June 2018 (Issue 22)

Introduction by Paul Randy P. Gumanao

I’ll Be Home for Christmas by Erwin Cabucos
Manika by Mubarak Tahir

Layers by Christine Joy G. Aban
To recreate that which I had seen in a dream 
by Almira Caryl Jane A. Calvo
Astral Demise 
by Florence Dianne D. Samson
Antler Series 
by Julius Marc Taborete
Makeup Kit 
by Mubarak Tahir

Liar Goes to Hell by Allan Ace Dignadice

Editors and Contributors



Perhaps one of the greatest paradoxes in life is the limitedness of freedom. We are free, but we are limitedly free.

To some extent, we are free to choose but only from a limited set of options that had already been laid before us. At some point, however, we can transcend the boundaries of our un-freedom by choosing not to choose at all.

Whether we are truly free or not is still a subject of an ongoing philosophical debate. The world is divided between whether our existence is deterministic or probabilistic; whether it is the subatomic particles that shaped our consciousness, or it is consciousness that designed the atom.

But, whichever side we are on, we would all agree that what is inherent to all of us is our ability to choose, regardless of the nature and the consequence of our choices.

In this issue, we feature works that either seek or celebrate freedom.

As a kickoff, we have Almira Caryl Jane A. Calvo’s winning poem for the Balakbayi Poetry Writing Contest, “To recreate that which I had seen in a dream.” Calvo’s piece is reminiscent of a childhood arts class where one enjoys playing with colors, tracing images, and cutting and pasting pictures. But behind the verses is a resonating declaration of the freedom of the persona’s imagination to recreate into a new form an idea from a dream. Calvo skillfully expounded this theme with transforming imageries that progress from something as humanly perceptible as paint[ing] the skies,” “canvas[ing] the seas,” and “fold[ing] flowers from thin sheets of rain” to something extraterrestrial like “weigh[ing] the Sun and Moon” and “count[ing] the number of stars through a cup.” The poem, however, does not pretend to demonstrate imagination’s ascendancy over human limitations. The last stanza wrapped up the poem with a sentient return to physical reality through the “clattering of labeled buttons,” perhaps of a computer keyboard, to bring to a swift completion the recreation of a dream before it fades in the memory like “a star gone nova.”

“Layers,” the runner-up-poem in Balakbayi by author Christine Joy G. Aban reminds us of the dichotomous nature of freedom, that liberation is oftentimes a grueling dissociation of the freed from its restrainer. The poem, which takes the form of a dialogue between a woman and a man, appeals to the socially-constructed precepts of many men for them to look past the physical layers of a woman’s body in order to see “the beautiful things she has inside—/ Inside, where soul and real beauty do reside.” Interestingly, the female persona is portrayed as someone who is still seeking affirmation from the male persona who is depicted as liberal and relatively enlightened, someone who seems to have already been freed from the conventional, regressive perception of a woman in this male-dominated world. Indeed, the poem delivers what the title promises—layers of womanhood, layers of perspectives, and layers of struggle for freedom from objectification.

This issue also features a one-act play set in the gateway of hell. Allan Ace Dignadice’s “Liar Goes to Hell” is a comic portrayal of the cunning character of Lucipher, and the vulnerability of human. Christian, the main character of the story repeatedly lied when Lucipher, who disguised himself as a good, old man, interrogated him. After a thorough questioning, Christian found himself lured into believing that he was about to enter heaven, when in fact he was already at the doorstep of hell. One of the play’s strengths is the wit of the conversations, which is hilariously entertaining and thought-provoking. The protagonist finds it absurd to be punished for acting on one’s will, and that even heeding the advice of religious people does not guarantee salvation. The lines, “No’ng lumapit sa bahay namin ang mga katekista, sinabi nilang gawin ko ito, gawin ko iyan upang masalba . . . Tapos sa huli, wala namang nangyari. Impiyerno pa rin ang bagsak ko!” imply a fundamental contradiction between the concepts of free will and punishment.

Freedom, however, is not always a consequence of the will. Sometimes, it is the will itself. It is not always a triumphant battle against facticity. Sometimes, it is the process of humbly accepting the natural order of things. Such is the nuance of the poem “Astral Demise” by Florence Diane D. Samson. The poem has a tone of certainty, which is consistent throughout, and parallels the human existence with the lifecycle of a star. It begins with a bold declaration that “We are all specks of light/ Flickering in the night sky,” and continues by reminding us of the reality that we are “Gradually deteriorating, burning out/ Slowly fading out of sight.” The last two lines, “Deadstars—/ We are all going to be,” solidify the poem’s tone by presenting to us both a figurative and literal reality of the stellar origin of the chemical elements that compose the physical human body.

There is, indeed, freedom in knowing one’s origin. It gives one a sense of wholeness. It is, however, not the case with the persona in the poem “It is the Call” by Julius Marc Taborete. The poem describes the experience of being deprived of the full encounter with one’s cultural identity to the point of being condescending to it. Having been “swept away in/ [his/her] Father’s proud façade,” the persona expressed resentment and said, “they have locked me in my own freedom,/ in the delusion I dwell.” The poem underscores the struggle of the persona with interracial roots, but has not experienced the peculiarities of both ancestries because of growing in a distant land.

Indeed, absence in one’s birthland leaves a void in one’s existence. Such is the essence of the short story “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” from Erwin Cabucos’s book The Beach Spirit and Other Stories. The longing for home is an emotion powerful enough to transport us freely into the memory lane, and powerful enough to keep us hopeful. In one of the narrator’s last lines, he said, “I wished I could gather Gideon and the guys again to go caroling. We would sing enthusiastically once more but, this time, I would not be asking for people’s money.” Such words are a testament that despite the significant change in geography, or in time, or even in social status, the home retains its warmth and spirit.

Another set of works, a poem and a short story, by Mubarak Tahir discusses a common, poignant issue of discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity. Central to both works is the determination of the protagonist to free himself from the shackles of society’s prejudice. In the symbol-laden poem “Makeup Kit,” the omniscient narrator recounts in a figurative manner the brutal persecution of a third-person character by someone the narrator interchangeably calls “Diyablo” or “Demonyo.” The use of metaphors eased the reading experience of a supposed morbid scene with Tahir’s creative juxtaposition of facial cosmetics, and blood and bruises: “Napalitan ang maitim na lipstick/ Ng pulang lip balm/ Na pumapatak sa labi . . ./ Kulay itim ang luhang dumadaloy;/ Natunaw ang mascara ng pilikmata . . .

What seems to be a prequel to the poem is Tahir’s short story “Manika.” The story opens with an image of a young boy trying to tie around his waist a ribbon out of his blanket one early morning. Together with the image of a doll (manika), the ribbon (laso) is a recurring symbol that is also present in Tahir’s poem, making the two works complementary. Although both works have different intensities of conflict, both have redemptive resolutions: the story ended with the protagonist’s acceptance of oneself; and the poem, by the protagonist’s undaunted will to fight for the life he has so liberated.

In all of the featured works, we will see that in the midst of the multifaceted essence of freedom in the different aspects of human life, what matters is most is on how we harness the good in freedom.


Paul Randy P. Gumanao
Glan, Sarangani Province

Editors and Contributors


Paul Randy P. Gumanao hails from Kidapawan City and teaches Chemistry at Philippine Science High School-SOCCSKSARGEN Region Campus. He was a fellow for poetry at the 2009 Davao Writers Workshop and the 2010 IYAS National Creative Writing Workshop. He is a former editor in chief of Atenews, the official student publication of Ateneo de Davao University, and is currently finishing his MS in Chemistry from the same university.


Jude Ortega is a short story writer from Senator Ninoy Aquino, Sultan Kudarat Province. He has been a fellow in two regional and four national writers workshop. In 2015, he received honorable mention at the inaugural F. Sionil José Young Writers Awards. His short story collection Seekers of Spirits is forthcoming from the University of the Philippines Press.


Christine Joy G. Aban was born and raised in Cotabato City. In 2000, she went to Iligan to study in MSU-IIT. She is now married to an Iliganon and has two kids. She is currently pursuing a doctorate degree in UP Diliman, Quezon City. Her poem “Layers” won third place at the 2018 BalakBayi Poetry Writing Contest.

Erwin Cabucos, born and raised in Kabacan, Cotabato Province, is a teacher of English and religious education at Trinity College in Queensland, Australia. He received High Commendation literary awards from Roly Sussex Short Story Prize and Queensland Independent Education Union Literary Competition in 2016. His short stories have been published in Australia, Philippines, Singapore, and USA, including VerandahFourWPhilippines Graphic, and Quarterly Literary Review Singapore. He completed his master in English education from the University of New England.

Almira Caryl Jane A. Calvo is an AB English student of Mindanao State University-General Santos City. She is also a member of the book readers club Valoræx and a feature writer trainee in the university paper. Her poem “To recreate that which I had seen in a dream” won first place at the 2018 BalakBayi Poetry Writing Contest.

Allan Ace Dignadice is a nineteen-year-old playwright and poet from Koronadal, South Cotabato.

Florence Diane D. Samson is a third year AB English student at Mindanao State University-General Santos City. She grew up in the municipality of Datu Abdullah Sangki in Maguindano but is now residing in Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat, with her family.

Julius Marc Taborete is an AB English graduate of Mindanao State University-General Santos with latin honors. He was the editor in chief of the MSU College Social Sciences and Humanities’ student publication Pingkian and folio Ningas. He currently teaches Literature at Dole Philippines School, Kalsangi, Polomolok, South Cotabato.

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.

Duha ka Balak

By Paul Randy P. Gumanao

Namantala na ang “Ping-it nga Pagdapit” sa Kabisdak ug ang “Sa Higayong Ako Angoangohon” sa Dagmay.

Ping-it nga Pagdapit

Dali dinhi, mahal, sa Kidapawan
Diin ang yuta tabunok, dali rang manglunhaw…

Dinhi ta magtagbaw og sabwag sa mga binhi
Ug saksihan natong moturok, motubo, mokatay
Paingon ngadto sa kabungtoran diin ang mga tubod
Gawasnong modagayday paingon
Dinhi sa patag. Apan sama sa atong gugma
Nga usahay kinahanglang pug-an
Mahubas pod ra ba ang tinubdan. Gani,
Nakat-onan nato niining panahona
Nga dili lang diay tubig ang mobuhagay gikan sa bukid
Ug dili lang taghoy sa mga kahoy ang molanog
Samtang ang singgit sa mga gikapoy duyog
Sa daguok sa mga tiyan. Unta, wala sabwagi
Og bala ug wala bisbisi og dugo ang kayutaan.

Nindota unta kon duna pay laing mamunga.
Dali dinhi, mahal, sa Kidapawan!


Sa Higayong Ako Angoangohon

Kon pananglit abton kog angoango
ayaw paila sa imong tinuod nga ngalan,
ayawg gakos ug labawng ayawg hilak.
Tugoti ko nga matag adlaw bunyagan
ko ikaw og lain-laing mga ngalan.
Ayawg halok. Timan-i nga utok
ug dili ang kasingkasing ang may
panumdoman. Ayaw na paghago
og pakli og bulak kay tingalig dili
nako dawaton, ug tungod giputol
lisod na isumpayg balik sa punoan.
Hulata nga angoangohon sab ka
aron patas tang wa makaila sa usag-usa.
Matag adlaw mag-ilhanay pag-usab.
Ug hinaot nga sa usa ka higayon
magkuyog tang duha sa baybayon
magdula-dula og balas, magtuon-tuon
sa pagtabon-tabon sa lawas.

Editors and Contributors


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 a short story writer from Senator Ninoy Aquino, Sultan Kudarat Province. He has been a fellow in two regional and four national writers workshops. In 2015, he received honorable mention at the inaugural F. Sionil José Young Writers Awards. His short story collection Seekers of Spirits is forthcoming from the University of the Philippines Press.


Mikhael M. Labrador is from Koronadal City, South Cotabato, and has been residing in Cebu for the past eleven years, working primarily in the business process outsourcing industry. He is an avid travel hobbyist and a former editor of Omniana, the official student publication of Notre Dame of Marbel University.

Noel Pingoy is a graduate of Notre Dame of Marbel University and of Davao Medical School Foundation. He finished residency in internal medicine and fellowships in hematology and in medical oncology at the University of the Philippines–Philippine General Hospital. He divides his time between General Santos City and Koronadal City.

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.

Lance Isidore Catedral is completing his residency training in Internal Medicine at the University of the Philippines–Philippine General Hospital. He also has a degree in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology from UP Diliman. He was born and raised in Koronadal City. Since 2004, he has been blogging at bottledbrain.com. His interests include Christianity, literature, and medicine.

Saquina Karla C. Guiam has been published in the Rising Phoenix ReviewScrittura MagazineSuffragette CityDulcet QuarterlyThe Fem Lit Mag, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and others. She graduated from Mindanao State University in General Santos City with a bachelor’s degree in English and is currently studying for her master’s degree in Ateneo de Davao University. She is the Roots nonfiction editor at Rambutan Literary, an online journal showcasing literature and art from Southeast Asians all over the world, and the social media manager of Umbel & Panicle, a new literary journal inspired by plants and all things botanical.

Benj Marlowe Cordero from General Santos City is currently working in Dubai as a Sales Coordinator and has yet to graduate from Holy Trinity College of GSC. He spends his days off playing Overwatch, constructing a fictional language for his novel, and completing his poetry collection, under the rose. He likes shawarma, singing in the shower, and Rick Riordan.

Marc Jeff Lañada hails from General Santos City and currently resides in Davao for his undergraduate studies in the University of the Philippines–Mindanao. He was a fellow during the Davao Writers Workshop 2017, and some of his works were published in the Dagmay literary journal. His poems talk about landscapes, especially the overlooked or underappreciated places in General Santos and Davao.

Claire Monreal is a student at Central Mindanao Colleges in Kidapawan City, Cotabato Province. Her poem “Survived a Bullet” is a finalist in the 2017 Cotabato Province Poetry Contest.

Joan Victoria Cañete is a registered medical technologist from Kidapawan City, Cotabato Province. “Superficial Swim,” her poem for this issue, is a finalist in the 2017 Cotabato Province Poetry Contest.

Patrick Jayson L. Ralla is a graduate of Mindanao State University–General Santos City with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. He is currently working as a private school teacher in Polomolok, South Cotabato, and is taking up a Master of Arts degree in Literature at the University of Southeastern Philippines, Davao City.

Paul Randy P. Gumanao hails from Kidapawan City, and teaches Chemistry at Philippine Science High School–SOCCSKSARGEN Region Campus. He was a fellow for poetry at the 2009 Davao Writers Workshop, and 2010 IYAS National Creative Writing Workshop. He is a former editor in chief of Atenews, the official student publication of Ateneo de Davao University, and is currently finishing his MS in Chemistry from the same university.

Mariz Leona is an AB English student at Mindanao State University in General Santos City. She is from Lambayong, Sultan Kudarat.

Boon Kristoffer Lauw, a chemical engineer–turned–entrepreneur from General Santos City, is currently based in Quezon City. During his practice of profession at a beer-manufacturing plant last 2013, he began to pass graveyard shifts with random musings that eventually took form in writing—and, inevitably, stories.

Erwin Cabucos, born and raised in Kabacan, Cotabato Province, is a teacher of English and religious education at Trinity College in Queensland, Australia. He received High Commendation literary awards from Roly Sussex Short Story Prize and Queensland Independent Education Union Literary Competition in 2016. His short stories have been published in Australia, Philippines, Singapore, and USA, including Verandah, FourW, Philippines Graphic, and Quarterly Literary Review Singapore. He completed his master in English education from the University of New England.

Sometimes on the Road to Kidapawan

By Paul Randy Gumanao

(This poem first appeared in Dagmay: The Literary Journal of the Davao Writers Guild.)

Long have I been loving to love
a nameless, whose face remains
faceless amidst all attempts
of masking her the looks of every
leading lady in the romance movies
I so dearly enjoy in the afternoons
when there is nothing better to do but
to pretend to love, be loved, to imagine.
This is also one reason why I’d like
to travel home to Kidapawan.

In the van, I like it when I lean
on my own shoulder, thinking
it was your breath wafting on
my skin as I imagine you
sleeping, while I look farther, until I
forget you because of the rubber trees
and the occasional drizzles of Makilala,
the signals of the proximal embrace
of a mother, perhaps, or an old friend,
or of our high school memories
of little fondness. And there, memories!

Ah, another reason why I love
to travel home to Kidapawan.
The nearer I get, the clearer
you appear, smiling.

Slowly, I remember your name.

Sa Kalsada

by Paul Randy P. Gumanao (Fiction)

(This story won 2nd Place in the Saturnino Apoyon Tigi sa Mubong Sugilanong Binisaya and was first published in Banaag Diwa and in Dagmay.)

Wala na gihurot ni Stella ang iyang kape.

“Lagi, kuya. Padulong na ko. Apurado man kaayo ka uy,” maoy sulti ni Stella samtang ginataktak ang toothbrush sa gripo. Mga alas sais y media kadto ug padulong sila ni kuya Lucas niya sa eskwelahan.

“Pasensya gyud, hud. Naa pa mi asaynment sa Araling Panlipunan. Mangopya pa ko sa akong klasmeyt, mao’ng dapat ta magdali. Tara na.”

Gibira ni Lucas ang iyang sling bag nga naa sa lamesita duol sa ilang TV. Nakalimot diay siya sa pagsirado sa zipper sa bag ug nangahulog ang iyang mga sinsilyo pati ang iyang cellphone.

“Na, na, na… paghinay pud, nak! Naunsa man ka nga mura man ka’g gigukod og manok? Wa man ka gaamping sa imong gamit uy! Huna-hunaa biya ha nga dili ta dato. Swerte na man gani mo kay napalitan pa mo’g cellphone, dili pa gyud ninyo ampingan? Hay nalang!” Mao’y sulti sa ilang inahan nga nagpugong-pugong nga mangasaba sa sayong oras sa buntag.

Mingisi lamang si Lucas samtang gipunit ang iyang nabungkag nga cellphone. Gibalik niya og taod ang battery, keypad ug casing niini. Dayon gipindot-pindot niya kung moandar pa ba. Namatikdan ni Stella nga naratol ang iyang kuya tungod kay hinay-hinay nga nagtubod ang dagkong lugas sa singot sa agtang ni Lucas, ug daw nangurog ang iyang mga kamot. Mitabang na lang si Stella sa pagpamunit sa mga sinsilyo.

Sa dihang nahuman na sila, nanamilit sila sa ilang ginikanan ug nanggawas.

Samtang paspas nga gabaklay ang magsoon pagawas sa eskinita aron mopara og jeep, namatikdan ni Lucas nga nagbaguod si Stella sa pagdala sa backpack niini. Naluoy si Lucas sa iyang second year high school nga manghud. Unsaon kay honor student man si Stella ug dili gyud niya gustong ibilin ang iyang mga libro ug notebook. Kung puydi lang ganing magpatahi siyag mga sanina nga naay built-in nga bag, dugay na unta niyang gibuhat. Pero dili man sab gud niya gustong ma-mura siya’g tanga tan-awon. Siyempre, ang mga ingon anang edara, conscious na man sab sa ilang itsura. Dalagita na raba si Stella. Naa nay mga nakagusto ug naa na puy nagustuhan.

“Ako na lang dala sa imong bag, hud bi. Kambyo na lang ta.” Mihunong sila pagbaklay ug gitunol ni Lucas ang iyang sling bag samtang gikuha ang backpack sa iyang manghud.

“Uy, palangga daw ko ni kuya.” Mingisi si Stella samtang gituslok niya’g tudlo ang dimple sa tuong bahin sa aping ni Lucas. Mipahiyom lang pud ang maguwang.

“Ngeks. Palangga daw? Pataka ra man ka uy. Ako lang ganing gikuha kay para paspas ka makalakaw kay para sayo pa ta makaabot sa eskwelahan. Haha… abi nimo’g palangga gyud tika, ha?” Gisunglog sa maguwang ang manghud ug gilitkan niya ang walang dalunggan niini. Dayon, midagan si Lucas.

“Agay! Bantay lang gyud kang kuyaha ka ba. Isumbong tika kay ate Lea ba. Ingnon nako nga bulagan ka na niya. Hahaha.”

Sa pagkadungog ni Lucas sa bahad sa iyang manghud, kalit lang siya miundang sa pagdagan. Gikuot niya ang iyang cellphone ug hinay-hinay nga nagbaklay samtang duna kini ginabasa nga text. Gigukod siya ni Stella ug gibalosan og litik. Apan namatikdan sa manghud nga walay reaksyon si Lucas. Nagpadayon lamang kini sa pagbaklay nga diretso ang tinan-awan. Paspas. Mas paspas.

“ Magdali ta labong naa pay jeep. ” Mando ni Lucas.

Sa wala madugay, nakaabot na sila sa City-high. Alas sais singkwenta na kadto ug giuli na nila ang ilang tagsa-tagsa ka bag.

Nagbulagay na ang magsoon padulong sa ilang tagsa-tagsa ka klasrum. Misinggit si Stella, “Bye, kuya! Hapiton tika unyang ulian ha?”

Mitando lang si Lucas. Wala mitingog. Wala mingisi.

Midiretso siya sa fourth year building, dayon sa ilang klasrum. Didto, naabtan niya ang iyang mga klasmeyt nga nagtapok ug nagkamamo sa pagkopya og asaynment. Sa huna-huna ni Lucas, dili na lang siya moapil sa flag ceremony kay kulang pa ang diyes minutos nga nahibilin para mangopya. Essay type pa raba gyud ang asaynment.

Gitawag siya sa iyang klasmeyt nga si Ben. “Uy, Cas! Kani na lang akoa ang kopyaha kay nahuman na man ko’g anser.”

“Pag-sure diha, Ben. Kanus-a man sad daw ka nakahibalo maghuna-huna, be? Haha…ilaron pa gyud ko nimong kagwanga ka. Ambi daw be, akong tan-awon kay basig mali na imong gikopya,” matod pa ni Lucas. Mibalik ang mga ngisi niya. Sa makadiyot, nakalimtan niya ang iyang gihuna-huna kaganina.

“Mura pud kag korek. Wa kay salig nako, parts? Pers klas ang gikuhaan nako ana uy! Dili ka? Aw, kuhaon nako nang papel.”

“Hmmm… murag tama man ning imong gikopya. Parehas mi’g idea. Brayt ang nianser ani, brayt. Payts, puydi na ni.” Gipaspasan ni Lucas pagkopya.

Ambot lang pero gagmay gyud og mga grado si Lucas ug mosugot lang kini nga magsige’g pangopya. Line of seven halos tanan niyang grado. Sa Math ug MAPEH ra gyud tawon siya nakakuha ug 80. Maayo na lang intawon.

“Pagpaspas, parts kay naa pa ko’y isulti nimo. Important very much,” matod pa ni Ben.

Mihangad kadali si Lucas ug nangutana kung unsa kadtong isulti ni Ben.

“Ah, basta tiwasa sa na’g kopya kay basig mag emo-emo ka inig isulti na nako. Mabasa og luha akong asaynment. Basta, unya na.”

Pagkahuman ni Lucas og kopya, giipit niya sa iyang notebook ang papel ug gibalik kang Ben ang asaynment niini. Gipangutana dayon niya si Ben bahin sa gusto niyang isulti. Gidala ni Ben si Lucas sa ilang garden sa likod sa klasrum.

Nilingi-lingi si Ben sa palibot aron siguruhon nga way laing makadungog sa ilang istoryahan. Ug miingon siya, “Cas, naa na gyud kay rason para moapil sa Spiders. Kung madunggan na nimo ni akong ingnon, dili na gyud ka magduha-duha ug apil sa amo.”

“Unsa man lagi nang imong ingnon? Dalia ba. Samoka uy.” Apurado na kaayo si Lucas.

“Imong uyab. Si Lea.”

“Si Lea? Naunsa diay, ha?”

“Kagabii. Sila ni Paclar. Nakita sa tropa nga….”

“Kinsa pud nang yawaa nang Paclara na?” Atat na kaayo si Lucas samtang gikaptan ang mga abaga ni Ben. Namula na siya ug ang mga kunot sa iyang agtang nagtagbo, lisod masubay ang sinugdanan ug ang sumpay. Sama ra usab ang kalibog ni Lucas.

“Si Paclar. Kristofer Paclar, kadtong right-hand sa lider sa kalaban namo nga gang, ang Bloods. Dugay na na siyang ginamanmanan sa tropa. Ug kagabii,” nilingi-lingi pag-usab si Ben, “nakita sila sa tropa nga nagpalami og… kuotanay didto sa covered court. Silang duha sa imong uyab.”

Napungot pagtaman sa Lucas sa iyang nadunggan. Taliwala sa kabugnaw sa buntag, nitulo ang iyang mga singot ug nisurop sa balasong yuta.

Mao diay nga wala na nireply sa iyang mga text si Lea. Mao diay nga ginalikayan na siya ni Lea kung makigkita siya. Nahinumduman ni Lucas nga kadtong niaging semana, mitext si Lea kaniya ug miingon nga init ang iyang lawas ug gusto niyang tagbawon siya ni Lucas. Nalibog kadiyot si Lucas niadtong tungora usa pa niya nasabtan ang buot pasabot ni Lea. Imbitasyon diay kadto nga may dalang timtasyon.

Misandig si Lucas sa punoan sa talisay ug mihangad siya aron silipon ang dan-ag sa adlaw taliwala sa mga dahon ug sanga sa kahoy. Mihangad siya aron pugngan ang pagtulo sa iyang mga luha ngadto sa basa nga yuta. Gaumog pa ang yuta tungod sa ulan adtong niaging gabii.

“Parts, unsa man? Unsa’y plano? Andam ang Spiders motabang sa imo,” pasalig ni Ben. Usa pa man makatubag si Lucas, mibagting na ang bell sa eskwelahan, sinyal nga magsugod na ang klase.

“Pwede ko makig-istorya sa inyohang mga Spiders unya? Unyang ulian?”

Nitando si Ben ug nanulod silang duha sa klasrum. Si Lucas, wala sa maayong buot.

Mga alas tres sa hapon, nagsugod na og panggawas ang mga estudyante gikan sa mga klasrum. Mideretso si Stella sa canteen duol sa fourth year building aron didto hulaton ang iyang maguwang. Samtang gapaabot, nipalit si Stella og duha ka panwich. Iyang gikaon ang usa. Ang usa, iyang gisulod sa iyang bulsa kay aron ihatag sa iyang kuya Lucas inig abot niini. Sigurado siyang gigutom na gyud ang iyang maguwang.

Nag alas kwatro na lang apan wala pa miagi si Lucas sa canteen nga gitambayan ni Stella. Kabalo si Stella nga moagi gyud didto ang iyang kuya kay wa na may laing lustanan pagawas. Nakadesisyon siya nga iyang adtoon sa klasrum si Lucas.

Hinay-hinay nga galakaw ang dalagita samtang gakanta-kanta. Medyo mingaw na didtong dapita kay nakauli na ang ubang estudyante. Usa pa siya nakaabot sa klasrum sa iyang kuya, nakadungog na siya’g mga tingog sa lalaki nga gaistoryahanay, ug nadunggan niya ang tingog ni Lucas. Wala mipadayon si Stella ug duol sa klasrum ni Lucas. Hinuon, mituyok siya sa likod sa room aron maniid kung unsay ginabuhat sa mga batan-ong lalaki sa sulod.

“Dili ka magmahay nga niapil ka sa Spiders, Lucas. Andam ming motabang sa imo kanunay. Basta wala lay traydoray.”

Gitan-aw ni Stella kung kinsay misulti adto. Pagtan-aw niya, si Louie Reston diay. Ang iladong lider sa Spiders gang. Nakulbaan siya. Nahibal-an niya nga miapil na iyang kuya sa maong notorious nga gang sa Davao.

“Mga Brad, mangadto na ta sa hideout para didto nalang nato i-initiate ang atong bag-ong kauban. Didto na lang sab nato planohon ang pagtodas kang Paclar,” maoy sugo ni Louie.

Nanghawa ang mga batan-ong lalaki. Nagbulag-bulag sila. Sa grupo ni Ben mikuyog si Lucas nga niadtong higayona, hilom ug wala kaayo gaistorya. Apan maklaro sa iyang nawong ang kalagot ug ang kagustuhang makabalos kang Lea ug kang Kristof Paclar. Andam na siya, bisan sa pagpatay.

Samtang nanglakaw ang mga Spiders, nagsunod si Stella. Apan gaamping-amping gyud siya nga dili masakpan. Kahibalo sab si Stella nga ang maong gang, wanted na sa kapulisan sa lungsod. Sayod sab siya nga ang DDS padayon sa pagpamatay sa mga myembro sa bisag-unsang gang sa lungsod.

Miabot ang grupo didto sa usa ka abandonadong bilyaran sa Jacinto. Mao kadto’y giila nilang hideout. Sa dihang nakasulod na tanang Spiders, mipaduol si Stella sa bilyaran. Pagsilip niya sa gamay nga bangag, nakita niya nga nanaka ang mga lalaki sa second floor. Sa kagustuhan ni Stella nga makahibalo, misulod siya ug gibilin iyang bag sa usa ka lamesa sa silong. Mikamang siya pasaka ug gisilip ang gihimo sa mga Spiders. Nakita niya ang iyang kuya Lucas nga dunay taptap sa mga mata ug nakaluhod samtang nagpalibot kaniya ang ubang myembro. Sa atubangan ni Lucas nagtindog si Louie ug dunay mga gipangyawyaw. Nakadungog si Stella sa mga pulong apan wala na niya gipaminaw. Ang iyang tuyo mao ang masayran kung unsaon ang iyang kuya.

Taud-taud, gitunol ni Ben kang Louie ang usa ka injection nga puno og berde nga likidong. Gituruk ang maong droga kang Lucas. Mipiyong lang ang mata ni Lucas samtang ginapaak ang iyang ngabil. Gikuha dayon ni Louie ang usa ka baseball bat. Gihalok-halokan kini ni Louie, dayon gimandoan si Lucas nga motindog.

Mitindog si Lucas. Sa wala madugay gibunal ni Louie ang maong bat sa paa ni Lucas. Gibunal niya ang bat nga murag namunal og punoan sa kahoy. Dili lang kausa. Kaduha. Katulo. Sa paa. Sa hawak. Sa lubot.

“Aaaaaahhh….aaahh! Agaaayy!” Mao lamang kini ang nasiyagit ni Lucas samtang natumba kini sa salog.

“Kuya Lucas! Kuyaaa!” Wala makapugong si Stella. Sa iyang kakurat, nakasiyagit siya.

Nabungkag ang pundok sa mga batan-ong lalaki ug ilang gikuha si Stella. Naghilak ang dalagita kay ginapuga man sab ang iyang bukton. Naghilak sab siya kay naluoy sa iyang kuya.

“Stella! Nga..nong naa man ka.. diri? Pauli na!” Giduol ni Lucas ang iyang manghud bisag nagtakiang kini.

Miduol lang og kalit si Louie. “Unsa man ni bay? Nganong nakabalo man na imong manghud, ha? Dili magsilbi na dinhii sa Spiders. Kinahanglan na siya silotan!”

“Ha? A..ambot nganong nakahibalo na siya nga naa ta dinhi. Basig gisundan ta niya. Nganong naa man ka diri, Stella ha?”

“Kay naguol man ko sa imo kuya. Ha..hadlok ko ma..maunsa ka… Nganong nag-apil man ka..a..ani nga mga ga..gago man ni sila?”

“Ayay! Mga gago daw ta parts. Ayay!,” Mipalag ang mga lalaki.

“Wala ka kasabot nganong miapil ko. Ayaw nag labot-labot bi! Puta!”

Natingala kaayo si Stella nganong ingon ato ang pagtratar sa iyang kuya kaniya. Nakahilak na lang siya. Dayon, miduol si Louie kang Stella ug gisinyasan ang ubang mga naggunit kang Stella nga ipahigda kini sa salog. Duha ka lalaki ang naggunit kang Stella sa kamot, ug duha sab sa tiil. Nakamatikod na si Lucas kung unsay himuon ngadto sa iyang manghud. Apan huyang siya ug mas nagpatigbabaw ang gahom sa droga.

“Puslan man nga nakasala ka, atong gamiton na imong pagkasexy ug imong pagkagwapa. Sayang lang nang imong hamis nga panit. Hehehe…”Mao kini ang bahad ni Louie kang Stella.

Grabe na ang hilak ni Stella samtang gapaningkamot kini nga makaikyas gikan sa mga gang members. Nagsagol na ang mga bahakhak sa katawa ug ang danguyngoy sa hilak sa usa ka dalagita. Gitanggal ni Louie ang sapatos ni Stella ug gibuklad ang palda sa dalagita samtang gipagawas niya ang iyang dila ug gipatulo ang iyang laway. Alang kang Stella, animal kaayo si Louie.

Gipabilangkad pa gyud pagtaman ang dalagita ayha pa gihubo ni Louie ang panty ni Stella gamit ang iyang ngipon. Grabe ang kasadya sa mga lalaki. Samtang si Lucas, nakaantigo lang sa pagtan-aw sa pagbusabos sa iyang manghud.

Human og hubo sa panty sa dalagita, gipamaskara kini sa iya. Nangatawa silang tanan. Apil na si Lucas. Mas labaw pa gyud silang nangatawa kadtong nakita ang nalata nga panwhich sa bulsa ni Stella. Ang panwich nga iya untang ihatag sa iyang kuya Lucas, nga karon apil sa mga lalaking nagkatawa nga nagtan-aw sa iyang kahimtang. Ang gibuhat ni Louie, gipahid-pahid ang panwich sa kinatawo ni Stella, gisuksok sa sulod, gikulitog, dayon gikaon kini.

Gitanggal sad ang blouse ug bra sa dalagita. Ang nabilin nalang mao ang iyang nakasaka nga palda ug ang mga medyas sa iyang tiil. Ug nihilom kadiyot. Naghubo kalit si Louie ug gihap-an ang nakagapos nga lawas sa usa ka batan-ong babaye. Sugod sa ulo paubos. Paubos. Gibaboy. Gibusabos. Gilugos.

“Aah..ahh…aaaaahhhhhhh……mgaaaa haaayyooppp!!!” Wala na’y kusog si Stella nga mosiyagit pa. Huyang na siya.

Minaog na lang si Lucas ug nigawas gikan didto sa hideout. Ngitngit na ang palibot. Pula kaayo iyang nawong ug luya sab siya. Wala siya’y nahimo alang sa iyang manghud nga nagpalangga sa iya. Mipalit siya og sigarilyo sa duol nga tindahan samtang ginapistahan pa sa ubang mga lalaki ang iyang manghud. Gipuli-pulihan. Giabusar pagtaman.

Taud-taud dunay motorsiklo nga mihunong sa gawas sa ilang hideout. Duna kini’y sakay nga tulo ka nakabonet nga lalaki ug ang duha ka sakay niini diretso nga misulod sa bilyaran. Nakamatngon na lamang siya sa dihang nakadungog siya og upat ka buto sa pusil. Dayon, nakita niya ang ubang mga myembro sa gang nga nanagan. Sa wala madugay, may miabot nga Police Car ug gigukod ang mga myembro sa gang. Ang uban, nadakpan. Sa iyang kahadlok, midagan sad siya og apil samtang dunay lima ka pulis nga nagagukod kanila.

Nakasabay ni Lucas si Ben ug miingon kini, “Dagan! Dagan! Ayaw sa mog lingi-lingi. Magbulag-bulag ta!”

Pagtipas nila sa kanto, sa banda sa Freedom Park, nakakita si Lucas og pundok sa mga raliyista nga nag-candle lighting. Nakahuna-huna kini nga moadto didto ug mag-atik-atik nga apil sa rally aron dili siya dakpon sa mga pulis. Nagpasalipod siya sa mga estudyanteng aktibista ug nagpakaaron-ingnong kauban sab siya sa rally. Nakita niya ang ubang miyembro sa Spiders gang nga gipangdakop. Ang uban tingali, mao kadtong gipusil sa sulod sa bilyaran.

Kalit lang misinggit ang lider sa rally.

“Hustisya alang sa mga biktima sa pulitikanhong pagpamatay!”

“Hustisya! Hustisya!” Sabay-sabay nga nanubag ang mga raliyista samtang nakataas-kamao. Paglingi ni Lucas sa unahan, nakita niya si Ben nga nadakpan sa mga pulis, ug ginatudlo siya. Aron ingnong aktibista pud, misabay-sabay sab si Lucas sa pagtaas sa iyang kinumo ug sa pagsinggit og “hustisya.”

“Hustisya alang sa mga biktima sa tanang pagpang-abuso!”

“Hustisya! Hustisya!”

Sa wala madugay, nahuman na ang rally. Nanghawa na ang mga aktibista. Mihawa na sad si Lucas. Hinay-hinay siyang naglakaw samtang namalandong sa kahulugan sa pulong nga iyang gisinggit-singgit bag-ohay lang —ang pulong nga “hustisya.”

“Si Stella! Tama, ang akong manghud.”

Midagan si Lucas sa direksyon sa Jacinto aron balikan ang iyang manghud. Apan naglisod siya sa pagdagan kay sakit man ang iyang lawas ug bug-at sab ang iyang kasingkasing.


In the Streets

Translation by Karlo Antonio Galay David

Stella didn’t get to finish her coffee.

“Yes kuya, I’m on the way. Really, how impatient you are” said Stella while rinsing her toothbrush on the faucet. It was six thirty in the morning and she and her kuya Lucas were about to head for school.

“Sorry about that. We have an assignment in Araling Panlipunan, you see. I still have to copy from my classmates, that’s why we have to hurry. Let’s go.”

Lucas took his sling bag, which was on the table near the TV. He apparently forgot to close its zipper, and some loose change and his phone fell from it when he took it.

“Oh will you be careful, son! What’s wrong with you, you’re running around like a beheaded chicken. Take care of your things! Remember, we aren’t exactly rich. You’re lucky you get to have cellphones, but you don’t even take care of it? Goodness.” so said their mother, who tried hard not to start a sermon that early in the morning.

Lucas merely smiled as he picked up his disassembled phone. He reassembled the battery, keypad and casing. Then he pressed the buttons to see if it worked. Stella saw that her brother was agitated, observing the large beads of sweat on his forehead, and his somewhat slight trembling of the hand. She could only help pick up his loose change.

When they were done, they said good bye to their parents and went out.

While the two were walking in haste out of the narrow alley to wait for a jeep, Lucas noticed that Stella was lugging with her backpack. He felt sorry for this second year high school little sister of his. She’s an honor student, and she refused to leave any of her books and notebooks behind. If she could just have clothes with a built in bag sewn, she would have done so long ago. But then she didn’t want to look stupid, either. After all, those of that age were already beginning to be conscious of their looks. Stella was a young woman now. By now she should already be having admirers and crushes.

“Let me bring your bag. Here, let’s swap.” They stopped walking and Lucas handed his own sling bag while taking his younger sister’s backpack.

“Uy, kuya cares about me.” Stella smirked while poking Lucas’ right dimple teasingly. The older brother just smiled.

“What are you talking about, hahaha. I just took your bag so we can walk faster and get to school earlier. You thought I was being doting, huh?” He teased his sister and struck her left ear with his fingers. Then, he trotted ahead.

“Ouch! Just you wait kuya, you’ll see. I’ll tell on you to ate Lea. I’ll tell her to break up with you. Hahahaha.”

When Lucas heard his sister’s threat, he suddenly stopped running. He took out his phone and walked slowly while reading some messages from it. Stella caught up to him and retaliated with an ear-flick of her own. But she got no reaction from Lucas. He just continued walking, looking straight. He walked briskly. Brisker.

“Let’s hurry while the jeep is still there.” Lucas said.

Before long, they arrived at City High. It was six fifty and they had returned each other’s bags.

The siblings parted ways to head to their respective classrooms. Stella said aloud, “Bye kuya! I’ll head to you after class, okay?”

Lucas just nodded. Without a word. Without a smile.

He went to the fourth year building, then to their classroom. There, he came upon his classmates huddled together and hastily copying their assignment. Lucas decided not to join the flag ceremony that morning, there wasn’t enough time to copy. The assignment had to be an essay.

His classmate Ben called him. “Hey, Cas! Copy mine, I’ve finished answering it.”

“Oh come on, Ben. And when did you ever learn to think, huh? Haha. You can’t make a fool out of me. Give me that, let me see, you might make me copy something wrong.” His smile returned. For a while, he forgot what he was worrying about a while ago.

“And you’re to talk. You don’t trust me, man? I copied that from someone in pers klas! You don’t want it? Well, let me have it back.”

“Hm… it looks right. We had the same idea. Whoever answered this is smart, yup, smart. Payts, this’ll do.” And Lucas copied it hurriedly.

For some reason, Lucas always had low grades, and he kept on just copying. Almost all of his grades were line of seven. He really only got 80 in Math and MAPEH, thankfully.

“Hurry man, I still have something to tell you. Important very much.” said Ben.

Lucas looked up and asked what it was.

“Just finish that first, you might turn emo after what I tell you. I don’t want you to go soaking my assignment in tears. Later.”

After copying, Lucas tucked his paper in his notebook and returned Ben’s assignment. He asked Ben what the latter wanted to say.

Ben brought him to the garden behind their classroom.

Ben looked around to check if no one was listening to their conversation. Then, he said, “Cas, now you have a reason to join the Spiders. When you hear this, you won’t hesitate to join us anymore.”

“What is it, then? Will you hurry.” Lucas was growing impatient.

“Your girl, Lea.”

“Lea? Why, what happened?”

“Last night. She and Paclar. The gang saw…”

“And who the hell is that Paclar?” Lucas was really impatient now as he held Ben by the chest. Blood was rushing to his face and his forehead wrinkled. It was difficult to see where the brow started and where they joined, and Lucas was just as uncertain.

“Paclar, Kristofer Paclar, the right hand man of the leader of our enemy gang, the Bloods. The gang’s been tailing him for some time now. And last night,” Ben looked around again, “the gang saw the two of them… fondling each other there at the covered court. He and your girl.”

Lucas was pissed off at what he heard. In spite of the coldness of the morning, a drop of his sweat dripped down to the sandy earth, which absorbed it.

So that was why Lea didn’t reply to his text. That was why Lea was avoiding him whenever they met. Lucas remembered how the other week, Lea texted him that she was feeling hot and that she wanted Lucas to satisfy her. Lucas was confused for a while before he understood what she meant. Now he knew it was an invitation with temptation.

Lucas leaned against the Talisay tree and looked up to glimpse the gleam of the sun from behind the tree’s leaves and branches. He looked up to suppress the falling of his tears on the wet earth. The earth was still damp from the rain the night before.

“So, what about it, man? What’s the plan? The Spiders are ready to help you,” assured Ben. Before Lucas could reply, the school bell rang, signifying the start of class.

“Can I talk to you Spiders later? After class?”

Ben nodded and the two went into the classroom. Lucas, in no sound state of mind.

Around three in the afternoon, the students began filing out of the classrooms. Stella proceeded to the canteen near the fourth year building to wait for her older brother there. While waiting, she bought two pieces of panwich. She ate one. The other, she put in her pocket to give to her kuya Lucas when he arrives. She was sure her brother was hungry.

It had already turned four but Lucas had still not passed by the canteen Stella was in. She knew he would pass by there, for there were no other ways out of the building. She decided to go to Lucas’ classroom.

The young girl walked slowly while humming. It was already a bit quiet in that part of the school as most students have gone home. Before she arrived at her brother’s classroom, she heard the sound of boys talking, and she heard Lucas’ voice. Stella stopped heading towards Lucas’ classroom. Instead, she went around to the back of the room to see what the young men were doing inside.

“You won’t regret joining the Spiders, Lucas. We are always ready to help you. As long as you don’t betray us.”

Stella sought to see who said these words. When she looked, she saw that it was Louie Reston. The leader of the Spiders gang. She grew worried. She understood that her kuya was joining this notorious gang in Davao.

“Bros, let’s all head for the hideout and have this new friend of ours initiated there. Let’s plan on how to take care of that Paclar there too,”  so ordered Louie.

The young men left. They broke into groups. Lucas went with Ben’s group, which at that time was quiet and spoke little. But hatred and the desire to get back at Lea and Kristofer Paclar were clearly seen on his face. He was ready, even to kill.

while the Spiders went ahead, Stella closely followed. But she took care not to be noticed. Stella knew that this gang was wanted in the whole city. She also knew the DDS was still out killing members of any gang in the city.

The group arrived at an abandoned billiard hall in Jacinto. That was what they called their hideout. When all the Spiders got in, Stella came nearer. She peeked into a small hole and saw that the young men were going up the second floor. In her curiosity, she went in and left her bag on a table downstairs. She tiptoed up and peeked to see what the Spiders were doing. She saw her brother blindfolded and kneeling while the other members were around him. Louie stood in front of Lucas,saying something. Stella heard the words but she did not listen. The only thing on her mind was to know what they were about to do to her brother.

After a while, Ben handed to Louie a syringe filled with a green liquid. This was injected into Lucas. Lucas merely closed his eyes while biting his lips. Louie then took a baseball bat. He kissed this before ordering Lucas to stand.

Lucas stood up. Suddenly, Louie hit his legs with the bat. He struck as if he was hacking a tree. Not just once. Twice. Thrice. The legs. The waist. The rear.

“Aaaaahh….aaah! Aaaaargh!” This was all Lucas could scream as he fell down to the ground.

“Kuya Lucas! Kuyaaaa!” Stella could not restrain herself. Out of surprise she screamed.

The group of young men were disassembled and they rushed to grab Stella. The young girl cried as the men squeezed her shoulders painfully. She also cried out of pity for her brother.

“Stella! Why… are you… here? Go home!” Lucas tried to draw near his sister though he was already limping.

Louie suddenly came near. “What is this, man? Why does your sister know about this, huh? We can’t have that here in the Spiders. She has to be taken care of!”

“Huh? I.. I don’t know how she knew we were here. She must’ve followed us. Why are you here, Stella?

“I  was worried about you, kuya. I.. I was scared that.. that something might happen to you.. Why did you.. you join these bastards?”

“Damn! We’re bastards, she says, guys! Damnit!” the boys were furious.

“You don’t understand why I joined. Don’t get involved, god damn it!”

Stella was bewildered how her brother could treat her like this. She could not help but cry. Then, Louie came near her and gave a sign to the boys holding her to make her lie down on the floor. Two boys were holding Stella by the hands, two by the feet. Lucas understood what they were about to do to his sister. But he was weak, and the drug’s potency was overwhelming.

“Having done us something wrong, we might as well have fun with your sexy body and pretty face. We don’t want to waste this smooth skin of yours, now do we. Hehehe…” Louie said threateningly to Stella.

She cried violently as she struggled to free herself from the hold of the gang members. The menacing laughter of the boys and the sobbing of this one young girl melted into one another. Louie took of her shoes and opened her skirt with his tongue out, drooling. To her fearful eyes, he looked like a beast.

He opened her legs more before taking of her panties with his teeth. The boys were howling with delight. Lucas merely watched as they molested his sister.

After they took of her panties, they had her wear it as a mask. And they all laughed. Even Lucas. They laughed even louder when they saw the flattened panwich in Stella’s pocket. The panwich she was planning to give to her brother Lucas, who was now with the boys laughing while looking at her like this. Louie wiped it repeatedly on her genitals, stuffed it in, thrust it in and out, then ate it.

The young girl’s blouse and bra were taken off. All that was left were her skirt and the socks on her feet. There was a momentary silence. Louie took off his clothes and desecrated the body of this bound young girl. From head down. Down. Devoured. Desecrated. Defiled.

“Aah..ahh…aaaaahhhhhhh……animaaaaaals!!!” Stella had barely any strength to scream. She was drained.

Lucas merely went downstairs and went out of the hideout. It was dark. Blood still lingered in his face and he felt weak. He could not do anything for the sister who loved him. He bought a cigarette from the nearby store while the boys were still feasting on his sister. One after the other. Defiling her again and again.

Suudenly, a motorcycle stopped in front of their hideout. Three men with bonnets were on it, and two of them went directly into the billiard hall. He was only alerted when he heard a gunshot. Then he saw the other members of the gang scurrying away. After a while, a police car arrived and went after the members. Some of them were caught. Fearfully, he ran away too while five policemen chased after them.

Lucas was fleeing with Ben, who shouted “Run! Run! Don’t look back, let’s split up!”

When they parted at a corner, near the Freedom Park, Lucas saw a gathering of activists having a candle lighting activity. He suddenly thought of going thither and pretend to be part of the rally to avoid the police. He conversed with some of the student activists and pretended to join the rally. He saw the other members of the Spiders gang being caught. Some of them were those who were shot at the billiard hall.

Suddenly, the leader of the rally shouted.

“Justice for the victims of extrajudicial killings!”

“Justice! Justice!” The rallyists answered together with fists up. When he looked back, he saw Ben caught by the police, pointing at him. To really look like an activist, he raised his fist too and joined in the shouting of “justice.”

“Justice for the victims of all abuses!”

“Justice! Justice!”

After a while the rally ended. The activists all left.

Lucas set off as well. Slowly, he walked while thinking about the meaning of the word he was just shouting a while ago – the word “justice.”

“Stella! Oh God, my sister!”

Lucas ran towards Jacinto to go back to his sister. But he struggled running, for his body was aching and the heaviness in his heart was weighing him down.

Issue 8 Introduction

If the Earth unexpectedly stopped spinning, and suddenly exploded while everyone was busy, would there be a poem written to capsulize how the planet tried to hold on? Who would write a story to remind the universe that once in its vast timescale there lived a human-friendly planet that died young?

This month, we commemorate the Earth Day, and, in the Philippines, the National Literature Month. The April Issue of the Cotabato Literary Journal is a humble celebration of the modest role of literature in the sustenance of life and relationships on Earth. This is also an expression of gratitude to the planet’s role of inspiring the literary musings especially of the writers in SOX.

And speaking of SOX writers, beginning this month, we will publish interviews of established writers from the region. In this issue, Kloyde A. Caday will help us get to know more about Dr. Noel Pingoy, a physician by profession, and a writer by “accident.”

Alongside this interview are the featured crafts relevant to our celebration this month.

Michael John Otanes’s short story Gravitational Pull, for instance, beautifully relates the struggle of an obese boy, who had been a subject of mockery by his peers, to a natural phenomenon, which is gravity. By learning the physical concept of gravity that more massive bodies like the Sun have the ability to attract the relatively smaller ones such as the Earth, the protagonist was able to draw back his self-esteem.

Rossel Audencial’s Death Mask is another story that involves an object literally drawn from underneath the earth. The protagonist’s uncle excavated an important archeological artifact, which he vowed to help turn over to the authorities. The protagonist was in a dilemma of saving his uncle’s find from being pillaged by the father of his love interest. We share in the frailties of the protagonist especially when we easily fall into the trap of romantic temptations in exchange of what is essential, which, in this case is their locality’s heritage.

Hannah Lecena, in her poem Kung Ako ang Pasultihon, had already anticipated these uncertainties in the experience of love. In the poem, both the painful and the pleasant aspects of love were made imaginable through the images of a devastating flood, and a bright light in the night. In the poem, one will find a hesitant persona who longs for an authentic experience of love.

Another important element of our earthly existence is time, and it is believed to be inextricably intertwined with space. A small change in time results in some changes in space, and vice versa. Scientists call it the spacetime continuum, and express it through various mathematical equations. John Calpotura has another way of expressing it in his piece 10:33 AM. This flash fiction, which happened in just sixty seconds, talks about how a minute of inaction, a missed opportunity, could lead to lifetime regret. In the story, a guy on his way to school happened to pass by a café. Inside it, another handsome guy who caught his attention was having a nice chat with a fine girl, whom he suspected to be the guy’s girlfriend. What happened next cautions us against our tendency to decide based on unfounded assumptions.

Sadly, however, many of us unconsciously choose inaction than making a principled stand on many social issues. Many find it more convenient to just take selfies in front of their gourmet meal, and in their OOTD than spending a minute of contemplation about how to possibly make the Earth a better place. Read Paolo Concepcion’s poem Instagram and reflect on the richness of its theme.

Now, if the Earth unexpectedly stopped spinning, and suddenly exploded while everyone was busy, I hope by then we had regained our self-esteem, stood for our heritage in the universe, and spent every minute on wise decisions. I hope by then we could have enough time to take a groufie of the humanity, and throw the cellphone into a faraway galaxy.

Paul Randy P. Gumanao
Koronadal City, South Cotabato