Just Me, You, and the Moon

By Edzelyn Oñate
Fiction

A thin layer of snow covered the ground on a cold December night. The neighborhood in which a boy named Louis lived in was fast asleep. Judging by the clock that said 11:02, it made sense why they were all out like a light. Everyone except Louis, that is.

The boy couldn’t fall asleep for some reason. No matter how much he tried to get some shut-eye, he just couldn’t.

He stared out his window, having a good view of the moon that displayed itself among the millions of stars twinkling in the sky. Little snowflakes began falling ever so elegantly, dancing in the air until they landed on the surface of either the ground or on the roofs of houses.

Louis’ gaze suddenly landed on a figure sitting on the roof of the house next to his, and he wondered why someone would be up there on a cold, winter night.

Out of curiosity, the boy climbed out his window and onto the tree that was conveniently planted next to his house. It gave him more access to reach the strange figure on his neighbor’s roof. Call him a creep if you want, his curiosity got the best of him.

As he carefully placed his foot on the roof’s edge, he swiftly shifted all of his weight from the tree and landed with a small thud on the roof, causing the figure to snap its head to the sound and lock eyes with the curious boy.

“W-who are you?” The figure, turning out to be a boy who looked younger than Louis, asked warily.

“I’m Louis. Who are you?” the boy asked back, slowly making his way to sit a few feet away from the boy with noticeably curly hair.

“H-Harry. What are you doing here?” The boy arched his brow. It’s not every day that a stranger comes to your roof in the middle of the night while it’s snowing lightly.

“Was just curious, you know. I couldn’t sleep, and then I saw you out here while I was staring out my window and, yeah, here I am. What’s up?”

Harry couldn’t help but laugh at how casual Louis was toward him, resulting for the other lad to laugh along and scoot closer so they could have a more decent conversation.

“I’m actually out here because I couldn’t sleep either.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

The two conversed for God knows how long, laughing at each other’s jokes and slowly getting to know each other.

Without thinking, Harry leaned his head on Louis’ shoulder, feeling sleep begin to take its toll on him. “You don’t mind if I—”

“Not at all. No one is out here to tell you otherwise. It’s just me, you, and the moon.”

That’s how the two boys fell asleep—cuddled up to each other on the roof with the moon shining its light upon them.

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Ukay-ukay

By Angelo Serrano
Essay

I was not spending more than P300 for a single pair of pants, so the obvious solution was to get one, and maybe a couple more, from ukay-ukay.

Now let’s be honest. You probably won’t find any Supreme or Gucci brands there, but if you’re just looking for something to wear casually, ukay-ukay will definitely not disappoint. It all comes down to luck really.

Now I haven’t traveled much in my short life, so I don’t know how it is for other places, but in Polomolok, my hometown, ukay-ukay covers one whole street every Sunday. The stalls have jackets, shirts, underwear, jewelry of doubtful quality, watches, bags, and, as the signs often point out, they are all bag-o bukas or newly opened.

When I went there, a large makeshift tent was draped over the entire street to keep the sun from giving everyone skin cancer. As a downside, the tent created a gargantuan oven, slowly cooking everyone within and drawing out the aromatic scent of sweat. One opening of the oven sold Vanss caps, G-Stock watches, and Roots (I haven’t heard of them either) bags. The other end sold Adidas shoes with Nike logos and cheap rings and necklaces that had marijuana logos on them.

A single long trail was flanked by piles upon piles of clothes on both sides. A mountain of shirts here, a small hill of blouses there, and a valley of seksi shorts every few feet. Above these fascinating landforms were their prices, usually in bright colors. Almost always below a hundred.

Finally, I reached a whole section dedicated to pants.

Ali na!” shouted a man. “Pantalon! Bag-o abri!”

His pile had a 75 sign hanging above it, which was definitely a good deal for a good pair of pants. I dug and rummaged through the pants, along with several other people, first looking if the color was nice, then if the material was comfortable, then if the size fits me by using the neck trick. In case you didn’t know, if you can wrap the width of the waist of your pants around your neck, then the pants will fit. The process made sorting through the pants easy for me, but I didn’t find one that I wanted to buy.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a dark-blue pant leg. I reached for it, and it felt soft, fine, and new. I pulled on it to release it from its burial ground of unwanted jeans, and held it up in all its glory. It wasn’t worn-out. Not faded, nor tattered. Just my type. I did the neck trick, and it was only slightly larger than my size, which was fine because I am quite the eater. For P75, it was perfect. I knew at that moment that it was what I needed.

I have no idea why, but I reburied the perfect pair under a mountain of jeans. I took a mental note of every aspect of it, down to the square that was on its button. I guess, in my mind, I was thinking, “I’d find a better, cheaper pair.”

I left it there—alone and awaiting my return.

I wandered around a bit. A few more sales chants boomed from the mouths of sellers from their stalls.

Bagong abre! Pantalon! Maong! Slacks! Singkwenta na lang!”

I looked around in the pile. Nothing of interest.

“Oh! Pantalon pantalon pantalon! Palit na mo!”

I found one that would’ve been perfect but was simply too big for me.

Bag-o ni abri, ma’am, sir! Palit na mo!”

This pile had a pair that was just the right style. If only it wasn’t too small.

Honestly, a good portion of my time was spent wondering whether or not the pants were for men or women. Luckily, my brain eventually said “Does it really matter? As long as it fits, and looks good on you, right?” and saved me a few minutes.

Pantalon! Slacks! Singkwenta na lang, one hundred tulo!” shouted a lady.

Now, three for P100 was definitely a good deal, so I dug my way through this mountain along with several others, pulling at legs buried under other pants and trying them on my neck. I found three that fit well and were of notable quality, but they didn’t even come close to the first one I had fallen in love with. So I left them there and went back to buy the perfect pair.

I shouldn’t have left.

For a solid thirty minutes, I scavenged for the perfect pair. I pushed all the other pants away, causing the pile to constantly shift, as if it was dunes in a desert. I denied to myself the crushing reality that the perfect pair had been bought by someone else.

Eventually, I grew angry with myself for not buying it the moment I found it. I even started to whisper prayers as I looked for it in the pile.

I was sad. I couldn’t imagine not having it. I couldn’t accept the thought that someone else was bringing it home, that someone else was putting it on. If only I had not been so greedy. If only I had been satisfied with what I had been given. If only I had not gone looking at other pants that obviously were subpar compared to the perfect pair.

If only I had not let her go.

 

A Walk on the Ramp

By Mark Vincent M. Lao
Essay

The lights came flashing. It was my cue to walk on the ramp. I dared to join the beauty pageant because I had won two titles before. I believed that I had gone through so many challenges in my path and my experiences were enough for me to take home another title. But I was wrong.

The first time I joined was due to the exasperation of my ninth-grade classmate who was the president of our class that time. I was walking in the corridor and then up the stairs without any confidence. I went straight to our room. And there she was, her right hand placed on her worried face, which lightened up when she saw me. “Lao, ikaw na lang bi!” These were the words I remember all too well. “Ha?” I answered. “Sa ano?” She told me about the pageant and laid out the possibilities for me if I won. Only the positive ones. “Sige a,” I said. The answer was responsible for my fate in the next couple of years.

I won my first time. The pageant helped me gain confidence to stand and face people.

My second time was with the Special Program for the Employment of Students (SPES), but it didn’t happen right away. SPES is conducted every summer, and a part of the program is a province-wide beauty pageant. I first joined the program in 2015, and I had a chance that year to represent Tacurong, my home city, in the pageant. But I let the chance pass, thinking that things that come along always come along. The next year, I wanted to join the pageant more than anything, but I wasn’t the only one who wanted it. The opportunity was given to someone else. I didn’t let it pass; it passed me. It was only in 2017 when my dream became a reality. I was chosen. It must be the right time because my experience was fantastic. Everything went well, and I won the title—my second.

It took me a walk in the corridor and three summers to be a candidate in the annual beauty pageant of my school. A screening was held for interested high school students, and I didn’t pass up the opportunity or let it pass me. Not anymore. Others knew my burning passion and love for the ramp so well that no one went against me. I was chosen as the representative of the high school department, and I had to compete with college students. It was on cloud nine.

The practice for the production number was done in a hurry. We started just three or four days before the pageant. It was quite a challenge for me. But it was nothing compared to what I might win and gain. Every time I walk on the ramp, my dreams come true, even just for a minute. While hearing a lot of cheers and screams, my dreams come true.

I thought my experiences were enough for me to take home my third title. I was wrong. I was proclaimed first runner-up. My family, my friends, and the people who had been there for me from the start witnessed it. They were all surprised and wanted me to go back to the line at the back when I was called, saying I deserved to win.

But I was able to do what others could not in front of a crowd. I did the best I could. I won against myself. I won the hearts of people who believed in me. I did not lose. I might not have taken home a title, but I won. I won my third walk on the ramp.

My Shadow

By Erron Marc A. Hallarsis
Poetry

I woke up and remembered I cried myself to sleep last night.
While putting my suit and shoes on, I heard murmurs at my back:
“Don’t worry, I’ll never leave you by your side.”
I thought: How ironic that I don’t want to be alone
Yet I want this one out of my life. My very own shadow.
Wherever I go, it always follows me.
It makes me feel the world is on my shoulders.
I begged and begged for it to go away
But it just would never leave me.
Then I thought how I could ever live my life like this.
Ah, maybe, I’ll get used to it.

Dark Adaptations

By Mary Antonette P. Fuentes
Poetry

Rain falls, stacking in the gutter
Not a single sound I hear nor a mutter.
Aside from the drips,
Silence resonates with me in this four-cornered room
Accompanied by thin and hard-to-breathe air and gloom.
I am deprived by darkness.
He’s the only companion I’ve got.
He’s with me through this lonesome time of bad luck.
He’s with me when the world seems in love.
Good luck about that.
I’m not a hater of love
Nor a lover of hate.
I’m a believer before.
Well, I guess fate must’ve changed.
It took me some time before I could see
How reality plays us in its hands of fantasy.
I became dependent on this so-called forecaster.
I’m a voyager in this sea of invincible monsters
That have the face of enlightened angels.
Monsters that say, “In here, sweetie, let me take care of you.
I’d be delighted.”
Promising as it may sound
Every sweet thought has its bounds.
Never fall to this betrothal trap
Devilish deed.
I say, “You are not a rat.”
You can’t blame me, though.
All my life I’ve been living with this blinding light.
I grew with such great thirst
To know how mighty the dark is.
Dilated pupil? Maybe not.
Increased sensitivity? Somewhat.
To put it simply,
The eye adapts to conditions of reduced illuminations.
I’d like to call it “dark adaptations.”

Halimaw sa Dilim

By Adrian B. Arendon
Poetry

“Tulong! tulong! tulong!”
‘Yan ang naisambit ko kahit namamaos,
Bago nangyari ang akin sanang katapusan.
Pinilit kong mabuhay ulit nang normal,
Ngunit hindi mawaksi sa aking isipan
Ang mga pangyayaring kay brutal.

Sa aking pag-iisa sa madilim na eskinita,
Bumubulong siya sa aking tainga,
Ipinahihiwatig sa paraang hindi kaaya-aya
Na ang buhay ko’y walang halaga.

Sa aking mahimbing na pagtulog,
May dumudugong mga kamay na gumagapang
At unti-unti akong pinalilibutan at sinasakal.

Sa aking malalagim na bangungot,
Tumatakbo ako nang paulit-ulit at walang tigil
Palayo sa isang nakaputing t-shirt at nakamaong na shorts.

Habang papalapit siya nang papalapit,
Namukhaan ko ang kanyang mukha.
Bigla akong nagising at tumingin sa salamin,
Nakatakot siya pagkat mukha niya’y mukha ko.

Monsters

By Xaña Angel Eve M. Apolinar
Poetry

To you,
Please don’t ask me about monsters
And my sadness
They exist together and sometimes are
Just the same.

To you,
Please ask me to stop
Writing sad scribbles, monsters
Trapped inside my soul
Ready to devour those who are willing
To fight
The dragons and rescue the damsel in distress.
My fingers only lingers
On the letters that form these monsters,
Splitting them wide open and making you
Vulnerable in front of vultures.

To you,
Please take my palms and close
The fingers to form a fist and open them again
Until the venom slips off
The tips of my fingernails like a swift river.

To you,
please stay
until my monsters devour you.