Chicken Time!

Poetry by | May 14, 2017

One landed on the roof
with a dull thud that i thought
was a fleeting second of thunder
crumpling against the clear sky
just as the three-o’-clock prayer
was airing: “You died, and yet
your well of life sprung forth”
onto the afternoon gone quiet
save for the drunken laughter
gathering in the backyard
where twelve reddened fingers pointed
towards their newfound feathered friend
flailing and crowing thrice
before snapping its neck, after which
I was called out with one thought
in their minds: “Supper!”

John Oliver Ladaga is currently taking up BA English in UP Mindanao. He likes poetry and wallflowers, and doesn’t like being sad.

In the Company of Strangeness: From Davao to Bucas Grande (Part 1)

Nonfiction by | May 14, 2017

A journey is only as good as the company you travel with.

I first knew about Bucas Grande some eight years ago, and thought it might just be the most beautiful place in the Philippines. Its images online showed inviting turquoise waters around deserted island hills teeming with foliage. I remember too, quite distinctly, a picture of a woman wearing a blue bikini swimming among yellow jellyfishes. It looked so fantastic—paradise with a twist!—and I yearned to be there. Someday.

However, with my miniscule social circle, I never found a friend who wanted to go there—or, to be exact, someone who’s willing to pay to go there—even as the place grew in popularity to the point that there are now various tour packages featuring it. So when an old acquaintance posted on Facebook that he’s organizing a trip to Bucas Grande, I asked to be in immediately, never mind that I didn’t know anybody else coming.

And that was how I found myself, after-midnight on September 24, in a Hi-Ace van speeding along thrillingly curving backroads, in the company of some sixteen boisterous boys and girls in their early twenties, Spotify-ing a party mix even as up front our driver defiantly competed with Air Supply hits on his stereo.

Why must there always be Air Supply? I don’t think I have ever been in any long drive where Russell Hitchcock did not cry out that there he is, the one that you love, asking for another day, or that he’s back on his feet and eager to be what you wanted.

I was still lost in this revelry when our van stopped for restroom break and to buy some supplies at Bibingka City, a diner-cum-pasalubong center at New Sibunga. It was nice, as these places go (well-lit, fully stocked, the attendants not looking vaguely pissed at the patrons), but what I found most striking about it was that they weren’t charging customers for using the restroom. This to me was astounding. As far as I can recall, highway restroom are never free to use—I believe the current rate is two to five pesos for doing #1 and ten pesos for #2—so not being charged to pee was to me a delightful novelty.

I was still relishing this peculiarity when something caught my attention to remind me that I am, after all, still on a Philippine highway. It was a sign displaying the unique typography and passive-aggressive attitude of our public establishments. It read: “A-10-TION: Bawal MagLebang dire Ihi Lang pwede. Multa P500. TNX By. MGmt.”

Eddie, our driver, is chatty. I was his first passenger, and between Bajada and Panabo, where we picked up the rest of the group, I learned about his family, his work, religious affiliation, what food he likes, and that he might be a magical character.

“Kada mag-adto ko’g Surigao, mag-ulan dyud,” he said.

“Basig nataymingan lang bay,” I answered.

“Dili. Mag-ulan dyun. Tan-awa karon.” And indeed it was raining that night, the hardest rain in fact in the last few weeks.

This was fine by me, the pushy attitude and the incessant talk. I’ve since realized that if you take an anthropological point of view, strangers could be as wonderful a company as books or an MP3 player. They tell you tales of woes and joys, and they give interesting if usually unsolicited advice. Plus, if you listen long enough, they often give small tokens of appreciation—the fruitseller would give you an extra piece, karenderyas would give you a larger serving, the taho vendor would put extra syrup.

Another thing I learned about Eddie, as I sat up front gripping my seatbelt, is that he’s the sort of driver for whom traffic lights, check point barricades, and speed limits aren’t so much as rules as they are minor inconveniences. He overspeeds, circumvents intersections, takes chancy lane changes. Notably though, he always slows down when he sees a cat crossing the road.

We reached Surigao around 5:30AM, stopping at an overpriced eatery for breakfast, and I had my first good look at my companions. They were young and loud, and seemed especially unexcited that an outsider has joined their group. We introduced ourselves briefly, which was the most interaction I would have with most of them for the rest of the trip. (My friend—he who organized the whole trip—backed out at the last minute.)

We stayed at a resort called Green Cove, a little place at the tail end of the island that still doesn’t have electricity. Our itinerary showed that we would be leaving for Sohoton Cove at 10:00 in the morning. And so with more than an hour to wait, I went down a path to the other side of the island to have a look around. Below, I found a young man cleaning fish that were to be our lunch later. How wonderful, I thought, how self-sufficient people are in the province!

I was marveling at the quaintness of this when he told me that he just bought the fish at the market and that he was cleaning them here only because they’ve ran out of clean water at the kitchen. And thus I had my first epiphany for the trip: even as I thought myself a more cultivated kind of tourist, I had in fact taken the patronizing attitude all tourists have towards the locales—romanticizing their “simple” way of life, exoticizing the commonplace.

After a twenty-minute ride across choppy waters, we reached a registration center where we wait to transfer to smaller outrigger boats. While waiting, the group took turns taking photos in front of a tarpaulin backdrop featuring the attractions of the place. I stop myself from pointing that the surrounding scenery, in fact, makes for a much better background; instead, I make my own folly by purchasing two simple wood-carved keychains at eighty pesos apiece.

Sohoton is a 60-hectare national park with interspersed and branching islets, which make the whole cove like a maze. It was named so because to enter it you have to pass through (so-ot in Cebuano) a narrow opening that’s accessible only during low tide. Most of the place remains wild. So if you get lost in it, get caught in the high tide, or if darkness reaches you there, there’s a good chance you will never be found, not to mention dying.

The thing though is that the part of it that’s open to the public is just a fraction—at a guess, less than ten hectares—and not particularly mystifying so that it loses pretty much all sense of adventure. As the trips are guided and tourists are required to wear helmets and lifejackets, the biggest risk you run, really, is dropping your phone on the water as you take a selfie.

Still, the place looked virginal: the water was vibrant green and as beautiful as it is in pictures, the rocky islands were brimming with vegetation, and there was not a single trace of litter. And so I hoped that once the boat’s motor is turned off, we’d find ourselves in a natural tranquil splendor. Instead, at the first stop, Hagukan Cave, I find a fiesta of about 50 people: children splashing around, fat aunts giving impotent warnings, men with puffed chests stealing glances at nubile teens, old people genially having fun.

And that, I hate to report, was pretty much the scenery for the rest of the day.

Mind, the trip has other, different attractions, including—and I say this in all seriousness—a diving platform. Really, that’s it: just a plank of wood set on a rock was worth a stop. So was a sixteen-meter long, two-foot tall “cave”. This, to me, seemed uniquely Filipino: thinking every minor feature is worth recognition; variety prized over quality, the numbers creating a false impression of value.

After Sohoton Cove, we went to Sohoton Gamay (which featured another diving platform, and, everyone was happy to note, was recently visited by Anne Curtis) and Lake Tiktikan (whose muddy bank, I’m sorry to say, smelled awfully like sewer). There were no swimming with stingless jellyfishes, no woman in blue bikini.

At breakfast the next day, someone mentioned that it was such a pity that they forgot to bring their portable KTV. I thanked God for small favors and decided then and there that I wouldn’t join the day’s island hopping activity. Later, when I asked how it went, the reply was, “Init kaayo! Pero nice ang Club Tara!”, and I thought I didn’t miss much.

To pass the time, I ambled around the island. I was told … (to be continued)

Gabriel is a graduate of UP Mindanao’s Creative Writing Program. He currently works as a web content writer. He actually went back to Bucas Grande recently, and had a much better experience. This time, he came with his family.

The Housewife

Nonfiction by | April 30, 2017

There were talks of a major promotion for one of the vice-presidents of Chinabank*. Throughout her 19 years of working there, she had slowly worked her way to the top; drawing approval and encouragement from almost every board member (there were nay-sayers, but that was par for the course). Magnetic trinkets were covering every available surface of our refrigerator door; tokens she had collected from her nearly-monthly travels all over the country on those kinds of business trips the company pays everything for. She was a powerful woman in her field, a mere 4 months away from becoming the company president, when, at the age of 48, my mother decided to retire.

Contrary to popular belief, my mother did not retire because she was tired of 9 to 5 office hours. She was not a white person who, in the face of a midlife crisis, suddenly drops their job and feels the need to compensate all those years of overwork with vacations and cars not suited to their tastes anymore. Being born in a middle-class Filipino family with the mindset that hard work = money, she was determined to stay in that bank until her youngest child, a 9-year-old, had graduated from college. She also did not retire because of the new regulation the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) had set out that would put the bank in trouble. If anyone could fight and grit their teeth through that trial, it would have been my mother. Besides, that job was her life. When I was younger there were times when the bank took precedence over my childhood. A board meeting over my third-grade recognition ceremony, an overtime shift on my birthday. The abandonment (in the loosest sense of the word) was the very foundation of my preteen angst. But I’ve grown out of that, and this is not about me. It is impossible to believe that my mother would have given up on the employees she treated like family (who referred to her as Mama Bear, she would tell me on nights the withdrawal feels the strongest, her eyes wistful).
Continue reading The Housewife


Poetry by | April 30, 2017

(for Lola Mommy)


Everything passes

from this life

on to the next.

Everything moves

toward something better.

It’s natural to lose some things.


This is the lesson

I remember

from our little chats

on quiet afternoons

in your old house

when it was just the two of us.


You told me to travel.

You said go

before age would interfere;

see the world.

You said you could wait

before your great grandchildren would arrive.


It’s been a year

since you left us—

since I learned that I had tarried.

Sometimes I regret that

I had not hoarded our times together.

Time was not on our side.


But today in the warm breeze

I feel your presence.

Your words echo in my memory

in this foreign land.

Even in your absence

you continue to shape me.


— from Marina Bay, Singapore

(23 March 2017)


*pronounced /æ.pəˈtoʊ.sɪs/ (“apo-to-sis”)

Genevieve Mae Aquino was born in Manila but calls Davao her home. She has a clutch of diplomas in molecular biology and genetics. She was fellow for Poetry in English at several national creative writing workshops. She currently works as a university researcher at the University of the Philippines.

God is a Woman

Nonfiction by | April 23, 2017

When I was 8, a boy named Carl decided to make my life a daily hell by teasing me, snickering whenever I spoke up in class, and giving me a gentle shove every time he passed me in the corridor. One time his shove made me trip on my own shoes and I stumbled through the hallway. When I told my teacher about his constant harassment, she smiled and gave me a light pat on the shoulder, saying “He probably just likes you!” After the incident, I never again told an adult about something a boy did to me.

When I was 12, I was squished to the corner of the jeepney because the guy sitting next to me has his legs spread all over the seat. All the other passengers, who were all women, looked at him but no one even bothered to tell him. He was taking up too much space. Men take up too much space that we often forget that we also have our own. I even saw the lady across me carefully adjust the corner of her jacket since it was taking up more room than needed. We are raised like that: we are raised to sit with closed legs, to not talk or laugh too loudly, to take up as little space in the world as possible. Continue reading God is a Woman

Sa Kasakit Ug Sa Pag-antos

Poetry by | April 23, 2017

Ang kahapsay bag-o napahiluna
Molusot usa sa gamayng lungag
sa dagom nga gitawag nga kamatuoran.
Walay naanak nga puya
Nga dili matugaw ang paginusara
Sa mga bituon sa kagabhion.
Ug wala kini migawas nga nakabiste
Sa matag Domingong pang-simba.
Asa ka kakitag puya
Nga wala gihabolan sa dugo
Sa iyang kaugalingong inahan?
Asa ka kakitag inahan
Nga wala nagkundasingot sinyagit sa pag-utong?
Kay ang tanan makigharong sa kasakit ug pag-antos
Aron lang molahutay sa taas nga panahon.
Wala mimata ang unang tawo
Sa kaharuray ug sa kahayahay.
Mingsubay kini una sa kalisod
Ug niining mga kalisod ug mga pagsulay
Migiya sa unang tawo
Nga makatukod og sibilisasyon
Sama sa natagamtaman nato karon.
Kay sa kasakit ug pag-antos lang
Matukod ang bag-ong ugma, ang bag-ong paglaom.

Si Gil Nambatac kay usa sa mga BisDak nga nagtubo sa Mindanao, gikan sa Dakbayan sa mga Busay, Dakbayan sa Iligan City, nga nagdamgo nga puhon mahimong usa ka magsusulat nga lehitimong magbitbit sa naratibo sa panagbisog sa mga linupigan ug gipangdaogdaog sa katilingban. Nahimong fellow sa Cornelio Faigao Memorial Writers Workshop ug sa Iligan National Writers Workshop para sa mubong sugilanon. Padayon siyang gaapil-apil sa lain-laing workshop sa nasod para makahimamat ug makighugoyhugoy sa mga banggiitang magsusulat ug mailhan ang uban pang sama niya nga adunay damgo nga mahimong magsusulat sa nasod nga dili hilig mobasa.

Palangga Ta Ka

Poetry by | April 23, 2017

Hambala ko nga nadumduman mo
kon san-o ta una nagkita,
kon paano ta gastorya;
kon gaano ta sang-una.

Hambala ko nga waay ka
nalipat sa mga adlaw nga
kanami pa sang imo pahiyom
sadtong mga adlaw nga
napasanag mo ang dulom.

Indi ko pag hambala
nga waay ka na kahinumdum;
nga nalipat ka na
nga gipalangga ta ka.


Emmylou is a 4th Year BA English Student at the University of the Philippines Mindanao. She is a feminist, and an activist; a solemn hero with a fragile heart.


Poetry by | April 16, 2017

The first time I saw you, you had liquid emeralds for eyes and they desired me. They lusted over my thick hide and rich meat that could save your family for the winter. So when I felt the cold steel of your knife pierce through me, I did not fight back. I let you take my life so you could save yours.

The first time I remembered you, your hair was slicked back but a lone, stubborn curl refused to cooperate, making my left hand itch. You smiled at me, flashing a dimple, and called me, “Ma‟am.” And oh, how eager you were to fly. So I watched. I watched you join the biggest con game on earth—war, just to leave the ground for a while. I also watched as your plane was blown into smithereens.

The first time I knew I loved you, you did not exist. I looked for you in the sky, in the ocean and in every nook and cranny of the land. I married a girl with freckles and had twins. While I was happy, I knew I would always wait for you.

The first time you found me, I knew the wait was going to be a part of my lives. I opened my eyes and there you were, smiling, as if you knew, too. We broke our mother’s body but she loved us with every bone she had, nonetheless. That was one of my happiest lifetimes; chasing shadows, getting into brawls and learning every line on each other’s palms. But the best part would always be waking up every morning, certain of your love for me.

The next time I met you, we were both adults and life had come first. I was hard, ambitious and stern—more so than you. You managed to keep that reckless glimmer in your eye somehow. While it was easy for you to discard your armor, mine was molded deep into my skin. You took your time anyway, as if making up for the other lifetimes. And before I knew it, you left galaxies between my thighs and unmade every lesson life had taught me.

Some lifetimes, I would find you with your heart in another soul’s hands. To watch you kiss your wife to work and dress up as a ridiculous Santa to your kids’ delight was an exquisite joy on its own. But to watch you wait for the grinning boy incapable of happiness in Pinto was the second hardest thing I ever had to do. He did not arrive and yet, years later, there you still were.

Other lifetimes, we never even meet. I learned not to look for you in a child’s laughter, a model’s hips and a scent in the train. I just had to be so you can return to me just as I would return to you always.

But for now, I am content to have you in my arms, your dark hair spilling over your pony tail, tickling my nose. “Which was your favorite?” you ask. I look up at the vast emptiness of the universe and trace my fingers over your night skin. “Different bodies, same souls. Same love.”

Viel is a BA Communication Art student at the University of the Philippines Mindanao. She is now on her fourth year and will graduate on June.

Si Buktot ug Ang Iyang Kapalaran

Fiction by | April 16, 2017

Bukid sa Buda. Gianak si Veron. Namatay ang iyang inahan sa pag-anak kaniya kay dako ang iyang ulo.  Dili ulo ang nakita sa komadrona kun di usa ka bukog nga nagburot.

Ang bata usa ka buktot. Sadihang nigawas kini, kalit nipahiyom ang bata.  Nakakita na dayon kini. Usa kini ka kahibulongan ingon sa komadrona. Nidako si Veron nga bayot nga bata.Binabaye, hinay molihok, mokiay’g lakaw ug tabian nga bayot nga buktot.

Makalingaw kaayo si Veron og makawala sa kakapoy ug problema. Apan kontra kaayo siya sa iyang amahan ug inahan. Ginapasipad-an si Veron sa iyang mga pamilya, ginapaligid sa pang-pang ug bakilid. Nagadaro si Veron sa ilang uma aron tamnan og humay. Manglaba, magluto, magbugha og kahoy. Ug wala na nakaantos si Veron, nisakay siya og bus, nilayas siya ug nakaabot sa sentro sa syudad sa Dabaw.

Si Ado gi-anak sa Panaga. Layo kaayo nga lugar gikan sa syudad. Mosakay og bus, habal-habal, motabok og tulo ka sapa, mobaktas og pila ka kilometro, mosakay og kabayo, makaabot lang sa lugar ni Ado.

Si Ado, usa ka himsog nga bata ug bus-ok og lawas hangtud nga nidako kini.   Taas ang ilong ug sakto ang barog, ang iyang mga mata daw sa dili ka makabalibad og naa siyay ihangyo kanimo. Hamis pa gyud ang iyang pamanit murag wala gadako sa uma.Mura siya og anak sa adunahan og pamarong og tan-awon. Sa dihang natapos na niya ang hayskol, nanimpad siya sa syudad.
Continue reading Si Buktot ug Ang Iyang Kapalaran


Poetry by | April 2, 2017

You stroked the line
from my neck
down to my spine
and stopped
at every bump
of bone.

You traced
the ink planets
and kissed them
to life.
They rotated
with the flutter
of your fingertips.

Their weather
changed with every
hiss of your breath.
The room went dark.
Pin lights
started to appear

and the worlds
orbited along
my stomach
in the expanse
of my room.
The weight
of the universe
is off my back.

Marie Crestie Joie is a creative writing student from UP Mindanao.