Stoked: Sixteen Works from Young Writers

It’s a rich harvest for Cotabato Literary Journal’s second anniversary issue. The pieces I’ve chosen from writers who are eighteen years old or below are mostly characteristic of the Gen Zers—fast, inclusive, and more competitive in substance. Clearly, the young writers have leveled up in their craft.

The fast pace is shown by the single-page flash fiction and the creative non-fiction the writers have chosen to embody their creative gems. The first group of fiction centers on varied social issues and how the main characters react to them: “The World Keeps Spinning” by John Gied Calpotura is about the critical issue of suicide and how the younger sibling, the main character, counteracts depression on realizing why everything is the same despite her loss of a sister. In “Sa Kaunting Panahon,” Gerard F. Distor, the author, tackles the sensitive issue of abortion using the first person point of view of the main character who happens to be the unborn itself, while “Thorn” by Irish Petipit plays with irony of situation over a wrong choice and how this has left him in the cold.

The young writers also venture into the realm of queer literature, a unique concept with “Bahaghari” by Bryant Lee Niervo Morales, where the gay character poses spiritual questions until he discovers the gender of his mother on her grave. He was gay all along. Then there is “Just Me, You, and the Moon” by Edzelyn Oñate, a heartwarming story about the coming-of-age of two young male friends starting to discover each other.

The two creative nonfiction pieces discuss the nuances, the simple joys, and sorrows of ordinary life. “A Walk on the Ramp” by Mark Vincent M. Lao describes the amusing journey of pageant winnings and the subsequent life lessons learned in the language the writer is apparently comfortable with. “Ukay-ukay” by Angelo Serrano is an honestly down-to-earth narrative of disappointment and regret over a wrong decision.

Although the pieces explore both ordinary and extraordinary adolescent experiences, the depth of emotions felt are raw and personally intense for each individual writer who is trying to find his or her niche in life as each is initiated into the many facets of adolescence and the subsequent reactions.

The poems in the free verse tradition come as a surprise. For eighteen years old and below, the poets have armed themselves with craftsmanship ready to be recognized. The following poems likewise echo the same ramifications of experiences and their attendant emotions as their prose counterpart: “My Shadow” by Erron Marc A. Hallarsis and “Dark Adaptations” by Mary Antonette P. Fuentes are both rich in the dichotomy of the opposites as both walk through the valley of uncertainty illumined by darkness with a dash of accommodation thereafter. What a play on irony in Antonette’s rain falls, stacking in the gutter and silence resonates and Erron’s I don’t want to be alone, yet I want this out of my life.

“Halimaw sa Dilim” by Adrian Arendon, like Erron’s, speaks of the fears he harbors inside, something he can’t get away from, for who can run away from oneself? “Monsters” by Xaña Angel Eve M. Apolinar echoes similar thoughts she writes in a letter form.  Yumi Ilagan’s “Mother Kept Me Awake,” one of the best in the bunch, uses the power of metaphor as she successfully personifies darkness that entraps her as in dark consumes my mind, I loved the dark too much, dark would take me away. Yumi aptly uses tension and has control over it.

Good metaphor is the key to a clever imagery and, therefore, a successful poem. “The Rose” by Reylan Gyll J. Padernilla is such. The whole poem is a pervading metaphor of a rose to a relationship. Then here comes “si yolanda” by Marianne Hazzle J. Bullos in her attempt at form and meaning. She has crafted her poem in the form of a tornado and succeeded in bringing out the experience.

Lastly, not every writer is comfortable writing on the subtleties of sexuality, but Jo-ed B. Evangelista does it in a quatrain entitled “Lust,” written to tease like a bait dangling before the reader’s eyes. Most of all, there’s “Ritwal at Dalangin ng Hamog” by Adrian Pete Medina Pregonir. His use of sexual act to personify a ritual to induce rain is so clever. Perhaps because he uses Filipino, Adrian comes out most adept in putting more substance between the lines, such as Magiging tubig sa palay ang pawis, na malalaglag mula sa mga bisig, pagsapit ng ikasiyam na buwan, aanihin ang gintong lupain.

Nice one, Gen Zers!


Estrella Taño Golingay
Surallah, South Cotabato