Introduction by Tarie Sabido
The Confrontation by Andrea D. Lim
National Children’s Book Day (NCBD) is every third Tuesday of July to commemorate the anniversary of the publication of Jose Rizal’s illustrated version of the folk tale “The Monkey and the Turtle,” which many consider the dawn of Filipino children’s and young adult literature. Throughout the month of July and throughout the country, readers celebrate Filipino literary works written specifically for the young.
Cotabato Literary Journal celebrates with this special issue that gives a peek into the growing children’s and young adult literature scene in SOCCSKSARGEN.
There’s poetry (“Ang Buaya sa Marsh” by high school student Marianne Hazzale J. Bullos and “Nabasa” by performance poet Alvin Pomperada) and short fiction (“War Makes Me Sad” by award-winning writer and publisher Mary Ann Ordinario), an essay (“The Confrontation” by poet and literature graduate student Andrea D. Lim) and an excerpt from a novel (“Anito Files” by freelance writer and entrepreneur Boon Kristoffer Lauw)—all showing the youthful perspective and distillation of language that entertain and resonate with readers of all ages. The works, which I selected from a dozen submissions, try to get to the very heart and soul of young people’s different experiences.
I am very, very excited about the future of children’s and young adult literature in the region. The recently concluded first Aklat Alamid YA Novel Writing Workshop, co-facilitated by Cotabato Literary Journal’s editor Jude Ortega and myself, proved that writers in the region respect children’s and young adult literature and are serious about honing their craft. I am looking forward to reading the novels they conceptualized during the workshop. I am also looking forward to the following events this month: a talk on reading advocacy by book reviewer and seller KB Meniado, a storytelling session in Kabacan, Cotabato Province, and two contests on writing short stories for young children and teens.
Books are mirrors and young readers in SOCCSKSARGEN deserve to see themselves in stories. When they can connect to the characters, settings, and experiences in stories they have deeper, richer, and more meaningful reading experiences.
Books are windows (or sliding glass doors) and young readers outside our region deserve to learn more about SOCCSKSARGEN beyond the usual stereotypes and assumptions.
Happy reading and Happy National Children’s Book Day!
By Mary Ann Ordinario
The following is the text of the storybook War Makes Me Sad: The Thoughts of a Child about the War in Mindanao published in 2000 by ABC Educational Development Center. It was declared Best Short Story for Children at the 2003 Catholic Mass Media Awards.
When we hear strong explosions, I see the worried face of my mother with tears in her eyes. Father hurriedly prepares to bring the chicken and goats from our backyard.
We run and I don’t know where we are going. We ride in a cart pulled by a carabao. Sometimes in a tricycle, jeep, or Ford Fiera. Or just hop in any vehicle that passes by so we can be far away from the explosions.
I hear people say, “There is war.”
What is this war? Whatever it is, it makes me sad.
I know it will take a long time before I can play again. We will leave our small hut, my kite, ball, and books. I wonder will I still see my doll when I come back.
I just watch and stare blankly. There are soldiers and rebels. Like a movie or just like in the television. They have guns and move in tanks. For sure after a while there will be bombings and we have to run again.
Sometimes I cry. I remember my friend Kahlil, who lost his arms. They say, “The war took it.” Will he still go to school? How can he use his pencil and crayons again?
Because of war we hide for a long time and try to go to the next town. My body aches. We try to find a place or a building for us to stay. And usually these are schools. There are so many people. We sleep together inside the classrooms. We stay together even if we don’t know one another. There are many mosquitoes. We don’t have a blanket, a mosquito net, or even a mat. I lie down in concrete floors very cold against my back. Father and Toto sleep outside, with coconuts leaves spread out as their mat.
Oftentimes when asleep, I wake up frightened because of the strong explosions. Sometimes, Mother shakes me and I hear her say, “Wake up my child, you are having a nightmare.” I tell her I dreamed of a huge gun. It was chasing me. I had to run fast so I can hide.
We can’t change our clothes and we don’t have any belongings. We can’t even take a bath because there is no water. Maybe that is why so many of us get sick. I even saw a mother gave birth but her baby did not move. They said that there was no doctor to take care of her.
Because of war my stomach aches. But we don’t have food. Not even a piece of bread. Sometimes I don’t eat breakfast or lunch. Though there are people who drop by and bring some food like noodles, dried fish, sardines, or rice. I hear them call these donations. They are not even enough for everyone.
I see people get wounded or killed. People panic and scream! Some stumble, some cry, and some don’t move at all. Mother holds my hand and pulls me. I get bumped and stepped on by anybody. I have to run and take a step, even if I am barefooted.
What scares me even more is the thought that Father, Mother, Toto, or Nene might be gone one day. What if they get sick? That is why I hold tightly onto my mother’s skirt.
Will there be no silence? When will the bombings stop? When will the war end? I have too many questions but Father could not give me the answers.
I want to go home. I want to rest, play, eat well, go back to school, laugh, and be happy again. So I pray that God, the most powerful, who loves children like me will take pity on us.
By Boon Kristoffer Lauw
Lumingon ako at nakita ang anino ni Sinag sa malayo. Kuminang ang mga talim ng dalawang palaso sa nakahatak niyang pana.
Hindi na ako nagpaligoy-ligoy pa.
Itinapon ko ang katawan ko sa madamong bahagi ng gubat at nagdasal sa mga ninuno kong ‘wag nila akong hayaang maging barbeque. Ay! Bananaque na lang pala kasi mas masarap ‘yon. Hindi ko pa kasi nasusubukan ang kapangyarihan ng aking Anito pero hindi masamang maniguro.
Ilang saglit pa, narinig ko na ang matitinis na sipol ng mga pinalipad na palaso. Sa ibabaw mismo ng ulo ko.
Umikot agad ako at tiningnan kung may tinamaan ang kasama ko.
Kainis, wala. Nakailag ang dalawang garudang humahabol sa akin at dumiretso lang ang mga palaso ni Sinag sa pagitan ng dalawang puno—
Napatalon ako sa gulat. Sa pag-ilag ng mga malaagilang nilalang, sumalpak sila sa mga katabing puno. Abot hanggang sa puwesto ko ang kalabog ng pagkabangga nila. Ilang saglit pa, bumagsak ang mga garuda sa lupa at hindi na gumalaw pa.
Nagmadali akong tumayo.
“Ang galing mo, Si—” Babatiin ko na sana ang nagligtas sa akin pero naglaho na siya. “Sinag?”
Ginamit siguro ni Sinag ang tagabulag, ang Anitong nagpapalaho sa tagapaghawak nito sa paningin ng iba.
“Kiko! Takbo!” sigaw naman ni Yumi mula sa malayo. “Bi—”
Napaluhod bigla si Yumi sa lakas ng pagsipa ng isang garuda sa hawak niyang kalasag. Sinubukan niyang sibatin ang kalaban pero mabilis itong nakailag.
“KIKO! ANO PANG GINAGAWA MO?” ulit ni Yumi. Parang nanay ko pag pinapabangon ako.
Umatake na naman ang isa sa apat na garudang katunggali ni Yumi.
Walang tigil sa pag-atake ang mga garuda kay Yumi. Mabuti na lang, protektado siya ng kanyang Anito. Pero pag tumagal pa ang laban, mapapagod din ang Lakan ng tribung Tatag.
Nakarinig ako ng mga panibagong sipol sa ere. Pagkatapos, bumaon ang ilang palaso sa hita at braso ng isa sa mga garuda at napasigaw ito sa sakit.
Pansamantalang napatigil sa pag-atake at napaatras konti ang mga garuda mula kay Yumi.
Ang galing ng mga kasama ko. Pero ako…
Gustuhin ko mang tumulong, wala akong maiambag. Ipinadala kasi kami dito para iligtas ang aming mundo.
Yumuko ako at tiningnan ang mga kamay ko. Nanginginig ang mga ito.
“Kiko! Tumakbo ka na!” sigaw na naman ni Yumi.
Kailangan kong tumakbo. Iyon lang ang maitutulong ko sa kanila ngayon.
Pero hindi ako makatakbo. Hindi ako makagalaw.
“KIKO!” boses ni Sinag. Lumitaw ang Lakan ng tribung Bagwis sa malayong harapan ko. Nakatingin siya sa itaas ko.
Nagawa kong tumingala.
Tatlong garuda ang lumulusob sa akin.
Tumakbo papunta sa akin si Yumi pero alam kong hindi siya aabot. Nagpalipad din ng sunod-sunod na mga palaso si Sinag pero isa lang sa tatlo ang tinamaan niya.
Naalala kong may nakapagsabi sa aking may katapusan ang lahat ng bagay. Ito daw ang katotohanang mas matanda pa kaysa aming mga ninuno. Pero sabi niya sa akin, huwag daw akong mag-alala—dahil sa katapusan daw nagsisimula ang mga bagay na pinakadakila.
Ito na marahil ang aking katapusan—pero walang kadaki-dakila sa aking ginagawa.
Hindi dapat ako ang nandito. Dapat si—
Sumiklab bigla ang labanan sa itaas ko. Umalingawngaw ang salpukan ng bakal sa matitigas na balat ng mga garuda. Iminulat ko ang aking mga mata at nasaksihan ang pagsayaw sa ere ng kambal na kris ni Kaya. Para siyang isang diyosang mandirigma.
Napilitang lumihis ng direksiyon ang mga garuda.
Pagkababa, pinaligiran nila kaagad si Kaya. Pero ang hindi nila alam, tapos na ang kanilang laban. Tinamaan sila ni Kaya, ang tagapaghawak ng Anitong pamako. Daplis lang ang kailangan niya.
Natumba bigla ang dalawang garuda.
Nanlaki ang mga mata nila. Kahit ano’ng gawin nila, hindi nila maigalaw ang kanilang mga katawan. Iyon kasi ang kapangyarihan ng Anito ni Kaya, ang maparalisa ang sinumang masugatan ng tagapaghawak nito.
“S-salamat—” simula ko sana pero tinitigan ako nang masama ng masungit na mandirigma.
Bigla akong nawalan ng hininga. Nanigas ang katawan ko. Tinamaan din ata ako ng Anito ni Kaya. Iyon na siguro ang pinakamahabang tatlong segundo ng buhay ko.
Pagkatapos, iniwan na ako ni Kaya at sinamahan si Yumi. Nakahinga ako ulit.
Si Kaya naman ang Lakan ng tribung Bangis, ang tribu ng pinakamahuhusay na mandirigma. Nagulat ako nang matuklasang magkaedad lang kaming dalawa. Hindi kasi karaniwan ang magkaroon ng napakabatang Lakan.
Wala din sa wastong edad ang pagiging Lakan ko. Hindi kasi sinasadya ang pagkapasa sa akin ng Anito ng aming tribu. Pero si Kaya, mukhang naging Lakan dahil siya ang pinakamahusay sa lahat ng mahuhusay sa kanila.
Si Kaya din marahil ang pinakamahusay sa pakikipaglaban sa aming apat.
At ako naman ang pinakamahina.
Ako si Kiko, ang pinakahuling nararapat na maging Lakan ng aming tribu.
By Andrea D. Lim
I am enrolled in one of the private schools in General Santos City, a Protestant Chinese school in Barangay City Heights where more drivers and less parents send their children to school and pick them up when classes end. I contest to this generalization although I know it is true.
That is why I was not surprised with that frantic look my classmates and I shared when Ma’am Villa, our guidance counselor who I consider as my only true friend back in high school, announced to the graduating class a while ago that there will be a Father-Child Night next Saturday. We have dads who work seven days a week; even those who acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being still spend Sundays for money-making. If God can be placed in a lower rank He does not deserve in schedules and priority lists, how much more a daughter like me who is not able to inherit both Math and business skills of my father, an industrial engineer and a businessman?
Ma’am Villa gave us copies of the letter of invitation we have to hand to our dads ourselves. There’s no harm in trying, I assured myself. The next morning, I placed the letter beside the Bible Papa always reads every morning—the book he also used to propose to Mama—with a cup of coffee or tea at his side. I also told Mama nonchalantly that the event’s main objective is for our fathers to have an intimate moment before we graduate, knowing that momentous encounters with them seldom happen.
Mama knows how to listen to what my silence cannot help but say. I heard her reading the letter to my father thru the phone while I was studying in my room. She would make sure she called his office every afternoon so that Papa will remember the upcoming school event.
Final exams and requirements for graduating students made time seem quicker to pass by, and the next thing we know, it was already Saturday. I still have not heard from Papa if he can make it to the event or not. I am already fifteen, I reminded myself while preparing for the event. You should know by now that pain chooses no age. Get used to it.
And I was not alone in the struggle of begging for our father’s time. I forgot to observe the look of our teachers’ faces—the ones who helped in conceptualizing and organizing this event with objectives they feel strongly about—but not the statistics of attendees, specifically the fathers. Out of sixty-four dads who were expected to come to the school’s audiovisual room, only twenty-one came. Half of them were also late. Those students who have their fathers with them were sitting on the front chairs. The rest of the “fatherless” bunch like me were at the back.
It was not a pity party for us, though. We were not sure if numbness is also a feeling, but we were pretty sure Mano Po movies depicting the “Filipino-Chinese children’s plights” are overrated. We just mocked the whole event as too sentimental or imagined ourselves as parents of our future children. Will we also decide that our homes and businesses be established in one building? Will we impose Ephesians 6:1–3 all the time and not bother ourselves with Ephesians 6:4? Will we be able to identify more with the nature of a system where wealth comes from than our future children’s identities?
Papa came roughly ten minutes before the event ended. He was only able to attend the last part of the program titled as “The Confrontation.” An ample amount of time was allotted for the student and his or her father to find a spot anywhere around the campus where a deep talk can happen.
“I know the perfect spot where we can talk,” Papa whispered to me.
He chose a bench under the tallest tree in school: a pine tree that’s higher than the campus buildings painted in white. I called that tree as the heart of the campus on one of my diary entries last year.
These are the only words he said. I always view Papa as a man of few words that have always been not enough. I never thought it only takes two words for a warrior to remove an armor and look at crumbled walls as beautiful ruins.
He started to cry. That was the first time I saw him cry like a fifteen-year-old boy. I did too. There are still no words, even if the thing that has to happen is already happening.
After the closing prayer, we immediately went to the car and headed home. I sat in the backseat; front seats are for mothers who endure seeing their children receive tough love from their fathers. All I can do is watch him drive. Growing up, I was never sure if I own a forgiving heart. All I know is I carry a heavy one. But at that moment, I was certain I do, because all I can give to Papa is unconditional love all along.
By Marianne Hazzale J. Bullos
Ang buaya sa marsh
Ay! Ay! Pagkadako-dako!
Ang buaya sa marsh
Naghulat sa kangitngit,
Naghulat og biktimahon.
Ang buaya sa marsh
Gipanilok og kaon
Biskan iyang mga igsoon.
Ang buaya sa marsh
Nihabhab pa gyod og bulawan
Pangtunaw sa gipangkaon.
Ang buaya sa marsh
Gihugasan ang pula sa panit
Og tubig nga limpiyo.
Ang buaya sa marsh
Buotan pod ra ba usahay.
Sa niaging Mayo,
Nilamano siya kang Tatay!
By Alvin Pomperada
Ayaw paawat ng ulan. Hindi na marinig
ang guro. Parang sirang channel
ang buhos sa bubong ng silid-aralan. Wala nang
tengang nakikinig. Naghihintay na lang
makalabas. Paano kaya
makakauwi kung walang pamasahe?
Nakadungaw ang balintataw ko sa alulod.
Pagkalabas, hinigpitan ko ang kapit
sa bag pack at ang sintas ng sapatos
sabay talukbong ng polo sa ulo.
“Isa. Dalawa. Tatlo. Takbo!”
ang ulan at ang lamig ng hangin sa pagkaripas.
Para di gaanong mabasa, sumisilong ako
sa bawat madaanang tahanan.
Nang malapit na sa amin, napahinto ako
nang makita ang kanal sa daraanan.
Hindi ko kayang lampasan
ang ragasa ng tubig-ulan. Sumugod ako
sa abot-bewang na baha. Malapit na
akong makalampas nang hinampas ng agos.
Naanod ako at nabasa
ang mga libro. Saan nga bang pahina nababasa