In their bamboo huts, where bullets
Could trace them, they tried to hide
Behind their mothers’ bodies as if
They could be infants in wombs again.
Their mothers’ pleas the only shield,
“Tama na! Mga sibilyan lang mi!”
But foes remained unmindful—the ears
Did not hear what the hearts refused to see.
Like dominoes standing, the mothers fell.
Blood ran to the edges of bamboo floors
Before they even hit the ground.
The children were left alone standing.
Datu Camsa sings their song in stillness,
They are now the birds of paradise,
Flying after their heads caught bullets
And their young hearts stopped to beat.
Today they dance with Jamail. They swing
Their arms like leaves of banana trees
Of Tibungol swaying in the wind.
On the stage, they portray the birds
Of paradise, the children who were once
Like them but remained as children
Breathing now the quiet air of peace,
Behind them their watchful mothers,
Clasping hands with one another,
Remembering the previous nights –
The fumbling and the laughter
Shrill with surrender and innocence.
Papanok sa Surga still ring around
The hall. And in the huts left standing,
No traces nor shadows remain, only
The empty wind going and returning.
Mohammad Nassefh R. Macla is a Kagan-Bangsamoro native in Panabo City, Davao del Norte. His poem “Children of Homeland” has first appeared in Issue 85: Philippines of the Cordite Poetry Review, an Australian and international online journal of poetry review and criticism.