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.

Continue reading Victims and Perpetrators


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

Does it really matter what the dead think? (Part 2)

Fiction by | July 23, 2016

Ted chews the pancit he has shut into his mouth. He stares at Melissa and raises his brow, as if to ask her if anything’s wrong. She hasn’t said much throughout the meal, and she’s only spoke to him intermittently since he arrived.

“Have I told you this pancit is delicious?” he mutters.

“Thanks,” she says, folding her arms.

He piles strips of cabbages and mushrooms on the side of his plate. “I don’t like vegetables, darling,” he’d say, “I just like the noodles.” She used to argue with him that the taste of the vegetables have seeped into the noodles anyway, and that’s how the real pancit guisado should come as, so he might as well eat them, the lot. She can’t be bothered now, though. Besides, in their arguments, he always wins.

Continue reading Does it really matter what the dead think? (Part 2)

Does It Matter What the Dead Think? (Part 1)

Fiction by | July 17, 2016

Her hand still holds the telephone handset. The sound of it dropping onto its base seemed like a closing door, banging and locking her into her guilt and uselessness. The clear blue skies outside her window in Armidale seemed to have turned overcast like the grey skies of her General Santos town. She cups her mouth as she lowers herself onto the floor and feels the tears roll down her cheeks. Her mother’s cry on the phone keeps playing in her mind.

Inday, ulahi na ang tanan. It was too late for all of us. We tried, but Nene didn’t make it to the hospital.” The old lady’s controlled voice showed the sincerity of their endeavors to save her sister. “We could have saved her if we’ve known beforehand.”

Melissa, or Inday to her family in Gensan, knows that her sister and her sister’s baby could have been saved had her sister been admitted to the lying-in clinic. There, midwives would have been able to determine her state of pregnancy earlier and prescribe a caesarian procedure at the hospital. Melissa had insisted that giving birth at home with the assistance of a midwife would be okay. This is what most women do in the Philippines. Nene agreed.

Continue reading Does It Matter What the Dead Think? (Part 1)

Return to the Princely Home

Fiction by | May 29, 2016

I hurriedly penned the highly peculiar contract as instructed by the Prince. As experienced a scribe I was, I still have difficulties in creating hurried royal contracts especially something as odd as this one. The terms the Prince specified were downright out-of-this-world. One Kahel Mayari is tasked to maintain the stars and the weathers on the Prince’s absence as well as oversee the ascension of the new Babaylan along the orders of the Great Bakunawa, in return he shall have access on the Prince’s archives for an hour. One Delfin Magnos is to keep the search of the lost son, ensure his death and continue the neutralization efforts against the forces of darkness to which he shall be rewarded the barren island of Munting Lupa on the far east of the continent. And the last was for the famed General Sebastian Ramosa, who is to ensure proper ascension, education and upbringing or the rightful heir, whoever he may be, in the event of the Prince’s untimely demise. For this service, the general shall have his debts cleared.

It was three in the morning when the Prince called for me at his balcony. He was having breakfast with three men of noble countenance. One looked sickly wearing a black toga. He had bloodshot eyes and a long nose. The General, I knew from his portraits. He seemed to be the oldest in the group. He had salt and peppered beard and was wearing his best uniform. The third was a young man. He was tall and had long hair. His eyes had a tint of bright orange. There were no other words to describe him except for beautiful. Even the way he moved was noticeably graceful and silent.

I took a deep bow and presented the contract to the Prince. He took the contract, wore his spectacles and began reviewing the contents.

Continue reading Return to the Princely Home


Fiction by | May 22, 2016

I stepped out the front porch and felt the cold autumn air, and shivered in my coat. I placed my hands inside the coat’s pockets and started walking down the sidewalk. I took a turn and went inside a coffee shop, the smell of roasted coffee beans filled the air and I let out a smile.

I waved at Bob who was working behind the counter, then sat on my favorite seat at the very edge of the cozy place, away from the crowd. I looked out the small window beside me and sighed. I felt a presence, I looked up and she asked, “What would it be today sir?” She asked with a cheerful smile.

“Black,” I replied glumly.

“Do you want anything with that?” she asked.
“If I wanted anything else I would have said so,” I replied irritated. Today was not my day.

She giggled and didn’t mind my grumpiness. I looked at her with a raised eyebrow. “Your order will be in a minute,” she said with a sweet smile and left.

My coffee came within less than a minute, served by the same waitress who’d experienced my unpleasant mood.

She was about to leave in order to attend to another costumer when I decided I needed to give her an apology. I may be a jerk but not a bastard of a jerk.

“I’m sorry about earlier.” As those words stumbled out my mouth, it tasted more bitter than my black coffee. She giggled again and smiled her sweet smile. “It’s no big deal sir,” she replied and left.

Continue reading Annie

I Want to Surprise My Parents

Fiction by | March 20, 2016

I want to surprise my parents.

It is my nineteenth birthday and I want it to be unforgettable: the type that neighbors talk about during their children’s graduation parties and whispered after Sunday masses. After all, I am a year closer to full independence and grown-ups love talking about mature topics like that.

Our family never celebrates birthdays. I cannot blame them. It is unnecessarily expensive and a family of six can barely feed itself, cannot afford the luxuries that only the privileged enjoy. But it left a gaping, blank hole in my childhood. I never got to experience the awkward stares from all my friends and family as they chant in chorus the familiar “Happy Birthday” song. I never got to blow out candles for wishes or to take the first slice of that cake. I never received presents. So this year, I want to throw a surprise party that will not trouble my parents.

This is not the first time I try to make my parents happy. There have been several attempts but they always find out about my plans. Always. I am thinking it is because of my brother who likes to sneak around and check my phone to see what I talk about with my friends. Some of those text messages include my scheming. My brother also likes to be the best son, which is probably the only motivation he needs to tell me off. I have been scolded for my scheming, of course. My parents do not know how to handle those kinds of seedy situations and I pride myself for being the creative kid that thinks outside of the box.

This year, I plan to do things correctly. My parents have been fighting a lot lately because of the finances. All my other siblings have already graduated college with flying colors while I have been recklessly spending money because I cannot make up my mind. I have been to three different colleges and tried five courses, but they never felt right. These constant shifts added that to all the debt we have accumulated over the years. They try to be understanding but the wrinkles on their faces have increased and there are more patches of gray on their heads. They are growing older, and soon, they will not be able to support me anymore. I feel horrible for bringing them so much trouble, so I thought maybe a surprise could cheer them up to the point where they can forget their problems. Hopefully, this will fix things.

So far, the plan is going well. I am home alone so everything is going smoothly. My family will be home from the mall in a while and all is set. Just above the table, I hung a banner. I place seats around the living room. One chair is in the middle right below our low-hanging chandelier. This is where the surprise comes in.

I hear them arriving by the gate, along with the happy banter between my siblings. I am so glad they came home in a good mood. They will definitely feel better after they see what I have in store for them.

As my father unlocks the padlock, I climb up the chair propped in the middle of the room and wrap the noose tied from the chandelier to my neck. I tighten it and I can hear my father struggling with the gate. Good, gives me more time. When they get in, they will be spending ten more minutes outside to play with the dogs.

I take one final look at the banner I made myself, the stinging bold “I’M SORRY” hastily written with black paint. Soon, father finally undoes the lock. I breathe out all the air in my lungs and without further deliberation, kicked the chair aside.

Nal Andrea Jalando-on is from Koronadal, South Cotabato and sometimes writes in Hiligaynon. She is a former student of Philippine Women’s College of Davao.