Introduction by Tarie Sabido
The Confrontation by Andrea D. Lim
By Boon Kristoffer Lauw
Lumingon ako at nakita ang anino ni Sinag sa malayo. Kuminang ang mga talim ng dalawang palaso sa nakahatak niyang pana.
Hindi na ako nagpaligoy-ligoy pa.
Itinapon ko ang katawan ko sa madamong bahagi ng gubat at nagdasal sa mga ninuno kong ‘wag nila akong hayaang maging barbeque. Ay! Bananaque na lang pala kasi mas masarap ‘yon. Hindi ko pa kasi nasusubukan ang kapangyarihan ng aking Anito pero hindi masamang maniguro.
Ilang saglit pa, narinig ko na ang matitinis na sipol ng mga pinalipad na palaso. Sa ibabaw mismo ng ulo ko.
Umikot agad ako at tiningnan kung may tinamaan ang kasama ko.
Kainis, wala. Nakailag ang dalawang garudang humahabol sa akin at dumiretso lang ang mga palaso ni Sinag sa pagitan ng dalawang puno—
Napatalon ako sa gulat. Sa pag-ilag ng mga malaagilang nilalang, sumalpak sila sa mga katabing puno. Abot hanggang sa puwesto ko ang kalabog ng pagkabangga nila. Ilang saglit pa, bumagsak ang mga garuda sa lupa at hindi na gumalaw pa.
Nagmadali akong tumayo.
“Ang galing mo, Si—” Babatiin ko na sana ang nagligtas sa akin pero naglaho na siya. “Sinag?”
Ginamit siguro ni Sinag ang tagabulag, ang Anitong nagpapalaho sa tagapaghawak nito sa paningin ng iba.
“Kiko! Takbo!” sigaw naman ni Yumi mula sa malayo. “Bi—”
Napaluhod bigla si Yumi sa lakas ng pagsipa ng isang garuda sa hawak niyang kalasag. Sinubukan niyang sibatin ang kalaban pero mabilis itong nakailag.
“KIKO! ANO PANG GINAGAWA MO?” ulit ni Yumi. Parang nanay ko pag pinapabangon ako.
Umatake na naman ang isa sa apat na garudang katunggali ni Yumi.
Walang tigil sa pag-atake ang mga garuda kay Yumi. Mabuti na lang, protektado siya ng kanyang Anito. Pero pag tumagal pa ang laban, mapapagod din ang Lakan ng tribung Tatag.
Nakarinig ako ng mga panibagong sipol sa ere. Pagkatapos, bumaon ang ilang palaso sa hita at braso ng isa sa mga garuda at napasigaw ito sa sakit.
Pansamantalang napatigil sa pag-atake at napaatras konti ang mga garuda mula kay Yumi.
Ang galing ng mga kasama ko. Pero ako…
Gustuhin ko mang tumulong, wala akong maiambag. Ipinadala kasi kami dito para iligtas ang aming mundo.
Yumuko ako at tiningnan ang mga kamay ko. Nanginginig ang mga ito.
“Kiko! Tumakbo ka na!” sigaw na naman ni Yumi.
Kailangan kong tumakbo. Iyon lang ang maitutulong ko sa kanila ngayon.
Pero hindi ako makatakbo. Hindi ako makagalaw.
“KIKO!” boses ni Sinag. Lumitaw ang Lakan ng tribung Bagwis sa malayong harapan ko. Nakatingin siya sa itaas ko.
Nagawa kong tumingala.
Tatlong garuda ang lumulusob sa akin.
Tumakbo papunta sa akin si Yumi pero alam kong hindi siya aabot. Nagpalipad din ng sunod-sunod na mga palaso si Sinag pero isa lang sa tatlo ang tinamaan niya.
Naalala kong may nakapagsabi sa aking may katapusan ang lahat ng bagay. Ito daw ang katotohanang mas matanda pa kaysa aming mga ninuno. Pero sabi niya sa akin, huwag daw akong mag-alala—dahil sa katapusan daw nagsisimula ang mga bagay na pinakadakila.
Ito na marahil ang aking katapusan—pero walang kadaki-dakila sa aking ginagawa.
Hindi dapat ako ang nandito. Dapat si—
Sumiklab bigla ang labanan sa itaas ko. Umalingawngaw ang salpukan ng bakal sa matitigas na balat ng mga garuda. Iminulat ko ang aking mga mata at nasaksihan ang pagsayaw sa ere ng kambal na kris ni Kaya. Para siyang isang diyosang mandirigma.
Napilitang lumihis ng direksiyon ang mga garuda.
Pagkababa, pinaligiran nila kaagad si Kaya. Pero ang hindi nila alam, tapos na ang kanilang laban. Tinamaan sila ni Kaya, ang tagapaghawak ng Anitong pamako. Daplis lang ang kailangan niya.
Natumba bigla ang dalawang garuda.
Nanlaki ang mga mata nila. Kahit ano’ng gawin nila, hindi nila maigalaw ang kanilang mga katawan. Iyon kasi ang kapangyarihan ng Anito ni Kaya, ang maparalisa ang sinumang masugatan ng tagapaghawak nito.
“S-salamat—” simula ko sana pero tinitigan ako nang masama ng masungit na mandirigma.
Bigla akong nawalan ng hininga. Nanigas ang katawan ko. Tinamaan din ata ako ng Anito ni Kaya. Iyon na siguro ang pinakamahabang tatlong segundo ng buhay ko.
Pagkatapos, iniwan na ako ni Kaya at sinamahan si Yumi. Nakahinga ako ulit.
Si Kaya naman ang Lakan ng tribung Bangis, ang tribu ng pinakamahuhusay na mandirigma. Nagulat ako nang matuklasang magkaedad lang kaming dalawa. Hindi kasi karaniwan ang magkaroon ng napakabatang Lakan.
Wala din sa wastong edad ang pagiging Lakan ko. Hindi kasi sinasadya ang pagkapasa sa akin ng Anito ng aming tribu. Pero si Kaya, mukhang naging Lakan dahil siya ang pinakamahusay sa lahat ng mahuhusay sa kanila.
Si Kaya din marahil ang pinakamahusay sa pakikipaglaban sa aming apat.
At ako naman ang pinakamahina.
Ako si Kiko, ang pinakahuling nararapat na maging Lakan ng aming tribu.
Tarie Sabido is the chair of the Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY) and a reviewer of books for children and young adults. She has been a judge for the PBBY Salanga Writer’s Prize, Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, National Children’s Book Awards, and Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards. She is from General Santos City.
Jude Ortega is a short story writer from Senator Ninoy Aquino, Sultan Kudarat Province. He has been a fellow in two regional and four national writers workshops. In 2015, he received honorable mention at the inaugural F. Sionil José Young Writers Awards. He is the author of the short story collection Seekers of Spirits published in 2018 by the University of the Philippines Press.
Marianne Hazzale J. Bullos is from General Santos City and a scholar of Philippine Science High School-SOCCSKSARGEN Region Campus. She is a student during weekdays, a master crammer on weekends, and an eagle for lifetime.
Boon Kristoffer Lauw is a chemical engineer turned entrepreneur from General Santos City and is currently based in Quezon City. During his practice of profession at a beer-manufacturing plant last 2013, he began to pass graveyard shifts with random musings that eventually took form in writing—and, inevitably, stories.
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. 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.
Mary Ann Ordinario is a multi-awarded author of books for children from Kidapawan City, Cotabato Province. She owns ABC Educational Development Center, the oldest publishing house of children’s books outside of Metro Manila.
Alvin Pomperada of General Santos City is a management accounting graduate of Notre Dame of Dadiangas University. He is a member of Pangandungan, the association of writers in General Santos City.
By Boon Kristoffer Lauw
They had her surrounded.
Men clad in drenched black clothes and driven by their outrageous humanly desires.
She was panting. It had been a while before they finally had her cornered, and it was raining hard that day. All efforts were doubled as she and the men treaded through the wet and sticky ground. It was a long chase, but it had come to an end.
One sure step after another, they took their time crossing the soft ground while making sure she had no way out. They were grinning.
A cry for help, a final call, a desperate pleading—whatever it was or it had been—it was defeated by the sound of heavy rain crashing down on mud and earth.
He watched as she was forced down onto the wet mud by vicious men. They had her limbs pinned down—both arms and feet, sometimes even her neck. She struggled. The wet mud never made it easier for the men ganging up on her, and their grip kept sliding from their hold as they came across soft wet earth instead of her rosy skin.
His love was surrounded by malicious beasts, and yet there was nothing he could do but watch behind steel gates he could not budge.
But all that was heard was the song of heavy rain beating down onto the yielding earth, the usual ballad of love’s hopeless defeat in the face of an overwhelming, opposing force.
The men tied her up. Ruthless in their manner, they bound her with rough ropes that bit into her skin. It was evident through the red line that had already begun to cut its way around her limbs.
But despite her cuffs, she never ceased to fight back. The men had to carry her all together to put her on the back of their truck. Although without meaning to, she was placed in a way that she was able to see her lover eye to eye one last time. She saw him staring from in between bars, screaming, but she could not hear.
He beat himself up on the hard steel that separated him from her.
It was a strange love they shared. If it wasn’t true love, then what is?
Their parents never supported the love between them. Not even anyone from their family would have imagined of such love be possible. Perhaps this was the way their gods had decided to punish them for the insolence of their forbidden love. It was the heaviest punishment all right; it broke her heart seeing him break underneath the rain, from in between bars.
Her voice came to a soft croak as tears subbed her callous throat. It was then that he finally heard her. The glisten from her tears had been able to pierce the thick curtain of rain. It was the light of lost hope: gradually dimming, leaving no trace of ever being there.
Seeing the light in her eyes dying down, he threw all of his weight, all of his strength, all of his love, and all of his anger towards beating down the heavy steel that kept him from reaching her. It broke his shoulder and a few more in his body, but it was worth it. The gates finally gave way, and let him through.
On limping limbs he ran. The revving up of the truck’s engine rumbled across the ground. Then he knew it was only a matter of time before there was really no hope left. He forced his beat-up body into a canter, then into a glorious run.
He was only a few meters away and the truck started to turn. It was heading for the highway. If it reached the highway then he might never see her again.
Pushing his body to the limits, he finally reached the truck just in time before the men rammed the gasoline hard. He leapt and slammed his body hard on the back of the truck. It gave the car a thunderous tremor—the result of his anger bearing fruit.
He quickly gnawed his way into the ropes that held his love captive. He could not do it with his hands; they were both beaten up, nothing but decorations weighing him down. But the ropes were too tight and too frigid for his teeth. Racking his brains up, he decided to push them both down from the moving truck. And he did.
They both fell down hard, on muddy earth underneath the piercing shower. He saw her eye to eye now. There were no words enough that could be shared between each other. The smiles on their faces said it all.
Underneath the rain, on the muddy dirt, they found comfort in each other.
But it was all for naught. Their joy was short-lived as the truck came to a screeching halt.
They took her back.
This time she did not cry nor fight back, while he was no longer able to move.
She was already happy beyond her wildest dreams.
It was not that she had given up. It was more of a feeling of contentment.
He had come for her.
Amidst the heavy rain, the sticky mud, and the solid bars that kept them from each other, he came.
Lying on the ground, he howled like a wolf as he watched the men put her back up the truck, even if he knew he was no wolf.
The day grew long as the sound of rain drained his cries of grief and resentment. Love was never an easy thing, he realized. It was as if the world strove to break apart everything that is drawn to each other by the force called love.
A bit more rain and his consciousness finally wandered into the unforgiving silence.
The next day came even as he continued waiting for her to come back. Wishful thinking as it was, he didn’t know anything else he could do. He was useless, and she was gone.
Sometime during midday, his wish came true. But it was not as he had expected.
She finally returned to him—on a silver plate.
It was the saddest reunion ever written.
He had guarded the house and the family in it for years, and this was what they gave him in return. It was by far the cruelest and most twisted joke. He could not believe that he had been spending his days watching over the people that had offered him this plate. His heart broke into a million pieces, each one shedding a tear for his lost beloved.
He dragged the plate into a hole in the soft ground he had dug earlier and put her there in peace.
The gate was open now. He walked through it without restraint and never came back.
For he was a dog and she was his pig.
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 a short story writer from Senator Ninoy Aquino, Sultan Kudarat Province. He has been a fellow in two regional and four national writers workshops. In 2015, he received honorable mention at the inaugural F. Sionil José Young Writers Awards. His short story collection Seekers of Spirits is forthcoming from the University of the Philippines Press.
Mikhael M. Labrador is from Koronadal City, South Cotabato, and has been residing in Cebu for the past eleven years, working primarily in the business process outsourcing industry. He is an avid travel hobbyist and a former editor of Omniana, the official student publication of Notre Dame of Marbel University.
Noel Pingoy is a graduate of Notre Dame of Marbel University and of Davao Medical School Foundation. He finished residency in internal medicine and fellowships in hematology and in medical oncology at the University of the Philippines–Philippine General Hospital. He divides his time between General Santos City and Koronadal City.
Mubarak M. Tahir was born in the village of Kitango in Datu Piang, Maguindanao. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Filipino Language (cum laude) at Mindanao State University in Marawi City. He lived in General Santos City when he taught in the campus there of his alma mater. His essay “Aden Bon Besen Uyag-uyag” won the third prize for Sanaysay at the 2017 Palanca Awards. Currently, he is teaching at the Davao campus of Philippine Science High School.
Lance Isidore Catedral is completing his residency training in Internal Medicine at the University of the Philippines–Philippine General Hospital. He also has a degree in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology from UP Diliman. He was born and raised in Koronadal City. Since 2004, he has been blogging at bottledbrain.com. His interests include Christianity, literature, and medicine.
Saquina Karla C. Guiam has been published in the Rising Phoenix Review, Scrittura Magazine, Suffragette City, Dulcet Quarterly, The Fem Lit Mag, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and others. She graduated from Mindanao State University in General Santos City with a bachelor’s degree in English and is currently studying for her master’s degree in Ateneo de Davao University. She is the Roots nonfiction editor at Rambutan Literary, an online journal showcasing literature and art from Southeast Asians all over the world, and the social media manager of Umbel & Panicle, a new literary journal inspired by plants and all things botanical.
Benj Marlowe Cordero from General Santos City is currently working in Dubai as a Sales Coordinator and has yet to graduate from Holy Trinity College of GSC. He spends his days off playing Overwatch, constructing a fictional language for his novel, and completing his poetry collection, under the rose. He likes shawarma, singing in the shower, and Rick Riordan.
Marc Jeff Lañada hails from General Santos City and currently resides in Davao for his undergraduate studies in the University of the Philippines–Mindanao. He was a fellow during the Davao Writers Workshop 2017, and some of his works were published in the Dagmay literary journal. His poems talk about landscapes, especially the overlooked or underappreciated places in General Santos and Davao.
Claire Monreal is a student at Central Mindanao Colleges in Kidapawan City, Cotabato Province. Her poem “Survived a Bullet” is a finalist in the 2017 Cotabato Province Poetry Contest.
Joan Victoria Cañete is a registered medical technologist from Kidapawan City, Cotabato Province. “Superficial Swim,” her poem for this issue, is a finalist in the 2017 Cotabato Province Poetry Contest.
Patrick Jayson L. Ralla is a graduate of Mindanao State University–General Santos City with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. He is currently working as a private school teacher in Polomolok, South Cotabato, and is taking up a Master of Arts degree in Literature at the University of Southeastern Philippines, Davao City.
Paul Randy P. Gumanao hails from Kidapawan City, and teaches Chemistry at Philippine Science High School–SOCCSKSARGEN Region Campus. He was a fellow for poetry at the 2009 Davao Writers Workshop, and 2010 IYAS National Creative Writing Workshop. He is a former editor in chief of Atenews, the official student publication of Ateneo de Davao University, and is currently finishing his MS in Chemistry from the same university.
Mariz Leona is an AB English student at Mindanao State University in General Santos City. She is from Lambayong, Sultan Kudarat.
Boon Kristoffer Lauw, a chemical engineer–turned–entrepreneur from General Santos City, is currently based in Quezon City. During his practice of profession at a beer-manufacturing plant last 2013, he began to pass graveyard shifts with random musings that eventually took form in writing—and, inevitably, stories.
Erwin Cabucos, born and raised in Kabacan, Cotabato Province, is a teacher of English and religious education at Trinity College in Queensland, Australia. He received High Commendation literary awards from Roly Sussex Short Story Prize and Queensland Independent Education Union Literary Competition in 2016. His short stories have been published in Australia, Philippines, Singapore, and USA, including Verandah, FourW, Philippines Graphic, and Quarterly Literary Review Singapore. He completed his master in English education from the University of New England.
By Boon Kristoffer Lauw
Isang napakalakas na dagundong ang yumanig sa aming bahay nang gabing ‘yon. Napayakap ako kay ate. Sinundan ito ng mga pagkabasag ng mga salamin.
Gising na rin si ate. Niyakap niya ako nang mahigpit bago ako pinakawalan, ngunit nanatili ang kanyang kamay sa nanginginig kong balikat.
“Huwag kang matakot. Sisilipin ko muna, ha?” sabi niya. Matagal kaming nagkatitigan. Kumikislap ang kaniyang mga mata sa dilim na parang mga bituin. Sabi niya sa akin, ganoon din ang aking mga mata, pero di ako naniwala – buwan pa siguro, sa laki ba naman ng mga mata ko.
Tumango na lang ako, kahit naninigas ang katawan ko. Alam ko bakit kami binubulabog. Hindi ko na kailangang sumilip. Pero sa isip ko: sana, nagkamali lang ng pasok ang mga sundalo, at aalis din at ibabalik ang mga nasira nila – o kahit hindi na nila ibalik, basta umalis lang sila. Sana.
Noong nakaraang linggo lang, nabalitaan naming pinasok ng mga sundalo ang bahay nila Mateo. Kaklase ko siya sa highschool. Mabait. Matalino. May prinsipyo at pinaglalaban. Hindi na namin siya nakita mula noon, maging ang pamilya niya.
Ganito ang batas militar.
Gumapang ang liwanag mula sa gitna ng bahay papasok sa maliit na siwang na dulot ng pagbukas ni ate ng aming pinto. Hindi ko makita ang mga pangyayari sa liit ng butas ngunit dinig na dinig ko ang mga sigawan galing sa sala.
“Ano pong maipaglilingkod namin sa inyo?” tanong ng maliit na boses ni tatay.
Nakarinig ako ng malakas na pag-ungol bago ang malakas na pagtilapon ng isang katawan sa aparador sa sala.
“Nasaan ang Ibong Adarna?” Iyon ang bansag ng mga sundalo sa isa sa mga pinaka-wanted ng pamahalaan ngayon.
Milagros Adarna. Ito ang tunay na pangalan niya. Isa sa mga lider ng Makabagong Katipunan ng Pilipinas o mas kilala sa tawag na MPK. Kilala siya hindi lamang sa pamumuno sa mga nagrerebelde sa pamahalaan kundi mas lalo na sa kanyang mga nilikhang kanta. Mahigit na ipinagbabawal ang pagkanta at pagpapatugtog ng kanyang mga awitin. Sino man ang mahuling gumawa ng alinman sa mga ito ay dinadakip agad ng mga sundalo para “kuwestiyunin”.
Kapares ng mababasa sa alamat, dalawa ang epekto ng kanyang mga kanta. Ang mga ito ay hele para sa naghihirap na taumbayan, panghilom sa mga sinugatang puso ng batas militar. At kamandag naman para sa mga kaaway – sa diktador at sa kanyang militar.
Siya ang Ibong Adarna.
Siya ang aking ina.
Siya ang dahilan ng matagal nang takot at pangamba sa aming mga puso. Ang dahilan kung bakit sinasaktan si tatay ngayon. Sana hindi ko na lang siya ina.
“Nasaan ang asawa mo?” galit na tanong ng isang sundalo. Ramdam ko ang pagkamuhi sa mga salita ng armadong lalaking naghahanap sa Ibong Adarna. Ano na naman ang ginawa mo, Nay?”
“Patawad po. Hindi ko po alam. Patawad po,” pagmamakaawa ni tatay. Isa lamang siyang simpleng manunulat. Pigil sa pagpuna sa mga katiwalian at kababuyan ng gobyerno at labis sa pagpuri ng mga walang kuwentang bagay gaya ng kung anong mga piging ang dinaluhan ng diktador at ng kanyang gabinete. Isa lamang ito sa mga paraan niya upang itago ang koneksiyon namin sa Ibong Adarna, bukod sa magkaibang apelyido – gamit kasi ni nanay ang Adarna, hindi ang Esguerra ni tatay. Ngunit nahanap pa rin ng militar ang koneksiyon namin sa kanya.
Narinig kong sinipa o sinapak muli si tatay at bumagsak ang katawan niya sa sementadong sahig. Hindi pa man ako nakahihingang muli, narinig ko namang mahulog ang gabundok ng mga libro – malamang kay tatay. Sumabog ang luha sa mga mata ko, at may kaunting tunog na napakawala sa bibig ko.
Tumahimik bigla sa labas.
Nagkatinginan kami ni ate. Hindi kami dapat nag-ingay. Hindi dapat ako nag-ingay. Alam na alam naming dalawa batay sa mga balita kung ano ang ginagawa ng mga sundalo sa mga babae. Hindi ko na mapigilan ang iyak ko.
Sinara ni ate ang pinto, saka dali-daling tumakbo papunta sa akin. Kumuha siya ng damit at pinakagat sa akin. Natigil nito ang ingay ko.
Ngunit biglang umiyak si ate. Maingay. Hindi siya ganito umiyak. Tahimik lang.
“Ate, bakit?” sinubukan kong sabihin.
Kumunot lang ang noo niya.
Malakas na dagundong sa aming pinto ang sumunod. Parang may itinatapon na katawan dito. Ayan na sila!
Madali akong itinulak ni ate papasok sa aparador. Sinubukan niyang gamitin pansara ang mga hanger sa pintuan ng aparador.
Patuloy pa rin ang malalakas na pagbagsak ng katawan sa pinto. Sa tingin ko, kaunting sipa na lamang at sigurado akong bibigay na ang mga bisagra.
Sa kaunting siwang sa aparador, nasilip ko ang mukha ni ate. Isinandal niya saglit ang kanyang mga kamay sa pinto habang nakatitig sa sahig. Para siyang nagdarasal. Kinamuhian ko ang ideyang ito. Kung totoong nakikinig ang Diyos, matagal na sanang tapos ang batas militar – sa dami ba naman nang nagdarasal.
Alam naming dalawa kung ano ang parating. Kung ano ang mangyayari. Tumigil sa pag-ungol si ate. Ngayon, tunay na ang kanyang mga luha.
Hindi ko na rin mapigilan ang sarili ko. Umagos na ang luha ko. Napigilan nang bahagya ng damit ang pag-ungol ko ngunit mayroon pa ring kaunting lumabas na tunog.
Napatingala si ate bigla. Sa isang hininga, binawi niyang lahat ang luhang kanyang naiiyak na.
“Mithilaya, makinig kang mabuti sa akin,” garalgal na sabi ni ate. “Gusto kong ipikit mo ang mga mata mo. Kahit anong mangyari, kahit ano pa man ang marinig mo, huwag mong bubuksan ang mga ito. At higit sa lahat, huwag kang gagawa ng ingay. Sa tingin mo ba, kaya mong gawin ang mga iyon para sa akin?”
Ngumiti si ate pagkatapos.
Puno naman ng laway at luha ang damit na nasa aking bibig. Tumango lang ako ng dalawang beses.
Sinimulan muli ni ate ang pag-iingay at nagtago sa ilalim ng aming kama.
Patuloy namang umuungol ang pinto ng aming kuwarto. Hindi ko na makita si ate sa ilalim ng kama ngunit naririnig ko pa rin ang boses niya. Tuyo na ang lalamunan ko at mahapdi na ang mga mata dahil sa alat ng luha ko.
Pagkatapos ng ilan pang pamumuwersa, bumigay ang mga bisagra.