As the year ends, we reaffirm our commitment to be a venue of the best literary works in the region. The works that we have in this issue—one essay, two short stories, three poems, and one play—are finely crafted and satisfying in both substance and form. Some of them are from writers who have carved out a name for themselves, and the rest are from new voices discovered in local literary undertakings. No particular theme holds the works together, but each of them gives you a glimpse of, and even immerses you fully in, the complexities of life in this part of the country.
In the Filipino essay “Aden Bon Besen Uyag-Uyag” (May Buhay Pa Pala), Mubarak Tahir looks back on his childhood in Datu Piang, Maguindanao, and how the fighting between insurgents and government troops affected his community and shaped the way he views the world. Tahir is a much-needed voice in our literature. Our narrative on the armed conflict in Mindanao have been dominated by voices from one side. Here is an opportunity to hear “the other side,” and then perhaps see that there are no sides to the story, that we all have the same story. The essay won the third prize at the 2017 Palanca Awards, and it is an honor for Cotabato Literary Journal to be its first venue of publication.
“Heneral” by Estrella Taño Golingay is a coming-of-age story set in Surallah, South Cotabato, the writer’s hometown. It tells of a boy who eagerly takes care of the family’s hog so that once it is sold, his parents might be persuaded to buy him a basketball and a secondhand cellphone—sources of great joy for an ordinary lad like him. Golingay, an award-winning poet, rarely writes fiction, so we are delighted to bring you something new from her.
“Tagu-taguan,” a Filipino flash fiction by Blesselle Fiel, is the winner of the 2017 South Cotabato Fiction Contest. The young writer has created a simple and well-structured story to remind us of the dark times that we are living in. The bodies on the streets are piling up, and the voices against the carnage are getting stronger by the day, but most Filipinos choose not to see and listen. Stories like Fiel’s must be told over and again. Always, people must ask, Who is the criminal, and who is the victim?
“San Gerardo and the Exocoetidae” by Gerald Galindez is the winner of the 2017 Cotabato Province Poetry Contest. An ode to the flying fish, the poem is the breather that we need from the barrage of saccharine rhymes that our young writers seem so fond of today. Similar somewhat to Saint Francis of Assissi, the speaker exalts animals for the inspiration that they can give human beings: “You hid your pains inside your scales so I could live / You let me swim, you let me breathe.” We hope to gather more pieces like this, for local and even Philippine literature have a dearth of works about the sea, even if our region has a shoreline that stretches for hundreds of kilometers and our country is made up of more than seven thousand islands.
Both “Cotabato” by Allen Samsuya and “Sometimes on the Road to Kidapawan” by Paul Randy Gumanao have appeared before in Dagmay: The Literary Journal of the Davao Writers Guild. We are republishing the poems here because they were born of deep longing for Cotabato Region. They were written when Samsuya and Gumanao were studying in Davao City and home was something they would only go back to occasionally. In Samsuya’s poem, the speaker seems dismissive at first of Cotabato City, describing it as a place where “we have nothing better to do,” but we learn eventually that the humdrum of the city may be a redeeming quality. The poem won the first place at the Jimmy Y. Balacuit Literary Awards given to the fellows of the 2011 Iligan National Writers Workshop. In Gumanao’s poem, the speaker yearns for home and for someone to go home to. In lean, fluid language, the young master shows us yet again how love poetry should be.
In “Pagda-dwaya,” a Filipino one-act play by Norman Ralph Isla, a Muslim woman finds herself in a frustrating situation—her husband, the man who promised her that she would be the only woman in his life, is taking a second wife. The first wife feels that she has so much to lose in the arrangement and nothing to gain, and naturally we commiserate with her. But as the story unfolds, as we learn more about the Islamic practice, and as we know the characters better, our view gradually changes.
With these seven literary works, we bid 2017 goodbye. It has been an abundant year for the region’s literature; nearly a hundred poems, stories, essays, and plays appeared in this journal. In those works, through imagination and re-imagination, our local writers have shown readers how the people here view our own region and the rest of the world. We thank all the supporters, readers, contributors, and former editors. With the harvest that we’ve had this year, we feel confident that 2018 will be another great year.
Senator Ninoy Aquino, Sultan Kudarat