By Andrea D. Lim

for H


Our arms that shared the chilling language
of letting out before letting go lock our present selves
to the presses of each other’s heads onto our chests
minutes after midnight in front of a studio room mirror, under
the dim yellow light. This is a forgiving Sunday hour
for faint shadows shaping the human only late encounters
can trace away.


I am the first to dare gaze at the ground where
the edge of our conflicting want, the feet attest, has the feel of crossroads.
The surface finally suffice. 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.


You are on the receiving end, looking above
my head. You take the time to discover more inches,
to be the one to see for ourselves that you are now
higher than me. I used to be taller than you
when we were closer to our inner child
and had the time for open-ended narratives.
Now you are proud of your ruling, grinning
thoughtfully for history’s sake, for what comes
more during comebacks.

I tilt my head to your side, just enough to arrive
with a slanted face. In for all, I was shaking—it must have been
the coldness of inner pitch-black space, the weak refusal
from being filled this way, or the emptiness
that must be contained.


So you just take place, you holding on to your ways
of freeing me from the fixation with crashing at checkout time.

The bags are packed before you came, still. I may not yet be
tucked on the window side of the bus but my growth,
rooted between knowing better and minding the current, dawns
on the crevices of my heart. It does not shy away
at the height of honest desire.


And so you win, still. The heart tends to an aged love, but you,
you have outgrown me.




The Old Office on the Side of the Road

By Jennie P. Arado 

Nay, ano ’yang adopted?” I asked my mother.

Noong unang panahon, naga-drive kami ng tatay ni’yo.” she answered. “May narinig kaming nagaiyak sa gilid ng kalsada, sa may basurahan. Nagtigil kami, bumaba, at gitingnan ang basurahan. May nakita kaming baby, madumi. Kinarga namin, pinaliguan, at dinala sa simbahan.” The words came out of her mouth as if they were straight from a bedtime story, my eyes ogling in curiosity for what might have happened to the poor kid.

My mother ended her story with the details about her and my father taking the clothed and cleaned baby to the church and baptizing her with my name. She smiled as she finished her story.

I was four or five years old then and often spent most of the remaining hours of the day in my mother’s office, just a few meters from my day care center. That particular afternoon of storytelling, I was sitting on a monobloc chair too big for my size. When my mother reached the end of her story, she paused for a little while as if hinting she was done with her story. Her officemates looked at me as if waiting for a specific reaction I should be doing by now. They had weird smiles on their faces. And that’s when it dawned on me what my mother was implying.

I slid down the plastic chair like melted sugar oozing down the floor as syrup. I threw a racket flailing my arms on the side while my legs kicked as hard as I could. “Hindi ako adopted! Hindi ako adopted!

That was probably my first memory of a tantrum I have ever made. My eyes were brimming with tears as I looked up and saw the satisfied smiles of my mother’s co-workers. Some of them laughed. My mother scooped me up and carried me in her arms as everyone else went back to work.

The National Irrigation Administration office along General Santos Drive in Koronadal City, South Cotabato, became a second home growing up. This is where my parents first met and became a couple before my father, a civil engineer, decided to resign and work abroad. I spent most of my afternoons after class in my mother’s office playing Solitaire in the vacant computer, coloring the rainbow she would draw to keep me busy, or showing her officemates my high quiz scores.

From Tony Ko Day Care Center, which is just a few meters and on the opposite side of the road from NIA, I would trot outside the school grounds with my teacher and a few of my classmates who lived across the street. Teacher Mary Ann would hold us by the hand as she checked the highway, left and then right. Confirming that it was already clear for us to cross, she would shout “Dagan!” and our little feet would go scampering away from her toward the other side of the street.

Once safe, we would look back to her and wave goodbye as she went on her way. I would also wave goodbye to my classmates and march to my mother’s office.

My mother always reminded me to stay far away from the road, even from the shoulder, as there might be trucks losing their balance or their brakes, and it would be difficult to avoid a little kid who stayed too close to the road. She was very specific, but I did get her point and never stayed too close.

There was a particular lunch break my mother took me downtown. I was in my white dress with huge colorful pineapple detail prints. We were on the side of the road opposite her office waiting for the vehicles to clear so we could cross. My mind, already used to the “Dagan!” shout as a signal to run, grew more and more impatient as my mother waited. I managed to break free from her hands that held my wrist tight and ran for the street as I would normally do after Teacher Mary Ann yelled “Dagan!

Everything happened so fast. An incoming jeepney swerved away from my direction and awkwardly winded up on the shoulder of the opposite side of the road. No one was hurt, but some drivers on the road threw hateful remarks at my mother.

Kapti na bala mayad imo bata. Di pagbuy-i!

They wanted my mother to hold me tighter and to not let me go. They didn’t know that she did and I was the one who wriggled my wrist away from her grasp.

As they shouted at her, I froze in the middle of the road, more terrified of what my mother would do to me than the supposed danger my carelessness had brought. She was embarrassed of the scene and the danger her child had caused. With crouched shoulders, she quickly escorted me toward the safe side of the road. She didn’t forget my subtle punishment, though, that came in the form of a deep pinch on my side. I thought maybe I did deserve it for embarrassing her.

Back in her office, she told a few co-workers about what I had done. She also told our family until this story became a family legend that would never be forgotten until we reached adulthood. I don’t remember if she ever told Teacher Mary Ann about it, but the stories to her officemates and family didn’t fail to mention that it was with the practice with Teacher Mary Ann that I learned to run fast through a highway.

I grew up calling my mother Inay, exactly how she and her siblings used to call their own mother. My maternal grandmother grew up in Laguna, while my maternal grandfather in Batangas, both of them Tagalog and chose to be called Inay and Tatay by their own children.

Being raised in a municipality, which later on became a city, that is mostly inhabited by Ilonggo people, hearing a little girl call her mother Inay is very unusual. Kids my age called their mothers Mama or Mamang or Nanay. I called my grandmother Nanay.

It became a prank I put my classmates under all the time.

Jen, malakat nanay mo sa PTA meeting bwas?”

Ha? Wala na man ko nanay. Patay na man nanay ko.

Hala, di ka mag-amo sina. Kalain na.

For little kids like us, it was a morbid and an unacceptable statement. But I was not lying. My grandmother, whom everyone in the family called Nanay, died even before I was born. My mother is Inay, not Nanay.

I didn’t want to traumatize my classmate with me casually talking about someone’s death though, so I had to briefly explain that Nanay was for grandmother. She became at peace with it. And I thought that was one life I saved from trauma.

The case was different in my mother’s office, however. When I started going to school at Tony Ko Day Care Center nearby, I also became the resident kid in the office. When they first heard I was calling my mother Inay, they started calling her Inay and not anymore the usual Mareng Lydia, Mads, or Lyd that they were so used to calling her. Inay became her office name.  At first, it was done to spite me—to make it seem like they were stealing my mother away from me.

Before I knew it, everyone else in the office did. Even the tall, intimidating boss—who I remember was in a red polo shirt neatly tucked in khaki pants and had hair combed back and whom I remember as Sir Alcantara—would sometimes kid around with his subordinates and call my mother Inay as well. Whenever we called her from home, we would no longer mention her name. We would just ask if Inay was around. And everyone would know who we were referring to.

It became something beyond the control of a four- or five-year-old kid especially that I preferred to be quiet in the corner near my mother’s desk and would love to have nothing to do with the adults. Whenever they came squatting in front of me so that they could be on the same level as my eyes and talk to me, I would look away. Sometimes I would hide behind my mother. Once, a kind lady gave me food, maybe a bread, placing it on my hands. Perhaps threatened by the personal space intimacy with me that she was able to conquer, I flung the bread away, and it landed grimly on the vinyl-tiled floor. My shyness was disguised as disrespect and rudeness.

She let out a fake laugh and assured my mother that it was okay, that perhaps I was not in the mood. Inay looked sternly at me before she picked up the bread from the floor.

I was sorry and was as shocked as they were for how I behaved. But I didn’t know how to apologize and instead stood my ground and pretended I was actually being rude or not in the mood. But adults could have extensive understanding and patience over little kids.  So despite my extreme shyness bordering to rudeness, they still talked to me. They still gave me occasional treats until I felt more and more at ease. I was still on my most comfortable reading or coloring pictures in the corner alone, but I became less hostile to everyone.

I remember my mother was friends with people in her office named Roming Depita, who was a funny old man with no teeth; Ronnie Pendon, who was thin but friendly; Grating, whose Hiligaynon accent stood out the most among all the other Ilonggo people in the room; Grace Billones, who my mother said was the kindest and who later on migrated to America; Ester, who married Joel from the Engineering Department; pretty Hilda, who moved to Switzerland with her family; and Jo, who once washed my butt while my mother was away and I had to poo.

They all worked in that shabby, old office from 8 AM to 5 PM—the latter always signaled by a loud pounding of a rusty cylindrical metal. The sound could surprisingly be heard in the second or third building from the guardhouse. Everyone would go home by 5 PM. There was rarely an overtime.

The office was later on renovated again and again.  But I remember my mother’s department’s wooden door leading to a vinyl-tiled room with spacious tables, each with their respective full names taped on the table’s front, easy for the visitors to see.

Immediately after entering, there was a divan with red foam on the ride side of the room. Originally, it was placed there for visitors to sit on while waiting for their turn for a government transaction. But it became a comfortable bed for me. I slept after lunch and be woken up by my mother when almost all the lights in the office had been turned off. “Maglakad na ako. Dito ka lang?” she would ask softly so as not to startle me.

Her face would be close to mine, so the words were whispers, but I would notice the dim room and ceiling at the background.  Everyone had left. She would have her shoulder bag on one shoulder and my kindergarten bag on the other. I would jump to my feet, afraid to be left alone. On days when my father was home for vacation from his contract works abroad, he would fetch us from NIA with our 1994 white Nissan Pathfinder.  When I was lucky, our pickup would go to the city’s poblacion to buy groceries from the supermarket instead of going straight home. He would honk or wave a goodbye to a thin security guard I remember to have a huge mole on the temple. The security guard would wave back, remembering my father from several years back.

On some occasions of me sitting alone on the backseat with my father on the driver’s seat and my mother on the passenger seat, I imagined the story of how they saw a crying baby on the side of the street and decided to pick her up and adopt her. I tried to think which intersection in the city they could have seen the child, if the story was indeed true. I pictured black garbage bags carelessly dumped outside an almost full circular trash can, perhaps with the fading names of the politicians who “donated” the trash cans painted just close to the brim. Sometimes I also imagine my parents washing the dirty baby carefully with their hands. I asked questions to myself including the whereabouts of the priest or the real parents. In the silence of my father behind the wheel or despite my mother telling him a story of what happened to the office earlier, I tried to argue with the bits and pieces of information I remember from past stories.

Sabi nila sa Pingoy [Hospital] daw ako pinanganak.”

Sabi nila kumain daw si Inay ng madami no’ng anniversary nila ni Tatay, kaya kinabukasan naglaki tiyan niya, sinugod sa ospital, at pinanganak na ako.”

Their wedding anniversary comes a day before my birthday, and my elder sister used this information to trick me into a child-friendly story of how my mother conceived me.

Weighing these past stories that I heard before, it became harder to believe that I was adopted. I could not be adopted. That would be weird. I was a middle child and the third daughter. Who would think of adopting a daughter when they already had two? Who would think of adopting after having conceived two children successfully?

Future rides from my mother’s office to the supermarket, then, became more and more different. I no longer thought about the bulging black garbage bags or how filthy the poor baby was. Time and time of thinking about it, I came to my own childish conclusions that it was just a joke meant to entertain my mother’s officemates. Anyway, adults were always amused and pleased with an irritated child that they had teased.

The National Irrigation Administration in Koronadal City is still along General Santos Drive, but a lot has changed. The first building nearest to the guardhouse was taken down a few years ago. The space was allotted for the new NIA office building.

The third building from the guardhouse where my mother’s office was, had already been renovated countless times. The divan with the red pillows on it was no longer there. The wooden tables did not anymore have the names of the employees glued on the front.

Many of the familiar faces who laughed with the adopted joke had already retired, including the office chief Alcantara in bright red polo. There were new younger faces in the office when I last visited a few years after college graduation.

The cylindrical metal was entirely eaten up to destruction by its own rust and was no longer pounded by the security guard with a mole on the temple. He was still the guard together with two others on duty on some other shifts. Instead, from a traditional bundy clock there was a polite biometrics that says thank you after every thumbmark reading.

The first time I came back to the office as a young girl, I was probably in high school—still a little shy, but I no longer hid behind my mother.

Abaw, Inay, amo na ni si Jennie nga ginadala-dala mo sadto diri sa office?” Nong Ronnie, who was just a few years younger than my mother, was surprised to see how I have grown.

I smiled politely to Nong Ronnie before my mother and I proceeded to her office at the far end of the room. She let me use her computer for a few minutes before a young woman, perhaps a fresh graduate, knocked on the open door.

Inay, may kape ka dira? Mangayo kami bi. Mug na lang dayon.” She took what she needed from my mother’s wooden cabinet and did not forget her “Salamat, Nay” and a promise that she would wash the mug and return it immediately. She disappeared with the extreme rising and falling Hiligaynon accents of the voices heard outside my mother’s office.

We Are Not in Paradise

By Hazel Aspera

It’s always hard to tell the story of a journey. It’s not that I don’t know what to say, but I don’t know how to say it or where to start. After all, there are many ways in which a story can be told, and we both might have time to hear one of them. But I always feel that telling only one story does much injustice to the places I’ve been to.

Say, for instance, I wanted to tell you about the last time I traveled. I’d quickly recall my experience in the town of Glan in Sarangani Province to say this:

Somewhere on the southern edge of the Mindanao mainland, there is a road that leads to nowhere. That is, as a humble dirt road, it passes through the village of Batulaki, past coconut trees and through a stream, past the elementary school, shortly after which it transforms into a paved road, past houses and shops, and on until it ends abruptly onto soft, weathered coconut husks and sand. After that brief stretch of beach, there is only water as far as the eye can see.

At the dormitory, our all-women team of medical students joked that once we got there, we’d hire a boat to take us all the way to Indonesia, just so we could say that we had finally set foot on foreign land. When we jovially asked the fishermen about that, however, they said that the trip would be long and the weather and waves would not be on our side.

While this hypothetical trip to Indonesia was a running joke throughout our trip, I have no doubt that if someone had offered a ride, we would have emptied our pockets and hopped on the boat immediately just for the thrill of it.

We would ride that stretch of water that was grey near the shore, and onto that which was sea green, then onto the ultramarine waters near the horizon. But since nobody tempted us with a ride abroad, I will have to take my story back to the road that leads to nowhere, back to the shores of Mindanao.

Rising from either side of that road, just before it becomes beach, are mountains that reach the clouds. At least that is what it seemed like when we rode through the fog, up and down, left and right, through roads that were at once steep and winding.

An introduction like that, I hope, will impress upon your imagination the wild beauty of the place, and the enormity of the sea, the sky, and the mountains around us.

But even that is not enough. Because there is another way to begin this story:

The bamboo floors creaked with each step. Ma’am Sal and I had to watch our step, lest a foot shot through either a weak portion of the floor or one of the big gaps between the bamboo slats. The difference was that Ma’am Sal paced the room quicker and surer, while I fell behind trying to make sure I didn’t get injured. The inside of the house was dark, the noon light only barely seeping through the door and windows since the sun was directly overhead. I don’t remember seeing any lightbulbs, though it is possible that we came during a blackout. (You see, I am less attentive to my surroundings when I have work to do.)

As we approached the bedroom, the grandfather showed us the boy who, like him, was wearing a worn T-shirt and shorts. The upper left side of his face was almost completely caked in a dark, mottled-looking thing that appeared, to me, as a mass of gritty blood clots.

The grandfather asked if we wanted to clean his wound in the house or if we needed to go out. “It’s still bleeding,” he said in a hoarse and worried voice. Normally, I would insist that the patient stay where he was so that he wouldn’t need to exert any effort. But since I wasn’t able to determine the extent of the damage in this dim light, I told him to bring the boy out.

He carried the surprisingly calm three-year-old outside. In the light, the scab on his face looked unlike anything I had ever seen before. It had only been less than an hour, said his grandmother, since he jumped around the house, fell down, and hit his face hard against a wooden bench. Now I knew from anatomy class that face wounds tend to bleed a lot and infamously don’t clot very fast, especially not this much. What’s more, blood was still trickling sideways over the arch of his eyebrows, downward just beside his left eye and onto his cheek, implying that all that clotting wasn’t doing its job.

“By the way,” the grandfather said, “we put coffee all over the wound so it wouldn’t bleed out.”

Good Lord. Coffee. So this grainy, clot-like thing caked on his face was blood mixed with coffee. Nowhere close to the standard first aid for open wounds which was simply to clean the wound and apply pressure until the bleeding stopped.

Ma’am Sal said something as she pulled on the collar of her green and white barangay health worker uniform. I don’t remember what it was, but I do know it was filled with veiled disapproval.

I looked at the boy’s face again. I realized that we had no idea where, exactly, the wound was or how big it was. Still, there was enough bleeding that I told Ma’am Sal I thought we’d definitely need to send the boy to town to get the wound stitched up and maybe get a tetanus shot.

“We’ll have to clean the coffee off that wound first,” said Ma’am Sal. “Or else they’ll say back in town that us BHWs aren’t doing our jobs.”

* * *

In short, I could start this story writing like a tourist or writing like a health worker. But you see, “tourist destinations” bother me. While I have enjoyed my fair share of them for years since I started earning my own income, there was always something bothersome, something insincere, about them. I am wary of these things, sold like snake oil: white sand with clear waters and coral reefs, or mountain views, gardens, and fresh fruit, which may come with the most hospitable people you have ever known.

But after I enjoy a coffee in a French-inspired coffee shop (at least one exists in practically every tourist destination nowadays), I only need to walk a few paces past a narrow alleyway to find something that is in complete contrast to the paradise that is sold to us. Perhaps a family of four who spends just about as much for one day’s worth of food as I do on a single cappuccino. Or scruffy children who mistake us for foreigners. Everyone knows that foreigners always bring a lot of money.

This happened on a summer trip to Bohol, and our guide caught the children asking my boyfriend and me, in broken English, for money. “Don’t bother them,” she said, shooing them away. “Go back home to your mother, and don’t show yourselves to tourists.” I daresay this is a very Filipino way of solving the problem: hide it and forget about it. Kind of like how my parents used to avoid going to the doctor because they “might find out what’s wrong” with them. (You know, even if you don’t know there’s something wrong with you doesn’t mean it isn’t there. And the later you find out about it, the later you can fix it.)

On a larger scale, it means making the beaches, the resorts, the highways palatable for tourists by hiding poverty well in the back. But I know that just because they have been removed from my sight does not mean that they do not exist. It does not make whole the tatters on their shirts, nor does it put brand-new slippers on their bare feet, nor does it fill their empty stomachs.

It’s disconcerting, to say the least, to see abundance and poverty lying side by side like this. Which was why this trip to Sarangani was a little more special than the others. See, when I travel during the summer, it is typically to be a tourist first and only have glimpses of other stories behind the façade of paradise by accident. This time, my intentions were different: learn more about the community’s health situation through an immersion program for medical students organized by the Alliance for Improvement of Health Outcomes (AIHO), a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the Philippine public health system.

The more I saw, the more my perspective on travel changed. Is it right, after all, to separate the place from the people, to choose to see paradise and not the things which had to be pushed away to make it thus?

I don’t think so. I do it anyway.

I do it anyway. It makes me feel guilty that I can.

* * *

Ma’am Sal and I cleaned the coffee off the boy, slowly, for what seemed like hours. At first, we tried wiping it off with cotton balls soaked in alcohol, but the mixture of blood and coffee had dried on his face, making it difficult to wipe off without causing additional trauma to the wound, wherever it was. Then we tried warm water. The coffee dissolved better.

We began to make out the edges of the wound. It wasn’t as big as we had thought, spanning just a little more than halfway above the boy’s eyebrow. It was, however, deep enough that we knew that the boy definitely needed stitches, and probably a tetanus shot to boot.

“We can’t,” said the boy’s grandmother, who had been all nerves since she had run all the way to fetch us. “We don’t have any money.”

“You’ll need to find a way,” Ma’am Sal replied. “The boy needs to get to town as soon as we’re done cleaning the wound.”

The grandmother hesitated. Then she said that she’d try to borrow some from the neighbors.

I thought of how easy it was for me to get treatment of any sort back in the city, how I didn’t have to travel for an hour to get to the nearest clinic, nor did I have to deal with flooded pathways, unpaved roads, and extremely steep slopes to get there.

I wished I could help, but in the rush to collect whatever wound dressing supplies were available, I had left my bag and my wallet at the elementary school classroom that served as the barangay’s temporary health center.

The best thing I could do right now was wait. And pray that this family had generous neighbors.

* * *

One story later, we found ourselves at the parts of the southernmost mountains of Mindanao that ended abruptly in the water. We stepped off the white beach, climbing some of the looming grey rocks that seemed to fall in a static cascade from the mountain and then disappearing into the sea. Some of them were smooth, others were covered with moss, and yet some were rough, like thousands of daggers assaulting my bare feet.

Finally, we stood at what my companions and I called “the edge of the Philippines.” That wasn’t technically true, though. Somewhere just before Indonesia, Sarangani Island and Balut Island still stood as the last strongholds of Philippine land in the south. But calling it the “edge of the Mindanao mainland” didn’t have the same ring to it.

There, we were face-to-face with the raging sea, wind, and grey clouds brought by a low-pressure area that was approaching at the time. I thought that these mountains-that-reach-the-clouds must be the fort that guards Glan, perhaps even the rest of the island, from the fury of nature.

We soon realized, as the wind grew stronger and the tide rose higher, that we might have to spend the stormy night on these rocks if we stayed any longer. So after a few hasty photographs, we made our way back down. By the time we made it to the beach, the wind was literally pushing against my body so hard that each step took twice the effort, while the rain felt like cold stones slapping against my face.

Wary, mostly of the potential risk of coconuts falling on us from overhead, we sought shelter at the home of a shrimp farmer until the wind subsided.

“It’s a good thing we didn’t go to Indonesia on a boat,” someone quipped.

Any laughter was lost in the howl of the wind.

Editors and Contributors


Eric Gerard H. Nebran is an educator and illustrator from General Santos City. He is currently a PhD Comparative Literature student at the University of the Philippines–Diliman. His research interests include orality, history, and literary productions of his hometown.

Jude Ortega is the author of the short story collection Seekers of Spirits (University of the Philippines Press, 2018), the chapbook Katakot (Balangay Books, 2018) and the zines Mga Kuwentong Peysbuk and Faded Jeans and Old Shoes. He has been a fellow for fiction at four national and two regional writers workshops. In 2015, his stories received honorable mention at the inaugural F. Sionil José Young Writers Awards and at the Nick Joaquin Literary Awards. He divides his time between Senator Ninoy Aquino and Isulan, both in Sultan Kudarat.


Jennie P. Arado is from Koronadal City, South Cotabato, and currently works for SunStar Davao as editor of the lifestyle section. She earned her BA in English (major in creative writing) from the University of the Philippines–Mindanao. Her story “Ang Dako nga Yahong sang Batchoy” won the South Cotabato Children’s Story Writing Contest in 2018.

Hazel-Gin Lorenzo Aspera is a registered nurse, artist, and writer. She spent her childhood in Cotabato City and is now based in Cagayan de Oro City. A fellow for literary essay at the 1st Cagayan de Oro Writers Workshop, some of her feature stories appear in the book Peace Journeys: A Collection of Peacebuilding Stories in Mindanao. Currently, she is Associate Director for Communications and Junior Fellow for Literary Essay of Nagkahiusang Magsusulat sa Cagayan de Oro (NAGMAC).

Allan Ace Dignadice is from Koronadal City, South Cotabato, and a BS Electronics Engineering student at Mindanao State University in General Santos City. He is a former editor in chief of the official school publication of Koronadal Comprehensive National High School. “Hawla,” his play that appears in this issue, is his fifth published work in Cotabato Literary Journal.

Gerald Galindez is a senior high school teacher at Notre Dame of Tacurong College in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat. His poem “San Gerardo and the Exocotidae” is the winner of the 2017 Cotabato Province Poetry Contest. He has released two poetry zines—I, Alone and Ginapasaya Mo Ako.

Rustom M. Gaton teaches at Montessori Learning Center in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat. He grew up in the municipality of Bagumbayan in the same province and earned his Bachelor of Secondary Education (major in English) degree at Sultan Kudarat State University.

Alvin Q. Larida is a teacher at Dole Philippines School in Polomolok, South Cotabato, where he teaches physics and chemistry for senior high school. He is a graduate of Notre Dame of Marbel University in Koronadal City, South Cotabato, and currently finishing his master’s degree at Mindanao State University in General Santos City.

Hannah Adtoon Leceña is a high school teacher and spoken word artist from Kiamba, Sarangani Province. She was a fellow for fiction at the 2018 Davao Writers Workshop and at the 3rd Bathalad–Sugbo Creative Writing Workshop (2019). She earned her Bachelor of Secondary Education (major in Filipino) degree at Mindanao State University in General Santos City.

Andrea D. Lim is from General Santos City and currently working as an editor for a publishing company in Cebu City while taking her master’s degree in literature at the University of San Carlos. She is also a former editor in chief of The Weekly Sillimanian, the official student publication of Silliman University in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental.

Panimula sa Marso 2019 Isyu


Sa politika at komersiyo, hindi na bago ang konsepto ng “sister cities” o “twin towns.” Nitong mga nagdaang araw, napapaisip ako kung may kagaya nito sa panitikan. Para kasing ito ang tinatahak na daan ng General Santos City at ng San Jose City sa Nueva Ecija.

Kagagaling ko lang sa ikatlong Nueva Ecija Personal Essay Writing Workshop, na binuo ng tubo roon at premyadong manunulat na si Wilfredo Pascual. Kasama ko ang katulad kong panelist na si Jade Mark Capiñanes at isa sa mga fellow na si Kurt Joshua Comendador, na parehong mula sa General Santos.

Nagsimula ang ugnayan ng dalawang lungsod noong Pebrero 2017, nang bumisita si Sir Willi sa General Santos sa imbitasyon ng doktor sa kanser at premyadong mananaysay na si Noel Pingoy. Nagbigay ng panayam sa isang mall si Sir Willi, at nagpasa ng isang resolusyon ang Sangguniang Panlungsod na nagdedeklara sa kaniya bilang adopted son ng lugar.

Noong nakaraang taon, binuo ng Cotabato Literary Journal—kasama si Blaise Francisco, isang manunulat na tubong General Santos at nakabase ngayon sa Europa—ang Lagulad Prize, isang patimpalak ng mga personal na sanaysay para sa rehiyon ng SOCCSKSARGEN. Kinuha namin bilang hurado si Sir Willi, at nagpasya siyang igawad ang premyo sa akda ng labinsiyam na taong gulang na si Kurt. Nagpasya rin siyang gawaran si Kurt ng fellowship sa workshop na inoorganisa niya sa kaniyang kinalakhang bayan. Inimbitahan niya rin kami ni Jade na pumunta upang magbigay ng mga komento sa mga natanggap na gawa.

Kagaya ng mga lungsod na itinambal ng mga opisyal ng gobyerno, halos walang kaugnayan o pagkakatulad ang General Santos at San Jose. Iba ang wikang ginagamit ng mga tao roon. Iba rin ang itsura ng mga jeep. Kita sa kultura ng lugar na umunlad ito dahil sa lapit nito sa Maynila, na kabaligtaran ng General Santos at iba pang lungsod sa Mindanao—umunlad kahit malayo sa Maynila.

Maging sa panitikan, mas hayag ang pagkakaiba kaysa pagkakatulad ng San Jose at General Santos. May kaniya-kaniyang uniberso ang mga kuwento sa Central Luzon at ang mga kuwento sa SOCCSKSARGEN. Kung meron mang nag-uugnay sa dalawang lungsod, umuusbong pa lamang, at ito ay ang adhikain ng mga manunulat na yumabong ang personal na sanaysay sa panitikan ng Pilipinas.

* * *

Kadalasang inilalabas namin ang isyu ng Cotabato Literary Journal sa unang araw ng buwan. Para ngayong Marso 2019, nagpasya kaming hintaying matapos ang Nueva Ecija workshop, na ginanap mula Pebrero 28 hanggang Marso 2. Hinintay naming marebisa ni Kurt ang kaniyang sanaysay dahil nais naming maitampok ang workshop habang sariwa pa ang mga balita tungkol dito. Kasama ang sanaysay ni Kurt, ang dalawang maikling kuwento at tatlong tula sa isyung ito ay nagpapakita na mulat ang mga batang manunulat ng SOCCSKSARGEN. Kilala nila ang mga sarili, alam nila ang mga nangyayari sa paligid, at handa silang mag-eksperimento upang mahasa pa ang kakayahan sa pagsusulat.

Pawang tungkol sa mga bata ang mga kuwentong “Diin na si Simó?” ni Allan Ace Dignadice at “Muwang” ni Doren John Bernasol. Sa panahong nauudyok ang ating mga mambabatas na ibaba ang edad ng criminal liability, isang paalala ang mga kuwento kung paano maging bata. Mga tao rin ang mga bata. Mga tao silang may sariling pananaw sa mundo at may sariling kagustuhan, ngunit dahil wala silang kapangyarihan sa ating lipunan, madalas silang nakakaligtaan at madaling mapagsamantalahan.

Relasyon din ng nasa ilalim ng kapangyarihan at ng may hawak ng kapangyarihan ang nilalaman ng tulang “Patawad, Ama” ni Norsalim S. Haron. Ramdam sa tula ang hirap ng kalagayan ng nagsasalita. Hanggang saan nga ba natin susundin ang ating mga magulang, at kailan natin igigiit ang sariling pagkakakilanlan?

Mula naman sa zine na Bioluminescence ang mga tulang “Ode to the World’s Oldest Lullaby” ni Marc Jeff Lañada at “Cautionary Tale” ni Jermaine Dela Cruz. Mga gawang tungkol sa dagat ang nilalaman ng zine, at binuo ito ng mga batang manunulat sa General Santos para sa SOX Zine Fest, na ginanap noong Nobyembre 2018. Parehong kongkreto ang anyo at unibersal ang tema ng dalawang tula.

May kinalaman din sa tubig ang “To Pull a Hook.” Sa sanaysay, binalikan ni Kurt ang mga karanasan niya sa pamimingwit nang minsang mamalagi siya sa isang lugar na malapit sa ilog. Makikita sa talas ng detalye at maayos na istruktura ng akda ang epekto ng mga palihang pinagdaanan nito.

Upang malinang ang panitikan ng ating rehiyon, nakaugat dapat ang ating mga akda sa ating sariling kasaysayan, pamumuhay, at maging heograpiya, ngunit mahalaga ring nakikipagpalitan tayo ng kaalaman sa ibang lugar at manunulat. Patuloy na makikipag-ugnayan ang Cotabato Literary Journal sa Nueva Ecija Personal Essay Writing Workshop. Hangad naming tumibay pa ang nasimulang samahan ng General Santos at San Jose.

Jude Ortega
Isulan, Sultan Kudarat

Diin na si Simó?

Ni Allan Ace Dignadice


Mahilig si Simó maghampang sang loko-loko kabayo. Kahampang niya pirme ang iya duwa ka magulang nga lalaki, kag sa adlaw-adlaw nila nga pagpanaguay, pirme gid mapirde ang agot nga si Simó.

Isa ka udtong adlaw, samtang gapangita sang palanaguan si Simó sa ila balay, nakasulod siya sa isa ka kwarto nga amo pa lang niya nakita. Kay sin-o ni man? pamangkot niya sa iya huna-huna.

“Pernando nga tulisan, panago kamo tanan!” singgit sang isa niya ka magulang.

Nagdali-dali sa pagpanago si Simó sa isa ka dako nga aparador. Ginhawa niya ka hinay-hinay plastar ang iya lawas upod sang mga bayo kag sapatos. Mabatian niya ang pagkudog sang iya dughan kaupod sang iya madalom nga pagginhawa. Ginakulbaan siya nga basi ma-bong siya sang iya magulang.

Nag-agi ang pila ka minuto. Wala.

Daw madaog na gid ko sini! Namalakpak sa iya hunahuna si Simó.

Sang pipila pa gid ka minuto ang nag-agi, may nabatian na si Simó nga mga tingog. “Hoy, Simó! Diin ka timo?” singgit sang isa niya ka magulang.

Gusto lang ko sina nila ma-bong, gin-isip ni Simó. Indi takon maggwa.

“Simo? Ginapangita ka ni Manong mo,” pagpanawag sang iya iloy.

Abaw, gamiton pa nila si Mamang para mainto ko! Wala gihapon naggwa si Simó sa iya nga ginapanaguan.

“Simó! Bakulon ka gid ni Papang kay wala ka nanyapon!” pagpanghadlok sang isa pa niya ka magulang.

Gabangisi sa sulod sang aparador si Simó samtang gapinanawag ang iya pamilya sa iya. Ginaisip na lang ni Simó nga nainggit lang ang iya mga utod kay amo pa lang siya nadaog sa loko-loko kabayo. Ti man, nakabalos gid ko!

“Simó? Simó!”

“Diin ka na timo?”

“Simó, gwa na da. Pamahaw na!”

Daw wala lang sa bungog ni Simó ang pagpanawag sa iya.


“Simó? Simó.”

Wala sa gihapon naggwa sa aparador ang agot. Sa iya huna-huna, Ahhh! Kun maggwa ko, hambalon lang na nila nga naka-seb si Manong. Indi takon!

Nag-agi pa ang pila ka minuto.

Kag inoras. Kag mga adlaw.

Semana. Bulan kag mga tinuig. Asta nga daw nalimtan na lang sang panimalay nga ginapangita pa nila si Simó. Nadula na ang mga pagpanawag, pagpaniyagit, kag pagpakitluoy. Nagtinong ang bug-os nga balay, kag wala na sang may naghampang pa liwat sang loko-loko kabayo kay asta sa sini nga mga tion, sila nagapalamangkutanon: Diin na si Simó?