It Comes at Night

By Angelo Serrano
Fiction

Daddy had to go out for the evening. I did not know where he was going, but I knew that Mommy was upset about it. She handled the dishes with little care, and I was worried they might break. The clinking of plates was just as loud as the gushing of water. She didn’t want him to go out again.

I was seven at the time.

Before he left, Daddy gave me a kiss on the forehead. “Be good to your mommy, OK?” he said. He tried giving Mommy a kiss as well, but she jerked her head away. Daddy closed the door behind him, and then it was quiet in our small house. Mommy placed a red kettle on the stove.

I spent the evening playing. Cheap plastic Power Rangers were fighting against Batman. Batman was winning because Batman always won. Daddy told me it was because he was brave. “We are both brave,” he would say. I admired Batman for that, and as a kid, I wanted to be just like him.

Just when Batman was about to beat the last Power Ranger, the pink one, Mommy told me it was time for my half bath. I resisted for a while because what child would let a bath get in the way of play? Mommy, however, asserted her authority. “One . . . two . . .”

She poured the steaming water from the red kettle into the pail and turned the tap on to mix it with cold water. She undressed me, then left me alone in the bath. I was old enough to bathe myself, and I was proud of it.

The water was at just the right temperature. It didn’t sear my skin and didn’t give me chills either. It was comforting and warmed me to my core. Mommy always knew how to find that balance. I scrubbed away the afternoon’s dirt while playing with the water and swirling it around with a dipper. Mid-bath, I panicked because of a cockroach. Mommy slapped it down with her slipper and took it away by its antenna. I did not enjoy the remainder of the bath, afraid that there might be more of them.

Once I was finished, Mommy patted me dry with a soft towel, and made me wear my pajamas. She made me a glass of warm milk, and I chugged it down. Mommy gave me a sweet kiss on the cheek for drinking it so quickly, and I felt proud of myself. Soon we were off to bed, and the lights were turned off.

At the time, my parents and I had to sleep in a mattress on the floor because we didn’t have a bedframe yet. I didn’t mind, really. All that was important to me was that it was comfortable. The mattress was soft, and I had my favorite pillow, so everything was fine. The only complain I had was that you could sometimes hear the monsters lurking outside. Whenever we heard them, Mommy would hold me close, and I would feel much safer and loved.

Sometimes, the monsters would be able to enter the house, but never our room.

That evening, another monster got inside. I did not know what time it was, but I woke up to the front door opening and slamming shut. Then I heard it taking a glass and turning on the tap. I heard its heavy and irregular footsteps, just outside our bedroom. It was singing to itself, terribly. I did not understand what it was saying, or what it was singing, but I was scared. The darkness in our room did not help, but Mommy held me tight, as if to say she wouldn’t let anything happen to me.

A few minutes of more singing and bellowing from the monster passed. Without warning, it uttered Mommy’s name, and it sent shivers down my spine. The voice, deep and wobbly, was right outside our bedroom door. How did it know Mommy’s name? I wondered. Does it know my name? Will it get into the bedroom?

Mommy ignored it. She tried sleeping through it, but the monster kept calling her name. It wanted her to join him outside. I was afraid that she would. What if she did? Will she leave me here alone? I was glad that Mommy made no sign of wanting to leave, but I was still afraid.

I couldn’t imagine what the creature must’ve been like. I was afraid that it was hulking. I was afraid that it was covered in thick black hair. I was afraid it had sharp teeth and red eyes.

For the briefest moment, it stopped calling Mommy’s name. I was glad. And then I wasn’t.

It was calling my name. It was telling me that since Mommy wouldn’t go out, I should be the one to do so. I was terrified. Why does it want me to go out? Is it going to eat me? Why would it eat me? I haven’t been naughty. I do what my parents ask me to do, and I don’t complain about whatever on my plate is. Why does it want me?

I embraced Mommy tighter, and she did the same. She kissed my forehead, told me to stay in the room, and then left. Part of me wanted to go out with her, if only to not be alone, but I knew she was going to face the monster, and that scared me more than being alone.

She opened the door, letting the light from outside leak in, then closed the door. It was dark again.

Minutes passed, and I heard a plate breaking. I heard shouting. I heard something hit the wall. I was alone in the dark room, holding my pillow ever tighter, afraid of the monster Mommy had to face. I had to stop myself from crying because the monster might hear me. I did not know when I fell asleep.

When I opened my eyes, it was morning. Soft sunlight was shining down on me from the window, and I could hear a boy yelling, “Pandesal!” I rubbed the eye boogers away, and was still too sleepy to remember anything from the previous night.

When I opened the door and stepped out, Mommy was facing the stove. I could hear sizzling and smell the Spam. Rice and scrambled eggs were already on the table, still warm. Daddy was snoring like a beast in the sofa. He smelled like beer, and Mommy always told me I wasn’t allowed to drink beer because I was too young. I was curious, and I partially resented that.

Mommy turned to serve the Spam on the table. I was already seated for breakfast. I noticed Mommy had a black eye, like those boxers on TV. Her neck was red, too. She smiled at me. “Good morning.”

I suddenly remembered the previous evening. How a monster got in. I remembered something broke, and something hit the wall. Yet the house was clean and orderly. I remembered shouting. I guessed that Mommy had to fight off the monster while Daddy was gone. I opened my arms wide to give her a hug, and she knelt down to hug me back. It was warm and loving.

I was hesitant to do so, but I asked her anyway, “Why don’t we leave so that the monsters can’t find us?”

She gave me a cup of rice, an egg, and two slices of Spam. She didn’t say anything. I felt how bad of a question that was, but did not know why.

I was halfway through my breakfast when Mommy placed a mug of warm Milo on the table for me. “We don’t have to leave,” she said. “If your father stopped leaving at night, the monsters wouldn’t come anymore.”

I guessed that the monsters were too scared of Daddy. He was brave, after all. Like Batman. He said so. I wanted to be just like him.

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Editors and Contributors

REGULAR EDITORS

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). He studied political science at Notre Dame of Marbel University in South Cotabato and currently divides his time between Senator Ninoy Aquino and Isulan, both in Sultan Kudarat.

CONTRIBUTORS

Angelo Serrano is a senior high school (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics strand) student at St. Lorenzo School of Polomolok in Polomok, South Cotabato. “It Comes at Night,” his short story for the issue, is his second published work in Cotabato Literary Journal.

Jed Reston grew up in Cotabato City and is a former television host and media personality in General Santos City. After leaving his work a year ago, he has been trying to write a book. He earned his mass communications degree at Notre Dame of Dadiangas University.

Gwyneth Joy Prado is a senior high school (Humanities and Social Sciences strand) student at San Miguel National High School in Noral, South Cotabato.

Alvin Pomperada is an accounting staff at the General Santos City branch of a leading car company. “Lababo,” his poem for this issue of the journal, appears in his zine Galugad. As a spoken word performer, he was proclaimed champion at the 2018 Gensan Summer Youth Fest and second runner-up at the 2017 Hugot sa Kalilangan. He earned his management accounting degree at Notre Dame of Dadiangas University.

Apolinario B. Villalobos worked as a writer and editor for Philippine Airlines, where he also helped form a mountaineering club and organize climbs to Mt. Apo, Mt. Mayon, Mt. Pulog, and Mt. Hibok-Hibok. His poems and essays were collected in the book Beyond the Horizon in 2000. He was born and raised in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat, and finished his Bachelor of Arts in English and History at Notre Dame of Tacurong College in 1975. He actively blogs about his hometown.

 

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.

 

Editors and Contributors

GUEST EDITOR

Estrella Taño Golingay, of Surallah, South Cotabato, has a PhD in language education and is a retired professor of Notre Dame of Marbel University. In 1994, her poem “Si Nene at Ako sa Pagitan ng Gabi” won the first prize in the poetry contest of Home Life magazine.

REGULAR EDITORS

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) and has been a fellow for fiction at two regional and four national 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.

CONTRIBUTORS

Xaña Angel Eve M. Apolinar, 17, is a senior high school student (Humanities and Social Sciences strand) at Malalag National High School in Maitum, Sarangani Province. She was the champion of the spoken word poetry competition at the 2017 Munato Festival of Sarangani. She is also the president of the Supreme Student Government of her school and the junior governor of her province.

Adrian Arendon, 17, is from Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat, and a senior high school student (Accountancy, Business, and Management strand) at Notre Dame of Marbel University in Koronadal City, South Cotabato. He has competed in five regional and one national schools press conferences.

Marianne Hazzale J. Bullos, 18, is from General Santos City and a senior high school student (Science and Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics strand) at the SOCCSKSARGEN Region campus of Philippine Science High School.

John Gied Calpotura, 17, finished junior high school at Sultan Kudarat State University in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat, and is now in senior high school (Humanities and Social Sciences strand) at Malayan Colleges Mindanao in Davao City. At the 2017 Sultan Kudarat Fiction Contest, the three stories that were declared as finalists were all his. He won for “Shoebox,” a story about war.

Gerard Distor, 17, is from Isulan, Sultan Kudarat, and finished high school at Sultan Kudarat State University. He is now a first year BS in Agriculture and Biosystem Engineering student at Mindanao State University in General Santos City.

Jo-ed E. Evangelista, 17, is a senior high school student (Humanities and Social Sciences strand) at Lagao National High School in General Santos City.

Mary Antonette P. Fuentes, 18, is from Koronadal City, South Cotabato, and a senior high school student (Science and Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics strand) at Sultan Kudarat State University.

Erron Marc A. Hallarsis, 18, is a senior high school student (Science and Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics strand) at Notre Dame of Marbel University in Koronadal City, South Cotabato.

Yumi Ilagan, 18, is from Isulan, Sultan Kudarat, and finished high school at Isulan National High School, where she served as editor in chief of the student publication for three years. She is now a first year Bachelor of Arts in Psychology student at the University of the Philippines–Visayas, in Iloilo Province.

Mark Vincent M. Lao, 18, is a first year BS Accountancy student at Notre Dame of Tacurong College in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat. His piece for this issue was a finalist at the 2017 Sultan Kudarat Essay Contest.

Adrian Pete Medina, 16, is a senior high school student (Humanities and Social Sciences strand) at Banga National High School in Banga, South Cotabato. His mentors include visual poet Epitacio Tongohan and speech choir poet Pat Villafuerte.

Bryant Lee N. Morales, 15, is a grade 9 student at Isulan National High School in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat. In 2016, he won the second prize at Hugot Isulan, a municipality-wide spoken word contest

Edzelyn Oñate, 16, is a senior high school student (Humanities and Social Sciences strand) at Systems Technology Institute (STI) in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat.

Reylan Gyll J. Padernilla, 18, is a senior high school student (Humanities and Social Sciences strand) at Lagao National High School in General Santos City.

Irish L. Petipit, 17, is a senior high school student (Humanities and Social Sciences strand) at Notre Dame of Marbel University.

Angelo Serrano, 16, is a senior high school student (Science and Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics strand) at Saint Lorenzo School of Polomolok in Polomolok, South Cotabato.