April is National Literature Month, and our modest contribution to the celebration is the usual lineup of well-written works from writers in the region. For this issue, we have eight works in four languages—or five, if a hybrid of Tagalog and Hiligaynon is counted as a separate language.
“Amay, Anak, kag Tiyay Magda,” a Hiligaynon flash fiction by Alvin Larida, is about a member of a cult chosen to serve the leader. In less than seven hundred words, the writer packs the story with taboos—sacrilegious rituals, sex with someone so much older, and sex between someone in power and a follower—all told in an earnest and naive voice, resulting in an enthralling narrative.
“Kung Di Mo Na Kaya,” a Filipino flash fiction by Rustom M. Gaton, is about a suicide victim who finds herself in a bizarre situation. The story rises above the usual horror fare by making the reader think about giving up and going on.
For the fifth time, we are featuring a work from Allan Ace Dignadice, one of the most promising writers in the region. His homoerotic one-act play “Hawla,” written in Filipino, challenges the reader’s notion of desire, consent, and memory.
“Undang-Piti,” a Cebuano poem by Hannah Adtoon Leceña, portrays men’s playfulness: “Dili na jud ka?”/ Nagpahiyom lang ko./ Niana ka,/ “Lahi na sab atoang dulaon.” The naughtiness gives the reader kilig, but the poem is ultimately heartbreaking, as the first lines caution: Tingalig gilaay na pud ka/ Maong nanghagad ka/ Nga magpitikanay tang duha.
Heartbreaking from start to finish is Gerald Galindez’s “Meri Krismas, Langit,” a poem on loss. Indeed, the smallest coffins are the heaviest: Kami pala ang magbigay ng regalo ngayon/ Ibalot namin sa karton, silopin/ Kahirap buhatin. The use of dialect Filipino gives the poem specificity, adding even more weight to the tragedy.
Also in this issue are works of three female writers who will be joining our editorial team soon. One is “Outgrown” by Andrea D. Lim. Slow, sensual, and searching, the poem traces the progress of a relationship, revealing cracks every now and then: My eyes shift direction to our reflections,/ the disheveled bed hair, skin-deep reaches and plunges, two bodies taking a place/ through giving in to its chance for the temporal haul/ of an endless whole. The lovers wind up in a less-than-ideal situation, as perhaps most people are fated to.
In the essay “The Old Office on the Side of the Road,” Jennie P. Arado recalls a part of her childhood. In our early years, we experience everything for the first time, so even mundane moments with people we barely know can be etched in our memory and have lasting effects in our lives. The piece is suffused with nostalgia for the more innocent self and for simpler times.
In “We Are Not in Paradise,” Hazel-Gin Lorenzo Aspera meditates just as much on how to tell the experience as on the experience itself, making the essay experimental in form and almost spiritual in content. Adding to the charm of the piece are lucid descriptions of nature.
With these works, mostly steeped in our region’s culture, we hope to help advance a little the country’s literature. By writing about our lives in ways that matter to the people around us, we enrich our own space and hopefully offer something new to the audience beyond. Let us read and write more local works this National Literature Month.
Isulan, Sultan Kudarat