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

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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

Zaira Mae Calub is a graduating student at Mindanao State University in General Santos City taking up Bachelor of Secondary Education (major in English). She is also the literary editor of The Papyrus, the official student publication of the College of Education.

Renaizza Sheen D. Fuentebella is a fourth year Bachelor of Secondary Education (major in English) student at Mindanao State University in General Santos City.

Jeffriel Buan grew up in Polomolok, South Cotabato, and is currently taking up Bachelor of Secondary Education (major in English).

For the past twenty years, Nilyn Gamuza Pacariem has been serving as a Filipino teacher at Guinsang-an National High School in Sto. Niño, South Cotabato. One of her Hiligaynon flash fictions won a Peter’s Prize in 2016, and one of her Hiligaynon poems won the same prize in 2017.

Luis B. Bahay Jr. is a graduate of Mindanao State University in General Santos City and a licensed professional teacher. He is serving as a kagawad of the Sangguniang Kabataan and working part-time as a tutor in a private learning center in Tampakan, South Cotabato, his hometown.

A resident of Cotabato Province, Roi Marc P. Labasan grew up in Kidapawan City and is currently an AB Psychology student at the University of Southern Mindanao in Kabacan.

Niccah T. Carillo grew up in Koronadal City, South Cotabato, and is currently a Humanities and Social Sciences student at Lagao National High School in General Santos City.

Editors and Contributors

GUEST EDITOR

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. She recently won the South Cotabato Children’s Story Writing Contest for “Ang Dako nga Yahong sang Batchoy.”

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 divides his time between Senator Ninoy Aquino and Isulan, both in Sultan Kudarat.

CONTRIBUTORS

Marlon A. Allecer is from Alabel, Sarangani Province, and earned his degree in nursing at Notre Dame of Dadiangas University in General Santos City. “Ugma, Puhon,” his Cebuano piece in this issue, was a finalist in Get Lit! a local writing contest for young-adult short stories.

Omar Akbar Mamento is a first year AB English (major in Language Studies) student at the University of Southern Mindanao in Kabacan, Cotabato Province. He was the champion of the spoken word poetry competition at the 2018 Linggo ng Kabataan celebration and at the founding anniversary celebration of Kabacan, where he also grew up.

John Dominic Arellano is a certified public accountant and a finalist in the South Cotabato Children’s Story Writing Contest for “Ang Libro ni Jay-ar,” which appears in this issue. He was born in Norala, South Cotabato, raised in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat, and currently resides in Koronadal City, South Cotabato.

Julius Marc Taborete earned his AB English degree, cum laude, at Mindanao State University in General Santos City. He was the editor in chief of the student publication of the College of Social Sciences and Humanities, and he currently teaches literature at Dole Philippines School in Polomolok, South Cotabato.

Kiel Mark C. Guerrero is from Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat, and a computer science student at Notre Dame of Dadiangas University in General Santos City. His poem “Barya ’Yan,” which appears in this issue, is the winner of the 2018 Sultan Kudarat Poetry Contest.

Grace Nadon–Aprosta is an administrative staff at Southern Mindanao Institute of Technology in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat. Her poem “Anak,” which appears in this issue, is a finalist in the 2018 Sultan Kudarat Poetry Contest.

 

Editors and Contributors

GUEST EDITOR

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). She has a forthcoming work at Mindanao Odysseys: An Anthology of Travel Essays.

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

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 Ang Tagatala, the official school publication of Koronadal Comprehensive National High School.

Michael B. Egasan is from Koronadal City, South Cotabato, and currently works in the United Arab Emirates. He earned his BS Commerce (major in Management Accounting) degree at Notre Dame of Marbel University in Koronadal City.

Mariz J. Leona is from Lambayong, Sultan Kudarat, and an AB English student at Mindanao State University in General Santos City. She was the winner of the 2017 Sultan Kudarat Essay Contest and a finalist in the 2018 Get Lit! contest for young-adult short stories.

Riccah Jedaina Moranos Ondoy was born in Kiamba, Sarangani Prrovince, and is currently a Humanities and Social Sciences student at the senior high school department of Notre Dame of Dadiangas University in General Santos City.

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

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.