It is widely acknowledged that Filipinos are family-oriented, and this trait can’t be more evident than this time of year. For most of us, Christmas Eve is best spent with our parents, in our childhood home, New Year’s Day should be spent with our immediate family in our current residence, and the vacation time between the two major celebrations is the best date to hold family reunions. Thus, for this issue of Cotabato Literary Journal, we deemed it fitting to feature works that deal with home and family; however, most of the works that we were able to gather go beyond, and even against, the portrait of family as usually depicted in greeting cards and noche buena advertisements.
Jade Mark Capiñanes’s essay, “The Portrait of a Young Man as a Banak,” is about the places that he has lived in—Davao City, Polomolok in South Cotabato, and General Santos City—and the struggles that his family have gone through, the same struggles that caused him to live in those different places. Capiñanes observes that the banak, the peculiar fish that would sometimes appear in the community where he grew up, have become mere visitors to the place that was named after them. The fish have, in a manner of speaking, become strangers to their own home, and Capiñanes’s jouney in life so far parallels the banak’s unusual migratory behavior. In a lucid and engaging language, the young writer deftly weaves the different locations, the past and the present, the exposition and the rumination. He may still be in search of an actual home, but talentwise, he seems to have found it in writing.
Noel Pingoy, an oncologist in General Santos City, is known for his poignant essays related to his profession, but for this issue, we decided to feature his writings that show other sides of him. In “Other Disclosures,” a suite of short essays, he writes about—and for—his family, his friends, and Koronadal City, his hometown. Permeating the pieces are universal values that Pingoy holds dear and readers would do well to embrace or at least ponder upon, especially in this age where, through social media, anyone can express an opinion and any opinion can become a mantra of millions. Pingoy’s pieces here are more straightforward than his lengthier essays about his life as a doctor, but the trademark warmth and eloquence are ever present.
Mariz Leona’s “Uma,” the only fiction we have for this issue, is set in Lambayong, Sultan Kudarat, the young writer’s hometown. The story is about a rural family facing the effects of technological advancement. The change is rather simple—a mobile harvesting machine is procured and rented out by someone of better means in the neighborhood—but for a family whose main source of income is the father’s daily wage as a farm laborer, the effects are devastating. The story could easily degenerate into a melodrama and overt excoriation of technology and small-scale capitalism, but with a sensibility that seems advanced for her age, Leona handles the plot and characters with subtlety and makes the story more about resilience. She also has quite an ear for dialogue, capturing with precision the kind of Hiligaynon that is spoken here in Cotabato Region.
In “Early Morning in Surallah,” Estrella Taño Golingay shows once more why she is one of the foremost female poets in the region. At the start, the poem appears to be about a humdrum routine or a touching moment with a loved one, but it turns out to be about memories in the past that creep their way to the present. The setting may be a specific town in South Cotabato, but readers from anywhere else in the region would feel the same unease, for our own hometowns cast similar shadows in our lives.
Andrea Lim’s “Homesickness” encapsulates the longing for our family all of us must have felt—if not right now, in the past; if not frequently, at least once. The terse language of the poem is only apt, for indeed, homesickness doesn’t always have to be cured, or it may not be cured at all. The young poet surely knows the subject, for she has known and left several homes, having been a resident of several cities, including General Santos.
Whether you are yearning to be home or you are yearning for a home, the works in this issue will speak with you like a family member who understands. Literature, after all, is meant to help us make sense of life, and Cotabato Literary Journal is meant to address the more specific concerns of the people in our region. This is our fifth issue, and for the past five months, this online publication has become home to excellent pieces from local writers, and maybe to the writers themselves and the readers as well. For the new year, we hope to make the family bigger. Fate chooses our homes for us or takes away our homes from us. Let’s have one of our own choosing, and let’s keep the hearth burning.
Senator Ninoy Aquino, Sultan Kudarat