January 2019 (Issue 29)

Introduction by Jude Ortega

FICTION
The Days and Nights of Claire by Zaira Mae Calub
White Sikad by Renaizza Sheen D. Fuentebella
Ang Thesis ni Jeneva by Jeffriel Buan

POETRY
Abyan by Nilyn Gamuza Pacariem
Mababasa Rin ang Lupang Tuyo by Luis B. Bahay Jr.
Fairy Tale by Roi Marc P. Labasan

ESSAY
Treasures for a Lifetime by Niccah T. Carillo

Editors and Contributors

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Introduction

To welcome the new year, we are featuring new voices. Some of these names are not entirely new to writing, but it is their first time to be published in Cotabato Literary Journal. The works also came not from our inbox but from zines, a Facebook page, and a writing competition. We go out of our way to discover new talents, and we are rewarded every time.

On November 25, 2018, the second SOX Zine Fest was held in Koronadal City, South Cotabato, and one of the best works from the event is Zaira Mae Calub’s “The Days and Nights of Claire,” a short story in a collection of works by a group of college students. Calub writes with the deftness of a seasoned fictionist. The characters are compelling, and the plot is clean, and with an eye for detail, she turns a stale psychological thriller into an intimate tale of love and loss, as could be glimpsed from this sentence: I walked down the suburban road out of that house he called home, or at least based on the Home Sweet Home doormat that must have never been washed since it was laid down on the front doorstep.

Other remarkable outputs from the zine fest are Renaizza Sheen D. Fuentebella’s “White Sikad” and Jeffriel Buan’s “Ang Thesis ni Jeneva.” The former is a heartwarming tale about an encounter with a strange old woman, and the latter is a comical take on the struggles of a college student. Buan’s work, written in highfalutin Cebuano interspersed with English clichés and pop culture references, belongs to a type of writing that has become a regular fare in student publications in General Santos City, first popularized about twenty years ago by John Vianney Trocio of Mindanao State University. These writings often border on shallow entertainment, but they can also veer towards satire, as exemplified in “Ang Thesis.”

Nilyn Gamuza Pacariem’s “Abyan” is a binalaybay, or Hiligaynon poem, that likens a friend to a tasty dish: maisog ang timplada/ nagapanalupsup sa kaundan/ ang tagsa ka tinaga/ nga ginasimbug. Many writers tend to anthropomorphize everything, and here, Pacariem does the opposite; she ascribes the qualities of something inanimate to a human being. As a result, she successfully shows us how deep our longing could be for one another and makes us see in another light the nonliving things around us.

Luis B. Bahay Jr. wrote “Mababasa Rin ang Lupang Tuyo” in remembrance of “the Kidapawan massacre,” as the media calls it. On April 2, 2016, at least three protesters died and more than a hundred were injured in a dispersal of a rally in Kidapawan City, Cotabato Province. Complex and conflicting narratives about the event have been unraveled since then. One side accuses the authorities of oppression and heavy-handedness. The other side accuses leftist groups of manipulating the poor, especially the indigenous people, to rise up against the government. Bahay’s poem reminds readers of the crux of the matter—a drought had caused hunger among farmers, and instead of being given rice, bullets rained on them.

Roi Marc P. Labasan’s “Fairy Tale” is a humorous and stinging response to some teenagers’ naive view of love and life, formed or reinforced by traditional Disney animated movies: A kiss will never ever wake you from an eternal coma. If you’re dying, go get a doctor, not a creepy prince. He first delivered the piece at a spoken word poetry event in Kabacan, Cotabato Province. Even if the piece is a bit too cynical, it was refreshing to hear amidst the monotonous lamentations about unrequited feelings and unfaithful partners. Like the two other poems in this issue, Labasan’s poem was previously posted on Sulat SOX, a popular Facebook page that features non-refereed works from writers in SOCCSKSARGEN Region.

The only essay in this issue, Niccah T. Carillo’s “Treasures for a Lifetime,” was one of the two finalists at the inaugural edition of the regionwide Lagulad Prize. A teenager who has to work her way to school, Carillo finds a free time one day to sit in the city plaza and look back on her life so far. Award-winning essayist Wilfredo Pascual, the final judge of the contest, stated that he “appreciated” Carillo’s “endearing and precious reflections” in her essay and reading it reminded him of the phase in his youth when his journal was “riddled with mottos.”

We hope that by putting the spotlight on new voices on this special part of the year, we can encourage more people to write, not only for Cotabato Literary Journal but in all venues that are available to them. The previous twenty-eight issues of the journal have proven that the region is a wellspring of literary talents. All they need is an opportunity to be heard and appreciated and some nurturing. May we all have a productive year ahead!

Jude Ortega
Sen. Ninoy Aquino, Sultan Kudarat

The Days and Nights of Claire

By Zaira Mae Calub
Fiction

I opened my eyes and, once again, found myself alone in my room. The shutters were partly drawn, and some of the morning sunshine slipped through it to become thin strips of light on the floor.

I sat up, feeling the stickiness on my naked body. The stickiness that came from the bodily fluids we had shared the previous night. I could also feel the pain in my breasts, which he had squeezed and pinched so hard, and the raw pain in between my legs from his playing with me all night.

I didn’t want any of it, but there was nothing I could do. He dominated me.

I got up and saw how messed up the bed was. Along with the tangled sheets were the things he had needed to heighten his pleasure. The “toys” were there. I didn’t even know how many times they had been used on my body. Along with these toys were photographs and a handkerchief. They were hers. The girl he was obsessed with.

Pictures of her he had taken from her social media accounts and a handkerchief of hers he had somehow gotten hold of. He would look at the photographs while using my body for his lustful needs. The handkerchief he would put over his nose from time to time.

He was crazy, I knew, but so was I for letting him stay in my life.

I got into the bathroom to take a shower, the memories flashing in my mind as the cold water consumed my body.

I could still remember when I was a helpless little girl. My parents died, and I had to live with my aunt, who abused me. Nobody knew about it. At first I was clueless about what she was doing repeatedly to me. I got older and learned that it was hideous. However, there was no one I could talk to about it, and I didn’t see what the point was, so I just let her do it whenever she wanted.

I never liked it. I hated it. I hated her.

I was twelve when he showed up. I always thought of him as a strong boy, ready to protect me.

When my aunt and I were waiting for the traffic light to turn red so that we could cross the road, he just showed up from nowhere and pushed her in front of a speeding truck. She died immediately. There were no other witnesses.

That was the day I was freed from her, thanks to him.

However, since the day my aunt died, he never left me. That psychopath. He’d be there from time to time, dominating my body while I couldn’t do anything but let him. He had killed my aunt and taken over.

I got dressed and went out for a walk.

I brought some of his money. He always had money, and I didn’t know where it came from.

I had no money of my own. I didn’t work. I wanted to be a nurse when I was little, but since I was molested, my self-esteem was shattered. I didn’t have the courage to apply for a job. I didn’t even like talking to people. Money was another reason why I was dependent on him.

I walked down the suburban road out of that house he called home, or at least based on the Home Sweet Home doormat that must have never been washed since it was laid down on the front doorstep.

I could feel my legs ache a bit in every step, but I managed to hide it.

I didn’t really know where they would lead me, until I passed by the university where she was studying. I guessed that because of the uniform she was wearing in some of the pictures.

It was peaceful, or perhaps it was the morning. I still found schools and universities quite inviting. It had been a long time since the last time I sat in a room filled with people my age. Lately I had been only doing it in my imagination—joking with others, building friendship, learning with them, growing older with them. In reality, the only person I had grown older with was he.

I slipped out of my daydream and entered a coffee shop. Here I would have my pancake, coffee, and anything I could pick up from the magazine rack. The rest of the morning I would spend here until it was time for lunch, and by then I must move to a fast-food restaurant.

But fate had other plans.

As I was finishing my pancake, the door of the coffee shop burst open, the chimes tinkling.

It was a woman my age, wearing a white shirt tucked in her tight jeans. Her hair was pulled into a ponytail, and her face was frantic. Her eyes were scanning the room, and they stopped at me. “You!” she said.

I was scared. She rushed to me.

“Ma’am, please do not disturb our customers,” a waitress told her.

But the ponytail girl was already face to face with me, her eyes wide and pleading. She held my hands. “Can I have some of your time, please?” she said. “Do you have free time, an hour or so, Miss? Please please pleeease . . .”

I was so anxious that instead of saying what I should, I said the truth. I had time. “Y-yes.”

“Yes? Yes! You’re perfect!” She pulled me out of my seat, and before the waitress could complain again, she was already dragging me out of the coffee shop.

I didn’t have time to think clearly. I was suddenly taken away by the ponytail girl, the girl whose beautiful hair fell nicely to her shoulders on the pictures.

* * *

“You can open your eyes now.”

When I looked, I was in awe. Half of my face looked like a night sky spiraling with stars. I was like a galaxy.

“What do you call this?” someone asked, an old man with huge glasses.

“Day and Night,” she answered, smiling widely.

The old man nodded and proceeded on studying my painted face.

After the judges returned to their respective seats and the scores were tallied, the host of the program spoke again. “And the winner is . . .”

She had a genuine smile all throughout even if she didn’t win. She winded up second, but for me she was the best.

“I really want to thank you,” she said as we walked away from the crowd. We were heading to the restroom so I could remove the paint on my face. It would be a waste though. I wished I hadn’t have to erase it.

“No, I thank you,” I said, not stuttering at all. She didn’t know how alive I felt with her. I even forgot about him, who could just show up anytime. “It was fun, I didn’t . . . I didn’t know I could be this happy in my life.” I was all smiles.

“We don’t even know each other’s name, for heaven’s sake!” she exclaimed, and we laughed. She stopped to face me. I stopped too.

“My name’s Bella,” she announced, offering her hand, jokingly standing stiff, trying to look like an army general or something. On her other hand she was still holding the paintbrush and the palette, the paint stuck on the wooden frame even if it was held upside down.

“My name is Claire,” I said, grinning—naturally, I believe. “Nice to meet you, Bella.” I shook her hand.

“Nice to meet you too—”

A rumbling sound cut her off. It was my stomach. Her eyes widened. “Oh no, you haven’t had your lunch! It’s already one-thirty PM. I’m sorry.”

“No, it’s OK.”

“It’s not OK! C’mon, I have an idea. We’ll eat at my apartment unit. I’ll cook.”

“No, really . . . There’s no need to.”

But she was already pulling my hand. “Come on. You don’t have anything to do tonight, don’t you?”

“Uhm, yes. But . . .”

“Someone’s waiting for you?”

“No. No one. I’m just . . . shy.”

She chuckled again. “Cute girl. You’re coming with me.”

“Now they’ll look at me. OK, let’s go.” It was my turn to laugh.

She took my hand, and we ran and laughed like crazy kids on an afternoon.

When we were outside her apartment, I wanted to stop myself. I knew I shouldn’t be doing this. But as her warm hand pulled me, her smile so inviting, I could not help but just put my anxieties away. I wanted to stay happy even just for a day. Please, I don’t want this to be ruined, I told myself. I’ve been alone for too long.

Inside her unit, after washing our faces, she let me pick from some of her clothes so I could change in her room. I chose a gray sweater and some shorts.

After I had changed, she let me sit in her couch to watch television. A few moments later, she got out of her room wearing something like a black shirt that had sleeves that she had cut off. It was quite large for her, and her shorts were much shorter than what I was wearing. Her outfit revealed more of her smooth almond-colored skin.

She said, “You see, people get attracted with the good things we do, with our good half, and if someone loves our other half—the messed up and fucked up half—then that someone is what makes us perfect.” She smiled at me and winked. “Please don’t underestimate my dish. Like what I am telling you, there is more to this than what you see.”

While eating, I couldn’t help but stare at her and wonder, Where did those thoughts come from? Has she fallen in love? Did she lose him?

I looked at the only painting hanging on the wall: two hands holding each other. The one which looked like a man’s hand was done in charcoal, while the woman’s hand was painted with colors. The combination of two mediums made it unique.

“He was also an artist,” she suddenly said. “He uses charcoal in his art. He’s the best, if you ask me.”

“What . . . happened to him?”

“He died.” The words seemed so hollow and empty.

I didn’t want to push it any further. “I-I’m sorry . . .” I stood up and was about to go.

“No, Claire. It’s okay.” She held my hand.

I took it back. “No, you don’t understand. I should not be here. I’m sorry. ”

“OK. Just wait a minute.” She rushed to her room.

Moments later, I could hear the tack-tack-tacking of a typewriter. I peered through the open door of her room. She was typing on a small typewriter. After that, she got the paper out of it and used a cutter to remove most of the paper. What was left was a small piece of the paper. She rolled it on her palms. It was half the size of a cigarette stick.

She gave it to me. “Take care, Claire.” Her smile was as warm as ever.

I opened the rolled strip of paper when I got back home, in my own room.

Hi, Claire! Just call me if you need a friend, it said in typewritten letters. Under it was her phone number, and under the number was her name.

“Bella Mendez,” I whispered. I have to burn this. If he sees this . . .

I hurriedly made my way to the door, afraid that he might get here anytime. That was when I tripped from the top of the stairs. The last thing I could remember was the world spinning around me, beating me up in every turn, and then everything went black.

* * *

The breeze was cool that afternoon. The sun was high, but the warmth was comforting to the skin.

The paper bag I was carrying was already making my arm ache. When I was in front of the door, I reached for the keys deep inside my left pocket and slipped it into the doorknob.

With a click, the wooden door creaked open to the dark living room. I put the bag on top of the kitchen counter, and though it was dark, I knew every step going up to my room.

The door of the room was slightly ajar. I could see some light that could only be coming from the lampshade on the bedside table.

When I opened the door completely, time stopped. My heart skipped a beat. My breath was taken away, and my eyes widened. “Bella . . .”

My mind didn’t know how to respond. Bella was lying naked in the bed, her hands bound together and tied to the headboard, her legs wide open, her ankles tied to the opposite corners at the foot of the bed. Her mouth was gagged with a piece of cloth. Her eyes were filled with horror and sorrow as they stared at me. I saw her tears when they reflected the light.

The toys he had used so many times on me were scattered there in the bed with her.

I felt my own tears well up as I stared at the helpless image of her. My knees lost their strength.

How long have I been . . . This can’t be . . . He . . . he raped her. And it’s all my fault. I was crying on the floor. This is all my fault. He used me . . . to get her.

On the floor, I could see the rolled piece of paper I had failed to get rid of. Why? Why should I bring her this kind of misery?

I could feel her helpless stare from the bed. They cut like knives inside me. I wanted to help her, to reach for her. I wanted to explain, but it was already too late. The harm had been done.

I ruined everything.

I stood up and wiped away my tears. This must end today. I must kill him, end him, now. I fished out my phone from my pocket and called the police. I described the situation. They said they would come immediately.

I pulled open the bottom drawer. Inside was the gun that he had been keeping for years. I gripped the handle. It was cold. I cocked the gun, ready to pull the trigger.

I turned to her. I was crying again, harder this time, and with every sob, I could see her eyes fill with tears. Those eyes could be speaking so many things right now, but all I wanted to hear from her was forgiveness.

“I’m very sorry, Bella. It wasn’t me. Believe me, it wasn’t me.” More tears fell from my eyes. I pointed the gun at my left temple.

And pulled the trigger.

* * *

Images flashed in my mind as I felt the cold steel bore through my skull.

I was back in her couch, eating the omelet she had prepared for me, and then I was up the stage, her face so close to me, I could feel her breath. The vision was erratic, like a television constantly changing its channels.

I could see the days and nights I had spent being myself. Random things I had done in my share of time within this body while he lurked at the back of my mind. Simple things that made me feel free, even for a while.

And for another time, the images twisted around me, and I found myself being that child again, lying in bed with my aunt naked over me. I knew every scene. She liked to be addressed as “Master.” She liked being referred to as a man, and I was the helpless little girl she liked to rape. I blamed her for torturing me. She was the root of all this. She gave life to my split personality. She gave life to him.

For one last time, the world spun around me, and I found myself lying on a patch of green grass. The scene seemed so familiar. A big hand touched my shoulder, and when I looked up, I saw a familiar face, smiling down at me. “Dad?” I spoke with a child’s voice. “Daddy?” Tears fell down my cheeks.

“Hey!” He chuckled. “Don’t cry now, my princess.”

His strong arms lifted me, and I saw my mother approach us. Her smile was always caring.

She put her palm on my head and kissed me on the cheek.

“Hush now, baby. You’re safe now.”

The last thing I heard was the distant sound of sirens approaching.

No. Bella was safe now.

White Sikad

By Renaizza Sheen D. Fuentebella
Fiction

Sweat was trickling down my face when I reached Centro, the settlement right outside the immense campus of Mindanao State University. The walk was tiring, but I had chosen not to ride a habal-habal because I had to save money. I still had to ride a sikad, a lighter type of tricycle, to get home from Centro.

While I was seated inside a sikad, waiting for another passenger to fill it, someone caught my attention. It was an old woman, standing beside the electric post on the side of the computer shop where many sikads were parked.

The woman’s gray hair, which was tied into a bun, complimented her off-white dress and brown slippers. She was carrying a green knitted bag on her right hand and a black umbrella on the other. It looked as though she was waiting for a sikad to stop by and give her a ride, but none did, even the driver of the sikad that I was riding.

The sight wrenched my heart, so I decided to ask the driver to give the old woman a ride, but just as I was about to do it, a white sikad stopped in front of her.

The driver, a man in his fifties, peeped above the roof of his sikad and smiled at her. “Pauli na ka?” he asked.

Her face lit up. “Oo,” she answered. She put her things inside the sidecar and then climbed in.

Since then, I would notice the sight every time I rode a sikad in that area. The old woman would be waiting, and the white sikad would show up and take her home. I wondered if it was just a coincidence.

When I asked the other drivers about the woman and the sikad, they told me they didn’t know her either. All they knew was that whenever they offered the woman a ride, she would decline and wait for the white sikad.

For a couple of weeks, I was not able to go to that area because school often ended late due to one activity or another, and my father had to fetch me from school instead with his motorcycle. One evening, when my father couldn’t fetch me, I decided to walk from school to Centro. The rain was pouring hard, and I was soaking wet, but I had no choice but to continue walking.

I finally reached Centro. I went to the spot where I used to ride toward home, but no sikad was in sight. There was only the old woman standing in her usual spot.

She was under her black umbrella, but it was not enough to shelter her from the cold wind. She was shivering. I felt pity for her, so I approached her and asked her to sit beside me on a wooden bench under the roof of the computer shop.

Ngano wala pa man ka nakauli, Nay?” I asked her when we were seated.

With a worried look, she replied, “Ginahulat nako siya moagi.”

Katong drayber sa puti nga sikad?

She didn’t respond. She stared at the water dripping from the roof. “Asa na kaha to siya? Ganiha ra ko nahuman og pangompra para sa panihapon. Gigutom na jud to si Jun-jun didtoa.” She sighed.

It dawned on me that the driver of the white sikad must be her husband.

Several minutes passed, and I was starting to get worried not only because it was getting late but also because of the old woman’s situation. She remained sitting beside me, staring at nowhere. The white sikad finally arrived.

The driver got off his motorcycle and came to us. He was wet, and I could see from his eyes that he was exhausted and worried. He bent down to look at the old woman. “Pasensya kaayo kung nadugayan kog anhi,” he told her. “Lapok man gud ang dalan.

She stared back at him. Her eyebrows furrowed. “Kinsa ka?

The driver froze. I stood there speechless, not knowing what to do.

Tears formed in the corner of the man’s eyes, but he wiped them off and then went back to the sikad. His head had been bent down for a while before he peeped above the roof of the sikad, like he always did. He smiled at the old woman and asked, “Pauli na ka?

Her face lit up. She walked to him and said, “Dali na kay gutom na jud to karon atong anak nga si Jun-jun.”

The old woman got inside the sikad. The driver offered me a ride home in appreciation of my staying with the woman. I hopped in.

The driver opened the U-box of his motorcycle, took out a jacket, and draped it on the old woman’s shoulders.

She suddenly grabbed the driver’s hand and looked at him. Her eyes glowing, she smiled. “Sukad siya nawala, ikaw na ang gasundo sa akoa,” she said. “Salamat, Jun.

Tears welled up in my eyes.

Ang Thesis ni Jeneva

Ni Jeffriel Buan
Fiction

Sa usa ka layo nga dapit, luyo gamay sa Zimbabawe ug kabit-kabit gamay sa Antarctica, nakapuyo aning dapita ang usa ka babaye nga putli, uyamut, ug way tatsa. Siya si Jeneva. Kining islaha kansang panghitaboa nga gamay nga ambak na lang nimo maka-jamming na nimo ang mga angel.

Tungod sa iyang pangandoy sa kinabuhi, nakahunahuna ang atong bida nga moeskwela. Actually, she did not go to school until she turned eighteen years old, during her debut. Nadesisyunan sa ilang local government unit nga paeskwelahon siya. Bisan og wala pa kaagi og high school ug elementary, nakabalo na intawon siya og law of probability ug manukaray pud siya sa English because she already knew the role of semantics and maxims of conversations. Bantog wala na siyay gana moeskwela because she felt that she was an outcast in the classroom. It semed that the curriculum was not for her.

Ug nipaspas ang istorya. Napasa ni Jenieva ang exam sa Alternative Learning System ug entrance exam sa university. Sa kataas sa iyahang score, naubusan siya og course. Apan gipili niya ang kurso kung asa mahimamat niya ang nagkalainlain nga mga espiritu, where they would learn the fall of Lucifer from heaven accompanied by two-thirds of the population of angels.

Busy kayo siya tungod sa extra-curricular activities nga iyang gisalihan, ug ubay-ubay na pud nga mga protesta ang iyang gisalihan bisag wala siya kabalo sa TRAIN law nga ginaprotesta sa ilang eskwelahan. Ang importante kay mapaglaban niya ang ideology sa iyahang org. Gasali pud siya og beauty pageant not just in the university apan sa mga kapistahan, peryahan, kabasakan, ug kabagnutan. Sa sobra niya ka busy, wala na siyay time magboto sa eleksyon sa ilahang eskwelahan.

Bisan og nakuha na niya ang iyang mga gusto, wala gihapon niya nakuha ang gugma sa lalaki nga iyahang gidamgo. Adlaw ug gabii ginasulayan niya nga ibutang ang litrato sa lalaki sa taas sa unlan ug tusok-tusukon og dagom. Apan nakamatikod siya nga mali diay ang iyang formula. Bantog diay nadaot ang nawong sa lalaki kay formula diay sa barang ang iyang gihimo. Mao tong giilisan niya og mga ugat-ugat sa lubi, mangrove, ug mama. Gisugdan niya ang formula nga gigamitan niya og TAE (trial and error) method.

Makasubo man nga iingon, wala gihapon nakuha ni Jeneva ang gugma sa iyahang gidamgo nga lalaki nga mura jud baya og guwapo. Gapula-pula lang ang aping tungod sa ginainom nga bahal kada adlaw.

Gidawat ni Jeneva nga dili para sa iyaha ang lalaki. Giatiman na lang jud niya ang iyahang pag-eskwela, labi na ang iyahang thesis nga may title nga “The Effectiveness of Using Balete Leaves in Changing Fractions to Decimals.” Libog kaayo paminawon ang iyahang thesis. Bisag siya kay naglisod pud og sabot. Tanan na lang nga naay balete nga article ginaapil niya sa related literature. Maski katong story nga “The Man in the Balete Tree” giapil niya gihapon para mobaga ang iyang thesis.

Ang ilahang balay kay natukod sa taas sa kamatsili. Kauban nila nga nagpuyo ang tabili, butiki, ug mga lamigas. Adlaw-adlaw kay masamadan sila kung mosaka, apan wala nila ginatagad kay matud sa ilaha, there is no place like home. Diri na pud diay siya nagahimo og thesis. Namalandong siya, ug nahunahunaan niya ang iyang kaagi sa iyang thesis proposal, kung asa nadesisyunan sa iyahang maestra nga conditional ang iyahang thesis. Grabe jud ang hilak ni Jeneva ato. Nakamata intawon ang mga mananap sa ilalom sa yuta. Apil na pud og katay-og ang tectonic plates mao tong naglinog ug nangaguba ang ancestral churches nga ginakahadlokan niya sudlan.

Naguba tanan ang ginaisip ni Jeneva katong nakadawat siya og message nga “THESIS” sa iyahang cellphone. Naguba intawon ang kalibutan niya. Wala siya kabalo kung mohilak ba siya. Basta kabalo siya nga dili pa siya ready. Nangutang dayon siya og load para matawagan ang iyahang maestra nga dili pa siya ready, apan naa pa diay siyay utang sa 3733. Gipangtawagan niya ang iyahang mga classmate sa Spirit of Symbology apan wala sa ilaha ang makahatag sa iyaha og tabang.

Niadto siya sa eskwelahan dala ang mga wala pa na-validate nga mga questionnaire. Nakita intawon niya sa layo ang maestra niya sa symbology nga kilay kaayo, samtang siya kay naka-jogging pants nga PE uniform. Wala pa kini nalabhan sukad atong last exercise nila nga kapin tulo na ka bulan ang nilabay ug kada gabii niya ginasuot. Nakulbaan siya sa pagpa-validate sa iyahang questionnaire kay dinalian lang gyud baya ang iyahang gihimo ug gipangbutangan na lang niya og borders para ingnon nga resourceful ug madala-dala na lang sa aesthetic value.

Ug nipaspas ang dagan sa panahon. Mag-final defense na intawon ang atong bida. Bagsak kayo ang iyahang buhok nga halata kayo nga bag-ong rebond sa baratuhong parlor sa bayot sa palengke. Ubay-ubay na sad ang fats sa iyahang lawas tungod sa stress nga nahitabo sa iyaha, mao tong nikaon siya og daghan. Sa iyang kakulba, dili lang singot ang nigawas sa iyahang lawas, apil na usab ang mga fats nga mura na siya og endorser sa Golden Fiesta—“pitong beses mang gamitin, golden pa rin.”

Nahimuot kaayo siya sa iyahang gipangdala nga pagkaon—mga repolyo nga gisagulan og sayote ug pechay nga gihuluman og pito ka adlaw sa tubig ug gisagol-sagol. Basta dili na masabtan kung unsa ang pangalan sa gi-prepare niya nga food. Nalingaw siya sa sige og tan-aw sa pagkaon bantog nalimtan niya nga thesis defense diay niya. Abi niya kung food fair.

Ug gikuti-kuti na sa iyahang panel ang iyahang papers nga napuno og sticky notes. Dili intawon masabtan ang nawong sa iyahang panel kay murag dili thesis paper ang iyahang gihimo. Mura na kini og listahan sa gapataya og Last Two. Ug nibagting na ang kalangitan para sa desisyon sa iyahang thesis, nikondenar na iyahang kalag. Nisugod na og sulti ang iyahang panel: “Ga, mag-reconduct ka ng thesis mo. Mali ang tool na ginamit mo.” Pagkadungog ni Jeneva kay nalisang siya pag-ayo. Nahadlok siya bisan og walay kahadlokan.

Nakahilak intawon ang atong bida while remembering all her achievements, but all of the sudden, nahinumduman niya nga wala gyud diay siya ka-conduct sa iyang thesis. Gihimo-himo lang diay niya ang tanan nga data kay wala na siyay time. Imagine, she attended various seminars in their university, plus pioneering team pa gyud siya sa ginahimong kulto sa barangay kung asa ang iyahang boarding house. Apan nikalit og duol ang mga panelist sa iyaha ug gigakos siya nga mura og di na siya kaginhawa.

Giilog-ilogan siya nga mura og nagdula sila og “The Boat Is Sinking.” Naglakaw-lakaw sila palibot sa mga bangko nga mura og nagdula og “Trip to Jerusalem.” Giatik ra diay siya sa mga maestra, mga maesta niya nga wala gatudlo og tarong. Gina-test lang nila ang resistance niya in the midst of trials and havoc.

Sa laing bahin, ang iyahang mga classmate kay nanglingling sa gawas, apan gisirado kini og pinakalit sa ilahang maestra, mao tong ang eyelids sa classmate niya nga si Mohayna kay naipit intawon sa pultahan. Mosiyagit na unta kini, but she did not want to break the serenity inside the room. Giantos na lang jud niini ang kasakit bisan og galuha-luha na kini.

Samtang si Jeneva kay wala katuo sa iyahang nadunggan. Nakatuo lamang siya katong gipakaon sa iyahang panel ang tibuok repolyo sa iyaha nga mura siya og nahuwasan sa kahubog. Napamatud-an niya nga maka-final defrense ra jud diay ka with the great advocacy for the less privileged people.

Nag-ambak-ambak intawon si Jeneva, ug kalit nga nigawas ug kalit nga gibira niya si Mohayma, ug nabilin intawon ang eyelids ni Mohayma sa pultahan, hinungdan nga mura na kini og Korean nga namali og naretoke. Nigawas sila ug nagtumbling-tumbling dala ang tumang kalipay.

Mababasa Rin ang Lupang Tuyo

Ni Luis B. Bahay Jr.
Tula

Mababasa rin ang lupa
Ng pawis
Na tumatagaktak
Mula sa balat na nakabilad
Sa araw, sa kamay na makalyo,
Sa dumi ng mga kuko, sa mga paang pasmado.
Tuloy ang pagtatrabaho.

Mababasa rin ang lupa
Ng mga luhang
Tumatagas
Mula sa mga matang malabo
Ang paningin, sa sikmurang walang
Makain, sa ulam na palaging asin.
Tuloy ang pagtatanim.

Mababasa rin ang lupa
Ng marahas na ulan mula sa umuulang
Bala—
Mga balang dadanak ng dugo,
Mga balang sa bibig isinubo.

Mababasa rin ang lupa
Hindi ng pawis, hindi
Ng luha, hindi ng ulan.
Dugo ang siyang didilig sa
Lupang tuyo.