe in the gospels written by your divine tongue.
I believe in the pulpit which I find,
And always find, at the church inside your mouth.
I believe that your whole body is the Eucharist turned into flesh.
I believe that every breath you take is a glimpse
Of my salvation and redemption.
And even if I die every time you inhale,
And you bury me in the crypt between your lips,
I know, and I’m sure of this, after you exhale
I shall rise again.

Now, even if you see no holes in my palms,
No wound in my side,
Reach out your hand and have faith in me.

Jade Mark B. Capiñanes, an AB English student at Mindanao State University – General Santos City. This is the piece he performed in “#HugotGensan: Ang Unang Tikim,” a spoken word event organized by Pangandungan, a newly-formed writers group in GenSan.

Of Books and Dreams

Fiction by | March 20, 2016

I always find the time to read a book before going to bed. Sometimes I dream about that book, especially when I fall asleep while reading it. Last night I had read some chapters of a book on Italian grammar, and before I knew it I was already dreaming of running for my life, being chased by some possessive Italian pronouns.

Luckily I outran them, and I eventually came across a bar called Second Conjugation. Indeed, inside, some irregular Italian verbs were having a good time.

“Hey, you’re new here,” one of them said. “What are you?”

Since I was in an Italian grammar book, I needed to blend in. For a few seconds I thought of a plausible reply, and I came up with this: “I’m a singular, masculine Italian noun.”

“You don’t look like it, but well, you’re in the right place,” he said. “This is a singles bar. See those pretty nouns out there? There are a lot of them here. But here’s the catch: it’s hard to tell whether they are masculine or feminine.”

“It’s not that hard, is it?” I said. “We just need to know their final letters, right? -o for the guys, -a for the ladies.”

“Obviously, you haven’t met ‘colera’ and ‘mano,’ il mio amico.” He laughed.

“‘Mano’ is feminine?” I asked.

He said yes and pointed out why “mano,” or “hand” in English, is always feminine: “You know, when you are all alone, your hand is your girlfriend. If you know what I mean.”

I made a nervous laugh. To regain my composure, I said: “Yeah, Italian is a crazy language. We have female poems but male sonnets.”

He didn’t laugh. I was now more nervous. What am I doing here, I thought, talking to a group of irregular Italian verbs? What if they found out I’m not really an Italian noun? I slowly motioned to go out, but the two of them, “sedere” and “simanere,” asked me to sit and remain.

“It’s my pleasure. But as a singular, masculine Italian noun,” I said, in an attempt to be confident and witty, “I have some declension and possession to do. You know, I would like to spend time with you, but, you know, for now, I should decline—to possess that singular, feminine Italian noun out there.” I grinned and, with a wink, added: “If you know what I mean.”

They all turned their faces towards me as if I said something wrong. Their faces turned red. Some of them stood up, clenching their fists. Obviously, the Italian irregular verbs had a change in mood. It was also tense. To get my way out of this impending trouble, I immediately ran outside—but only to be chased again by the possessive Italian pronouns, which were still in pursuit of me.

I cannot remember what exactly happened afterwards, except that I awoke to the sound of the alarm clock, the book on Italian grammar in hand. On page 16, on the possessive case of nouns, the book says: “Italian nouns are not declined. Possession is denoted by the preposition ‘di.’”

Jade Mark B. Capiñanes is an AB English student of Mindanao State University-General Santos City. He is fascinated with books, dreams, and their connection with reality.



Fiction by | February 8, 2015

“Playing Scrabble is really fun when I have a tough opponent like you.”

“It’s a pleasure to play with you, too.”

“I didn’t expect you were saving letters for ‘melancholy’!”

“My favorite word, actually.”

“The word sounds sad, don’t you think?”

“The word is poetic, I think. It resounds and feels like being alone, without umbrella or any shade whatsoever, under a heavy rain; feeling the rain—crawling upon and into your skin, reaching your very soul, drenching it with gray clouds, thunder, lightning, and raindrops—as if you were naked; wondering where the raindrops come from, what they are made of, but having knowledge about the water cycle still fails you; and asking, ‘Will this rain ever end?’”

“Wow. So, it is not just sad. It is beautifully sad.”

“Well, you can say that.”

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