If Words Can Talk (Part 2)

Nonfiction by | January 14, 2018

The Math teacher roughly grabbed Tommy by the sleeve.

“Who taught you this word?” she demanded.

“She did!” pointing at a playmate. “Dili gani ako!” the playmate countered and adamantly pointed her finger at another playmate. The other playmate quickly said no and pointed his finger at another. The finger pointing went on and on until it erupted into a quarrel amongst them. He did, she did, you did accusations were flying around for they forgot who started the game in the first place. It was the makings of politics. Cage rattler, players, finger pointing, displaced accountability, feigned ignorance, pointless hullabaloo, and lastly corrupted silence.

Selena was silent but she did not forget. She remembered it was Diana who started it but she bit her tongue to protect her friend. She shoved me down her own throat and kept mum while the interrogation was happening. That was the last time I heard her use the word that year. That was the end of ‘devirginized’ for the time being. After a few years, this sordid word will be revived which explained why the feeling of betrayal never went away. At that moment though, I still felt reduced into a thing in the past. A memory, relevant only when there is a need to dig up history and rummage through forgotten boxes. Finished. I have never felt so downgraded in my entire existence as a letter. So, I rebelled many times. Failed. Rebelled again. Failed some more. Rebelled even more. Wars were always waged because she mastered this foreign language.

She mastered it because she was repeatedly told that it was the gateway to success. It was supposedly her key to a lucrative life in the land where the pastures were believed to be greener.

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Nang Magmahal ang Makata

Nonfiction by | January 14, 2018

Pinasalamatan mo ang sarili nang sabihin kong itinanghal ang bago kong tula sa website ng mga bagong Pilipinong makata. Natawa ako sa hirit mong iyon. Sabi mo, kay husay mong inspirasyon. Hindi na ako nag tangka pang kumontra dahil inaasahan ko rin naman na hindi mo pa rin ako hahangaan. Igigiit mo pa rin na ikaw ang lumilikha ng mga imahe ng aking tula at hindi ako mismo.

Marahil tama ka. May kulang dalawang buwan pa lamang nang sinubukan kong gumawa ng mga tula. Ang isang buwan pa doon, hindi ako seryoso. Nitong huli ko na lang natutunang mahalin ang pagsusulat ng tula. Pero ikaw, matagal na. Matagal na kitang pinaghuhugutan ng inspirasyon. Mag-iisang taon na rin pala mula sa araw na iyon nang naramdaman kong may sariling buhay ang paghanga ko sa iyo; tuluy-tuloy na siyang lumikha ng kung anu-anong bagay, ng mga imahe hanggang sa makabuo ng mga tula. Hindi ko na nga ito napigilan hanggang napansin mong kawangis mo ang bawat nilikha ko. Tila mga pilas ng iyong pagkatao na pilit kong ginagawan ng isang disenyo sa puso ko. Hindi ko malaman ang mga reaksyon ng iyong mukha sa tuwing babasahin mo ang sarili mo sa aking mga katha. Siguro ay nasasabi mo, hindi ako ito o kaya hinuhusgahan kita ayon sa lente ko. Pwede ring tama, naisip ko. Baka tama rin ang mga hinala ko. Hindi ko lang talaga mahuli ang pagguhit ng ngiti sa iyong labi at ang ningas sa iyong mga mata na maaring magpakahulugan ng iyong galit o saya. Marahil ayaw mong makita ko ito. O di kaya ayaw mong makita ang mga isinusulat ko para sa iyo. Dahil hindi ka interesado at hindi mo nagugustuhan ang mga imaheng nabubuo ko. Gayunpaman, lahat ng ito ay haka-haka ko lamang at hindi ako sigurado kung tama.

Magaling ka kasi. Kung ikukumpara sa akin, may sampung taon ka nang nagsusulat. Hindi na rin ako magtataka kung kahanay na ng iyong pangalan si Maningning Miclat at Benilda Santos sa bata mong edad. Kahit hindi ka pa nakakapaglabas ng koleksyon ng tula mo, alam kong diyan sa utak mo, may nakasilid na pumpon ng tula na hango sa iba’t-ibang inspirasyon. Ang hindi ko lang matiyak ay kung kahit minsan ba sa mga nilikha mo ay tiningnan mo ang mukha ko at saka sinimulang sumulat. May sarili kang istilo at sabi mo nga, formalist ako at ikaw ang post-modernist. Kung ano man ang kaibahan nila, hindi ko pa rin masyadong alam. Dalawang buwan pa lang ako nagsusulat at imposibleng maintindihan ko ang mga ganitong teknikal na bagay lalo na kung magmumula sa isang beteranong manunulat na tulad mo. Pero sa totoo lang, kung maniniwala ka, sa loob ng maikling panahon na iyon, lalong lumalim ang mga imaheng nabubuo ko mula sa iyo. Ewan ko lang kung napapansin mo lalong lumalim ang pag-ibig ko.

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If Words Can Talk (Part 1)

Nonfiction by | January 7, 2018

I am D. Yes D, the sound you make when the tip of your tongue will come up to the roof of your mouth, just behind the upper teeth to block the airflow, in order to create a noise in your vocal cords that stops as quickly as how it started. My conception is almost similar to a terrible idea that was not supposed to be created but came to be regardless. A blocked idea that slipped through and efforts were even made to control its damage by taking it back while it was being released, hence the sound you make when you say my name is short. D – D – D. But, you know what they say about terrible ideas. They start in the wrong foot and end up in the right one later on. Or for a non-thinking man, you can just say D, the letter.

I was the first sound she created at 3 months. D – D – D. Unlike other babies, she swerved away from the usual vowel repertoire expected from her lot. She chose to utter a consonant that was not even first in the alphabet. I was the third one in the list, by order of usage for an English-speaking man. She was not, however, an English-speaking man. She was as brown as brown can get, a sun-kissed woman from war-torn Mindanao. Not many people know where Mindanao is. If one happens to have known about it, red flags immediately start flashing in their minds. Mindanao is not safe. Mindanao is the lair of Abu Sayyaf and Maute, extremists led by a dayu – an outsider, a foreigner who distorted the Muslim values for their own gain and used the locals as pawns; yet they were branded as Filipino terrorist groups. Further, the news would broadcast there is war raging in Mindanao between rebel insurgencies and the government army. Avoid Mindanao. Foreign ministers launched travel warnings to their citizens not to visit Mindanao. DO NOT TRAVEL TO MINDANAO, the circulation will say; forgetting that Mindanao is the largest composition of several chunks of the archipelago and the food basket of the Philippines.

She knew English was not her native tongue. The air that flowed in and out of her mouth was not expelled so extravagantly like how English speakers do. So wasteful. Her language preserved every breath, for air was life and life was precious. One does not exhaust something precious in one swing, at least not from where she is from.

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“I Will Revise”: On Davao Writers Workshop 2017

Nonfiction by | December 31, 2017

I was no stranger to writing workshops. My classmates and professors in our creative writing courses regularly held writing workshops that had my works in nonfiction, poetry, and fiction thoroughly reviewed. But only this year did I finally have the chance and guts to submit my works to weeklong workshops. For this year, Davao Writers Workshop 2017 was my second go at a workshop. The first had been in Ateneo de Davao University’s Summer Writers Workshop (ADDUSWW), which was held in the fourth week of May.

As any aspiring writer, I was thrilled that I was one of the chosen fifteen for this year’s batch of fellows. Since the announcement, I had counted down the days until November 30. Whenever I wasn’t too preoccupied with my thesis or anything else, I would be musing on the approaching event. What would be the guest panelist like? Who were the other fourteen fellows? Would they like my work or were they going to hack it to bits?

But fate had a different idea and threw in some last-minute hurdles for me to go through. First was a final exam on November 30 at in the morning. The second was another final exam on December 1 in the afternoon. I tried negotiating with my professors for a reschedule at both professors, but to no avail. The third and most exhausting hurdle was the travel to and fro the workshop venue, Ponce Suites (in Bajada) and my school (in Mintal) which was more or less 20 kilometers apart. I missed most of the opening ceremony on the first day, and the afternoon session the second day. Not hearing this year’s guest panelist’s keynote speech was my biggest regret. But I did not let that dampen my spirits for long.

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Bag-ong Tuig 2018

Nonfiction by | December 31, 2017

Ang pagsugat sa bag-ong tuig alang kanako, usa ka kulba-hinam nga lumba sa dagan aron malangkat ang ganti nga makatuntong ang imong tiil sa dakong entablado – ang kalibutan nga gasa sa labawng makagagahom ug ang pagsimhot sa unang hangin nga mohapak sa atong aping.

Ang nagsugwak sa nagdasok nga mga tawo ang pagpamalit og pagkaon kay ang lingin nga prutas, bino ug mga sapot nga lingin-lingin ang drowing tungod sa tinuhoan nga simbolo kini sa kwarta og grasya.

Kadaghanan sa Pilipino, lumad o Muslim alegre kaayo sa maong pagpangandam nagsugod tapos sa pasko. Dako kinig hagit sa matag Pilipino ang pagsugat sa bag-ong tuig nga mag-awas-awas ang pagkaon, ilimnon, kwarta mao nga sayo pa lang daan gipangandaman na kini sa matag Pilipino. Kon walay kwarta maningkamot gayud ang ordinaryong Pilipino sa pag-prenda, pagkopras, panghurnal, pagdawat og labada aron maka-kwarta. Ang mga magtutudlo inubanan sa pag-ampo, nga untana ihatag og sayo ang PBB.

Naa koy nakasakay sa dyip, gikan kog NCCC- Uyanguren. Sa dihang nihunong ang dyip sa Victoria Plaza, dunay nisakay nga trabahante sa maong tindahan diri sa Davao. Morag naa pa sa bente anyos iyang pangedaron, hitsuraan gamay ug samtang nakig-istorya siya sa telepono wala nako kapugngi nga maminaw sa iyaha. Sigurado ko nga ka-istorya niya ang iyang inahan, kay nanay ang pulong nga iyang gigamit. Ang iyang tingog daw sama sa hangin nga bugnaw ug buotan kaayo, morag gakson ug halukan ang imong aping sa kamingaw. Pung niya sa iyang inahan, “Nay wa ko kapadala og kwarta nay kay wa koy bakanteng oras, wala pa pud koy sweldo nay. Sige lang nay kay naa man koy gamay nga kwarta diri, ako lang ning ipadala nimo nay.” Akong huna-huna kabuotan ba ning tawhana, nindot pangutan-on og asa iyang probinsya apan na-unhan ko sa kaulaw niatong higayona.

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Aden Bon Besen Uyag-Uyag (Mga Buhay Pa Pala)

Nonfiction by | December 17, 2017

(Nanalo ang sanaysay na ito ng ikatlong gantimpala sa Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards ngayong taon.)

Kilala ang bayan ng Maguindanao na isa sa mga tampulan ng gulo o digmaan tulad ng Maguindanao Massacre. Ito ang pagkakakilala ng hindi man lahat ngunit ng karamihan lalo na sa hindi bahagi ng kuwento ng bawat may buhay sa Maguindanao. Mga kuwentong maaaring maunawaan at mas marami ang hindi makakaunawa dahil sa kawalan ng kamalayan sa kanilang bayan. Hindi maiintindihan dahil sa hindi pagkakapantay-pantay ng estado sa lipunan. Hindi mauunawaan dahil sa hindi magkaparehong pananaw sa pananampalataya at paniniwala. Isa sa mga baranggay ng Maguindanao ay ang Kitango, Datu Piang. Ito ang bayang kinamulatan ko, ang bayang humulma sa aking pagkatao. Ang bayang humubog sa aking prinsipyo, pananaw at paniniwala sa buhay. Ang bayang nagbuklod sa aking pamilya. Ang bayang yumapos sa katotohanang sa kabila ng lahat maaari akong mamuhay at magpatuloy sa buhay.

Pitong taong gulang ako nang magsimulang mahubog ang aking pananaw at pagmamahal sa Kitango, Datu Piang, Maguindanao. Wala mang kamuwang-muwang sa tunay na imahe ng buhay. ay patuloy na naglalayag ang aking kamalayan sa aking kapaligiran.

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Kipil and Paksiw for Mamay

Nonfiction by | October 15, 2017

My first memory of Tupi, South Cotabato was of a small room beside the kitchen of the old ancestral house. The kids were not allowed to play or make noises near the room where my grandfather Sotero, lived. The only time we would enter during visits was when we would mano upon arriving in the house and to mano again before we leave for home. Sotero was my mother’s father and the only grandparent I had the chance to touch, talk to, and serve meals for. My other grandparents died before I was born. We call Sotero Mamay because he was from Batangas and that was how grandchildren there called their grandfathers.

After World War 2, Mamay, together with my grandmother’s family, decided to move south to Mindanao where apparently things were safer and progress was more feasible than up in Luzon. Mamay was in his 20’s when they moved south. Back then, accumulation of land properties was easier and needed less legal processes. My grandfather found a land in South Cotabato just beside Dole Philippine’s pineapple plantation. During his time, hectares and hectares of vacant agricultural lands were there for the taking, no one owns them except a handful of huge companies including Dole Philippines.

The land he discovered looked more like a jungle compared to its neighboring pineapple plantation. He decided to clean the entire 18-hectare land with the help of his family. They cultivated the land, cut off unnecessary vines, and planted vegetables with their own bare hands. By simply cleaning the entire area that no one owned, it was implied Mamay was taking possession of it. It was that easy back then. But Dole Philippines saw how much potential the cleaned area had for their business, so they decided to plant pineapples on some specific areas that Mamay cleaned. They did that several times.

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What I Remember When I Think About Kuya Mai

Nonfiction by | September 24, 2017

I was 9 years old when Kuya Mai passed away. He was my uncle but we call him Kuya Mai. A month before he was sent to the hospital, a fish bone was stuck in his throat. After that incident, I was so careful every time I eat fish that I even separate the bones of anchovies before eating so that I’ll not be sent to the hospital like him.

Kuya Mai had some peculiar things going on on his body. There were giant pimples growing on his legs. He occasionally let us- his nieces and nephews prick his giant pimples and he would say that the thick yellowish fluid that comes out is uric acid. That time, I have no idea what a uric acid is. To my eyes it was disgusting but I still participated as I don’t want to be left out. Kuya Mai loved kids. For a man who never got married, it was quite a wonder. During his trips from local seminars and trainings he would bring us goodies. He called those goodies “secret”. Most of the time it is a Nestlé made chocolate- a Kisses, Hersheys or a Gandour chocolate called Safari. Childishly, I secretly wished him to be always out-of-town so that when he came back he would bring us lots of “secret”. Sometimes he would bribe us with “secret” to massage his head or legs. Continue reading What I Remember When I Think About Kuya Mai