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.
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Katas ng Pawis

Fiction by | February 26, 2017

Umiikot sa ilaw, nararamdaman nya ang init nito. Kumuha siya ng tubig at binuhos ito sa nagliliyab na apoy. Ang bato ay nanghina, napolbo, naging abo at usok sa sanlibutan.

Saksi ang kawayan. Malapista ang saya. Amoy pasko na ang kapaligiran. Sisig, ibang klaseng maanghang na pagkain na nanunuot sa aking lalamunan. Ang tinatagpi-tagping kahoy ay nagsisilbing upuan na bakat na bakat pa ang ugat nito. At sa saliw ng musika ay sabay-sabay na umiindayog ang mga dahon sa kawayan. Samantala ang haligi ay tayung-tayo sa kanyang kinalalagyan.

Ako ay nasisilaw sa liwanag na nanggagaling sa butas ng bintana. Tanaw ko ang liwanag na pumasok sa pagiwang-giwang na pintuan na gawa sa kawayan. Ang hangin ay maaring hindi galing sa langit o baka ito ay bunga lamang ng isang panaginip.

Gusto kong ibuhos ang aking galit sa awit at sayaw. Sa sinuman na kaya akong mahalin ay naaaninag ko ang walang pag-asa sa buhay. Ang lalaki ay hindi sigurado sa kanyang paa ganoon din ang babae.

Gusto kong takasan ang apoy, ang pagawaan ng kutsilyo, ang pagawaan ng uling. Kailangan ko rin ang tunay na pag-ibig. May karapatan ang sinuman mahalin at magmahal. Sadyang hindi lang pantay ang mundo.

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Cruel February

Fiction by | February 5, 2017

Today is the first day of February. But unlike the previous Februaries, this one is not merely the second month of the year having twenty-eight or, as in the case of leap years, twenty-nine days, this month might be daddy’s last.

The smell of newly applied paint could have lured me to stay longer. I like the house better now with its green walls and white ceiling. However, the stench of the canal continues to permeate the house. The living room, empty of appliances, creates a dull and muffled sound to my ears. When I suggested that either the radio or the television should be returned to the sala, I was told that a sick man does not really need much.

I went to visit daddy today. They finally resigned to put his bed in the living room. Hospitals are for those who could afford to postpone death. I would like to think that we can’t instead of we won’t.

He looks thinner now than he did when I last saw him. Strength abandoned him completely. Daddy cannot tuck his cigarette between his middle and forefinger anymore.

The problem of a human mind, I think, is the idea of free association.

We watched an action movie after dinner. Before the lead actor goes into battle against a major drug syndicate, Mama suddenly wailed. She claimed that the actor (his mestizo features, compact physique and arrogant stance) looks like daddy. I agree with the claimed similarities.

But there is a difference. Continue reading Cruel February

Armor (excerpt)

Fiction by | January 8, 2017

(Armor won 1st Prize in the Short Story for English category of the Carlos Palanca Memorial Literary Awards in 2013.)

The week Ronnie was planning to die, one of his neighbors paid him a visit. Ronnie had just come back from the seamstress, bringing home a newly mended sheath dress he would wear for the pageant, when Oliver showed up.

“The Death Squad,” Oliver said. “They’re after you.”

Ronnie considered what reactions were possible. He would back away from the Mylar-covered table where Oliver was nursing his coffee. He would warn him that he didn’t appreciate this kind of joke, not after bodies had been found in empty, grassy lots around Mintal. Instead, Ronnie soaked up his neighbor’s silence, leaned on the refrigerator and lit a cigarette.

Where was the Death Squad when he regularly handed out shabu to the crew of wiry boys who had hung out at his beauty salon? They were hired guns, the Death Squad, who used to go after drug pushers, but lately they’d been taking down street gang members, crystal meth users, petty thieves.
Continue reading Armor (excerpt)

Masahe sa City Plaza

Fiction by | January 1, 2017

“Maygale naabtan pa ko nimo diri, Mam,” matod sa akong suki nga masahista. Iyahang bus-ok nga mga bukton mihulma sa iyang nipis nga puting sando. Milingkod ko sa gamayng plastik na lingkoranan ug gibutang ko sa kilid ang akong napalit nga karne ug utan, apil ang akong naukay nga mga blaws. “Ulahi najud tika na kustomer mam. Sayo man gud mi ugma sa Marawi.” Gipatong nako ang akong mga tiil sa iyang paa.

“Mag unsa mo didto dong?”

“Didto mi mobotar mam,” matod niya dungan sa pagbubo sa uwil sa iyang mga kamot.

“Ha? Didto diay ka narehistro?” Iyahang gisugdag masahe ang akong mga bagtak nga mihawoy sa pagtindog og dugay sa ukayan.

“O, pero sila ra ang garehistro sa amo mam. Igo ra ming nagpirma sa form na ilang gihatag, tapos sila ray nagpadala dadto sa Marawi.”
Nahimatikdan ko ang iyang nawong nga nabaknot, ang singot gatulo naingog duga sa iyang mala-Adonis nga nawong.
Continue reading Masahe sa City Plaza

Should the Stars Return

Fiction by | December 11, 2016

It was the night that the stars returned and the first person to see them was Oskar Abebi. From his vantage point on the pavement, lying with his back flat on the street called Yoruba, he recognized the constellation. “The Hunter…” he whispered to no one in particular. The name escaped his bloodied lips as by compulsion. The giveaway was the line of three stars that made up the Hunter’s belt. From there he could trace the stars that hinted at the legs, then the outstretched arm and the club.

It was a Friday night and the traffic of shoppers and passers-by on Temple Market was starting to pick up. Oskar desperately wished one of them would stop by to help him up so he could share his discovery. But they all avoided him and each other studiously. They walked around him as they zipped past in all directions. One or two even stepped over his legs when they found no other path through.

Oskar wobbled to his feet. All the while his gaze remained up, his jaw slack as more pinpoints of light appeared in the sky. Over there: the Hero. And over there: the Twins. And over there: the Bear. And over there: the Lover. Despite himself, despite his cracked skull, Oskar laughed.

“Do you see? Do you see?” He pointed a crooked finger up at the sky. When no one paid him any heed, he broke taboo and grabbed the nearest passer-by the sleeve of her pleather coat. She yelped, then hissed and glared at him. “Look!” he insisted, jabbing his finger upwards. “Stars!”

The last time he had seen stars he was a boy. How long ago was that? Forty years? Fifty? It was on Ye-Ye’s farm, where they had electric lights only three hours each night and so there was nothing to do but look up at the sky and tell stories. Then came the city, and the stars were drowned in neon, glass, and steel, stabbing at the heavens as if to keep them at bay.

“Stars!” he repeated to the woman. His insistence finally made her look up. A few others, puzzled by the commotion, paused in their steps and did the same.

The stars were growing brighter by the minute. They pierced through the haze of artificial light of the city. More and more constellations became apparent. Oskar laughed giddily. “The Bull!” “The Lion!” “The Maiden!” “Look! Don’t you see?” “There! The Sisters!”

Those who paused followed his finger as he pointed, trying to make out the shapes. Then one of them, a young man wearing a rebreather cowl, broke the spell when he shrugged and walked on, disappeared into the crowd flowing into Yoruba East. The others followed suit, one by one at first, then in staggered groups, until the bustle was as it was before.

The woman wrenched her arm free and called Oskar a rude name as she walked hurriedly away.

“Stars…” the old man said again, but weakly. They were very bright now, so bright, you could almost feel their heat. The soup of humanity that gathered around Temple Market on Friday evening continued to thicken, and now people were jostling each other at the elbows and occasionally stepping on each other’s toes.

“Stars…” the old man said, one last time. Then he too was swallowed by the market.

Dom is a project manager of a small software development team in Davao.

Victims and Perpetrators

Fiction by | November 13, 2016

Harassment is something that a human mind could sense. When someone, even if it were a child, is being harassed, he or she knows it. Sexual harassment cases occur among girls and women of all ages.

These were the words I heard from the speaker of an anti-sexual harassment forum I attended when I was in first year college. I think most of these cases are unresolved and are only kept secret by offended parties because of two reasons: some threatened by their offenders and some kept their secrets by choice. I chose to be on the second category.

It all started one morning, when my parents were out doing the usual pamalengke for Sunday lunch. I was five. I loved to stay in the sala while waiting for my parents because I like seeing the goods they bought for Sunday lunch. We would usually have a festive lunch every Sunday so we would invite my father’s buddy, Bobong, who had been, ever since I remember, a close friend of the family. What would make us aware of his arrival would be his signature way of saying “Ayo!” as he’d climb his way up our house. He would come to our house in every occasion—big and small ones. Big ones like my younger brother Ponkik’s first birthday where he led the slaughtering of the big pig for lechon, my youngest brother Langgay’s dedication day and small ones like ordinary drinking sessions and tong-its card games with my father and their other friends.

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Fiction by | November 6, 2016

Hinubad sa binisaya sa sugilanon ni Paz Latorena nga “ Desire”

Panimalaynon siya. Ang halapad niya nga agtang naghatag kaniya og mangil-ad, lakinhon nga panagway. Ang iyahang mga mata, nga gamay, naghirig sa kilid, ug daghan sa iyahang mga kaila ang naghuna-huna nga tingali, adunay tinulo sa langitnon nga binuhat nga nag-anig-ig sa iyahang mga ugat. Halapad ug pislat ang iyahang ilong ug kanunay nga nagpaluag ang mga lungag niini, nga murag ang pag ginhawa usa ka panugakod. Ang iyahang baba, nga adunay baga nga mga ngabil, usa ka taas, tul-id nga lahap sa iyahang panagway nga gihimong anggulohon sa iyahang hinaboon, dako nga apapangig.

Apan ang Kinaiyahan, nga murag naulaw sa kadaotan sa paggama sa iyahang dagway nagumol og lawas nga adunay talagsaon nga kaanyag. Gikan liog hangtud sa gamay niya nga mga tiil, maambong siya. Busdik ang iyahang dughan, ug nagbugdo ang iyahang mga tutoy, sama sa kaluha nga mga rosas nga nagbusiad sa pagpamulak. Ang iyahang hawak kay gamay, sama sa usa ka bata nga babayi. Murag gikawat gayud sa iyahang bat-ang ang kurba sa bag-ong subang nga bulan. Ang iyahang mga bukton kay malison, nahitapos sa iyahang gamay nga mga kamot nga adunay maanindot, nagkanipis niya nga mga tudlo nga gikasinahan sa iyahang mga higala. Ang iyahang batiis nga adunay malinis nga mga tuhod, nagpahinumdom sa usa sa mga manekin nga makita gikan sa bintana sa buhatan nga naghikyad sa pinakabag-o nga mga seda nga medyas sa babayi.
Continue reading Tinguha


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.

Continue reading Amirah


Fiction by | September 18, 2016

Tahimik kong tinanggap ang mga pangaral ni Lola kahit na gusto nang sumabog ng dibdib ko sa pagpipigil na masagot siya.

“Hindi ko naman napapabayaan ang pag-aaral ko, ‘La,” ngali-ngali kong isagot na ang tanging dahilan lang ng pagtitimpi ko ay ang pananahimik sa tabi ng Tatay ko.

Isa pang dumagdagdag sa pag-iksi ng pisi ko ang kuya kong kararating lang mula Maynila. Panay ang gatong at sulsol kay Lola na nagbanta pang tatawag sa kapatid naming nasa America na at sa ilan pang nasa Maynila.

Tinapunan ko ng tingin ang Tatay ko na hindi kumikibo sa panggigisa ni Lola sa akin at kausap na ngayon ang aking Tiyo. Parang tinarakan ang dibdib ko sa kawalan niya ng atensyon sa ginagawa sa akin. Mabilis kong inalis ang tingin sa kanya at nadaanan naman ng aking mga mata ang dalawa kong pinsan na bakas ang yabang sa mga mukha. Napatiim-bagang ako at inis na ikinuyom ang mga kamay ko.

“At sa inyo pa talaga ako ikinumpara! Eh mas mahirap naman mga lessons naming kaysa sa inyo!” bulyaw ko sa aking isip nang sumilay ang nakakalokong ngisi sa kanilang mga labi. “Pusang gala! Class A ako at nakikipag-kompetensya sa mga ka-lebel ng utak ko! Naging top lang kayo sa class section na Class B at C. Anak ng pusang gala! Matalino na yun?” Pagraragasa ng isip ko at isang irap ang ibinato ko sa kanila nang hindi nila nalalaman.

Continue reading Pa