Bihag

Ni Norsalim S. Haron
Maikling Kuwento

Buhay ba ang kapalit ng mga luha ko? Ito ang katanungan sa aking isipan habang nasa bingit ng kamatayan.

Sakay ako ng rumaragasang Bajaj, napapagitnaan ng dalawang di kilalang lalaki, patungo sa posible kong katapusan. Sa gano’ng kalagayan ay naglakbay ang aking isipan sa nakaraan.

Isang larawan ang aking nakita: Naghahalikan.

Nagsimula ang lahat sa isang mapusok na halik. Nakipagkita ako sa aking ka-chat sa unang pagkakataon, at noong araw mismo, tinukso ako ng demonyong bumulong sa aking tenga. Halikan ko raw ang aking ka-chat. Sumunod naman ang aking katawan. Pikit-mata, inilapit ko nang dahan-dahan ang aking labi at idinampi sa kaniyang labi. Naramdaman ko ang init ng kaniyang hininga, at  ninamnam naming pareho ang tamis ng aming unang halik.

Nalikha ang aming pagsinta. Subalit di nagtagal ay naghiwalay din kami dahil humadlang ang aking ina. Marami siyang ibinigay na paliwanag, na pawang hindi malinaw, ngunit sinunod ko ang kaniyang kagustuhan.

Makalipas ang dalawang buwan, nakatanggap ako ng text mula sa dati kong kasintahan. Nais niyang magkita kami bago siya umalis papuntang Manila. Nag-a-apply raw siya bilang kasambahay sa Saudi. Binanggit din niya na may isang anghel na bumibisita sa kaniyang panaginip, at ang sanggol na iyon ay bunga ng aming pagmamahalan na palihim niyang pinagkaitang huminga. Noong oras na iyon mismo ay pinuntahan ko siya sa Cotabato Plaza.

Habang naglalakad at nag-uusap kami sa tabi ng highway, napansin kong tila meron siyang hinahanap na hindi niya mahagilap. Nauna ako sa kaniya nang mga dalawang hakbang, at nang lingunin ko siya, nagulat na lamang ako nang may lalaking naka-jacket na itim at nakasuot ng helmet ang umakbay sa akin at pasimple akong sinakal ng kaniyang braso. Naramdaman ko ring may kung anong matulis na bagay siyang inuumang sa aking tagiliran, at bumulong siya na huwag daw akong maingay kung gusto ko pang mabuhay.

Hindi ko kailanman naisip na ang madalas kong mapanood sa mga pelikulang aksyon ay mararanasan ko sa totoong buhay—ang makidnap.

Sapilitan niya akong pinasakay sa isang motorsiklo, sa likuran ng drayber na nakasuot din ng jacket at helmet. Umupo siya sa aking likuran, at agad humarurot ang motorsiklo. Tantiya ko’y walumpung kilometro kada oras ang bilis ng takbo nito, papunta sa landas ng kapahamakan.

Tinitigan ko nang mabuti ang bawat kantong nadaraanan namin, wari ba’y kinukunan ko ng litrato. Pinilit kong isaulo ang daan, nagpabaling-baling upang makahanap ng palatandaan kung nasaan na kami. Ngunit walang katangi-tangi sa mga tindahan at bahay na nadaanan namin. Napayuko na lang ako, sumuko sa laban.

Bakit ba humantong ang lahat sa ganito? Akala ko ba tadhana na ang bahala sa aming dalawa, pero bakit pati si Kamatayan nakikialam pa? Bakit? Napakaraming tanong sa aking isipan.

Narating namin ang isang lumang bahay sa tabi ng ilog, malapit sa tulay. Hinila ako ng dalawang lalaki papasok ng bahay. Paghakbang ko sa pintuan, labis akong nagtaka dahil masayang mukha ng may edad na mag-asawa ang sumalubong sa akin.

Kinuha ng dalawang lalaking dumukot sa akin ang mga gamit ko—cellphone, pitaka, pati mga barya. Dinala nila ako sa ikalawang palapag, at nakita ko roon ang aking dating kasintahan, nakaupo sa sahig, tila naghihintay sa aking pagdating. Hindi siya makatingin sa akin nang diretso. Hindi ko alam kung nahihiya ba siya o natatakot. Nawala ang takot ko dahil nandoon siya at mukhang alam niya ang nangyayari. Napagtanto kong mga magulang niya ang mag-asawang nasa ibaba.

Pagkatapos naming maghapunan, kinausap ako ng ina ng dati kong kasintahan. Napansin ko sa lalim ng kaniyang ngiti na parang kilala na niya ako kahit iyon pa lang ang una naming paghaharap, at sinabi nga niya na magpinsan sila ng aking ina. Kaya pala, naisip ko. Sumagi rin sa isip ko ang labis na pagtutol ni ina noon sa pag-iibigan namin ng mahal ko. Ito marahil ang dahilan. Magkamag-anak kami.

Sa loob ng anim na araw ay naging bihag ako, nagmistulang isang ibong nasa loob ng hawlang ako mismo ang gumawa.

Madalas akong nakatayo sa may bintana, nagmamasid sa kapaligiran at naghahanap ng paraan upang makatakas. Pinanonood ko ang luntiang palayan na sumasayaw sa himig ng kalikasan. Umaawit ang mga palaka, nagsasagawa ng isang ritwal upang umulan, at kahit walang ulap sa langit ay pumapatak ang ulan mula sa aking mga mata.

Lumapit sa akin ang ama ng dati kong kasintahan at inabot sa akin ang isang cellphone. Ang sabi niya, tawagan ko raw ang aking mga magulang at sabihing inuwian ko ang kaniyang anak, kaya sa lalong madaling panahon ay kailangan naming makawing. Hindi naman ako makatanggi dahil hawak nila ang aking buhay.

Maayos naman ang pagtrato sa akin ng pamilya, ngunit napansin kong kakatwa ang kanilang pagkain. May lasang hinahanap ng dila ko, at sa pag-oobserba ko sa kanilang kusina, napagtanto kong hindi sila gumagamit ng bawang, ngunit hindi ko sila tinanong bakit.

Nang dumating ang Sabado ng gabi, bago kami natulog ay nag-usap kami ng aking mapapangasawa kung ano ang gagawin pagkatapos ng kawing. Ang dami niyang gustong gawin. Ganito, ganiyan, tapos doon, dito, at kung ano-ano pa. Samantalang ako, nakatitig lang sa kaniya. Hindi ko alam, pero kapag gabi, lalong lumiliwanag ang ganda niya. Hindi naman siya gaanong maputi, pero kapag niyayakap siya ng dilim ay parang nagliliwanag ang balat niya. Pakiramdam ko tuloy ay isang diwata ang aking kaharap. Ibang-iba siya sa umaga, lalo na sa tanghali—mukha siyang manang.

Kabilugan ng buwan nang gabing iyon, malamig ang haplos ng hangin. Nasa kalagitnaan ako ng panaginip nang bigla na lamang makarinig ng sigaw mula sa ibaba ng bahay. Agad kong pinuntahan ang ingay, at natulala ako sa aking nasaksihan. Mistula akong nanonood ng telebisyon. Nakita ko ang mapapangasawa ko na nakahiga, tirik ang mata, magulo ang buhok, umuungol, nagwawala, sumisigaw nang malakas, at ibig kumawala sa pagkahawak ng kaniyang mga kapamilya na para bang gusto niyang lumipad.

Tila sinasapian siya ng kung anong masamang espiritu o diyablo. Pabaling-baling siya sa mga dingding at bintana, waring naghahanap ng madadaanan. Hindi naman magkamayaw ang kaniyang ina sa pagdikdik ng bawang at saka hinalo ito sa asin at sinaboy sa kaniyang katawan. Kapag natatamaan ang kaniyang balat, agad itong namamaga na para bang napaso. Lalong lumakas ang sigaw niya, na para siyang hinahagupit.

Hinawakan ng kaniyang ama ang kaniyang ulo at pilit binugahan ng hininga sa ilong. Bigla siyang tumigil sa pagwawala. Niluwagan nila ang pagkakahawak sa kaniya. Nahiga siya sa sahig nang nakadipa.

Ngunit bigla siyang bumangon at tumakbo patungo sa pintuan. Hinawakan agad ng kaniyang ama ang kaniyang beywang upang di makawala, at tuluyan nila siyang iginapos gamit ang isang lubid. Inihiga siya nila sa sahig at muling hinipan sa ilong.

Tulala pa rin ako sa nangyayari. Ibig kong humingi ng saklolo. Nakasindi pa ang ilaw ng mga kapitbahay, at naaaninag ko ang kanilang mga anino. Ngunit ang nakapagtataka, kahit tagos sa dingding ang sigaw ng mapapangasawa ko, tila wala silang naririnig. Walang ibig sumaklolo, o baka hindi na kakaiba sa kanila ang nangyayari.

Lumipas ang gabing iyon na maraming tanong sa aking utak.

Kinaumagahan, nagtanong ako sa lalaking magiging biyenan ko tungkol sa nangyari. Ang sabi niya, normal lang daw iyon. Gano’n lang daw talaga kapag may naaamoy siya at ang kaniyang mga anak na bagong dugo. Nalunok ko ang aking dila sa aking narinig.

Alam ko na ang totoong dahilan bakit labis ang pagtutol ni Ina sa pag-iibigan namin ng aking kasintahan. Hindi ito dahil magpinsan sila ng ina nito. Ito ay dahil kilala niya ang ama nito. Ayaw ni Inang makapag-asawa ako ng may lahing m’ning.

Linggo ng hapon nang dumating ang aking pamilya kasama ang isang ustadz. Nagdala sila ng maraming pagkain at isang titulo ng lupa, ang magiging mahr namin. Gusto nilang maganap ang kawing sa araw na iyon mismo upang makabalik na ako sa amin. Isang linggo na kasi akong absent at baka ma-drop na ako sa unibersidad na aking pinag-aaralan.

Subalit tumutol ang ama ng aking mapapangasawa. Ang nais niya ay pitong araw pa simula sa araw na iyo gaganapin ang kawing. Tingin ko ay dahil ayaw nitong palabasin sa kuwarto ang anak, na puno pa rin ng mga sugat at pasa dahil sa nangyari nang nakaraang gabi. Ayaw nitong magtanong ang aking pamilya at tuluyang makompirma ang matagal nang hinala ng mga tao tungkol sa kanila.

Isinama ako ng aking pamilya pauwi sa amin, ngunit hindi na kami bumalik. Hindi nagkasundo ang aking pamilya at ang pamilya ng aking mapapangasawa. Walang naganap na kawing.

Mula noon, kinatatakutan ko ang gabi.

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Editors and Contributors

CONTRIBUTORS

Vincent Carlo Duran Cuzon is an industrial engineer and currently works as a data analyst in the business process management industry. He hails from Kidapawan City, Cotabato Province, and is working on advocacies, which include writing the histories and narratives in the greater Kidapawan area.

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. His work has appeared in Cotabato Literary Journal and Carayan Journal.

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. His micro essay in this issue is his seventh published work in Cotabato Literary Journal.

Hannah Adtoon Leceña is a high school teacher and spoken word artist from Kiamba, Sarangani Province. She was a fellow at the 2018 Davao Writers Workshop, the 3rd Bathalad–Sugbo Creative Writing Workshop (2019), and the 26th Iligan National Writers Workshop (2019), where her story received a special Jimmy Y. Balacuit Literary Award. She earned her Bachelor of Secondary Education (major in Filipino) degree at Mindanao State University in General Santos City.

Adrian Pete Pregonir is a senior high school student in Banga, South Cotabato. He has been published in Cotabato Literary Journal and Liwayway, and he was a fellow for poetry at the 2018 Davao Writers Workshop.

Angelo Serrano is a senior high school (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics strand) student at St. Lorenzo School of Polomolok in Polomok, South Cotabato. His short story in this issue is his third published work in Cotabato Literary Journal.

EDITORS

Jude Ortega (Editor in Chief) is the author of the short story collection Seekers of Spirits (UP Press, 2018). He was a fellow for fiction in six writers workshops, including the 55th University of the Philippines National Writers Workshop (2016) and the 53rd Silliman University National Writers Workshop (2014). In 2015, he received honorable mention at the inaugural F. Sionil José Young Writers Awards and at the Philippines Graphic Nick Joaquin Literary Awards. He studied political science at Notre Dame of Marbel University in Koronadal City, South Cotabato, and currently stays most of the time in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat.

David Jayson Oquendo (Editor for Fiction) is from Polomolok, South Cotabato, and works in Davao City as an electrical engineer. He was a fellow for fiction at the 2018 Davao Writers Workshop and is a former editor in chief of the official student publication of Mindanao State University in General Santos City.

Andrea D. Lim (Editor for Poetry) is 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 was a fellow at the 24th Iligan National Writers Workshop (2017) and is a former editor in chief of the official student publication of Silliman University in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental. Her family lives in General Santos City.

Paul Randy P. Gumanao (Editor for Poetry) hails from Kidapawan City, Cotabato Province, and teaches chemistry at Philippine Science High School–SOCCSKSARGEN Region Campus in Koronadal City, South Cotabato. He was a fellow for poetry at the 2009 Davao Writers Workshop and the 2010 IYAS National Writers Workshop. He is a former editor in chief of the official student publication of Ateneo de Davao University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree and is finishing his master’s degree in chemistry.

Hazel-Gin Lorenzo Aspera (Editor for Nonfiction) 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).

Jennie P. Arado (Editor for Nonfiction) is from Koronadal City, South Cotabato, and currently works for a newspaper in Davao City as editor of the lifestyle section. She earned her BA in English (major in creative writing) from the University of the Philippines–Mindanao and was a fellow for creative nonfiction at the 2016 University of Santo Tomas National Writers Workshop. Her story “Ang Dako nga Yahong sang Batchoy” won the South Cotabato Children’s Story Writing Contest in 2018.

Norman Ralph Isla (Editor for Play) is from Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat, and a department head at Mindanao State University in General Santos City. He was a fellow for drama at the 2015 Davao Writers Workshop and at the 4th Amelia Lapeña–Bonifacio Writers Workshop (2019). Several of his plays have been staged in General Santos City and South Cotabato.

Kubo

Ni Norsalim S. Haron
Tula

Sa ilalim ng saya ng puno,
may kubong nakayuko,
wari’y mga aliping nakaluhod
sa harap ng kanilang panginoon.

Sa tapat ng mesa,
sa ilalim ng patay-sinding ilaw,
may isang larawan ng masayang pamilya
ang nakasabit sa inaanay na haligi.
Ang katabing bintana ay nagsisilbi bilang sinehan—
pinanonood ko ang mga batang nagtatagisan,
pati na rin ang ganda’t tayog ng lipad
ng isang saranggolang ipinagtatabi sa ulap.

Sa piling ng bangkong may gulong
umiikot ang buhay ko.
Araw-gabi akong nakatanaw
sa punyal, espada’t katanang naghahabulan
sa kaloob-looban ng aming orasan.

Nakapako man ako sa upuan,
malaya namang nakalilipad ang isipan.

Kung napasusunod ko lamang yaring mga paa,
sasayaw ako katulad ng malumanay na indayog ng alon,
kekembot katulad ng bangkang gumigiling
upang makasabay sa bagong henerasyon.

Ngunit tila mananatili na ako sa kubo
nang may galak sa piling ng aking anino.

Editors and Contributors

CONTRIBUTORS

Midpantao Midrah G. Adil II is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine student at the University of Southern Mindanao in Kabacan, Cotabato Province, but is currently on leave from his studies and working as a content writer for a digital marketing agency in Davao City. He served as an editor in chief of his alma mater’s official student publication and was born in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat.

Glenn M. Arimas is from Midasayap, Cotabato Province, and a first year student at Southern Christian College, where he writes for the official student publication. He also likes mobile photography and making videos for YouTube.

Gerald Galindez teaches language and literature at the senior high school department of Notre Dame of Tacurong College in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat. He was a fellow for poetry at the 2018 Davao Writers Workshop and the 26th Iligan National Writers Workshop (2019), where he won a Jimmy Y. Balacuit Literary Award. He is also the winner of the national poetry contest of the Pananaw magazine of the United Methodist Church in 2008 and of the 2017 Cotabato Province Poetry Contest. As a zinester, he wrote I, Alone and Ginapasaya Mo Ako and co-edited Kalimudan: Literary Works from Sultan Kudarat and The Best of Sulat SOX. He earned his bachelor’s degree in secondary education (major in English) from the University of Southern Mindanao in Kabacan, Cotabato Province. He also writes Christian songs.

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.

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.

Alvin Larida teaches physics and chemistry at Dole Philippines School in Polomolok, South Cotabato. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Notre Dame of Marbel University in Koronadal City, South Cotabato, and is currently finishing his master’s degree at Mindanao State University in General Santos City.

Ma. Isabelle Alessandra M. Mirabueno is currently a grade 12 (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics strand) student at the Quantum Academy in General Santos City, where she serves as the managing editor and editorial writer of the school publication.

Mubarak M. Tahir is a pure-blooded Maguindanao–Moro from Datu Piang, Maguindanao. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Filipino Language cum laude at Mindanao State University in Marawi City. He won the third prize for Filipino Essay at the 2017 Palanca Awards, and his work has been published in journals, newspapers, and anthologies. Currently, he is a Filipino instructor at Mindanao State University in General Santos City.

EDITORS

Jude Ortega (Editor in Chief) is the author of the short story collection Seekers of Spirits (UP Press, 2018). He was a fellow for fiction in six writers workshops, including the 55th University of the Philippines National Writers Workshop (2016) and the 53rd Silliman University National Writers Workshop (2014). In 2015, he received honorable mention at the inaugural F. Sionil José Young Writers Awards and at the Philippines Graphic Nick Joaquin Literary Awards. He studied political science at Notre Dame of Marbel University in Koronadal City, South Cotabato, and currently stays most of the time in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat.

David Jayson Oquendo (Editor for Fiction) is from Polomolok, South Cotabato, and works in Davao City as an electrical engineer. He was a fellow for fiction at the 2018 Davao Writers Workshop and is a former editor in chief of the official student publication of Mindanao State University in General Santos City.

Andrea D. Lim (Editor for Poetry) is 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 was a fellow at the 24th Iligan National Writers Workshop (2017) and is a former editor in chief of the official student publication of Silliman University in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental. Her family lives in General Santos City.

Paul Randy P. Gumanao (Editor for Poetry) hails from Kidapawan City, Cotabato Province, and teaches chemistry at Philippine Science High School–SOCCSKSARGEN Region Campus in Koronadal City, South Cotabato. He was a fellow for poetry at the 2009 Davao Writers Workshop and the 2010 IYAS National Writers Workshop. He is a former editor in chief of the official student publication of Ateneo de Davao University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree and is finishing his master’s degree in chemistry.

Hazel-Gin Lorenzo Aspera (Editor for Nonfiction) 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).

Jennie P. Arado (Editor for Nonfiction) is from Koronadal City, South Cotabato, and currently works for a newspaper in Davao City as editor of the lifestyle section. She earned her BA in English (major in creative writing) from the University of the Philippines–Mindanao and was a fellow for creative nonfiction at the 2016 University of Santo Tomas National Writers Workshop. Her story “Ang Dako nga Yahong sang Batchoy” won the South Cotabato Children’s Story Writing Contest in 2018.

Norman Ralph Isla (Editor for Play) is from Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat, and a department head at Mindanao State University in General Santos City. He was a fellow for drama at the 2015 Davao Writers Workshop and at the 4th Amelia Lapeña–Bonifacio Writers Workshop (2019). Several of his plays have been staged in General Santos City and South Cotabato.

Patawad, Ama

Ni Norsalim S. Haron
Tula

Patawad po dahil sa lahat ng robot
na nilikha ninyo ako lang
              ang walang
       kontrol
Isang kabiguan
Sa inyong imbensiyon.

Paumanhin po kung ayaw kong lunukin
Ang pagkaing isinubo ni’yo sa akin
Hindi dahil hindi masarap kundi ayaw
Ko lang sa lasa.

Pasensiya na po kung sa lahat ng tupa
Ako ang laging huli sa uwian,
Sa lahat ng kambing ako
Ang nag-iisang
Hindi takot sa ulan.

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.