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The Literary Apprentice

2009
The Literary Apprentice
2009
The Literary Apprentice 2009

Copyright © 2009
The authors retain the rights to their respective works.

Published by the UP Writers Club and Vibal Foundation.

UP Writers Club Officers and Members 2009-2010:


Chairperson: Sierra Mae C. Paraan, Vice Chairperson: Bernadette April
Canay, Secretary: Francelle Napura, Treasurer: Pola Del Monte, Publication
Committee Head: Anne Lagamayo, Workshop Committee Head: Ronn Angeles,
Membership Committee Head: Carmina Jariel, Events and Publicity Head:
Alexandra Paredes, Members: Kristine Marie Reynaldo, Aaron Galzote, Myca

Ask a Question.
Salonga, Lukas Velunta, Judd Willis, Leirald Reyes, Clara Buenconsejo

Editors: Sierra Mae C. Paraan, Bernadette April Canay and Anne Lagamayo
Cover concept and line art by Clara Buenconsejo
Cover and book design by Alexandra Paredes
Photography by Bernadette Canay
Layout consultant: Adam David

Set in Adobe Garamond Pro

Printed by Vibal Publishing House, Inc.


1253 G. Araneta Ave., Quezon City, Metro Manila, 1104 Philippines
Tels: +63 (2) 712.9156 to 59
Telefax: +63 (2) 416.8460
Choose a Number.

Foreword xi Jose Dalisay Jr.

Introduction xv The UP Writers Club

Wingmaker 20 Clara Buenconsejo

Holes 25 Bernadette Canay

Espasyo 26 Sierra Mae C. Paraan

Quiapo 27 John Paul Abellera

Guhit 30 Mary Anne M. Umali

Bilang ng Pinaslang na
Mamamahayag Tumataas 47 Sierra Mae C. Paraan

Desisyon 52 Alexandra Paredes

Prelude to Redemption 53 Santiago Villafania

Latchkey Child 55 Debbie Nieto

Lighter 57 Carmina Jariel

At night he tiptoes 59 Oscar Serquina

When Will God Be Sick 61 Jezriel Mangalit

Ferryboat Rides 62 Maria EJ Pia Benosa

Precipice 72 Judd Willis

Wilting 74 Leirald Reyes


Alethea 76 U Eliserio Highly Improbable but Likely 141 Leslie Marie Prestoza

Sa Panggabi 90 Bernadette Canay Mileage 142 Sarah Matias

Exerpt from “Si Maricar, The tao of the


motel room attendant 150 Zaldy Dandan
Ang Puno, Ang Libro, 91 Surot Matias
at Ang Baby” Focus 153 Wyatt Ong
If this isn’t Love, 97 Aaron Galzote Regular Casanova 155 April E. Agustin
Southbound 100 Pola Del Monte Tira-tira 157 Phillip Kimpo Jr.
Endo 102 Debbie Nieto Isa lang naman ang dahilan
Last Day in The Red-Light ng paghuhuramentado ng 159 Sierra Mae C. Paraan
Division of Fine Arts 103 Alexandra Paredes kanyang lama’t loob

Familiarity 105 Ivy Jean Vibar Hunger 161 Clara Buenconsejo

The Infinite Lives of


Pimples 106 Zaldy Dandan
Marie San Juan 163 Anne Lagamayo
This Side’s for Loners 108 Ronn Angeles
Folds 173 Bernadette Canay
III. Pag-iwas sa Kalungkutan 110 Genaro Gojo Cruz
After 174 Melissa Villa-Real Basmayor
Bugbog 112 Chuckberry J. Pascual
Manitingnon
Listahan ni Aling Amelya 123 Ronn Angeles
and the Skymaiden 175 Kristine Marie T. Reynaldo

Watermelon Sugarbaby 127 Wyatt Ong


Night Parade 186 Francelle Napura
Bulalakaw 128 Ronald R. Ramos Jr.
Everything merges
Overdue 129 Debbie Nieto with the night 188 Adam David

He said/She thinks 130 Alexandra Paredes Index of random lines 205


Pigs on their way to slaughter 132 Ayn Frances dela Cruz Contributors 209
Kung Gagahasain, Ang Mga Members 213
Cyborg Ba’y Dumaraing Rin? 133 Sarah Grutas
Acknowledgement 217
Aginaldo 140 Carmina Jariel
xi

Foreword

I have a small collection of old issues of the Literary


Apprentice from the 1950s—a period that we now look
back to as a Golden Age for creative writing in the
University of the Philippines, which had just moved its
main campus from Padre Faura in Manila to Diliman
in the new suburbs rising out of the postwar haze in
Quezon City. In these issues can be found the names
of writers who would soon form the veritable canon
of modern Philippine literature, especially in English—
among them, those of NVM Gonzalez, Francisco
Arcellana, Amelia Lapeña, Virginia Moreno, Ricaredo
Demetillo, Alejandrino Hufana, Edilberto Tiempo,
Tita Lacambra-Ayala, Andres Cristobal Cruz, Adrian
Cristobal, Rony Diaz, SV Epistola, Elmer Ordoñez,
and many others.

Most of these people were not yet the literary luminaries


they would become; many were still students at the
university, inflamed by the fire that had been lit three
decades earlier by the founding of the UP Writers Club
by the likes of Jose Garcia Villa and Angela Manalang-
Gloria. Some of those students and UPWC members
were not even English majors—such as the sculptor
Napoleon Abueva, the economist Benito Lim, and
xii xiii

the lawyer Alexander SyCip. But they were all—in the 21st century. At UP and at its Institute of Creative
words of Virgie Moreno, in her foreword to the 1958 Writing, we keep hearing complaints and criticisms
Apprentice—“madder Gaugins among the Tahitiennes,” about how academicized and formalistic writing has
unlike others whom the famously outspoken Moreno become, and about how our young students can think
tartly likened to “safe cabbage hearts at home, fit only and write of nothing but their own small lives and
for soup.” middle-class concerns.

It was too bad that the Apprentice and the UPWC itself But yet here we find stories and poems that go far
underwent a period of decline in the following decades, afield in both form and content, displaying the great
the understandable result of the decline of English as an diversity (and yes, the inevitable confusion) of life
area of academic interest at a time when the nation was and experience in this Age of the Blog. Older readers
swept in the 1960s and 1970s by a nationalist upsurge comfortable with old Apprentice may cock an eyebrow
(in which, perhaps ironically, many UP English majors at words like “cosplay” and “fubu”, or be disturbed by
such as Jose Maria Sison, Epifanio San Juan Jr., and a seeming penchant by some authors for dissection and
Elmer Ordoñez figured prominently). The UPWC decapitation; but these are the children of Dexter and
staggered on through the ‘90s, and slowly rebuilt itself CSI, of Gaiman and Murakami, of Linkin Park and the
in an environment that had become more encouraging Eraserheads, of FHM and Wowowee. If they disturb,
of English and literary studies, and also open to new it is because they mean to. How well they succeed in
writing of many different persuasions—and not only communicating—thematically and stylistically—the
in English at that. (It’s interesting to note that while anxieties and aspirations of their time will be for the
creative writing in Filipino had never been one of UP’s critics to sort out, but certainly they will require an
strong suits at least until the 1960s, the 1958 Apprentice aesthetic more open to dysfunction and dislocation
does open with a short story in Filipino, “Matandang than, say, Edilberto Tiempo’s demand, in the 1952
Balon,” by Andres Cristobal Cruz.) Apprentice, that Manuel Arguilla hew to Aristotelian
unities.
This new, bilingual Literary Apprentice of 2009 comes
more than 50 years after that particular issue, and it is Only time will tell, as the cliché goes, if the names of
the best proof yet of how strongly resurgent creative this issue’s contributors—those, for example, of John
writing has become in UP over this first decade of the Paul Abellera, Sarah Matias, Anne Lagamayo, Clara
xiv xv

Buenconsejo, Pia Benosa, U Eliserio, and Mary Anne


Umali, to name just a random few—will continue to be
Introduction
read 50 years from now. I don’t think they should care
about that as much as they should want to be read now.
The breadth and depth of talent in this volume tells us
that they well deserve it. The UP Writers Club has been the university’s finest
literary organization since its inception in 1927. It has
As NVM Gonzalez put it in his introduction to the produced Philippine literary giants such as National
1952 issue of the Literary Apprentice, “Too often we Artists Francisco Arcellana, F. Sionil Jose, Jose Garcia
read the writings of writers who happen to be in school Villa, Virgilio Almario, Edith Tiempo, NVM Gonzalez,
as students’ work, the implication being that we cannot Nick Joaquin, and Bienvenido Lumbera and has
thus fully admire their authors or call them to task for continued its legacy of excellence through its illustrious
their commissions or omissions. It seems to me that
alumni and members.
such a reading will not increase the power or improve
the grace of campus writing; it seems to me that we
Before its revival in 2002, the UP Writers Club was
must see these contributions for what they are, as pieces
exclusive to winners of major awards and National
of writing by writers. Explode the fiction that this is
Writers Workshop fellows. That year, however, College
apprentice work, that this poem or essay is by someone
of Arts and Letters Dean Virgilio Almario opened the
who only wants to write, and perhaps we can fix a critical
membership of the organization to students with a
attitude and can look forward to the kind of work that
passion for writing.
can find its audience now and in the future.”

The Club continues to hold regular writing workshops


and literary readings. The Club also takes part in
organizing the Writers Night–a yearly gathering of
JOSE DALISAY JR.
Diliman, Quezon City renowned writers all over the Philippines in cooperation

September 1, 2009 with the UP Institute of Creative Writing (UP ICW).


Among its most anticipated events is the publication of
literary folios, among which is The Literary Apprentice,
xvi xvii

a collection of the best literary works by this generation


of young writers.

The Literary Apprentice 2009 is the first print issue the


organization has produced in twelve years. This edition
features the works of Writers Club resident members
and alumni, including works from contributors.

The Literary Apprentice is a fortune teller.

1. Cut out.
2. Fold the paper in half lengthwise and crosswise to find the middle.
3. Fold 4 corners to meet at the middle. This will make 4 triangles.
4. Turn over paper and repeat step 3 on other side.
5. Hold paper like a diamond cup and lift the four numbered edges.
6. Follow instructions regarding use.
xviii

Every fold has a story.


20 The Literary Apprentice Clara Buenconsejo 21

1970s B-movies, featuring a troop of spandex-clad winged women


fighting against some mad scientist wanting to capture them and
sell them off as circus freaks. As a student of literature and of the
fine arts you’re not really supposed to be into those. But what the
hell—you were its number one fan (fine, you ARE still its number
one fan, notwithstanding that you probably are its only fan left, so
you’re number one by default) and so you went inside. The poster’s
probably on sale, or at least you can convince the people in there to
Wingmaker sell it to you—it is, after all, a vintage poster of “Amihan at ang mga
Babaeng Ibon,” the poster of undoubtedly the best B-movie ever
made.

You never expected that it would end this way—you, dangling So you open the door and enter. Apparently the place was
from the upper-right corner of one of the biggest billboards along a dressmaker’s shop, as evidenced by the costumes and gowns on
the metropolis’ largest highway. You were held only in place by your display behind dusty display cases. Or as it said on the old wooden
wings that had gotten entangled in the steel framework’s corner, after sign, “Bagaoisan and Sons: Makers of Fine Gowns and Quality
dive-bombing towards the billboard. You weren’t afraid of heights Otherworldly Wear Since 1595.” Despite the warm afternoon light
but as a small crowd starts to form at street level, pointing up at you, outside, it was a bit dark and musty in the shop. The heavy feeling
you start to feel queasy. you got as you stepped in was probably part of the ambiance set by
the heavy furniture and counter at the opposite end of the shop.
You had always wanted to be on a billboard, but not this way.
There was only one other person in the shop—behind the
*** heavy counter was an old man wearing glasses, thin to the point
that you thought he was stricken with tuberculosis or something.
It all started innocently enough—you were just walking You approached him to ask about that poster when you noticed
around Cubao X one afternoon, going in and out of the second- that behind one of the display cases was a fuchsia spandex getup,
hand/antique shops looking for some props that you can use for complete with wings (that seemed to be the only brand new item in
next month’s cosplay, when you saw that poster. It was a battered, the shop). You went closer and realized that it was none other than
yellowing poster of “Amihan at ang mga Babaeng Ibon,” tacked to what “Amihan” wore in the movie—the complete set from crown,
a glass door opaque with age—one you’ve never seen before, despite tight cat suit, boots and wings.
being pretty familiar with the area. And despite all the good finds
that you have bought in Cubao X, nothing beats this. “Did you make that?” you ask the shopkeeper, pointing to the
suit.
Yes, “Amihan at ang mga Babaeng Ibon” was one of those
22 The Literary Apprentice Clara Buenconsejo 23

“Yes, but that’s not for sale,” he replied. The wings looked so real that, as you went up the stage, any
moment it looked that it would start beating wildly and fly you
“But can you make me a replica, then? I’ll use it for a cosplay away. Despite the fact that “Amihan” was not that known—half of
convention.” the people who gawked at your wings asked where the costume came
from; and you had to present some pictures from the movie at the
“No.” sign-up booth—you won first prize. Not that anyone complained;
everyone felt that with the work that went into the wings, you
“Why? I’ll pay anything for it.” deserved it. If only they knew.

“Anything?”
***
“Yes!”
Tonight was the party to celebrate your win. You were at the
“No matter what I ask?” balcony of your friend’s penthouse suite, half-dazed and a little tipsy
but still in costume. Trading jokes with fellow contestants, you
“No matter how much it may cost.” yelled, “Amihan!” in the tradition of Filipina superheroes. As you
yelled the wings fluttered, and some feathers flew all over, but except
“Go here, I’ll take your measurements. I can finish it in time for a few who got feathers in their drinks, everyone laughed. Amihan
for the competition.” need not do that in the movie, and one of the contestants playfully
poked your wings, which had started to flutter a little.
***
At first you thought it was just lack of sleep—you felt a little
Two weeks later, you were standing in the middle of a trade hall, light-headed before the contest —but when you felt your feet
transformed into a venue for all cosplay fanatics. In full costume, dangle, you started to scream. The wings’ movement grew, their
people couldn’t help but look at you and most importantly, your range of motion increasing. By the time half of the people at the
wings. It was not the usual cotton-wire-feather affair that cosplay party noticed what was happening, your grip had slipped off the
wings were; to be honest, you didn’t know what they were made of. balcony’s railings and the wings flew you off.
Only one thing was sure about the material—the maker said that
the adhesive holding it together makes it beautiful yet brittle, and The crowd at the base of the billboard, composed of all the usual
you were told not to wear it more than once nor let anyone else people: commuters waiting for buses, two or three blue-uniformed
hold it. That, along with the promise that should you win he’d get MMDA men, buses slowing down because of the commotion and
a percentage of the prize. No problem for you—all you wanted was their conductors. Traffic had started to slow down as the crowd
to win this competition, especially since you paid quite a lot for the continued to swell. One or two news crews were already there,
whole getup. covering the event. A rescue team had also arrived, and was in the
24 The Literary Apprentice 25

process of climbing up and setting up a place for you to land on, in


case you fall.

All of them were pointing up to you in the billboard, dangling


from the sky.
Holes
And, eyes squinting, you thought you saw him: the creator of
your wings. Arms crossed, he was at the base of the billboard and And I stare past the banners
not with the crowd. Yet he was also looking back at you. You wish he and the flaming effigies of monsters
would do something—and remember the promise you had made, at the square. Behind their burning
broken so many times. faces is the constant fear of the barrels
which put the holes on my father’s head,
A few moments pass. You see—or you think you see—him my brother’s back, our house.
doing some small motions with his hand. “A spell, probably, to get It is in the same sound of my father’s shriek
me down,” you think. that I wake up with the din around me:
torn cloths hang on the grates of gutters,
Ever the forgetful you, you only remember that there was a man’s hand twisted on his back,
also another option granted to makers as the wings fall apart into a the metal against the metal clash
thousand different feathers. They can also destroy their creations. on the tangled mess of hair.
It is as I had seen when I peeked through
And as metal and wind rise to meet your fall before the final one of the holes on our house years ago:
flash of light and dark, you think of how eye-catching that poster the red painted over walls. My father’s
was. blood on my hands–the same blood
now spilled on the pavement.

Clara Buenconsejo
Bernadette Canay
26 The Literary Apprentice 27

Espasyo
Ilang beses ko nang tinalunton ang daang ito. Batid ko na ang
bawat liko. Bawat kurba. Bawat anggulo. Kahit pa nakapiring. Quiapo
Mapaaraw man. O gabi. Hindi ko na kailangan ng mapa. Ni
gabay. Natunton ko na ang pinakamatarik na puwesto. Nalagpasan
maging ang pinakamadawag na hangganan. Nagalugad ko na lahat
ng espasyo, mga lunang hirap masilayan ng kahit na sino. Ang It was only six o’ clock in the morning but Quiapo was already
konstelasyon ng nunal sa iyong kaliwang braso. Ang mga galos sa bustling with life. The streets and thoroughfares were filled with
kaliwang hita na nakuha mo sa patintero. Ang dalawang latay sa cars, jeepneys and buses moving at a sloth’s pace. People of all kinds
likod buhat ng isang aksidente noong kolehiyo. Bilang ko rin ang –from vendors with toothless smiles to professionals with frowns to
tigyawat sa iyong likod. Ang tatlong stretch marks sa iyong dibdib. hide their dentures– fought for space in the overcrowded sidewalks.
Ang mainit mong balat malapit sa puwit. Ngayong gabi, ngayon The combination of various city sounds –cars honking, preachers
lang ako napagod sa paglalakbay. Tuluyan na akong naligaw sa shouting, beggars crying– threatened to break the sound barrier. It
gitna ng iyong teritoryo. May bakat ng mga ipin sa ilalim ng iyong was only six o’ clock.
dibdib. At hindi ko na sigurado kung saang direksyon ako tutungo.
All signs of morning life in Quiapo were lost on a young boy
sleeping outside the doors of the Church of the Black Nazarene. He
was shivering in his sleep. How the rags he was wearing could have
Sierra Mae C. Paraan protected him from the harsh cold was a mystery to everyone walking
past him. He was dirty, his face and limbs covered with sores and
bruises. In his sleep he brushed his hand across his face, smearing his
cheeks with the mucus flowing steadily from his nostrils.

The young boy awoke with the sensation of someone tickling


his sole. He opened both eyes and stared at the morning sky. The
bright rays of the sun greeted him but they could not radiate enough
warmth to keep his body from shivering. He looked at his feet and
saw the source of the tickling sensation: a limp and dirty dog, a beggar
28 The Literary Apprentice 29

like him, was busy licking the sores on his foot. He kicked the dog Even through his closed eyelids, he could sense something
away, and threw a stone after it. The dog scampered away, whining. blocking the sunlight. He opened his eyes and saw a tall man
He sat up, scratching the mosquito bites on his legs until they bled. looming over him. The man had fair skin, blond hair, and carried an
Involuntarily, his stomach growled. He suddenly remembered that expensive camera around his neck. The man was saying something
he had not eaten since lunch yesterday. He willed his weak body to but he could not understand him. The language was different
move and went to the nearest garbage can. He scavenged through it, from the one he learned while growing up. The man brought out
sifting through the pile of trash. He soon found what he was looking a magazine and pointed at the cover where he saw a pair of African
for – a big, empty can of Del Monte pineapple juice. He sniffed children asking for alms. The man repeatedly pointed at the camera,
it – the smell of pineapples was lost in the mix of hamburgers, the magazine cover and at him. Finally, he realized that the man
chocolates, gum and feces. wanted to take his picture. He immediately stood up and nodded
his head excitedly. He arranged his rags and smiled at the camera. It
Holding the can firmly, he dragged himself to the doorway of surprised him when he saw the man vehemently shaking his head.
the church. He stretched out his can to the old men with canes and He watched as the man stretched out his hand and made a pitiful
the old women with veils. He silently prayed to the Black Nazarene face, just like those of the African children. He then understood
for these devotees to pity him and give him some of their coins. He that the man wanted to take his picture as a miserable child, not
closed his eyes and prayed harder that some would be kind enough as a happy one. Pretending to be one of the African children, he
to give him folded bills instead of coins. stretched out his hand and made a pitiful face.

Three-quarters of an hour had passed and not even once did he The flash blinded him for a moment. Afterwards the man took
hear a single coin drop in his can. He shook the can, hoping to hear a bill from his wallet and gave it to him. His dirty and callused fingers
something move inside it. Nothing. Tired and hungry, he sat down tightly gripped the bill. He watched the man leave, eventually losing
and leaned his back on the church door, watching the various kinds sight of him in the crowd of people. Then, he opened his fist and saw
of people walking, running before him. It was during moments like the crumpled twenty-peso bill. He smiled and looked up to the sky.
these that he felt separated from the rest of society. He knew he He had never felt richer in his whole life. Suddenly, he knew how it
was different, especially from the cigarette-puffing college students. felt to be an angel. With the money in his hand, he thought of the
With their good looks, clean uniforms and gadgets of all types, these five days’ worth of cigarettes he could finally buy.
students seemed superhuman to him. They were fair, wingless angels
walking on the dirty streets of Quiapo, answering the calls of heaven
through their cellular phones. How he envied them! How he wanted
to be one of them! Then, perhaps, he would be able to leave his John Paul Abellera
miserable life in Quiapo and start anew in the gold and marble laden
halls of heaven. He closed his eyes and tried to imagine himself as
one of those angels – puffing blue seal cigarettes and sending SMS
to his fellow angels.
30 The Literary Apprentice Mary Anne M. Umali 31

panonood ng TV.
Bata ako noon, hindi tanga. Hindi ko naman pwedeng sabihin
sa kanya na iniisip ko kung okay lang ba kay Papi na i-dissect siya.
Alam kong matatakot sila sa ‘kin. Pero parang alam ko nu’ng time
na ‘yun na kung tatanungin ko si Papi, okay lang sa kanya. Actually,
nakangiti nga si Papi sa ‘kin nung tinititigan ko siya. Pagkaalis ng
pinsan ko, tumabi pa siya sa akin at dinilaan ang paa ko.

Guhit I.
Simple ang dilim, pero takot ang tao rito. Anong meron sa
dilim? Dilim naman ang nakikita ‘pag pinipikit ang mata. Dilim
ang nakikita bago matulog. Kailangang makakita ng dilim bago
I. maramdaman ng katawan ang kaginhawaan sa kama. Sa isang taong
Simple lang. Gusto kong ma-dissect. katulad ko na mahilig matulog, boto ako sa dilim.
Pangarap ko ang dissection nu’ng bata pa ako. Uso kasi ang Natatapos ang lahat dito. Lahat nawawala. Lahat ng problema
mga B-movies rerun sa cable, ‘yung mga tungkol sa multo, alien. sa mundo natutunaw ng dilim. Tahimik ang yakap ng dilim. Hindi
‘Yung mga sci-fi/ghost/slasher combination at ano pang kabobohan katulad ng liwanag, nakakagulat. Sino bang tangang nagsabing puti
at kapangitan ang maisip ng Hollywood para mabenta ang mga at liwanag ang langit? Bobo talaga.
young actors and actresses nila. “Shel, bangon na. Magdadasal pa tayo.”
So, may napanood akong mga spawn-of-the-demon-children Ayan. Katulad niyan. Sino ba kasing bobong gumawa ng
na naghiganti sa pumatay sa kauri nila. Pinahiga nila ‘yung babae motto na “The family that prays together, stays together”? Buong
sa isang mahabang steel table sa pamamagitan ng pag-hypnotize. puso ba namang isina-utak ng Tatay ko. Kahit na ba napakaluma
Pinalibutan ng mga bata ang table at pagkatapos, close-up sa maliit na ng commercial na ito, kailangan pang halungkatin para maging
na kutsilyong mukhang panlinis lamang ng kuko. Dahan-dahan pasakit sa buong pamilya. Palibhasa, nagka-near death experience
itong pinatong sa dibdib ng babae. Take note—’yung babae ang si Tatay. Car accident. Yupi ang passenger seat at himalang walang
nag-dissect sa sarili niya. Hypnotized nga kasi. concussion na natamo. Ang hatol ng mga pulis sa bungguan—
Doon nagsimula ang fascination ko sa pag-dissect. Gusto kong babae kasi ang nakabunggo. Ang hatol ko, hindi dapat nagyu-U-
malaman ang tunog ng napupunit na balat, kung masangsang ba turn si Tatay kapag nakalagay sa karatula, No U-Turn. Tuloy, nagro-
ang amoy ng tumitibok na lamang loob, kung ga’no kalamig ang rosaryo kami bawat umaga para lang i-satisfy ang takot ng tatay ko
kutsilyo. na hindi niya mae-enjoy ang kasiyahan sa piling ng mga minamahal
Pagkatapos ng ilang araw mula ng mapanood ko iyon, tinitigan sa buhay.
ko ang aso namin. Hanga din naman ako kay Tatay. Hahanga ako sa kahit sinong
Sabi pa nga ng pinsan ko, “Shel, inlab ka na ba kay Papi?” tao na hindi minura ang Diyos sa pagkawala ng kotseng habambuhay
Hinayaan ko siyang tumawa. Ngumiti lang ako at bumalik sa
32 The Literary Apprentice Mary Anne M. Umali 33

na pinag-ipunan at sa halip nagpapasalamat pa sa pamamagitan ng nalaman ni tatay. Good luck talaga sa kanya. Umiyak nga kagabi e.
pag-uulit ng mga sandamukal na salita. Tinatanong ba naman ako kung bakit nawawala ang passion niya.
“Amen.” Mukha ba akong call center? Good luck talaga sa kanya. Wala na
Pero yes lang dapat ng yes. Anong magagawa ko? Nagtratrabaho daw siyang gusto sa buhay. Wala na daw siyang pangarap. Ano daw
na ba ako? Sino bang naghihirap para sa tuition fee ko? Hindi ko pangarap ko. Di ko naman masabi na ang pangarap ko nga lang ay
pa naman alam kung nakapasa na ako sa public school. Baka ang uminom at magbasa ng Gossip Girl habang buhay. Seryoso kasi siya
mangyari pa diyan, kakailanganin kong mag-apply ng scholarship. e. Pero seryoso din naman ako sa pangarap ko. ‘Kaw ba? Ano’ng
Kaya tango lang ng tango sa gusto ni Tatay. Wala pa naman akong pangarap mo?”
maipagmamayabang. Sa mga tanong na ganito, kailangan ng flashback button, ang
“Para kang Tatay ko kung magsalita,” minsang sinabi ng pinsan button na pinipindot para magkaroon ng wavy lines at magiging
ko. sepia ang kulay ng mundo. Dito, makikita ang mga images ng isang
“Parang si Tito?” sagot ko. “Para akong lasing magsalita?” batang nanonood ng B-movie at ng batang naglalaro ng lapis. Icopy-
“Gaga,” sagot niya. “Tungkol sa pagtango, at pagyayabang, at paste ang mga images na ito sa ibabaw ng kasalukuyang image ng
pera. Na para bang napakatama ng pagkokonek niya sa mga yan. dalawang babaeng nakatingala sa buwan.
Ganyan na ganyan ang ipinagmumukhaan niya sa ‘kin tuwing Pero walang flashback button. Walang copy-paste para
sinesermonan niya ako.” ipaliwanag ang mga bagay-bagay. Meron lang dalawang babae. Yung
“Bakit? Alas-dose ka na naman umuwi?” isa, umiinom. Yung isa, nagro-rosaryo tuwing umaga.
Tumango siya. Nanatiling tahimik ang gabi. Inunat ko ang mga binti ko sa
Hindi ko alam kung bakit inasahan kong iiling siya. “Gaga.” sahig ng bubong. Pinakinggan ko ang pagdaloy ng beer sa lalamunan
Nagkibit-balikat ang pinsan ko at dahan-dahang ininom ang ng pinsan ko. Hindi ko inisip na sagutin ang tanong niya, dahil una,
beer. Tuwing walang pasok, humahakbang kami mula sa terrace alam kong hindi naman na niya naaalala ang pagkakalmot ng pusa sa
papunta sa bubong ng bahay niya. Kadalasan, may dala siyang gin tenga ko at pangalawa, kung maalala niya, hindi niya maiintindihan.
pomelo o beer. Depende sa kung sino ang kaaway of the week niya. Katulad nang hindi ko pag-intindi sa beer. Kung bakit sa kanya,
Ako, walang mga kaaway. Kaya siguro, kahit ilang beses akong masarap ito at kung bakit sa ‘kin, mapait.
patikimin ng pinsan ko ng alchohol, lasang gamot pa rin ‘to sa kin. Siguro naiintindihan ko sa lebel na kaya kong ipaliwanag sa
“Mabuhay ka naman, Shel. ‘Wag puro sex sa boyfriend ang pamamagitan ng mga salita, ng pambobola. Pero hindi ko pwedeng
atupagin. Gra-graduate na tayo, huy,” sabi niya sabay wagayway ng ma-demonstrate kasi ‘di ko naman talaga naiintindihan. ‘Di ko
bote sa mukha ko. masasabuhay. ‘Di ko kasi ritwal.
Tumawa ako at tinulak ko siya palayo. “Gaga, di kami puro Wala naman akong pakialam sa ibang bagay sa mundo
sex. Minsan arcade naman. Buhay naman ako sa lagay na ‘to a. Kaya kundi ang landas na tinatahak ko. Ang landas na magigising ako
nga ako goody-goody, balak kong makapag-entrance tests.” sa pagtawag ng biglaang relihiyosong tatay, papasok sa school kung
Natawa siya. “Bakit? Ano bang meron sa college? Si Kuya saan magdadasal ulit, at pagkatapos ng pagdadasal, magsusukatan
nga, tinatamad na e. Magda-drop out daw. Good luck naman pag na ng haba ng palda na hindi ko nga pala talaga maintindihan kung
34 The Literary Apprentice Mary Anne M. Umali 35

para saan bilang puro babae naman kami sa eskwelahan at walang “Punyeta ka, wag mo akong gulatin.”
mahahayok sa mga binti namin. Unless, of course, ina-assume na “Nagpapahinga lang ng mata. Masyadong maliwanag, e.”
agad ng school na manyak ang mga teachers namin. “Lasing ka na.”
Alam kong para sa isang babae na ang point lang ay wala siyang “At di ‘yun normal? Ano, sama ka?”
buhay at exciting na ritual, andami kong satsat. Siguro, para lang “Hindi ba intrams next week?”
akong kuya ng pinsan ko. Walang pag-asa pero umiiyak pa rin at Dumilat siya pero nagtakip agad ng mata. “Fuck. Stupid
hinahanap ang pag-asa sa kapatid. Annoying nga lang ang pag-iyak moonlight. Yeah, intrams next week. Kaya nga ini-sched ang party
ko—nasa form kasi ng pagsatsat. next week e. Sige na Shel, mag-a-arcade daw bago pumunta sa bahay
Bumabawi din ako siguro dahil ang alam nila, tahimik ako. ng pinaka-cute guy ever. Dalhin mo pa boyfriend mo para pagselosin
Bilang tango lang nang tango sa kagustuhan ng lahat, kailangang natin. Interesting ‘yun. Love triangle. Treat ko.”
kagatin ang dila para hindi makasakit ng ibang tao. At I swear, hindi “Kala ko sabi mo kanina, problema mo allowance? At naaalala
ko maintindihan kung bakit hindi pa din dumudugo ang dila ko sa mo ‘yung part na sinabi kong goody-goody ako?”
dami ng beses na kinailangan kong kagatin ‘to. “Deep down, hindi ako naniniwala. Deep down, may
‘Yun na nga lang yata ang parte ng katawan kong ‘di pa mahahanap sa bulsa ng pantalon ni Papa. Tsaka wala namang
nagdudugo. Sa dami ba naman ng mga aksidenteng dinaanan ko, o masama. Anong gagawin mo sa school? Player ka ba ng batch?
kahit ‘yung mga ginawa ko sa sarili ko, walang silbi ang pagkakagat Tatambay ka ng bleachers? I-chi-cheer ang mga tibo?” Iwinagayway
ng dila. Kahit singaw di ko pa nakuha. Ang nakukuha ko, mapasaya niya ulit ang bote ng beer sa mukha ko.
ang mga taong kausap ko. Kailangan lang nila ng tatango-tango, Humiga ako at pumikit. “Saang school galing ang mga pupunta
masaya na sila. Katulad ng pinsan ko. Samahan ko lang siyang sa soiree?”
uminom, kaunting tango, tumahimik para maiwasan ang mga
tanong na maghuhukay ng mga komplikasyon, at magiging masaya II.
na siya. Matutulog pagkatapos. Natural death ang ikinamatay ni Papi. Hindi ko alam kung
Nakahiga at nakapikit na ang pinsan ko nang pinaikot ko anong klase ng natural death pero ang punto ko lang dito, hindi ko
ang kaninang kinakagat kong dila. Exercise kumbaga. Minsan kasi na-dissect si Papi. Isa pa, hindi naman ako mahilig sa aso at narinig
namamanhid. At saka mayroon pa akong teoryang hindi mapapanis ko sa mga nakakatandang kapatid na merong subject pagdating ng
ang laway ko kung ine-exercise ako ang dila ko. high school na magda-dissect ka. Biology. Although ng nalaman
Pagkatapos, nilapit ko ang mukha ko sa mukha ng pinsan ko. kong palaka ang kailangang i-dissect, na-disappoint ako. Ang pangit
Amoy alak. Ano bang in-expect ko? kasi ng mga palaka. Kadiri. Pero sa mundong puno ng limitasyon,
Nilapit ko pa. okay na rin siguro ‘yun. At least, legal di ba? So, excited akong
Tumitig ako. Tumigil ako, ang oras, at tumitig ako. Namamasa tumanda noon. Iniisip ko na ‘yun ang panahong hindi sila magagalit
ang palad ko, naramdamang nanlamig ang likod, at tumitig ako. ‘pag humawak ako ng kutsilyo kasi may tiwala silang hindi ako
Bigla siyang nagsalita. “Sama ka sa soiree next week?” makakaaksidente. ‘Yung mga tipong madadapa at masasaksak ang
Halos tumalon ako palayo. sarili o ‘yung madadapa, tatalsik ang kutsilyo at masasaksak ang
36 The Literary Apprentice Mary Anne M. Umali 37

ibang tao. ‘Yung mga ganon. Kasi ‘di ba, ‘pag bata, kahit lapis, napa-focus din ako sa parteng yon. Ang fluffy pa naman ni Muning.
dangerous weapon na? Mataba nga kasi kaya ang lambot-lambot pa ng itsura niya. Parang
Lalo na kapag aksidenteng natusok ng lapis ang pusa. kapag ginulong mo lang siya sa pamamagitan ng kamay, mashe-
Mahilig kasi ako sa pusa. Bawal nga lang kami mag-alaga ng shape mo siyang bola.
pusa kasi allergic Tatay ko dito. Pero siyempre, hindi ako napigilang At ang pinakamahalaga, parang madaling mahiwa balat niya.
itago ito sa mga sulok-sulok ng bahay. Of course, natatagpuan sila Feeling ko ‘pag ginawa ko ‘yun, malinis. Walang magtatalsikang
dahil parang radar ang pag-hatsing ni tatay. At lalo na ng nakatusok dugo. At sa kahimbingan ng itsura ni Muning, feeling ko nu’n,
nga ako sa pamamagitan ng lapis. matutulog lang siya kahit na ina-analyze ko na ang lungs niya.
Muning ang pangalan niya. Hindi kasi siya mukhang isang Alam kong kanina pa obvious ang mangyayari. Saktong
Muning. Medyo malaki at mataba na siya kaya hindi bagay sa kanya pumasok muna ang pinsan ko sa loob ng bahay at ‘di ko na napigilan
ang Muning dahil ang feeling ko nu’n ang Muning ay para sa mga ang sarili. Doon ko na kinuha ang lapis mula sa bulsa ko. Tinitigan
baby na pusa lang. Pero ‘yun pa rin ang ipinangalan ko sa kanya ko ang dulo na lapis, inisip kong tasahan pero hindi ko rin ginawa.
dahil feeling ko nu’n napakatalino ko kung gagamit ako ng irony. Excited na kasi ako nu’n at nasa loob pa ng bahay ang bag ko. Kaya
Paboritong kanta kasi ng kuya ng pinsan ko ang kantang Ironic nu’n. magaan ko nang dinikit ang matulis na parte ng lapis sa dibdib ni
Since paborito niya, paborito din ng pinsan ko. At since paborito ng Muning. Wala namang imik si Muning. Nang diniinan ko nang
pinsan ko, ayon. konti, dumilat siya at tumingin sa ‘kin. Hindi naman siya nag-
Magaling magtago si Muning. Para bang naintindihan niya meow. Kaya pinaandar ko ang lapis pababa mula sa dibdib niya.
ako na hindi dapat siya magpapakita kina Nanay at Tatay. Sa ‘kin Nang madiing-madiin.
at sa pinsan ko lang siya nagpapakita, tahimik na nakatingala at Ayon. Magulo na. Nakarinig ako ng malakas ng meow,
naghihintay sa pagkaing inuuwi namin sa kanya mula sa school. nakakita ng katawan ng pusang tumalon sa gilid ng kanang mukha
Pero kapag darating na ang kotse ni Nanay kakagatin at bibitbitin ko, nakahiga na ako sa semento at gumulong na ang lapis palayo sa
niya ang pagkain niya at mabilis na magtatago sa mga halamanan sa ‘kin.
sulok ng bahay kung saan una ko siyang pinatira. Nagmamadaling lumabas ang pinsan ko.
Si Muning ang pinakamatagal kong alagang pusa. Hindi siya “Oy! Anong nangyari kay… Yuck, ‘wag kang mahiga diyan,
na-spot ng radar ni tatay kasi nga, matalino siya. Naglalaro kami madumi diyan!”
pagkagaling sa school, kasama ang pinsan ko, sa garahe kapag Kinapa ko ang lapis palapit sa ‘kin at bumangon pagkatapos.
walang nakakatanda. Aabot kami ng ilang oras para lang i-pet siya o Naglakad ako palapit sa pinsan ko nang makaramdam ng parang
pahabulin ang kung anumang string o mukhang string na napupulot maligamgam sa kanang tenga ko.
namin sa loob ng bahay. Tapos, magkatabi kami ng pinsan kong uupo “Naku! Anong nangyari? Tatawagan ko si Tita! Diyan ka lang.
at ipe-pet ulit si Muning. Pipikit naman si Muning at mahimbing Naku! Pa’no kung me rabies si Muning?” nagmamadaling sinabi ng
na matutulog. pinsan ko sa sarili niya habang papasok ng bahay.
Sa ganong klaseng sitwasyon ko natitigan si Muning na parang Hindi ko na maalala pa ang ibang sinabi niya basta sinundan ko
pagtitig ko ke Papi. Hinihimas kasi ng pinsan ko ang tiyan niya kaya lang siya papasok ng bahay. Pagdating kasi ng puntong ‘yun, parang
38 The Literary Apprentice Mary Anne M. Umali 39

na-warp ako sa ibang mundo. Iba kasi ang dulot na sensasyon ng ever. O baka r&b. Hindi ko na alam ang mga category ng music.
kalmot sa tenga ko. Kahit na humihiyaw na sa telepono ang pinsan Basta. Puro artipisyal na ingay lang naman. Mga labing limang tao
ko, ‘yun lang napansin ko at wala ng iba. lang kasi ang nahatak sa party. E hindi pa magkakakilala ang mga
Medyo basa ang pakiramdam. Maligamgam ang pagka-basa. tao kaya kailangan muna ng artipisyal na ingay na magfi-fill in sa
Tapos, parang wala na ‘yung tenga ko dun. ‘Yung maligamgam akward silence. Either that or magprepresenta na ang pinsan kong
na basa na lang ang pumalit. Nakaramdam ako ng paggalaw, ng magbigay ng adventure sa mga inosenteng lalaki sa pamamagitan ng
pagtulo. Slow-mo pa ang pagtulo. Nanginginig na sa pagkamanhid pagbili ng kaha ng beer.
ang nawawala kong tenga pero malinaw pa rin ang kabagalan ng “Fuck this.”
pagtulo na gumagapang na sa may leeg ko. Hindi ko pinansin ang bumulong ng mura at patuloy kong
Natakot ako na hawakan ang tenga ko. Hindi dahil baka ma- sinaksak ang junk food sa bibig ko. Lalaki, matangkad, payat, at
infect o ano pero dahil baka malaman kong nandun pa rin ang tenga siguro pinapagalitan ng mga teachers niya dahil tumatama na ang
ko. ‘Pag napatunayan ng kamay ko na nandun ang tenga ko ‘yun na buhok niya sa mata. Hindi ko alam kung saan siya nanggaling at
ulit ang mararamdaman ko imbes na ‘yung maligamgam na bagay. kung bakit nakikitabi siya sa sopa ko. Well, siguro alam ko, pero ang
Unti-unti nang nagba-blanko ang paningin ko nang bumalik puno’t dulo pa rin nu’n ay akin lang ang Eaji.
ang pinsan. Hindi ko na naman alam kung saan nanggaling, basta sumubsob
“Shel, Shel! Uy, ‘wag kang ganyan!” nag-papanic na pangungulit ang kamay niya sa mangkok ko. “You should share, you know?”
ng pinsan ko habang pinunasan ang dugo gamit ang face towel. Nanlaki ang mata ko.
“Okey ka lang ba? ‘Wag kang mamatay, uy! Gising! Gising!” “Michael. You are?”
Iyon na ang huli kong narinig bago ako ngumiti at tuluyan Punyetang mga Inglesero.
nang nawalan ng malay. Nilakasan ko ang pagnguya. Tiningnan siya mula ulo hanggang
paa at binaling ulit ang tingin sa TV. Ipinatong ko ang bowl sa
II. maliit na mesang katapat namin. Tinignan ko ulit siya at tinaasan
Minsan pakiramdam ko, ang daming patalon-talon sa buhay ng kilay.
ko. Maraming laktaw. Ang pinakamalala, kahit na sa kakatalon ko at “Well?” pilit niya.
kahit na hindi ko dapat alam kung saan ako mapupunta, babagsak at Nginitian ko siya. Binuksan ang bibig pero mabilis ulit itong
babagsak pa rin ako sa dati kong lugar. isinara. Pagkatapos, kinagat ang dila. “Ayan, sharing. Hanapin ko
Sa harap ng TV. lang yung dip.”
Kulang na lang, rosaryo. Ayaw akong paalisin. “Your name, I mean.”
Yakap-yakap ko ang bowl ng Eaji at gumagawa ng mental note Diyos ko, ako yata ang kailangang uminom. “Michelle.”
na hanapin ang pinsan ko para hanapin niya ang dip ng junk food Tumawa siya. “Isn’t that funny? My feminine name.”
na inaangkin ko. Re-run ang pinapalabas noon kahit alas sais pa lang “Pag naririnig ko ang feminine, naiisip ko napkin.”
ng gabi. Naglalabanan ang tunog ng mga humihiyaw na monsters Napahinto siya. Napahinto din ako. E ano naman kasi ang
sa pinatutugtog na rap ng dambuhalang speakers ng the-cutest-guy- isasagot ko sa kanya? Ulol, magbasa ka nga ng mga forwarded text
40 The Literary Apprentice Mary Anne M. Umali 41

para mas umayos ang pick-up line mo? “I see that impromptu speeches aren’t your thing,” sinabi niya
Nakatingin pa rin siya sa akin. ng may ngiti.
Sinubukan kong tumawa hanggang sa naki-ride na lang din si Bumuntong-hininga ako. “Maraming bagay ang hindi ko
Michael. Lumingon ang mga mata ko tungo sa gilid ng kwarto at thing.”
nakita ko, katabi ng dambuhalang speakers, ang pinsan kong kausap Tumawa siya. “Believe it or not, I know. Forgive me for being
ang the-cutest-guy-ever. Nakatingin din ang pinsan ko sa ‘kin at totally sucky with pretending and all that shit.”
nagtatanong ang mga mata niya. Pero hindi na niya ako hinintay “Let me guess, meron ka ring pinsan na pumilit sa iyong
sumagot. Ibinalik na niya agad ang atensyon sa kausap niya. pumunta dito.”
At binalik ko naman ang atensyon ko kay Michael. Nakikitawa “Nah. I had nothing to do. Well. I don’t count classes so yeah,
pa rin ang bruho. Stuck sa minutong nagpapanggap na hindi ako I went here. See what it was like. I don’t even know half the guys in
nakakailang, hindi awkward, na normal ang lahat. Tumalon-talon here.”
ang mata ko mula sa kanya at sa pinsan ko. Tinanong ko sa sarili ko “Sino ba? At inisip mong masaya ‘to?”
kung pare-parehas na ba itsura namin. Nagkibit-balikat siya. “Soirees are great for meeting girls. Isn’t
Hindi ko na tuloy namalayan na hindi na nakangiti si Michael. matchmaking the point?”
Tapos na ang minuto at nagtataka na siya. “Sa tingin ko sex ang iniisip mong makita dito. Para sa mga
“Um, uh…” ang simula kong sagot tulad ng dati. Kakagatin thropy boyfriend at girlfriend hunting ‘to.”
ko na sana ang dila ko pero napatingin na naman ako sa pinsan ko. Kibit-balikat ulit. “Same dip. And you’re here, and you already
“May boyfriend na ako.” have a boyfriend so it must be something else. Besides, what would
“What?” you rather have, right?”
“Boyfriend. Syota. Irog. Kasintahan,” tuloy-tuloy ko. “Akala ko tapos na tayo sa patalon-talon. Imbitasyon ba yan?”
“And your point being?” “Partly. But I have something better to offer.”
“Hindi ko alam kung saan ka nanggaling. Bigla ka na lang “Saan?”
umupo sa tabi ko. Pinagmamalaki mong badtrip ka at ina-assume “The host’s room?”
ko ito sa pagmumura mo. Mali. Sigurado akong pinagmamalaki mo Teka, parang nabasa ko na ‘to sa mga kinukupit kong romance
ito dahil sa pagmumura mo. Ngayon, kung may image kang prino- novels ng nanay ko a. “Um, wag dun. Malamang sa malamang,
project—tall, dark, and broody… rebel? ‘Di ko alam. Bahala ka na mahuhuli tayo don. Kitchen na lang. Mej maliit at walang
dun. Basta ang alam ko, ayoko nang pahabain ‘to. Kung maglalandian pumupunta.”
tayo, maglandian tayo. Pero please lang, ayusin na naman natin ‘to. Ngumiti siya. “How come you automatically thought there
Sawang-sawa na ako.” was actually something to catch?”
Siya naman ang nagtaas ng kilay. “Sawang-sawa saan?” “Hindi pa ubos ang curiousity ko para sumama sa yo. Kaya
Natigil ako. Binuka ang bibig pero hindi ko na kailangang huwag mo muna akong paikutin.”
kagatin ngayon ang dila. Dahil iba na ang problema, gusto man ng
dila, wala na ‘tong masabi. III.
42 The Literary Apprentice Mary Anne M. Umali 43

Hindi yon ang unang sugat na na-experience ko. Meron pang, Michael, merong lalagyan ng mga tinidor at kutsara. Sa tabi ng
pwedeng sabihin, mas malala. Pero ‘yun ‘yung unang malalang sugat kumpol, mas specific, ng bread knife, naaninag ko ang isang lapis.
na malapit sa utak na ang theory ko, nag-cause ng pagkahimatay. Tinaas niya ang nagtatanong niyang kilay.
Wala namang rabies si Muning. Well, so far. Hindi ko alam Ibinaling ko ulit ang tingin ko sa kanya. Umiling lang ako.
kung after ilang years nagpaparamdam ang rabies pero hindi “Ang susunod na sasabihin mo sa ‘kin ay mabuhay naman ako,
pa naman ako takot sa tubig kaya wala. Hindi ko na siya nakita tama? Narinig ko na yan.”
pagkatapos nu’n. Sa tingin ko, hindi naman dahil sa tinusok ko siya “Well. Hell yeah. That’s why people keep on telling you. Isn’t
ng lapis. Masyado akong mahal ni Muning para iwasan lang dahil that what they say? Be young and foolish. Go forth and fuck!”
dun. Siguro, me tumalo sa kanya sa teritoryo o something. ‘Yun “Excuse me, regular ang sex life ko. Hindi ako repressed
‘yung sabi sa Animal Planet e. Catholic school girl. Hindi naman ako naka-uniform ha. Nakikita
Sayang. Lalo pa naman akong napalapit sa kanya dahil dun. mo ba akong naka-skirt?” Nilock ko ang pintuan.
Siya ang unang nilalang na nakasakit sa kin ng ganong kalala, nang “Quite disappointed really,” natatawa niyang sagot. “But
malapit sa utak. At dahil sa kanya, mula sa kagustuhang mag-dissect, please. We both know that you have a loving boyfriend but you’re
gusto ko nang ma-dissect. still here with me. You’re repressed one way or another. Come on,
Gusto ko ulit maranasan yung adrenaline rush, maligamgam now. Although I have a huge inkling on what way that is, I don’t
na basa, pagkamanhid at yung katapusan ng lahat ng yon. care. If it’s making you stick around that’s all that matters.”
Simple lang. Naglabas siya ng lighter mula sa pantalon. Kinuha din niya ang
mahabang rolyo ng itsurang aluminum foil mula sa pagkakapatong
III. niya sa kitchen counter. Winagayway niya ito, nakangiti. “Come.”
Sino ba ang nagsabi na kung ano ang lakas mo, ‘yun din ang Binukaka niya nang kaunti ang mga hita niya.
kahinaan mo? Feeling ko, applicable din ‘yan sa dilim. Maganda Lumapit ako sa pagitan nito. Niyakap ng mga hita niya ang
pero kasabay nito, pangit. Hawak nga niya kasi ang kawalan. At bewang ko.
minsan, nagiging komportable na lang sa kawalan kaya siguro, “Now. Do you know how to smoke?”
nagiging masarap na rin ‘to. O vice versa? Masarap ang kawalan pero Umiling ako.
kapag nagtagal, nakakauyam? “Don’t worry. It doesn’t take a genius. And we both know
O siguro, pangit at pangit lang. Bilang takot lang naman ang you’re quite the philosopher.”
lahat sa dilim pero isa ako sa mga taong nasasarapan sa pakiramdam “At let me guess, ikaw ang psychologist dito?”
na niyayakap nito. Kaya in short, gusto ko ng pangit. “Hey. Don’t mock the course I’m going to take.”
Tumawa si Michael. “Isn’t that a song?” “Hindi ako nangma-mock, pero kung mabuting psychologist
Inikot ko ang mga mata ko. “Malay.” ka nga, at supposedly repressed ako, tandaan mong ibig sabihin nito
“You think too much, you know?” sagot niya habang umupo ay tine-take advantage mo ako.”
sa kitchen counter. “I suggest you stop.” Hindi na siya sumagot. Sinubo niya ang rolyo at hinayaang
Napatigil ako. Hindi dahil sa sinabi niya. Sa inuupuan ni ‘tong sumabit sa bibig niya. Naka-tatlong subok siya bago kumislap
44 The Literary Apprentice Mary Anne M. Umali 45

ng apoy ang lighther. Lumubog ang mga pisngi niya kasabay ng Binitawan niya ako. “Wala pa rin?”
pagtapat niya ng dulo ng rolyo sa apoy. Umangat nang kaunti at Hindi ko na maalala pa ang ibang sinabi niya basta mamaya-
sandali ang mga balikat ni Michael at pagkatapos, sumayaw ang maya, namumula na ang mga mata namin. Hindi ko rin naman
usok palabas ng ilong at bibig niya. sigurado ‘yun. Baka false memory. Tipong alam ko kasing dapat
Iba ang amoy nito sa amoy ng usok ng sigarilyo. Actually, mas namumula ang mga mata namin. At pagdating din naman kasi
mabango ‘to kaysa sigarilyo. Parang may tumatama pa rin sa ilong sa isang punto, parang na-warp na ako sa ibang mundo. Iba ang
pero mas madulas ang pasok. Actually, para lang bulaklak na medyo dulot na sensasyon ng sumasayaw na usok. Kahit na humihiyaw
nasusunog. ang malalaking speakers, kolektibong animated chat ng mga bisita,
Natawa ako. ‘Yun naman talaga kasi ‘to di ba? at pagbabanta ng mga monsters sa naiwang nakabukas na TV, ang
Nanlaki ang mga mata ni Michael. “You’re not even starting basang dila lang ni Michael na gumagapang sa leeg ko ang napapansin
and you’re already high? You really are a virgin.” ko. Wala ng iba.
“Shut up.” Bibilis at babagal ang kamay ng orasan. Sa sobrang bilis, para
Hinablot ko ang aluminum foil look-a-like mula sa bibig niya akong nahuhulog sa kitchen counter. Sa sobrang bilis, parang hindi
pati na rin ang lighter. Mahina ang apoy. Ipinuwesto ko ang rolyo na usok ang sumasayaw-sayaw sa harapan ko, iba-ibang kulay na. Sa
at lighter at naka-limang subok bago nakasindi. Huminga ako ng sobrang bilis, para bang lahat ng sulok ng katawan ko nahawakan na
malalim pero wala akong usok na naibuga. Umubo ako. ni Michael kahit na nakadamit pa rin kami.
“Don’t swallow it. Inhale and light at the same time too.” Pumikit-dilat ako. Pagkatapos ng kulay, naririnig ko ang sarili
Inabot ko pabalik sa kanya ang rolyo. “Hindi ko magawa. ko. Parang may narrator sa ulo ko—isiksik ang kamay sa brief,
Nilalawayan ko lang.” ganyan, tama. Pakiramdaman ang balls. Oo, malambot. Parang
“You’re already giving up? Come,” sabi niya. Gamit ang isang unan. Parang labi din niya. Tinitigan mo si Michael. Hinihimas mo
kamay hinawakan niya ang leeg ko at ang kabila magaang sinubo siya. Oo, mataba at malambot din ang labi niya. Parang unan.
muli ang rolyo sa ‘kin. “I’ll light, you inhale.” Bumagal na ulit ang oras. Buti na lang, nakababa na ang
Humithit ulit ako. Hindi na ako umubo pero wala pa ring pantalon at panty mo. Hinihingal ka. Dahil sa usok? Humalinling
usok na lumabas. ka.
“Still nothing? Fuck this.” Medyo basa ang pakiramdam. Maligamgam ang pagkabasa.
Kinuha niya ang rolyo mula sa bibig ko at nilagay sa kanya. Tapos, parang wala na yung buong katawan mo. ‘Yung maligamgam na
Sinindihan niya ang lighter. “Buksan mo ang bibig mo,” nasabi niya basa na lang ang pumalit. Doon, sa pagitan ng hita mo. Nakaramdam
kahit na may nakasabit sa mga labi. ka ng paggalaw, ng pagtulo. Slow-mo pa rin ang pagtulo, parang
Hawak pa rin ang leeg ko, humithit siya at ikinulong ang basang gumagapang. Nanginginig na sa pagkamanhid ang nawawala
usok. mong katawan pero malinaw pa rin ang kabagalan ng pagtulo na
Hinalikan niya ako. gumagapang na sa mga hita papunta sa binti mo. Bakit masarap ang
Naramdaman kong dumaloy ang hininga niya mula sa bibig habambuhay na paggapang?
ko, dila, hanggang lalamunan. Kumapit ka lang sa buhok ni Michael. Natatakot ka kasing
46 The Literary Apprentice John Paul E. Abellera / 47

mahawakan ang anumang parte ng katawan mo. Dahil baka


malaman mong nandun pa rin ang ibang parte ng katawan mo. At
baka ibang parte na ng katawan mo ang mararamdaman mo imbes
na yung maligamgam na bagay.
Nakahiga ka na pala sa kitchen counter. Parang habambuhay
ang pagdila sa pagitan ng hita mo. Bumilis ulit ang ikot ng mundo,
Isyu blg. 104. Tomo blg. 1986. Oktubre 9, 2009
may kulay, at parang namataan mo ang lapis na nakasabit sa tabi

Bilang ng Pinaslang
niyo. Teka, nasasabit ang lapis? Pumikit ka ulit, ninamnam ang
dila. Pagkatapos, dumilat. May mga sandok, can-opener, strainer,
chopping board, at—lapis talaga. Nasasabit ang lapis.

na Mamamahayag
“Michelle, Michelle,” bulong yata ni Michael. “Okey ka lang?
Anong ginagawa mo?”

Tumataas
Parang may pumindot ng flashback button. Naalala mo ang
aso, ang pusa, at ang pinsan mo.
Iyon na ang huli mong nakita bago ka ngumiti at tuluyan nang
nawalan ng malay.

Artikulo ni Sierra Mae C. Paraan


Mary Anne M. Umali

Isang motor. Tatlong putok. Isang broadcaster – tigok.


Ilang tapik sa backspace. Ilang pindot pa sa keyboard. Pagod na
siguro ang cursor sa paroo’t parito sa screen. Nakakailang palit na si
Luis ng lead sa artikulo pero wala pa rin siyang mapili-pili.

ILAGAN, ISABELA – Batikang mamamahayag natagpuang


patay matapos tambangan ng armadong naka-motor noong
Agosto 8, 2008.
Masyadong impersonal. Diniinan ni Luis ang backspace. Malinis
ng muli ang screen. Namuo ang ilang butil ng pawis sa noo ng
natatarantang news writer. Nangungutya ang putlang putlang
dokumento. Nakakainsulto ang pumipintig na cursor – nangungulit,
48 The Literary Apprentice John
SierraPaul
MaeE.C.
Abellera
Paraan/ 49
49

nanghahamon, nagpapapansin. Kumpara sa inaakala, hindi Muling diniinan ni Luis ang Ipinagpalagay na lang ni Luis na
Napatingin si Luis sa oras sa cancer ang nakapatay sa backspace. Bumalik sa orihinal na pagod ang dahilan nito. Tutal,
desktop computer. Katumbas beteranong broadcaster Edgar puwesto ang cursor. Umandap- limang araw pa lang naman ang
kaya ng pintig ng cursor ang Bautista. andap. Tahimik na naghihintay sa nakalipas mula nang ilibing ang
bawat galaw ng kamay ng relo? susunod na utos. Nakikiramdam kaibigan. At naroon siya sa bawat
Tatlong oras na lang bago ang Nagsindi si Luis ng isang yosi. sa panibagong alaalang ilalantad gabi ng lamay. Ngayon, tinatapos
presswork nila. Ibig sabihin, may Umalab ang ulo ng stick habang ni Luis sa kanya. niya ang huling artikulong
tatlong oras pa siya para tapusin ninanamnam ni Luis ang menthol ipinakiusap ng editor niya bago
ang artikulo. May tatlong oras flavor nito. Isang hithit. Buga. Si Batikang broadcaster Edgar siya mag-leave. Kung tutuusin,
pang palugit bago siya sitahin at Edgar, hindi type ang menthol- Bautista, pang-89 na kagustuhan din naman ito ni Luis.
putakan ng kanyang editor. flavored yosi. Naisip ni Luis na mamamahayag na namatay sa Siya ang nagpresentang gumawa
baka ito rin ang dahilan kaya panahon ni... ng artikulo, ang artikulong
Luminga siya sa paligid. Walang talagang magkasundo sila. Wala maglalantad ng puno’t dulo ng
kaingay-ingay sa makipot siyang kalaban sa pastime. Ilan Alam ni Luis noong Mass pagkamatay ng matalik niyang
nilang sala bukod sa ngitngit pang hithit. Wala silang agawan Comm student pa lang siya kaibigan. Ito ang ganti niya sa
ng kinakalawang na electric ng stick. Buga. Panandaliang na masagwang magsimula ng mga tarantado.
fan. Sinasabayan pa ng hilik natakpan ng usok ang computer lead sentence mula sa statistics.
ng asawa niya mula sa kalapit screen na isang pangungusap lang Kasama iyon sa Journ 100 nila. Halos mamula na ang mata
kuwarto. Tatayo dapat si Luis ang laman. Hindi naman ito bawal, pero may niya sa kakukusot nito. Naalala
para tignan kung naiistorbo mas maganda pang anggulo sa ni Luis ang mga pasaring ni
ba ni misis ang mahimbing na Nakisabay ang yosi ni Luis sa kuwentong ito kaysa sa statistics. Edgar sa programa nito sa radyo.
tulog ng dalawa niyang anak. nanginginig na cursor sa screen. Naririnig na niya ang putak ng Matapang ang kaibigan niya.
Pero napatingin siya kay Marian Bigla siyang bumulalas ng tawa. kanyang editor kung ganito ang May pangil ang mga banat,
Rivera, tapos sa maliliit na Naalala ni Luis ang panahon nila anggulo ng kanyang kuwento. kesyo tungkol sa korap na pulis,
numerong nasa ilalim ng halos ni Edgar sa kolehiyo. Nahulog Matalik mong kaibigan tapos ganid na congressman o walang
hubong katawan nito. Sabi roon, ang ilang upos sa keyboard, ganito lang ang approach mo? modong artista.
dalawang araw na siyang lagpas sumiksik sa pagitan ng shift at Kung hard news pala, dapat
sa deadline. Dalawang araw na end, enter at page down. Hindi pinagawa na lang ’yan sa kung Muling diniinan ni Luis ang
siyang pinagbibigyan ng istrikta nga sila nag-aagawan sa yosi pero sino. Statistics. Kasama na ang backspace. Diniinan niya ito
niyang editor. Purmirmi siya sa nagtatalo naman sila kung kanino kaibigan niya sa statistics. Muling ng labis, halos ibuhos niya sa
pagkakaupo. Dalawang araw mapupunta ang huling jutes. humithit ng yosi si Luis. Di niya backspace lahat ng galit, pagod
nang nangangapa si Luis kung Putol-putol ang mga imaheng napuna ang pagliit ng stick. at hinagpis. Sa isip niya, sana nga
paano isusulat ang pagkamatay naglaro sa isip niya – mga bangag Dinikdik niya ang natitirang upos may backspace din ang buhay
ng matalik na kabigan. Saan kaya na mukha, malulutong na tawa, sa scratch paper ng anak. para ilang pindot lang, ilang tapik
siya mag-uumpisa? Kung si Edgar mga katawang lanta. Kitang-kita lang puwede nang magsimula
’yan, tiyak sa yosi break ’yun sa nakastand-by na computer ang Pangwalumpu’t siyam... Nag- sa umpisa. Puwedeng palitan
magsisimula. pigil na hagikgik ni Luis. tubig ang mga mata niya. ang mga naisulat na, puwedeng
50 Sierra Mae C. Paraan 51

burahin ang mga nangyari na. niya masagot ang why. Ano nga store. Lagi silang nagkikita ni natapakan niyang bubog.
bang sagot sa walang saysay na Edgar dito. Laging nagsasabay Ngumiyaw ang nakasalubong
Tumayo si Luis at umikot-ikot sa pagkamatay ng kaibigan niya? ang pagbili nila ng yosi, alak, niyang pusang kalye, kumaluskos
sala. Napipikon na siya sa sarili. Bakit nga ba pinatay si Edgar gatas, mantika, corned beef at ang mga halaman sa bakuran ng
Lead sentence lang di pa niya gayong ginagawa lang niya ang ng kung ano pang pinapahanap nadaanan niyang bahay pero,
maumpisahan. Sabi ng Hello kanyang trabaho? Hindi niya ni misis. Palibhasa, ito lang ang wala pa rin siyang namalayan
Kitty na relo ng anak niya, may alam kung paano isasatik ang pinakamalapit na convenience sa mga ito. Natigilan lang siya
isa’t kalahating oras na lang siya mga iyon sa loob ng one-thousand store sa lugar nila. Pero higit pa nang marinig ang tunog ng isang
bago magsiputakan ang mga word article. Binato ni Luis ang roon, dito sila huling nagkasama rumaragasang motor.
manok. Isa’t kalahating oras bago pakete sa blankong screen ng ni Edgar. Magkasama sila ni
siya tilaukan ng kanyang editor. computer. Edgar nu’n sa isang presswork Sa loob ng bahay, patuloy ang
nang maalimpungatan ng gutom pag-andap ng cursor sa screen
Habang lumilibot sa babasaging Maingat na sinuot ni Luis ang ang loko. Gusto ng canton, ng computer. Mabilis ito,
lamesita, binalikan ni Luis sa isip tsinelas. Pinagpagan ang damit. gayong meron namang chicken nagmamadali, di mapakali sa
ang mga natutunan sa kolehiyo. Mag-iiwan sana siya ng note sa mami sa bahay. Daig pa ang dami ng gustong isatitik. Halos
Basic news writing – five w’s, asawa pero pupunta lang naman naglilihi. Kunsabagay, tungkol sa magpumiglas sa screen ang cursor
one h. Iniisa-isa ni Luis ang siya sa kalapit na convenience korapsyon ng abono at pataba para punuin ang blangkong
bawat elemento sa utak. What? store sa kanto. Yosi, kailangan sa lupa ang iniimbestigahan nila. dokumento. Pero, hindi ito
Namatay ang isang batikang radio niya ng yosi. Ni hindi na tumingin Nakakagutom nga naman ang nakaalis sa orihinal na puwesto.
broadcaster. Who? Edgar Bautista. si Luis sa salamin para mag-ayos. paksa. Dahan-dahang naghingalo ang
Where? Sa tapat ng eskuwelahan Tahimik na lang siyang lumabas maliit na linya sa computer,
ng anak niya, Ilagan Elementary ng bahay. Halos isang kilometro na lang hanggang sa maging tuldok na
School. When? Agosto 8, 2008. ang layo ni Luis sa convenience lamang ito, paliit nang paliit saka
Why? Tulog pa ang buong baranggay. store. Ginagabayan pa rin siya tuluyang naglaho. n
Pakiramdam ni Luis siya lang ang ng ilaw ng buwan sa paglalakad,
Natigilan si Luis sa paglalakad. gising, siya at ang namimintog pero di na niya ito napapansin.
Muntik na niyang matabig ang na buwan sa langit. Ang ganda Yosi lang ang kanyang nasa isip.
school bag ng anak sa lamesita. ng ilaw nito ngayong gabi. Yosi at ang one-thousand word
Why? Pinupunan ng malamlam na article na kailangan niyang
ilaw ang basag na bumbilya sa tapusin. Pagbalik niya sa bahay,
Bumalik siya sa desktop computer. ilang poste kaya hindi rin siya lilinisin niya ang nagkalat na upos
Kinapa niya ang pakete ng yosi nahirapang matunton ang daan at pinagkainan sa lamesita tapos
sa tabi ng mouse. Wala ng laman. niya. saka niya tatapusin ang di niya
Nilamukos niya ang pakete. maumpisahan. Mahirap na, baka
Binasag ng agresibo niyang Bumilis ang tibok ng puso ni pamarisan pa siya ng dalawang
paglamukos ang ngitngit ng Luis nang mamataan ang neon anak. Sa daan, hindi napansin
kalawanging electric fan. Hindi green na kulay ng convenience ni Luis ang paglangitngit ng
52 The Literary Apprentice 53

Desisyon Prelude to Redemption


Kaninang umaga much younger now
sa lilim ng tagpi-tagping langit we the poets
aking pinagmasdan ang tutubing of the brave new race
nakakapit  
sa dulo ng hubad na sangang killing each other
singnipis nito. with manufactured nuts
Lilipad ito, paalis, palayo and bolts
ngunit babalik at babalik din  
sa kanyang sanga, sa kanyang we are a generation
tuntungan. of serpent-tongues
and x y z
 
impatient
Alexandra Paredes with the oldspeak
of post&neo-modernism
 
our poems
consumable fast-foods
bonsaic
 
haunted by memories
of punctuations and histories
of metres and rhymes
 
we live our lives
in penthouses of Ivory Towers
54 The Literary Apprentice 55

reaching it through a backdoor


 
we are the shadows
of the elders we stabbed to death
chewed and spewed the pages of their soul
to paint Latchkey Child
a translucent image
of our selves It’s amazing how fingernails can tell stories, Mother.
  Remember when I was four or five,
to sign I saw a Gillette blade lying on the living room table.
our signatures in time That was the first time I saw one
and redeem our Adamhood and like any filthy child,
I had dirty nails then.
I thought to myself,
that blade must be one of those shiny things
Santiago Villafania big girls use
to make nails clean and pretty.
So while the maid was sweeping
the week’s memories out,
I made a new one,
slid the blade through my pinky nail.
The blood,
remember it Mother,
it’s not much
compared to the dustpan’s treasures that day.
But remember,
its sight damped my eyes and cheeks,
it wet the floor with saline longing.
The air, it became moist
with your absence.
And that’s why you couldn’t remember
the things you never know,
the memories
56 The Literary Apprentice 57

you missed.
But you should have seen
the house that afternoon, Mother.
Then again, you’d see
nothing
because the maid’s sweeping Lighter
must have invited emptiness in.
Minsan ako’y nakisindi
sa umaapoy mong pisngi.
Biglang-ningas pati tabi
Debbie Nieto at pinahaba ang gabi.

Pinaamoy pa nga kita


ng aking buntung-hinga,
at pinabilis ang kaba,
sinta’t sala’y pinag-isa.

Nakisalo sa ‘yong palad


papikit kong talukap
at sa kawalan nilatag
paglutang sa alapaap.

Noong akala’y ‘di sa abo


hantungan ng ating mundo,
nagpatintero sa sulo
duwag ay nagbalatkayo.

Ngunit kapwa na napudpod,


nagkahithitan ng lubos.
Alipato ang tumubos
sa tira mong puro upos.

Tinapos mo ang ligaya


58 The Literary Apprentice 59

ng huwad na nikotina.
Sa wala rin napunta
ang espasyong pinaupa.

At night he tiptoes
Carmina Jariel
                        toward the attic, 
lifts up the musty curtains, and 
peeks at the unreeling narrative
across his window It begins 
with the switching on 
of a lamp then, the emergence 
of two shadows behind 
the white drapery 
swallowed by light 

The story executes itself 


based on vantage points The boy
positions himself on a patch of light
streaming through the window 
and revels in the privilege of sight, 
the mere opportunity of intrusion
Across his window, the couple
performs the rituals which lead 
to that hard 
Fuck! 
           Fuck! 
                         Fuck! 
Each groan and grunt challenging 
the unsullied innocence of him
the sheer tenderness of him 
Silently, the boy claims his own narrative: 
60 The Literary Apprentice 61

the geography of crumples 


on his mother’s curtains, the road
of his body in which his hand
trudges on, the friction of his teeth
against the crescents of his lips
When Will God Be Sick
Meanwhile, behind the boy 
is a door left ajar, standing witness  One day, when God is already fed up
to the secret eye of the night The mother with the cries of aborted babies
stealthily containing herself  crawling into the limbo, He will permit
with the strangeness of the moment,  the fertilization of two sperm cells.
the ironic tingle within, the sin 
borne out of sight  Then I will not drool over
photos fusing the pixels
The next day, she serves him  of two faces, or the sight of
breakfast The previous images my cousins’ kids at play.
tightly sealed in her lips, like apples 
inside the boy’s lunchbox  Then I will not talk to nuns, or hunt
women renting out their uterus.
Later the school bus arrives 
The boy joins the pack, securing  Boy or girl, my child will be reared
his favorite seat He peeks both in dolls and trucks, and in words
through the bus window’s metal screen that resist rooms, boxes and walls.
He smiles The bus zooms The boy 
tightly grips on the metal bar  And before that, one day,
in front of him, avoiding a hard jolt,  I will meet another you.
avoiding a hard bump

Jezriel Mangalit
Oscar Serquina
62 The Literary Apprentice Maria EJ Pia Benosa 63

feeling sleepy, exhausted from the previous night.


Back in the company building, Human Resources was the
department nearest ours, Interior Design. Engineers almost never
stayed at the office and only came in for the occasional conferences
and demos, so that besides us there were only the draftsmen and
the big bosses themselves occupying the rest of the eighth floor and
consequently, participating in this out of town trip. On lazy days,
the girls at HR come over for coffee break with us at the meeting
Ferryboat Rides room, and eventually the boys joined in too—which is how I met
Alan, some five or six months ago.
Earlier that day one of his workmates, Gina, went up to me
before leaving the office. I was surrounded by four other girls—two
The sun was still up when we left Manila but already, according to the of them from Design, all giggling in a schoolgirl manner telling me
news, the rainstorm had arrived in most parts of the country. Still we they had booked Alan and me into one room. The wedding was
waited three hours under the heat in the wide parking space of the still a few months away and although I wasn’t trying to preserve an
cruise line terminal before boarding the ferryboat to Corregidor—all image of me veiled and dressed in white, basking in the fountain of
eighty-five of us dressed in brightly colored shirts that signified which purity, I would’ve been fine if they didn’t try to do this. I know they
teams we belonged to, with matching sun-visors. The bosses made probably thought they were being thoughtful and I appreciate that.
us stick name tags to our lapels, and mine read, “Hi, I’m Nikki!” It’s not like I’m not feeling great about having sex and being able
I had packed lightly, only a backpack for my clothes and a small to charge it to the company, but really, when you and your partner
messenger bag I can use outdoors. It was after we had been briefed have snuck into every cozy space in the office during the last ten
of our itinerary that I began worrying that maybe Alan was still not minutes of every lunch hour and are to be married soon, you’d yearn
up and that we would have to leave without him on the boat. I had to be whisked away by friends once in a while and be given that old
texted him thrice and called a few times but got no reply, add to that single lady feeling. It seemed to me that they already thought of me
the fact that he had already missed the three buses we took from the and Alan as married even if I still couldn’t pull him away from his
company to the docks this morning. I was about to call again when animated conversation with the HR and Logistics boys re-enacting
I saw him from across the grounds, just about to close the door of a Lebron’s moves. It even had to be one of the bosses to make a last call
taxicab, with a very big rucksack that could fit a poker table on his through the megaphone, so he’d finally pick up the sports bag he’d
back and at least two sports bags in his hands. left beside my own on the ground.
“Hi Hon,” he said, after a good feat of running, kissing me
lightly on the cheeks and tickling my tummy, and then moved on
to high-five Gino, one of the guys who worked with him at Human After passing through the waiting room with the check-in counter,
Resources. Alan began explaining how it took him so long and a employees of IJP and Associates, Inc. began boarding and filling in
few “Pare...” statements later, I managed to hear him say he was still the ferryboat, along with a couple of Japanese schoolchildren who
64 The Literary Apprentice Maria EJ Pia Benosa 65

were on a field trip. Alan and I were two of the last few people to get was okay and closed my eyes a bit. The people from our office were
our boarding passes, and upon exiting the room and stepping on the mostly twenty- and thirty-somethings, the oldest guys being the
wooden plank that served as a makeshift bridge to the boat, I felt managers who were not with us on the boat, but who had left a day
dizzy. It must have been the fishy smell or the weather. Thankfully earlier to prepare at the Island—so there was really no worry about
there were coast guard officers who led me on, with Alan stationed Alan and me being all over each other. Besides, it wasn’t like people
right behind me. Inside the boat the Design people were flocked didn’t know yet. I had hand-delivered wedding invitations to their
on the front rows, while again, thanks to the initiative of Gina and tables myself a week ago, also doing the layout and printing, and
the girls, I was relegated to seats at the back, one between Gino and come Friday night they popped open champagne for us.
Alan. The boat had not left the shore yet and talk stirred around us.
It was my first time on a boat. When I was a kid we always took Even the little boys on the upper deck, running and shouting in
planes to and from places, even when it was just between Manila their language, could be heard from our seats. How ironic I thought,
and Laoag, because my mother couldn’t stand buses and long car that we were going to Corregidor with them.
rides and while conceiving me in her twenties, had a very bad bout “What do you think are the tour guides going to tell those
with seasickness that left the rest of us in the family boat-resistant Japanese boys up there?” I asked Alan.
for years. A DVD on Corregidor Island was being played on the TV, “What?” he asked, stirred from his own napping.
giving historical bits on World War II, how the place looked then “I mean, what version of history are they going to learn there
and now, which places were worth visiting and how the cruise line today? Maybe this trip is not to learn anything about history at all,
was the only means of transport with daily trips there, also providing but just to pay respects to their heroic comrades who crossed the seas
options for larger groups on excursions, workshops, weddings and seventy years ago, and failed to return. God, if you think of what
other parties, and team building activities such as ours. the Japanese had done to us, those children shouldn’t be allowed in
Once seated, Gino immediately excused himself from all here these days anymore,” I whined. I had been looking forward to
conversation around him, announcing that he was going to take the activity for weeks, excited about the prospect of being in the real
whatever nap he could in the thirty-minute boat ride. Kim, Ria, ruins of a war, about going ghost-hunting with my friends, but with
Jess and Marco—my friends from Design—waved their hands at the weather and my condition it’s doubtless they won’t let me go.
me from the front row, and doing this together they looked kind of “Whatever, honey,” he replied, dismissing my whole statement
funny because the guys who were on the same team wore pink and at once, still with his eyes closed. I shrugged. Later on feeling my
the other two, yellow. It looked like they were going on a double dismay, he added, “If it makes you feel better, we should thank
date, except that being from Design, it really was just Jess and Marco, the Japanese for bringing in tofu.” I shrugged again, even harder
with the girls serving as chaperones. this time. I wanted to say that if there was anyone to thank for
I leaned my back on the seat and my head on Alan’s shoulder, tofu, it would be the Chinese, who were here before the war, before
while he, resting his head on mine as well, took my left hand and colonization, probably even before Pangaea split into continents—
kissed it. He asked if I was hungry because if I was he said he had but thought against it. He was trying to pull off some sleep and I was
some Sky Flakes and juice in his bag, only on one note, he thinks interrupting, anyway.
he had left it in one of the bags he deposited at check-in. I said it
66 The Literary Apprentice Maria EJ Pia Benosa 67

Seconds later a voice sounded from the P.A. system. It said we will be then, I still did not know that it was actually better to be standing
off the shore in a while and that the trip would take approximately up on boat rides. So you could see what you’re going up against and
twenty-seven minutes. I thought that was a good sign. I never knew you’re tummy would stop revolting, the captain would say later on
that Corregidor Island was just a few minutes from the city. If I had the P.A. as a friendly advice.
known earlier I would have even probably suggested to my dad to “Nothing,” he said. “It’s just that the boys and I were planning
hold the wedding there instead of Tagaytay, which was a good two on doing some things tonight.”
hours away from Manila and where traffic could be really bad in “Well honey, guess what, you can have all the porn you want
the summer. The DVD showed Corregidor in the sunset and the tonight,” I bit my lip, trying to look naughty. But he looked away,
pinkish sky looked really lovely. I was quite sure it would be alright mouthing “Whatever.”
with Daddy to bring in a few friends and relatives from Manila to I started feeling lightheaded and put the blame on the boat
Corregidor and back. After all it’s not like his unica hija would get which rocked sideways. It was like the feeling one gets at the pit of
to be married more than once. her stomach on roller coaster rides, only I really couldn’t shout hard
When the ferryboat started oscillating I put on my seatbelt here, just sigh aloud. Alan and I fell silent for a while, until it was ten
but I couldn’t reach Alan’s so I left it unlocked. He wasn’t going minutes into the boat ride and the captain spoke once again.
anywhere, anyway. Just then I heard a familiar voice cheering on, “To our dear passengers, we have received advisory from
giggling and wishing the trip well to whoever was available to listen. the Coast Guard in Corregidor. Within the day, reports from the
It was Gina, who had been sitting directly in front of us all along. weather council said it will be raining hard there and a Signal No. 3
She turned to me and while raising her eyebrows like she was giving storm is expected to ensue. If that happens and the rain doesn’t stop
a thumbs-up sign, smiled. I suddenly remembered how she broke soon, chances are, trips will be cancelled in the next few days and
some news to me earlier. your two-night stay might be extended. For the contingent from IJP,
“Hey, did you know that Corregidor is actually part of Cavite? we recommend that you contact the party that’s already in the Island
Not Bataan like the usual misconception,” I told Alan, happy about and decide whether to push through with the trip or not.” The voice
learning that bit of information from the DVD. He moaned in dozed off.
reply. I tried again. The response from the crowd was a bit diverse. Some were
“By the way, Hon, they put us in a room together,” I whispered complaining, the expression more noticeable in the band of women
in his ear. I let my mouth linger there a little, making sure that my who had left children at home. The others, Kim, Ria, Marco and Jess
hot breath would wake him up. “What do you say?” among them, were generally happy about an extended holiday. Alan
“What,” he exclaimed, “no!” He pulled away and rubbing a did not budge from his blank expression, still staring hard at the top
wrist on one eye, started to sit up, as if looking for whoever was in of Gina’s head. I wondered if this was an intended act or not.
charge of the room assignments or one of the boys. I asked him what “Are you okay?” I asked, touching his hand on the armrest with
was wrong. He did not respond. He tried to stand up but his vision my right.
must have been shaky because the boat had been moving westward “Yeah, yeah,” he said, lifting his hand and accidentally warding
for some time. my hand off. He put his arm back on the armrest and then to his
“Hey, sit down,” I told him. “The boat is moving already.” By tummy.
68 The Literary Apprentice Maria EJ Pia Benosa 69

“Do you feel like throwing up?” I asked again and just then, a “Oh, I wish it could be a month,” Jess replied, tugging at
lady officer came with some cotton balls and a bottle of Efficascent Marco’s cuffs.
Oil. Alan raised his hand and she immediately gave each of us in the I tried to laugh with them from afar, although I didn’t think
row a cotton ball. Alan put his directly to his nose and it must have they could see me from where we were seated. Alan was roused from
stung because his face jerked a little, and he coughed for a good two his sleep by the ruckus, while Gino, who had napped enough, also
minutes. rose. I began gathering my things, a bag and a jacket, and started
“You’re not supposed to sniff it like that,” I laughed. “Just do moving toward the direction of the door. From my periphery I could
it like this,” I put the cotton ball in front of my nose and made see Alan standing up following me. Some little Japanese boys had
circling motions, snuffling the scent slowly. The oil actually did calm also run to the door and before one of their instructors could hoist
my senses. Really, with a baby coming, you’d think it would be me them back up, I got to squeeze the cheek of one child with very cute,
feeling more nauseated. little eyes. Before running off, he grinned at me as if he was used to
It was at that point that he threw the cotton ball to the floor receiving the gesture. I had already turned my face back to Alan,
and faced the aisle instead, which was to his left. I pulled away just as whom I wanted to share the moment with, but he was looking away
he was standing up, following the captain’s advice. We were roughly at the scenery outside through the wide windows, and the moment
eight minutes from the Corregidor shore, but not having once stood had left me fast. So fast in fact, that only in the night while I read
up and not wanting to look at an empty but blue landscape, I felt my paperback, alone in the hotel suite, did I remember the sweet
like the boat ride was taking forever. The stairs to the upper deck kid with little eyes.
were right behind us and Alan had wanted to go up, but I heard him
being stopped by a boat official saying he couldn’t go to the outer
deck anyway, because it was already raining. He slammed a fist on I only picked up on the idea of rain being real big droplets falling
the armrest upon returning to his seat and pulled his blue sun-visor from the skies when, as the doors of the ferryboat were being drawn
with the company name and the words ‘Blue Team’, as if it couldn’t from the outside, some of my officemates eager to be the first to
get any more obvious, over his eyes, feigning sleep. step on dry land had to stand back to avoid getting wet. I put on
my jacket, waiting for Alan to prop up the hood over my head, but
he didn’t, and instead just stood there, scratching his earlobe and
Minutes later there was a brief rumbling from below the boat. People yawning. If this was still about rooming together, then I thought
were clapping their hands like they were expatriates from an OFW why could he not simply ask to spend the night crashing wherever
flight, the others still busy taking pre-arrival photos that would be the boys will be staying. Annoyed, I rushed to the newly emptied
uploaded to their personal websites later on. My friends from Design line on the exit without worry of getting wet, and let myself be led
rushed to the doors and were chatting loudly, happy that the bosses outside by two boat officers, one holding my hand and cautioning
who were already in the island decided to push through with the me about the plank and the other, a female, holding an umbrella
activity. over my head.
“Imagine being stranded at the Corregidor Inn for three days, Outside there were fiesta-themed trams waiting for us.
free of charge!” Marco exclaimed. I had expected an expanse of beach but what we landed on was
70 The Literary Apprentice 71

paved ground and a whole parking space filled with vehicles—an elsewhere to find room for breathing. Also, it was on days like these
assortment of owner-type jeepneys, motorcycles, and bicycles. There that one is bound to get the fear that once there, the only things that
were few cars. I ran to one of the trams at once, not really caring would be around to welcome you are ruins—ghosts of the past that
about being drenched or leaving behind the officer who had been are new to every visitor, not quite dead, but nevertheless dead.
assisting me, only wishing that we could drive off immediately to
the hotel so I could lie down and rest on soft sheets. With the smell
of the rain all around me, I felt like the contents of my stomach had
been turned. It was only then, therefore, after being seated, that I Maria EJ Pia Benosa
felt like something was trapped inside my tummy, and it wanted to
get thrown out.
I did not get a chance to see the mountains from afar, nor
bothered to take photos even with my phone. I was glad that Kim,
Ria, Jess, Marco and the other people from Design followed me,
running also, worried that I ran alone in the rain and joined me in
the tram. Unlike the picturesque sunset featured in the video we saw
at the boat and which I had expected to see upon arrival, the most
salient image of the island I had instead was that of a lone waiting
shed from across the parking grounds. It was the only thing I could
see from the bus, what with the heavy jostling of people, the rain, the
haughty tour guide already speaking on a karaoke machine—only
a waiting shed with the words ‘WELCOME TO CORREGIDOR
ISLAND’ painted in white against the rustic brown of the roof,
water dripping on all sides, drenched and defeated, but unmoved,
indifferent.
I shot a look at Jess and Marco who were sitting behind us
girls—no, not even a day’s stay here would do me or the baby any
good. I wanted to return to the boat right then, to come back to
where I came from, where my real family was waiting, never too busy
to take care of their only daughter and sister. Looking at the waiting
shed, I realized what a bad idea it was to want to hold a wedding in
that place. The island was vulnerable to even the slightest change in
the weather, and because it was so disconnected from the rest of the
world, one might feel as though he was being trapped, suffocated
by the vastness of the blue seas surrounding him—unable to go
72 The Literary Apprentice 73

Precipice
Judd Willis

Down towards the ground


^
^

__________

_ ___
Out of my mind

_ _
___
X
Up the ladder And into oblivion
74 The Literary Apprentice 75

under my bed.

And I’m thinking


of throwing it out.

Wilting

I know you saw Leirald Reyes


the glow on my face
when you gave me
a dozen roses
on my birthday.

And how I gasped


in surprise
at the six red roses
you shyly handed me
on Christmas Eve.

And the smile


three roses
on Valentine’s Day
brought to my lips.

But the single red rose


on our anniversary
made me pause
and think.

Of course, I like it.


It’s just that I now have
A whole box of
wilting petals
76 The Literary Apprentice U Eliserio 77

na ito kaysa noong isinumite n’ya ilang linggo na ang nakalilipas.


Parang nilamutak. “Nabasa ko na, sabi ko naman sa ‘yo. Tatlong
araw lang ang lampas. Marami akong comments, pero hindi lahat
nasulat ko. Kaya bang magrecord ng mp3 player mo? Sasabihin ko
na lang ngayon.”
“Wala po akong mp3 player, Sir.”
“Talaga?” Nagduling-dulingan ito’t tumitig sa kanya. “Sigurado
ka? Kasi kahapon, nakita kita e. Kasama mo si Miss Chua, sa coffee
Alethea shop. Magkadikit pa nga ulo n’yo...”
“Kay Miss Chua po ‘yun, Sir.” Kahapon? Gabi na sila pumunta
sa cafe a, at di naman n’ya nakita ito. “Ayos lang, Sir, sabihin n’yo
po, isusulat ko.”
1. “Meron kaya. Si Aton-Re.” Tumayo si Sir JB, tumalikod at kinalikot ang aircon. Uminit.
“Ang diyos na lumikha sa lahat sa pamamagitan ng pagsasalsal, Nanatili itong nakatayo. “Sige, simulan natin.”
si Aton-Re.” Halos isang oras ang itinatagal ng pagsasalita nito. Sa simula’y
“Oo!” humingi pa ng klaripikasyon si Susie, pero nang mapansing nawawala
“Ulol, at hindi ko halatang anagram lang ‘yun ng pangalan sa paksa ang guro pag ginagawa n’ya ito, nagsulat na lang s’ya ng
mo?” asterisk sa bawat puntong di n’ya ma-gets. Mula kuwit hanggang
Umubo si Susie. Malakas. Tatlong minuto na s’yang hindi method of citation hanggang paggamit n’ya ng mga salitang Tagalog,
pinapansin ng kanyang adviser. binusisi nito. Dapat talaga research na lang at hindi creative output
“Teka, Aton-Re... Oo nga ‘no? Pero kahit na, totoo pa rin. ang ginawa n’yang thesis.
Palibhasa kasi, puro Hollywood ang laman ng utak mo.” “O, buhay ka pa? Wag kang mamatay sa kaboringan. ‘Di ba
“Sir? Sir?” born again ka? Wag kang made-dead again.” Sa wakas ay umupo na
Lumiwanag ang mukha ni Sir JB. “Susie! Andyan ka pala!” ito.
Tumayo ito, saka umupo ulit. “Upo ka, upo ka.” Tumingin ito sa Ngumiti lang si Susie. Hindi talaga n’ya dapat ipinaalam sa
kaibigan. “Hoy, Aton-Re, pwede bumalik ka muna sa pigeon hole kanyang adviser ang pagsali n’ya sa Crusaders for Christ. “Buhay pa
mo? Pag-uusapan namin ang thesis ni Susie.” po, Sir.”
“Cubicle, ulol.” Kinindatan s’ya nito. “Mag-ingat ka d’yan, “Mabuti, mabuti. Huli na ‘to. ‘Yun lang sa huling kwento mo.
Miss dela Rocha. Pag may ginawang mali, sumigaw ka lang, tanggal Ehem.” Binulatlat nito ang kanyang manuscript. “Dito, page 187.
agad ‘yan sa trabaho.” Ang nakasulat, ‘And when he entered me, it felt like a jokulhaups.’
Ngumiti lang si Susie. Inilabas n’ya ang kanyang ballpen at Ehem. Ano ‘yung jokulhaups?”
notebook. Tinusok-tusok ni Susie ang kanyang mga darili gamit ang
Inilabas naman ni Sir JB ang kanyang manuscript. Mas makapal kanyang mga kuko. “Sir?” Ayaw n’yang insultuhin ito.
“Hindi ko talaga alam, wag ka nang mahiya. Walang problemang
78 The Literary Apprentice U Eliserio 79

meron kang alam na hindi ko alam.” kinakalikot. Hindi ko alam, init-lamig ang pakiramdam ko.
“Sir, ‘yung jokulhaups po, ‘yun ‘yung pag may pumutok na Kailangan kong balansehin kundi magkakasakit ako. Oy, nasa Bible
bulkan sa loob ng glacier.” Mula panunusok sa sarili, napunta s’ya sa ‘yon di ba? Idudura ka ni Jesus pag lukewarm ka?” Hinarap s’ya
pagkakamot, mula braso hanggang leeg. “Sir.” nito, inabot ang manuscript. “E-mail mo sa akin pag nagawa mo na
“At sa tingin mo, ‘yun ang pakiramdam ng sex?” ‘yung sinabi kong gawin mo. I-track changes mo, para madali kong
Tumango si Susie. “Parang ano, Sir, parang... metaphor.” ma-check. I-text na lang kita pag ayos na. Pwede mo nang ipa-bind,
“Metaphor. Ganito kasi,” nangungulangot ito, “sige, hindi ‘di ba?”
naman ako babae. Hindi ko alam kung ano ang pakiramdam ng, Bumigat ang backpack ni Susie. “Salamat po, Sir.”
alam mo na. Pero, ‘yung jokulhaups, parang, ‘di ko maintindihan. “Salamat din. Madaya talaga kayo dito sa LB. Kami, kahit na
Masyadong exotic. Ganito, tanggalin mo na lang ‘yung eksenang creative work, meron pa ring defense. Iwo-workshop ka na ng mga
‘yan. Bakit ba kasi may sex sa kwentong ito?” di naman manunulat, apat na kopya pa ang kailangan mong ipa-
“Honeymoon” ang pamagat ng kwentong iyon. “Sir, ano po xerox.” Naglabas ito ng selepono. “O, pa’no, email mo ASAP.”
kasi ‘yan, tungkol sa pagpapakasal ng matandang dalaga.” “Bye, Sir.”
“Oo nga, oo nga. Kasal, so wala na lang sex. Ano bang klaseng
born again ka?” Tumawa ito, kakalog-kalog ang tiyan. “Oy, joke 2. Tinext n’ya si Nina paglabas ng Department. Sinalubong
lang. Ano lang kasi, write what you know, ‘di ba?” s’ya nito sa harap ng New Humanities Building. Nakauniporme ito,
Tumango si Susie. “Ayos lang, Sir. So, tanggalin ko na lang itim na t-shirt, itim na pantalon, itim na sapatos. Inilabas nito ang
po?” kanang sakong. “O, sinuot ko ha?”
“Oo, oo. ‘Di naman essential. Tsaka, ‘di biswal e, di makukuha “Mabuti naman.” Pasko pa binigay ni Susie ang mga medyas,
ng mambabasa. Ang sex scene dapat suggestive, hindi graphic.” pero ngayong Pebrero lang ginamit ni Nina. Kundi pa s’ya nag-
“Hindi naman po graphic a.” frowning face sa text, malamang natutulog pa rin ang mga ito sa
“Pero hindi rin suggestive. Masyado ka yatang nahumaling sa loob ng drawer nila sa boarding house.
iceberg ni Hemingway. Kaso, wala nang tip. Lubog lahat. Tsaka, isa “Coffee Bends tayo?”
pa, ibang-iba ang kwentong ito. ‘Di ba ang prose model mo, si C.S. “Ano?” Nahulog ni Susie ang kanyang selepono.
Lewis? Iba ‘to. Wala ‘yung allegory-ek na sinasabi mo sa introductory “Kako,” sabi ni Nina, sabay pulot, tas abot. “Mocha Blends
essay.” tayo.”
Lumang kwento na ang “Honeymoon.” First year pa lang “Salamat.” Isinuksok n’ya ito sa kanyang backpack. “’Yan ba
n’ya ito isinulat. Bata pa s’ya noon, gusto pa ng adventure. Hindi talaga sinabi mo?”
naman n’ya talaga ito dapat isasama, pero nakita n’ya sa external “Oo naman.” Inakbayan s’ya ni Nina. “Ano pa ba ang sasabihin
hard drive n’ya. Sayang naman. Isa ito sa mga unang pagtatangka ko?”
n’yang magsulat ng fiction. “Sige, Sir, tanggalin ko na lang po. Wala “Ewan.” Tinanggal ni Susie ang braso ng babae sa kanyang
naman pong problema sa minimum page requirement?” balikat. “Ibang pangalan?”
“Wala, ano ka ba? Lampas one hundred ka na e.” Tumayo “Joe’s? Ang layo naman ng tunog.” Niyakap ni Nina ang sarili.
ito, hinarap muli ang aircon. “Pasensya ka na, kanina ko pa ‘to “Kahit saan. Basta may kape. Gusto mo nga? Aral tayo, dinner.”
80 The Literary Apprentice U Eliserio 81

“Lakad na lang muna tayo. Pagdating sa gate, sabihin ko sa isang sem. Alam mo alam ko naman ‘yung combination sa lock mo
‘yo, ha?” e, pero di ko binubuksan. Alam ko ‘yung password mo sa laptop,
“Sa harap ng Dev Comm.” pero di ko tinitignan. Pabasa na, please?”
“Sa harap ng Dev Comm.” “Libre mo pati dinner?”
Tahimik s’ya sa kanilang paglalakad. Malamig ang simoy ng Hinawakan ni Nina ang kamay n’ya. Mula nang may
hangin. Pinanood lang ni Susie ang kanyang paligid, iniisip n’ya masagasaan sa tapat ng Olivares di na sila makatawid ng kalsada
si Sir JB. Sa damuhan, may mga frat na naglalaro ng sipa. Walang nang di nito hinahawakan ang kamay n’ya. “Pati dinner, sige.”
lamang ang mga jeepney, Miyerkules, patay na araw. Pag Linggo, o Sa Lieberstraum, si Nina ang umorder. Umupo sila sa favorite
Lunes, dagsa ang mga tao sa pagdating. Pag Huwebes, dagsa ang mga spot nila, sa tapat ng bintanang salamin na may falls. Walang
tao sa pagpunta sa mga bar. Pag Byernes, dagsa ang mga tao pauwi. ibang customer kundi isang lalakeng panay ang tingin sa relo. Si
Kung ang Linggo at Lunes ay lungkot, at ang Huwebes at Biyernes Sitti ang kumakanta. Dapat sa Coffee Bends talaga sila pumunta.
ay saya, ang Myerkules ay—blah. Kahit para sa kanya. Martes ang Coffee Bends? Mocha Bends. Mocha Blends. Ano ba ‘to? Hanggang
meeting nila sa Crusader’s. Nauunang nang kaunti si Nina. Galit? madaling araw kasi ‘yung Jesus Freak Night kagabi. Night nga e.
“Wala ka bang napapansin?” “Okay na ‘tong... chocolate ewan?” Sa harap n’ya umupo si
Tumigil si Nina, lumuhod para magtirintas. “Sa ating Nina, hindi sa tabi. Hindi n’ya alam kung ano ang mas gusto n’ya,
kapaligiran?” o ang mas hindi n’ya ayaw. “‘Yung club sandwich isusunod na lang
“Oo,” sabi ni Susie, “oo.” Tumayo s’ya sa tabi nito. “Parang, daw.”
ewan, weird. Parang nagflafluctuate ang ilaw.” “Chocolate ewan? Alam na alam mo a. Parati ka ba sa coffee
“Fluorescent o incandesent? Nasa labas tayo, Sus.” shop?” Inilabas ni Susie ang kanyang manuscript. “Ikaw, nasaan
“’Yung araw.” Tumingin s’ya sa mga ulap. “Baka mamaya, ‘yung ‘yung sa ‘yo?”
buwan? Iba ang dating ng ilaw. Ng kulay.” “Club sandwich din, isusunod din.”
Tumayo na sa wakas si Nina. Inakbayan s’ya nito. “Baka kasi, “‘Yung coffee mo?”
kasama mo ako.” “Coke lang a. Sabi ko, isabay dun sa pagkain. Iinit kasi. Alam
Hindi na tinanggal ni Susie ang braso. “Hindi. May iba. Jino- mo ‘yun, pag inoohan nila ‘yung drinks. Na malamig. Pag kape,
joke mo ako, pero may iba.” Ilang hakbang pa ay nasa tapat na sila ayaw, okay lang. Dapat talaga palamigin. O, akin na.”
ng Dev Comm. “Sa ano tayo, sa, ano ‘to? Lieberstraum.” Hinaplos ni Susie ang spinal column nitong ring bind. “Mag-
“Libre mo?” promise ka muna, wag mong lalaitin.” Tinikman n’ya ‘yung chocolate
“Ikaw kaya nagyaya!” ewan. Malamig na ito. Dapat nagtabi sila ni Nina.
“Pero ikaw ang graduating!” Pinindot nito ang ilong n’ya. “Promise.”
“’Tungki’?” “Pero wag mo ‘kong bobolahin, sabihin mo ‘yung totoong
“Tungki.” Dilaw ang ngiti ni Nina, maputla ang kanyang mga opinyon mo.”
labi. “Sige, libre ko. Pero... patingin ng manuscript!” “Okay.”
“E...” “Promise!”
“Isang taon mo na ‘yang tinatago sa ‘kin. Isang taon ha, hindi Kinuha na ito ni Nina. “Promise.” Nagpalit ito ng boses,
82 The Literary Apprentice U Eliserio 83

nagpuntong Briton. “All Men are Gay, All Women are Feminists, But nakilala si Pastor. Nu’ng una nilang heart to heart talk. Tulad ng
Some of Us are Writers.” Bumalik ito sa normal na boses, ‘yung parang ibang Crusaders, via cell s’ya narecruit. At tulad ng iba, nakipagusap
tililing ng sorbetero. “Wow, parang naghahanap tayo ng away, hindi muna s’ya kay Pastor bago pumunta sa Jesus Freak Night.
kaya?” Mainit ang kape, at ang buong office. Gabi na kasi, patay ang
“Kaysa naman ‘yung kay Pompom, ‘no? Ano Tao?” air-con para makatipid. May electric fan nga, pero para namang
“Ano Daw?” kakarag-karag na jeepney. Naglabas ng panyo si Susie. May dasal ng
“Ano Tao? Tao, as in Tao te Ching. Anti-New Age daw kasi.” El Shaddai. Bigay ng Mama n’ya. Mabilis s’yang nagpahid ng pawis
“Si Pompom ‘yung... taga-Christ?” sa noo, saka ibinalik ito sa backpack.
“Taga-Crusaders.” Kinurot n’ya ang braso nito. “Ikaw talaga. Nakaupo si Pastor sa tapat n’ya. May katabing King James
Isa pa ha?” Version ng Bible ang kanilang mga baso.
“Crusaders, Crusaders, Crusaders for Christ. Isa pang promise, “Kanina andito si... Sino nga ba? Friend mo. Miss... Si Miss
lagi nang tama ang pangalan.” Chua?”
“Good.” Hinapan n’ya ang chocolate ewan. Ano nga ba ‘to? “Si Pompom, Pastor?”
“Well, basahin mo na.” “Yes, yes. Pompom. Such a strange name. Kanina andito s’ya,
“Hintayin muna natin ‘yung pagkain. Pag binasa kita ng sa dinner session s’ya ng Bible study dumating. Such a strange name,
gutom, pa’no ako susuka?” bakit ko ba laging nakakalimutan? Ano ulit ang full name n’ya?
“Ang sama mo!” Tumayo s’ya, pormang hahablutin ang Pomelo. Yes, yes, Pomelo. May kapatid s’ya, right, strange name too?
manuscript. Orange?” Tinungga nito ang kape.
Hinalikan s’ya ni Nina. Hindi sa ilong. “Dalandan?” Nagkamot ito ng bigote. “Suha?”
“Cheer po, Pastor.”
3. Inbox full na ang selepono n’ya. Alas onse na pero wala pa “Cheer, yes. Ano ba ang mga pangalan ngayon, ‘no? Nakwento
s’ya sa boarding house. Siguradong papagalitan s’ya ni Mrs... Mrs... ko na ba sa ‘yo kung bakit Boy ang pangalan ko?”
Ano nga bang pangalan ng landlady nila? Ano bang nangyayari? “Hindi pa, Pastor.” Narinig na ni Susie ang kwento, pero gusto
Pagkatapos n’yang makausap si Sir JB bumaliktad na ang mundo. n’yang marinig ito mula sa Pastor.
Black na ang white, up na ang down. Sa ginawa ni Nina, akala n’ya “Kasi, ‘yung generation ng parents ko, may palabas noon sa TV.
babaliktad ang baliktad, at magiging ayos ang lahat. Imbes, nabitin Tarzan. Pinangalanan ni Jane, ‘yung asawa ni Tarzan, pinangalanan
sa pagbangon at pagkahulog. Kaya ang black, gray. Ang white, red. n’ya ‘yung anak nila. Ayaw ni Tarzan sa pangalan, sabi n’ya, sabay
Ang up, sideways. turo sa anak, ‘Boy, Boy.’ Kaya, ito ako. Boy. May Tito Boy ka ba?”
Sa office s’ya ng Crusaders napadpad. Nasa top floor ito ng “Uncle po. Opo.” Uminom si Susie ng kape. Mapait, parang
V-Mall. Ten s’ya dumating, marami pang tao. Pero ngayon, sila na halik ng smoker. Naalala pa n’ya ‘yun? Laging nasa utak n’ya ang first
lang ni Pastor Sayson. Malakas ang radar nito, na-gets kahit wala year high school.
s’yang sinasabi na gusto n’yang makipagusap. Tahimik lang ito nu’ng “May problema, Susie?” Tumayo ito. “Pwede ba sa ‘yong
Bible study, pero pagkatapos nag-alok ito ng kape. Kape, walang patayin ko ‘tong electric fan? Ang lamig kasi e.”
asukal, walang cream. Nakainom na si Susie nito, nu’ng una n’yang “Okay lang po, Pastor.” Sasabihin ba n’ya? Ano ba ang sasabihin
84 The Literary Apprentice U Eliserio 85

n’ya? “Pastor... ‘Yung adviser ko po kasi.” sa office. Tumabi ito sa kanya, hindi n’ya ito pinansin.
Bumalik si Pastor sa pagkakaupo sa sofa. Biege ang kulay nito, Namatay si Susie. Ibubulsa na n’ya ang selepono nang kunin ito
parehas ng polo n’ya. “Go on.” ni Pastor. Nahawakan nito ang kanyang mga darili. “Nice cellphone.
“Kasi po... Minsan po kasi, nasosobrahan ang jokes n’ya. Mga Ito ba ‘yung may TV?”
patama po. Jokes tungkol sa pagiging born again ko. Innuendoes. Pumindot si Susie ng dalawang buttons. Napalitan ang picture
Double entendres. Pag nagko-consult ako tungkol sa thesis ko, ng Mama n’ya ng static. “Wala pong reception, Pastor.”
napupunta lagi ang usapan sa religion. Sa religion ko. Meron s’yang Pumindot ito ng dalawang buttons, ibinalik ang selepono kay
anti-Christian fetish.” Susie. “Wala nga.” Bumalik ito sa katapat na sofa. “Now, tama na
“Or Christian fetish.” ‘yung sa adviser mo. Tell me your true problems.” Nilagok nito ang
“Po?” kape. “Is it Pompom?”
“He likes Christians, kaya he teases you about it. He’s flirting “Pastor?”
with you.” “You cringed kanina, when I was making fun of her name.
“Po?” Gusto mong ulitin ko?”
“Are you, Susie?” “No need. Po. No need po.”
“Nakikipag-flirt?” “Very well, then. We’re not Catholics, pero you have to confess.
“No, no. Are you truly born again?” Is it Pompom?”
“Pastor?” May nahulog na pawis sa kape n’ya. “It’s this other girl. And Pompom.”
Nagsimulang kumanta ang pantalon ni Pastor. “Lord I Offer
My Life to You.” Tumayo ito at inilabas ang selepono. “Hello? O, 4. Naaalala pa n’ya ang first kiss n’ya. Una n’yang Camp Out.
buhay ka pa? Sandali lang.” Tumingin ito kay Susie. “Just give me Sa St. Mary’s. Sa Quezon City. First time n’yang matulog nang hindi
five seconds, okay? D’yan ka lang, d’yan ka lang.” Lumabas ito ng sa Laguna. Ayaw na n’yang alalahanin ang pangalan nu’ng girl.
opisina. Alam pa n’ya, pero kahit banggitin ayaw n’ya. Smoker kasi ‘to. Taga-
Dapat s’ya na lang ang lumabas. Dapat umuwi na s’ya. Kinuha ibang section, sa Camp Out lang n’ya nakilala. Text nang text ang
n’ya ang kanyang selepono mula sa backpack. Two bars na lang Mama n’ya, pero hindi ito ang messages na gusto n’yang matanggap.
ang baterya nito, limang missed calls. Di na n’ya tiningnan kung Malapit na ang luneversary nila, pero hindi alam ni Susie ang status
kaninong number. Minsan nakikihiram si Nina ng selepono, o kaya nila ng boyfriend n’ya.
bumibili ng sim, trick para sagutin n’ya, kasi unregistered number ‘Yung boyfriend n’ya, ‘yon, di na n’ya maalala ang pangalan.
ang tumatawag. ‘Yung girl, ‘yung girl na smoker, s’ya rin, may problema sa love
Naglaro s’ya ng Snake. Dati, ito ang laging libangan n’ya. Pag life. Panay din ang tingin nito sa cellphone. Cellphone pa ang gamit
di s’ya makapagsulat. Pag late si Nina, o si Pompom, o si Sir JB. n’yang salita noon. Si Pompom lang naman ang nagturo sa kanya ng
Magaling s’ya sa Snake. One time buong screen napuno n’ya sa haba selepono. Cellphone! Nakakatawa. Ang tagal na ‘nun. May glasses
ng Snake. pa s’ya noon.
Kalahating screen na ang haba nito, wala pa rin si Pastor. Sa dinner sila nagkakilala ng girl, nanghihiram ito ng charger
Malapit na n’yang mapuno ang screen nang bumalik si Pastor sa iba’t ibang mesa. Si Susie lang ang nagpahiram. Pagkatapos ng
86 The Literary Apprentice U Eliserio 87

dinner, pagkatapos ng prayers, pagkatapos ng games, nagkita sila sa white board. What is sex. “What is sex? Ganito, class, a, what is
sa may hagdanan. Sa second floor. Aaligid-aligid ang mga madre at sex?”
teachers, pero sa camp fire ang focus nila. Nakapagsigarilyo ‘yung Hagikhikan ang naging sagot.
girl sa may fire alarm. “Seryoso, seryoso. What is sex?”
Nagkukwento si Susie tungkol sa boyfriend n’ya nang mag- Maraming nagtaas ng kamay. Maraming sumagot na lang.
ring ang cellphone n’ya. Agad n’ya itong inilabas, at nang makitang Making love. Pagsisiping. Pagtatalik. Pagniniig. Penetration.
unregistered number ang tumatawag, agad na sumagot. Mama n’ya “Penetration? Are you sure?”
ito. Galit na galit kasi hindi s’ya nagte-text. Naghahanap ng madreng “Bakit Sir?” Hindi na nakatiis si Susie. Hindi s’ya ang sumagot
makakausap para bantayan s’ya. ng penetration, pero gusto n’yang ipaalala sa teacher na humingi s’ya
Katakot-takot na sorry para lang hindi s’ya mapahiya. Inisip ng paliwanag at hindi pa ito nabibigay. “Syempre po kailangan ng
n’ya, kung itutuloy ng Mama n’ya ang paghahanap sa madre, penetration.” Penetration? Ang tagal na nun!
pakikiusapan n’ya ‘yung girl na magpanggap. “O, o. Walang mao-offend ha? Be mature. Ang pag-uusap
Si Nina, magaling sa impersonations. Pero di s’ya natin tungkol sa sex ay dapat mature at scientific. ‘Yung mga virgin
nagpapanggap. d’yan, please, wag n’yo ‘kong idemanda.”
Pagkatapos n’yang ibulsa ang cellphone, umupo s’ya sa tabi Nagtawanan ang mga kaklase n’ya. Mature ang pronunciation
nung girl. Pinatay na nito ang sigarilyo, nakikinig na lang sa radyo ni Sir JB sa mature. Nag-ayos ng upo si Susie.
sa cellphone. Doon lang s’ya, nakatabi dun sa girl. “Ganito, ganito. Sex pa ba kung... walang halikan—sa likod?”
“Take off your glasses,” sabi nito. Sumunod si Susie. “Close “Opo,” sagot ng lahat.
your eyes.” Sumunod s’ya. “E kung... walang halikan—sa lips?”
‘Yon ang first kiss n’ya. Lasang sigarilyo. Nasubo n’ya ang lahat, Kumunti ang umupo.
lips, teeth, pati tongue nu’ng girl. “E kung walang yakapan? E kung walang salita? E kung walang
Inaya s’yang umakyat nu’ng girl sa third floor. May sofa dun, penetration? E kung meron lahat pero hindi sila nagtitinginan? E
sabi nito. Alam ni Susie. Sabay nilang nakita nang magpalaro ang kung meron lahat pero walang amuyan?”
mga madre ng taguan. Tumayo ‘yung girl. Hinalikan s’ya sa pisngi. Pati si Susie nakisama sa tawa. Pero hindi pa rin n’ya
“Aakyat ako,” sabi nito. “Hihintayin kita. Sunod ka ha?” maintindihan ang kinalaman nito sa Pile Paradox, at kung ano ba
Hindi sumunod si Susie. talaga ang paradox na ‘to.
Naaalala n’ya, noong first year s’ya, noong una n’yang maging “Therefore, class, I conclude, sex does not exist. At ‘yan ang
teacher si Sir JB. Introduction to Philosophy, at ang topic sa araw dahilan kung bakit English graduate ang nagtuturo ng Philo class
na iyon ay paradoxes. Hindi n’ya maintindihan kung ano ang Pile n’yo.”
Paradox, kung paano ito naging paradox, at kung bakit tuwang-tuwa Nagtaas s’ya ng kamay pero iba ang nagsalita. “E, Sir, ano bang
si Sir JB dito, pwede raw kasi itong pambara sa nationalists, activists, kinalaman nun sa discussion natin?” Galing sa likod ang boses.
feminists. Humingi ng klaripikasyon si Susie. “A, e. O sige, wag nang sex. What is love na lang?”
“A. Ganito,” sabi ni Sir JB, “siguro ang off lang kasi ng mga Nagtawanan ang lahat.
halimbawa ko, ‘no? Sa topic na lang na gusto n’yo.” Nagsulat ito Nilingon ni Susie ang kaklaseng nagtanong. Ka-wave length!
88 The Literary Apprentice 89

May ka-wave length s’ya! kung ano ang naka-indicate na esitmated time? Nine hours. Nine
hours! Andun na e. Andun na. Sa simula nga, ang nakasulat, two
5. Si Pompom ang kaklaseng ‘yon. days e. Pero bumilis nang bumilis. Pero kahit gaano kabilis ‘yung
Si Pompom ang katabi n’ya sa kama ngayon. connection, sa nine hours na s’ya nag-stop nang pagbabasa ng
Kahit suot-suot ang kanyang jacket, nanginginig si Susie. estimated time. Gets mo?”
Nangangatog ang kanyang mga ngipin. Malamig siguro ang Malamig. Malamig na malamig. “Hindi.”
pakiramdam n’ya dahil wala s’yang suot na medyas. “You cunt.” Isinuksok ni Pompom ang mga kamay sa pantalon
Si Pompom nakasuot ng medyas. At sando. Medyas at sando ni Susie.
lang. S’ya ang nagtanggal ng pajama at panty nito. Si Pompom ang May sumabog sa loob n’ya. Parang jokulhaups. Init mula sa
nagtanggal ng kanyang bra at t-shirt. Huhubaran na sana s’ya nito kanyang puke at mga kamay ni Pompom, tinunaw nito ang kanyang
nang lubusan pero pinigil n’ya. Tumigil s’ya sa paghalik. Malamig tyan, ang kanyang mga hita, ang kanyang dibdib, ang kanyang mga
na malamig at gusto n’yang yakapin si Pompom, pero kailangan binti. Tinunaw ng init ang buo n’yang katawan, mula pinky ng
n’yang tiising kaharap lang muna ito. Hanggang hindi pa klaro ang kanyang mga paa hanggang tungki ng kanyang ilong.
kanyang isip. Madilim sa kwarto ni Pompom, at sa utak n’ya naroon “Pom...”
si Nina. “Yes?” Hinalikan s’ya nito sa leeg. Sa batok, sa shoulders.
“Sorry ha?” sabi ni Susie. “Please, wag kang magalit. Magsalita Hindi na s’ya nakapantalon. “Pom, I have to go.”
ka naman o.” Tunaw pa ang kanyang mga tuhod nang takpan n’ya ulit ang
“Anong sasabihin ko?” Hinaplos nito ang kanyang pisngi. mga ito ng pantalon. Muntik na s’yang madapa habang nagsusuot
“Kahit ano. Basta magsalita ka, please?” ulit ng t-shirt, wala nang matigas sa mundo, lahat malambot.
Naglaro ang pinky nito sa kanyang mga labi. “Alam mo, nu’ng Tinignan n’ya ang kanyang selepono. Alas dose y media. Iba na
una kaming magka-dsl, excited na excited ako. Trekkie ako, di ba? ang ngayon sa kahapon. Pero may nanatiling pareho. Sa isang tao
Tulad ni Dad. At napanood ko, all of the episodes ng Original Series, lang n’ya gusto i-share ang magiging experience n’ya. Magaan ang
pati Next Generation. At lahat ng pelikula, pwera isa. First Contact. backpack, tumigil s’ya sa may pintuan.
Wow, swak na swak. Anyway, nagsearch ako sa Amazon, plano ko “Susie,” sabi ni Pompom.
na lang orderin, pero apparently hindi s’ya in stock. Dalawang taon, “Pom?”
nakakainis, ano ba raw ang problema sabi ni Dad. Movie naman “’Yung bra ko yata ang nasuot mo.”
daw. Next Generation crew pa. Pero, kilala mo ako, completist ako. Tuloy-tuloy lang palabas ng kwarto si Susie. Sa kusina, nadatnan
So, as soon as makapag-dsl kami, yeah, sobrang bagal makakuha n’ya sa mesa ang kanyang manuscript. At si Nina, umiinom ng kape.
ng koneksyon, muntik ko nang patayin ‘yung call center agent, Hinila n’ya ito papunta sa kanilang kwarto.
pati ‘yung nag-install. Anyway, the first thing I did, hinanap ko sa
Internet para ma-download. E di ko pa alam ‘yung torrent-torrent
na ‘yan, ‘no? Gusto ko nang sapakin ‘yung monitor. Pero sa wakas,
may nagturo sa akin. At ayun, seeders, leechers, all that jazz. Finally, U Eliserio
nagsimula nang mag-download ‘yung First Contact. At alam mo
90 The Literary Apprentice 91

Sa Panggabi
Mahihiga ako sa kama at titingnan kita
habang abala ka sa pag-iisip ng bagong kwento. Exerpt from “Si Maricar,
Tatabihan mo ako.
Ang Puno, Ang Libro, at
“Wansapanataym,” sisimulan mo doon,
panilip sa buhay ni Tigreng Balon Ang Baby”
o ni Jovi, o ng mahiwagang bayong.
Kumikinang ang leeg mo, inay,
kumakapit ang buhok sa basang balat. Boring si Maricar. As in B-O-R-I-N-G boring. Pero not to
Sa tabi nakikinig pa rin ang mga salagubang. the point naman na kanyang-kanya na ang korona, ang sash, at
“Gabi na,” sasambitin mo. ang Holland Tulips bouquet kung magkakaroon man ng contest
sa pagiging dakilang Maria Clara. Unang una, di na virgin si lola.
Iyon na nga lagi siguro ang huling Pangalawa, malutong siya magmura. Pangatlo, ang lakas uminom at
titik ng mga kuwento. magyosi ni pota. Pang-apat, wala siyang boyfriend, ni fuck buddy o
FUBU wala. Pang-apat, may best friend siyang bading.

(Si Alphonsus ang drag queen na best friend ni Maricar, ngunit


Bernadette Canay mas kilala siya sa pangalang Alice. Walang ka-abog-abog na iniwan
si Alice at si Aling Bubbles ng kanilang padre de pamilya. Alphonsus
pa si Alice noon, five years old, mahilig sa G.I. Joe, Daimos, Voltes
Five, teks, at magbuo ng Lego. Kung tatanungin mo si Alice kung
paano siya naging bading gayong wala namang bahid ng kabadingan
ang kanyang formidable years, ito lang ang maisasagot niya sa iyo:

“Wiz ko Norah Jones1 mards, shiboli-ara lang talaga ako nung

1 Whatever happened to Norah Jones nga pala?


92 The Literary Apprentice Surot Matias 93

bata ako.” Alice habang binabalot na naman ng foil ang isang bagong kumpol
Translation: Di ko alam mare, tomboy lang talaga ako nu’ng ng buhok ni Maricar.
bata ako.)
“Seryoso ako. Gusto ko ng excitement na may kasamang…”
‘Ta mo, parang hinugot lang sa librong chick lit ang buhay ni Na-lost for words si Maricar.
Maricar.
“Kasamang ano?”
“Parang hinugot lang sa librong chicklit ang buhay ko!”
exclaimed Maricar habang bini-bleach ni Alice ang mga piling parte Nanahimik si Maricar habang iniisip ang salitang idudugtong
ng kanyang buhok na mamaya ay lalagyan ng Light Ash Blonde hair sa sinabi. Tumingin siya ng mariin sa kisame, parang naghihintay ng
dye na binli nila sa Hortaleza. Kaya man ni Maricar magpakulay ng dadaang butiki na may tattoo ng salitang hinahanap niya. Matapos
buhok sa mga sosyal na salon, mas may tiwala pa rin siya kay Alice. ang ilang sandali, napangiti si Maricar.
“Nakakatuwa nu’ng una, feeling ko woman of the world talaga
ako. Feeling ko, Makati is my New York and Serendra is my Times “Fulfillment,” sabi niya, halos pabulong.
Square. Kaso punyeta, pag trenta ka na di na nakakaaliw.”
Hahagalpak na sana sa tawa si Alice, kaso alam niyang mabigat
“Maraming bagay na di na nakakaaliw pag trenta ka na, ‘te,” ang kamay ni Maricar, at masasampal lang siya nito. (Nasampal na ni
sagot naman ni Alice. “Unang-unang hindi nakaka-aliw maging Maricar si Alice noon, noong ganitong nag-uusap sila ng seryosohan
trenta at 18,000 pa rin ang sweldo mo sa trabaho. Well, not as if at kumoment si bakla ng napakabakla lang talaga na comment.
nakaka-relate ka.” Halos maubos ang concealer niya kakatago ng marka ng palad ni
Maricar sa kanyang flawless na pisngi.) Tumingin siya sa paligid ng
“More than thirty thou man ang sweldo ko sa isang buwan, kanyang maliit na kwarto, nakita ang isang sticker na idinikit niya sa
mother, hindi pa rin exciting ang buhay ko.” pintuan ng kanyang kabinet noong grade two pa siya at doon nabasa
ang mga salitang sunod niyang babanggitin. Dumistansya siya ng
Kumuha ng pre-cut foil si Alice na nakapatong sa kanyang ilang dipa papalayo sa kanyang best friend, in short: out of sampal-
maliit na foldable table at dahan-dahang binalot ang ilang strands ng range, bago magsalita.
buhok ni Maricar gamit ito. “Excitement ‘kamo? E ‘di mag-bunjee
jumping ka! Mag sky-diving ka! Afford mo naman e.” “O ito mother, according sa aking mahiwagang sticker, there
are three things that you have to do in order to say that you’ve lived
“Ano ba? Alam mo namang takot ako sa heights.” a fulfilled life: One, plant a tree; two, write a book; and three: raise a
child! O ‘di ba, bongga!” sabi ni Alice with matching flourish.
“Gano’n? Fine. Mag-swimming ka with sharks nang nakahubad
habang may nakasabit na kakakatay lang na manok d’yan sa dyoga Tahimik lang si Maricar for almost a minute, walang reaksyong
mo. Wala ng heights yun, depths lang. Buwis-buhay pa!” hirit ni nakaupo sa silya habang may mga nakalambiting tin foil sa ulo.
94 The Literary Apprentice Surot Matias 95

Kaya naman nu’ng bigla siyang humarap kay Alice, akala ni bakla nu’ng sinabi ko sa ‘yo na hiwalayan mo ‘yung ex mong si Jonathan
tatayo si Maricar, susugod sa kanya na parang torong nakakita ng dahil malansa siya? Hindi ba great advice na maituturing ‘yun?”
matador, at papatikimin siya ng isang malupit na nothing-but-hand.
Instead, nakangiting tumayo si Maricar at sabay sabi ng “OH MY “Ito naman na-offend agad,” sagot ni Maricar, “ibig ko lang
GOOOOOOD!!!” naman sabihin alam kong magaling ka sa usapang relationships,
pero di sa ganito.”
Natameme si Alice, ibinaba ang mga kamay, itinaas ang
kaliwang kilay at tumingin lamang kay Maricar. “Oh my god ano?” “OK fine. Whatever. Dun ka na sa presinto magpaliwanag. O
e kelan mo naman balak simulan ‘yang quest mo for fulfillment?”
“That’s precisely what I’m gonna do!” patiling sinabi ni Maricar. pa-sarcastic na bwelta ni Alice.
“Di ko kelangan maghanap ng boyfriend at magpakasal para lang
masabi ko na fulfilled ako! Kelangan ko lang magtanim ng puno, “Well,” sabi ni Maricar habang tinitignan ang kupas na star-
magsulat ng libro, at magka-baby! Ganun ka-simple!” shaped sticker sa mukhang inaanay nang kabinet ni Alice, “ang
number one sa tatlo is plant a tree. Bukas na bukas, bibili ako ng
“May nasinghot ka ba?” tig-iisang kilo ng prutas na may kasamang buto…”

Lumapit si Maricar at kinuha ang mga kamay ni Alice. “Seryoso “Lahat ng prutas may kasamang buto mother,” sabat ni Alice.
ako mother, hindi ko pa nagagawa ‘yung tatlong bagay na ‘yan, at Matalino naman si Maricar. Pagdating sa numbers nga lang.
I’m sure pag nagawa ko ‘yan, pwedeng-pwede na ako mamatay!
Hindi ko kailangan ng lalaki para magpasaya sa ‘kin, o magtayo ng “Tapos sasamahan mo akong kainin lahat ‘yun,” tuloy ni
kung anumang business para masabi kong may kwenta ang buhay Maricar, tila hindi narinig ang sinabi ni Alice, “tapos ise-save natin
ko. ‘Yan! ‘Yang tatlong ‘yan lang!” yung mga buto tapos itatanim natin sa likod. Malapit naman na
mamatay yung mga orchids ni mommy, I’m sure she wouldn’t mind
Feeling ni Alice, nahilo lang si Maricar sa amoy ng hair bleach giving up the space. At ano ka, ang seedless grapes walang seeds.
kaya ito nagkakaganito. Instead of arguing, ngumiti na lang ng Kaya nga seedless eh.”
papilit si bakla. “Keri mother, kung ‘yan ba ang magpapasaya sa ‘yo
eh” na lang ang nasabi niya habang mahigpit siyang niyayakap ng Aba, may balak pa palang magka-vineyard itong si loka, isip ni
excited na excited na Maricar. Alice. “O siya, siya, magtanim na ng puno it is. Ngayon, bumalik
ka na dun sa upuan mo at more than ten minutes na ‘yang bleach
“Grabe Alice, I never thought ikaw ang makakapagbigay ng sa buhok mo. Tatanggalin ko na, unless gusto mong maging ash na
best advice sa buong buhay ko!” sabi ni Maricar. talaga yan.”

Pumiglas sa yakap ni Maricar si Alice at nilagay ang kanyang Masunuring bumalik sa silya si Maricar na may malaking ngiti
mga kamay sa bewang. “Aba, anong tingin mo sa akin, bobo? E pa’no sa kanyang mukha at panibangong pakiramdam sa kanyang dibdib.
96 The Literary Apprentice 97

Habang isa-isang tinatanggal ni Alice ang mga foil na nakabalot sa


kanyang buhok, hindi mapigilan ni Maricar mag-daydream: one
day, pa-petiks-petiks na lang siya under the tree that she planted, re-
reading the book that she wrote, with her beautiful little girl (or boy)
sleeping on her lap. For the longest time in her life, nakaramdam
siya ng panibagong saya. Parang pakiramdam niya nu’ng una siyang
in-orgasm, pero mas maganda. Mas masarap, mas breathtaking.

“O tara na sa banyo,” commanded Alice. “Babanlawan ko na If this isn’t Love,


‘yan.”

Naturally, he stared. She sat there, doing nothing, and at the


Surot Matias same time being beautiful, being voluptuous, being fair-skinned and
being a happy creature. She sat there, and naturally, Elmar Basco
stared with the longing to touch her, to hold her close for hours on
end.
He wanted to grab the folds of her skin, kiss her lips that never
seemed to be touched by lipstick, smell her shoulder-length hair.
Yes, Elmar loved the big old woman who sat on the park bench every
Saturday morning, sometimes accompanied by some friends, almost
as much as he loved the coffee girl on the corner of Vonnegut and
Adams, whose curves seemed to flap in Elmar’s cheeks whenever
he stared. His heart wanted to explode, just so everyone can see his
affection for them, as ugly pieces of it lay on the grimy sidewalk.
Elmar sighed whenever he passed by them, sighed also as he
heard their voices, which were never used on him but ones which he
adored all the same. He sighed even deeper when he saw the Cho’s
house help, maybe hanging clothes to dry or taking their ugly dog
for a walk, her long, black, wavy hair billowing like expensive silk
scarves in the summer breeze. He loved each more than the others
and every one of them equally. How he stared. How he sighed.
He clutched his chest in despair and the knowledge that he
would never be in the same bed with these women. Never, because
98 The Literary Apprentice 99

he was a coward, and would not—could not—muster the courage doctor, for he shivered and breathed heavily. His feet grew to ten
to walk up to them and talk to them. He didn’t even know their times their size, and his ugly arms swung stupidly by his side like
names, as much as he loved them. No, the only women he had the dead weights. His fingernails were filthy, rotten, long spearheads,
courage to walk up to, or that is to say, drive to, in his old pickup and his nose was a watermelon stuck on his potato of a face. He
truck with stickers on the window cracks, were the cheap girls on suddenly felt fat, short, balding, and stupid—a stuttering, fumbling,
Heller Street. They were odorous, lanky, foul-and-loud-mouthed, sweating, pathetic excuse of a man.
uncaring women. And when he lay with them his thoughts always He smiled as he started to cross the pedestrian crossing, smiled
drifted to that girl on the park bench, or the coffee girl, or the Cho’s stupidly as he approached the other side of the road, where the holiest
house help, not always on purpose. of park benches was located. He rehearsed his next words in his
After these swift encounters that always ended in him feeling head, as he did in front of his mirror just this morning. He made his
even worse than before, not to mention somewhat poorer, he would smile bigger, remembered his ugly teeth, clamped his mouth shut,
lie in his bed, eyes wide open, with plans of revealing his love for then fretted that it would make him look unfriendly, and smiled
these women forming in his head, dizzy with alcohol and the smell his big smile again. His big, toothy smile faded as a young man
of strong perfume. He always told himself that he would confess in his forties approached his Eve, watched in horror as the two of
his love to his loves the very next morning. But always, the next them held hands. Everything turned dark; the sky turned a bloody
morning made him freeze on his tracks whenever his senses were red, turned bleak with clouds that brought rain, and lightning, and
assaulted by their beauty. thunder, and suffering, and aching hearts. Trees burst into bright
Today was different though, he thought, as he put on his flame, threatening to eat up the land, their leaves disappearing and
pants, freshly washed three days ago, and his worn-out jacket with their trunks a charred dark blue. It rained ice, fire, frogs, cats, and
a cigarette hole under the left elbow. He had thought about it long massive Law books, and the ground roared as it swallowed people,
and hard, innuendo probably intended. Was he not told to always houses, and whole buildings up. The thunder, the rumbling of the
seize the day; to grab the bull by the horns? Did his elders not instill earth, and blazing fires joined with the screams of people, young and
in him a sense of courage; did he not hear it said many times that it old, to create a cacophony that served to express anguish and hurt,
is better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all? despair and grievance.
By god, he was, and he was damned if he took all those advice The two crossed the road and walked towards Elmar’s direction,
for granted. The big old woman sat on the park bench, and naturally, hands clamped tight. The woman winked at Elmar and said, “You’ll
Elmar Basco stared. Unnaturally, he started walking towards her, have your turn later. Two thousand pesos.”
still entranced by her lips, her hair, her healthy bosom, her fair skin. As they strolled away, the man practically pulling her, Elmar
He walked towards her with the look of a man without his senses realized that he did not love her at all, that she looked dirty and
about him. It was now or never, take it or leave it, opportunity only saggy and old and stale, that her make-up was swathed heavily and
knocks once. clumsily on her scarred face, and that for one thousand pesos, he
Elmar’s head was abuzz with excitement, his heart racing with could get two younger ones, and some beer too.
anticipation. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead and between
his fingers. If anyone saw him, they would have told him to see the Aaron Galzote
100 The Literary Apprentice 101

Southbound
The train took you away from
me.

Pola Del Monte


102 The Literary Apprentice 103

Endo Last Day in the Red-Light Division


of Fine Arts
walang tala ngayong gabi.
ang tulay, basa na naman.
there are no whores here
mula sa barandilya nito,
only the thoughts pressing
walang tigil
intimate, looking
ang pagbagsak
over my shoulders
ng mga patak
as i focus the light
sa kalsadang pinutungan
ng pugot na ulo ng karpintero.
(besides – we’re thinking ghosts, we’re thinking
horror flicks—too creeped out to think
naughty of it)

Debbie Nieto
we work in darkness.
bruises on my legs, count them:
one for every test print,
every misplaced stool
and uttered curse.

my shots lack focus


telling more about me
than I wish to know.
(tattletales, all)

I close my eyes
to deeper darkness
while my images develop
and fix
104 The Literary Apprentice 105

in dim red light

by late afternoon:
weak eyes, wilted hands
no more fear
(no more circulation) Familiarity
a stock of black-and-whites What is it like, father
hang out to dry to cook with a spatula
you’ve had for thirty years?
we emerge
only to bathe in sepia Doesn’t the wood chafe?
sky sepia ground sepia people
sepia everything. Don’t you want to reform it
with a new rubber handle to
(the world is a photograph prevent the splinters from
that needs fixing) breaking your skin?

I walk home. After all,


the sky swims with who would want to get wood chips served
bats thunder lightning with their dessert every night?

I see: I don’t think that mother would mind.


the neighbor’s curtains
like stained glass windows I don’t think she pays attention anyway
to either your dishes or mine.
I’m inside
a large cathedral
where walking is
a prayer Ivy Jean Vibar

Alexandra Paredes
106 The Literary Apprentice 107

to the 12th floor, dragging my legs


that were already dead tree trunks by the time
I reached the door of the quack I was already cursing
breathlessly. Neither ointments nor creams,
but the drip-drop of years that disrupted,
Pimples then stilled, the sharp blaze
that chipped sparks of my skin.
I consider them medals for wanting I have shed more than skin and what remains
and never having now enfold and blur these scars of forgotten frenzy.
and wanting even more. I do not feel new and I never learned how to,
These runes of rage and regret. and what I have acquired are more excuses not to,
Modestly red when still all alone, and what I know now is that to love
when still here and there, scattered is to be lonely with someone, but calmly,
like outposts across the emerging continent and to look at each other’s tired faces
of adolescence—my proof of arrival, a ticket and to forgive what we no longer see there.
at the bus terminal of pubic privation,
a clearing for the sanctuary
of puny desires and their colossal whims.
And then a flaring like bougainvillea in April, Zaldy Dandan
a conflagration that would reach the dismal edges
of my sorry sore face, my scarlet cordillera
and its valleys emptied of hope.
Among the crowds I sought only other ravaged faces
which I wanted to touch and kiss
if only they would let me,
or if only I could tell them,
or if only we could bear the wandering blankness of our eyes…
On the way to the dermatologist
on the top floor of the hospital
the elevator door on the ground floor opened,
disclosing nurses white and smiling,
and I could only mumble as I declined a ride,
and I was still mumbling as I climbed the stairs
108 The Literary Apprentice 109

away from
the morality
of thoroughfares.

This side’s
This Side’s for Loners for loners.
Blessed are they
This side’s who launder
for loners their dirty underpants
who inhabit the space in the open
and dip close and toothpick
to the margins morsels of meaning
of the moon, they flee stuck sedentarily
fugitively in-between.
as when skipping a channel, They shall inherit
falling mutely the earth.
into an interlude
too see (if )
the chasm
is eternal. Ronn Angeles

This side’s
for loners
who keep track
of shoulder lanes
that they may halt,
rest on a concrete
shore of memory-
trace the blur
and babble
of the madding crowd
and its total noise.
The medium is the peeling
110 The Literary Apprentice 111

Dahil siya ang bukal ng lahat ng kalungkutan,


Na pilit mong tinatakasan, ang kalungkutang
Kailangang-kailangan mong mapaslang.

III. Pag-iwas sa Kalungkutan Genaro Gojo Cruz

Maiiwasan ang kalungkutan, lalo na


Sa gabing puno ng gasolina ang kotse.
Iwan ang kinagisnang silid.

Magmanehong walang tiyak na pupuntahan.


Iwasan ang mga daang may lubak
At maraming stop light, nang di sumagi

Sa isip sansaglit man ang pag-iisa.


Iwasan ang mga mataong daan
Nang di maabala ng mga walang

Pakundangang pagtawid at ng pananadyang


Huwag gamitin ang inutil na overpass.
Sa gitna na pagmamaneho sa daang hungkag,

May itim na pusang mabilis na tatawid,


Taglay ang mga kristal na mata at sapin-saping buhay.
Kailangang maging tiyempo ang pagdaan

Ng kotse sa pagtawid ng itim na pusa,


Nang maitakda na ang kanyang wakas.
Kailangang sadyain ang pagsagasa sa pusa
112 The Literary Apprentice Chuckberry J. Pascual 113

kanya. Minsan nga’y hinihiling na niyang magkamali na naman ito


para saktan na naman ng malupit na ama.
At gaya ng unti-unting nakasanayan sinimulang himasin ni
Tom ang kanyang ari, habang iniisip na pinupupog ito ng halik ng
mga putok na labi ni Janelle. Inilabas niya ang ari, binurat para
lumabas ang ulo, saka sinalsal nang mahigpit. Ang sarap sumuso
ni Janelle. Ang lambot ng mga suso nitong may pasa. Ang sarap
kagat-kagatin ng murang-mura at nakaalsang mga utong. Ni hindi
Bugbog pa nga halos tinutubuan ng bulbol ang kanyang—
Kumalabog ang pinto sa sala.
Dali-daling itinulak papalayo ni Tom ang labinlimang taong
gulang (tantiya niya) na kapitbahay. Ipinunas niya sa pantalon ang
Nanunulay ang magkahalong sipon at luha sa ibabaw ng mga narumihang kamay, pagkuwa’y hirap na dinukot ang panyo sa bulsa
labing pinaputok ng pagdapo ng makalyong kamay. (Nasisiguro ni at pinunasan ang noo. Dahan-dahan siyang lumabas ng kuwarto.
Tom ang detalye ng kalyo. Ilang beses na rin niyang kinamayan ang Tumigil siya sa tuktok ng hagdanan. Dikit ang likod sa pader para
biyudong kapitbahay sa iba’t ibang okasyon: Pasko, Pista ni Santa hindi agad makita mula sa sala at kusina, pinanood niya ang asawang
Teresa, birthday ng kung sinong Poncio Pilato sa kanilang kalsada.) si Nelly.
Sumigaw si Janelle: “Tama na po, Daddy! Ayoko na! Hindi ko na po Nasa kusina ito nakatayong nagtitimpla ng orange juice malapit
uulitin!” Tumigil sa ere ang nakaambang kamay. Nabakas ni Tom sa sa lababo. Pagkuwa’y pumunta sa sala, iniwang nakanganga ang
mukha ng biyudo ang biglang paglubag ng loob. Hindi naman siya refrigerator, lumapit sa telebisyon at binuksan ito. Pumailanlang ang
nagkamali: hinablot na lang nito ang makapal at kulot na buhok ng mga boses ng mga babaeng walang tigil sa pagdadaldalan. Ipinatong
anak na nakaluhod sa sahig at nakapatong ang mukha sa pasimano niya sa lamesitang katapat ng sofa ang baso ng orange juice bago
ng bintanang nahubaran ng kurtina. umupo. Nagtatanggal siya ng sapatos na may mataas na takong nang
Pinaglapit ng makalyong kamay ang mukha ng mag-ama. mapalingon sa kusina. Nakayapak siyang bumalik ng kusina upang
Panay ang bulong ng ama. Panay naman ang tango ng anak. Bago isara ang pinto ng refrigerator. Pagbalik niya sa pagkakaupo sa sala
pa man pawalan (at hindi malayong ingudngod na naman sa sofa) ay ipinatong niya ang kaliwang paa sa lamesita.
ni Tony ang anak, senyal ng pagtatapos ng parusa at muli nilang Kahit mula sa ikalawang palapag ng bahay, kitang-kita ni Tom
pagkakasundong mag-ama, sininghot na ni Tom ang huling gulong ang sugat sa kaliwang binti ng asawa. Para itong lintang nakadikit
ng bato bago unti-unting pinihit ang mga blinds. at walang tigil ang pagsipsip ng dugo sa makinis na binti ni Nelly.
Noong una niyang makita ang pagdidisiplina kay Janelle, Sinuntok siya ng ngitngit sa dibdib.
nagimbal siya sa hindi inakalang gawi ng biyudong kapitbahay. Ang sugat na mukhang linta ang pinakahuli—at
Hindi niya inakalang magaan ang pingkok nito. At sa nag-iisa pang pinakamatindi—sa serye ng mga pagbabago sa kanyang asawa nitong
anak na babae! Pero mas nagulat siya sa sariling reaksyon: hindi siya huling buwan. Sigurado na siya: iniiputan siya sa ulo ng kanyang
naawa kay Janelle. Sa halip, nagmukha pa nga itong kaakit-akit sa asawa. At hindi na niya kayang tiisin ang pangangalingasaw ng
114 The Literary Apprentice Chuckberry J. Pascual 115

nakasusulasok na amoy ng pagtataksil. bumubulang paghihinala, tinanong niya si Nelly habang naghihiwa
Naaamoy na dapat niya ang ipot mula noong unang beses pa ang huli ng longganisang macau: “Kinakaliwa mo ba ako?”
lang magreklamo si Nelly. Malapit na siyang labasan noon nang Natigilan sandali ang kanyang asawa. Saka biglang bumunghalit
magtanong sa inaantok na boses ang asawa “Malapit ka na ba? ng tawa.
Nabibigatan na ako sa iyo, e.” “Ano? Kinakaliwa mo ba ako? Sabihin mo sa akin, Nelia.
Dati rati, nagtatagal pa siya sa loob ng asawa, pero dahil sa Hindi ako magagalit. Kung hindi mo na ako mahal, pababayaan
sobrang insulto, hinugot niya agad ang ari pagkatapos labasan. na kita. Huwag na huwag mo lang akong pagsisinungalingan. Dahil
Naghintay siyang yakapin ni Nelly, hinintay na humingi ito ng oras na pagsinungalingan mo ako—”
paumanhin sa pag-insulto sa kanyang pagkalalaki, sa ipinagmamalaki “Ano na naman ba ang pumasok sa kukote mo?” tanong ng
niyang kakayahan sa kama, pero agad tumalikod ang babae. Noon babae. Malaki ang ngiting nakapaskil sa mukha nito.
lang din napansin ni Tom: hindi man lang sila naghalikan habang “Sagutin mo ako.”
nagtatalik. Kinalabit niya ulit si Nelly pero nagtulug-tulugan na “Anong isasagot ko?”
ito. “Kinakaliwa mo ba ako o hindi?”
Pero may katangahan siyang talaga. Hindi pa rin siya sinurot “Ganito kasi yon, honey. Puwede pa ba kitang tawaging honey?
ng pagdududa. Inisip niyang pagod lang siguro noong gabing iyon Ang nangangaliwa, kapag nahuli, parating tumatanggi. So, kung
si Nelly. nangangaliwa nga ako, aaminin ko ba sa iyo?”
Hanggang dumating ang mga tawag sa telepono. “Ano na nga? Kinakaliwa mo ba ako?”
Isang madaling araw ay ginising sila ng sunud-sunod na Akmang hihimasin siya ni Nelly sa pisngi pero agad nitong
pagkiring ng telepono. Tatlong beses itong sinagot ngunit nakikinig binawi ang kamay nang suntukin niya ang mesa. “So, kinakaliwa
lang ang nasa kabilang linya. Napansin niya noon ang pagkabalisa ng mo nga ako!”
asawa. Kasabay niya itong nagising sa ingay ng telepono at dalawang Hindi na sumagot ang babae. Padaskol nitong tinusok ang isang
beses pang nakipag-unahan sa kanya sa pagsagot. maliit na piraso ng longganisang macau at isinubo. Nakataas ang
“Ako na lang ang sasagot, honey. Matulog ka na. Mas mahirap isang kilay nito, tila ba naghahamon, habang panay ang pagnguya
kang magising sa umaga,” pangangatwiran pa. nang nakasara ang bibig.
Nang ipaubaya niya ang ikatlong pagsagot, kahit nakatalikod Tinapos nila ang agahan nang hindi nag-uusap. Hindi sila nag-
sa kanya si Nelly at ilang segundo lang nitong iniangat ang telepono, usap sa kotse papunta at pauwing opisina. Tahimik pa rin sila nang
may narinig siyang kakatwang tono sa boses ng asawa na para bang maghapunan.
inaasahan nito ang tawag. Para bang sa dadalawang pantig ng pagbati, Siya rin ang hindi nakatiis. Noong matutulog na sila, muli
naiparating na nito sa tumatawag na: “Sinabi ko na sa iyong huwag niyang tinanong ang asawa. “Kinakaliwa mo ba ako? Sagutin mo
kang tatawag rito! Nandito sa tabi ko ang asawa ko. Bukas na lang lang ako nang maayos.” Para na siyang batang nagmamakaawa.
tayo mag-usap. Ako ang kokontak sa iyo,” dahil pagkatapos ibaba ni Umingos muna si Nelly. Bumuntong-hininga. Pagkuwa’y
Nelly ang telepono, hindi na ito muling nag-ingay. hinawakan siya sa magkabilang pisngi, tinitigan nang matagal, bago
Hindi naman talaga siya mapagdudang tao, kaya kinaumagahan sinabing: “Hindi.”
kinausap niya ang asawa. Sa pananalitang hindi mapagbunyag sa “E sino yung kausap mo kagabi?”
116 The Literary Apprentice Chuckberry J. Pascual 117

“Sino? Wala akong ibang kinausap kagabi.” tinidor si Nelly. Hindi napigil ni Tom ang sarili at sinita niya ang
“Yung tumawag nung madaling araw. Sino yon?” asawa.
Tinapik lang siya sa pisngi ni Nelly. “Tantanan mo nga ako.” “Honey,” punung-puno ng pait niyang sabi. “Hindi ka ba
Magtatanong pa sana si Tom. Ipipilit pa sanang alam niyang nabababuyan sa ginagawa mo?”
lalaki ang tumawag sa telepono kagabi, kahit hindi ito nagsalita. Pero “Hindi,” sagot ni Nelly. Umikot pa ang mga mata nito. Parang
siniil na siya ng halik ni Nelly. At gaya ng mga tangang iniiputan sa nae-exorcist.
ulo, kinalimutan niya ang mga hinala. “Kapag nasa pamamahay kita, kailangang gumamit ka ng
Ilang araw din siyang nakatulog ulit nang mahimbing. Hindi kubyertos!”
na ulit nang-istorbo ang telepono. Naghalikan rin sila ni Nelly “Ang kapal ng mukha mo. Hindi ba bahay ko rin ito?”
noong huli silang magsiping. Dagdag pa, may mga kalmot na ulit “Hindi!”
siya sa likod. Maayos na ulit silang mag-asawa. “Ako ang nagbayad ng kalahati nito!”
Pero nahuhuli talaga ang isda sa sariling bibig. Noong nakaraang “Doon ka na tumira sa kabit mo!”
Martes, habang nagbibihis siya ng damit pantulog, biglang sinabi ni Nagulat siya nang iitsa ng asawa sa sahig ang pinggan. Kagabi
Nelly “Honey, tumataba ka.” Hindi pa nakuntento, pinisil-pisil nito lang niya nakitang nagalit nang matindi si Nelly. Hindi niya
ang mga bilbil niya sa tiyan. inakalang kaya nga nitong magbasag ng pinggan.
“Nandidiri ka na ba?” Pero hindi, hindi na rin siya dapat masorpresa, kumbinsi ni
“Hindi naman ako nandidiri, no! Siguro, ano lang…” Tom sa sarili. Kung nagawa nga nitong magtaksil, kayang-kaya rin
“Ano?” nitong gumawa ng iba pang mga bagay na karumal-dumal. Chicken
“Subukan mo kayang mag-gym?” feed lang ang pagbasag ng pinggan.
Nagpanting ang teinga niya. “Bakit, nagji-gym ba siya?” Kaya umabot na sila sa puntong ito.
“Sino?” Nagmamadali siyang umalis ng opisina kanina kahit alas dos
“Ang kabit mo.” pa lang ng hapon. Mabuti na lang at hindi na siya tinanong ng HR
Nakita niya kung paanong bumalatay ang pagtataka sa kung bakit hindi siya nagpasa ng Leave Form. Gusto kasi niyang
pagmumukha ni Nelly matapos niyang sabihin ang mga salitang abatan si Nelly at ang kabit nito. May suspetsa siyang dinadala
iyon. “Akala mo, makakalusot ka? Hindi, oy. Umamin ka na.” ng asawa ang lalaki sa bahay, kaya maaga itong umuuwi nitong
Itinulak siya ng asawa palabas ng kuwarto. nakaraang mga araw.
Sa sofa natulog si Tom noong gabing iyon. Pero mukhang tapos na ang krimen. Sa isang mumurahing
Batid niyang nagsimula na ang giyera. Kung baga sa World motel siguro sila nagkita ngayon. Ano pa ba ang mas matinding
War II, pinasabog na ni Nelly ang kanyang Pearl Harbor. Dalawang ebidensya kaysa sugat niya sa binti?
beses itong hindi sumabay sa kanya sa pagpasok sa trabaho. Nang Tut-tut. Tut-tut.
minsang sinorpresa naman niya at sinundo sa trabaho, sinabi ng Hirap na dinukot ni Tom ang cellphone mula sa kanang bulsa.
guwardiyang nag-half day lang ito. Nang mailabas niya ang cellphone, may ilang baryang sumama. May
Hindi rin nakaligtas ang oras nila sa pagkain. Kagabi, dalawa pang gumulong sa hagdanan.
naghapunan sila ng sinigang na hipon at hindi gumamit ng kutsara’t sir tom san k? hanp u ni bos knina p.
118 The Literary Apprentice Chuckberry J. Pascual 119

Tumawag siguro sa opisina nila si Nelly. Kakuntsaba pala ng “Oo naman.”


kanyang asawa ang HR assistant! “Hon, attracted pa rin ako sa iyo. Health mo lang ang iniisip
“Honey? Kanina ka pa?” ko.”
Sinasabi na nga ba. Mautak ang babaeng ito. Mabuti na lang “Hindi na ba healthy tingnan ang timbang ko?”
at mas mautak siya. “Tingnan mo yang pantalon mo. Halos pumuputok na sa
“Honey?” hita.”
Nagpakita na si Tom. “Bakit ang aga mong umuwi?” tanong “Mahal mo pa ba ako?”
niya habang bumababa ng hagdan. “Hon, may sorpresa ako sa iyo.”
“Tama lang. Alas sais pasado na.” “Sagutin mo muna ako.”
Sinungaling talaga ang babaeng ito. Ano ang nangyari sa tunay “Oo. Oo, mahal kita. Hon—”
na Nelly? “A tama, alas sais pasado na nga naman.” Hinawakan niya sa batok si Nelly. Siniil niya ng halik. Inatake
“Kung magsisimula ka na naman ng away, ayoko. Pagod ako.” ng dila niya ang bibig ng asawa. Pagkuwa’y hinimas-himas niya ang
Biglang lumakas ang volume ng TV. leeg nito. Nang makitang bumagsak ang mga balikat, bigla niyang
Tinabihan ni Tom sa sofa ang kanyang asawa. Wala itong kibo. hinablot ang leeg ng blusa ni Nelly at pinunit.
Nakatutok lang sa telebisyon. Tinitigan niya ang mukha ni Nelly. Nagulat siguro sa puwersa ng pagkahalit ng tela, napamulagat
Kamukha pa rin nito ang babaeng niligawan niya at minahal noong si Nelly. Pero agad itong pinakalma ni Tom. Iniangat niya ang bra ng
college. Singkit na mga mata. Bilugan at pangong ilong (bagay asawa at sinipsip ang utong nito sa kaliwang suso habang nilalamas
naman sa kanya). Makipot na mga labi. Maliliit na taingang dikit sa ang kanan.
ulo. Walang nagbago, maliban sa buhok nitong umikli hanggang sa Nang magsawa sa dibdib ng asawa iniangat niya ang palda
kalahati ng leeg. nito at saka pinigtal ang manipis na garter ng panty. Gustung-gusto
“Bakit ganyan kang makatingin?” Hininaan na pala ni Nelly niyang tinitingnan si Nelly bago ito pasukin. Iniangat niya ang
ang TV. Nakaharap na rin ito sa kanya. kaliwang paa ng babae at saka hinalikan ang bukung-bukong nito.
“Ang ganda mo pa rin, honey.” Nasa kasarapan si Tom ng pagngabngab sa bitak-bitak na
Tumingin sa ibaba ang kanyang asawa. Lumitaw ang pula sa sakong ni Nelly nang tumama sa paningin niya ang sugat nito sa
mga pisngi. Pati ang itaas ng mga teinga, namula. “Tigilan mo nga binti.
ako.” Nilubayan niya ang pagpapak sa kaliwang paa ng asawa,
Iniangat niya ang baba ni Nelly. “Mahal na mahal kita. Alam hinawakan ito sa baywang at saka marahas na inikot ang katawan
mo ba yon? para dumapa.
“Oo naman.” “Dahan-dahan lang, hon.”
“Mahal mo pa rin ba ako?” Pagkaraang ibungkos ang palda sa baywang ni Nelly, hinigit
“Ano bang tanong yan?” niya ang balakang nito at agad pinasok.
“Kahit mataba na ako?” “Aray! Dahan-dahan naman! Nasasaktan ako!”
“Hon, sigurado naman ako, hindi mo pababayaang lumaki ka Hinawakan niya sa buhok si Nelly at saka sinakyod nang
nang sobra, di ba?” sinakyod. Nang magtangka ang babaeng alisin ang kamay niya sa
120 The Literary Apprentice Chuckberry J. Pascual 121

pagkakasabunot, sinuntok niya ito sa tagiliran. “Ayan! Yan ba ang gawain ng matinong babae? Siguro,
Napangudngod ang kanyang asawa sa sofa. Panay ang mura pinapaluhod ka pa niya sa pako, ano?” sigaw ni Tom.
nito at pagmamakaawa. “Balat ko yan, gago!”
“Ang ingay mo!” sigaw ni Tom. Pinalo niya nang pinalo ang “Sinungaling! Lumayas ka sa bahay ko!”
puwit ni Nelly. Hindi siya tumigil hangga’t hindi ito namumulang Pinanood niyang tumayo si Nelly. Hirap na hirap itong kumilos
parang kamatis. dahil sa mga ibinigay niyang pasa. Habang umaakyat ng hagdan,
Nang malapit na siyang labasan, hinugot ni Tom ang ari. nakita niya ang dugong tumutulo sa pagitan ng mga hita ng asawa.
Hawak ang buhok ni Nelly, pinaluhod niya ito sa sahig. Saka siya Paano kung buntis nga talaga ito?
nagbati nang marahas. Nang maramdamang namamaga na ang ulo Humangos si Tom sa kuwarto nilang mag-asawa. Naabutan
ng ari, sinampal niya ng ubod lakas ang mukha ng asawa. Nang niya si Nelly na nagsusuot ng malinis na blusa. Nasa paanan na
masilayan ang pumutok na labi, hinawakan niya ang pisngi ng asawa ng asawa ang lukut-lukot na palda. Nakasuot na ito ng shorts at
at pinatalsik sa nakabuka at nagdudugong mga labi nito ang mainit tsinelas.
niyang tamod. “Buntis ka bang talaga?” tanong ni Tom.
“Maghilamos ka,” utos ni Tom. Napangiti siya nang mapansing Parang walang narinig si Nelly. Dumampot lang ito ng ilang
hindi pa umuurong sa loob ng lambi ang ulo ng kanyang ari. piraso ng damit at isinaksak sa nakangangang backpack.
Pero nagkamali ng intindi si Nelly. Tumayo ito at naglakad Akmang lalabas na ng kuwarto ang asawa kaya agad humarang
papuntang kusina. Dinampot ni Tom ang baso sa ibabaw ng lamesita si Tom sa pintuan. “Sagutin mo ako! Buntis ka bang talaga? Ako ba
at ipinukol sa likod ng babae. Napaigtad ito at napaluhod. Kumalat ang ama niyan?”
ang bubog sa sahig. Nakatikim siya ng malakas na sampal.
“Ano bang ginawa ko sa iyo? Bakit mo ako ginaganito?” tanong Para siyang natauhan.
ni Nelly habang nakayupyop sa sahig. Bigla siyang lumuhod sa harapan ng asawa. Niyakap niya ang
“Hindi ba yan ang ginagawa nyo ng kabit mo? Bakit? Kapag mga binti nito. Hinalikan ang sugat. Ah, ang balat. Pero hindi na
ako ang gumagawa, hindi ka ba nasasarapan?” niya napigil pa si Nelly. Hinampas siya nito nang ilang beses sa ulo
“Wala akong kabit!” ng backpack.
“Sinungaling! Bakit hindi ka sumabay sa akin sa trabaho nung Pinanood na lang ni Tom ang iika-ikang pagbaba ng asawa niya
isang araw? Saka noong isang araw pa? Bakit nag-half day ka nang sa hagdan. Nang marinig ang marahang pagsara ng pinto, kinalabit
hindi ko alam? Kanino ka nakikipagkita? Putangina ka, kunwari ka ng pagsisisi ang kanyang dibdib. Paano kung anak pala niya ang
pa. Mataba daw ako. Pwe! Yang puson mo ang lumalaki!” dinadala ni Nelly? Bakit ba niya sinaktan nang ganoon ang asawa?
“Putanginamo! Malaki ang puson ko dahil buntis ako! Hindi naman niya napatunayan ang kanyang mga hinala. Dali-dali
Nagpupunta ako sa doktor!” siyang lumabas ng bahay.
“Sinungaling! Halika nga ritong puta ka,” lumapit si Tom sa Inilalabas na niya ang kotse sa garahe nang makita sa rearview
kinaluluhuran ng asawa at sinipa ito sa tagiliran. mirror ang biyudong kapitbahay. Nakatayo ito sa kabilang kalsada,
Habang namimilipit si Nelly, muling niyang nakita ang sugat naninigarilyo. Pinapanood ang paglabas niya sa garahe. Kanina pa
nito sa binti. siguro ito nanonood sa pag-aaway nilang mag-asawa. Kanina pa
122 The Literary Apprentice 123

siguro ito nilabasan sa mga ginawa niya kay Nelly.


Pinatay ni Tom ang makina ng kotse. Bumaba siya at kinawayan Listahan ni Aling Amelya
ang biyudong kapitbahay. Kumaway naman itong pabalik. Habang
naglalakad papunta sa kinatatayuan ng kapitbahay, iniisip ni Tom
kung ano ang una niyang gagawin—basagin ang mukha ng biyudo
o pitpitin ang bayag nito.
Dahil nasisiguro niya, si Tony ang kabit ni Nelly.

Pebrero 13, Biyernes


Chuckberry J. Pascual 1 kahon ng gatas
5 katsa
8 piraso ng Marie
1 bote ng Tiki-Tiki
½ kilo ng bigas
1 lata ng corn beef
2 guhit na tuyo, walang ulo
1 bote ng mantika
1 family size na gasolina
1 balot ng uling
1 kaha ng posporo
1 tigpipisong kandila
2 pila
1 Bigen
124 The Literary Apprentice Ronn Angeles 125

Marso 21 Abril 17
1 pakete ng gatas ½ kilo ng bigas
3 piraso ng Marie 2 guhit na tuyo, walang ulo
½ kilo ng bigas 1 bote ng mantika
1 lata ng sardinas 1 family size na gasolina
1 bote ng mantika 1 balot ng uling
1 family size na gasolina 1 tigpipisong kandila
1 balot ng uling 2 pila
1 tigpipisong kandila 1 pakete ng gatas
2 pila 2 katsa
3 piraso ng Marie
126 The Literary Apprentice 127

Watermelon Sugarbaby
Ate, sometime from now I will think of you
only in passing, and you’ll be that spoiled
leaf in the cabbage I pick for dinner,
Abril 30, Sabado that dream I had this morning
1 pakete ng gatas I know I’ll forget tomorrow,
2 katsa a missed call, out of coverage area.
3 piraso ng Mar I’ll stop waking at midnight wondering
Tig-isang kapsula ng Valium at Prozac if you’ve had breakfast, and you will stop
1 tableta ng Bonamine buying trinkets for me because you know
1 bote ng mansanilya, maliit
too many Eiffel Tower magnets tack our debts
1 Bigen
to the fridge. I won’t remember this and that
1 tiket sa bus para sa unang byahe bukas
we used to go to the market together to pick
out fruits ready for eating. You liked watermelons.
I would hold them and you would strike them
and hear the answering call, the guttural rumble.
This one, you would say, this one, we’ll feast tonight.
You know, sister, maybe one day I’ll stop
looking for you at the supermarket and remembering
you when I see the sugarbabies, ripe to bursting.
When I slap watermelons I shall listen only
for ripeness, a watermelon only
and only its answering call.

Ronn Angeles
Wyatt Ong
128 The Literary Apprentice 129

Bulalakaw Overdue
uulan daw ng mga bulalakaw. If the walls of my dreams
were made of mirrors,
sinabi mong hindi natin sila mahuhuli sa panigin subalit ngayon you’d see yourself, Papa 12x12x12.
nandito tayo naghihintay. susubukan kong humuli ng isa. When I wake up, you’d be in front of my bed.
sasabihin mong hindi ka naniniwala sa mga kahilingan. ipipikit I’d see you but I won’t feel your hand
mo ang iyong mga mata. nahihilo ka sa pagkakatingala sa wala. wetting
makikipaglaro ako sa ideyang sasagutin nang pag-aabang ang mga the crisp purple bill it would be clutching.
kahilingang lumulutang You’d put the money on my bedside table,
uttering a muffled “for today”.
sa aking isipan. matagal pa ba? itatanong mo. tatabihan mo ako We both know
sa pagkakahiga sa sementadong balkonahe ng gusaling ating the money’s overdue.
kinaroroonan. dadamhin mo ang init ng sariling akap. malamig Twelve years ago you could have
ang sementong hinihigan natin ngayon. nakailan ka na? mahihiya given it to me
akong sumagot. lumalalim ang gabi. lumalamig ang semento. saying it was from the hymen fairy.
sasabihin mong hindi ang pagtunganga sa kawalan ang pintuan
sa katuparan ng mga kahilingan at mumulat ka at pipikit ako at
pipigiling sumagot:
Debbie Nieto
ikaw.

marahil, maulap ngayon ang alapaap para sa mga pangarap.

Ronald R. Ramos Jr.


130 The Literary Apprentice 131

He said: She thinks:


It’s just like taking a shit, this Love, like taking a piss. You do it If we do that, then the sewers will be clogged with broken hearts.
often enough, it becomes routine. You try to cover it up but it ekes Imagine that: millions upon millions of wasted conversations
out, leaks out; after a few days, you start to stink. Look at me. My flowing through the pipes. The roads would be flooded with dirty
eyes weren’t always brown—that’s just from all the crap I’ve been water; waters running with blood, tissue, and the spit of men. Yes,
through. See that girl for instance? No, not for instance, but for a right here, it will begin, where we drown our sorrows; here, where
fact. Yes, that one, across the bar. She used to, we used to, aw hell, the waters will not hold back. Beneath us, the tiles will shake and
she ditched me, wise-ass bitch. Damn you, she said, not a shred of rumble. Once we step out, we’d be wading in expletives. Cabs
decency left in you. Then she slammed the door and walked out would be stranded in thoroughfares littered with unreturned calls
of my life. And to the empty room I said, thanks, this is what I get and unfulfilled promises. Children on their way home would float
for all my hard work? I got stitches, where she damn thrown glass aboard the swollen carcasses of one-night stands and iniquitous
shards. I got so many grievances, they should air me on late-nite affairs. And there we’d be, standing in the midst of it all, shivering
radio. Most of all, I got nothing. Nothing except the sand in my from cold shoulders, not recognizing our own dirty laundry from
mouth and the toes in my boots. But as I said, it’s all routine. Love anyone else’s. It would be devastating–all in the name of Love.
shits on everybody and pisses us all. If I had my way, I’d just flush
it down the drain.

Alexandra Paredes
132 The Literary Apprentice 133

Pigs on their way to slaughter


Silken death cut through
This skin, release us to Kung Gagahasain,
Darkness that descends
Quickly. Never allow the Ang Mga Cyborg Ba’y
Waiting line to overtake us.
This skin suffocates, sewn Dumaraing Din?
So tight, a man-made plastic
Hard to breathe on carbon
Dioxide. Nights are longest,
Stars beckon, our feet cut Kakaiba ang kaniyang puke – walang pumupulandit na maliit na
Loose leading immensity. uod mula sa paligid ng mga labi, hindi tinutubuan ng kulugo o
Blue is short and quick, the makakapal na balakubak, hindi nagnanaknak ng nanang simpula at
Butcher’s knife is poised sinlapot ng dugo’t utak mula sa basag-basag na bungo ng mga patay
On the block. I am pain
na babaeng nagkalat sa daan.
In this world’s mouth
Screaming long-time to eternity.
Isang buwan na rin siyang hindi natutulog matapos patayin
ang lalaking nagpakilalang kaniyang asawa, at ang mga alaala ay
dumarating at umaalis na parang dampi ng mga patak ng pestisidyo
Ayn Frances dela Cruz
sa pisngi. Kanina, pinatay niya ang lalaking nagpakilalang kaniyang
asawa pero maaaring kahapon iyon o araw bago kahapon. Isang
buwan na siyang hindi natutulog. Ang buwan, hindi natutulog.
134 The Literary Apprentice Sarah Grutas 135

Ganito ang Paghahanda ng Carica: Naalala niyang may isang lalaki siyang minahal pero hindi iyon
ang lalaking nagpakilalang kaniyang asawa. Magkamukha lamang,
Ang nabiyak na Carica ay kailangan
kaskasin nang madiin ngunit dahan-dahan magkasintindig, magkaboses, pero hindi siya ang lalaking kaniyang
para matanggal ang laman samantalang hindi minahal. Bago pa niya ito patayin, humingi muna ang lalaking
napipinsala ang balat. Importante ang nagpakilalang kaniyang asawa ng kape. Bago pa niya ito barilin
balat. Ang natanggal na laman ay kailangang
sa noo at sunugin kasama ang pinakaiingat-ingatan niyang mga
sunugin para huwag nang makapanghawa.
Tiyaking sumunod sa itinakdang panuto ng eksperimento sa laboratoryo, pinaghandaan niya muna ito ng kape.
eksperimento. At nakipag-usap. “Masarap ba ang kape?”

mula sa Ang Babaeng Hindi Nangangarap


“Nasaan ang gatas?” Kape si asawa. Yung bawat patak ay bumabagsak,
Bumalik sa Alabok1
magbabad sa balde. Pukeng leeg at saka akin kapag nagkakape kang
gripo at pinapuno. “Bakit siya nangangasul?” Parang laging kakaiba (p. 121) Hindi nga ba’t mas kaaya-aya kung
ang Babae’y malaya nang nakapaglalakad sa
ang lasa ng labas ko sa sala. Kape ni Asawa at ng baba. Gusto ba
kalsada nang hindi natatakot na may pulis
niyang matapos nangisay sila ng kape? Nakita ko hinati ng kutsilyo at o militar na susugurin Siya at pipiliting
ginilitan ko ang leeg, noo. Dinala ko ito sa sala, pinanood. Umakyat maghubad para lamang makita ang kaniyang
ako. Silang dalawa. Nagamit ko ang dalawa kung papaluin tulad ng puke kung malinis ba ito o tadtad ng kulugo
kaya para lamang patayin o sagasaan ng pison
ginagawa. Siya, inaantok na raw. Malapot na dugo, parang aking
sa takot na makapanghawa at makapaminsala
kamay – lagi kasi itong iskwela, tuwing ayaw ko ng balde hanggang gayong alam na alam naman nilang tanging
makatulog. Kahapon ko lang nalaman. Balde, saka ko inilusong mga babae lang ang tinatamaan ng ganitong
uri ng karamdaman?
ang.

“Sinungaling ka,” ang sabi niya bago niya patayin ang lalaking
Headline ng mga Balita: nagpakilalang kaniyang asawa. Itinutok niya ang baril sa noo ng
ISANG MATIPUNO AT lalaki. Hindi niya kilala ang lalaki. Namumukhaan niya at may
KAGALANG-GALANG
NA SIYENTISTA, NATAGPUANG
1 Isang posisyong papel laban sa walang habas na pagpatay ng
PATAY MATAPOS SUMABOG ANG mga Militar sa mga kababaihan at pagpigil ng Simbahan sa pagsulong ng
LABORATORYONG NAGSISILBI eksperimentong medikal sa mga pasyenteng may lubhang karamdaman.
NA RING KANIYANG TAHANAN Binasa ni Dr. Delilah de Lima, punong siyentista ng Pambansang Komisyon
sa Kalagayan ng Kababaihan, isang araw bago ang ika-150 anibersaryo ng
kalayaan.
136 The Literary Apprentice Sarah Grutas 137

naalala siyang mga panahong magkasama silang masaya, pero ang Pagkatapos ng operasyon,
kung sakali mang naging
mga alaalang iyon ay parang dampi ng mga patak ng pestisidyo sa
matagumpay, at mahanap mo
pisngi, wala naman na talagang halaga. ang talaarawang ito:

Siya ang nag-opera sa’yo, ang


Mga kailangang tandaan sa pagsasagawa ng
lalaking minsan ay minahal
eksperimento:
mo. Tinuruan mo siya kung
paano ikabit ang bago mong
1.Sa unang mga araw, maaaring walang
pagkatao. At sasabihin niya
maalala ang pasyente sa kaniyang nakaraan.
ito sa’yo, uungkatin nang
Ngunit, babalik na tila panaginip ang lahat
paulit-ulit para matali ka
ng nangyari.
sa habang buhay na pagtanaw
2.Kapag tagumpay ang eksperimento, isang
ng utang na loob. Pero wala
panibagong buhay para sa pasyente. Isang
kang mararamdamang ganoon.
malinis na papel. Isang bagong silang
na sanggol na hungkag sa konsensiya o
Magpapakilala siyang iyong
moralidad kaya.
asawa. Ngunit, importanteng
3.Maaaring tumaas ang paghahangad ng
huwag na huwag ka nang
pasyente sa laman.
magpapalinlang sa kaniya.
4.

At higit sa lahat kailangan


mo siyang patayin.
May panahong silang dalawa’y nagmamahalan. Siya, isang
matalinong doktor, ilang taon na ring palipat-lipat ng tirahan
para hindi matunton ng Simbahan at ng Militar dahil sa mga
Tila laging kakaiba ang lasa ng labas ko sa sala. Kape ni Asawa at
eksperimentong matagal na rin niyang pinag-aaralan. Ang lalaki,
ng baba. Gusto ba niyang matapos nangisay sila ng kape? Nakita ko
isang estudyante ng medisina, mataas ang pangarap, at lubhang
hinati ng kutsilyo at ginilitan ko ang leeg, noo. Dinala ko ito sa sala,
masiyahin. Nagkakilala sila sa isang seminar at agad nagka-ibigan.
pinanood. Umakyat ako.
Ngunit, tulad ng maraming kwento ng pag-ibig sa isang masalimuot
na mundong tadtad ng epidemya’t sakit, ang sa kanila’y nakatakdang
mauwi sa pagkasawi.
138 The Literary Apprentice 139

Headline ng mga Balita: Paika-ika siyang naglakad palabas. Dahil sa mga gumuhong gusali,
tanaw na tanaw na niya ang paglubog ng araw. Sa kalsada, may
ISANG MATIPUNO AT
KAGALANG-GALANG isang asong-galang nilalaplap ang ulo ng nakahandusay na babaeng
NA SIYENTISTA, NATAGPUANG duguan, ilang minuto pa lang na namamatay, di tulad ng ilan pang
PATAY MATAPOS SUMABOG ANG
LABORATORYONG NAGSISILBI babaeng naroon, napispis na’t natuyo, nakadikit sa aspalto’t unti-
NA RING KANIYANG TAHANAN, unting tinutunaw ng araw at ulan.
NAPAG-ALAMANG ISPIYA NG
MILITAR!

Hahanapin niya ang kaniyang ina, o kapatid, o anak – kung meron Sarah Grutas
man, kung meron pa mang ibang tulad niya sa labas ng laboratoryong
pinagtaguan niya. Pero sa ngayon, ang mahalaga, patay na ang
lalaking nagpakilalang kaniyang asawa. Unti-unti nang inuuod,
nabubutas na ang tiyang namintog na’t nangitim, ilang araw na ring
patay. Agko panahon na buko man arog kini a nangyayari.

mula sa Ang Babaeng Hindi Nangangarap


Bumalik sa Alabok

(p.5) Ang sabi ng Simbahan, kailangang


lipulin at puksain ang lahat ng babae sa
mundong ibabaw. Ang Babae ang sisidlan
ng sakit at kasalanan, siya ang dahilan
kung bakit pinalayas ang sangkatauhan sa
Eden. Kung hindi sila magpapasailalim sa
Diyos Ama na siyang pinakamakapangyarihan
sa lahat, kamatayan ang naghihintay sa
kanila.

Ang kaniyang alaala’y mga pisnging inaanay.


141

Leslie Marie Prestoza


Highly Improbable but Likely

didn’t have any nuclear bunkers.


rocks the size of Arizona
hurtle through space
We live on the edge

One hits the target;

and ancient whales


too bad T-rexes

Aginaldo
Binabakat niya ang sariling mukha sa salamin. Hindi na pawis kundi langis ang nagkiskisan sa
pagitan nito at ng kaniyang pisngi. Hinuli ng kaniyang munting palad ang langaw na kanina pa
nakikipagkaibigan sa sariwa niyang anit. Subalit hindi ito nagpalambat sa kaniyang mga daliri
at habambuhay na nagpaali-aligid ang pesteng langaw. Sa barikadang salamin, tumagos ang
aninag niya sa mga lamesang hindi magkanda-ugaga sa dami ng laman.
Maya-maya, muli siyang mag-aabang sa itim na plastik bag ni Santa.
140 The Literary Apprentice

Carmina Jariel
142 The Literary Apprentice Sarah Matias 143

baby boy. Parents plus children equals family: a theory mistaken


as a formula included in the Law of Happily-Ever-Afters. Baby girl
becomes girl, baby boy becomes boy. The garden starts to get
littered with Little Tykes, the clothesline with pink dresses and
blue over-alls sunbathing in the lazy afternoons, the wallpaper
with Crayola skid marks, the cupboard with cereals and chewable

Mileage multivitamins, the fridge’s door with stickers from the cereals in
the cupboard. The house becomes a home.

Parents buy a car, a maroon Mitsubishi Mirage. Children name the


Boy meets girl, girl meets boy. Boy and girl fall in love in the true car Beethoven because of the movie with the St. Bernard. Parents
sense of the word despite boy being another boy with an annoying find it charming since the car’s engine sounds like a trombone out
habit of picking his nose in public, despite girl’s refusal to explain of tune. They take Beethoven to the mall every Saturday and at the
to boy why girls always go to the powder room in hordes because end of that day Beethoven will be trashed with toys, ketchup stains
there is nothing to explain to begin with. Boy and girl fight, boy on the backseat covers, drops of melted ice cream on the carpet.
and girl make-up and make-out. Three years of paychecks, bills, They take Beethoven to church every Sunday at noon and in the
meeting each other’s parents and titos and titas and cousins, afternoon father and mother will carry sleeping girl and sleeping
checking out and flirting with other girls and boys, I-never-want- boy out of the backseat, sweat seeping into their shirts or drool
to-talk-to-you-agains, good-mornings and good-nights and have- dripping onto their forearms, and lay them on their little beds.
you-eatens, boy and girl eventually become man and woman. Man They take Beethoven to Tagaytay so boy and girl can ride horses
and woman become husband and wife. Husband and wife buy a and father and mother take pictures of them on the horses, to
three-bedroom house with a garage that could fit three cars and a Baguio so boy and girl can again ride horses and eat strawberries
garden that could handle a playground. A year of husband getting and father and mother take pictures of them at the Lion Statue
used to wife’s farting every morning and wife learning to listen to along Kennon Road, to Batangas so boy and girl can make sand
husband’s nightly snores like lullabies, wife starts craving for green castles on the beach and unavoidably get salt in their eyes and
mangoes at the oddest hours and throwing up soon as she gets out father and mother take pictures of them eyes squinting and sun-
of bed. Next thing they know wife becomes mother and husband kissed in their tiny bathing suits smelling of Baby Coppertone, to
becomes father. A baby girl. A minute and seven seconds later a Pangasinan so boy and girl can visit lolo and lola and father and
144 The Literary Apprentice Sarah Matias 145

mother take pictures of them sitting on lolo and lola’s laps. Mother hospital, then home. To the hospital, then home. To the hospital,
gets the pictures developed and puts them in frames, or turn them then home. The day they’re all free and willing, they take Beethoven
into one big collage and strategically scatter them throughout the to the hospital, take mother home, bald. They take mother to the
living room. hospital and they take mother home, bald and missing one breast.
They take mother to the hospital and they take mother home, bald
Girl and boy become teenage girl and teenage boy, nevertheless and missing both breasts. Father and girl and boy take mother to
still baby girl and baby boy to father and mother. Beethoven’s the hospital, girl and boy take Beethoven home. Girl and boy take
Saturdays become rest days. Girl and boy still go to the mall, but Beethoven to the hospital and take father home after the doctor
separate now, but in other cars now, cars of other boys and girls. tells them that what remains of mother’s body will be taken care of
Father and mother stay at home on Saturdays reading magazines and will be ready for the wake.
and sleeping or trying to have sex. Once in a while a party thrown
or a party attended. Sundays pretty much the same except for the Beethoven takes father and girl and boy to Loyola Memorial
absence of saliva forming lines of white crusts on girl and boy’s Chapels in Guadalupe. A week later Beethoven takes father and girl
cheeks. Girl and boy learn how to drive, and Fridays nights have and boy to Loyola Memorial Gardens in Marikina, followed by other
become hectic for Beethoven. This Friday, boy takes Beethoven people in other cars, following the black funeral car with mother’s
around the subdivision, parks in a vacant lot, drinks a can or two coffin which carries what was left of what was mother’s body. After
of beer, sometimes with a friend. Next Friday, girl takes Beethoven throwing roses over the mud over mother’s coffin, Beethoven takes
around the subdivision, parks in a vacant lot, smokes a cigarette or father and girl and boy back to the house. Father parks Beethoven
two, sometimes with a friend. outside and goes inside to thank everyone who came. Girl and
boy sneak a bottle of Johnny Walker out of the house and into
One Monday father takes mother and Beethoven to St. Luke’s Beethoven. Girl and boy take a few swigs and remember playing
Medical Center. Father takes mother and Beethoven and the demon pirates. Girl remembers she is sister, boy remembers he is brother,
one can’t get rid off after a whole day of blood tests and urine tests how could they have possibly forgotten is not remembered. Sister
and white walls and isopropyl alcohol back home. Monday after remembers wobbling in mother’s white stilettos and drawing a sun,
that Monday, father takes mother and Beethoven to St. Luke’s a dog and a smiling tooth on a fax paper with mother’s mascara.
Medical Center to pick up the results, goes home to girl and boy Brother remembers the sting of father’s aftershave on his scalp
with four words. Stage four breast cancer. Depending on who’s free when he mistook it for baby oil. Sister and brother take more swigs
or willing father or girl or boy takes mother and Beethoven to the and hate themselves and each other for the time they didn’t spend
146 The Literary Apprentice Sarah Matias 147

with mother, but how could have they known, all they know is that Woman takes notice of the miscalculation after three months.
there were roles they played and failed in playing for not playing Woman calls father and asks if she can move back into the house
them at all. Sister and brother each take a gulp from the bottle with him and with brother, father says okay he’s retiring anyway.
and sister tells brother she once gave a hand job to the neighbor Woman knows father’s too young to retire but says nothing of
they used to play cops and robbers with one Friday night when she what she knows. Woman moves back into the house with her
parked Beethoven in a vacant lot in the subdivision and brother accounting textbooks, with her two-seater red leather sofa, with
tells sister when he first tried pot alone one Friday night when he her orange lava lamp. Brother made a table and benches out of the
parked Beethoven in a vacant lot in the subdivision. Sister and Little Tykes that were once one with the Bermuda grass. Brother
brother take a few more swigs and fall silent. Sister stares at the welcomes sister back into the house and into the garden with
steering wheel and brother stares at the dashboard, ignoring each pizza and wine and a painting of the two of them in bathing suits
other and the thin layer of sweat on their foreheads and necks. Girl in Baby Coppertone and tells her that she might have to sleep in
decides she is now a woman. Boy decides he is now a man. They do the living room for a while, he turned her room into a studio, its
not tell each other this. There is no need. walls into imitation Pollocks. Sister asks brother where father is
and on cue father enters the garden. Girl kisses and hugs father.
Father buys three Lancer box-types. One for himself, the other two Boy kisses father. Father tells boy and girl that he is officially retired
as high-school graduation presents for girl and boy (they are still girl and officially has a heart condition. He never smoked a cigarette
and boy). They don’t give them names. They’re just cars. Woman his entire life. Girl and boy wonder why, father has always had an
asks for her own space a condo an apartment whatever. Woman unconditional heart, but this is one of the many occasions when
plus her own space equals independence: another miscalculation. wordplay fails to make anyone go aww. Boy asks father asks father
Man doesn’t ask for one, doesn’t explain why he doesn’t ask for if he is all right becomes son. Girl tells father not to worry tells father
one but father knows why he doesn’t ask for one. And so, father not to worry becomes daughter. Father tells son and daughter he
gives it to girl because fathers give, father knows why boy doesn’t will be all right, he will not worry.
ask because fathers know. Fathers give and know, fathers give but
know, fathers give or know, fathers know and give, fathers know but The next day, father asks son and daughter if they know where
give, fathers know or give, father gives knows and but or. Change Beethoven’s keys are. Son and daughter do not know. Daughter
the position of the s there is still no escape no matter the connector and son ask why. Father tells them that woman’s car needs space.
or conjunction. New cars, old garage, just enough space. Father, daughter, and son look for the keys under the beds in the
drawers on the tables in between cushions inside pockets. They
148 The Literary Apprentice 149

can’t find them. Son suggests they’ll have to push Beethoven out
then. Six hands on Beethoven, six hands start to push the dusty
and rusting Beethoven out of the garage. Six hands lead Beethoven
into the shadow of a tree on the sidewalk in front of their house.
Father takes a deep breath. Daughter and son look at father and
father tells them he’s okay, he’s just getting old. Six hands slide off
Beethoven leaving the graffiti of six hands, almost identical, almost
as if they were there.

Sarah Matias
150 The Literary Apprentice Zaldy Dandan 151

of their eternal transience,


and of the silence
amid the private tempests
gathering in each
of these anonymous rooms.
The tao of the motel room attendant To tend to privileged passion—
that is my vocation.
I see them Afterward,
between the phases I will enter what will be
of their peculiar fever, the chamber of rumpled bed sheets,
those few moments indented pillows,
before they sort out used soap, wet towels,
on intimacy’s tableau the unwanted receipt,
the colors of their secrets. the scent of spent craving.
I do not look at them I have to make sure that no one else
in the eyes, will see these artifacts of desire.
and they see Everything has to look as fresh
only my right hand and as orderly
opening the door as if no one was ever here;
to their mirage every telling detail has to be returned
and its mirror to its previous mute place,
of inverted objects, as if it was never disturbed.
where what should not be, Our patrons prefer to return
what cannot be, to the comforting notion
what is not, can flutter briefly that there exists
before their believing eyes, a singular frenzy
revealing possibilities that is always retrievable—
like facets of a diamond that it can be invoked
spectacularly cursed. by their acquaintance
They come here unseen with this palimpsest of a room,
so they can see better. which, only I know,
No one is ever here, is already groaning
and almost everyone is. under the memory
I am the guardian of so many erased hopes.
152 153

Here, familiarity breeds not contempt


but appreciation
for the profitable fiction
of recurrence.

Focus
Zaldy Dandan
I like to walk home on Tuesdays, the entire distance,
over bridges, around corners, before monuments. I feel

a kinship with the cracks on the sidewalk, many


of which have leapt to my face, each one

a friend of the years, a sign of the times.


But today I must drive home

and so this orange car crosses, a single blur


along arteries that have long begun to age.

These small man’s eyes, these old man’s eyes


see only slivers, snippets, parts—

and I find that the city amasses quarters of things, halves,


thirds. Polished hands protrude from their makeshift frames

hair a hundred times stronger brushes


over the edges of metal cliffs,

feet in high heels are raised into the sky, glowing


by mall lights, purple heat neon green flashes

on face blinking I pretend they are fireflies, wanting


I believe they are fireflies, draw my sight to eye level
154 The Literary Apprentice 155

where aged eyes rehabilitate, focus


where aged eyes rehabilitate.

Seeing means two tiny half-heads bobbing past the bottom


half of the left-side lens black waves on city view, gray sky.

Pregnant belly is a balloon, baby used


to the tools of the trade, the legacy of unopened blooms
Regular Casanova
and open wide, these bifocal-clad eyes lit with blue
ire of holiday Christmas lights glares back, glares black—

it is a small pain in a smaller body accustomed Elevators make our boy nervous. He needs to traverse a distance
to the scratch of invisible wounds. of approximately thirteen floors and twenty paces. Twenty-two if he
can take short relaxed paces. Excitement builds up within him and
his heart begins to race. But he has done this before and he needs
to be taken seriously. There will be people there and they will be
Wyatt Ong looking at you, he reminds himself.

Appraising the image reflected on the shiny metal doors,


he sees: a neat shoelace bow resting on each shoe, crisply ironed
trousers, a clean and impressive shirt–not a strand of hair out of
place. He practices lines in his head, wondering if he should say such
and such or opt for a more direct approach. He tightens his grip on
the stem of the bouquet he is carrying and double-checks to see that
he has not forgotten the chocolates. One last scrutinizing look at his
reflection and he believes that he is ready. After all, an open fly does
not exactly make a good impression.

A business-looking person enters, glancing at our boy with


slight amusement. The floor indicator jumps from the number
twelve to fourteen and our boy smiles to himself. The metal doors
open and he begins to cover the twenty-two paces ahead of him.
156 The Literary Apprentice 157

Just before the elevator doors close, the business man briefly allows
himself a wistful grin.

Our boy tightens his grip on the flowers again, making sure
they are still there. His footsteps echoing on the polished floor sound
louder to him than they actually are. His senses go into overdrive
and he takes a deep breath before opening an office door.

Calmly and just as he practiced, he asks for a name. Slowly and Tira-tira
just as he saw it in his head, people start to notice him. They notice
the flowers and they smile at him. He is used to the attention. He
has every right to be here, anxiously waiting to be acknowledged by
the name he asked for. He is pointed to one of the many cubicles in Ginising siya ng mga humuhugong na langaw. Tumingin-
the office. People are here and they are looking at you, he proudly tingin siya sa paligid. May nakaagaw ng kanyang pansin sa tambakan
thinks to himself. ng basura ilang dipa mula sa kanyang kinahihigaan – isang puting
supot na kanina’y wala roon.
The girl looks up with slight amusement at our boy and her eyes
are clouded with confusion. He reluctantly hands her the flowers Iginuhit ng aandap-andap na street light ang naka-imprenta
and chocolates. He wishes that people would look at him and his sa plastik: ulo ng isang bubuyog, nakangiti. At sa ibaba nito, 8-7000
neatly tied shoelaces, his crisp trousers and his impressive shirt. But Jollibee Delivery.
it’s too late. The card has told the girl that the flowers were sent by
Joe from Marketing. She indulges in a smile bigger and happier than Kumalam ang kanyang tiyan. Mamaya pa darating ang lagi
anyone else’s in the office. The people excitedly looking on are no niyang taga-sundo at taga-kolekta ng limos. Muling kumalam ang
longer looking at our boy. kanyang tiyan. ‘Di araw-araw ay ganito. Baka may tirang manok sa
supot. Kapirasong tinapay. Kanin. Ketsap nga lang p’wede na.
Our boy opens the office door and begins covering the twenty-
two paces and thirteen floors back. His footsteps no longer echo Hindi bale. Gagapang na lang siya.
on the highly polished floors and for a moment he will forget that
elevators make him nervous. Biglang may mabibilis na yabag mula sa kung saan.
Dinampot ng isang batang humihithit mula sa isang supot ang
supot ni Jollibee.

April E. Agustin
“Hoy!” pagal subalit paasik niyang sigaw.
158 The Literary Apprentice 159

“Tangna mu, tanda! Putol!” matalim na baling sa kaniya ng


bata.

Sumiklab si Putol. Natabig ng kanyang siko ang katabi


niyang lata. Tumilapon at gumulong ang mga ulo ni Rizal at
Aguinaldo. Humakbang siya gamit ang kanyang mga bisig at kamay Isa lang naman ang dahilan ng
papalapit sa bata. paghuhuramentado ng kanyang
Subalit tumatawang pumalikod ang bata. Dagli niyang lama’t loob
sinilip ang laman ng plastik. Nanlaki ang mga mata. Nabitiwan ang
dalawang supot na bitbit sabay sa pagpakawala ng sigaw.
Hindi niya alam kung bakit niya biglang ginawa iyon. Siguro matagal na
Lumagpak sa aspalto ang 8-7000 Jollibee Delivery. ring nagngingitngit ang sikmura niya. Ilang taon na rin niyang tinitiis ang
Tumilapon ang laman nitong tila babad sa ketsap. Gumulong pagsirko-sirko nito. Ilang taon ding kumalampag ang kanyang lama’t loob.
patungo sa matanda. Kumalam ang kanyang tiyan.
Marahil, kanina na nga ang pinakamalalang pagwawala ng kanyang
Sa pagitan ng pag-ugong ng kanyang sikmura lumingon sa katawan. Walang pakundangan ang pagkabog ng kanyang dibdib.
kanya ang ga-kamaong ulo ng isang sanggol. Nakaduduwal ang pagtaob ng kanyang sikmura. Doon, sa pagitan
ng paghahabol ng hininga at pagbuo ng mga butil-butil na pawis—
naramdaman niya ang unti-unting pagtakas ng matagal nang ikinukubli.
Phillip Kimpo Jr.
Halos hindi niya namalayan ang pagpuslit ng mga iyon. Tila ba sila mga
presong ilang buwang nagbuno para sa pinakahihintay na araw. May
diskarte ang pamumuo ng bawat kataga. Tahimik ang pagkulumpon ng
mga letra. Walang nagawa ang sala-salabat na neurons at nerve endings
na pilit bumubuwag sa mga nagsasanib pwersa. Nagbungkos ang isang
pangungusap.

Pilit niyang tinikom ang bibig. Pero kasabwat ang nakabuyangyang niyang
lalamunan—malayang pinadadaan ang mga bilanggong kataga. Halos
mabitak ang kanyang gilagid sa nagkukumahog na pangungusap. Namula
ang kanyang pisngi. Nanginig ang kanyang labi. Tuluyan na siyang sumuko
sa mas makapangyarihang pwersa. Sumuka siya.
160 The Literary Apprentice 161

Bumulalas lahat sa loob ng ilang segundo. Pumaimbulong ang tamis ng


bawat letra. Sumirko-sirko ang bawat salita sa hangin – ipinagyayabang ang
nakamit na tagumpay. Nakakaumay man ang lagkit ng mga salita, unti-
unting siyang nakaramdam ng ginhawa. Maluwag na ang kanyang dibdib.
Kalmado na ang kanyang sikmura.

Isa lang naman ang dahilan ng paghuhuramentado ng kanyang lama’t loob.

Hunger
Sierra Mae C. Paraan

You look up the slide and your stomach rumbles. You’re in


the park, along with some other kids, looking for something to eat.
You’ve never been this hungry before—it’s nearly noon and you still
haven’t eaten anything—and it’s starting to get really bad. There
wasn’t any decent food in the house when you woke up earlier, in
the middle of the night; there was only milk and some leftovers in
the fridge, and that didn’t look tasty at all. So you went back to sleep,
woke up again just as the sun was rising, and saw your reflection in
the mirror.
You thought that you looked a little bluish and you nearly
screamed but remembered what Dad said about screaming, so
you covered your mouth instead. But after a while, except for that
nagging hunger, you didn’t feel anything wrong—not like the time
when your fingers got stuck in the door. It was probably the effect of
the new vitamins that they made everyone drink at school yesterday.
A pack of those pills was also given to you and your teacher told you
to give your Mom and your Dad one, too. It will probably turn you
into something like that superhero that glowed blue, you thought,
from that movie you watched.
Mom and Dad won’t wake up yet, so you went out and
started to look for food. You joined several of your neighbors
down the street—friends, classmates and some other kids from
162 The Literary Apprentice 163

the neighborhood. They were all also blue (but now a little darker
in shade, like a bruise) and hungry, just like you. Weird that their
parents didn’t wake up early as well, and the school bus didn’t arrive.
That didn’t happen all the time, and except for the food part, having
no grown-ups looked like fun and exciting at the same time. So you
and your friends went to the park looking for that hotdog guy for
something to eat, but he’s gone too. Looks like you have to survive
without grown-ups for a while.
Then you and your friends decided to go to the slides instead The Infinite Lives of
and just grab some food when something comes around. Your hunger
pangs are starting to become stronger and stronger, so much that the Marie San Juan
thought of having the whole day off isn’t that appealing anymore.
And all of you agreed that some meat sounds nice, in whatever way
you guys get it.
You look up the slide, and you see that guy that bullied you
in school. He’s waving around that expensive baseball bat his dad
got him while using the trash bin cover as a shield. librarian
Your stomach rumbles.
She used to read all the books that came in the new boxes. (With
a flashlight in the middle of the night, behind the shelves with a
bag of fries by her knees. The library multiplies ten times its size
Clara Buenconsejo and she’s there at the farthest end, comfortable in the shadows like
some malleable human shelf. “Don’t you get frightened? It’s hella
scary,” A boy in her graduate class who checks out Neruda. She has
stars in her eyes. What boy reads Neruda? “How are you a librarian?
You have red hair,” he teases, tugging on her bangs. Or he may not
have done that. It was decades ago, how would she remember.) She
doesn’t anymore.

whore

“Kendi,” she says her name is, flashing her teeth. Stretches languidly,
jutting her chest out. 
164 The Literary Apprentice Anne Lagamayo 165

“Fuck, yeah,” the American grins and yells at his friends to go on single, ugly line on his forehead. Also, he has a habit of compulsively
without him. Kendi tugs at his arm, smiling at the rest of the girls smoothing his jeans when he’s nervous, what he’s starting to do now,
waiting for their regulars. Mestizo boy will pay double, Mestizo boy palm catching on the rough denim of his lap.
won’t know the flat rates. They reach her spot behind the bar. She
turns and pushes him against the wall and gets on her knees. The “That’s,” he pauses and looks to the left uncertainly—she fucking
American has other ideas. He reaches down and pulls her chin up hates men who pause uncertainly—and continues, “the way with
roughly, pushes her collar bone with his big hand and now it’s her everything.”
head that slams against the concrete. Mestizo boy’s breath smells like
cheap tequila when he kisses her; his hands are clumsily pulling on “Yes,” she agrees immediately. “Everything just tastes of licorice.”
her breasts, pushing her sequined skirt up to her waist. He rips her She tilts her head and runs her finger through the perspiring glass.
favorite panties while panting heavily in her face. Tequila, sisig and “Especially all the things you’ve waited so long for, like absinthe or
chicharon. The only pause is when he finally pulls his zipper down fucks in the rain.”
and reaches for his cock. 
“Cut!” The director yells. “Tang ina, Marie, stop ad-libbing.”
“Fuck, you’re tight,” he gasps in her ear at his first thrust. She croons
and moans at the right places, oh oh oh’s and yesssss’s like he’s the
sex god she’s been waiting for all her life. He comes with a strangled clone
cry, another long breath in her face. Tequila, sisig, chicharon, and—
something sweet. It eludes her.  At last, a success. An MSJ 4.5 Beta model that has an independent
thought process and a human range of emotions. Everything about
He steps back and puts his limp dick back inside his jeans. Digs into her is like the original. Mr. Lopez even captured the posture, the
his pocket and pulls out a few crumpled dollars. Before he leaves, incessant, almost endearing habit of tucking her hair behind her
he reaches out and grabs a fistful of her hair. Ah hah, She thinks, ears, the slight tilt of her head when she speaks. It is ingenious. 
langka. “Cheap job,” he mutters before letting go.
“So who am I a copy of?” The Beta asks, tugging her short lab gown
down her thighs as we walk through the white hallways. She feels the
star cold, she is curious and a little wary. Her memories though, would
take some more time to surface. It’s harder, I always insist when Mr.
She wrinkles her nose and frowns at the liquid in her glass. “It San Juan presses, to copy memory. We plant triggers in her brain
tastes like licorice.” She puts it down on the counter, drags it slowly instead, so memory comes slowly instead of all at once. I remind
forward, then back. “I hate licorice.” him of the 3.7.a model when he gets impatient. It always works. The
screaming’s the key.
She looks up at him, where a slight frown has formed on his face. She
hates it when he frowns; makes his thick eyebrows coalesce into a “A loved one,” I answer her, gesturing towards a white door. “A
166 The Literary Apprentice Anne Lagamayo 167

daughter,” I say after a pause.  hands through her hair. Yes. Yes. 

She steps inside and rubs her forearms up and down. I almost
shiver with delight. The first model to feel cold. The others always rockstar
smiled at me and waved, unmindful of the arctic temperature, very
inhuman. Stuck in this indefinite sleep/ You’re the disquiet/ You don’t have to
rescue me/ You don’t have to stay/ I don’t need a savior baby/ And
“Will you come get me soon?” She asks, turning to me.  you’re not a saint (guitar solo)

“Soon,” I say with a little smile. She returns it. Her dimples hollow
her cheeks. A stroke of brilliance.  writer

A success. But her hair is a shade too light, Mr. San Juan tells me. I “San Juan!” The editor yells.
close the heavy door. This one a success and the next one perfect. 
A moment later, she pops her head in. “Boss!”

artist The editor frowns and waves a messy bundle of paper. “What is this?
And why are there so many―paragraphs?”
The idea comes to him when she comes home from the studio with
red paint in her hair. He tells her, and she looks at him incredulously San Juan brightens. “Well you see, sir, it’s about this mentally―”
and laughs.
The editor grunts and starts to put the sheets back into a folder. “You
“Oh you sweet, young thing,” she wheezes in between breaths, should know by now that no one wants to read about those stuff.
running her long, wrinkled hands through his hair, a habit he hates. They just make movies about it. Slap some awards on actors who can
“I’m too goddamned old for that shit.” appropriately portray psychos. Give me something we can sell.”

He agrees with her, ducking his head from her hands. He throws a She shrugs and smiles. “Alright, leave it to me, boss.”
t-shirt on and leaves her on the bed, thoughtful. 
The editor nods and feeds paper to the shredder. Young writers these
The next day, she shows it to him. days.

“Happy now?” She asks. 


victim
A slow smile spreads across his face and he gets up, running his
168 The Literary Apprentice Anne Lagamayo 169

Now this one’s a looker. Asian, just ‘bout five feet tall. Young, too. never been real close, so Marie doesn’t get what the deal is. Then
Prob’ly around sixteen or seventeen. They all come to the City at Nadine shushes her and with an impish smile gestures at her to
that age—fresh and bright-eyed and hoping to be real famous—and crawl under the bed. Is your hair for real? Nadine says, turning on
the City kills them all. And there’s nothing merciful about the City. her flashlight. Yes, Marie lies, clutching her camera. My dad is half-
She’s a bitch when it comes to pretty young things. This one is bent American. Nadine smiles, her eyes crinkling. Well you look real
at all sorts of angles and her dress pushed crudely past her waist. pretty. Can I kiss you? Marie tilts her head for a moment. Sure, she
nods. Nadine leans in and presses her lips to hers. It’s not all that,
Garder! Marie thinks. It’s wet and sloppy and she crinkles her eyes a little at
Nadine’s small tongue against her teeth. Later when Marie’s mother
Yes sir? develops the pictures Marie sees the last one, a blur of white and
blue and black and red and skin; she must’ve accidentally taken it.
Cover her up, would ya? It must have been the moment when Nadine rested her hand on the
back of her neck, her fingers parting her hair, curling into her skin.
Yes, sir.

She could’ve been real famous, I say. child

Score for the City. Nine stab wounds and nearly all of her ribs broken, Her one craving is for ampalaya. Poor Joe, buys them by the kilo;
and her throat cut wide open. She never stood a chance, small as she he’s practically a suki at the market. She loves the texture of it in
is―he would’a been twice, thrice her size, prob’ly crushed her lungs her mouth, the bite and bitterness of it. She wants ampalaya every
the first go. meal of the day. Stewed into pinakbet, cut into thin slices in her
sandwich, stir-fried with oyster sauce, blended into a shake. You’ll
Real famous, I mutter. shrivel our girl up, Joe warns, honestly concerned. But she wants the
child to know bitterness, be familiar with it, know its taste in her
But then again, with all that red in her face, in her hair, you could mouth. (It will be her shining armor later, the first time she skins her
never really tell. knee, the first time a boy breaks her, when Joe leaves them for his
assistant, or when she finds out she’s pregnant at fifteen.) Even her
name is testament. Marie for the bitter, like saints for the sweet.
photographer
 
All the titos and titas had been staring at her and murmuring at first witch
then not so quietly after when her cousin Nadine grabbed her arm
and pulled her out back. (Marie almost dropped her new disposable She was the only mind-seer in all of Beldere, and for solstice, she
camera too, good thing her mother bought the wrist strap.) They’ve received a most interesting visitor in her garden. Interesting visitors
170 The Literary Apprentice Anne Lagamayo 171

weren’t a rarity for someone as powerful as she–her aura drew all its paws dug into the ground. With another push, she felt the wall
kinds of beings–and living at the edge of the forest certainly brought start to loosen. The goat started to bleat loudly―a warning. Finally,
a whole host of curious creatures to her door. But this one–she had with a last great heave, the wall shattered. 
never quite seen something like this before. 
Soft at the belly, not quite dead. White and soft, tail long. Green and
“It’s―” Pixie had paused when she first called the witch’s attention to fresh, the grass is cooler here. Flesh is juicy. Meat is thick. She should stop
it, “―eating,” she said carefully. “By the rose bushes.” soon. Pixie calling at the gate. Her stomach full. Her jaw wet. Her
mane itches in this weather. Her eyes water. Pixie screaming. Lithe
The witch had grown curious at her tight-lipped apprentice, normally and wonderful, ground at her belly. River currents faster today. Yarn
so talkative, and had gone out to the garden to see it. It was eating, as smooth. The field stretches on to forever. She must have some.
Pixie said, though the witch saw at once her difficulty in describing
it. One part of it was calmly grazing, the other had a squealing
rabbit in its big jaws, and another part was slowly swallowing a stiff doctor
mouse. 
She stands at the threshold of the last room on the third floor. The
The witch smiled in delighted surprise and approached the creature husband is asleep beside his wife’s armchair again, while the wife
slowly. At the crunch of a twig at her feet, all three heads immediately finds something fascinating by the window. Dr. San Juan knocks
fixed their steely gazes on her. She paused and waited, resisting the lightly. The husband stirs, looks at his wife, who has whipped her
urge to cast out her Sight. Mind-seeing was ordinarily easy; Pixie, head to fix her stare at the doctor’s forehead.
she could read like a well-worn book. Animals were slightly more
difficult to read. Once in a while, the witch would suddenly have a “Good morning,” Dr. San Juan smiles and walks into the room.
washed, faded image of a ball of yarn in her mind―her cat, Astrophel, “How are we doing today?” She opens the patient’s chart.
on rainy days―whereas the clear, moving picture of water pulsing
with life was the river dragon’s. But to see the mind of a chimera, a “She looks at you whenever you walk into the room,” The husband
full-grown one, as cautious as this was—a challenge, she thought. says with a grin, squeezing his wife’s hand. “It’s your hair, I think.
Would she capture three different thoughts at once? See fast images She’s attracted to the color.”
or layered pictures? 
Dr. San Juan nods encouragingly. “I believe so, too. It’s good. She’s
She would try carefully, she decided. The witch cast her Sight at responding well to the treatment.”
the chimera and slowly prodded its mind. She was met with a solid
hard wall. The chimera’s snake tail shifted slightly. Curious, she “After all this, we’ll have a picnic and go jogging,” he laughs.
doubled her efforts and pushed at the wall harder. Nothing. More
determinedly, the witch grasped her staff and shoved at the chimera’s Dr. San Juan pauses in the middle of readying a syringe and looks at
mind with her gift. The lion started to toss its mane agitatedly, and him warningly. “Joseph—”
172 The Literary Apprentice 173

“I know, I know.” He stands up and goes around his wife’s chair.

Dr. San Juan studies him carefully, notes his wrinkled shirt and
the dark circles under his eyes. “Joseph, this isn’t a miracle cure.
I’ve talked to you about this.” She inserts the needle into the wife’s Folds
forearm and slowly presses the plunger.
I traced my fingers over
“She wasn’t always like this. And she’s already shown signs of the folds of your feet
improving,” Joseph tells her, following her to the door. “Until then, while I rubbed them with oiled hands,
I’m staying here.” as you asked,
to “make them soft as
Dr. San Juan sighs and stops at the threshold. “You should rest.” She a baby’s skin.”
lightly touches his arm. “Joseph, you’re not a saint. Come on and get The soles were hard like dog’s pads and
some coffee at the cafeteria, at least.” I imagined you walking over
hot coals
like the ones on tv shows—
patient but they had their secrets, and though
you never learned their tricks
―After the doctor leaves, and the husband (Christ, finally), she starts your feet weren’t black.
to feel her feet. Smell is next, bananas on the table. Air conditioner
is too high, bed is too white, etc. Feeling of one and not others. I felt your muscles loosen
Bananas, table, air con, bed, chair, room, window. How dull, this but I cannot make them soft again.
one. She waits for it to pass. This never lasts long―

Bernadette Canay
Anne Lagamayo
174 The Literary Apprentice 175

After
To rip a story from his photo and not listen to the sound of tearing, to compose
how cold it was, or just how loud the coldness against the glow of candles, to dip Manitingon and the
a finger into the dripping wax,
Skymaiden
a photo as the sum of everything shut off
from the world
subtractions
everything you can take away TOMORROW I SHALL FINALLY meet my father. It’s not
while insisting that the still life still lives, that the hand that I have never known who he is or that he has been lost all these
can still have
years—but I suppose it amounts to those things. I haven’t seen him
since the day my mother packed our bags and walked out of his
to window his body into the moment, to slip into the sour heat, to be needing
without wanting, weaving a routine around the locals, the ancient rituals, the daily
life, fourteen years ago. I was three. I barely remember that day, or
prayers before saints, the occasional cup of rum, the one message received before our life before that. What little I know, I learned from my mother.
signal blacks out, again, and then before the piece is over, before the place is over I used to pelt her with questions about him and the reason we came
to live with my grandparents, but she never answered them—not
He stands before the subject, a caption before the facts. adequately, anyway. The one thing she made clear was that she
He stands, his eyes gathering all that the shutter cannot. didn’t want to talk about it—not openly, for my mother is a very
reserved woman. But there are subtler ways to relate histories, and
sometimes, one just knows that there is something more to what
is said. The folktale about the skymaiden who lived on earth, for
Melissa Villa-Real Basmayor instance, which my mom used to tell me, freely making alterations,
seems to reveal more about her life with him than any of her vague
answers. Through the years that story has been a source of comfort,
an anchor in a swirling sea of conjectures that don’t always make
sense. But my mother’s retelling was the skymaiden’s tale, and I often
wonder about the man who became her husband. Through the years
I have mulled over the story, speculating, filling in gaps, dreaming
176 The Literary Apprentice Kristine Marie T. Reynaldo 177

up details. Today I am writing that story down, not exactly as my “They are denizens of the Skyworld, the realm of the departed,”
mother presented it, but as I imagine it now. echoed the storyteller’s voice in his mind, “tasked by Bathala to tend
to the stars, the spirits of our ancestors. They belong in the heavens,
* and if they descend to this world, it is to fetch a spirit—or to prey
on a man.”
FROM HIS HIDING PLACE by the river Manitingon He remembered the silence that hung on the crowd, broken by
watched her. She had descended from the sky like a gentle breeze, her one youth, impudent and naïve, who had cried out, “Still, I would
wings softly flapping as she neared the river. Carefully she disrobed die to see one of them, if they are as beautiful as you say!”
and hung her sparkling white dress on a nearby branch. The moment The storyteller had turned on him eyes that had seen too much.
her feet touched the water, her raven wings fell off and scattered into “And so you will, for to love one is to embrace death.”
a million feathers, glinting in the sun, first spinning around her, and Manitingon had heard about it before—their beguiling eyes
then, as if carried by the wind, settling on the ground near her dress. and tempting smiles, their long, nimble fingers ending in sharp nails,
His eyes devoured the nacreous glow of her skin, the long black their pearly pointed teeth, and the corpses of men whose hearts they
locks trailing the length of her back, the glistening rivulets writhing ripped out. But he had heard other stories too, stories of weaklings
down her body, her hips swaying gently as she played and bathed. leading the tribe to victory in battle, of poor men suddenly gaining
He gulped and tightened his hold on his blowpipe, intoxicated wealth, of the insignificant rising to positions of power—all because
by her beauty. To capture her means prosperity, to love her means they had captured a skymaiden.
death. He did not know it yet, but he was falling in love—falling “They say such a creature can give you whatever you desire,”
into her snare. he had called to the storyteller as the party was breaking up. “Is it
true?”
The men of the village were warned: Do not go seeking foreign “It is true,” sighed the old woman. “Strip her of her wings
ladies, sons, there are plenty enough women in our village. Do not and clothe her in mortal garb, and she is bound to you, obliged to
court danger. Stay away from the pools of the forest on summer bestow her gifts. But—it will never make you happy,” and she had
days. Leave the daughters of the Skyworld alone. But Manitingon gone on her way.
was not to be dissuaded once he made up his mind. As he crouched Manitingon had stayed in his place in front of the fire, deep
hidden in the foliage, his mother’s tapis and hand-woven sack on the in thought. He was a young man of few means and many dreams.
ground, he remained as resolute as he had been the night he plotted Save for his ambitions, there was nothing exceptional about him.
his future. He knew it but could never accept it. That night he had resolved
They had gathered around the communal hearth, young and to rescue his being from indifference and ignominy—the mouths
old, as the village storyteller wrought the skymaidens in their minds’ of village storytellers must chant praises to his name! And as he
eyes: seven sisters, all with skin like a river pebble, so smooth and so stared at the dying embers, he knew it was possible. If only he could
white they shone with a faint light, eyes, hair, and wings as shiny and capture a skymaiden.
black as crow feathers, and bodies as slender as palm trees. Stories of
impossible beauty—and of darkness. It had been fourteen days—fourteen long days of going to
178 The Literary Apprentice Kristine Marie T. Reynaldo 179

different pools, rivers and streams around the forest which were was not so quick to trust. She could kill him, but that would not
allegedly the skymaidens’ favorite haunts, fourteen days of waiting give her back her wings and dress—and without them, she could
in the scorching heat, being bitten by mosquitoes, hoping. Until it not go back to the Skyworld. Very well, mortal, she thought. I shall
happened. She happened. He lifted the blowpipe to his lips. It pains play this game with you. But I shall win in the end, and I will have
me to do this, he thought, but I will have you — as my wife and as your heart.
my luck, as he prepared to shoot her.

EACH DAY, THE SKYMAIDEN returned to the river to look


THE SKYMAIDEN WOKE UP to find herself in a dingy hut, for her wings and dress, still hoping she would find them though
lying on a threadbare mat on the dirt floor, clothed only in a tapis. she was convinced she never would. As the days wore on even her
A lanky man clutching a woven sack was crouching over her with hope deserted her but she continued to return, drawn by her loss.
a strange look in his eyes. She knew it was the same man hiding in For a while she shunned Manitingon and never spoke to him, try
the bushes earlier. She sensed his presence some time after she had as he might to reach out to her, to care for her. But as the weeks
disrobed. Indeed, it was Manitingon—but that detail she did not progressed she grew lonely and hungry and came to tolerate his
know yet; in fact, it would be weeks before she would ask him his presence and his talk; eventually, she welcomed them. Manitingon
name. treated her well and never spoke a harsh word. He shielded her from
“Where is my dress? My wings?” was the first question she the prying questions of the villagers who eyed her with curiosity
asked Manitingon as she edged away from him as if repulsed and and a certain wariness reserved for strangers. The skymaiden, for her
stood up. part, wanted nothing to do with them—she felt degraded as it was.
“I do not have them,” was Manitingon’s prompt reply, carelessly She associated only with Manitingon. She let him accompany her
stowing in a corner the sack he clutched. on her daily excursions to the river. While she would bathe or stare
So. So… the Skymaiden thought. She had heard about this into the waters in contemplation, he hunted for food. Sometimes,
situation from her incautious sisters before, though she had never she helped him cook but she never took a bite of the food herself.
been in this predicament herself, until now. Baring her sharp, “Why do you never eat?” Manitingon asked her one day.
gleaming teeth in a smile, her cold eyes bore into his. “What must “I am an immortal. I do not need food,” she answered. It was
I give in exchange for my freedom, mortal? I can tell you where the not quite true. She did not tell him she was feeding on his love,
earth hides her glittering secrets, all yours to plunder. I can give you which was growing more fervent each day.
military might and the fortitude to lead men in battle. I can show
you how to persuade, to manipulate, to control. What shall you The times when Manitingon was away or sleeping she searched
have in return for my wings and dress? Tell me.” the hut for her wings and dress but she never found them. She
“You—you are mistaken. I do not have them. I found you began to trust him. She came to believe that he was telling the truth
unconscious by the river… I merely wanted to cover your shame and that somebody else must have found her robes and claimed
and help you. Believe me, I am telling the truth!” them. And her wings? Why, anyone would think they were only a
She did not believe him, for she had lived a thousand years and worthless bunch of feathers! Besides, had Manitingon forced her to
180 The Literary Apprentice Kristine Marie T. Reynaldo 181

do anything, had he demanded any repayment for her keeping? No. of a deity he held captive.
She went to the river less and less, preferring instead to stay at home, Among Manitingon’s faults was pride and the villagers’
especially when Manitingon was not out hunting. His company and whisperings would incense him no end, but that would come later.
kindness warmed her enough to grow fond of him. Already conflict had stirred, but its root was closer to home. For the
She pitied him. He often talked to her about his life, his past months Manitingon’s love for the skymaiden had waned, for
mother’s disappearance and his father’s betrayal of the tribe in a it was a love founded on the grounds of desire and that love being
battle and subsequent execution. “My father did not want to do it,” the skymaiden’s sole sustenance, her feeding had worn it thin. If it
he told her, “but the enemies threatened to kill us. That is why I do were a love founded on something more enduring than infatuation
not often mingle with the other villagers—I am dishonored.” When and hunger, it would have lasted much longer than a year, but it
one night he came home, miserable and cursing his fate, she listened was not so. Now, he only took care of her to maintain his prosperity
to him decry the injustice of it all, taking care not to taste any of and reputation. They often quarreled over the smallest of things,
the pain or anger he emanated. She watched him crumple as the which ended with weeping or cursing or storming off to wherever
memories rushed back, his father’s head, lopped off, the countless one could be free of the other.
pebbles thrown, the taunts of traitor! coward! traitor! the swish of Love being scant, the skymaiden fed on Manitingon’s other
the battle axe and the crowd jeering and his mother leaving, just emotions, like happiness and anger and sorrow and bitterness.
leaving, taking nothing, and the villagers gossiping that she had run Happiness never lasted for long nor filled her appetite—it never
off with an enemy, a traitor like her husband, a harlot, and the other satisfied but only made her crave for more; anger, sorrow, and
children picking on him, the orphan of traitors, a coward just like bitterness were unsavory fare but she had to make do with them,
his father, weak, you will never amount to anything, boy… and she for often, that was all there was. She grew thin and wan, deprived
rushed to him and took him in her arms. She let him lay his head on of the sweetness of his heart. She began frequenting the river again,
her bosom and draw her towards him, and she stifled her weeping especially at night, when she could gaze at the Skyworld in its
beneath his weight. Afterwards, as her fingers traced a soft trail along splendor, regretting that she had ever descended.
his spine, she promised his prone figure she would take care of him; Her only solace was her son, who eased Manitingon’s absence
she promised to right all the unfairness he felt life had dealt him. and gave her a sense of purpose. But it was not enough, for there are
By the time the skymaiden gave birth to a boy nine months needs motherhood alone cannot satisfy. And though Manitingon
later, Manitingon had not only become one of the wealthiest and doted on his son, carving him toys and showing him off to the tribe,
famed hunters in the tribe, but the village chief. his affection did not extend to the skymaiden, and she knew she
could never be content in the roles of mother and unheeded wife.

SUCH A RAPID RISE to success never failed to incite


suspicion, jealousy, and contempt. Tongues wagged, but this time ONE EVENING, MANITINGON INVITED his hunting
the intrigue they spread was true: the strange beautiful woman party to their newly-built hut, constructed over the old one.
Manitingon called his wife was a skymaiden and Manitingon owed Manitingon had his wife cook the deer they caught and the men
his achievements not to his own mediocre abilities but to the powers made merry on food and drink. Hours later, Manitingon, raving
182 The Literary Apprentice Kristine Marie T. Reynaldo 183

drunk, called for his wife. Guilt quickly gave way to awe, his heart filling with wonder as
“Dance for us,” he commanded her amid the whistles and jeers he remembered the day he first saw her descend from the sky, the
of his equally drunk men. adulation she inspired, the passion, the tenderness—how could he
“No.” have forgotten? He moved to touch her, but—
“Do as I say! Now dance,” he hissed. “You lied to me,” she said, her smile chilling him.
She smiled her cold smile and struck him across the face, her He could not answer, could find nothing to say.
nails digging into his flesh and drawing blood. “You should not have done it, Manitingon. Now you will
The men stopped jeering. They eyed Manitingon, wondering pay.”
how he would react to such an affront. Manitingon did not want “Let me—”
to seem weak in front of his men. So he ripped up the skymaiden’s “No,” she cut in. “Whatever it is, it will do you no good. Keep
clothes and dragged her by the hair, screaming, into his room. everything, your position, your riches—I care not—but you shall
Through the night, her cries stabbed the stillness, again and again. lose us,” she continued.
He apologized stiffly in the morning, blaming it all on the drink, “Us?”
but his apology did not convince the skymaiden of his sincerity. He “My son and I.”
finally ripped the delicate fabric of concern she still felt for him, the “No! Leave if you want but I will never let you take him! Where
only thing that kept her from fleeing. The moment Manitingon left, is he?”
she prepared to run away, bundling up clothes, jewels and food for The skymaiden pointed to the mat on the far side of the room.
her son. However, when it came to departing, her son would not The lifeless body of his baby was already blue. Clutching his son,
budge, bawling and squirming whenever she tried to pick him up. Manitingon crumpled to the floor, shaking.
He was playing in the yard near a patch of newly-overturned earth. “I can only take his spirit with me, you see,” she said.
Crying, his little hands tugged at something that looked like twine, Manitingon could not hear her. My son, my son, his heart
stuck in the damp soil. At first she tried to make him stop, but as he cried over and over until even the walls seemed to reverberate with
would not, she decided to help him dig it up. They found that the the thought, until the thought seemed to take on palpable weight
twine he was pulling was the cord of a hand-woven sack, the same and crushed him.
one she had observed Manitingon always carrying with him those “The game is up, Manitingon.” That smile again, but somehow
first few days. Brushing off the dirt that had stuck to its fibers, she it lost its steely quality. “Now I will have your heart.”
opened the sack. Inside she found—strangely, without surprise, as And she plunged her hand into his chest and ripped out his
if she had been expecting it all along—a pile of black feathers and a heart, still beating, bleeding, oozing sorrow and pain, and she licked
white dress emanating a faint glow. the trickle, and she breathed the scent of tears, and she sank her
pearly teeth into it, savoring each bitter morsel…

WHEN MANITINGON CAME HOME that evening, he Or maybe that was not how it ended. Maybe she turned away,
found his wife resplendent in the white robes and raven wings he tears in her eyes, and left Manitingon on the floor, choosing only to
had almost forgotten about, looking every inch the deity she was. take happy memories and her son’s spirit as she took flight. I wish
184 The Literary Apprentice 185

Manitingon had followed her, had braved sea and sky to be with his
wife and son. It would not have been easy. Reconciliation might not
have come, not immediately. Probably he would never have gotten
them back and perhaps rightly so. The skymaiden loved him once;
that love he lost. And so their son grew up without someone to call
father.

Tomorrow I shall meet my father. I know we have many


questions to ask each other. But first I’ll tell him that years after
the skymaiden left she placed their son among the brightest stars so
that when his father gazed heavenward each night, he would see his
son shining there. He would know that they got on without him,
and perhaps he would be reassured that the skymaiden—who put
that star there, the same one he had held in his arms—had forgiven
him.

Kristine Marie T. Reynaldo


186 The Literary Apprentice 187

darkness. It was a parade of colors on a standstill.

I tried to look at the building’s transparent glasses for as long as


the traffic permitted me. I wondered how it would be if the streets
would have those chandeliers instead of the regular street lights with
politicians’ faces, or inside the market place instead of the yellow
bulb and its eerie glow, the green shade instead of the fluorescent
light in my room. I would slowly walk down our street, fascinated by
Night Parade the different colored lights on every house. Abby’s would be orange,
Mang Rex’s would be pink and all the pork he’d be selling would
glow with the pinkish light, and Ate Cora and her white dog will
blush lavender from their lamp. The five-storied apartment would
Darkness had dominated the sky before I finally decided to head get a grand chandelier, and people would start renting the place once
back home. Avoid the rush hour, get home earlier, avoid the acid- more. My house would get dim, multi-colored lights and we’d never
yellow afternoon light and get the illusion that the EDSA air isn’t as use the yellow bulb again.
poisonous as it really is. I was on a rare “new bus,” one of those with
two flat-screen televisions and personalized (in a way) ceiling lamps. Eventually, the traffic made way; red tail lights turned a pale yellow,
I looked around to see if anyone was using their lamps. No lamps and everything again became a display of passing light.
on. I wondered whether they gave off a white or a dull incandescent
yellow. I reached up and pushed a button. One second passed by,
two. Nothing happened.
Francelle Napura
I looked outside: neon yellow and red restaurant signs that flew by
before the letters made any sense, billboards and celebrity faces, cars
in their dimly-lighted galleries, a bright yellow market place, dark
bus stops, flickering florescent lights inside houses. We slowed down
near Balintawak— the LRT construction, traffic congestion, red tail
lights. Right outside my window was a&p lamps, if I read the sign
right.

There were old chandeliers with a thousand grain of golden bulbs


giving off warm yellow light, new chandeliers with a dozen of white
lights around its center, lamps in shades of all colors, night-lights.
They were individual illuminations separated by a void of shallow
188 The Literary Apprentice Adam David 189

Everything merges with the night I suggested not loving not taking serious. In another place in the map, my own
map ran down the places we had our house had our house volunteered to make
And offer our professional exterminators all the right problems. ends meet maybe as a short order cook. I don’t really know.

I am seven and here I am. There are years between here and here. I am fourteen.
“Knock-knock.”
Three years beside me. The dead were stuck were dead. Ten minutes before, the “Who’s there?”
houses were all okay, she assured me. Just out of reach. Just there. “Bisaya.”
*locks door*
And more importantly at the very least that thing it’s quite a thing.
I am forty-nine.
“Knock-knock.”
“Who’s there?”
“Bi - Bicolano, bai.”
*locks door*

Observe something as it changes in time. Record its names.

I lost my license to go through everything again. For other people, that sounded
too good to be true, so I referenced my application and told them I tried.
190 The Literary Apprentice Adam David 191

Observe something as it changes in scale. Record its names. Observe something as it changes in a hierarchy. Record its names.

“Here we are, stuck by this river, waiting, always failing to remember why you
talk to me from a distance,” I reply.
192 The Literary Apprentice Adam David 193

Observe something as it changes in differentiation. Record its names. Observe something as it changes under different emotions. Record its names.

I hope this letter finds you. Please allow me a moment to grow under several I want.
excellent architects with complex detail and defining design furthermore.
A note said “a house,” not “a home.” As it was a house not some home. A house
with a garden and trees and birds. It’s a beautiful house with moldings and stucco
and murals and somebody died a brutal death there. The corpse still hidden. The
carpet covering up. All the whatnot.

Many preparations. The men prepare for just one night. The women prepare
whenever bells are ringing. My preparation is my sulk.

My eye for my sister. An inspired decision. A special something going on


somewhere. Somehow sexier. Far far sexier. Whatever. I’m just happy I know
what “chop suey” means.
194 The Literary Apprentice Adam David 195

And so the neighbors demolished the houses. They neglected the houses. So they
demolished the houses. Maybe in the next year or so.

Another question: how does the work work? I’m still thinking of how to do it
cheap.

And as soon as we find our cell phone signals on the brink of collapsing radio
resonance our signals all collectively send and receive messages. “Maybe.” “We’ll
see.”

The other revelation leaked black sludge and ruined gardenias. They kept it there
for a week and then went to pick it up like it was brand new. It looked brand
new. These guys do a good job of it, thinking of dinner.

Observe something as it changes in different languages. Record its names.


196 The Literary Apprentice Adam David 197

Observe: something changes in time or name.

Observe something which never changes. Record its names.

I had to lie down for a while where I lost my cherry with my sister. That was a
long summer.

And I have been meaning to drink haphazardly through the house. The house
was wrecked. Everything of the house we neglected to fix. The inside of the
house. The patio and deck. Everything was said and done.

Not only your home but experience of home. Your home a design for your home.
Your home a design for your home.

Install the new foundation. Put in the new floor. It’s a job as jobs have to have.

Hundreds of households collapse. Millions of households silentlessly suffer. A


clean house is certainly very sad. The most ideal.
198 The Literary Apprentice Adam David 199

Observe change in scale. Rename. Observe hierarchy. It names.

I was about to leave the house when my phone rang. I ran to answer it intimately Later that week in between. And afterwards forget that which we’ll never forget.
in ten minutes. “Wow, that’s great.” I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
And our shambles left to fend off for itself. We saw it in the morning half-eaten
And the game was a game. The dog crisscrossing the yard. The merry-go-around by some animal. Decapitated. Much to my delight. I was on the next plane back
missing wholesale. Tree and landscapes bring it back to life. But first a life.

A few years ago it was early morning and for a few years, of course. Too good to
be true, and that time, yes.
200 The Literary Apprentice Adam David 201

Observe something different. Record it. Observe emotions, names.

And I remember I was here.

I am seventy-seven and here I am. There are years between here and here.

And the first thing was the last thing.


202 The Literary Apprentice 203

Observe thing as language. Record its name. Observe. Never change it.

Adam David
Choose a Line.
An alternative way of reading The Literary Apprentice, like a
twisted table of contents. A line is a poem is a story is a springboard.
A line to follow snippets. A number to find the page. Read the lines
as a whole and you have a completely new text.
206 The Literary Apprentice 207

I close my eyes 103


I don’t think she pays attention anyway 105
if only they would let me, 106
Maiiwasan ang kalungkutan, lalo na 110
Iyon na nga lagi siguro ang huling 90
Tut-tut. Tut-tut. 112

20
I will meet another you. 61
It all started innocently enough –
1 tiket sa bus para sa unang byahe bukas 123
that I wake up with the din around me: 25
108
maybe one day I’ll stop 127
falling mutely
makikipaglaro ako sa ideyang sasagutin nang pag-aabang 128
Tuluyan na akong naligaw 26
I’ll see you but I won’t feel your hand 129
– from vendors with toothless smiles to professionals with
If I had my way, I’d just flush it down the drain. 130
frowns to hide their dentures 27
30
Quickly. Never allow the 132
Lahat nawawala.
ang mga alaala ay dumarating at umaalis na parang dampi ng
ngunit babalik at babalik din 52
53
mga patak 133
impatient
habambuhay na nagpaali-aligid 140
Sana nga may backspace din ang buhay para ilang pindot lang 47
55
One hits the target 141
the things you never know,
almost as if they were there. 142
Sa wala rin napunta 57
59
revealing possibilities 150
Fuck!
to the scratch of invisible wounds. 153
Down towards the ground 72
62
His senses go into overdrive 155
So you could see what you’re going up against
Di bale. 157
A whole box of 74
Isa lang naman ang dahilan ng paghuhuramentado ng kanyang
“It’s this other girl. 76
lama’t loob. 159
me 100
91
hunger pangs are starting to become stronger and stronger 161
hindi pa rin exciting ang buhay ko.
You don’t have to rescue me/ You don’t have to stay 163
She sat there, doing nothing, 97
102
I imagined you walking over 173
walang tigil
everything you can take away 174
208 The Literary Apprentice 209

Through the years, I have mulled over the story 175


Eventually, the traffic made way; 186
Contributors
Observe: something changes in time or name. 188

John Paul Abellera  took John Paul Abellera took up BA


Communications and Media Studies and BS Business Management,
Major in Marketing and Sales at San Beda College-Alabang. His works
have been published in The Philippine Star, The Manila Times, Literary
Apprentice Light, Sip and Kuwaderno. He currently teaches at San
Beda College-Alabang and ABE International Business College-Cubao,
and works for ABS-CBN Film Productions, Inc. (Star Cinema), for
which he has co-written the screenplay of D’ Anothers, Dubai, All
About Love, Agent X44, Paano Kita Iibigin, Villa Estrella and the story
of Close To You. He is a three-time FAMAS nominee, a Catholic Mass
Media Award and Maria Clara Award winner.

Si Genaro R. Gojo Cruz ay isang manunulat na taga-San Jose del


Monte, Bulacan. Awtor siya ng mga aklat-pambata.

Ayn, 23, teaches at The Linden Tree Institute, a school for


dyslexics in Alabang. She’s 18 units shy of finishing her MA in
Comparative Literature. Her work has been published in the
Philippines, United Kingdom, United States, Argentina, and India, the
most recent  publication being Arbor Vitae in the US. A vegetarian-
bum poet, she spends her free time walking the streets of Cavite.

Si Phillip Kimpo Jr. ay tubong Lungsod Quezon at dugong


Aklanon. Nagtapos siya ng B.S. Computer Science mula sa UP
Diliman. Naging Fellow siya sa 9th UST National Writers’ Workshop
at 2007 LIRA Poetry Workshop. Nalathala ang kanyang mga tula at
sanaysay sa Ingles at Filipino sa The Philippine Star, Likhaan 2008
(UP Centennial Edition), Literary Apprentice Lite, Bulawan Online,
at iba pa. Kasalukuyan siyang Pangulo ng LIRA at kasapi ng UMPIL.
Tinatapos niya ngayon ang kanyang unang aklat ng mga sanaysay, ang
210 The Literary Apprentice 211

Corsair of Cor-Street. Bisitahin siya sa www.phillip.kimpo.ph. Wyatt Ong is currently a senior at the Ateneo de Manila
University, where she studies Management, a different kind of poetry.
Si U Eliserio ay nagtuturo ng popular na kultura sa Departamento She also serves as the Associate Editor of Heights, the school’s literary
ng Filipino at Panitikan ng Pilipinas.  Myembro s’ya ng KULITI, grupo and artistic publication, and was a fellow of the 14th Ateneo-Heights
ng mga erotista. Writers Workshop and most recently, the 8th Ateneo National Writers
Workshop.
Santiago Bergantinos Villafania is a Pangasinan poet based in
Cavite/Manila, Philippines. Born in Tuliao, Sta. Barbara, Pangasinan Si Chuckberry J. Pascual ay nagtapos ng MA Araling Pilipino
on January 31, 1971, Villafania graduated with a degree of Bachelor at kasalukuyang nasa programa ng PhD Malikhaing Pagsulat sa
of Arts in English from the University of Pangasinan in 1991. He is an Unibersidad ng Pilipinas. Ang kanyang mga kuwento at kritikal na
adjunct faculty member at Emilio Aguinaldo College-Manila and the sanaysay ay nailimbag sa Philippine Collegian, Literary Apprentice,
head of the EAC Printing Press-Cavite.  Philippine Studies, Ani, at Daluyan.
Some of his poems have appeared in local and international print
and web publications: Balon Silew, AWARD, Philippines Free Press, Kasalukuyang kumukuha ng BA Araling Pilipino sa Unibersidad
Philippine Graphic, ANI (CCP), Philippine Panorama, Sunday Times ng Pilipinas, Diliman si Mary Anne M. Umali. Nalathala na ang
Magazine (Manila Times), Magnapoets, The Heron’s Nest, HaikuHut’s kanyang mga kwento sa Philippine Graphic at naging fellow sa ika-7
Short Stuff, Ygdrasil, Crimson Feet, In Our Own Words 1 & 2, Picolata National Writers Workshop ng Ateneo. Mababasa sa kanilang high
Review, MindFire, etc.   school yearbook na itinadhanang maka-slow dance niya si Masked
His poetry collection in Pangasinan language Balikas na Caboloan Rider Black.
is among the works published by the National Commission for the
Culture and the Arts (NCCA) under its UBOD New Authors Series Zaldy Dandan studied broadcast journalism at the Polytechnic
(2005).  University of the Philippines and was a writer for the Daily Globe,
Villafania advocates for the resurgence of Pangasinan as a literary the Manila Standard and the Manila Times before moving to Saipan,
language. He was awarded the Writer of the Year (2004) by the Ulupan Northern Marianas in 1993 where he now edits the Marianas Variety.
na Pansiansia’y Salitan Pangasinan (Association for the Preservation of A fellow at the 1996 U.P. National Writers Workshop in Baguio,
the Pangasinan Language) and Award of Merit (2005) by the Association and the 1998 Dumaguete National Writers Workshop, his poems
of Writers and Authors for Regional Development (Region I) for his won first prize in the 1996 Panorama Magazine literary competition,
first book, Pinabli tan arum ni’ran Anlong (Beloved and Other Poems) and an honorable mention in the 1996 Philippines Free Press literary
published in 2003.  competition. His work has been published by the Panorama Magazine,
His second book of poems, Malagilion: Sonnets tan Villanelles, is Philippines Free Press, Graphic, Sunday Inquirer Magazine and the
an attempt to open the propylaea of literary renaissance in Pangasinan. 1996 and 1998 Likhaan Books of Poetry and Fiction. He was awarded
He is currently coming out with a collection of his poems in English first prize for best editorial writing in 1995 by the U.S. Society of
entitled Murtami: Songs for the Lover and Other Poems, and Ghazalia Professional Journalists and was the recipient of the 2001 Northern
(Pangasinan Ghazals, 2010).  Marianas Governor’s Humanities Award “for outstanding contributions
He maintains a personal website Dalityapi Unpoemed: Vox to journalism and media.”
Pangasinense at http://www.dalityapi.com/. 
212 The Literary Apprentice 213

Si Debbie D. Nieto ay naging Fellow sa IYAS Creative Writing


Workshop (2009), LIRA Poetry Clinic (2008) at UST National Members
Writers Workshop (2008).  Naging kasapi siya ng LIRA noong 2009
at kasaping-tagapagtatag ng Dapitdilim Fellowship of Writers noong
2008.  Nagtapos siya sa UST. 

Oscar T. Serquina, Jr. is a fourth year BA Speech Communication


April Agustin is currently working as a hack copywriter for
major. Torn between his passion for writing and his fondness for
an SEO firm. Her idea of paradise is pizza and cartoons in an air-
speaking, he is a member of UP Ugnayan ng Manunulat and UP Speech
conditioned room.
Communication Association. Scouring book stores and covering and
reading books are his anti-depressants.He was also a fellow for poetry
Pola Del Monte is the epitome of kikay and “small but terrible”
in the 10th UST National Writers Workshop. 
personified.

Si Francelle Napura ay madalas matulog sa bus na papuntang


Valenzuela. Ilang beses na siyang lumagpas sa bababaan niya.

Ang tutubi ay mahiwagang insekto. Ipadala ito sa 50 kaibigan at


magiging tutubi ka rin. Totoo ito. Si Alexandra Paredes, naging tutubi
na.

Ivy Jean Vibar graduated from the University of the Philippines


with a degree in Journalism. She likes macadamia nuts and chocolate,
has an eclectic taste in music and movies, and thinks newsprint smells
like home.

Carmina Jariel is a 3rd Year BA Speech Communication major.


She finds solace writing her poems in wee hours while reviewing for
multiple exams and baby thesis-izing. A true-blue crammer, that’s how
she finds it real.

Anne Lagamayo loves reading in the dark and, as a result, has had
glasses since she was 9.

Ronald Ramos graduated cum laude with the degree in BA


English Studies: Language. He became president of UP Ugat, Councilor
of CAL Student Council and Editor-in-Chief of Kalatas (the official
214 The Literary Apprentice 215

yearbook of CAL). He was chosen as one of the participants in the her quest to have a shit load of cash, abs so flat you can serve and eat
first UP DFPP Writing Wokshop or recently known as Rogelio Sicat sushi on it, and a caramel-colored Chow Chow.
Writing workshop. Now, he is somewhere-out-there, and doesn’t want
to be found. Leslie Marie Prestoza loves traveling, green tea and guinea pigs.
She’s currently obsessed with collecting all of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld
Judd Willis is an accounting student who loses his balance and novels.
takes credit for it.
Adam David is a bookmaker living in Cubao. He maintains a
Kristine Reynaldo is a fourth year English major. She was so blog regularly at wasaaak.blogspot.com.
fascinated by fairy tale retellings that she wrote three final papers and
a short story about them and almost did her thesis on “The Bloody Leirald Reyes is a third year Business Administration and
Chamber”. Accountancy student who finds God to be her greatest strength and
inspiration.
Clara Buenconsejo is a 4th year Creative Writing major
attempting to do the slightly impossible—finish her course on time Maria Pia Benosa, 18, actually has four first names. She takes
(four years), despite transferring from another course (European the length of it as a sign that her mother had predestined her to be a
Languages). She is currently an intern at the Vibal Foundation, writing writer, although that fate has yet to be fulfilled. While on a year-long
a 300-word summary of a 78-page version of Juan Tamad while waiting exile in America, she is seriously considering a primary name switch to
for her thesis draft to return. her second name, Emilynda. Apparently, there is room in the world for
such old school names to be appreciated, unlike back home where the
Noong fourth year high school lamang nalaman ni Bernadette many John and Chloe Reyeses tend to laugh at it.
Canay na may isang “t” lang sa halip na dalawa ang legal niyang
pangalan. Malaking bagay ito para sa kanya, kaya kahit mali ginagamit Aaron Galzote is a senior at UP Diliman. His most recent work
niya pa rin ito sa pagpapangalan ng mga nabiling libro. Nais niyang was published in Ampersand.
makaharap ang nag-type ng pangalan niya sa Birth Certificate balang
araw. Melissa Villa-Real Basmayor graduated from UP Diliman in
2008. She currently teaches Humanities at Ateneo de Naga University.
Mahilig magbasa ng diyaryo si Sierra Mae C. Paraan. Horoscope
ang una niyang tinitignan. Si Sarah Grutas ay nagtapos ng BA Malikhaing Pagsulat sa UP
Diliman. Nagtrabaho siya bilang editor at writer sa ilang publishing
Sarah Matias, better known as Surot, quit her day job and is company bago naging presidential staff officer ng National Youth
now living the life of a semi-starving freelance writer. A year before Commission.
graduating with a degree in Creative Writing, she has published two
chicklit novels (even though she’s never really read any book of that
genre). Her “more serious” works appear in previous editions of the
Literary Apprentice and the first volume of Ampersand. She is still on
217

Acknowledgment

Our heartfelt thanks go out to—

Mr. George Vibal and Mrs. Esther Vibal for encouraging the emergent
generation of writers and generously supporting the UP Writers Club ;

the Vibal Foundation for sponsoring the Literary Apprentice 2009


and for every dream you’ve made come true ;

Mr. Christian Pangilinan, Ms. Kristine Mandigma, Ate Karen, Kuya


Randy and Kuya Barry—we’re grateful for each day you gave us ;

the Institute of Creative Writing, our flagship department, for all the
love we found in you ;

RockEd for collaborating in this cultural endeavor and for all the joy
you brought into our lives ;

Adam David for babysitting us through layout ABC and book design
tips, for suggesting an Index of Random Lines, and for all the wrongs
that you made right ;

the Buenconsejo Family for providing shelter and basic supplies


during the folio production—we had your love, we had it all ;

our fellow writing orgs, UP UGAT and UP Quill—our world is a


better place because of you(uuuuu) ;

and Prof. Jose Y. Dalisay Jr. for the kind introduction. You were our
strength when we were weak (you were our strength), you were our
voice when we couldn’t speak (you were our voice)–you said no star
was out of reach.
Get Your Fortune.