Introduction to February 2019 Issue

For this issue, we have another strong line-up of works from both veteran and budding writers in the region. We’re presenting first the bleakest in the bunch and then the lighter ones as we move along. Make no mistake, however. Their tones may be different, but each work is finely crafted and helps us examine the human condition.

Angelo Serrano’s “It Comes at Night” is a short story about a kid and the “monsters” that enter his family’s home whenever his father goes away and leaves him and his mother alone. In a simple and clear language, Serrano captures the innocence of a child to reveal the cruelty of adults.

In the flash fiction “A Tale of Two Candles,” Jed Reston uses a fleeting moment to juxtapose the lives of two women. He also toys with time to further show what the moment means. The story tells us how uncertain life is and how prayer gives us a (false) sense of certainty.

Gwyneth Joy Prado’s “Bagyo,” another flash fiction, is about a girl’s reaction to a coming typhoon. She frantically prepares, while other people her age look forward to the suspension of classes, a shallow benefit. We eventually learn the reason for her actions, and we are left to question the way we view disasters. More often than not, we only care when we’re bound to lose—or we’ve lost—something or someone.

Alvin Pomperada’s “Lababo” deals with family and loneliness and is a remarkable example of how wordplay can add a deeper layer to a poem. Instead of making light of the narrator’s situation, the humor makes it even more poignant.

In his two succinct essays, Apolinario B. Villalobos shows us how travel can give us fresh insights on people and places. “The Petrified Woman of Capiz,” despite the macabre subject, is a heartwarming look at Filipinos’ strange religiosity, and “Spelunking, Anyone?” tells us that each place has its own story and travelers have their own stories to make in each place.

This is the journal’s thirtieth issue. We thank the benefactors, editors, contributors, and readers who have been with us for the past thirty months. So far, more than two hundred well-written pieces from local writers have appeared here. There will be more.

Jude Ortega
Senator Ninoy Aquino, Sultan Kudarat

Introduction to January 2019 Issue

To welcome the new year, we are featuring new voices. Some of these names are not entirely new to writing, but it is their first time to be published in Cotabato Literary Journal. The works also came not from our inbox but from zines, a Facebook page, and a writing competition. We go out of our way to discover new talents, and we are rewarded every time.

On November 25, 2018, the second SOX Zine Fest was held in Koronadal City, South Cotabato, and one of the best works from the event is Zaira Mae Calub’s “The Days and Nights of Claire,” a short story in a collection of works by a group of college students. Calub writes with the deftness of a seasoned fictionist. The characters are compelling, and the plot is clean, and with an eye for detail, she turns a stale psychological thriller into an intimate tale of love and loss, as could be glimpsed from this sentence: I walked down the suburban road out of that house he called home, or at least based on the Home Sweet Home doormat that must have never been washed since it was laid down on the front doorstep.

Other remarkable outputs from the zine fest are Renaizza Sheen D. Fuentebella’s “White Sikad” and Jeffriel Buan’s “Ang Thesis ni Jeneva.” The former is a heartwarming tale about an encounter with a strange old woman, and the latter is a comical take on the struggles of a college student. Buan’s work, written in highfalutin Cebuano interspersed with English clichés and pop culture references, belongs to a type of writing that has become a regular fare in student publications in General Santos City, first popularized about twenty years ago by John Vianney Trocio of Mindanao State University. These writings often border on shallow entertainment, but they can also veer towards satire, as exemplified in “Ang Thesis.”

Nilyn Gamuza Pacariem’s “Abyan” is a binalaybay, or Hiligaynon poem, that likens a friend to a tasty dish: maisog ang timplada/ nagapanalupsup sa kaundan/ ang tagsa ka tinaga/ nga ginasimbug. Many writers tend to anthropomorphize everything, and here, Pacariem does the opposite; she ascribes the qualities of something inanimate to a human being. As a result, she successfully shows us how deep our longing could be for one another and makes us see in another light the nonliving things around us.

Luis B. Bahay Jr. wrote “Mababasa Rin ang Lupang Tuyo” in remembrance of “the Kidapawan massacre,” as the media calls it. On April 2, 2016, at least three protesters died and more than a hundred were injured in a dispersal of a rally in Kidapawan City, Cotabato Province. Complex and conflicting narratives about the event have been unraveled since then. One side accuses the authorities of oppression and heavy-handedness. The other side accuses leftist groups of manipulating the poor, especially the indigenous people, to rise up against the government. Bahay’s poem reminds readers of the crux of the matter—a drought had caused hunger among farmers, and instead of being given rice, bullets rained on them.

Roi Marc P. Labasan’s “Fairy Tale” is a humorous and stinging response to some teenagers’ naive view of love and life, formed or reinforced by traditional Disney animated movies: A kiss will never ever wake you from an eternal coma. If you’re dying, go get a doctor, not a creepy prince. He first delivered the piece at a spoken word poetry event in Kabacan, Cotabato Province. Even if the piece is a bit too cynical, it was refreshing to hear amidst the monotonous lamentations about unrequited feelings and unfaithful partners. Like the two other poems in this issue, Labasan’s poem was previously posted on Sulat SOX, a popular Facebook page that features non-refereed works from writers in SOCCSKSARGEN Region.

The only essay in this issue, Niccah T. Carillo’s “Treasures for a Lifetime,” was one of the two finalists at the inaugural edition of the regionwide Lagulad Prize. A teenager who has to work her way to school, Carillo finds a free time one day to sit in the city plaza and look back on her life so far. Award-winning essayist Wilfredo Pascual, the final judge of the contest, stated that he “appreciated” Carillo’s “endearing and precious reflections” in her essay and reading it reminded him of the phase in his youth when his journal was “riddled with mottos.”

We hope that by putting the spotlight on new voices on this special part of the year, we can encourage more people to write, not only for Cotabato Literary Journal but in all venues that are available to them. The previous twenty-eight issues of the journal have proven that the region is a wellspring of literary talents. All they need is an opportunity to be heard and appreciated and some nurturing. May we all have a productive year ahead!

Jude Ortega
Sen. Ninoy Aquino, Sultan Kudarat


In observance of National Indigenous Peoples Month, we are featuring in this issue of Cotabato Literary Journal contemporary creative works that are written by the lumad or about the lumad in the region. The works do not represent or reflect all the local indigenous literatures; our limited resources prevent us from undertaking such a project. The works deal only with a few tribes and a few themes. But each of them provides an insight into the shared aspects of the plights and cultures of indigenous peoples.

The original lyrics of the Blaan song “Kastifun” has appeared in the National Arts Month (February 2018) issue of this journal, and for the song to reach a wider audience, we are publishing its Filipino and English translations in the current issue. “Kastifun,” which literally means “gathering,” is the most popular song of Silek Musical Ensemble, the five members of which play both modern and indigenous musical instruments. At the core of the song is the persona’s deep concern with violence. Bakit tayo nag-aaway sa sariling bayan? is the most repeated line. As translated by Henry G. Dalon, the persona further states: Kailan matatapos ang pagdanak ng dugong Blaan sa bawat tinutunguhang bayan?/ Maraming matatapang,/ Maraming masasamang salita. The song seems to confirm the Blaan people’s reputation for being one of the fiercest tribes in the Philippines. But in the latter part, the persona expresses a longing and plea for peace, obviously the ultimate message of the composition: Magtulungan tayo sa ikauunlad ng bayan./ Itigil na natin ang pag-aaway.

“Si Sambiling owoy sa Senang,” written in the Dulangan Manobo language, is difficult for us to categorize. The story contains fantastical details that the writer, Mark Banday Lu, considers true. In modern literary practice, such details would not be included—or would be presented as mere beliefs and not actual occurrences—in nonfiction pieces, or the whole work would be classified as fiction. We decided not to evaluate the work using mainstream standards and regarded it the way the writer does—a real story of a member of his family. Sambiling Banday, who died in February this year, was a tribal healer and Lu’s grandfather. Through oral storytelling, his experiences were passed on to his children and grandchildren, and the account in this journal is the very first written version. (We would like to thank Monica Aquino Kamal for helping us with the orthography.) The story is rich and quite interesting. While living in the middle of the jungle and guided by a magical beam of light, Sambiling encounters humanlike pigs, one of which became his second wife, a family of talking monkeys, and irascible deities, among others.

“Bulawan,” a one-act play by Anna Liz V. Cabrido, is about a Blaan couple caught in a complicated conflict between a mining company and government forces on one side and communist rebels on the other side. Although melodramatic and clearly written from an outsider’s point of view, the play succeeds in showing the readers the difficult choices that many indigenous people have to make in the face of systemic oppression.

“Panibagong Digma,” a poem by John Carlo S. Gloria, deals with a similar subject matter. In December last year, two government soldiers and eight men belonging to the Tboli and Dulangan Manobo tribes were killed in the boundary of South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat. The military called the incident a legitimate operation against communist rebels. Progressive groups called it a massacre of civilians fighting for their ancestral domain against a private plantation. In harrowing images, Gloria echoes the latter: Hindi paggapas sa bukid ang aalingawngaw/ sa tamlay ng araw/ kundi mga kalabit sa gatilyo ng punglo/ na sasaluhin ng inyong katawan at bungo. However anyone sees what happened, everyone will agree that the poem is right about one thing—violence will beget violence: Kaya’t dito, sa inyong minsang pinagyaman at pinatabang lupa,/ tutubo’t yayabong ang isang panibagong digma.

In the spoken word poem “Tintang Dugo,” Kenneth Michael L. Dalimbang makes a confession: he has gotten a girl pregnant. Still in his teens, he is not ready yet for the responsibility that lies ahead and the commitment that he will have to make. The lines are heavy with regret: Dugo ang tinta, at walang hanggan ko nang isusulat/ Ang hinagpis na dulot ng pagkakamaling/ Sa iba’y hindi maisusumbat. Religion further complicates his predicament. He is a Christian, and the girl is a Muslim. That Dalimbang has been raised as a Christian and holds traditional Christian values might come as a surprise to many Christian settlers. Even to this day, many members of non-lumad tribes still stereotype the lumad as animists or polytheists, among other things. The poem does not only make us feel the poet’s personal agony; it also gives us a glimpse of his tribe’s changing—or changed—way of life.

“Barefoot Bulayan,” the text of a picture book by Mary Ann Ordinario, is based on a true story of a Bagobo boy. Bulayan does not like wearing shoes, which causes his classmates, who presumably belong to settler families, to taunt him. His teacher and some other concerned individuals give him shoes, but Bulayan remains indifferent to both the bullying and the generosity. Eventually, the teacher and the school principal learn why when they go to Bulayan’s community, and the story ends with understanding and acceptance. Without being didactic, Ordinario teaches readers, settlers especially, how we should deal with the lumad. We need not change them to accept them. We need to change ourselves instead.

Jude Ortega
Isulan, Sultan Kudarat


It’s National Arts Month, and in this issue of Cotabato Literary Journal, we 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


Dalawa ang kahulugan ng Bagong Taon sa tulang “Pagpapatuloy” ni Nanoy Rafael—pagpapatulóy (pagpapapások) at pagpapatúloy (hindi pagtigil). Inihahanda natin ang pagpasok ng araw na ito sa pamamagitan ng pagtitípon sa isang kaínan, pagtataboy ng malas, pagsásayá, at, higit sa lahat, pangangako ng pagbabagong-búhay. Hindi nga ba’t ni(li)likha ang Bagong Taon para sa mga bagong pagkakataon? Kailangan itong itangi mula sa panahong nagpapatúloy lang naman sa pag-inog.

Ganito rin sinasalubong ng Cotabato Literary Journal ang Bagong Taon. Ipinagpapatúloy natin ang isang layunin na maging tampúkan ng mga natatanging akda ng rehiyon kaalinsabay ng pagkilala ng mga bagong tinig sa pagsusulat. Kayâ, sinadyang lahat ng manunulat na kasáma sa isyung ito ay hindi pa nailathala sa alinmang isyu rito. Halos lahat rin sa kanila ay mga mag-aaral sa hayskul o kolehiyo at unang naglathala ng mga gawa sa SOX Zine Fest noong 24 Nobyembre 2017.

Nais din nating maipagpatúloy ang tradisyon ng katutubong panitikan sa rehiyon. Lagi namang mayroong pagsasangkapan sa katutubo sa maraming akdang nailahok na rito, ngunit iilan lámang ang isinulat ng at nása anyong katutubo. Narito ngayon ang maiikling tulang “Sising” at “Ulyang” ni Merhana Macabangin ng Polomolok at “Kem Ngà” ni Ryan Christian Dulay Tuan ng Lake Sebu. Nakabatay ang mga ito sa mga tradisyonal na anyo ngunit nilapatan ng makabagong sensibilidad. Kay Macabangin, pabugtong ang simula ng bawat tulang Maguindanaon ngunit nagtatapos sa itinuturing ngayong hugot. Batay naman sa anyo ng kasabihang Tboli ang kay Dulay Tuan ngunit binabali niya ito sa pamamagitan ng simpleng pagpapantay ng katayuan ng mga bata at matanda sa unang linya.

Sinusundan naman ng maikling kuwentong “Slaughter” ni Krizza Nadine Calmerin ang isang nakasanayan at palasak nang balangkas ng mga salaysay—pinagtaksilan ng iniibig kayâ naghiganti—ngunit naghahain siya ng panibago sa pamamagitan ng pagsubok na paglaruan ang nakamihasnang anyo ng katha. Nasa mahabang tradisyon din ng pagsusulat tungkol sa pagsusulat ang mga akdang “Chatkat” ni Jonamari Kristin Ordinario-Floresta ng Kipadawan at “Kamatayon” ni PG Murillo ng General Santos. Isang maikling kuwentong pambata ang “Chatkat” at tungkol sa palakang natutuwang dagdagan at bawásan ang mga ibinabalita, kayâ itinalagâ siya sa hulí bílang mananalaysay na maaaring magkuwento ng kahit ano—totoo man, batay sa totoo, o kathang-isip. Samantála, tungkol naman ang “Kamatayon” sa gamit ng pagsulat upang buhayin at kitilin ang damdamin ng manunulat. Sinusubok ding magpakita ng dalawang akdang ito ng mga bagong imahen para sa panitikan at pagsulat—paninyismis at paglililok.

Maaari namang mayroong mga kailangang hindi o hindi magawang patuluyin sa kasunod na yugto ng ating mga búhay. Sa maikling sanaysay na “A Dream in a Minor Key” ni Kurt Joshua O. Comendador ng General Santos, halimbawa, lumaki na siya sa pagtugtog ng piyano at nangangarap na maging isang propesyonal na manunugtog, ngunit sa ngayon ay kailangan niyang tahakin ang ibang landas para sa kagustuhan ng magulang. Katotohanan ding nagpapatúloy ang hindi magagandang bagay kahit na subukan man nating itaboy para bumuo ng inaasam na panibagong simula. Ganito ang takbo ng mga pangyayaring inilalarawan sa kayâ marahil nag-aalangang mga linya ng tulang “Misfortune” ni Jerome Cenina ng Alabel, Sarangani.

Panghulí, binubuksan ang isyu ngayon ng kathang “Survival” ni Al-faidz Omar ng Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat. Matimpi at payak na paglalarawan ito ng búhay ng mga itlog ng pagong upang ilahad sa atin ang katotohanang ang mga nilalang na ipinapatulóy natin dito sa daigdig—sa akda: ang mga itlog, ang ina ng nagsasalaysay, o ang mismong nagsasalaysay—ay hindi lahat nagpapatúloy na mabuhay.

Maaaring ipakahulugan nga sa Bagong Taon ang tambálan ng ipinapatúloy na dati o tradisyon at ng ipinapatulóy na bago o eksperimentasyon. Ganito ang isang aasahan natin sa Cotabato Literary Journal sa mga susunod pang buwan ng bagong taon; bukod sa pagtatampok ng mga nailathala ng anyo, manunulat, at wika, nariyan lagi táyong nag-aabang sa mga panibagong tinig at hindi inaasahang pag-akda. At sa prosesong ito, maaaring mayroong mga kailangang iwanan, kusang mamaalam, at marapat na baguhin, ngunit umaasa táyo—a, pag-asa nga naman ang isa pang kahulugan ng Bagong Taon—na para sa ikauunlad ang mga ito ng panitikan at pagsulat sa rehiyon.

Naragsak a Baru nga Tawen!


As the year ends, we reaffirm our commitment to be a venue of the best literary works in the region. The works that we have in this issue—one essay, two short stories, three poems, and one play—are finely crafted and satisfying in both substance and form. Some of them are from writers who have carved out a name for themselves, and the rest are from new voices discovered in local literary undertakings. No particular theme holds the works together, but each of them gives you a glimpse of, and even immerses you fully in, the complexities of life in this part of the country.

In the Filipino essay “Aden Bon Besen Uyag-Uyag” (May Buhay Pa Pala), Mubarak Tahir looks back on his childhood in Datu Piang, Maguindanao, and how the fighting between insurgents and government troops affected his community and shaped the way he views the world. Tahir is a much-needed voice in our literature. Our narrative on the armed conflict in Mindanao have been dominated by voices from one side. Here is an opportunity to hear “the other side,” and then perhaps see that there are no sides to the story, that we all have the same story. The essay won the third prize at the 2017 Palanca Awards, and it is an honor for Cotabato Literary Journal to be its first venue of publication.

“Heneral” by Estrella Taño Golingay is a coming-of-age story set in Surallah, South Cotabato, the writer’s hometown. It tells of a boy who eagerly takes care of the family’s hog so that once it is sold, his parents might be persuaded to buy him a basketball and a secondhand cellphone—sources of great joy for an ordinary lad like him. Golingay, an award-winning poet, rarely writes fiction, so we are delighted to bring you something new from her.

“Tagu-taguan,” a Filipino flash fiction by Blesselle Fiel, is the winner of the 2017 South Cotabato Fiction Contest. The young writer has created a simple and well-structured story to remind us of the dark times that we are living in. The bodies on the streets are piling up, and the voices against the carnage are getting stronger by the day, but most Filipinos choose not to see and listen. Stories like Fiel’s must be told over and again. Always, people must ask, Who is the criminal, and who is the victim?

“San Gerardo and the Exocoetidae” by Gerald Galindez is the winner of the 2017 Cotabato Province Poetry Contest. An ode to the flying fish, the poem is the breather that we need from the barrage of saccharine rhymes that our young writers seem so fond of today. Similar somewhat to Saint Francis of Assissi, the speaker exalts animals for the inspiration that they can give human beings: “You hid your pains inside your scales so I could live / You let me swim, you let me breathe.” We hope to gather more pieces like this, for local and even Philippine literature have a dearth of works about the sea, even if our region has a shoreline that stretches for hundreds of kilometers and our country is made up of more than seven thousand islands.

Both “Cotabato” by Allen Samsuya and “Sometimes on the Road to Kidapawan” by Paul Randy Gumanao have appeared before in Dagmay: The Literary Journal of the Davao Writers Guild. We are republishing the poems here because they were born of deep longing for Cotabato Region. They were written when Samsuya and Gumanao were studying in Davao City and home was something they would only go back to occasionally. In Samsuya’s poem, the speaker seems dismissive at first of Cotabato City, describing it as a place where “we have nothing better to do,” but we learn eventually that the humdrum of the city may be a redeeming quality. The poem won the first place at the Jimmy Y. Balacuit Literary Awards given to the fellows of the 2011 Iligan National Writers Workshop. In Gumanao’s poem, the speaker yearns for home and for someone to go home to. In lean, fluid language, the young master shows us yet again how love poetry should be.

In “Pagda-dwaya,” a Filipino one-act play by Norman Ralph Isla, a Muslim woman finds herself in a frustrating situation—her husband, the man who promised her that she would be the only woman in his life, is taking a second wife. The first wife feels that she has so much to lose in the arrangement and nothing to gain, and naturally we commiserate with her. But as the story unfolds, as we learn more about the Islamic practice, and as we know the characters better, our view gradually changes.

With these seven literary works, we bid 2017 goodbye. It has been an abundant year for the region’s literature; nearly a hundred poems, stories, essays, and plays appeared in this journal. In those works, through imagination and re-imagination, our local writers have shown readers how the people here view our own region and the rest of the world. We thank all the supporters, readers, contributors, and former editors. With the harvest that we’ve had this year, we feel confident that 2018 will be another great year.


Jude Ortega
Senator Ninoy Aquino, Sultan Kudarat


Úna nakong nasinatian ang kamatayon katong ningpanaw ang amahan sa akong amahan. Naa pa ko ato sa elementarya. Ug ing-ani lang siya sa akong panumdoman: pastor, gatrabaho isip superbisor sa usá ka tanoman (kon sa pinya o saging, wala na ko kasayod), dalok, ug namatay tungod sa nakaong bahaw. Sa haya, gitan-aw lang nako ang paghilak sa baying anak sa usá sa mga igsoon sa akong amahan. Wala koy gibatì puyra sa kahadlok nga moduaw siya sa among balay, matod pa sa mga katigulangan. Apan unsaon nako pagsiguro nga siya gayod ang moduaw (o ningduaw) kon wala ko kaantigo sa iyang nawong? Pipila lang ang higayong nakit-an nako siya. Kabalo lang ko sa iyahang ngalan kay ngalan usab kini sa akong amahan ug sa úna niining laking anak sa ikaduhang asawa. Karon, usá siya sa mga ginapangadyean, ginasindihan og kandila, ug ginapakaon namo og tam-is ug pilit matag Adlaw sa mga Patay.

Sukad niato, saksi na ko sa daghan pang kamatayon. Nahimatngon nako ang usá ka kamatuoran: mamatay kitáng tanan. Maong dili na ko matingala nga daghang pagtuon sa mga kultura ug katilingban kay aduna gayoy bahin sa kamatayon (ug pagkatawo). Kamatayon gayod ang usá ka butang nga sagad sa tanang linalang–bisan og unsa man ang kaliwat ug tinuohan.

Sa piyesa nga “Nowhere Room” ni Kristine Ong Muslim, gipahibalo na sa inahan sa iyang anak nga si Theophilus ang kamatayon: “You only fill one small room when you die so there’s no sense in occupying more while you are alive.” Dili gayod kini naandang itudlo sa mga bata, nga ingnon natong gasugod pa lang sa ilang kinabuhi. Apan sa pagtrato ug pagkulong kang Theophilus, sama na siya sa usá ka minatay; wala na niya nasinatian ang mahimong tawo (bisan kahibalo tang natawo siya). Gipadako siyang kinahanglan nang maanad sa kamatayon.

Apan ang mga doktor gayod ang usá sa mga gadeklara sa kamatayon sa mga tawo. Pipila na kahâng kamatayon ang ilang gideklara ug nasaksihan? Sa anekdota sa doktor nga si Lance Isidore Catedral nga nag-ulohan og “Mother and Son,” gisaysay ang kamatayon sa usá ka inahan pinaagi sa pagtutok sa gibati sa anak: “On Mother’s Day, he was still a boy–soft wisps of hair just starting to grown on his armpits, his voice barely beginning to crack — but already mother-less.” Ginapasayod niining pagpapaila sa “pagbalhin” sa anak gikan sa pagkabata paingon sa pagkabinatilyo nga kauban sa kamatayon ang dakong kabag-ohan sa kinabuhi sa mga nabilín sa mga namatay. Gadugang pod ang klinikal nga deskripsiyon sa kamatayon sa inahan sa pagpabatî sa atoang magbabasa sa sakít nga pagdawat sa anak.

Kinahanglang dawaton ang kamatayon sa atong mga minahal o kaila, kanunayng atong madungog. Sa balak ni Michael John Otanes nga “Perpetual Friction,” dili madawat ug gahandom ang inahan sa persona nga mabanhaw ang iyahang bána, maong “…she decided not to cremate/ his body. In truth, she enshrouded him with/ white blankets to turn him into a pupa…” Kinahanglan, ang ingon sa ubán, ug dili lalim ang modawat, apan usahay motungha lang kini sa taknang wala nato damha. Ug ginapakita kini sa balak pinaagi sa paghatag sa atoa og mga kuyawng binuhat sa inahan sa patayng lawas sa sinugdanan ug sa pinakalit nga pag-ingon sa usá ka simpleng hinungdan nga nadawat na niya ang kamatayon.

Walay makit-ang hinungdan ang ubang tawo aron magpadayon nga mabuhì. Ginapili na lang nila nga taposon ang ilang kinabuhi. Sa sugilanon nga “The Crying Walls of San Lorenzo” ni Erwin Cabucos, nakit-an sa sakristang si Rex ang usá ka laking batan-on nga gapakamatay. Nanghangyo pa kini kaniya nga: “Just help me die, just let me end all this… There’s no point in living.” Kadugayan, mahibal-an nato ang bug-at nga hinungdan sa pagpakamatay. Limpiyo ang paghan-ay sa mga panghitabo niining sugilanona, apan makakurat gihapon ang pipila ka larawan ug panghitabo nga gipiling gibutang.

Dili sayon sa ubán ang pagpili kon magpadayon sa kinabuhi o magpakamatay. Mao kini ang gihunahuna sa persona sa balak nga “Sometimes Suicidal, Mostly Booze” ni Jermaine Dela Cruz. Ingon dinhi, “I am half afraid of dying/ and half afraid of living.” Gipakita pa kining pagduhaduha sa paglista og mga pamahayag nga balinsuhi sa matag usá; ang uban nadungog na nato, apan ang uban bag-ong gimugna sa magbabalak.

Walay nakasayod sa kinabuhi pagkahuman sa kamatayon–o kon aduna ba–maong daghan ang mahadlok mamatay. Mao ni ang ideyang gidulaan ni Patrick Jayson L. Ralla sa iyahang espekulatibong balak nga nag-ulohan og “Idlip.” Dinhi, kanunayng mamatay ug mabanhaw ang balibato sa kinabuhi sa persona. Aduna lang siyay usá ka adlaw aron sulayang bugtoon ang kinaadmang dagan sa iyang kinabuhi. Apan, kanunayon siyang mapakyas. (O, dili ba kasinati usab kini sa mga tawong buhi pa apan wala nay kahulogan ang kinabuhi?)

Aduna poy gatuo sa kalag nga maong gapadayon sa kinabuhi sa namatayng lawas sa mga tawo. Ug nagkalain-lain ang pagpadayong gituohang gahitabo. Sa ubán, dili makapadayon ang kalag kon aduna pay kinahanglang taposong misyon o kon lain ang pagkamatay, sama sa gisaysay sa balak nga “Breakwater Girls” nga gisulat ni Saquina Karla C. Guiam. Dinhi, malab-as ang paglarawan sa kamatayon sa mga babae. Dili gayod ta maganahan nga mamatay sama nila o nga mapagkita sila kanato.

Tinuohan pod sa kadaghanang kultura nga adunay mamatay tungod sa mga linalang nga dili ingon nato. Sa mubong sugilanon nga “Sirena” ni Mark Sherwin Castronuevo Bayanito, adunay pagtuo nga matag tapos sa piyesta sa Sto. Niño sa Brgy. Bula, naay mamatay nga laki. Ang hinungdan: usá ka sirena. Sa piyesa, gigamit ang larawan sa sirena aron balion ang kinaadmang estruktura sa sugilanon: gasagol ang duha o pipila ka elemento aron makamugna og usá ka matang. Sa ulahi, masaksihan nato nga gibali pod ang gidamhang kamatayon sa mga tawo sa Brgy. Bula.

Sa ulahi, paghinumdom na lang sa mga namatay ang usá sa mga mahimo sa mga nabilín. Sa piyesa ni Gutierrez Mangansakan II nga “Remembering Ama” (nga kabahin sa iyang bag-ong libro nga Archipelago of Stars), gipaila niya usab si Datu Udtog Matalam Sr. pinaagi sa paghinumdom sa mga higayong nakauban niya ni: “For most people, your great grandfather was the Datu. For me, he was plain old ‘Ama’.” Ginapahinumdom niini ang usáng katingalahan mahitungod sa kamatayon: mabuhì ang namatay pinaagi sa paghinumdom sa iyang pagkatawo.

Sa niaging bulan, natawo ang ikaduhang anak sa únang laking anak sa akong inahan. Sa niaging bulan, nanawag usá ka gabii ang usá sa akong mga igsoon. Ang tinuod, ako ang nagpatawag kaniya. Dugay ug pipila ka higayon ang pagtawag. Sa ulahing higayon, wala na niya napugngan ang kaugalingon. Ang iyang balita: patay na ang pinakabag-ong miyembro sa among pamilya. Usá ka adlaw na. Usá ka adlaw nang gitago kanako, aron daw dili ko masakitan. Ang hinungdan sa kamatayon: nalabihan sa pagpakaon. Gilubong dayon siya sa Maitum, dili na sa naadnang paagi sa inahan niyang lumad gayod nga Tboli. Gilubong siya nga walay nabilíng pahinumdom kanamo puyra sa iyang mubong kinabuhi. Ako: dali lang siguro ang pagdawat kon walay mahinumdoman.

Nagpadala ko og mensahe taod-taod sa mga kaila aron mananghid sa akong giplanong dugayng pagkawala. Ang tubag sa isa: nia ko karon sa ospital, namatay ang ig-agaw. Nahinumdoman nako ang akong pag-umangkon–ang iyang unga, ang paggukos ni Mamang kaniya, ang paghatag namong angga kaniya. Dili diay dali ang pagdawat.