Cotabato

By Allen Samsuya

(This poem first appeared in Dagmay: The Literary Journal of the Davao Writers Guild and won the first place in the Jimmy Y. Balacuit Literary Awards at the 2011 Iligan National Writers Workshop.)

We might not come back home for awhile to Cotabato
because there are more things to do than catch a bus
and travel a tedious six to seven hours. Imagine the hassle
of having to stop by a terrible total of ten terminals
and all for what? Once there, we’ll probably waste our weeks
on good-for-nothing visits to former classmates’ houses,
old friends, and dozens more of other people we used to know
so well, but now find hard to even barely recognize—
as when we chance upon them whenever we buy
our fruit shakes and burgers at Manong’s, or when we shop
for overpriced stuff at South Seas, or at nights when we party
and waste ourselves at Pacific Heights.

Eventually, we’ll overstay for some ridiculous reason—
say, in waiting for yet another class reunion and, hence,
wasting more time and money; or hoarding pirated DVDs
at Barter Trade, or pigging out on litson manok at Kitok’s,
or worse, overspending on fares for unending jeepney
joyrides—because you know as well as I do, back there
we have nothing better to do.

When over here, work is pretty much cramming right in front
of our faces. At my boarding house, for instance,
classcards from previous semesters, marked with obvious
INCs and 4s procrastinate somewhere in my room, perhaps
still waiting to be unearthed, then removed, or completed.
Unfinished fictions, half-written poems, and countless fragments
without epiphanies, or even form, are still willfully waiting
to be worked on to their necessary conclusions, because all things
must be seen through their conclusions—if not, then at least be
properly thrown away, or abandoned.

The way we too had been abandoned in that Cotabato
in our past, where we had practically found each other
among ruins of bomb-blasted buildings and burnt skeletons
of buses, among blood-bathed corpses along bloodstained
highways and starving mobs of beggars at the streets
kept barely alive by pretty much nothing but promises
of better days, rugby, and some discarded bread. But we
had found each other anyway, and had loved each other,
and ourselves, and everyone else we knew.

And in that place perhaps we had loved the most
probably because back there in Cotabato we had
nothing better to do.

Advertisements