Breakwater Girls

by Saquina Karla C. Guiam

(This piece first appeared in Dagmay, the literary journal of the Davao Writers Guild.)

Little girls, little girls
Dancing by the breakwater
Their faces bloated like balloons
With electric plugs tucked behind their ears
Their eyeballs starting to fall from their sockets
Smiles turn to sneers
Maggots crawl all over their skin
Skin and bones visible through the naked eye
Blood on their clothes never lie
And whenever people pass the breakwater by midnight
Little girls with decayed teeth, torn-out clothes, electric plugs by their side and holes in their chests
Will come out to play with you
And make you wish they were locked in their baggage.



by Saquina Karla C. Guiam (Poetry)

(This poem was first published in The Rising Phoenix Review on 18 May 2016.)

Blue uniform,
badge, baton,
issued firearm,
hat, black and white car.

Right arm raised,
lips shaped the words
to serve and to protect
the people.

Call it duty,
summons to arms,
little glories and
little victories.

Happy April fools!
Put a bullet to someone’s head,
a father and farmer,
his hands cracked
like the fields he toiled.

Put your gun
on his corpse,
tell the cameras and microphones that
he was armed and dangerous.

Witnesses say
the victim only brought
the clothes on his back
and his voice.

Oaths are just promises
disguised as public service,
sweet honey to
unsuspecting civilian ears.

The coming of spring rain
brought metal and blood
and disbelief and rage;

they asked for mercy,
you gave them cruelty.

#BigasHindiBala is Tagalog, and translates to #RiceNotBullets. The hashtag trended recently when farmers were gunned down by local police at Kidapawan, North Cotabato, Philippines.

Issue 7 Introduction

First: my sincerest apologies in the delay of this issue.

Second: You’ll have to excuse me. In all the time I’ve been an editor for this journal, I’ve never written an introduction. If I have an excuse, it’s because I find myself ill-equipped to do so, in the sense that I don’t always know what to say about something. (Imagine that, a writer admitting she doesn’t have the words.) Though, I have plenty of other excuses why I don’t (having schoolwork, editing for two other online publications, being generally bad at writing introductions, etc). But we’re not here to talk about that.

March is Women’s History Month in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, following the celebration of International Women’s Day on every 8th day of the month. Nowadays, it’s not just the West anymore. For this issue of the Cotabato Literary Journal, we sought out works by women and female-identifying individuals. I say, female-identifying, as gender is anything but a construct.

Jermafe Kae Prias’s Trimester Epiphanies is, if anything, a delight to read, as it weaves through the experiences of pregnancy—especially when it happens in college, with the coming of motherhood lapping at the last lines, and for each trimester, the poem changes shape and form to emphasize the vastness and turbulence of said experiences.

Mariz Leona’s story, Sa Kabilang Dulo ng Baril, seems apt for the current state in the country; wherein the narrator’s father is running a business, albeit illegally as it is unregistered (though not involving drugs) but a couple of police officers—drunk and apparently, drug users—arrive to extort money from the father.

Ig-agaw by Hannah A. Leceña, I believe, should be read wherein one should be prepared. This is a story about rape, notably, the incestuous kind. Also, it’s written in the Bisaya spoken widely in the region, which is of course vastly different from the ones spoken in Davao and especially, in the Visayas.

Rossel M. Audencial may be a newcomer to writing, but The Girl is a simple, yet haunting story, told through three different points of view.

Farewell to Grief, an essay of loss from Ma. Jocedel Zulita, paints a vivid portrait of parental loss, but it also shows us the aftermath of that loss, and eventually, how to mend the weight of absence left behind—even if it takes quite a long while to do so.

March is ending, and we are earnestly greeted by inconsistent heatwaves. Our season of tag-init calls, and I hope that you, dear reader, can read these fine works under the mercy of trees. (Or in a cafe with a functioning air conditioner and wifi connection.)

Saquina Karla C. Guiam
General Santos City