Since midnight, the girl had been telling us that she had a third eye, and right at that moment, she said she could see something in the darkness, across the street and under a tree. I turned my head and, just as I expected, saw nothing but harmless shadows. I don’t believe in supernatural beings. I believe instead that science can explain everything, or at least it eventually will. I am not afraid of supernatural beings. But having panic disorder, I am afraid of so many other things.
For me, the girl should not be afraid of the things that she is afraid of, for they do not exist in the first place. In the same way, for her, and for most people, I shouldn’t be afraid of the things that I am afraid of, for even if they exist, they’re not as harmful as my mind perceives them. I get panic attacks whenever I get afraid of death and whenever I get afraid of getting insane, and I get panic attacks whenever I get afraid of having panic attacks. In other words, I’m afraid of being afraid.
Others may feel grateful for not having a third eye or panic disorder, but as the works in this issue show, fear comes in various forms and affects our lives more than we can see or we are willing to admit. The five stories and four poems help us examine our fears—as individuals, as Filipinos, and as human beings.
“Koronadal Horror Story” by Matt S. F. Jones of Banga, South Cotabato, is about a young man who suddenly experiences all sorts of horrifying things one night. The Hiligaynon story is an ongoing series in Jones’s Facebook timeline, and excerpted for this journal is the part where the young man sees something creepy in an eatery and encounters a maniacal old man in a street. Unabashedly genre, peppered with banters, and written in the eclectic language of young Ilonggos of Mindanao, the story is a fun kind of scare.
In Jones’s story, seeing an albularyo, or a folk healer, is hinted at as a possible solution to the narrator’s nightmares. In “Fireflies” by Adonis Hornoz of Isulan, Sultan Kudarat, a child with an affliction is actually taken to an albularyo. The story shows that our fears are not always relieved or resolved. When we are bound to our cultural beliefs and limited by our economic capability, the solution that we seek for our nightmare may only give us a worse nightmare.
A nightmare may also be disguised as a blessing. In “Nowheresville,” a work-in-progress by Jonathan Susvilla of Isulan, Sultan Kudarat, a man finds himself gifted with an extraordinary ability one day. Instead of having a more meaningful life, or at least an easier one, he is faced with difficult choices. We are often afraid of making decisions, especially when we think of ourselves more than we think of others. And we are more afraid of what we can do than of what we can’t do.
Fear can be stronger than any other feeling. In the flash fiction “How I Remember Us” by Gian Carlo Licanda of Maasim, Sarangani Province, the narrator’s most poignant memory of a lover is not when they were happiest but when they were about to part ways. We are all afraid of being left by our loved ones. We are all afraid of being alone.
Some loved ones leave us, and some are taken away from us. It’s difficult to tell which is worse. In “Mithi,” an excerpt from a Filipino novel by Boon Kristoffer Lauw of General Santos City, readers witness the horror a family goes through in a time of martial law. The narrator’s mother is a subversive, and in search of her, military men barge into her home and forces her family to reveal her whereabouts. The scene shows what a totalitarian regime can do to innocent civilians.
Like Lauw’s story, the poems in this issue deal with our fear of those who are more powerful than us. No one specific is mentioned in “Hide and Seek” by John Dominic Arellano of Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat, but the source of fear must be someone close to the narrator, someone who is part of both his past and his present. Some people in our lives are constant sources of fear, but due to our ties with them, to our lack of will to be free, to things that are beyond our control, or to their other, redeeming qualities, we sometimes have to go on living with them and bear the suffering that they are causing us.
In “War” and “Death by Fear,” both by David Jayson Oquendo of Polomolok, South Cotabato, the source of fear is obviously the government, but being held accountable are the people who support the government. The so-called war on drugs of the current administration has resulted to thousands of deaths, including those of innocent ones. No one is safe anymore. Anyone can be a victim of mistaken identity or of corrupt men in uniform.
“Karinderya,” a Filipino spoken word poem by Kiel Mark Guerrero of Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat, is also about extrajudicial killings, but the blame is put directly on the country’s draconian ruler. Many Filipinos catapulted him to power due to their hatred and fear of criminality. As a result, however, instead of providing comfort and protection, he became a new source of fear, especially for the poor. The authorities have yet to provide a proof to the public that they have brought down a big-time syndicate, while every day, slippers-wearing pushers and runners are gunned down in alleys.
The literary works in this issue can help us understand our own fears. But more importantly perhaps, they can help us acknowledge and understand the fears of others. We all have fears, and we have different fears, and even if they’re the same, we have different ways of dealing with them.
The others, aside from me, also turned and looked at the tree across the street, where the girl said she could see something. The others, like me, must have also not seen anything, or were too inebriated to be spooked by anything. Most of us remained quiet, but I was breathing deeply, making myself calm. Unbeknown to my companions, I was having a panic attack right at that moment. I was seeing a different kind of ghost. It’s a part of me. It dwells in me.
Senator Ninoy Aquino, Sultan Kudarat