Likhaan 6 The Journal

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1 Likhaan 6 The Journal of Contemporary Philippine Literature The University of the Philippines Press Diliman, Quezon City

2 LIKHAAN 6 The Journal of Contemporary Philippine Literature 2012 by UP Institute of Creative Writing All rights reserved. No copies can be made in part or in whole without prior written permission from the author and the publisher. ISSN: Gémino H. Abad Issue Editor Virgilio S. Almario Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo Associate Editors Ruth Jordana Luna Pison Managing Editor Anna Sanchez Publication Assistant Zenaida N. Ebalan Book Designer ADVISERS Gémino H. Abad Virgilio S. Almario Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio Bienvenido L. Lumbera FELLOWS Jose Y. Dalisay Jr. Jose Neil C. Garcia Victor Emmanuel Carmelo D. Nadera Jr. Charlson Ong Jun Cruz Reyes Rolando B. Tolentino ASSOCIATES Romulo P. Baquiran Jr. ICW STAFF Arlene Ambong Andresio Gloria Evangelista Pablo C. Reyes

3 Contents v An Introduction to Our Literary Scene in 2011 Gémino H. Abad SHORT FICTION / MAIKLING KUWENTO 3 Armor John Bengan 16 The Old Man and His False Teeth Hammed Bolotaolo 31 Siren Angelo Lacuesta 38 What They Remember Jenette Vizcocho 52 Troya Joselito D. delos Reyes 68 Ang Batang Gustong Maging Ipis Carlo Pacolor Garcia 73 Gitnang-Araw Mixkaela Villalon POETRY / TULA 95 Sea Stories Merlie M. Alunan 102 Stretch Isabela Banzon 106 Four Poems Mookie Katigbak 111 Parameters Joel M. Toledo 115 Being One Alfred A. Yuson iii

4 121 Alamat ng Isang Awit at Iba pang Tula Michael M. Coroza 126 Mga Tula Edgar Calabia Samar 130 Sa Kanilang Susunod Isang Kalipunan ng mga Tula Charles Bonoan Tuvilla 141 Mula sa Agua Enrique Villasis NONFICTION 149 The Last Gesture Merlie M. Alunan 166 Traversing Fiction and Nonfiction in Travel Writing Vicente Garcia Groyon 178 The River of Gold Jeena Rani Marquez 194 Butterfly Sleep and Other Feuilletons Rowena Tiempo Torrevillas INTERVIEW / PANAYAM 207 Intensities of Signs: An Interview with the Visionary Cirilo F. Bautista Ronald Baytan 237 Ang Tatlong Panahon ng Panulaan ni Rogelio G. Mangahas Louie Jon A. Sanchez at Giancarlo Lauro C. Abrahan 267 English 276 Filipino SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY OF LITERARY WORKS, Contributors / Mga Kontribyutor 289 Editors / Mga Editor iv Likhaan 6

5 An Introduction to Our Literary Scene in 2011 Gémino H. Abad What is a literary work? Anything literary poetry, fiction, play, essay is wrought from language; wrought, the past tense of work, for the writer works the language, as the farmer the soil, so their medium might bear fruit. Thus, we call any poem or short story a literary work : a work of language. As wrought, the poem s words (I use poem, from Greek poiein, to make, as generic term for all literary works) bring the past alive to the present, for the writer brings to life what he remembers, and thereby, offers the sensitive reader a gift; the reader need only open with his own imagination the writer s present. The literary work is, of course, a work of imagination, even as language itself, ceaselessly reinvented, and its script are the finest invention of the human imagination. It may be that onomatopoeia, the mimesis of the sounds of nature and human situations, is the origin and fount of language and writing. Imagination entails work of memory; the ancient Greeks were right when they thought of Mnemosyne as the mother of the nine Muses. Memory brings to life what is past, what in one s experience has moved one s soul. I have always been struck by what Eduardo Galeano says of memory: to remember, he says, is in Spanish, recordar, which derives from Latin, recordis, that is, to pass through the heart. 1 For the heart s memory is the profoundest, that which has most stirred one s whole being. Similarly, the etymology of experience from both Latin (experiri) and Greek (enpeiran) spells the very nature of all our living, for it denotes all the meaningfulness of our human condition: to undergo or pass through, to try or attempt (hence, the English experiment and trial ), to fare or go on a journey, to meet with chance and danger, for nothing is certain. v

6 We consider the author s work first as literary: that is, both as work of language and as work of imagination. As work of language, we regard its craft, mindful of what the philosopher Albert Camus says about style or the writer s way with language: that it brings about the simultaneous existence of reality and the mind that gives reality its form. 2 As work of imagination, we contemplate its vision and meaningfulness, for its mimesis or simulation of a human experience is already an interpretation of it. In short, we consider the literary work as work (labor) of art. Only then, I should think, might we consider other factors or forces that made it possible or that might elucidate certain aspects of its nature other than its literariness; such other factors as the author s own life or experience (we would of course have to examine all his works), his psychology, the social and intellectual forces in his own time, his own country s history and culture, etc. Here lies the value of other theories or approaches than the formalist (despite every theory s limitations and excesses). Since theory is essentially a way of looking from certain basic assumptions, none is apodictic (absolutely certain). The literary work as work of language and imagination is basically rhetorical in nature: it aims to persuade and thereby to move and give pleasure. That is its dynamis, power, or effect (in Tagalog, dating): dulce et utile, says Horace revel and revelation. Dating: the work literally arrives: that is, it stirs the reader s imagination and, persuaded by the authenticity of the imagined experience, be that only an emotional outburst or a train of reflection, the reader is moved at the core of his being as human. The good and the true and the beautiful: these are clichés, abstractions, even (if you will) illusions; but when they come alive in a particular scene or human situation, with words and words through imagery and metaphor and other figures of thought which arouse the imagination, then the work, the achieve of, the mastery of the thing, arrives. The good, the true, and the beautiful and their opposites, as well arise in the flesh, as it were, and convict us without pity: we cry tears or are purged in laughter. A book, says J. M. Coetzee, should be an axe to chop open the frozen sea inside us. 3 In sum: whatever the literary work s paksa (subject or theme), it is the work s saysay (point, significance, meaningfulness) and diwa (spirit, vision, stance or attitude toward reality) that endow the paksa with persuasive and emotional force (dating). What are requisite for any reader are a deep sense for language and a capacity for that close reading which opens the text: that word-weave, after all, has already come to terms with itself. Any interpretation vi Likhaan 6

7 of the text is a coming to terms with it, too. Of course, interpretations of paksa, saysay, and diwa may vary because the reader draws from his own life experience, his wide reading, and his own psyche which comprises his own temperament and predilections, biases and ideological advocacies. Play of language, play of mind, for revel and revelation that is the literary work. Imagination herself is player and mimic with various guises and masks. For craft, play of language because one must ever try to override and transcend the voids and inadequacies of language by its own evocative power, and thereby enhance its capacity to forge new forms or renew past habitations of the word. 4 And for cunning, play of mind because there are no absolute certainties. On that so-called universal plane, we are one species: homo sapiens, presumably. On that plane, nationality is a legal fiction, and one s country is only how one imagines her as one stands upon his own ground: that is, his own heartland s culture and history through fleeting time. That universal plane isn t the realm of eternal verities, only the site of everlasting questioning. The best among the best in Likhaan 6 My calling is poetry that is, only if anyone might presumptuously claim from the Muse what truly cannot be anyone s possession in that craft or sullen art. I beg then my reader s indulgence for my remarks on the poetry wrought from English that, for embarrassment of riches, could not all be accommodated in Likhaan 6. There are quite a number of remarkable poems that I personally would not hesitate to include in an update of A Habit of Shores should I venture again into those woods lovely, dark and deep ; for instances, each one for wholeness perfectly chiseled Jov Almero s palindrome ; Miro Capili s Monet s Last Yellow ; F. Jordan Carnice s Relativities ; Albert B. Casuga s Graffiti: Five Lenten Poems ; Nolin Adrian de Pedro s caxton ; Vincent Dioquino s candescence ; Jan Brandon Dollente s When I say the sky opens its mouth ; Eva Gubat s A Telling of Loss ; Pauline Lacanilao s A Crowded Bus Stops Abruptly ; Christine V. Lao s Swatches ; R. Torres Pandan s Remembering Our Future ; Trish Shishikura s, The Manner of Living ; Jaime Oscar M. Salazar s Clinch ; Arlene Yandug s Aporia. There are poems, too, that taking after other poets works and poems, are informed by wit and satire: Anne Carly Abad s How the world got owned ; Jasmine Nikki Paredes s This Poem Is a Mouth ; and Vyxz Vasquez s Epal. I might illustrate further with some striking passages: from Pauline Lacanilao s Love Language Introduction vii

8 If I ever learn the name of the moment after prayer when the Amen sheathes its blade but the hilt of want still glints, I will call my child the same. Or from Eva Gubat s Eurydice, Rebooted No need for saving. She will burn any stranger s rope ladder hanging deliciously from earth s tongue. Or from Miro Capili s Overture to a disturbance A house dreams of its rooms. The frame of a window yearns for a view of what extends it. Likewise, as regards the fiction and nonfiction in English, and all the works in Filipino, we have reaped a bountiful harvest. As editor I have relied on my associates for their judgment. I am most grateful to them and to all our reviewers who have been a great help in the final, objective-subjective selection of the works for Likhaan 6. While I am not at liberty to reveal our reviewers identities, I might draw from their commentaries which exemplify, I should think, the standards and tastes of the contemporary critic-reader of our literature in both English and Filipino. Their comments may also spur more and ever finer writing. (For brevity, but without losing their sense, I have edited their comments.) As regards first the poetry in English, one reviewer, in choosing eight from the crop (seventy-two poetry collections of generally fine quality, says this reviewer), preferred poems that are aware of the Filipino experience, yet also conscious of poetry as the most potent use of language [so that] each word or image, each poem as a whole, pulsates with a certain force because it has been made (undergone poiesis) into a thing of beauty and meaning. viii Likhaan 6

9 This reviewer chose Sea Stories, Akin to Feeling, Parameters, Grafitti: Five Lenten Poems, In Lieu of the Visible, This Poem Is a Mouth, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas s Cookbook, and In the Garden. The other reviewer also clarifies a personal view: I like a poem that is at home in the world, in this century, and perceivable by the human senses, not one that denies meaning, sensibility, or reality as we know it. If there is a delay in meaning, it is intentional, and there is a perceivable reward for such a tactic. Such a poem has respect for a reader who is addressed or is allowed to overhear the speaker s thoughts. Such a poem has urgency in what is uttered. It shows a discipline with thought and language I praise the poet s individual vision, but I also value his/her resonance with tradition. The poem (and poet) is part of something larger and something older. This reviewer comments in detail on individual poems from each of five chosen poetry collections: Parameters, Stretch, an untitled collection that began with Angle Mort, Akin to Feeling, and The Difference between Abundance and Grace. The final poetry selection limited each poetry collection to four/five poems. The subject of Merlie M. Alunan s poems (here only part of a series called Sea Stories ) is unmistakable in its immediacy, very real in its mythmaking, and effective in its aesthetic of catastrophe. In Joel M. Toledo s poems (likewise, only part of a suite called Parameters ) the cycle say, from Om to Oath, as preferred by one reviewer resounds the wonder of language and the world, and finally, in Oath, there is a letting go of all useless, unnecessary fury without being weak but ready to face mercy, confront frailty. Isabela Banzon s poems (in a series called Stretch ) sometimes seem undisciplined with their uneven lines but, when read aloud, they have a strange, rhythmic regularity; they re like a song list for Balikbayan Videoke, but the language and poetic structure refuse to let the poem fall into melodrama. Alfred A. Yuson s lyric suite, Being One, is (to adopt his own words) a double-edged sword [of] an antic mind that celebrates a moral order of aesthetics where: Equipoise of execution Is all that s needed for a crossover above rivers of demarcation, between nations and genders. Toss in genres. Introduction ix

10 And certainly not the least are Mookie Katigbak s Four Poems, for they are perfectly chiseled in the puzzle s core : heart s weather and mind s lit equations/of faiths we keep untrue for. For all the works wrought from Filipino, I relied on our reviewers and on National Artist for Literature Virgilio S. Almario. There were fifty-one poetry collections; of these, four were among seven finalists in our reviewers list. The poems by Enrique Villasis, Charles Bonoan Tuvilla, Edgar Calabia Samar, and Michael M. Coroza ably represent, says Almario the most recent thematic pursuits and the corresponding experimental poetic expressions in Filipino. The poets invariably display a high degree of mastery of modern Filipino, even while using the traditional tugma t sukat or carving new forms in free verse, and disciplining the language according to their various chosen ideological missions. In regard to fiction in English (fifty-nine short stories), one reviewer selected eight; other than those finally selected, among these eight (including the reviewer s digest of the story) are: Sugar and Sweetness (a gay couple undergoes the same struggle as other couples having to come to terms with the brevity of things ); The Outsiders (a community s concerted effort against new arrivals who bring changes forces it to grapple with its uneasy collective conscience ); Ecstasy at Barranca, a Tale of the Baroque (a family rivalry set against the backdrop of their town s religious tradition); Still Life ( the persona s world ends when her son gets lost, but when the Rapture occurs, she meets in the empty new world a young man who inspires her to again be the dancer she used to be; however, he too turns into dust, leaving her to declare the world s end a second time ); and Laws of Stone ( a fantasy revolving around a quest, its world-building done with care; plot-driven, with well-drawn characters ). The other reviewer chose six, among them: The Outsiders ; The New Daughter ( an interesting sequel to the Pinocchio tale ); The Room by the Kitchen ( a domestic helper in Singapore gradually becomes a surrogate mother to an 8-year-old girl whose parents are too busy ); and The Photographer of Dupont Circle ( the intricacies in the relationship of a Filipino and his American boyfriend, a professional photographer; when the latter exhibits his photographs of poverty and squalor in the Philippines, the Filipino then retaliates, which makes for a thought-provoking ending ). Four stories were finally chosen. In Jenette N. Vizcocho s What They Remember, there are, says one reviewer, two lives that intersect, both grappling with loss of memory and its retrieval; the significant details are palpable, and the characters, carefully drawn, are sympathetic. The x Likhaan 6

11 characters pain is all the more poignant for having been suppressed for so long, says associate editor Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo; for one character, the pain finds expression, perverse though it might be; for the other, there may be release from her self-imposed exile, as she stares at her cell phone s screen and its blinking cursor. Angelo Lacuesta s Siren is focused, says Hidalgo, on a dysfunctional family, seen through the eyes of a child. But at the heart of the story is injustice, here made almost sinister by a total lack of remorse. It is, says one reviewer, a deceptively straightforward narrative of a domestic helper suspected of stealing a piece of jewelry; irony is achieved through the effective use of the daughter s (the culprit s) point of view. Hammed Bolotaolo s The Old Man and His False Teeth is, says Hidalgo, a wildly romantic tale set in a Manila rendered unfamiliar yet eerily recognizable by an immense flood, and built around a most unlikely love token: a set of illfitting false teeth. It is, says one reviewer, a story within a story within still another story: an old man tells a young boy how he courted and married a girl who later gifts him with the false teeth he lovingly, meticulously cleans every day but never uses; he risks his life to recover it, disappears, and becomes an urban legend. As regards John Bengan s Armor, I combine both reviewers comments: it narrates the transformation from self-absorbed to sympathetic character of a gay, small-time drug-dealer who knows the syndicate will hit him; he attempts to win a beauty pageant by fashioning a unique gown with an armored sleeve which actually makes him vulnerable; at the story s end, he tries to save his young assistant who crafted his armor. It is as romantic in its way as Bolotaolo s narrative, says Hidalgo, but even stranger elements have been tossed into the brew: drug dealers and death squads; a door-todoor beauty stylist who sometimes choreographs intermission dance numbers for government employees; ukay-ukay and a gay pageant held every year in Mintal on the eve of our Lady of the Immaculate Conception s Day, the town s patron saint. (Only Armor and The Outsider are among both story reviewers choices.) The fiction in Filipino numbered twenty-five. Says one reviewer: Sa aking palagay, ang maikling kuwento ang prosang nalalapit sa tula sa puntong nangangailangan ito ng mga salitang may presisyon upang makapagpahayag ng damdamin (at ideang) ipahayag sa pinakamaikling maaaring paraan. This reviewer chose three of which two were finally chosen: the third one is Ang Baysanan, a chapter from a novel, of which the reviewer says: Matingkad ang kulay [ng kuwento] na sapat na nagpapakita ng pumupusyaw nang tradisyon. The other reviewer chose eight: among them, Kung Bakit Hindi Introduction xi

12 Ako Katoliko Sarado ( a complex but likeable persona s observations show his understanding of the mysterious world of religion and seminary life ); Sa Sinapupunang Digmaan ( a moving story about war and its effects on the characters, especially the two children ); Physica Curiosa ( a laudable exploration of the mysteries of existence and the world of science in a context of lies fabricated by a ruling system ); Birhen ( a highly controlled series of lively encounters between a GRO and a geek where the prostitute with the golden heart is given a more contemporary take without mawkishness ); and Ang Baysanan ( a traditional story which shows an extraordinary mastery of Filipino and traditional poetry ). The final fiction selection comprise Mixkaela Villalon s Gitnang Araw ( its language is powerful, the insights deep, and the deployment of graphic details impressive; its delineation of character is remarkable, and its dominant tone effective in creating a rich meaningfulness ); Joselito D. delos Reyes s Troya ( the principal character and his antagonist are clearly delineated; apart from the story s humor, the mayhem after a natural calamity and the frenetic activities leading to the story s end are well recreated ); and Carlo Pacolor Garcia s Ang Batang Gustong Maging Ipis ( a story simply but powerfully told, the narrative lines spare and uncluttered ). National Artist Almario says that these three stories are among more than ten exemplary entries in Filipino. Gitnang Araw is remarkable for its consistent tone which is effectively employed to create a rich series of meanings. Troya uses humor as an integral part of its highly political allegory. In contrast, Garcia s story takes on the guise, as it were, of a child s story but is nonetheless as powerful and interesting a read. All three stories are among both story reviewers choices. As to nonfiction in English (in all, seventeen essays), one reviewer chose eight, and the other, five; among these essays other than those finally selected both reviewers selected (and so, I have combined their brief comments): How To Play the Violin ( an intimate and lyrical statement of the author s artistic creed, it is well-structured and deftly nuanced in its choice of incidents and tones ); and To My Granddaughter on Christmas Eve ( the concern over a granddaughter s future in the grandmother s letter is candid, eloquent, and touching ). Also selected by the first reviewer are: The Old Man ( a heart-tugging memoir about the author s father rises to a universal truth about the complexity of father-child relationships ) and A Dead Man s Society ( a character profile of Rizal that brings him back to life and makes him reachable as our neighbor ). The second reviewer xii Likhaan 6

13 added Dao (the author remembers the houses his family lived in since his childhood and reflects on his own life experiences and how familial ties are forged and homes built ). The four nonfiction works selected Merlie M. Alunan s The Last Gesture, Vicente Garcia Groyon s Traversing Fiction and Nonfiction in Travel Writing, Jeena Rani Marquez s A River of Gold, and the essays of Rowena Tiempo Torrevillas are also among both essay reviewers choices; hence, I have combined their comments. Alunan s essay is a long, hard, disturbing look at motherhood; very well written in a quiet, seemingly matter-of-fact narrative tone which makes it all the more poignant, where the last gesture is letting go the children now all grown up. Hidalgo also notes that the essay is a memoir of motherhood the physical experience, of it, the incessant demands it imposes, the gravity of the commitment, its ultimate solitariness with an unflinching candor rare in the personal narratives of Filipino women writers, a candor both surprising and deeply moving. Groyon s essay, beautifully written, is an honest, self-aware, unflinching look at the creative process in nonfiction; it deals with the issue of the blurring boundaries between fiction and nonfiction. Its ostensible subject is the author s trip to Spain to retrace a Spanish poet s travels there this by a fictionist who has never written a travel essay nor has ever been to Spain nor speaks her language, but feels obliged to filter Spain through a former colonial subject s eyes. Hidalgo notes the dry, self-deprecating humor in Groyon s travel essay; when asked to explain why he accepted the assignment from the Instituto Cervantes to retrace the Spanish poet Miguel Hernandez s travels in Spain, he said: I accepted the task with a degree of cockiness, believing, with my fiction writer s bias, that if one can write a decent story, then one can write anything. Marquez s essay, which won the second prize in the 2011 Palanca, is a biography of Cagayan de Oro where historical events are interspersed with personal/family vignettes. For Hidalgo, the same essay is a moving piece about growing up in Cagayan de Oro and learning sometimes at great cost the many nuances of identity, family, friendship and community. Tiempo-Torrevillas s series of feuilletons is a lighthearted take on obsessive-compulsive disorder which combines smart sophistication with wistfulness, humor with serious musing; it shows the range of the disorder through illustrations and anecdotes, and attributes it to the need to impose order on an unpredictable world. For Hidalgo, the feuilletons are part memoir and part meditations on a variety of things dreams, television cooking shows, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and moments of unexpected sweetness which read like a prose poem. Introduction xiii

14 None of the critical essays (eight in English, three in Filipino) and six nonfiction pieces in Filipino passed. As regards the interviews, National Artist Almario notes that Rogelio G. Mangahas is one of the triumvirate of poets in the 60s [the other two are Rio Alma and Lamberto E. Antonio] who spearheaded the second wave of Modernismo through the literary magazine, Dawn, of the University of the East. Louie Jon A. Sanchez and Giancarlo Lauro C. Abrahan in their interview-essay explore the three periods pagbabalik-tanaw, pangangahas, and pagkamalay in Mangahas s writing life where the poet bore great difficulties and personal sacrifices [in breaking] away from the dominant and popular tradition in native Philippine literatures. Ronald Baytan s essay, Intensities of Signs, is an excellent introduction to Cirilo F. Bautista; the interview which follows reveals Bautista s views on language, the craft of poetry, and the influences on his works by focusing on Bautista s oeuvres his poetry in English and Filipino, especially his epic poem, The Trilogy of Saint Lazarus; his fiction in English and Filipino; and his translation of Amado V. Hernandez. The annotated select Bibliography of literary works in English by Camille Dela Rosa and in Filipino by Jayson Petras is indisputable witness to the vigor and riches of our national literature. I cannot end this introduction to the best among the best literary works without grateful acknowledgement of the generosity of spirit, cheer and industry of my associate editors, National Artist Virgilio S. Almario and Professor emeritus Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo; our anonymous reviewers in English and Filipino; our indefatigable managing editor, Prof. Ruth Jordana L. Pison, and publication assistant, Anna Sanchez; Dr. Leo Abaya for the Likhaan 6 cover; and the diligent staffs at the UP Press (Zenaida N. Ebalan, Grace Bengco, and Arvin Abejo Mangohig) and the Institute of Creative Writing (Eva Garcia-Cadiz, Gloria C. Evangelista, and Pablo C. Reyes). Endnotes 1. Epigraph to Galeano s The Book of Embraces, tr. Cedric Belfrage with Mark Schafer (New York: W. W. Norton, 1992) I came fortuitously upon this quote as I sought my source in Camus for his remark on style. 3. In Coetzee s novel, Summertime (Penguin Books, 2009): William H. Gass, Habitations of the Word Essays (New York: Touchstone Book, Simon & Schuster, 1986). xiv Likhaan 6

15 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

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17 Armor John Bengan The week Ronnie was planning to die, one of his neighbors paid him a visit. Ronnie had just come back from the seamstress, bringing home a newly mended sheath dress he would wear at the pageant, when Oliver showed up. The Death Squad, Oliver said. They re after you. Ronnie considered what reactions were possible. He would back away from the Mylar-covered table where Oliver was nursing his coffee. He would warn Oliver that he didn t appreciate this kind of joke, not after bodies had been found in empty, grassy lots around Mintal. Instead, Ronnie soaked up his neighbor s silence, leaned on the refrigerator and lit a cigarette. Where was the Death Squad when he regularly handed out shabu to the crew of wiry boys who had hung out at his beauty salon? They were hired guns, the Death Squad, who used to go after drug pushers, but lately they d been taking down street gang members, crystal meth users, petty thieves. Oliver was talking to him about a list they had at the community hall, a list of targets. Someone had tipped him off about Ronnie s name being in it. Oliver was telling him now so he could leave town before they found him. I don t even push, said Ronnie. You bought from Tiago before he was shot. Ronnie had forgotten how nosy the neighbors could be. He thought of his stash in the pillowcase. Tiago, his go-to guy for crystal meth, was one of those who d been killed. They said a man on a motorcycle stopped in front of Tiago who was chatting with regulars outside his karaoke pub. The man shot him through the lungs four times. He hadn t really known anyone who got killed by these gunmen until that time. A day before the shooting, Ronnie had seen Tiago in the same spot and they d waved at each other. I only got them for the pageant, Ronnie said. To prepare. You know, lose some weight? You re joking, right? said Oliver, eyeing him as though he were a stranger. In college, Oliver never fit in with Ronnie s clique: sharp-tongued 3

18 bayots who thrived on banter. There was always something open and raw about Oliver, as if he didn t have time to assume a pose, to make pretend. Don t you have any confidence in me? Ronnie asked. Maybe this year is my year. After seeing Oliver out of the house, Ronnie resolved to stick to the plan. Before the Death Squad entered the picture, he had already made his decision. If the Death Squad were truly after him, they would have to race him down to that stage. The pageant, known to many as Miss Gay, was a competition among cross-dressing gay men, a backwoods copy of international beauty contests for women. Like the Miss Universe pageant, Miss Gay involved a sequence of elimination rounds: national costume, swimsuit, evening gown, and the Q&A. The pageant was held every year in Mintal on the eve of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the town s patron saint. As he was leaving his house to offer beauty treatments in the neighborhood, Ronnie found a young man squatting outside the gate. Hi, gwapa! The boy got up, revealing a set of small yellow teeth. We re looking so pretty today. Ronnie knew him as Biboy, one of Tiago s former drug runners. Biboy was wearing a lime-green basketball jersey and camouflage shorts, ringlets of dirt around his neck. With his hard, nimble body and long wingspan, he resembled a field bird with a handsome face. Not buying today. I still have a few more left, Ronnie said. Who said I was selling? said Biboy, pressing his body closer to Ronnie. They took down Bossing Tiago. Haven t you heard? You should be careful then, Ronnie told the boy and moved on. Three weeks earlier, his assistant had emptied the cash register and split, taking boxes of expensive hair coloring products on the way out. The betrayal came on the heels of a huge blow. Ronnie s straight male lover, whom he d supported through college, had left to marry a girl he d gotten pregnant. Ronnie had to close down the salon and move to a boarding house in a compound used mainly as an automobile workshop. To pay rent, he started going door-to-door, offering makeup, hair styling, even manicures and pedicures. Occasionally he would choreograph dance numbers for local government employees who needed intermission numbers for their parties. 4 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

19 One afternoon, as he woke up to the sound of melting steel, Ronnie decided he d had enough. He walked to the highway, the sunlight knifing his eyes. He was about to fling himself before a truck hauling timber from Lorega when he noticed a banner fluttering at the entrance of the gymnasium, its carefully painted words heralding a coronation. The whole town would watch him compete again, hundreds of his neighbors who d already written him off as a cautionary tale would see him at his glamorous best, see him in a long gown, on that stage, spotlights beamed on him. Ronnie knew that he still had one thing left to do before killing himself. After serving his clients, Ronnie skipped lunch to sign up for the pageant at the community hall. The deadline for registration had produced chaos: people argued over who would get to be Miss Venezuela, Miss Puerto Rico, and Miss Colombia, powerhouses in international pageants. The organizers, who didn t anticipate the complication, resolved the matter by making contestants draw lots, to which most of the bayots grudgingly agreed. Flaunting a callcenter-accented English, the most mestiza of the bunch grumbled when he didn t pick Miss USA. One bayot, who clamored nakedly for attention, literally sang with joy when he plucked out Miss Philippines from the glass filled with nations names. Ronnie had joined pageants in college. It was a thrill some bayots chased, from tarpaulin-bordered basketball courts at small-town fiestas to huge convention halls in cities. Together with friends, he had entered every contest in Davao and in towns as far as Lanao. He was slimmer then, naturally smooth, his drowsy eyes framed by a small hard-boned face. Since he d come in late, Ronnie found himself at the end of the queue. He took a strip of paper from the glass, read what he got, and quickly thumbed it into his shorts pocket. He had fished out Great Britain, a nation still winless in the Miss Universe contest, but he could live with it. Maybe it s time, Ronnie was thinking, that they bow down to The Queen. What you have there? a bayot asked him. He had long, ironed hair touching his bare shoulders. Secret, Ronnie said. You ll have to see for yourself. Chos! sneered another one, frail and much younger, with unusually pale skin that was almost gray. When was the last time you joined? The 1960s? John Bengan 5

20 Ronnie was going to say something lighthearted when he noticed the way the youngsters were looking at him. The one with flattened hair asked him, So how does it feel to be a thankyou girl? The phrase summoned the humiliating image of a contestant packing up his things after losing. You did not simply lose: you didn t stand a chance. Ronnie bristled. You carry yourselves not with poise but with vulgarity. Neither of you deserve any kind of crown! When they didn t respond, he took it as the perfect moment to leave with a final barb: You are still on your way, but I am already coming back. The following day he still couldn t figure out his national costume. Desperate for ideas, he scoured old magazines, looking for icons, but he couldn t find anything that inspired. Then, after lunching on a cup of rice and one salted fish, he saw something on TV. He was mindlessly flipping channels his landlord was thoughtful enough to share cable TV when a vision seized him: a model marching from the stage wing in a flowing couture dress, her body glimmering so brightly, she looked as though she was swaddled in flames. The most remarkable part of the ensemble was her right arm. Cased in a gold armored sleeve, the arm looked like it belonged to a knight. The warrior queen stepped out of the tube and crossed into Ronnie s living room, blinding him with light. He took out a pencil and a pad of yellow paper, moved closer to the TV set, and began sketching. There it was, the gown that would send him back to the Miss Gay pageant one last time. King Arthur, after all, was British. Afraid inspiration would wane, Ronnie rushed to the hardware store. He picked up aluminum sheets, wires, metal shears, tiny screws and nuts, and a can of gold aerosol paint. At the tricycle cab terminal, he saw Biboy again. The way the boy beamed at him, it was as if he d been waiting for Ronnie to appear. After you, gwaps. Biboy hopped in and sat beside Ronnie. When they reached the compound, the boy got off and followed him to the gate. Let me carry that, he offered, grasping at the plastic bags in Ronnie s hands. Ronnie noticed the boy was wearing the same green basketball jersey and shorts. 6 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

21 I don t have time. Shoo, before my landlord sees you. The boy skipped in front of him, blocking his way. He was so tall that the top of his head almost cleared the iron spikes on the hollow block wall. The grooves of his ribs showed through the jersey s large armholes. Promise you I ll be good, said Biboy. Sige na, gwaps. If you want we can arrange something. I m a very talented singer. Then he smirked, so Ronnie would know exactly what kind of singing he had in mind. Really, I have a lot to finish. He brushed the boy aside and opened the smaller entrance. Maybe I can clean your house, the boy prodded. Pick up your groceries. I only need a place to stay. Please, gwaps? Ronnie was about to shut the gate when it occurred to him. He could really use some help after all. Quick. Before I change my mind. Taking the bags from Ronnie s hands, the boy followed him to the house. After peeping into the only bedroom, Biboy reclined on the rattan sofa and shook off his flip-flops, propping his feet comfortably on a beanbag. Small, but cozy he said. He found the sketches Ronnie had made for the armored sleeve. What s this? Excalibur! Biboy chuckled. Suit of armor, said Ronnie. Don t tell anyone. That s my national costume for the Miss Gay pageant. What? This? You have a fever, gwaps? Just the arm, Ronnie said. I ll wear it with a long gown covered in sequins. The bayot with the golden arm! Tripping! Maybe you want to sleep at the market tonight. Uh, yes, boss, said Biboy. As long as you re happy, I m happy. Ronnie spread the materials he d bought out on the floor. He considered making three detachable parts to form the whole sleeve, following his initial sketches. Perhaps he would get some mesh cloth, or something rubbery. Or he could stitch the arm plates with wire, make an inner sleeve that would look like chain mail. You know, gwaps, I can help you with that, said Biboy. That s what you re here for. Biboy tossed the sketches. I got a high mark in industrial arts. For my project, I made an iron garden set. Compared to that, your arm plate is peanuts. John Bengan 7

22 Okay, Mister Industrial Design, said Ronnie. There s chicken siopao and orange juice in the fridge. For the first time since he d moved into the compound, Ronnie got out of bed early. The dusty shafts of light cutting through the windows made it seem like he was in a different world. The dress for the Q&A segment was ready, along with a one-piece red, white, and blue swimsuit patterned after the Union Jack. He d borrowed it from a woman friend who, in her younger years, had worked as a choreographer in Brunei. There was one competition left. He needed to build an armored sleeve and pair it with an evening gown, which he had yet to secure. Biboy had asked him to download pictures of medieval armors that they could copy. The living room was empty, pillows and sheets heaped on the floor. The boy had already left to shoot hoops. On the table Ronnie found a fist-size chunk of bread smeared with margarine. He swallowed it. Hunger sharpened his focus. After conceiving his costume, he d begun a breakfast regimen of pan de sal, two Fortune cigarettes, and black, sugarless coffee. He would not have lunch until the afternoon when he would buy Coke and a pack of crackers from the grocery chain across the street. For supper, he would have a glass of water and a last cigarette. This saved him some money, which allowed him to splurge on wardrobe and accessories for the pageant. Holding a sturdy nylon umbrella, Ronnie ducked out of the gate and walked over to Mintal s newest Internet café. The café had opened behind the gymnasium where the pageant would be staged. On that hot windless day the paved roads seemed to wriggle under the heat. The streets of Mintal were fringed with brightly colored trimmings. In a vacant lot not far from the church, a shabby carnival had shown up, erecting a neon-lit Ferris wheel that loomed taller than any structure in town. The café was full of high school boys playing online war games. An attendant, who was playing along with them, pointed Ronnie to a vacant PC near the bathroom. He studied a photo of a knight in a suit of armor. The warrior s torso was encased in plates of polished metal, his helmet like a silver birdcage perched on his steel-padded shoulders. The intricacy alarmed him; he was relieved that he only needed the arm. But that alone had eight components, with 8 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

23 sinister-sounding labels like Spaulder and Pauldron. He made a mental note to build three attachable parts, covering the shoulder, elbow, forearm, and hand. He could fix the aluminum plates over a thick material fake leather maybe, or rubber which he would then spray-paint in gold. After surfing the Web, he moved on to the stalls of used clothing at the public market. New items had arrived at the ukay stands just in time for the crowd to go shopping during the weeklong festivity. He surveyed the line of tents but couldn t find anything that pleased him. After nearly an hour, Ronnie found himself sorting through a bin full of old drapes. How much for these curtains? He lifted a beige sheet printed with what looked like cascading spirals of purple dahlias. The vendor squinted up at Ronnie. He was sitting on a plastic chair made for little children. Twelve pesos per bunch, he barked. He was hefty and sunburned in a perforated shirt and denim pants cut off at the knees. He offered Ronnie a crinkly, mildewed lavender drape that probably had been hung in a hospital. From US and Japan. First-class. Ronnie wrapped the cloth around his torso and, with his other hand, pulled another curtain from the heap. He draped it around his neck like a scarf. In a desperate moment, he entertained the possibility of sewing a gown out of these curtains, but decided to try another tent. Inside, he found a teenage girl munching on corn chips. Finally his luck turned. Dangling from the ceiling was a heavily beaded serpentina dress, its bodice wrapped delicately in sequins and tulle. The gown was displayed between a life-size orca stuffed toy and velvet halter dresses that only the most unimaginative amateurs would be drawn to. Using a long stick with a hooked end, the shopgirl took the dress down and showed it to Ronnie. He was close to tears. The silhouette was similar to what he d seen on TV, the fabric in good condition, with only a few small tears, detailed with swirling translucent beads, clearly made by hand, and the color saffron, he decided flattered his skin tone. Paired with an armored sleeve, the dress would look stunning on him. Elated, he didn t even haggle. He stepped out of the tent, triumphant. Before going home, he dropped by his trusted seamstress a few blocks from the compound. John Bengan 9

24 He tottered through the gate, left the printouts in the sala, shut himself up in his room. He was about to doze off when the sound of an engine made him jump. He flew out of his room and peered through the glass window slats. Bougainvillea grew in tangled profusion beyond the dismantled corpses of trucks and cars in the yard. Neighbors had been talking about how the vigilantes were closing in on Mintal after a rash of muggings and rapes in the village. Witnesses had sworn that Tiago s hit man rode a motorcycle. All these assassins, they said, rode motorcycles. The engine roared. He wondered if the gate was locked. He wished someone from the landlord s house would come out and check. What are you looking at? Biboy said, stepping out of the bathroom. That noise. Ronnie walked over to the kitchen and took a jug of ice-cold water from the fridge. He drank it all in one swig. See, gwaps. Biboy was holding out a scrap of aluminum. I copied your printouts and made one for the shoulder. The boy had cut and bent the aluminum precisely into an oval shape that resembled a gold plate on a knight s shoulder. Show me how you did it, Ronnie said. I didn t use a hammer. Just this. Biboy picked up a set of pliers from the floor. The hammer would ve dented it bad. Told you it was easy. Yes, you did, said Ronnie. He went back for his gown the next afternoon. The flaws had been mended, the size altered. The seamstress charged two hundred pesos, but Ronnie pleaded with her. He d come to her shop hoping for a price cut since she d been a loyal customer at his salon. The seamstress agreed on condition that Ronnie would offer hairstyling and makeup at her granddaughter s début, for half his standard fee. But when Ronnie tried the dress on, the bodice squeezed his ribs; the side zipper wouldn t close. The seamstress offered to give it another go but he refused. It s only a half inch, he told the seamstress. I drank a lot of water today. As he was leaving the dress shop, Ronnie noticed a man across the road. The bald man was smoking inside an open-air canteen, observing him. 10 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

25 He wore jeans and a military jacket, and he had one of those unfortunate underbites that sealed the face into a permanent scowl. Ronnie carried his gown across the highway. From the corner of his eye, he saw the bald man leaving the canteen. Ronnie hurried into the crowded street fair, making his way through the snarl of carnival goers around the booths. Surely they wouldn t take him down here, not with all these people around. His breath quickened. He d heard about targets shot openly in daytime, on streets filled with motorists and bystanders, at house parties before stupefied guests. He would be dead by the end of the week, but only on his own terms. He pulled away from the crowd, the dress still in his hands. It was dark when he reached home. The boy was slurping instant noodles at his dinner table. Gwaps, I finished it, Biboy said. Indeed there it was, a copy of the object he d seen on television, fully realized. They had been working on the sleeve for the better part of the day. Ronnie had cut and shaped the aluminum, while the boy assembled the pieces. Biboy had done an excellent job of painting the whole thing in gold. Gently, Ronnie scooped the delicate thing from the couch. Made from spray-painted aluminum and rubber pads, the armored sleeve was better than he d imagined, three cylindrical parts perfectly fastened as a whole piece. On pageant day, Ronnie woke up to the sensation of little knives piercing his stomach. The walls were shifting. Two cups of coffee later, the pain didn t go away, and his body was wracked with chills. He shook what was left of his stash out of the pillowcase. He held the resealable packet closer as if to smell it, then spilled the content into his palm. The tooth-shaped shard of crystal was slightly smaller than the nail on his pinkie. Before lighting up, he installed a mosquito net in the living room. He preferred to trap the smoke inside the net, ever so careful not to waste a wisp of the stuff. Squatting under the net, he turned the TV volume up to drown out the mechanics outside welding steel. He tuned in to CNN, anticipating a current events entry during the pageant s Q&A portion; a paraphrased quote or two from a global headline would suffice. He poured what was left of his stash on a neatly folded sheet of tinfoil, held the foil gingerly over the flame, and with a tin pipe, began sucking the lush white vapor of melting crystal. Smoke billowed to the edge of the foil. Within seconds, he was vibrantly John Bengan 11

26 awake. He was again the most attractive, vivacious, irresistible creature he knew. At 4:30 p.m., he prepared for battle. He strapped the first layer of tape over his stomach, rolling it tight around his waist, folds of excess flesh inching up his torso. He donned two feminine panties, deftly inserting pads over his behind. Carefully, he cupped his soft penis and testicles, folding deep to reach the hollow between his buttocks. To keep it flat, he wrapped tape around his crotch, then he threw on one last pair of underwear, a silky charcoal black swatch of nylon. He would try to fit into the Union Jack one-piece later for the swimsuit competition. Ronnie then slipped on ten pairs of pantyhose; the thicker the layers, the more the illusion of curved, shapely legs was achieved. For breasts, he placed beneath a strapless bra two latex condoms filled with water, which he d tied in such a way that the rubber bloated into small globes. The tips of the condoms produced a somewhat realistic effect of nipples. On his face, he used a palette he d always relied on. Violet pigment on the lower lids, copper line over the lashes, indigo eye shadow, slick scarlet mouth. He applied false lashes using the milky paste from a star apple leaf, for a lasting hold. The rest of his body he coated with liquid foundation. Under the glare of lights, the tone shimmered on flesh like porcelain. He topped it all off with a wig, chestnut brown styled into petals, a gift from a friend who had been to Dubai. When he and Biboy arrived backstage, a few assistants were still strapping tape on their half-naked candidates, clipping extensions and spraying products on hard tiers of hair. The narrow space smelled of armpits; the floor was littered with tissue paper and torn fabric. There they were: bayots jiggling their hands to make manly veins disappear, while others, once their makeup was on, became stoic. There were long-limbed girly boys with taut dancers bodies toned after working in pubs in Japan as entertainers or male Japayukis, bayots with large breasts, bayots whose skin glowed from taking a cocktail of hormone pills. A few of them gazed at Ronnie coldly like they were in a trance. He wobbled as the boy helped him into his dress. The gown was still snug; he sucked in his stomach until Biboy could zip him up. Stale, rancid air 12 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

27 blew out of his throat. He d had two boiled bananas and coffee for breakfast and nothing since, but he steeled himself. The boy took out the armored sleeve from a carton tied up in twine. The bayots stared. Don t mind them, gwaps, Biboy said. Next to you, they look like clowns. Ronnie slid his right arm carefully into the sleeve, Biboy securing the last strap over his shoulder. After the metal clamped onto his skin, the length of his arm sheathed, Ronnie felt large and supremely complete. Lifting the sleeve close to his face, he felt like he could leap over the gymnasium and land on his feet. With a soft, victorious smile, he strutted regally in full view of the competition. What a costume! said one candidate, whom Ronnie immediately recognized as the flat-haired bayot who ridiculed him at the community hall. He was in a catsuit speckled with tiny mirrors. Did you make that yourself? he asked Ronnie. How much did you pay for it? Is that real, Te? another contestant asked. Ava-ava-avant garde! Their fascinated exclamations floated up and enveloped him. Ronnie was practicing his angles before a full-sized mirror when a contestant, looking petrified in a bright lavender kimono, startled him. The bayot stood unsteadily on six-inch clogs, his round face a shock of white makeup. He had on a wig of jet-black hair parted in three slick buns, adorned with a cluster of pink orchids. A sash was pinned on one of the kimono s giant sleeves, signifying the nation he represented: Japan, lettered in blue glitter. Oliver shrank, bracing as though for a slap. It struck Ronnie with equal amusement and anger, a gossip mongering bayot trying to scare him out of competition. So this is why you wanted me out of Mintal. Don t flatter yourself, said Oliver. Liquid talc had begun to dissolve around Oliver s puffy jaw. His thin sideburns were perspiring. A few contestants, who d been eavesdropping, descended on the neighbors. Round One Fight! one of them cheered. Ronnie gamely aimed his golden forearm at Oliver s face, but somebody tugged at his elbow. Gwaps, calm down, Biboy said. The boy s presence calmed him. Biboy was still there, the one who d been with him from the start. He thought about where the boy would go after all John Bengan 13

28 this was done. Ronnie slipped his bare arm around the boy s back and they turned away. Contestants were forming a queue behind the stage wings. Before leaving him backstage, the boy told Ronnie he would wait for him outside. To wild cheers and a thumping techno beat, the night s twenty-six candidates breezed onto the ramp, and forming a half circle across the stage, performed an impromptu line dance. A makeshift runway, dotted with lightbulbs on the rim, stretched toward the huge hall. Bamboo arches from which hung loops of colorful metallic paper jutted out from both ends of the platform. Four big spotlights radiated from the ceiling. Beyond the stage was a hot, impatient swarm of people. One by one the candidates took turns at the center microphone. Welcome ladies and gentlemen, this is a tale as old as time! I am Beauty and the Beast will follow. My name is Desiree Verdadero, seventeen years of age, and I come from the beautiful island of ice and fire, Reykjavik, Iceland! Season s greetings! The family that prays together stays together, but the family that eats together is probably a pride of lions. This dusky beauty standing in front of you is Armi Barbara Crespo, and I represent the smile of Africa, Namibia! Buenas noches, amigos del universo! All things bright and beautiful. All creatures great and small. All things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all. This is Guadalupe Sanchez viuda de Aurelio, nineteen years old, and I come from Caracas, Venezuela! Then it was Ronnie s turn. He drifted across the platform, the saffron gown rustling on his manicured feet. His eyes swept past the faces of judges. In one corner of the hall, he could see little children outside perched on the branches of a tree, peering through the open vents like hairless monkeys. His face lit up when he spotted, near the edge of the second row, Biboy raising both thumbs up. Ronnie posed before the microphone, and lifting his golden arm, addressed the audience. A pleasant evening to all of you! The Little Prince said, What is essential is invisible to the naked eye. My name is Maria Rosario Silayan, from the land of King Arthur and Lady Diana Great Britain! The crowd roared. Sweeping the hem of his gown, Ronnie waved his golden arm at them. This was what he had come here for, the chance to tower in heels, look down with unbending grace at a crowd filled with awe, to glide as though life were just as easy. After striking a last pose, he walked back to where the other candidates stood. 14 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

29 While the stadium listened to the next contestant, Ronnie discerned a figure rising from the middle rows, the thick body of a man getting up from his seat. It was the bald man, the very man who d been watching him the other day, a pale vibrating shape trying to reach the front rows, elbowing people on his way. Could he possibly expose himself to these witnesses? Ronnie squinted, but there was no mistaking that underbite, the smooth hairless skull. Suddenly he was nervous. This death, it turned out, would have an audience. But the bald man, instead of taking aim at the stage, stopped behind where Biboy was sitting. He clutched the boy s arm, forcing him to stand, as if Biboy were a child he d been searching for all night. On stage Ronnie tried to move. He tugged and heard a rip the armored sleeve had snagged on the hip of his dress. He fumbled to get the thing off but his large fingers couldn t seem to close. He looked up and saw the boy s long narrow body being pulled toward the end of the hall. Clasping the aluminum, he peeled the armored sleeve from his arm and flung it angrily, a gold husk arcing out of the stage, smashing into parts on the concrete, missing Ronnie s target. The audience gasped. He could still catch them, he thought, as he hitched the dress around his hips, kicked off his high heels, and leaped from the stage. He landed hard on his knees and palms. But Ronnie got up, unfettered by his garments, his limbs springing back to life. Refusing to believe that the boy was gone, he thrust himself into the aisle. His body shimmering, he cleared the rows of bewildered observers, ran beyond the exit, and stumbled into a sudden, cool night. John Bengan 15

30 The Old Man and His False Teeth Hammed Bolotaolo When the old man woke up one rainy day, it wasn t because his cat was pawing at his face as it usually did to intimate its need to be fed. A dream about a woman handing him a set of broken false teeth made him bolt upright in bed with a painful erection and a sudden twitch of his head like he was on a puppet string. He knew he had wept in his dream with that shameful sob of despair children have, and was convinced that the woman in the dream was someone he knew, but couldn t remember her face or pinpoint where and when they had met. For a moment his eyes oscillated between his dream and consciousness. His feet sought his slippers on the floor as his cold hands groped for his glasses. Although his vision was shrouded in white, almost as if he were tired of finding the things he sought, he glimpsed a glint that looked like an ember fighting its fated death. He put the glasses on and peered at the false teeth with a golden tooth beaming at him. His eyes then turned to a faded photo of a woman in a frame made of pearls, illuminated by a fluorescent lamp. He found his cat curled up next to his pillow stuffed with pigeon feathers on which he laid his feet to help him sleep. He looked up and saw the same constellations of cobwebs swinging from the ceiling. A wave of relief washed through him. Nothing had changed after all. He was still alone. At the center of the room was a credenza inlaid with cobalt flowers and helices outlined in gold, its feet resembling a lion s and its drawer handle a cock s plumage. It was the sole piece of furniture of value in the old man s shack. Every day he would shine it to perfection, as he would polish his false teeth to make them whiter. It contained his umbrella and his wife s clothes and shawls. On top of it stood the frame with his wife s photo, a statue of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios, and a half-filled glass of solution with the false teeth in it. The bed was set in front so that the credenza was the headboard. Next to the bed, a box fan whirred in the perfumed air. The sampaguita garland draped on the santo and the roses in old shoes and tin can containers had 16

31 turned brown, but their sweetness, even in decay, lingered. In front of the bed was a round table with two wooden chairs as ancient and worn out as the old man, and a miserable ottoman for the cat. Behind the credenza was a dusty sewing machine with a hydrant-shaped body adorned with pink paintwork. This reminded the old man of one scorching day when his wife declared she wanted to sew with a machine, as if its mechanical nature, unlike the sentimentality of knitting, reflected her true feelings. It took the old man some time to notice that he had forgotten to turn off the radio before he went to sleep. As he listened to the rain tapping on the tin roof, he caught a familiar song he could not identify, something about forgetting to remember. He rose and took the false teeth from the glass, and before he placed them on an embroidered towel bearing his name, he held them to his face, as one would do a hand puppet: Why do you always bleach me? Because you are special But you never use me to eat Because you are precious. Although it had suffered cracks and accumulated mold over the years, the terrazzo sink that the old man had given his wife many years ago was still gleaming. As he poured the denture solution down the sink, a black spider with eight legs crawled out, its jelly eyes shining with recognition. The old man tried to flush the spider down the drain, pouring water on it, but its legs curled up suddenly announcing its death. When he stopped, however, the spider to his delight moved and made a break for the wall, trying to climb up to its web but failing to do so. The old man let the spider live, for it had gained his respect. As the sharp smell of bleach mingled with the fragrance of the dead flowers, wistful and harsh, and the stale smell of his cat, and the rain, the old man felt something clutch at his heart. He remembered the day his wife gave him the false teeth a few years before she died, although he couldn t remember what occasion it was. They were a surprise gift. Alas, they were not a perfect fit: they were bought from a store that sold second-hand dentures, from a place where the Black Nazarene was worshipped by thousands of devotees. Noticing that they were quite unusual, the old man asked her why she chose the false teeth with a golden tooth, as they might have cost her more than what was needed. They were a substitute, she said, for their wedding rings that he pawned when despair paid her a visit. The old man failed to repossess the rings, for they had already been auctioned off by the time he got the money to claim them. He also never quite understood why she didn t just buy new rings instead of the false teeth. Hammed Bolotaolo 17

32 Looking through the window pane drenched with silver drops and waiting for sunrise, the old man realized that it was the longest rain since he and his wife had sailed into oblivion. He opened the window and shuddered from the cold as the raw wind rushed in, brushing his face with the salty fragrance of the sea. He looked out at the drifting clouds and the blue light of dawn and thought the rain that had turned into a steady drizzle would soon stop. He saw a sailor-boy rowing a banca made from a large block of styrofoam held together with packaging tape. The whole neighborhood had been inundated for months by the chocolate water from the Manila Bay which drove the rats up from the sewers, forcing them to settle with the illegal city-dwellers. In his house made of old plywood and corrugated iron sheets, the slivers of tamarind-shaped rat droppings were strewn across the linoleum floor, but there was no stink, or if there was, it was barely discernible. After a while the old man gargled with lukewarm water and rock salt. Except for the sailor-boy calling for passengers, there was silence, intermittent and blunt like the rain, so that the old man could hear his own thoughts. On the neighbor s roof, despite the drizzle, there were boys flying kites made of silk that looked like giant moths blotting the chiaroscuro from the sky. Amid the flood were floating dogs, refuse, and debris from the outskirts of the public market, all circling in silence before making their way to the nearby bay. The flood had become too deep for anybody to walk through it or play in, and no fish dared swim in it. The first floors of the shanties were emptied, except for families who had found a way to live with water. People had built more shacks higher up, it seemed, to reach for the clouds where light was more generous. The shacks, struggling on top of one another and making the alleys narrower, were covered with open mussel shells so that they appeared opalescent from his window. The old man turned the faucet on and gently held the false teeth under the cold running water which pricked him like needles. He imagined the lack of sunshine for a long time might have frozen the pipes. He filled the glass until it was half-full with water and mixed in it three tablespoons of bleach. He smelled the solution as he was stirring it, stinging his eyes so that they turned watery and burning his nose. He then placed the false teeth back in the glass with the new solution and remembered his wife telling him to be careful all the time. I don t want you dirtying them. We can t afford to buy another. He set the glass back on the credenza, and gazing at a canine tooth in the lower denture, the golden tooth, its luminous flickering undiminished by the solution, he wondered whether his wife was happy where she was. 18 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

33 Humming the familiar tune from the radio about forgetting, the old man opened a can of sardines and reheated yesterday s rice. Roused by the smell of food they always shared, the cat approached him and circled around his feet, its face rubbing against his ankles. He knelt down and massaged its tortoiseshell fur. Yes, it s coming. The cat looped its tail around his leg and purred with understanding, its whiskers twitching and its blank coral eyes staring at him. After setting aside his own share, he emptied out the can onto a finger clam bowl on the floor and placed half of the rice in it. The cat began to eat the food in the bowl with great composure, its tail high in the air. He then set two plates, two cups, and two spoons on the table which was covered with a white crocheted cloth. He smiled at the photo of his wife, for he was certain that it would upset her if he didn t pay her any attention. Don t forget to shave. You look like an ailing ermitanyo. I almost forgot today is my first day at work, the old man said. I ll take the train again after a long time. Remember the day we took it when we got back from the sea? We were lost fools! With a golden key which he carried close to his heart, fastened by a safety pin to his tee shirt, he opened the credenza s drawer and took out his umbrella and hung it behind the chair on which he sat down to eat. You know how difficult it was for me to get a job, he continued. Took me months. They said I m too old. But I told the circus master he has nothing to lose, and he s lucky to have me. I can play ermitanyo or any of his monsters inside that horror house to amuse children. After finishing his food, the old man put a copper kettle on the gas burner. When only the soft slurping of the cat and the song of forgetting filled the room, he noticed his reflection in the kettle and didn t like what he saw. He made himself a cup of coffee and took yesterday s paper from the door. He then began his routine of reading the paper to his wife. Nothing to cheer you up these days, he said after reading the front page to her. You only get scandals, as if they matter to the world, and deaths, lots of deaths, mostly of ordinary people, unknown people. Is death that important? Why, we celebrate it with guitars and cards and alcohol. I m sorry I did the same thing to you. You know I had no choice. The cat strode toward the old man for more food, but he had nothing more to give so he fondled its head. Ignoring him, the cat hopped onto the ottoman and licked its paws. Woman gets burned and becomes a blossoming tree, he read, flicking through the pages. Man flies off building and breaks his wings. Young boy turns into fish and drowns in the bay. The old man looked at her. You must be sick of hearing about them every day. Same stories over and over again. He put Hammed Bolotaolo 19

34 down the paper, musing on how events were mere recycling of the past and how men were unable to depart from history. I won t bother you anymore. He stood up and took the glass with the false teeth from the credenza, while the cat leaped over the table and licked the plates. On the wall, next to the window, hung a broken mirror which made the old man drift into longing every time he looked into its icy fragments, as he saw, for all his younger self flitting through his mind like a mirage shimmering on the horizon. Though battered by the sun all his life, the old man s face was gentle. The waves of memory stretched in all directions, and his face, upon closer inspection, resembled bark waiting to be shed. His eyes, despite their malady, gleamed like fish scales illuminating hues upon contact with the sunlight. And his wrinkled mouth, it seemed, only longed for laughter. Be very careful. They are not as strong as your old teeth. They break rather easily. The old man placed a towel on the bottom of the sink to protect the false teeth should they slip through his fingers. Cleaning them was a serious business. Although he never used them to eat, he brushed them with baking soda as lightly as if he were petting his cat, stroking the upper section with a circular and short back-and-forth motion. And with the same gentle motion, he brushed the lower section and then the ridge that connected the golden tooth with the gum. He examined them to ensure that he had brushed them thoroughly, and that no plaque, tartar, or stain had materialized. He repeated the slow brushing, sweeping, and rolling, and when he was satisfied, he rinsed them under running water and patted them dry. Then, as was his usual habit, he held them to his face: Why do you always clean me? Because you are special I don t like to be bleached I want you to be bright always Why? Because you are precious. With his thumb and forefinger he held the sides of his upper teeth and jiggled them in his mouth. With the never-ending song of forgetting still playing, the old man smiled at the broken mirror, and the golden tooth glittered at him. Don t forget to put a towel on your back. Rain and sweat will make you sick. Although the rain had abated to a drizzle, the sun was still hidden behind clouds when the old man looked out of the door and called for the sailor-boy who had been a companion to him since the whole place had been inundated by the rain and become a lake of melancholia. On their journeys to San 20 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

35 Andres Market, or to Hobbit House where he used to work with the dwarves, or to a half-buried Church whose choir loft windows were now the main entrance, the old man would tell the sailor-boy stories, like the legend of the sea, the epic of the rajahs, and other tales of the city. But mostly he told stories about dead people. The sailor-boy saw a flicker of light from the old man s shack and recognized that it was coming from the old man s golden tooth. His face broke into a broad smile, and he quickly paddled along the alley to fetch him. Take me to the train station, the old man said, extending his umbrella to the sailor-boy to help him get in the watercraft. The banca wobbled upon his step and the old man almost fell, but the sailor-boy held on to him. He opened his umbrella and adjusted the towel on his back, while raindrops made little ripples on the water that was once the paved street. Where are you going? The old man seemed lost and not sure of what to do, the sailor-boy noticed. I m going to work, did I not tell you? said the old man. The sailorboy stopped rowing. Does it mean you will not tell me stories anymore? On the contrary. The old man took his glasses off and wiped them with a handkerchief, the same color as his eyes, embroidered with his name. When the sailor-boy didn t respond, the old man pointed his finger to the eastern sky. Take me to the closest station, little devil, he said, putting on his glasses. The sailor-boy, notwithstanding the little drops on his head and the occasional splashing of water from the flooded street, rowed with a gigantic wooden spoon that he had carved from a fallen weeping fig. The old man, like a child, paddled in the water with his fingers. From the third alley, where the old man lived, the banca passed through to the first street, where the perfumed ladies peeked from behind their curtains singing songs of regret. Before the old man began his story, the sailor-boy confessed that he had fallen in love, beguiled by the fragrance of the perfumed ladies. The old man s bronze face was wreathed in smiles as he said, I was once young like you, foolish and impassioned, and I thought I want to be so again today. You re a lucky boy because your heart has found the beloved. He ruffled the young boy s wet hair. The unfortunate ones never find theirs. The sailor-boy was pleased with the old man s words, but in his young mind the girl he was in love with was only meant to be looked at. Besides she was not like him: she lived in a big house where walls were high, dogs were caged, and the wind of yearning was barred from entering. Hammed Bolotaolo 21

36 No fence is too high for a fearless man, my son, the old man said. If you have patience everything that your heart desires will come true, and all that has gone away will come back. Trust me, he said, closing his eyes as he listened to the songs in the wind. Sleep with your feet on the pillow, so you will have a good dream. The wind of nostalgia brushed the old man s face, and a soggy mass of pigeon feathers tickled his nose so much that he began to sneeze. I shall tell you a story, my son, he said, adjusting his false teeth, something that I have never told anyone before. And so, amid his sneezing, the old man narrated how he had taken his beloved from the evil house and brought her with him as he sailed back to the sea. It began one Sunday morning when he caught a glimpse of her in the Church which looked out on the sunset. He had taken a long journey from the sea, at the far end of the world, where the sun and the horizon met to mourn. She was wearing an ivory dress of raw silk as fine and light as spider webs, singing hymns to Remedios, Our Lady of Remedies, with a haunting voice that lulled the heart to dream. She was not looking at him, although he knew from the fluttering of her lashes that she was aware of his presence. He marveled at how gentle she was, thinking she could glide in the air just by sighing. And her face shone like a revelation which left him breathless. His teeth began to chatter, for that was the effect she had on him. Every Sunday he visited the Church to see her. And no sooner had the wind brought him from the sea by fate, when he, for all his failings, captured her heart. She came from a family with a name, a name written in the books. When her father had found out about their romance, he at once decided she should leave for the mountains before the school year ended, where she would finish her studies and marry a man from a good family. A man of land, of timber, of gold. Never a man of the sea. For the few months she had left to stay in the city, she was forbidden to leave the house alone. She was not allowed to sing in the Church, nor to go to the movie house, nor to talk to her friends. She was not to see him ever again. Struck with an unbearable sadness in her heart, she cried herself to sleep every night, her tears drying into translucent silk- 22 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

37 like threads that she later used for sewing by the window and embroidering fabrics with his name. To eclipse his grief, he slept without waking for many days with the weight of the stars hanging over him until he dreamed of a great flood. By now the chattering of his teeth had become convulsions and his gums started bleeding. Fresh from a long dream that revealed the next day would be the day of the deluge, he tore a page from an old calendar and wrote down a promise of eternal happiness and a means for their escape. As soon as his frenzied thoughts had been translated into words, he folded the top two corners of the paper into the center and folded the top half down. He then folded down the new top corners and folded up the triangle at the bottom. He folded the paper lengthwise and finally folded the edges up on both sides to make wings. Before dawn he cooed to her from the wicked gate and launched the paper plane toward her barred window. The plane flew upside down, then flipped over, and glided over the high fence and barreled along with the wind until it gently reached its goal. The old man s sneezing continued. They had not gone far before they reached the second street where the water was cleaner. They saw more bancas of different kinds and sizes crisscrossing the narrow stretch of water. Some were made of bamboo and rusty steel, and others fashioned from old furniture. Despite the drizzle men and women were exchanging merchandise and gossip. Some women were pulling each other s hair and bellowing recriminations. There were soup vendors with slanted eyes and dark-skinned snake charmers and sellers of golden pocket watches baying at the poor patrons like hungry dogs. Amid this commotion, a swarm of tiny frogs leaped over the waters, soaring like birds and falling like a stones. With feverish impatience the sailor-boy waited for the old man to continue. I was once a man of the sea, I told you that many times. Sailing is a noble thing to do, my son, for one is never as entirely free as when one is on the water. We spent the first days of our existence in a water sac in our mother s womb, he said, his sad eyes steady upon the young boy, his jaws becoming stiff. Water is the most noble of all elements. He looked at the chocolate water, then at the long row of street lamps, their heads bowed in Hammed Bolotaolo 23

38 despondence. It s as if it was just yesterday when my fate was driven only by wind and tide. Ah, the smell of the sea, there s nothing like it. The sailor-boy interrupted the old man s loud musings: What happened to the girl? Did she become your wife? The old man resumed his tale. That night, after her father had gone to sleep, she waited for the man of the sea. Her frantic heart pounding like a piston so that she didn t immediately hear his cooing below her window. The plan seemed sound, but she was scared of her father s dog. As in his dream, a torrential downpour began. It was what history books would later declare the strongest rain that had ever plagued the city. The young man climbed up the wall in no time and waited for her at their door, trembling in the rain that was beating on his face, soaked with chills of both joy and trepidation. As she had feared, the dog in the house had smelled him and howled like a wolf. The pounding of the rain, however, overwhelmed its fury, so that its master stayed motionless, grunting like a boar. She tiptoed out of her cage into her father s room and grasped the key from a credenza with lions feet, watching the dog barking in mute rage. As she dashed down to the main door, lightning hit the house. Her father woke up with a start, the sound of the explosion drumming in his ears, and saw the dog going berserk. He hurtled toward her room like a madman. But she wasn t there. Grabbing the dog s leash he flew to the staircase and to his horror saw her opening the door. He screamed her name at the same time her lover s face appeared. He unleashed the dog and snatched from a terracotta jar a pewter cane with a snake head and a brass cleat foot. The young man brawled with the dog using his bare hands, suffering bites and losing a tooth when his head hit the door. As the water continued to rise, he seized the dog s head and slammed it on the forbidding wall. The father shrieked with fury when he saw his dog s broken neck floating in the water. He sprinted toward the young man, and with his heavy cane, pummeled his face, knocking out half the young man s upper teeth. His daughter watched helplessly from the gate, crying and shivering, as she treaded the water that threatened to engulf her. As the father was about to smite the young man again with his cane, another thunderbolt struck the house, like a projectile hurled from a trebuchet. The house was split open in the middle. Despite the rain and the flood, fire began to spread and consume the second floor, and flames shoved 24 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

39 their way up to the roof. The young man swam away from the burning house. The cement ceiling caved in on the father, and before he was engulfed in flames, his mouth foamed and his tongue hung out, and he cursed to the heavens that she would never carry a child in her womb. Barely staying afloat the young man kept swimming while pulling the only thing that survived the fire, the credenza, which they used to sail on the sea. Dragging it along with him, he came to the girl s rescue before she could be devoured by the water. Just as the whole place was swamped a shaft of light appeared. They sailed away to the horizon at the break of dawn. And then they kissed, and did not know how long the kiss lasted. The sailor-boy rowed with newfound zeal, looking at the old man with greater admiration. He believed every story the old man told him, and the story of the flood was by far his favorite. He wanted to ask the old man about his teeth, but they were now on their way to the last street where neon-lit bars twinkled constantly like fireflies in the dark. Here the water had a luminous quality coming from their reflections, like submerged lights of forgotten houses of desire. The old man, remembering his wife on her deathbed, whispered to himself in a song her last words: Don t forget to remember me. The sky had become darker when they reached the station that breathed out the smell of dead rats and flowers for the dead. The old man had stopped sneezing and with the sailor-boy s help he alighted from the banca. Good-bye, my little devil, the old man said, tapping the boy s shoulder. Don t forget what I told you. Go home now, for I fear another storm is coming. The sailor-boy watched the small lonely figure walk away. Remembering all the stories the old man had told him, he went back to his banca and stood there for a long time amid the flying frogs. In the light of the dim street lamps and the unforgiving sky, the sailor-boy saw clouds whirling like leaves in the heavy eddies of the wind. He continued to sail, promising himself solemnly that he would live to retell the old man s tales. Worried that he might be late for work, the old man went up to the station in a hurry, using the umbrella as his walking stick. With each step, Hammed Bolotaolo 25

40 his body quivered with weariness from the cold. On the stairs he found a woman suckling a child in a sling made of dried leaves. Flowers for the dead, sir, she said, handing him a bouquet of dry flowers. Her inflamed breasts were busy feeding two mouths, each alternating between buds. Without taking the bouquet, he delved for coins in his pocket and gave them to her, only to realize that a few steps up, there were more mothers and children with two heads asking for alms and selling flowers. Thinking he had few coins left, he continued to go up like the rest of the people ascending in procession, paying no heed to the silent cry of the desperate. The station depot seemed to loom out of the dark. He turned to look at a mass of black clouds gathering on the horizon. The sky opened up filling the city with a subdued glow, and for an instant, he saw himself and his wife sailing into the light. But the shroud of darkness came back as fast as it had opened up. The rain, which had turned to ice pellets, engulfed the city once more in a deafening cataract. To the old man s astonishment, there was a multitude of silent commuters queuing for tickets. Waiting in line his eyes turned to an empty newsstand that looked like a wire rooster coop: NewsFlash: All yesterday s news you read in a flash. His eyes wandered around the station, lingering on faces and objects of the world he now felt alienated from. It was as if he were trying to reconnect to people and reaccustom himself to the place, searching for himself among the anonymous faces. He stared at the Ticket Issuing Machine which was blinking with green lights: Exact Fare and In Service. He then peered through his glasses trying to make sense of it: I only accept one transaction at a time. Should you opt to change your desired destination or terminate your transaction, please turn the cancel knob counterclockwise. In case of any problem, please approach our courteous Stationmaster for assistance. When it was his turn, the old man moved hesitantly toward the blinking lights, for he had a strong sense of distrust of machines. He pressed a button, the light rail s terminus. Covering a few kilometers of elevated tracks, the transit line ran above an avenue built by the colonizers along grade-separated granite viaducts. It wouldn t take long, he thought, before he reached his destination. As he was about to insert the exact amount into the coin slot, the old man realized that he needed a round-trip ticket, so he turned the cancel knob and selected this time the round-trip option. He still had enough money after all. The loud clack startled him when the machine ejected the ticket. He took the magnetic plastic card and inched toward the entrance. 26 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

41 Following the people ahead of him, he inserted the ticket into the fare gate which allowed him to pass through the turnstile. He then retrieved it on the other side, knowing he would need it to exit at his destination. Although the station had a transparent roof to allow the passage of light, dark clouds hovered over it like outspread wings. As the old man entered the main platform, however, a white light from the fluorescent lamps washed over him so that for a moment he couldn t see. Hanging from the ceiling at the center of the train station was a doublesided brass clock with iron plates and wheels and a golden bracket attached to it. It had no hands and its surface, eroded in concentric circles, appeared lacquered with copper paint. The first three lanes of the platform were condoned off for the use of women, the handicapped, and the elderly. At the security station, located after the first three lanes, was a warning: If you don t want to fall onto the tracks, stay away from the edge of the platform. The old man went to his designated area. As he was waiting for the train, looking at the people with no names, he heard a familiar song from the loudspeaker. The wind of nostalgia skimmed across his face, carrying with it the fragrance of his wife s garlands and images of her singing in the Church and sewing at home. He clutched his heart to stop the painful rush of memories, and his face scrunched up with anguish. His eyes and nose became watery. Just when he thought he was having a heart attack, he sneezed like a mighty gale. At the same time lightning hit the transparent roof, drawing a collective gasp from the passengers and causing a momentary blackout. The blind men and women next to him moved to another lane. The old man wiped his nose with his handkerchief and felt his heart pounding like the rain on the roof, although he was not certain whether it was his heart or the rain that he was hearing. He choked with terror when he realized that his false teeth were missing. The lights came back on and the air became stifling around him. The platform trembled beneath his feet. He then heard a faint screeching in the distance like the raging in his heart and felt a growing vibration. To his great relief, he saw a glint coming from the rail tracks. As he was about to climb down from the platform, the throbbing cadence grew louder and stronger and all at once a whistle shrieked in panic right in front of him. He looked up like he was ready to meet someone he had been longing to see, but there was only the dazzling light, and he let it envelop him. You are not allowed to go down, the security guard yelled, rushing up to the old man. Don t you know it s dangerous? Feeling lost, the old man uttered Hammed Bolotaolo 27

42 in brokenly, my false teeth. What? My false teeth, the old man repeated, and looking down at the railway tracks, he laughed, exposing his swollen gums. Just then he saw something flash in the dark. There they are, he cried, pointing at them. The guard looked disturbed as he explained to the old man that he couldn t go down to the tracks. We can t shut down the operation just to pick up your false teeth, he said. Can I not just go down there myself and get them, asked the old man, before the next train arrives? You cannot. The guard advised him to go to the other side of the station where the office of the stationmaster was. The Station Control room, he called it. And because the station had side platforms with no overpass between them, there was no other way to get there but to go down, take a banca, and climb up to the other side. To his misfortune, not a single banca was to be found when he went down. Using his umbrella to clear floating rubble, he decided to swim across, like an octopus darting through the water. When he reached the other side, he found the Station Control room closed, with a sign on the window: Tomorrow or today? The old man looked at the clock with no hands, wondering what time it was and whether he was late for work. He dried himself with his towel, for he was very wet and his clothes had turned brown. While waiting he noticed that there were not as many people as there had been earlier, and that the depot and the platform where he was mirrored the depot and the platform where he had been. Everything was familiar all over again. The wired window opened a little, revealing a man silhouetted against the light in the room. The old man went right to it and without seeing the stationmaster s face explained to him what had happened. The stationmaster told him to wait, and his silhouette dissolved into the chamber s shadows, leaving the old man to his musings. The stationmaster returned and gave the old man some papers, instructing him to fill out the forms. The old man looked at him bewildered. You have to fill out these forms to report your missing false teeth, the stationmaster said. But they are not missing; they are right there! The old man pointed at the railway tracks on the other side, making sure that he could still see the tiny wink in the dark. Like the security guard, the stationmaster told him that they couldn t stop the train for anyone, and that in this place that sent people to their desired destinations, there were certain rules to follow or everyone would be stuck. The old man took the papers with reluctance, not fully understanding 28 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

43 what the stationmaster meant, for his mind had gone somewhere else, in the same way the mind wandered to a void to forget about disappointments or heartaches. The old man examined the papers and felt a whirling sensation in his head. Too many words and too much information needed for no reason, he thought. It took him a long time to fill out the forms. After a while he passed the papers through the window slot and noticed the stationmaster s discomfort. He realized to his embarrassment that his mouth was open. Like a shy boy he covered his mouth with his hand. He heard the familiar tune again and recognized at last that it was the same song he was listening to in his home. The stationmaster took the forms and briefly looked at them. There is a mistake, he said. You have to do this again. The old man stared at him in disbelief, but got no response. Finding neither strength nor will to argue, he obeyed like a child. When he had finished, he returned the forms. The stationmaster stamped the papers with a thump that startled the old man and directed him to go to the other side of the station where the guard who would assist him was waiting. The old man rushed down, his legs shaking, and, using the last bit of his strength, swam back to the other side. It wasn t difficult this time, for the rain had stopped and the frogs had leaped to some other place and the breathing of the water, which had earlier been a symphony of ire, had turned into a gentle sigh. He noticed that there was no trace of the women with two-headed children, except for the flowers for the dead. And when he came into the station, there was no one there either. No one was waiting for him. The familiar song was still being played like a lost track of time, the sad guitar slowly vanishing in softest lilt. He stood upon the platform, his umbrella in his hand, gazing down into the railway tracks. But he couldn t see his false teeth. All there was was a bright light. For a moment he didn t know what to do. There was no one he could ask for help. He was about to leave to go back to the stationmaster when the figure of a woman emerged and began walking toward him. The old man couldn t see her well, for his glasses, he realized, had been broken. The figure slowly formed into an image and made herself known. And the pain that accompanied his recognition of her was such that his mouth moved in a spasm. With unspeakable joy the old man wept, wavering and falling to his knees and staring at the familiar face of the woman handing him a set of Hammed Bolotaolo 29

44 broken false teeth. It was then that it occurred to him, with certainty, that he was not alone anymore. Nobody knew what happened to the old man after the deluge. Tales about him abounded in the city. Some claimed to have seen him drowning in the flood. Children avowed that they saw him lingering on with the cat in his house. Women believed that every time it rained in Malate, it was the old man weeping. And others said he had gone back to the sea to forget about his beloved wife, who, despite years of singing to Remedios, had not been blessed with a child. She had devoted her last years to sewing and had later died of sadness. Many years passed, and the many stories about the old man faded away. It was after the great flood that I started to keep a journal and to write down the tales the old man had told me. I started to write so that I wouldn t forget. Or maybe because I needed to believe. I don t know where he went after I brought him to the station on that day. At times it makes me sad, the old man being gone. Sometimes on cold windy nights when time is forgotten and I remember myself as a young boy listening to his stories, I also imagine the old man sailing back to where he had come from, between oblivion and nowhere, drifting and smiling and no longer waiting for the aching sunrise. 30 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

45 Siren Angelo Lacuesta Anna heard the door opening down the hall. She put her head back down under the sheet, but she still heard the beat of her mother s heavy steps and the slap of her slippers against the soles of her feet. When she heard the jangling of keys she could not resist opening her eyes and poking her head out of the blanket. When she heard her march past her bedroom she could not hold back her relief. When her mother got that way there was no stopping her and there was no talking her out of anything. She didn t hear anything or mind anything either. So Anna promptly aborted the siesta, slipped out of bed, and followed her, a good length behind. She didn t dare go down the stairs until her mother had stepped off the bottom step. She gripped the balustrade only as soon as her mother let go of it. She followed her past the dining room, where what remained of lunch still lay on the table. Her father always had the cleanest plate, his fork and spoon at five o clock and the glass emptied on its coaster as though it hadn t been touched. Anna followed her to the kitchen, where the rice cooker had been left open. A trail of ants was already making its way toward its rim and a darkening swarm was already advancing up the kitchen table toward her birthday cake. They had ordered it from the neighborhood bakeshop the way she wanted it, in dark chocolate chiffon and rainbow frosting. She had passed that bakeshop on her bike rides ever since they moved in at the beginning of the summer. They had that cake for dessert that day, and they were going to have it maybe along with the spaghetti and meatballs, the fried chicken and the red potato salad that Clara prepared into the next two or three days. The night before, she had insisted on waiting for her father to arrive from work before they started eating, and just as it seemed too late, he came, honking his horn from halfway down the street. She shouted for Clara to open the gate. Her mother came down in one of those dresses she only wore on special occasions. 31

46 She also wore her special watch and large pearls on her ears. Those pearls were sold to her by a neighbor who showed up at their door with a bottle of wine one afternoon, who turned out to be a distant relative, who turned out to be a jeweler, who came to the house almost every week after that with all kinds of treats. Sometimes it was cupcakes, sometimes it was just banana cue. She always brought some jewelry to show Anna s mother. On one of those visits she took out a little pouch of pearls. South Sea! she whispered, like she was telling her mother a big secret. Anna was at the table and Clara was always around to refill their glasses and their coffee cups so it couldn t really have been a secret. Before the visit was over her mother agreed to buy the two largest of them by installment. It s an investment, she said to the woman, and then, later on, to her daughter. She had put them on her ears and swept her hair back. She bent down toward her daughter to show them off. Instead of a bicycle with a ribbon around it, her father walked in with a small gift-wrapped box. Anna tore away the wrapper and found the batteryoperated bike horn inside, just the model she had seen on that very bike in the shop they had visited weeks ago. But a very large part of her still hoped that the bike lay hidden somewhere, secretly reserved weeks ago, returned for by his father on one of his lunch breaks, picked up earlier that day, and wedged into the trunk of the car with the help of store clerks, or sitting in the backseat, cushioned by folded newspapers, camouflaged by the black nylon jacket his father always had over his office chair, and trundled home at careful speed. But as Clara set down the coffee tray in front of his father, turning it carefully so that the cup and saucer faced him, and as Anna nursed the lump that had sat in her throat since the beginning of dinner, her father told her that the bike would come around on her very next birthday, if she kept her grades. There was only the spaghetti and the fried chicken and the cake and the salad and the horn, then. That night, she resigned himself to this fate and strapped the horn on the handlebars of her old bicycle. Though it was late, she begged him, and her father allowed her to try it out. She stuck the two leads on the 9-volt battery, sat on the seat, and tried out all the sounds the horn could make. There was a buzzer sound and three different siren sounds. There was a wail made of two alternating notes that she often heard in foreign movies. There was a sad, lazy, wavy sound that she associated with housefires she had seen a couple not far 32 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

47 from where they lived and the late arrival of firetrucks. There was also the urgent police sound that she also often heard whenever there were car chases on TV, but never in real life. There was a fake bell sound that was her favorite, because it reminded her of their old doorbell back in Quezon City. Anna stuck her hand out to keep the back door from slamming and followed her mother out through the unfinished garden in the back. She even followed her as she ignored the meandering stone path to the maids quarters and trampled on the freshly laid squares of grass, something Anna had been severely forbidden to do. Her mother tried three or four keys from the bunch before she found the right one, the twisting doorknob and the opening door, making loud sounds in the middle of the quiet afternoon. Her mother entered the room and Anna entered the room behind her, careful not to touch her, trying to stand as much as possible where her mother couldn t see her. They were just two small steps apart now. Anna wondered where Clara was as she watched her mother pull at the handles of the closet doors with both hands hard, once, twice, the way her father taught her to play tug-of-war, until there was a snapping sound as the locks gave and the doors opened like a mouth letting go of a long-held breath, smelling of sawdust and fresh paint and baby powder. Inside the closet Clara s clothes were neatly stacked in a small pile against the back wall. Her other things were neatly organized in the foreground. It reminded Anna of the altar her grandmother kept back in the province, with the big Santo Niño in the background and the candles and prayer books and religious figurines huddled around its plaster pedestal, painted white and pale blue to make it look the Santo Niño was standing on a cloud. Her mother reached into the closet and Anna heard her nails scratch against the wall as she scooped everything out. Framed photos, plastic bottles of deodorant and cologne, ceramic figurines, the blouses and t-shirts Clara wore on her days off. She had never realized how small Clara was. They looked like little-girl clothes, with colors like pink and baby blue. Her mother wasn t quite done yet. She pulled out Clara s drawers and dumped all their contents on the floor: hairclips, sanitary napkins, tubes of worn-down lipstick, all sorts of stuff tumbling on Clara s clothes. She bent down and swept out the low closet compartment, coaxing out a tumbled mess of slippers and shoes. His mother held the closet doors open and moved aside to let the light in from the window. She looked inside and made sure there was nothing left. She sifted through the stuff on the floor with her feet, breaking apart the Angelo Lacuesta 33

48 clumped clothes and the piles of letters with the thick tip of her slipper. Anna wondered what kind of music was on those CDs and who would write Clara so many letters, or why anyone would. Her mother caught sight of an old candy canister, and Anna knew she was wondering how Clara had gotten hold of it. Her mother knocked it aside and when it didn t open she kicked it against the wall. The lid popped off and when she saw what it contained she knelt on the floor, planting her knees on the cushion of blouses and t-shirts. She fished out a tangle of beads and baubles from the can and clawed the trinkets apart with her hands, flicking each item away as she inspected them. She blew an exhausted, frustrated breath, looked briefly at Anna, then returned her attention to the room. She pulled the sheet off the bed and gave it a good snap, the air catching the dust. She grasped the mattress, dragged it to the floor, inspected the wooden bedframe, and brushed past Anna out the door, back into the unfinished yard, her slippers turning up clods of grassy earth. Anna followed her from right at the tip of her shadow, almost making a game of it. When her mother entered the kitchen again and the shadow disappeared she counted five floor tiles behind her, then four steps below her as she climbed the stairs. They walked up the hall back to Anna s room. Clara was there. She had upturned the beds and unloaded her closets. They seemed to be playing a game. Anna felt his heart leap as she thought of the things she had hidden there, behind old stuffed toys, under stacks of old textbooks. Her diaries, the secret stash of books she had filched from the library, the photos of boys she had clipped from magazines and printed out from websites. Everything lay front and center as though Clara had known all along where she had hidden them, all the way from when they were living in that small apartment in Quezon City. It didn t seem so then, but now she remembered their neighbors as noisy and troublesome, cranking up their karaoke music so early in the day, stinking up the air with the smell of frying and the smell of barbecue, keeping them awake with their music and off-key singing until way past midnight. The women were always cooking and the men were always drinking, their white plastic tables and chairs spilling out of their tiny garage into the street. There was something about the way they looked at Clara whenever her mother sent her out to the store on an errand. They quieted down and nudged and whispered to each other and looked at her openly when she returned. 34 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

49 This was probably the reason why Clara was under strict instructions to keep Anna indoors whenever she was home. Clara made her toasted bread with butter and sugar while she did her homework in the dining room that was also the kitchen. At three in the afternoon she turned off the TV in the living room, sent Anna up for her siesta, and went down to do the laundry and listen to the afternoon drama on her radio. Always, just as Anna was almost lulled to sleep by the afternoon heat, the buzz of tricycles and the jeeps and the karaoke next door would rouse her. Restless, woozy, she would creep down and sit on the stairs and listen to Clara s radio shows while Clara hung up the wash on the clothesline. Clara s favorite was a half-hour drama where a man and woman were on the run from the law for a crime they didn t commit. The man had a deep voice that immediately made you think he was handsome and strong, and the woman sounded like she was always on the brink of falling apart. The police colonel who was after them sounded old and cruel, and his henchmen were always cracking jokes and making fun of each other. They made sure it ended with something that was supposed to make you want to tune in the next day, like right before a big revelation, or in the middle of a chase scene with the cops almost closing in on them. Anna followed that story as far as she could, until the day they moved house and she couldn t pick up the radio show from the laundry area even if she strained her ears. Today, all of a sudden as though it were part of the game, Anna s father was there, despite the fact that it was still afternoon, and she heard her mother tell him how she had just left her pearls out on the dresser for a few minutes while she spoke on the phone, and that only Clara had access to the dressing area. That girl, his mother muttered. She was in the room when I took them out. I took them out and put them back in the bag, almost right in front of her. I might as well have handed them to her. Now that s crazy, his father answered. You had me drive back from the office to tell me this? So now you re defending her? No. I thought something serious had happened. Anna looked at Clara desperately going through her things and she wondered how her mother s earrings could possibly have found themselves in the deep recesses of her father s drawers. As she struggled to keep an emotionless face, she saw Clara as if for the first time since she had entered their home. Angelo Lacuesta 35

50 In her maid s frilly uniform she looked like a teenage girl grotesquely put in a child s dress. Stop what you re doing, Anna s mother said and ordered Clara downstairs. Anna followed Clara down to the sala. Clara was so small that when she sat on one of the chairs, her feet would not even touch the floor. Her father wondered aloud whether they could have just been misplaced. Her mother snorted in disgust. Why don t we take her to the barangay hall, then, her father said. Have her fill a blotter and maybe take a lie detector test. To this her mother merely grunted. Idiot. By that time, of course, the pearls would have been sold already. She added that since she had discovered their disappearance just a few short hours ago, no one had entered the house or exited it. In fact, she said, and so it was decided, I m sure the pearls will still be here. She s hidden them somewhere. That s their modus operandi. Modus operandi was something Anna had never heard before. Pack up her things and bring them here, she told Anna. She didn t take her eyes off Clara while she spoke. Anna counted her steps as she trudged back to Clara s room. She skipped the path and took pleasure in bringing up clods of grass and earth with her slippers. Anna found a bunch of garbage bags in the laundry area and entered Clara s room again. The closet doors swung freely now. Anna picked at the things on the floor. She thought of putting them all into one bag but decided to separate them into clothes, letters and magazines, and everything else. In the sala she put the three black garbage bags by Clara s dangling feet. Clara swung her feet a little bit, as though she was actually being a little playful, or bored. There was nothing to do anyway until her mother spoke. Nobody spoke until her mother took her eyes away from Clara and looked at nothing in particular and told her to leave. Clara stood up, feet dropping to the floor. She picked up the bags and walked out of the house and into the street. Those were good pearls, Dad, her mother said, like she was also speaking for Anna. They were an investment. They were good pearls, he repeated as he disappeared into the kitchen. Anna saw him look at the cake from the night before on the kitchen table. He opened the fridge and crouched in front of it and seemed to consider its contents carefully. 36 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

51 Anna, you go help your father in the kitchen. We re all alone now so we ll all need to help out. We need to sweep the house and sweep the grounds and look for those pearls. Her father entered the room before she could go to the kitchen. He exhaled loudly as he collapsed into the lounge chair. He had overfilled his glass and water spilled on the floor. Well, we all know what she s going to end up, her mother said. In the silence that followed, Anna looked at her father until he answered: A whore. Her mother went upstairs and her father lifted himself out of the chair and went back into the kitchen. Anna crept out and took the bike by the handlebars. It was evening already, but nobody seemed to notice her. The gate had been left open. It was quickly getting dark, but from the gate Anna could still see all the way into their living room and through the kitchen, right through the kitchen door screen into the torn-up grass in their backyard into Clara s room. She turned around and pushed forward and mounted the bike, pumping hard on the pedals as she went down the slope of the driveway, coasting as far as she could down the road on the momentum. When the bike began to slow down, Anna pedaled hard again, her knees and her elbows sticking out, until she was breathless with the effort. There was Clara, already far ahead on the road, her garbage bags slung over her shoulder, walking quickly on the dark part of the shoulder, as though she were determined to go wherever she was going. The only time she ever went anywhere was on her day off, every other Sunday. She d be up early on those days to serve them an early breakfast, dressed in her street clothes. It always startled Anna to her in face powder and lipstick, wearing jeans and a t-shirt, or sometimes a brightly printed blouse and a short skirt. Anna pumped harder and pressed the button on the bicycle horn, filling the street with the police siren s wail. Before Anna could correct her mistake, Clara had broken into a run and disappeared into the busy street. Angelo Lacuesta 37

52 What They Remember Jenette Vizcocho He had been gone for almost a year, but she would never admit to that. She would do a week s worth of his laundry every now and then, hang them out to dry, making sure the neighbors saw her fussing over his cotton shirts, his office slacks, his thick sweaters. He always did go on out of town trips, the office sending him to places as far as Davao and Dumaguete to visit the gas stations assigned to him, so it was a common occurrence for him to be gone for days, sometimes weeks at a time. It was different before the accident. She used to cook elaborate dinners, sun-dried tomato pasta with olives and capers, roast beef, lamb chops. These she prepared as early as a few days before he arrived, back from inspecting the many franchises on his docket, making sure the stations were up to par, that the quota of gasoline orders were met, the pump boys in their proper uniform, each having completed their training before handling customers or the equipment. These days, however, meals were single-serve, some bought off a karinderia after work; a steaming cup of rice to heat the already coagulating chop suey, or the fried chicken that had grown soggy during the post-lunch hour lull, each viand knotted in tiny, see-through plastic bags. Other times, when the lines were too long, or the lunch ladies too slow, and especially when she thought that their eyes judged her, tried to figure out why she was buying a take-out meal four days in a row, and pegging her as some lonely homebody, she would speed past Aling Banang s and hop onto the first jeepney headed toward home. She would rush into her house and hastily pry open a can of pork and beans or tuna or vienna sausages, tilting her head back and forking the food directly into her mouth. She bought by the bulk because she needn t heat them before consumption. Sometimes her kitchen sink boasted of six or seven forks, each one slick with oil, before she could be bothered to wash them. A lone cup she hadn t rinsed out sat beside the water jug. 38

53 She would be in bed as early as seven-thirty in the evening. Usually she would read a book or watch some television, but no matter how drowsy she became, she would find herself unable to sleep. Sometimes, on the bad days, she would catch a movie on HBO, or a sitcom she found quite funny, and find herself still awake the second time it aired very early in the morning. No matter how little sleep she had, she would be awake at five-thirty, would shove her tiny feet into her husband s large, furry bedroom slippers and shuffle off to the bathroom for a quick shower. Fashion these days, meant what color scrub suit would she wear today? She watched those television shows, shows that tracked down people stuck in a rut, wearing clothes that made them look to old, or too young, or too fat, or too cheap; once even, a handsome doctor, a surgeon, who practically lived in his scrubs, attended weddings, parties, even his own son s graduation in them, reasoning out that they fit well, were comfortable, and were low maintenance. She agreed with him. She still found the man handsome, even though his wife grudgingly admitted she was embarrassed to be seen with him. She could find nothing wrong with living in one s scrubs. It defined her as a person, as a professional. She worked at a nursing home specializing in Alzheimer s disease and dementia, handling cases on a one-to-one basis, helping her charge in and out of bed, up and down the ramps or stairs, to the toilet, to the shower, with dressing, feeding, taking medication, and even in activities such as reading to them, letter-writing, watching television, or playing cards, mahjong, and Scrabble. In her twelve years at Mount Cloud, she had worked with and lost seven patients, one lasting as long as five years with her, one not even making it past six months before succumbing to her illness. She didn t know what it was about the facility. It was a large compound in Cavite, was bright enough, had lots of space, lots of trees, had a lot of activities going on. But she still blamed the place for the rapid disintegration that took over anyone who came to stay. She felt sorry for these individuals who came to her in order to die, whose eyes didn t flicker in recognition at the sight of their loved ones; wondered if they had even the slightest idea of the fact that this was the road they were headed down, or that if they did, they could remind themselves to remember, to hold onto that specific memory. In the last two years, she had been working with Tatay Fred, a fifty-three year-old retired scuba diving instructor whose son checked him in because he would go missing from their home only to be found in full scuba gear, sitting Jenette Vizcocho 39

54 in his boat, saying he was waiting for his student Monica, and that she was late, as usual. Since being committed to Mount Cloud, however, he refused any activity, disliking the walks he was goaded into taking, or the social hour he was required to attend daily. He would hold onto the railings on either side of his bed and shut his eyes, refusing to open them whenever she walked into his room. Tatay Fred would only become animated whenever his son showed up, not really because of his visits but because of the things Marcus brought; a rare golden cowry Tatay Fred harvested illegally during one of his deep-sea diving trips; an old album containing pictures of Tatay Fred and his many students and colleagues; an electric blue starfish lazily moving about in a small aquarium; and once, his entire scuba gear, the skin suit, fins, mask, the octopus, regulator, and oxygen tank. When these were presented to him, Tatay Fred s eyes would light up. He would get out of bed and totter over to the large ottoman by the window, take whatever his son had brought in his hands and turn them over and over again in his fingers. He would start talking, sometimes to no one in particular, at times addressing someone in the empty chair opposite his, Itong golden cowry, I went all the way to Samar for it. Alam mo, I can sell it on ebay, five hundred dollars, minsan higher, glow in the dark kasi eh. On the day his gear was brought, he touched each piece of equipment, smiling, struggling a bit as he pulled the mask over his head, fitting the straps above his ears, pinching the nose pocket and saying, Monica, huwag mong kalimutan, pinch at the nose to release the air! Breathe through your mouth, steady breaths lang, mauubos yung oxygen, don t panic! Sometimes at night, when she was about to fall asleep, she would forget that her husband was no longer there. She would jerk awake thinking she heard the bedroom door close softly, or the muffled flushing of the toilet, or how her husband used to slowly, carefully crawl into bed. Every night, she would prop pillows beside her, so that whenever she shifted in her sleep, or whenever she was in between sleeping and waking she could trick herself into thinking that there was a warm body lying down beside her. Her feelings would pull her back and forth, depending on what little thing she remembered about him. The first few months, the memories would flood her brain involuntarily, images triggered to life by random actions, how as she was stirring creamer into her morning coffee she would see a flash 40 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

55 of him tearing a packet of Coffee-mate open with his teeth, and get so irritated when the powder would sprinkle all over the dining table, knowing it didn t bother him and therefore it never occurred to him to clean up after himself or how once, when she reached out through the shower curtain, she realized she had forgotten her towel in the bedroom, and how as she was hopping into her room sopping wet to retrieve it, she recalled their honeymoon with him sitting on their hotel bed laughing, having taken all the towels hostage as a prank. Upon seeing the towel she laid out folded neatly on the bed, she started crying, feeling foolish that the knowledge that he would never play tricks like that on her again had made her feel so sad. Those visions had come to her naturally. These days, however, she found herself deliberately walking into them, conjuring them up for fear that she would forget if she didn t. She would play his favorite songs, wear his pajamas however large they were on her, smoke his brand of cigarettes, read over his old love letters, walk past the restaurants they used to frequent, sometimes open his bottle of perfume that she still kept in her dresser drawer. The fact that all her actions were lately so effortful made the rare moments of when he popped in her mind without notice all the more jarring. Like how as she was cleaning a drawer out she found his collection of ballpens. She had inadvertently started it for him after she had given him one she bought off a convenience store because it bore the logo of his favorite basketball team. She felt something like a punch to the gut. Despite her persistence about keeping their wedding portraits up on the walls, photographs she saw every day as she made her way to and from the house, bright smiles reminding her of how on the actual day of the wedding she at one point wanted to back out, something as small and stupid as plastic pens would hit her harder than the pictures ever could. She had become used to the silence that Tatay Fred would retreat into whenever she entered his room, and so while he slept, she would play some of the CDs she found among his things, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, The Platters. Other times she would grab one of his books lined up in the shelf behind his bed and read to him, stopping only when he grunted in his sleep. Despite his protests, she would do bed turns every two hours, shifting his position in order to prevent ulcers from forming on his skin brought about by his stasis. She would tell him he needed exercise, help him into a wheelchair, Jenette Vizcocho 41

56 and push him around the grounds, following the winding pathways around the large garden surrounding their facility. She would park him underneath a shaded area near a man-made pond surrounded by a low enclosure, and he would stare at the murky water. In one of their walks, Tatay Fred stood up and walked to the edge of the pond, and began speaking. Si Monica, sobrang hinang diver. Five dives na, grabe pa rin mag-panic when she s in the water. He shook his head. She s a good swimmer, passed all her tests, but still always runs out of oxygen during dives. She wouldn t answer, unsure of whether her replying would break this ease that came over him, allowing him to speak to her. Since then, as though he never treated her with silence, he began telling her stories; usually about his diving school, about his adventures underwater, in the end always coming back to Monica. He went into so much detail about her, her hair that was so long that she refused to tie up causing it to fan around her face; hair that in the water looked like seaweed, or the tentacles of a jellyfish. Or how her skin never burned but reddened, how she was so white she almost glowed like a beacon. Once when Marcus, his son, was visiting, she asked him while Tatay Fred was dozing, Is Monica your mother? Tatay Fred talks about her a lot. Marcus did not answer for a long while, he scratched at his chin and stared at his father. He sighed and finally shook his head, No, she s not. She apologized. But what she really wanted to know was who Monica was that his father could not shut up about her? Her husband used to be on the road so much that whenever he would return, it would take her a few hours to get used to having someone around. Perhaps the reason why she fussed so much with the cooking and the cleaning was because she didn t want to sit and think about what they were going to talk about, or how she was going to act around him. He would usually enter the house and set his things by the door, a duffel bag full of laundry, a random gift from whatever region the head office sent him, espasol from Lucena, uraro from Laguna, ube jam from Baguio, tupig from Pangasinan, silvanas from Dumaguete, frozen durian from Davao. These little sweets they would eat after their meals, the papers, banana leaves, and colored cellophane wrappers littering the wooden dining table she had painstakingly polished with lemon-scented oil. 42 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

57 Meals were mostly silent. He would be exhausted from his trip and she would struggle with things to say. A few snippets of conversation would be attempted, How was Cebu? Oh, it was fine, it was the Sinulog Festival. I have never been to one of those. Well, you re welcome to join me next time. I ll file for a leave, then. I ll try to join you, but I might be away at the office a lot. Oh, I m sure I d find something to do while waiting. Hmmm. The conversation made with the fork and spoon, comprised of chewing and swallowing, of the clink of the glasses being lifted and set back down were more comfortable. They would allow the quiet to take over. After dinner, her husband would sit in front of the television, his socked feet propped up on a low coffee table, smoking while watching the news, always mindful of predicted oil price hikes published by the German Technical Cooperation. He was always on the lookout for how their brand was priced per gallon compared to the competition, on whether they or the rest of the Big Three increased prices first, cursing in that low voice of his whenever they looked bad to the consumers. As soon as she finished clearing the kitchen out, she would join him in the living room, sitting primly on her side of the couch. She would nod as he watched the news, as though she agreed with everything the news anchor said. Once, when the program cut to a commercial, he told her that he would have to start traveling heavily, mapping through most of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. You mean, more than now? You re gone most of the week. He sighed and kicked at the throw pillow his feet were propped on. Masyadong bumaba ang ROI ng mga Bulilit stations, eh. I need to re-evaluate if it s worth keeping the smaller stations open. There are LPG stations in the province. Tapos ang daming newer, larger stations; eh may CR, may service station, may convenience store, putang ina, may Jollibee at Chowking pa. Oh, you ll be driving a lot? Well, if I can, yes. I m scheduled to fly to Visayas and Mindanao, tapos I ll have a car to go around in. She turned back toward the television at hearing the finality of his words. She wanted to say so much. Like, if their company was really concerned with saving fuel and going green like what all their Go Clean Fuel marathons and commercials insisted, why did they have to waste so much gasoline driving and flying off to see how their efforts were doing? Or, wasn t there anyone else who could be sent off to do it? Or, did he even think about those things before accepting? Jenette Vizcocho 43

58 Her twelve-hour shift was from seven in the morning to seven in the evening, her night reliever for Tatay Fred a young, single girl named Ivy. They would usually run into each other to and from shifts and Ivy would talk nonstop about herself, her boy troubles, her credit card debt, her latest drunken spree. Whenever they would part, Ivy would ask, How s Lito? Oh. Her face would drain at the question. He s somewhere in Itogon. Travelling pa rin, huh? Well, you re lucky, he always buys you presents when he gets back. Buti ka pa! She would avoid Ivy s gaze, smile and nod, grabbing Tatay Fred s chart and fussing over it more than was necessary. She used to bring whatever was left of her husband s presents to share with her coworkers. Once, Ivy teased her about no longer bringing her desserts. So she was forced to commute to Market! Market! to shop for different delicacies from all over the Philippines, VJANDEP pastels from Camiguin one week, Cheding Peanuts from Iligan the next. She never partook of them after choking on the sweetness of the yema in the pastels, the taste insistent even after she drank several glasses of water. Whenever her friends asked her to have dinner after their shift or to catch a movie with them, she would beg off, always promising to join next time. At some point, they stopped asking, or when they did, became less persuasive in their efforts. Once, as she was charting at the nursing station, just as she was about to leave at the end of her shift, Marcus walked into Tatay Fred s room with a woman following in his footsteps, her floral dress reaching down past her knees, her shoes sensible and flat, her wide feet straining the tensile strength of the leather. Marcus brought a heavy basket of coconuts, pineapples, mangos, and bananas, Tatay Fred s favorite fruits. In the woman s small hands was a picture frame that seemed to once have been lined in velvet, the deep purple texture now dull as though having gone through several exposures to oil or water; on her finger a ring unmistakably a wedding band. Tay, I m here with Nay, Marcus said, setting the basket down and then urging his mother toward the bed. The woman smiled and hesitated before laying a hand on top of Tatay Fred s. He looked up at her before snatching his hand back. Sino ka? The woman s smile faltered before resurging all the brighter, the drop of her lips almost imperceptible, like the blinking of a light bulb. Freddy, kumusta? He didn t answer and so she pressed on, Marcus came for me, alam mo naman I can t leave the resort just like that. Oh, I have something for 44 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

59 you. She set the picture frame beside his bed, a colored photograph of them dancing during their wedding, his arms around her waist, her head resting on his shoulder, one hand wrapped around his back, the other at her hip, intertwined with his. Tatay Fred looked at the picture before he knocked it onto the floor, swiping at the side table over and over again until he succeeded in pushing off the rest of the items on top as well bottles of pills, a vial of alcohol, gauze, micropore tape, and cotton flying everywhere. Ano ba? Bakit niyo ba ako niloloko? I don t know who you are, you are not my family! At the sound of Tatay Fred s voice, she dropped her work and rushed into his room, ushering Marcus and his mother out before calming her patient down. When Tatay Fred had settled back in bed, listening to his music and clapping along to the beat, she walked back out to the visitor s lounge and asked them, What happened? Marcus had a protective arm around his mother, patting her back rhythmically. He scowled and turned away, as though she were to blame for his father s reaction. Finally, his mother spoke up, the picture frame in her hands, the stand slightly cracked. I didn t want Freddy to come here. Kaya naman ako pumayag sa desisyon ni Marcus na dalhin na si Freddy dito e, minsan, we d be talking or he would be sleeping, he would look at me and he wouldn t know who I was. He chased me around the resort with a knife once, asking me where was I keeping Monica? Can you believe it? Twenty-seven years of marriage, and it s Monica he s asking for. Lito was away in Sorsogon when she found out she was pregnant. What she mistook for a bout of flu that had been going around the clinic was actually her body going through the changes expected in pregnancy, the increase in hcg and estrogen hormones, the enhanced sense and sensitivity to smells, things she memorized in nursing school but never fully understood until then. She was in the waiting area at the OB Gyn when she finally mustered up the courage to call her husband. Hey, do you have a minute? Why? I have something to tell you. He sighed impatiently, Can it wait? May rally dito sa Bulan, jeepney drivers parked around the gasoline station and left them there, nakaharang sa daan, no one can enter or leave. Putang ina, what a mess! Oh, okay. Ano ba yan, is it important? The secretary signaled that it was her turn and she whispered Jenette Vizcocho 45

60 into the phone, no, it can wait. When are you coming home? Sa Friday, see you, hon. She kept her secret for three days, smiling as she made dinner or did her duties at work, thankful for the fact that Tatay Fred had retained his slim physique that the bed turns and transfers were not too difficult for her to manage. The night before her husband was due to come home, she marinated an array of chicken, beef, and mutton in a mixture of soy sauce, rice wine, peanut butter, and lemon; adding minced peppers, ginger, garlic, and cilantro. She had cooked satay for Lito one time, and he had been raving about it ever since. She tried to imagine how he would feel, what he would look like at her news, excited to finally have a guaranteed piece of him with her always, despite his numerous travels. At work, all she could think about was what sex the baby would be, or who it would look like, wishing it Lito s height and sharp nose, her dimples and the shape of her fingers and toes. She ducked out of Tatay Fred s room as he was sleeping, feeling a wave of nausea and running for her thermos of watermelon-lemon juice she kept chilled in the staff kitchen, something she had been craving the past few days that oddly calmed the churning of her stomach. When she returned to his room, he was missing, the side rail of his hospital bed lowered, the thin sheet she had fitted around his sleeping figure now in a bundle on the floor. She rushed out of the room, peering into each of the doorways she passed, her heart thudding in her ears, her eyes brimming over as she cursed herself for being so careless as to leave without endorsing him to one of the idle nurses at the station. She had covered the entire floor without catching any sign of him, the halls unusually quiet. In her shock, she found herself wandering back to his room, noticing the open closet for the first time, seeing the golden cowry and the picture albums, but not the scuba diving gear. She raced to the manmade pond, seeing Tatay Fred s robe strewn on the grass. She surveyed the water, looking for some sign of disturbance, finally noting faint ripples coming from beneath the surface. Without thinking, she jumped in, the loose material of her scrubs billowing and filling up with water, her thin cardigan feeling heavier and heavier across her back and arms as it grew sopping wet. She surfaced more than once to determine where Tatay Fred was, gasping for air. She had never been a strong swimmer, her limbs starting to feel heavy. She thrashed around in the cold, her breath flowing out of her mouth in strong bursts, her throat burning up as her body caused her to reflexively inhale. She awoke to find herself in an empty room, Tatay 46 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

61 Fred standing over her, still in his wetsuit. Monica, sabi ko sa iyo eh, stay close, buddy system! Lito arrived at the facility a few hours later. He dropped his bag and a plastic full of pili tarts onto the floor. I was on the road when Ivy called me. She said you had drowned but that a patient rescued you. After they found you and revived you, cleaned you up, they noticed there was some clotting. Honey, she said you were pregnant, and that she did not know if you knew. He touched her hair, pushing wisps of it aside. She turned away. She returned to work immediately after her miscarriage, refusing to talk about what happened, waiving the leave she was offered. She forgot to cook and clean, taking long naps when she got home. Lito tried for months to make up for the fact that he wasn t there for her, asked to be assigned to stations within the city, and patiently dealt with her grief. He tried over and over again to tell her how sorry he was that he didn t talk to her when she called to tell him of her pregnancy, that they had lost their child. She would stand up and walk out of the room whenever he approached her. She would refuse the modest meals he would cook for the both of them, couldn t stand having him touch her, would get up and out of bed every time he tried putting his arms around her while they slept. One day, when she got home from work, she immediately noticed how clean the house was, how the trash had been disposed of, the dishes washed and dried, the laundry done, the bed fixed. Sitting at the dining table was her husband, a pot of stew and two bowls in front of him. Please sit with me and eat, he said quietly. She complied and they ate in silence. How are you, he asked. She hesitated, not knowing how to answer him. She started talking about Tatay Fred, about how he seemed to be making progress with a new drug Aricept, how he was more relaxed and alert. Please don t, he interrupted, I don t want to know about how work is. She opened her mouth in attempt to speak, closed it when no words readily came out. She dropped her spoon onto the bowl with a clatter. I don t know. You don t know how you re doing? No, I don t know how to talk to you anymore. I m trying, but I don t remember. The next day, after work, she came home to find his car and his duffel bag gone. She expected it. That was what she remembered of him. She remembers clearly how things were. Sometimes, she is afraid that it will be the thing about him that she will never forget. He used to nag her Jenette Vizcocho 47

62 about having children, telling her they were nearing forty and he was really envious of his friends who were on their second or third child. At night, Lito would be waiting for her, then still working at the head office in Pasig and usually home at roughly the same time as her. He had been researching nonstop on ways to increase the probability of conception, every dinner discussing some technique he read off the internet, or relaying advice from his female coworkers. She felt slightly mortified at how he began to approach sex scientifically, methodically, charting her monthly period in a calendar, or testing her cervical mucus with his fingers; stretching the cloudy, viscous liquid over and over again between his thumb and pointer finger to tell whether she was ovulating, a slight furrow between his brows. How he took her basal body temperature in the mornings, gently nudging her awake before commanding her to say ah, a basal thermometer in hand. How when he determined she was fertile he would then begin kissing her on the ear, knowing it was the quickest way to arouse her, all the while repeatedly whispering, it s okay to be a little late today. After making love, he would insist she keep her legs up for ten to fifteen minutes, setting a timer beside her and fussing over her as she lay there in bed, stroking her hair and smiling down at her. She was hesitant, although she never spoke of it, unable to shake the thought of how one of her colleagues had gotten pregnant and started acting out of the ordinary. She would laugh or cry or throw a temper tantrum for seemingly no reason at all; one time locking a patient inside his room and refusing to let him out because he did not finish his vegetables, another crying for three hours straight because she said she never saw anybody visit the woman who was in room number 17, yet another coming to work in the middle of the afternoon in her pajamas, her distended belly straining the material of the pajama top, the buttons misaligned. She spoke of how she woke up and cleaned her entire house, only rushing off to work when she remembered it was a Monday. Although aware that pregnancy normally resulted in some hormonal and psychological changes, she was alarmed when her colleague seemed to fare worse and worse as she grew larger, how she quit her job in a fit of rage over a misplaced chart and stayed at home ever since. Lito seemed to become more and more desperate as time passed without any success, disappointed when another month saw her reaching into the closet and pulling a packet of sanitary pads out. He began making side trips to the grocery; forcing her to eat plenty of fruit for breakfast; buying a wide array of vegetables, carrots, pumpkin, beans, and peas; banning beef and 48 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

63 pork, and purchasing white meat instead; limiting her salt and sugar intake; making her snack on yogurt even though he knew she disliked its sour taste; and asking her to quit her three cups of coffee a day and pleading with her to drink milk in the morning instead. He mentioned the possibility of meeting with fertility doctors and carefully asked her if she thought it was a good idea. One night, she came home from work excited to tell him that her friend visited the office with her newborn, how she was so happy with her baby and that it was the cutest little boy she had ever seen. She found him sitting at her side of the closet, clothes strewn on the floor, an old purse she kept hidden beneath a pile of shirts turned inside-out, a half-empty packet of birth control pills in his hands. This is the story of Monica. When Tatay Fred was twenty, he fell in love with this girl who vacationed in Subic during the summer. He had seen her over the last few summer breaks; her father owned a house near his family s resort Scuba Haven. She was a sullen kind of girl, beautiful and quiet, did everything in a half-hearted, sloppy manner a girl of sixteen would typically do. She listened to rock and roll and made fun of Fred s way of speaking to her, broken bits of English he acquired through years of working with the foreigners he taught how to dive. Her father had signed her up for early morning private lessons, wanting her to do something besides sitting at home and sulking. Fred would be up by four o clock in the morning, would check and recheck all the equipment, would pace back and forth outside their gate, kicking up mounds of sand that allowed him to measure time by the depth of the trench his restless movements created since he never wore a watch. She would always be late for their appointed five-thirty schedule, would refuse to tie her hair, or remove her assortment of rings and bracelets, even when they started to tarnish in the salt water. She would be wearing the same diving suit everyday, the Lycra clinging to her boyish frame. She would hardly listen to Fred, rolled her eyes at his instructions and kept her Walkman turned up even as he briefed her at the start of each dive. There were plenty of wreck dive sites near the resort. Fred would power up the small speedboat Scuba Haven I and maneuver the craft to San Quentin, or El Capitan, leaving his assistant, Joey, the son of the resort cook whom he had practically raised, to man the boat while they would dive into and around the ships turned over on their sides, covering the expanse of their rusted hulls. Jenette Vizcocho 49

64 She had one of those plastic underwater Kodak cameras she took with her and would try to enter the vessels, taking pictures of the ship, the plankton, the different kinds of fish. She would leave the film with him soon as she used them up, making him drop them off and pick them up at the nearby photo centers. She knew he was smitten with her, would keep him dangling, hoping, bumbling desperately for her attention. He would ask her at the end of each dive, Monica, may plans ka na ba for dinner? She would hedge and say, why? And he would redden and mumble his invitation to dine with him in one of the nearby restaurants. She would say maybe, or yes, but would always send her yaya out with a flimsy excuse of a stomachache, or a migraine, or how she wasn t hungry. However, whenever they were underwater, she would tease him with her touch, would swim so close to him that her untied hair would caress the skin of his arm, or his neck, or the side of his face. Or she would disappear from view even when he had explicitly reminded her at the start of every dive to be within range so that he could come to her whenever she needed assistance, and then would pop out of nowhere laughing so hysterically that she often ran out of oxygen. At the end of that summer, just as she had a week s worth of time left before she had to leave, he got into an argument with her. They had scheduled to go to the site of the USS New York, an 8,150-ton armored cruiser some 87 feet, underwater. It would be one of the deepest dives Monica would have to make, and he reminded her to regulate her breathing, to stay within eyesight. She cracked her gum at his words and said, yeahyeahyeahyeahyeah, but just as he was cutting the engine of their boat, she hit the water without warning. A few seconds after, a bunch of her bracelets floated up from where she had landed. Fred dove into the water, circling the wreck over and over again, checking under the portside and around the upper and lower decks, trying not to panic when his Submersible Pressure Gauge indicated he was low on oxygen, resurfacing only when he was all but depleted. There she was, sitting in the boat, laughing with her arms around Joey, preventing him from diving down and alerting Fred that she was safe. Gotcha, didn t I, she said, giggling, her bracelets back around her wrist. Fred climbed aboard the boat and drove home, and refused to speak to Monica even when she hung out in their resort, even when on her last day, she dropped off an envelope full of underwater snapshots, the majority of them photos of him. 50 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

65 She didn t return the summer after, or the next, probably off to college and then real life. But all these he remembered, recreated even to the smallest detail, the number of friendship bracelets encircling her thin wrist, the color of her eyes, the smell of her sun block, the softness of her hair at his fingertips; all these he recounted to whomever would listen, to the empty ottoman opposite him, even to his wife who nodded patiently, as though she had never heard the story before. On her way home one time, she ran into his wife outside, the older woman smoking a cigarette, shaking as she dragged deeply, her sunken cheeks sucking in. She smiled in greeting but stopped and turned back, asked, how do you do it, listen to him speak of someone else? We used to talk all the time. Lately, he doesn t even look at me anymore. Swerte na ako whenever he talks to me. The woman dropped the butt onto the grass and ground it up under her shoe before walking back into the building. She stood there by the pond, not having stopped by it since her accident, possibly, unconsciously avoiding the place, always walking past when she took Tatay Fred around in his wheelchair, and stopping lately by a huge fountain instead. She stared at the water, at how dead leaves from the trees collected at the edges, at how it was unmoving; wondering if at nine weeks pregnant, her child had felt the panic she did when she had swallowed so much water, or if it, too, like her, was overcome by this calm just as she passed out, suspended just beneath the surface. She was surprised to feel tears on her cheeks, not having cried in almost a year. She stared at her reflection, at how she had become pale, thin, and unrecognizable; her hair slack, her neon green scrubs drowning out her shape and color. She fished for her cellular phone, scrolled through her contacts, and stopped at Lito s name. She opened a new message and stared at the screen, at the blinking cursor. Jenette Vizcocho 51

66 Troya Joselito D. delos Reyes Sa gitna ng kalamidad, maraming dapat unahin ang chief executive ng isang first-class city na laging binabaha: asikasuhin ang evacuation ng mga tao lalo na kapag nagpawala ng tubig na kulay tsokolate t may tangay pang retaso ng troso ang Angat Dam; alamin kung may sapat na supply ng bigas, instant noodles, asukal, sardinas, kape, at bottled water para sa mga apektadong residente; makipag-ugnayan sa National Disaster Coordinating Council para sa mga tulong at ayudang bigas, instant noodles, asukal, sardinas, kape at bottled water galing sa national government; itulak ang pagpasa sa resolusyon na nagdedeklarang nasa State of Calamity ang kaniyang nasasakupan kasama na ang paggasta nang hindi dumadaan sa bidding ng calamity fund para sa mga nasalanta at masasalanta; ayusin ang pagdi-dispatch sa mga amphibious rescue vehicle na pahiram ng AFP at six by six truck ng city hall na paroo t parito sa mga apektadong barangay; sumagot sa mga interview sa radyo at telebisyon, manawagan ng tulong sa kapuso t kapamilya ng sansinukob; magpabaha ng maraming press release na nagsasabing the situation is manageable, Valenzuela under flood sa lahat ng diyaryo, hao siao man o hindi; alamin sa PAGASA kung may papadaluyong pang bagyo na Lupita ang susunod na ngalan at delubyong makapagpapasidhi sa baha, kung kailan ito tatama, kung iiwas o lulusob, kung ang tinamaan ng lintik na bagyo ay sadyang tumatarget sa kaniyang abang nasasakupan; tawagan nang nagmumura at tanungin nang nagmumura ang Meralco kung kailan mawawalan at magkakaroon ng buwakananginang koryente, mag- thank you for your prompt response and cooperation pagkatapos. Ligirin ang nasasakupan kasama ang camera crew ng mga network habang ipinaliliwanag na force majeure ang lahat ng nangyayaring baha at delubyo sa lungsod na iyon sa puwit ng Metro Manila, at sabihin mariin at nanginginig handa kami sa lahat ng uri ng disaster! habang binabayo ng ulan sa ibabaw ng pump boat na bumabaybay sa kalsadang nagpapanggap na ilog, at palakasin ang loob ng mga kababayan at sigawan sila: kayang-kaya natin to, mga 52

67 kababayan! ; ipahukay, katulong ang MMDA, ang bumababaw at kumikitid na Meycauayan River at Tullahan River upang maayos na dausdusan ng tubig-ulan na manggagaling sa panot na kabundukan ng Bulacan at Rizal; dumalaw sa mga evacuation center at magsama ng mga doktor at nars na titingin sa mga batang magkakalagnat at magkakaalipunga, at siguraduhing may sapat na supply ng paracetamol, cough syrup, mefenamic acid, at antibiotic na malalaklak ng mga taong nangangaligkig sa ginaw; magsama ng mga photographer para sa isang dramatic photo-op na astang kumakalinga sa mga nilalagnat, inuubo, inaalipunga; ipaliwanag sa pangulo ng bansa na everything is under my control, the flood will surely subside, Ma am. At everything will be all right as soon as the weather clears, Ma am. upang hindi mabulyawan sa harap ng media gaya ng ginawa ng Pangulo sa isang gobernador noong huling manalasa ang bagyo na nagkataong Gloria ang ibininyag ng PAGASA sa lalawigan mismo ng high school level na gobernador sa Luzon na hindi alam ang pagkakaiba ng resolusyon sa ordinansa at Local Government Code sa Local School Board. Hindi dapat magutom, magkasakit, malungkot ang mga tao sa evacuation center. Walang dapat mamatay. Punyemas! Lahat ng gagawin ng meyor sa kuwarenta y otso oras ay para sa tao! Simberguwensa! At walang panahon ang isang pinagpipitaganang meyor sa panahon ng baha at delubyo para sa isang kabayong maaagnas! Punyeta! Ibig sabihin, hindi matutulungan ni meyor si Kapitan Timmy Estrella sa suliranin nito: kung paano ididispatsa ang isang patay at malapit nang mamaga t mangamoy na malaking kabayong nakasalalak sa makitid na ilog ng malurido sa bahang barangay ng Coloong. Walang ipahihiram na crane na babaybay sa ilog ng Meycauayan para dumukot sa malaking kabayo. Walang pulis dahil naka-dispatch lahat kasama ng mga amphibious vehicle na hiniram sa Camp Magsaysay at Camp Capinpin. Walang rescue team dahil maraming taong nire-rescue sa buong lungsod. Walang panahon para sa kabayo ang lahat ng may kukote sa loob at labas ng city hall. Unahin ang tao, Kap. Hindi ang kabayo, tagubilin pa ni meyor sa kaniya sabay tapik sa basang balikat niya bago siya lumabas ng opisinang parang binabahang ilog sa dami ng umaagos na empleadong, gaya ni meyor ay litong-lito sa ginagawa. Naging isang malaking pabrika ng relief goods ang lobby ng city hall. Nakita niya si ex-kapitan Trebor, ang tinalo niya sa eleksiyon at kanang kamay ni meyor, na nagmamando sa mga tagasupot ng relief goods. Kinindatan siya ni ex-kapitan Trebor, ngumisi. Nabantad ang lahat ng nikotinadong ngipin. Joselito D. delos Reyes 53

68 Musta ang Coloong, Kap? Sagwa ng unang araw mo sa pagiging kap, he he, bati pa ni ex-kapitan. Unang araw ng panunungkulan ni Kapitan Timoteo Estrella o Kapitan Timmy. Hindi gaya ng ibang eleksiyon sa barangay na buwan ng Mayo o Oktubre, Hulyo ginawa ang halalan noong Unang araw ng Agosto ang pagbasal sa bago niyang opisina sa barangay hall. Hindi lang basta nabasbasan sa unang araw ng panunungkulan si Kapitan Timmy, binaha, binagyo, dinaluyong siya ng hindi benditadong tubig mula sa kaitaasan. Sinundan ni ex-kapitan si Kapitan Timmy palabas ng city hall. Tinabihan ni ex-kapitan si Kapitan Timmy habang kini-kickstart ang motorsiklo niyang Kawasaki Barako 175cc na nalunod habang sinasagasa ang lampas-tuhod na baha patungo sa city hall. Tunog ng hinihika ang tadyak niya sa Barako. Nabasa at nalamigan ang spark plug. Tubig ang isinusuka ng tambutso. Pumugak-pugak ang makina. Kabayo lang yan, Kapitan. Kayang-kaya mo yan, he he, nagsindi ng sigarilyo ang bigotilyong ex-kapitang kumakawala ang tiyan sa kamisetang kulay pulang may mukha ni meyor. Dapat nakakatawa ang mga huling salitang binitiwan ni ex-kapitan Trebor sa miting de avance ng eleksiyon para sa kapitan. Ang mga pamatay na salitang iyon ang ipinayo sa kaniya ng campaign manager niyang kagawad ngayon ng barangay, ang pamatay na mga salitang iyon ang magdadala sa kaniya sa tagumpay, ang maghahatid ng kaniyang ikalawang reeleksiyon. Kung gusto ninyo ng kapitang malamya at lampa, iboto ninyo ang kalaban ko! Iboto ninyo si Kapitana! Walang natawa sa nakikinig ng miting de avance. Nanalo si Kapitan Timmy. Landslide. Kakayanin ko to. Wala e, gusto ng mga taga-coloong ng lampa, parunggit ni Kapitan Timmy habang humahagok-pumapalahaw ang makina ng Barakong nirebo-rebolusyon. Sumuka ng tubig at puting usok ang tambutso ng Barako. Pinasibad pabalik sa Coloong, ang barangay na untiunti nang nilalamon ng baha. Bakla, bulong ni ex-kapitan. Makikita ng taga-coloong ang hinahanap nila sa kapitang babakla-bakla. Kaiba si Kapitan Timmy kompara sa tinalo niyang kapitan. Hindi mo mahuhulihan ng umaalsang baywang dahil sa baril. Miyembro siya ng Legion of Mary. Katekista dati sa Coloong Elementary School. Laging naka-sky blue 54 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

69 na polo shirt dahil hangad niya ang kapayapaan. Mahinahon si Kapitan Timmy. Kaya siya nanalo. Kaya siya minahal ng mga taga-coloong. Kaya nagsawa at inayawan si Kapitan Berto. Si Kapitan Berto ang hindi si Kapitan Timmy. Epitome ng kontrabida sa pelikulang Filipino noong dekada 80, barumbado at laging armado si Kapitan Berto. Bertong Boga at Ka Trebor siya noong kagawad pa lamang. Bertong Armado at Kapitan Trebor noong kapitan at de-primerang alalay ni meyor. Okey na sana kung hindi nababalitaang nalalasing ang barumbadong kapitan. Ang kaso, goma yata ang atay ni Kapitan Berto. Sa Empoy nanghihiram ng tapang. Araw-araw kung magmamam ng Emperador, ang inumin daw ng isang tunay na Trebor. At kapag nakakalaklak, lahat ng taga-coloong, kakampi man niya o kalaban sa politika, gustong subukan sa duwelo. Ang islogan ni Kapitan Berto noong nangangampanya: Kay Kapitan Berto, Coloong Disiplinado! Hindi nakaiwas sa pananakot si Kapitan Timmy. Noong kampanya, lalo na kung inuman, laging nagmomonologo si ex-kapitan Trebor sa mga kainuman. Iharap n yo sa akin ang baklang yan at gagawin kong lalaki, hiyaw ng ex-kapitan. Ilililis ang ladlaran ng kamisetang pula para sumungaw ang tatangnan ng 9mm. Baka nga sa kagat ng aso hindi kayo maipagtanggol n yan e, tatayo sa gitna ng umpukan si ex-kapitan Trebor, akala mo y nangangaral. Bitbit ang tagayan ng Empoy. Kung gusto n yong dumami ang adik, bakla, at adik na bakla dito sa Coloong, si kapitana ang iboto n yo, gagayahin ang mabining paglakad ni Kapitan Timmy. Hmmmm halam ko pong gustoh ninyoh ng barangay na mapayapah at matiwasay hmmm, gagayahin ang mahinahon at malambing na pananalita ni Kapitan Timmy habang naglalakad, habang kunwari y nangangamay sa tao, habang kunwari y umaakbay sa mga kinakampanya. Didiinan at hahaplusin ng dating kapitan ang balikat ng kunwari y kinakamayang lalaki. Kukurutin ang braso nang magaan na magaan. Itatalikod ang mukha, kakagatin ang labi, pipikit nang mariin, magbu-beautiful eyes. Sasabayan ng tawa ni ex-kapitan Trebor, tawang Romy Diaz, umaalog ang katawan katatawa. Tatawa din ang mga kainuman. Lalo na ang mga alalay ni Romy Diaz. Kapitang binabae, ha ha! Nananantsing sa kampanya. Galit sa maton ang mga taga-coloong, katwiran naman ni Kapitan Timmy sa mga nagtatanong kung bakit siya nanalo. Laging naghahamon ng Joselito D. delos Reyes 55

70 away ang dating kapitan. Laging ipinagmamalaki ang koneksiyon niya kay meyor. Laging may nakabukol na baril. Naging kingpin. Naging warlord. Tahimik ang Coloong. Ayaw ng Coloong sa gulo. Kaya siya nanalo. Nang tanungin si Kapitan Timmy kung hindi daw ba siya natatakot kung hindi matatanggap ni Trebor ang pagkatalo: Bakit naman ako matatakot, kakampi ko ang nasa taas. Kapitana Congrats! Sa unang araw mo sa puwesto may regalo ko sa yo! sigaw ni ex-kapitan Trebor na may hawak na basong may lamang Empoy kay Kapitan Timmy ilang araw matapos ang eleksiyon habang ngumangata ng makunat na tapa. Kumalat sa buong Coloong na maghihiganti sa pagkatalo ang dating kapitan. Baka pumatay na ng tao at magkatotoo ang tsismis na marami nang itinumbang kaaway si ex-kapitan Trebor. Bala daw ang ireregalo kay Kapitan Timmy. O kaya ay itim na laso. O maliit na kabaong. O bulaklak ng patay gaya ng ipinapadala ni meyor sa mga lamay sa Valenzuela. Lumipas ang dalawang linggong walang nangyaring patayan. Katunayan, higit pa ngang naging matiwasay ang Coloong sa kabila ng pagkababad nito sa matiwasay at kalmanteng baha. Maayos na nagpapaalam ang ex-kapitan sa mga nasasakupang pumupunta sa barangay hall para manghingi ng barangay clearance para makapagtrabaho, at magsampa ng reklamo sa kung sinong nangutang na hindi nagbayad at sa kung sinong nagtsismis ng kung ano, kung kanino, kung kailan. Kabayo lang ang namatay. Nalunod marahil sa baha galing sa kung saang barangay at tinangay sa bunganga ng ilog sa Coloong, at hindi maanod sa mas malaking ilog ng Meycauayan dahil sa inutil na floodgate na kumapal at bumigat na sa lumot at kalawang. Huling araw ng Hulyo nang masipat ng PAGASA na dadaan ang bagyong Koring sa Central Luzon. Mahina ang hangin ng bagyong Koring pero maraming dalang ulan. Signal number 2 ang Metro Manila. Dalawang araw nang walang puknat ang ulang nagsimula nang tikatik at bumuhos na nga sa unang araw ng panunungkulan ni Kapitan Timmy. Pinulong ni Kapitan Timmy ang katatalaga lang niyang ayudante, si Tanod Ex-O Rodante na dating natsismis kay Kapitan Timmy (Akmang suntok ang isinasagot ni Kapitan Timmy sa tuwing tatanungin siya kung kainuman na naman niya sa Marilao at Monumento si Tanod Ex-O Rodante, ang pinakasikat at pinakamayamang welder sa Coloong.). 56 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

71 Gago, (o gaga kung babae ang mambubuska) malisyoso kayo. Pamilyado yung tao no, mahinahon at malambing na pambabara ni Kapitan Timmy. Sa pulong, kasama ang bagong kasusumpa sa puwestong dalawampung barangay tanod, idinrowing ni Kapitan Timmy ang sitwasyon. Walang nanalo sa kagawad natin, lahat ng kagawad busy sa pamimigay ng relief goods ni meyor at ni Ka Trebor, tayo-tayo lang ang magtutulungan dito, panimula ni Kapitan Timmy. Pinipilit maging mariin at malakas ang sinasabi dahil nasasapawan ng ingay ng ulan ni Koring sa labas ng barangay hall. Idinrowing sa malapad na white board ang korte ng ilog, ang bunganga nitong pinagtayuan ng huklubang floodgate na kasintanda ng humukay ng ilog. Iginuhit ang puwesto ng mga puno, ang kurbada ng mga pilapil sa paligid. Iginuhit ang huling pormang nakita sa patay na kabayo: nakahigang nakabuka ang lahat ng paa. Lutang ang nakabukol na tiyan. Labas ang dila ng malaking kabayong chestnut brown. Iginuhit ang mga dadaanang pilapil ayon sa mapa ng Coloong na nakadikit sa tabi ng white board. Step by step na hakbang kung paano iaahon ang kabayo sa ilog ng Meycauayan at kung paano ipatatangay. Nakasulat sa white board kung anong oras ang paghupa ng baha. Nakasulat din ang mga pangalan ng tanod at kung saan sila nakapuwesto sa pag-aahon ng kabayo. Lahat de-numero. Naputol ang pagsasalita ni Kapitan Timmy. Humahangos ang isa pang tanod. K-k-kap, tumataas ang bahah. Yung k-kabayo Kap, ambantot na, ganun pa rin pop-p-porma, hingal na hingal na sinambit ng basang-basang tanod. Mas maganda, sabi ni Kapitan Timmy. Madaling maiaangat ang bangkay at maihuhulog sa ilog ng Meycauayan. Matatapos bago mag-alas sais ng gabi ang Oplan: Tambog-kabayo. Balik sa drowing. Labing-anim ang hahatak pataas sa kabayo at maghuhulog sa ilog ng Meycauayan. Lima ang tanod na lulusong sa halos limang metrong lapad ng ilog para itali ng makakapal na lubid ang mga paa at ulo ng kabayo. Isang tao, isang lubid ang hahatakin pataas. Markado ang lahat ng pupuwestuhan ng tao. Parang krokis sa basketbol sa huling segundo ng isang kritikal na laban. May limang tanod na mangunguna. Tatagain ang lahat ng siit at sanga ng bakawang nakahalang sa daraanan ng grupo. Let s go! sigaw ni Kapitan Timmy. Bago umalis, ipinamigay ang mga bago t puting puting good morning towel na inispreyan ng Axe. Wala nang kapo-kapote, hubad-baro ang ibang tanod, naka-body fit at dri-fit na Joselito D. delos Reyes 57

72 kamisetang Nike at nakatokong na shorts si Tanod Ex-O Rodante. Lapat na lapat sa pagkakabasa ang sky blue na polo shirt, naka-cycling shorts, at pangharabas sa bahang sandalyas si Kapitan Timmy. Sa Coloong Elementary School na gagawing evacuation center, nagsisimula nang dumagsa ang tao, naglalakad, nakabangka, nakabalsang gawa sa pinagtali-taling drum. Naroon ang isang six by six ng city hall. Puno ng relief goods ni meyor. Sa gate ng eskuwelahan, nakabantay si ex-kapitan Trebor. Nakakapote, naninigarilyo, sumisingaw ang amoy ng Empoy. Dumaan sa harap ng eskuwelahan ang tropa ni Kapitan Timmy. Good luck, Kapitana, pahabol pa ng ex-kapitan sa tropa ni Kapitan Timmy. Lalong lumakas ang dalang ulan ni Koring. Pinapasok pa lamang ng tropa ang loobang dadaanan papunta sa pilapil ng ilog, nagsimula nang sumuot sa ilong ang lansa. Nagsasagitsitan na ang langaw. Isa-isang nagtali sa ilong ng good morning towel na may Axe ang mga tanod, si Tanod Ex-O Rodante, at Kapitan Timmy. Heto na ang giyera, usal ni Kapitan Timmy sa sarili. Naglalagitikan ang mga sangang tinataga. Malabo ang daraanan dahil sa ulan at sa mga nagdo-dogfight na bangaw. Makapal ang damo kaya hindi na makita ang pilapil na nilalakaran. Narating ng tropa ang dulo ng pilapil. Sumisingasing ang ulan at bangaw. Mabantot. Nakadila sa kanila ang kabayong naka-side view. Dilat na dilat. Umuugoy-ugoy sa pagkakalutang. Iniikutan ng mga langaw at bangaw ang ulo ng kabayo. Nakataas ang dalawang paang mapagkakamalang kawayang lulutang-lutang sa ilog. Nagsubo ng tigdadalawang kending Halls na puti ang mga tanod. Halos maubos ang sansupot na dala ni Kapitan Timmy. Napahinto nang akmang lulusong na ang unang tanod na magtatali sa paa ng kabayo. Akala mo namaligno. Estatwang-estatwa. Umatras, nakasampay pa rin ang mga lubid sa balikat. Putlang-putla. Tumakbo palayo. Nadapa. Nawala sa balikat ang lubid. Wala na ring good morning towel sa ilong. Tumayo sa pagkakadapa. Hindi pala. Yumuko lang. Sumuka. Isinuka pati ang kending Halls. Tumingala. Ipinansahod sa ulan ni Koring ang mukha. Ibinuka ang bibig na may salasalabit na ulam at kanin. Sumambulat ang adobong kangkong at Lucky Me 58 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

73 Pancit Canton na tanghalian ng tanod. Yuko uli. Suka. Tingala. Hinugasan sa malakas na ulan ni Koring ang mukha at bibig at ilong na may nakasabit na usbong ng kangkong at mahabang noodle ng Lucky Me Pancit Canton. Napansin ng mga langaw ang pagkaing lumabas sa bunganga ng tanod. Pinutakti ng mga langaw ang mukha. H-hindi ko kaya, Bo-boss, ambaho, pauntol-untol na sigaw ng tanod kay Tanod Ex-O Rodante sa pagitan ng paglalabas ng kanin at ulam, at paghigit ng hanging may langaw. Hindi na pinalapit sa floodgate ang kulay hugas-bigas na tanod na assistant welder pala ni Tanod Ex-O Rodante. Mahina ang tiyan! sigaw ni Tanod Ex-O Rodante habang iminumuwestra ang tiyan kay Kapitan Timmy. Ngumiti si Kapitan Timmy pero hindi na ito nakita ni Tanod Ex-O Rodante dahil humahaginit si Koring. Nanlalabo ang buong paligid dahil sa ulan ni Koring. Ngo, moys! (Translation: Go, boys!) palahaw ni Kapitan Timmy na akala mo y ngongo, dahil sa tumatakip sa ilong nitong good morning towel na babad na babad sa Axe at ulan ni Koring. Pagkasabi ng Ngo, moys!, nagsimula nang umakyat sa floodgate ang mga nalalabing tanod kasama si Kapitan Timmy. Siya ang manager sa itaas ng floodgate. Si Tanod Ex-O Rodante ang manager ng kanina y limang lubidboys sa ibaba. Si Tanod Ex-O Rodante ang rumilyebo sa assistant welder nitong nagtatanggal ng sumalalak na kangkong sa lalamunan pagkatapos isuka ang lahat ng tanghalian. Naitali ang dalawang paang nakalutang. Naitali ni Tanod Ex-O Rodante ang ulo ng chestnut brown na kabayo. Naihagis ang lubid sa hatak-boys sa itaas ng floodgate. Sinisid na ng tanod ang nakalubog na paa ng kabayong naka-side view. Nagmamando lang si Tanod ex-o Rodante. Umahon agad ang sumisid. Nilangaw ang ulo. Naitali mo? tanong ni Tanod ex-o Rodante. Nakamasid ang mga hatak-boys sa itaas. Naghihintay ng go-signal kay Tanod ex-o Rodante kung puwede nang hatakin pataas ang kabayong chestnut brown. Inaaninag sa ulan ang pag-thumbs-up ng hepe ng sandatahang lakas ng barangay. Habol ang hiningang tumango ang tanod. Umahon sa ilog. Kinuha ang good morning towel na nakasampay sa bakawan. Ipinampunas sa nagmamantika niyang mukha. Hindi na maamoy ang Axe na kanina pa sumama sa ulan ni Koring. Joselito D. delos Reyes 59

74 Nag-ipon ng hangin ang tanod na maninisid. Lumusong uli. Tumingala. Kumuha uli ng hangin pero ulan ni Koring at langaw ang nasambot. Inubo muna. Nang maibuga ang langaw, kumuha uli ng hangin. Nakayuko namang humigop ng hangin. Ayos. Sisid uli. Okey na? tanong uli ni Tanod ex-o Rodante. Hindi tumitingin ang tanod. Nakayuko lang sa nagmamantikang tubig. Naghahabol ng hininga. Humuhugot ng mabantot na hangin. Parang may putong na koronang langaw sa ulo ang tanod. Kumakatas na ang sebo ng chestnut brown na kabayo ng kung sinong demonyo. Hindi matunaw ng ulan ni Koring ang naglilinab at masangsang na mantika sa ilog. Okey na ba? ulit ni Tanod ex-o Rodante. Naka-thumbs-up pa para kung sakaling hindi madinig ang tanong. Hinahanap ang mata ng maninisid. Umiling ang maninisid. Nagliparan ang mga nakadapong langaw sa ulo. H-anlalim Boss, sigaw ng naghahabol sa hiningang tanod. Subukan mo ule! hiyaw ni Tanod ex-o Rodante. Nakaturo pataas ang hintuturo. Nawala ang tanod sa nagmamantikang tubig. Umahon ang ulo ng tanod. Mas mabilis kaysa kaninang pagsisid. Pinagkaguluhan uli ng langaw ang lumutang na ulo ng tanod. Umiling uli. Dumura-dura bago dumipa sa tubig. Bikaka ang paa ng kabayong chestnut brown, senyas ng maninisid. Nakadipang patagilid ang senyas. Malalim ang hiklat ng paa ng kabayo sa ilog. Umiling-iling. Dumura-dura. Sinisinga-singa ang tubig sa ilong. Indi talaga kaya, Boss. Dumura-durang sabi ng tanod. Sabay kulog at kidlat ni Koring. Napatigil ang lahat. Parang kinuhanan ng retrato. Langaw lang ang gumagalaw. Ipinatali na lang ni Tanod Ex-O Rodante sa dalawang paang nakalutang ang lubid na hindi naibuhol sa paang nakalubog. Nag-thumbs up si Tanod ex-o Rodante kay Kapitan Timmy sa itaas ng floodgate. Puwede nang hatakin kahit hindi nakatali ang isang paa. Nagkilusan ang mga hatak-boys. Humanda na sa paghatak. Nakamatyag si Kapitan Timmy. Dahan-dahan muna ang hatak hanggang lumapit ang chestnut brown na kabayo sa kinakalawang na pintong bakal ng floodgate. Mga sampung piye ang taas ng aahunin ng bangkay. Pumorma. Pagbilang ko! sigaw ni Kapitan Timmy sa hatak-boys. One, two, three, hatak! One, two, three, hatak! 60 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

75 Umangat ang ulo ng chestnut brown na kabayo. Matigas pati dila. Dilat na dilat. Nagsalimbayan ang paglipad ng langaw sa ulo ng kabayo. Sumingaw ang amoy nang lumabas ang bibig na binabalungan ng naninilaw na tubig. Nalukot ang mukha ng lahat ng tanod sa baho ng hininga ng dilat na kabayo. Bumaba nang bahagya ang lumitaw na ulo ng kabayo, humalik uli sa ilog. Nangawit ang mga hatak-boys. Hindi man lang napaangat sa paghatak ang nakalubog na namamagang katawan. Walang bibitiw, putangina! nagulat si Kapitan Timmy sa nasambit. Siya na dating katekista at Legion of Mary, nagmura nang ubod ng lutong sa unang araw ng pagiging kapitan niya. Kinagat niya ang kending Halls na kanina pa nasa pisngi. Dinurog sa nguya. One, two, three, hatak! One, two, three, hatak! nakasumpal sa ilong ni Kapitan Timmy ang basang-basang good morning towel. Kumukumpas sa hatak-boys. Halos hindi na makita ang kumpas ng kapitan sa kapal ng ulan ni Koring. Sa lakas at bilis ng hatak sa ulo, napilas ang leeg ng chestnut brown na kabayo. Hindi nakaya ang buong bigat ng namamagang katawan. Umalingasaw lalo. Ang napilas na leeg naman ang dinumog ng laksa-laksang bangaw. Inagasan ng malapot na mantikang puti, dilaw, at pula ang napilas na leeg. Sumama sa ilog ang katas. Muntik nang mahulog sa floodgate ang mga humahatak sa ulo. Bumitaw sa hatak ang isang tanod. Nasundan ng isa pa. Bumigat ang hatak ng iba. Nakabitaw. Nagliparan ang lubid at langaw. Natangay ang isang matalinong tanod pababa dahil nakapulupot at nakabuhol sa braso niya ang lubid na hinahatak. Nasalo ng nakaumbok na tiyan ng kabayo ang nahulog na tanod. Tunog ng tambol ang pagbagsak ng tanod. Lumubog-lumutang ang tiyan ng kabayong may tanod sa ibabaw. Lumubog-lumutang ang salbabidang kabayo. Lalong sumingaw ang amoy. Parang nakawalang dambuhalang kabag. Napatalon sa ilog ang nahulog na tanod nang matauhang nakasubsob siya at lulutang-lutang sa nakaumbok na tiyan ng kabayong chestnut brown. Nag-dive na una ang puwet. Nagkakawag patungo sa pampang. Nang makaahon, yumuko. Sumuka nang sumuka habang kinakalag ang lubid sa braso. Sinundan ng laksa-laksang bangaw ang tanod. Giniling na bangus at tilapia ang laman ng sikmura ng tanod na nahulog. Isinuka pati kanin, pati yata pinong tinik ng buntot ng bangus. Kahit ilong ay nilabasan ng suka. Isinampay ang katawan sa pinakamalapit na punong bakawan. Inalalayan ng ibang tanod. Hinagod-hagod ang likod. Joselito D. delos Reyes 61

76 Nagkaroon ng konsiyerto ng pagsuka. Nabuhay ang unang nasuka. Sumuka uli kahit wala nang kanin, Lucky Me, at kangkong na ilalabas ang pigang-pigang sikmura. May sumuka uli. Ang tanod na maninisid. Tatlo. Naging apat. Lima ang sumusuka nang sabay-sabay. Nakisama naman si Koring, nagbuhos pa ng makapal na ulan para ipanghalamos sa mga nagsusuka. Napailing si Kapitan Timmy kay Tanod Ex-O Rodante. Napailing din si Tanod Ex-O Rodante. Siyet, bulong ni Tanod Ex-O Rodante sa sarili, kung hindi lang dahil sa mga ipapagawa ni Kapitan Timmy gate at bakod ng Coloong Elementary School, gate at bakod ng barangay hall, pagkumpuni sa sirang covered court, gate at bakod ng kahit anong pupuwedeng i-welding sa bulsyet na barangay na to. Kung hindi dahil dito at sa suweldong tatlong libo bilang tanod ex-o. Bulsyet, hinding-hindi niya ito gagawin. Balik tayo, sambit ni Kapitan Timmy. Mistulang galing sa isang walang-panalong giyera sa Iwo Jima ang tropang hinahatak ang sarili sa tubig-bahang hanggang pige. Sugatan. Malalata. Binabayo ng ulan ni Koring. Nakasampay sa mga balikat ng kasamahan ang limang tanod na naubos ang laman ng sikmura kasusuka. Nagmamantika ang katawan ng maninisid. Tinatanuran ng bangaw na nagmula pa sa ilog. Pakiramdam ng iba, kasama nila ang kabayo dahil tangay ng maninisid at ng nahulog na tanod ang lahat ng halimuyak ng chestnut brown na kabayo. Nagtatakip ng ilong ang lahat ng madaanang may ilong at nakakaamoy. Hindi kinaya ng anghang ng sandakot na kending Halls na puti ang sangsang ng nakadila at bondat na kabayo. Naligo ang tropa ng bari-bariles na tubig-ulan na may Surf. May nakaisip ng Joy na pantanggal sa sebo ng plato at kawali. Nagpabili si Kapitan Timmy ng dalawang dosenang Joy Antibac at Joy Lemon. At dose-dosenang shampoo, conditioner, at sabong pampaligo. Nag-amoy Joy at namamagang kabayong chestnut brown ang madilim na covered court at barangay hall. Kay Tandang Isko ang kabayo, bulong ni ex-kapitan Trebor kay Kapitan Timmy. Matanda na raw ang malaking kabayo ni Tandang Isko na taga-barangay Mabolo. Maaari daw nalunod at hindi na ipinalibing ng matanda dahil baha. Maaaring ipinatangay na lang sa ilog dahil akala y dirediretso ang ilog patungo sa mas malaking ilog ng Meycauayan palabas sa 62 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

77 dagat. Nakalimutan yata ng matandang may sirang floodgate sa bunganga ng ilog ng Coloong. Hindi nagalaw ang naninilaw sa lapot na arroz caldong ipinahanda ni Kapitan para sa mga tanod at kagawad. Naubos naman ang sanlatang Fita. Naubos ang dalawang supot ng Nescafe 3 in 1. Tinira ng mga natitirang malakas na tanod ang softdrinks kahit hindi malamig. Aandap-andap ang rechargeable lamp sa mahabang mesa sa barangay hall na amoy Joy Antibac at kabayong chestnut brown. Kinabukasan pa daw magkakaroon ng koryente, sabi ng city hall nang radyuhan ni ex-kapitan Trebor. Nagdala sa barangay hall ng kilo-kilong tilapia at bangus si ex-kapitan Trebor na gusto raw makatulong sa problema ng kabayo. Galing ang mga isda sa palaisdaan ni meyor sa Coloong na tinatauhan ni ex-kapitan Trebor. Pinarte sa tanod ang mga isda ni meyor na isda na rin ni ex-kapitan Trebor na isda na rin ng mga tanod. Kung ako sa yo Kap, ito ang solusyon, pagyayabang ng dating kapitan. Inilabas sa jacket ang isang granada, ipinatong sa mesa. Naglayuan sa mesang may granada ang mga nakapalibot na kagawad, si Tanod Ex-O Rodante, lalo na ang namuting si Kapitan Timmy na binayo ng kaba. Napasigaw ng matinis na Eeeeeii! si Kapitan Timmy. Nang mapansin niyang napatinis ang sigaw niya, sumigaw uli, mas matigas, pagalit Tangina naman o. May pin pa to, ha, dagdag ni ex-kapitan. Sumisingaw ang amoy ng Empoy sa bibig. Pasabugin ang kabayo, tanggal ang problema. Kung hindi kaya ng isa, heto pa, dinukot ang kabilang bulsa ng jacket. Inilabas ang isa pang granada. Kulang na lang ay maiwang mag-isa si ex-kapitan Trebor sa loob ng barangay hall. Humagalpak. Tawang Paquito Diaz na nakabihag at nakapambugbog ng FPJ. Hindi makukuha sa palampa-lampa yang problemang yan, kinuha ang dalawang granada. Ibinalik sa jacket. Lumabas ng barangay hall si ex-kapitan Trebor. Babalik daw sa kubo sa palaisdaan ni meyor na may generator na nasa bukana ng ilog ng Coloong. Sa dilim at kahit balot ng jacket, naaninag ni Kapitan Timmy ang sumusungaw na bondat na tiyan ni ex-kapitan Trebor, nakaparagan sa pulang kamisetang may mukha ni meyor at logo ng city hall, nakasuksok ang 9mm na permanenteng residente na ng baywang ng dating kapitan. Naalala ni Kapitan Timmy ang nilalangaw at namamagang tiyan ng chestnut brown. Salamat sa regalo, usal ni Kapitan Timmy sa sarili. Joselito D. delos Reyes 63

78 Halos maubos ang tropa ni Kapitan Timmy kinabukasan. Hindi na raw sasama sa susunod na operasyon ang limang nagsuka dahil sumasakit daw ang tiyan at nilalagnat. Tatlo ang nagsabing magre-resign sa pagiging tanod. At ang dalawa, sasamahan muna daw ang pamilya hangga t hindi humuhupa ang baha. Pinagpulungan ng mga natitirang tanod, ni Tanod Ex-O Rodante, ng mga kagawad, at ni Kapitan Timmy ang susunod na hakbang. Ang plano numero uno: kung hindi maiahon ang kabayo, palubugin. Talian at lagyan ng pabigat na adobe. Maraming-maraming adobe. Bagsak sa konseho at tanod. Paano daw dadalhin ang napakaraming adobe? Plano numeros dos: iahon sa pilapil na humahangga sa ilog ng Meycauayan ang kabayo. Bagsak sa lahat. Malambot na ang pilapil. Maaaring gumuho. Babaha lalo dahil mas mataas ang tubig sa Ilog Meycauayan. Baka anurin pabalik ang kabayo at sumalalak uli patungo sa ilog. Dadami at lalaki ang problema. Mahirap kumpunihin ang sirang pilapil kung mataas ang tubig. Plano numero tres: wasakin ang floodgate na binahayan na ng kalawang. Pagkawasak, padaanin ang kabayo sa guwang. Gaya din ng argumento sa plano numero dos. Not worth the risk. Babaha lang lalo. Plano numero kuwatro: biyak-biyakin ang kabayo. Hatakin pataas ang bawat inatadong parte at saka ihulog sa ilog ng Meycauayan. Bagsak uli sa tanod at konseho. Sino ang uupak para magkahiwa-hiwalay. Baka magkasakit ang mga lulusong. Plano numero singko: dahil nakatali na ang kabayo, hatakin sa iba t ibang direksiyon para magkahiwala-hiwalay. Bagsak sa konseho. Paano hahatakin? Paano kung hindi magkahiwa-hiwalay dahil maganit at may buto pa? Kung balat lang ang kabayo, madali. Puwede nang pagtiisan ang amoy para maatado. Plano numero sais: hayaang mabulok. Bagsak sa konseho. Magkakasakit ang buong Coloong dahil sa amoy. Baka pagsimulan pa ng epidemya lalo t may mga evacuees sa barangay at malaki ang baha. Tatagas ang uod. Babaha ng uod. Plano numero siyete: hatakin pabalik kay Tandang Isko ang kaniyang kabayo. Bagsak sa konseho. Ipapaanod lamang uli ng matanda sa ilog ang nabubulok na kabayo. Plano numero otso: ataduhin at gilingin ang bulok na kabayo sa pamamagitan ng granada. Bagsak kay Kapitan Timmy. Hangga t siya ang nasa posisyon, walang puwang ang dahas. At hindi garantiya ang granada sa isang namamagang kabayo. Kakalat lang ang inuuod na laman. 64 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

79 Humina na si Koring pero palaki pa rin ang baha dahil umuuho pa ang tubig galing sa kalbong bundok ng Rizal at Bulacan. At may balitang magpapakawala ng tubig ang Angat Dam. Paghina ng ulan, nangibabaw ang alingasaw ng chestnut brown sa buong barangay. Walang nakatulog dahil sa alingasaw kahit ilang good morning towel at botelya ng Axe ang gamitin at ubusin. Madaling-araw kinabukasan ng saludsurin ni Kapitan Timmy ang hanggang baywang na baha. Nagsama ng limang tanod. Isinama ang hepe ng tanod, si Rodante. Humiram ng bangka si Kapitan Timmy sa isang kaibigan. Humingi ng ilang adobe sa isang hardware and construction supply sa barangay. Inakay ang bangkang karga ang mga adobe. Nagdala uli ng lubid si Kapitan. At ng maraming-maraming kending Halls na puti, good morning towel na binasa ng malapot na shampoo. Binaybay ang pilapil hanggang makarating sa flood gate na kinokolonya na ng lahat ng langaw ng buong Valenzuela at Bulacan. Nginitian sila ng kabayo. Nakadila pa rin pero puti na ang matang untiunting natutungkab. Umaagas ang pula-puti-dilaw na langis sa biyak sa leeg at sa bunganga ng higit nang malaking kabayo. Higit nang namamagang kabayo. Pinigil ni Kapitan Timmy na hindi iduwal palabas ang pandesal na may palamang coco jam, Fita, at kape na tinira niya bago lumakad. Nagsubo pa ng kending Halls. Halos mamuwalan sa kendi. Umiimpis-lumoloboumiimpis naman ang pisngi ni Tanod Ex-O Rodante. Panay ang inom ng orange juice na nasa bote ng mineral water para hindi masuka. Balot na balot ang mukha ng limang tanod. Tatlong kamisetang naliligo sa shampoo ang nakabalot sa mukha puwera pa ang nakapaloob na mga good morning towel. Minamanyanita ng umuugong na langaw ang tropa. Paputok na ang araw nang dumating sila sa floodgate. Itinali ang mga adobe sa dulo ng mga pinagputol-putol na lubid. Samasamang ibinato sa kabila ng ilog, sa lagpas ng kabayong naka-side view. Eksakto ang bato ng una, sumabit ang lubid sa namamagang tiyan. Ayos din ang ikalawa. Hanggang sa ikalimang lubid. Sumasambulat ang kolonya ng bangaw sa tuwing ibabato ang lubid na may adobe. Hindi man lang lumubog kahit kaunti ang magang-magang kabayo. Hindi kayang palubugin ng mahigit sampung adobe. O kahit siguro tone-toneladang pang adobe. Naubos uli ang Joy Antibac pagbalik ng bigong ekspedisyon ni Kapitan Timmy. Joselito D. delos Reyes 65

80 Dumadagsa na ang reklamo sa amoy ng kabayo. Marami raw batang inuubo at nasusuka sa evacuation center dahil sa amoy. May ilang nagtatae. Bahagyang umaraw kinahapunan. Lalong umalingasaw sa buong barangay ang kabayong chestnut brown na unti-unti nang nagiging puti. Inaagasan na ng uod na tinatangay na palapit sa barangay hall at sa evacuation center. Kabayo lang yan Kapitana, hindi maikakaila ng namamagang tiyan kung sino ang nagsabi kahit pa balot ang mukha nito at mata lang ang nakikita. Naningkit ang mata sa pagtawa ng may-ari ng boses. Hindi maikakaila ang tawang Paquito Diaz. Nasa tindahang malapit sa barangay hall si ex-kapitan Trebor. Hinubad ang tabing sa mukha. Tinagay ang Empoy sa baso. Kumurot ng tapa. Ngumiti ng isang nikotinadong ngiti bago itinago muli ang mukha. Nadinig ni Kapitan Timmy ang huling sinabi ng dating kapitan. Babakla-bakla kasi e, pigil at manipis na tawa ang sumunod. Umaalog ang bondat na tiyan sa pagtawa, lumabas ang tatangnan ng 9mm. Nagtawanan din ang alalay ni Paquito Diaz. Dalawa rito ang kagawad ng barangay, ang mga kagawad na nagpanukalang gilingin ang chestnut brown sa pamamagitan ng granada ni ex-kapitan Trebor. Salamat uli sa regalo, usal ni Kapitan Timmy sa sarili bago siya lumabas ng barangay upang maghanap ng solusyon sa suliranin ng kaniyang nasasakupang malurido na sa ulan at baha. Umulan uli nang buhos. Dumating na ang bagyong Lupita. Mas maraming dalang ulan kaysa Koring. Panghugas sa Coloong na sinisimulan nang kolonyahin ng uod na produkto ng chestnut brown na kabayo. Alas-onse ng gabi nang umalingawngaw ang pagsabog sa barangay galing sa direksiyon ng flood gate. Sinundan ng isa pang pagsabog pagkatapos ng halos wala pang isang minuto. Nalunod ang tunog ng pagsabog sa malakas na hangin at ulan na dala ni Lupita. May nagising sa paaralang elementaryang rumirilyebo bilang evacuation center. May nagising rin sa barangay hall. Napagkamalang kulog. Nang matiyak na kulog lamang ang narinig, bumalik uli sa mabahong pagkakahimbing ang buong barangay. Pinasabog nga ba ng dating kapitan ang patay na kabayo sa kasagsagan ng bagyong Lupita? O may foul play? Ano ang kinalaman ng naaagnas na kabayong pinipilit ngayong iahon ng pulisya para isama sa imbestigasyon kasama ang katawan ng dating kapitang binistay ng shrapnel? garalgal, paputol-putol, malutong ang boses ni Gus sa harap ng camera habang 66 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

81 nakalusong sa hanggang tuhod na baha sa humahalimuyak na Coloong, habang binabayo ng ulan na buntot na lamang ni Lupita. Pabaon pa ni Gus bago magpatalastas: Mga piraso ng katawan ng kabayo at katawan ng dating kapitang binurdahan ng shrapnel, magkasama ngayong iimbestigahan abangan sa pagbabalik ng S.O.C.I. o Scene of the Crime Investigation. Footage ng interview ni meyor sa loob ng opisina: I believe there s a foul play. I believe this is political in nature. Political vendetta, or perhaps, to intimidate my good and efficient administration. We will leave no stones unturned. Napakabuti ni Kapitan Robert. Isinabay pa nila sa kalamidad. How barbaric. Napakalupit. Nakaririmarim. Napakawalang puso. Hinawi ng napapayungang Kapitan Timmy ang buhok. Inayos ang gusot na polo shirt na sky blue, kulay na tanda ng kapayapaan. Bago rumolyo ang camera ng S.O.C.I. para sa panayam, tumingin at ngumiti muna si Kapitan Timmy kay Tanod Ex-O Rodante, ang matapat niyang ayudante. Joselito D. delos Reyes 67

82 Ang Batang Gustong Maging Ipis Carlo Pacolor Garcia Isa siyang mabait na bata kaya lagi siyang nagpapaalam. Noong gusto niyang maging alimango, tinawagan niya muna sa ospital ang kanyang nanay kung saan ito nagtatrabaho at nagtanong, Nay, puwede po ba kong maging alimango? Oo, anak, oo, ang mabilis nitong sagot sabay baba ng telepono. Bakit mo gustong maging alimango? tanong ng ate niya na tuwangtuwang nakikinig. Kasi raw noong Sabado, may dumaan na mamáng naglalako ng alimango at nang bumili ang tatay nila, nakita niya kung pano magpakitang-gilas ang mga to, kung ga no sila kahirap mahuli, kung pa nong napapasigaw ang mga nasisipit nito. Ngumisi ang ate ng bata. Pagdating ng nanay galing trabaho, mabilis tong nagtungo sa kuwarto nilang mag-asawa, di pinansin ang anak na nakakipkip ang mga kamay sa pagitan ng mga nakatiklop na alak-alakan at naglalakad na parang alimango. Di rin siya napansin ng kanyang mga magulang nang pumasok siya sa kanilang kuwarto, pilit na inaakyat ang kama, ginagaya ang kanyang nakita, kung pa no magkumahog ang mga alimango na makaakyat, kung pa no sila madulas sa pagsubok. Ang sabi ng nanay sa tatay: Dinala kahapon nang madaling araw, hindi alam ng nanay ang gagawin do n sa bata, luwa na yong bituka, ang sabi niya, tahiin nyo ho tahiin nyo ho, hindi ko naman masabi sa kanya na hindi ko na ho yan matatahi. Lumaban pa raw kasi yong bata, kala mo kung sinong matapang. Nakuha din naman lahat. Nabaltog ang bata pero hindi siya umiyak. Sinabihan siya ng nanay niya na mag-ingat, sinabihan siya ng tatay na hindi na siya puwedeng maging alimango. Tinawag nila ang ate nito para siya kunin, sinabi ng ate niyang masakit mamatay ang mga alimango, matigas sa labas, malambot sa loob, kumukulo ang lahat ng laman nito kapag iniluluto. Gusto mong mapakuluan ang bituka mo? 68

83 Hindi na naging alimango ang bata kahit kailan. Noong sumunod na linggo, tinawagan niya ulit ang nanay niya sa ospital at nagtanong: Puwede ba kong maging hito, gusto kong maging hito! Kung ano ng gusto mo, ang sagot nito nang humihikab. Bakit mo gustong maging hito? tanong ng ate na aliw na aliw na nakikinig. Dahil daw noong isang Sabado, noong pumunta sila ng tatay niya sa bagsakan ng mga isda, nakita niyang hinuhuli ang mga ito at kahit na alisin sila sa tubig, di sila matigil-tigil sa pagkawag, parang buhay na buhay. Manghang-mangha ang bata sa isdang kayang huminga sa lupa, nakakatawa pa, may bigote sila! Ngumiti ang ate ng bata. Pagkatapos ng hapunan, nagulat sila nang magpunta ito sa banyo para maghilamos nang di inuutusan, sumigaw pagkakain, Ako na, ako na! Habang nag-iimis ng pinagkainan, ang kuwento ng nanay sa tatay: Sunog ang buong balat. Kung ako yon, hindi na ko pumasok sa loob, di naman niya kaano-ano. Dagsaan ang mga reporter, tingnan mo, sa balita mamaya: Pasyente Naging Bayani. Sa banyo, walang tigil ang gripo sa pagpugak ng tubig. Maya-maya, narinig na lang ng nanay at tatay habang nag-aabang ng balita. Kaya pala di pa lumalabas ang bata! Ito ang kanilang naabutan pagbukas ng pinto: ang bata nakadapa sa sahig, kumikiwal-kiwal at naglagay pa ng dalawang guhit ng toothpaste sa ibabaw ng kanyang mga labi. Nagsasayang ka ng tubig, ang sabi sa kanya ng nanay, hinatak siya nito patayo, di ka na puwedeng maging hito, ang sabi sa kanya ng tatay, inalisan siya nito ng bigote. Tinawag nila ang ate para bihisan ang bata, at habang pinubulbusan, Nakita mo ba kung pa no pinapatay ang hitong malilikot? Hindi, sagot ng bata. Hinahawakan sa buntot saka hinahampas ang ulo sa bato. Gusto mong pumutok iyang ulo mo? Hindi na naging hito ang bata kahit kailan. Pero ang mabait na bata, laging nagpapaalam. May sumunod pang linggo t gusto naman niyang maging palaka. Hinanap niya ang kanyang nanay at nang marinig ang boses nito y nagtanong, Palaka nay, puwede ba, puwede ba? Sige, anak, sige, at naglaho ito sa kabilang linya dahil may dumating na pasyente. Bakit mo gustong maging palaka? tanong ng ate na siyang-siyá na nakikinig. Mahirap silang mahuli ang tugon ng bata habang nagmumuwestra: noong Sabado raw, kasama ng mga kumpare ng kanyang tatay, nagpunta sila Carlo Pacolor Garcia 69

84 sa bukid para manghuli ng mga palaka at nang makakuha raw siya ng isa, mabilis tong dumulas sa kanyang mga kamay at di na niya nahabol dahil sa liksi nitong lumundag, ganito, ate, ganito. Tumawa ang ate ng bata. Kinagabihan, paghiga ng kanyang mga magulang, yumakap ang nanay sa tatay at nagkuwento: Kung ako yon, ayoko nang mabuhay. Iyak nang iyak yong misis, sino ba namang hindi iiyak kung hindi na makagalaw yong asawa mo? Lasenggero yata, nakatulog sa manibela, muntik nang sumuot yong sasakyan sa ilalim ng trak. Saka may kumalabog sa kuwarto ng bata na nasundan pa ng isa! Dalidaling bumangon ang nanay at tatay at ate at nang buksan nila ang ilaw, nakita nila ang batang tumalon mula sa isang mababang estante na kasabay nitong bumagsak. Hindi natamaan ang bata. Pero pinalo siya ng kanyang nanay dahil natakot ito, sinigawan siya ng kanyang tatay na hindi na siya puwedeng maging palaka, sinigawan siya ng kanyang ate dahil ito ang maglilinis ng kalat. Masakit mamatay pag palaka ka, ang sabi ng ate niya sa kanya, napipipi sila pag nasagasaan, gusto mo bang mapisak? At hindi na naging palaka ang bata kahit kailan. Lumipas ang ilang linggo na hindi tinawagan ng bata ang kanyang nanay para magpaalam. Dahil noong mga nakaraang Sabado, hindi na muna siya isinama ng kanyang tatay sa mga lakad nito. Wala ding tanong ang ate niya na Bakit? na gustong-gusto niya laging sinasagot. Pag-uwi niya mula sa eskuwelahan, pinapaalalahanan na lang siya lagi nitong gawin mong assignment mo at pag dumating naman ang kanyang nanay at tatay, sinasagot niya nang maayos ang kanilang mga tanong tungkol sa kanyang araw nang di masyadong gumagalaw sa kinauupuan, sinasagot ito ng po at opo, nagpapaalam kung puwede na ba siyang magtoothbrush, maghilamos, matulog. Hihiga siya nang di pagod at kadalasan umaalingawngaw ang mga kuwento ng kanyang nanay hanggang sa siya y makatulog. Sa hapagkainan isang gabi, tahimik siyang nakikinig sa bida ng nanay niya tungkol sa isang sanggol: Akalain mo yon, ha, nahulog siya, isang taong gulang, mga isang palapag yata ang taas, nahulog! Pero buhay! Tanong ko, meron bang nakasalo, wala raw, meron bang halaman o malambot na bagay, wala raw. Aba ka ko, himala! Nang sumunod na gabi t hindi ulit siya dalawin ng antok, sinindihan ng bata ang ilaw at pinagmasdan ang katahimikan ng kanyang kuwarto. Walang ibang gumagalaw maliban sa kortina, walang ibang tunog kundi ang mahinang tibok ng kanyang puso. Maaari siyang antukin dahil dito, liban sa napansin niya ang isang ipis na tumatawid sa sahig. Nakita na niya ang nanay 70 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

85 niyang gawin yon, kumuha ng tsinelas para pisakin ang ipis, nakita na niya ang tatay niyang gawin yon, nagbilot ng diyaryo para hatawin ang ipis, nakita na niya ang ate niyang gawin iyon, habulin ng walis tambo para hampasin ang ipis pero hindi to mamatay-matay. Noon lamang siya nakatulog nang mahimbing. Kinabukasan, tinawagan ng bata ang kanyang nanay sa ospital para magpaalam: Nay, sige na, gusto kong maging ipis, sige na. Tanungin mong ate mo, sabay-baba ng telepono dahil may namamatay na sa tabi nito. Ate, puwede ba kong maging ipis? Bakit mo gustong maging ipis? Kasi hindi sila namamatay, hindi sila nasasaktan. Nagkibit-balikat lang ang kanyang ate, di ngumisi, ngumiti o tumawa. Tanong mo kay tatay. At pagdating na pagdating ng kanyang tatay, sinalubong niya ito ng, Tay, papayagan mo ba kong maging ipis? Oo, isa ka nang ipis. Nagtatalon nang nagtatalon ang bata sa tuwa! Kaya naman, habang nagluluto ang kanyang ate, gumapang siya sa may paa nito at bigla tong nagtitili; hinabol siya nito ng walis tambo; tinubuan siya ng antena, lumaki ang kanyang mga mata; nagbabasa ng diyaryo ang kanyang tatay, tumawid siya sa leeg nito at bigla itong nagtatarang; binilot niya ang diyaryo t pilit siyang pinaghahataw pero mabilis siyang nakatakas; tinubuan siya ng pakpak, tinubuan pa siya ng apat na paa; pagdating ng kanyang ina, mula sa sulok ng kisame, dinagit niya ito at bigla itong napayuko, nagtatakbo, muntik nang mapasigaw ng saklolo; nagkukumahog itong naghanap ng tsinelas at iwinasiwas sa hangin pero hindi siya nito matamaan; maliit na siya at mabilis gumalaw, hindi na sila kailangang mag-alala, di na siya masasaktan, di na siya mamamatay. Hindi nakapaghapunan nang maayos ang pamilya ng bata dahil di siya tumigil sa pag-aligid. Walang kuwento ang nanay niya noong gabing iyon dahil panay ang tingin nito sa kisame, gayundin ang tatay at ate niya. Hanggang sa pagtulog, nakadilat ang mga ito, inaantabayanan ang kanyang bawat pagkilos. Di maganda ang gising nila dahil sa takot at hihikab-hikab ang mga tong nagsipasok. Hindi napansin ng nanay ng bata na sumampa siya sa bag nito; noong hindi pa siya ipis, kahit kailan, hindi siya nito isinasama sa ospital, hindi raw iyon lugar para sa mga bata. Pero para sa mga ipis kaya? Paglabas niya Carlo Pacolor Garcia 71

86 ng bag, walang nakapansin sa kanya, lahat nag-uusap ng mata sa mata, lahat may inaasikaso, may ibang umiiyak, may ibang naghihingalo, may ibang nalalagutan ng hininga. Nakaramdam siya bigla nang matinding lungkot, gusto na niyang umuwi at maglaro, maging iba nang hayop, sagutin ang tanong na bakit. Pero ano ito? Muntik na siyang maapakan ng makikintab na sapatos, muntik na siyang magulungan ng kama t wheelchair, muntik na siyang mawalis, at ang di niya inaasahang katakutan, muntik na siyang maispreyan ng disinfectant! Nagtago siya sa isang sulok, sumuot sa isang butas at nang tumingin siya sa dilim, noon niya nakita ang iba pang tulad niya. Mabait siyang ipis, gusto na niyang magpaalam: Puwede na ba kong maging bata ulit? Pero wala sa kanila ang sumagot, tahimik lang silang nanginginain. Noon lang niya naalala na hindi pa pala siya kumakain. Tinunton ng ipis ang dilim kung saan hindi niya kailangan ng mata para makakita hanggang sa makalabas siya sa isa pang butas at nasilaw siya ng liwanag. Dali-dali siyang dinala ng kanyang mga paa sa silong ng likod ng isang basurahan kung saan paroo t parito ang sanlaksang ipis, at di lamang iyon, maging mga daga, langgam, langaw, mga hayop na nakalimutan niyang maging. Mga hayop na sa pakiwari niya y di rin namamatay. Dahan-dahan niyang inakyat ang basurahan at pumasok siya sa isang siwang. Naabutan niya ang isang piging. Lumakad siya sa ibabaw ng isang tisyu na puno ng sipon, sapal ng mangga, babolgam, tinapay na kinagatan, Styrofoam na mayroon pang lamang kape, toothpick na may tinga, hanggang sa makarating siya sa isang buto ng pige ng manok na may nakasabit pang laman at tatlong ipis ang ngumingima. Puwede ba kong makikain? tanong niya sa mga ito. Pero wala sa mga ito ang sumagot. Noon niya nahinuhang hindi na niya kailangang magpaalam at lalo nang hindi na niya kailangang maging mabait. Ito ang una niyang kagat. At hindi na siya naging bata kahit kailan. 72 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

87 Gitnang-Araw Mixkaela Villalon Pamilyar ang daan papuntang Gitnang-araw. Dito, lubak-lubak ang kalsada maliban kung malapit na ang eleksiyon. May eskinitang laging tinatambakan ng basura sa tapat ng babalang Bawal magtambak ng basura dito gago. Oras-oras din ang traffic dahil sa gitna ng kalsada nagbababa ang mga jeepney, at beterano sa pagsingit ang mga tricycle at pedicab. Dito, halos hindi na makausod ang nagsisiksikang bahay, sari-sari store, junkshop, bakery, at iba pa. Sa umaga, inuunahan ng mga lelang na naka-daster ang tandang sa pagtalak. Binabasag naman ng sintunadong pagkanta ang gabi, at madalas magbasagan ng bote ang mga lasing sa videoke. Tuwing tag-ulan, bumabaha ang lansangan at ginagawang swimming pool ng mga bata ang kulay pusali na tubig. Tuwing tag-init, mainit na mainit sa Gitnang-araw. Walang patawad ang tanghaling-tapat, parang matinding apoy sa pandayan, pinatitigas at pinakikinang ang lahat ng tagarito. Pumapatak sa Agusto 4 ang Pista ng Gitnang-araw, pero Hulyo pa lang ay bumubuhos na sa kalsada ang kasabikan ng buong pook. Tuwing panahon ng pista, napupuno ang simbahan ng mga panalangin kay Santo Domingo de Guzman Garces, patron ng Gitnang-araw at mga dalubtala. Simple lang ang panalangin ng mga tagarito: maaliwalas na buhay, pagkain sa mesa, kapatawaran sa kanilang mga sala, at matinong signal ng cellphone. Sa taong ito, tulad ng nakaraan, nagdarasal ang batang si Agustus na makapag-aral. Nagdarasal naman ang nanay niyang si Wendy na madapuan ng suwerte maka-jackpot sana sa lotto, manalo sa kontest, o mapadaan sa bahay nila ang game show host na nagpapamudmod ng pera para mapagaral niya ang kaniyang nag-iisang anak. Parehong nangangarap ang mag-ina ng mas magandang bukas. Nananalangin naman ang tanyag na pintor na si Boy Tulay ng inspirasyon para sa kanyang susunod na obra. Kamakailan kasi ay natagpuan niya ang dalagang mamahalin niya habang-buhay. Nangangarap si Boy Tulay na 73

88 makalikha ng napakagandang sining na pag-uusapan ng buong Pook at magsisilbing simbolo ng kanyang pag-ibig. Maging si Balbas na siga ng Pook Gitnang-araw ay nagdarasal. Gustuhin man niya, hindi siya makapag-alay ng bulaklak sa Santo dahil kasalukuyan siyang nakakulong sa Muntinlupa. Sakto sa araw ng Pista ang araw ng kanyang pagbitay. Nangangarap si Balbas ng kapatawaran at kinabukasan maaliwalas man o hindi basta t naroon siya t humihinga. Hindi tiyak kung ugali ni Tonio Ginuaco ang magdasal pero tila nasagot na ang mga panalangin niya. Nitong huling linggo, kinilala siya ng pangulo ng bansa bilang makabagong bayaning Filipino. Isasabay sa araw ng pista ang pagpapatayo ng rebulto ni Tonio sa bungad ng Pook. Sa kabila nito, nangangarap pa rin si Tonio ng manit na sabaw at isang bandehadong kanin. Simpleng tao lang si Tonio. Samantala, halos walang panahon si Aling Taptap magdasal dahil sa paghahanda niya para sa araw ng Pista. Bilang pinakamahusay na kusinera ng Gitnang-araw, tiyak na dudumugin ng mga kapitbahay ang kaniyang karinderya. Ito pa naman ang unang pista na wala sa piling niya ang kaniyang anak. Saan man ang anak niya ngayon, ipinagdarasal ni Aling Taptap na ligtas ito at hindi nagugutom. Hindi man matataas ang mga bahay sa Pook Gitnang-araw, tiyak na sumasayad sa langit ang mga pangarap ng mga tagarito. Sa gitna ng walangpatid na ingay ng lansangan, sa pusod ng semento, aspalto, buhol-buhol na kable ng koryente, libag, at kalawang ng Pook na nagbibilang ng petsa bago ang araw ng Pista, nakabibingi ang ingay ng mga nagsusumamong pangarap. 1. Ginuaco Si Tonio Ginuaco ang paboritong kapitbahay ng lahat ng naninirahan sa Pook Gitnang-araw. Malumanay magsalita at maamo ang mukha, para bang hindi niya kayang mag-isip ng masama sa kaniyang kapuwa. Pero ang tunay na nakapagpalapit ng loob ng kaniyang mga kapitbahay ay ang hilig ni Toniong magpakamartir. Noong nag-aaral pa si Tonio, napagbintangan siyang nagnakaw ng pandesal na baon ng seatmate niya sa eskuwela. Wala kasing sariling baon si Tonio at madalas siyang manghingi sa katabi. At dahil alam ng lahat na dalawang subo lang ang layo ng pulubi sa kawatan, siya ang napagbintangan. Malaki pa naman yon, reklamo ng batang nawalan ng baon. Hindi yung tig-pipisong pandesal, ha? Yung tig-tatlong piso at may palaman na tuna. 74 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

89 Tell the truth, Tonio, utos ng guro matapos kaladkarin si Tonio sa harapan ng classroom. Bilang sagot, naihi si Tonio sa shorts. Pagkatapos, pinakain siya ng chalk. Dahil likas na usisero ang mga taga-gitnang-araw, kumalat palabas ng classroom ang balita ng nangyari kay Tonio. Pero nag-iba ang kuwento sa bawat labing madapuan nito. Si Tonio, nagnakaw ng tatlong pandesal, isang lata ng tuna, at sampung piso, bulong ng mga estudyante sa isa t isa sa loob ng CR. Ayaw aminin, kaya pinakain ng chalk. Si Tonio Ginuaco, anak ng magnanakaw, usap-usapan naman ng mga guro sa faculty room. Maski pandesal at de-lata, pinipitik. E nagmatigas. Kumain pa siya ng chalk kaysa umamin. Pagdating ng kuwento sa mga tambay sa labas ng paaralan, bidang-bida na si Tonio. Si Tonio G., a.k.a. Tonio Gangster, hard core talaga. Inakyat daw ang warehouse ng delata sa labas ng Pook, ninenok ang ilang kahon ng sardinas, at ipinamigay sa mga kapitbahay. Eto pa, ha? Kumakain pa raw ng bubog yon, kuwento nila, nag-aapiran pa. Habang iba t ibang bersiyon ng nangyari ang naglipana, tahimik lang si Tonio na pinagagalitan ng guro. Bago matapos ang araw ng eskuwela, tulirong dumating ang isang yaya na dala-dala ang nawawalang pandesal. Naiwan lang pala ito sa bahay, nakalimutan ipasok sa bag ng alaga. Nagkibit-balikat ang guro at ipinabalik si Tonio sa upuan. Ang mahalaga, Tonio, sabi ng guro pagkaupo ni Tonio. Ay hindi mo na uulitin, di ba? Nakayuko si Tonio na lumabas ng paaralan, nahihiya sa sasabihin ng iba tungkol sa kanyang pagnakaw. Laking gulat niya nang sinalubong siya ng palakpakan paglabas niya ng eskuwelahan. Kalahati yata ng buong Pook ang nandoon, nakarinig ng kagitingan ni Tonio. Halos lahat sila y gustong makipagkamay sa bata. Mula sa karanasang iyon, nadiskubre ni Tonio ang kakaibang pakiramdam ng walang-sala pero napagbibintangan. Pinag-uusapan siya ng lahat. Ang patpatin at tahimik na Tonio Ginuaco, puwede palang maging kung sinong magaling at matapang. Nakakaadik ang pakiramdam. Magmula noon, nakasanayan ni Tonio na umamin sa lahat ng kamalian sa paligid niya. Nagbinata si Tonio na pasan ang lahat ng kasalanan ng mundo, at dito siya masaya. Nang manakaw ang TV sa karinderya na gabigabing dinudumog ng mga kapitbahay, si Tonio lang ang nangahas umamin. Nang maputulan ng koryente ang buong Pook, dahil raw ito kay Tonio. Nang mawala ang dalagang anak ni Aling Taptap, agad pinuntahan ni Tonio Mixkaela Villalon 75

90 sa bahay ng Ale para sabihin na siya ang dumakip sa dalaga. Detalyado ang pagkuwento ni Tonio kay Aling Taptap kung paano niya binigyan ng sopdrinks na may halong pampatulog ang dalaga, at nang mawalan ng malay, tinadtad niya ang katawan at hinalo sa adobo. Oo na, Tonio. Umuwi ka na nga, sabi ni Aling Taptap. Gin wako, sabi ni Tonio. Ako ng may gawa. Gin wako. Nang naholdap ang malaking bangko malapit sa Pook, pinuntahan ni Tonio ang estasyon ng pulis. Gin wako, sabi niya, at sapat na iyon sa mga imbestigador. Inaresto nila si Tonio sa kabila ng dalawampung testigo na sumusumpang hindi siya ang nangholdap. Hindi rin matagpuan sa bahay ni Tonio ang perang ninakaw pero idineklara ng hepe ng pulis na tagumpay ng hustisya at karangalan ng Pulis Maynila ang pag-aresto kay Tonio Ginuaco. Kinabukasan, natagpuan sa ilalim ng headline ng bawat diyaryo ang mahiyaing ngiti ni Tonio Ginuaco. Tinawag siyang Slumdog Criminal Mastermind ng mga pahayagan dahil sumuko man siya sa mga awtoridad, walang may alam kung saan niya itinago ang pera. Ang patpatin at tahimik na si Tonio Ginuaco, nasa TV at diyaryo, mag-isang nakapagholdap ng bangko, at ngayon ay pinag-uusapan ng buong bansa. Hindi nagtagal, sinugod ng Asong Ulol Gang ang presinto at galit na sinabing sila ang nangholdap ng bangko. Hindi nila matiis na ibigay kay Tonio sintu-sinto ang puri ng kanilang pinaghirapang krimen. Bahagyang nagkagulo sa presinto dahil ayaw ni Tonio mapalaya. Nagsisigaw siya doon ng Gin wako! Ako! Ako ang gumawa! Napilitan tuloy ang Asong Ulol Gang na maglabas ng ebidensiya mga litrato nilang mayhawak ng mga baril at nanghoholdap ng bangko, kuha sa sariling cellphone, at naka-upload sa Friendster. Kumbinsido sa wakas, pinalaya ng mga pulis si Tonio. Nakayukong lumabas si Tonio mula sa kulungan, nahihiya sa sasabihin ng ibang tao. Sumunod sa bawat hakbang niya ang alingawngaw ng mga preso, tawang-tawa sa pagkahulog ni Ginuaco mula sa kaniyang pedestal. Simula noon, halos wala nang maniwala kay Tonio tuwing umaako siya ng mga kasalanan. Nang masaksak si Boy Tulay sa may paaralan, sinabi ni Tonio na siya ang may sala. Pero imposibleng siya, dahil may nakita si Wendy na ibang taong umaaligid kay Boy Tulay bago mangyari ang krimen. Hindi masukat ang kalungkutan ni Tonio Ginuaco noon. Mabuti na lang at nariyan ang Pulis Maynila at ang mahaba nilang listahan ng mga hindi malutas na krimen. Ipinakilala ng hepe ng pulis si Tonio sa ilang kilalang personalidad ng panahon. Big break mo na to, 76 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

91 Tony, sabi ng hepe, inaabot sa kaniya ang mga pekeng passport, huwad na dokumento, balde-baldeng droga, at gamit na mga balota. Gin wako, sagot ni Tonio sa lahat ng ibintang sa kaniya. Siya ang mastermind ng mga kompanyang sangkot sa pyramid scheme. Mag-isa niyang pinatay ang napakaraming magsasaka, aktibista, at reporter. Siya ang rason kaya palaging traffic sa EDSA, at bakit tumataas ang presyo ng pamasahe halos kada-buwan. Pasan ni Tonio sa kaniyang mga balikat ang ugat ng kahirapan sa bayang Pilipinas. Sa dami ng mga krimeng inako ni Tonio, kataka-taka kung bakit lagi rin siyang nakakalaya sa bilangguan. Sa tulong ng hepe ng pulis, dumami ang mga kaibigan ni Tonio sa gobyerno. Mula huwes hanggang barangay tanod, gustong makipagkamay at magpa-picture kasama si Tonio Ginuaco. Gin wako, laging sabi ni Tonio habang pumipirma ng autograph o testimonya. Ang tahimik na si Tonio Ginuaco, ngayon ay kilalang tao na. Dahil isinasabuhay umano ni Tonio ang mabuting ugali ng pagsasabi ng totoo, pinarangalan siya bilang makabagong bayaning Filipino. Isasabay sa araw ng Pista ng pook ang paggawad sa kaniya ng Lungsod ng Maynila ng rebultong itatayo sa bungad ng Gitnang-araw, for exemplary services to the country. 2. Shabs Small-time drug dealer si Balbas. Maliban sa kaniyang makapal na balbas, makikilala siya sa kaniyang malaki at bilog na tiyan na resulta ng madalas na pag-inom ng bilog sa tindahan. Tuwing panahon ng Pista, laging inuuwi ni Balbas ang First Place sa paligsahan ng palakihan ng tiyan. Lagi namang Second at Third Place lang ang tinyente at hepe ng Pulis Maynila. Mabuti na lang at walang paligsahan ng pinakamadayang negosyante sa Gitnang-araw. Sakaling mayroon, maghuhuramentado ang mga hurado. Mumurahin nila ang kalangitan. Luluha sila t maghihinagpis dahil sa dami ng sasaling mandarayang negosyante. Doon malalaman na walang matapat na tao sa Pook Gitnang-araw. Hindi nakapagtapos ng pag-aaral si Balbas pero matalino siya. Iskolar siya ng mga kalsada ng Gitnang-araw. Wala man siyang diploma, nasa honor roll siya kasama ng mga Magna(nakaw) at Suma(sampa sa gate) cum laude ng lansangan. Pag nalagay ka sa alanganin, huwag kang tatakbo, payo ni Balbas kay Boy Tulay minsan, habang nag-iinuman sa karinderya ni Aling Taptap. Mixkaela Villalon 77

92 Pagka natutukan ka ng baril, cool ka lang. Unang natetepok yung mabilis nerbyosin. Natutuhan ni Balbas ang leksiyong ito nang minsang natunugan ng mga pulis na magkakaroon ng malaking bentahan ng shabu sa garahe ng isang kilalang bus liner. Nang i-raid ang garahe, bisto ang ilang malalaking tao ang kumpare ni senador, ang may-ari ng estayon sa TV at si Balbas sa gitna ng barilan. Imbes na makipagbakbakan o tumakbo paalis, inipit ni Balbas ang ilang pakete ng shabu sa kilikili niya at nagkunwaring napadaan lang sa lugar na iyon. Pumipito pa siya sa sarili habang naglalakad palayo. Cool na cool ang itsura, babad naman sa pawis ng kilikili niya ang naiuwing droga. Sa kongkretong kagubatan ng lungsod, iisa lang ang batas: ang batas ng supply at demand. Tuwing nagkaka-raid, abot-langit ang presyo ng shabu. Nagtutungo sa ibang bansa ang malalaking drug dealer para hindi sila tiktikan ng pulis. Kumokonti tuloy ang droga sa lansangan pero hindi nagbabago ang dami ng mga adik. Dito nakakita si Balbas ng pagkakataong ibenta ang kakarampot niyang droga. Para maparami ang benta at para na rin takpan ang anghit ng kilikili sa kaniyang produkto, hinahaluan ni Balbas ng dinurog na asin ang ibinebentang shabu. Sa sampung pisong droga na hihithitin, sisenta porsiyento lang ang tunay na shabu. Okey lang, isip ni Balbas. Mga adik lang naman ang dinadaya ko. Ano ba ng gagawin nila, isusumbong ako sa pulis? Hindi nagtagal, kinahiligan ng mga adik ng Gitnang-araw ang shabu ni Balbas. Dekalidad daw ito at malakas ang tama. At eto pa, sabi ng mga adik, ang shabu ni Balbas may flavor. Lasang asin (at marahil kilikili). Dahil dito, nakakita si Balbas ng oportunidad na ipagbuti ang kanyang negosyo. Balbas s flavored shabu, whooh! Kahit nang magsibalikan ang mga big-time na drug dealer sa Pook, hindi nila matapatan ang inobasyon ni Balbas. Nag-eksperimento pa si Balbas. Sinubukan niyang haluin ang shabu sa iba t ibang sangkap na mahahanap sa kusina. Minsan asin, minsan asukal. May pagpipilian na ang mga adik na sweet o salty. Para sa mga bata, hinahaluan ni Balbas ng Tang orange juice ang shabu. Mami, wala na bang Tang! sigaw ng mga bulilit na nanginginig at nangingisay sa tuwa. Habang lumalaki ang merkado ng shabu ni Balbas, nagkakaroon ng iba t ibang demographic ang mga suki niya. Para sa mga may diabetes, Splendaflavored shabu. Para sa mga binata t binatilyo, shabu na may dinurog na Cherifer, para siguradong tatangkad. Para sa mga nagda-diet, shabu-lite (70 porsiyento less shabu). 78 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

93 Naging kilala at malaking tao sa Pook Gitnang-araw si Balbas. Hindi niya sinikreto mula sa mga kapitbahay ang kaniyang negosyo, pero hindi rin siya naisusumbong sa pulis. Bakit pa, isip ng mga kapitbahay, mabuting tao naman si Balbas. Ano ngayon kung drug dealer, basta hindi madamot. Budget cut na naman po, Mister Balbas, sumbong ng principal ng paaralan ng Gitnang-araw nang minsang magawi sa bahay ni Balbas Kulang talaga ang ibinibigay na pondo para sa mga public school. Kung ipapasara ang eskuwelahan, ano na lang ang mangyayari sa mga bata? Wag kayong mag-alala, ma am sabi ni Balbas. Ako ng bahala. Number one sa akin ang edukasyon ng mga bata. Ang kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan, wika ng principal. Si Rizal pa ang nagsabi noon. S ya nga? ani Balbas na nagbibilang ng perang i-donate sa paaralan. Ayoko lang dumami ang drop-out sa Gitnang-araw. Masama sa negosyo. Baka dumami pa kakompetensiya ko. Mas mabuting maging mga doktor at abogado na lang ang mga bata, bungisngis ni Balbas. Hindi madamot si Balbas sa kaniyang pera. Dahil karamihan sa kaniyang mga customer ay taga-gitnang-araw, natural lang na magbalk si Balbas sa kaniyang Pook. Tuluyang dumami ang bagong customer ni Balbas. Nagdagdag na rin siya ng student discount (P9.50 sa halip na P10 kada higop) at value pack promo (konting shabu, konting rugby) sa kaniyang negosyo. Sa dami ng shabu na ibinebenta niya, hindi niya kayang ibabad ang lahat sa kaniyang kilikili. Nilapitan ni Balbas ang mga obrero na nagtatrabaho sa itinatayong mall sa labas ng pook. Sa bahay ni Balbas, may libreng kape at tinapay ang mga manggagawa tuwing breaktime kapalit ang pagbababad ng droga sa kanilang pawisang kilikili. This must be the best shabs in town, sabi ng isang konyong dayo mula sa Golden Apples Subdivision, habang sumisirko-sirko ang mga mata sa likod ng mamahaling shades. I agree. It is comparable to sipping the finest French wine grown in the orchards of Madrid, in Morocco, sambit ng kasamang edukado habang humihithit ng shabu mula sa aluminum foil. You will not believe the phantasmagoric sights I have seen under the influence. Spectacular. Carnivalesque. Icky, icky poo. Postmodern. True dat, poknat, sabi ng tricycle driver habang nagpapahid ng mapungay na mga mata. Madali lang pala intindihin ang mga Inglesero kapag may tama na. Mixkaela Villalon 79

94 Kung tutuusin. hindi droga ang ibinebenta ko, paliwanag ni Balbas minsan sa sanlaksang adik na araw-araw tumatambay sa bahay niya para humithit. Kung droga lang ang habol ninyo, maraming nagbebenta diyan. Pero nan dito kayo para sa ambiance, di ba? Saan kayo nakakita ng bata, matanda, mayaman, mahirap, nagsasama-sama? Nagbibigayan? Dito lang sa bahay ko. Kung ganoon, ang ibinebenta ko ay ang tunay na diwa ng pagkakaisa. Mabuti man ang adhikain ni Balbas, dugong negosyante pa rin ang dumadaloy sa kaniyang mga ugat. Pera pa rin ang laging nasa isip, at kung paano ito pararamihin. Ang minsang sisenta porsiyentong shabu, naging singkuwenta. Tapos kuwarenta. Pakonti nang pakonti ang dami ng shabu kompara sa mga hinahalo niya para magkalasa. Patuloy naman ang pagdami ng mga customer ni Balbas. Tinaguriang the place to be ang kaniyang bahay kapag nagawi sa Pook Gitnang-araw. Kahit daw yung mga hindi nagshashabu, bumibisita doon, nagbabakasakaling makakita ng artista o kung sinong bigtime tulad ni Ginuaco. Ngunit walang bahagharing nagtatagal. Kung sino man ang nagreklamo tungkol sa negosyo ni Balbas, hindi na mahalaga. Ni-raid ng malaking puwersa ng Pulis Maynila ang bahay ni Balbas. Nahuli sa akto ang higit dalawampung adik na humihithit. Nang imbestigahan kung ano ang hinihithit, nalamang asin, asukal, Tang orange juice, at kung ano-anong legal na kasangkapan lang ang ginagamit. Wala ni kurot ng shabu sa buong bahay ni Balbas. Kahit walang mahanap na ebidensiya ng droga, arestado pa rin bilang drug dealer si Balbas sa kabila ng pagpupumilit ni Tonio Ginuaco na siya ang may sala. Hinatulan si Balbas ng pagbitay. Mabuti na lang at naging masugid niyang customer ang anak ng huwes. Nakapag-apila pa siya na itapat sa araw ng Pista ng Pook Gitnang-araw ang kaniyang pagbitay. Para raw maalala siya ng kaniyang mga kapitbahay, mabanggit man lang ang pangalan niya habang nag-iinuman. Higit sa lahat, para marami-rami ang magpunta sa simbahan at mabingi ng mga dasal si San Pedro habang sinasampa ni Balbas ang gate ng langit. Nag-unahan ang mga TV station sa exclusive rights ng nationwide live telecast ng pagbitay ni Balbas. Nangako naman ang Ajinomoto, SM Bonus Sugar, at Tang orange juice na magiging official sponsors ng telecast at ng Pista ng Pook Gitnang-araw bilang pasasalamat sa pagtangkilik ng mga adik sa kanilang mga produkto. 80 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

95 3. Emperador Mahal na mahal ni Wendy ang anak niyang si Agustus. High school pa lang si Wendy nang mabuntis ng boyfriend. Pananagutan naman daw siya ng lalaki, pero si Wendy ang tumanggi. Bakat kasi sa mukha ng lalaki ang takot. Naisip ni Wendy na mas mabuting maging dalagang-ina mag-isa kaysa matali sa binatang hindi pa handang maging ama. Ipinanganak si Agustus sa ibabaw ng teacher s table, sa gitna ng history class. Ipinatawag ng guro si Aling Taptap na hindi lamang may-ari ng karinderya kundi kumadrona rin ng Pook Gitnang-araw. Nagpalakpakan ang mga guro at kaklaseng babae na nakasaksi sa hiwaga ng buhay, habang nagsanduguan ang mga kaklaseng lalaki na hinding-hindi na makikipag-sex. Pinangalanang Agustus ang bata, na pangalan din ng emperador ng Roma na pinag-aaralan ng klase sa araw na iyon. Iyon ang una at huling araw na nakatungtong si Agustus sa paaralan. Pitong taong gulang na siya ngayon at hindi pa sumisikat ang araw na umandap ang pagmamahal ng nanay niya sa kaniya. Simula nang nakapaglakad mag-isa si Agustus, taon-taon itong sinasamahan ni Wendy sa simbahan tuwing palapit ang Pista. Doon, nagaalay ang bata ng bagong pitas na mga bulaklak sa altar ni Santo Domingo, kasama ng maikling panalangin. Sana po mahanap ko si Papa, dasal ni Agustus sa Santo. Tulungan n yo pong matupad ang lahat ng pangarap ni Agustus, dasal naman ni Wendy. Kung anumang grasya ang dapat napunta sa akin, ibigay n yo na lang po sa kaniya. Ang anak ni Bebang mananahi, best in science sa eskuwela. Ang kambal ni Tanya, magagaling kumanta. Basketball player naman ang anak ni Rechel. Pero para kay Wendy, wala silang binatbat kay Agustus. Hindi man nakapagaral si Agustus, siya pa rin ang kasalukuyan at hindi pa natatalong kampeon ng labanan ng gagamba sa buong Pook. Lubha itong ipinagmamalaki ni Wendy. Sa may karinderyang kinakainan ng mga jeepney driver tumatambay si Agustus, nakikinood ng labanan ng gagamba. Doon nagkikita ang mga bata ng Pook, dala-dala ang mga bahay ng posporo na pinagtataguan ng mga mandirigmang alaga. Kani-kaniya ang mga bata sa paghahanap ng kakamping jeepney driver na pupusta sa kanila. Kapag nanalo, may hati ang mga bata Mixkaela Villalon 81

96 sa pusta. Ibinibigay nila sa mga magulang ang napapanalunang pera. Ganito ang gawi sa Gitnang-araw. Kahit mga bata ay may papel sa pagtakbo ng Pook. Para makasali sa labanan ng gagamba, kailangan muna ni Agustus ng sarili niyang pambato. Nakadiskubre siya ng gagambang gumawa ng sapot sa likod ng kabinet ng nanay niya. Maliit lang ito at kulay brown. Nagmamadaling ipakita ni Agustus ang bagong alaga sa pinakamatalinong tao na kilala niya, si Aling Taptap. Gagambang pitik to, sabi ni Aling Taptap. Kasinlaki lang ng kuko sa hinlalaki ng matanda ang gagamba. Laking Gitnang-araw. Matapang, sabi niya kay Agustus. Matapang nga ang gagambang nahanap ng bata. Papa ang ipinangalan ni Agustus dito. Unang hinamon ni Agustus ang kapitbahay na si Buknoy at ang alaga niyang gagambang bayabas (dahil nahanap ito sa puno ng bayabas). Malaki ang gagamba ni Buknoy, mahaba ang mga paa. Limang Papa siguro ang katumbas nito. Ito si Tyson, pakilala ni Buknoy sa alaga. Mukhang paniki si Tyson na nakabitin patiwarik sa patpat ng walis tingting. Sa kabilang dulo ng tingting, masyadong maliit si Papa. Hindi ito gumagalaw. Nanigas na tong isa, tukso ni Balbas na nakikinood sa labanan. Gumapang papalapit si Tyson kay Papa. Mabagal, tantiyado ang galaw. Kung ibang gagamba siguro si Papa, umatras na ito. Pero nanatili lang ito sa kaniyang dulo ng tingting. Tahimik ang mga manonood. Nang magkaharap na ang dalawang gagamba, kasimbilis ng kidlat ang pangyayari. Isang pitik lang ng paa ni Papa, talsik sa tingting si Tyson. Hu! kolektibong bulalas ng tulalang manonood. Walang gagalaw! natatarantang sigaw ni Buknoy. Baka matapakan n yo si Tyson. Dapat pala Pacquiao ang pangalan n yang alaga mo, sabi ni Boy Tulay kay Agustus. Simula noon, tuloy-tuloy na ang pagkapanalo ni Agustus at Papa. Lumilipad naman sa ulap ang puso ni Wendy tuwing nakikilala ng ibang tao ang ningning ni Agustus. Tuwing sumasakay siya ng jeep, nakikilala siya ng mga jeepney driver bilang ina ni Agustus, champion sa labanan ng gagamba. Kadalasan ay nalilibre pa ang pamasahe ni Wendy. Pabalato raw sa hindi pa nababahirang rekord ni Agustus. Nanay, gusto kong maging astronot paglaki, sabi ni Agustus isang gabi, puno ng liwanag ang mukha liwanag ng lightpost na kasalukuyang kinakabitan ng jumper ng mga kapitbahay. 82 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

97 Ipagdasal natin kay Santo Domingo, lambing pabalik ni Wendy. E si Papa? tanong ng bata. Sa tabi ng papag ng mag-ina natutulog si Papa sa kanyang bahay ng posporo. Magiging stronot din siya, sabi ni Wendy, kahit hindi niya tiyak kung ano ang astronot. Minsan, may bumisitang lalaki sa bahay ng mag-ina. Galing daw siya sa Golden Apples Subdivision. Nagpakilala ang lalaki bilang representante ng mga businessmen na nakarinig sa potensiyal ni Agustus at kaniyang gagamba. We would like to give him corporate sponsorship, sabi ng lalaki kay Wendy. There is an international spider fighting tournament next month. We would like your son to join. He will bring honor and hope to the country. Ayaw sana pumayag ni Wendy. Masama ang kutob niya sa mga taong mahilig mag-ingles kahit wala naman sa States. Si Agustus lang ang nagpumilit. Gusto raw ito ng bata. Kaya n yo po ba akong gawing astronot? tanong ni Agustus sa businessman. You ll need a spaceship for that, sagot ng Ingleserong lalaki. We can give you a house as big as a spaceship, and a car that goes just as fast. All you have to do is win the spider-fighting tournaments, and your mother has to sign this contract. Wala bang insurance to? tanong ni Wendy, na binabasa ang kontrata ng businessman. Baligho ang mga pangungusap at hindi pamilyar kay Wendy ang mga salitang Ingles. Tumawa ang businessman. My good woman, why would you need insurance? What could you possibly have that needs to be insured? Ewan, sagot ni Wendy. Pangarap, siguro. Yon lang ang meron kami. Na-iinsure ba yon? tanong niya, pero tiyak na hindi naintindihan ng businessman ang kaniyang sinasabi. Pinirmahan na lang ni Wendy ang kontrata alang-alang sa pangarap ni Agustus. Kumalat sa Pook ang balita na pambato ng Pilipinas si Agustus sa magaganap na kontest. Buong-lakas na sinuportahan ng Gitnang-araw ang bulilit nilang kampeon. Pila-balde ang mga batang nagpahiram ng kanikanilang mga alagang gagamba bilang sparring partner ni Papa. Kahit maiwang baldado ang kanilang mga alaga, karangalan na rin ang makaharap ang tandem nina Agustus at Papa sa kabilang dulo ng tingting. Idinaos ang tournament sa buong buwan ng Hulyo, sa basketball court ng Pook Gitnang-araw. Nagdagsaan dito ang mga foreigner para makilahok o makinood, at dinumog din ito ng mga taga-pook para makiusyoso at para kupitan ang mga dayuhan. Mixkaela Villalon 83

98 Binuksan ni Agustus at Papa ang contest sa pagkapanalo nila laban kay Watsuhiro ng Japan at ang kanyang Yakuza spider. Sunod na tinalo ng Team Gitnang-araw ang Egyptian Camel Spider. Default naman ang pagkapanalo ni Agustus nang hindi sumipot ang pambato ng Amerika na si Spiderman. Aksidente itong napukpok ng tubo ni Balbas sa pag-aakalang taga-meralco ito at nasa bubong ng bahay niya para putulan siya ng koryente. Foul! sigaw ni Boy Tulay mula sa gilid ng basketball court bago magsimula ang susunod na laban. Philippines versus China na, at di hamak na mas malaki ang pambato ng Intsik. Putris, alakdan na yan e! Sa China, ganyan ang itsura ng aming mga gagamba, sabi ng Tsino. Kung natatakot kayo lumaban, magprotesta kayo. Walang inuurungan si Papa, sabi naman ni Agustus, at pormal na sinimulan ang laban. Wala pang limang segundo, pinatalsik na ni Papa ang alakdan. In dis corner, weying kalahating sako ng bigas, kampyon ng Pook Gitnang-araw, Agustus and Papa! pahayag ni Boy Tulay pagkatapos ng laban. Ninakaw pa niya ang watawat ng Pilipinas mula sa paaralan para isampay sa balikat ni Agustus. Nagpalakpakan ang mga jeepney driver, tambay, adik, at sari-saring lumpen ng Pook. Halos walang nakapansin sa misteryosong anino ni Batman na laging umaaligid at sumusunod kay Boy Tulay saanman siya magpunta. Tuloy-tuloy na ang pagkapanalo ni Agustus. Pusta ng mga taga-gitnangaraw na wala nang pipigil pa sa kanilang kampeon. Paano pa at itinapat sa unang linggo ng Agosto ang huling laban ni Agustus. Sa bisperas pa mismo ng Pista ng Gitnang-araw nataon ang Finals. Hindi bale kahit gaano pa kalaki ang pambato ng kalaban. Pinatunayan ni Agustus at Papa na wala sa laki ang labanan, kundi sa kung gaano kahigpit ang kapit sa tingting. At kung may isang bagay na likas na magaling ang mga taga-gitnang-araw, ito ang mahigpit na pagkapit sa patalim. Pinangakuan ng businessman mula sa Golden Apples Subdivision si Wendy ng scholarship para sa kaniyang anak, pati na rin ng bahay at lupa para sa kanilang mag-ina kapag nanalo si Agustus sa Finals. Sa gabi, bago ang huling laban, habang mahimbing na natutulog si Agustus, tinatahi ni Wendy ang uniporme ng anak para sa unang araw niya sa eskuwelahan. Umaga ng huling pagtutuos: Philippines versus Brazil. Nagtipon ang mga tao sa basketball court para panoorin ang makasaysayang labanan. Nasa dulo na ng patpat ng walis tingting si Papa. Nasa lalamunan na ang puso ni Wendy. 84 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

99 Pinakawalan ng Brazilyano ang pambato niyang Brazilian Spider Monkey. Hindi na nakaporma si Papa. Mas mabilis pa sa pagpitik, hinablot ng unggoy mula sa tingting ang gagamba ni Agustus at kinain nang hindi man lang ngumunguya. Hu! kolektibong bulalas ng tulalang manonood. Papa! iyak ni Agustus na hinding-hindi na magiging astronot. Gin wako, taas-kamay na sinabi ni Tonio Ginuaco mula sa hanay ng mga nanonood. Habang ngumingisi at pumapalakpak ang unggoy ng Brazilyano, dahandahan ang pagtulo ng luha sa pisngi ni Wendy. 4. Tugma Pula ang paboritong kulay ni Boy Tulay. Matingkad kasi ito sa mata. Nakakaagaw-pansin. Pero kapag walang ibang pagpipilian, kaya niyang pagtiisan ang kulay itim o asul o ano pa man. Marka kasi ng magaling na pintor ang pagpili ng pinakaangkop na kulay. Tanyag ang mga obra ni Boy Tulay sa buong Pook Gitnang-araw. Isang tingin lang ng mga tao sa gawa niya, alam agad na si Boy Tulay ang may-akda. Tang inang Boy Tulay yan, bulong ni Aling Taptap sa sarili nang makita ang huling obra ng pintor. Pati ba naman pinto ng bahay ko, hindi pinatawad. BOY TULAY GUWAPONG TUNAY sigaw ng pulang pintura sa pinto ng bahay ni Aling Taptap. Kung saan-saan din makikita ang ibang gawa ni Boy Tulay. Minsan sa overpass, minsan sa MRT. Lahat ng bakanteng pader na makita niya, pati mga pinto ng pampublikong palingkuran ay nagiging espasyo ng kaniyang sining. At siyempre, madali lang malaman kung sino ang may-akda. BOY TULAY GUWAPONG TUNAY BOY TULAY PINTOR NA MAHUSAY BOY TULAY AY-HAYHAY-HAY Tuwing gabi lang nakakapagtrabaho si Boy Tulay. Gabi kasi madalas dumapo ang inspirasyon. Konting shot ng gin, konting gulong ng shabu ni Balbas, pipitik ng pintura sa construction site, at siya y handa na. Canvas niya ang buong Pook. Gabi nagtatrabaho si Boy Tulay dahil babatutain daw siya ng pulis kapag nahuling nagpipinta sa mga pader. Hindi naman masyadong nabahala si Boy Mixkaela Villalon 85

100 Tulay. Ganito talaga ang buhay-artist. Laging tinutuligsa ng makikitid na utak ang sining. Isang gabi, inumpisahan ni Boy Tulay ang kaniyang susunod na obra. Sa loob ng tunnel sa bungad ng Pook Gitnang-araw, sa dilim na minsang naliliwanagan ng headlights ng nagdaraang mga kotse, isinulat niya ang simula: BOY TULAY Pinagmasdan ni Boy Tulay ang kanyang gawa. Maganda. Perpekto ang bilog ng O at maarte ang lawit ng Y. Pinagnilay-nilayan pa niya ang susunod. Sawa na kasi siya sa GUWAPONG TUNAY. Gusto niya sanang isulat ang BOY TULAY MALAKI ANG BAYAG pero mababasag ang tugma. Mahirap makaisip ng parte ng katawan na katunog ng tulay maliban sa sa atay pero ang pangit naman kung BOY TULAY MALAKI ANG ATAY. Habang iniisip pa ni Boy Tulay kung paano tatapusin ang obra, may bumangga sa kaniyang likuran. Babae na kasing edad niya. Mahaba ang buhok, kulay lupa ang balat, at bakat sa mukha ang gulat. Nagbanggaan ang kanilang mga mata. Sa bahagyang liwanag ng headlights ng nagdaraang mga sasakyan, nakita ni Boy Tulay ang paintbrush at timba ng pulang pintura na hawak ng babae. Pagkadaan ng kotse, bago manumbalik ang kadiliman ng tunnel, naisip ni Boy Tulay na dati na niyang nakita ang dalaga, hindi lang niya maalala kung saan. Walang imik na tinalikuran ng babae si Boy Tulay at tumakbo paalis. Tumulala si Boy Tulay sa pader ng tunnel. Doon, nakasulat ng pulang pintura malapit sa pangalan niya: TUNAY NA REPO Parang sininok ang puso ni Boy Tulay. Sa mga susunod na araw, halos hindi makaisip nang tuwid si Boy Tulay. Naaalala lang niya lagi ang babaeng nakabangga sa loob ng tunnel. Hindi niya makalimutan ang mga matang iyon, pero hindi rin niya maalala kung saan niya ito unang nakita. Babaeng pintor na pula rin ang paboritong kulay. Nakaramdam si Boy Tulay ng kurot ng pag-ibig. Putang ina yan, bulong ni Aling Taptap isang umaga nang makita ang pinto ng kanyang bahay: BOY TULAY TUNAY NA REPO Nagkalat ang pinakabagong obra ni Boy Tulay sa buong Pook. Nagkandarapa naman ang mga MMDA na takpan ng sariling sining ang gawa ni Boy Tulay. Hindi nagtagal, nagmukhang sapin-sapin ang Pook Gitnangaraw, nagtatalo ang mga kulay ng pintura sa bawat pader. Nakita ko na talaga siya dati, giit ni Boy Tulay minsan habang nakatambay sa bahay ni Balbas. Napapalibutan siya ng sampung adik na humihithit ng kung ano, pero hindi makuha ni Boy Tulay na tumira ngayon. 86 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

101 Hindi siguro makakapantay ang pinakapurong shabu ni Balbas sa high ng pag-ibig na nararamdaman niya. Baka sa panaginip mo siya nakita, tukso ni Balbas. Hanapin mo kaya? Parang ang dali lang ng payo ni Balbas, pero paano mahahanap ang babaeng naglalaho t nagpaparamdam na parang mumu? Kung saan-saan na nagpunta si Boy Tulay. Minsan sa overpass, minsan sa MRT. Pero hindi rin niya mahagilap ang babaeng si Tunay na Repo. Pagbalik sa tunnel, natakpan na ng lechugas na MMDA art ang obra maestra nilang dalawa. Para kaming si Romeo at Juliet, malungkot na buntonghininga ni Boy Tulay, nangingilid ang luha sa mga mata. Nakasabit kasi siya sa humaharurot na jeepney noon at napupuwing ng lumilipad na buhangin mula sa construction site. Para kaming langit at lupa. Hindi nagtatagpo. Parang gin sa kumakalam na sikmura. Hindi ipinagsasama. Pati MMDA, nakikialam sa pagmamahalan namin. Baliw, bintang ni Tonio Ginuaco na nakasabit din sa jeepney. Dahil walang naniniwalang tunay at wagas ang nararamdaman niya, sinikap ni Boy Tulay na mag-iwan ng mensahe para kay Tunay na Repo. SAAN KITA MAHAHANAP? BT sulat niya sa bawat pader na madaanan niya. Wala siyang pinatawad, kahit traffic sign o wanted poster. Malapit na siyang panghinaan ng loob nang mapadaan muli sa tunnel kung saan unang umusbong ang kanilang pagmamahalan. Doon, sa ibabaw ng MMDA art, may sulat si Tunay na Repo para sa kanya. Alam niyang si Tunay na Repo iyon dahil pula rin ang pintura at kapareho ng sulat ng babae. Bumalik si Tunay na Repo sa lugar nila, marahil hinahanap din si Boy Tulay. At nang hindi mahanap ang lalaki, sinulat na lang ang sagot sa tanong ni Boy Tulay: TUMUNGO SA KANAYUNAN Sa kanayunan! Teka. Malaki yun. Saan doon? SAAN SA KANAYUNAN? BT WALA BA KAYONG MGA SELPON? Aling Tap2 Ilang linggo rin ang dumaan at wala pa ring sagot si Tunay na Repo. Hinanap siya nang hinanap ni Boy Tulay, pero mistulang naglaho ang babae. Baka lumipat na ng Pook. Baka napagod, naburat sa klase ng pamumuhay na tago nang tago. Baka nahuli siya ng pulis. O baka nakahanap siya ng iba at tuluyan nang kinalimutan si Boy Tulay. Doble pa ang lungkot ni Boy Tulay nang umuwi mula sa huling laban ni Agustus. Hindi na nga niya mahanap si Tunay na Repo, talo pa ang bulilit nilang kampeon. Pumusta pa naman siya sa batang yon. Dagdag pa doon, pakiramdam ni Boy Tulay na parang may sumusunod sa kaniya. Para bang may nagmamanman sa kaniyang mga galaw. Mixkaela Villalon 87

102 Nawalan na siya ng gana magpinta sa mga pader. Parang wala nang saysay ang buhay. Gusto niyang maglaslas, magpasagasa sa bus, uminom ng pintura. Bukas pa naman ang Pista ng Pook Gitnang-araw. Mas maganda sana kung may kasalo siya. Pauwi na sana si Boy Tulay para magmukmok nang bigla siyang sinaksak ng isang nakamaskarang salarin. Isang saksak lang, malalim, sa tagiliran ni Boy Tulay. Tapos, mabilis na kumaripas palayo ang masamang-loob. Ba t mo ginawa sa kin to, Batman? sigaw ni Boy Tulay na nakalupasay sa kalsada. Sinubukan niyang pigilin ang pag-agos ng kanyang dugo, pero alam niyang ito na ang kaniyang katapusan. Sa kanyang huling mga sandali, biglang natamaan si Boy Tulay ng inspirasyon. Putang ina! Lilipat na ko ng barangay! sigaw ni Aling Taptap sa madaling-araw nang buksan ang kaniyang pinto. Nakahandusay ang walangmalay na bangkay ni Boy Tulay sa harap ng kaniyang bahay. At sa kaniyang pinto, nakasulat sa dugo: ANG TRAHEDYA NI BOY TULAY PINTOR NA MAHUSAY SINAKSAK SA ATAY KAY TUNAY NA REPO INALAY ANG HULING BUGSO NG BUHAY 5. Kalan Buong buhay ni Aling Taptap, sinubukan niyang maging mabuting tao. Hangga t maaari, hindi siya nag-iisip ng masama tungkol sa kanyang kapuwa. Simple lang siyang tao na naghahangad ng simpleng buhay. Iisa ang motto ni Aling Taptap. Minana pa niya ito mula sa kaniyang ina: Wag kang maaksaya, bilin ng nanay niya noong siya y dalaga. Magagalit si Lord. Natutuhan ni Aling Taptap ang mga pinakaimportanteng leksiyong pambuhay sa kusina ng kanyang ina. May halong katakam-takam na amoy ang bawat payo ng kanyang nanay, tumatatak sa isip at nauukit sa kumakalam na bituka, dala niya hanggang pagtanda. Sa kusina niya natutuhan na ang nanay talaga ang nagpapatakbo ng pamamahay. Ang tatay man ang nag-uuwi ng kakarampot na kita, trabaho ng nanay na pagkasiyahin ito sa pamilya hanggang makakaya. Puwedeng gamitin ulit ang mantikang pinagprituhan, payo ng nanay niya habang nagtatrabaho sa kusina. Puwedeng panghugas ng pinggan ang pinaghugasan ng bigas. Ang kanin bahaw ngayon ay sinangag bukas. Pangpaksiw ang lumang isda. Wag kang maaksaya. Dapat walang nasasayang. 88 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

103 Sadyang nasa lahi raw ng pamilya ni Aling Taptap ang pagiging mahusay sa kusina. Nanggaling pa ito sa ninuno niyang kusinera ng mga prayle noong sakop pa ng Espanya ang Pilipinas. Nagsisimula pa lang kumulo ang rebolusyon ng mga Indio nang palihim na lapitan ng Kataas-taasan, Kagalanggalangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan si Hermana Luciernaga na kilala rin bilang Ka Lusing. Ni minsan ay hindi itinaboy ni Ka Lusing ang mga Katipunero. Dumating man silang sugatan o gutom, laging handa ang kaniyang kusina. Itinago niya sila bilang mga pamangkin, pinaghugas ng pinggan, binigyan ng pagkain, at binulungan ng impormasyon. Kinikiskisan din ni Ka Lusing ng dinurog na siling labuyo ang mga salawal ng prayle tuwing Linggo, at napapangiti sa likod ng kaniyang belo tuwing hindi mapakali ang nangangating prayle habang nagmimisa. Mula sa mga ninunong kusinera, tangan-tangan ngayon ni Aling Taptap ang kaniyang gilas sa kusina. Sa pamamagitan nito, naitaguyod niya ang kanyang munting pamilya kahit nang siya y mabiyuda. Nakapagtayo siya ng karinderya malapit sa paaralan ng Pook Gitnang-araw. Dito siya nakilala ng Pook bilang mahusay na kusinera. Dito rin sa naasinang lupa ng Gitnangaraw niya itinanim ang mga pangarap ng kaniyang pamilya. Kapampangan kayo, no? tanong ni Balbas na suki sa karinderya. Panalo tong sisig n yo. Ilokano ako, iho, sagot ni Aling Taptap. Dapat matikman mo ang luto ko ng asusena. Labimpitong taong gulang lang si Taptap nang unang magluto ng asusena. Tinuruan siya ng nanay niya. Nasagasaan kasi ng pison ang alaga nilang si Bantay kaya napipit ang aso, nagmukhang pancake. Umiiyak na inuwi ni Taptap ang mala-papel na alaga para magsumbong sa nanay niya. Tahan na, sabi ng nanay niya, pinapahid ang kanyang luha. Painitin mo na lang ang kalan. Masama ang maaksaya. Hindi lang magaling sa kusina si Aling Taptap, sadya rin siyang mapagbigay. Ni minsan hindi niya itinaboy ang sinumang nanghingi o nangailangan. Mayroon siyang mainit na kanin at ulam para sa sinumang nagugutom. Kahit nang tumaas ang presyo ng mga bilihin, hindi tumaas ang presyo ng pagkaing ibinebenta ni Aling Taptap. Nakasisigurado rin ang mga tao na malinis ang pagkain ni Aling Taptap. Wala kasing daga sa buong Pook Gitnang-araw. Minsan, lumapit ang hepe ng pulis kay Aling Taptap, inutusan siyang magluto para sa party ng squadron ng Pulis Maynila na gaganapin Mixkaela Villalon 89

104 kinabukasan. Walang oras si Aling Taptap mamili ng mga rekado. Kasama ang dalaga niyang anak, magdamag nagluto ang mag-ina sa kusina. Kinabukasan, chumibog ang mga pulis sa pinakamasarap na dinuguan na natikman nila. Ang lambot ng laman, sabi ng isang pulis habang ngumunguya. Kakaiba ang lasa. Tamang-tama ang texture, sabi ng katabi nito, muntikan nang tumulo ang itim na sabaw sa uniporme niya. Binayaran ng hepe si Aling Taptap ng mas mababa sa totoong presyo ng serbisyo at produkto niya. Nagulat naman ang mga pulis pagbalik sa kanilang barracks nang malamang nawawala ang lahat ng mga bota, sapatos, shoe polish, at ilang baril at kahon ng bala nila. Madalas ding lapitan si Aling Taptap para magluto tuwing may handaan sa Gitnang-araw, lalo na kapag may namatayan. Umiiyak na lumalapit ang mga mag-anak, nakikiusap kay Aling Taptap kung anong luto ang puwedeng ipakain sa mga bisita ng lamay. Tinatanong naman ni Aling Taptap kung sino ang namatay, babae ba o lalaki, gaano katangkad, gaano kabigat, paano namatay. Sa lamay, siguradong busog ang mga bisita. Sigurado ring sarado ang kabaong. Mababait ang mga tao sa Pook Gitnang-araw. Kahit sila y pawang mga adik, magnanakaw, mamamatay-tao, luko-luko, at iba pang salot ng lipunan, napamahal na sila kay Aling Taptap. Maging si Boy Tulay na laging nagsusulat sa pinto ng kanyang bahay ay pinapakain niya sa karinderya. Walang maisip na dahilan si Aling Taptap para lumipat ng tirahan. Mahirap man sila rito, mababait ang mga tao sa Pook. Kung hindi nila tutulungan ang isa t isa, sino pa ang tutulong sa kanila? Bukas na ang alis ko, Nay, sabi ng dalagang anak ni Aling Taptap isang gabi habang sabay silang nagluluto sa kusina. Blueberry cheese bibingka ang iniluluto ni Aling Taptap habang naghahanap ng rekados ang anak niya para sa adobong desaparacidos. Saan ka ba talaga pupunta? tanong ni Aling Taptap. Sa kusina naguusap ng masinsinan ang mag-ina. Dito itinuro ni Aling Taptap ang lahat ng kanyang nalalaman, dito siya nagbibigay ng payo. Hindi niya maintindihan kung bakit kailangan lumayo ng kaniyang anak. Sa States, Nay. Magtatrabaho, madaling sagot ng dalaga. States? Ni wala ka ngang visa. Paano ka pupunta doon, lalangoy? ani Aling Taptap. Aakyat ako sa tuktok ng bundok at lilipad, pabirong sagot ng dalaga. Mahirap ang buhay doon, babala ni Aling Taptap. 90 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

105 Alam ko, sagot ng kaniyang anak. Pero may pananagutan tayo sa isa t isa, at hindi ko kayang manatili dito habang maraming nagugutom at nangangailangan. Sama ka, Nay? Hay, naku. Ayoko sa States, sambit ni Aling Taptap. Pulos hamburgers ang kinakain doon. Dito na lang ako. Marami pang nagugutom sa Gitnangaraw. Saan na lang makikikain ang mga patay-gutom na kapitbahay kung pareho tayong aalis? Kay Aling Taptap lang nagpaalam ang kanyang anak na aalis na ito. Sa Pook Gitnang-araw pa kung saan inuusyoso ng mga kapitbahay ang kilos ng lahat, maraming tsismis ang umikot tungkol sa pagkawala ng dalaga. Ang iba y nagsabi na nabuntis ang dalaga at lumayas para magpalaglag. O kaya baka nakahanap ng nobyo at nagtanan. O baka sumapi sa mga rebelde at namundok. O baka naman totoong pinatay at kinain ni Tonio Ginuaco ang dalaga, kaya manaka-nakang nagpapakita ang multo nito sa may tunnel sa bungad ng Pook tuwing gabi. Ano pa man ang usap-usapan, karaniwan lang sa bayan na ito ang mga biglang nawawala. Kaya nang maglaon, kusang nalimutan ang tsismis tungkol sa dalaga at hindi na muling inusisa ng mga kapitbahay. Putang ina! Lilipat na ko ng barangay! sigaw ni Aling Taptap nang binulaga ng bangkay ni Boy Tulay ang kaniyang umaga. Hindi lang yon, nagsulat pa si Boy Tulay ng kung ano sa kanyang pinto bago mamatay. Araw pa naman ng Pista, gigisingin siya ng perwisyo. Sa kabila ng ganitong takbo ng buhay sa Pook Gitnang-araw bigla na lang may mahahanap na bangkay sa labas ng pinto hindi pa rin makuhang iwanan ni Aling Taptap ang lugar na ito. Ito na ang kaniyang tahanan. Napamahal na sa kaniya ang mga tao rito. Kahit iniwan siya ng kaniyang anak, hindi lilipat si Aling Taptap. Dito siya nakatira. Mag-isang hinila ni Aling Taptap ang katawan ni Boy Tulay paloob ng kaniyang bahay. Kung nandito pa sana ang anak niya, may tutulong sa kaniya, pero walang patutunguhan ang pangungulila. Kailangan magpatuloy ang buhay, at ang anumang nagmula sa Gitnang-araw ay hindi makakalimot at hindi malilimot ng mga tagarito. Sino pa ba ang dapat tumulong sa kanila kundi sila rin? Kailangan magpatuloy. Kailangan painitin ang kalan. Higit sa lahat, ayaw ni Aling Taptap ng maaksaya. Sa pagkain, sa buhay, at sa pamamalagi sa Pook Gitnang-araw, dapat walang nasasayang. Agosto 4. Araw ng pista. Araw na kinasasabihan ng Pook Gitnang-araw. Umaga pa lang ay nagsilabasan na ang mga tao mula sa kani-kanilang bahay. Ang iba ay nagtungo sa simbahan para sa misa na iaalay sa patron. Mixkaela Villalon 91

106 Nagtakbuhan naman ang mga bata sa lansangan para sa mga palaro ngayong Pista. May palosebo, pabitin, at ang kinasasabikang panoorin ng lahat na labanan ng gagamba. Malakas daw ngayong taon si Buknoy at ang kaniyang gagambang koryente (dahil nahanap ito sa kable ng koryente), habang si Agustus, ang dating bulilit na kampeon, ay kuntento na munang manood lamang. Sa barong-barong na tahanan ni Agustus at kanyang ina na si Wendy, kumakaway sa hangin ang nakasampay na unipormeng pang-eskuwela sana ni Agustus. Wala pang tanghalian, nagkakantahan na ang mga sintunadong lasenggo t adik ng Pook. Magkakaakbay sila t gumegewang sa kalsada, nagtataas ng mga bote ng beer. Kinakampayan nila ang alaala ng matalik nilang kaibigan at pusher na si Balbas. Sigurado sila na nasa langit na si Balbas ngayon. Paano pa, e kapag may problema si Balbas dati, ang una nitong hinahanap ay si San Miguel. Magpapatuloy hanggang gabi ang pagtagay at pagkanta ng mga lasenggo. Sayang nga at hindi nila mahagilap si Boy Tulay. Balak sana nilang magpapinta ng mural para kay Balbas sa pader ng estasyon ng Pulis. Araw na ng Pista, Tonio. Magbayad ka naman ng utang, sabi ni Aling Taptap habang nagsasandok ng kanin at ulam sa pinggan ni Tonio. Pero kahit abot-langit na ang listahan ni Tonio, palagi pa rin siyang pinagbibigyan ni Aling Taptap. Bayani na ako, Aling Taptap, sagot ni Tonio na masayang kumakain sa karinderya. Dapat nga, libre to. Karangalan para sa inyo na dito ako kumakain. Bakit wala ka sa bungad? Di ba nagtatayo sila ng rebulto mo? tanong ni Aling Taptap. Di naman po ngayon matatapos yon, sabi ni Tonio Ginuaco, muntikan nang tumulo ang pulang sabaw sa kanyang t-shirt. Sarap nitong luto n yo, Aling Taptap. Pang Pista talaga ang handa. Ano ba tong ulam ninyo? Binuksan ni Aling Taptap ang kaldero ng katakam-takam na ulam. Pirapirasong malambot na karneng lumulutang sa malapot na pulang sabaw, kasimpula ng puso o pintura tiyak na bestseller ng kanyang karinderya ngayong araw ng Pista. Pampabusog sa mga tiyan na halos buong taon kumakalam at ngayong araw ng Pista lamang makatitikim ng masarap. Eto? sabi ni Aling Taptap. Menudo. WAKAS 92 Likhaan 6 Short Fiction / Maikling Kuwento

107 Poetry / Tula

108

109 Sea Stories Merlie M. Alunan Old Women in Our Village Old women in my village say the sea is always hungry, they say, that s why it comes without fail to lick the edges of the barrier sand, rolling through rafts of mangrove, smashing its salt-steeped flood on guardian cliffs, breaking itself against rock faces, landlocks, hills, reaching through to fields, forests, grazelands, villages by the water, country lanes, towns, cities where people walk about in a dream, deaf to the wind shushing the sea s sibilant sighing somedaywecome somedaywe come someday. Only the old women hear the ceaseless warning, watching the grain drying in the sun, or tending the boiling pot or gutting a fish for the fire, fingers bloody, clothes stained, scent of the ocean rising from the mangled flesh into their lungs. 95

110 Nights, as they sit on their mats rubbing their knees, waiting for ease to come, and sleep, they hear the sea endlessly muttering as in a dream someday someday someday. Nudging the old men beside them, their mates empty-eyed seafarer, each a survivor of storms, high waves, and the sea s vast loneliness, now half-lost in their old age amid the household clutter old women in my village nod to themselves and say, one uncharted day, the sea will open its mouth and drink in a child playing on the sand, a fisherman with his nets, great ships laden with cargo, and still unsated, they say, suck up cities towns villages one huge swallow to slake its hunger. As to when or how it would happen, who knows, the women say, but this much is true no plea for kindness can stop it nodding their heads this way and that, tuning their ears to the endless mumbling. somedaywecomewecomewecome somedaywecomewecomewecome somedaysomedaysomeday 96 Likhaan 6 Poetry / Tula

111 The Tricycle Drivers Tale On nights when rain pours as if the very gate of heaven is open, and nothing to save a shivering earth from death by drowning, people in my village rehearse this story An empty house in Delgado Street. A tricycle stops by the locked gate. A man alights, his wife, cuddling an infant close to her chest, a boy of five or six gripping her skirt with bony fingers. Delgado, the man had said, the one word that brought them to this unlit house on this lonely street in our village. Not a sound from them throughout the ride. Now the man digs into his pockets for fare and comes up with a few clamshells, holds them out like coins to the driver. Wait here, says the man, I ll get the fare, and goes into the unlit house, everyone following him, but the house never lights up and the man never returns. Seized by a strange suspicion, the driver flees, as fast as he can, terrified, pursued by the reek of fish in the wind. This story goes the rounds of Cardo s motorshop, Tentay s caldohan, or wherever it is that drivers go to pass the slow time of day, or when rain forces them to seek shelter. The story grows with every telling barnacles on the man s neck, his hands, his ears the woman s hair stringy like seaweeds the infant in her arms swaddled in kelp and did he have fishtail instead of feet? Merlie M. Alunan 97

112 The boy s flourescent stare, as though his eyes were wells of plankton was that a starfish dangling on his chest seasnakes wriggling in and out of his pockets The house in Delgado waits empty and dark as on the day, ten, eleven years ago when the M/V Doña Paz with two thousand on board, became grub for the sea. Of that time, the old women in my village remember coffins on the dockside, stench in the air, in almost every street, a wake, funerals winding daily down the streets. No driver in our village has made a claim to the telling of this tale, yet the story moves like a feckless wind blowing breath to breath, growing hair, hand, fist, feet with every telling, and claws to grip us cold. We cower in the dark, remembering, grateful of the house above the earth, the dry bed on which we lie, the warm body we embrace to ward off the tyranny of rain pelting our fragile shelter a mere habit of those who breathe air and walk on land, you might say, but still, always in our mind, the sea grumbling grumbling sleeplessly somedaywecome somedaywecome somedaysomedaysomeday. 98 Likhaan 6 Poetry / Tula

113 Rafael: Ormoc, A.D First the rain. Then the flood rolling down the mountain, flushing the city to the sea, all in thirty minutes flat, and then gone. Dazed, huddled in any shelters they could find, no one in the city slept that night, waiting for news, counting the missing, the dead, hoping for the rare miracle. Everyone hungry, terrified, cold. Darkness but for guttering candles and sooty kerosene lamps. The drowned littered the city streets, huge abandoned dolls with arms held out, legs spread and bent as in prayer or embrace. He was the one to walk to look for our dead. A slow walk with throngs of others from Cantubo Bridge to the shorelines of Sabang and Alegria. He started from sun-up. At mid-afternoon, he found the bodies floating face down among hundreds of others in the shallows of Linao father, brother and his wife, and one of three children. He was tired. Enough, never mind the infants whose bodies might have shredded in the debris. Out of the water he pulled them with the help of strangers, brought them to Ormoc s hilltop graveyard, laid them all in one grave, no coffin, no ritual, no grieving, so tired he was, not even grief could blight his need for rest, food and drink. That s as it should be. You understand, we arrived much later, three days after the flood. We visited the common grave as he had urged, and found everything satisfactory. That task, finding the bodies, and the burial, was his alone to do. Gathered around the neat mound Merlie M. Alunan 99

114 his spade had formed over the grave, we were empty of words, just as he was. He s not mentioned that time since. We soon left the graveside we still had to dig out the old house from the silt, the hearth to make anew, the altar to rebuild. More urgent to us then, the claims of the living, than mere obeisance to the dead. Twenty years since, and now, he too, like us, is growing old. We still do not talk about that time. Everything behind us, that s what we d like to think. The streets of Ormoc have been repaved, houses rebuilt, the river that runs through its heart tamed, so it seems, by thick strong concrete dikes. But who could feel safe now? As the moon waxes and wanes, so the tide too rises and ebbs a daily ritual the sea could not help. Behind his eyes watching the waves, the terror lurks unappeased when will the sea grow hungry again? Somedaywecome somedaywecome Wecomewecomewecome someday Sendai, March 10, 2011 Michiko chan was picking flowers the day the rocks heaved and the sea rose on its toes to kiss the hillsides. Now a thousand things litter the beach at Sendai boats, houses, cars, bottles, shells, felled trees, animal bones, broken bodies. 100 Likhaan 6 Poetry / Tula

115 O Michiko, I dreamed to see you this spring under the sakura orchard with the moon glow caught in your black hair. Now on the sand at Sendai, these drying seaweeds. Among the seagrasses, these countless shoes in hues of orange, blue, pink, red gay yellow, all without pairs. I want to ask the sea, Which one is Michiko s? but no use. The water has nothing to say from its deep black heart. Only the little waves drift back to me, licking my feet, sighing, almost cannotsay cannotsay cannot say Merlie M. Alunan 101

116 Stretch Isabela Banzon I Loved You, Dear I loved you, dear, and now let go mock me, abuse me, call me a fool. Has it been an age since we croaked at love? Surely, perhaps, does it matter which? The clearing of the head pumps words without blood. This fierce night unclots to meet the self in repossession of itself. What does it take to free the heart of memory? Is it to mock our taking on the years of hush and roil, the rush of antiquated folly? What passes for the possible is cold infinity why palpitate again against the real, swamp of stagnant sorrow? Is it in doubt, in fierceness shaken that the tranquil mind s leap into a sludge of words revive girl dreams of ever after? I fear, because my love is scalpeled, dear, you re a goner. 102

117 Theme Song There you go beneath the blue suburban skies after inching toward a finish line you wished never to cross. Five tortoise years of caring for the sick wiped out as suddenly as death when you took the roundabout back to Penny Lane. Nothing out of place in memory, nothing changed. But here where ashes settle, where cactus flowers bloom, it all begins again. Those boys you fathered, now motherless, leave you emptied in a house full of presence. They re on the road revved up for the one ride of their lives. Once you too sped across continents on a knapsack of dreams, your daring man size as your sons grown. Isabela Banzon 103

118 In albums, drawers, in the back seat of your rusted car, in near replication, they will sustain you. Muse My congratulations to the woman readied up for a tryst, in a bareall mood, on a king size bed, the red of her mouth opening like a bud. No doubt she s been imagined in a poem or two, snug between syllables or perfected in rhyming couplets, each act of exposure, each attempt at tenderness, at heat, her gift of meaning. No doubt she hasn t been taking the show-don t-tell lover role too much to heart, calling out to the poet to fluff up the pillows and hand her a change of sheets and the vacuum cleaner which only the other night, while watching him mumbling in sleep, she had thought to surprise him by having it fixed. 104 Likhaan 6 Poetry / Tula

119 Elastic If you were to fly at giddy heights over ocean and bush and I above channels between 7101 islands, we just might arrive at a point of connection. Between us the summer night heat and just enough starlight to see us through emotions that tense with distance, thicken with time. If we were to stretch like the moon on the wing of a plane crossing an invisible equator, we could give in to love s pull yet never land, our assent the point of destination. Isabela Banzon 105

120 Four Poems Mookie Katigbak Snapshot Snapshot of a father and child: I m six. Leering from a diving board, the itch For the finish a wriggle in my thigh Like a boy s last seconds before a urinal Or the last shudder into love. A gun goes off. Stop clocks blink their digits on a smarting Screen: I m six and all blood. It races through me like ivory teeth In a mess of hair. My arms tear at water Like claws into skin. I flash without air Into a record eighteen seconds, then slump And sink into chlorine. They think I m drowning. The sun a piss-green slog in dirty water. Then my father s khakis plunging in, I bruise where his arm tugs my rib. He knits His torso to my spine this is true, I am there, Hoisted to rescue and catcalls after This is 1986, My father at forty seven has never told me One useful thing, has never let his belt Lick my thigh like a cattle hand branding a nag. Decades after, he ll edge wordlessly toward My mother on a hospital bed, nudge his head 106

121 Over and over against hers. No one will know What it means, only that in his final hours, He never asks for his absent child. As though He knew again the limits of her air, her body A jackknife in difficult water knows she s Swimming for her life as fast as she can, The chlorine as strong to the eye as seawater, Dirty brine, her heart on its second wind, Giving in. The whole human length of her Crying swim, swim. Puzzle Leaves in their last light beg of dust a last immortal minute. In easy sight, a New York Times I ll not look at flusters a chair. A puzzle leaves a gaping clue: best-selling woman writer of 1922, nine letters, the tenth inked out. Mitchell, I hazard, that s eight, dear Margaret, not enough archaic. Black on white, the child like scrawl defeats your careful hand. It inks a lazy bet on curb, thirteen across, a six letter word you ve chanced with Temper. And easily the word admits to 20 down. Remove: to move again or take away like players on a board. Black on white, the words scroll down a famous mystery: Mookie Katigbak 107

122 You never left a puzzle bare. It meant to call you back into your chair, into a grid as straight as a private s spine. So why should I care for Tokyo s claim to a pacific name, 17 down? Why should I dream dark words into so many white boxes, chiseling your absence in the puzzle s core: Old diamond, put there for show. Not meant for me to lose you less, or let you go. Naming Stars Once, to ease a nighttime terror, a father tells his child how stars we take as token signs are actual: Bears, archers, sovereigns, as plain to the eye as satellites seen from the window of an initial descent. And Ursa Minor s a small bear in the high wild? Absolutely. And it isn t the eye pretends it there? Of course. Solving the riddle on an evening sky, she never did see girth or paw. Years later, the father reads a poem in a book where his child describes how the three moles on her lover s thigh are an archer s constellation. Words of pure invention, she says, a poet s lie. He notes the brisk 108 Likhaan 6 Poetry / Tula

123 arpeggios of her hand against her thigh. Absolutely, he says, and Of course. If one should disbelieve the other, both know it can t be righted. As we posit lit equations of faiths we keep untrue for, and why there isn t a lie a man won t tell his child. Women Talking I see hard hands turn slack with diamonds and pearls. I m a crown of hair below a window screen. They crack dried watermelon seeds between their front teeth, pelt tables when the bowl fills. The mouths know by rote the Lenten kiss: Salt and pit. I have seen this air in movies where presidents and generals cloud rooms with smoke and secrets. No one lets us in on their dangerous laughter. When a door slams, talk turns to maladies or weather. Mookie Katigbak 109

124 Everything I need to know about the stranger is in those words. They smear my mother s teeth with lipstick. She whispers them Between the crack and pelt of dried seeds. Everything I need to hear, I can t be told. I m too young to know anything in time can turn a mouth tender. Even salt. 110 Likhaan 6 Poetry / Tula

125 Parameters Joel M. Toledo Om Rhyming, it invokes sound clarity To break it is to give in to pure silence and surrender everything, accept patience as the monk closing his eyes to memory having just read Lao Tzu. He is hearing loss, inhaling the stench and counting all the deceased history keeps pointing to. The mind on lease comes back to the beautiful clear. How to cross that line? Exhale. The world is coming back immensely, slowly. What touches its face is wind, is deliberate. Amen, that shock, Amen, that thunderbolt in the night sky. Place is its own discovery. The monk awakens to black: evening, listening Om mani padme om. Grace. Penitence We kneel down and hurt at that sharpened joint. Hours we ve counted leading us to this need. When all this time we keep missing the point. I see no burning tree, none to anoint. The sky relents from blue. Now watch it bleed. We ve knelt down and hurt at that sharpened joint. 111

126 The well inside the heart, that much appoint To root, to quench the thirst of burning seed. (Though all this time we keep missing the point.) The cracks along the path lead to disjoint. Locate that fault and fix with blinding speed! Let s kneel down and hurt at that sharpened joint. Scrape and bruise, the skin will reappoint With scar, or heal. The sound will never plead: All this time we still keep missing the point! Go palm the beads, go feel from point-to-point, Until you reach that cross where doubt is freed. We kneel down and hurt at that sharpened joint When all this time we keep missing the point. Para Que Everything amounts to fourteen pesos. Only one s underground: Katipunan. All these stations I have to cross. A palace stands embraced by moss. Anonas station, before Diliman. Everything amounts to fourteen pesos. Two trees grow wild between the loss. Confound these names! All these declarations! All these stations I have to cross! I count the change that bridges cost To arrive at trees, to get to Quezon. (Everything amounts to fourteen pesos.) 112 Likhaan 6 Poetry / Tula

127 Eleven stops. They called it centavos. Divisoria sale s always the reason. All these stations. I have to cross. Spaniards came. Renamed the host. Spell Recto backward and it s Santolan. Everything amounts to fourteen pesos, All these stations; I need to cross! Heart Against Noon Flag and wind become indistinguishable on some days. Today it s in the middle of a pole. To arrive at any gentle measure is to grip firmly the rope. The science behind flag-raising: hoist, pull, place, secure. And that other thing called grope each day begins with that. The blind is full of it; he compensates with feel, a different awakening. He knows how to relocate. Synesthesia s keel is never off-center. Try balancing prow with stern. Heart against noon casts the perfect shadow (and water, too, is its own window). Joel M. Toledo 113

128 Oath Rhyming invokes sound clarity Slate of unblemished sky, unguarded sea. I want to keep living in this possibility. Nowadays barely enough space for epiphany. I wish of the world to dismiss all impunity, all disturbances, disappearances. Welcome, company. Loneliness is never sadness; it is but calligraphy, grace offered, not to be auctioned off. Dear family, watch me get lost, watch me intently. See the clouds coming in, how they become canopy, denying light, this little song, this synecdoche. I am ready to be, to face mercy, confront frailty. To hum and to die when bothered is given of the bee. I am letting go of all useless, unnecessary fury. 114 Likhaan 6 Poetry / Tula

129 Being One Alfred A. Yuson All All I can offer is the fun of an antic mind, will o the wisp of notion and imagination, a sense of joie de vivre, a few au courant suggestions that may masquerade as nuggets of wisdom. Do we tell on one another s extras, ensembles? Maybe. Dunno if it s best, but could be so. The moral order of aesthetics I like to think we share dictates we do. On the other hand, all those may serve as further test of barriers, parameters of emotion, to see how much the other can take, without going haywire. Aiee, aye, there s the rub and the fear. 115

130 Then again, if we find that we don t mind, either it enters an even more special niche of relations, or catches itself slip-sliding away. Maybe we say, how be jealous when one is not possessed, yet how be sane when obsessed? * * * I am sorry for being a double-edged sword. One blade cuts to the quick and pares off all raiments to arrive quickly at joy. The other drags the core down to now dull, now sharp extravaganzas of misery. Why, if querida in Spanish means dearest, beloved, must it be downgraded to mistress in our understanding? Does there have to be another room, so secret, When one crosses the border from colonial to native? Questions, questions. When all that matters is the hour the minute the moment when you are all there is, all that can be. Being One In an era of inappropriate content, we need a group grope towards white noise. If you just crash into me or upon the collective meme, conundrums of net loss may strike the strangest dude the way Nadal grunts, almost with venom, biceps bulging 116 Likhaan 6 Poetry / Tula

131 adroitly for a southpaw. Gauche? Always get them to surrender without a firefight over any bridge above sludge and muck. Equipoise of execution is all that s needed for a crossover above rivers of demarcation, between nations and genders. Toss in genres. In an era of viable alternatives, the gavel may be banged on duplication of simulacra. As discontent providers we have to look at the moon a different way, and imagine missing the spittoon with our phlegm of gravitas. No matter. We are bridged. We are one. The Long Poem of Faith All faith begins with a little flame in a cave. The dark is dispelled, but it only opens up greater dark, dancing shadows, more fears. The heart leaps to illumine imagination. Where did the fire come from, where did the fire begin? It was from the sky, a swift great light that struck a tree, turned it alive into what seemed at first as horror, crackling tongues ablaze, like the spirits we conjured before we learned of nights aglow. Alfred A. Yuson 117

132 That spark created warmth, heat. That spark had no beginning but sky. There was a brave one among us, there is always a brave one who approaches mystery as if it were food. There is a branch afire at one end. A human hand grasps the other and becomes that of a hero. This starts our faith in something beyond us but with which we can share, with whom we can share. In the open, in the cave, in our hearts the sparks speak of more mysteries how the fire only honors wood, how it singes fowl, how the burnt taste precedes softness, and it is as if we invented angels. From candle to brimstone is a leap as mighty as we made over centuries of abyss. Until we came to the gist of the narrative. And the shadows disappeared, after telling us this, this, and this a myriad of tales that spun around and defined the truth: There is a savior and there is the story of a savior. There is a flood and there is a rainbow. Love begets family, brethren, gospels and wars for bragging rights of sundry gods. Water and wind assault our bodies but it is our brothers that hurt us. We need to keep going back to the source of our courage, the little flame in the cave that painted pictures for our solace, stayed our sorrow by giving light. 118 Likhaan 6 Poetry / Tula

133 This earth, this weather, the temper of the season will divide us, sunder our myths and fables until we speak of the same flood but vary in our measure of water. And that arc of colors in the great sky will precede vendaval or scirocco. Terrain will separate tribes, monsoons whip boats and ships towards new islands and the recognition of sin. Hail the burgeoning faith in prayer and moral compass, in astrolabe and hands clasped together. The fervor may burn through slow march of ages, or swift killings when cross and crescent toil across deserts for the clanging of blade and bone. And everywhere the weakness spreads, the submission to felicitous vision. And everything breaks apart, for millennia burning bush stone tablets preach sermon great cathedral spire nave altar belfry bodhi tree the lotus the six-armed goddess and there are those who will deny creation, give the lie to serpent and apple man and woman weeping wall synod synagogue rabbi muezzin mecca pilgrims beatitudes divinity as power tongues of fire seraphim demons ghosts bogeys messiahs saints in frescoes canticles scapulars incense and gongs sticks clapping the blood sacrifice dark bowels of the earth rockets to the moon space suits from blue planet heliosphere chandeliers bonfires witches at the stake hymns missals crucifix martyrs heretics nailing paper to a door the virgin adored the woman as friend the woman stoned for going beyond friendship with other than her other the pious mother Alfred A. Yuson 119

134 All these stories have a grip on our inner recesses from the time thunder bade lightning to strike the tree, burst it into flames thence the food bones flesh wine miracles marvel amazement credence the flint solace sorrow Voice The human voice in sheer ether of adroitness can be, must be the loveliest sound in the world. Do not tell me the sea s susurrus is lullaby for all ages. Or that birds prey on lament on our tenderest mornings. The human song, the human cry no accident of nature is learned, applied, when sunrise is all silent or twilight turns terrible with time s own pause. As marvelous alone As sob, whisper, aria, Scat, searing spit of love. 120 Likhaan 6 Poetry / Tula

135 Alamat ng Isang Awit at Iba pang Tula Michael M. Coroza Alamat ng Isang Awit Saan ba nanggagaling ang isang awit? Sa puso diumano ng tigib-hinagpis o sa diwang bagaman batbat ng hinala t sumbat ay nagkikibitbalikat sa hindi maampat na liwag at liwanag. Maaari rin sigurong biyaya ito mulang langit maningning na kerubin na lumapag at nagtiklop ng pakpak upang magpabukad ng ngiting sinlawak ng habang buhay na pangarap at magpahalimuyak ng sutil na pananalig at hangad makalipad. Ano nga ba kasi ang isang awit? Higit marahil sa himig o titik, higit sa sasál o bagal ng pintig, bunsong talinghaga ito ng isang makata na sa husay maghimala ay hindi masupil magsupling ang salit-salit na salita. 121

136 Troso Nakalulunod ang nakalulunos Na balita tungkol sa nagdaang unos. Isang buong bayan ang lumubog At naanod lahat ang mga bahay at búhay. Sakay ng helikopter, itinutok ng reporter Ang kamera sa mga nakalutang na troso At bangkay sa kulay-tsokolateng delubyo Sa paanan ng isang bundok na kalbo. Sa iskrin ng telebisyon, mahirap mapagwari Kung tao o troso ang nangakalutang. Ganito rin siguro ang tanaw ng may-ari At mga utusang utak-de-motor-na-lagari. Kahoy lang talaga ang kanilang itinutumba. Tao ba ka mo? Huwag ka ngang magpatawa. Ibong Sawi Ako y isang ibong sawi na hindi na makalipad At sa puso y may sugat, wala pang lumingap; Inabot ng hatinggabi sa madilim na paglipad, Saan kaya ngayon ang aking pugad? Musika ni Juan Buencamino at letra ni Jose Corazon de Jesus Sa isang sulyap mo, ako y napapitlag. Sa isang ngiti mo, ako y nagkapakpak. Sa isang kaway mo, ako y pumagaspas. Sa isang tapik mo, ako y nakalipad. Inawitan kita, ika y napaluha. Niligiran kita, ika y napamangha. Niluksuhan kita, ika y natulala. Dinapuan kita, ika y nagbunganga. 122 Likhaan 6 Poetry / Tula

137 Sa isang irap mo, ako y nabulabog. Sa isang ismid mo, ako y nagkagapos. Sa isang palis mo, ako y bumulusok. Sa isang tampal mo, ako y nabusabos. Kaninang Umulan Kanina, bumuhos nang kainaman ang ulan at humampas nang napakalakas ang hangin. Halos humapay ang mga punò at halamang mga paslit waring kakawag-kawag sa pagtutol sa katigasan ng inang paliguan sila. Mag-aalas tres pa lamang, ngunit mistulang pasado alas-sais ang paligid. Napuyog at naanod sa kanal ang pagmamadali na kani-kanina ay nagpapasidhi sa alinsangan at laksang alinlangan sa lansangan. Kung hindi nakapayong, nakapandong ng peryodiko o kartong walang pag-aatubiling hinablot o dinampot kung saan ang mga nasukol ng sama ng panahon bubulong-bulong, nagsusumbong wari sa tumutulòng bubong ng saydwok bendor o sa nag-uulap-ulap na salamin ng gilid ng gusaling pinagkanlungan. Inagaw ng ulan ang aking pansin mula sa mapaglagom at makulay na iskrin ng kaharap na kompiyuter. Sa tanggapang kinalalagyan sa ikatlong palapag, panatag ang lahat at tuloy ang gawain may bagyo man at dilim. Hindi ko napigilang lumapit sa lagusang-tanaw na bintana. May kung anong humila o nagtulak sa akin upang saksihan ang ulan. At umalingawngaw sa gunita ang hagikhik ng mga paslit hubo t hubad na lumuhod-tumayo-tumalon sa pagsahod sa biyayang búhos ng langit: walang agam-agam, walang muwang ang talampakan sa lawa ng lansangan. Michael M. Coroza 123

138 Hanggang sa bangungot-waring kumatok, pumasok ang tagapagdulot ng umaasóng kape. Nakangunot na tangô ang tugon sa kaniyang pagyukod. Birtud ang matapang na pampagising ngayong naninibat, nanunumbat ang gawaing nakabinbin sa kompiyuter. Nang muling lumingon at lumapit ako sa lagusang-tanaw na bintana: Lumipas na ang ulan. Nagdudumali na naman ang lahat sa lansangan. Kasabay ng hiningang nagbunton ng ulap sa nakahadlang na salamin, nagpundo ang dilim sa ituktok ng bundok sa isang sulok ng haraya: sigwa na ibig kong sarilinin sakali t di mapipigil ang pagdating. Panglaw Kung tunay mang may pook na sagana sa lahat ng pangangailangang ilampung ulit na higit sa batayán at pangunahin, naliligid ng pasadyang pananggalang sa nangakaumang o sisibasib na panganib, laging may tulad kong hinding-hindi papanatag. Sapagkat hindi maililihim ng lamlam ng mata na laging may kulang at sayang. Laging may nawawala na dapat hanapin. Laging may palihim at alanganing tinatanaw: malayong pook na ga-tuldok sa balintataw. Laging kailangang lunukin ang sulak ng lungkot at pasakan ang budhi ng bulak na tubóg sa paglimot. Laging kailangang papaniwalain ang sarili na wala nang wala upang matanggap na langit ang nasapit. Sapagkat ang totoo, nagniniyebe ang dibdib at hindi maiunat ang gulugod sa masidhing sandali ng pangungulilang nanunuot sa kalansay at humihimay sa málay. At may halik, haplos, at yapos ng sinauna t walang muwang na pag-irog na ginuguniguni, sinusumbatan, inaawitan. 124 Likhaan 6 Poetry / Tula

139 Bakit pipiliin ko at higit na hahangaring manatili sa isang pook na salat maging sa alat? Sapagkat dito ko natutuhan kung paano manimbang, tumimbuwang, humakbang. Dito ako napapalagay. Dito ko ibig humimlay. Dito ko nakakasiping ang panaginip na tahip ng minulang sinapupunan na dambana ng mga antigo t kabisadong ritwal na ginagampanan kong banal, itinatanghal noong diumano y bago tinangay, sinaway, at pinasayaw ang laya t layaw sa litanyang lagutok ng isang libo t isang nakayuyukayok na himutok. Michael M. Coroza 125

140 Mga Tula Edgar Calabia Samar Tagpo Pitong taon ako nang una ko siyang makita: hindi tao, hindi hayop, nakasiksik sa sagingan na tinatanuran ng matandang poso. Tiyanak! Sabi ko, nanlalaki ang mga mata. OA, sabi niya naman, naroon at wala sa panahon. Saka siya lumundag at tumuntong sa balikat ko, buong buhay kong pinasan, mahigpit ang kapit sa ulo ko. Hindi siya nakikita ng iba ang halimaw na laging may puna sa iniisip ko t binibitiwang salita, tulad ng, Pitong taon ako nang una ko siyang makita, dahil bulag ako t naliligaw at siya ang nakatagpo sa akin. Ang Kasiyahan ng mga Isda Wala silang alaala, at hindi nila iyon inaalala. Ang unang kamangmangan ng tao: na sukátin ang panahon, na sabihing may sandali t saglit lamang Hindi ko na nakikilala ang mga ilog na nilanguyan namin noon, bagaman pinapangarap ko ang muling mga pagkikita. Na hulihin ang kidlat sa ikalawang pagdapo sa iisang puno, ikulong sa bitag ng baboy-damo, kamukha ng mga sinaunang diyos. Walang apoy dito, sa kung gaano kalalim ang pagnanasa. Tutubo mula sa lupa, mag-uugat ang mga alamat ng kung ano-anong puno t halaman, uulan ng damulag at kumag sa santinakpan sapagkat kailangan, sapagkat kailan ba nagkulang ang kalikasan sa ating pangangailangan. Umiikot ang usok ng bagong-sinding katol sa pampang. 126

141 Bagong panahon at bigong paglilimayon ng insekto t insurekto ng sibilisasyon. Magkaniig gaya ng mga sinaunang hayop na nangawala na bago pa man binasbasan ng pangalan. Sumpa ang gunita at ibig nating manumpa. Sa Isang Madilim Gubat ang laberinto sa gaya kong lumaki sa Ciudad. Naroon ang katawang naliligaw bagaman may kaluluwa ang mga kiyapo at lawan at banug at halimaw na maaari sanang hapunan ng pagal na isip. Narito ang Pluralidad na hinananap: Sanlaksa ang biyaya, at hindi mabata ng tao. Kaya t ipinakilala ang Diyos: Nag-iisa at madilim ang pinagmulan, ipinamana sa atin ang paghahangad ng liwanag, na bahagya, lamang ay Ay! Anong panglaw, anong sarap mahulog sa ningning! Samantalang Sakop Nakabitin sa paa ng halimaw ang kuting, inaakalang ina niya ang hayop na iyong maglalaho sa balat ng lupa. Ikinadena ang lahat ng demonyong natagpuan sa ating panig ng daigdig. Pinatitig sa sariling anino t binuwang. Nakapalig ang kuliglig, at umaapaw ang salimbayang tinig sa paligid. Darating ito, ang gabi, sanlaksa ngunit iisa ang mukha, gaya ng lahat ng mga multo sa araw ng paghuhukom. Nagkakalas ang hinagap, samantalang iniisip ko ang lahat ng baliw sa mundo. Hinangad namin noon na maging mahigpit ang tula, manaludtod, pilantod na sumasayaw sa hininga t pahinga ng kapansanan, ng pinapasang karamdaman. Maanong linya na lang ang nalalabi sa mga pinaniniwalaan ko? Gurlis sa dibdib. Haba ng sibat. Patlang sa pagsusulit. Panlalabo ng abot-tanaw. Nakamata ang maninila sa katiyakan ng panganib, sa dunong ng mga bulaklak, sa dungong pintig ng pantig ng mga salitang mababaon sa limot. Pangako, narito ang sentimental sa pananakop, ang karumal-dumal sa pakiwari. Ang paglalabo-labo ng mga kahinaan ng Edgar Calabia Samar 127

142 mundo. Ang pagbaril sa tatlo, apat na bata nang basta-basta. Kabiguan ang katiyakan ng mga bagay, gaya ng yambo, bunot, muhikap, sampalok, pandin, kalibato, palakpakin. Walang biro maliban sa pagsukob sa mabigat, sa dapat dibdibin. Hindi nakikipagkaibigan ang daigdig at anong panig iyon maaabot ba nitong balangay? Tinuruan tayong makipagkamay, kumaway, umalalay sapagkat naroon ang palad. Layag, paglaya, o, anong diwata, sampalataya! Pangawan Nanaginip ang bata ng mga tala na bumaba upang maligo sa lawa, kahit gising, at minsa y lumabas siya t tinubuan ng pakpak nang dapuan ng liwanag ng buwan ang gulugod. Nagluksa ang pitong lawa dahil lumisan ang bata at iniwan ang pagtula. Walang baon, walang talinghaga. Lumipad, at naiwang alamat ang inang nakamulagat sa durungawan at nagdaan. Paghawak ng Panahon Samantala y sakop ang daigdig. Walo ang diwatang nag-aatas ng pagbabago, na magbago, sapagkat iyon ang bulong ng panahon, upang sumulong, o mahulog sa pag-uulit, ulitin ang daigdig sa bawat pagkakamali, dahil nagngangalit ang oras, humihigpit ang sandali, at saglit na sumasabog, dalit ng panginoong di nakikilala, dahil walang linyang pipigil sa paningin, magdidikta ng kahulugan, at 128 Likhaan 6 Poetry / Tula

143 ang kamay niya sa aking leeg, ako na nagbibilang ng malas, salamat sa mga salita ni Laurenaria at ni Ligaya, gaya ng alamat ng buhay, sapagkat wala tayo roon, at wala tayo sa wakas, sapagkat dito lamang sa daigdig ng salita, ng tulang daigdig ko mahahawakan ang panahon na humahawak sa atin at kapag napagod ang isa man sa atin ay ilalahad ng kaninong palad, ang tadhana ang guhit na nag-uugnay sa akin at sa mga salitang unang binigkas para pangalanan ang bayaning naglalakbay ngayon sa kung saan, sakaling nakamata ang talinghaga kahit wala siyang larawan, sapagkat hindi siya magpapakita gaya ng ninunong nagpakalunod sa lawa upang huwag mawala ang tiwala natin sa hindi masasabi ng salita, sapagkat ano na nga ba ang nangyari sa atin? Alingawngaw Pag-uwi, saka ko pinag-isipan kung bakit hindi ako sumigaw. Sumigaw man ako, ano kaya ang inihiyaw ko sa bangin? Bangin, paano, ang nakapagitan sa mga lupain ng damdamin! Damdamín man ng mga lawan at layag ang pananahimik, Pananahimik ang magtatawid nitong katinuan sa pag-uwi Edgar Calabia Samar 129

144 Sa Kanilang Susunod Isang Kalipunan ng mga Tula Charles Bonoan Tuvilla Kailangan ng Ilaw sa Maraming Lugar Bulag lamang ang nangangapa sa lungsod ng karatula t etiketa, silang may tungkod na kumakalmot sa gaspang ng aspalto; silang may basyong napupuwing sa kalansing ng mga mamiso. Madalas, alam ko ang hinahanap ko. Ang problema, may mapa ng santelmo sa aking palad. Kailan ka pa lalakad? Ekisan ang mga walang-petsang kahon sa kalendaryo. Saan ang tagpuan? Hanapin sa punit na pilas ng lumang talaarawan. Mabuti na lang, madawag kung humawan ang bagamundong hakbang, lumalamog sa kongkreto ang rapas na talampakan. Saan na nga ba ako? Kailangan ng ilaw sa maraming lugar. Madilim ang mga kalsada at hindi ko maikubli ang takot. Gaya ng bawat posteng nalalampasan, kumakapit sa aking paa t bisig ang sangsang at dahak ng mga kalye t eskinita sulputan ng iba t ibang kulay at hugis ng supot, basura, poot. May ningas ng pagkapanatag sa bawat estrangherong nalalampasan sa may barandilya, ang nakabalagbag na taong-grasa; sa paanan ng abandonadong pabrika, ang mag-inang namimitas ng bote t lata. Bata pa ma y natuto na tayong yumukod: makikiraan lamang po, itutupi ang katawan, magsasalikop ang mga palad, marahang hahakbang. Muli, madilim ang lungsod. Lilingunin mo ang natutunaw na anino, liliko sa mga sukal ng agam-agam, susuyurin ang gawa-gawang abenida ng mga diwata t aswang. Nagdarasal ka pa pala? Sa dambana 130

145 ng kongkreto t bakal, binubusalan ng sanlibong atungal ang mga usal: tabi-tabi-po. Matagal nang naihalo sa graba t semento ang sandangkal na tore ng punso. Sa pagtawid, aandap-andap ang bombilya. Nangangapa sa tambak ang mag-ina, tila nagbubungkal ng bisig para sa pundidong parola. Ayon sa Matatanda May sandaang baitang ang Sentinela, ngunit tuwing binabalak mong bilangin at balikan ang hakbang: may nag-aabang sa Lungsod, masama ang panahon. Doon sa bangin, tanaw ang lahat, iyong winika. Panay marurupok na sulok ng sindak at bitakbitak na suhay ng pangamba ang itinirang muhon ng alaala: ang kalawanging bakod ng maliit na kapilya, ang nakangingilong amoy mulang silid ng dentista, ang sanlibong kalmot ng dama de noche sa iyong binti habang hinihila ka ng hingal at kinakaladkad mo paakyat ang pagal mong katawan. Saglit. Balang-araw, makikita mo, dahil panay likod ng mga panganay mong pinsan ang iyong sinusundan. Balang-araw, makikita mo dahil hindi pa kayang bitakin ng iyong pagkuyom ang bubot na bunga ng bayabas, habang minsan na silang ngumata ng mga dahon nito t lumusong sa ragasa ng Ilog Bago. Hindi lang ako, hindi lang ako. Bago ako, may ilan ding sumugod sa mga misyon ng kamusmusan, kaming yumakap sa leeg ng tuyot na palapa, kaming sumisid sa mga lunting dila nitong burol, kaming kinaladkad sa tarik ng mga kawing-kawing na braso ng mga baging at sanga, kaming nagtampisaw Charles Bonoan Tuvilla 131

146 sa alabok-putik ng matandang lupa, kaming hingal na humimlay sa buntong-hininga ng mga nangangalukipkip na makahiya. Hula ko, nagkagalos ako sa siko t palad, nagpaukit ng mababaw na sugat sa tuhod at balikat. Mga pilas sa laman na ramdam at naungkat lamang kinabukasan. Nabanggit ko na ito di ba? May sandaang baitang ang Sentinela. Minsan, babalik tayo doon, ituturo ko kung saan kami nadulas. Balang-araw: Dito kami nabuwal, nawalan ng kakapitan. Dito, may naghihingalo t nakaluhod na kubo. Doon, ang maghapong pagsusuklay ng hangin sa parang. Narito ang pilat, narito ang lamat sa sakong, narito ang mga gumuhong hakbang, at narito ang sugat, tignan mo. Dito ka muna, hahanapin ko sandali, makikita mo. Makikita mo. Sa Paghihintay Bumabangon nang muli ang mga upuan. Gaya ng mga tuyong dahon ng ipil, nagkalat ang mga turista, akbay ang kayumanggi nilang nobya. Binubulabog na ng mga banyagang tugtugin ang siesta ng alon at bato, habang abala sa pamimingwit ng suki ang mga waiter, pain ang serbesa t bagong-hangong talaba. Dinudungisan ng mga magkasintahan ang orisonte sa aking tapat, kanina lamang ay isang bughaw na telon, hitik sa mga pisngi ng ulap. Baka gusto ninyong pumasok, Boss, mungkahi ng serbidora. Mukhang uulan. Hindi ko ito napansin. Halos apat na oras na rin. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens. Carl Jung 132 Likhaan 6 Poetry / Tula

147 Matagal ko nang hindi nakakasalamuha ang tabingdagat. Lalo pa t walang buhangin dito: plastik at kongkreto ang nasa talampakan ng breakwater. Kinakalawang ang hanggahan, ang sampayan ng mga di-matuyong agam-agam. Isa-isang hinila ng guwardiya ang ilang upuan, pagsang-ayon sa hinagpis ng hangin. Apat na oras. At nang rumagasa na nga ang mga supling ng maghapong pagtitimpi ng ulap, niyakag nila ang mga tao tungo sa mga gawa-gawang bubong ng paligid; mga daliri ng niyog, ang braso ng poste, ang mga di-inaasahang silong sa mga biglaang dalaw ng ulan. May nagbukas ng payong, naglunsad sa karera ng sanlibong alabok. Ilan na ba silang naligaw lamang sa gubat ng ambon? Pasok na, Boss, himok ng guwardiyang nakakapote ng itim. Matagal pa yan. Sa loob, pagkapikit ng pinto, parang tumila na sa labas: kita ang pagdadalamhati, ngunit hindi marinig ang paghikbi. Maraming nakiramay, silang nakasilong, nagluluksa sa walang-tilang ulan, tila naghihintay na lumampas ang karo ng di-kilalang bangkay. Maya-maya, ang paghuhukay ng takipsilim; Maya-maya, ang libing ng maraming hindi-pagdating. Sa Kabilang Banda Kapayapaan ay laging sumainyo. Patak Nakatamdag ka sa batya, hinihintay ang patak pagsasamukha ng kanina y patak parang tenga, parang ilong, ito yata patak ang bibig, ngayo y balikat sa nakalutang patak na ulap ng kandila, patak. May dalagang kinulam. May langib na puting rosas ang nagnanaknak niyang balat. Ang masama, bawal siyang tulungan. Tuwing kumakatok siya sa aming mga pinto, umaambon ng sampaga sa aming bayan. Dito kami natutong magtayo ng mga tahanang gawa sa pinto; bawat bisagra t bintana ay kapwa yakap at taboy. Charles Bonoan Tuvilla 133

148 At sumainyo rin. Sa halip, nagsasatitik ng konstelasyon ang mga kalawang sa pusod ng itim na batya. May pangangati ang palad. Dito nalulusaw ang pulso. At gaya ng pagpapatunay ng lobo sa isang kantang-bayan, ang langit ay pugad ng apoy at subyang. Silang nakatingala, silang nakaturo, silang araw-araw na binabati. Sa Ipinaglalaban Nakayukayok ang kinakalawang na tuktok ng isang latang hindi matamatamaan, habang naghihingalo sa mababaw na burak ang mga walang pares na tsinelas, nilalangaw. Sa Paglingon Narinig mo na ito minsan: Muli t muli, lumilingon sa mali. Kung kanino, hindi mo maalala. Marahil, sa isang lumang kaibigan, o maaaring sa estranghero nakasalubong mo sa botika habang bumibili ka ng pampatulog, at siya, naglilimayon, nakatalikod. Kilala kita, kilala kita. Pansinin ang isang matangkad na estante sa sulok. Dati, sapat na ang karton. Ngayon, nakatingkayad mong binubuksan ang marupok nitong pinto, tila pagbabaklas sa dibdib ng matandang anghel. Narito ang imbakan ng paborito mong medida, karayom, sinulid. Sa bandang itaas, pingas na labi ng tasa. 134 Likhaan 6 Poetry / Tula

149 Sa tapat ng iyong kaliwang dibdib, sandangkal na litrato. Nakapagtataka: wala ito sa loob ng kahon. Alam mong hindi ito ang unang pagkakataon. Nasabi mo na ito minsan: ang mahalaga,naalagaan. Ilang gabi ka na bang nilalagnat? Sa umaga, tila punit na seda ang talukap ng iyong mata, mga retaso ng mga di-sinasadyang pagluha. Tulad ng dati, wala kang maalala sa iyong panaginip. Muli t muli, ang mulat na pagkalinsad sa mga di-pamilyar na halika na, halika na. Babangon ka, at sa paglingon, ang iba t ibang wika ng lungkot ang hungkag na matres, ang kuyumos at tagpi-tagping kumot. Sa Panahon I. Pwede bang itigil muna ang pag-ikot ng mundo? Eraserheads Siguro, pero nasabi mo na ba sa kanilang may mga hinihintay? Unang iyak, kalansing ng barya, Linyang may pitong pantig, bus pabalik ng probinsiya. Lagi, ang sampikit na pag-alis. Tag-ulan: napapadalas na ang pagsibol ng mga bulak-pawis sa ilang bagay na walang-hininga, at gaya ng dingding ng aking iniwang silid, tila pinupulbusan rin ng amag ang aking dibdib. Lamig, marahil, ang pataba sa luksa t panimdim; isang bote ng nagyeyelong tubig na isinuksok ng dalaga sa bulsa ng kanyang bag, inuunti-unti sa daan, ipinandidilig sa ligamgam ng inip. Charles Bonoan Tuvilla 135

150 II. Sa kabila, may matandang nakadungaw. Mapapansin ang ilang palapag ng guhit sa noo, mga lamat ng taon sa leeg, ang mga alon ng pangungulubot na tila mga tikom na labing ayaw nang bumigkas ng pagsalubong o pamamaalam, ngunit parang may inuusal maging sa kanilang katahimikan. Maliban sa taludtod ng mga alamat na narinig at kinabilangan niya, tiyak na may lihim siyang bulsa. Nakasilid dito ang isang tampiping may ngipin ng sanggol, mga hibla ng buhok, at sandakot na alabok. III. minsan walang malay minsan h a b a n g buhay Halimbawa: Linyang may pitong pantig. Linyang may pitong pantig. Linyang may pitong pantig. Linyang may pitong pantig. IV. Nakatigil ang bus sa ngayon. Matagal ka nang hindi nagiging bahagi ng ganitong kadiliman. Kukunin mo ang iyong kuwaderno, at isusulat: Nakapikit ang gabi. Bigla mong naalala ang isang mama sa lungsod na nagalok sa iyo ng makintab na relo: Boss, tunay ito, tunay ito. Hindi ito totoo. Tatanungin mo ang matanda kung nasaan na kayo. Sasagot siya; San Fernando. Malayo-layo pa. Tatanungin mo rin siya kung anong oras na. Sasagot siya; sa kasalukuyan. Hindi na ito totoo. V. Sa katunayan, may pulubing kasama dito. O misis na may kipkip na sanggol. O mamang putol ang paa. Para sa isa sa kanila ang pag-aabang ng kalansing ng barya. Patawad, ngunit hindi sila makararating. Tag-araw sa kanila. 136 Likhaan 6 Poetry / Tula

151 VI. Gaano kapayapa ang pag-alis? Mas marami t malalim pa ang lubak ng iyong sariling talampakan kaysa sa mga kalsadang iyong daraanan. Gaano kahirap ang pagbalik? Tanging mga bayan ng San Juan, Santa Catalina, Santa Cruz, Santa Lucia, San Ildefonso, Santa Maria, Santo Domingo at ilan pang mga ngalan ng santo ang iyong maaalala. VII. Narinig ko na ito dati. Alam ko na ito. Nagbalik ang matanda, sa wakas. Gaya ng inaasahan, ang pagsalubong ng hangin: iniwan ang aplaya t bundok, kinalampag ang kampana t iwinagwag ang sanlibong banderitas ng lumang bayan. Magtitipon ang mga tao sa liwasan, at sa pagsisimula pa lamang ng kanyang pangungusap; Noong unang panahon, noong isinilang ang alabok at bagong dilat ang langit, habang inaamag ang mga eskaparate t kisame ng aking dambuhalang silid, ay inaabangan na nila ang pagtila ng hinala sa dibdib, ang panghuhula sa dulo ng kuwento t kani-kaniyang bugso ng ambon, ang habambuhay na pagtatagpi-tagpi sa mga haka-haka ng alaala, ang pagpili ng tauhan at katauhan, ang paglingon at pagbalik ng panahon, ang pagpapalit-daigdig. Simula, kanina, ambon, Ngayon, ito tila umuulan dito titila ito lamang, ako lamang na naman Charles Bonoan Tuvilla 137

152 silang ilang pagsilang ilang ulit palagi ulit na lang lagi-lagi, paulit-ulit na lamang. Minsan. Minsan. Alam mong, tulad ito nito. Ngayon parang kanina na naman at muli, mamaya, minsan. Ilang minsan na. Minsan lang (na) naman. Sa Pagtambay I. May basag na naman kagabi. Kasama ang ilang tuyong bulaklak ng naghihikab pang bogambilya, hinakot ko ang mga bubog. May pipilaypilay na pusang tumawid. Nakakainip. Sana dumating na ang pansit. 138 Likhaan 6 Poetry / Tula

153 II. Nagbuhat din ako nang bagong-lipat sila dito. Ngayon, pinili kong ilabas ang mga ipinasok ko rin noon. Halos wala nang natira. Nang mag-isa kong itinawid ang mesa sa pinto, napunit ang ngiti ni Mayor sa poster. Ang mahalaga, nakalusot. Nakakapagod. III. Paikot-ikot, magkatalikod ang mga askal, nais nang makawala sa isa t-isa. Nagkasalubong ang tatlong butiki sa abenida ng pader. Hinihigop na ng sulok ang mga anino. Pauwi na silang lahat. IV. May pusang pisa sa gitna: pasador sa hiwa ng daan. Marahil, huli na niyang buhay. Habang mahimbing ang matandang poste, pinapatahan na rin ang videoke; Are you having fun yet? Sandali na lang, papatayin na si Sinatra. Maagang magsasara ang bahayaliwan. Maaga-aga rin akong mag-aabang muli, sa pansitan. Charles Bonoan Tuvilla 139

154 Sa Mga Pagitan Marahil, angkop lamang na magmungkahi ng simula t hanggahan: isang silid, may hubad na banig, ang mabigat na langitngit ng pintong nasa bingit ng bukas-pinid. Tumuloy ka ang nais kong sunod na sabihin, subalit nakahakbang ka na, ipinasok maging ang sapatos, at nambulabog. Ang ibig kong sabihin, pinunan mo ang namamayaning bulong, nakakulong. Pansinin ang pilapil ng sapot sa kisame, ang pagbibigay-anyo ng sinag sa humuhulagpos na anino. Gaano na nga ba katagal sumisilip ang sariling tsinelas? Sa kabila ng lahat, ang busina tuwing alas-siyete ng umaga, na magiliw nating sinasalubong ng ating mga basura. Pangalanan natin ang mga pagitan; ang puwang sa pagsilang at kawalangngalan, mga alinlangang di winika t sa lambat ng dila na lamang iniiwan. Madilim pa, ngunit maliwanag sa ating umaga na: inilalatag ng matador ang mahimbing at kalahati-na-lamang na katawan ng baboy sa tabla, unan ang duguang sangkalan. Ilang beses na bang nagkulang ang tiyak? Minsan, dumudungaw ang ganap sa mga agwat; kadalasan, lungkot, hadlang: ang butas na tubo sa kalsada, mga alon mulang bakas ng basang gulong sa tagaraw, ang pagpikit ng dalampasigan, ang paghahanap sa mga hakbang. Sapat na ba ang mga patlang? Sa sulok, malaon nang nilipol ng mga insekto ang hukbo ng mga basyo ng serbesa, at tila nagtatapat ang pader na, lagi, sa aki y may lagusan: balikat, katawan, bintana, hanggahan, pinto, pagitan. Ganito: madilim ang tabing sa bawat hikbi t tibok, at sa pamamagitan, nag-uukol tayo ng pagkukulang. Ito, katahimikan. Saglit. Dito, ang simula. Nakarating na ba sa iyo ang lumang kuwento tungkol sa pagpapalit-tahanan ng dila at puso? Nauutal ang mga hulagway sa ating paligid, at nagsisimula nang pagdudahan ang mga di-pa-nasabi. Samakatwid, lalo na ang mga dina-masabi; tulad nito: kanina, binuksan mo ang bintanang matagal nang tikom at tila kapuwa tayo naumid sa buntong-hininga t daing ng buong silid. Animoy lumingon din ang puno ng mangga, kaya t nabitiwan ng mga sanga nito ang mga dilaw na pusong hinog-sa-pilit; bumulusok, pumutok ang mga dibdib. May nasabi ba ako? Tanghaling-tapat at sa huli, taimtim ang nais na huwag malupig ang ngayon at ang loob, nakatanghod, sinisiyasat ang mga buod ng pagsasara: balikat, katawan, bintana, hanggahan, pinto, pagitan. 140 Likhaan 6 Poetry / Tula

155 Mula sa Agua Enrique Villasis Lumba-Lumba Nangangalay sa pagkakasabit ang largabista. Kanina pa kami rito. Panatag nang nakaduyan Sa sapot ang kislap ng kaninang tumilamsik Na tubig-alat. Nasa iisang pintig na ang hugong Ng motor ng baroto at ng sarili kong paghangos. Nagbabaras na sa ilong ang lansa at gasolina. May itinuro ang giya. Nasa unahan na raw namin Ang hinahanap. Nabasag na asin ang kaninang Dumuduyang kislap-tubig-dagat. Nakikipag-unahan Ang kabog ng puso sa ungol ng motor. Humalik Ang largabista sa mga mata. Inihalik sa paningin Ang layo t anumang nagtatago sa rabaw ng dagat. Naroroon sila, mabibigat na imaheng gumagapang Sa mahabang pilas ng seluloid na handang maputol. Isinilid nila ang mga sarili sa dilim ng ilalim Nang madama ang pagkabulabog ng mga alon. Humimpil ang bangka. Bumalik sa dibdib Ang largabista. Kailangang maghintay, ayon sa giya. Ngayon ko lang napansin ang bahaghari na tila-ahas Na buntot ng baroto. Hindi mapatid-patid. 141

156 Barko Wala nang ibang sisisihin sa pagkaantala kundi Ang kalumaan nito. Habang ang mga kasabayan Ay naging limot na alaala ng di-mabilang na sakuna O namamahingang binabalabalan na ng kalawang, Patuloy pa rin ang paghiwa nito sa pahina Ng dagat, binubulong ang mga nakasalubong na alon, Ang mga lambong ng kulap na umuunat sa pagsapit Ng unang liwanag. Hindi maitatago na sa pagitan Ng hugong ng kanyang pagtawid ang ritmikadong Pagpugak na tila tisikong ginigising ng sariling Paghuhumingasing. Papaano ba idadahilan Ng mga tripulante na iisang makina na lamang Ang tumatakbo? Kaya napipilitan silang paulit- Ulit na ipalabas ang mga pelikula ni Dolphy, O ang ipaubaya sa idlip ang bawat pagkabagot Ng mga pasahero. Kung magising silang palyado Ang makina t inaalo sila ng alon, ang kalumaan Ng barko ang tanging mapagbubuntunan nila Ng inis. May magbabakbak ng pintura sa hamba At ilalantad ang kalawanging langib, may ilan namang Idadaan sa iisang pangungusap ang kanilang mura At opinyon sa halaga ng segunda-manong bakal. Mula sa ispiker, paumanhin ang hiling ng kapitan. Ngunit hindi ng barko. Sa pagkakahimpil nito sa laot, Retirado itong ang tanging hiling ay isa pang paglalayag, Isa pang paglalayag bago ang huling paghuhusga. 142 Likhaan 6 Poetry / Tula

157 Imelda Inihatid ng ulan ang lawa sa lungsod. Ngayong humupa Na ang pag-ibig ng tubig sa lupa, nagbabaras ang alingasaw Ng pagkaagnas sa bawat sulok. Wala nang silbi ang mga elehiya Sa mga bagay na niyapos ng banlik at nilansag ng baha. Mula sa kulungan, inilabas na ng kapitbahay ang kanilang aso. Tila salbabidang handang pumutok sa pamimintog ang lawas Ng alaga. May nagbalita sa sinapit ng kalapit-bayan, Kung papaano umaatungal ang mga bulldozer sa mga bangkay Na kanilang nalilimas, kung papaano dumadahak ng lapok Ang mga patay na nakasuksok sa ilalim ng mga inanod na guho. May ilang hindi tagaroon. Masuwerte pa nga kami. May pumupusag-pusag na imelda sa mga kinumutan Ng putik, tila isang naghihingalong sanggol. Nangungupas Ang kulay. Humahangos ang mga palikpik habang hinahatak Ng buntot ang katawan na makalayo sa pagkakasadsad, Ang muling makatikim ng hangin ng tinakasang baklad. May kumakatok na bangaw sa aming tainga. Nananahan na Ang pulutong ng mga langaw sa mga naligaw na isdang Nakasampay sa mga halaman o nasiksik sa banlik. At may isang dadagan sa talukap ng hasang ng imelda. Panatag na mapapalapat ang mga kaliskis bago sa pinakahuling Pagkakataon ihihinga nila ang pagsuko. Marahil nadinig Ng imelda ang atungal ng pagkalam ng aming sikmura. Enrique Villasis 143

158 Alimango May mukha ng Kristo na natagpuan sa lawas ng alimango. Habang hinihilot ng di batid na karamdaman ang iyong gabi, Dagsa-dagsa na ang tumutulak sa liblib-baryo, sukbit-sukbit Ang kanilang mga sakit at pananalig. Ito ang kanilang turin, Ang milagrosong tuwalya ni Veronica. Paniwalaan, Gumagalaw ang Diyos sa kanyang nais. Wala siyang pinipiling Sugo. Hindi ba makailang ulit nang lumitaw ang ulo Ng Kanyang bugtong na anak sa palapa ng saging, sa nalapnos Na dingding, o sa namuong patak ng kandila sa tubig? At nang maihango ang nilutong alimango, napakurus ang nagluto. Napakumpisal sa ginawang pagnakaw sa kalapit-palaisdaan. Papaano pa nila ito gagawing pulutan? Kaya nakatanghal ito Sa altar, pinamumulaklakan ng nobena at lansa ng dahan-dahang Pagkabulok ng aligi. Tatlo na lamang ang paa at wala nang sipit. May gutom sa mata ng mga nakaantabay na pusa habang kaisa ka Sa mga nakikipila para makapahid sa naagnas na mukha ng Kristo. Bangka Ang totoo, nanalig siya sa kalungkutan tulad ng pagtatapat Sa isang matalik na kaibigan na tanging katahimikan lamang Ang maiaalok. Makailang ulit na siyang naghatid ng mingaw, Minsan, masamang balita. Bigyan mo siya ng dila t kanyang Ibubulong kung paano gumagaod ang gaspang ng palad Ng mga hindi dininig ang panalangin, kung makailang ulit Nilalamukos ang aliwalas sa mukha ng mga nag-aabang. Madalas, sumusunod sa kanyang paglalakbay ang amoy Ng kandila t dama de noche. Walang sementeryo sa baryo Na kanyang pinagsisilbihan. Umaalalay siya sa mga nagluluksa. Tinatawid niya ang bangkay at dalamhati sa kabilang pampang. Walang ipinagkaiba ang bigat ng luha sa tilamsik ng dagat. 144 Likhaan 6 Poetry / Tula

159 Tuwing tinutunaw ng pagdilim ang mundo, solitaryo siyang Nakahimlay, nilalayuan kahit ng mga alon. Mainam na ito Para sa kanya, mas nakikilala niya ang hinagpis habang Nakikinig sa naghihingalong pagtangis ng mga bituwin. Tagiwalo Bagong hunos siya nang lumusong sa lawod. Saligan niya sa pagbabagongbuhay ang dagat. Iniwan na niya ang pangamba sa pampang kasama ang lumang balat. Wala siyang ibang pangitain sa ilalim kundi natutulog na lagim: bungo ng hindi kilalang halimaw ang mga bato t patay na korales na maya t maya y bumabalikwas at napapahikab sa pagyugyog ng alon. Umaasa siyang may pupuslit na palos mula sa mga butas. Tanging siya lamang ang nakikita ng libo-libong bula. Ano pa nga ba ang silbi ng kamandag? Mas higit pa ngang mapanganib ang pag-iisa. Deep Sea Diver Hindi ito ang mundong madilim. Likas dito ang ningas. Pumipintig ang mga ilaw na tila pumupungas na lungsod Sa kalawanging balat ng madaling-araw. Nambibighani Sa malay ang pagkurap ng mga liwanag. Isa itong pagbabalik Sa kamusmusan, sa unang pagkatuklas sa pugad ng alitaptap Kung paanong sa likod ng bakbak na balat ng dapdap sumibad Na tila antigong kaluluwa ng puno ang mumunting liyab. May paanyayang matitimbang sa palad ang mga bituwin. Matutunghayan na hindi umiinog ang oras dito. Laging Bagong taon, minsang sinulat ng unang nangahas lumandas Sa kailaliman ng dagat. Sa mga huling taon niya, sinasabing Mas madalas siyang nakapikit, sinasariwa ang ningning Ng kanyang kabataan at katapangan. Mapanila ang silaw, Ito ang kanyang huling winika bago natulog at di na nagising. May babala ang katagang ito. Sumisilay dito ang panganib. Enrique Villasis 145

160 Sa bawat biglaang pagdating ng dilim humuhubog sa alon Ang mga halimaw na nanahan sa alaala t kasaysayan. Pugita- Bampirang kumakapit sa batok o ang aninong kumakatok Sa salamin habang bumabagyo. Ilan na ang biglang lumutang Sa kamatayan. Matagal na siyang nakatungtong sa kabilang- Buhay, salaysay ng nagsulat ng kanyang talambuhay. Madalas Tinatawag niya itong impiyerno. Isang napakahabang yungib. Dito naibubulong niya ang mga limot na libog at lungkot, Ang mga sariwang sugat ng pagkatakot, ang mga haraya Ng mga alamat noong pagkabata at nagsasaanyo ang mga ito Bilang mga alipato mumunting luminosong diyablong Kumakahig ang mga pangil sa sahig-dagat. Sa pagkakahugot Niya sa pusod nitong lawod umaahon siyang isang bagong tao. 146 Likhaan 6 Poetry / Tula

161 Nonfiction

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163 The Last Gesture Merlie M. Alunan How did you do it? It s a question frequently asked. A question to which there probably are no answers. No answers that anyone could lay out categorically as one would, say, how to make guava jelly or papaya marmalade (which I love to do to this day, now and then). Still it keeps cropping up, How did you raise your kids? If I had the answer, does anyone out there want to know? And the kids, grown up now, all five of them and self-directed adults, don t they have a say in the whole business of growing up the way they did with the kind of mother that they did have best keep quiet and let the years put the memories away. Then there s the other question: What do you think of motherhood? When it comes to that, I find myself even dumber. For motherhood is just something you go through with as little thought as possible, aside from all that it requires of your body, and afterwards, your time and any effort it might demand, whether you have ever thought of those requirements or not. Thinking back, the things one had to do or did were a matter of course, they just seemed to happen from the tearing of the flesh in the motions of parturition, to feeding, to reshaping your body to create hollows where a body may cradle or finding a place on one s shoulder where a head might rest, motherhood claiming all that it requires from you just like that, and you had no choice in the matter but to go ahead and act as instinct and intuition demanded. When all is said and done, all you have are random memories, and all it comes down to is the last gesture. It s a month late. The child is expected in October, and half of November is almost gone, I am still big as a house. I do not walk; I waddle. I cannot lie on my back. My center of gravity has shifted to my belly. The middle of my body bloats with the unaccustomed weight. Lying on my side, I sag like a badly stuffed sack. Maybe you got the dates wrong, Tita Meding, my nurse aunt, tells me. I am seeing Dr. Ramiro on a weekly basis now. He palpates my belly, checks 149

164 the infant s head, and brings his stethoscope down to listen to the heartbeat. He nods his head and does not appear bothered. You re both fine, he tells me, the baby s head is well-engaged. Nothing to worry about. So I go home and try not to think of anything. I attend to the tasks of the household. I go to market, buy fish, vegetables, fruit, stocking up the household for when I would stop doing all these for the Big Event. I am too uncomfortable and uneasy to read. I cook. Count the layette over and over. Recheck the small suitcase stuffed with the things I will bring when I go to the hospital. Nothing much else to do now but wait. On the 15th of November while tending the rice slowly cooking, I feel a rush of fluid down my thighs. It splashes on to the floor at my feet. It s here, I tell myself without panic. It s now, I tell him, but there s no pain yet. He gives a slight nod. We eat lunch untroubled. We go to the doctor s clinic, and he examines me for the nth time that month. Go to the hospital when the pains are coming in regular intervals, he tells me. In the meantime, go home. Relax. I go home as he advised, put on a napkin to catch the drip, and go about the usual business of the household. I am relaxed. Tita Meding comes to visit and tells me: You might dry up. So what do I do? Is there a way to stop this leaking? She shakes her head. It goes on for two days. On the third day, supper over, I feel the first twinges. An hour passes, and the pain is coming in regular intervals now. Let s go, I tell him. It s time. She arrives at dawn, the 17th of November 1970, beautiful and perfect, my first daughter. While they are cleaning me up, I say to myself: You are complete now, you have become a mother. As they wheel me back to my room, I ask myself: What does it mean, complete? I feel for my last rib it s still in the old place. My womb feels hollow. Complete, back to myself. Except for that little bit of flesh which had been torn from me out there in the nursery. I am all by myself again. I hear an infant crying. It must be cold. They ll be bundling her up soon so she ll be warm. From here on I ll have to be chasing after that little piece of myself. A piece of myself, I smile, hovering between sleep and dream. A little piece of myself had taken a life of its own. A will of its own, apart from mine. Something of mine, gone, taken away. Perhaps, perhaps I will never be whole again. Thus, I succumb to sleep. 150 Likhaan 6 Nonfiction

165 Another time. The familiar pains arrive early at night just after dinner. He takes me to the hospital and leaves me there. We ve done this before anyway, he tells me before he goes. It s just a matter of getting it over with. Besides, he reasons, there s not much I can do to help. I ve to work tomorrow. Some calls to make, a quota to meet. No, I do not need his help, I tell myself. Yes, I can do this all by myself. In fact this is all mine to do. Go on, I tell him. But a voice in my mind wants to say: Please stay with me, at least wait with me. But he ll only tell me back: Such a waste of time. My performance rating, remember? They re always at my back for that. So he goes. I m alone in my room. Not to worry, the nursing staff tells me. Just ring if you need anything. All night the pains come regularly, but without progress. At dawn the pains come in closer intervals. They time the pains and walk me to the labor room. Once there the pains space out again. So they walk me back to my room to wait some more. Why does he have to work today? Well, you re having the baby, not he, stupid, I remind myself. I pace up and down my room hoping to hasten the pace of this slow birth. Why is this taking so long, I ask the nurse as the hours progress to noontime. Dr. Ramiro arrives after lunch. He pokes me with his stethoscope. It s not ready yet, he tells me. More patience. He goes to his clinic to see more patients. The pains come faster at past two in the afternoon. They wheel me at last to delivery. They strap me to the table, everyone in attendance. Push, push, the midwife assisting tells me each time the contractions come. But at the peak of one tremendous spasm, the doctor says, Hold it, hold it. The cord is coiled round its neck, he tells me. Three times. I ve to hook my finger on it, or else he ll strangle. There, there. Now go, he urges me as a wave of pain engulfs me and the warm soft wet mass slides out of my womb. Maldito, Dr. Ramiro says, pleased with his accomplishment. You have a son, he tells me proudly, sounding almost as if he d had a hand in its making. It must be nearly four in the afternoon. The nurse tells me: The father s outside. That s why it took so long, I think to myself, this child s waiting for his father. But I m too tired to put it into words. Too tired. No time to think. I drift off to sleep. Merlie M. Alunan 151

166 Tita Meding comes comes to visit the next day and tells me, Maldito, repeating what the doctor said, and adds: They also tend to be sickly. Medical fact? I ask her. No, she says, just an old belief. So what do I do to stop it? Sumpaa na day, she tells me. Only a Bisaya would understand what this means. Tita Meding explains. Someone must buy him from you. It s a way of tricking the Invisibles ruling our life. Perhaps they envy you this child. They d like to have him for their own. If somebody buys him from you, it means he isn t yours any more, maybe they ll let him be. How much should I sell him for? Who will buy? She laughs. Even she does not believe her own story. But this second child does get everything in the books: colds, fevers, bronchitis, asthma, measles, diarrhea, whooping cough, mumps, as though all these had been prescheduled for him, all, in his first two years of his life. Or if not, he falls from the bed, slips on wet floors, stumbles quite often while learning to walk, scrapes his knees, breaks his forehead open on the corner of a table, asphyxiates on a bean he has stuffed into his nostril. Maldito. He s not a weakling; he s active and vigorous. He s just a natural magnet for disaster. In his eighth month, I ask Tita Meding: Buy him, will you please? Okay, all right, she says. I ll give you three pieces of coconut, and he s mine. So she gives me three coconuts from the trees in her yard. He s yours now, I tell her. But the symbolic purchase avails nothing. He still gets into scrapes. He escapes none of the ailments of infancy, or any chance to get hurt. That s the way it is every child is a piece of one s flesh wrenched away to have a life of its own. Once it s apart, it goes off to fulfill the promises of its own life. You could buy him from the devil if you please, but the purchase avails nothing. Not all the wealth, not all the hope, not even all the love in the world could ever restore him to the womb s safety. This is the end of May, or maybe the first of June 75. I come home from the hospital with my third child. A non-event as births go. Sirens awaken us about dawn. The marketplace, three blocks away from the house, is burning, and the fire has crossed the street to our block and is 152 Likhaan 6 Nonfiction

167 now spreading to the nearby houses. We load the household essentials into the van, but we do not drive away. We wait for the right moment to abandon everything to the hungry flames. But the fire spends itself and stops just three houses down the road. As daylight comes, laden with the smell of smoke and heat from the burned area, we unload the household stuff and return them to their places in the house, and try to resettle ourselves. As soon as the big things are in place, he announces: I ve to work. Fire or no fire, I ve collection calls to do in Jagna. There s something monumentally important about his work that brooks no argument. So off he goes to his out-of-town beat. He turns his back on an unsettled city, reeling from the calamity of the fire. The streets are lined with folk huddling around the few goods they have been able to save, waiting until suitable arrangements for temporary shelter can be found. Stories are rife, of those who escaped the fire with only the clothes on their back. He turns his back on his own disheveled household, the clothes still in bundles, the pots and pans strewn on the floor. The refrigerator is plugged in, but there s no electricity. Two testy children lacking sleep and excited by all the to-do, and a four-day-old infant. Well, it s not his business to restore order here. He has a job to do, and he must not shirk it for any reason. I have two young girls, Linda and Angie, to help me out, at least, and to keep me company. I am still bleeding and can t be moving around too much. I sit on the sofa cradling the baby while the girls get busy putting things back in place. We improvise a kerosene lamp with a jelly jar and some aluminum tinfoil wrapped around a wick made of a torn cast-off cotton t-shirt. It will take some time before electricity is restored. Martial Law is in force and the ten o clock curfew drives everyone home early, including tricycles, main transport service in the streets of Tagbilaran. The streets begin emptying at nine. The older children are asleep, and the newborn lies quiet in its crib. Past curfew I begin to bleed profusely. I lie still, hoping it will pass. Fifteen minutes and the rush continues, the least movement, even a little cough, makes the blood surge, like a fully-opened faucet. My back is wet now, I can feel it, but I dare not get up. I call the girls in the eerie dark. I m bleeding, I tell them. I need to go to the hospital. The girls have a name for it. Bughat na, Manang, Linda tells me. I feel no pain, just blood passing out like an unhampered spring, soaking into the mattress. Merlie M. Alunan 153

168 Bughat gyud na, Angie agrees. They are peasant girls. This is not unusual to women in the places where they come from. It s the stress, they tell me, the fire, it was too much for you. They rush out to look for a ride. Two policemen in plain clothes, on patrol duty in a motorized tricycle, hail them for curfew violation. The girls tell them the problem, and they volunteer to take me to the hospital. They sit me in a chair and haul me, chair and all, down the stairs to the tricycle. Linda stays to take care of the two older children. Angie goes with me to the hospital, carrying the newborn. At the hospital they pack me up with gauze to staunch the bleeding. Dr. Ramiro tells me to stop breastfeeding so as to quiet the womb. The infant, used by now to the breast, refuses the bottle. My breasts are painful, swollen with milk. The hungry infant cries in his crib beside my bed. Don t worry about it, when he gets hungry enough, he ll feed, the nurse tells me. I m not dying, am I? I ask her. For I am seized with a sudden terror of death. I can t die yet, not while I have these young children to care for. You ll be fine, she assures me. It s two days before the bleeding stops. One morning I wake up hungry. My breasts are still painful, full of milk. I ask to put the baby to the breast. The infant can hardly swallow fast enough as milk rushes to fill his mouth. My breasts begin to feel lighter, less painful. I am alive, I tell myself. I will live. He comes to take us home. We pass the market place, now only charcoal and ashes on the ground. The vendors are back, plying their trade on makeshift tables beside the charred remains of the old buildings. I examine the bed when I get home. My side of the mattress is stained, a huge dark map of blood which is dry now. I turn over the mattress so I won t have to see the blood when the sheets are changed. They re wondering how they came to be with us. Did we choose them, instead of those other children running around in the neighborhood? There are now four of them. They ve seen the fourth one grow in my belly. During the pregnancy I would let them feel the fourth one kicking inside me. Now they re wondering how they came to be with us and not with Nang Miling and Noy Ed who live next door with their own brood of six. 154 Likhaan 6 Nonfiction

169 Well, would you prefer to be there? he asks. Maybe they can take on another one. Or maybe you can exchange places with Romy. We ll take him in, and you take his place. Yes, yes, send him away. I hate him. He won t give me a chance to use the bike. If he goes away, I ll have the bike to myself, says the eldest. You re a girl. Girls don t play with bikes. You just ride up in the back, and I drive. I m older. I should drive. But you won t let me. I m a boy. I can drive faster than you. You go too fast and hit all the furniture in the sala and make Mama mad. That s settled then. I ll go talk to Pareng Ed and Mareng Miling. Which of you want to go? The question stops the quarrel. The older one says: You go. You re the troublesome one. You go, I stay, the younger boy says. You re always ratting on me. You re a rat girl. Rat, rat, rat, rat girl. You decide now. I ll talk to Pareng Ed. Romy is bigger, stronger, he could help Mama in the house. So which of you goes? He stands up as if he really means to go off and make the deal. The youngest is too young to realize what s going on, but the third one, listening in on the argument, is round-eyed and speechless. He digs into his pockets and comes up with a handful of marbles. He holds it out to the baby who grabs them and throws them on the floor, chortling with glee. The quarreling pair dive to the floor to pick up the marbles, argument temporarily suspended. The third one digs out more marbles from his pocket and hands it to the baby who grabs them and promptly strews them on the floor. There s much laughing and shouting as they run after the marbles rolling all over the floor and under the chairs. The question is forgotten in the scramble to find all the marbles. Years later it comes up again, but by this time, they are a little older. Then I do not have to frame the answers. They have found, each by his or her own lights, an explanation to satisfy their need. For most things, time has the answer, if we stay on with it, that is, or if we survive long enough till life comes along with the answer. Each time a new child arrives, there s always a bit of jostling and shoving and shifting among the siblings to fit the new one in. The fifth and last child has finally arrived. Merlie M. Alunan 155

170 The territory of constant dispute is the place next to me, right, left, front, and the territory of privilege, my lap. My lap is always acknowledged to belong to the smallest and the youngest. The newborn displaces the older child who then regards it as a usurper. The usurper, to her mind, must be disposed of as quickly and as neatly as possible, say, by giving her away to the junkman who passes by the house every day in his dilapidated bike to which a sidecart had been attached, into which he loads all kinds of broken stuff for recycling. She has prepared an old plastic laundry hamper in case we finally make up our mind to get rid of the undeserving newcomer. We ve all agreed that this is probably the best way to deal with the problem. I tell her: We ll do it tomorrow. We ll talk to the junkman today so he can ask his wife. We have to make sure she s willing to take her in, you know. She nods seriously. I tell her: He can t just surprise her, you know. She has to know first, it s best that way. Not like the way we were surprised when you came. Her eyes grow large. The older kids gather close, the better to hear this interesting bit of history. One morning, when we woke up, there you were in a basket at the doorstep, fast asleep. We picked you up and took you in. You were quite a beautiful baby. There was a little note, it said, Please take care of her for me. Fairy. A fairy gave you to us. We were very happy to have you. We can t be sure if the junkman and his wife would take in this little one though. We have to ask them first. I keep watching her face as I tell this tale. Oi, oi, oi, anak sa fairy, anak sa fairy, anak sa fairy, the boys start chanting, dancing around her. She is very quiet for a while, not even reacting to the boys teasing chant. Then her face crumbles and she breaks into sobs, deep heart-rending sobbing, I feel that no one could reach in to give her comfort. The older children stop chanting, amazed at this strange event and stare at her, as she huddles in a corner. They are uncomfortable in the face of such deep and sudden sorrow. Could they be asking: If she s a fairy s child, what about us? Where did we come from? Did you also have to take us in? I put the baby in her crib and take the sobbing child in my arms. It s all right. Don t cry. You re my very own sweet child. Stop crying now. It s a long time before she is quiet in my arms. I rock her gently, and she falls asleep. It s late afternoon when she wakes up. We don t mention anything about the fairy or the junkman all through supper and bedtime, not even 156 Likhaan 6 Nonfiction

171 to make a joke. The next morning right on schedule, just as we are sitting down to breakfast, we hear the junkman call out, Booootilya, puthaw, plastic, diyaryo, in his inimitable singsong. Every one turns to me as the junkman s call gets nearer. She too turns her head to the voice outside the gate and looks at me. We re not giving anyone away, I assure her. Everyone breathes easily. Oh yes, he says, we re keeping everyone. Unless, maybe, one of you wants to go Everyone smiles and shakes his head. The fairy girl smiles and bites into her bread. When the baby cries in the other room, she runs off to check on her. Don t cry. We re not giving you away, I hear her telling the little one. We re keeping you too. So we keep all of them, for as long as it takes. They grow up, jostling and shoving and pushing each other to make a better fit, for themselves and for one another, taking up or yielding spaces, making room or crowding out one another in a house that s quickly becoming too small for their growing bodies, staking his or her own claims on the family that s already turning out to be too small and dull and tame for their expanding wits and burgeoning powers. Soon even the littlest one outgrows my lap and has to be let off to her own adventures. It s all mostly about letting go, one discovers in a lifetime of living. One grieves for the tiny pieces of self, torn in an agony of blood and pain from one s body at birth. I have no right to say what men feel as they wait for the little miracle. My own experience cannot be a gauge, my own observations, this sense that since this little event takes place outside men s bodies, they are not really involved in it, they are only lookers on, waiting. These are my own private thoughts, forced by my own experiences. They explain, to me at least, why, while the birthing goes through its stages, men can do many other things that have nothing to do with it like talk politics, fight wars, sell warehouses of detergent bars, or talk to a client over coffee in a coffee shop where the temperature, the light, the music are carefully combined and modulated for optimum comfort and civility. Men wait out the birth process, discovering for themselves various strategies of indifference, for any reason, but mostly, perhaps, to escape the unavoidable anxieties and guilt. Merlie M. Alunan 157

172 Birth, whether it takes place in the aseptic environment of a hospital or a lying-in clinic, attended by a host of health care givers, or in a farmer s dark shanty, lighted by a kerosene lamp with only a palter in assistance and an assortment of women relatives to provide comfort and help, is essentially a woman s job to do alone. It is a primitive, starkly animal process, in which for the rarest time in her life, she does nothing but focus on the most basic life processes, breathing, listening to the rhythms of her body, the pulsing of her muscles, attending to every signal it gives, until that one ultimate uterine spasm rises, demanding her fullest, most total involvement, an intense screaming moment when the beast in her blood takes over, propelled into being by the purest pain, so completely beyond her will, beyond memory, the wildest, deepest, most intense, most magnificent orgasm of all. Still, when it s done, there s no glory in it, despite what they tell you in most religious tracts about birth and motherhood. When the milk begins to flow and one s breasts engorge in the eager flood of animal blood, and your nipples grow sore from the endless suckling as the infant begins to feed seriously, it is just one cycle of ache and pain and soreness. It ll be better soon, everyone tells you, the old palter, your own mother, your neighbor who has a passel of children running around in the streets. Everyone urges you, It s going to be fine soon, that s just in the beginning. So I wait for when things will indeed be better, but they never do, going from day to day trying to redefine a new center of gravity with an emptied womb and overfull breasts, smelling of milk and sweat, grabbing sleep whenever I can, as I become, in this new state of being, an absolute slave to an animal I had helped bring into the world, and to whom I am obligated for as long as it takes, until it s able to find its own place in the sun. No, there s no glory in it, I will tell any woman who believes motherhood is her ultimate destiny and who thinks that if she fails to become one, her life will not be meaningful enough. Part of me becomes a distanced uninvolved observer, watching that other part that s going through all the motions of mother care, her day absorbed by the routines of feeding, cleansing, diaper change, putting the infant to sleep, worrying about mosquitoes, witches, and such, who might catch this helpless infant unguarded and inoculate it with all kinds of diseases and unnameable evils which she (I) am helpless to ward off doing all these in absolute surrender of all else I might be, or want to do, an impeccable dam to her whelp, if I might say so myself. Except for that watchful half of me with its own tab of reminders. Hey, this is no way to live; your brain will turn into putty if you go on this way; 158 Likhaan 6 Nonfiction

173 you can t be doing this all your life; how long can you put up with this ad nauseam, ad infinitum. The watching half of me complains and scolds, angry and resentful for the time and space it has lost to this selfish demanding little beast that all infants are, jealous and envious of all the attention it takes for granted as its inviolable right. At the same time, I feel guilty over the grudge I keep well out of sight, out of the face I show to the world, out of my touch, out of my voice when I talk to this helpless, needy little tyrant, asking to be fed or changed, or warmed, for whom I believe I am ready to die, should it ever be necessary to do so for its life, despite. So it goes on. I go through this process five times in my life, all within a ten-year period. There is no reason for it, except that it just happened. And still, things do not become better, birth after birth, child after child. Sometimes it is simply enough to be without of pain, or to have a night of uninterrupted sleep. Or to have a little time to be alone to think my own thoughts, without anyone of them showing up with a scraped knee, a smudged face, a running nose. The self has fractured into as many parts as there are living children torn out of my flesh, the unitary solidity of my life has fragmented into each child, each fragment holding on to a piece of my heart with the cunning and insatiable greed of children. It has become entirely impossible to be apart and whole within the mere bounds of my own skin. They are very cagey, they are quick to know I m there, or not there, eagerly grabbing me back every time I make the slightest move, always intent to keep me within the reach of their little hands, their little arms, their call. Despite the ironical other half of me that s holding back from being completely absorbed, they become a habit I can t beat, a habit I pick up from everyone of them, sustained, my ironical self tells you, by a mere illusion, the illusion of their need. They re good at sustaining that illusion too. One day, the three-year old youngest tells me: When I grow up, I ll travel all over the world. That s great! You ll be coming along, wherever I go, she announces with conviction. I d like that very much. But I m afraid I ll be too old by then. I may not even be able to walk. We ll get you a wheelchair. Where does she get this wisdom of hers, all three feet of her and only four years old. Around the world in a wheelchair? Wow! I don t pit my wisdom against hers. I ll push you. I ll be big by then. Sure, honey. Merlie M. Alunan 159

174 Her illusion that she will need me by her side forever despite my straining, stressful, uncomfortable, uneasy, ungracious, guilt-ridden motherhood I have wished for this to be true. But of course she won t need me that long, none of them will, the observer part of me says with emphatic irony. Children never do, she tells me relentlessly, it s one of the ground rules; you had better note that, let go when the time comes. Look out for that, when they ll be on their own. You must practice when, and how. You owe it to them. And you owe it to yourself. In the long run, you see, what it s all about is letting go. Yes, yes, yes. Do they quarrel like this all the time? She grew up as an only child. I don t blame her. She s my houseguest, forced to share a room with four young kids. She s been listening to the kids arguing all morning, and she must be quite tired of it. With tooth and nail, I assure her. They shout and scream and kick each other from room to room. Impossible to stop them once they re started. And what do you do? She s genuinely worried, turning to the rambunctious argument going on. Just listen. And try to keep out of it. What if One s right and the other is wrong? Yeah. Or one s bigger and stronger and bullies the smaller one? You got to teach the small one to stand up for herself, so you try not to take sides. And about being right or wrong, you can t rule about that all the time, you know. Sometimes they re both right, and both wrong, both all at the same time. They ll try outshouting each other. You just plug your ears so the noise won t get to you. Like now? Like now. You don t stop them? They ll stop themselves after a while. When one gives in. Or the other gets tired, or gets his way. Or something else distracts them. They get to settle their own issues if you leave them alone. There must be some ground rules. There s a ground rule, yes. Don t get physical, that s all. Once they start clawing at each other, separate them and let them cool off in different parts of the house. 160 Likhaan 6 Nonfiction

175 So they do become physical sometimes? Even babes go physical, they throw things, they hit you in the eyes with their little fists, they bang their own head on the wall to get attention, things like that. But it s still a good ground rule, sure. You just see to it that it s obeyed. You sort of grow eyes all over your head so you can see behind your back without actually turning your head. You become a wireless receiver to detect everything that s going on while they re playing in the other room, or when they re suddenly very quiet. You re watchful but not actually watching, that sort of thing. How d you know your ground rule works? Oh, I don t know. It must work, or else they could have killed each other already. At least as you can see, they re still alive, no one is blind, no one has lost a limb, and they re quarreling almost every hour of the day. Oh, I have other ground rules, but they re more for me than for them. Ground rules for you? Yeah. For instance, don t lie to the children. Don t play tricks to get your way. If the medicine is evil-tasting, tell them so. If an injection is going to hurt, don t deceive them by saying it won t. Because if it does, you re teaching them it s okay to put one over someone else to get your way. It won t be long before they ll be putting one over you to get their own way. If they can t go where you re going, go out of the front door, don t steal out of the back, just so they won t cry when you leave. Of course you ve to tell them why they can t come. If they cry and protest, just let them, they ll stop soon enough. It s okay to let them cry. If you punish them and they cry, that s okay. If they cry because you re going somewhere without them, that s okay. At least they know what s going on. You can even tell them, You can cry if you want, but you re still not going. Then they can t use crying as a tool to get their way. That simple? No, no, not that simple. It s simpler to lie to them, you get an easy way out. By telling them what s what, you have to deal with the crying, you know, the sulking, the tantrums. So inconvenient, so messy. Like when a kid wants you to buy him a toy but you won t, so he screams and jumps about and rolls on the sidewalk, crying fit to bring the sky down on your head. Just stand by till he gets over it. He ll get over it. Of course people will stare, and that s what forces some moms and dads to give in the embarrassment of an intractable child cutting up a tantrum on the sidewalk. It s okay, you re not beating him up or anything like that. He s just letting off steam. When it s all out of him, he ll stop screaming. You could brush him off a bit when he s done and then Merlie M. Alunan 161

176 you can go on your way. No need to scold. A cone of ice cream at this point wouldn t be a bad idea, and you can tell him why he can t have the toy. They get over this stage, you know, and you ll both survive it. You will, he will, I assure you. What if you tell him, Hala, see that policeman over there? He ll get angry and put you in jail. You better stop crying now, or else Keep the policeman out. The issue s between you and him. He s badgering you to do something you don t want to do. It s a minor blackmail Buy me my toy or else I ll do something embarrassing And the policeman, who might be a father himself, will probably advice you to buy the thingamajig, for heaven s sake, to keep the peace. That would weaken your moral position. You make them sound like little devils. Kids can t be like that. She tries to smile. Oh yes, they are. Little devils, barbarians, villains, blackmailers, thieves, bullies, manipulators name it, they re all these things. It s their second nature. They re born to think the world revolves around them. It s their natural survival equipment. We adults pander to them because we re predisposed to think of them too as helpless, innocent, sinless little angels. It s in our nature to think of them this way, or else, how can we stand them. Well, I suppose they are that, up to a point. Soon enough they find out that if they cry, food comes, or a change of nappies, or someone picks them up to amuse them. So they ll be crying more often to get attention. That s the end of the angelic stage. Weaning involves more than taking away the breast or the bottle. It also involves letting them realize you won t be dancing attendance to them all the time. Understanding human rights begins in the cradle, I d say. And it s bloody tough getting kids to realize this. She s getting uncomfortable. She comes out with the handiest weapon she can find. You don t like kids much, do you? she accuses me. End of conversation. Maybe she s right. I don t like kids much. I never did, not even my own. I don t go around now proclaiming enthusiasm for other people s children, or for children in general, no matter how cute they are. Children are not picture postcards to be admired for their cuteness. On the other hand, children don t seem to like me much either. That s fine. But I respect kids a lot. I ve tremendous sympathy for their state of being. It s awful to be a kid and to have to learn all those life lessons at the time when all you want to do is gorge on junk food, play with your Game Boy, 162 Likhaan 6 Nonfiction

177 watch television all hours of the day, sleep when you want, go out slumming, go anywhere you want and go home anytime, get as dirty as you could be and not have to be forced to take a bath. Or to have the biggest appetite in the world and to be hungry because one s parents are too poor, or too unfortunate, or too lazy to provide for one s needs and there is nothing you can do about it because you re just a kid. Civilization is a tough thing to assimilate in the all too brief years of childhood cleanliness, good manners, good speech, respect for others, respect for one self, earning one s keep, industry, diligence and perseverance, responsibility for one s actions, humility, honor, confidence. Civilization a big word, even for us adults. Raising children is initiating them into human civilization. Anyway, that s where this long complicated process begins, that s what I think. The thieves in high office, the ones that bring this country to shame time and again and suck the lifeblood of this nation are children who haven t learned what civilization s all about. Somewhere in the background must be some mothers who loved their children so well, they can only think to indulge every wish of the stomach, every little whim, stoking without their knowing it, the insatiable natural greed that knows no limits and is beyond satisfaction. Thus they might leave kindergarten and become grown men and women, but remain infantile as far as their humanity is concerned. What about fathers, you might ask? Why blame only the mothers? Because in this country the mothers or their surrogates are the constant presence in almost every child s life and hence, are the prime suspects for the kind of character that children develop over the years. Fathers on the other hand are either absent or do not participate in the rearing process. They re spared from blame by default. On the other hand, perhaps this too, is part of the problem. But this is something for fathers to think about. All I can say is I ve done my best for my own kids. Whether I ve done well by them or not, I don t know. Times I think I could have done more, or better. If I had more money, if I had more time, if I had more patience, more kindness, more generosity, more energy than I could muster these thoughts nag my conscience the whole time I am raising them. The ifs continue to grate in my conscience even now. But all the five are grown up now. As far as I know, none of them seems to hold any major grudges for their upbringing. If they can forgive me my mistakes, I tell myself, why shouldn t I forgive myself? Merlie M. Alunan 163

178 I ve nothing great to say about it, as anyone can see. Much of what remains, as far as I m concerned, are memories. Not many of these memories are happy ones. No one really wants to listen to these memories, not even the child about whom they are, mainly because the child is grown now, and is apt to say: How tacky it is for Mom to talk about what s over and done with. All those things are natural with children and mothers, they tell me; they are to be expected, it happens to everyone. How correct they are, how silly, indeed, it is to be raking up these useless memories. But it s also true that as one grows older, one loses the right even to one s memories, as other imperatives overtake us. You have it all wrong, someone s bound to tell you. Come on, it couldn t have been that bad, one of them might chide me. Or another one would say: Well, it s done with. It s over and you did a great job, dismissively. What s the point in hauling up the past over and over till one sounds like a broken vinyl record? There s more than enough in the present to keep us occupied. Or, devastatingly: Enough of that drama. You can t dwell on that forever. I keep hearing these things until I too lose my own particular perspective. I am ashamed to consider that indeed I may be remembering the wrong things, or have the wrong view about them; or I m not cool enough; I keep dredging these messy things up when I should just let them pass as they deserve. Why should I even indulge in remembering anything at all? they ask me, hey, can t you just leave all that behind? Aren t things better now? For you, for us Afterall, I ve no great thoughts about this business called motherhood. I have only my memories, sticky, smelling of blood, sweat and milk, awkward, throbbing with the spasms of birth, sore breasts, the inevitable wound in one s center, the room, the sheets, the pillows smelling of pee, no matter how much you air the beddings or dry them in the sun. What about sleepless nights walking a sick child? Oh, surely there are good things to remember too, they tell me, why do you remember only the bad? They re not bad, I should tell them. I should let them know they re what bind us to each other, or at least, they re what bind me to each one of them, all of you, I should say, right here in my heart, in my mind. But their memories are different from mine. They can t follow me into my own labyrinth. Yes, yes, yes, I agree with them. Flesh torn from my body they might be, but this I know at every moment of birth, the very second they start breathing 164 Likhaan 6 Nonfiction

179 on their own, and helpless as they are, already brawling and squalling for what they need food, warmth, arms to hold them and give them comfort they ve won from me and from the universe their freedom to be. I know what they re asking from me now the last gesture, the final act. To let go now, if I can, even of the memories. Let go, or else, how will they get on with living? Yes, yes, yes. Merlie M. Alunan 165

180 Traversing Fiction and Nonfiction in Travel Writing Vicente Garcia Groyon In 2009, I received an offer for a rather strange commission. The Instituto Cervantes in Manila was planning to commemorate the centenary of the Spanish poet Miguel Hernandez the following year, and wanted to send three Filipino writers to Spain to visit the places in which Hernandez had lived and worked during his short life, and to each write a travel essay about the experience. I call it a strange commission because it seemed, and still seems, a rather roundabout way of memorializing a poet s life and work. One would imagine that a centenary edition of his poetry, accompanied by scholarly essays by Hernandiano experts, would have been more apt. Still, I had never been to Spain, and I embrace any opportunity to travel, so I accepted the project and, after a flurry of preparations, found myself en route to Madrid. It was only when I was finally there that it sank in just how unprepared I was for this endeavor. I spoke very little Spanish, could read even less, and knew next to no one in Spain. I had done some preliminary research into my purported topics, but even then was stymied by the scope of the assignment. Was I to focus on Hernandez and his troubled life? Or was I to concentrate on the country? Or should I use Hernandez s poetry as a lens through which to view Spain? I have no claims to being a travel writer. Up to that point I had written only fiction and the odd feature article or two about smaller places restaurants, resorts, cities never an entire country. Still, I accepted the task with a degree of cockiness, believing, with my fiction writer s bias, that if one can write a decent story, then one can write anything. The relationship between fiction and nonfiction is, I believe, that of conjoined twins. Forever attached to each other, sharing vital organs and bodily fluids, and living the same life. Well-meaning society-at-large, hellbent on an orderly taxonomy, would prefer that the twins be separated so 166

181 each can function autonomously, with their own individual identities, but to me, it seems physiologically impossible. The recent to-dos about the fictiveness of certain books and films presented as nonfiction, most famous being the scandal of James Frey and A Million Little Pieces (2003), indicate how far we have come from journalist Daniel Defoe, whose realistic novels claimed to be true stories, the better to boost credibility and, therefore, respectability, in an age when romance had become a debased and derided form of reading material. Further back, conquistadors embellished their logs and journals with fantastical details, to bolster support for their expensive expeditions. Miguel de Cervantes pretended, as did many of the writers of his time, that his Quixote was a mere translation of a found manuscript, and repositioned the border between fiction and reality by showing his heroes responding to a world that had read about them in the best-selling first volume and now treated them as celebrities of a sort. In medieval Japan, travel journals were stylized to produce deliberate and specific emotional effects, and autobiographies were presented and read as novels, the precursors of the still popular I-novels. Real-life stories of crime and passion were written down and read as sensational potboilers. If we proceed further to the beginnings of narrative, how many of the epic writers believed that they were writing histories for the future generations of their societies? In a more recent era, the advent of the New Journalism in the United States saw nonfiction writers blurring the boundaries between fiction and nonfiction, as in Truman Capote s nonfiction novel In Cold Blood (1966), yet even Capote s invented genre maintains the separateness of the two categories, one merely qualifying the other. These days, the idea of multiple truths arising from multiple subjectivities has gained comfortable purchase in mainstream thought, and we are used to seeing the world as a large gray area. Once reality is filtered or curated by an individual consciousness, what results is a mere version of reality a fiction, no matter how close to the truth it comes. As a fiction writer, I often deal with readers seeking to confirm that events in my fictions actually happened, and if they actually happened to me. Readers are all too willing to believe the veracity of something that they ve read: there is a pleasurable frisson in the certitude that this really happened, which accounts for the success of even the most banal biographies, memoirs, or histories. Realism is the point where fiction and nonfiction are joined. It is the union of history and romance, and their children carry their mixed DNA blissfully unmindful of the contradiction. Vicente Garcia Groyon 167

182 Writing students are usually taught the value of precise, concrete language, the better to render reality with fidelity and accuracy on the page. In fiction, this skill finds its way into description the hallmark of realism, which strives to create in words an unimpeachable illusion of reality. Nonfiction writers are taught to use the techniques and tricks of fiction, the better to make the reality they are documenting come alive. The slippery notions of truth, veracity, and factuality are all that separate these genres of writing, as well as each writer s degrees of commitment to honesty and objectivity. However, I don t believe readers are yet ready to take down the boundaries, and writers find that there are advantages, as well as pitfalls, to having permeable boundaries between these genres, as I discovered while working on the commission. When I took on the travel essay assignment, I did so as a naïf. While I had read a fair amount of travel literature over the years, I hadn t a clue how to actually write a travel essay, nor could I sense what the finished essay would be like, or what it would be about. Still, I gamely put my best foot forward, and landed in Spain with my senses on red alert, ready to absorb the experience as fully as I could. I had two weeks and a limited amount of funding, which accounts for the frantic urgency with which I initially approached the assignment. Just how much Spain could I take in, given my time and resources? Not a lot, as it turned out. Through my research, I had decided to limit the range of my tramping to Madrid, where Hernandez had spent several years as a rising literary star and an ardent freedom fighter in the Guerra Civil; to Orihuela, the small city in the Valencia region where he grew up and which figures prominently in his poetry; and to Alicante, where he died and is buried. Packing too much into my itinerary would have reduced the country into a meaningless blur. In Madrid I would meet with writers and scholars who had studied Hernandez, to obtain leads on the Spain of Miguel Hernandez, and in Orihuela I would be hosted by two Hernandiano experts who would tour me around the city and answer any questions I might have. I had also been advised to avoid the clichés of Spain the bullfight and flamenco, in particular in favor of getting at something more real, whatever that was. I had read and enjoyed Sir V. S. Pritchett s The Spanish Temper (1954), a revered English perspective on Spain, supposedly instrumental in shaping the image of Spain for America and England, as well as Ernest Hemingway s For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940), which was set during the period of Miguel 168 Likhaan 6 Nonfiction

183 Hernandez s guerrilla career. Yet, finding myself in Spain for real, at last, I realized that I needed to find and shape my own perspective on the country, if I was to write about it at all. This proved quite tricky and fraught with hidden landmines. The Philippines was a colony of Spain for three centuries, and continues to bear the name of the most significant monarch of the Siglo de Oro. While the Philippine Revolution against Spain is much too distant to have any tangible impact on someone of my generation, my nationalist historical education has tended to cast Spain as the oppressive empire from which we had to fight to liberate ourselves. All Filipino students are required by law to read the two novels of National Hero Jose Rizal (Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo), neither of which cast Spain or Spaniards in a favorable light. It didn t help that Rizal was executed for treason and subversion against the Spanish crown. Spanish language courses, long a requirement of collegiate education, were finally stricken by law from the curriculum, symbolically shutting the door on our colonial past and ensuring that when I arrived in Spain, I would have to carry a phrasebook and dictionary with me at all times. Although my relationship with Spain is largely secondhand, I harbor a received resentment of the former colonizer. It is a resentment that I am aware of, having felt it bubble up in the wake of an insensitive remark or gesture from Spaniards I have encountered, but I had never had to confront it directly. I felt that using this lens as I worked on this project would be akin to biting the hand that bought my plane ticket and paid my hotel bills, and yet I felt I had to remain loyal to my countrymen. On the other hand, I had jumped greedily at the chance to see Spain at another s expense, so I was somewhat beholden. This was the nature of the raging inferiority complex that beset me as I took in the wonders of Madrid for the first time. I was overly polite and meek, shunning human contact unless absolutely necessary, gaping quietly as the unfamiliar sights. In hindsight, this state of mind is readily apparent in the photos I took in Madrid. I fixated on the grand, large edifices, taking them in from a distance, forever looking up at things, as if I had been reduced to a tiny insect on the sidewalk. In the finished essay, I wrote: In Madrid, it seems clear, even obvious, that such a country could have wanted to rule the world, steadily acquiring half of it, imposing its gargantuan will and its power over nations too weak or clueless to defend themselves. Madrid throbs with pride and confidence, its magnificent Vicente Garcia Groyon 169

184 buildings shouting Look at me. Everything seems designed to be seen from a distance, and strangers are kept at a distance. The more I thought about the assignment, the stranger it became. Not only did I have to convey my first impressions of an unfamiliar place, but I also needed to consider it alongside its historical existence in the 1920s and 30s, as well as filter it through the sensibility of a long-dead poet. I grappled with the assignment the whole time I was in Spain and for several months after, as I labored to complete the essay. To begin with, approaching a place with an assignment in mind already colors the experience, eliminating any aspirations to objectivity one might hold at the onset of traveling. I planned my itinerary with my purpose in mind, and as I traveled about, I mentally categorized things as useful to the project, and therefore worth a closer look, or not. I blinkered myself quite effectively, leaving me with the niggling feeling that I was only experiencing a small fraction of what Spain had to offer. For instance, in my relentless pursuit of the ghost of Miguel Hernandez, I completely forgot about an aspect of Madrid that was closer to home and would have excited me to no end had I remembered the city had once been the stomping grounds of several 19th-century Filipinos who went there to study and returned home to lead the Philippine Revolution against Spain. Many of their haunts still stand in the old quarter of the city, as well as a few memorials and markers, all of which I realized I must have passed on one of my rambles. Undoubtedly, my impressions of Spain would have been quite different had I gone in cold, so to speak, without an articulated agenda, and I wonder what sort of essay I might have written had I done so. I recognize that a travel writer is never objective in a sense, all travel writing is simply the story of a consciousness, a sensibility, moving through a place and an experience, whether or not this entity chooses to reveal itself as an explicit I in the narrative. In my case, my I was a newcomer, an outsider unfamiliar with the country, and bearing various other signifiers: Filipino, fiction writer, 21stcentury participant-observer. I initially resisted the role, wanting to place the subject matter front and center in my essay, but I quickly realized the futility of such a strategy. Given all the material that has been written about Spain, my own contribution would be insignificant if I did not infuse it with that which only I could contribute to the subject: my own personal, biased perspective. Thus it would not matter if I ended up writing about Spanish clichés, because the clichés would at least have been experienced by and through me. 170 Likhaan 6 Nonfiction

185 Embracing this released me from another burden that of knowledgeability. Readers often look to travel writing for information, and in this framework, the travel writer is expected to be an authority, able to provide facts to explain his observations. This was, to me, the most daunting aspect of the assignment having to know enough about Spain to write about it credibly. The limitations of my self and my travel would undermine all my efforts if I chose to write the essay as an authority on the country. I saw that if I was to write about the subject truthfully, I needed to become an explicit presence in the essay, and to make it my story of my trip to Spain. Thus, acknowledging the narrative underpinnings of my assignment, I finally found myself on familiar ground. On my third day in Spain, in a train hurtling across the plains of La Mancha en route to the Eastern coast, I allowed myself to relax, to stop worrying about what I needed to think about what I was experiencing, and allow sensation and impression to land and take root as they normally would. To a large extent, my itinerary had already been mapped out by Hernandez s life, so all I needed to do was follow it. The train ride afforded me several hours of idle time, and I was able to take notes continuously in my seat, of the names of stations, the changes in scenery. Would that travel writers could work in this way, ensconced behind glass in a comfortable chair with a convenient tray to write on. But most of the time, to travel is to move constantly, with very little time to sit in the reflective mood necessary to produce coherent writing. This has led me to wonder how much travel writing emerges from the unreliable workings of memory, which creates its own fictions. A detail is selected for retention while one is discarded, often unconsciously. Just how factual did I have to be? Which brings me to another roadblock: I m a terrible note-taker. On my previous travels, I have tried to be an assiduous journalist, recording my trip with as much accuracy as I can muster in a travel diary. As with my other attempts at keeping journals, the contents of my Spain diary are typical: an outburst of words and details the first few days, and then the frequency of writing gradually dwindles, to be replaced by scrapbook-style pages covered with ticket stubs, receipts, cards, mementos, pressed leaves and flowers markers of significant events or stops on the journey that might or might not trigger memories. And then, finally, just lists inventories of events and places assembled from memory after I had returned home. When I have a camera with me, my journal is supplemented and then supplanted by the photos I take to document my trip visually. Usually, when I know that I will only have a limited amount of time in a certain place, I take Vicente Garcia Groyon 171

186 photos frantically, foregoing a direct immersion, hoping that I will be able to re-experience the place vicariously through my photographs. As it happened, the longest part of my trip, some eight days, were spent in Miguel Hernandez s birthplace and the site of his youth. He returned constantly to Orihuela, drawing on it for inspiration and imagery, and it was small enough to explore thoroughly and in a more leisurely fashion. The company of the Hernandiano experts allowed the city to come alive in my imagination and contributed immensely to my historical research. I sat in the backyard of Hernandez s well-preserved ancestral home, leafing through a collection of his poems. I retraced his steps around town to where he had studied and worked, the street corner where he slipped his wifeto-be a sonnet. Orihuela retains the air of the medieval about it, and it was not difficult to drop back in time and gain a sense of the world as the young Hernandez might have known it. Madrid, with its size and noise, seemed worlds away from this enclave. Inevitably, as I reconstructed Hernandez s youth, I reluctantly drew parallels between my subject and myself our writerly ambitions, our smalltown origins, our eventual migration to the capital to pursue our dreams. I say reluctantly because I was still unwilling to put so much of myself into my essay, still hoping to efface myself and retain the focus on the poet and his country. But I felt that I had arrived at the most feasible route to my quarry, perhaps the only one, given my limitations. The breakthrough came when I visited one of Hernandez s favorite haunts. This part of my trip remains the highlight not only for its unexpected wonders, but also for its revelations. Orihuela lies nestled in the crook of a mountain range, bounded by a river. Its strategic location led Moorish invaders to build a castle fortress atop the mountain, with walls that snaked down the slopes to enclose the city in a protective embrace. On a plateau halfway up the mountain, they built a mosque, since razed and a Catholic seminary built on its ruins. Portions of El Castillo and the walls still stand, and it takes a mere half-hour hike up rocky inclines to attain the summit and an excellent view of the surrounding plains. From the top of the peak, one sees a sweeping panorama of Orihuela, both the old section and the newer districts across the river. To the west, the mountain range continues to the neighboring city. To the east, the ocean glitters in the distance. To the north and south, the plains stretch away to meet other mountain ranges and hills. 172 Likhaan 6 Nonfiction

187 It s said that Hernandez liked to stay on the mountain, where he could read to his heart s content while tending his father s goats and sheep. One of the few photographs of him smiling shows him sitting on one of the rocks of the fortress, gazing down. I recalled too that the seminary below had served as a prison during the Guerra Civil, one of the twelve that Hernandez was incarcerated in during his last years. To be held in the darkness of a Franco jail within sight and earshot of his beloved hometown must have been the most exquisite torture for Miguel. As I stood on the peak, the dawn mist lifted and the city came to life as the sun rose. An odd acoustic effect made the city far below sound extremely close. The sounds of traffic, schoolchildren, market vendors, television sets, and radios wafted up to me on the breeze. I spread my arms to measure the breadth of Orihuela and found that it fit comfortably into a relaxed embrace. Then the bells of the thirty-three churches in the city began to toll the hour, and in that moment I felt I had come to a kind of ineffable understanding of Miguel s relationship with the city of his birth and why it figured so prominently in his writing. Although I was hard-pressed to articulate my epiphany at the time, I was aware that I had stumbled upon the organizing element of the essay I had to write. Almost immediately, the details of my trip thus far were rearranged in my memory into the beginnings of a structure, and all my subsequent experiences in Spain would be fitted into this armature. I had finally begun to fictionalize. Storytelling is a sense-making process. The act of narration proceeds in tandem with that of understanding, sometimes even preceding it, as when clarity descends only after one has shared the details of a confusing or distressing experience with a close friend. 1 Because I was no expert on Spain and had no hope of becoming one after a mere fortnight in the country, I realized I had to frame my essay as the story of my search for Miguel Hernandez; and isn t the quest narrative (cf. Joseph Campbell) really the only story one can tell? This gave my essay its ultimate shape, and guided the decisions I later had to make regarding structure. I had to deal with two sequences of events that of Miguel Hernandez s life and progress through Spain, and that of my own trip and they did not align. I had begun, and ended, in Madrid, where Hernandez had spent part of his adulthood, before proceeding to his hometown, and fitting in a day trip to the city of his death and burial, Alicante. Vicente Garcia Groyon 173

188 Furthermore, I had decided that my epiphany on the mountain would function as the climax of my quest, as this was the point when I felt that my search had ended. Given the disparities, I needed to bend the facts of my trip and rearrange the sequence of my itinerary to generate some semblance of rising action that could build up to the climax in Aristotelian fashion. The adoption of a dramatic structure for a piece of nonfiction seemed perfectly natural to me the most satisfying essays I had read intensified to a high point towards the end, usually through accumulation of information, or at the very least used a punchline of sorts to provide closure. The problem of how to manage a truthful rearrangement of my itinerary was resolved when I considered the matter of point of view. In fiction, although point of view is usually classified as either 1st-, 2nd-, or 3rd-person, it really is all in 1st person the storyteller s position and the variations arise from the extent to which the narrator makes himself an explicit presence in the narration. In reality, I worked on the essay from June to October of 2009, looking back at the events of my trip first from the Philippines, then the United States. A biographer or memoirist looking back on history will usually use chronology as an organizing principle, but the most compelling storytellers know that this need not always be the recourse. Because I was no longer narrating as I experienced the trip, but from a distance of time as well as space, I was free to allow my mind to shuttle back and forth across chronological time, using my consciousness moving through memory to generate the thread of my narrative. Although I am no great fan of Proust, I am indebted to the nonlinear blossoming of memory into story that he made famous. The finished essay thus moves from memory to memory as the narrating I recounts the quest for Miguel Hernandez through contemporary Spain. The narrating I digresses into opinion, biography, history, and literary criticism along the way, drawing together the disparate aspects of the assignment, coaxing them into the chosen structure. As in fiction writing, nonfiction makes use of three modes of narration: summary, description, and scene. The functions of summary and description in essays are straightforward and familiar enough, but in a piece of fiction, these modes represent the dull bits. Summary is generally used to speed through stretches of story time during which nothing is happening, and description is akin to hitting the pause button on a video player, freezing action and halting momentum to examine in detail. Scenes, in comparison, slow down the narration enough to render a scene beat by beat, but maintain 174 Likhaan 6 Nonfiction

189 momentum by delivering the event as it happens, imbuing it with immediacy. To make my experience of Spain come alive on the page, I needed to render certain incidents as scenes, but in doing so I needed to walk the line between fiction and nonfiction again. Using an old storyteller s trick, I begin the essay with my trip to the nearby city of Alicante to visit the tomb of Miguel Hernandez the chronological end of Hernandez s life, the midpoint of my trip, and the falling action of my quest narrative. A train ride and a bus ride took me outside city limits to the Cementerio Municipal Nuestra Señora del Remedio. My poor understanding of Spanish led me to Hernandez s old tomb really just a niche among many, in a wall among many, like condominiums for the dead. I had bought some roses from a florist outside the cemetery, and laid them on the ledge of the niche, which oddly had no marker, just the words Miguel Hernandez Poeta scratched into the cement. I found it terribly undignified, and a quick phone call to one of my guides in Orihuela corrected my error. I retrieved my roses and found the correct tomb in a small fenced-in memorial that I had passed earlier. None of this made it into the essay, although this was what really happened. I had no desire to highlight my ineptitude and call attention to my taking back of my floral offering, or my solemnities at an empty grave. I do mention the former resting place, but only to compare it to the more appropriate memorial. There was also the problem of pacing taking my reader through the entire laborious process would have taxed their patience, since I needed to get to the point. Clearly, a certain amount of selection and glossing over was called for, but I could not help feeling pangs of guilt at betraying reality. At the tomb, I was approached by an elderly woman who wanted to see what I was photographing so avidly. She recognized the name of Miguel Hernandez and began to speak to me in rapid-fire Spanish which I could not follow. I m not quite sure why, but I pretended to understand her and offered a variety of nods, smiles, neutral grunts, and sighs to indicate I was listening. She might have noticed my dissemblance; I ll never know. I was struck, however, by the passion she showed upon recognizing Hernandez. She appeared familiar with him and lingered to read the poetry inscribed on the memorial aloud. I realized I needed to include this encounter in my essay without sacrificing the air of confident authority that I had to establish as the travel writer. This is how I ended up rendering the scene: Vicente Garcia Groyon 175

190 As I stand there regarding the tomb in silence, a lady in a pink tailored suit, stooped with age, her hair silvered by the years, passes by, carrying a bucket of water. She sets the bucket down to rest and looks at me curiously, and then at the tomb. Ah, Miguel Hernández, el poeta, she exclaims, gesturing at the tomb. Caught off-guard, and failing to muster the little Spanish I know, I can only murmur a faint Sí. She begins speaking rapidly, her hands waving in the air, half to me, and half to the world in general. I compose my features in an expression of attentiveness and nod from time to time. I haven t the heart to tell her No hablo español, guessing that it s unlikely that she can speak in English. I have no idea what she s saying, but the tone of her voice suggests recognition and rue. Finally she falls silent and we contemplate the tomb together. She reads the poetry inscribed on the tomb aloud, haltingly, as though testing how the words feel in her mouth. Libre soy. Siénteme libre. / Sólo por amor. 2 Absorbing the words meaning, she repeats the lines, and they become her own. She makes another rueful noise, smiles at me, and continues on her way, still talking and gesticulating with her free hand. Not quite the whole truth, and perhaps I had been unfair to load a chance, casual encounter with as much significance as I did. However, I felt that my dramatization had arrived at a kind of truth, one that was necessary to my essay. There was no one else near us at the time, and what were the chances of this woman happening upon my essay, reading it, and contesting my version of events? I felt that I would be safe from accusations of falsification, and yet the deliberate liberties I took with reality continued to bother me, more than my rearrangement of chronology. I recalled the infamous story of Janet Cooke, who fabricated a Pulitzer-Prize-winning story for the Washington Post in 1980 and was forced to return the prize and resign in shame. I imagined how I would react to being censured by Oprah on a live television show. And yet my decision seemed correct. I had taken some creative license to make myself look less foolish and to streamline my essay, but it did not feel dishonest. I wasn t writing news, or history, and biographers have been known to insert full-blown scenes into their accounts, complete with quoted dialogue, where they would have had no way of knowing or recording what had actually been said or done. Truman Capote and Norman Mailer had taken far greater liberties in their own fiction-nonfiction hybrids. 176 Likhaan 6 Nonfiction

191 James Frey claimed that his publisher had slapped the word memoir on a novel. It both matters and doesn t matter at the same time. Perhaps it is a problem of labeling, of representation, and yet the boundary between fiction and nonfiction continues to stand and continues to be taken seriously by readers, even as writers pass back and forth freely and, perhaps, surreptitiously. It is a boundary that is constantly negotiated with each new piece of writing, and is perhaps just as fictional as the stories it polices. Notes 1. For a detailed discussion of narration as sense-making, see Yiannis Gabriel s Storytelling in Organizations: Facts, Fictions, and Fantasies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), From Miguel Hernandez s Antes del odio in his El cancionero y romancero de ausencias (1941). Vicente Garcia Groyon 177

192 The River of Gold Jeena Rani Marquez I When I was six I was brought to a place where a gigantic fish made of solid gold swam in the depths of the first river one sees after coming down from the city s airport in a valley. In my mind s eye I could see it glistening in the sun and gliding beneath the river s old steel bridge of cold gray. I had wanted to see the bizarre fish so badly, but I was told that, like the engkantos in the suburbs, it chose the people to whom it revealed itself. I would wait for the fish to emerge from its murky home; it might just show itself to me. It never did. Who had seen the fish? No one knew, but oh, it was down there. The city s motorelas little vehicles built with the heart of a tricycle and the body of a six-passenger jeepney emblazoned with its owner s name in bright red raced through the shaky Carmen Bridge when traffic was light. I would wonder if any of those motorela passengers or drivers had seen it. But the passengers who spoke to each other in decibel levels that competed with the din of the motorelas seemed to have more pressing concerns than looking for a fish made of gold. Well, then, maybe some of the city s swankiest, like the man with a fleet of vintage luxury cars, whose gleaming crimson Mercedes stood out among the queue of motorelas, minicabs, and Japanese cars on the bridge. But the fish couldn t very well be an uppity snob, could it? There were half-naked children laughing in the water and contending with the kinetic force of the torrent the river becomes after the rains. And there were men who would painstakingly hand paint movie billboards on the far end of the bridge. But none of them said anything about actually seeing the fish. Even at night, when city lights transformed the turbid river into a glass sheet of orange shadows, the golden fish did not show itself to anyone. It was just there, living among us. It was almost sacrilegious to proclaim there is no fish, at least from my side of the city of half a million people. Some of the older people of the city 178

193 swore they had seen it. The colossal fish had emerged from the Cagayan River sometime in the 1950s. It was so huge that all of Cagayan de Oro City shook violently in a mighty quake when it came out of the depths of the Cagayan River. Those who had seen it in their childhood claim it was not a fish; it couldn t have been because of its towering height and the power of its majestic movement. It was a sleeping red dragon which lived in an invisible river beneath the San Agustin Cathedral on one side of Carmen Bridge. Beneath the Cathedral there are secret passageways which priests had used as escape routes during the Japanese Occupation. According to the city s elders, one underground tunnel goes all the way to the pier of Cagayan de Oro because the body of the priest who had bathed in the river and disappeared was found at the pier. The golden fish in the river was supposed to explain the de Oro part of the city s name. And then there s the ancient Bukidnon word cagaycay, which means to rake up earth with a piece of wood or one s bare hands; it can also refer to gold ore from streams or rocks gathered from a river. Another place name origin version claims Cagayan means place with a river, from the Malayo-Polynesian ag (water), kagay (river), well, for obvious reasons: a river does run through the city, with headwaters as far as the Kalatungan mountain range of Bukidnon. The Cagayan River is the dividing line between Cagayan de Oro s two congressional districts and is believed to be the city s sole witness to its ancient secrets. II I first saw Cagayan de Oro in 1979 when the place must have been caught in that nebulous space between city and country. The city center didn t have the sprawling greenery of its countryside, but it didn t have the skyscrapers of a modern city, either. The tallest building in the city was just going to be built a six-storey edifice that was going to be called Trinidad Building, where my mother would hold office on its top floor. And there were no malls, no, not a single one. There were small shops like Suy Tiak and Golden Friendship which sold earrings and cups, notebooks and décor, in glass cabinets that were always locked. Everything else one would have to find in Gaisano and Ororama. Stores, fast food chains, and restaurants seemed to be indicative of a place s urban status. But Cagayan de Oro then did not have Jollibee or McDonald s. The closest people could get to the famous burgers was through television Jeena Rani Marquez 179

194 commercials. But even in pre-jollibee Cagayan de Oro, people in the city resented the term probinsya which Manila people would casually drop to refer to any place outside Metro Manila. When they would hear noontime show hosts say it, they would cringe and say, Unsay probinsya? Siyudad ni, oy. (What do they mean, province? This is a city.) Many people in the city walked on its narrow streets a choice governed more by economics than romance. Visayan has a special word, baklay, for walk which means not ride, distinct from the direct translation of walk : lakaw, as in lakad in Filipino. In Manila there is no word for baklay. Walking around the city meant making slow, steady strides while chatting the hours away in loud, animated tones. This glacial pace was everywhere in the way a cashier punched the buttons on the cash register, in the unhurried pace of an afternoon visit, in the long exchanges of pleasantries when acquaintances or old friends saw each other on the street: Aka gikan? Oy, nanambok lagi ka, pero morag niputi ka, no? (Where did you go? You know, you ve gained weight, but I think you re skin s lighter, right?) Mag hinay-hinay na mi, people would say. The expression means, We will go now, but the literal meaning of hinay is slow. My frenetic mother lived the cliché fish out of water in what she called the phlegmatic region of the Philippines. She was always in a hurry, always rushing, moving from place to place, until she found herself in Cagayan de Oro where she gradually learned to slow down. The collective lethargy was confined to the movements of people. The spirit was anything but sleepy. Kagay-anons love the word bibo, marked by wild peals of laughter whenever family or friends gathered together. Solitude is melancholic kamingaw, a term which also means missing someone, which for many is an affliction to be avoided at all costs. I had not met a Kagay-anon who chose to be alone. Many of them enjoy being with large groups of people, mostly friends or family. My mother and I didn t have a single relative there, but we had to relocate there because of my mother s job, so when she was working in her office, I was all alone. We lived on Osme a Street, in a house with a circular veranda of white columns and red paint. The children on our street of hardware stores kept their distance. They would smile but none of them could speak Tagalog or English, so I had no one to talk to except my talking doll, the little people living in my doll house, and the imaginary friends living in my head. 180 Likhaan 6 Nonfiction

195 What was stranger than a girl like me talking to inanimate objects aloud was the way children were hidden from guests when people visited homes. I didn t understand why this was happening, but there seemed to be a belief about children being a potential embarrassment to visitors. I remember my mother inviting children in our neighborhood to come and play with me. They were as congenial as the adults, but the languages we spoke were mutually unintelligible. They would speak to me in Visayan while I spoke to them in English and Tagalog, which, of course, was disastrous. When we all got frustrated by our inability to communicate with one another, characterized by shouting in two languages, I would get all my toys, leave them, lock myself in my room, and sob. III Above our invisible river, a few steps beyond the edge of Carmen Bridge stood the San Agustin Cathedral a splendid old church of stained glass windows and rows of flower buckets lined up along its façade. It was a familiar fixture of the city: a concrete remnant of its past and a vibrant element of its present. My mother brought me to San Agustin Cathedral so I would have some kind of religion at a time when she no longer wanted one. She had been a nun for the Catholic church, which she had left; she had tried Hinduism, Buddhism, and other -isms, but left them all, too, and was still searching for answers to her metaphysical questions. But because I was growing up, she was concerned that she had nothing religious to pass on to me and that I would be growing up not knowing what to believe. So we went to the place people called katedral when there weren t too many people. It was terrifyingly solemn, filled with the humming silence of an empty church. Outside it, beside the procession of flowers from behind which vendors sitting on stools watched over their wares, I saw a corner of burnt cement and iron grilles of melting candles where a man in a faded blue shirt was stooped over dying embers. I asked my mother why people lighted candles there and why they appeared to be whispering something. I don t remember what she told me, but I remember telling her after that first visit to San Agustin that I no longer wanted to go back to church, perhaps because I could sense it was not important to my mother or maybe because I was just a child in search of amusement, which of course I did not find in the silent walls of the San Agustin Cathedral. Jeena Rani Marquez 181

196 We didn t go back there again. Sunday mornings we would go to MacArthur Park along Velez Street where I played in bright red and yellow metal space discs. I don t know how I managed to play hide-and-seek by myself, but there was room for hiding up in the spaceships before I emerged through the doors and slid onto the grass below. One Sunday morning my mother asked me to put on a dress because we were going to church again. She had met someone who told her it was not religion that truly mattered, but one s relationship with the Being who had answers to my mother s questions and who could possibly end her quest for truth. The church was on the corner of Tiano-Montalvan Streets, in a building which didn t have images of saints in it. From a distance I could hear jubilant singing and the voices of children who were singing and laughing like they were truly happy. I had gotten used to being mute around other children so I didn t say a word when I stepped into the church. A little girl with golden corkscrew curls came up to me and said, Come, join us; we ll play a game. She spoke American English but with the very same tongue spoke impeccable Visayan of an unmistakably native variety. Jenny taught me my first Visayan words and introduced me to the children who always gathered around her. It was the first Sunday morning I spent singing songs, playing games, and listening to stories. I heard about the abundance of fish from a little child s baon of two and the battle between a red dragon and a woman clothed with the sun. Jenny never left my side the entire morning, and she invited me to her house for lunch. Her house smelled of pecan pie and caramel cake. But Jenny and her family loved kinilaw raw fish soaked in brownish tabon-tabon, local suha, spices, and tuba vinegar. She taught me to eat kinilaw in her house, even if I was mortified to be eating raw fish for the very first time. Jenny s house had a sprawling front lawn with chico trees and a backyard with an outhouse; we spent the afternoon riding her bicycle and playing Atari with her dad. It was in Jenny s house, too, where I had my first taste of do-do (raw saba dipped in guinamos) and durian. When my mom went on an out-of-town trip, I would stay in Jenny s house. I loved sitting on their kitchen stool watching her mom make burritos, fajitas, ensaymadas, and my favorite sweet white divinity. Her mom sewed identical dresses for us, which Jenny and I loved to wear together. Her dad 182 Likhaan 6 Nonfiction

197 brought home Betamax tapes for everyone drama for her mom, romantic comedy for her older sister, cartoons for her younger brother, horror for Jenny. My mom also invited Jenny to our place where we spent afternoons reading my books or watching He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. We would brush each other s hair and dream of marrying brothers. When Jenny got tired of staying indoors, we would go out and look for clues to mysteries we made up. Look at that syringe on the road, she would say. It s a clue. Jenny told me when she grew up she was going to study criminology and be a full-fledged detective. Sometimes I would go back to Manila with my mother but I would forget my Visayan, and I had to painstakingly relearn it when I went back to Cagayan de Oro. In one of our visits to my cousin s house in Manila, my relatives were updating each other about my cousins lives when the conversation turned to our life in Mindanao. My mother was enthusiastically telling my relatives about the friends I had made when one of them blurted out, Mag-ingat kayo sa Mindanao. Napakasalbahe ng mga tao doon. I deeply resented the harsh remark, but I didn t say anything. The next time my mom asked me to pack my things again because we were going back to Manila, I told her I didn t want to go. She didn t say a word, but she didn t force me to go. IV I stayed in Cagayan de Oro with Jenny and her family. Jenny had convinced her parents to take her off home schooling so she could go to a regular school, which, of course, was where I was enrolled Kong Hua School in Kauswagan. When we were off school, we would go to the beach, which was ten minutes away from her home. She would bake herself in the morning sun while I sat in a hut reading. Sometimes we would run around Greenhills Cemetery in Bulua and sit near its tombs eating homemade polvoron. Jenny convinced her older sister to take us to nearby Camiguin Island where we would bathe in the volcanic heat of Ardent Springs, disturb the stillness of the underwater cemetery, and walk miles to see the glorious waters of Katibawasan Falls. In Camiguin Island we lived in an old wooden house where there were cans of butter, huge baskets of flour, and trays of eggs for homemade pastel (yema-filled buns) the grandmother of the house would make. The house belonged to the relative of one of Jenny s school friends. There in that house Jeena Rani Marquez 183

198 we were told about a girl named Mercedes, a spirit who lived in the woods of Mambajao, Camiguin. When Mercedes was still alive she eloped with her lover because her father was forcing her to marry a man who had gotten her pregnant. As Mercedes and her lover crossed a river, the water rose so high they both drowned. People said they found Mercedes at the bottom of the river with her hair tied to water lilies. Her lover had not been found, which was why people believed Mercedes was wandering about in search of him. When Jenny found out about Mercedes, she was determined to meet her, so she asked me to go with her, but there was no way I was going into the woods to look for the water lily woman. Jenny didn t stop until she found someone who would do it. I brought Jenny and the Camiguin girl to the edge of the forest, but just as they were about to step into the impenetrable grove, a dog let out a piercing, hair-raising howl that sent all of us running as fast as our legs would take us away from where Mercedes lived. She was not the only resident white lady in Camiguin. When the red dragon of Cagayan River opened its mouth, three frogs had come out of it, from which came beings of the spirit world, like the one which inhabited the image of Mercedes mga dili ingon-nato (those who are not like us). We shared our spatial world with them, but they inhabited a parallel realm which Jenny desperately wanted to explore. But one had to be chosen to step into their world, like Ibay, the sixteen-year old girl who told me how her daily path from school actually belonged to the kingdom of the enchantress who appeared to her in her dream. Ibay would see herself in her dream walking in the woods, the exact same path she would take every day, where the woman would suddenly appear and tell her to go to a gnarled tree and step inside the spot covered with twigs near its roots because there was gold hidden there. When she would come home from school, she would see the contorted tree she was certain she wasn t dreaming, but she would walk faster, away from where the gold was. The enchantress kept visiting her in her dream, repeatedly telling her to step inside the charmed spot and get the treasure there. Ibay never did. When she was old enough to leave Mindanao, she went to Manila, where she never saw the enchantress again. And there was Manang Minda who told me she had a sister who was half-human and half-dili ingon nato because her mother had a lover from the other world who would come and visit her in her home at midnight. Manang Minda said her father knew about the affair, but he just suffered in shameful silence as the otherworldly being usurped his matrimonial bed. 184 Likhaan 6 Nonfiction

199 I was told that these beings show themselves to people with no philtrum the groove most people have below their noses. Jenny and I have them, so when she realized she probably was not going to see any dili-ingon nato, she looked for adventure in Cagayan de Oro s human world among the living. And the dead. Oh, she loved looking at dead people s faces. Jenny convinced me to climb the rungs on the side of Liceo de Cagayan s building just to look at the dried-up cadaver on its top floor. Then she would take me wake-crashing in Cosmo and Greenhills just so she could look into strangers coffins. Jenny found out from one of her friends that a dead woman was going to be resurrected by her religious master. I don t remember how she did it, but she convinced me to go see the corpse with her. The moment I stepped into the funeral home, I wanted to bolt. We were surrounded by women in calf-length white skirts and loose white tops. Their black hair went down to their waist and knees, and they were staring at us through their sunken eyes. Jenny s big round eyes sparkled in the dark. She had to see the woman and feel the death-air surrounding her because she wanted to be certain the woman was dead enough to be raised to life. I watched her walk so very slowly to the coffin to look at the woman s face. I fidgeted with my hair and whispered to Jenny, You ve seen her. Can we go now? Just a minute. She smiled at one of the long-haired sentinels and asked her when the master was coming and if he was really going to do it. The woman smiled back and answered her questions: he was coming tomorrow, and yes, he had power to bring dead people back to life. When we walked out of Greenhills, Jenny was pretty convinced the woman was going to rise from that coffin the following day. It would be a shameful scandal if she didn t, because people had already been told she would. Did she? Nobody knew. The night we went to see her was the last we heard of Lady Lazarus. Then Jenny wanted to go to Maria Reyna Hospital to look at the adulterous couple who had killed themselves because of shame. Word got around that they had been brought out of the hotel naked, until somebody thought of wrapping them in a blanket before they were brought to Maria Reyna. The man had locked himself inside the woman s body, they could not undo themselves, so some said they ingested poison together, while others said they looked into each other s eyes and willed themselves into not Jeena Rani Marquez 185

200 breathing. Tungod sa kaulaw, wala sila ni-ginhawa. (Because of shame, they did not breathe.) Jenny knew where the most bizarre and fascinating happenings were in Cagayan de Oro City. We didn t have Internet, mobile phones, not even landline telephones (it took an average of ten years for a telephone line application to be processed), but she had a network of friends who would tell her where to go and what to do. If we had been old enough to go to nearby Manticao ourselves, Jenny would have gone to see another shame-suicide there. A young woman had been wanting a new pair of underwear, which her teacher s salary could not give her. One day she decided to go and get it by shoplifting. Horrors, she was caught, and the word about Ma am stealing panties spread around the town faster than a shark swimming downstream. She refused to leave her house for many days, until she was found hanging from a beam, dangling from shame. Jenny would have loved to see that face. When Jenny and her family left for their annual trip to the States, I was hysterical. We hugged each other at the airport and vowed to write each other while we were apart. V Since my summer was going to be spent without Jenny, I went with my mom on a trip to Butuan City in a white Land Cruiser. From Cagayan de Oro City we cruised along the highway to Tagoloan, while I sat in the back reading a children s edition of Pilgrim s Progress. The sweltering heat of summer on the road made my mom s L Air du Temps waft to the backseat where I was. I didn t look out the window because I had sunk into the world of the boy with the burden on his back. Then a sharp, piercing scream. Blood on my book. Blood on my blouse. Blood on my mother s face. We had been hit by a Caltex truck from the other side of the road. Our driver had swerved to the left to avoid a head-on collision, so the truck hit the right side of the Land Cruiser, where my mother was sitting. We were trapped in the warped vehicle. I saw my white water jug stuck between the window and the upper part of the grotesquely misshapen door beside her, so I got it and gave it to my mother. The road was empty. Seconds ticked away in the eerie silence that descended over us. 186 Likhaan 6 Nonfiction

201 From the corner of my eyes I saw a farmer in a straw hat emerge from the woods. He stared at us and our macabre tableau and then I saw his mouth moving, he was shouting something and waving his hands. They all came out, hordes of them. Total strangers were coming out from everywhere to rescue us. I saw a man carrying my unconscious mother away in her blood-stained silk maroon dress. I was trapped inside the monstrous vehicle, so I pushed the front seat which was pressed against my chest and I tried to step out so I wouldn t be left behind. I could hardly walk. When I looked down at my feet I saw my right foot s gaping wound and blood was oozing out of it, but I had to force myself to walk to where the man was taking my mother. There was no ambulance. We were brought to a jeepney with injured men on the floor from the Caltex truck that hit us. I thought I was going to lose my mother. She was as lifeless as the corpses Jenny and I had hunted. I was repeatedly whispering something about losing my mother and being all alone. A woman who sat across from me in the jeepney gently comforted me and reassured me that my mother was not going to die. In the hospital I stared at a blank wall, humming songs I had learned in Sunday school. I mindlessly played with the blood-stained yellow clip from my braided hair while I listened to the confusion of voices around me. I heard two nurses talking: Lalom biya ang ulo sa bata ba. (It s quite deep the child s head.) Operahan na. (It has to be operated on.) Shhh madunggan ka. (Shhh she might hear you.) In that space of magnified fear, all I wanted was to see a familiar face. They came. Word had been sent about our accident, and they all came. The people we had met and known in Cagayan de Oro appeared in the hospital, not to visit but to stay and take care of my mother and me. There was Ate Mar who lovingly detangled my blood-encrusted long hair with baby oil, gently removing the crusty blood from each strand. There was Ate Nan who fed my mother with a spoon. There was a policeman who took care of our blood-stained bags and my blood-stained book and gave them all back to us. There was Kuya Danny who came to the accident scene and documented the horror of its aftermath for the court case my mother would file against Caltex and the truck s drunk driver. There was Kuya Boy who held Jeena Rani Marquez 187

202 my mother s hand as she had to be lifted on a forklift to get on a plane to Manila for a kneecap surgery. None of them were blood relatives. But it didn t matter. I spent my days recovering from my own surgery and shock among people whose overwhelming expressions of kindness I have treasured for many years. I wholeheartedly believe what the people of Cagayan de Oro say about themselves: tinabangay gyud (they really help each other). I got that same outpouring of care from my high school classmates who took care of me when I fainted on our school grounds during our Citizen Army Training officers initiation rites. And from our neighbor and pastor who took care of things after our house was robbed and ransacked while my mother and I were in Manila. My lifelong friends in that city have taught me that having friends like them is like having a large and loving family. As for Jenny, the American girl with a Kagay-anon heart, we had planned to go to college together but though she begged her parents to let her stay in Cagayan de Oro, she was made to go to the States and live there. She did not become the detective she had wanted to become. She tried working in a fire department, but eventually left and became a restaurant manager. Jenny got married on my eighteenth birthday and is now raising her two children in the States. My mother brought me back to Manila after high school. I did not want to leave my city of friends but my mother believed in a future for me in the capital city, so I went back to my birthplace. I was at first a stranger in the big city, until I found myself building a life in Manila with my husband and children. VI I have not forgotten about our golden fish and the treasures I had found in Cagayan de Oro. Even as a graduate student in Manila, I would look for written accounts about the city and its secrets. One day I came across typewritten sheets of paper in a collection called The Local Historical Sources of Northern Mindanao. There I discovered a story which took place along the Cagayan River, which had a tongue twisting precolonial name: Kalambaguasasahan River. Thousands of years ago, two warring chieftains lived on the River s opposite sides. Mansicampo of the eastern side one day decided to settle the longstanding conflict by declaring war against Bagongsalibo, the Muslim 188 Likhaan 6 Nonfiction

203 Datu who lived on the other side. Bagongsalibo didn t want the war, but Mansicampo was determined to go for it, so he gathered his followers on the eastern side of the River and prepared for combat. He sent his son Bagani to Datu Bagongsalibo for a council of war. As Mansicampo s son was conferring with the Datu, a woman peeped from behind a door and looked at Bagani. She was so exquisite that Bagani forgot all about the war; he discussed marriage plans instead. Bagongsalibo was only too pleased to give his daughter s hand in marriage to Bagani if only to avert the impending war. When Mansicampo found out that his son proposed marriage to the daughter of his enemy, he sent his warriors away, fled to the hills of nearby Lumbia, and vowed never to return to his home, which he then called Kagayhaan a place of shame. I wondered why as a child I had never been told this story. I also wondered how many other children of Mindanao knew about our golden fish but not our Bai Lawanen story. When my son was seven, I told him about what had happened to Bagongsalibo, Mansicampo, and Bai Lawanen. I did not have a picture story book to go with the narrative, but he listened intently as I read from the typewritten manuscript I had found. He then asked me, Why did Mansicampo go away? Because he was ashamed. Ashamed? In his home? He shouldn t have been ashamed. Like him, I couldn t understand why among such extraordinarily caring people, some would allow the overpowering sense of shame to drive themselves to suicide. I wondered if I would have said the same thing had I been told this when I was brought to the place of shame and gold many years ago. Some of the people I met emphasized the story s lack of historical validity, but to me what mattered more was discovering a cultural treasure in a story, understanding how a place s name could affect a people s perception of themselves people who would otherwise have reason to be proud of building a city of real gold. VII My husband, who went on business trips to Cagayan de Oro City, introduced me to Manny Gaerlan, a fifth-generation descendant of the Maranao royal Samporna clan, whose princess Bai Lawanen had averted the war between Mansicampo and Bagongsalibo hundreds of years ago. Manny spoke of how the Maranaos from Lanao had migrated to Cagayan in the Jeena Rani Marquez 189

204 15th century, which pushed the Hiligaynons, Cagayan s first settlers, to the mountains nearby. They were shamed, Manny emphatically exclaimed. Can you imagine that? The Hiligaynon warrior married a Maranao princess! Manny believes the shaming of the people in our place centuries ago has a lot to do with what he perceives as a general lack of self-confidence among the people of Cagayan de Oro. I asked him if people are taught to put themselves down. Is pagpahiubos (humbling oneself) a social expectation and practice? It s the way people are brought up there. The Maranaos who migrated to Cagayan de Oro were of the royal class, and they brought their slaves with them. When my great grandmother, Vivencia Velez, would bathe in the river with her slaves, pinapayungan pa siya. The concept of pagpahiubos came from the social hierarchies of the time. I believe he s right: the root word ubos literally means down. I asked him about other Visayan concepts such as dungog (honor) and how they are related to the idea of shame: The man in the family is expected to defend the family s honor. For instance, if a girl gets pregnant, her father will force her to marry the guy who got her pregnant, whether or not she wants to: Gipakaulawan mi nimo. Kinahanglan bawion nimo ang dungog sa pamilya. Kinahanglan magpakasal ka. (You have shamed us. You need to redeem the family s honor. You have to get married.) According to Manny, It s a daily thing: Ayaw pagpakaulaw dinha. (Don t do anything shameful.) This must be Kagay-anon parents way of telling their children to stay out of trouble. Do they get in trouble precisely because of kaulaw? I don t know, but I had been stood up on a blind date because, I was told, the guy had a sudden kaulaw attack. Of course I wondered if he didn t find it more shameful not to show up when I had been all dressed and ready to go. Even shyness is rooted in the concept of shame: maulawon. And somehow it is valued as a virtue among young ladies: Wala siya mausab, no? Maulawon lang gihapon. Dalagang Pilipina gyod. (She hasn t changed, has she? She s still shy. She is truly a dalagang Pilipina.) Was Bai Lawanen a shy princess? Maybe she was. She didn t exactly go out and introduce herself to Bagani; she just peeped through a door to look at him. But I guess it doesn t really matter how shy or bold she was; those eyes peering out of her exquisite face had power to avert a bloody war. And the very absence of war and the way people of conflicting beliefs have lived 190 Likhaan 6 Nonfiction

205 peaceably in this city in our war-torn island give us reason not to be ashamed of it. VIII My husband and I brought our son to our city of gold. We were hundreds of feet above the ground, and my little boy couldn t help exclaiming: Mommy, look! Look at those mountains! My son hurriedly unfastened his seat belt the moment the plane came to a standstill after the big thud and plunge when it hit the tarmac. The mahogany and germilina trees were still standing by the Lumbia airport roadside, but people no longer call it Kilometro Singko. It has become Pueblo de Oro where multi-million peso houses have been built in the subdivisions which is what the expanse of farm land has become. And in the middle of it all stands SM Cagayan de Oro. The taxi didn t go to our Carmen Bridge of old, which used to be the only entry point from the airport to the city. We came via the new 20-meter Carmen-Tibasak Bridge, to a city that has become the commercial center of Northern Mindanao. The motorelas have a new look, too. They now have big numbers on top and are no longer swept about by the winds of destiny. I had a strange feeling I would get lost in my own home were if not for the taxis and their drivers who give their passengers exact change. The metal space ships are gone and so is Mac Arthur s name. The new Vicente de Lara Park has paved paths and fountains, fronting a row of commercial establishments along Velez Street. And now there are malls in the city. I didn t know what pasalubong from Manila my friends would like. The mystique of brands advertised on Manilabased television is gone, because the products are available almost everywhere in Cagayan. But the dragon is still there beneath the church. In January 2009, a flood had suddenly come out of its mouth and filled parts of the city. The people had not seen a flood like it because typhoons didn t use to hit the city. A little girl from Bukidnon who was brought to Cagayan de Oro for medical treatment had died in the floating ambulance that was caught by the flood in Lapasan highway where my old high school stood. I remember calling my Cagayan de Oro friends from Manila to help organize relief operations for people whose houses had been carried away by the flood, especially in the area Jeena Rani Marquez 191

206 near our house. After about a week of relentless rain, the earth swallowed the flood and Cagayan de Oro went back to its slow, steady pace. I also found out from old friends that Jenny s 80-year old father had a stroke on the plane en route to the US. He and his wife were brought to a hospital in Japan where they knew no one and didn t speak a single word of Japanese. When our friends in Cagayan de Oro found out, word was sent to a Kagay-anon who lived four hours away from where Jenny s parents were and this man took care of them until they were ready to board another plane to the US. Twelve high school classmates came to see me at Limketkai Mall. A strip of restaurants and cafés have made it one of the busiest parts of the bustling new city. One of them, a doctor, is based in Kibawe, Bukidnon, and had travelled four hours to come to Cagayan for our get-together. I thanked them all profusely for being a part of my two-day trip. After the obligatory updates about our batch, they told me about the recent shameful sex scandal in the city. It was a classic 21st century urban tale a married woman with a managerial post in Limketkai had videotaped her sexscapade with an employee, stored it in her computer s hard drive, and forgetting all about it had hired a technician to fix her computer when it crashed. Someone made a copy, and soon people were burning CDs of it and copying it from thumb drives. The woman had been separated from her estranged husband when it happened. People said her estranged husband had to get her two children from her; they suffered much from the shame which the scandal had brought on the family. She was suspended from work for a while, but apparently she s back at Limketkai. I felt sorry for the children, but I was relieved it wasn t another suicide story. I asked them, my old classmates: What is it about shame that makes it such a significant part of who we are? One of my dear friends, Abigail, said, We care so much about what people say. We always need to keep up appearances. Whatever people say or whatever shameful thing we do disgraces not just us, but the whole family. Then I asked them about the fish. Abigail said her grandmother had told her that our golden fish, which has been guarding the gold in the Cagayan River, is also a fairy. I just had to go and look for it again. The next day my husband and I walked with our son to the side entrance of San Agustin Cathedral from where we could see its stained glass windows. Then I told my boy: 192 Likhaan 6 Nonfiction

207 You know what, there s a dragon sleeping down there. Really, Mom? Awesome! I held his hand as we walked towards old Carmen Bridge where a stream of orange and yellow banderitas had been hung for the upcoming fiesta. We could feel the ground beneath our feet quiver when the cars and taxis drove past us. We were looking down on the water when I said to him: You know, some people say it s not a dragon sleeping in the invisible river over there. Look here. Deep down in the water, there s a gigantic golden fish. My son was unusually quiet as he put his chin on the grey steel beam of the bridge and stared into the water below. A child was bathing in the river, and three women were washing clothes in it. A man in a banca cast a net on the still water. A few minutes later, white streaks of river foam trailed behind the jet skis that raced on the caramel-brown water of the Cagayan River. Beside the bridge and across from the new City Hall that was still under construction, two men were hoisting a varnished bamboo sala set on to a motorela. I asked one of the men if the fish was still down there. Oh, yes it was. Buhi pa (It s still alive), he said. The man named Roger told me that foreigners had wanted to dig the gold from under the cathedral, but it is the fish that keeps people like them from getting the gold. Roger looked up at the acacia tree beside the bridge and told me a spirit being lives there. Others have also taken residence in most of the germilina trees along the Cagayan River. According to Roger, an acacia tree had been felled near the bridge many years ago. One solid bar of gold was found underneath its roots, but the one who got the gold died an inexplicable death. I asked him if the fish in the river was really made of gold. He said only the spine and the gills were of pure gold and with his fingers he drew a curve in the air to show me the golden arc of the fish from the top of its head to its tail. Tua sa pier ang ikog ana. (Its tail is in the pier.) He also told me the fish has eyes like the moon. The incessant rattling of the relas on the bridge rose to a crescendo. Little islands of lusterless light from above the bridge cast a pale glow on my son s face. He seemed entranced by the magic of our afternoon together on Carmen Bridge. I put my arms around him. Then he looked deep into my eyes. Mom, I saw something yellow move in the water over there. I think it s the golden fish. Jeena Rani Marquez 193

208 Butterfly Sleep and Other Feuilletons Rowena Tiempo Torrevillas Icon for Home My eyes brush across the Safari icon my on laptop toolbar. The image used by the Safari Internet service provider is that of a compass. In the early days of Internet access, the signifier for the Home function came with an icon, a familiar little box with a peaked roof and an open door. It s been nearly two decades since that icon evolved from a house to a compass and its imagery, now superimposed on the Mac s default cosmos desktop screensaver, seems perfectly emblematic of the metaphysical journey we ve taken from on the World Wide Web. It s now the icon for Help on the new TextEdit program on this machine. The old Microsoft icon for home had looked to me like one of the nipa huts from my childhood: a formulation, a cognitive signifier (a triangle and rhombus for the roof, a rectangle within which appeared a vertical rectangle for the door), to which one might add a horizontal rectangle for the window. Children across the world draw sticks at the base of the rectangle and a ladder to indicate this dwelling is tropical, probably rural Filipino; in the Western hemisphere, in place of the stilts and ladder, there would be a chimney on the roof with smoke curling upward: an archetype that constitutes every child s first attempt at dimensional representation for one of the most basic of human concepts. Beneath that one-dimensional sketch lies, invisible and vivid, an entire milieu: for me, there s a coconut grove, the bucolic regions behind our backyard where as children we took the short cut to school; the huts of the cocheros, dappled in the sunlight of an unending afternoon, the rustling palm fronds overhead and the distant thrum of a ukulele or the plaintive strains of the theme from a radio soap opera. Home, home. All of this is symbolic. I never really entered the home of Acoy, the tartanilla driver; the only bamboo-and-thatch hut I entered on a regular basis 194

209 as a child was Bising s: our dressmaker s tallish bamboo and sawali house, with the highly polished wooden flooring and the acacia leaves that pattered like rain as Bising ran her dressmaker s tape down one s shoulder to the knee and around one s midsection to measure one s heaps (hips) as she scrawled the centimeter numbers designating her clientele s bust-waist-hips calibrations of one s growing. Bising s house leaned somewhat crookedly, west of the coconut grove and across the main road: redolent of the hog she raised under the house and the industrial acridity of the 3M oil from her atras-avante Singer sewing machine. Beyond her house lay the Baptist Student Center, where during the year I was ten, I would while away solitary summer afternoons reading the novels of Grace Livingston Hill. This spot marked the neighborhood boundary my parents felt I d be safe to wander alone, away from our home. The idea of a house, existing only on that Platonic plane of Being, is encapsulated in those geometric forms. But with that ideograph is an entire childhood and its aromas and its uncertainties, its fears of the unknown, and the sureness that my father and mother would always be there. Butterfly Sleep i Dreams have begun to be for me an unrestful reflection of waking consciousness. Set at night in localities whose vague familiarity brings disquiet: searching for a classroom or a ride to a waiting airplane; arriving late or unprepared for an otherwise easy exam in a class I m taking and not teaching, a quarter-century after attaining the PhD these are simple to decipher, no play on words in the truffle to arrive at some understanding of a vulnerability an unresolved issue, whatever that one has willed away from one s awareness. On waking, one finds no delight in the vocabulary of the subconscious, those buried treasures of puns or inventive configurations of the various untidy sloggings through one s daily mire. Even the occasional flash of lucid dreaming the critically trained mind reverting to its discipline, recognizing correlations between past dreams and this present REM scenario; between waking life and this fabrication of the sleeping mind; spotting the significance Rowena Tiempo Torrevillas 195

210 of images deployed by the mind s symbol-making faculty as even as one is living through the dream s artifice of plot and premise these bring paltry pleasure. Today, I learned that my quiet, amiable high school classmate from forty years ago, Alex Ybarley always so self-effacing and unruffled in the acnepitted craters of his already-mature face when we were both fifteen had died in his sleep. On hearing this I thought, He left us quietly, as he had in life, when we were walking out of Mrs. Mancao s history classroom, a lifetime ago. And then: he left us in the best way possible, were one given the choice of the means and time of departure. Two of my other high school classmates, Romulo and Randy, are now retired from the US Navy and live close to the ocean in southern California and the Pacific Northwest, though we ve come many miles and many years from the place we first knew each other. They remarked separately in the course of our alumni chats that on waking from sleep each morning, they offer a prayer of thanks for another day of life. ii And I? I wake to the silence of the house on the days I don t teach, sometimes with heart pounding in the residue of unease, tattered shreds of the dream still weighting down my eyelids, a faint panicking awareness of my inadequacy to meet the hours on my own. The high point of my weekday afternoons during those non-teaching days is The Barefoot Contessa on The Food Network. I find it soothing and undemanding, the husky contralto and plump brunetteness of Ina Garten in her kitchen in the Hamptons. Her beloved husband Jeffrey is usually away deaning at the Yale School of Business; the show s masculine presence provided by a series of occasional, and genially epicene, florists. My mother s bete noir and at times in my own generation, mine also is the Mittel- Amerikan housewife, that self-satisfied and incurious creature epitomized by smugly preening Sandra Lee, whose show follows Ina Garten s. But Ina s orderly, comfortably unostentatious and warm present is perfect company for middle-to-late afternoons in my quiet suburban study-room on Sweetbriar Avenue. Her recipes are within reach, even for me who intimidated by my own mother s seemingly effortless efficiency in the kitchen arrived relatively late in discovering the Joy of Cooking. Watching Ina strolling briskly with a light step from kitchen counter to vegetable market makes me think of my mother. I imagine Mom preparing her solitary meals high in the hills of 196 Likhaan 6 Nonfiction

211 Shatin, the semester she was teaching in Hong Kong thirty years ago, as the first Elisabeth Luce Moore distinguished Asian professor appointed by the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia and I think Mom may have moved then in her kitchen with the same kind of quotidian joy that Ina Garten exudes easily, brightly, into my own afternoons. iii Chuang Tzu says famously: Last night I dreamed I was a butterfly Would it indeed be preferable to be a butterfly dreaming it was human? The transience of this, all: snow falling, and with each snowfall this season, a faithful friend appears in the darkness, a figure in the winter night, shoveling a path from our driveway to the sidewalk to the street. As I write these words, at this very moment, my daughter is driving that family friend to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, because he won t go himself; she is taking him there for tests to find out if Jim (Lord, let it not be so) has a terminal illness. The salt we spread to clear the walkways of our waking lives is as the tears we drop into the wounding awareness that all this, all of it, has only one terminus. Which is the butterfly s dream? the silken cocoon of events and ideas and interpretations and the games the rational mind plays upon itself, that we call being alive? Or is it waking into the unknowable, beyond that other sleep we call dying? Will we have wings in that unknown realm, or will the flight consist only of our consciousness fading into inert brain cells into dust into, one day, open space? Memory, grief, salt, snow, solitude, food, wings, glitter in the nothingness. Last night I dreamed. Moments of Unexpected Sweetness We all have them: sudden interventions that break into one s awareness, lifting the everyday toward the sublime, an intrinsic spiral in the DNA code of humanness. The first time a child speaks your name. The taste of water right after you ve vomited, replacing the bile of your bodily wretchedness with the restorative sip of the first and most basic element of biologic life. Rowena Tiempo Torrevillas 197

212 Those moments are the favorite snapshots in one s personal album of the fleeting and uncelebrated: the golden leaf of autumn that falls at your feet as you walk down a busy sidewalk; the first crocus of the spring; or the green fronds of the prized, uncultivate-able Oriental poppy that poke out of the flowerbox in late summer amid the dried stalks of the played-out previous blooming that lasts only five days each year. Among the Bucket Lists one tabulates periodically the places in the world you hope to visit before you kick the bucket I believe we regularly update our private Top Ten Things That Make Life Worth Living. The universal and the personal intersect in those lists; ultimately, the matter of sweetness is futile to quantify. Perhaps created work holds those moments in fixity; perhaps that s the reason for art. They are sweet because they are embedded in, and spring forth from, bitterness or the crushing weight of banality: the artist s inadvertent epiphany, en route to another theme. So here s my list of Moments of Unexpected Sweetness that I ve experienced as a grateful viewer, reader, listener: Music: The trumpet soaring in the Beatles Penny Lane. An enumeration of the otherwise unregarded lives on a city street: there is a barber showing photographs the nurse pretending she is in a play / She is anyway is followed by a trumpet voluntary, rising triumphantly above the urban drabness a passage of casually playful redemption. Painting: Van Gogh s La Berceuse (The Lullabye). There is no infant in this portrait: only the weather-worn face of the peasant woman of the Camargue, and her strong work-roughened hands folded over the wicker handle of a rustic cradle. As with the chair left behind by his friend Paul Gauguin, the immediacy of absence-as-presence that aching vacuum that Vincent sought to fill with pieces of his clumsy, yearning heart the unseen, unheard lullabye is, to me, emblematic of the painter s fierce, brief theme. Sculpture: the veins on the marble hand of Michelangelo s David. The statue s hand was broken off during a riot at the Signoria piazza, and later reattached; one can see the crack in the stone, testifying to the violence that had been wrought. But it is not the survival of this iconic work the damage and its restoration, its transcendent beauty I find 198 Likhaan 6 Nonfiction

213 inspiring. It is David s other hand I m looking at: the hand that s poised above the slingshot, in that moment before he steps forward into the ages to assume his role as the heroic image of a nation about to be born, a young boy ready to walk over the threshold into manhood. Poetry: too many to be named. For now, the poems of Rilke, perhaps: II, 4 of the Sonnets to Orpheus ( Oh this is the animal that never was ) and the final sentence of Archaic Torso of Apollo. And Henry Vaughan s vision of Christ s hair filled with drops of dew as He walks through the night. And from the same era as Vaughan, Robert Herrick s cri-de-coeur over his faithless mistress in Cherry-Ripe. Drama: Shakespeare, again too many to be isolated. What comes first to mind is when Lear tells Cordelia: Come, let s away to prison: We two alone will sing like birds i th cage And laugh / Like gilded butterflies. Film: The moment at the end of the French film L eche le blanche/secret World (1969), when the young boy lifts the vial of perfume and pours it over his head. Tommy Lee Jones s smile at the end of The Fugitive, when, as the relentless Lieutenant Gerard he pursues Harrison Ford s Richard Kimble, and, taking him in custody, gives Kimble a packet of ice for his bruised head, to which Kimble says: I thought you said you didn t care. Tommy Lee Jones s rugged features light up in a rueful laugh of surpassing gentleness when he says: I don t. But don t tell anyone. Wandering the world, the benisons come unsought and breathtaking, so transient they catch one almost unaware. During our quest to set foot on all fifty states of the Union, my husband and I have had encounters with these eccentric serendipities: on my birthday, walking through a hillside meadow, across the Crazy Woman Mountain in Montana, wildflowers of yellow and purple outside our cabin and knee-deep everywhere my eyes reached, all that long, bright afternoon. That was sweetness, throughout: sharp and unadulterated, so that even as it was happening, one knew it was joy. One of our trips brought us the confluence of sight, song, cultural iconography, and personal history that fulfills the definition of unexpected sweetness. We were driving through Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, trying to find the Motel Six where we d made reservations, and as the sun was setting, we found Rowena Tiempo Torrevillas 199

214 ourselves back on the same stretch of highway, seemingly always returning to the same place. Finally one of the Bengali/Urdu gas-station owners who have set down their lines of convenience stores all down the East coast told us in his gruff singsong that our best bet was to get to Lancaster. The nearrrest Moootul Six whar you can find a room for sure is in Lanhcasturr, he declared helpfully. So to Lancaster we went, and tumbled into our Motel Six bed tired out from driving across Illinois and Indiana. The following morning we rose at dawn, refreshed and determined to reach Connecticut by afternoon. A light rain was falling as we pulled onto the road. This was farm country, its contours faintly familiar, but somehow denser, more condensed in its bucolic consistency than the prairies where we live. I knew that the Amish lived in Lancaster; books and movies like Witness with Harrison Ford had made that awareness a part of my visual vocabulary. And in eastern Iowa we d see the Amish and Mennonite farm folk all the time, driving their horsedrawn carriages in Kalona, and I d nodded at the cheerful, bonneted ladies occasionally at the Aldi grocery store in Iowa City. There, at the northwest edge of town we d sometimes drive past the bridge over a river that the sign designated as the English River, a stream running through the rolling hills of the territory that the German settlers a hundred fifty years ago, standing in a shaft of sunlight, declared was Amana: Here we stay. So I would not have been disappointed if, on that morning, we drove through Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and did not see any black-coated gentlemen in stovepipe hats and spade-shaped chin-beards. I had already seen them in movies, in real life, in paintings and the book of photographs by John Zielinsky that stood among the folio-sized volumes in our study. But on that Pennsylvania morning in May, coming out of the mist, in the light rain of early morning, there it was: the carriage with an erect, weatherscoured man holding the reins, the horse trotting under the leaves of tall old trees, while the raindrops fell in the gentlest and most matter-of-fact of benedictions. Just as we were pulling onto the road, Lem had randomly popped some music into the car s CD player. Twelve thousand miles from where we first heard it, and two thousand miles from our transplanted home, the song flowed through our black Ford Escort an old favorite, first heard when we were across the sea, a world away: Michael Franks s Dragonfly Summer. 200 Likhaan 6 Nonfiction

215 The Amish carriage slipped quietly past us, out of the mist, through the fine rain, into the timeless space where, all unknown to oneself, memory takes shape: A chorus of sparrows in summer Is how I remember you The fire of maples in autumn Is how I remember you The silence of snowfall in winter Is how I remember you ROYGBIV and Other OCDs I ve just read the Time article about obsessive-compulsive disorders, and while it evoked from me a responsive chuckle, it also led me to thinking about my loved ones who, like me have, or have had, minor manifestations of the condition behavioral quirks so mild as to be barely considered as eccentricities. According to the list of symptoms, I must be the sister of The Monk. Reading the descriptions of the disorder, I recognize in myself a few of the compulsions, a couple of which I ve outgrown but one of them the leeriness about germs and the fear of contamination continues to manifest itself in my need to take at least two baths a day without fail. The one taken before I go to bed is especially important for my sense of well-being, even if (or especially if) during the day I ve dropped by a public place like the grocery; God alone knows what germs I may have encountered in the air and that subsequently cling to my hair and skin, from walking down the breakfastcereal aisle of Hy-Vee to pick up a box of oatmeal! I remember my mom recounting (numerous times, I must add) how my nursery-school teacher commented that Rowena is so fastidious; she keeps washing her hands, and how anxious I d be if I inadvertently misinformed a visitor at the house who asked if my parents were in ( I said you weren t home, because I didn t know you were. Was that all right? ) and all the unspoken dread and guilts that plagued my childhood. I laughed just now when I read the little checklist in the article, describing the symptoms of childhood onset of OCD because I experienced at least three of those. Rowena Tiempo Torrevillas 201

216 We all have bizarre, passing thoughts, as described in the article, and I am so relieved to know that others share them, too. Including the one that comes when my eye falls on the knife-block on the kitchen counter as I m washing my hands, of course, at the sink! and the fear that I ll suddenly snatch up one of the big knives and, possessed by madness or in thrall to an irrational urge, plunge it into my heart or into one of my loved ones. Yet here I am so worried that harm may befall Lem or Rima, God forbid, such that I ll clamber aboard the motorcycle they so fearlessly drive even though I myself hate the precariousness of it all. The reasoning is that my presence riding pillion will somehow ward off disaster. One of my students, a few years ago, wrote an essay about his OCD, now partially conquered. One could tell, just from looking at his pale anxious eyes and the distance he was careful to keep between himself and the person seated next to him, there was something a bit off about Sean. He wrote of needing to scrub his hands for hours each day. So it s no laughing matter. One of my daughter s friends, a bridesmaid at Rima s wedding, arranges her underwear in her drawer so the panties are in an immutable, specific order sorted and piled according to the color spectrum, ROYGBIV. This organizational structure is exactly the one followed by one of Rima s earliest babysitters, who d pick up all the crayons the kids would use and put them away in rows of red orange yellow green blue indigo violet and all the gradations between in the Crayola box. I have a comadre (Rima s godmother and my best friend, born a Virgo as if that explained her heightened tidiness and perfectionism) who needs to align all the pictures on the walls and to straighten the books the shelves, no matter whose home she s in, otherwise she s uneasy. Is it the need to impose order on an unpredictable world that leads us to perform these rituals in an attempt to control even a small arena of turf and then these compulsions in turn control us? My daughter must have inherited that finicky sense from me: it offends her whenever, as she and her husband as sorting clean laundry together, she spots a perfectly white sock that has been rolled together with one that bears the faint marks of washed-away grass stains; the socks must be paired according to the gradations of wear, so one can tell which socks were previously worn together, even if the dozen socks are otherwise identical. Moreover, when folding a T-shirt, the sleeves must be folded such that their shoulder seams are symmetrical. It offends our sense of order so acutely that we ve been known to secretly and discreetly (so as not to hurt the feelings of the helpful, well-intentioned offender, usually the 202 Likhaan 6 Nonfiction

217 hapless spouse) go back and re-do the job so the symmetry is as perfect as we can discern it to be. And we re also the ones who circle the block to make sure that the little bump we heard when driving past was just a pothole, and not the little kid who crossed the road behind the car when we went by. Is this behavior neurotic or just an overdeveloped sense of conscientiousness and responsibility, or the heightened fear of future guilt? The amygdala, or whatever part of the brain controls these imaginative/ anxiety-producing functions, is now being closely studied, so the article says. Thus there s hope, that wonderfully fantastical word, that we re normal after all (whatever that is). Editors and mustached Belgian sleuths, and me. Meanwhile, you keep straightening up those books and picture frames, and I ll keep arranging the mismatched silverware just-so in the kitchen drawer in the order known only to me, before I can take my before-bedtime shower at two in the morning. Rowena Tiempo Torrevillas 203

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219 Interview / Panayam

220 Original PLAC: (Left to Right) Alfrredo Navarro Salanga, Ricardo M. de Ungria, Eric Gamalinda, Alfred A. Yuson, Cirilo F. Bautista, Marne L. Kilates, Gémino H. Abad, and Felix Fojas.

221 Intensities of Signs: An Interview with the Visionary Cirilo F. Bautista Ronald Baytan To say that Cirilo F. Bautista is a great writer is an understatement. It was January 1991 when as a literature major, I enrolled in the poetry class of the renowned Dr. Cirilo F. Bautista. He had a formal demeanor about him, and he commanded attention, respect, and awe from his students. This sense of awe at Cirilo s genius and strength of character would stay with me, even until the time I interviewed him in his home in Cirilo F. Bautista at the Dumaguete workshop. 207

222 Original PLAC on a Cavite beach: (Top) Alfrredo Navarro Salanga and Cirilo F. Bautista; (Bottom) Felix Fojas, Ricardo M. de Ungria, Alfred A. Yuson, and Gémino H. Abad. Quezon City on February 28 this year. I had already been teaching for almost twenty years, but during the interview, I would still stare star struck, and Cirilo remained the same: the same composed intellectual with a serious mien, a commanding presence, a low confident voice, and a compelling sense of irony about the world and about himself. Only one thing had changed: his age. Born in 1941, he is now seventy-one years old, definitely older, white hair and all, a little weaker, but still prolific and undaunted by time like Tennyson s Ulysses. To Cirilo, poetry is a sign, a sign of signs, a sign so intense that it is always contemptuous of language, yet it is nothing without it. 1 More than twenty years after, I can still remember quite vividly Bautista s first lesson. He wrote on the board his favorite line from Lawrence Perrine s Sound and Sense: poetry as a kind of language that says more and says it more intensely than does ordinary language (italics in the original). 2 Poetry, as intense language, demands an intractable imagination and an uncompromising dedication to the craft and Cirilo has demonstrated nothing but this in his career as a writer. It is not easy to devote one s life to poetry, an art considered by many to be impractical and financially unrewarding. Coming from a poor family, Bautista worked as a newspaper boy and bootblack when he was still young; he worked as a checker at the University of Santo Tomas to support himself through college. But he did not disappoint himself and his family. He was 208 Likhaan 6 Interview / Panayam

223 a consistent honor student from grade school to graduate school (fourth honor at Legarda Elementary School in 1954; class valedictorian at Mapa High School in 1958; BA English, magna cum laude, from UST in 1963; MA Literature, magna cum laude, from Saint Louis University in 1968). He eventually received his DA in Language and Literature from De La Salle University in Despite Bautista s achievements, his masterpiece, The Trilogy of Saint Lazarus especially its last installment, Sunlight on Broken Stones remains understudied. This provided the opening of our interview. The questions centered on his poetry, especially the Trilogy, but I was also interested in his other literary pursuits: fiction, creative nonfiction, translation, and criticism. I also wanted to ask him about specific works, the craft of writing, and his teaching career. In Cirilo Bautista s universe, Man (or Woman) is an infinitesimal being wrestling with language to articulate what cannot be articulated and to unearth what history has buried in the boneyard of memory. Through the paradox of pentametric lines, the incandescence of irony, and the majesty of metaphors, Bautista has woven together the stories that we make up and make us up, the stories of our solitude and grace as a people. Aside from poetry, Cirilo F. Bautista writes fiction and nonfiction. His fiction (Stories and Galaw ng Asoge) is quite philosophical. In the short stories, the narrators are thinkers pondering the nature of existence. In the novel, the writer is having an intellectual feast with his use of metafictional devices. His essays, mostly from his weekly columns in Panorama and compiled as The House of True Desire (2010), are by turns lyrical and ironic, informative and earnest. The commanding voice the firmness of the I is ever present. So are the unmistakable grasp of the language and the pleasures of the intellect which are a hallmark of the creative universe of Bautista. Early on in Bautista s career, he had already established himself as an extraordinary poet, a fact which both Nick Joaquin and Jose Garcia Villa acknowledged. In his introduction to The Cave and Other Poems (1968), Nick Joaquin had this to say: This is a young poet who demands attention and patience from the reader but who rewards a close reading with a wealth of imagery, with more gradual revelations. In Bautista s books, one often finds this blurb from Villa, a quote from his letter to Cirilo: Already, you write like a Master: with genius in language and genius of imagination. Difficult, dense, cerebral these are perhaps the words that best describe the poetry of Bautista. His earliest collection, The Cave and Other Poems Ronald Baytan 209

224 Palanca Awards Night: (Left to Right) Cirilo F. Bautista, Gémino H. Abad, Ricardo M. de Ungria, and Alfred A. Yuson. (1968), is a good introduction to Bautista s poetry because it contains the seeds of his poetics the lyrical sweep, the distrust of language, the sonic preoccupations, the formal experiments, and the cerebral density. His second collection, Charts (1973), exemplifies the modernist Bautista in such lyrics as A Man Falls to His Death and A Manner of Looking. The formal experiments are balanced, however, by tender lyrics like Pedagogic and The Sea Cannot Touch. Boneyard Breaking (1992), his third collection, marks the beginning of a poetry that is more grounded in Philippine realities and politics (and this will find full thematic and technical exploration in Sunlight on Broken Stones, 1999). What I find central to Boneyard Breaking are Poems from a European Journey. This cycle of poems explores the postcolonial poet s consciousness as an Other. Even The Fourteen Stations of the Cross, with its juxtaposition of Eastern and non-christian epigraphs with the Christian myth, deserves critical scrutiny. Believe and Betray (2006), his latest poetry collection, stands out from the rest because, while retaining the intellectual rigor and technical sophistication 210 Likhaan 6 Interview / Panayam

225 of the previous collections, its language is surprisingly not dense; it is not as difficult a read as the earlier work. It demonstrates, I surmise, a poetics no longer tempered by the demands, nor haunted by the opacity, of modernism. The foremost critic of Bautista s poetry, the late Dr. Ophelia Alcantara Dimalanta, rightfully summarizes Bautista s achievements as a poet: Believe and Betray is primarily about beliefs, betrayals, chances, certainties, believing, being betrayed, where the poet speaks loudly of poetry as act of self-liberation only to expose its illusory promise. 3 Reading Bautista is reading Larkin, Lowell, Auden, Ashberry, Heaney, and more in the sense that his poetry, finally, has the robustness, the integrity, the authority, and the historical sense of these masters oeuvres. The poet s audacity and flexibility of form is predicated on the conviction that depth of wisdom, force of passion, profundity of insight, or whatever it is that distinguishes art from mere craft invariably demands certain appropriate formal maneuverings. This explains the rich literary fare offered by the book, the variety of literary strategies employed to match the massive range and diversity of topics, subjects, and insights covered. Simply astounding. 4 To understand Bautista s epic trilogy, it is important that one has read his lyrics. It is a known fact that many of Bautista s lyrics have actually appeared in the trilogy. Ricardo de Ungria has discussed this strategy or recycling, 5 which reinforces quite clearly the modernist poetics of Bautista. The sonic repetitions, the conscious attempt at intertextuality, the self-referentiality, and the fragmentation and multiplication of poetic selves/worlds in Bautista s poetry all of these lead to the ultimate poetic technique of collage and the poet s bold claim that he has written only one poem, that is, his entire body of work: All my poems are one poem. 6 Bautista s modernism, however, is tempered by a deep sense of poetry s social function: to serve the nation. As a sign of the times and [a]s an artifact of culture, the poem revitalizes the national pride or awakens the nation s moribund aspirations. It has now been conscripted into the service of the national soul. 7 This faith in poetry finds concrete embodiment in The Trilogy of Saint Lazarus (2001), Bautista s retelling of Philippine history. The Archipelago (1970), the first epic in the Trilogy, focuses on the beginnings of colonization with Magellan s discovery of the islands and untimely death to Legaspi s building of Manila to the trial of Rizal. Thus, to tell Manila s story, Bautista uses three major characters Magellan (the Bearer of Consciousness), Legaspi (the Lighter of Consciousness), and Rizal Ronald Baytan 211

226 (the Eye of Consciousness). Bautista s chronicle is not conventional in terms of technique, not quite linear in terms of plot, not quite based only on facts. In certain sections, he had to invent events. 8 Unlike the later two epics, The Archipelago is more playful in terms of form; some of its sections struggle to break out of the page whereas the stanza patterns in Telex Moon and Sunlight on Broken Stones are more steady and regular. Telex Moon (1991), the second epic in the Trilogy, is an extended rumination on Manila of the past and of the twentieth century with Rizal as its central intelligence. Like the previous epic, it is concerned with the inner life of the characters. The epic s structure is clear: Parts I and III showcase Rizal on the psychic/spiritual plane or astral plane (to use Bautista s words) 9 while Part II explores Rizal s life in Dapitan. Telex (telephone exchange) figures in Part III where, according to Bautista, the poet through Rizal laments the country s degeneration into materialism which the telex, a modern innovation, obviously symbolizes. 10 The poem is composed of exactly 3,000 lines, and each of its three main parts/movements contains ten sections/ subparts; each section consists of one hundred lines in twenty-five quatrains with a pentameter pattern. What is most evident in this epic is its emphasis on sonic effects. To cite an example from Part I: The sex of telex brings the grex an ax, tells exactly the factly lack of lex though in electric stockrooms it is rex; its shocky hair that shakes the air mirific 11 On the complexity of the epic, Ophelia A. Dimalanta avers: The ambiguities [in Telex Moon] then stem from an Eliotic penchant for heaped-up allusions, a Stevensian preference for unfamiliar and odd words, truly unusual and impenetrable in a single isolated context, undecipherable unless the reader submits to the wily and almost inaccessible conditions of the poem, ambiguities (still the poet s privilege, really) which are, however, made more bewildering if not altogether exasperating by the poet s conscious display of word-power in the incessant alliterative play, in the witchery of his jugglery, his calendrics and flummery and alphabetic itches stumping and stupefying, and really, for what? 12 Eliot and Stevens together with Pound, Auden, and Frost appear in the interview as Bautista s acknowledged influences. With Eliot, Stevens, and Pound in Bautista s schema, it is no wonder then that the Trilogy is an intellectual challenge. Indeed, with all the verbal gymnastics, what then and 212 Likhaan 6 Interview / Panayam

227 what for? The answer, Dimalanta states, is the poet s momentary power over his medium. 13 To extend the argument further, the work is a testament to a postcolonial poet s struggle with language, a language whose possession he is constantly enacting because he knows only too well that possession is only a phantasm, a fleeting achievement. This postcolonial dimension in Bautista s work is explored briefly in the interview. As a critic himself, Bautista knows theory well, but criticism is not something that he would have pursued had he not ended up as a professor of literature. Bautista is not a nativist poet or critic. He understands the futility of searching for lost origins, or of going back to our supposed old essential self. To Bautista, language per se is not the problem of writers how they wield it is. The last epic of the Trilogy and winner of the 1998 Centennial Literary Prize for the Epic in English, Sunlight on Broken Stones (1999), takes a look at more recent times, exploring the struggle of the Filipino people from multiple perspectives, investigating the consciousness of the poet, the heroes and villains, and other unnamed subjects and objects (like the gun) Ferdinand Marcos, Gringo Honasan, Imelda Marcos, and Cory Aquino, to name a few thereby giving us a composite picture of the deplorable state our country has succumbed to and its possibilities for redemption. In terms of form, Sunlight is composed of thirty-two sections; with the exception of the framing sections (the last being a repetition/rewriting of the first in more relaxed, loose five lines), each section is composed of one hundred hendecasyllabic lines of twenty quintets in a predominantly iambic measure. The epic begins with a tone of despair: regret, blight, burn, lost, stolen, wound, and dark sign dark age, but ends with faith, thoughtful, live, keep eternal, embrace, and Bright sign Bright age. The ending is a gesture, an impassioned call toward that vision of a changed Philippine nation. In the interview, even if the answers may be found in the epic itself, I asked Bautista how and why he steered the poem toward this hopeful ending. It is sad to note that no scholar has yet conducted an in-depth study of Sunlight. Even reviews of this work are scant. I asked Bautista how he felt about it. Since the Trilogy can truly benefit from a postcolonial study, I also asked Bautista about his recreation of the colonial world: why Magellan, Legaspi, and Rizal are the main subjects of The Archipelago. In assigning Magellan the role of Bearer of Consciousness, what does he aim to achieve? Written in Stratford-upon-Avon Bautista s nationalistic poem about the legacy of the English language and the paradoxes of our postcolonial realities is recycled in section 20 of Sunlight. I had to ask Bautista about his thoughts on the lyric. Ronald Baytan 213

228 On the matter of poetics, we must not forget how Bautista has foregrounded the sonic dimensions of poetry in the Trilogy. After all, as he once said, poetry as verbal music is a tribute to the imagination s ego. 14 I included music as one of our key topics in the interview. The rhapsodic heights and lyricism of Telex Moon merit critical attention. I had to ask: Why the obsession with music? My interview s modest aim is to serve as a re-introduction to Bautista and his views about art and society. It is best to read it side by side with the previous interviews conducted by Monina A. Mercado, Ricardo de Ungria, Yolanda T. Escobal, and David Jonathan Y. Bayot. 15 I did not ask Bautista too many questions about his life as a critic/semiotician nor about his poetry in Tagalog/Filipino precisely because these topics had already been adequately covered by Bayot and Escobal, respectively. A small difference, perhaps, from earlier interviews has accrued simply from the passage of time Bautista is now speaking decades after those interviews, seven years after he had actually published his first poem: the Trilogy and Believe and Betray. Naturally, a section of the interview finds Bautista talking about his latest poetry project whose theme is something that he would not have considered writing about, or concentrating on, in his youth. The Trilogy ends with the line, Bright sign Bright age, a perfect ending for all the good things a visionary poet wishes for his sad but beloved country. I titled the interview Intensities of Signs because of the flagship poem in Believe and Betray, The Intensity of Things, which contains the phrase believe and betray ; because Bautista s poetry is as intense a language as his faith in poetry and in his country. To him, poetry epitomizes people s highest aesthetic verbalization of social realities. Its linguistic configurations attempt to capture the human condition at its evanescent point. 16 Bautista would always bewail the deplorable state of our nation, but in equal measure or perhaps more so, he would always emphasize its chances of achieving redemption, its potential for greatness. Bautista trusts in the restorative power of Poetry, its wisdom, its sacredness. After all, through the years, Bautista has always believed in the inextricable bond between language and identity, between poetry and the nation: But whatever poetry in English we will have in the future, say a hundred years from now, it must contain the Filipino soul, the Filipino consciousness, with the bones of our history and our arts in it, a poetry which, though written in English, is the only possible poetic expression of the Filipino identity Likhaan 6 Interview / Panayam

229 An Interview with Dr. Cirilo F. Bautista* Ronald Baytan: Ricardo de Ungria states, It is a minor tragedy for the trilogy that it has remained unread or if read, little understood by the very people whose ideas of race and history should have been helped had the song and the verses made for them been less perplexing and recondite. As it is, the epic remains the supreme exemplar of high modernism in our poetry. 18 How do you feel about this? Cirilo F. Bautista: Criticism isn t a primary pursuit in our country; it s chiefly an academic subject. The Trilogy was an intellectual pursuit for me. I was writing for some imagined reader who would have the capacity to look at our country s history and assess its future. Nobody in this country becomes popular because of literary works. We are read by a few people. That s enough for me. It s saddening, but that s the reality. RB: Albert B. Casuga once asked, Who is afraid of Cirilo Bautista? 19 My understanding is that you wrote the Trilogy for intellectuals. Is that right? CFB: No, I have in mind an intelligent, educated reader; in that sense, you already have a readership; your world becomes difficult only for those who do not belong to that readership. We need readers who have some critical training; they would see the point of the poem or story. When you write a poem, you try to raise the ante. RB: In your interview with Monina Mercado, you said the true test of poetry is in the reading: The evaluation of a poet depends on his being heard. 20 You stressed there poetry s sonic element. Could you elaborate? CFB: At some stage in my writing, I was very much influenced by my readings and studies of the romantics: T. S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens. Their romanticism is in their use of language. You can be very modern in your thoughts, but you might not be in the way you express them. The kind of poet that I liked in the 1970s was Ricaredo Demetillo; how he spoke in his poems was very romantic. Since poetry is a kind of performance in reading, it may have certain qualities that will attract the reader s auditory sensibilities. Before anything else, language is sound and poetry is sound. When I write, I try to please the readers with the sounds of my words; what I want to tell them will come later. Outright, when you are impressed with a * Interview transcribed by Peter Paul R. Pichler and Ronald Baytan. Ronald Baytan 215

230 poem, isn t it the sound that impresses you first and not what is said? Later, the thought will strike you, and then you say: Oh, this is what he wants to say. RB: I think your second epic, Telex Moon, is the most lyrical. CFB: That s true. I was drunk with sound. The words were used more for their sound than for anything else. Because you know why? because it s Rizal speaking. Rizal is a first-class romantic. RB: So that was central to the creation of his character, the persona? CFB: If it can harmonize with that, why not? Take Robert Frost, W. H. Auden, Wallace Stevens. It s the sound of his poetry that captivates you with Stevens; otherwise, you don t get his ideas. He s probably one of the most philosophical poets that you have. And yet, why is he read? Because of the melliflousness of his language that attracts you first, and then you are pulled into his thoughts; you meditate on his poem. Afterwards, you ll say, Now I understand this poem. RB: You also like using internal rhyme and alliteration. CFB: That s all part of the sound system, part of the poet s arsenal. The outer rhymes are the most popular, the most obvious. Some poets may move away from the relative ease of the outer rhymes by going inside. Take Edgar Allan Poe s The Raven it s full of inner rhymes. He said poetry is the rhythmical creation of meaning. RB: I think in terms of form, the most radical and experimental of your Trilogy was the first, The Archipelago. The second and the third had more standard stanzaic forms. CFB: When I was writing The Archipelago, I never thought, I m going to write using a different form. I m going to experiment. I don t think you say that to yourself when you write. You just write! Then things happen, then you continue what s happening, then all of a sudden it s finished, and you have written an experimental poem. I thought I was just writing the kind of poem I would like to write, and since it was a long poem, I tried to use several ways of saying things. That probably accounts for the experimentation, the form: narrative, dramatic, and lyric. I was aware that was a violation of the epic character. I said: I don t like the way the epic sounds. It s so boring a very long poem with a definite meter. I want to have a poem that has excitement, that has drama. So I mixed the various kinds of poetry: narrative, dramatic, lyric. 216 Likhaan 6 Interview / Panayam

231 RB: The Archipelago zeroed in on Magellan, Rizal, and Legaspi. Rizal is, of course, a given but why Magellan and Legaspi? CFB: I ve always said my epic is a history of the Filipino consciousness. When Magellan came to this country, everything opened up we became conscious of who we were, and so we fought. The intellectual journey of the Filipinos began. Because Magellan was a foreigner, we don t pay attention to his impact on how our consciousness as Filipinos began. RB: You say then that Magellan is the bearer of consciousness? CFB: There is that kind of thing. I recall a Victorian epic, The Torch- Bearers [by Alfred Noyes]. That s my Magellan, a bringer of light: intellectual openness, intellectual adventure. We cannot have a culture, a society, a consciousness that s progressive without intellectual advancement. That s why Rizal got somewhere because of the power of his words. RB: You assert that in Words and Battlefields: A Theoria on the Poem. Are you also questioning the binaries of colonial master/colonial subject, oppressor/oppressed, as to say colonialism has good and bad effects? CFB: Yes. It s all a matter of standpoint. Besides, binaries are just academic terms, heuristic, to make analyis clearer. Look, we are a mixture of bad and good people running around the country. You walk around the streets, do you see the binaries? No, it all boils down to people and what they do, how they live. RB: You said in an essay 21 that, in recreating the Spanish colonial world, you were not as interested in the actual physical place as in the psychological realities of your personae. How did you go about the construction of Magellan s and Legaspi s character? CFB: By reading all I could read of our history, 22 including secondary sources. I went to various libraries and many seminars. In 1969, when I was in Iowa, I had not yet finished The Archipelago; I found William Carlos Williams s epic, Paterson. It seemed he was doing the same thing I was doing, using the same techniques I had used; for instance, the side quotations, historical or otherwise. I said: My God, if people have read this guy s work, they would I say I copied him. But I had already written mine, you see, so there must be a similar kind of self-conscious technique among people writing long works. Other epics I ve read, like The Torch-bearers and the Spanish epics, have similar techniques and methodologies, bringing out just one simple Ronald Baytan 217

232 thing: the progress of the minds of people. It s only the degree in which this thing is brought out that differs. RB: In recreating the colonial world, you also had to invent certain details. 23 What made you decide which to invent and which to extract from certain sources? CFB: One portion is largely historical. I retained what I could not change. I changed only those parts where there are probabilities capable of being incorporated. I used Aristotle s theory of probability. If it can be acceptable, why not? It may be true, after all. Some historical things, other historical characters, I abandoned because they would not have worked with the system that I was thinking of. In the end, you are left with materials you think are necessary for you to accomplish your job. You work within such parameters. RB: So that explains why Rizal is central in your work: Rizal, the evolved consciousness. CFB: He is our hero. There was nobody else as great as he was a colonial hero. RB: It s difficult to write about Rizal since so much has already been written about him. How did you take on that challenge? CFB: I focused on something else. Imagine Rizal in a country where everything happening is affecting him, how would he react? That is my epic. RB: Rizal then on the psychological plane? CFB: On all levels, because he is the persona that we cannot find any substitute for. He is the number one person able to experience those things. RB: So this explains also the closure? Because he appears again at the end of the epic trilogy. CFB: Yes, that s just technical closure. You ll notice in the epic, the beginning and the ending lines are the same. If I were very nationalistic, I would probably have used Bonifacio; I love him, but I could not find anybody better than Rizal. He was thrust into the events of his time. Every historical thing followed him. He made history, as we say. RB: Why does your sequel, Telex Moon, end with slashes? 218 Likhaan 6 Interview / Panayam

233 CFB: It was a concession to the highly technological character of our present time. When we see Rizal there, he is speaking from a higher plane, looking at what has happened and what is happening. The slashes signify partly a closure and partly a continuation. Everything is like that; history does not end. RB: In terms of form, in both The Archipelago and The Telex Moon, you used a lot of epigraphs. Did you also aim to question whatever you were quoting? CFB: It s a common technique by way of setting the atmosphere, the historical situation, without any need to speak about them in the epics themselves. But there would be somewhere in the main text a critical interrogation with the person speaking. RB: Ricardo de Ungria states that you recycle in your first two epics many passages and lyric poems from Charts. 24 Many sections in Sunlight on Broken Stones also appear in Boneyard Breaking and Believe and Betray. What is the raison d être, your poetic vision, for the intertextuality, for the consanguin[ity], as Marjorie Evasco puts it? 25 CFB: All my life I have just been writing one poem: all my verses. Why can t I not use them again if the situation demands it? There is also a psychological explanation. For me, there is no time. One can go into the future, the past, the present, just like that. So, this cross-usage of text from one work into another, I consider as my mind jumping from one time to another, trying to make sense of those two different periods for the purpose of a present situation. I knew what I was doing there. I would choose those parts in the corpus of my works when they were very useful for my purpose. Sometimes I pair them; sometimes I cut or add to them. RB: How do you connect those parts from different contexts? CFB: That s creative again because you have to come up with something new. A plus B = C. Very hard to come up with C. It s not just transposition. It s trans-creation. RB: De Ungria said you were poking fun at your critics and readers; he also said that the crossovers comprise a collage where the discrete parts of one work are looking for coherence. 26 This is one aspect of modernist poetics. Ronald Baytan 219

234 CFB: I liked what de Ungria said about me laughing at my critics. I knew the crossovers would catch my critics attention because nobody was doing it then. If somebody else were to do that, I would probably say he was copying himself. But I had a purpose. RB: You once said that the printed text seals the lips. 27 Thus, I thought the recycling was a way of approximating the chanting quality of the epic. It allowed you to create a polyphony of voices. CFB: I have always dreamt of having that epic, especially the dramatic portion, performed. I have ideas how the trial of Rizal should be performed. I would add not only polyphony, but a number of actions from three perspectives: narrative, drama, and lyric. RB: In section 20 of Sunlight on Broken Stones, you combined Bonifacio in a Prospect of Bones and Written in Stratford-upon-Avon, thus creating two voices. That added to the work s complexity, but using multiple voices can also create problems; the reader will have to decipher who is speaking, and the poet has to ensure that the characters are carefully delineated. CFB: You re right. The ideal poem for me is one where the voices speaking are not questioned because they re easily understood, and because the identity of whose voice it is, is also clear. That s what I m trying to do with the poems I m writing now. RB: The first of your trilogy, The Archipelago, is the most difficult. Sunlight is cerebral but quite easy to follow. CFB: Yes, that first part usually gives you problems. The epic is like that. But the second [Telex Moon] you should have heard Peque Gallaga read the work. Sayang, I was not able to ask him to record it. You will then catch the sound patterns. RB: There are experimental parts in Sunlight; for instance, the catalogues in section 18. What is the source or origin of this section? CFB: Various sources, usually newspapers. There was a time I ran out of things to say, so I said to myself, What can I get from the newspaper today? I read the business section and looked for nice-sounding phrases which I then quoted. That s the radical thing there; I was after the sound of those phrases. RB: Section 21 is also all quotations. Sunlight on Broken Stones has a more or less regular meter. You showcase the nation s despair, but at the end, 220 Likhaan 6 Interview / Panayam

235 you counter the dark age with bright age and burn the records becomes keep eternal. On the level of technique, how did you steer the poem in that direction? CFB: By the promise of Rizal s work. He eventually sided with the revolutionists. That s part of what they found in the piece of paper in his shoes. Revolution! That s why there is this great foreshadowing of sunlight coming into the country. Sunlight, sunlight, sunlight. Our culture is all broken stones. Now there is sunlight on those broken stones. So there is that kind of promise, the correction. RB: Why did you choose to write three books? CFB: I thought three books would be very suitable for the poem that I was imagining. The number of books has no serious significance. RB: So, until the very end, it s all about Rizal. I also liked the line, The more I love this country, the more I cannot die. CFB: Rizal has already done his part. There s the promise that things may be better if our people follow what Rizal is trying to tell us. By the way, one other thing [about Sunlight on Broken Stones] is that the gun speaks there and says things about our country. I enjoyed writing that because it s difficult. RB: Sunlight is heavily about the Marcosian years. What is your take on the politics of Ferdinand Marcos and Cory Aquino? CFB: Marcos took advantage of his position; Cory was a unifying person, and her son won because of her. That s our image of them. The only problem is the people. Somebody should write an epic about the people of this country. I ve already answered what our leaders are like, and why. But our people, what are we like, and why? Everybody has taught us what to do. Why can t we change and become better? Why are we not progressing? RB: In your interview with David Jonathan Bayot, you mentioned Cory s lack of policy on the arts. 28 CFB: That s the best thing that the Marcos regime gave us: the patronage of art. What have Aquino, Ramos, Estrada, and Arroyo done? In Cory s time, other pressing problems called for more attention than art. Sad, but that is so. RB: I found your cycle Poems from a European Journey interesting, especially the closure in The Fountains of Villa D Este, a technique also evident in the epic. Ronald Baytan 221

236 CFB: It s a concession to the epic form. The epic has to have a beginning, or invocation, then the main body, and finally an envoi, which is the ending. Such are the formal conventions in European epics. RB: The late Dr. Ophelia Dimalanta says that Stevensian and Eliotic elements in your poetry account for its modernist tendencies. 29 How actually have Eliot and Stevens influenced you? CFB: In college we were reading them. When I first read Stevens, I couldn t understand him, but I liked how his poems sounded, the way his lines moved and created some kind of music that addressed a certain aspect of my being. Stevens has his own philosophy of poetry that he lectures on in his poems. T. S. Eliot is easier for me than Stevens. He is more of a dramatist who believes in the punch line and leaves you there shocked, displeased, or pleased, depending on what he wants to get from you as an effect. Ezra Pound, too, who is more difficult, has influenced me. I hardly understood much of Ezra, aside from his small poems which are entirely in English. The Cantos is very obscure. I doubt if even he himself understood them. He writes in different languages; if you don t know those languages, how can you follow? I also like Robert Frost. These are the two extreme influences on me: the simple and the complex writers. Frost is a genius in simplicity of manner. He makes everything easy for you to understand, even where his matter is complex. His meters are almost always perfect; the rhymes, almost always perfect. And there s W. H. Auden, a little bit different from Frost because he tends to philosophize in a social way. All the other poets I read whether I liked them or not affected me; the Beat Poets Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso when I was in Iowa, they were the ones dominating the literary scene. RB: Your early works, including The Cave, were philosophical. 30 May I know why? CFB: I was reading a lot of philosophy then at Saint Louis University. The priests were quite good at philosophy, and some of them were my teachers. By nature, I am philosophical. By nature, I am serious and I want to be alone. What I read had some impact on the work I did it was as if I was trying to see the philosophical aspects in the subjects that I wrote about. That s why people found my earlier poems difficult. The Cave itself is one long philosophical dissertation on human development. I was reading anthropological psychology then. But I also have humorous poems in The 222 Likhaan 6 Interview / Panayam

237 Cave and Other Poems. If you keep writing only serious poems, you will go crazy. RB: In The Fourteen Stations of the Cross, were your references to Eastern philosophy deliberate? CFB: When I lived in Baguio, I was reading a lot of Western and, even more, Eastern philosophy The Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Zen Buddhists, etc. I even studied yoga; in the 1970s it was an in-thing. My wife and I turned vegetarian. I enjoyed writing Fourteen Stations as a dramatized narrative, even though I suffered through it. I was telling myself, These are my stations. RB: There was a theoretical disjunct between the sacred Western myth and the Eastern philosophy you put in. I thought you as a postcolonial writer were countering or appropriating a Western myth. CFB: When I wrote it, I never thought of it that way. I just wanted to write something after the model of my own religion. In the 1970s, my family would go to Zambales to spend the Holy Week there and a month of summer vacation. But I labored through the poem and finished it, and I was satisfied with it. When I used those Eastern references, it was not really a homage to, or offense against, any philosophy or religion, but simply because I was exposed to them in my readings. It s one thing you learn in philosophy: All religions are alike. RB: Pedagogic is a favorite among teachers. Was it based on your experience as a teacher? CFB: Yes. I easily wrote it because I was writing about something that I knew. But I don t know anymore what inspired me to write that. It may be that I saw teachers in my time who did not know what they were doing, so I wrote something to criticize them. RB: Many of your books are dedicated to Rose Marie. May I know why? CFB: All of them. Almost all of them. She s the only wife I have. Why should I not dedicate them to her [laughs]? In the beginning, we used to quarrel a lot. She s also an artist. She was born in August; I in July. These are two astrological signs that shouldn t marry. Rosemarie couldn t understand why I wrote more than take care of the children, and so on. Later, she realized that some adjustments had to be done and just supported me. That s why I Ronald Baytan 223

238 said to myself, If she could have that kind of sacrifice I would dedicate my works to her. I couldn t leave her; I wouldn t leave her. The writers wives are unknown people; they are unheard of, but they are doing so much for literature. 31 They encourage their own husbands to do what they want to do. RB: The distrust of language, the wrestling with language these are evident in your early work like Addressed to Himself. CFB: It s a true picture of the artist. Dylan Thomas has the same view, In My Craft or Sullen Art. It s always a struggle. In my case, writing humorous poems balances my philosophical seriousness. RB: Apart from Written in Stratford-upon-Avon, are there other pieces that you really love or are proud of? CFB: I like all the poems that I have written, but if I were to give you a rating offhand I would like to read The Cave in a poetry reading. I also enjoyed the long poem, Sunlight on Broken Stones. It is just one poem that I wrote in a kind of uninterrupted, energetic outpouring; it was as if somebody was writing it for me until it was finished. RB: Your poem, Written in Stratford-upon-Avon, is also a discourse on language. What s your take on English? Dr. Abad and others would say that we have actually claimed English. CFB: I agree with that. I get very angry with people who ask, Why do you write in English? Why don t you write in the national language? What national language do you mean? Tagalog? It s not a national language. We cannot return to Tagalog anymore. We can create a literature in English because English is now ours. RB: So, given this historical reality, what is the poet s task? CFB: To write as best as he can. A writer must write in any language he is familiar with. I m not saying that English is the best language for poetry nor that one should write in English or Tagalog or Kapampangan. No, that s a choice the writer makes he chooses it, and he should do his best. As Oscar Wilde said, you can write literature for religion s sake, for politics, for sociology. What does it matter for as long as it s literature? As long as you write poetry, I don t care what language you use. RB: So it s the craft that matters. 224 Likhaan 6 Interview / Panayam

239 CFB: Yes. You cannot separate craft from language. You cannot have one without the other. It s all about form and content. RB: As a bilingual poet, you wrote more poems in English than in Tagalog. Your epic is in English. May I know why? CFB: I still write in Tagalog; it was my first choice. In college, I wrote in Tagalog. But the situation then affected my choice of language. The issue of national language was still volatile. There was no such thing as studying Pilipino or Tagalog. I wanted to write, but writing and literature then came under AB and MA English. So I was forced to shift my attention from Tagalog to English. My writing in Tagalog became less and less until I found myself not writing in Tagalog for so many years. I have only three books of poetry in Tagalog [Sugat ng Salita, Kirot ng Kataga, and Tinik sa Dila]; my English works are more dominant. I wanted that to be reversed, and so, later on, I wrote my novel in Tagalog. RB: The titles of your Tagalog poetry collections are obviously about language: kataga, salita, and dila. But your Tagalog poetry is different from your English in terms of tone and technique, though at times they are both ironic. What accounts for the difference? CFB: The difference lies in the language. The language carries with it all the traditions of poetry, techniques, history, special armaments. They are already all in the language. So when I write in English, that s one set of those things. When I write in Tagalog, that will be another set. My feelings will be affected by those elements in one or the other language. That s why I don t write the same subjects in Tagalog that I write about in English. Most of my Tagalog poems are about social things relationships of people, my family, society. That s because to me Tagalog is the more suitable language for those social commentaries. RB: Why would that be? CFB: Well, because the Tagalog language rises from a history of oppression and deprivation; it is a language that is always revolting [against something]. Up to now we are revolting. English is more intellectual in the sense that it arrived to us already polished by the Americans. So in those cases where the writer is bilingual or trilingual, he also assumes a bilingual and trilingual personality because of the differences in language. Ronald Baytan 225

240 RB: Which of your Tagalog poems do you like best, or would like to be remembered for? CFB: Panulat. Sugat ng Salita is also often anthologized. Banal na Pasyon ayon Kay Simeon, Aktibista is I think the longest poem. That s my favorite. RB: Would you say Hernandez and Abadilla have influenced your Tagalog poetry? CFB: I am in sympathy with Amado V. Hernandez; with Abadilla, no. You can easily see somebody who is influenced by Abadilla; it s like being influenced by Jose Garcia Villa. It s all about form. I have more affinity with Hernandez because I identify with what he writes about: the poor, society s problems, and so on. I can understand Hernandez s work very well. Pareho kami ng Tagalog niyan e. His Tagalog is no different from mine. That probably makes my translations of his poems a little bit easier. RB: How has your trip to Europe or abroad changed you as a poet the way your write, the way you think as a poet? CFB: Probably how I think, but not the way I write. How I write is already inscribed in me. The way I think about how I write and how I think about other people writing, these may change. When I m in another country, I m amazed by its progress and riches, and I start lamenting my own country s state. I think of what s happening to my own people. I wrote about that in Written in Stratford-upon-Avon. Differences in culture, differences in language, differences in models they can have effects on the writer s way of thinking. But craft is another matter. RB: In Written in Stratford-upon-Avon, you talk about the dual heritage of English English as a gift and as a curse and then end with the image of a puppet. Apart from the poem s nationalistic angle, why did you choose the puppet [ strings pulling my bones ]? CFB: There I criticize their commercializing of Shakespeare. Is English culture also one of commercialism, something that has escaped Shakespearean tragedy? The title, Written in Stratford-upon-Avon, stresses that point. RB: You also translated the work of National Artist Amado V. Hernandez. Could you comment on translation and your work, Bullets and Roses? Likhaan 6 Interview / Panayam

241 CFB: Probably the most difficult kind of creation is translation because there nothing is definite. Translation, as the Italians say, is a kind of betrayal [Traduttore, traditore]. You cannot be truly faithful to the work you re translating. Two people translating the same thing will come up with two different translations. Translation is unnecessary except as a last resort. The most basic problem in translating a poem is getting into the head of whoever is speaking. You have to pretend you are that person, adapt your self to him. Not only to his environment but also his manner of speaking, the language that he is using. You really have to be a linguist. RB: What difficulties did you encounter translating Hernandez? CFB: Finding the right English word or expression for the Tagalog word that we use. In one instance, I wasn t sure whether I had succeeded. He used one word whose definition I have not yet found. I asked people around. It was probably a misprint but there were no notes about it anywhere. You are sort of disgusted by that kind of failure on your part when you are not even sure that you are wrong. Tagalog and English are two different languages, especially in terms of structure. Tagalog is polysyllabic, English monosyllabic. RB: Do you also consider the audience for whom you are writing the translation? CFB: As in poetry, you write for yourself, or an ideal reader. RB: Your first book of fiction was in English [Stories]. Was there any problem writing your novel in Filipino? CFB: No, not really, because we re bilingual. Filipinos have no problem with shifting from one language to another. You don t say, I m going to write in Tagalog, what should I think? No, just write. That is one argument against all those people speaking about the national language. If you want to write in that language, write in it! You don t have to impose that language on people. A good writer writes in his best language, and his best language is what he has mastered. RB: May I know if you have already finished writing the Asoge trilogy? CFB: The second part is almost finished, but sometimes you get bogged down. If only you could write so many things at the same time! Now I m more concerned with my poetry because that s what s keeping me productive. Ronald Baytan 227

242 I ve already written eleven poems this February alone. For me that s a record. Sometimes it takes me years to finish one poem. But I have eleven! There was even a time when I wrote two poems in one day, one after the other! You feel good when you re satisfied with what you ve written. I m dating the poems in my notebook; I m putting it all down, the historical significations. Scholars will see, between two poems, how long it took me to write the second poem. If I can finish a hundred poems, I will publish the work. Ten poems a month that s my target. All these new poems will constitute my second poem; they re so different from my earlier ones because I m trying to marry prose and poetry in such a way that the product will become more poetry than prose. RB: What s that new collection about? CFB: It s autobiographical, about me as an old man, my view of the world, how I look at things now, my feelings: a lot of irony, and hopelessness, and pain. Those are the things you experience in old age. But a lot of hope, too. RB: Literature is about hope in the end. CFB: I have very few poems on God, on theology. I hardly touch on such matters. I write mostly about man because I know man. But about the other things, God alone can write them. RB: You once said that poetry is a monkey on your back. 33 So, how different is writing fiction from writing poetry? CFB: I enjoy writing fiction because you know where you re going. You can have an outline, the beginning, middle, and end determined before you even write. With poetry it s not like that. You can have all these ideas, but you may find yourself writing about something else. That is my experience with poetry. Poetry pleases me very much because of the intensity of the experience there. When I finish a poem, I m so happy because all my anxiety is gone. In short stories, we are more in control than in poetry. Prose is easier because you can plan things and just slack off if you cannot finish it. In poetry, however, sometimes you have to wait for the poem to finish itself. The story does not finish itself, but poetry sometimes will do it for you to your surprise, all of a sudden, it s finished. RB: So you already have the ending of the Asoge trilogy? 228 Likhaan 6 Interview / Panayam

243 CFB: Yes, I know its ending. That s why it s easy for me to go back to it. The only thing I don t like about fiction is its length. To finish a novel, you have to work on it every day. Every time you write, you have to go back to what you have written. I take my hat off to fictionists. Imagine how much labor they put into their work! I understood that with my first novel. RB: Who are the fictionists you admire and emulate? CFB: Most of them are detective fictionists. One of the latest is the author [Stieg Larsson] of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. There are, of course, the great classic detective writers like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. For non-detective fiction, there are so many writers. Anything that impresses me, makes me feel good after reading, affects and influences me. Borges, yes! He was my idol. Neruda, I admire. Everything we read becomes a part of our literary consciousness. RB: Another matter how different from poetry and fiction is the writing of nonfiction? CFB: Not much different from writing any kind of prose. You can experiment with the form of nonfiction, or essay, in so many ways, and I enjoyed doing that with my columns for Panorama. Short, crisp, and you may say, humorous pieces that criticize whatever matter you want to criticize. Creative nonfiction, so called, is also mostly autobiographical. RB: You are also a painter. You talked about it in The Poet as Painter: Pages from a Notebook. 34 CFB: What I really wanted [to take up] in college was Fine Arts but the tuition in that course was very high, so I went to Literature. But that didn t stop my liking for painting. I would associate with painters in UST, see painting exhibitions, study painting on my own. My wife who knows paintings also taught me the rudiments of color and composition. But nobody really taught me how to paint. Painting is a very good armament for literary writers. Painting and poetry run parallel in many ways. They use each other s language because they share so many terms in common: surface tension, color combination, harmony, unity, and so on. RB: About criticism, how different is it from creative writing? CFB: It s an entirely different kind of pursuit because you are not really creating. You are examining and justifying certain texts. That involves a Ronald Baytan 229

244 knowledge of things quite different from the knowledge of poetry, or of fiction, but knowledge nonetheless that can contribute to the greatness of our country s literature. We need good critical schools to help our literature and the other arts advance. We don t have that yet. It s most difficult for me to write criticism. It is as if I have to change everything change my language, my thinking, my way of looking at things. I can t imagine myself being a critic. Of course, as a writer, you have this or that kind of critical activity, but not the kind of criticism in academe. I probably wouldn t have written critical works. In fact, they were written because of the demand by the academic world. RB: But you did semiotics. CFB: The heyday of that kind of criticism in Europe and America was in the 1960s and 1970s. I was so lucky to have met people who were really into it: George Steiner, Paul Engle (our director in Iowa), and critics from schools like UP and UST. In a group of poets, there will always be critics. The poets themselves are their own critics. That s the first outside step you take. If you want to be a good writer, be a critic as well. And if you develop that in an intense manner, then you will become a professional critic. RB: In your interview with Ricardo de Ungria, you said our critics have not yet earned the kind of respect that they should get as critics. 35 Have our critics made progress since 1977? CFB: There is always progress. You have more people involved in serious criticism now than before because they have learned from the West. RB: What about developing our own theory? CFB: It will come if it develops, for you can t force it. Just like our national language: if everybody speaks Tagalog, then that s our national language. You can have so many kinds of critical schools, but the most dominant one will still be the one that is progressive and acceptable. RB: So much of our literature hasn t been studied yet, even the works of canonical writers. CFB: Because there is a lack of critical energy. No encouragement either for criticism. Well, there s really not much encouragement in this country when it comes to literature. It s all just talk. 230 Likhaan 6 Interview / Panayam

245 RB: What can you say about the new genres and new forms that have come out? CFB: That s unavoidable. Literature and technology are connected. However, how far can you go with blogs? Blogs are nothing else but undisciplined essays. Sometimes a blogger doesn t know anything about writing. Aside from the site, all he has is a computer. The bloggers, like the critics, must patrol their ranks, create something good, teach their members how to write properly, make them write about serious things. In poetry, you have the Textula, Textanaga, simple things that may help. RB: Realist texts are privileged in our canon. What can you say about that? CFB: It s natural in our case. It s like that anywhere else. You have all kinds of ideologies literature being also a form of propaganda. These ideologists would like to advance their causes. Nothing wrong with that, but whatever literature becomes dominant, that s our literature. RB: What about your Thomasian heritage? The late Ophelia Dimalanta asked whether Thomasian writing exists. 36 CFB: It s always arbitrary. But there are things to lean on to define Thomasian writing. First, a writing that reflects the teachings of St. Thomas. Next, what of St. Thomas s heritage to Filipinos in the course of history is reflected in literature? So then what makes a text Thomasian? Apart from all these, you have to talk about the technicalities of the writer s poetry or fiction. RB: How has UST influenced your own writing? CFB: I was studying in UST when I began writing. My formal start as writer was in the classrooms at UST. My degree was AB English. We had three units only in Pilipino. The only school offering AB Pilipino or Tagalog was the National Teachers College; probably UP also. RB: How was your life as teacher? After Saint Louis, you went to La Salle where you retired. CFB: I also taught for one year at UST and another year at Saint Louis. When you are a young teacher, you try to look for a school that would more or less make you feel at home, wouldn t you? I went to La Salle in 1969, and I liked what the American Brothers were doing. They were liberal, more open, Ronald Baytan 231

246 more honest. You knew what you were getting into. They tell you, This is our ranking here. This is the kind of salary you will get. I figured that if I stayed on, I would get the kind of money that was decent for me to retire on. It was the best then, and also the highest-paying school. We had a small group of writers, too, like Brother Andrew and Albert Casuga. RB: La Salle had created an environment conducive to writing. CFB: In 1970, Bro. Andrew returned from the States and eventually became our Vice President for Academic Affairs. At that time, when I had a poem published in, say, the Free Press, Brother Andrew would write me a note saying, I read your poem, and I liked these lines. Your Vice President telling you he read your poetry! He would do that for many years; when the pressure of work became too great, he would talk to you over the phone and send you books to read. RB: You also helped found the Bienvenido N. Santos Creative Writing Center in the Let s go back to your poetics. How much of your work is autobiographical? CFB: All of it. Always, there is something of you in whatever you write. RB: The criticism of your work has mostly been on the techniques, not so much on its politics. May I know your thoughts about the Philippine nation? CFB: I say very little about that except in the epics. Politics is the last of my priorities. Always at the back of my mind, there is that kind of doubt about the verities of our political institutions. RB: Is Philippine literature developing as it should? CFB: It is developing, but how it should is something else. Still, the writer s problem is simply to write. Is much writing going on now? Are we producing more or not? RB: What can you say about our young writers now? CFB: The writers now in our universities are doing all right. In UP, a number of writers are capable of contributing to the progress of our literature. As always, UP writing is the top-rank among academic places. UST has the 400-title project. Some young writers are very good. I was reading Likhaan, and I found some nice poems there and an essay by Eugene Evasco. He is very good in Tagalog. 232 Likhaan 6 Interview / Panayam

247 RB: By way of concluding, why is your latest lyric collection titled Believe and Betray? CFB: Because that s what we do: we believe; we betray. Not believe and betray as one. We believe; we betray. That s how we survive. We believe things, and others we betray. You betray your fellow men, your principles, probably even yourself. When you believe yourself, you betray others. It s one or the other. When these two cannot be separate anymore, you believe in order to betray. This is human life. We are all like that. Paradox. Irony. RB: The main tropes in your body of work. Do you already have a title for your upcoming collection? CFB: Wala pa. It will come when it does. That collection will have different voices, many personae, from the perspective of an old man. I finished one poem about my guardian angel; before, I would never write about that. Then, of course, there s love, betrayal, the human aspects of survival and existence. RB: If there s one lesson you wish to impart to young writers about poetry, what would it be? CFB: I always say: Poetry is not about things as they are, but about things as they are imagined. One must know the distinction between prose and poetry. Prose is about how things are. Poetry is about how things are seen, imagined, or perceived. There s some kind of change in you when you try to shift from prose to poetry because each one has its own appropriate materials, systems, and techniques. Poetry is difficult because you don t know when you ll finish it. Almost every time, finishing a book is a way of rejoicing about the mysterious quality of creative writing, much more than what people compare it to: having a baby. Having a baby is tractable. You can see it from beginning to end; you can prepare before, during, and after the baby. In poetry, you cannot. It s just there when it s there, when it is finished. How to arrive there in a rational, intellectual, artistic way, is the system that we call poetry writing. Ronald Baytan 233

248 References Books Bautista, Cirilo F. 100 Poems. Edited by Santiago B. Villafania. Quezon City: Central Book Supply, Inc. for De La Salle University, Believe and Betray: New and Collected Poems. Edited and with an Introduction by Marjorie M. Evasco. Manila: De La Salle University Press, Boneyard Breaking: New Collected Poems. Quezon City: Kalikasan Press, Breaking Signs: Lectures on Literature and Semiotics. Manila: De La Salle University Press, Bullets and Roses: The Poetry of Amado V. Hernandez, a Bilingual Edition. Translated into English and with a Critical Introduction by Cirilo F. Bautista. Manila: De La Salle University Press, Charts. Manila: De La Salle College Research Council, Galaw ng Asoge: Isang Nobela. Manila: UST Publishing House, Kirot ng Kataga. Manila: De La Salle University Press, Stories. Manila: De La Salle University Press, Sugat ng Salita. Manila: De La Salle University Publications, Summer Suns (short stories by Albert B. Casuga, poems by Cirilo F. Bautista). Manila: A.B. Casuga, Sunlight on Broken Stones. Manila: Philippine Centennial Commission, Sunlight on Broken Stones (the last in The Trilogy of Saint Lazarus). Manila: De La Salle University Press, Telex Moon (second volume in The Trilogy of Saint Lazarus). Manila: Integrated Research Center of De La Salle University, Tinik sa Dila: Isang Katipunan ng mga Tula. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, The Archipelago (first volume in The Trilogy of Saint Lazarus). Manila: San Beda College, The Cave and Other Poems. Baguio City: Ato Book Shop, The Early Years. The De La Salle University Story, Volume 2. Quezon City: C&E Publishing for De La Salle University, The House of True Desire: Essays on Life and Literature. Manila: UST Publishing House, Likhaan 6 Interview / Panayam

249 . The Trilogy of Saint Lazarus. Manila: De La Salle University Press, Words and Battlefields: A Theoria on the Poem. Manila: De La Salle University Press, Endnotes 1. Bautista, Words and Battlefield: A Theoria on the Poem, Thomas Arp, Lawrence Perrine s Sound and Sense: An Introduction to Poetry, 9th ed. (Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1998), Ophelia A. Dimalanta, The Ophelia A. Dimalanta Reader: Selected Prose, Volume 2 (Manila: UST Publishing House, 2006), Dimalanta, The Ophelia A. Dimalanta Reader: Selected Prose, De Ungria, The Winged Minotaur: (Notes on) Experimentation in Poetry, Likhaan: Journal of Creative Writing 9 (2009): Alfred A. Yuson, Triumph of an Epic, Observer 21 (6 Dec. 1980): 29 30, rpt. in Reading Cirilo F. Bautista, ed. Isagani R. Cruz and David Jonathan Bayot (Manila: De La Salle University Press, 1995), Bautista, Words and Battlefield, Bautista, Manila: A Poetic Vision, Likha 11.2 (1990): 1 16, rpt. in Cruz and Bayot, I invented, says Bautista, the Diaries of Limahong, Juan de Salcedo, and Guido de Lavezares; in this manner I evolved the itinerary of Rizal in England, Spain, and Germany (45). 9. Bautista, Manila: A Poetic Vision, 48. Bautista also states: The physical Rizal in The Archipelago becomes the mental Rizal in Telex Moon: he is now the brain of the organism, he is now the Conscience of Intramuros (48). 10. Bautista, Manila: A Poetic Vision, Bautista, Telex Moon, I.VII Dimalanta, The Poet s Solitary Journey from The Archipelago on to Telex Moon, Cruz and Bayot, 245. This essay originally appeared as two separate chapters, The Archipelago: Vision Objectified and On To Telex Moon, in Dimalanta s The Philippine Poetic (Manila: Colegio de San Juan de Letran, 1976), and Dimalanta, The Poet s Solitary Journey, Bautista, Words and Battlefield, Monina A. Mercado, I Celebrate Ordinary Experience : An Interview with Cirilo F. Bautista, Archipelago 4 (1977): 28 31, rpt. in Cruz and Bayot, 61 69; Ricardo M. de Ungria, Cirilo F. Bautista: Mapping the Fjords of the Skull, The Manila Review (March 1977): 48 56, rpt. in Cruz and Bayot, 71 84; Yolanda T. Escobal, Jr., Kapangyarihan ng mga Kataga sa Sugat ng Salita: Isang Panayam kay Cirilo F. Bautista (unpublished thesis, De La Salle University, 1993), rpt. in Cruz and Bayot, ; David Jonathan Y. Bayot, Breaking the Sign: An Interview with Cirilo F. Bautista, Cruz and Bayot, Ronald Baytan 235

250 16. Bautista, The Problem with Poetry, The House of True Desire, Bautista, Philippine Poetry in English: Some Notes for Exploration, Solidarity 5.12 (Dec. 1970): De Ungria, The Winged Minotaur: (Notes on) Experimentation in Poetry, This is the title of Casuga s article on Bautista s poetry. Casuga, Who s Afraid of Cirilo F. Bautista? Home Life (1973): 31 32, 39, rpt. in Cruz and Bayot, Mercado, Bautista, Manila: A Poetic Vision, Antonio de Morga s Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas and Fr. Joaquin Martinez de Zuñiga s Historia de las Islas Philipinas are quoted a number of times in The Archipelago. Leon Ma. Guerrero s The First Filipino appears in the epigraphs of the three sections of Telex Moon. 23. Bautista, Manila: A Poetic Vision, De Ungria, The Winged Minotaur: (Notes on) Experimentations in Poetry, Bautista s long works, the poems of epic length and purpose, are consanguineous with his relatively shorter lyric poems, says Marjorie M. Evasco in her introduction ( A Lyric Sense of History ) to Cirilo F. Bautista s Believe and Betray: New and Collected Poems, xxii. 26. De Ungria, The Winged Minotaur: (Notes on) Experimentations in Poetry, The technology of print not only exiles the poem to the page but seals the lips in the reading of it, says Bautista in Words and Battlefield, Bayot, Breaking the Sign: An Interview with Cirilo F. Bautista, Dimalanta, The Poet s Solitary Journey, See Carlos M. Canilao, The Reordered Reality in The Cave and Other Poems, St. Louis University Research Journal (1972): , rpt. as The Reordered Reality in The Cave in Cruz and Bayot, See The Writers Wives, ed. Narita M. Gonzalez (Pasig: Anvil, 2000), particularly for Joy Bank, Rose Marie J. Bautista s essay on Cirilo F. Bautista. 32. Bautista translated selected poems by Hernandez in Bullets and Roses: The Poetry of Amado V. Hernandez, a Bilingual Edition with Bautista s critical introduction. 33. This remark appears in the interview with Monina Mercado: As I said before, writing poetry is for love, sheer love. It is, in fact, a monkey on one s back. But it is there and one has to live with it, if not off it (69). 34. In Likha 7 (1984): 1 7, rpt. in Cruz and Bayot, De Ungria, Cirilo F. Bautista: Mapping the Fjords of the Skull, In Thomasian Writing: Reality or Myth, The Ophelia A. Dimalanta Reader, Selected Prose, Likhaan 6 Interview / Panayam

251 Ang Tatlong Panahon ng Panulaan ni Rogelio G. Mangahas Louie Jon A. Sanchez at Giancarlo Lauro C. Abrahan Kinikilalang isa sa tungkongbato ng ikalawang bugso ng modernismo sa panulaang Tagalog si Rogelio G. Mangahas, kasama ang dalawa pang persona na naging katalamitam at kaumpugangbote niya noong dekada 60 sa kanilang pagsisimula, sina Lamberto E. Antonio, at ng ngayo y Pambansang Alagad ng Sining para sa Panitikan Rio Alma (o Virgilio S. Almario sa prosa). Triumbirato ang tatlong ito, les enfants terribles noong mga panahong iyon sa University of the East, pangunahing akademikong aparato ng kanilang pagmamakata, at masugid silang inabangan ng kanilang mga kapanahon sa university belt. Pinaigting Sir Rogelio G. Mangahas noong kaniyang kasibulan. nilang tatlo hindi lamang ang isang poetikang tumututol sa gahum ng popular na pagtula at namamayaning estetika na binalikwasan noong una ni Alejandro G. Abadilla; manapa, isinulong din nila bandang huli ang isang makabayang panulaan, na tumititig hindi na lamang sa mahahalaga at unibersal na karanasang pantao, kundi lalo t higit sa mga kondisyong nag-aanyo sa mga ito sa lupain ng Filipinas. Pawang supling ng panahong magulo at magalaw ang tungkong-batong iginagalang, ngunit ang bawat isa sa kanila y may salaysay na animo y nag-uumagos patungo sa isang malaking ilog, na masasabing ang panulaan ng kanilang henerasyon, na inilarawan minsan ni Bienvenido Lumbera na denouncing economic exploitation, bureaucratic corruption, upperclass decadence and foreign domination (1997, 66). 237

252 Sa loob at labas ng panitikan. Ang magkakabeerkadang sina Lamberto T. Antonio, Rio Alma, at Rogelio G. Mangahas. Malinaw na maibubuod bilang estratehikong pagsalunga ang masinsing inilarawan ni Almario sa kaniyang seminal na Balagtasismo Versus Modernismo: Panulaang Tagalog sa Ika-20 Siglo na kilusang pinasimulan nilang tatlo bilang mga indibidwal ngunit nagkakaisang makata. Ngunit sa hiwa-hiwalay na talakay, mamamalas din ang mga pinagdaanang pakikipagsapalaran ng tatlo patungo sa pagsalungang iyon na kumatawan sa panulaang (naghunos) bilang isang panitikang kung di man tawaging Modernista ay lumilikha ng kaukulang paninimbang sa binuksang eksperimentasyong pangwika t pampamamaraan ng Modernismo sa dekada 60 at sa nagbabagong kilatis ng kilusang makabansa at makalipunan (1985, 290). Nauna si Lumbera sa tila paghahambing at paglalarawan sa kanilang tatlo bilang mga makata, sa iba t ibang bahagi ng kaniyang pagkakasaysayang pampanitikan. Sa yugto ng new directions in poetry matapos ang giyera, inilarawan niya si Alma bilang makatang nagsimula sa isang cultivated aestheticism learned from Eliot and allied Western poets and critics at noong huli y bumaling sa social consciousness of the Rizal tradition. Inihanay naman niya si Antonio bilang isa sa mga best exponents of committed poetry, na nagpapamalas 238 Likhaan 6 Interview / Panayam

253 ng control and discrimination. Pagbabagong-diwa din ang naging tema ng pagtaya ni Lumbera kay Mangahas, sa pahapyaw niyang pagbasa sa tulang Mga Duguang Plakard. Sa kaniyang pagpapahalaga sa surealismo at simbolismong kinasangkapan ng makata sa tula, upang ihayag ang grief and rage over violence and death resulting from a clash between youth and an intractable order, sabay din niyang pinuri ang maagap na pagtugon ng makata sa sinasabi niya noong changing temper of writing (1997, 66). Sa panayam-papel na ito, sinikap balikan ang penomeno ng tungkongbato sa diwa, gunita, at panulaan ni Mangahas, bilang isa sa bumuo ng ngayo y kinikilala nang napakahalagang pangkat-pampanulaan na sumibol mula sa mga pahayagang pangmag-aaral noong panahon ng sigwa at di nagtagal ay naging mahalagang tagapaghawan ng panulaan ng mga susunod na henerasyon. Ang pakikipanayam sa makata na nakapaloob sa sanaysay na ito y idinaan sa palitan ng sa loob ng halos dalawang buwan. Samantalang binubuo nito ang kahulugan ng ikalawang bugso ng modernismo na kinikilala na ngayong pinasimunuan ng tatlo, kinikilala rin ng panayam-papel si Mangahas bilang isang kaisipan na bumalangkas sa kanilang magkakaiba ngunit nagsasanib na mga tunguhin at mithiin, bilang isa sa persona sa liga ng mga dakila. Kasabay ng pagtunghay-na-muli sa kasaysayan at kasaysayang pampanitikan ay ilang pagsipat sa piling akda ni Mangahas. Layon din kasi ng panayam-papel na ito na masdan ang kaniyang pag-unlad bilang makata. Nakabalangkas ang panayam na ito sa pagtugaygay sa buhay ni Mangahas bilang manlilikha, sa pamamagitan ng pagsasanib ng kaniyang mga tinuran sa masasabi ring tungkong-bato ng kaniyang panulaan, ang tatlong matipunong aklat ng kaniyang karera, ang mga aklat na Manlilikha: Mga Piling Tula, (1967), Mga Duguang Plakard at Iba Pang Tula (1971), at ang pinakahuling Gagamba sa Uhay: Kalipunan ng mga Haiku (2006). Sa unang tingin ay tila kakaunti at manipis itong tatlong aklat na ito upang bumuo sa maituturing na makabuluhang lawas ng kaniyang mga akda; hindi mapapasubaliang higit na lumikha ang mga kasamang sina Antonio at Alma ng mas maraming proyektong pampanulaan. Sa kabila nito, hindi maitatangging ang naging kakaunting pagtula ni Mangahas ang higit pa ngang nagpatalim at nagpakisig sa kaniyang panulaang matitiyak na may maingat na pinagnilayang paglalathala. Tatlong panahong pampanulaan ang mababanaag sa panayam na ito, na maituturing na pakikipanayam din sa mga tula niya: ang panahon ng pagbabalik-tanaw, panahon ng pangangahas, at panahon ng pagbubuo. Ang pagsubaybay sa kaniyang paglago bilang tao at makata, at pagtasa sa kaniyang mga tula, ay nagpapamamalas sa madla Louie Jon A. Sanchez at Giancarlo Lauro C. Abrahan 239

254 ng kaniyang kapuri-puring artistikong ambag bilang kasapi ng tungkongbato isang poetikang itinanim sa lupain ng batang gunita, pinatubo sa gitna ng masilakbong panahon sa lungsod, at pinatatag nang husto ng pagiral at patuloy na pananahan sa matulaing karanasan. Panahon ng Pagbabalik-tanaw: Sa Kandungan ng Nayon Sa antolohiyang Manlilikha, itinala mismo ng editor ng aklat na si Mangahas ang sarili niyang payak na minulan, bilang panimula sa bungkos ng mga tulang itinatanghal kasama ng akda ng iba pang kapanahong inilarawan ni Almario na ubod ng makabuluhang tinig-modernista (1985, 203). Sumilang sa Palasinan, Kabyaw, Nuweba Esiha noong Mayo 9, 1939; nagtapos ng elementarya sa nasabing bayan Maalamat ang pagkakalabas ng Manlilikha, na si Mangahas mismo ang nagtaguyod. Unang ibinandera ang kuwentong ito ni Almario sa isang huntahan para sa kaarawan ni Mangahas nitong nakaraang Mayo 9, 2012 sa Que Rico s Bar sa may Katipunan, Lungsod Quezon. Nailabas iyon dahil sa separation pay niya (Mangahas) bilang security guard, kuwento pa ng Pambansang Alagad ng Sining. May mas kompletong pagtataya si Almario sa personal na pamumuhunan ni Mangahas para sa Manlilikha, sa Balagtasismo Versus Modernismo: Si Mangahas noon ay nagtatrabaho ring guwardiya sa housing project ng gobyerno at nang tumanggap ng separation pay ay ginamit na puhunan ang salapi sa pagpapalimbag ng antolohiyang Manlilikha. Ganito ring sakripisyo ang ginawa ng mga kasamang makata para mailimbag ang kanilang mga unang folio ng tula sa loob ng dekada 60 (ibid). Naririto naman ang bersiyon ni Mangahas, na hindi lamang gumugunita sa kaniyang pamumuhunan, kundi lalo t higit sa konteksto ng pagkakatipon ng mga tula: Bilang pangulo ng KADIPAN (Kapisanang Aklat, Diwa, at Panitik), naisip kong maging isang proyekto ng organisasyon ang pagpapalibro ng isang antolohiya ng mga makabagong tula upang makatulong sa pagpapasigla ng kilusang pangwika at pampanitikan sa mga kolehiyo at unibersidad. Pinili ko ang mga makatang nakahanay na sa pagiging modernista sina E. San Juan Jr., Rio Alma, Lamberto E. Antonio, Pedro L. Ricarte at yaong hindi pa lubusan ngunit may simpatiya o pagkiling na sa modernismo. Karamihan sa mga tula ay lumabas sa mga pahayagang pangkampus na may mga editor na liberal, mulat, o progresibo. Nagkataong walang pondo noon ang organisasyon. Tiyempong kapagbibitiw ko sa pagiging security guard sa PHHC (People s Homesite and Housing Corporation, ang precursor ng kilala ngayong National Housing Authority o NHA) dahil ako y nagtuturo 240 Likhaan 6 Interview / Panayam

255 na sa UE. Nagpasiya ako agad na gamitin ang aking separation pay para sa pagpapalibro ng Manlilikha. Sa huntahan ding nabanggit, maraming inilarawang karanasang-lungsod si Mangahas, na naging balon ng danas para sa kaniyang pagsisimula. Sa kaniyang tala sa Manlilikha, tila napakakaraniwan ng naging buhay sa lungsod ni Mangahas: kinuha (niya) ang dalawang taon sa hayskul ng Kabyaw at ang huling dalawang taon ay tinapos sa Jose Abad Santos, Binondo, Maynila noong Nag-aral ng Edukasyon sa UE; nagtapos ng AB Pilipino noong 1965 Kasalukuyang nagtuturo ng panitikang Pilipino sa UE at katulong na patnugot ng magasing Panitikan. Sa Que Rico s, ginunita ni Mangahas ang samot-saring trabahong pinasok niya upang makapag-aral lamang, at isa na nga roon ang pagiging guwardiya. Sa kuwento ni Mangahas, tila ba umaatikabo ang kaniyang naging mga sapalaran; may naibahagi pa siyang parang duwelo habang nakaposte bilang guwardiya (at isa pa, hindi iilang larawan ng batang si Mangahas, kabilang na ang nasa Manlilikha, ang nagpapakita ng kaniyang mala-artistang kakisigan). Ngunit ang mismong mga tula ni Mangahas sa Manlilikha ang mistulang nagpapasabik sa kaniya sa nayong samantalang binabalikan naman ay tila laging imahen at talinghaga sa piling ng lungsod. Madarama ito sa mga tulang tulad ng Ang Lilim na Iyan ( Nahan ang anino/na likha ng iyong diwang nakasingkaw/at lunong kalulwang tumanghod na multo?/a, di mo matamo/ang iyong sarili sa lilim na iyan;/ikaw ay di ikaw sa dayong kalakhang/aninong pumagas sa lupaing iyo. ), at lalo t higit, sa marami niyang tanaga tulad ng Para Kay Amorsolo, na pagpupugay ng makata sa dinadakilang pintor ng rural na buhay at tanawin: natutulog sa tukal ang tutubing karayom, ang sapang walang alon ay piping nagdarasal. Sinabi ni Mangahas sa panayam sa na binago ako ng mga kampus, ng midya, mga aktibista, mga kalsada. Kaming magkakabeerkada (ang tinutukoy niya rito ay ang sarili niya at ang dalawang katungkong-bato) sa loob at labas ng panitikan ay binago ng panahon at kapaligiran. Ngunit tila sinusuysoy nga ng maagang panulaan niya ang malaparaisong daigdig ng Kabyaw (ngayo y Cabiao), na siya namang tunay na nagsilang sa kaniyang panulaan. May pagkagiliw na muli t muling inilarawan ni Mangahas ang kaniyang minulan sa panayam na ito: Kabukirang may bahaging gubat at Louie Jon A. Sanchez at Giancarlo Lauro C. Abrahan 241

256 ilog ang aming kapaligiran sa Cabiao, Nueva Ecija. Mula sa hilaga ay pakiwal na dumadaan sa aming bayan ang Ilog Pampanga, patimog. Tanaw namin sa silangan ang may kalayuang Sierra Madre, at sa timog-kanluran naman ang di-kalayuang Bundok Arayat. Magsasaka ang aking mga magulang, wika pa niya, at sistemang kasamá pa noon ang umiiral sa pagsasaka, kaya t maraming magsasaka ang nalulubog sa utang dahil sa patubuang talinduwa at takipan. Mula pa noon, masasabing buhay kay Mangahas ang kabatiran hinggil sa tagisan ng mga uring namumuhay sa kapayapaan ng kaniyang musmos na daigdig, at kung paano ito sinisikap lunukin ng kaniyang pamilya at mga kababayan. Bilang anak ng bukid, maaga siyang namulat sa pagbabanat ng buto: naging pastol (ako) ng kalabaw, natutong mag-araro, magtanim, gumapas ng palay, magsipok. Maagang natutuhan ko ang mangisda: pumapandaw ng bubo sa mga pilapil, nananalakab sa sapa, sangka, at bana, nakahuhuli ng dalag, hito, lukaok, talakitok. Sa kabila nito, kabukiran din ng Cabiao ang nagdulot sa kaniya ng isang halos karaniwang kabataan mapaglaro, masaya, puno ng buhay. Buhay na buhay ang mga gunita ng paglalaro at paglasap sa danas-kalikasan sa kaniyang maalam na wika t pagbabahagi. At bilang katuwaan namin ng aking mga kababata, may sandaling nakikipagsagutan kami sa mga tuko, gayundin sa mga ibon lalo na sa mga martines, kalaw, at batubato. Ngunit hindi mapayapa ang panahon ng aking kamusmusan, dagdag pa niya. Sa batang malay ni Mangahas, maaari talagang pumukaw ng mga primal na imaheng sinisikdo ang buhay-karaniwan niya sa bukid. Naririyang sa kaniyang paggulang ay tatanagaan niya ang batis sa di iilang pagkakataon, tulad na lamang sa mga ito, na tila imaheng daluyang patuloy na nagpapadalisay ng kaniyang matamang pagbaling: sa batis, yaong buwa y sanghiwang pakwang-hapon; gandang nakatatakam ay di ko mapupukol ( Buwan sa Batis ) kayganda niyong tukal na sapupo ng batis napangarap kong hagkan kahit nilang putik! ( Ang Tukal sa Batis ) 242 Likhaan 6 Interview / Panayam

257 Sa pagbasa sa panimulang pagtula ni Mangahas sa Manlilikha at pagninilay sa kaniyang pagkukuwento sa minulang nayon, madaling mapuntirya, hindi lamang ang kaniyang pagiging supling ng panahong pampanulaang inilarawan niya mismo bilang tipong para bigkasin, bihira ang para basahin lang. Karaniwan ding may tugma at sukat, halos lahat ay lalabindalawahing pantig. Popular noon sa mga tao ang bigkasan ng tula ; supling din siya ng tila katahimikang madalas iugnay sa nayong kahit romantisado y minumulto ng pambubulabog ng kasaysayan. Madaling sinupin ang kapayapaang tila idealistiko lalo sa mga tanagang nakapaloob sa Manlilikha. Ngunit higit na tumitingkad halimbawa ang di iilang tanagang may papaloob na paguusisa sa sarili, paglingap sa lungtiang paligid, at may pagtangi sa maliliit tulad ng mga hayop at kulisap, kapag nadadawit na ang sariling historikong danas ni Mangahas sa isang Cabiao, na noo y binabagabag ng mga usaping pangkapayapaan at pangkalayaan. Magtatatlong taon ako nang itatag nina Luis Taruc sa Sitio Bawit, Baryo San Julian ng aming bayan ang Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon o Hukbalahap noong Marso 29, 1942, kuwento pa ni Mangahas. Nabuhay ang makata sa isang sentro ng aksiyon na magiging kuta ng mga makabagong mandirigmang gagawing kanlungan ang bundok, matupad lamang ang kanilang tungkuling iligtas ang bansa sa kamay ng panibagong mananakop. Tandang-tanda ni Mangahas ang mga makapigil-hiningang tagpo ng Ikalawang Digmaang Pandaigdig. Dahil sa digmaan at pagiging aktibo ng mga gerilya, may mga araw na madalas ang putukan at sagupaan sa aming bayan. Ang matindi y ang ilang linggong halos walang puknat na pagbomba ng mga eroplanong Hapones sa kagubatan ng Cabiao. Ilang araw at gabing hindi nakatikim ng kanin ang mga Hukbalahap at Wa Chi mga gerilyang Tsino-Pilipinong kontra Hapones na nagsipagkanlong sa mga dawag, talahiban, at palumpong. Maraming namatay at nasugatan sa pambobombang iyon, aniya. May pagbabadya ang panahon at tila nakamasid ang lahat sa bawat mangyayari. Nakamamanghang basahin ang pirasong ito ng buhay ng makata kasabay ang isa pang tanagang ibinahagi niya sa Manlilikha, ang Sa Isang Burol : umalulong sa buwan ang asong nasa burol, at kaya napatahan may gising na tirador. Louie Jon A. Sanchez at Giancarlo Lauro C. Abrahan 243

258 Sa kabila ng mga ito, ang nayon ding iyon ang nagpamulat sa kaniya na danasin ang paligid sa isang matulaing paraan. Nagsimula sa pakikinig ang aking pagkahilig sa pagtula, wika niya. Noong ako y pitong taon, 1946, at nasa unang grado na ng elementarya, nagsimulang magkainteres ako sa pakikinig sa kakaibang uri ng pagbigkas sa iba t ibang okasyon. Nakapanood ako ng duplo, balagtasan, at pabasa ng pasyon. Nakaririnig din ako sa matatandang nagkukuwentuhan ng paminsan-minsang pagsipi nila ng mga saknong mula sa isang awit o korido. Sa panahon din ng insurhensiya niya nakaengkuwentro ang plosa, nang mapakinggang binibigkas ito ng isang Huk kasapi ng Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan. Humihimig silang patungo sa ibayo ng makitid na sapang nalililiman ng malalagong punongkahoy. Inabutan nila roon ang ilang dalaga at binatang tila galing gumapas ng palay at nagpapahinga. Marikit na tagpo iyon na kumintal sa gunita ni Mangahas. Nang makita ng nauunang Huk ang isang dalagang tila kakilala niya, tuloy-tuloy siyang lumapit at halos paluhod na bumigkas ng humigit-kumulang, ganito: Narito ka pala, aking paraluman, nagalugad ko na ang bundok at parang; lubos na paglaya pag ating nakamtan, lalo pang tatamis kung kapiling, ikaw. Paplosa ring sumagot ang babaeng may hawak na salakot sa kanang kamay. Hoy, lalaki, ako y di mo paraluman, ang hanap mong laya sa atin nang kamay; Iyang palipad mo, angkop sa lamayan, dito y may pagapas, wala ritong patay. Ang talang ito sa panayam ay maaaring ituring na isang mahusay na paliwanag hinggil sa isang napakaangat na katangian ng mga tula ni Mangahas sa Manlilikha: ang kakisigan at katiyakan sa paghawak ng anyo. Naikuwento rin ito sa huntahang kanina y binanggit. Sa pangkabuuan, hindi lamang ipinamamalas ang ganitong kakayahang pampanulaan sa mga tinipong tanaga. Lalo t higit itong mamamalas sa mga eksperimental na tulang tulad ng binanggit nang Ang Lihim na Iyan na may angking salimuot sa pagpapahayag. Pangahas sa pagpapahiwatig si Mangahas, may kasidhian ang kaniyang pagkabalot at pamamahay sa nibel ng pagkamatalinghaga. May kahirapan ang tula dahil sa ipinahihiwatig nitong pamamaraan ng 244 Likhaan 6 Interview / Panayam

259 pagdulog nanunulay agad sa diskursibo at matayutay. Sa tuwirang pagsasabi, animo y inilalarawan ang isang uri ng pagpili, ang pagpili ng pag-uugat sa isang lilim. Ngunit balot ng hiwaga ang lilim, na maaaring kumatawan sa kapangyarihan ng mga naunang nilalang (maaari kaya y tradisyon?). Sa ganitong kasiguruhan, isinasalalay ni Mangahas ang katiyakan sa kaniyang pagsasaknong ng mga aanimin at lalabindalawahing taludtod, at pagsasaayos sa tugmaang may padrong abaabba. Ang kasanayang ito at ang ritmikong kahusayan sa paghahanay ng tugma at tunog ay isa pang angat na katangian ng mga tula ng makata, at dinala niya itong trademark sa mga sumunod na akda. Pangahas din si Mangahas sa kaniyang pagsasakataga, ngunit mahigpit ang hawak niya sa mga anyo at pag-aanyong nakamihasnan at natututuhan, na marahil ay dala ng kaniyang nakamulatang panitikan na sumusunod sa kahingian ng mga padron sa nayon. Makikita rin ito sa tula niyang Mga Aso sa Malaking Bahay na gumamit sa sukat na lalabindalawahin at tugmaang salitan (ababab). Mahusay magpagitaw ng siste si Mangahas at napakadulas ng kaniyang naratolohiya, na isa pang aspekto ng anyo; sa kahuli-hulihan, babaligtarin niya ang palad ng pinaksang tila mababangis at nauulol na mga aso upang ilarawan ang tila makalipunang komentaryo hinggil sa buhaypiyudal, na isa ngang katotohanan sa kaniyang minulan: gising na ang mga poong nakagapos, may pasak sa bibig at dugu-duguan; durog ang korona ng santa sa sulok kahon ni Pandora ang kabang nabuksan! ang mga nilangong aso y nakatulog, pasan ng anino t gagawing pulutan. Sa ganitong mga kondisyon sumibol ang pagsulat ni Mangahas. Nang ako y dose anyos, aniya, nakasulat ako ng ilang saknong sa isang liham na pagawa o pakiusap sa akin ng isang medyo nakatatandang kababata. Simpleng liham iyon ng paghanga na may hiwatig ng pagmamahal. Nasa una o ikalawang taon siya ng hay iskul nang lalong nagkahugis sa aking isip at mata ang anyo ng tula. Nabasa niya sa antolohiyang Diwang Kayumanggi ang mga akda nina Balagtas, Jose Corazon de Jesus, at Amado Hernandez, na naging matitibay na haligi ng kaniyang pagtuklas sa sariling tinig bilang makata. Di nagtagal, sa kauna-unahang pagkakataon ay nakasulat ako ng deretsong tula na may pamagat na Kay Huwag ko na lang buuin. Nabasa iyon ng isa ko pang kababata, hiningi, kinopya, binago ang pangalan Louie Jon A. Sanchez at Giancarlo Lauro C. Abrahan 245

260 sa titulo, at ibinigay sa nililigawan na mahilig daw sa tula. Tinapos ni Mangahas ang huling dalawang taon niya sa hay iskul sa lungsod sa tulong ng isang tiyahin sa Tondo. Doon na niya ipinagpatuloy ang mga panimulang pagsusulat ng tula. Panahon ng Pangangahas: Sa Kuko ng Lungsod Sa mga tula rin ni Mangahas sa Manlilikha, kasalimbay ng pag-iral ng espiritu ng bayang Cabiao, ang naliligalig na kaluluwa ng Lungsod ng Maynila na naging ikalawang daigdig ng kaniyang nabubuong kamalayan at tiyak na tumigatig sa marami niyang pananalig. Sa tulang Harana ng Mga Mata halimbawa, muling ginamit ni Mangahas ang kaniyang matalim na pagmamasid sa pagbaling, sa kasong ito, sa isang nagmamadaling lungsod ng pag-unlad at materyalismo. Sinestetiko ang pagsasanib niya ng himig at bisyon na tumitingin sa obhetong nilulunggati ang sinekdokeng mga binting pang-eskolta, na tila sagisag ng naggagandahang dilag-ng-lungsod na dinidiyosa bagaman minamalas bilang kakatwa at nakaaaliw na nilalang ng daigdig na iyon ng sari-saring pagmamatayog at edipisyo. Paharana ang himig ng tulang-lungsod na ito, at halos ganito ring estratehiya ng pangungulila ang ginagawa ng tulang Canal de la Reina, isa pang tila pahimakas sa namamatay nang daluyang-tubigan (magugunita rin sa pagkakataong ito ang nobela ni Liwayway Arceo na may gayunding pamagat): dusing, dusing ako sa pisngi mo ngayon /akong salamina t/ canal de la reina ng basal na noon./ ang hubad na gandang dangal ng panahon/ ay ngayong may saplot/sa ismong may rehas at tanod na poon. Sa mga halimbawang ito ng galaw ng kaniyang pangangahas, makikitang ang panulaan ni Mangahas ay naging pagkukrus din ng tradisyong nag-uugat sa kaniyang poetikong kamulatan at ng kaniyang engkuwentro sa salimuot ng mga nagbabagong kaisipang nasagap niya sa pag-aaral sa lungsod. Kung sa kaniyang pagsandig sa mga tradisyonal na anyong Tagalog kapananabikan ang kaniyang muli at muling pagdukal sa katutubong bait, sa pagyakap naman niya sa lungsod at sa mga kabaguhang nabasa mula sa mga Kanluraning bigatin umigting ang pananalinghagang unti-unting naghunos bilang simboliko t matalinghagang pagpapakiwari. Sina Federico Garcia Lorca at T.S. Eliot ang dalawa sa mga makatang banyaga (na nakaimpluwensiya sa akin), Si Lorca dahil sa kaniyang musika at simbolismo. Si Eliot, dahil sa kaniyang paggamit ng free verse at tonong kumbersasyonal. Pero di magtatagal, sa pagbabago ng aking kamalayang panlipunan at pampolitika, may kaibang talab sa akin ang mga obra nina (Pablo) Neruda at (Nazim) Hikmet. 246 Likhaan 6 Interview / Panayam

261 Ilang tula mula sa Manlilikha, bukod sa Ang Lilim na Iyan, Harana ng mga Mata, at Canal de la Reina ang naglalaman ng kaledad ng musika at simbolismong binabanggit ni Mangahas hinggil sa kaniyang panulat. Maiisip na ang maalindog na musika at simbolismong ito ay impluwensiyang handog sa kaniya ni Lorca, lalo kung tutunghan ang mga tulang Awit, Awit, O Kaluluwa!, Awit Kay Dionysus, Sayaw, Sayaw, Mga Baylan, maging ang Bangon, Bangon, Abadilla! na tulang alaala ng makata Sa Pagkaratay ng Makata-Kritiko sa Veterans Memorial Hospital Dahil sa Kanyang Abadillang Pagmamahal sa Kuwatro-Kantos ng Palanca. Pawang mahihimigan sa mga tulang ito ang diwang Lorca na mapaglaro, at higit sa lahat, balot at mahiwaga. Sa kaniyang ikalawang aklat, ang Mga Duguang Plakard, sinabi ni Mangahas, sa paglalarawan sa naging pagtalikod niya sa kaniyang naunang modernistang impluwensiya, na nakangising minumura ko si Lorca (1971, iii). Patunay ang pahayag na ito sa naging malalim na impluwensiya ng makatang Espanyol sa kaniyang pagtula, na masasalamin sa isang tampok na tula sa Manlilikha, ang May Dugo ang Sinag na Kalis. Pinatunayan ni Mangahas ang kaniyang kabihasaan sa ganitong paaralang pampoetika sa pagrerenda ng mga imahen at pagsasakatagang nagpapadama ng sari-saring kontradiksiyong may nakamamanghang hatid na danaspagbasa: nagdudumugo ang sinag na kalis ng arkanghel habang napipipi ang mga halakhak, habang nagpipiging ang mga uod sa bangkay ng daigdig na hindi mailibing. at, sa sulok na itong akin lamang at paunang pamana ng mga panahon ay lalong sumisilim ang mga ilaw, lalong nasasaid at nagkakabasag ang mga prasko ng dugong walang tapon. Larawan ng mga natutuhang pagpapaigting ang komplikasyong umiiral sa tulang ito. Sa lungsod nabanaagan ni Mangahas ang marami pang posibilidad ng panulaang magiging supling ng panahon ng kaniyang pamamalagi sa Maynila. Samantalang namamayani pa rin ang impluwensiya nina Balagtas, Louie Jon A. Sanchez at Giancarlo Lauro C. Abrahan 247

262 Abadilla, Jose Corazon de Jesus, at Amado V. Hernandez, na nang mga panahong nasa hay iskul ang makata y kontrobersiyal ang pagkakapiit (nailathala ang pinakamahalagang aklat ni Hernandez na Isang Dipang Langit bandang 1960), ang pumapasok na mga bagong ideang modernista mulang Kanluran, at ang paghuhunos ng panahon patungo sa mas malalim na pakikisangkot ng madla dahil sa sari-saring isyung pangkapayapaan sa daigdig, ang nagtulak sa panulaan ng makata sa isang uri ng sining na sa una y nagnanasa yatang kumatawan sa isang pragmentadong kamalayan na matris ng halos watak-watak na imaheng sinisikap bigyan ng isahang kaanyuan ng makata; sa mga baladang Espanyol na siyang minumulang himig ni Lorca, umiiral ang mga ganitong halos malapanaginip na pangitain. Ngunit hindi lamang si Lorca ang binasa ni Mangahas, wika pa nga niya: naririyan din si T. S. Eliot at ang sari-saring pamumroblema niya hinggil sa katandaan, kahungkagan ng buhay, at kawalan ng isahang narasyon, na sinikap itanghal hindi lamang sa katauhan ni J. Alfred Prufrock, kundi pati na rin sa eklektikong nananaghoy sa ilang ng The Waste Land. Ibang kaso pa ang kay Salvatore Quasimodo, na wika ni Mangahas ay nakangising minumura ni Bert (Antonio) (1971, iii). Ang tatlong makatang banyagang ito sina Lorca, Eliot, at Quasimodo ang tila magsisilbing bigkis sa maalamat na pagkikita at pagkakakila-kilala ng titingalaing tungkong-bato ng makabagong panulaang Tagalog noon. Ang tagpuan ng makasaysayang pangkatan ay ang UE, na kanlungan ng The Dawn, ang pahayagang pangmag-aaral ng nasabing pamantasan. Ang laki ng circulation ng Dawn noon, at sa sobrang dami ng kopyang mababasa, nakaabot pa sa San Miguel ang isang sipi sa nanay ko, bilang pambalot ng kung ano galing sa palengke, pagkukuwento pa ni Almario, sa huntahang nabanggit. Panahon iyon ng pagpapasiklaban ng mga pahayagang pangmagaaral, at kapuwa nag-aabangan ang mga staffer ng mga student organ sa bawat labas ng kanilang mga pahayagan. Tulad ng mga kapanahon, naging daan ang Dawn para sa paglikha at pangangahas ng mga kabataang manunulat. Sa UE Dawn sumilang ang engkuwentro ng tatlong makata, na nang simula y nagagabayan lamang ng magkakabukod na mithiing tumula. Sa unti-unting pagkaparam ng hawak ng Balagtasismo sa larang ng pagtula noong mga panahong iyon, naging muling usapin ang pamumuna ng matatanda hinggil sa panghihiram o paggagad sa mga modelong makatang Kanluranin, maging ang unti-unting pagkawala ng matulaing Tagalog at pamamayani ng dahop o bulgar na pagsasakatagang kolokyal kundi man balbal, himig kalye, at mali ang gamit ng idioma. Pinuna rin ng mga naunang taliba ang 248 Likhaan 6 Interview / Panayam

263 kalabuan ng pahayag at labis na mapanariling sagisag na totoong pumugto sa popular na pang-akit ng tula (Almario 1984, 255). Hindi ito inalintana ng mga tulad ni Mangahas, lalo na nang magkrus na ang mga landas nila nina Alma at Antonio. Itinula nila ang kanilang bisyon sa wika ng kanilang kasalukuyan, at binigyang-anyo ang isang naghuhunos na panulaan. Unang nagkakilala sina Mangahas at Alma noong 1963, sa isang halalan para sa pamunuan ng Diwa ng Silangan, pinakamalaki at pinakaaktibong organisasyong pangkultura sa University of the East nang panahong iyon. Isang pampanitikang huntahan iyon, at sa kuwento ni Mangahas sa , parang maaari nating mahinuha ang makulay na tagpong maaaring napanood doon. Sa isang dupluhang itinanghal ng organisasyon sa auditorium ng unibersidad, si Rio ang tumayong hari, at ako ang belyakong mangingibig ng isang belyaka. Isang araw, dagdag pa niyang kuwento, nagbabasa ako sa opisina ng Dawn, opisyal na pahayagang pang-estudyante ng UE. Bilang editor ng pahinang Pilipino ay pumipili ako ng ilalabas mula sa mga kontribusyong artikulo. Nagsisikip sa mga kontribusyon ang isang drawer, ngunit wala akong magustuhan kahit isa. Ayokong maulit na may isyung dalawa ang aking artikulo, at mapilitang isa roon ay lagyan ko ng ibang byline. Sa pagkakataong iyon darating si Alma. Roger, nakangiting bati ng makatang may kilik na mga tula. Baka may magustuhan ka, wika ng bagong kaibigan. Ako y nagtila tahor. Sinipat-sipat ko at sinalat-salat ang mga kaliskis at tahid ng mga tulang-manok. Pakiramdam ko, lahat lyamado! Kaya sa isang isyu ng Agosto nang taong iyon, una kong isinabong ang tulang Setyembre, Halika ni Virgilio S. Almario na ginamitan niya ng sagisag na Rio Alma. Tag-araw naman ng 1965 nang makatagpo ni Mangahas sa UE ang kaniyang nakababatang pinsang si Antonio. Dagdag pang kuwento: Tapós na ako ng AB Pilipino, at nasabihan na ng College of Arts and Sciences na kukunin akong instruktor, mag-enroll lang muna ako sa graduate school. Ang problema, nakarehistro na nga ako at magtuturo na, ngunit wala pang kapalit na editor. Noo y nagtuturo na sa San Miguel si Rio at lumuluwas na lang minsan sa isang linggo para sa kanyang MA sa UE. Pagpapatuloy niya, isang araw ay nakatayo ako sa may pintuan ng Dawn nang mapansin kong dumarating at lumalapit sa akin si Bert Antonio. Dikong! nakangiting bati sa kaniya ng pinsan, na tulad noon ni Alma ay may dala ring mga tula. Pakikilatisan, baka may magustuhan ka. Ako y nagtila alahero. De kalidad na mga kilates. Pagkaraan ng ilang araw, kaunting usapan at oryentasyon, si Bert ang aking ipinalit sa aking puwesto. Ipinakilala ko siya kay Rio Louie Jon A. Sanchez at Giancarlo Lauro C. Abrahan 249

264 minsang lumuwas ito, at mula noon, kaming tatlo y madalas nang makitang magkakasama sa loob at labas ng kampus, pagtatapos niya. Pare-parehong hilig sa literatura, partikular sa klasiko at modernong panulaan, at pagkatig sa nasyonalismo, ang naging saligang pananalig ng tatlo sa kanilang barkadahan bilang mga makata. Pagkakapare-pareho rin ng mga natitipuhang manunulat o akda at ang magkakasunod na pamumuno namin sa pinakaaktibong organisasyong pangmanunulat sa kampus nang panahong iyon ang KADIPAN, at sabihin pa hilig sa beer, dagdag pa ni Mangahas. Ang pagkakaibigang ito ang nagpasinaya sa pagtupad sa mga pangako ng modernistang balangkas na ipinakilala nitong una, ni Abadilla, bandang dekada 30. Mulang US, dinala ni Abadilla ang espiritung mapagpalaya sa Balagtasistang berso, at nakilala siya sa mapanghamong asta ng Ako ang Daigdig, na mistulang naghubad bigla sa nakamihasnang ringal ng poetikong kaakuhang gamitin noon. Hindi siya (si Abadilla) sinabayan o sinundan ng kaniyang mga kasamang makata sa Kapisanang Panitikan, gunita pa ni Mangahas. Ang ilan namang nagtangka ay sa biswal na porma lamang, hindi talaga nakatakas sa tugma at sukat, mga gasgas na idyoma, at sentimentalismo. Walang kasinlakas na kilusang masa o mga organisasyong magiging kapanabay o tagapagtaguyod sana ng kilusang modernismo sa literatura, partikular sa panulaan. Tagapaghawang maituturing si Abadilla na tutupdin ng tatlo, sampu ng kanilang mga kasabayan sa ikalawang bugso ng modernistang pagtula. Ayon kay Mangahas, Si Rio ang nag-ala-aga (Abadilla) sa aming grupo sa pagiging ikonoklasta mapambuwag na kritiko ng kumbensiyonalismo o Balagtasismo sa hanay ng katandaan at maging sa hanay ng kabataang makata. Sa kanilang panahon, tuluyan nilang yayanigin ang panulaan, baon di lamang ang mga bagong natutuhan, ngunit lalo t higit, ang kabatiran sa katutubong kalinangan. Ang ikalawang bugso ng modernismo sa tulang Filipino noong dekada 60 sa loob at labas ng UE ay isang bunga ng malaking pagbabagong panlipunan at pampolitika sa loob at labas ng ating bansa, wika ni Mangahas. At ayon pa sa makata, ang malalaking pagbabagong iyon na nakapaghasik ng mapagpalayang espiritu ng aktibismo, nasyonalismo, at modernismo ang tila nagsisilbing isang sinapupunan ng mga makabago t sulong na antolohiya ng mga tulang kapanahon o kasunod ng Manlilikha. Ilang pangunahin dito ang Makinasyon, Peregrinasyon, at Doktrinang Anakpawis ni Rio Alma; 20 Tula at Hagkis ng Talahib ni Lamberto E. Antonio, Maliwalu at Mayo Uno ni E. San Juan, Jr; Supling ni Elynia Mabanglo; Galian ng samahang Galian ng Arte at Tula (GAT); Alab ni Edgardo Maranan, at iba pa. Nakasustini 250 Likhaan 6 Interview / Panayam

265 sa alab ng mga makata ang rebolusyonaryong panahon at mapagpalayang impluwensiya ng kilusang masa, paliwanag pa ni Mangahas. Sa panahong ito ng malaganap na Pilipinismo at parlamento sa kalye dala ng kawalangtiwala sa tiwaling pamahalaan, naging maalab na liwanag ang panitikan at kultura sa nagbabadyang dilim ng mga susunod na taon. Ang mga pangyayaring pandaigdig noon ang naging matalab na impetus para sa paghuhunos ng kamalayan ng mamamayan, lalo na ng mga nagsisipag-aral noon, tulad ng tatlong makata. Isang buhay-unibersidad na hindi lamang dinadalaw ng ligalig ng nakaumang na pagdating ng isang diktador ang naging uniberso ng tatlo. Binago ng mga bangketa ng Azcarraga (Recto ngayon) at Avenida Rizal ang aking pananaw at panlasa sa literatura, partikular sa panulaan, wika ni Mangahas. Dahil sa digmaan sa Vietnam, maraming sundalong Amerikano ang nahihimpil sa Clark at Subic. Pag-alis nila y naiiwan nila ang mga rasyong libro, marami y mga klasiko at makabago may matataas na kalidad, at nabubulubod sa mga bangketa sa dakong university belt at downtown ng Maynila. Kay Mangahas, may ilang intelektuwal din sa pamantasan at mga mulat na personahe ang humubog sa kaniyang mithing makisangkot gamit ang kaniyang sining. Lumitaw din sa panahong ito ang kilusang Kabataang Makabayan, na magiging tagapamuno ng mga pagkilos laban sa paniniil ng pamahalaang Marcos. Sa obserbasyon ko, ang aming pagbabago sa estetika ay kasabay ng pag-unlad ng aming kamalayang panlipunan, pampolitika, at pangkasaysayan, pagninilay pa ng makata. Sa panayam, inihanay ng makata sa naunang nabanggit na talaan ng mga magkakapanahon ang sarili niyang aklat na Mga Duguang Plakard, na samantalang bitbit pa rin ang maraming artistikong katangian ng mga unang nalathalang tula niya y tumatalikod na sa naunang pinatatag at pinaniwalaang estetika. Apat lamang ang tulang nakapalaman sa nalathalang aklat ngunit matitipunong mga tula ito, hindi lamang dahil sa napapanahong pamamahayag, kundi sa nakamamanghang pagbaling ng makata sa mahahabang anyo. Higit na magiit sa panulaang kaniyang inihapag sa mga tulang ito ang tunay na kompleksidad ng buhay ng tao sa isang daigdig at panahong nagpupumilit salubungin ang kabaguhan ngunit naagnas naman sa sarili niyang kabulukan. Sa mga tulang Sa Pamumulaklak ng mga Diliwariw, Dalit Kay Sarhento Gameng, Mga Duguang Plakard, at Bahay-bahayan, tila inalayan ni Mangahas ng isang apatang kuwarteto (ala Eliot) ang kaniyang sarili at sarili-bilang-bansa. Tuluyang binago ng kasaysayan ang tenor ng makatang nagpapakilala ng isang banyuhay sa Mga Duguang Louie Jon A. Sanchez at Giancarlo Lauro C. Abrahan 251

266 Plakard: Sa pamamagitan ng apat na tulang kasama sa munting-aklat na ito ay nais kong ipakita ang ilang halimbawa ng mga tulang nasulat sa huling hati ng nakalipas na dekada lalo na sa huling tinampukan ng madudugo t makasaysayang demonstrasyon. Mula sa unang obrang kamamalasan ng tanong-retorikal na indisisyon ng isang petiburges, mapapansin ang proseso ng banyuhay tungo sa pagkakaroon ng radikal, diyalektikong pagsulong sa huling obra ng isang realistang anakpawis (1971, i). Kamangha-mangha ang mga tulang itinanghal ni Mangahas sa manipis na aklat na ito, na sa pamantayan ng kasalukuyang panahon ay maaaring mapailalim sa kategoryang chapbook. Ngunit hindi mapasusubalian ang kaniyang kahusayan sa paglalantad ng mga kabuluka t bagabag ng kaniyang panahon. Sa Sa Pamumulaklak, pinarurunggitan kaagad si Eliot at ang malupit niyang Abril upang tila balik-balikan ang malaong inaasam na pastoral. Ngunit halatang ang mga gunita ng imahen ng kabukira y totoong nailayo na sa persona. May kausap ang persona na parang kahimig ni Prufrock, at maging ng mas nauna pang si Christopher Marlowe, na niyayaya ang irog na humimpil muna upang danasin ang kagandahan ng rural na paligid. Ngunit kaibang-kaiba ang tinig ng Sa Pamumulaklak sa isang banda: ito y mistulang malay sa pagkakalayo kaya nga nagtatanong kung alin/ang sa mga paa ko y sa isip babaunin:/ tinik o halimuyak ng mga diliwariw? May gayon ding hiwaga ang pagdadalit ni Mangahas sa isang Sarhento Gameng sa sumunod na tula sa koleksiyon, na kapapansinan ng simbolikong pagpapadama ng nagbabadyang karahasan at kamatayan sa lungsod na lambak ng luha. Kina Edgardo Reyes at Rogelio Sikat nakatutok ang mga alusyon sa tulang Sarhento Gameng, at sa pahimakas ng persona, nagtapos sa natatanging musika ang tila sonatang niligalig ng sari-saring pagkasawi: Amihan, ihatid ang pakpak ng maya sa puntod, mga tagulaylay ng mga liwanag na may gamugamong hindi sinasaklot. Darating ang araw, damo ma y kapiling ng liryong susupling sa kanyang alabok, ang aming gunita y mga mariposang darating na dala y dalit sa mga taludtod. Ngunit higit na mahaba at masalimuot ang dalawang huling tula ni Mangahas sa kalipunan, ang Mga Duguang Plakard at Bahay-Bahayan. Binubuo ng labinlimang bahagi ang sa una, na siyang kumakatawan marahil sa mabigat na pagdidili ng makata hinggil sa mga nakababagabag na pangyayari 252 Likhaan 6 Interview / Panayam

267 sa kaniyang paligid. Bilang pagpupugay para sa mga rebolusyonaryong demonstrador na nabuwal sa karimlan ng Enero 30, 1970 sa Tulay ng Mendiola, ang mahabang tula ay hindi lamang panambitan para sa mga nasawi; lalo t higit, isa itong panaghoy para sa rimarim na dalawang taon lamang ang lilipas ay sasagpangin na ang buong bayan. Bawat plakard ng dugo y isang kasaysayan, panimula ng tula. Isang kasaysayan sa loob ng mga kasaysayan./mga kasaysayan sa loob ng isang kasaysayan. Tinunton ni Mangahas ang mga kasaysayan ng kasawiang kaniyang pinamimighatian sa pamamagitan ng pagtalunton sa kalye ng Mendiola bilang espasyo ng pakikisangkot. Maaaring buhay ang kapalit ng pakikisangkot na ito, na paghamon sa mga naghaharing ahensiya ng paniniiil sa lipunan, at tiyak namang batid iyon ng mga nasawi. Ang tinatagulaylay ng persona sa una t huli y ang patuloy na pag-iral ng kaapihan, at nagsisilbing akmang conceit ang duguang plakard bilang sagisag ng sakripisyo para sa paninindigan. Pagtatapos ng tula: Sapagkat, sapagkat may buwang sasaklob/sa mga duguang plakard, sugatang alaala,/may buwan pang magsusuklob ng bungo/ sa Tulay ng Mendiola!/may buwan pang magsusuklob ng bungo sa Tulay ng Mendiola! Matapos ang mga pagkasawi, tila magbabalik-bayan ang isang persona upang muling buuin upang manapa y baklasin din ang isang bahay-bahayan, na gagalawan ng mga tauhang kailangang gisingin ang malay at diwa para kumilos at maging gising sa panahon ng ligalig. Mistulang naisiwalat nang lahat ng persona sa kabuuan ng koleksiyon ang mga dapat mabatid, at sa huling tula, hinihikayat niya ang nakikinig sa wari y binalikang bayang iyon na magsipaghanda t maging saksi sa mga darating na unos sa kasaysayan. Sa mistulang propetikong himig, mahihiwatigan sa mga taludtod ng tula ang anti-imperyalistang tuligsa ng makata sa malawakang kulturang kolonyal at piyudal na laganap sa lipunan. At ito y pakinggan ng lahat: Nasa inyong bunganga ang dila ng unggoy. Sa aki y ang sa tao t kahubog ng sa Diyos. Araw ng dila ko bawat salas; ang lahat ay salas sa akin. Sa batalan o kubeta, dila ninyo y may liwanag. Hindi ko na lilinawin. Ang sining ng unggoy, sa inyo nahabilin. Hindi na maiiwasan ang paglalarawan ng mga kaguluhan at bagabag sa lipunan nang panahong iyon, gunita pa ni Mangahas hinggil sa Louie Jon A. Sanchez at Giancarlo Lauro C. Abrahan 253

268 pagkakasulat ng Mga Duguang Plakard. Bilang kasaping tagapagtatag ng PAKSA (Panulat Para sa Kaunlaran ng Sambayanan), at gurong kasapi sa KAGUMA (Katipunan ng mga Gurong Makabayan), tila dumadaloy na sa aking dugo at kamalayan ang pangangailangang pakikisangkot sa kilusang makamasa. Kinasangkapan ng makata ang mahahabang anyo dahil aniya, nakita ko sa aking isip ang ilang alusyon sa ilang muhon ng ating panitikan at kasaysayan. Naramdaman ko na lamang na tatapatan ko ng mahahabang tula ang gayong makabuluhang mga pangyayari, wika pa niya. Gamit ang bagong estetika at paglalantad ng napapanahong mga isyu sa pamamagitan ng simbolismo, ganap na hinarap ni Mangahas ang pagpapaksa sa lipunan, na may nasang pukawin ang mambabasa at pag-isipin ang madla hinggil sa kalagayan ng pagkaluoy ng marami sa lipunan. At sa pagsasakatuparan nito, nilakipan niya ang mga tula ng kritika, upang aniya y magabayan ang mambabasa sa makabagong estetika, at gayundin makatulong sa pagpapasigla ng kritisismo sa panulaan nang panahong iyon. Ipinasuri ni Mangahas ang bawat tula niya sa apat na kasabayang kritiko kina San Juan, Jr., Lumbera, Almario, at Pedro L. Ricarte. At ang mga pagsusuring iyon na gumamit ng iba t ibang napapanahong lente ang nagpook kay Mangahas bilang isang mahalagang makata ng kaniyang panahon. Tinakdaan ang bawat isang kritiko ng kani-kaniyang babasahing tula. Si Almario ay may naging ganitong pagbasa sa Sa Pamumulaklak : At minsan pa, ipinagdiwang na naman ni Mangahas ang paradoksikong gawi ng kalikasan At kaipala, sa ganitong kaselang pandama t masasal na kabaguhan sa pagsasataludtod ng karanasan pinatutunayan ni Mangahas na isa siya sa masasabing diliwariw na namumukadkad sa tinatag-araw pang Panulaang Pilipino (Mangahas 1970, 18). Para naman kay Lumbera, ang Sarhento Gameng naman ay may malalim na kabatirang naganap sa pagninilay ng makata sa pagkamatay ng isang alagad ng batas. Ang pagpaslang kay Gameng ay ginawang okasyon upang masuri ng makata ang kanyang misyon bilang tagapagmasid sa dula ng buhay, tagapagtala ng ipinahihiwatig ng bawat galaw nito, at tagapagbuo ng samotsaring diwa upang malubos ang pagkakaunawa ng tao sa sariling karanasan at sa karanasan ng kanyang kapwa (30). May ganito namang pagtatasa si San Juan sa Mga Duguang Plakard : Makikita sa tula ni Mangahas ang litaw na balangkas ng elehiya: pag-uulit-ulit, mga imaheng pastoral, paggibik, pagtatanong at panawagan samakatwid, ang halos lahat ng makinarya ng elehiyang pastoral na palasak sa panitikang kanluranin. Maaaring ang payak na kumbensiyong iyan ang nakapagdulog ng tumpak na hugis o porma sa nilalamang karanasan. Walang eksperimental 254 Likhaan 6 Interview / Panayam

269 na pagsulong sa anumang bagay, siyensiya o sining, nang hindi nakasalig sa lumang batayan ito y kilalang prinsipyo (45). Ganito naman ang naging pagtaya ni Ricarte sa Bahay-bahayan : Ang tula ay nagwawakas sa babala, babala sa darating na kapahamakan. Gayunman, sa dalawang huling taludtod, ang larawan ng karahasan at kapahamakan na taglay ng sinundang dalawa ring taludtod ay hinalinhan ng larawan ng pag-ibig at kapayapaan. Walang pagkakasalungatan dito, sapagkat katotohanang ang pagbabago ay laging kasunod ng kapahamakan; ang paglinis at katubusan ay kasunod ng paghihirap at pagpapakasakit. Ang kalayaan ay pinamumuhunan ng dugo, pinagbubuwisan ng buhay (60). Itinulak din ng pakikisangkot sa tula si Mangahas upang gawin ang mas kongkretong pakikihamok. Pinapasok niya ang linya ng para kanino, ang panitikan sa kaniyang kamalayan at nagkaroon ng praktika ang kaniyang malikhaing paglilingkod. Tulad ng marami sa kaniyang hanay, ipinook niya ang panulat sa mahigpit na pangangailangan ng bayan. Nang ako y naging aktibista, naranasan kong lumahok sa mga rali at demonstrasyon, hindi lamang ng kinaaanibang organisasyon, kundi ng iba pang mga kaalyansang kapisanang progresibo at rebolusyonaryo, kuwento pa ng makata. Lumalahok din ako sa mga lingguhang ED o DG ng organisasyon. Sa sariling kusa, nagsaliksik at nagbasa ako ng iba pang mga akda nina Rizal, Bonifacio, M.H. del Pilar, Mabini, at iba pang mga bayani natin. Maging ang pagtuturo ko noon ng literatura ay naging linyado yata. Lumalim ang kahulugan ng panulat sa mga panahong iyon sapagkat nagkaroon ng mukha ang isang kalaban, isang kalabang handang supilin ang kalayaan ng mamamayan ano mang oras. Para sa mga nakikisangkot na manunulat na tulad ni Mangahas, nasa lahat ng panig ang labanang dapat kasangkutan, at ang maging manunulat ay isang mahalagang politikal na tungkulin. Tuluyang itinulak sa galaw ng pangangahas si Mangahas sa kasaysayang katatagpuin niya; di naglaon, sa dilim at lagim ng isang kulungan. Panahon ng Pagbubuo: Sa Kandungan ng Sigwa Pang-isang libro yan, a! biro ni Mangahas, nang maitanong sa kaniya ang mga gunita nang maaresto noong Enero 19, 1973, kasama ang maybahay na si Fe Buenaventura (ngayo y ang respetadong iskolar na si Fe Mangahas, komisyoner ng National Historical Commission of the Philippines), tatlong buwan lang pagkaraang kaming dalawa y kasama ng ilan pang propesor na nasummarily dismissed ng UE kaugnay ng PD Isa sa mga naging unang hakbang ng pamahalaang Marcos ay patahimikin ang mga naging maiingay Louie Jon A. Sanchez at Giancarlo Lauro C. Abrahan 255

270 na kritiko ng kanilang pamamalakad. Ang mga manunulat at intelektuwal noon ay palagiang nangunguna sa publikong pagtutol, lalo nang maibunyag ang planong Batas Militar. Pareho kaming dinala sa ISAFP (Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines), Camp Aguinaldo, Q.C., dagdag pa ni Mangahas. Punong-puno ang seldang pinagdalhan sa akin. Tatlo o apat ang nakapila sa CR, nagbúbulós dahil sa sirang rasyon. Ang ilan nama y bulagta sa kani-kanilang double-deck na taríma, isa sa kanila ang kinuryente pala sa bayag, at may isang na-water cure. Pebrero 9, 1973 nang inilipat si Mangahas sa Ipil Rehabilitation Center ng Fort Bonifacio, at doon nga y dumanas ng sobrang pagkainip, tensiyon, at parusang mental. Laging problema ang pagkain. Class D o C ang kanin. Iba t iba ang tawag ng mga detenido sa mga ulam: sinibak na gulay, kinuryenteng bangus, winaterkyur na manok at baboy, at niromansang kung ano. Lagi ring problema ang kapos at maruming tubig, aniya. Binubuno naming mga detenido ang bawat araw sa iba t ibang gawain para hindi kami maburyong, mabaliw, manguluntoy, o magkasakit. Mahirap talagang detalyehin, pakli pa niya. Ngunit sa dusang iyon na idinulot ng Batas Militar, naging kasalo niya ang dalawa sa mga pinakakilalang detenidong manunulat sina Lumbera at Lorena Barros. Isang gawaing kultural na nagawa namin nina Bien Lumbera at Lorie Barros ay ang pagtatanghal ng isang timpalak-bigkasan (na sa kung anong himala y pinayagan ng guardhouse). Pawang progresibo at makabayan ang mga tulang pinili namin at pinabigkas sa mga kalahok. Nag-alab yata ang mga detenido, ngunit halatang nainis o medyo naligalig ang OIC. Labinsiyam na buwang nakulong si Mangahas at pinalaya siya noong Agosto 13, Nang ma-release ako noong 1974, pagpapatuloy pa ni Mangahas, hindi ako nakadama ng lubos na kalayaan dahil umiiral pa rin ang Batas Militar sa sumunod na mahigit isang dekada. Sa buong panahong iyon, wika niya, dumanas ako ng malalaking problema sa kalusugan, pinansiya, seguridad at tatlong kasong legal. Ayon sa aking palit-palit na mga doktor, humina ang aking baga at puso dahil sa matagal na detensiyon. Nagkaroon ako ng arrythmia, paminsan-minsang nahihilo, taas-baba ang presyon ng dugo, at kung minsa y bumabagsak. Hindi naman ako makakuha ng regular na trabaho o makabalik sa pagtuturo dahil hindi mabigyan ng clearance ng NICA. Aktibo pa noon sa kilusan ang kabiyak niyang si Fe, at sumusuporta siya sa kilusan, kaya hindi naiwasang kami y magpalipat-lipat ng bahay para sa aming seguridad. Mula nang maideklara ang Batas Militar hanggang sa pagsiklab ng EDSA Uno, anim na bahay ang nalipatan ng pamilya Mangahas 256 Likhaan 6 Interview / Panayam

271 bago nakabalik sa kanilang bahay sa Sct. Limbaga Street, Lungsod Quezon. Ang masama pa, mula noong 1975 hanggang 1990 labinlimang taon kinaharap ko ang tatlong kaso: bigamy, annulment, at concubinage. Talo ako sa unang dalawa, panalo sa pangatlo. Ayoko nang detalyehin. Masakit gunitain. Ang lalong masakit, kung kailan kami nagsisimulang makahinga, saka nagkasakit ng lymphoma at yumao ang aming bugtong na anak, kuwento pa niya. Magiging isang understatement ang sabihing binago ng danas ng Batas Militar si Mangahas. Kung tutuusin, isa lamang ang salaysay niya sa daandaang pasyong ipinarinig na ng maraming biktima hinggil sa kabanatang iyon ng kasaysayan ng bansa. Mahihinuha ring may pagkabagabag sa loob ni Mangahas, sa tuwing uusisain siya hinggil sa maligamgam na pagtaya ng kasalukuyang henerasyon sa kabanata ng Batas Militar at sa rehimeng Marcos. Isang dahilan ay ang teksbuk ng kasaysayan ng Pilipinas na hindi agad na-update at na-expand pagkaraan ng EDSA People Power, paliwanag ni Mangahas, na nagtrabahong editor ng mga teksbuk nang maraming taon matapos ang kaniyang pagkakapiit. Ang mga estasyon naman ng telebisyon ay walang tigil sa pagbirit ng mga programang pang-entertainment na madaling makapaghasik ng amnesia sa mga tao. Ngunit sa isang banda, nakikita niyang hindi naman talaga lubusang nakalilimot ang mismong mga taong nakaranas ng kawalan ng hustisya noong ipinatutupad pa ang Batas Militar. Maging ang marami sa mga buháy pang biktima ng Batas Militar ay waring gustong pansamantalang makalimot lamang sa isang napakadilim na panahon; sila y matagal-tagal ding namatay at gusto namang muling mabuhay, at mamuhay nang normal. Hindi dagli-dagling mabubunot sa kanila ang tanim na kamulatan, pagkamakabayan, at pagtutol sa diktadura. Sa huli, tila naging bugtong na layon ni Mangahas na huwag lumimot at patuloy na linangin ang pagdama tungo sa higit na mahusay na pagpapanatili ng memorya, lalo t higit ng mga personal na kasaysayan. Ang totoo y marami pang yugto ng ating kasaysayan ang dapat malaman at di dapat malimot ng sambayanan. Hindi kailanman naparam ng pagkakapiit ang kaniyang panulat (ang sabi nga niya y kabilang ako sa mga ibong madalas mabulabog sa pugad at larang, gayunma y nakasasaklot ng sandali upang makapangitlog, makaawit ). Patuloy na nilinang ng makata ang kaniyang pagtula at bagaman nanahimik nang malaon, kinasabikan ng publiko ang paghuhunos ng kaniyang tinig. Isang mapagliming Rogelio Mangahas ang nasilayan ng madla sa kaniyang pagbabalik noong 2006 sa aklat na Gagamba sa Uhay. Pinalakpakan ito sa Louie Jon A. Sanchez at Giancarlo Lauro C. Abrahan 257

272 National Book Awards nang maiuwi ang papuring Best Poetry Collection at Best Translation mula sa Manila Critics Circle. Mula sa eksperimental na tinig sa Manlilikha, at mapanghamong pananaludtod sa Mga Duguang Plakard, hinarap ni Mangahas ang publiko sa ikatlo niyang aklat ng mga haiku bilang isang mas matamang tagapagdama, at tagapagpadama ng mga imahen at pangitaing nakatanim sa pang-araw-araw na mga sandali, na masasabing mga sandali rin ng paggunita sa kabila ng sagitsit ng kasaysayan. Iisiping tila nagbabalik sa paraiso ng kaniyang nayon si Mangahas sa pagtawag niya sa kariktan ng sapa, parang, damuhan, ibon, liwanag. Ngunit ang tumitingin sa aklat na ito, ang naghahandog ng pagmalas sa daigdig, ay hindi na ang sariling binabalot ng mahiwagang sagisag at malapanaginip na pananalinghaga ng Manlilikha; hindi na rin ito ang dinahas ngunit pangahas na tinig sa ilang ng lipunang sinikap salaminin ng Mga Duguang Plakard. Tila lumipas na ang bagabag sa mga haikung tinipon sa pinakahuling aklat, at bagaman inanyuan na ito sa diwa ng ating wika, hinding-hindi nito tinatalikuran ang estetikong Hapones ng haiku, na nagdiriwang sa paglipas ng mga panahon. Lumipas ang panahon ng sumisikdong pangarap at mga mithiin at naririto na nga, sa anyo ng mga haiku, at sa saling Ingles na tinupad ni Marne Kilates, siyang maaaring pinakamahusay na tagasalin patungong Ingles ng kasalukuyang panahon. Mistulang nagkaroon ng sariling kabatiran si Mangahas matapos na daanin sa kaniyang buhay at tula ang maatikabong pakikipagsapalaran. Sa huli, kahit sa isang haikung likha ng panahon ng kaniyang pagkakapiit, maipanunukalang nagkaroon talaga higit sa paglipas ng panibagong pagyuyugto sa kaniyang kamalayan, mulang magalaw at tikom-kamaong pakikipagtunggali, patungong mapayapang paninindigan, puno ng dunong at kapanatagan: Bugbog, at tulog sa lapag, kakosa ko y siil ng lamok. Ang pagbaling ko sa haiku noong dekadang 2000 ay hindi noon lamang, pagbabahagi ni Mangahas. Pumili lamang ako sa mga haikung nasulat ko mula noong gitnang dako ng 1960 na habang nagsusulat ako ng tanaga ay nasasalitan ko ng haiku. Dinagdagan ko lang ng isang seksiyon para sa aking yumaong anak. Mga haiku ang piniling likumin ng makata, dahil sa kakaibang karanasan ko sa anyong ito. Aniya, tila buong damdaming ako y nakaaawit at nakasasayaw habang nakatungtong sa isang dahon. Ang intensidad ng buong epiko ay tila maaaring ilagay o madama sa isang haiku. 258 Likhaan 6 Interview / Panayam

273 Paglipas ng bagabag. Ang mapagliming si Mangahas sa gitna ng lungsod. Louie Jon A. Sanchez at Giancarlo Lauro C. Abrahan 259

274 Napili ko naman si Marne dahil perpektong halimbawa ang salin niya ng mga piling tula ni Rio, isa pa y gusto ko ang kilates at sensibilidad ng kanyang tula at lengguwahe. Mabuting pagtuunan ng pansin ang sinasabi ng tagasalin na si Kilates hinggil sa tila ba pagbabalik ni Mangahas sa panulaan sa pamamagitan ng paghahayag ng masasabing kaniyang lihim na buhay (Mangahas 2006, xix). May katangiang malihim ang haiku, dahil na rin sa kaniyang matimping anyo; nangangailangan ito ng masidhing pagpapadama gamit ang kongkretong imahen ng daigdig na dumaraan sa sari-saring paglipas, pag-usad, pagbabago. Ang pagdatal ni Mangahas sa ganitong uri ng masidhing pagbaling, matapos ng malaong papalabas na pagsasakataga ay pagbabalon hindi lamang sa sarisari niyang karanasan nitong mga huling taon, kundi pagbabalon ding higit sa bait ng kaniyang minulan. Animo y muling lumitaw ang mga primal na imahen, hindi lamang upang pag-ugatin ang malay ng makata, kundi upang igiit na naroroon na nga siya sa lupain ng kaniyang kabataan at gunita. Na naroroon pa rin siya, lamang ay siya ang binago ng panahon, pinahinog, higit na pinabulas ang pananaw at pagdama sa mga bagay, at pinadunong sa bawat pamamaraan ng pagmalas sa mga ito. Ganitong malay at himig ang mababasa sa title poem na Gagamba sa Uhay na hindi lamang nagninilay hinggil sa siklo ng tag-ani, kundi inaalingawngaw rin ang karunungan ng kalikasang may sarili mang karahasan ay likas na umiinog upang magpatuloy ang buhay: Lingkaw ko y pigil: may gagamba sa uhay, bilot ang balang. Pasuysoy ang balangkas nitong haiku na unti-unting inilalantad ang natuklasan habang tinutupad ang paggapas. Ngunit buhay na buhay sa unang linya ang malay na nakahandang humimpil ano mang oras upang masdan ang isang katangi-tangi t sagradong sandali ng likas na pagpuksa, ng isang tila ba ritwal ng paghango ng makakain. May salaminan sa malay at sa munting tagpong iyon sa bukid na nakaaantig kaya t kailangang humimpil. Gayunding uri ng pagninilay ang tinutupad ng mga persona sa iba t ibang haiku ng aklat, tulad ng bilang 33, na nagpapamalay sa maaari y tagisang rural at urban, tiyak na naging danas din ng makata, Akasyang dati y/ maalitaptap, ngayo y/ lingkis ng neon. Napakarikit na pandiwa ng lingkis, at tila ba bumabalik ito sa ahas ng sinaunang paraiso ng tukso. Subalit naghunos na ito t tila ba inaalayan ng elehiya ng makata sa panahong ito ang akasyang dati y pinagliliwanag ng kalikasan. Katatagpuin din ng ganitong katikas at 260 Likhaan 6 Interview / Panayam

275 tutok na pagbaling ang mga ligaw na damo sa lungsod-riles sa bilang 53, na larawan din ng komplikadong tagpuan ng kalikasan at pag-unlad: Mutha sa riles,/ sa pagragasa ng tren / kuminig-kinig. Ngunit ang pagiging kakatwa at nakamamangha ay patuloy na liligid sa mga haikung tila lalong nagiging malalim ang kabatiran hinggil sa mortalidad at mabilisang pagdaan ng kagandahan. Ganitong pag-unlad ang narating ni Mangahas sa pagtungtong ng kaniyang pagtula sa Gagamba sa Uhay. Ganitong kaakmaan ng palagay na puno ng kadalisayan at pagtanggap sa mga siklo ng pagsilang at kamatayan, ng mga simula at wakas, ng mga pagdating at paglisan. Masdan halimbawa ang bilang 91, na mabalintuna sa dalang paglalarawan: Laglag na hasmin, dadamputin ko y aba yakap ng uod. Sa di iilang pagkakataon ng paglulunggati, pangungulila, at pagdiriwang, inihandog ni Mangahas sa kaniyang ikatlong aklat ang isang nakasasabik na tinig ng atensiyon na nakamit ng isang makatang supling ng kaniyang daigdig at panahon. Ang pagsinop sa matulaing danas sa pamamagitan ng haiku ay pananatiling nakaapak sa lupa, dahil na rin sa tradisyonal na kahingian nitong pumaksa hinggil sa nararanasang likas at manapa y mga kabaguhang likha rin ng tao. Katangi-tangi ang mga haiku ni Mangahas hindi lamang sa kaniyang tila musmos na pagmalas sa lupain ng kaniyang paligid, at sa lupain ng bansang kinatutungtungan ngayon ng banyagang anyo ng haiku. Nakapook sa kaniyang bayan ang pananaw, kahit pa inilalarawan ang isang banyagang pagkagulat (tingnan ang bilang 228, na makatatagpo ng makata ang isang squirrel at akma itong kokodakan, na masasabing isa nang Filipinismo ng pagkuha ng larawan), ang bigat ng pagluluksa para sa pagyao ng anak (basahin ang serye ng mga haiku sa bahaging Sugatang Punay, lalo ang bilang 220 na dinadalaw ng isang paruparong dilaw ang maybahay ng makata), o pagpapanukala hinggil sa danas ng ilang biktima ng tsunami sa Indonesia noong Kakatwa ang danas na muling naisalaysay ng makata hinggil dito: Balik sa pulo: Nilangoy nila ng dagat, giya ang kobra. Sa kaniyang katayuan ngayon bilang kabilang sa tungkong-kalan ng ikalawang bugso ng modernismo sa panulaang Tagalog, mahihiwatigan na Louie Jon A. Sanchez at Giancarlo Lauro C. Abrahan 261

276 kay Mangahas ang malapaham na kaalaman at kabatiran hinggil sa sining ng pagtula. Nang usisain siya hinggil sa kaniyang malikhaing karanasan, bumalik siya sa dalumat ng danas upang ibunyag ang isang komplikadong proseso ng pagpapagitaw ng matulaing pahayag. Isang partikular na pangyayari, tao, bagay, o idea ang dapat munang tuminag sa akin o kumintal sa aking isip, madinig-dinig ko ang kakaibang daloy ng tinig, at matanaw-tanaw ko sa aking imahinasyon ang magkakaugnay na mga larawan bago ko masimulan sa isip muna ang pagsulat ng tula. Dagdag pa niya, Sinisimulan ko ang tula sa pagbuo muna ng titulo, at masusulat ko lang ito kung nadama at sumadiwa ko na ang buong lalamanin ng teksto. Hindi ako puwedeng magsulat ng teksto kung wala pang titulo, maliban kung haiku dahil hindi kailangan dito ang pamagat. Ibinahagi pa niya ang ilang sikreto sa pagsulat ng tula: Kalungkutang may kapayapaan sa isip ang epektibong gatong para sa aking paglikha. Ang unang saknong ay kailangang may pangati o panggitla, malakas o napakalakas na dapat mapantayan o mahigitan ng huling saknong. Inuulit-ulit ko ang pagbasa ng teksto upang matiyak na iyo y may dinamikong progresyon at hindi flat ang rendisyon, tanggalin ang salitang dapat tanggalin, palitan ang salitang dapat palitan. Kaya t hindi katakatakang ganito ang maging pagpapakahulugan niya sa katuturan ng tula: Ang tula ay talinghagang inaawit ng puso at ng malikhaing imahinasyon. Si Mangahas kasama ang makatang si Louie Jon A. Sanchez. 262 Likhaan 6 Interview / Panayam

First Grade Spelling Lists

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