September 2018 (Issue 25)

Introductions
Pasasalamat sa Ikalawa, Hamon sa Ikatlo by Jude Ortega
Stoked: Sixteen Works from Young Writers by Estrella Taño Golingay

FICTION
The World Keeps Spinning by John Gied Calpotura
Sa Kaunting Panahon ni Gerard E. Distor
Thorn by Irish L. Petipit
Bahaghari ni Bryant Lee Niervo Morales
Just Me, You, and the Moon by Edzelyn Oñate

ESSAY
Ukay-ukay by Angelo Serrano
A Walk on the Ramp by Mark Vincent M. Lao

POETRY
My Shadow by Erron Marc A. Hallarsis
Dark Adaptations by Mary Antonette P. Fuentes
Halimaw sa Dilim ni Adrian Arendon
Monsters by Xaña Angel Eve M. Apolinar
Mother Kept Me Awake by Yumi Ilagan
The Rose by Reylan Gyll J. Padernilla
si yolanda ni Marianne Hazzale J. Bullos
Lust by Jo-ed E. Evangelista
Ritwal at Dalangin ng Hamog ni Adrian Pete Medina

Editors and Contributors

 

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Pasasalamat sa Ikalawa, Hamon sa Ikatlo

Nababalot pa rin ng lagim ang paligid habang sinusulat ko ito. Kagabi lang, isang improvised explosive device ang sumabog dito sa Isulan, Sultan Kudarat, habang nasa kalagitnaan ng pagdiriwang ang bayan ng founding anniversary nito. Isang ina at isang batang babae ang nasawi, isang binata ang nasa kritikal na kondisyon, at halos apatnapu ang sugatan. Nang suyurin ng kapulisan ang paligid, dalawang bomba pa ang nakita at kinailangan nilang paputukin.

Mga dalawang daang metro lang ang bahay namin mula sa national highway. Sa lapit namin at sa lakas ng pagsabog, kumalantog ang aming bubong. Nasa isang kainan ang aking kapatid, mga isandaang metro mula sa ground zero. May iba pa akong kamag-anak na nasa labas din ng panahong iyon at papunta o nakaalis na sa pinag-iwanan ng bomba. Wala mang nasaktan sa aming pamilya, sakmal kami ng pagkagimbal. Hangad ng mga terorista na makapatay ng maraming tao. Hindi lang pag-atake sa mga partikular na tao kundi sa buong bayan ang nangyari. Nalagay sa panganib ang buhay ng lahat ng naninirahan dito at mga namamasyal mula sa mga karatig-bayan.

Nagmula rin dito sa Isulan ang tatlo sa labing-anim na manunulat na tampok sa isyung ito ng Cotabato Literary Journal. Tiyak kong natabunan din ng lungkot at takot ang kasiyahang dulot ng pagkapili ng mga akda nila. Lima naman ang lumaki o nag-aaral sa Tacurong, ang component city ng Sultan Kudarat at isa sa mga lugar sa Mindanao na may pinakamaraming insidente ng pambobomba. Tiyak kong alam nila ang nararamdaman ng mga taga-Isulan. Galing na sa ibang bahagi ng rehiyon ang walong iba pa.

Pawang edad labingwalo o mas bata pa ang labing-anim na manunulat. Nakalaan sa mga kabataan ang isyung ito bilang pasasalamat sa pakikiisa nila sa mga gawaing pampanitikan sa rehiyon. Sa ikalawang taon nitong journal, na ikalawang taon din ng mga lokal na samahan ng mga manunulat, nagpatuloy ang pag-organisa ng mga pagbabasa ng tula at pagtatanghal ng spoken word poetry, mga patimpalak sa pagsusulat, mga panayam, at iba pang kaugnay na aktibidad, at mga mag-aaral sa senior high school at junior high school ang marami sa mga nakilahok. Kailangang bigyan ng kaukulang pagkilala ang kanilang ambag.

Maganda ring mas makilala ng mga mambabasa ang mga umuusbong na pangalan sa panitikan ng rehiyon. Indikasyon na epektibo at may saysay ang anumang pagkilos kapag may mga bagong talentong natutuklas. Magsisilbi ring inspirasyon ang labing-anim na manunulat sa iba pang kabataan upang linangin ang kanilang kakayahan sa pagsusulat man o ibang larangan.

Dahil sa nangyaring trahedya sa tinitirhan kong bayan, napaisip ako sa papel ng panitikan, partikular na ng Cotabato Literary Journal, sa ating lipunan. Naging mapagbago naman ang journal. Sa unang taon nito, nakatulong ito upang mapanatiling buhay at matatag ang lokal na panitikan. Inilimbag dito ang mga pinarangalan at “the best” na gawa ng mga manunulat sa rehiyon. Sa ikalawang taon, naging instrumento ang journal upang maging mas masigla ang lokal na panitikan. Inilaan ang ilang isyu sa mga gawa at grupong hindi madalas pagtuunan ng pansin—mga gawang isinulat ng kababaihan, mga gawang isinulat para sa mga bata at kabataan, mga gawang nakasulat sa mga pinaghalong wika, at iba pa. Sa ikatlong taon, dapat sigurong higitan pa ang mga natamo. Dapat na bigyan ng mas malawak na espasyo ang mga gawang tumatalakay sa mga mabigat at masalimuot na pangyayari sa ating paligid.

Kinansela na ng lokal na pamahalaan ng Isulan ang lahat ng programa at palabas sa piyesta, maliban sa Thanksgiving Mass. Isang kabalintunaan ang tanawin sa labas. May mga nakasabit na banderitas sa itaas, ngunit walang tugtog ng banda o masayang musika. Puno ang gilid ng kalsada ng mga tolda ng ukay-ukay, kagamitan, at pagkain, ngunit halos mga nagbabantay lang ang makikitang tao. Umaga na, ngunit hindi pa rin lumilisan ang gabi.

Jude Ortega
Agosto 29, 2018

Pahabol: Ang binatang nasa kritikal na kondisyon ay binawian na rin ng buhay.

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, speak 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. 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

The World Keeps Spinning

By John Gied Calpotura
Fiction

Raindrops aren’t the only thing that’s falling this moment. Tears too. Vivien’s black dress is soaked from the rain as the priest says his final prayers before they lower down Beth and go home.

The funeral is not crowded, and it is really uneventful. Only fifteen people or so came. Three of them didn’t even bother wearing black. Some of them only came for the food after the funeral. But that’s not why Vivien is mad. She’s not mad that her uncle is dozing off while Beth is being buried down to be decomposed. She’s not even bothered that her cousins are actually glad for Beth to be gone. No. She’s mad because the world has kept spinning. She’s mad because the world has not even spared them a sun to shine, giving them gray clouds and wet grass to mourn with. She’s mad at the cars passing by, carrying on with their own businesses, while Vivien has just lost her only model, her only friend, while her mother and father scream at the top of their lungs, breaking everything that can be broken, including the innocence of their children.

But aside from being angry, deep down, Vivien pities the world. They have not gotten the chance to see Beth’s smile that beat the beauty of the moon or hear her diamond voice—sweet and soft but loud and clear at the same time. Beth never sang in front of anyone. She would only sing when she was in the shower, and Vivien would stick her ears to the door and close her eyes, letting her sister’s voice carry her to timeless lands. It’s sad that no one got to know her outgoing personality, how she would push Vivien when she was feeling unproductive, saying, “Tardiness only leads you to Strip Class!” with her best impression of Mrs. Herrera, their English teacher, but cried herself alone at night when she thought no one was watching. Because that was how she was; she didn’t want others to focus on her dramas, letting them focus on their achievements instead.

“Your dreams are more important than my tears,” she once said to Vivien. Beth was seventeen then, while Vivien was thirteen, it was the first time she caught her crying.

“Do you have dreams?” Vivien asked.

“Once,” Beth said, her eyes shining with wonder and loss. It was so strong that Vivien can actually feel the nostalgia. “But it’s useless. A dreamer does not live in a nightmare.”

Vivien didn’t understand what Beth said back then, but everything has been clear since Beth pulled the trigger.

Twenty-three. Beth was only twenty-three years old.

She still had so much to do, so many songs to sing, so many smiles to show.

But then, only Vivien knew these things. Only she paid attention. That’s why the world has kept spinning, the time kept ticking. People never knew her story.

For Beth is not worth remembering.

And the truth shatters Vivien more than anything.

Sa Kaunting Panahon

By Gerard E. Distor
Fiction

Isa, dalawa, tatlo . . . apat . . . lima . . . Malapit na. Kaunting panahon na lang . . .

Sadyang napakalambot ng mga palad mo, mahal kong ina. Dama ko ang init na humahaplos sa maliit kong katawan. Dinig ko ang matamis at walang katulad mong boses. Kay sarap pakinggan habang ako’y natutulog.

“Mila, ano na ang balak mo d’yan?”

Sandali, kaninong boses iyan? Tila magkahawig sa tinig mo, Ina. Ngunit bakit tila galit?

“Sandali lang, Nay. Pinag-iisipan ko pa.”

Ah, boses pala iyon ng aking lola. Sadyang napakagandang tinig din, katulad ng sa ’yo, Ina. Hindi na ako makapaghintay na masulyapan ang magaganda ninyong mukha.

Isa, dalawa, tatlo . . . apat . . . lima . . . Apat na buwan na lang, mahal kong ina.

Aray! Napukaw ako mula sa aking mahimbing na pagkatulog.

“Mila, gumising ka na. Nariyan na si Aling Mining.”

Ha? Malalim na ang gabi, ngunit ginigising ka ni Lola. At sino naman si Aling Mining?

“Nay, di ba sabi ko pag-iisipan ko pa?”

“Ngunit hanggang kailan, Mila? Maglilimang buwan na ’yan at bakat na sa iyong damit.”

Bakit tila lumalakas ang boses ni Lola? Ano’ng nangyayari?

“Bilis na, Mila. Naghihintay si Aling Mining.”

“Ngunit, Nay . . .”

“Wala nang ngunit-ngunit. Kailangan na nating ipalaglag ’yan. Nakakahiya na sa mga kumare ko. Baka malaman na nilang disgrasyada ka.”

Ano? Bakit? Bakit gusto ninyo akong mawala, Lola? Mahal kong ina, ipagtanggol mo ako. Huwag mong hayaang gawin nila ito sa akin.

Apat na buwan na lang, Ina, at lalabas na ako. Apat na buwan na lang at masusulyapan ko na ang maganda mong mukha at ang pagmamahal sa iyong mga mata. Apat na buwan na lang!

“Bilis na, Mila!”

Mahal kong ina, bakit tila ika’y umiiyak? Sinasaktan ka ba nila? Huwag mong hayaang saktan ka nila. Huwag mong hayaang mawala ako sa ’yo. Ipaglaban mo ang sarili mo. Ipaglaban mo ako!

“Sige,” isang salitang namutawi sa iyong bibig.

Bakit ka pumapayag, Ina? Hindi ka ba nasasabik na makita ako? Hindi ka ba nasasabik na marinig ang boses ko, mahawakan ang kamay ko, at mahagkan ako? Hindi mo ba ako mahal? Hindi mo na ba ako mahal?

Aray! Araaaay! Bakit nanlalambot ang maliit kong katawan? Ano’ng nangyayari, mahal kong ina? Bakit?

Thorn

By Irish L. Petipit
Fiction

On a cold evening of December inside the high well-furnished place, they formed a circle, each one of them holding a rose. The five of them were standing in their assigned positions when six girls wearing bright beautiful dresses entered. As the men started to dance, the girls watched them with glee, focusing on their hands.

It is time for them to choose a girl. Each one of them would give a rose to their chosen one. Dante, the most handsome of all, wanted to give the rose to a short fat girl, but the other men in the room picked tall thin girls. Afraid to be laughed at, he chose a thin blonde. When the girl received the rose, she immediately let go of it. Her palm was bleeding.

Dante looked down at the rose. Suddenly a big hand picked it up from the ground, a hand covered with green lace gloves. It was the fat girl. He hugged her. It was a cold evening indeed.

Bahaghari

By Bryant Lee Niervo Morales
Fiction

“Tanggap ka ba ng Diyos, Ma?”

Waring nabingi ang tenga ng ina sa tanong ng anak. Sa kasagsagan ng paghuhugas ng pinggan ay nilingon niya ang bata na siya namang gumagawa ng gawaing bahay. Nagtaka siya kung bakit nito naitanong, at wala sa huwisyong tanong din ang kaniyang naisagot. “Bakit?”

“Hindi raw po kasi makakapunta sa langit ang mga bakla . . . eh bakla rin po ako.” Matapang na nilakbay ng bata ang makulay ngunit mapanganib na mundo sa kaniyang isipan. Ni walang takot na itinahi niya ang komplikadong palaisipan sa ulo ng ina.

Hindi nakasagot ang ina at ipinagpatuloy na lamang ang ginagawa. “Alam mo, Juan, magsulat ka na lang ng pangalan mo diyan. Baka makalimutan mo na may ‘Junior’ sa hulihan ng pangalan. Naku, di magiging kumpleto ’yang pangalan mo kapag walang ‘Junior’! May regalo ka sa ’kin pag tama!”

Gumuhit ang ngiti sa labi ng bata.

“Juan Dela Cruz Senior,” ang basa ng bata na ngayo’y dalaga na sa lapida ng ina. Waring gumuhit ang ngiting naglakbay sa kaniya tungo sa nakaraan. “Noon, Ma, tinatanong ko pa kung saan galing ang pangalan ko at kung bakit may ‘Junior’ sa hulihan,” bulong niya habang pinupunasan ang lapida ng ina. “Ikaw talaga, Ma, napakamalihim mo.”

Mapait na ngiti ang namutawi sa kaniyang mga labi nang matuklasan ang katotohanan. At habang umaagos ang luha’y napatanong siya sa kaniyang inang nakatago sa lilim ng bahaghari, “Kumusta ka na sa langit?”