Ang Gipaambit Gikan Sa Tubig*

Poetry by | May 16, 2022

Mitikuko ko ilalom sa gripo
ug gipaawas ang tubig paingon
sa akong gamayng lawas.
Midailos kini sa akong tangkugo
paingon sa akong likod. Pagkalutaw
sa paminaw! Gisubay ko
ang pag-abot sa tubig
sa akong batiis nga mihalok
sa salog. Ang akong paa misidlak
sa pagkabasa niini: mga bituong mipilit
sa akong panit. Mikisi-kisi
ang akong mga tiil
kay wala kuno damha ang pag-abot
sa tubig nga dugay ra
gipaabot, manluluwas
sa akong pagkalunod. Mipahiyom
ang akong mga mata sa nasaksihang
misteryo nga kon mahibaw-an
latos sa bakus ni Papa unya
ang matilawan. Maayo ra sab
nga amang ang mga bungbong ug
wala kini makakat-on paglibak kanako.
Miluhod ko atubangan sa baldeng
puno og tubig, sa bag-ong kalibotan
nga gahulat sa giila kong dagat,
diin ko mas dawat,
diin ko mas luwas. 

Kas-a, gisaaran kong Mama
nga sa dagat kuno ko mag-birthday.
Otso anyos ko niadtong nasakpan niya
sa baybayon ang misteryo
sa akong kinaiya. Apan siyete anyos pa ko,
sa c.r. nga akong gingharian,
ang iyang anak unang nahimong
usa ka sirena.

*First published in Kabisdak on 9 September 2021.

John Gilford A. Doquila is a graduate of the BA English (Creative Writing) program of UP Mindanao. Presently, he teaches creative writing and literature subjects to high school students in a Montessori school in Quezon City.


Answer Key

Fiction by | January 9, 2022

Modified True or False. (8 items, 16 points)

Directions: Write TRUE if the statement is correct. If the statement is false, change the underlined word or phrase/s to make the whole statement true.

  1. We both promised to love each other, through sickness and in health. Through thick and thin, we both vowed to be each other’s confidant.

Answer: TRUE. I was more than your lover; I was your best friend. When no one else believed in you, I stood by you faithfully. And just like the early Christian martyrs, I believed in our love even if the world condemned us for it.

  1. You bought us a house to show your love. You always wanted to settle down and build a life with me. “You are the one,” you’d always say in our fourth year together.  After going through hell with other men, you finally found heaven in me.

Answer: TRUE. And we would warm the house with all our fucking, you said. By then, I don’t have to worry about our cats interrupting us. They’ll have their own room. No need for a priest to bless our house when we could bless every single corner of it with all our kisses and love. This must be how it seems like to get married. But what is marriage really for both men like us in a country like that does not recognize our love? A ring is too fickle to contain our love, so you bought a house instead for us to call home.

  1. I cheated on you. I blamed it on the cabin fever that enslaved me from human touch—your touch. I blamed it on the stupid virus that isolated me from you. I could have blamed it on my depression too, after the doctor finally found a name for my outbursts you were a witness to. But I didn’t. I cried my heart out. I almost puked because my words felt bitter that made my stomach so upset. My tongue? Tongue-tied. I could hardly breathe.

Answer: FALSE. You cheated on me.

I promised to take you to a beach resort once you arrive home from Manila. You missed the sea, so did I. We almost forgot how it tasted on our skin, the blue sea, the cool breeze, and the sand grains peppered on our feet. The imperial city was a huge concrete jungle and held us prisoners, so off we went to an island to seek solace with nature. Our bodies sought refuge and our souls satisfied each other’s hunger. Or so I thought. Because a day after we made love, you craved for more and found it through another—with a stranger. Cheap thrill, that’s what they call it. But unlike you, I didn’t puke the ugly truth I heard from you, although I was tongue-tied when you confessed on an early morning. Silence was my loudest and clearest reply. The sun was already rising. “Can we just talk about this later? I have tons of work to do,” was all I could say. I was running late for work. Funny how I took pride in my job teaching my students literature and on what it is to be human, to be humane, but I could barely teach nor spare myself some space to breathe, to break, to cry.

  1. You bought me a box of Crème brulee to soothe my pain. Food had always been our way to say our apologies. It was your way to show that you cared, and that you wanted to make it up to me. You said that you wanted to be with me and that it was I who you truly love. And that what happened was just sex.

Answer: TRUE. Of course, it was just sex, a human physical need, a perfect reminder of our carnal desires; I convinced myself. So, we fucked to prove a point. But when I kissed your lips, I couldn’t help but think someone else’s lips had already tasted it. When you moaned from all the pleasure my tongue did, I couldn’t help but think someone else’s tongue had already conquered your skin. Did he do it better than I did? Did you moan louder with me than when you were with him? Did you beg for more, like you always did? “You did better, heck way better,” you assured me after you came. I went to the bathroom and washed myself, rubbed my lips and neck clean from your kisses and smell. For the first time in my life, I never thought sex could be that disgusting. I switched the shower’s water pressure higher so the water could drown my tears away.

And I never ate that Crème brulee you gave me, anyway; my tongue revolted that day.

  1. You told me that you were sick in the brain, that’s why you did what you did. And I honestly believed you because I saw how your brain enslaved you through your anger which I was a full witness of and a victim too. But what I couldn’t believe was you telling me that I was the only reason for you to live. That your love for me was the only thing that kept you going. And if you could end your agony in any possible way, you would.

Answer: FALSE. I didn’t want to be the reason for you to live nor the love you had for me to be the only thing for you to keep going for another day.  I wanted you to live for yourself and yourself alone. How could one still fight for a love that’s lost? When that love is already a losing battle to begin with? Because for every step you make in mending things, the more you shatter what was left of me, of us.

You once told me you wanted to end your life, to put a stop to the endless agony that you were treading on. But didn’t you know, that early morning you confessed your betrayal, I had already died inside, too?

  1. It is through forgetting that I could finally move a step forward. To let myself free from the bondage of pain you’ve caused me. That through forgetting, I can truly be happy.

Answer: FALSE. Because all I could do is remember.

Remember how we first dated on a motorbike and drove to Hilltop where you first confessed you loved me. Remember how I spent nights sleeping next to you in your apartment where I first felt home with my real self, where I didn’t have to hide who I was. Remember how we promised each other to build a life together in a city where no one knows us. So, after we both graduated, we went to Manila, rented an apartment we called our own, lived together, and created our family, in this case we’d call our cats our babies. For sure my Christian father would abhor me with my sin loving you. And for him, we were just playing house. “It shall pass,” my father said. He would have wanted me to take over the family business, take his surname for my kids to have, and live a life his generation would define as a success. All of which fell into deaf ears for a gay son like me. So, I left the city that wanted me to be somebody else. How? Love was my getaway ticket.

In forgetting, all I could do is remember. I remembered how I was so selfless in loving you that I lost myself eventually.

  1. I drowned my pain with bottles of alcohol and met faces of different people only to perfectly remember yours.

Answer: TRUE. Downloaded most of the dating apps. Posted my most liked photos from my socmed accounts. John. 24. Gemini. 167cm. In grad school. Looking for something casual. And quite to be honest, I’ve mastered what to say and answer to strangers. How are you? Fine. Wanna meet up? Yes. Will pick you up. Top or bottom? T. Great! Bot here. I know a place. And so, after the deed had been done, questions would arise to stir the awkward silence after a night of moaning and panting from satisfying each other. So, what brought you to *insert app? I’m trying to move on. How many years? Four. (Silence. Usually it’s that or a pat.) May I know why you broke up? I took a pause, and finally said, got cheated on. Fuck. I’m sorry to hear that!

Sorry, a word I constantly hear every time I tell my story. But what were they really sorry for? That I loved someone for four years, almost on the brink of buying a house and settling for a lifetime with someone who I would call my husband only to be betrayed by one night with a stranger, and that I didn’t deserve any of it? Or did the consolation come with an implied excuse of being lucky enough that they didn’t have to go through the ugly pain of crying almost every night, thinking where you could have gone wrong?

Sleeping with faces and different bodies all brought together by a night’s pleasure taught me that some wounds can’t be healed by carnal desires when the laceration had already reached one’s soul.

  1. I had lived in my parent’s house since we broke up. Everything became familiar again: my room where I spent most years growing up hiding in the closet, intact, my youth seemingly just happened yesterday; and my father that saw me in the way he wanted me to be as his only son. I had come so far yet I still ended up returning to the same place, but this time, I had known myself better. The room was smaller now than I imagined it to be.  I realized that I might have outgrown my family by choosing a lover over them who eventually betrayed me, but it was their love for me that led me back home.

Answer: TRUE. Dad had always wanted me to be like him, which explains the “Jr.” affixed to my name, a reminder that I would always be his. He wanted me to take over the family business, an heirloom he openly received from our ancestors that came before us. A predictable but sustainable life was what he wanted me to have, so when I told him I wanted to pursue teaching, he told me, “It wouldn’t feed you and your family.” And when I told him I like boys, it was the last time I heard him speak to me.

Dad had a rough life growing up, maybe that’s why words were never his strongest suit in showing his affection. When I was five, I told him I love him on Father’s Day; his response was a squish on my shoulder and a pat on my back. When he attended my graduation, I had the most medals hung on my neck; I almost started to lean forward. But my dad never said a thing. He only patted me on my back and smiled. It was the only memory I had of him smiling for what I did.

One night, I arrived home drunk and Dad was the only one awake. He opened the door for me and asked me to sit on the sofa. He probably smelled the alcohol from my breath. I could hardly remember what happened next, but I was awoken to a newly brewed coffee. He handed it to me saying, “It would help you sober up.” I drank some and felt the warmth of the caffeine travel my cold stomach.

We sat there in silence for a minute until I broke it.

“I still love him.” My voice was breaking.

“Of course, you do, anak,” he said.

Anak. I couldn’t remember him calling me that. I looked at him and his eyes were gentle and kind. I hadn’t seen his face this close. He had moles too on his nose just like me. And before I could say another word, I broke into tears.

My father hugged me that night. He held me close to his chest where I could hear his heartbeat. I continued to sob. He didn’t say a thing, like he always did, but he hugged me tighter and it was more than enough for me to know that after all, I was deeply loved. Words were too small to contain his immense love for me.

Anak. I was his all along and would always have a part of him in me. I wasn’t alone that night, and that was all I needed to know.

Gilford is a graduate of the BA English(Creative Writing) program of UP Mindanao. He is taking his graduate studies in history at UP Diliman. Presently, he teaches creative writing and literature subjects to high school students at a Montessori school in Quezon City.


Nonfiction by | May 31, 2021

báyot n. 1 sissy¹. 2 male homosexual².

source: A Dictionary of Cebuano Visayan, by John U. Wolff

¹ Gisumbag ko ni Papa kay hinhin daw ko molihok. Ana siya di daw kini angayan para nako nga iyang bugtong anak nga lalaki. Unsa na lang daw ingnon sa iyang mga kompare (nga mga palahubog ug bahog ilok)? Maayo na lang dawat ko ni Mama. Unsaon ba uroy pagpagahi og nilihokan oy? Wala man nako na tuyo-a kon ganahan ko molakaw pina-Pia Alonzo Wurztbach ba. Ay, Catriona Gray diay.

Idol jod nako na sila ay. Kabalo ko sa akong kaugalingon, nga pareho nila, aduna koy kapadulngan sa akong kinabuhi. Silver lining ba, matod pang Catriona. Nga dili lang matanggong akong kinabuhi isip mamaligya-ay og bulad sa Cogon. Not that I’m complaining, apan naa pay mas dakong mahitabo angay para nako. I could feel it! Nga akong pangandoy nga mahimong English teacher mas mohatag og kahulogan sa akong kinabuhi. Dili lang para nako, para pod sa akong matudloan puhon. Pak! “Beauty with a purpose” ba! Ganern!

Apan si Papa mga boxing man nuon ang ipatan-aw nako oy. Dapat daw pareho kong Manny Pacquaio kagahi. Para niya, kini daw ang sukdanan sa usa ka lalaki. Frustrated boxer daw jod si Papa ingon pang Mama. Iya daw jod ning pangandoy atung bata-bata pa siya kay kini daw ang moluwas kaniya sa kapobrehon, apan wa madayon katong nag-ila silang Mama. Mao nang makahunahuna pod ko kon mao ba ni ang rason ngano masumbagan niya si Mama inig mahubog siya. Magawas kaha niya sa pagsumbag ang kalagot sa mga wa madayon nga mga pangandoy? Pamaagi kaha niya kini aron mas mahilwas niya ang kapait sa kinabuhi pamaagi sa mga bugno sa bukton ug paa ni Mama?

That’s why, I never glorify the violence in boxing. Yesss! Kasugakod akong English noh? Of course, I’m both beauty and brains! Charot! Bitaw, mao nga naningkamot jod kong makahuman sa kursong AB English para mapadayon nako akong pangandoy. Reading Roland Barthes by day, selling bulad by night ang drama, sizt! Kon kinahanglan nako antoson ang baho sa bulad nga mopilit sa akong uniform kada magbantay ko sa among pwesto samtang gabasa kog libro, antoson nako, apan dili nako maantos ang pagpasakit ni Papa kang Mama.

Niabot ra jod ang panahon nga ang pagbinat nako sa respeto para kang Papa, sama sa usa ka lastiko, naputol na. Ug kabalo ang kinsa may nakasinati sa pagbugto sa lastiko nga aduna kini pataban nga kasakit.

“Mga yawa! Wala na sa’y kwarta?” ingon ni Papa nga nanimahong RH (Red Horse). Wala mitingog si Mama. Nagpadayon si Mama og hugas sa kusina.

“Amang man diay ning akong mga kauban aning panimalaya! Animal!” miduol siyang Mama ug mi-aksiyong birahon iyang buhok.

“Tistingi!” misyagit si Mama ug gitutok niya ang kutsilyo kang Papa.

Sa unang higayon nako nakita ang kakurat ug kahadlok sa mga mata ni Papa nga wala mamilok. Mora siyag nakakita’g aswang. Katong higayona ra pod nako nakita ang mga ugat sa kamot ni Mama nga milatay morag halas padulong sa kutsilyo nga gikaptan niya og pag-ayo. Gapangurog iyang kamot apan dili sa kahadlok, kon dili sa kasuko—kasuko nga dugay na niyang gitanom sa iyang dughan sa mga tuig nga minglabay. Iyang mga mata napuno sa pagmahay ug pagdumot nga mingdagayday pinaagi sa iyang mga luha.

Sa unang higayon pod nako nakita mihilak si Mama. Morag gikumot akong dughan. Wala ko kabantay nangurog na diay akong kinumo. Ug dadto nako nailhan ang akong inner Darna. I knew I was more than just that stunning beki selling bulad in the market.
Mipaspas ang pagpitik sa akong dughan nga mora bag mobuto ko. Ingon ani pod seguro si Narda inig mo-transform siya og Darna noh? Midagan ko paingon kang Papa ug gisumbag iyang namulang aping tungod sa kahubog. Nahapla siya sa salog. Dili lang ko segurado kon sa kakusog kaha to sa akong sumbag o sa iyang kahubog, apan katong gabhiona segurado ko nakita na niya ang gipangitang kagahi nako.

² Bayot ko apan dili ko talawan.

Gilford was a student of the BA English (Creative Writing) of UP Mindanao, and now he is currently taking up his graduate studies in history at UP Diliman.