April 2018 (Issue 20)

Introduction by Eric Gerard H. Nebran

ESSAY
The Border Express by Mikhael M. Labrador
Riding a Tricycle by Noel Pingoy

POETRY
Su mga Ngiyawa kanu Inged by Mubarak Tahir
Internal Change by Lance Isidore Catedral
Skysea by Saquina Karla C. Guiam
adobo is my favorite dish by Benj Marlowe Cordero
An Open Letter to J. Catolico Street
by Marc Jeff Lañada
Survived a Bullet by Claire Monreal
Superficial Swim by Joan Victoria Cañete
The Ascension
by Patrick Jayson Ralla
Duha ka Balak by Paul Randy Gumanao

FICTION
Black and White by Mariz Leona
Something Sad by Boon Kristoffer Lauw
Lights of Different Colors by Erwin Cabucos

Editors and Contributors

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Introduction

The overwhelming force that is globalization has long since made its presence felt in the southern shores of the Philippines. Bringing with it a contract of modernity, globalization was quickly embraced and celebrated by the peoples of our region. We continue to witness the transformations of rural landscapes into commercial and residential complexes, the exportation of laborers and materials overseas, and the imposition of a consumerist attitude onto people from various layers of the social strata. Because we usually consider everything advanced and sophisticated to be progressive and beneficial, we nurture an obsession with development. We willingly submit ourselves to cultural globalization. The internet, in particular, changes lifestyles, allows for the vast consumption of cultural products, and promotes interconnectedness of people from diverse backgrounds.

However, globalization’s promise of progress is a homogenizing force that dissolves familiar structures and relations. Like a weight dropped into still waters, the ripples of this unprecedented phenomenon spread outwards and continue to swallow everything in their path. We have started to become assimilated into a unitary global culture.

In this issue of Cotabato Literary Journal, literary productions from the region become the means of recovering what has been devoured and drowned. I borrow the imagery from Saquina Karla C. Guiam’s poem “Moon Eater” to suggest literature as an emetic for the mythical bakunawa’s voracious appetite. The threatened dissolution of the diversity that has come to characterize our region can be recuperated through creativity: a poeisis of worlds via literary expression—similar to the collective “aria” created as a form of resistance to the celestial eater. Through writing, poets, essayists, and fictionists are able to participate in a project that allows for the exercise of agency and assertion of identities.

April is also National Literature Month in the Philippines, and for this issue of the journal, we recognize literature both as a force of creation and resistance. This month’s harvest features fourteen writers in active mediation of their present conditions and whose eventual recourse is to bring forth worlds and realities through writing. I suggest that this literary reclamation is the manner by which resistance can be expressed against the unifying and violent potency of planetary globalization.

Changing Land/Sea/Cityscapes

“The Border Express” and “Riding a Tricycle” are essays that grapple with lifestyle changes accompanying the narrowing class divide. The former is by Mikhael M. Labrador and the latter is by Noel Pingoy. As seen in their experiences, the upsurge in the traffic of people and commodities is initially disorienting, but the same increase in the mobility of people and the gradual obliteration of familiar borders rather hint at the equalizing yet insidious forces caused by the frenetic spilling-over of human connections. People’s swift initiation to other cultures encourages exploration and identification, so it would seem that everything and everyone is destined to settle, as Pingoy calls it, “in the safe comfortable middle.”

While that state of stillness is yet to come, delirious investments to infrastructure and transportation are made. The massive transit of bodies persists. Lines of travel and access continue to be established with the continued industrialization of the region. Two poems pay tribute to these: Marc Jeff Lañada’s “An Open Letter to J. Catolico Street” and Joan Victoria Cañete’s “Superficial Swim.” In their imageries, the roads and waterways that facilitate fluid movement are targets of interruptions and are thus bound to settle in serene disharmony. Lañada describes this oxymoronic nature of roads by describing a known thoroughfare in General Santos City as “assembling into a state of discord.” Reading into these “lines of flight” allows for the hope that diversity can thrive in a seemingly ordered state of flux.

Objects of Trade and Fractured Identities

Alongside the changes in the environment is the transformation of people into objects of trade. Since the Philippine government’s institutionalization of overseas employment in the ’70s, Filipinos have been unceasingly dispersed to the world as providers of cheap labor. A work of fiction that is sure to resonate with many people is “Lights of Different Colors” by Erwin Cabucos. The story suggests various shades of alienation in the exportation of Filipinas—our mothers, wives, daughters, and sisters as domestic helpers and caregivers in other countries. Touted as an act of heroism, the government’s move to increase earnings by encouraging its citizens to secure overseas employment is in fact a capitalistic venture that aligns with imperatives to integrate into the global economy. Etched in Filipino’s minds now is the idea that a better life can be had by working and, possibly, immigrating abroad. Patrick Jayson Ralla’s poem “The Ascension” captures this yearning for escape by transforming the tools of manual labor—one’s limbs—into wings capable of flying into the sun, and “abandoning/ a vessel below the ground.”

While most Filipinos are complicit in the practice of overseas employment, they renounce another form of human exploitation: the grim business of war. Inherent in capitalism, conflict fuels good business. Claire Monreal, Paul Randy P. Gumanao, and Mubarak M. Tahir lament the destructive warfare that divides and exploits people and their lands. In “Survived a Bullet,” Monreal references the profiteering in arms manufacture and distribution: “guns being sold to enemies.” In “Ping-it nga Pagdapit,” Gumanao shares his pride for the bounty of his hometown and his disdain for the violence that causes the rain of bullets and blood: “unta wala sabwagi/ Og bala ug wala bisbisi og dugo ang kayutaan.” In “Su mga Ngiyawa kanu Inged,” Tahir fears the effacement of his people—“Bangsa nami a malagan den madadag kanu mapa” (Liping malapit nang maglaho sa mapa)—because of the armed conflict in Maguindanao. The violence that denies them of their basic rights is compounded by the dominant culture’s erasure of their history.

To combat exploitations and erasures caused by endless production and the cycle of grand narratives, we look to works containing subjects having the most potential for emancipation: In this collection, two offer a take on retrieving one’s agency. First, there is “Black and White” by Mariz Leona. In her story, fractured identities arise out of the failed pursuit of dreams and succumbs to schizophrenia—a state of self-reality fueled by desire. Then, there is the erasure poetry “Internal Change” by Lance Isidore Catedral. Sculpted from Tinsley Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, the redaction asserts a body’s autonomy. A body takes its cue from interior adjustments as a response to, or as an initiative of “change.” Leona’s fiction offers a compelling model for liberation but may prove to be too extreme. It is Catedral’s choice of form and self-assured proclamation that offers a sensible opportunity for subversion during these times of bodily commodification.

The Phenomenon of Consumerism

Aligned with industrialization are the tendencies to accumulate and consume. The encroachment of globalization has normalized the consumption of goods and services—it has been thoroughly integrated in our consciousness that we have become our own voracious bakunawas, swallowing whole worlds with our unbridled cravings. “Something Sad” by Boon Kristoffer Lauw tests the borders of desire and loyalty. A revelation towards the end of his fiction makes the reader examine where perversion lies—is it in the unconventional relationship of the characters, or is it the betrayal resulting from people’s insatiable appetites? Also operating within the act of consuming, “adobo is my favorite dish” by Benj Marlowe Cordero is an erotic expression of desire told through the preparation of the popular dish that has numerous variations in our multicultural society.  

Globalization makes us think that we are given agency because of the freedom to make choices in terms of materials and services to consume, but since identities have been packaged and served to us, then the freedom we experience is only artificial. There is no agency if it is forced. Shouldn’t we break away from this confinement?   

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The common thread that runs through the works featured this month is the violence that comes with change—a violence of unification. The poems, stories, and essays show the diversity of the literary harvest in the region—hopefully, in time, they would remain resiliently that way, too. I would like to think of the region’s writers as people who are constantly mediating the polarities of the past and the present while examining the impasses of the globalized world in their creative outputs.

While it is paradoxical to offer a totalizing framework for reading literary productions in the regions, it seems only logical that we deploy literature and its multicultural nature to resist the threat of erasure brought about by the violence of globalizing uniformity.

I must also include a disclaimer that the works featured in this issue go beyond the project being furthered. The selection is not preconstituted, as I only offer a reading inspired by essays in globalization.

Also, I have always been for literary productions celebrating the diversity of mother tongues. Pushing for literary production in one language is another form of dominance, not far from colonization and globalization. I look forward to more submissions in the journal. I am hopeful and excited for more people to be involved in the production, dissemination, and consideration of literature—the recovery project is protracted. The recognition of loss and the decision to look for it begin with self-examination and recollection, as what Narcissus and Tala in Guiam’s poems convey. It is in literary poeisis that we are able to exercise a reflexive interrogation of our lives, and in the process, invites our collective minds to question ideas of stasis, liminality, and progress.

 

Eric Gerard H. Nebran
Quezon City

The Border Express

By Mikhael M. Labrador
Essay

The train parked at the Aranyaphratet station looked more like a novelty. I was curious to see how it would run. The exterior was dignified, the paint on it polished, but it was one of those old trains, quite unlike the ones I had been on before. I must say that, aside from practical considerations, this was the reason why I wanted to go on it. With my girlfriend, Rose, I had just visited Vietnam and Cambodia and was bound for Thailand to complete the last leg of our itinerary. To save $10 or about P500 each on fare money, we decided to take the train from the border town of Aranyaprathet to the country’s capital of Bangkok. I had learned about it beforehand as part of my research for our trip. I was glad to know that Rose was up for it as well, perhaps more so than myself. She too romanticized the notion of a long, albeit arduous, travel by train.

A handful of people were already in line when we arrived, but the ticket booth was still closed. Before falling in line ourselves, we decided to have a quick lunch outside the station, at what would be the Thai equivalent of the Filipino karinderya. The food was more than enough to make us hopeful for the rest of our trip. When we returned inside the terminal, the line had grown by just about a few more people, us included. Locals made up most of it. Some of them were monks in their traditional orange garb. There were a few other tourists, and a hardy looking bunch we made. I wondered if we shared the same reasons for being there.

The low number of people made boarding smooth, and we got settled in no time. Not long after, I felt the engine come alive, and without a whistle, a bell, or some sort of signal that I had expected, the train chugged away slow and sturdy. “Larga na ta,” I told Rose. “Unsa na oras?” she asked. I checked the time and answered her. We were reasonably within schedule. “Piktyuri ko bi,” I sheepishly requested. Rose took a picture of me holding up my ticket, and upon reviewing what she had taken, she quipped, “Daw missing person ka.” We both laughed at my picture and took a few more before surrendering our attentions to the view outside our window.

The train had not gotten far yet, and I was just starting my slow drift into reflection and daydream as I looked outside. I watched as the sights unravelled before me. Green fields that stretched out for kilometers in every direction accounted for most of it. It was rice country. Much of my childhood was set in a similar backdrop, so the landscape and the frames of life in it felt familiar but beautiful all the same. Here and there, Buddhist temples, rural Thai architecture, and local presence served as quaint reminders to me of where I was. All of which happily broke my nostalgic state. Taking a break from her own private thoughts, Rose roused me for a conversation. “Ma-remind ko sa katong ‘Town of Cats’ ni Murakami,” she said. No doubt because of the train part in that story. The one that we were on rumbled from the rushing wind, but Rose’s enthusiasm pierced through as we talked about the story and other things for a while. Soon, our topic drifted to our current endeavor. Kiddingly I told her, “Kabayo na lang kuwang, kumpleto na ta para sa biyahe nga ni. Nag-plane na ta, bus, motor, barko, bike, ug train na pud ron.” She told me how excited she’d been about this part of our journey. Our window gazing resumed. We were sitting in front of each other, looking out from opposite directions. On my side, Cambodia gradually became farther, while on hers, Bangkok drew closer.

Every now and then the train would stop at minor stations along the way. For the first few, it seemed like no one hopped off, or at least nobody from our section. The train was well on its way. The engine, I imagined, was hot and its gears were nimble in their movements. We picked up speed as we moved further into the interior of the country, and the distance between the terminals became farther, or so it felt. Up to that point, we had not shared our seats with anyone, and there were plenty of vacant ones left. Eventually, the train filled up with people. I looked out for the food vendors I had read about and seen in videos during my research for our trip. No luck just yet. I wasn’t hungry anyway. During one of the stops—and I can’t, for the life of me, remember which one as there were so many—a man came over to where I was and proceeded to put his belongings in the overhead compartment above us. I scooted inside my seat to make room for him. Just then, he handed me his water bottle and what I could only describe as a towel rolled into a log. I was not familiar with the general etiquette of train riding, so this act caught me by surprise. I received his things, still somewhat bashful towards what was happening, but the man had a cordial way about him that made it easy for me to oblige. He had a fixed smile on his face that I was quick to return.

I looked over at Rose, and she too was smiling, amused by what was happening. The man asked for his things back from me. He placed the towel last along with his luggage and kept his water bottle in hand. As expected, he sat beside me. He held his thumb up at my direction and said, “OK!” He made the same gesture to Rose, and we both nodded back at him. Like any agreeable tourist, I welcomed any chance for interaction with the locals, so I decided to start a conversation with my new seatmate. Bangkok was still hours away after all, and it would help to pass the time. But it did not take long before I learned that his English vocabulary was limited to “OK” and “Where you from?” I could not hold it against him, being aware of my own shortcoming for not knowing his language. I told him that we were from the Philippines, to which he replied, “Ohhh, Philippines!” The conversation that would follow seemed hopeless. In my head I wished for him to utter “Manny Pacquiao,” like they did in Cambodia when I told them where we were from. That would have bought us a good few more seconds. Unfortunately, this never happened, and if he had dropped the whole thing right then, I would not have objected. But he was friendly to a fault. He had an earnest look on his face as he somewhat expected for the conversation to continue. The discussion became a rough version of sign language. Lucky for me, my landlord of eight years is legally deaf, and I had practice with this sort of exchange. It was all small talk and formalities, but each sentence was hard-fought. Rose also held her own, and I was convinced that she was enjoying herself. Clearly she too had had some practice. She certainly made good use of our makeshift interactions with the other locals over our past few weeks abroad.

There was a brief intermission that followed our initial chitchat. Sometime within the pause, my seatmate stood up, reached for his belongings, and took out what I had perceived earlier to be a rolled-up towel. He hung it up on his sleeves and looked like someone who was about to take a bath. Looking at my direction, he pointed his finger to his chest and uttered, “Islam.” The inside of the train being noisy, and my attention not yet complete, I responded by stating my name. I thought he had introduced himself at last, so I proceeded by doing the same thing. He swayed his head in disagreement and reiterated himself: “Islam.” I did not bother to respond any further realizing the blunder of my first one. Instead, I put on an awkward smile to affirm my understanding. He went to the back of our car and stopped at one of the few empty seats left. He covered its surface with his sheets and knelt down on it. It was a time of the day for him to pray. I caught Rose chuckling away at my mistake. “Religion na diay imong pangalan,” she teased me. I stated my excuse, laughing at my own slip. “Grabe, may religion siya nga iyaha ba!” Rose egged on. I waited for the man to come back and to try and correct myself. But by the time he did, I saw no point to it anymore and just made room for him just as I had done previously. When he was getting ready to sit back down, he told me for the last time and for safe measure: “Islam.” I nodded back at him as Rose kept a cheeky grin.

I called my seatmate’s attention to ask him about his tattoos, which he had a few of spread throughout his arms and some on his face and neck. They looked rustic and were not immediately noticeable. We dove right back into the same way that we had been carrying out our previous conversations. In his efforts to explain, he fixed his hands together like someone holding a hammer and chisel. I knew that in the context of our conversation, he was referring to the manner in which his tattoos were made—the old way—a painful process that was proven by his facial expression as he described it to me. He also tried to explain the meaning of each one, but I was not sure if I had translated it correctly in my head. I understood enough that they were all imposed on him by ritual. He looked proud of his markings, and he showed them off like they were trophies or medals. At one point, he directed my focus to a specific location below his pelvic regions. Next, he put two fingers together to mimic the needles that were used, went back to a hammer-and-chisel motion, and put on what was the grimmest face I’d seen him make. Apparently, and perhaps the information could have been spared from me, he also had a tattoo somewhere in the genital area. Needless to say, that was one mark he didn’t bother to show, but it made for an entertaining topic nonetheless.

A couple of times or more, I snuck out to the back and had a cigarette or two. I peeked, with half of my body hanging from the side of the train, to catch a windy glimpse of the places we passed by. In one case, I just stood there looking at the draw bars that linked our section to the next one, and I watched as the clamps pushed and pulled on each other, locked in their hypnotic dance.

My girlfriend stayed in her seat and had succumbed to napping. It was late afternoon when she woke up, just in time for us to buy snacks from the food vendors that had already been making their rounds by then. We bought a light starchy snack that helped to elevate our moods. The lady that was sitting across from us offered us some of her food, which we timidly declined. However, to return the courtesy, we gave her and my seatmate some dried lotus seeds that we had brought with us from Cambodia. It was eventually passed around to the other commuters within close proximity. It was great how food spoke for us in our attempts at being friendly. It added to the peacefulness in the late afternoon ambience.

Everybody inside the train had assumed a more relaxed state. The images outside looked more delicate. Large water birds glided in the cooler breeze, and the colour of everything softened under the semi-shade. I shifted my focus to the opposite side of where we were, and I noticed a beautiful sunset had taken shape. I called for Rose to take a look, but she had already been doing so. She pulled out her camera and hurriedly took some pictures hoping not to miss the opportunity. I also took a few myself. However, upon examining the pictures we had taken, it was made clear to us how much they failed to capture what was before our eyes. We stowed back the camera and instead just enjoyed the scenery. “Nindot no? Murag best sunset ko ni so far,” Rose gushed. There was no need for me to add to her already apt description, so I remained silent. People’s attentions gravitated toward the spectacle, locals and us foreigners alike. Little children pointed to it with glee, which only made the draw even more irresistible. It was a welcomed while before the lovely ball of orange in the sky disappeared into the horizon. After which, the train lights came on, and it was finally evening. The hour indicated that we were way past our halfway mark, and our journey continued with no delays.

The stops that followed took on a different vibe, and the distance between each one became shorter once again. The stations looked more up to date and busier. The closer we got to the city, the more the English translations became present at every sign. The exchange of passengers also became more hectic. People left, and even more boarded to take their place. We hit our first highway after hours of nothing but farmlands. Not very far in the distance lay the illuminated facade of a metropolis. I checked the time again as Rose showed me our Google map location on her phone. My seatmate, figuring out what we were doing, held his hand up, pinching together his thumb and pinkie finger. I knew he meant to say that we were close. I imitated his actions to let him know that I understood. It did not take long before the view from outside our window had drastically changed as we passed by sections of the city, one neighborhood after another.

Some houses were so close to the railway that I caught faint smells of incense and overheard muffled conversations in Thai. We often had to stop to make way for traffic on the road and for other trains that were either going in our direction or against. “Mura pud og Pilipinas,” Rose mutters. I agreed, but as we observed further, the differences were far too many and far too distinct that our first impressions were quickly overridden. We were both in agreement when it came to this and with our wide-eyed demeanor for simply being there. Rose’s face lit up as we reviewed our plans for the coming week. In that moment, we became oblivious to our tiredness. All we knew was that we had practically arrived in Bangkok, and our legs, numb as they were from hours of sitting, were ready to wander.

The sign said hua lamphong station, and a dark, abysmal tunnel was our entrance to it. We passed by a glass elevator that gave us a good idea of just how far down it went. The last few nudges toward our final stop were slow. My excitement verged on impatience, enough for me to stick my head out of the window to try and investigate the delay. Rose urged me to settle down and to get our bags. I stood up to take our luggage down from the overhead compartment. My seatmate already carried his own on his lap, as was the case with everyone else around us. The train went inside and down the tunnel only to emerge back up and out of the other end. We had stopped for good, and everybody hopped off. There was a long walk between us and the exit. Rose and I followed the crowd of people that headed for it. The inside of the terminal was grand. There were old and modern models of trains that juxtaposed each other as they parked in their individual lanes. I figured that my seatmate went ahead until we saw him waiting for us by the gates. He kindly gave us directions to the taxi pickup area, but we had plans to take the metro bus instead. We made our way out together and said our goodbyes before we parted ways.

Outside Hua Lamphong, the evening made for a quieter scene. But in the morning, and I was sure of this, people would come once more as they always had, and the train would run again; whether heading back or moving forward is all up to perspective. The old train, the one I made out to be a heap, would always be loyal to its tracks for however long it could be made to endure. As we moved on into the city and toward the bright lights where other unknown things awaited us, I thought how good a metaphor that was for all of our boneheaded adventures.

Riding a Tricycle

By Noel Pingoy
Essay

Ten years ago

Sometimes the very things that we loathe strengthen the life in us. As with most of my patients, loss, crisis, and even conflict goad the will to live in ways that are previously deemed unthinkable. People who used to think they aren’t good enough may even astonish themselves with random acts of benevolence and audacity. When it happens, people grow bigger than the impediments that box them, surprisingly too large enough to liberate them from issues that constantly nag and haunt, and consequently live beyond these limitations.

I learned a lot of lessons when I decided to become a commuter six months ago as part of austere lifestyle changes that I believed would define a simple life. In May I gave up my cable TV subscription. A few weeks later I had my DSL disconnected after reaching the minimum period of subscription. Would I say that my life had been more difficult, less exciting, even boring? Au contraire il est difficile de concevoir quelque chose de plus satisfaisant. Instead of spending countless hours in front of the idiot box munching insalubrious junk that augments avoirdupois as much as it encourages ennui, I buried myself in pages of printed wisdom, sweated a little of the excess pounds in the gym, or simply allowed my OC self more hours of sleep and rest that I initially thought were outrageous. I also brushed up on my French, which I had forgotten while attempting to build up the fortitude to remember that the u in gozaimasu and desu is usually not voiced (rather unsuccessfully but I ain’t giving up anyway). The amount that I used to spend for cable TV and internet surfing are instead diverted to the funds of the family council, thus giving some measure to the things that could be easily given up in favor of certain meaningful pursuits that shape and strengthen relationships.

But nothing has taught me more about the wholeness of life than taking the public transport daily to and from work. I am probably the only doctor in General Santos City who is fully dependent on tricycles and habal-habal (motorcycles that ply certain routes in the city, often using the back roads to elude the LTO cops) as I move from one hospital to another. When my driver left without notice at the start of the year, I relied on my brother who lives just a few meters away for my daily rounds until he had to beg off to attend to more pressing concerns. However things are perceived now, I will always remember with deep appreciation and fondness the times together. Since I don’t drive a car, I planned of getting a motorcycle myself to which most of the family and friends disapproved considering the incidence of accidents involving two-wheels in the city. Too unsafe, some said.

It was difficult at first, but in time I discovered what matters and the value of a spartan life. In due time the daily tricycle rides to work became my prayer-in-motion, even a sanctuary from everything that is not genuine in me and in the culture that I grew up to. Where was it written that doctors should drive the latest car models? That doctors who take public transport are kawawa or katawa-tawa? But some people I know believe that to be so. Sitting in a cramped sidecar, stooping so low that I fear my chin would brush my knees anytime the tricycle navigates a hump, I was simply Noel, neither the hematologist nor the medical oncologist, far from the image I have learned to imagine about myself. Inside that vehicle, I often start my day taking my masks off and let go of my self-expectations (even self-importance). Some people I know have dismissed this as something that I don’t have another choice anyway, and it’s true initially. But later I realized that however one goes to work does not really matter at all. I grew up in a society where image and extensions of it in the form of material possessions are valued highly. Sometimes over relationships. People struggle for self-sufficiency, abundance, or mastery and, in holding close these qualities, become blinkered to deeper human truths like humility, respect, and compassion, even contemptuous of anything in themselves and in other people.

This capacity to suffer and accept weakness is a virtue that I have long struggled to overcome. Acknowledging my vulnerability allowed me to connect to other people who too embrace their own vulnerabilities. When I stop pretending to be strong and independent, I draw out the instinctive kindness in other people. By showing this soft side, people tend to be more helpful, more generous, and even more appreciative of what they have. Simple endorphin rush! They feel good about themselves in a noble, unselfish way just being able to hold on a door for someone to pass through it. I live in a village that’s a bit far from the city, so I try to avoid staying out late. Looking back at those six months, I realized how dear friends are, colleagues who are otherwise tired from their busy practice but take the extra pains to bring me home and see me step into the gate safely. In medicine, it is often taught that part of being a professional is to allow for some space, even distance, to be objective. I learned from my colleagues one truth: to truly serve others, one must do it not only with the hands and eyes but with the heart and soul as well.

There is more to learn from life’s precarious edges than being in the safe comfortable middle. Taking the public transport for the past six months has definitely shuffled my belief systems like a deck of cards. While others might see this as something sad or pathetic, there is much wisdom about a card that had been at the bottom of the deck for most of my conscious adult life suddenly turning up the top card, the one that really mattered at the end of the day. My patients with cancer, and now the tricycle and habal-habal drivers, have enriched my life with their example: that no matter how carefully they sort their cards and repeatedly shift through their hands in the presence of death or material inadequacies, the top card is rarely possession or superiority or control. Some people call it respect or goodwill. Doctors who honor the Hippocratic Oath call it harmlessness. Others view theirs as integrity. I call mine love.

Su mga Ngiyawa kanu Inged

By Mubarak Tahir
Poetry

Sa dalem nu puasa na saksi su ulan-ulan.
Ulan-ulan na kabedsimba salkanin a kadnan,
Kadnan a labi a pakataw sa gatamanan,
Gatamanan a ibendua umanu gasimpitan.

Su mga bamedtulog a walay na inisayog.
Inisayog bun mambo su embabatay a bedtog,
Bedtog siya sa didalem u malong a mana ibembedtog,
Ibembedtog sa kabegakgilek sa semakwil a midtudtundog.

Mimbaba su mga mama a nakagadong,
Nakagadong a aden matalem nilan a pinadtitimpong,
Pinadtitimpong su mga Magindanon a midtetendong,
Midtetendong sa nadtatanggit nilan a malong.

Limalag kami den siya kanu mga benday,
Benday a niya bu gasandeng su natagak a walay,
Walay a nambabamatan nu umani embabatay,
Embabatay a nangatagak su suled nilan a isa den a bangkay.

Nangalimod kami siya kanu ludep nu padiyan,
Padiyan a nabaluy a walay a gapagalaguyan,
Gapagalaguyan sa timpu nu kasimpitan,
Kasimpitan sa kadala nu kalilintad nu pangingedan.

Isa aku kanu Magindandanon a wata,
Wata a migkasela sa inged a Moro i bangsa,
Bangsa nami a malagan den madadag kanu mapa,
Mapa nu Pilipinas a di kami galinyan pakambamata.

Malipedes kanu pamusungan nu isa su kabenalan,
Kabenalan na dala sa makatagu sa kanu pagitungan,
Pagitungan a midtaman siya kanu talasilan,
Talasilan na umanu ngiyawa na aden tudtulan nilan.

Niyaba su tudtulan nu ngiyawa nami a bamangeni,
Bamangeni sa dua sa kadnan a di kami lemimpangi,
Lemimpangi sa kadsususleda endu kabpapagari,
Kabpapagari siya kanu kalilintad nu inged nami.

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Ang mga Kaluluwa sa Bayan

Sa Ramadhan, saksi ang buwan.
Buwan ito ng pananampalataya sa Panginoon,
Panginoong saksi sa aming kalagayan,
Kalagayang ipinapanalangin ng bawat nahihirapan.

Ang natutulog ay inuugoy-ugoy.
Inuugoy rin ang pamilyang nahihimlay,
Nahihimlay sa ilalim ng malong na itinataboy,
Itinataboy sa takot sa rumaragasang tangke.

Pumanaog ang kalalakihang nakaberde,
Nakaberdeng may armas na tinipon,
Tinipon ang mga Magindanaw na nakatabon,
Nakatabon sa dala-dala nilang malong.

Binagtas namin ang sakahan,
Sakahang ang natatanaw lang ay tahanan,
Tahanang kinamulatan ng mag-anak,
Mag-anak na naiwan ang kapatid na isa nang bangkay.

Nagtipon kami sa loob ng padiyan,
Padiyan na nagsilbing takbuhang tahanan,
Tahanan sa panahon ng kagipitan,
Kagipitan sa kawalan ng kapayapaan sa bayan.

Isa ako sa mga Magindanaw na musmos,
Musmos na lumaki sa bayan ng liping Moro,
Liping malapit nang maglaho sa mapa,
Mapa ng Pilipinas na ayaw kaming mamulat.

Tanikala ng katotohanan,
Katotohanang hindi naitala sa isipan,
Isipang nagwakas sa isang salaysay,
Salaysay ng bawat may isasalaysay.

Ito ang salaysay ng kaluluwa naming nanalangin,
Nanalanging sa kaitaasan na di kami makaliligtaan,
Makaliligtaan sa pagkakaibigan at pagkakapatiran,
Pagkakapatiran sa kapayapaan nitong aming bayan.

Skysea

By Saquina Karla C. Guiam
Poetry

The following poems are part of the author’s micro-chapbook Skysea, published by Ghost City Press in 2017.

 

Moon Eater

A long time ago, Bakunawa took our moon.
Pity us! Return our moon–the crown of our king.

The moon rises seven times on the seventh month.
Mirrored in the water–a flicker of a tailfin gleams,
outshining the daughters of the night sky.

Somewhere, horns bellow songs; the music smudging
the edges of silence, and then the dance of pots and pans
join the strange aria.

Teeth bared against moonlight–pull away, hissing;
body flows from heaven to sea
rippling the surface.

Tailfin is the last to disappear.
The impromptu orchestra soon dissipates.
Rinse, repeat, for the nights to come.

 

Narcissus

If God wills it,
a wide, slow river
will rise–just shy
underneath
the muted day.

You will see gold,
Perhaps, in your reflection
in the water:
painted pewter,
overcast.

 

Tala

I forgot how it felt like to defy gravity:
if anything, it’s become this flimsy film
of memory, falling apart second after second
at every running jump I take.

But I don’t mind the weight
of a solid grounding;
the view is better down here
with every light bulb in the city
a reminder of who I used to be.