Introduction

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.

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Introduction to Issue 14

Since midnight, the girl had been telling us that she had a third eye, and right at that moment, she said she could see something in the darkness, across the street and under a tree. I turned my head and, just as I expected, saw nothing but harmless shadows. I don’t believe in supernatural beings. I believe instead that science can explain everything, or at least it eventually will. I am not afraid of supernatural beings. But having panic disorder, I am afraid of so many other things.

For me, the girl should not be afraid of the things that she is afraid of, for they do not exist in the first place. In the same way, for her, and for most people, I shouldn’t be afraid of the things that I am afraid of, for even if they exist, they’re not as harmful as my mind perceives them. I get panic attacks whenever I get afraid of death and whenever I get afraid of getting insane, and I get panic attacks whenever I get afraid of having panic attacks. In other words, I’m afraid of being afraid.

Others may feel grateful for not having a third eye or panic disorder, but as the works in this issue show, fear comes in various forms and affects our lives more than we can see or we are willing to admit. The five stories and four poems help us examine our fears—as individuals, as Filipinos, and as human beings.

“Koronadal Horror Story” by Matt S. F. Jones of Banga, South Cotabato, is about a young man who suddenly experiences all sorts of horrifying things one night. The Hiligaynon story is an ongoing series in Jones’s Facebook timeline, and excerpted for this journal is the part where the young man sees something creepy in an eatery and encounters a maniacal old man in a street. Unabashedly genre, peppered with banters, and written in the eclectic language of young Ilonggos of Mindanao, the story is a fun kind of scare.

In Jones’s story, seeing an albularyo, or a folk healer, is hinted at as a possible solution to the narrator’s nightmares. In “Fireflies” by Adonis Hornoz of Isulan, Sultan Kudarat, a child with an affliction is actually taken to an albularyo. The story shows that our fears are not always relieved or resolved. When we are bound to our cultural beliefs and limited by our economic capability, the solution that we seek for our nightmare may only give us a worse nightmare.

A nightmare may also be disguised as a blessing. In “Nowheresville,” a work-in-progress by Jonathan Susvilla of Isulan, Sultan Kudarat, a man finds himself gifted with an extraordinary ability one day. Instead of having a more meaningful life, or at least an easier one, he is faced with difficult choices. We are often afraid of making decisions, especially when we think of ourselves more than we think of others. And we are more afraid of what we can do than of what we can’t do.

Fear can be stronger than any other feeling. In the flash fiction “How I Remember Us” by Gian Carlo Licanda of Maasim, Sarangani Province, the narrator’s most poignant memory of a lover is not when they were happiest but when they were about to part ways. We are all afraid of being left by our loved ones. We are all afraid of being alone.

Some loved ones leave us, and some are taken away from us. It’s difficult to tell which is worse. In “Mithi,” an excerpt from a Filipino novel by Boon Kristoffer Lauw of General Santos City, readers witness the horror a family goes through in a time of martial law. The narrator’s mother is a subversive, and in search of her, military men barge into her home and forces her family to reveal her whereabouts. The scene shows what a totalitarian regime can do to innocent civilians.

Like Lauw’s story, the poems in this issue deal with our fear of those who are more powerful than us. No one specific is mentioned in “Hide and Seek” by John Dominic Arellano of Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat, but the source of fear must be someone close to the narrator, someone who is part of both his past and his present. Some people in our lives are constant sources of fear, but due to our ties with them, to our lack of will to be free, to things that are beyond our control, or to their other, redeeming qualities, we sometimes have to go on living with them and bear the suffering that they are causing us.

In “War” and “Death by Fear,” both by David Jayson Oquendo of Polomolok, South Cotabato, the source of fear is obviously the government, but being held accountable are the people who support the government. The so-called war on drugs of the current administration has resulted to thousands of deaths, including those of innocent ones. No one is safe anymore. Anyone can be a victim of mistaken identity or of corrupt men in uniform.

“Karinderya,” a Filipino spoken word poem by Kiel Mark Guerrero of Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat, is also about extrajudicial killings, but the blame is put directly on the country’s draconian ruler. Many Filipinos catapulted him to power due to their hatred and fear of criminality. As a result, however, instead of providing comfort and protection, he became a new source of fear, especially for the poor. The authorities have yet to provide a proof to the public that they have brought down a big-time syndicate, while every day, slippers-wearing pushers and runners are gunned down in alleys.

The literary works in this issue can help us understand our own fears. But more importantly perhaps, they can help us acknowledge and understand the fears of others. We all have fears, and we have different fears, and even if they’re the same, we have different ways of dealing with them.

The others, aside from me, also turned and looked at the tree across the street, where the girl said she could see something. The others, like me, must have also not seen anything, or were too inebriated to be spooked by anything. Most of us remained quiet, but I was breathing deeply, making myself calm. Unbeknown to my companions, I was having a panic attack right at that moment. I was seeing a different kind of ghost. It’s a part of me. It dwells in me.

Jude Ortega
Senator Ninoy Aquino, Sultan Kudarat

 

A Year of a Hundred Little Steps

Kiel Mark Guerrero, a nineteen-year-old college student, leans close to the microphone and tells the audience, “The title of my poem is ‘Carinderia.’” It must be about promiscuity, I think right away. It must be about someone who entertains suitors and lovers the way a cheap eatery caters to everyone who wants to eat. Guerrero, after all, a regular in local spoken word events, is known for pieces that are by turns dramatic, amusing, and suggestive.

The poem starts with a mother, not a lover: Nakahilera / Ang mga putaheng luto ni ina / Para sa pananghalian / Sa harap ng aming munting tindahan. In the next lines, the mother remains the focus of the poem: Si inay / Binubugaw / Ang mga langaw. I wait for the transition to, or appearance of, the narrator’s lover, and Guerrero continues: Si inay / Binubugaw ang mga batang hamog / Na pinipilit makisalo / At paulit-ulit nanghihingi ng dalawang limang piso. I can’t believe what I’m hearing. Guerrero is talking about street children begging for food and money. He’s not talking about love and promiscuity. The poem, apparently, is a poem about social issues and not the typical hugot—sentimental spoken word pieces about unrequited love or failed relationships—that I expected from the young poet.

The whole evening, and not just Guerrero’s performance, was a surprise to me. When the three-hour Hugot sa Kalye ended, I noted that seven of the fifteen performers, or nearly half, had non-hugot poems. Gabrielle Corine Torato opened the event with a poem about suicide and depression. Aldrick Lawrence Velasco followed her with a poem about nature and salvation. Dan Zapanta Rivera, like Guerrero, dared the audience to take a stand on political issues. And John Efrael Igot, Justice Jelojos, and Iris Saqueño spoke about language and nationalism. This is a far cry from one year ago, in Hugot Marbel, the first spoken word event in the city. In that event, all of the nearly twenty open mic performers, including Guerrero, talked about their crushes who ignored them, their boyfriends or girlfriends who did not value them, and their exes who had hurt them.

There is nothing wrong, of course, with writing about love—ah, love is a wondrous thing to feel and share about with others—but definitely, it is not healthy if all young writers, spoken word poets or otherwise, write about the same thing and in the same way. While my co-organizers and I label most of our poetry events “Hugot” to attract as much audience as the venue can accommodate, we always share our own non-hugot writings, and we have been hoping for (not imposing on) the open mic performers to explore themes other than the usual. Now many of them do, by their own decision or influenced by the literary writings they’ve been exposed to. Their definition of love has expanded from romantic to patriotic. The purpose of their poems is evolving from self-expression to social action.

Helping some spoken word artists become woke, as evident in Hugot sa Kalye, is one of the many things that we are proud to have accomplished and to be celebrating this month, the first anniversary of Cotabato Literary Journal. This online publication was launched in Hugot Marbel, and as I stated in the introduction to the maiden issue, the publication and the poetry event are “intertwined.” Both are part of “a literary wave . . . surging across the region.” Allow me now to recall what has transpired between Hugot Marbel and Hugot sa Kalye.

In its first twelve issues, Cotabato Literary Journal featured seventy-seven works from forty writers in the region, plus a profile of essayist Noel Pingoy by Kloyde Caday. Some of the literary works, especially the award-winning ones from established writers, had been published before. We included them in this journal because they deserve to be accessed more easily by readers in the region. We also published award-winning works that had not appeared in other publications—the play “Killing the Issue” by Karlo Antonio David, the story “Day of Mourning” by Jude Ortega, and the Hiligaynon story “Paborito ni Daddy” by Nal Andrea Jalando-on. Except for the first two issues, most of the works that appeared in this journal were published for the first time. One of them, “A Portrait of a Young Man as a Banak” by Jade Mark Capiñanes, which appeared in the January 2017 issue, eventually won the third prize in the Essay category of the 2017 Don Carlos Palanca Annual Memorial Awards.

This journal has so far lived up to its mission to be “a repository of the best works that writers from Cotabato Region have produced and a showcase as well of their best new works.” We are careful with our decisions, however. We do not want to be purveyors of elitism that seems to pervade the Philippine literary community. We welcomed writers who had not been published, most notably, Alvin Pomperada, Doren John Bernasol, Mariz Leona, Michael John Otanes, Hannah Adtoon Leceña, and John Gied Calpotura. We published each of them more than once. They are students or were still students when their bylines first appeared in this journal. And to further democratize literature, we created last month the Facebook page Sulat SOX, which aims to be a supplement to Cotabato Literary Journal. The page features shorter works.

Several editors worked for free to keep Cotabato Literary Journal running: Saquina Karla Guiam (September 2016–August 2017), Jude Ortega (September 2016–February 2017), Paul Randy Gumanao (March 2017–August 2017), Andrea Lim (June 2017–August 2017), and Jade Mark Capiñanes (June 2017–August 2017). Blaise Francisco of General Santos City, now based somewhere in Europe, takes care of the expenses for the domain name and hosting of this journal’s website.

To discover more voices, we organized province-wide writing contests, and although no winner and finalists were declared for the South Cotabato Poetry Contest, the results were encouraging in the two others. John Gied Calpotura, a high school student in Tacurong City, won the Sultan Kudarat Flash Fiction Contest. The three flash fictions that were selected as finalists turned out to be all his, and the prize was given to “Shoebox,” which appeared in the July 2017 issue of this journal. Spencer Pahang, a senior high school student in Kidapawan City, won the Cotabato Province Essay Contest, and his piece, “Better this Way,” was published in the August 2017 issue of this journal. Mayamen Hashmin, a college student, and Ira Shayne Salvaleon, a senior high school student, were the other finalists.

To help aspiring writers hone their skills and to help students become more familiar with local literature, we conducted workshops and seminars. With Generoso Opulencia, an award-winning and multilingual local poet, we organized the South Cotabato Poetry Workshop in Refuge Café in Koronadal City. The workshop ran for three hours every Saturday from October to November 2016. Opulencia mentored the ten participants for free. With Erwin Cabucos, an award-winning short story writer who grew up in Kabacan and is now living in Australia, we organized the Cotabato Province Creative Writing Seminar on April 10, 2017. Cabucos, along with four local writers, gave free lectures to more than a hundred students of the University of Southern Mindanao. With the help of Michael Angelo Yambok, a coordinator of the National Commission on Culture and the Arts, we organized Smulat: Short Story Writing Workshop for Teens on June 2–3, 2017, in SLT Homestay in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. Seven local writers mentored the twelve participants. Sharmin Tanael’s “Kukum,” one of the best output of the workshop, appears in the current issue of this journal.

Four award-winning writers from outside the region granted our invitations to share their knowledge with us. Jose Victor Peñaranda, a poet who has worked in many countries, visited General Santos City on December 16, 2016, and gave a private lecture to several local writers in Hotel San Marco. Wilfredo Pascual, an essayist who lives in the United States, gave a talk at the SM Activity Center in General Santos City on February 20, 2017. Manuel Avenido Jr., a fictionist who writes in Cebuano, met with local writers in Namnam Restobar in General Santos City on May 14, 2017, for an interview and a poetry reading. Edgar Calabia Samar, a poet and novelist who writes in Filipino, gave a lecture at Mindanao State University in General Santos City on August 24, 2017, and at St. Alexius College in Koronadal City, South Cotabato, on August 26, 2017.

Spurred by an invitation to the 3rd Iloilo Zine Fest on August 26–27, 2017, we created several zines. David Jayson Oquendo edited Pioneer, which contains works by ten young writers from General Santos City, and Alvin Pomperada and Hannah Adtoon Leceña edited Alaala ng Paglimot, which contains spoken word poems from twelve writers in the region. Individual zines include Paul Randy Gumanao’s Hiwalayan, Andrea D. Lim’s So Far, Princess Alilaya Plang’s Ikaw, Ako, at Pag-ibig, and Jude Ortega’s Mga Kuwentong Peysbuk.

We’ve been using different approaches and platforms to help promote and develop local literature, but we are known most for our Hugot spoken word events, and other writers have been throwing shade on us for catering to popular taste. We are unapologetic about it. We do not want to shape local literature according to the standards and whims of the literati. We are not looking for talents who can make it to national writers workshops, win literary awards, or be published by mainstream and university presses. (Although if that happens, we will be glad.) What we want is for the people in our region to read our own writers and for our writers to write about our region. If Manila and other regions like Cotabato writing, it should be because Cotabato writing is distinct, not because it suits their taste. And if the best way to achieve this goal is by using the popularity of hugot, then use the popularity of hugot we will. We have to start somewhere.

On September 2, 2016, we conducted Hugot Marbel at 99 Brewery in Koronadal City, South Cotabato. On the 30th of the same month, we conducted Hugot Tacurong at Woodland Restobar in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat, and on the 20th of the following month, we conducted Hugot Kidapawan at Porticus Restobar in Kidapawan City, Cotabato Province. We organized two more spoken word events in Sultan Kudarat—Hugot Isulan in the capital town on December 2, 2016, and Hugot Kulaman in Senator Ninoy Aquino on February 14, 2017, during the municipality’s foundation anniversary celebration. The two events, sponsored by the local governments and held in front of the municipal halls, were staged as contests. Gerlie Cariño, Bryant Lee Morales, and Hanna Mae Bautista won the first, second, and third prizes, respectively, in Hugot Isulan. Jeraicca Keith Facturanan, Chem Aubrey Tanquerido, and Jonary Dejongoy won the first, second, and third prizes, respectively, in Hugot Kulaman.

On July 9, 2017, in partnership with the Provincial Tourism Council of South Cotabato and in celebration of the province’s foundation anniversary, we conducted Hugot Tnalak at the parking area of South Cotabato Sports Complex, along Alunan Avenue, in Koronadal City. So many performers registered that we had to organize a second part of the event on July 16, 2017, this time in partnership with 99 Brewery. The council again invited us in its celebration of Tourism Month, so we conducted Hugot sa Kalye on September 10, 2017, in the same venue as the first Hugot Tnalak. Whenever the Hugot event was held in a restobar, the venue would always be filled to overflowing, and the size of the crowd never failed to amaze us even if we had seen it time and again.

We had traditional, intimate poetry readings, of course. When the South Cotabato Poetry Workshop ended, on November 19, 2016, we conducted Poetry Jam at Refuge Café. For Bonifacio Day on November 30, 2016, we conducted Para kay Boni at 99 Brewery in General Santos City on the eve of the celebration and then Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa at Refuge Café and iRock Café in Koronadal City on the day of the celebration itself. On April 30, 2017, the eve of Labor Day, we conducted Night Shift in Namnam Restobar in General Santos City.

For us to manage well our activities, we selected interim officers for areas that our network has reached. In Cotabato Province, Kloyde Caday served as chairperson and Ericka Jan Gadat as secretary. In Sultan Kudarat, Adonis Hornoz served as chairperson, Jude Ortega as vice chairperson, and Trexie Gina Salmeo Sy as secretary. In South Cotabato, Ruben Castañares III served as chairperson, Louie Pacardo as vice chairperson, and Rose Vannelou Ramos as secretary. In General Santos City, Saquina Karla Guiam served as chairperson and Jade Mark Capiñanes as secretary. We did some reshuffling recently to keep the local associations dynamic. Also with us in our activities were David Jayson Oquendo, Rossel Audencial, Jesse Angelo Altez, Ken Rix Baldoza, Genory Vanz Alfasain, Alvin Pomperada, Michael Suplaag, and Jim Raborar. Lastly, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the elder writers who had been patient with and supportive of us—Noel Pingoy, Gilbert Tan, Generoso Opulencia, Rita Gadi, Estrella Taño Golingay, and Rufa Cagoco Guiam.

Even if the activities were held in specific areas, the writers of the other areas almost always helped out. We moved as a region. We took the steps together, so even if they were little steps, they accumulated and amounted to a leap.

Kiel Mark Guerrero’s “Carinderia” gets overtly political as it further unfolds. An unusual customer arrives. His clothes are formal and immaculate (Nakasuot ng puting barong / Walang bahid ng mantsa ng kasinungalingan / Puro papuri’t kalinisan). The reference for me is clear. The man is a politician from Mindanao who shookt imperial Manila with his overwhelming victory in the national elections, due largely to his reputation for being incorruptible and his promise of true change. Soon, for the narrator of the poem, as it has been for the country, the impressive man does something sinister (Inani pati ang aking respeto / Hanggang siya’y nagturo).

The man points at several dishes on display, and the poem gets grimmer and grimmer, until the man points at the literally bloody dish that no doubt fits his appetite most: At itinuro mo ang dinuguan / Ano’ng nangyari sa Perlas ng Silangan? . . . Nagdanak sa bawat sulok ang dugo / Itinapon ang mga katawan sa lahat ng dako. The man, though, is far from finished. He points at the father of the house ultimately, accusing him of possessing prohibited drugs: Si itay / Nakuhaan daw siya ng bato. And the narrator cries against the selective justice: Doon ka magturo sa mamahaling kainan / Doon naman nababagay ang iyong kasuotan. The poem ends with a hackneyed saying that now becomes layered given the context: Pakakatandaan mo, sa bawat pagturo ng iyong hintuturo, mas maraming daliri ang bumabalik sa ’yo.

The poem is dark, and made darker by the fact that it is a reflection of our current reality. We are ruled by a mad man, and we are living in a divided land. Our bodies are fired up, but our souls are lost. It’s ironic, though. While the poem reminds me that the pall of gloom on our streets gets thicker by the day, it gives me hope. It’s a ray of light.

 

Jude Ortega
Koronadal City, South Cotabato

Issue 7 Introduction

First: my sincerest apologies in the delay of this issue.

Second: You’ll have to excuse me. In all the time I’ve been an editor for this journal, I’ve never written an introduction. If I have an excuse, it’s because I find myself ill-equipped to do so, in the sense that I don’t always know what to say about something. (Imagine that, a writer admitting she doesn’t have the words.) Though, I have plenty of other excuses why I don’t (having schoolwork, editing for two other online publications, being generally bad at writing introductions, etc). But we’re not here to talk about that.

March is Women’s History Month in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, following the celebration of International Women’s Day on every 8th day of the month. Nowadays, it’s not just the West anymore. For this issue of the Cotabato Literary Journal, we sought out works by women and female-identifying individuals. I say, female-identifying, as gender is anything but a construct.

Jermafe Kae Prias’s Trimester Epiphanies is, if anything, a delight to read, as it weaves through the experiences of pregnancy—especially when it happens in college, with the coming of motherhood lapping at the last lines, and for each trimester, the poem changes shape and form to emphasize the vastness and turbulence of said experiences.

Mariz Leona’s story, Sa Kabilang Dulo ng Baril, seems apt for the current state in the country; wherein the narrator’s father is running a business, albeit illegally as it is unregistered (though not involving drugs) but a couple of police officers—drunk and apparently, drug users—arrive to extort money from the father.

Ig-agaw by Hannah A. Leceña, I believe, should be read wherein one should be prepared. This is a story about rape, notably, the incestuous kind. Also, it’s written in the Bisaya spoken widely in the region, which is of course vastly different from the ones spoken in Davao and especially, in the Visayas.

Rossel M. Audencial may be a newcomer to writing, but The Girl is a simple, yet haunting story, told through three different points of view.

Farewell to Grief, an essay of loss from Ma. Jocedel Zulita, paints a vivid portrait of parental loss, but it also shows us the aftermath of that loss, and eventually, how to mend the weight of absence left behind—even if it takes quite a long while to do so.

March is ending, and we are earnestly greeted by inconsistent heatwaves. Our season of tag-init calls, and I hope that you, dear reader, can read these fine works under the mercy of trees. (Or in a cafe with a functioning air conditioner and wifi connection.)

Saquina Karla C. Guiam
General Santos City

Issue 6 Introduction

Bong nawa. Dakong ginhawa ang gugma alang sa mga Tboli. Kenbong nawa, gihigugma taka. Dili ba kasugpong sa ginhawa ang kinabuhi ug sa kinabuhi ang gugma? Nalalang ang gugma ayha pa mopitik-pitik ang dugo sa kasingkasing sa batang gipamapdos sa inahan. Taytayan kini sa mga maghigala ug mag-uyab nga dili mapugngang istoryahon ang matag usa. Gatubo kini sa mga kumo sa mga gahunahuna sa kagahapon ug kaugmaon sa atong nasod.

Lahi-lahi gayod ang kinaiya ug pagtan-aw sa gugma, ug gipamatuoran kini sa mga balak ug sugilanon sa isyu sa Cotabato Literary Journal karong Pebrero, ang bulan sa paghigugmaay.

Alang kay Generoso Opulencia sa iyang balak nga “On Your 68th Birthday,” adunay kahumot ang gugma: “I believe in the scent of sainthood/ of those tortured by men,/ demons or lifelong self-denial.” Hanas kining gipasimhot sa atoa sa magbabalak pinaagi sa pagpagunit, pagpabati, ug pagpatan-aw sa mga pulong nga masabtan lang man unta sa atong mga mata. Ug usa ka leksiyon sa pagputol sa mga linya kining balak.

Masimhotan pod ang kahumot sa gugma sa balak ni David Jayson Oquendo: “Time passed, but the scent of the sea still lingered in my body.” Bunga kini sa pagmugna sa persona og mga panumdoman ug pangandum sa usa ka lugar. Apan, dungag sa magbabalak, walay kaseguradohan ang paghigugma (o ang pagginhawa sa ilalom sa tubig); adunay mga kinahanglang bugnoon. Makit-an ang iyang pagbugno sa mga pagduha-duha niya sa pagputol sa mga linya ug estansa: “Caught in a force bigger than we were, we went/ sweeping away the names of our children we decided/ over marshmallows and a campfire/ written in big letters in an island for all the word to see.”

Adunay gugmang bakak, ingon sa balak nga “Bonifacio Arsonisto” ni Gerald Galindez. Dili daw tanan nga atong gituohang tinuod ug matuod kay kamatuoran, sama sa mga nabiling gahum sa kolonyalismo, ang lihok sa komersiyalismo, ug bisan ang mga hulmang banyaga sa literatura: “Walang laman ang mga tula’t sanaysay/ at kung meron man/ sila’y nasa tuktok na hindi natin naabot.” Kinahanglan daw kining sunogon aron mahawan ang dalan sa panibag-o. Mao tingali nga morag prosa ug walay klaro ang paghan-ay sa iyang mga linya. Sugdanan kaha kini sa iyang pagsupak sa gigugma natong literatura?

Mao sad kini ang makita sa balak nga “Ang Putang Inang Bayan” ni Doren John Bernasol. Paghigugma sad sa nasod ang gihusgotan niini ug direktahay ang paghan-ay sa mga ideya sa linya. Maskin karaan nang metapora ang puta alang sa atong nasod: “Oo puta ako, sa Kastila, Kano, Hapon, at muli sa Kano,” madunggan sa mga linya sa balak ang hugót nga pagpangga sa magbabalak sa iyang yutang giilang nasod. Mao segurong usahay ginatawag ang ing-aning mga balak (spoken word poetry) nga ‘húgot’ bisag dili gyod parehas ang duha.

Balibato ang gugma alang kay Michael John Otanes sa “Swollen Lymph Node,” usa ka sugilanong mahitungod sa (dili) pagtaganay ug (dili) paghigugmaay sa mag-amahan human mamatay sa ilang inahan/asawa: “A wall so high then propped up between them, from that moment on.” Dili ginahisgotan ang ilang gugma sa ilahang sultihanay ug sa pagsasaysay sa magsusugid apan ginapahibalo sa mga magbabasa nga naa lang kining gahulat mamugna sa atong hunahuna ug pagbati.

Pagpatinuod gayod sa tagohala sa gugma ang mga balak ug sugilanon sa isyu karon, nga bisag dugay nang nabuhi ang gugma, dili tinuod nga nahanduraw na ang tanan sa iyang kinaiya. Gabag-o ang gugma. Ingon pa ni Rio Alma, “Di na tayo umiibig tulad noon/ pagkat puso’y mga plastik at de-motor.” Aduna lang gihapong makaplagang bag-o samtang gadumdom kitang magsusulat ug magbabasa sa mga nahibal-an na.

Issue 5 Introduction

It is widely acknowledged that Filipinos are family-oriented, and this trait can’t be more evident than this time of year. For most of us, Christmas Eve is best spent with our parents, in our childhood home, New Year’s Day should be spent with our immediate family in our current residence, and the vacation time between the two major celebrations is the best date to hold family reunions. Thus, for this issue of Cotabato Literary Journal, we deemed it fitting to feature works that deal with home and family; however, most of the works that we were able to gather go beyond, and even against, the portrait of family as usually depicted in greeting cards and noche buena advertisements.

Jade Mark Capiñanes’s essay, “The Portrait of a Young Man as a Banak,” is about the places that he has lived in—Davao City, Polomolok in South Cotabato, and General Santos City—and the struggles that his family have gone through, the same struggles that caused him to live in those different places. Capiñanes observes that the banak, the peculiar fish that would sometimes appear in the community where he grew up, have become mere visitors to the place that was named after them. The fish have, in a manner of speaking, become strangers to their own home, and Capiñanes’s jouney in life so far parallels the banak’s unusual migratory behavior. In a lucid and engaging language, the young writer deftly weaves the different locations, the past and the present, the exposition and the rumination. He may still be in search of an actual home, but talentwise, he seems to have found it in writing.

Noel Pingoy, an oncologist in General Santos City, is known for his poignant essays related to his profession, but for this issue, we decided to feature his writings that show other sides of him. In “Other Disclosures,” a suite of short essays, he writes about—and for—his family, his friends, and Koronadal City, his hometown. Permeating the pieces are universal values that Pingoy holds dear and readers would do well to embrace or at least ponder upon, especially in this age where, through social media, anyone can express an opinion and any opinion can become a mantra of millions. Pingoy’s pieces here are more straightforward than his lengthier essays about his life as a doctor, but the trademark warmth and eloquence are ever present.

Mariz Leona’s “Uma,” the only fiction we have for this issue, is set in Lambayong, Sultan Kudarat, the young writer’s hometown. The story is about a rural family facing the effects of technological advancement. The change is rather simple—a mobile harvesting machine is procured and rented out by someone of better means in the neighborhood—but for a family whose main source of income is the father’s daily wage as a farm laborer, the effects are devastating. The story could easily degenerate into a melodrama and overt excoriation of technology and small-scale capitalism, but with a sensibility that seems advanced for her age, Leona handles the plot and characters with subtlety and makes the story more about resilience. She also has quite an ear for dialogue, capturing with precision the kind of Hiligaynon that is spoken here in Cotabato Region.

In “Early Morning in Surallah,” Estrella Taño Golingay shows once more why she is one of the foremost female poets in the region. At the start, the poem appears to be about a humdrum routine or a touching moment with a loved one, but it turns out to be about memories in the past that creep their way to the present. The setting may be a specific town in South Cotabato, but readers from anywhere else in the region would feel the same unease, for our own hometowns cast similar shadows in our lives.

Andrea Lim’s “Homesickness” encapsulates the longing for our family all of us must have felt—if not right now, in the past; if not frequently, at least once. The terse language of the poem is only apt, for indeed, homesickness doesn’t always have to be cured, or it may not be cured at all. The young poet surely knows the subject, for she has known and left several homes, having been a resident of several cities, including General Santos.

Whether you are yearning to be home or you are yearning for a home, the works in this issue will speak with you like a family member who understands. Literature, after all, is meant to help us make sense of life, and Cotabato Literary Journal is meant to address the more specific concerns of the people in our region. This is our fifth issue, and for the past five months, this online publication has become home to excellent pieces from local writers, and maybe to the writers themselves and the readers as well. For the new year, we hope to make the family bigger. Fate chooses our homes for us or takes away our homes from us. Let’s have one of our own choosing, and let’s keep the hearth burning.

Jude Ortega
Senator Ninoy Aquino, Sultan Kudarat

Issue 4 Introduction

Madalas na inuuri ang mga tao sa Mindanaw ayon sa kanilang kalinangan at paniniwala. Naniniwala bagaman ang ilan na hindi sapat ang mga pag-uuri (o pagkakahong) ito sa realidad, tigib naman ito ng kasaysayan ng kapuwa pagdakila sa sari-sariling mga pagkakakinlanlan at pagkakaila sa pagkatao ng kapuwa.

Pagdakila sa likás na kilos ng kalikásan, una, gamit ang mga elementong Kristiyano ang litaw na pananaw sa akdang “Rorate Coeli” ni Genoroso Opulencia. Muli, napakatingkad ng paglalarawan ni Opulencia ng hulagway ng daigdig— “The sound of peltings/ on leaves, grass, and roofs/ is slowly coming in.” Lagi’t laging pinaalala ng kaniyang mga akda ang pagkakakilanlan ng anyong tula sa panahon ngayong maaari nang pag-anyuing tula ang lahat ng bagay at nilalang.

Karanasan naman ng Lumad na si Ija ang paksa ng akdang “Pangarap ni Ija” ni Doren John Bernasol. Payak lámang ang tunggalian ng kuwento—nais ni Ija na mag-aral ng kolehiyo ngunit hindi káya ng kaniyang pamilya kayâ naisip nilang ipaasawa siya sa isang matandang maykaya—ngunit kakakitaan ng gilas sa pagpili ng paksa at bisa ng tahimik na paglalahad. Katotohanan ngang mas nakaririnig nga táyo sa galaw at mga mata ng tauhan. Si Bernasol, na kasalukuyan ngayong mag-aaral sa Mindanao State University, ay isang tinig na kailangang abangan.

Bagaman mahalagang itanghal ang sari-saring danas ng mga tao sa rehiyon ayon sa mga pag-uuri, hindi maitatangging mayroong mga karanasang walang kinikilalang paniniwala o lumalampas sa mga kahon ng lipunan. Pag-aasawa rin ng tagalabas, halimbawa, ang pinapaksa ng akdang ”The Bleached Hills of Cotabato” ni Erwin Cabucos (isang kilalang manunulat na humuhugot ng haraya sa tinubuang lupa ng Cotabato at sa kasalukuyang tinitirhan na Brisbane, Australia) ngunit sa isang dayuhan, na sasalubungin nila sa paliparan. Isa mga nakahuhuli ng pansin sa salaysay na ito ang imahen ng literal na pagkalapit at paglalapit ng mga paniniwala—“On the other side of the road stood a cream-colored Iglesia ni Kristo church with its towering spires . . . Then I was deafened by a loud cry over a speaker sitting on a mosque’s roof: ’Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar.’” —na isang karaniwang kaayusan sa rehiyon.

Tigib ang sanaysay na “Notes of an Expat” ni Angeli Savas ng General Santos at na ngayon ay naninirahan sa Europa ng ligaya at ligalig ng paglalakbay at paghihiwalay sa mga lupaing tina(ta)hak. Sa isang bahagi ng kaniyang akda, muli niyang binalikan ang salaysay ang kaniyang danas na maiuri sa mga kahong binuo ng lipunan. Aniya: “. . . it is still a non-issue that holds back those few of us who are categorized this way from being able to see ourselves on the same level as everyone else. As a society, unless we admit there is injustice, we cannot start the way to equality. We cannot change what we cannot see.”

Dayo naman sa rehiyong ito ang manunulat na si Maureen Gaddi dela Cruz. Sa kaniyang tulang nása Filipino, “Hindi Kayo mga Pangalan Lamang,” at Ingles, “You Are Not Mere Names,” danas ng dahas na hindi lámang nakapaloob sa mga kahon ng Moro, Kristiyano, at Lumad ang muli niyang ipinapagunita sa atin. Hindi “. . .mga pangalan lamang / o mga numerong itinatala sa pisara” ang mga nawawala, pinatay, hinúli, at iba pa, dito, doon, noon, ngayon. Nakatutuwa ang balintunang piniling maging hindi tiyak ng buong tula upang tukuyin ang tiyak na danas at damdamin.

Batay sa mga akdang ito, katotohanan ngang walang katiyakan kahit pilit táyong isinisisilid sa tiyak na mga uri.