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.

Issue 3 Introduction

We believe we’re on the right track. We have been making good on our promises, as laid out in the introduction to the maiden issue of this online literary journal.

After the public poetry reading in General Santos on July 29, similar events have been conducted in Koronadal (September 2), Tacurong (September 30), and Kidapawan (October 20), and preparations are being made for Cotabato. Soon we will have brought poetry closer to all the five cities of the region.

In the areas where poetry readings have been conducted, we have also selected interim officers to take care of recruitment and other literature-related undertakings. The officers have facilitated some activities, the most notable of which is the ongoing South Cotabato Poetry Workshop, an eight-session course for ten aspiring poets, taught by award-winning multilingual poet Generoso Opulencia.

And this literary journal, of course, continues to be a reliable venue for the best new works of local writers. This issue features six poems, two each from veteran writers Estrella Taño Golingay and Generoso Opulencia and one each from young poets Florence Jay Salcedo and Adonis Hornoz. Golingay’s “Trail” and Hornoz’s “Little Statue” are distinctly Mindanawon, while the other works have universal themes. Also included in this issue is a story from Jude Ortega. “Day of Mourning” was one of the top five winners in a 2015 nationwide short story competition that received 176 entries.

This issue, the third, is leaner than the first two because we have gathered before most of the winning works of Cotabato writers and we are focusing on discovering new voices, but we are well within our goal, which is to feature works from at least five writers every month. Expect the coming issues to contain a similar number of poems and stories.

We are grateful to our contributors for their trust in us. We are likewise thankful to the more or less five hundred individuals who have attended our poetry readings, especially the nearly one hundred open mike performers. They surprise us each time. Lastly, we thank the managements of our venues—DG’s Restobar in General Santos, 99 Brewery in Koronadal, Woodland Restobar in Tacurong, and Porticus Restobar in Kidapawan for the poetry readings and Refuge Cafe in Koronadal for the poetry workshop.

Months ago, most of us have been strangers. Now we are no doubt a community—brought together by literature, contributing whatever each one can to literature. We must really be on the right track.

Jude Ortega
Isulan, Sultan Kudarat

Issue 2 Introduction

Tagpuan ng sari-sari ang lupain ng Cotabato. Kung susundan, halimbawa, ang pagsasatao ng rehiyon, matutunghayang unang nanirahan ang mga Blaan, Tboli, Manobo, at iba pang katutubòng tinatawag na ngayon bílang ang mga Lumad, kasáma ng mga Meranaw, Magindanawon, at iba pang pangkating nananalig sa Islam. Wala pang Filipinas noon, at malayang nakikipag-ugnayan ang mga tao sa rehiyon sa iba pang pangkat sa karatig na mga “bansa.” Mayroon namang mga naging paglusob at pagdalaw ang mga Espanyol ngunit hindi nila naipalaganap ang kanilang gahum sa rehiyon. Ang kasunod nang naging malakihang paggalaw ay ang pagdagsa ng mga migrante mula sa Luzon at Visayas tungo sa Mindanaw, na tinawag ng pamahalaan noon bílang ang “Lupain ng Pangako.” Ay, hindi ba’t kalasangan at alikabok ng Dust-diangas ang bumungad sa kanilang pagdating?

Hindi nakapagtatakang nagbubunga ang mga serye ng paggalaw ng mga tao, at maging ng mga ideya at pananaw, ng mga pagitan, pagsáma-sáma, kasalimuotan, at mga bagong kakanyahan—lahat sabay-sabay na nahubog at patuloy na hinuhubog sa rabaw ng Cotabato.

settlement-matutum

Isa sa mga unang bahay ng mga migrante sa rehiyon. Mula sa ‘The Tuna Country at the Southern Edge of Mindanao: 1939-2000’ ni Andrea Villano-Campado, Ph.D.

Sa isyung ito, muli táyong dudungaw sa pagkasari-sari ng rehiyong ito sa pamamagitan ng pagtatampok ng mga akda mula sa iba’t ibang yugto ng paglikha ng panitikan sa rehiyon. Pinakauna na rito si Rita Gadi, na bagaman kasalukuyang naninirahan sa labas ng rehiyon, ay lagi’t laging umuugat sa lungsod ng Kidapawan sa lalawigan ng (Hilagang) Cotabato. Sa isyung ito, mapapansing saligan ng kaniyang mga tula, na kinilala sa Palanca Awards noong 1964, ang pananalig/pagsandig sa relihiyon.  Isa namang dayo mula sa Kabisayaan si Generoso Opulencia at namamalagi na ngayon sa Koronadal. Pinarangalan sa Home Life Poetry Contest noong 1999 at 2000 ang kaniyang mga tula, na mga ehemplo ng kahusayan sa masining na paglalarawan. Noong 1994 naman kinilala sa parehong patimpalak ang tula ni Estrella Golingay, na isang retiradong propesor mula sa Surallah sa lalawigan ng Timog Cotabato. Bagabag at lambing ang inuusal ng persona sa kaniyang tula upang mapahimbing ang anak. Silang tatlo, kasáma ng mga naitampok na at itatampok pa sa journal na ito, ang mga ‘magulang’ ng panitikan sa rehiyon.

Kabilang din sa isyung ito ang mga makabagong tinig sa panulat. Nariyan ang kuwento ni Prescilla Dorado, na mula sa dakbayan ng General Santos at nag-aral ng malikhaing pagsulat sa Davao. Mabisa niyang kinasangkapan ang kuwentong ito upang magparamdam ng kaba, tákot, pag-asa(m), at pagkamulat ng mga batà. Mga kuwento at tulang hugot naman ang inihahandog nina Jude Ortega at Alvin Pomperada. Mula si Ortega sa Sultan Kudarat at kilalá nang manunulat sa bansa at tagapagtaguyod ng panitikan ng rehiyon ng Cotabato. Natatangi ang isang akda niya rito dahil sa paggamit ng baryasyon ng Filipino sa kanilang lugar. At mula rin si Pomperada sa General Santos at kilalá sa mga pagtatanghal niya ng spoken word. Tulad ng marami niyang tula, humuhugot ng talinghaga ang mga tula niya sa isyung ito sa kakanyahang Filipino.

Iba’t ibang wika, lugar, anyo, estilo, damdamin, pananaw, pagkatao…

Wala bang nagbubuklod sa mga ito? Walang maipapangako ang isyung ito. Marahil, mayroon kang makita, ngunit hindi ba’t hindi lagi’t laging mahalaga na mayroong nagbubuklod? Tiyak lámang sa mga akda rito ang sari-sari—ang katotohanang nananalaytay sa búhay ng mga táong kinikilála ang Cotabato na kanilang tahanan.

Issue 1 Introduction

The maiden issue of this online literary journal will be live on September 2, 2016. On the same date, the people behind this journal, along with other local writers, are going to conduct a poetry reading in Koronadal City, South Cotabato Province. There is nothing special about the date. It just happens to fall on a Friday and a couple of days after a payday—a good day to entice students of legal age, young professionals, and everyone close to that demographic to while away the evening in a bar, where the poetry reading will be.

The poetry reading in Koronadal is already the second of its kind. We have conducted the first one last month, on July 29, in General Santos City. As with September 2, there was nothing special with July 29 save for its being a Friday. But it served its purpose. The event was well received. The small bar that we had secured teemed with attendees, and the open mike portion ran longer than we had anticipated. For the event in Koronadal, we expect the same and even greater turnout, and we are excited to take the event in the coming months to the other cities of Cotabato Region, namely, Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat Province, Kidapawan City in Cotabato Province, and Cotabato City.

I have to mention the poetry readings and give details about them because they are intertwined with this online publication. Cotabato Literary Journal is not coming to life on its own. It is but a part of a literary wave that is currently surging across the region. As we are soliciting submissions for the first issues of the journal, we discuss in Facebook chat groups the logistics of the poetry readings. As we identify readers and performers for the poetry readings, we scout for aspiring and established writers who can be members and advisers of the local literary circles that we are forming. The ultimate goal is to gather all of the region’s poets, playwrights, essayists, and fictionists in one writers’ guild. An ambitious goal it is, and most of us who are spearheading the initiative are relatively young, mostly in their twenties, but we are making headway so far. Our enthusiasm and camaraderie more than make up for our inexperience.

I can’t remember when exactly Karlo Antonio Galay David and I thought of putting up a literary journal for Cotabato Region. Perhaps it was two years ago, when we were both graduate teaching fellows at Silliman University in Negros Oriental Province, lamenting the fact that our home region remained to have no literary scene to speak of despite the abundance of individual talents. So a few months ago, when we both found ourselves back in our hometowns—he in the booming city of Kidapawan and I in the laid-back mountains of Senator Ninoy Aquino, Sultan Kudarat—we decided to put the idea into action. From the very start, we wanted the journal to be regionwide because we knew that a wide pool of contributors is necessary to sustain it. Even with the people at the helm, we wanted inclusivity and balanced geographical representation, so we looked southward for another young writer who could be an editor. When we heard of the poet Saquina Karla Guiam of General Santos City, we asked her to join us, and she accepted the invitation.

It so happened that around the same time, Guiam was also in the process of forming a group for writers in General Santos, together with a few other alumni of Mindanao State University. They invited me to one of their meetings, and I opened the idea to them of making the group regionwide as well. They didn’t need to be convinced. We could all see that if the group were to be exclusive for the writers in General Santos, the city would become the de facto literary capital of Cotabato Region, and this could have undesirable consequences. When a certain place is designated or acts as a center, the periphery is often neglected and alienated. We have seen this happen in many regions, where literary activities are hogged by the biggest city, and we have seen this happen in the Philippines as a whole, with Manila demanding like a brat to be the center of literature and of everything else.

If local writers do not tread the path carefully, Cotabato Region—also known as Region 12, SOCCSKSARGEN, and South Central Mindanao—might wind up with a self-assigned literary center and an alienated periphery. But worse than that, the region can wind up with several small, underperforming centers that advance their individual ends instead of working together, because all the cities in the region is capable of asserting itself as a center. General Santos in the south has been the biggest economy for the past decades. Koronadal, less than an hour away, is currently the official regional center and growing at an impressive rate. Tacurong is in the geographical center and thus serves as an important link between the other cities of the region and to the nearby regions. Kidapawan in the east has been growing steadily in all aspects and is also a major gateway to the other regions. And of course, Cotabato City in the north remains to be a force to reckon with, being the center of the region for most of the previous century and being the current seat of government of the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao.

Given the dynamics of the localities in the region, and the scant financial support literature gets from the government, writers here must strive to create a literary community that is truly regional and centerless, or if circumstances call for a center to be chosen, it should be done with the knowledge and consent of all the areas. Furthermore, we must ensure unity within certain provinces. In Sultan Kudarat, Tacurong City lies right beside Isulan, the provincial capital; creating separate literary communities for the component city and for the rest of the province will be crippling to either area. In Cotabato Province, Kidapawan City must maintain an egalitarian relationship with Kabacan and Midsayap. Kidapawan is the provincial capital but lies a little too far in the east. Kabacan is the geographical convergent point and arguably the intellectual capital, being home to the University of Southern Mindanao. Midsayap in the west is an old settlement and currently an economic power on its own. In a way, Cotabato Province is a smaller version of Cotabato Region, and the same prudent approach must be used on the two. Perhaps in the future, we can let the localities in different levels engage in a healthy competition. For now, however, while we are still in the process of organizing ourselves, while we are still forging our identity as Cotabato writers, we have to direct our resources and efforts first towards building a literary super region.

With the goal in place, the next challenge is gathering the writers of the region in one table. It cannot be done of course with a simple mass email or a shareable post on Facebook. Sending an online invitation is one thing and making a writer actually attend a meeting is another. Cotabato Region is a large area—larger than Brunei and Singapore combined—and traveling from one provincial capital to another takes from a little less than an hour to more than four hours. The viable alternative, therefore, is to form smaller groups first—one for General Santos, a highly urbanized city; one for Cotabato City, an independent component city; and one each for the provinces of Sarangani, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, and Cotabato. This is where the poetry readings come in. We are using the series of events as a means not only to bring literature closer to the people but also to bring writers together. So far, the core groups for General Santos and South Cotabato have been formed, and while the core groups for the other areas are still being formed, Cotabato Literary Journal, along with a Facebook group for “all those in the region who like to read and write,” is serving as a unifier, an equalizer, and a reminder of what we should all try to accomplish.

Fortunately, for the editors of this journal, gathering the pieces to be published here is a much simpler task. The works in this issue, as well as in the next few issues, are all solicited. In selecting the people to contact, we only had one thing in mind: the best. The mission of this journal is twofold: to be a repository of the best works that Cotabato writers have produced and to be a venue for their best new works. We have samples of both in this issue.

Rita Gadi of Kidapawan, perhaps the first Cotabato writer to be known out there, so to speak, allowed us to reprint her poem that gave her, her second Palanca Award, in 1977. Generoso Opulencia of Koronadal won in the Home Life magazine poetry contest in 1999 and 2000 for his English poems, but we opted instead to ask for Kinaray-a poems from him because we want the works in this journal to be linguistically diverse. The essay and the play that we are honored to have are Palanca winners as well. Noel Pingoy of Koronadal won in 2002, and Karlo Antonio Galay David of Kidapawan won in 2014. More details about the prizes can be found in the editors’ note prefacing each work.

Gilbert Tan of General Santos City allowed us to reprint his story that won in a contest of Mr. & Ms. magazine in 1988. Nal Andrea Jalando-on of Koronadal gave us a Hiligaynon story that received a prize at the Iligan National Writers Workshop just this year. Karlo Antonio Galay David submitted a story that defies conventions, or at least in the language used. The story is written in a kind of Filipino that is spoken in many parts of Mindanao but purists are frowning upon. We are publishing it to signify our commitment to give space to the daring and the inventive, and perhaps even to the popular, even as we keep in their rightful place in local literary history the traditional and the critically regarded.

Saquina Karla Guiam and I are delighted that the response to the creation of this journal has been positive, enthusiastic even. We have many people to thank. First, of course, are the contributors. Gadi, Opulencia, Pingoy, and Tan are veteran writers, so we are overwhelmed with their generosity to entrust their works to novice editors like us. David played an important role in the creation of this journal, as mentioned earlier. We thank him for helping us connect with Gadi and Pingoy and for sharing in this issue two of his works. We regret that he cannot work closely with us right now because of his commitments in Myanmar, where he moved recently to work for a volunteer program. For giving this journal a home in the World Wide Web, we have Blaise Francisco of General Santos and someone from Tacurong to thank. Francisco, now based somewhere in Europe, procured for us the domain name and the hosting for the website. The volunteer who prefers not to be named, now based in Makati, set up the website for us. Both of them are writers as well and believe in the potentials of Cotabato literature. We are counting on them and people like them to be with us as Cotabato Literary Journal fulfills its current mission and possibly takes on greater responsibilities in the future.

In the poetry reading on September 2, most members of the audience will be hearing about local literature for the first time. They are probably expecting the program to be composed entirely of hugot—a type of spoken word poetry popularized by Philippine television and social media, characterized by heavy-breathing delivery and rambling rhymes about unrequited love and failed relationships. Sadly, many of the prospective attendees believe that hugot is the best that literature can offer. We have so much more in store for them, of course. We will present different types of poetry and different genres of literature, and in different languages, to boot. Some of the local writers themselves will even be there to read samples from their oeuvres. Many in the crowd will be surprised to find out that there have long been writers in their midst—living in the same town, walking in the same streets, working in local schools and offices—and these writers are as good as the ones that are read in textbooks. We know because we have seen this reaction in the July 29 event in General Santos.

There is nothing special with July 29, 2016, and September 2, 2016, except for the fact that they fall on a Friday and close to a payday. These dates for now have no significance in local history, but they will have. In the future, people in the region will look back on these dates and mark them for what they will have ushered—a writers’ group that is truly regional, truly inclusive, perhaps the first of its kind in the country.

 

Jude Ortega
August 2016
Isulan, Sultan Kudarat