“She’s here,” says the man outside.
In your mind you see her lay on the narrow table the food she always brings. Until now it escapes you why she does this when she knows you have stopped eating it since the incident. Is it her way of letting you exorcise your demons?
You met her father on this generation’s luckiest day: 8-8-88. You were at your favorite restaurant when he asked if he could join you. You were actually done but good manners aside, you didn’t want to foist bad luck on him by leaving just when he was about to eat. And so you broke into a half smile and nodded.
Continue reading Spaghetti
“The top ten candidates are…”one of the hosts announced. The audience shouted in chorus with the drum roll. The hosts repeated the catchphrases for a second, a third, a fourth time—I could hardly remember. The blinding light blinked at me. In my mind, I wanted the hosts to hasten the announcement so I could remove my golden shoes at once, fly off the stage, and head home right away.
The hosts called Candidate number 5. Candidate number 5 had an indescribably strong presence. She was probably between 15-16 years old, one of the youngest candidates, whose personality belonged to the spectrum of Latin-American faces. All through-out the pageant night, it seemed like the chances and time had aligned for her—she received the following awards: Ms. Facebook, Ms. People’s Choice Awards, Ms. Audience Choice Awards, and all the awards from the sponsors of the pageant, a one year supply worth of beauty products, and the judge’s choice for the neo-ethnic and creative attires. Whenever she would walk the stage, all of the people in the gymnasium would have seemed to fold in a lingering applause.
The Candidates for the Mutya ng Calinan 2017 had an age range of about 16-24 years old. But with pageant make-up and pageant gowns, no one could accurately tell who belonged to a specific age bracket. All of the candidates looked relatively similar that night. We had similar facial features. We had similar make-up. Our hairstyles would seem to complement each other’s hairstyles. Some of us took the high bun, the classic beauty pageant hair style; some had their long, flowing big curls on. All of our costumes begged for a lift, the crowd’s approval, and the judges’ praise with their elaborate hues and intricate embroidery.
Continue reading Limelight
Raindrops poured and the fragrance of wet grass and mud wafted in the dense air. A thin layer of fog blanketed the cluster of trees and chilled the nights of the distant homes within sitio Bago-Nalum. It was two weeks after the incident that happened at the highway of crossing Bago. Nights were filled with the sound of thunder and flashes of lighting since then. Rumor went around that the family failed to light a candle for the soul of Tata who died in the accident. His body was found with an envelope that bore the mark of the Eagle. Rain had washed away his blood and the morning sun has long dried the concrete. In sitio Bago-Nalum, where the man used to live, a rumor has been making rounds. Amidst the silent persisting downpour, whispers could be heard. Santelmo. The forgotten soul shall haunt.
Berto Dimahunong heard the whispers at Bugak as he was filling four containers of water. In Bugak people fell in line, carrying with them containers to be filled with fresh water, or gathered to do the laundry. Water flowed from the ground, through the years-old pipe, and into the container. The first one in line was Berto. He was a fireman and a dutiful son. He intended to do his chore as quickly as he could, but he could not help overhearing what everyone was talking about. Amidst the patting of fabric and the splashes of feet entering the shallow pool, people were in careless exchanges.
Continue reading Pabilo
“Ma, unsa’y handa nako sa akoang birthday?” pangutana ni Inday sa iyahang inahan nga naghaling sa abuhan. “Si Amber gud ma kay kuyog iyang mama gipakaon me ganina og Spaghetti sa room.” Gikudlit sa inahan ang posporo ug gisindihan ang goma nga gikan sa guba nga tsinelas. Gibutang dayon niya ilalom sa mga bunot nga giplastar. Sa dihang nag-aso na, gikuha sa inahan ang kaldero gikan kay Inday ug gibutang sa sug-angan nga bakal nga gipatong sa duha ka hollow block. “Magpakaon pud ko sa eskwelahan ma ha?”
“Maayo man to sila ‘day kay daghan man sila’g kwarta,” nanghinawak nga sulti sa inahan. “Pagkuha og kamunggay didto. Harusa, kay atong isagol sa gulay. Pagdali,” gitudlo sa inahan ang punoan sa kamunggay.
Nangyam-id si Inday pagtalikod niya kay wala siya kauyon sa tubag sa iyang inahan. Gawas niana, gulay napud ang ilang sud-an. Bug-at ang bundak sa iyang tiil, “Wala gyud napul-an.”
Continue reading Birthday na ni Inday
My mom once told me that children are not passive observers but rather, active ones. What they are exposed to and what they observe, especially when they are in the stage of growing up, become the foundations of their well-being. What a child hears is what a child speaks. What a child hears every day is what he will eventually adapt and master as his first language, his mother tongue.
Growing up with parents who taught in the University of the Philippines meant growing up with not only a sense of patriotism but also with appreciation of language, culture, and art. My mother, Prof. Joycie Alegre teaches theater and film at UP Tacloban and my father, Dr. Edilberto Alegre used to teach literature in UP Diliman. They believed that one way of becoming was through embodying one’s culture. And language, as what they taught me, was part of my evolving culture. As a result, we used Tagalog every day.
Continue reading Talking With My Sister
Sa kadugayon sa inyong panag-uban
kon tan-awon iyang hulagway
murag wa may kabag-ohan.
Parehong nawonga ang mamukaw,
mangasaba ug mosugat kanimo
kon di ka matulog sa udto.
Pero kon tutukan nimo’g ayo
sama sa paglutok sa iyang mata
sa platong wala nahugasan, makita mo
ang mga abog nga namilit sa aping
ug liog, sa imong tsinelas, abuhan,
sa kalsada na gisuroyan og binaki
ug ginanggang. Daghan nang linya
sa agtang kada badlis pagpabadlong.
Kahumot na pud siya sa bareta ug klorox.
Sa binugkos niyang buhok nagtabun
sa nalagas nga bahin sa ulo. Napagaw na sab
sa kakapoy sa sige’g yawyaw
kada buntag, nga karon igo na lang
John Carlo Patriana Beronio kay usa sa mga poetry fellows sa niaging 2018 Davao Writer’s Workshop.
The stores in the mall are closing already when a woman in her early twenties pretty and smartly dressed breezes out the door. Click, click, click. Her heels resound as she hurriedly walks down the stairs. She turns a corner and collides with a man—tall in long sleeves and tie. They hastily apologize and quickly move on—she, blushing, for he is rather handsome. She crosses the street and hails a jeepney.
As the jeepney moves away she looks at the familiar sight of office buildings, the market and the small ukay-ukay store which was so popular with her and her classmates during their college days. She sighs because it’s late already. She still has to start with her pile of paperwork. Inwardly she feels pressured yet proud at the same time. She is proud to be trusted so much by the bosses but with a small nagging voice telling her that she is simply being taken advantage of.
Continue reading Jeepney Ride
You’re at the basketball court watching the grown-ups play. It’s the barangay fiesta so your mama took you to the liga with your cousins like she always does every year. You keep staring at the kuya holding the ball and running across the court. You like the way his arms look when he shoots the ball. They look like Popeye’s arms after he eats spinach but smaller and not like they would explode if you prick them with a needle. Auntie Ely, the granny next door who gives you chocolates, told you once that if you like someone you will keep staring at them. So does that mean you like that kuya? But he’s a boy. Boys can’t like other boys.
Continue reading Boy