Introduction to August 2019 Issue

Of the six writers in this issue, four are published for the first time. Cotabato Literary Journal continues to be home to emerging voices in the region, and despite being new to the scene, so to speak, these writers are not afraid to tackle heavy themes. Along with the two more experienced writers, they explore the deep and often dark recesses of our country, our community, and, ultimately, ourselves.

In “Mga Sitsit ug Panaghoy,” a Cebuano flash fiction by John Efrael Igot, a young man tries to escape the eerie calls and cries that he hears and finds a throng of sufferers. His dread and confusion disappear, only to be replaced by something much worse. In similar stories, sanity is often questioned. In this story, insanity is questioned. By turns psychological, mystical, and allegorical, the story is short yet packed, as what flash fictions should aspire to be.

“Wakwak,” written by Martsu Ressan Manibog Ladia, is another flash fiction in Cebuano. The first part is written in the form of diary entries and tells of a man exacting vengeance on the monsters that killed his loved ones and the people in his neighborhood. The second part is in the form of a news report and puts the first part in an entirely different light, making us question our perception of evil. The violence in the story is graphic, a surprising fact considering that the writer is blind and has been so since birth.

In “Matam-is nga Handurawan,” a Hiligaynon flash fiction by Nilyn Gamuza Pacariem, a woman reminisces about her lover who had to leave her behind and work abroad, as the rain falls and she folds her clothes. The writer deftly handles the sensual scene; she knows when to let go and when to hold back, when to be profuse in descriptions and when to leave the details to the reader’s imagination.

Nonfiction editor Hazel-Gin Lorenzo Aspera selected for publication the essay “The War Inside My Head” by Virgilio R. Nabua III. She describes it thus: “Nabua expresses his concern over the proximity of the Marawi siege to his own home. At the same time, his frustration at how forgetful people are of violent conflict through the years is palpable through his search for answers in both Facebook and history books.” She adds that the piece “is a personal awakening to the history of violent conflict in Mindanao and its effect on Filipinos in the era of social media.”

Estrella Taño Golingay’s “Jose Comes Home,” in the words of poetry editor Paul Randy Gumanao, “shares a story of the final battle of a soldier one tumultuous night, when his heart was as troubled as the stormy skies.” Gumanao adds that “the poem successfully shows how a soldier’s battle transforms from a purely personal to a collective struggle bravely fought by one yet felt by many” and commends it for its being “loaded with vivid imagery, especially of the setting, allowing for the effective settling of the emotions associated with the consummation of the main character’s selfless commitment.”

As to Elyzah A. Parcon’s “Waters,” Gumanao says it “invites attention to the internal struggles of a persona who seems to be drowning in an ocean of uncertainties despite all the knowledge and the attempts at surviving.” He further notes: “The poem’s magical use of transforming imagery evokes sensory responses to the creative depiction of melancholy, from the visual images of crimson waters, to the tactile images of desperate flailing, to the smell of iron, and to the sight and sound of blood rushing out of the vein. But more than the aesthetics, the poem beckons the reader’s sensitivity toward muted calls for help, and to dip into the stained waters of the persona, who could be our significant other, a family member, or a dear friend.”

Igot’s story is the winner and Ladia’s story is a finalist in the short story writing contest organized by the writers association of South Cotabato for the province’s T’nalak Festival last month. Pacariem’s story won first in the 2016 Peter’s Prize, organized by and named after multi-awarded writer Peter Solis Nery of Iloilo. Nabua’s essay is a finalist for the 2nd Lagulad Prize, organized by this journal and some benefactors. On behalf of my co-editors, I’d like to thank everyone who provided inspiration, support, and reward so that the works in this issue would be written. As with the previous issues, this one is a shared undertaking.

Jude Ortega
Isulan, Sultan Kudarat