Introduction to April 2019 Issue

April is National Literature Month, and our modest contribution to the celebration is the usual lineup of well-written works from writers in the region. For this issue, we have eight works in four languages—or five, if a hybrid of Tagalog and Hiligaynon is counted as a separate language.

“Amay, Anak, kag Tiyay Magda,” a Hiligaynon flash fiction by Alvin Larida, is about a member of a cult chosen to serve the leader. In less than seven hundred words, the writer packs the story with taboos—sacrilegious rituals, sex with someone so much older, and sex between someone in power and a follower—all told in an earnest and naive voice, resulting in an enthralling narrative.

“Kung Di Mo Na Kaya,” a Filipino flash fiction by Rustom M. Gaton, is about a suicide victim who finds herself in a bizarre situation. The story rises above the usual horror fare by making the reader think about giving up and going on.

For the fifth time, we are featuring a work from Allan Ace Dignadice, one of the most promising writers in the region. His homoerotic one-act play “Hawla,” written in Filipino, challenges the reader’s notion of desire, consent, and memory.

“Undang-Piti,” a Cebuano poem by Hannah Adtoon Leceña, portrays men’s playfulness: “Dili na jud ka?”/ Nagpahiyom lang ko./ Niana ka,/ “Lahi na sab atoang dulaon.” The naughtiness gives the reader kilig, but the poem is ultimately heartbreaking, as the first lines caution: Tingalig gilaay na pud ka/ Maong nanghagad ka/ Nga magpitikanay tang duha.

Heartbreaking from start to finish is Gerald Galindez’s “Meri Krismas, Langit,” a poem on loss. Indeed, the smallest coffins are the heaviest: Kami pala ang magbigay ng regalo ngayon/ Ibalot namin sa  karton, silopin/ Kahirap buhatin. The use of dialect Filipino gives the poem specificity, adding even more weight to the tragedy.

Also in this issue are works of three female writers who will be joining our editorial team soon. One is “Outgrown” by Andrea D. Lim. Slow, sensual, and searching, the poem traces the progress of a relationship, revealing cracks every now and then: My eyes shift direction to our reflections,/ the disheveled bed hair, skin-deep reaches and plunges, two bodies taking a place/ through giving in to its chance for the temporal haul/ of an endless whole. The lovers wind up in a less-than-ideal situation, as perhaps most people are fated to.

In the essay “The Old Office on the Side of the Road,” Jennie P. Arado recalls a part of her childhood. In our early years, we experience everything for the first time, so even mundane moments with people we barely know can be etched in our memory and have lasting effects in our lives. The piece is suffused with nostalgia for the more innocent self and for simpler times.

In “We Are Not in Paradise,” Hazel-Gin Lorenzo Aspera meditates just as much on how to tell the experience as on the experience itself, making the essay experimental in form and almost spiritual in content. Adding to the charm of the piece are lucid descriptions of nature.

With these works, mostly steeped in our region’s culture, we hope to help advance a little the country’s literature. By writing about our lives in ways that matter to the people around us, we enrich our own space and hopefully offer something new to the audience beyond. Let us read and write more local works this National Literature Month.

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), the chapbook Katakot (Balangay Books, 2018) and the zines Mga Kuwentong Peysbuk and Faded Jeans and Old Shoes. He has been a fellow for fiction at four national and two regional 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

Jennie P. Arado is from Koronadal City, South Cotabato, and currently works for SunStar Davao as editor of the lifestyle section. She earned her BA in English (major in creative writing) from the University of the Philippines–Mindanao. Her story “Ang Dako nga Yahong sang Batchoy” won the South Cotabato Children’s Story Writing Contest in 2018.

Hazel-Gin Lorenzo Aspera is a registered nurse, artist, and writer. She spent her childhood in Cotabato City and is now based in Cagayan de Oro City. A fellow for literary essay at the 1st Cagayan de Oro Writers Workshop, some of her feature stories appear in the book Peace Journeys: A Collection of Peacebuilding Stories in Mindanao. Currently, she is Associate Director for Communications and Junior Fellow for Literary Essay of Nagkahiusang Magsusulat sa Cagayan de Oro (NAGMAC).

Allan Ace Dignadice is from Koronadal City, South Cotabato, and a BS Electronics Engineering student at Mindanao State University in General Santos City. He is a former editor in chief of the official school publication of Koronadal Comprehensive National High School. “Hawla,” his play that appears in this issue, is his fifth published work in Cotabato Literary Journal.

Gerald Galindez is a senior high school teacher 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. He has released two poetry zines—I, Alone and Ginapasaya Mo Ako.

Rustom M. Gaton teaches at Montessori Learning Center in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat. He grew up in the municipality of Bagumbayan in the same province and earned his Bachelor of Secondary Education (major in English) degree at Sultan Kudarat State University.

Alvin Q. Larida is a teacher at Dole Philippines School in Polomolok, South Cotabato, where he teaches physics and chemistry for senior high school. He is a graduate of Notre Dame of Marbel University in Koronadal City, South Cotabato, and currently finishing his master’s degree at Mindanao State University in General Santos City.

Hannah Adtoon Leceña is a high school teacher and spoken word artist from Kiamba, Sarangani Province. She was a fellow for fiction at the 2018 Davao Writers Workshop and at the 3rd Bathalad–Sugbo Creative Writing Workshop (2019). She earned her Bachelor of Secondary Education (major in Filipino) degree at Mindanao State University in General Santos City.

Andrea D. Lim is from General Santos City and currently working as an editor for a publishing company in Cebu City while taking her master’s degree in literature at the University of San Carlos. She is also a former editor in chief of The Weekly Sillimanian, the official student publication of Silliman University in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental.

Panimula sa Marso 2019 Isyu

 

Sa politika at komersiyo, hindi na bago ang konsepto ng “sister cities” o “twin towns.” Nitong mga nagdaang araw, napapaisip ako kung may kagaya nito sa panitikan. Para kasing ito ang tinatahak na daan ng General Santos City at ng San Jose City sa Nueva Ecija.

Kagagaling ko lang sa ikatlong Nueva Ecija Personal Essay Writing Workshop, na binuo ng tubo roon at premyadong manunulat na si Wilfredo Pascual. Kasama ko ang katulad kong panelist na si Jade Mark Capiñanes at isa sa mga fellow na si Kurt Joshua Comendador, na parehong mula sa General Santos.

Nagsimula ang ugnayan ng dalawang lungsod noong Pebrero 2017, nang bumisita si Sir Willi sa General Santos sa imbitasyon ng doktor sa kanser at premyadong mananaysay na si Noel Pingoy. Nagbigay ng panayam sa isang mall si Sir Willi, at nagpasa ng isang resolusyon ang Sangguniang Panlungsod na nagdedeklara sa kaniya bilang adopted son ng lugar.

Noong nakaraang taon, binuo ng Cotabato Literary Journal—kasama si Blaise Francisco, isang manunulat na tubong General Santos at nakabase ngayon sa Europa—ang Lagulad Prize, isang patimpalak ng mga personal na sanaysay para sa rehiyon ng SOCCSKSARGEN. Kinuha namin bilang hurado si Sir Willi, at nagpasya siyang igawad ang premyo sa akda ng labinsiyam na taong gulang na si Kurt. Nagpasya rin siyang gawaran si Kurt ng fellowship sa workshop na inoorganisa niya sa kaniyang kinalakhang bayan. Inimbitahan niya rin kami ni Jade na pumunta upang magbigay ng mga komento sa mga natanggap na gawa.

Kagaya ng mga lungsod na itinambal ng mga opisyal ng gobyerno, halos walang kaugnayan o pagkakatulad ang General Santos at San Jose. Iba ang wikang ginagamit ng mga tao roon. Iba rin ang itsura ng mga jeep. Kita sa kultura ng lugar na umunlad ito dahil sa lapit nito sa Maynila, na kabaligtaran ng General Santos at iba pang lungsod sa Mindanao—umunlad kahit malayo sa Maynila.

Maging sa panitikan, mas hayag ang pagkakaiba kaysa pagkakatulad ng San Jose at General Santos. May kaniya-kaniyang uniberso ang mga kuwento sa Central Luzon at ang mga kuwento sa SOCCSKSARGEN. Kung meron mang nag-uugnay sa dalawang lungsod, umuusbong pa lamang, at ito ay ang adhikain ng mga manunulat na yumabong ang personal na sanaysay sa panitikan ng Pilipinas.

* * *

Kadalasang inilalabas namin ang isyu ng Cotabato Literary Journal sa unang araw ng buwan. Para ngayong Marso 2019, nagpasya kaming hintaying matapos ang Nueva Ecija workshop, na ginanap mula Pebrero 28 hanggang Marso 2. Hinintay naming marebisa ni Kurt ang kaniyang sanaysay dahil nais naming maitampok ang workshop habang sariwa pa ang mga balita tungkol dito. Kasama ang sanaysay ni Kurt, ang dalawang maikling kuwento at tatlong tula sa isyung ito ay nagpapakita na mulat ang mga batang manunulat ng SOCCSKSARGEN. Kilala nila ang mga sarili, alam nila ang mga nangyayari sa paligid, at handa silang mag-eksperimento upang mahasa pa ang kakayahan sa pagsusulat.

Pawang tungkol sa mga bata ang mga kuwentong “Diin na si Simó?” ni Allan Ace Dignadice at “Muwang” ni Doren John Bernasol. Sa panahong nauudyok ang ating mga mambabatas na ibaba ang edad ng criminal liability, isang paalala ang mga kuwento kung paano maging bata. Mga tao rin ang mga bata. Mga tao silang may sariling pananaw sa mundo at may sariling kagustuhan, ngunit dahil wala silang kapangyarihan sa ating lipunan, madalas silang nakakaligtaan at madaling mapagsamantalahan.

Relasyon din ng nasa ilalim ng kapangyarihan at ng may hawak ng kapangyarihan ang nilalaman ng tulang “Patawad, Ama” ni Norsalim S. Haron. Ramdam sa tula ang hirap ng kalagayan ng nagsasalita. Hanggang saan nga ba natin susundin ang ating mga magulang, at kailan natin igigiit ang sariling pagkakakilanlan?

Mula naman sa zine na Bioluminescence ang mga tulang “Ode to the World’s Oldest Lullaby” ni Marc Jeff Lañada at “Cautionary Tale” ni Jermaine Dela Cruz. Mga gawang tungkol sa dagat ang nilalaman ng zine, at binuo ito ng mga batang manunulat sa General Santos para sa SOX Zine Fest, na ginanap noong Nobyembre 2018. Parehong kongkreto ang anyo at unibersal ang tema ng dalawang tula.

May kinalaman din sa tubig ang “To Pull a Hook.” Sa sanaysay, binalikan ni Kurt ang mga karanasan niya sa pamimingwit nang minsang mamalagi siya sa isang lugar na malapit sa ilog. Makikita sa talas ng detalye at maayos na istruktura ng akda ang epekto ng mga palihang pinagdaanan nito.

Upang malinang ang panitikan ng ating rehiyon, nakaugat dapat ang ating mga akda sa ating sariling kasaysayan, pamumuhay, at maging heograpiya, ngunit mahalaga ring nakikipagpalitan tayo ng kaalaman sa ibang lugar at manunulat. Patuloy na makikipag-ugnayan ang Cotabato Literary Journal sa Nueva Ecija Personal Essay Writing Workshop. Hangad naming tumibay pa ang nasimulang samahan ng General Santos at San Jose.

Jude Ortega
Isulan, Sultan Kudarat

Editors and Contributors

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). He studied political science at Notre Dame of Marbel University in South Cotabato and currently divides his time between Senator Ninoy Aquino and Isulan, both in Sultan Kudarat.

CONTRIBUTORS

Doren John Bernasol is from Koronadal City and a graduate of Bachelor of Arts in Filipino from Mindanao State University in General Santos City. He’s currently working for Zuellig Pharma in Davao City.

Kurt Joshua O. Comendador is an AB English student at Mindanao State University in General Santos City, where he also serves as associate editor of the official student publication and as president of a book reading club. He was a fellow at the 2018 Davao Writers Workshop and at the recently concluded 3rd Nueva Ecija Personal Essay Writing Workshop. His piece that appears in this issue won the inaugural Lagulad Prize, a regionwide essay writing contest organized by Cotabato Literary Journal.

Jermaine Dela Cruz studied Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature at Mindanao State University in General Santos City. She works as managing editor of Standout GenSan, the official publication of General Santos City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc., and she currently serves as interim chairperson of Pangandungan, General Santos City’s writers’ association.

Allan Ace Dignadice is from Koronadal City, South Cotabato, and a BS Electronics Engineering student at Mindanao State University in General Santos City. He is a former editor in chief of the official school publication of Koronadal Comprehensive National High School.

Norsalim S. Haron is from Pikit, Cotabato Province, and teaches at Rajah Muda National High School in the same town. He is a graduate of Bachelor in Secondary Education, major in Filipino, at the University of Southern Mindanao in Kabacan, Cotabato Province.

Marc Jeff Lañada was born and raised in General Santos City. He is a graduate of BA Communication Arts in the University of the Philippines–Mindanao. He was a fellow at the 2017 Davao Writers Workshop, and some of his works have appeared in Dagmay, the literary journal of Davao Writers Guild.

Introduction to February 2019 Issue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jude Ortega
Senator Ninoy Aquino, Sultan Kudarat

Editors and Contributors

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). He studied political science at Notre Dame of Marbel University in South Cotabato and currently divides his time between Senator Ninoy Aquino and Isulan, both in Sultan Kudarat.

CONTRIBUTORS

Angelo Serrano is a senior high school (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics strand) student at St. Lorenzo School of Polomolok in Polomok, South Cotabato. “It Comes at Night,” his short story for the issue, is his second published work in Cotabato Literary Journal.

Jed Reston grew up in Cotabato City and is a former television host and media personality in General Santos City. After leaving his work a year ago, he has been trying to write a book. He earned his mass communications degree at Notre Dame of Dadiangas University.

Gwyneth Joy Prado is a senior high school (Humanities and Social Sciences strand) student at San Miguel National High School in Noral, South Cotabato.

Alvin Pomperada is an accounting staff at the General Santos City branch of a leading car company. “Lababo,” his poem for this issue of the journal, appears in his zine Galugad. As a spoken word performer, he was proclaimed champion at the 2018 Gensan Summer Youth Fest and second runner-up at the 2017 Hugot sa Kalilangan. He earned his management accounting degree at Notre Dame of Dadiangas University.

Apolinario B. Villalobos worked as a writer and editor for Philippine Airlines, where he also helped form a mountaineering club and organize climbs to Mt. Apo, Mt. Mayon, Mt. Pulog, and Mt. Hibok-Hibok. His poems and essays were collected in the book Beyond the Horizon in 2000. He was born and raised in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat, and finished his Bachelor of Arts in English and History at Notre Dame of Tacurong College in 1975. He actively blogs about his hometown.

 

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jude Ortega
Sen. Ninoy Aquino, Sultan Kudarat