Kuala’s Song

By Gerald Galindez

After the film Tinimbang Ka ngunit Kulang by Lino Brocka

She buried herself in scorched earth
And heard the voices from the sun
She let the voices into her
And welcomed everyone
She came across on every street
They called her by her name
Kuala! Kuala! Kuala! The insane

All day in her ramblings
Her laughter never ceasing
The church and his half-hallowed halls
Has heard her rattle ringing
In dusty pathways and hilly passes
Her thrones are always found
Scattered on the lonely hills
And cogon-covered mounds

Her locks are all adorned
With crawling things that bear—
12345678More crawling things that
12345678Kiss the skull and gnaw the open sores
Her skin reflects the light of day
She drinks on putrid springs
When into town she wears the gown
That gives her fancy wings

Her eyes, they don’t settle
Her tongue, it doesn’t stop
From singing a song
Of a more colored past
When Cesar her love
When they rolled on the hill
He kissed her with fire
That was so hard to kill
Then when on a tree
A fruit came to sight
Her Cesar dissevered the box of their child

And that’s where Kuala started to sing
Her sorrowful song in the heart of that hill
Where she buried herself in the foot of a tree
With a rattle in hand
In perpetual glee.


One More Customer

By Paolo Concepcion

After photograph no. 3 in Hajar Kabalu’s Minsan sa may Bagsakan

One more customer
So that I can give
My daughter the latest
Phone in the mall.

One more customer
So that I can buy
My wife the flat screen
television she wants.

One more customer
So that I can grant
My son’s wish to have
A personal computer.

One more customer
So that I can afford
The down payment for the
Car I always wanted

One more customer
So that we can move away
From our annoying landlord
To a house we can call our own.

One more customer
So that my son can
Ride the jeep to school

One more customer
For my daughter
And the milk
Of her son.

One more customer
So that I can buy
My wife
Her medicine.

One more customer
So that we can eat
A hearty dinner

One more customer
So that I can pay
The stall’s rent
That’s due yesterday.

Bili na po kayo.

If Curiosity Kills

By Jermaine Dela Cruz

After photograph no. 4 in Hajar Kabalu’s Minsan sa may Bagsakan

Below is a bed of asphalt, surveyed
by a creature covered
not in velvet or in silk, flaunting
in muted strut
deafening silence,
preparing for hunt or coming home
no one knows.

Illuminated, the creature casts a shadow
against the grainy surface,
a bleak, distorted reflection
that mocks you with its
empty mercurial gaze
like a soul trapped in ebony cage,
an empty space, a vacuum

The absence of light is darkness
darkness is haunting
light in itself is haunting
the umbra, an illusion
of a phantom in the middle of the night
perplexed by reality and apparition intertwined
if curiosity kills, I’ll bet the nine lives.



By Jerome Cenina

He rose with slough of despond.
His first woman slept in, gave in
into the reign of his innocence.

The soldier he knew for the first time
lost his home’s address
upheld another woman
and watched another child fall
asleep in cradle.

He starved in hunger
crossed the street for garbage foods
witnessed engines making the empty street lighted
and his soul was tintless.

One day, a sack was found
in the city raceway.
Full of dirt, there
the horrible man in the street
the beggar they deemed lifeless
has the face with the fullness of hope
that he might have one family
that one day there will be tears
on his box
with roses and candles
above his grave
before he totally waves goodbye
to the life he enjoyed but considered as misfortune.


San Gerardo and the Exocoetidae

By Gerald Galindez

Flying fish without a dying wish,
12345678How you glimmer, shimmer.
12345678Pearly scales set ablaze upon the sun,
12345678Against the sunburnt skies,
12345678Swooshing above the swelling waves
1234567812345678You caught my eyes to wander far and deep.
Flying fish,
you leave without a dying wish,
held my wonder of the sea,
1234567812345678the vast and deep eternal sea—
1234567812345678123456781234567812345678your eyes—
Flying fish.
Nimble fish.
You glide across the ocean wide
Brought me love, brought me joy
Ever since I was a boy
Of all the things I so enjoy,
Was your swift glide—
12345678Your smooth and graceful dive,
He would point you in the sea line
I could barely track your flight.
He would let me see until I saw
Your crystal wings of awe

You held me in your silver fins
We dive the depths of trenches deep,
We reached the tides azure—
Where the sandy floors of powder white
Projects the dancing lights,

Flying fish,
My precious fish
My life, my friend,
Taught me how a life should end,
You hid your pains inside your scales so I could live
You let me swim, you let me breathe.

Your eyes—
Two keen orbs—
They reach the heart’s core
I’ve not spoken love to you—
123456781234567812345678Forever in debt to you—
Take your wings,
set sail
As I hear the ocean wail
her last ululating song—
123456781234567812345678golden coins for your journey long.



By Allen Samsuya

(This poem first appeared in Dagmay: The Literary Journal of the Davao Writers Guild and won the first place in the Jimmy Y. Balacuit Literary Awards at the 2011 Iligan National Writers Workshop.)

We might not come back home for awhile to Cotabato
because there are more things to do than catch a bus
and travel a tedious six to seven hours. Imagine the hassle
of having to stop by a terrible total of ten terminals
and all for what? Once there, we’ll probably waste our weeks
on good-for-nothing visits to former classmates’ houses,
old friends, and dozens more of other people we used to know
so well, but now find hard to even barely recognize—
as when we chance upon them whenever we buy
our fruit shakes and burgers at Manong’s, or when we shop
for overpriced stuff at South Seas, or at nights when we party
and waste ourselves at Pacific Heights.

Eventually, we’ll overstay for some ridiculous reason—
say, in waiting for yet another class reunion and, hence,
wasting more time and money; or hoarding pirated DVDs
at Barter Trade, or pigging out on litson manok at Kitok’s,
or worse, overspending on fares for unending jeepney
joyrides—because you know as well as I do, back there
we have nothing better to do.

When over here, work is pretty much cramming right in front
of our faces. At my boarding house, for instance,
classcards from previous semesters, marked with obvious
INCs and 4s procrastinate somewhere in my room, perhaps
still waiting to be unearthed, then removed, or completed.
Unfinished fictions, half-written poems, and countless fragments
without epiphanies, or even form, are still willfully waiting
to be worked on to their necessary conclusions, because all things
must be seen through their conclusions—if not, then at least be
properly thrown away, or abandoned.

The way we too had been abandoned in that Cotabato
in our past, where we had practically found each other
among ruins of bomb-blasted buildings and burnt skeletons
of buses, among blood-bathed corpses along bloodstained
highways and starving mobs of beggars at the streets
kept barely alive by pretty much nothing but promises
of better days, rugby, and some discarded bread. But we
had found each other anyway, and had loved each other,
and ourselves, and everyone else we knew.

And in that place perhaps we had loved the most
probably because back there in Cotabato we had
nothing better to do.


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.