Introduction to June 2019 Issue

Reading the works that the genre editors selected for this issue, I sensed that something had changed, or something had finally happened. At first I didn’t know what it was. All I could clearly see was that the works were suffused with immediacy. The contributors were writing about things that were happening, and whether personal or sociopolitical, each was handled with gravitas.

Eventually it dawned on me: Our writers were now writing for local readers. Characters and settings were no longer exoticized. Terms and actions were no longer explained. It was assumed that readers could understand, or they were required to understand. These are signs of progress definitely. For the region’s literature to have its own identity, it must develop from within, grounded on our own reality.

Written in Cebuano, Hannah Adtoon Leceña’s “Santelmo” is a short story about a boy ordered to buy tuba at dusk. The boy is scared of the St. Elmo’s fire that is said to be prowling at a densely vegetated part of the road, but he has no choice but to obey his father. As the darkness sets in and he walks farther, he is entangled in a predicament that is far more sinister than he had feared at first. A tour de force, the story disquiets the mind until long after reading.

Paul Randy Gumanao, editor for poetry, selected two works for this issue—“Just as Silvery” by Marc Jeff Lañada and “Ulang Kumbektibo” by PG Murillo. Although not evocative of a specific locality, the poems speak straight to local readers, making us think how we view ourselves and how we relate with others.

“Just as Silvery,” Gumanao says, “lends profundity to the mundane experience of looking at oneself in the mirror” and “resonates with different levels of introspection, from the physical to the mental and to the emotional states of well-being.” The poem also “demonstrates how being lost in contemplation can actually lead one to find the way to the inner self” and, as it ends, “subtly reminds us that there is always a narrative behind each one’s façade, that like nostalgia . . . begs to be visited.”

Gumanao likes “Ulang Kumbektibo” for its juxtaposition of “the fleeting nature of love” and “convective rainfall, a type of rain which is generally more intense and of shorter duration.” He further explains: “The poem starts by foreboding a misfortune and unfolds with a sudden shift in the weather, demonstrating how fitful love is. As the poem progresses, the intensity of the emotions also heightens just as the downpour gets heavier. But in the end, the poem evokes a feeling of relief, a glimmer of hope, which is what keeps us going when we love and when we fall out of love.”

Jennie Arado, editor for nonfiction, selected “The Ride Home” by Xaña Angel Eve M. Apolinar.  Arado says the essay “treats nostalgia in a special subtle way just exactly how subtle memorable moments come to us.” She wants readers to note as well “how even the random commute back home with friends can actually be something worth remembering sometime after,” and she appreciates that “within a short essay, Apolinar is able to show the readers the distinct personalities of each one which made the ride back home more fun and worth remembering.”

In these works, local color appear organically and not inserted artificially. This happens when writers attempt to connect with an audience that they share values and experiences with, instead of catering to the taste of outsiders with established influence. May all our works be written this way from this time forward. May we keep on writing our own stories for our own readers, until they reach the brim and overflow, assured and distinct.

Jude Ortega
Isulan, Sultan Kudarat