Other Times

Poetry by | November 21, 2022

At the dining table we picked at a bowl
of old basil from the crisper—maybe

we could salvage a pesto or a green
curry.  Quickly my pile grew bigger

than his.  He was angry again.
He pinched the stalks without method. 

He wanted to give up
on this basil, this dinner.  I grooved

to the neighbor belting out bossa
Cole Porter on her karaoke machine. 

“After You, Who?”  “Just One of Those
Things,” “What is This Thing Called Love?”  Once,

I trashed a jar of olives, once a box
of cheese, and once a quart of soy milk

molding in different hues of white.
Sometimes we know.  Other times

we pick, we salvage,
we sing someone else’s song.

The poem was first published in Silliman Journal, Volume 54, Number 2, July to December 2013. 

Jhoanna Lynn B. Cruz is Professor of creative writing in the University of the Philippines Mindanao, where she also serves as chair of the Humanities Department. Her memoir about rebuilding her life in Davao City, Abi Nako, Or So I Thought was published by the UP Press in 2020.

Staying Alive (excerpt)

Nonfiction by | January 13, 2019

Tita Lacambra-Ayala takes her time with friendship. One might think her a forbidding presence in public, with her pursed lips and sharp eyes, watching over everything in all-knowing silence. She is a true Crone. In our initial encounters, I didn’t dare speak to her without being summoned.

I can’t say when she decided we could be friends, although she did come to the launching of my book Women Loving in December 2009, offering a newly-reprinted copy of her first book, Sunflower Poems in exchange for mine, saying that these were her Baguio poems. She meant to underscore something we had in common: living in Baguio City then moving to Mindanao to start anew. She also gave me a coco-bead necklace that clashed with my dress, but which I wore anyway like a talisman. When she placed it over my head herself, it made me feel like a graduate receiving a medal for academic excellence. Or maybe a medal of valor. It didn’t matter that nobody got me flowers.

I remember on International Women’s Day the following year after a meeting of the Davao Writers Guild, Ricky de Ungria asked her whom she was currently reading. Tita quickly replied: “Lilia Chua, Edith Tiempo, Marjorie Evasco, Ophie Dimalanta, Jhoanna Cruz.”

I had long been a feminist, but I felt like that moment had turned me into a feminist writer, joining a weave of women writing of their experiences as women and for each other. But regardless of the politics, I couldn’t quite get over the fact that Tita Ayala was reading me. Never mind those poetry anthologies that excluded me! I needed to keep writing because Tita was reading me. Continue reading Staying Alive (excerpt)

Ilhanay 2016: The Pleasure is Mutual

Nonfiction by | November 17, 2016

Last October 13, some members of the Davao Writers Guild (DWG) participated in Ilhanay 2016, the first literary festival of North Davao Colleges, Panabo City, through the initiative of faculty member Mohammed Nassefh Macla. Through Macla’s vision, the school’s former “English Week” turned into a celebration of contemporary Mindanawon writing, an unequivocal act of defiance toward the hegemony of English as a language of intellectual and literary pursuits in the Philippines. That day, it was clear that Binisaya is the language that speaks to and of the heart of the Mindanawon.

Panabo is a city in its own right, nestled between the larger cities of Tagum and Davao. Our trip there is part of the outreach activities of the Guild in order to ensure that aspiring writers from outside Davao also have the opportunity to meet and learn from more established writers. In the past, DWG as a group has gone to Samal Island, Digos City, Kapalong, Davao del Norte, and Bukidnon, and each time, participating writers came home inspired by the enthusiasm of the audience. In Panabo, I joined Noi Narciso, Darylle Rubino, Errol Merquita, and Macla in the usual forum and reading. What we didn’t know was that the students had actually prepared a treat for us.
Continue reading Ilhanay 2016: The Pleasure is Mutual

Agua de Viuda

Poetry by | June 26, 2016

I forgive you
for teasing me I smell good—
fragrant like a viuda.
But I have not buried my husband,
nor do I want to.

The only viuda I knew was my grandmother,
who spent her days playing cards
with the neighbors, and died
two years later of heart failure
on grandfather’s birth anniversary.
A sweet ending, some might say.
But not for me.

Continue reading Agua de Viuda

Shaken and Stirred: The Adverbum Writers Retreat in Palawan

Nonfiction by | November 10, 2013

ShelllsTwo days before I was to leave for Palawan to join the first Adverbum Writers Retreat in Palawan, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit Central Visayas at past 8 in the morning. Soon after, social network newsfeeds were filled with initial images of the destruction it wrought. Later, television news programs provided more details. It broke my heart to see the ancient Baclayon and Loboc churches destroyed, but even more distressing were the number of human casualties. The earthquake was also felt in Davao City, but to a lesser extent, and with no reported damage. Still, I couldn’t help but feel anxious to leave my two children for a week to do something entirely for myself.

It was a palpable anxiety that I had been feeling since I learned about the retreat. Last July, I received an invitation to the writers retreat from Almira Astudillo-Gilles of Chicago, who organized the retreat to provide established writers with “time and space for creative work.” On October 17 – 22, I was to join Jose “Butch” Dalisay, Ed Maranan, Ricky de Ungria, and Juaniyo Arcellana in a private and secluded villa in Sitio Bobosawen, one and a half hours by road from Puerto Princesa City. With no mobile signal whatsoever, a two-kilometer stretch of coastline, and a view of the mountains, it did sound like a perfect writer’s destination.

Continue reading Shaken and Stirred: The Adverbum Writers Retreat in Palawan

A Mother/Daughter Journey: Connecting Girls at a Time of Risk

Nonfiction by | March 11, 2012

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Month in UP Mindanao is “Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures.” It is quite an honor for me to have been given this opportunity to deliver the keynote address. Yet, like Adrienne Rich, “I did not choose this subject; it had long ago chosen me” (15). This task has brought me face to face with my own disconnected, alienated girlhood, and forced me to think about how I shaped my futuredespite the betrayal of my mother.

Even though I lived with my mother in our ancestral house in Pasay City until I was 27, I have no fond memories of her. There were no bedtime stories, no lullabies. She was not a source of nurturing or comfort or validation, the way we are socialized to believe mothers should be. She had always been a career woman because my father had left her even before I was born. I always believed that she was simply too busy trying to be a father that she forgot the whole “motherhood” thing. And yet I know now that it was more than that. For how can motherhood be reduced to an algebraic equation? Rich notes that “motherhood is earned, first through an intense physical and psychic rite of passage—pregnancy and childbirth—then through learning to nurture, which does not come by instinct” (12). I remember feeling sorry for myself every time my grandfather told me the story of the first time I ran away from home.

Continue reading A Mother/Daughter Journey: Connecting Girls at a Time of Risk

Photos from the Davao Writers Workshop 2011

Editor's Note by | October 28, 2011

Davao Writers Workshop Fellows with some members of the Davao Writers Guild:
From left: Dom Cimafranca (standing), (seated) Rene Estremera, Jhoanna Cruz, Aida Rivera Ford, Josie Tejada, Vanessa Doctor, Macario Tiu, and Jondy Arpilleda (standing).

PANELISTS Timothy Montes, Macario Tiu, and Januar Yap

Panelist JOHN BENGAN giving his lecture on “Writing the Vernacular in English”

Fellow JOCY SO-YEUNG of Sun.Star Davao receiving her certificate from Workshop Director JHOANNA CRUZ and Panelist ANTONINO DE VEYRA (also Chair of UP Mindanao Humanities Department)

First Prize winner of the 1ng Satur Apoyon Tigi sa Mubong Sugilanong Binisaya: AL PONCIANO DATU of Cagayan de Oro with Judges MACARIO TIU, DON PAGUSARA, and ARNEL MARDOQUIO. Also in picture is Davao Writers Guild president, JHOANNA CRUZ.

Flash Forward

Fiction by | October 6, 2011

Editor’s Note: This is an experimental work of interactive fiction, one that requires feedback from you, the reader. Please take the time to read through the story and, in the comments section, tell us which ending you prefer.

This story was supposed to run on October 9, but we are publishing it early so as to get as much feedback. This is for a paper that Jhoanna is writing.

“Perhaps I should take the ferry out with you.”

The moment she hit “Send,” she regretted it. She realized how difficult it would be to coordinate their schedules. He was just going there to shoot some additional footage for a documentary a friend was making. But she convinced herself she could swing it; call in sick and stay sick for a few days. It was unlikely anyhow that she’d meet another malingering call center agent in Siquijor Island in July. But more than logistics, she realized how loaded that suggestion was – even reminding her of Charon and his boat. Reminded her too of her high school teacher who had pronounced it “Sharon” and how she had believed him until Wikipedia enlightened her.

Continue reading Flash Forward