Introduction

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

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Editors and Contributors

EDITORS

Eric Gerard H. Nebran is an educator and illustrator from General Santos City. He is currently a PhD Comparative Literature student at the University of the Philippines–Diliman. His research interests include orality, history, and literary productions of his hometown.

Jude Ortega is the author of the short story collection Seekers of Spirits (University of the Philippines Press, 2018) and has been a fellow for fiction at two regional and four national writers workshops. In 2015, his stories received honorable mention at the inaugural F. Sionil José Young Writers Awards and at the Nick Joaquin Literary Awards. He divides his time between Senator Ninoy Aquino and Isulan, both in Sultan Kudarat.

CONTRIBUTORS

Anna Liz Cabrido is from Koronadal City, South Cotabato, and works for the provincial government, handling the open communications projects such as “Chikaha si Gobernadora” and “Hinun-anon sa Barangay.” Bulawan, her play for this issue, has been staged years ago by Apat sa Taglamig, a Koronadal-based theater group, and recently as part of the Integrity Week of the provincial government.

Kenneth Michael L. Dalimbang is a Tboli spoken word artist from Maitum, Sarangani Province. He is a member of the volunteer organization Katutubo Exchange Philippines and a college student at Edenton Mission College Inc.

Henry G. Dalon, the translator of the song “Kastifun,” teaches at Koronadal National Comprehensive High School–Senior High School. He is a member of the Blaan tribe, and he earned his AB Filipino degree at Mindanao State University in General Santos City.

John Carlo S. Gloria earned his Bachelor in Secondary Education (major in Filipino) at Philippine Normal University. He is currently teaching language and literature at the University of Sto. Tomas and at the Loyola Schools of Ateneo de Manila University.

Mark Banday Lu is a Dulangan Manobo with Maguindanon and Chinese blood. He works in his family’s farm in Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat. Sambiling Banday, his maternal grandfather and whose story appears in this issue, was a tribal healer in Senator Ninoy Aquino, Sultan Kudarat.

Mary Ann S. Ordinario is the director of ABC Educational Development Center, a school for children in Kidapawan City, Cotabato Province. She is the author of twenty-five children’s books. Her book The Crying Trees won the 2016 Grand Prize in the Samsung KidsTime Authors Award in Singapore, while four of her other books won the second prize. These books also won Best Short Story for Children in the Catholic Mass Media Awards and were distributed in Asian countries and translated into Bahasa Indonesia and Japanese. Her famous book War Makes Me Sad is used in therapy sessions for children, and her book My Muslim Friend was published by the Christian Child Welfare in Japan.

Silek Musical Ensemble hails from Tampakan, South Cotabato. It is composed of lead singer, guitarist, faglong player, and composer Pammie Malayon, singer and percussionist Jeanalyn Sanuhay–Wales Lerios, percussionist and coordinator Jose Nilo Vargas, wind instrument player and percussionist Arbie Lerios, bassist Nestor Padal, and drummer Alexander Oracion. The word silek means “new generation.”

Pasasalamat sa Ikalawa, Hamon sa Ikatlo

Nababalot pa rin ng lagim ang paligid habang sinusulat ko ito. Kagabi lang, isang improvised explosive device ang sumabog dito sa Isulan, Sultan Kudarat, habang nasa kalagitnaan ng pagdiriwang ang bayan ng founding anniversary nito. Isang ina at isang batang babae ang nasawi, isang binata ang nasa kritikal na kondisyon, at halos apatnapu ang sugatan. Nang suyurin ng kapulisan ang paligid, dalawang bomba pa ang nakita at kinailangan nilang paputukin.

Mga dalawang daang metro lang ang bahay namin mula sa national highway. Sa lapit namin at sa lakas ng pagsabog, kumalantog ang aming bubong. Nasa isang kainan ang aking kapatid, mga isandaang metro mula sa ground zero. May iba pa akong kamag-anak na nasa labas din ng panahong iyon at papunta o nakaalis na sa pinag-iwanan ng bomba. Wala mang nasaktan sa aming pamilya, sakmal kami ng pagkagimbal. Hangad ng mga terorista na makapatay ng maraming tao. Hindi lang pag-atake sa mga partikular na tao kundi sa buong bayan ang nangyari. Nalagay sa panganib ang buhay ng lahat ng naninirahan dito at mga namamasyal mula sa mga karatig-bayan.

Nagmula rin dito sa Isulan ang tatlo sa labing-anim na manunulat na tampok sa isyung ito ng Cotabato Literary Journal. Tiyak kong natabunan din ng lungkot at takot ang kasiyahang dulot ng pagkapili ng mga akda nila. Lima naman ang lumaki o nag-aaral sa Tacurong, ang component city ng Sultan Kudarat at isa sa mga lugar sa Mindanao na may pinakamaraming insidente ng pambobomba. Tiyak kong alam nila ang nararamdaman ng mga taga-Isulan. Galing na sa ibang bahagi ng rehiyon ang walong iba pa.

Pawang edad labingwalo o mas bata pa ang labing-anim na manunulat. Nakalaan sa mga kabataan ang isyung ito bilang pasasalamat sa pakikiisa nila sa mga gawaing pampanitikan sa rehiyon. Sa ikalawang taon nitong journal, na ikalawang taon din ng mga lokal na samahan ng mga manunulat, nagpatuloy ang pag-organisa ng mga pagbabasa ng tula at pagtatanghal ng spoken word poetry, mga patimpalak sa pagsusulat, mga panayam, at iba pang kaugnay na aktibidad, at mga mag-aaral sa senior high school at junior high school ang marami sa mga nakilahok. Kailangang bigyan ng kaukulang pagkilala ang kanilang ambag.

Maganda ring mas makilala ng mga mambabasa ang mga umuusbong na pangalan sa panitikan ng rehiyon. Indikasyon na epektibo at may saysay ang anumang pagkilos kapag may mga bagong talentong natutuklas. Magsisilbi ring inspirasyon ang labing-anim na manunulat sa iba pang kabataan upang linangin ang kanilang kakayahan sa pagsusulat man o ibang larangan.

Dahil sa nangyaring trahedya sa tinitirhan kong bayan, napaisip ako sa papel ng panitikan, partikular na ng Cotabato Literary Journal, sa ating lipunan. Naging mapagbago naman ang journal. Sa unang taon nito, nakatulong ito upang mapanatiling buhay at matatag ang lokal na panitikan. Inilimbag dito ang mga pinarangalan at “the best” na gawa ng mga manunulat sa rehiyon. Sa ikalawang taon, naging instrumento ang journal upang maging mas masigla ang lokal na panitikan. Inilaan ang ilang isyu sa mga gawa at grupong hindi madalas pagtuunan ng pansin—mga gawang isinulat ng kababaihan, mga gawang isinulat para sa mga bata at kabataan, mga gawang nakasulat sa mga pinaghalong wika, at iba pa. Sa ikatlong taon, dapat sigurong higitan pa ang mga natamo. Dapat na bigyan ng mas malawak na espasyo ang mga gawang tumatalakay sa mga mabigat at masalimuot na pangyayari sa ating paligid.

Kinansela na ng lokal na pamahalaan ng Isulan ang lahat ng programa at palabas sa piyesta, maliban sa Thanksgiving Mass. Isang kabalintunaan ang tanawin sa labas. May mga nakasabit na banderitas sa itaas, ngunit walang tugtog ng banda o masayang musika. Puno ang gilid ng kalsada ng mga tolda ng ukay-ukay, kagamitan, at pagkain, ngunit halos mga nagbabantay lang ang makikitang tao. Umaga na, ngunit hindi pa rin lumilisan ang gabi.

Jude Ortega
Agosto 29, 2018

Pahabol: Ang binatang nasa kritikal na kondisyon ay binawian na rin ng buhay.

Editors and Contributors

GUEST EDITOR

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

REGULAR EDITORS

Eric Gerard H. Nebran is an educator and illustrator from General Santos City. He is currently a PhD Comparative Literature student at the University of the Philippines–Diliman. His research interests include orality, history, and literary productions of his hometown.

Jude Ortega is the author of the short story collection Seekers of Spirits (University of the Philippines Press, 2018) and has been a fellow for fiction at two regional and four national writers workshops. In 2015, his stories received honorable mention at the inaugural F. Sionil José Young Writers Awards and at the Nick Joaquin Literary Awards. He divides his time between Senator Ninoy Aquino and Isulan, both in Sultan Kudarat.

CONTRIBUTORS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introduction

Bal-an sang halos tanan nga Pilipino nga Buwan ng Wika ang Agosto, kag ang “wika” nga ginatukoy sa selebrasyon amo ang Filipino, nga nakabase sa Tagalog kag may lakot kuno nga words halin sa iban nga languages sang Pilipinas. Daw kanami pamatian ini nga depinisyon sang Filipino, kag daw angay lang gid iselebrar ang pagkaroon ta sang lingua franca—lenggwahe nga maintindihan kag ginahambal sang tanan, lenggwahe nga maga-unite sa aton bilang isa ka nasyon.

Kuno. Daw. Ginagamit ko ini nga mga pulong tungod kay lain ang nagakahitabo sa dapat matabo okon sa gina-claim sang mga yara sa gahum nga nagakahitabo. Tuod nga ginapasulod sa Filipino ang mga word nga halin sa Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon, kag madamo nga iban pa, pero mas dako ang atensyon kag panahon nga ginahatag sa pag-standardize sang Filipino—sa paghimo nga puro ang Tagalog diri, nga daw wala halos kinalain sa paghimo sang Filipino nga pure Tagalog. Amo nga kung Buwan ng Wika, ang automatic nga maisip sang mga nagaselebrar kay maggamit sang puro nga Tagalog. Malimtan na nga ang language naga-evolve—okon dapat mag-evolve.

Sa sini nga issue sang Cotabato Literary Journal, makit-an sang readers kung ano ang puwede matabo sa mga lenggwahe kung ginapabay-an ang mga ini nga maglambo. Ang lima ka obra diri naga-reflect kag nagahampang sa pipila ka mga lenggwahe nga ginagamit sa rehiyon: Multilingual ang duha ka malip-ot nga sugilanon. Natural nga hybrid language ang gingamit sa grupo sang micro essays kag sa tula. Kag experimental nga hybrid language ang gingamit sa play.

Sa short story ni Mubarak Tahir nga “Magatos a Badas,” nakasulat sa “standard” nga Filipino ang narration, kag Maguindanon nga may halo nga gamay nga Tagalog ang dialogue. Kalabanan, sa iban nga publication, sa English okon Tagalog gyapon nakasulat ang dialogue kag may mga expression lang nga yara sa local language para mabutangan sang local flavor ang istorya. Kung kaisa, sa fiction man okon nonfiction, nakasulat sa local language ang dialogue kag may upod nga translation sa English o Filipino. May mga higayon man nga ginapabay-an lang nga wala translation ang dialogue, pero sa nonfiction kalabanan. Sa istorya ni Tahir, mas dako nga importansya ang ginhatag sa Maguindanon. Amo ginalauman nga maganyat ang mga Maguindanon nga basahon ang istorya kag maganyat ang mga indi Maguindanon, labi na ang mga “settler,” nga intindihon ang lengggwahe.

Hiligaynon ang gingamit sa short story ni Mariz Leona nga “YOLO-gy,” pero kung basahon siguro ini sang mga taga-Iloilo okon Bacolod, makahambal sila nga lain ini nga klase sang Hiligaynon. Damo ini sang mga hulam nga pulong halin sa Tagalog, English, kag Cebuano. Damo man gyapon hulam nga pulong ang Hiligaynon nga ginagamit sa iban nga lugar, pero indi pare-pareho ang mga pulong kag paano ang mga ini nakaplastar sa sentence. Lain na ang pangabuhi, panghunahuna, kag panghambal sang mga Ilonggo sa Mindanao kaysa sa mga Ilonggo sa ginhalinan nila.

Sa iya tatlo ka nubo nga essay, nga gin-impon sa idalom sang titulo nga “Paano Magsakay ng Tricycle sa General Santos City,” gingamit ni Jade Mark Capiñanes ang lenggwahe sang mga coño sa siyudad. Halo nga Tagalog kag Cebuano ang ginahambal nila. Tagalog ang root words, pero Cebuano ang grammar. Amo man si Gerald Galindez sa iya tula nga “Kabacan Blues.” Gingamit niya ang lenggwahe sang mga coño sa Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat (ginhalo nga Tagalog kag Hiligaynon), kag lenggwahe sang mga coño sa Kabacan, Cotabato (ginhalo nga Tagalog kag Ilocano). Para sa iban nga tao, labi na ang mga Tagalog, ang mga lenggwahe nga ini mali okon bastardized. Ginaisip nila nga ang mga nagahambal sini luyag maghambal sang straight nga Tagalog pero tig-a ang dila. Ang matuod, parehas sang mga coño sa Manila nga nagagamit sang sagol nga English kag Tagalog, ang mga coño sa Mindanao kaya man maghambal diretso sang isa ka language nga halin sa gawas, pero wala sang kusog nga rason para himuon nila ini. Kung ang duha ka tao nga nagaistoryahanay may duha ka lenggwahe nga pareho nila bal-an gamiton, normal lang nga gamiton nila ang duha ka lenggwahe, kag sa proseso, natural lang nga mag-fuse ang duha ka lenggwahe.

Sa iya one-act play nga “The Smell of the After Storm,” naggamit si Kwesi M. Junsan sang English kag Hiligaynon, kag eksperimental ang paghalo niya sa duha ka lenggwahe. (May mga coño nga English kag Hiligaynon ang ila ginagamit, pero indi mga coño ang characters sa play, kag wala ginailog ni Junsan ang speech pattern sang mga coño.) Indi man base sa aktwal nga paghambal ang lenggwahe sa obra, maayo ang pagka-insert sang Hiligaynon sa English, amo nga kung basahon ang mga linya, natural gihapon pamatian ang mga ini.

Pero ang language, siyempre, tunga lang ang ginaamot sa kanamion sang isa ka obra. Ang tunga nakadepende sa unod. Pag-abot sa sini nga butang, indi gihapon maulihi ang lima. Nahanungod sa isa ka Muslim nga agi ang istorya ni Tahir; indi na siguro kinahanglan i-explain kung ano ka sensitibo kag bug-at ini nga subject. Nahanungod sa kamatayon kag memorya ang istorya ni Leona. Nahanungod sa mga pang-adlaw-adlaw nga hitabo ang micro essays ni Capiñanes, pero deceptive ang pagkasimple sang mga ini; ang anggulo kag mga detalye makapaham-ot kag makapaisip sa manugbasa. Nostalgic sa younger days kag faraway place ang binalaybay ni Galindez. Kag nahanungod sa pamilya kag prinsipyo ang play ni Junsan. Tanan sila nagapakita sang pangabuhi diri sa rehiyon sang Cotabato.

Isa ka melting pot ang rehiyon. Kung diri ka nagdako, indi magnubo sa apat ka lenggwahe ang kaya mo hambalon o intindihon. Kaya mo man magporma sang bag-o nga lenggwahe halin sa dalawa o sobra pa nga lenggwahe. May advantages kag disadvantages ang butang nga ini, pero kung diin ang mas damo, nakadepende sa tao. Sa Cotabato Literary Journal, ginaselebrar indi lang ang aton linguistic diversity kundi pati ang aton linguistic fluidity. Karon nga Buwan ng Wika, indi naton pagkalimtan nga ang yara sa aton indi lang “wika” kundi “mga wika.” Gamiton naton ang lenggwahe indi para lupigon ang iban kundi para mag-intindihanay kita tanan kag mapalambo ang aton literatura, kultura, kag pagpanginabuhi.

Jude Ortega
Isulan, Sultan Kudarat

Editor and Contributors

EDITOR

Jude Ortega is the author of the short story collection Seekers of Spirits (University of the Philippines Press, 2018) and has been a fellow for fiction at two regional and four national writers workshops. In 2015, his stories received honorable mention at the inaugural F. Sionil José Young Writers Awards and at the Nick Joaquin Literary Awards. He is from Senator Ninoy Aquino, Sultan Kudarat.

CONTRIBUTORS

Jade Mark B. Capiñanes earned his bachelor’s degree in English at Mindanao State University in General Santos City. He has been a fellow for essay at the 2016 Davao Writers Workshop and the 2017 University of Santo Tomas National Writers Workshop. His “A Portrait of a Young Man as a Banak” won third prize at the Essay Category of the 2017 Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature.

Gerald Galindez teaches at Notre Dame of Tacurong College in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat. His poem “San Gerardo and the Exocotidae” is the winner of the 2017 Cotabato Province Poetry Contest. His poetry zine I, Alone was featured in the 2017 SOX Zine Fest.

Kwesi M. Junsan is a licensed veterinarian from Koronadal City, South Cotabato. Aside from writing, reading, and regular musings, he is taking MA Media Studies (Film) at the University of the Philippines Diliman and Sertipiko sa Panitikan at Malikhaing Pagsulat sa Filipino at Polytechnic University of the Philippines.

Mariz J. Leona is an AB English student at Mindanao State University in General Santos City. Her essay “First Aid” is the winner of the 2017 Sultan Kudarat Essay Contest. She is from Lambayong, Sultan Kudarat.

Mubarak M. Tahir was born in the village of Kitango in Datu Piang, Maguindanao. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Filipino Language (cum laude) at Mindanao State University in Marawi City. He lived in General Santos City when he taught in the campus there of his alma mater. His essay “Aden Bon Besen Uyag-uyag” won the third prize for Sanaysay at the 2017 Palanca Awards. Currently, he is teaching at the Davao campus of Philippine Science High School.