Timpo Saguna

By Merhana Macabangin

Bida ged so timpo saguna kano paganay.
Dala den makalibog.
Dala den pembubunwa.
Dala den pebpapataya.
Dala den pedtebpedan sa ulo.
Dala den pakalebeng sa bibyag.
Bida den a benal.

Sanga’t den a makatipo so timpo saguna kano nawna.


Sa Panahon Ngayon

Ibang-iba na ang panahon ngayon.
Wala nang mga gulo.
Wala nang digmaan.
Wala nang nagpapatayan.
Wala nang pinupugutan ng mga ulo.
Wala nang inililibing nang buhay.
Ibang-iba na talaga.

Sadya nga lamang taksil ang panahon ngayon sa noon.





First Aid

By Mariz Leona

I woke up early. “Wow, himala!” one of my friends said. “Aga pa nagbugtaw ang iban dira.” My friends knew how late I usually woke up. I didn’t say a word and headed to the shore. As I watched the sun rose to its glorious throne, I could still hear the laughter of my friends, but my whole being was soon absorbed in the magnificent view in front of me, blended with the sea breeze and the sounds of calming waves. What a wonderful way to start a day, I thought. The past few days, I’d been broke—financially, mentally, and spiritually. That’s why I decided to spend a night with my friends in a beach in General Santos City, just twenty-five pesos away from our boarding house. I inhaled deeply, calming myself. After about ten seconds, I exhaled. I exhaled all my frustrations and despairs.

I looked at my toenails, and I felt like crying again because I had broken one of them the night before. The nail was separated from the flesh. We had been happily playing in the water when I stubbed my foot on a rock. At first I didn’t feel anything, but when we decided to return to our rented cottage, there I immediately felt something weird. When I looked at my feet, I burst out crying. One of my toenails was bleeding. My friends gathered around me, and when they found out why I was crying, they all laughed. I was dismayed by their reactions. My toe seriously hurt. They helped me nevertheless. They asked me to sit down and gave me a nail cutter to remove the nail, but I couldn’t do it myself. I was scared. So one of them did the job while I was whimpering like a pig being killed, and I cried aloud when someone poured alcohol on my toe. I thanked God for giving me friends who knew what to do in that kind of situation, even if they laughed at me.

“Mars, puli na ta,” one of my friends shouted at me. I blew a heavy sigh and said, “So this is the end of happy hour. Back to reality na naman.

“Asa mo, ga?” asked a tricycle driver outside the resort. “Uhaw mi, ’ya,” we answered, referring to the village where our boarding houses were located. My friends negotiated the fare with the driver. I didn’t join the discussion. I sat on the front seat of the tricycle. I liked it there. Every one of us liked it there because it was the most comfortable seat. That’s why I went in first and secured the spot for myself. When my friends and the driver had agreed on the fare, we started the journey.

Yes, it was a journey for me. Somehow I regretted sitting at the front because of the cold wind, but I was consoled by the nice view of the road. Watching the road was relaxing, until we came upon a vehicular accident. “Sus, kaaga pa disgrasya na,” the driver said as he slowed down. My friends made comments on the scene before us. I couldn’t understand them clearly because my heart was beating so hard. I didn’t like that kind of situation, especially in front of my eyes. The bus, probably owned by a private company, was in the inner lane of its opposite direction; the accident must have been its fault. The motorcycle that collided with it was outside the cemented part of the road.

I saw the conductor rush out of the bus, followed by a lady, maybe to check what had happened. The tricycle we were riding stopped beside the driver of the motorcycle. He was prone on the ground. We got out of the tricycle immediately. “Kuya, dal-on ta sa ospital,” I told our driver. He seemed oblivious of what I said, so I said it again to my friends. “Gasyung,” one of them answered me. “Indi na pwede tandugon sa amo na nga posisyon.”

I looked at the driver of the motorcycle, which I immediately regretted. He was catching his breath. He inhaled, and it took about thirty seconds before he exhaled. “Oh, Jesus!” was the only thing I said.

I stepped away from the scene as more people gathered around. They were from their vehicles too and happened to see the commotion. There were no houses in the area. I silently prayed for the safety of the injured man. I was trembling. I felt like crying. “Tabangi ninyo!” a woman shouted. “Nagtawag na kog ambulance,” answered the woman who had come out of the bus earlier. I could tell from her clothes that she was working for a canning company nearby, so I was confused why she couldn’t give the man first aid. I had read that companies required their employees to be trained in first aid. It occurred to me that maybe the training wasn’t required in her company, but I thought her co-workers and she needed the training more than most employees because they were working in a high-risk environment.

Nobody was touching the body. No one was knowledgeable of first aid.

“Sakay na mo, ga,” I heard our driver say. With a heavy heart, I rode the tricycle again. “Pag di pa mag-abot ang ambulance in twenty minutes, mapatay to ba,” one of my friends said. “Ginalagas na gud niya iyang ginhawa.” The driver joined the conversation: “Dili man gud to pwede isakay sa tricycle kay nakahapa. Basi ako pay makasala ato.” One of my friends at the back said, “If ako maging presidente, himuon ko jud batas na dapat tanang tao sa Pilipinas kabalo og first aid.” I thought so too.

I remembered that I had once attended a first-aid seminar organized by Philippine Red Cross. I was still in high school then. Many of the participants were not interested, including me. The only lesson that I could remember was that you had to put pressure on the wound if there was a lot of bleeding. The driver of the motorcycle was bleeding on the head earlier, and I knew I should have put pressure on his wound. But I didn’t do it. I didn’t do it because I forgot.

The driver of the tricycle drove slower. He must have been shaken by the accident too. “Wala pa lagi may nag-agi na ambulance?” I asked my friends. They were talking about other things, and nobody seemed to hear me. I watched every vehicle on the other side of the road, hoping to see an ambulance. We reached the part where the tricycle had to leave the national highway to proceed to Ohaw. “Wala pa jud ambulance na nag-agi ba,” I commented again. “Basi city pa to gikan,” one of my friends answered me. “Wala ba diay ambulance ang mga barangay na lapit diri?” I asked. “Wala siguro e,” was the answer.

That night in my boarding house, I remembered when I accidently poured boiling water on my legs at home. I shouted for help, and my mother came to the rescue. But she didn’t know what to do, so she shouted for help to no one in particular. Some of our neighbors came, and each of them had an idea what should be done. “May petroleum jelly kamo?” “Butangi sang langgaw!” “Kamatis. Effective ang kamatis.” Though I was hurt and crying, I couldn’t help but note that some of the suggestions were ridiculous. Were they planning to cook adobo or paksiw? Who in her right mind would put vinegar on her burnt flesh? If everyone around had known how to give first aid, the suggestions would have been the same and logical.

Lying in bed, I kept on thinking about the bleeding man on the road. I was still disturbed that I had not seen an ambulance or even just heard a siren. Maybe no rescue arrived. “Pag ako naging presidente, tanang tao dapat hawod sa first aid,” I found myself blurting out.

Twenty-Two-Hectare Treasure

By Ira Shayne Salvaleon

We can only be said to be truly alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. ―Thornton Wilder

Passing in the cozy shade of a centennial narra tree, I notice that the rays of the noontime sun are peeking through the spaces between the leaves, making a flickering effect overhead. As I continue walking, I see the calm blue sky. I get excited. I love its color. It’s the color I always prefer, and it reflects my personality in many ways. I let out a deep sigh. I’m enduring a hangover from the rough days of recent months. I need a vacation. I miss our farm in Ranzo, a village in Carmen, Cotabato Province. Life in the barrio is nonpareil because it has a captivating uniqueness and lush silence that urban places can never understand. It is a sanctuary for those who want to find peace within them, and I’m a lucky person for I have one to count, a place where I can always go whenever I want to withdraw from the stifling pains that life throws at me.

I can still remember moments of reckless running in the middle of the mango orchard searching for the mouth-watering green fruits of the surrounding trees. I remember as well the time when I urged my father to look for sweet potatoes for my science project and he found some along the trail when we were on our way home to the center of the barrio. And how could I forget the thrill of stealing sugarcanes with my cousins and then scampering away to hide from the owner, and how we used hagonoy leaves and corn cobs to wipe our butts after defecating somewhere just around the farm’s vicinity, laughing aloud and pointing at each other. I also used to write poems appreciating the smell of earth moistened by a midsummer rain and how the monsoonal breeze spread the peculiar scent of the fresh growing corn.

I want and need to be a child again and shed the bombarding nonsense brought by senior high school life. I need to breathe. At some point in life, things can get really incomprehensible, but we can lie on our backs and float. We just have to go with the flow because problems can pass, and being a child is the best illustration of taking life easy. Being a child is being someone free and innocent. Being a child is crying over a lollipop or a knee scratch or a lost coin and getting over it real quick. Being a child is being on the side of life and not against it. Not all people experience a fantastic childhood, so I’m grateful for having one, and if I could turn back time, I would never rewrite my childhood one way or another. A child’s laughter is the world’s most innocent, and probably the best, example of happiness.

Short visits were spawned thereafter, departing Kabacan at dusk only to come back at dawn—a love almost resembling Romeo and Juliet as well as Pyramus and Thisbe, who frequently fled and stole romantic moments and freed themselves from the choking miseries of their tragic stories. My father isn’t very fond of going to the barrio, probably because he grew tired of being there. His family’s hardships in that place perhaps haunt him. And that is just one of the major reasons why my affection toward this barrio seemed forbidden. Feeling affection toward a thing is a normal function of the human body, but this generation has bound the meaning of love in lust and sexual desire. But you cannot yoke carnal love to a place. Being in love with a place is appreciating nature—how the landscape displays suave curves, how the leaves of the rubber tree seem to depict fall even though there are just two seasons in the Philippines, and many other things than can only be witnessed in places like our barrio.

Yuletide comes quickly, and I’ve been looking forward to this occasion not because of the gifts and the partying but because of the chance to be in my beloved barrio and stay in the farm. As soon as we enter the barrio, my system is pumped up. This is where my heart longs to be. As I close my eyes and inhale the freshest air circulating in my lungs so far, the happy memories come flooding again, and a promise of enjoyment and epiphany grows in my heart. I remember crawling on the ground searching for some juicy tugis, climbing kamatsile and native guava trees growing along the trail to the farm, and eating buko or drinking tuba. Have you felt the relish of being back to a place that you always enjoy? You can just run around screaming with delight to your heart’s content and hug yourself. The feeling of being hopeful of finding yourself again in a certain place surely brings contentment to the heart.

The farm is more than a kilometer away from the barrio, but the hike was bearable enough and the climb was rewarding―the view was beautiful! As one of my cousins and I go up and down and around some hills toward the farm, I can’t help but be ignorant about almost everything around. Just like my life in Kabacan, many things have changed over time in here. New trails have been made to make the traversing much easier because the old trail was very muddy and people could not pass through it anymore. The trails are confusing, and I’m silently drawing a map in my head. Well, just like the trails, we have to figure out a way around problems to make our way through them. However, figuring out takes time and could get genuinely confusing. Worse, you could be thrown off-track. But we can always try again and try our best.

I wonder how much change my father has witnessed over the years because I can clearly see that I have but little knowledge about this place compared to him. I also wonder if he loves this place more than I do. As we reach the farm, I look around. I see the hills that we’ve passed through in the south, a vast palm oil orchard in the east, and the mighty mountains in the west extending to the north. I’m surrounded by nature in the freshest hour of the day. What an honor. When I’m up here, I can’t feel the effects of the strenuous hike. I just feel free. A great escape for a lonely soul, a haven for a beaten mind. This isn’t just something to behold. This is something for the heart to savor.


Ice Candy

By Jhessa Gales

When I was younger, my mother used to sell ice candy in our sari-sari store. She personally made it in chocolate, milk with peanut, and buko flavors. My brother and I used to help her, without her knowing that we took it like coffee when freshly boiled and like ice cream when frozen. Unfortunately, no secrets can be kept for a long time; we were caught and never allowed to help again.

Ice candy became one of my favorite food, even until I reached high school. My friends and I would walk home almost every day just so we could buy some ice candy in a store. The store’s ice candy was different from my mother’s. It was just strawberry-flavored powdered juice. But it still gave me the same feeling. It was still soft like ice cream when it melted in my mouth.

One morning, the sun was bright and the sky was bluish. If I remember it right, it was Friday. I didn’t wake up late owing to my beloved mother’s voice. Like every other morning, Mama gave my brother and me a lecture on how hard her life had been and how easy our lives were. She asked us again and again why it was so hard for us to wake up early. “Leave me alone, Ma! I slept very late last night because I had to finish that book.” I said it in my head, but I pointed the book: Leave Me Alone, Ma.

When I left for school, Mama reminded me that I had been given enough money and I should not walk. I waited for a tricycle. “Malas!” I uttered when the tricycle that picked me up was driven by Boy Kamang. I wished it had been Boy Untol. In those days, my friends and I liked giving tricycle drivers nicknames based on how slow or fast they drove. I was OK with moderate speed, but Boy Kamang was just annoyingly different.

Our school was not far, but neither was it near. When we passed the bridge, I observed that the river was so clear, unlike the other day, when it looked like a chocolate drink.

Our classroom was not a normal room. We were using the science laboratory due to insufficiency of classrooms. We had long rectangular tables surrounded by tall stools. I was friends with my seatmates, and just like other students, we spent most of the day talking. When our classes ended, we decided to walk home, despite what my mother told me. We wanted to stop by the store where we often bought ice candy.

We walked on the national highway until we reached a large bridge. Under the bridge was the start of the shortcut to our village. We had to cross the river and then walk up a rocky hill with tall grass, which I found insulting, for they were as tall as I was or higher.

Thereafter, I felt surreal. It was so wonderful walking on the riprap. The water was clear.  Jean, my cousin, was cracking jokes, and the rest of us laughed aloud. Our loud voices rang above the silent river and in the gigantic trees waving at us.

I looked at the sky. It was clear. I looked at the river. It was clear—a while ago!

I called my friends and shouted, “Baha!”

We became frantic. The chocolate-colored water was getting nearer. It wasn’t raining, and the weather was good, so the flood must be from the mountains. We decided to walk barefoot, not minding the sharp stones and other objects that we stepped on. What I had in mind was that I should live! I should survive! There was no time to entertain any physical pain.

Every second became harder for us to move, for the riprap was cut in the middle of the river and we had to wade through the water. The risk was at its maximum level. But there was no turning back. Going back was as dangerous as moving forward. So we decided to continue walking toward the opposite riverbank.

The riverbank was about twelve inches wide only, and some part of it was falling. We then climbed the hill up to the peak, and only up there were we able to breathe and thank heavens for not letting the mad river take us.

When we reached our favorite store, we bought ice candy from it. Each of us had saved six pesos for walking home instead of riding a tricycle, so each of us bought six pieces, or six pesos worth, of ice candy. Our lives could have ended due to our desire to eat ice candy. I wondered if I should have listened that morning to my mother, an ice candy maker.


Editors and Contributors


Andrea D. Lim is from General Santos City, and she is 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, Cebu City. She was a fellow for poetry in the 24th Iligan National Writers Workshop (2017). She is also the former editor-in-chief of the Weekly Sillimanian, the official student publication of Silliman University, Dumaguete City.


Jude Ortega is a fictionist from Senator Ninoy Aquino, Sultan Kudarat Province. He has been a fellow in four national writers workshop, and his stories have received honorable mention in the F. Sionil José Young Writers Awards and the Nick Joaquin Literary Awards.

M.J. Cagumbay Tumamac is a writer for children and reading advocate.


Rossel M. Audencial is an AB English graduate of Mindanao State University in General Santos City. She now teaches in the university and serves as the adviser of Bagwis, the student publication. She finished a master’s degree from Notre Dame of Marbel University in Koronadal City, South Cotabato.

Hope Daryl Talib is a fourth year BSED English student at Mindanao State University. She loves to write poetry and fiction in the languages she knows, and her dream is to inspire her future students to write. She is from Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat.

Jerome Cenina was born in Brgy. Spring, Alabel, Sarangani Province. He is currently studying at Notre Dame of Dadiangas University as a Humanities and Social Sciences Grade 12 student. He has always dreamed of becoming a lawyer and writer.

Marie-Luise Coroza Calvero is a composer from General Santos. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Film Music at the Institut für Neue Musik (Institute of New Music) of the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik (State Conservatory of Music) in Freiburg, Germany under composer and film music expert Cornelius Schwehr. In her spare time, she reads books, writes poetry and short stories, does freelance work as a music arranger, and teaches piano and music theory to children.

Joana Galila is a student of Bachelor of Secondary Education at Mindanao State University-General Santos. She lives in the municipality of Tampakan in South Cotabato.

Merhana Macabangin is a writer, illustrator, and Education student from Polomolok, South Cotabato. Her works are usually about Muslims and the Maguindanaon.

Mariz Leona is an AB English student at Mindanao State University in General Santos City. She is from Lambayong, Sultan Kudarat. “First Aid,” her essay in this issue, is the winner of the 2017 Sultan Kudarat Essay Contest, organized by local writers.

Ira Shayne Salvaleon is a senior high school student (Accountancy, Business, and Management track) at University of Southern Mindanao, Kabacan, Cotabato Province. “Twenty-Two-Hectare Treasure,” her essay in this issue, is a finalist in the 1st Cotabato Province Essay Contest (2017), organized by local writers.

Jhessa F. Gales is a fourth year BSED English student at Mindanao State University-General Santos City. She is from Polomolok, South Cotabato.


February 2018 (Issue 18)

Introduction by Jude Ortega

Jamir, a screenplay by Genory Vanz Alfasain
Kuala’s Song,” a poem by Gerald Galindez

Kastifun,” a song by Silek
Two Songs by Kim Nathaniel Tan
Frédéric,” an essay-and-short-story by Kurt Joshua Comendador

Susi, a painting-and-poem by Aldrick Lawrence Velasco
Minsan sa May Bagsakan, photo poetry by Hajar Kabalu
One More Customer,” a poem by Paolo Concepcion
If Curiosity Kills,” a poem by Jermaine Dela Cruz

Hapagkainan, a play by Jim Raborar
Hikbi ng Batang Matador,” a poem by Dan Joseph Zapanta Rivera
Ang Bida,” a poem by John Dominic Arellano

Pangatlong Mata” by Hannah Adtoon Leceña
Ako si Dan” by Dan Joseph Zapanta Rivera

Editors and Contributors



It’s National Arts Month, and in this issue of Cotabato Literary Journal, my co-editor and I aim to show you how literature is made richer by other forms of art, specifically film, music, visual arts, and theater. This issue contains two kinds of literary works. One is literary works that are entwined with other forms of art. These works, such as screenplay, lyrics, and play (written), are meant to be performed; they are mixed with other elements and then presented to an audience. The other kind is literary works that are meant to be read only, such as poem, essay, and short story, and inspired by works from other forms of art, such as film, musical composition, painting, photograph, and play (staged). It’s a headache to classify the works—the forms of art have such a complex interrelationship—but we tried, and here’s the delectably psychedelic results:

We were able to gather two film-related works—the screenplay Jamir by Genory Vanz Alfasain (Alabel, Sarangani Province) and the poem “Kuala’s Song” by Gerald Galindez (Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat). Alfasain wrote, directed, and edited Jamir, a short film, which tells the story of a Moro boy facing a dilemma that even adults would not know how to deal with. The screenplay is deftly written; the dialogue is cut down to the minimum, and each scene is essential to the story. Galindez wrote “Kuala’s Song” after seeing Tinimbang Ka ngunit Kulang, a classic film by the late National Artist Lino Brocka. Kuala, a main character in the film, is mentally ill. In his heartbreaking melodic poem, Galindez retells how the woman is treated in her town and what has made her lose her mind.

Under music, we have lyrics from Silek (Tampakan, South Cotabato), lyrics from Kim Nathaniel Tan (Koronadal City, South Cotabato), and a hybrid work from Kurt Joshua Comendador (General Santos City). Silek, composed of six Blaans who play indigenous and modern musical instruments, shared with us the lyrics of their most popular song, “Kastifun,” which literally means “gathering.” The song calls on Blaans to end conflicts among themselves and unite. Tan, a young singer, songwriter, and guitarist, often performs in local poetry readings, where his Filipino love songs elicit bittersweet sighs and generous applause. He shared with us the lyrics of his songs that deal with social issues. “Philippines, My Homeland” is about love for country, and “The Jam Man” is about armed conflict and religious tolerance. Comendador, a pianist since he was a kid, shared with us the piece entitled “Frédéric.” It’s an essay about the writer’s experience of listening to Andante Spianato et Grande Polonaise Brillante in E-flat Major, op. 22, by Frederic Chopin, and interspersed in the essay are scenes from the life of the Austrian pianist and composer.

Under visual arts, we have Susi, a painting-and-poem by Aldrick Lawrence Velasco (Tantangan, South Cotabato), and Minsan sa may Bagsakan, a set of photographs by Hajar Kabalu (Cotabato City). Velasco, a self-taught artist, often creates paintings that have accompanying poems, mostly about nature and faith in God. Susi is a typical example. Kabalu’s photographs were taken in the public market of his home city. They form what may be called wordless poetry or photo poetry. The word bagsakan literally means “where goods are unloaded,” but there are no goods in the photos. Instead of showing us the usual hustle and bustle of a marketplace, Kabalu directs us to its humdrum and bleak edges, giving us a wider and deeper view of things, as what a good poem does. To illustrate further how photography and literature may intersect, we asked a few writers to create ekphrastic poems on the photographs. Paolo Concepcion (Koronadal City, South Cotabato) chose the photo of a man leaving a store, and in “One More Customer,” he tells us the life of the vendor. But he doesn’t stop there. He gives us a grimmer—and truer—version. Jermaine Dela Cruz (General Santos City) chose the photo of a cat walking on a pavement, and in “If Curiosity Kills,” she makes us reimagine the captured moment by examining the details.

Our theater-related works include a full-length play by Jim Raborar (Koronadal City, South Cotabato), a poem by Dan Joseph Zapanta Rivera (Koronadal City, South Cotabato), and a poem by John Dominic Arellano (Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat). Raborar’s Hapagkainan is a rambunctious story about a family and their friends as they prepare for a wedding. Rivera’s “Hikbi ng Batang Matadero” is based on Eljay Castro Deldoc’s one-act play Si Maria Isabella at ang Guryon ng mga Tala, which in turn was based on Dean Francis Alfar’s short story “The Kite of Stars.” In a local production of the play, Rivera himself played the butcher boy, one of the two main characters. The story and his experience inspired him to write the poem, which many would find more poignant than either the adapted play or the original short story, for the butcher boy’s heartache is greater than Maria Isabella’s. Arellano’s “Ang Bida” is about a stage actress, her fantastic role in a play, and her staid role in real life. He wrote it after seeing some plays that were staged late last year by Apat sa Taglamig, a Koronadal-based theater group.

We classified the works according to “disciplines” enumerated in Presidential Proclamation No. 683, series of 1991, which designated February as National Arts Month. Also in the list are dance and architecture, but alas, we were not able to find works that may fall under the two. Spoken word is not in the list, for it’s not as established as the others, but we deem it worthy to be added here. We have two spoken word poems—“Pangatlong Mata” by Hannah Adtoon Leceña (Kiamba, Sarangani Province) and “Ako si Dan” by Dan Joseph Zapanta Rivera. Leceña’s poem is about unrequited love, like most works by young spoken word performers, but by using folklore, she creates something new and interesting out of the worn-out theme. Rivera’s poem is addressed to Filipinos, especially his fellow youth, who seem enslaved by social media and have misguided views on political issues.

This may be the most beautiful issue of Cotabato Literary Journal, and this became possible because we now have a good number of regular submissions and the region has many emerging writers to solicit works from—a step forward from months ago, when we could barely find works to fill an issue, and a far cry from a few years ago, when we seemed to have an arid literary landscape. It is evident in the fifteen works from thirteen artists that the arts and letters of Cotabato Region is starting to have its own identity. The works follow outside trends and traditions but speak to the local audience. The themes are universal, but the setting and characters are specific. The concerns are national, but the sensibility is regional. This National Arts Month, we are glad to participate in the countrywide celebration, and we are glad that we can do it not by blending with the rest but by highlighting our own.

Jude Ortega
Senator Ninoy Aquino, Sultan Kudarat