Poetry by | October 23, 2016

Ako nga diri gapungko,
sa dalom sang galuya nga bulan,
gaisip gid sang maayo.

Hindi ko gusto nga maghalin diri
pero wala ta mahimo,
sa akon ‘di sila gusto.
“Damak, baho
wala pulos.”

Gasakit akon dughan,
uliton naman tanan.

Ang langit nga gadugo,
ang manok nga gasyagit.
Ang adlaw nga gabagabaga
nga daw ginasunog akon panit.

“Piste, ara na sya,
ay ka tonto.”
Diri naman ka natulog?
Panglimos sa iban didto.
Halin diri, mag-abri na kami.

Gihimos ko akon mabilang nga gamit.
Silaw ang adlaw ah,
kanami magpaipit.

Arsean Kerk H. Lopez, is a 5th year accountancy student in Ateneo de Davao University.

A Study of Sound

Poetry by | October 23, 2016

If mothers were flowers
their mouths bear the burden of bees
to kiss the world new
while the old pass with the dews.
They open to sunlight
their curtains bare to passing winds,
singing the growing gardens.

Watered every once in moments
with tenements and memoirs
moist inside the leaves, joyed
with the voice of have-been seeds
to little ones rearing up
reaching up what they
cannot reach.

Still in graceful steady stance
weighs on their eyes only loveliness,
only themselves only beauty
sought in moving on
and remembering
the singing of growing gardens.

Darylle “Darsi” Rubino is a graduate of the Creative Writing program of the University of the Philippines Mindanao. He resides in Cabaguio Avenue, Davao City, where he spends time (a lot of time) making omelettes and drinking tea.

War as a Human Product: Wars, Conflicts and The Writers’ Imagination

Nonfiction by | October 23, 2016

(Paper read during the Annual Congress of the Philippine Center for International PEN, December 3-4, 2013, De La Salle University, Manila)


Former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain said that “In war, whichever side may call itself the victor, there are no winners, but all are losers.” This statement is a gospel truth when we talk about wars and conflicts.

It is a fact that human existence, or human history, has been replete with wars and conflicts. In the Bible, we can read stories about wars and conflicts. In History books, we can likewise read stories about war and conflicts, which lead me to believe that as long as man is man, there will always be wars and conflicts. There are small wars and conflicts as there are also big wars and conflicts. And no matter how small or big it is, it is always disturbing. Along the way, there is always a collateral damage—innocent people including children, die as result thereof. These flaring conflicts and wars also create economic hardships, dire refugee problems, and a sustain sense of despair.

The Mindanao conflict

There are wars and conflicts in almost every corner of the world. But let me focus in Mindanao—the island of my birth and where I am presently living with my family. In the early part of this year, Mindanao was the subject of a sweeping generalization. When a team from the Royal Army of the Sultanate of Sulu ‘invaded’ Sabah, and when such report was carried by both the local and international media, my cellular phone was flooded with text messages coming from friends in Luzon and the Visayas, reminding me to take extra care of myself as they feared it might escalate into a full blown war in the entire island of Mindanao. The same thing happened when an armed men belonging to Misuari’s Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) engaged themselves in a war with the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Zamboanga City. These events lead many people to think that the entire island of Mindanao is in war. But that is not true. In some areas of the island, many are living in peace. But nonetheless the headlines say otherwise.

According to Prof. Julkipli Wadi, dean of the UP Institute of Islamic Studies, the Mindanao conflict is a combination of the major variables of ethnicity, religion, colonialism, ancestral domain and struggle for self-determination. He said, that there is a dimension of looking at the Mindanao conflict as a peace direction. And it is by looking at the conflict as an element in understanding one’s journey of life in dialogue. There are quite a number of movements which look at the Mindanao conflict as a search for peace dimension, leading the people to introspection, reflection and self-discovery. Whatever, their initiatives are always aimed at achieving social harmony in the south.

The writers’ imagination

By their nature, these conflicts and wars have affected writers in profound and paradoxical ways. As Bautista puts it, “to write is to liberate one’s psyche from regular realities without completely being alienated from them. It is a never-ending attempt to escape. For art is a paradox, an illusion, and a magical performance which human experiences, and is transformed into an aesthetic product. But art is also culturally determined, that is, shaped by the artist’s environment. A poem, for instance, is a manifestation of social dynamics as interpreted by the poet. It is always an artifact of social relationship, a code reflecting human behavior. Its essence is narrative, its purpose is commentary. It does not intend to change society—no work of literature can do that—rather to change people’s attitude towards society, to make them conscious of the need to improve it. This purpose is embedded in the very nature of poetry because it works through the agency of language, which is a social tool.” It is a fact that any literary output—fiction, poetry, drama—is animated by conflict. And the dislocation of people and the resulting crises unleashed by wars and other kinds of conflicts also give some kind of important contribution to artistic exploration and literary expression. I must say that writers’ imagination knows no boundaries. It is the only thing that enjoys absolute freedom. As writers, it is our primordial calling to put into words the things people experience in wars and conflicts because these things help shape our artistic and literary production. Wars and conflicts provide our imagination with rich anecdotal details. Their impacts also help writers articulate and assimilate the horrors of wars and conflicts in their literary creations. In 2011, at Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, Harvard president Drew Faust says: “Humans are unique in their creation of an institution of war that is designed to organize violence, define its purposes, declare its onset, ratify its conclusion, and establish its rules. War, like literature, is a distinctively human product.”

Indeed, war is a human product.

And I think and believe that everybody will agree with me in saying that war is a messy product. It is a dirty product. And I cannot romanticize it. Yet writers, can produce romantic outputs based on wars and conflicts. Faust added, “It would indeed be impossible ever fully to capture war’s contradictions, its paradoxes, its horror, and its exhilaration. We have grappled to use the humanity of words to understand the inhumanity of war. As we continue to be lured by war, we must be committed to convey its horrors. We must make it our work to tell a true war story.”
Through the writer’s imagination, they can easily reduce war and conflict into a story with a plot and characters moving toward a promise of victory. The Harvard Gazette reported that Ernest Hemingway once remarked to F. Scott Fitzgerald that “war is the best subject of all” because it gathers narrative material, speeds up the action, “and brings out all sorts of stuff that normally you have to wait a lifetime to get.” And for this Faust added, “the inherent ‘magnitude’ of a war story is, of course, that it is about life and death, about the quintessential moment of truth when the ultimate is at stake.”


There is no way for writers to prevent wars and conflicts. It is one of the major disasters humans will always see and experience for themselves. And as writers, we are left with no other alternative but to write about it, using the power of our imagination. To paraphrase writer-poet John Iremil Teodoro, “writers have no other weapons against the ugly memory of wars and conflicts but words.”

On July 26, 2013, the peace and tranquility of Cagayan de Oro City was shaken when a bomb exploded in a bar in Limketkai Center, killing several people and injuring many others. I believe the perpetrators had a conflict either against himself or against a group of people and resorted to planting a bomb to send a message. Who are they, I do not know. But the result thereof provided us with a gruesome reality that conflicts can make.

The incident moved me to write the following poem which I titled Imagining Distance:

Imagining Distance

More or less. That’s how you describe
the distance between us. You, being
in the city that never sleeps, humming
lullabies for babies that never grew in
your womb. Babies, in whose veins, there’s
a clear absence of our blood. And I, here
in the city that gets new monikers each time
a new chief executive sits in. What used to be
the city of golden friendship, it later progresses
into a city in bloom, in blossom and in boom.
This new tagline speaks of accuracy.
Because recently a loud boom exploded
amid the city’s silence. And on the spot, lie
amongst shattered glasses, broken San Mig light
bottles, deformed chairs and tables, bodies
lifeless like statues. So don’t come home
yet as I thought of going in there instead. And
join you in finding hopes for our tomorrow.
And together, perhaps a decade from now,
let’s pack our stuff and fly back home. By
that time, maybe the pangs of grief that grip
the people’s heart are gone. More or less.

Yes, as writers, we can humanize the ugliness of wars and conflicts through the beauty, rhyme and rhythm of language.

Writing from Cagayan de Oro and a fellow to some national writers’ workshop, Raul G. Moldez is pursuing his Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Administration and Supervision at COC-Phinma Education Network.

Ode to Garlic

Poetry by | October 16, 2016

(for Janice)

He doesn’t want you.
Not with your pungent scent
marking the strength
of your personality.
He wants that onion-
head with her pale skin
and purple highlights.
Her sly manipulations
move him to tears,
make him want to
peel back her layers and
save her from herself.
But, you, Garlic, are
your own leading lady.
You don’t need a knight
in armor or Viking
prince or Scot in a kilt,
or any odd alpha male
to carry your burdens.
You are no weakling.
Not you, dear bulbous
heroine of the Kitchen.
You, who saved us from
vampires and toothaches.
Nightingale of the World
Wars, how many heroes
survived thanks to your
antiseptic intervention?
It’s not your loss,
dear Garlic, if he
wants a drama
queen in his life.
Come, let us peel away
your thin, fragile skin.
Crush your cloves
and toss you into
the vat of burning
oil, until you become
the gold that spices up
this bland world.
He may not
want you, but
we appreciate
your virgin sacrifice.

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.

Call for Submissions to a Northern Mindanao Literary Anthology

Editor's Note | October 16, 2016

The Project. The editors are interested in pieces that evoke a strong sense of place, its landscapes, history, and diversity of cultures in Northern Mindanao—Misamis Oriental, Misamis Occidental, Bukidnon, Camiguin, and Lanao del Norte.The anthology is open to both established and emerging writers (1) who live in Northern Mindanao, (2) who live elsewhere but grew up in Northern Mindanao, OR (3) have spent a good period of time in Northern Mindanao enough to inspire memories and feelings. The project is spearheaded by the Department of English of Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan, Cagayan de Oro City.

Guidelines. Please send up to three (3) pieces of either fiction/flash fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction. The word limit for flash fiction is 1000, for short story and CNF 7500 words, and for poetry 60 lines.Simultaneous submissions may be considered. Please let the editors know if the work has been accepted elsewhere. Previously published pieces are considered as long as the copyright stays with or has been reverted back to the author. The anthology will, of course, cite where it was first published.

Submissions may be in English, in Tagalog, or in Cebuano Bisaya.Submission period is from 01 October 2016 to 18 January 2017. Expected publication is December 2017.Send all submissions to northminanthology@gmail.com. These should be in plain text in the email’s body or attached as a docx, doc, or pdf file. Subject line is “Submission-Author’s Name-City or Province-Genre (e.g. Submission-JoyDiaz-Camiguin-Poetry). Contributors are requested to provide a short bionote where previous publications may be indicated. Use standard manuscript format for fiction and CNF (double spaced; Times New Roman font).Contributors will get a copy of the anthology and a discount on additional copies.Should there be queries, please direct them to the project coordinator, Professor Arlene J Yandug through ayandug@xu.edu.ph with the subject “Query-NorthMin.”

Pamalandong Bahin sa Panuwat, Pinulongang Binisaya, ug Mindanawon Writing by a Former English Spakaner

Nonfiction by | October 16, 2016

(Gibatbat ni sa Forum sa Mindanawon Writing katong 16 September 2016 sa Central Mindanao University, Musuan, Bukidnon.)

To tell you the truth, I don’t have the wisdom and know-how to discuss the topic because “Mindanawon Writing” is so vast. However, what I can share is a part of Mindanao that I’m more familiar with which is Cagayan de Oro because I was born and raised there as well as my affair with Binisaya. Ever since I wore diapers, I was trained to speak English. I also studied in a school where English and Filipino are absolute, though the latter language and I never seem to get along.

Other than English, I was more familiar with Binisaya because of my mother, though, I was not that well-versed back then. Words like “nihit,” “suliyaw,” “handuraw,” “alimyon,” “tim-os,” ug uban pa were far from my vocabulary back then. I was more attuned with words and expressions that implied some degree of profanity such as “ataya ka,” “yawa,” “loslos,” o “nawong nga giligsan og pison.” My favorite was “mamords.” English was pretty dominant in my life especially in elementary. Ayha ra ko na-conscious sa akong enistoryahan pagka-high school diin gikantsawan ko sa akong mga ka-klase kay “English Spakaner” ra kaayo ko. But now, when some of my batchmates read my poems in Binisaya, gadugoay ang ilang ilong—hmph, mirisi! I learned to speak the language later in my high school and wrote the language after my first creative writing workshop in 3rd year college, where I took my third course AB-English, diin gi-comment sa akong maestra ang akong attempt sa short story.

Although the language was written in English, my imagination kuno was “bisdak.” Sa tinuod lang, I didn’t know what she meant by that. But if I look back, siguro akong imahinasyon ang iyang gipasabot. Nga inig basa sa papel kay mora kunog bata nga pisot. Nagngisi samtang ga-ihi atubangan sa daghang tawo. O kanang batan-on nga wa-tuyo-i nakasulod sa ladies rest room. Nga abtik ang pag-sorry-sorry pero inig sil-ip, gi-ulanan dayon og pipila ka laparo. O kanang ulitawo nga nag-inusarag maoy kay gi-awayan sa iyang uyab, nga gawas pa sa gipatikan og sagpa ug balikas, gipakapinan pag tsiki-nini.

Apan dili lang puros gitik-gitik ang gadagan sa akong utok. Dili gyod malikayan nga inig lantaw sa palibot, mamatikdan gyod ang pipila ka libaong sa dalan nga ayha ra ayuhon ting-eleksyon. O kadtong mga batang latagaw nga galaray-laray sa Divisoria diin tibuok adlaw gapangilkil og sinsilyo aron lang makahithit og uska botilyang rugby nga giputosan pag Happy Meal nga selopin. Dili pod malikay nga makasuwat pod ko bahin sa mga tawo nga naanod sa ilang kamingaw, gaataw-ataw didto sa mga suok dapit sa dalan Capistrano ug Tiano diin gakipatkipat ang mga suga sa kalingaw, diin gakidhat ang mga agda sa temporaryang pantasya.

Gasuwat pod ko bahin sa mga imahe nga sagad lang masaksiha diha sa daman ug kangitngit, diin madunggan ang mga kanaas nga nakapalisang sa kalag. Nga inig suwat ug han-ay sa papel, makita unya ang nawong sa kamatuoran taliwala sa kaguliyang. Kining matang sa panghunahuna nga matod pa nilang Dr. Marquis de Quintolimbo (Erik Tuban) ug F. Cielo Agonorio (Cheeno Borden) maoy pananglitan sa uska movement nga makalupig pa sa Zumba ug Pak Ganern—Kini ang “PasModern”—Pasmo nga modern. I write almost about anything. But that “anything” is something that personally haunts or disturbs me, and nothing haunts me more than the place I grew up in.

The promise of progress and modernity nga gipasigarbo sa Kagayan is something that disturbs me. Tsada gyod ang Kagayan. And when I say tsada, I’m not referring to its contextual similarity to the word “nindot,” but to its origin, which is patsada or façade. It may not seem grave, but this façade of modernity hides many truths about Cagayan de Oro and its people. Two of which is that the people are mostly indifferent to the richness of its local arts and history, and tolerant to local graft and corruption. Yet this façade was washed away when Sendong came and broke the dike that held the river. Even the satellite footage that is displayed in XU Museo de Oro shown how brown and muddy the river was, an indication of erosion due to the illegal mining and deforestation between Bukidnon and Northern Mindanao. The disaster took place in December, and it was the most silent December in Cagayan. Out of that disaster birthed a poem that echoed the kind of disturbance that seemed to resonate in the city.

Tingog nga Gaunos sa Sulod
Di na ko makadungog sa mga tingog
sa akong mga higala dinhi sa Burgos.

Di na ko makadungog ni Dodong
nga kanunay gaaghat kanakog laag.
Wala nang hagawhaw nilang Toto ug Imok
nga makatakod kanakog agak-ak.
Wa nang mga higayon nga magtigi mig
patag-asay og ihi (Kon itandi sa sulog
sa suba, dagayday ra among agas).

Di na ko makadungog sa mga tingog
nilang Yani ug Ai-ai nga nagtamudmod
nga di sila makakuyog dungan namo.
Sagad gabagutbot mi kay mora mig

gitanggong sa balay kon moulan.
Ug bisan tuod nga mora mig iro ug iring
sa paglalis, mosubang pod ang adlaw
nga kami makasinabtanay taman sa pagtuliyok
sa among utok, morag nalabyan og bagyo.

Apan sukad milabay si Sendong,
wala nay laing madunggan
gawas sa mga danguyngoy
sa ilang ginikanan, ang mga uwang
sa sakyanan, ug nangabilin nga tingog
sa akong higala nga galanog duyog

sa sulog. Hangtod karon, padayon ang haguros
sa akong kasubo. Way kataposan ang unos.

Months after the poem was published in Sun.Star CDO, I left for Cebu to find work. And it was my first time away from home. During the afterhours, I wrote poems with a recurring theme of desire and longing, which probably explains why most of my works that were published in Kabisdak revolve around the subject.

In 2014, I’ve returned to Cagayan de Oro and compiled these poems into a collection. I had the first edition printed in Bomba Press, but I added fifteen poems for a re-edition. Looking at them now, I like to believe that perhaps it was a result of homesickness. Since most of the poems would wax names of places in Cagayan. The title of the manuscript is Basâ-basa (Wet Read), a collection of 55 poems in Binisaya accompanied with a Filipino translation.

Regarding homesickness, one might presume that I felt at home living in Cebu because of the language and demography of audience. However, that wasn’t the case. I experienced the differences of the Binisaya in Cebu. While I will always cherish the camaraderie of the people whom I befriended, especially the writers and artists of Nomads, it wasn’t the same—lahi ra gyod! Although home was only a boat ride away, there was a sense of longing that I just couldn’t pin down. As corny as it sounds, I missed my family, friends, but most of all, I missed CDO and all the things I detest about it—Nindot lagi ang Cebu pero tsada gyod ang Kagayan. And when I returned to CDO, I found out that there was a group of young aspiring writers had formed poetry reading in different places in Cagayan de Oro. Mai Santillan and Abby James welcomed me in NAGMAC. I guess my life as a wannabee writer isn’t so solitary anymore. I finally came home. Naa lang koy gamay nga paambit alang sa mga estudyante nga gasuwat og Binisaya.

Continue reading and writing our language, and you’ll discover a lot of things sa atong pinulongan. Gawas sa malingaw kag suwat sa atong naandang pinulongan, makaplagan unya ninyo nga lahi atong brand of Binisaya dinhi sa Mindanao. Lahi ang lasa sa Iligan, lahi ang lasa sa Cagayan ug uban pang dapit sa Northern Mindanao, ug lahi pod ang lasa sa Davao. Indeed, this humble vocation can take you places. Busa padayon sa paghabhab sa mga obra nilang Marcello Geocallo, Gumer Rafanan, Anijun Mudan-Udan, Amelia Bojo, Raul Moldez, Rene Quimno, Macario Tiu, Satur Apoyon ug Don Pagusara. Samot tingali mo maglaway sa mga obra sa mga batan-ong dagang sama nilang Gratian Paul Tidor, Angelito Nambatac, Kim Escalona, Mai Santillan, Sums Paguia, Alton Dapanas, Paul Gumanao, Aaron Jalalon, John Bengan, ug uban pang mga hybrid kwaknit nga makaplagan sa Dagmay, Kabisdak ug Bisaya Magasin.

Gawas sa Binisaya, angay ta mong aghaton nga tilawon ang ubang pinulongan dinhi sa Mindanao. Alangan did-an ninyo ang kadaghang lasa nga gapasad sa dakong bangkete nga atong isla? Padayon sa pagbasa ug pagsuwat ug sa pulong pa ni Mike Obenieta, “Salamat-tagay!”

Mark Daposala was born and raised in Cagayan de Oro City. His works have been published in Bisaya Magasin and Kabisdak. He works as a faculty at Humanities and English Department of Capitol University. He’s a member of CDO writers bloc, Bathalad-Mindanao, and NAGMAC.


Fiction by | October 9, 2016

My neighbors are throwing sharp words at each other, piercing the wall that separates us. Very Manila, I tell myself. Sleep is becoming elusive the past days. The least I need are loud people crudely airing their dirty laundry at 1:30 in the morning while I prepare to do my Tahajjud. At this time at home in the province, everyone is halfway finished with individual supplications–no commotions in the neighborhood at all. After the prayer they would go eat the food that is already served in abundance. I glance at the table my househelp made.

Ya Allah, please bestow upon my parents a longer, healthier life. Please grant us a harmonious relationship within our family and relatives. Ameen ya Rabbul alameen.

Rahma–the 10th day of Ramadan. I can hear the soft sobbing of my sister in my memory. At this hour, believers endeavor to perform extra rak’ats, prostrating on the floor. Some like my grandparents intently raise their arms in rhythm with their invocations while seated; gout imposes on them to do so. Young and old keep awake asking for Mercy. By now our house reverberates with hushed pleas from my brothers asking for their qadr in marriage or that our parents approve their choice for a wife. Then there is my Kaka, my older sister, who whimpers in pain, urging the Almighty to give her a child–the same appeal as in the past five years of her marriage. I solemnly ask for enlightenment for each day.

Antonaa i puasang ka, what do you have, atakolay?

I have squash, chicken, some leftover keema from iftar, a quarter of a cake slice, and an apple. But Mommy I do not have an appetite. I think I’ll just finish the keema and eat my apple. Are there too much spices on Baba’s food again? Or some chillies soaked in water and salt for your condiments?

My mother and I go over the same conversation about food and chillies. I look at the clock and stand up from the table, gulp on water, and say Alhamdulillah for the riski.

I am at work after three hours. The wall at my desk has a print of Allah in cursive Arabic–a reminder of my obligations. The past six years have not deterred me from my spiritual beliefs although friends and colleagues think otherwise. I just shrug off their laughter whenever they ask why I don’t wear my tarha. Why would I explain myself to anyone when it is Allah who can better judge me?

The clock strikes six in the evening. I sniff in reflex; the smell of old bond papers and folders filled my already growling stomach. My officemate Joyce offers me bottled water and I silently wish him blessings. Ramadan teaches that whoever feeds a person in fast will be blessed.

Hello, anak?

Yes, Mommy. I’m still in the office. Is it iftar there yet? Ah, yes I hear the Magrib bang. I’ll be out of here in a while. I will break my fast while inside the taxi, it will be at 6:30 PM here. Mataan ko matey, it’s taking so long.

There is solace in my apartment but it is always better in Montiya even if electricity is still irregular. I wake up to my alarm at 1 AM. I have forgotten to change my alarm tone; Pink sings until I finally rise from bed and shake the lyrics of “Try” in my head. I hope I do not offend the malaikahs around. I play Suratul Baqarah while I make my ablution.

It is Maghfira–the second stage of Ramadan that represents Forgiveness in the middle ten days of the holy month.

Ya Allah hayyul qayyum, I seek your forgiveness for the salahs I miss while I am in the office or wherever else that lures me away from my sajjada, my sambayanga. Please make me understand your commands as I search for personal knowledge and aspire to become a better woman and an enlightened person. Forgive me, Ya Allah, forgive my parents and siblings for all our shortcomings.

Neither my mother nor Baba calls. I finish my dhikr and eat my meal before 4:00 admonishes me for eating beyond the hour.

My sister likes to call on weekends just before breakfast and after the dawn prayer. On Ramadan, she calls at about 10:00 until Dhohor beckons us to put down the phone. Sometimes we talk until 2:00–that is when I hear her husband in the background reminding us to pray on time as mandated by Islam. On this Saturday though she keeps texting, asking how I am and that she will call again after Ashr. I worry. Living away from family makes one easily worried about anything.

It is already Etkummenannar–Refuge and salvation. It is the last stage of the Fast, the final ten days where Lailatul Qadr–the Night of Poweris sought. This is comparatively the most significant part of Ramadan that Muslims fervently hope to chance upon. Only the Almighty knows of this hour on the odd nights of Etkummenannar. When we were children we used to light candles everywhere at night looking for it as if it was a person or a treasure. This practice eventually stopped. Baba said it was bidaa, something that was not taught by our faith therefore improper. I never asked why we lit those candles in the first place. My parents are religious persons. I believe they have atoned for the past.

Sis, is your phone on silent? I am calling you about something that you are not supposed to know yet. But let me tell you straight. It will make you wear your salimot this time like well, a good, obedient wife. InshaAllah, By Allah’s Grace, you will soon come home and live here permanently.

Remember Khalid? He was your classmate in elementary, eldest grandson of the governor, eldest child of the congressman, and I heard he is running for assemblyman in their district. He might also inherit the royal title in either of his parents’ side anytime soon. But you will be happy to hear that he is a licensed accountant now, and in his senior year in law school. He’s a good man, Amirah, very good man. Everybody says so. I also heard he is religious. Don’t tell Baba or Mommy that you already know. Our future in-laws were here last night after Isha. We are happy for you.

You cannot refuse again! This will be the 4th guy who expressed to marry you. Please don’t break Mommy and Baba’s hearts and even ours–myself and our brothers. Astagfirullah, arikolay aken. Look at me I am married. All women should get married and be married. That is how life works. Remember the only qualities that Islam requires of a woman when she looks for a husband otherwise all your prayers are in vain.

My sister rapidly explains, deliberately missing on my age as one of the obvious reasons to say yes. Instead, she focuses on Islam to convince me.

I vehemently reason that a single woman cannot be forced to marry against her will. I take a deep breath, stare at the Qur’an on my bedside, and tell my sister to call me after I get my thoughts back.

I ask and ask for enlightenment on the days of Lailatul Qadr, hoping that this man will be true to his word.

Omarhasan did not show up at our supposed wedding. He was the first man who was ever paired to me for marriage; our grandfathers were business partners in the barter trade during the 1980s. He lived in the city after ours with his loud lifestyle and different girlfriends. I learned on the eve of our wedding that he fancied this lady who grew up in Riyadh and became his classmate at a university in Marawi. Even then I resigned myself to who I thought was my qadr. The following morning, Omarhasan was nowhere to be found by his family while I was practicing what face to wear when he arrives to collect me for the reception. Blaming my parents for forcing me to consent to that union was useless; the gossipmongers continue to reach me as far as Manila.

Mikael is a first cousin who spent most of his adult life in Egypt learning the Qur’an. I refused his proposal because I was still nursing myself from shame. Besides, it did not feel right to marry him out of maratabat, out of spite, even if he was willing to marry me.

Jabbar, a surgeon in Davao and the only son of the former mayor of Montiya with his wife Josephine, almost made me say yes. He was well-mannered and earning much in his profession. He also formally courted me and would visit my parents whenever he is in Montiya. But my judgment was clouded by the fact that he is not of pure Meranao blood. I was too picky to see that his mother has long been a devout Muslim, wearing the niqab with her face covered, and has two or more Madrasahs, Arabic schools, around town.

Mommy and Baba are fair, they say they will abide by my decision, no hysterics like the previous ones when I would stay inside my room for days on end. Khalid comes three years after the last. I know him from my childhood. I can try to live the life of a politician’s spouse, raise our children, and perhaps bargain to keep a job or a business enterprise. He is a good man, he comes from a noble family and I was told he is pious, they are pious. These are the qualities that Kaka is reminding me of. At the back of my mind, I worry that I might no longer receive a proposal as suited as this one. He can take care of me.

Yes, give me at least two months. I will tender my resignation at work and while here, I might as well help the preparations for the wedding. Gomiyoraok ako den, I cried over Tahajjud. Allah enlightened me in my prayers. I am letting Mom and Baba, decide on the mahr, the bridal money–modest enough, but not exorbitant. Miyakarila ako, I am consenting to it.

The new moon is sighted on the 29th; Eid’l Fitr is definite tomorrow. I wear my abaya that was sent by a cousin in Jeddah followed by my black trouser socks before I carefully adjusted my tarha that matches this beautiful hareer dress.

I know when I pray at the kutba, at the congregational sermon in Luneta that I will soon cover my head regularly like a good, obedient wife.

Tahajjud: night prayers which are not obligatory but serve to strengthen one’s faith. Oftentimes, Tahajjud is prayed when one needs to arrive at a decision or when one is pursuing an important undertaking
Ameen ya Rabbul alameen: Accept my prayer, oh Allah
Rahma: mercy
Qadr: destiny
Atakolay: my child
Iftar: breaking of fast at sundown
Alhamdulillah: All praises to Allah
Riski: blessings
Tarha: arabic term for veil; Salimot: Meranao term for Tarha
Magrib: prayer at twilight
Bang: call for prayer
Malaikahs: angels
Suratul Baqarah: second chapter of the Qur’an
Sajjada: arabic term for prayer mat; Sambayanga: Meranao term for Musalla
Dhikr: remembrance of Allah, i.e. devotional acts of worship
Dhohor: prayer at noon
Ashr: prayer at midafternoon
Isha: prayer after Magrib
Astagfirullah, arikolay aken: Astagfirullah (as in ‘I seek forgiveness from Allah” is used here to emphasize the sister’s reaction), my dear sister
Eid’l Fitr: feast celebrating the end of Ramadan
Hareer: silk fabric

Montiya is a fictional town.

Arifah Macacua Jamil took up Bachelor of English major in Creative Writing at University of the Philippines Mindanao and completed her Bachelor of Laws at Ateneo de Cagayan Xavier University. Her stories have been published by the National Commission on Culture and the Arts, Anvil Publication, Dagmay, and Bidadali Press.

2016 Davao Writers Workshop Dates and Venue update

Events | October 2, 2016

Due to some technical arrangements, 2016 Davao Writers Workshop will be moved from October 22–October 26, 2016 to November 30, 2016–December 4, 2016.

The venue will be at The Big House: A Heritage Home, Juna Subdivision, Matina, Davao City.

Good luck and best wishes to all applicants!

Gatsby Wears Levi’s (Part 2)

Nonfiction by | October 2, 2016

It always appeared to me that introducing my future fiancée to my dad would not be a problem given the circumstance he had back then; yet I have been engaged for almost five years now and dad knows nothing about it.

They did marry, right after dad convinced my mom’s family that he would become a licensed engineer; and that he would also give her more than the Tamaraw FX that the other suitor promised. I smile when I see a picture of me as a baby held by my dad, in his toga beside my mom. The vastness of the MSU golf course filled the background.

Getting his license was an elusive thing. Dad was already teaching as a part-time instructor when he started his review for the board exam. During daytime, he taught disinterested engineering majors. At noon, he dealt with death threats from failing seniors. At night, he studied for his board and was in-charge of getting me to sleep. Mom told me that dad used to read his reviewer out loud while carrying me in one arm. I had heard of circuit theorems first before fables and fairy tales.

Dad never got any result, whether pass or fail, from the first board exam. No one in that batch did. All the test papers were burnt in a fire, which the examiners said was an “accident”. Dad would have left his dreams to die like the extinguished flame had he not met mom. With his wife, plus the baby that rested in his arm getting heavier, dad brushed the ashes off and was determined to do it all over again.

The examiners made sure to keep the test papers safe. Dad had his result the second time around.

He passed.

Cagayan de Oro, 1990

Fuelled by his license, dad started working for Cagayan Electric Power and Light Company, Incorporation (CEPALCO). He had to temporarily leave us, his family, again.

He also rented a room that could hardly be called a box. It was a small extension outside his landlord’s house. It was an oven during day-time, and any air left was unbreathable since it was situated next to a piggery. The area was too crowded and privacy was a stranger. During the third month, dad’s first pair of Levi’s was stolen. He left a month after.

In 1996, my dad moved all of us to Cagayan de Oro City, the City of Golden Friendship. Starting a family in a new city, far from any relatives, was tough, but I could not remember a day that dad and mom fought about money. Nobody complained.

I do remember the extra time dad set to teach me the fundamentals of mathematics. I was just in grade school but my notes were already filled with Xs and Ys. One evening I challenged dad to solve a hundred raised to its hundredth form; I was not in the mood to deal with exponential equations so I handed him the pen. He solved the problem at the back of a scratch paper and wrote zeroes after zeroes for almost an hour.

That night I learned that my dad was a very determined man.

All of us were provided with our basic needs. Christmas shopping was very crucial. Any “expensive” item, be it a clothing or a toy, was chosen carefully because it had to last a year. When I said I wanted a new pair of shoes, dad sat on one of those fitting chairs and scrutinized the leather’s authenticity. He held the shoes in his hand, confirmed if it was along the price range that we agreed, and traced the pattern of the welt and the lining. He was focused on the soles and the heels, and had me walk the shoes. I felt like I was auditioning and the grand prize was the new shoes. I won the prize and had to own them for two years.

It would sound funny, but dad knows more about clothing material than mom.

Mom was there to help choose the design. But dad was always the final QA. From my high school prom pumps to my college graduation heels and dress, even my teenaged Chuck Taylor’s craze, he always checked the quality. He insisted on buying me an executive leather bag before I left for my first job in Cebu City.

I am already in my mid-twenties yet my dad and mom still tag along whenever I shop.

Just two weeks ago, mom and I ransacked most of the boutiques in the mall looking for a hosting dress. “Let’s just call your dad, he’s better at this.” Mom said, giving up. The sales lady from Bettina was curious when dad entered the store and started to check our pre-selected dresses. Even if he had enough money to carelessly purchase things, dad was still insistent on quality.

My dad is already the vice-president of CEPALCO. He is almost 50 now and his closet might be filled with Levi’s, M&S, Nautica and what have you, but the vision that he had, like his father’s copra mill, of being established and moving as far as he can from that bitter bran of poverty is still to be accomplished.

This vision, after all, is no longer just about him. He has to make sure that not even one of his three children would experience squatting next to a rice shredder again. All three of us, especially me, should be settled.

By his terms, to be settled means to provide corporate jobs for both his sons. Ideally he would have to train one to take over his career as an engineer. And as for me, his unica hija, he should see to it that he will walk me down that aisle.

To fulfil a part of that vision, Dad would have to buy perhaps the most expensive dress he could buy for me. But I know that the most expensive dress is the hardest one to wear. And I may not be able to wear it at all.

Unless the day will come that two daughters, both wearing the most beautiful dresses, can be walked down the aisle by each of their dads. Unless the day will come when I can properly enunciate the name Dawn instead of Don. Unless the day will come that I will have my dad read this.

But I am determined to wait.

Christine Faith Valdez Gumalal teaches literature at Xavier University – Ateneo de Cagayan. She was a fellow for creative nonfiction at the 2016 Silliman University National Writers Workshop.

Nanga Sa?

Poetry by | October 2, 2016

“Madayaw na araw!”, kadaig mga utaw ga-laong.
Pero sa bus pag awon magtiyab ng dinabaw o mandaya,
Gina-laong nilan, “nanga sa yaan siya?”
Yawala da gyud ang lingwahe nami na ngani yaghuya.
Awon mga okasyon, sa siyudad o hain man,
Mga bado nami, ginagamit, “identity ng Mindanao” laong nilan
Pero pag gamiton da ni Juan, awon stereotyping da uman,
Kag prejudice isab, murmur nilan as if, taga ibang bayan.
Todo deny isab minsan, pero tribal motif ang restaurant
Kadaigay customer, “no spoon” rule, dahon kanila pigka-anan,
Aduy! Maputi man o mga elite na awon, pigaganahan
Sana singud-saan da permanente, total kita-kita man lang.
Awon gani yag-ugpa ngadto Manobo o b’laan,
Few flapos da uman, sa radio ko yaan nadunggan,
Bisaya man ang accent, todo deny brethren ko kana-an,
Aduy! Nanga sa yaan silan, si Juan man isab mismo yagtago man.

Fraulein Bosch Silva obtained B.S. Psychology in Guidance and Counseling from Cor Jesu College in 1997. She enrolled and graduated M.A. Psychology in Counseling Psychology from Negros Oriental State University in 2005. She is currently taking up Ph. D. Psychology in Counseling Psychology at the Ateneo de Davao University. She is an Associate Member of the Psychological Association of the Philippines (PAP) and a former member of Philippine Guidance and Counseling Association (PGCA). She has written novels and recent inspirational and reference books entitled ‘Overcoming Anger’ and ‘Understanding the Self’ that will be out of market this year under Cronica Books publications.