Introduction by Jude Ortega
Pastil at Iba Pang Pagninilay by Allan Ace Dignadice
Dr. Daydream or: How I Learned to Stop Living and Start Surviving by John Dexter Canda
Introduction by Jude Ortega
Pastil at Iba Pang Pagninilay by Allan Ace Dignadice
Dr. Daydream or: How I Learned to Stop Living and Start Surviving by John Dexter Canda
In this issue, we welcome several new editors into the fold. They will handle the different genres, and we expect their presence to invigorate further the journal and the production of local literary works. Most of them have started working with our contributors and edited the works featured here.
David Jayson Oquendo, the editor for fiction, selected two works—“Hamyang” by Alvin Larida and “Dust and Drizzle” by Gian Carlo Licanda. He describes the first story as “a visitation to the provincial life without the usual and unnecessary exoticization.” Written in Hiligaynon, it “depicts a rich portrait of a wake” held in a remote community, “textured with the subtleties of Filipino sentimentality birthed from complex filial and familial ties.”
He says of the second story: “It is about an all too familiar narrative of a guy falling for his best friend after being left behind by his female lover (which in this story took the form of a wife). But it is in this often bastardized narrative where the writer shows the parts often hidden away, the pains of goodbyes, of acceptance, and of closures and endings.” He also says the homoerotic story is “lyrical and faintly reminiscent of Andre Aciman’s Call Me by Your Name.”
Andrea D. Lim and Paul Randy Gumanao, who have both served as general editors of the journal in the past, are back as editors for poetry. They selected two works—“Might of the Kind” by Joebert Palma Jr. and “Paglisan” by Adrian Pregonir. The first poem pays tribute to revolutionaries, who are time and again slain by oppressive regimes but, through their “children,” remain as alive and persistent as the darkness that they are fighting against. The second poem shows that the personal can also be political. It seems to be dealing at first with love between a couple mired in poverty, but as the poem ends, the reader is made to see that the fate of ordinary people are often corollary to the decisions of the powers that be.
Hazel-Gin Aspera and Jennie Arado are the editors for nonfiction. Aspera worked with John Dexter Canda on “Dr. Daydream or: How I Learned to Stop Living and Start Surviving,” an essay on being a medical student. With humor, tenderness, and keen attention to details, the writer moves back and forth between his hectic schedule at the present and his experiences with his family in the past.
“Pastil at Iba Pang Pagninilay” by Allan Ace Dignadice is an essay submitted to the ongoing SOX Summer Writing Camp, an event that will surely have an important contribution to SOCCSKSARGEN Region’s literary scene, judging by the participants’ outputs so far. The essay deals with a timely matter—elections. The writer looks back on his family’s not-so-positive experiences with past elections and shares his frustrations with the coming one—that it does not seem to offer any real hope or meaning.
Norman Ralph Isla serves as editor for drama, and in the next issues, he will share with us works from local playwrights, both produced and unproduced. The coming months and years will be exciting. The journal will be bigger and bolder. With more editors, we hope to discover, hone, and feature more contributors—both old and new, both seasoned and aspiring, all brilliant, all our own.
General Santos City
Ni Alvin Q. Larida
Sang nag-umpisa ang amon pag-imaway ni Nato, ginpaningkamotan gid namon magtiayon magpatindog sang amon puloy-an malayo sa poder ni Tatay, ang akon ugangan, agud mahibaloan man namon ang insakto nga pagbahinbahin sang amon nga budget. Agot si Nato sa lima nga magbulugto. Galagmay pa lang sila sang mailo sa ila iloy. Gani si Tatay Pedring lang ang nagbuhi kag nagpaeskwela sa ila tanan paagi sa ila gamay nga duta sa Barangay Canahay.
Sa tatlo ka tuig namon nga paglumon kay Tatay, indi maayo ang amon nangin relasyon. Ini man ang rason kung ngaa masami ang amon away ni Nato. Makita ko man nga palangga gid ni Tatay si Nato kag ang amon tatlo ka kabataan. Amo gid ini sang una ang nagapugong sa kaawot sang amon paghalin sa poder sang akon ugangan.
Sang mahuman ang amon ginapatindog nga balay sa Poblacion, nag-asiasi ako higayon nga magbalhin. Nangin mayad man ang amon pangabuhi. Taga Sabado, galagaw ang kabataan didto sa uma tungod mahilig sila maligo sa suba kag maningit sang kamunsil sa pangpang. Didto sila gapaamulya sa ila mga pakaisa. Taga uli nila kung hapon, madamo ang ila bitbit nga kamunsil. Gakaramungi pa gani ang tabungos.
Nagdugay kami sa Poblacion, apang taga fiesta lang ako makalagaw didto sa Canahay. Maayo na kung makaduwa ka bes ako makapalapit didto sa balay ni Tatay sa isa ka tuig. Wala man kami nagsabtanay ni Tatay sang naghalin kami sa iya poder, apang indi gid makabungat ang akon baba sa pagpanambit sa iya. Indi ko gid mapanalawsawan ang akon ginabatyag nahanungod sa iya.
Apang uyon gid sang kadamuan si Tatay. Nangin kapitan pa gani ini sang tatlo ka termino sa Canahay. Ginapalapitan ini sang mga kubos kag mga abyan niya. Taga hapon, samtang pula pa ang adlaw sa galawahan, ginapreparar na ni Tatay ang iya tuba nga ginbudburan sang balok kag padeharyo nga maskadahon, kumpleto sa buyo kag apog. May manamit pa ini nga sumsuman nga adobo nga bakbak ukon sinanlag nga apan. Kung makadawadawa kag dako ang patubas, shoktong ukon lapad man ang ginarolyo ni Tatay sa lamesa. Ini tanan para sa iya mga abyan kag kumpare. Pirti gid sila ka malipayon sa hinali nga maigo na sila sang ila tuba. Nagakisikisi gid si Tiyoy Nardo kag Tiyoy Dido sa ambahanon nga ginatira ni Tatay sa iya gitara.
Udto ato sang Marso kag nagapamaypay ako sa kagin-ot sa amon balkon sang nakabaton ako sang text halin kay Nato nga sa ospital kuno si Tatay diri sa Poblacion. Nagpin-ot kuno ang iya dughan kag nasapwan siya sa kusina nga nakahapa sa kilid sang buka nga baso. Gani nanghimos ako dayon para magkadto sa ospital.
Pag-abot ko sa ospital, daw gindapyahan ako sang mayami nga hangin. Paggawa ko sa ICU, sa nahamtangan ni Tatay, nakita ko nga mahuyang na siya kag nagapiyong na lang. Nabuta ang iya lawas sang aparato nga nagasuporta sa iya paginhawa. Naganguyngoy sa iya kilid si Manang Cecil, subang sa babaye kag ikaduwa niya nga bata. Daw indi ko makaya magsulod sa kwarto, gani gintext ko anay ang akon bana kung makapalapit siya higayon sa ospital para upod kami.
Sa kadugay ni Nato, ginpugos ko ang akon kaugalingon nga magsulod sa ICU. Nagtulukay lang kami ni Manang Cecil, kag ginkaptan ko ang kamot kag dapadapa ni Tatay nga tuman ka yami. Wala gid may naggwa biskan isa ka tinaga sa akon baba, biskan pag-agda na lang kay Manang. Daw ginsalapid ang akon dila sang tion nga ato. Hinayhinay ako dayon nga naggwa sa kwarto.
Sang nakauli na ako sa balay, nagtawag dayon si Nato nga wala na si Tatay—patay na si Tatay. Ginpahimos ako ni Nato para mag-uli sa uma. Kinanglan namon iplastar ang puloy-an ni Tatay para sa iya hamyang. Nag-una ako sa Canahay upod ang mga bata.
Sang ginahimos ko ang hiligdaan ni Tatay, nadiparahan ko ang nakatangkas nga mga album sa iya uluhan. Didto pa ang mga kodak sa kasal namon ni Nato. May mga nakapiod man nga mga relip nga bayo kag bistida nga sa akon tan-aw ginbakal niya para sa iya mga apo. Pagpalapit ko sa kusina, may nakita ko nga mga nakatangkas nga tabungos sa banggirahan. May mga pangalan nga nakasulat sa mga ini. Una ko nasid-ingan ang akon ngalan—Veronica. Abi ko anay si Nato ang nagapangpupu kag nagapangkutol sang mga gulay nga ginadala niya sa balay.
Nagtulo ang luha halin sa akon mata. Nangluya ako angay sang mga dahon sang alugbati nga nagaloyloy sa tabungos. Nakibot ako sang may naghaplas sa akon likod—si Manang Sylvia, asawa ni Manong Lando, subang nanday Nato. “Kaina pa kamo, Veron?” bungat niya sa akon.
“Mga duwa pa lang ka oras, Manay,” sabat ko.
Nangin masako kami sa pagpanghimos. Pag-abot sang mag-ululutod, nagtilipon dayon sila para pagaistoryahan ang mga plano. Isa lang ka semana ang hamyang ni Tatay, tutal wala man sang ginapaabot nga paryente halin sa malayo nga lugar kag ini man ang gintulin niya sang buhi pa siya.
Madamo nga abyan ang nag-abot para itukod ang palaypay sa atubang sang balay. Madamo man ang nagpahulam sang lamesa kag mga bangko para gamiton sa hamyang. Tuman kasako nga kalisod apang masadya nga hilikoton sang pamilya.
Daw fiesta sang Canahay taga gab-i sa balay ni Tatay. Ang mga may edad nagahampang sang tong-its, pyatpyat, kag Lucky 9, samtang ang mga kabataan naga-lukoluko kabayo, one-two-three-four-pass, ukon amo-amo. Amo man kami kasako para magsukad sang meryenda nga nilaga nga saging kag kamote para ipares sa kape. Ang mga nanay nagalutik sa bomba sa pagpanghugas sang mga dalagko nga kaldero, kawa, kag pipila nga mga pinggan kag tasa. Biskan sin-o na lang ang nagapalapit sa balay para maghatag kag magdaguro, halin sa gubernador sang probinsya padalom sa mayor sang banwa. Gani daw napigaran gawa ang kalisod kag kasubo nga naagum sang bug-os nga pamilya.
Pagkatapos sang lubong ni Tatay, samtang sabak ko ang amon agot nga si Loloy, nga wala gahalin ang mga kamot sa akon soso sa pagpangayutong, may nagpalapit nga mal-am nga babaye sa lamesa. Nanghugas ini sa kawa nga may nilaga nga dahon sang kabugaw. Dayon nagkuha ini sang paper plate kag naggalo sang kan-on kag lauya kag afritada. Ayawan man kapugong ang paper plate sa iya ginbutang. Nagaudauda nga nagpungko ang mal-am sa uway nga bangko sa akon tupad.
“Uy, Veron, kumusta na ikaw?” ang muno niya sa akon
“Mayad man, Tiyay, ah,” sabat ko. Gindaho ko ang kamot sang bata sa iya. “Oh, amin na kay Lola.”
“Ay abaw, amo na ning agot mo?” ang dugang niya. “Amo gid ini ang pirmi ginabungat ni Pare Pedring sa balay sang buhi pa siya. Tuman daw kabus-ok sang agot niyo ni Nato.”
Ginahunahuna ko kung sin-o ang mal-am.
“Abi mo lang, Veron,” padayon niya, “sang nagabusong pa ikaw sang una sang subang mo, mapisan gid maningit sang paho si Pare sa amon kay ihatag niya kuno sa iya umagadon nga nagapanamkon sang maaslum nga paho nga ginpaligid sa ginamos.”
Gaalalapok ang kan-on sa baba sang mal-am samtang nagalitanya sa akon, kag ang kaina nga nagaingos nga si Loloy, nalingaw nga nagapamati sa iya.
“Palangga niya gid kamo sato kay kamo gid daw ang makaatipan sa iya kay agot niya si Nato kag giunungan ninyo siya.”
Nangin hipus ako sa pipila ka minuto. Natunaw ang mga tinaga sa akon dila. Nanindog ang akon mga bulbul sa mga matuod nga sugilanon sang mal-am sa akon. Basta si Nato na gani ang manginahanglan kag maghulam, wala gid nagabalibad si Tatay. Mangita ini paagi mahatagan lang ang iya bata.
Mga pila man ka gab-i nga wala ako mayad nga tinulugan, sige ka paminsar kay Tatay. Maluya ako ka tuman. Napuno ako sang kapung-aw, kag daw ginayaguta ako sang paghinulsol sa akon nahibaloan. Wala man lang ako kapangayo pasaylo sa iya.
Samtang nagapungko ako, may lalaki ako nga nasanaaw sa indi malayo, nagapanglakaton sa kahon. May bitbit ini nga tabungos nga buta sang kamunsil kag paho. Nagtangis ako, kag hinali ako ginpukaw ni Nato. “Nagaugayong ka, ga!”
Ginhakus ko ang akon bana. “Ga, updi ko magkadto kay Tatay buwas sa patyo,” siling ko sa iya. Ginhugot niya ang hakus niya sa akon kag gintrapohan sang iya palad ang akon mga luha.
By Gian Carlo Licanda
Something I can never understand whenever my mind wanders back to Marco is why he left the way he did. I often imagined that when whatever that we had was going to end, there would be lots of crying, of explaining why it hadn’t worked out, of whispering assurances between sobs that everything was going to be okay. But when he left, no words were spoken. I just woke up one morning alone in the bed that still bore the creases of his shape—arms spread as if they were welcoming my arrival, as if letting myself fall on the bed meant that he would hold me and never let go.
But in my unguarded moments, when my mind takes me back to him, I often wonder: Why did he leave me?
It might have begun on the morning of Marco’s thirty-second birthday. I woke up half an hour before he did that day, remembering that his wife and children was arriving from Davao to celebrate with him. If he had told me this the other night, I wouldn’t have come over. I didn’t want Agnes to find me in bed with her ex-husband. It was doubtful if this would matter to her, who would probably just think that I was just hanging out with Marco at a bar downtown last night and was just too wasted to go home. But it did matter to me.
Marco and Agnes had separated a year before. I didn’t exactly know the reason behind, but I knew that it had something to do with Marco’s proclivity for gambling. When he called me on the day Agnes and he separated and she brought the children to Davao with her, he was crying. I didn’t think twice about coming over to keep him company. He was my best friend since high school. And more than that, I had always loved him. It pained me so much to see him devastated over his family—and the life he always dreamed of having—crumbling right under his feet. That night, we drank bottle after bottle of beer until we winded up kissing and undressing each other in bed. And that unexpected turn of events spiraled out of hand and brought me to that day a year later, on the same bed with him, in the same room that smelled of cigarettes, beer, and after-sex musk.
When I woke up that morning, I did not spring up at once. I lay on the edge of the bed in the wash of morning sunlight that was coming in to the room in a slant through the glass window. My mind went over the ingredients I was going to buy at the grocery store on the way home from work. I was going to cook his favorite Mexican casserole for dinner. We planned on heading out to the beach on the night Agnes and the kids had gone back home.
I should be moving, but instead, I stared at the tiny flecks of dust in the ray of light and thought about how they had always been there in the room with us just floating about—unseen, silent, and in secret. Then my eyes darted onto Marco, and I thought about how we were just like the dust. But I didn’t mind. If this was the only way to be with him.
When I was done getting dressed, I bent toward his sleeping figure and kissed him on the cheek.
“Happy birthday, love,” I whispered.
He stirred but didn’t wake up.
* * *
Maybe it began when Marco arrived at my apartment a little after six that day. I had just finished cooking and had not taken a shower yet when he announced his arrival with a honk of his car. I went to the gate still wearing an apron. I thought that that might have infuriated him. He always hated it when I became unconscious with the time. Sitting next to him in his car on the way to the beach, he was very silent, and was monosyllabic and noncommittal when answering questions.
“How was the day with the kids?”
“Where did you take them today?”
“Did Agnes come with you?”
The conversation went on and on that way. I kept on talking to lighten up the mood, to lighten him up.
“This is going to be a perfect night. Have you read the papers? There’s going to be a meteor shower tonight. And what better place to watch it than at the beach? Plus it’s your birthday!”
“Hey, are you okay?” I reached out and squeezed him on his shoulder. “You seem . . . off.”
“Sorry. It’s just . . . ” He hesitated. “I’m just tired.”
“From last night?” I said. That made him chuckle, and I was glad it did.
I looked out ahead of us and noticed the fine drizzle through the beam of the headlights, and the glowing insects flying along the road, probably looking for some bush for cover from the rain. My heart sank. I really wanted us to watch the meteor shower and hoped that the drizzle wouldn’t turn into rain.
The rest of the ride I spent contemplating about how our relationship were like the dust and drizzle. We were unseen unless exposed in a certain slant of light in the bedroom, or a passing car’s headlight shining on the road. I wondered what was going to happen if one day we woke up and what we had was exposed in the light. The thought didn’t help, not with Marco’s dismissive attitude at the moment. So I cleared my mind and tried my best to fall asleep in the midst of the engines revving.
Had I known that it was going to be the last time I would be with him, I would have held his hand in the car throughout the ride. But we were just humans, with no knowledge of what tomorrow held. I was just living in that moment with him, oblivious that in Marco’s mind, he was thinking of ways to leave me without hurting me. Of words to say so that the ending wouldn’t hurt me. That much. But being left behind is always going to be painful. And of all people, Marco should know that.
On that last night we spent at the beach, I was sure it was a prelude to something so great to have in this lifetime—to have someone, to love someone, and be loved in return. I was certain he loved me. Of course, he loved me. Although he hadn’t told me so yet, I was so sure of it. I believed that what we had went beyond the affirmation needed through words, that what mattered were the actions. I felt it with the way he looked at me, with the way he kissed me, and most especially when we kept each other warm in bed at night.
Thinking about it now, maybe that was just all I was to him—someone to keep him warm whenever he got lonely at night.
Over dinner that night at the beach, Marco was still strangely silent, and it was making me uncomfortable.
“How was the food?” I asked him, beaming.
“It’s delicious,” he said without even looking at me.
“What is it, really?” I asked. I was beginning to lose my temper. “What’s the matter?”
“Nothing. I just . . .” His voice trailed off. “I told you, I’m just tired.”
I didn’t know why, but it scared me. I couldn’t even bring myself to ask him what he was tired of. I was afraid that if I pressed on, he would say that he was tired of me. Of us. So instead, I told him that I wanted to watch the meteor shower that would begin in a few moments.
And tonight, I thought, tonight I am going to tell you I love and that I want us to be together. Out in the open.
* * *
I didn’t actually quite get what Marco meant when he said one time that some words were so hard to speak out, they tangled themselves in your throat in an almost choking manner. It was probably him exaggerating things again as he often did, I thought. He loved taking things up a few notches than what they actually were. Like how one time, when we were huddled in our favorite spot in a corner table at Starbucks, he insisted that it was my new hair color, ash gray, that was giving him a headache. I thought he meant it figuratively. But he then proceeded to explain how the color hurt his eyes, that the pain traveled through some nerves and manifested in his head. I mean, how can a mere hair color give someone a headache? How can words choke you?
But that time, I understood what he was saying as the words got caught up inside my throat.
We dressed up and went outside to the fishnet hammock underneath the coconut trees where we could get the best view of the night sky. Before midnight, the meteors began to appear. Our conversation was continually broken by exclamations of “There’s one!” and pointless attempts to point the meteor as the other tried to find the fleeting flash amid the myriad of silver dots of light. Then I took his hand in mine. He darted his gaze away from the sky to me, smiling, and at the same time arching his eyebrow in wonder.
I looked at him in the eye and opened my mouth to speak. I wanted to ask him what we were. I wanted to ask him if he really loved me. But the words wouldn’t come out. I felt my chest tighten, and unconsciously, I was holding my breath. I closed my mouth and opened it again, but still, the words wouldn’t come out. I was suddenly not sure of everything that was happening between us. The words were held back by uncertainties and fears of rejection. The act was painful, as if my words had suddenly took a physical form and they laid there unmoving inside my throat, blocking my airways, choking me to death.
We never saw the stars the other people in the beach saw, focused as we were in our own patch of sky. After a while, I just kept my sightings to myself, making each meteor mine, while he kept his, too, both pretending the shooting stars had simply stopped.
I was happy with what we had, so I told myself that whether I told him I love him or not didn’t matter. What mattered that moment was we were together.
* * *
There are so many moments in this lifetime that I wish I could relive. But one thing that haunted me the most is the sight of him lying beside me in the hammock, smiling and running his fingers on my cheeks. In that moment, basking in the glow of his eyes, I felt one with the shooting stars.
I regret not taking the chance in that moment. Many years later, whenever I try to relive that moment, I like to imagine that this is what happened: When he looked at me when the stars rained down from the heavens, I told him I love him, and he said it back to me. Then he took me in his arms, and we went back to the room and made love once again. When I woke up that morning, he was there beside me sleeping, not just his shape imprinted on the bed that had gone cold in his absence.
* * *
The weeks that came after that event were torture. I came to his apartment only to find him gone, along with his possessions. I tried to reach him in every way imaginable, to no avail. At last, when I had mustered enough courage to call Agnes, pretending to check on the kids, I found out that they had gotten back together. It turned out that on his birthday, they had a talk. Agnes was thinking that it was best for the kids that they got back together and urged Marco to come live with them in Davao.
“I’m glad you’re back together,” I told her over the phone. I was glad I didn’t cry. I was glad my voice wasn’t breaking at the news. But my heart did. “I really am.”
“Me, too. I thought a year away with him would do the trick. But turns out the heart wants who it wants.” I could almost see her smile in her voice. “So I’m giving him another chance. I just wish this time it would work out. You know. For the kids. For us.”
“Of course it will.”
“Hey, thanks for looking out for him when we were away.”
“Anything for my best man.” I laughed a little, which sounded awkward, so I punctuated it with clearing my throat.
“He’s here. Wait, I’m giving him the phone.”
“No, it’s okay.” But it was too late. Marco was already on the other end of the line.
“Hey,” he said in an almost broken whisper.
I did not say anything. I hung up.
* * *
Years later, when the wounds had healed and our paths crossed once again, I could still feel regret that I didn’t tell him that night at the beach what I had always wanted to tell him. I don’t know if it would have changed anything. The feeling of regret jolted out from me when I saw him in a fast food restaurant. But time had dulled the feeling.
I couldn’t sleep that night, so I had decided to go out and read the night away at McDonald’s. My eyes kept on darting from the pages of the book to the glass doors whenever someone came in. For some reason, I was suddenly thinking about Marco. It was almost like before, when we would hang out here until dawn to read or talk or both, over cheeseburgers and fries. I remembered in particular the way we shared fries. Although we were not saying it, we were making sure that we got one alternately. And one time, when there was only one left of the fries, he picked it up, dipped it in the catsup, and darted it towards my mouth. I bit the half, my lips barely touching his fingers. And he said, laughing, “Fair is fair.” And then I laughed along with him because I was happy, too.
And as if the universe felt my internal recollection and wanted to mock me, I saw Marco coming in through the doors. He passed by me and took a table right in front of me. All of a sudden, more memories that I had buried deep down came rushing to the surface. And the surge of emotion was so overwhelming that I couldn’t even begin to single out one. I watched him through the corners of my eyes. Through the blur, I made out his familiar contour and self-possession—the way he sat, like he was leaning in to listen. It was him. It was both overwhelmingly sad and relieving. After a long time, finally, I saw him.
I found myself arguing if I should stay inside the restaurant or just go, but then decided that this night had to happen, so I stayed. I calmed myself.
When he turned, he saw me. I watched him from the corner of my eyes watching me, and I knew I had to turn. When I did, we stared at each other for a moment. He was surprised and was obviously uncomfortable. I gave him a weak smile and looked away. I gathered the books I had laid on the table, and stood up to leave.
He followed me outside, and I let him walk with me on the street. We were silent for a time, feeling the awkward air hanging around us. I hugged the books on my chest, for the night had gone quite cold.
“It’s getting cold.” He finally broke the silence.
“Well, it’s almost Christmas again.” I took the opportunity for a closer look. His jet-black hair was now dyed a dark brown, though still tousled as if it had been caught by a wind. He had a pimple or two on his cheek, and dark circles around his eyes, probably because of spending too many nights playing his online game, again. Or gambling?
As we walked, I began to feel more at ease, and I just kept myself from saying that this was the first time we had seen each other after many years.
We walked a few more steps in a companionable silence. Then in a self-conscious voice, he began to tell me about Agnes and the kids, his life in Davao, and about how he was so thankful he got his family back together. I also decided to tell him about my life—about leaving the city and living in the country, about my work in a public high school, and about the book I was working on. Often, he gave me that inquiring, childlike look of his that I so loved.
After close to half an hour, when I was well aware that we had already walked more than halfway to where I was staying the night, I told him I had to go.
While hailing a tricycle, he said, “I think of you often.” Amid the drones of the vehicles that were passing by, I could hear the loneliness in his voice. And although I had wanted it for so long, I never asked the reason for his leaving me. For some reason, I felt that I did not need an answer anymore, but a closure. I needed us an ending.
There was a question in his eyes. He wasn’t asking for forgiveness but something more—something, maybe, to gauge the extent of his own delusion. Forgiveness, I had given him months before. But his look, his lingering, angered me as silent expectations often did. I managed to hide this with a smile, and to assure him, I held his hand, and squeezed it, just like the old days.
“I loved you, you know.” I told him.
This had the most unbelievable effect.
Standing there on the sidewalk among the passers-by, he gave a sudden cry, and he covered his mouth. His chest shuddered, and his eyes filled with tears. He was aware of the looks the people were giving us.
I took his hand again and said, “I’m sorry.” I didn’t know why I said that.
He kept on shaking his head. He looked ready to speak but said nothing.
“It’s okay,” I said. “You don’t have to answer me. You know, some words are so hard to speak, they choke you.”
I offered to walk him back to McDonald’s, but he refused. When he felt better, he raised his gaze to look at me with that same unaskable question. Then he leaned and kissed me fully on the cheek. His lips were cold, and somehow they suggested the ending I needed, that we both needed.
“I loved you, too, Miguel,” he said. “I’m sorry I couldn’t be with you. But you knew that, didn’t you? I loved you, too.”
I stared at him. If you had loved me, I wanted to say, and if what you are saying were true, then before you leave right now, look at me and tell me why you left me that way. Tell me how a person can love someone and at the same time see him unworthy of explanations why he was left behind. Tell me all the ways and words for goodbye until my ears tire of hearing them, until there’s nothing left to say in this lifetime, which would have been everything that mattered to me when we were still together though breaking apart. Tell me.
But instead, I just nodded and smiled.
Then he walked away. But before he disappeared around the corner, he turned to look at me one last time. I couldn’t remember how long it was. But this time, it seemed to me like he took all the time in the world to leave me.
By Joebert Palma Jr.
Ravaging like omnipotent waves, here, the stark Darkness
creeps, stalks, and feeds on the fragile cliff that we are.
A synchronous dance, a way to Death, a treacherous kiss,
we gladly take it in, but tomorrow’s not far.
We bathe in a crimson lake that doesn’t stain our togas,
for this lake is ethereal, our dry skin divine.
Send all the unknown faces in windowless bodegas.
Call the Animals. Witness the might of the Kind.
Allow the Shadow to cover this land, to flood this plane
of people with no faces who hid in their cage.
Sing their songs, remember their names, but bury their children, and
the offspring of their children—fruit of the sage.
Let the benevolence of the murk hide their battle scars,
to silence their mouths before they unleash their cry.
Slit the throat of Kumander Liwayway, to end her wars,
so as to impale her womb so she wouldn’t try.
Here, in the stillness of the air, out in the cold open,
we plow this barren earth where they used to run free,
to plant these Seeds that will eventually feed our children,
whose youth invigorates their need for mutiny.
Yet here, in the stillness of the cold air in the open,
their shut eyes awaken from a now distant dream.
Liwayway bore her own children, taught them how she lived then,
how she fought Life for life. Life trembled when she came.
But the earth is still soaked with the blood of the lost faces,
fueling all the grieving with a peaceful rage.
They marched and marched until no one cared to track the traces for
it is in resonance can they only break their Cage.
The stark Darkness is still vast and owning, still ravaging.
Its ebony talons are masking the blind trail.
Liwayway’s children marched and marched and then came the Morning.
Darkness screeched and curled. Its spite won’t leave this vale.
By Adrian Pete Pregonir
Di ko alam kung paano lumubog
ang bangka at bultu-bultong takot.
Sa dagat pa lamang ay pinaghiwalay na
tayo sa ating pinagsamahan.
Walang lisyang binuhay rin ng ginamos
at danggit sa ating mesa ang pagkaguang natin.
Bawat húling isda ay pangarap na nasagot,
may sumasabit pang katanungan sa bawat sagot:
Kung bakit ang dagat ay maalat,
kung bakit mapangahas ang simoy ng amihan
hanggang noong pagsug-alaw
ng bagong taon.
Hinintay kita sa pampang
habang nakamatyag sa nangungulilang buwan.
Sa oras na iyon mapayapa ang dalampasigan.
Nasa aking isipan ang nakakabit na mitsa sa iyong bangka.
Hindi ka na nakabalik.
Pagkabúkas, pagbukas ng radyo,
narinig ko na lang:
Kinulong ka sa ibang bansa.
Nagnakaw ka sa isang dagat na pinag-aawayan
para sa ating magiging handa.
Ni Allan Ace Dignadice
Abril 20, 2019. Linggo ng Pagkabuhay. Nagising ang aking kaluluwa sa isang pamilyar at nakabubulabog na ingay. Malakas. Dumadagundong. Umuugong. Habang pinupuno ang hangin ng mga tunog na kinukudkod ang dingding ng aking mga tainga, siya ring pagpupumilit na imulat ang puyat kong mga mata. Masakit sa ulo. Nakakairita.
Masaligan ta . . . Aton nga konsehala . . . Aton nga dumdumon sa aton nga balota . . .
Matapos ang kulang-kulang tatlong araw ng pamamahinga, mistulang nagsibangon din muli mula sa kahimlayan ang mga bungangang de-gulong—nagsusumigawan, nagpapalakasan. Mga tinig ng mga kandidatong nais maalala sa darating na eleksiyon. Kani-kaniyang plataporma. Sari-sariling kanta.
Panahon ng Semana Santa nang guminhawang saglit ang musmos kong barangay. Dahil malayo sa sentro ng lungsod, tahimik at matiwasay kalimitan sa amin, tulad ng aking kinagisnan. Nitong Huwebes Santo hanggang Sabado de Gloria, muli kong naranasan ang kapayapaan.
Abril 17, 2019. Miyerkules Santo. Nakauwi ako sa amin. Habang sakay ng bus, hindi ko maiwasang mapaglapatan ng tingin ang sandamakmak at samot-saring mga poster ng mga kandidato. Mula sa mga umaasang maging senador, nais maibalik sa Kongreso, gustong masungkit ang lalawigan, maghari sa siyudad, at lahat na. Sa mga ngising aso at mababangong tagline, isang paalaala: panahon na naman pala ng eleksiyon.
* * *
Hindi na bago para sa pamilya namin ang eleksiyon. Dating kabesa ng barangay ang kapatid ni Lolo Intin na si Lolo Nanding kaya nakabuhol na rin siguro sa pamilya namin ang politika. Naaalala ko pa noong bata pa ako ang pakadto-pakari ng mga tao sa bahay namin. Ang iba ay mga kilala pang politiko noong mga panahong iyon.
Tuwing eleksiyon, maliban sa si Papang ay abala sa pagiging lider ng mga watcher, kami naman ng dalawa ko pang kapatid ay sumasama kay Mamang sa pagnenegosyo. Dahil ilang metro lang ang layo ng bahay namin sa mababang paaralan, sideline na ni Mamang ang magbenta ng mga dulce, softdrinks, sigarilyo, at kung ano-ano pa. Sayang din kasi ang kikitain, sabi niya.
Kaya nga siguro inaabangan naming magpipinsan ang panahon ng eleksiyon—hindi lamang dahil maraming pagkain kundi dahil na rin sa mga maiiwang poster ng mga kandidato.
Nag-uunahan kami noon sa mga streamers nina Manny Villar at Gibo Teodoro dahil sa ang lalaki at matitibay, tamang-tama para sa guryon na papaliparin namin sa wayang sa likod ng bahay ni Lolo Intin. Unahan din kami sa mga tarpaulin bilang dingding ng mga bahay-bahayan na binubuo namin.
Habang lumalaki, hindi ko maiwasang itanong kina Papang kung bakit pabago-bago ang mga grupo tuwing eleksiyon. Ang dating magkasama sa pagkagobernador at kongresista, sa sunod na eleksiyon ay magkalaban na. Ang mga konsehal ni Mayor, ngayon ay konsehal na ni Vice. Para sa isang batang tulad ko, magulo at mahirap intindihin ang ganitong mundo.
Lalo na sa eleksiyon sa barangay. Matapos ang ilang taon ng pamamalagi ng aming apelyido sa serbisyo, na sinundan pa ng mga pinsan kong magkasunod pang naging Sangguniang Kabataan chairman, nasasaktan ako na makitang ang dating mga kaalyado ng pamilya ay kumampi na sa kabilang partido, na ang mga tiyoy ko ay kalaban na sa eleksiyon. Kinalaunan, unti-unting nalimutan ang aming apelyido, kahit pa si Lolo Nanding na. Noong tumakbo siyang muli bilang kagawad, di siya pinalad.
* * *
Taong 2016 nang sumubok si Papang bilang kagawad. Labis ang pag-ayaw ko at ni Ate dahil na rin sa mga karanasan ng pamilya kahit wala pa man din sa puwesto si Papang—ang siraan, ang bilihan ng boto, ang gulo, at ang pagkasalimpapaw ng mga tao. Hindi ko makayanan ang ganoong mundo.
May kaklase din akong nakapagtanong kung kaano-ano ko daw ba ang Dignadice na tumatakbo. Hindi niya raw kasi mamukhaan dahil pinagguhit-guhitan ang mukha ng poster nito. Masakit, oo. Ayaw naman nating gawing katuwaan ang ating mga mahal sa buhay. Ayaw kong mapasabak sa mga gulo na hindi naman dapat, sa mga tsismis na di dapat marinig, di dapat patulan.
Kaya lubos kong ipinagpasalamat sa Maykapal nang matalo si Papang sa halalan. Kahit alam kong masakit din ito para sa kaniya, ipinaalala lang namin na kaya niya pa ring makatulong kahit wala sa posisyon, na hindi siya dapat magbago, na dapat patuloy lang sa serbisyo.
Ang lahat ng karanasang ito siguro ang nagbunsod sa hindi ko pagkagusto sa panahon ng eleksiyon, at lubusang naglaho ang pananampatalaya ko sa sistema ng demokrasya sa Pilipinas nang magtakip ang 2016 National Elections, nang tuluyang magpaalam ang Pilipinas kay Miriam Defensor Santiago—hindi na maibabalik, kailanman.
* * *
Disyembre 2018 nang muli akong makapanood ng telebisyon matapos ang halos limang buwan. Wala kasing TV ang boarding house na tinutuluyan ko sa General Santos City. Nagsabong ang aking mga kilay nang makapanood ako ng mga patalastas tungkol sa ilang mga pulitiko.
Kung nagawa namin sa Ilocos, kaya sa buong Pilipinas!
Napatanong ako kina Mamang kung nagsimula na ba ang campaign period at kung kailan na ang eleksiyon. Laking gulat ko nang malamang sa darating na Mayo pa pala ang halalan.
Lalo akong nairita dahil habang tumatagal ay dumarami ang patalastas na nagsasabing may ginawa si Kwan para sa pamilya ni Aling Bebang, na si Tarpulano ang nagpasa ng batas para makapag-aral si Junjun, na nakalabas na Siya sa bilangguan, na ang dating alalay ay tatakbo at ang dating tumatakbo ngayon ay alalay, at marami pang ibang paandar. Napapabuntong-hininga na lang ako sa mga ganitong eksena, na talamak at paulit-ulit na lamang na nangyayari sa buong bansa.
Marso 13, 2019 nang nagsimula ang lokal na campaign period. Muling napuno ang ere ng mga jingle ng mga kandidato. May mga himig kundiman, may K-pop ang banat, at may mga sabay sa uso. Napuno hindi lang ang mga radyo at TV kundi ang mga eskinita at kalsada ng mga mukha’t tinig ng mga taong nagbabalak makaupo sa puwesto.
Ang laki-laki, ang laki-laki ng layunin. Ating iboto sa konseho . . . number 15 sa balota ni’yo!
Ilang linggo ring naging maingay ang bawat siyudad at lalawigan. Kahit saan puro tugtugan. Animo’y naging diskuhan ang mga lansangan. Aakalain mong may piyesta sa magkabilang dulo ng siyudad. Halos lahat din ng mga taong kilala ko pareho ang reklamo: Maingay. Magulo.
Hindi mo rin maipagkakaila ang mga hinaing ng mga tao sa social media tungkol sa pambubulabog at pinsalang naidadala ng mga bungangang de gulong. Hanggang sa biglang natapos ang mga bulahaw na ito. Biglang nanahimik.
Abril 19, 2019. Biyernes Santo. Nagising ako. Alas-otso. Tahimik ang paligid. Tamang-tama ang timpla ng araw para makapagnilay-nilay.
Nag-agahan kami ng tuyo at langkang ginataan. Bawal daw kasi ang karne, natatawang rason ni Mamang. Sa hapag hindi naiwasang magkumustahan sa eskuwela, sa trabaho ni Ate. Nang mabaling naman sa politika, naitanong sa akin ni Papang kung sino raw ba ang iboboto kong mayor.
* * *
Labis akong nanghinayang nang hindi ako nakaboto sa Barangay Elections noong nakaraang taon. Pakiramdam ko kasi hindi ko naipakita ang aking pagka-Pilipino. Sa tingin ko, parang hindi ako Pilipino.
Agosto 27, 2018. Araw ng mga Bayani. Dahil itinapat sa Lunes ang holiday, hindi muna ako bumalik sa General Santos at sinadyang magparehistro. Mayroon kasing satellite registration sa bawat barangay ang COMELEC sa Araw ng mga Bayani.
Magkahalong kaba at pagkasabik ang aking nadama dahil sa wakas ay matutupad na ang matagal ko nang ninanais simula nang tumuntong ako ng labinwalong taong gulang.
Pumila ako sa barangay hall ng mga alas-diyes ng umaga, at sa awa ng Diyos, natapos ako bago magtanghali. Halos lahat ng nakasabayan ko sa pagpaparehistro ay mga kaedad ko rin na sabik nang makaboto.
Naisip ko, Araw ng mga Bayani?
* * *
Abril 25, 2019. Huwebes. Habang papauwi kami ni Ate sa aming tinutuluyan, bigla niyang nasambit, “Wala akong ganang bumoto ngayong eleksiyon.”
Daglian din akong sumang-ayon sa kaniya. Ganitong ganito ang nararamdaman ko simula nang makita ko ang listahan ng mga kandidato. Sa animnapu’t dalawang tatakbong senador, mabibilang lang sa kamay ang kilala ko. Ang iba, batikang trapo. May mga iilan na papasa na. At ang iba, bakit pa?
Nawala ang kasabikan kong bumoto sa darating na halalan. Para bang walang karapat-dapat na maluklok sa posisyon. Kung meron man, iilan lang.
Ang eleksiyon ngayon ay parang pagkain lang sa Mindanao State University, ang paaralan ko. Pastil, pastil, pastil. Dahil wala nang pagpipilian. Hindi dahil masarap o kapana-panabik kundi dahil ito ang mura. Dahil ito lang ang kaya.
Kaya hindi ko inaasahang aabot din pala sa punto na ang pipiliin mo na lang sa halalan ay ang masama kaysa sa mas masama. Nawala na ang pagiging karapat-dapat at pinalitan na lang ng mga pastil.
* * *
Abril 20, 2019. Linggo ng Pagkabuhay. Nagising ang aking kaluluwa sa isang pamilyar at nakabubulabog na ingay.
Malapit na pala ang eleksiyon. Masisira na naman ang mga pamilya. Magbabangayan ang magkakaibigan. Mapupuno ang Twitter at Facebook ng iba’t ibang patutsada. Magaganap na naman ang isa sa kinasasabikang tagpo sa Pilipinas, kasunod ng Miss Universe.
Maingay na ang kalsada. Dapat bumangon na. Natanong ko ang aking sarili: Babangon na nga ba?