January 2018 (Issue 17)

Introduction

FICTION
Survival by Al-faidz Omar
Slaughter by Krizza Nadine A. Calmerin
Chatkat by Jonamari Kristin Ordinario-Floresta

ESSAY
A Dream in a Minor Key by Kurt Joshua O. Comendador

POETRY
Misfortune by Jerome Cenina
Kamatayon by PG Murillo
Kem Ngà by Ryan Christian Dulay Tuan
Sising & Ulyang
by Merhana Macabangin

Editors and Contributors

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Introduction

Dalawa ang kahulugan ng Bagong Taon sa tulang “Pagpapatuloy” ni Nanoy Rafael—pagpapatulóy (pagpapapások) at pagpapatúloy (hindi pagtigil). Inihahanda natin ang pagpasok ng araw na ito sa pamamagitan ng pagtitípon sa isang kaínan, pagtataboy ng malas, pagsásayá, at, higit sa lahat, pangangako ng pagbabagong-búhay. Hindi nga ba’t ni(li)likha ang Bagong Taon para sa mga bagong pagkakataon? Kailangan itong itangi mula sa panahong nagpapatúloy lang naman sa pag-inog.

Ganito rin sinasalubong ng Cotabato Literary Journal ang Bagong Taon. Ipinagpapatúloy natin ang isang layunin na maging tampúkan ng mga natatanging akda ng rehiyon kaalinsabay ng pagkilala ng mga bagong tinig sa pagsusulat. Kayâ, sinadyang lahat ng manunulat na kasáma sa isyung ito ay hindi pa nailathala sa alinmang isyu rito. Halos lahat rin sa kanila ay mga mag-aaral sa hayskul o kolehiyo at unang naglathala ng mga gawa sa SOX Zine Fest noong 24 Nobyembre 2017.

Nais din nating maipagpatúloy ang tradisyon ng katutubong panitikan sa rehiyon. Lagi namang mayroong pagsasangkapan sa katutubo sa maraming akdang nailahok na rito, ngunit iilan lámang ang isinulat ng at nása anyong katutubo. Narito ngayon ang maiikling tulang “Sising” at “Ulyang” ni Merhana Macabangin ng Polomolok at “Kem Ngà” ni Ryan Christian Dulay Tuan ng Lake Sebu. Nakabatay ang mga ito sa mga tradisyonal na anyo ngunit nilapatan ng makabagong sensibilidad. Kay Macabangin, pabugtong ang simula ng bawat tulang Maguindanaon ngunit nagtatapos sa itinuturing ngayong hugot. Batay naman sa anyo ng kasabihang Tboli ang kay Dulay Tuan ngunit binabali niya ito sa pamamagitan ng simpleng pagpapantay ng katayuan ng mga bata at matanda sa unang linya.

Sinusundan naman ng maikling kuwentong “Slaughter” ni Krizza Nadine Calmerin ang isang nakasanayan at palasak nang balangkas ng mga salaysay—pinagtaksilan ng iniibig kayâ naghiganti—ngunit naghahain siya ng panibago sa pamamagitan ng pagsubok na paglaruan ang nakamihasnang anyo ng katha. Nasa mahabang tradisyon din ng pagsusulat tungkol sa pagsusulat ang mga akdang “Chatkat” ni Jonamari Kristin Ordinario-Floresta ng Kipadawan at “Kamatayon” ni PG Murillo ng General Santos. Isang maikling kuwentong pambata ang “Chatkat” at tungkol sa palakang natutuwang dagdagan at bawásan ang mga ibinabalita, kayâ itinalagâ siya sa hulí bílang mananalaysay na maaaring magkuwento ng kahit ano—totoo man, batay sa totoo, o kathang-isip. Samantála, tungkol naman ang “Kamatayon” sa gamit ng pagsulat upang buhayin at kitilin ang damdamin ng manunulat. Sinusubok ding magpakita ng dalawang akdang ito ng mga bagong imahen para sa panitikan at pagsulat—paninyismis at paglililok.

Maaari namang mayroong mga kailangang hindi o hindi magawang patuluyin sa kasunod na yugto ng ating mga búhay. Sa maikling sanaysay na “A Dream in a Minor Key” ni Kurt Joshua O. Comendador ng General Santos, halimbawa, lumaki na siya sa pagtugtog ng piyano at nangangarap na maging isang propesyonal na manunugtog, ngunit sa ngayon ay kailangan niyang tahakin ang ibang landas para sa kagustuhan ng magulang. Katotohanan ding nagpapatúloy ang hindi magagandang bagay kahit na subukan man nating itaboy para bumuo ng inaasam na panibagong simula. Ganito ang takbo ng mga pangyayaring inilalarawan sa kayâ marahil nag-aalangang mga linya ng tulang “Misfortune” ni Jerome Cenina ng Alabel, Sarangani.

Panghulí, binubuksan ang isyu ngayon ng kathang “Survival” ni Al-faidz Omar ng Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat. Matimpi at payak na paglalarawan ito ng búhay ng mga itlog ng pagong upang ilahad sa atin ang katotohanang ang mga nilalang na ipinapatulóy natin dito sa daigdig—sa akda: ang mga itlog, ang ina ng nagsasalaysay, o ang mismong nagsasalaysay—ay hindi lahat nagpapatúloy na mabuhay.

Maaaring ipakahulugan nga sa Bagong Taon ang tambálan ng ipinapatúloy na dati o tradisyon at ng ipinapatulóy na bago o eksperimentasyon. Ganito ang isang aasahan natin sa Cotabato Literary Journal sa mga susunod pang buwan ng bagong taon; bukod sa pagtatampok ng mga nailathala ng anyo, manunulat, at wika, nariyan lagi táyong nag-aabang sa mga panibagong tinig at hindi inaasahang pag-akda. At sa prosesong ito, maaaring mayroong mga kailangang iwanan, kusang mamaalam, at marapat na baguhin, ngunit umaasa táyo—a, pag-asa nga naman ang isa pang kahulugan ng Bagong Taon—na para sa ikauunlad ang mga ito ng panitikan at pagsulat sa rehiyon.

Naragsak a Baru nga Tawen!

 

M.J. Cagumbay Tumamac
Maitum, Sarangani

Survival

By Al-faidz Omar
Fiction

It is dark. And cold. And muddy.

I also smell freaking bad.

Carrying the lotus buds like some trophy, I walk slowly towards the beach to wash myself. You see, after getting nearly drowned at your own family’s fishpond, you wouldn’t mind the thought of drowning in the sea or getting attacked by a shark. Both are unlikely to happen, but what do you expect from an eleven-year-old kid who just watched Jaws the other night? Fear overcomes reality, and in some cases fear becomes reality.

There, full moon is bright, the waves calm. It was as if the sea wasn’t moving at all. Stupid Jason, the sea doesn’t move, it’s gravity that makes tides go high and low.

After a while walking in the knee-deep sea, I decide to lie down instead. The water is warmer than usual, but I don’t mind. Then I notice splashes nearby. Curious, I lift my head a little bit, and I see a sea turtle waddling towards the seashore. Afraid that I might scare it away, I keep still and just observe.

It has taken tremendous time and effort waiting for the turtle to the reach the middle of the seashore. My neck is aching terribly after lifting my head for a very long time, all the while keeping my body laid down. The turtle starts to dig, which is kind of cute considering the flappy arms turtles use. The turtle is going to lay her eggs!

The turtle reminds me of the travel my mother and I took when we returned to the Philippines. I’ve read a few science books at school narrating the journey sea turtles take to lay their eggs. My mom wanted me to grow up with Filipino manners, so she brought me to the Philippines from Europe. Then she left me for her to find a job somewhere else, or as in the turtle’s situation, to live her own life.

My mother, after many years overseas, grew accustomed to the city life. She could never stay long in the province, for she was used to things being fast-paced. Even the Philippines’ largest cities bored her after a long time.

I think I’m like my mother. I can’t wait to grow up and leave this village.

But time moves slowly in the province.

The turtle is done laying (or dumping rather) her eggs in the hole she dug earlier. After covering the hole with sand, she returns to the water, swimming to who-knows-where.

I rinse the lotus buds in the sea water and walk towards the covered hole. I start opening the lotus buds and munch on its seeds. The thought of these seeds running out tempts me to have these turtle eggs for a snack.

Anyway, if the eggs hatch, only a few of the baby turtles will survive. On the crawl towards the sea, many of them will be prey to birds circling nearby. When they reach the sea, they might still be eaten by larger fish. Only a few will survive.

The world is a harsh place for turtles, but not only for turtles.

Troubled thoughts rushing through my mind, I dig for the eggs. I take off my shirt and wrap the eggs with it. I leave a lotus stem at the spot as a marker, so I can return to get the remaining eggs. I wrap my arms around them and carry them home, carefully, away from the sea, away from everything else.

Slaughter

By Krizza Nadine A. Calmerin
Fiction

June 1, 2017

On December 20, 2015, the trial for the murder of Bryan Mendoza, 20 years of age, senior in St. Thomas University, was dismissed due to lack of evidence for the accused, Laura Santos, his girlfriend. One and a half years later, the prosecution submitted a confession found in Natalie Perez’s diary to prove the innocence of the accused, as well as to demand a retrial for further investigation of the case.

*

July 10, 2015

Diary, can you keep a secret? 

I smiled at his pathetic body six feet below the ground, right before I grabbed the shovel and covered him with fresh soil. And it felt good. Like ecstasy.

Bryan Mendoza. Beautiful name, perfect face. The impeccable captain of the university’s basketball team. He was my person. The perfect boyfriend everyone dreamed of and yet chose a plain Jane like me. He was the best part of my life. WAS.

Why? Maybe because every fairy tale has to reach its finale, or some bitch disguised as damsel in distress has to interfere and steal away the prince, making him change and forget his happy ending with his little princess. Remember Laura, one of my best friends? It turned out she was smooching with him behind my back! And the worst thing was, he loved it! I hate them both, diary, but I hate Bryan more! He even ruined my reputation in school! All those nude photos of me that he loved to shoot, they all went to the phones of every boy in the campus! I knew that from Archie, my neighbor, when he showed me those on his phone. So, that’s why I felt like everyone’s eyeing me in school! That Bryan, the perv! The three years that we spent together, everything about our promises, he just threw them away like it was all just some sort of a high school fling. Knowing that, in the most humiliating way possible, I broke up with him. It’s a little funny how my one-in-a-million love for him turned into hatred so sudden. I felt so betrayed by the only person I thought wouldn’t! Laura got away with it as she went to Bacolod. But Bryan? No. Settle in, diary, you might wanna grab a popcorn as I tell you the happiest day of my life, in juicy details.

I spend my first week of June planning, and I executed it last 23. It was easy. I texted him to meet up, lying that I’ll accept his apology, and he replied, “Okay.” Psh. What a jerk. I got to our rendezvous 30 minutes earlier than our meet-up time wearing the first gift he gave me before, a knee-length royal blue dress, and paired it up with my favorite black boots and black handbag. A waiter in a maroon shirt and black pants greeted me with a smile and offered me a glass of red wine. I asked for two, saying it was for my boyfriend who was currently in the restroom. He bought it and went straight to the table next to mine. Watching the waiter retreating back, I fished out three benzodiazepine tablets from my purse to make him doze off and emptied its contents to the other glass. It bubbled for a bit and settled. Ten minutes later, he arrived and sat in front of me. He looked dashing, to be honest, wearing that black polo shirt and brown khaki shorts. Black, perfect color. Then he smiled. I suppressed the urge to break the wineglass I was holding to his face, and had a heavy gulp of the wine instead. We had a little chat, he kept blabbering his apologies, and I just kept quiet, bored and annoyed that it took a long time for the drug to work. I played along to his game until seventeen minutes later, when he finally had his precious trip to dreamland.

I asked the same waiter from a while ago to assist Bryan to my car (I made up a story about Bryan being drunk) and gave a little tip for his help. Alone, at last, I reached for my bag and started binding my ex’s hands and feet with tight rope until his skin redden. A smile occurred in my face, I was finally doing it, my little planned revenge. I kept him there on the backseat and started the car. It was already past 11:00 p.m. so the road was already not crowded, and driving with a bound ex-boyfriend in the backseat wouldn’t attract any unwanted attention. We reached my target place, a deserted house which had a little haunted ambiance with its big old trees and wooden structure and which me and my cousin Clyde found when we were 12. I parked the car at the back and dragged him inside with all my strength, cussing all the way. I positioned him on a rustic chair that had been waiting for him and slapped him hard on his left cheek to wake him up. He did, with a little jerk. I can still remember the horrified look in his face when he saw me waving a knife in front of him. Hahahahaha!

He struggled, (of course, who wouldn’t?) but when he realized it was no use, he stopped and begged me to forgive him and to let him go. Forgive him? Let him go? Nah. I’ve been played, cheated, and betrayed, for goodness’ sake! Enjoying my superiority over him, I kissed his cheek and whispered, “Ssshhh. The fun’s haven’t started yet. You’ll enjoy it later, Love. I promise.” And I saw his eyes dilated. By the way, I stuffed his mouth with his black socks. Creative right? After that, I started my little show. I skinned his right cheek with the scraping knife until pink flesh welcomed me. His muffled screams sounded like music to my ears as I got the alcohol from the table on my right and doused his flesh with it. I wasn’t satisfied. I used the same knife to reach his nearest shoulder and carved the letter N on it. Thick red blood oozed and stained the outline of the first letter of my name. Then, I removed his gorgeous shirt and let loose of my little fire ants to his chest and scooped some for his eyes. He screamed even louder and almost knocked over his chair. Enjoying my little show, I got a snake I bought from my uncle out the cage (by the way, I named the snake “Laura”) and placed it round his neck. Was it poisonous? Yeah right it was. I left the room with a smirk, letting the snake have his midnight snack, devouring his magnanimous amount of meat.

All the effort made me tired and sleepy. I had a little nap and woken up at 12:19 a.m. I better hurry before the sun would rise. I went to the locked room, and when I opened the door, Bryan’s face was awesomely unrecognizable! It was swelling, reddening, and was covered in his own blood. I checked his pulse and breathing. So faint I could hardly feel them. I let out a laugh, a loud and long laugh I almost sounded like Satan himself. Of course, I cleaned up my mess, I’m not stupid. I already dug a hole at the back of the house a week ago so I just dropped all evidences of my sweet torture to it. Next, the main course. I dragged Bryan Mendoza’s limp body and let him rest in that hole. I gave him a last smile and got the shovel. Well, I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.

It may sound evil, but yes, Diary, I enjoyed every little bit of it. That act satisfied me more than the years of our relationship or any gift I ever received. I bet he learned his lesson now, well, wherever his soul went.

Your one and only friend,
Natalie

P.S., I’m burning this diary this weekend, you know, just for safety reasons. Well, I hope you’ll remind me, you know how forgetful I am.

*

On May 26, 2017, Natalie Perez’s house was reportedly burned down. The following is the list of the recovered possessions:

  1. Metal cage
  2. Silver ring
  3. Electric guitar
  4. Sewing kit
  5. Unlocked diary

No remains of Natalie Perez was found.

Submitted for evidence by:

Nadine A. Cortez
Case Prosecutor

Chatkat

By Jonamari Kristin Ordinario-Floresta
Fiction

(This short story for children is published as a picture book by ABC Education Development Center.) 

Chatkak is the most talkative frog in the lake. He doesn’t get tired of talking if there is something new about the frogs.

So Smarty, the head of the frogs, named Chatkak to be the news bearer in the lake. Chatkak relayed what happened in the lake to everyone. He kept track of what every frog said and did.

One morning, Chatkak passed by the house of Socia, the social climber. He hid at the side of the house and eavesdropped at the conversation of Socia and Curious.

“Look, Curious, my new pieces of jewelry are beautiful. They glitter differently and look like real diamonds.” said Socia.

“You have so much jewelry! You are the richest frog in the lake. Many will envy you!” answered Curious.

“Anyone who looks at me will be envious! The glitter of my jewelry will blind them!” Socia gleefully said.

“Aha! That’s good news to share!” said Chatkak and left jumping until he saw Jealos.

“Jealos! Socia is flaunting her jewels! She said their glitter will blind you!”

“She said that? I’ll be blinded by the glitter?” Jealos wanted to make sure.

“Yes!” replied Chatkak.

“Hmp!” Jealos smirked. “Those jewels are all fake!”

“Oh, Jealos! Socia even said that you are envious of her wealth!”

“All the while, I thought Socia is my friend,” Jealos was red-faced with anger. “Watch out, Socia!”

One afternoon, Chatkak walked past Smarty’s house. Smarty had a runny nose. He was coughing.

Chatkak immediately spread the news. “Smarty is in a really bad condition. He is very sick.”

“Oh my!” the frogs exclaimed. “Can Smarty still be our leader? We’ll find one to replace him!”

Every day, this was the kind of news all over the lake. Chatkak related everything to all the frogs. He added to what he saw or heard.

As a result, there was misunderstanding in the place. Meanwhile, Chatkak was happy to spread more news.

It did not take long when the frogs gathered themselves to discuss the trouble in their place. They discovered that what really happened was different from what they heard from Chatkak.

“Who is the source of all these gossips?” asked Smarty.

“It was Chatkak who spread all these!” the frogs shouted.

“Is this accusation true, Chatkak?” asked Smarty.

“Yes, I spread the news,” Chatkak tearfully admitted. “I like adding and sometimes not telling the whole truth.”

Everyone was dumbfounded.

“I think you can be a good storyteller, Chatkak,” said Smarty.

“Storyteller?” wondered Chatkak.

“Yes!” said Smarty. “You will be the frog that tells stories to children and adults. You will narrate legends and stories—funny, terrifying, magical, anything! And they don’t have to be true.”

So when a celebration came, Chatkak was the storyteller. He told stories about frogs of older days, of frogs that could fly in the sky or swim in the sea.

Nobody scolded him for not telling the truth. They were even amused! And so was Chatkak!

From that time on, Chatkak became the most famous storyteller in the entire lake! Some frogs even bought his stories!

A Dream in a Minor Key

By Kurt Joshua O. Comendador
Essay

It was the summer at the end of fifth grade. My brother, after seeing a violin ensemble perform at our church, managed to convince my parents to enroll him in music lessons. He wanted to play the violin, but my parents believed that he should start with the piano in order to establish a solid musical foundation.

Ubani lang imong manghod, Kuy. Pa-lesson lang sad ka’g apil.”

I agreed to go. After all, what was I to lose? Never did I know that it would be one of the most important decisions in my life.

Learning the piano is roughly the same as going to school: you start in Kindergarten (Kinder A and B), and then Grade 1 until Grade 8. I finished the Kinder B book in a month, skipping the entire Kinder A book. Maybe because of my age, I quickly understood what was being taught to me. I was promoted to Grade 1 right after. The pieces got more complex, so I needed to practice more often to keep up. As I learned and mastered one piece after another, I got this satisfaction I couldn’t describe. The joy of playing the pieces was very pleasurable sensation. The gliding of the fingers through the black and white keys of the keyboard had a very intimate feeling to it. Playing the right keys, hearing the right notes, magnified these feelings a hundred times over. I played the piano with vigor. I was young then, very passionate.

An obstacle appeared when I was in Grade 6: I got busier and lost my time for piano lessons. I spent my time practicing and learning alone. By this time, I had improved a bit and started playing church hymns, most of which were arranged with four voices. Meaning, I had to read and play multiple notes at a time. It was a hard and taxing effort, one which required multitasking: identify the notes, find the right keys, position the fingers, to name a few. It also required patience and dedication.

Pag makahuman ka og isa ka piyesa, Kuy, hatagan tika’g dyis,” my father would tell me.

I got more motivated than ever. Getting 10 pesos was a good reward for me back then, coupled with the happiness of playing a piece. Whenever I mastered a piece, I couldn’t wait to play it during our evening family worships, always gleaming with pride and pleasure.

The piano, for me, was a way of life. I needed to practice every single day. A day without practice was a wasted day. There was one time when my little 54-key electric keyboard, bought from a surplus store, got broken and was not repaired for three months. Missing three months of practice was a very big deal for me, especially that I’d already claimed to be a pianist. So, like a good musician, I practiced without sounds. It was boring and dull, but I needed to keep my senses sharp and keep myself from, so to speak, accumulating rusts.

The year 2013 was one of the best years of my life. I started following the Boston Red Sox and watched them become the world champions in October, in that year. I also bought the very first book in my collection. It was also in that year that my parents finally managed to buy a real piano: a Trebel Vertigrand. I was also starting to play at our church as a substitute pianist. I’d always give the song leader, however, a list of the songs I could play.

It was all the same throughout the year: lessons, practice, play. I was always craving for more. I had the thirst for learning and playing the most difficult pieces. I wanted to be a concert pianist. I wanted people to see me at my best in a concert hall, just me and my piano up the stage. When I was in high school, if anyone asked me what I wanted to be, I would almost always answer, “Concert pianist.” Although I also wanted to be a pilot, I thought that it was too ambitious.

*

At the end of high school, like almost everyone, I had to pick a course for college. That was the moment my dream took a huge detour. My song changed from a major key to a minor key.

Gusto nako mag-music school, My,” I opened up to my mom.

Dili man na puwede kay dapat mag-professional jud ka,” my mom replied.

I couldn’t understand. Why couldn’t I follow my dream? Was it about the money? The nature of work? I couldn’t understand. Wasn’t music a profession?

My parents and I fought over it for some time. These fights were sometimes so bitter it could leave my mother crying.

Gusto ko ninyo mag-abogado kay gusto ninyo modato. Tanan wala ninyo nabuhat, ipabuhat ninyo sa ako,” I would blurt out sometimes.

My parents are both professionals. My mom is a registered pharmacist, and my dad is an engineer. I couldn’t understand them at all. Why didn’t they want me to become a professional pianist? Why couldn’t they let me chase after my dream?

Bitter and rejected, I followed them. I enrolled in the English program of Mindanao State University in our city. But still I continued my piano-playing. When I reached college, it all became too much. I knew I was running out of time.

*

I’d gone through many music teachers, but the last teachers I had were by far the most influential, as they were the ones I ran to when I was already mature enough to understand things.

The words of Ma’am Malou seemed like a distant echo: “Talented kaayo ka, Kurt, ba. Pag-apas sa akoa sa Cavite ha? Didto ka mag-school sa CUP.

Ma’am Marian introduced me to technical playing, improving my touch to the keys. She always emphasized that I should play with emotions, to harness them to enhance my performance. Our lessons were always filled with her friendly, albeit sometimes fierce, reminder to “keep it soft, don’t band the keyboard.” She pledged to help me enter a music school, even offering to give lessons for free.

Then came Ma’am Dianne, my last teacher, but the first one who encouraged me to finish my current degree first. “Tapusin mo na lang muna ‘yung degree mo. Tapos tutulungan kitang makarating sa Maynila.” She refined my skills and helped me in interpreting pieces according to the period they were composed and who composed them. She would help me with a condition: I must return to GenSan to help other aspiring musicians.

To each of them, I only had the same reply: “Sige, ma’am, apas ra ko sa inyo puhon.” I always said that with a reassuring smile.

*

I’ve always believed that I can do it and catch up with my former music teachers. But deep inside, downcast feelings engulf me. My mentors always support me, confident that I will follow their words. But at this rate, I know I’m already letting them down. I’m losing hope. I no longer have the fire that fueled me before. I remember my friends: Ate Jasmin and Kuya Sid. They want me to be music majors like them. I always thought that I could be like them. But that was before.

I can only hope that I could meet them someday, not as their student, but as their equal. I believe that no matter how skilled he/she is, an amateur pianist can never equal a professional one, except perhaps the gifted ones. But what a truly great day that would be: when my dream finally becomes a reality, when it’s time that my life transposed into a major key.

Sitting by the piano tonight, I remember the musical pieces I used to play. The night is young and quiet, a good time to play music. A sonatina by Clementi is a good piece to start. The first few notes are heavenly. Full of emotions, I close my eyes and play it by memory. Years of practice has imprinted that piece into my mind and body. It all feels like a blur, a glitch, a painful memory. I’ve lost my tempo, I’ve lost my tension. But still, with my eyes closed, fingers bumping each other every once in a while, I tap away on the piano keys.

Misfortune

By Jerome Cenina
Poetry

He rose with slough of despond.
His first woman slept in, gave in
into the reign of his innocence.

The soldier he knew for the first time
lost his home’s address
upheld another woman
and watched another child fall
asleep in cradle.

He starved in hunger
crossed the street for garbage foods
witnessed engines making the empty street lighted
and his soul was tintless.

One day, a sack was found
in the city raceway.
Full of dirt, there
the horrible man in the street
the beggar they deemed lifeless
has the face with the fullness of hope
that he might have one family
that one day there will be tears
on his box
with roses and candles
above his grave
before he totally waves goodbye
to the life he enjoyed but considered as misfortune.