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Likhaan 2007


The University of the Philippines Press

Diliman, Quezon City
UP Press Bldg., UP Campus, Diliman, Quezon City 1101
Tel. No.: 9253243 / Telefax No.: 9282558

© 2007 by UP Institute of Creative Writing

All rights reserved.
No copies can be made in part or in whole without prior
written permission from the author and the publisher.

ISSN 1908-8795

Book design: Fidel Rillo


Dr. Gémino H. Abad
Prof. Amelia Lapeña Bonifacio
Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera

Dean Virgilio S. Almario
Dr. Ma. Josephine Barrios (on leave)
Dr. Jose Y. Dalisay, Jr.
Prof. Ricardo De Ungria
Dr. Jose Neil Garcia
Dr. Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo
Prof. Victor Emmanuel Carmelo D. Nadera Jr
Prof. Pedro Cruz Reyes
Dr. Lilia Quindoza Santiago (on leave)
Dr. Roland Tolentino
Prof. Rene O. Villanueva (on leave)

Resident Fellow
Mr. Charlson Ong

One Hundred Years of Leadership in Literature 7

Alwin Aguirre
Rayuma 15
Mayette Bayuga
Ang Heredero ng Tribo Hubad sa Isla Real 31
Catherine Bucu
Húli 48
Douglas Candano
An Epistle and Testimony from June 13, 1604 63
Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio
Minsan sa Binondo 97
Charlson Ong
Banyaga: A Song of War 124
Socorro Villanueva
Foggy Makes Me Sad 140

Raymond de Borja
Conversion 161
Epiphany 162
Tell Me, Where Is the Soul 164
The Limits of Archaeology 165
Incompleteness (Gödel) 166
Uncertainty Principle 168
4 l i k haan

Mikael de Lara Co
Leaves 170
Job 170
Formula 172
Story 173
Family Life 174
Beatific Visions 175
A House 177

Francisco Arias Monteseña

Iluminado 179
Pamabaybay 180
Glaukoma 181
Pagdating Sa Dulo 182
Sa Estasyon 183
“H” 184
Pamamahay 186

Joel Toledo
Attachments 188
Ruin 189
Save as Draft 189
Softness 190
Surfacing 191

photo essay
Vim Nadera
Ang AGA 192

Rene O. Villanueva
White Love 200
Co ntents 5

Gémino H. Abad
Fernando M. Maramág, Poet and Critic 221

Exie Abola
Pilgrim of the Healing Hand 243

Reuel Molina Aguila

Haibun: Panimulang Pagpapakilala 256
at Pagpapalaya sa Panulaang Filipino

Bienvenido Lumbrera 277

One Hundred Years

of Leadership in Literature

F OR THE PAST one hundred

years, no Philippine university
has produced as splendid, as signifi-
and magazines (Inkblots, Eleemosy-
nary, Sitting Amok). To have been
here for so long with so many good
cant, and as sustained a crop of liter- writers and yet to have had no per-
ary work and talent as the University manent literary journal seemed an
of the Philippines. It’s quite a claim odd, if almost criminal, oversight.
to make, but it just so happens to be
true. Other major Philippine univer- Thankfully, as part of the celebration
sities—the University of Sto. Tomas, of the university’s centennial in 2008,
Ateneo, Silliman University, and the administration of the University
La Salle—have all made important of the Philippines Diliman saw fit
contributions to Philippine literature, to approve and support a stand-
and continue to produce new works ing proposal by the UP Institute of
of great vitality. But UP’s preemi- Creative Writing to publish Likhaan:
nence in creative writing and criti- the Journal of Contemporary Philippine
cism over most of the 20th century and Literature—not only for UP-based
well into this new one—particularly writers but, in consideration of UP’s
in English—is a fact of our literary position in the nation, for all Filipino
history. writers, in both English and Filipino
(and perhaps other Philippine lan-
We are making this proud boast guages, in future issues).
only to explain why, after a hundred
years, we are finally emerging with a University-based writers in the
literary journal worthy of its precur- Philippines are, in fact, not engaged
sors—the College Folio, the Literary in a competition with each other.
Apprentice, the Diliman Review, and The literary arts are unlike athlet-
various other small literary journals ics; there is no fixed bar to leap over,

8 l i k haan
no longstanding record to break. institutional resources to undertake
Philippine literature has been much training and publications projects.
too involved with language, class, and Silliman, Far Eastern University, and
more recently with gender to find Mindanao State University-Iligan In-
time for campus intramurals; if it has stitute of Technology, among others,
any competition to worry about, it is have likewise provided a nurturing
John Grisham, Danielle Steele, and atmosphere to creative writers.
Harry Potter, who all compete for the
same barely disposable peso. And although no contemporary
campus-based writers’ organization
But academia has also undoubtedly has yet managed to achieve the cohe-
had much to do with the survival sion and the cachet of the UP Writers
and growth of creative writing in the Club established by Jose Garcia Villa,
Philippines over the past century— F. B. Icasiano and 11 other under-
particularly these past four or five graduates in 1927 or the lifelong ca-
decades, when martial law crippled maraderie of the the “Veronicans” of
literary publishing (and much of the the 1930s, the “Ravens” of the 1950s,
critical spirit that animated it) in the and the “Caracoans” of the Philippine
1970s and shunted creative writing to Literary Arts Council of the 1980s,
the universities, where it continued such organizations—most notably UP
to flourish, albeit without much of an Quill—have continued to emerge and
audience. to nurture new talent.

Two major factors accounted for the UP has had a long tradition of excel-
growth of campus writing in postwar lence in creative writing in English,
Philippines: the initiation of national producing and sheltering a formi-
writers’ workshops by UP and Silli- dable roster that included—just to
man in the early 1960s, followed by name a few of those now depart-
many other university-based work- ed—Jose Garcia Villa, Paz Marquez
shops in the 1990s, and the institution Benitez, Angela Manalang-Gloria,
and popularity of degree programs in Arturo Rotor, Francisco Arcellana,
creative writing, culminating in the NVM Gonzalez, Bienvenido Santos,
offering of a full range of programs Manuel Arguilla, Estrella Alfon, Ri-
from the bachelor’s to the master’s caredo Demetillo, Manuel Viray, and
and PhD programs at UP. Creative S.V. Epistola. With English rising as
writing centers—such as UP’s Insti- the language of the elite just before
tute of Creative Writing, and similar and after the War (as it is today, with
centers in La Salle and ust—were a vengeance), and with UP as the
also established to provide university- university of the country’s intellec-
based writers with a more formal tual if not its economic elite, English
sense of community and with the
I n tro ductio n 9
flourished in the fertile soil of Padre with itself and where critical inquiry
Faura and Diliman. has been elevated to a fine art, UP has
not and could not have imposed re-
Writing in Tagalog/Filipino—then strictions on thought and expression,
considered déclassé and practiced in providing a safe haven for dissident
UP only by such hardy pioneers as artists even under martial law.
Teodoro Agoncillo (before he shifted
to history) and his wife, the short-sto- Today UP continues to be the Philip-
ry writer Anacleta Villacorta—found pines’ main champion and domain of
refuge in the downtown universities, creative writing, through the icw and
there to be forged by explosive talents its programs, the National Summer
of another sensibility, and not until Writers Workshop, the CW degree
the nationalist surge of the 1960s programs (and, in Filipino, the
would UP prove more welcoming certificate as well) of the College of
and encouraging to the writer in Arts and Letters, the literary publica-
Filipino. That crop—quite a few of tions of the UP Press, as well as the
them converts from English—would sheer number of its faculty members
include Ricky Lee, Lilia Quindoza, and students who have distinguished
Fanny Garcia, Delfin Tolentino, themselves in various local and in-
Heber Bartolome, Rosario Torres-Yu, ternational awards and competitions.
Edgar Maranan, Aida Santos, Her- Several National Artists for Litera-
mie Beltran, and Romulo Sandoval. ture—Carlos P. Romulo, Francisco
Arcellana, NVM Gonzalez, Virgilio
But even as it would do much to Almario, and Bienvenido Lum-
define the Philippine literary canon of bera—have been associated with UP,
the 20th century—and later, through as have standouts such as icw (or then
critical theory, to its debunking—the Creative Writing Center) directors
University of the Philippines has been Alejandrino Hufana, Amelia Lapeña
different from its academic peers, Bonifacio, Gemino Abad, Cristina
different in its toleration—nay, its Pantoja Hidalgo, and V. E. Carmelo
worship—of the freethinker, the Nadera, and former College of Arts
iconoclast, the revolutionary. Be- and Letters Dean Rogelio Sicat. (For
holden to neither priest nor politician, the full roster of current icw associ-
UP has encouraged and protected ates, please see the staff box.)
an atmosphere of experimentation,
debate, and resistance that, perhaps For several years from the late 1990s
more than any other single factor, has onward, the icw published an annual
accounted for the plenitude and vari- Likhaan series of the best published
ety of literary creations to have come work in the Philippines in several
out of it. As an institution that has genres: fiction, poetry, drama, and
never quite been in total agreement criticism. The realities and challenges
10 l i k haan
of literary publishing for a chroni- or genres of literature—but perhaps
cally small readership soon rendered because of the relative novelty of the
that activity terribly uneconomical. genre or more likely the inexactness
Besides, these works had already of the parameters we gave—we’ll do
been published, and UP was merely better as we learn—we received no
compiling its chosen selections of submissions in this area.)
representative works.
To ensure the highest quality of
And thus Likhaan: The Journal of submitted material, the icw associ-
Contemporary Philippine Literature ates voted for a refereed publication,
was conceived, to invite and to show- with referees chosen from the most
case the best of new and unpublished accomplished and respected writers,
Philippine writing in English and critics, and academics from within
Filipino. It is a journal of Philip- and without UP. These referees
pine—and not just university—writ- worked “blind,” with all entries
ing; by this we mean creative writing submitted to them anonymously. By
of any kind that has some vital con- internal agreement, no icw associate
nection to Filipino life and Filipino submitting an entry served as a ref-
concerns, no matter who writes the eree in any category; neither did the
piece or where it is written. It will be editors. For its part, the UP Diliman
launched as an annual, although— administration committed resources
once a certain standard has been that would reward accepted work at
set and a readership developed—a the highest rates, and has pledged to
semestral or quarterly journal should sustain support for the journal over
be possible in the future. the next several years.

The editors received a total of 225 As to be expected and desired, there

submissions—128 in English, and 97 were differences in the criteria
in Filipino. These totals comprised 54 between the readers for each of the
stories, 59 suites of poems, 14 essays, genres. These choices become ad-
and one play in English, as well as 55 ditionally important in that they, in
stories, 25 suites of poems, 16 essays, effect, define the critical canon of our
and one play in Filipino. We had not times. When we say that our readers
asked for plays for this first issue, looked for—as they did—a certain
thinking to reserve that for later; “excellence of form and significance
but finding ourselves with excellent of content,” they bare not just their
entries we decided to include at least choices but themselves to the scrutiny
one, invoking editorial prerogative. of others. That said, we relied in the
We had also reserved a slot for an ex- end on the catholicity of our referees,
cerpt from a graphic novel—Likhaan on their own vast reading, and on
will actively encourage new forms their awareness of the many differ-
I n tro ductio n 11
ent ways of seeking and establishing Baguio, it is memorable for the
merit in a work of the imagination. twist in the end, cruel and terrifying
though it may be. A painter and book
Charlson Ong’s excerpt from his designer with a background in psy-
novel Banyaga: A Song of War is a chology, Villanueva has an unerring
powerful account of exile from child- eye for significant detail, more than
hood and its original grace, brotherly capably illumined by her masterful
devotion, misfortune, predestination, language and urbane but sympathetic
molestation, an ill-fated boy taking sensibility.
wing in the end. All throughout the
gloomy smell of incense and gut- Alexis Abola’s personal essay, “Pil-
tering candles pervades, alongside grim of the Healing Hand,” is a kind
intimations of Peking Opera cos- of travelogue recording an actual trip
tumery and music. The storytelling from Cubao to Lucena. The physical
is vintage Ong: robust and dramatic, journey is paralleled by a quest for
but infused with the wistful magic coherence, for meaning in disparate
and authority of the traditional tale. facts and events. While its insight that
fiction is neater than life is certainly
“An Epistle and Testimony From not new, the details of his journey
June 13, 1604” by the Ateneo gradu- are, as well as their juxtapositions
ate Douglas Candano is a reassurance against each other, and the unique
of sorts that the older Ong’s “Chinoy” and, for many city-dwelling Filipi-
or Chinese-Filipino project is in nos, strangely collective story they
good hands. This fabulistic narrative tell. The interesting suggestion here
clearly draws on the friar-concocted is that, like many writers and artists,
cronicas and relaciones in Blair and Abola—a professor of English at the
Robertson, and has succeeded for the Ateneo whose quiet fiction has also
most part (and despite a few histori- earned him critical attention—must
cal lapses we can yield to the fiction) himself have been hurt by life into
in appropriating their voice. art.

Socorro Villanueva’s “Foggy Makes Gemino Abad’s essay on Fernando

Me Sad” is the most elegantly nar- Maramag historicizes this early
rated and clear-eyed of the lot, a Filipino Anglophone’s poetic utter-
restrained, well-paced middle-class ances, arguing for their continuing
family drama evoking Amy Tan in relevance in relation to the question
the feminine continuum it presents of of a “Filipino poetry from English.”
Lola, Mama, Tita, and the daughter, This, of course, is Abad’s famous and
whose innocence is both burden and impassioned hypothesis, which he
gift. Other than its elegiac recol- pursues once more in this essay: what
lections of a lost (and breatheable) Filipino poets write is not in English,
12 l i k haan
but from it, inasmuch as their imagi- without straining the given idioms.
nations cannot be said to be consti- His “The Limits of Archaelogy”
tuted linguistically, being pre-verbal probes the limits of reconstructing
and pre-symbolic. and understanding a past life, or way
of life. There are only bones, finally;
Mikael de Lara Co’s suite of poems death and disruptions are forever.
impressed our readers for their “raw
nerve tempered by passages of lyric The selections in Filipino display an
articulation.” His work was “sensitive equal richness of talent and material,
to the urban mood of rush, frenzy, and a fine blend of mastery and in-
and agitation,” and was “set apart novation. Of nearly a hundred works
by its rude, jagged music.” Another submitted to the journal, the refer-
reader took note of “a poem full of ees chose “Iluminado at Iba Pang
enjambed lines, as though holding Tula” by Francisco Arias Monteseña;
itself tight against the threat of loss “White Love,” a one-act play by
or change or suffering. The central Rene Villanueva; three short stories,
images of wind and leaves start off as “Rayuma” by Alwin Aguirre,“Huli”
literal physical details which, in due by Catherine S. Bucu, and “And He-
course, attain a resonance, convincing redero ng Tribo Hubad sa Isla Real”
because gradually built up.” by Mayette Bayuga; an excerpt from
the novel Minsan sa Binondo by Ame-
The poetry of Joel Toledo—a recent lia Lapeña Bonifacio; and a critical
winner of Britain’s prestigious Brid- essay, “Haibun: Panimulang Pagpa-
port Prize and among our finest new pakilala at Pagpapalaya sa Panulaang
poetic voices—is a sustained feat in Pilipino” by Reuel Molina Aguila.
the lyrical mode. The various poems
ring out in different tonal registers, Monteseña’s “Iluminado”—the
each one well-crafted, and everyday only poetry collection selected—is
matter gains a philosophical dimen- a display of verbal virtuosity by a
sion through the poet’s meditative writer with a remarkable linguistic
lens. Demonstrating perfect poise and repertoire in the national language.
subtlety, a Toledo poem does not rage The play with, and of, words is “il-
against the dying of the light, but is luminating” which apparently is the
quiet and accepting, coming to full- spirit behind the dynamism in poetic
ness without bombast. expression and creation. The poet
creates couplets in Filipino with ease
The even younger Raymond de and insight minus the florid (bulak-
Borja’s suite was found by the readers lakin) and wordy (maligoy) style that
to be “fearless in its attempt to fuse characterize the writings especially of
seemingly unrelated cognates of poet- beginning writers in Filipino.
ic thought, and inventive in language
I n tro ductio n 13
“White Love” by Rene Villanueva is tribe, he does not know where fantasy
a play that investigates and inter- ends and reality begins.
rogates one of the most notorious
episodes of Philippine colonial his- “Huli”—here pronounced “HOO-
tory: the attempt by then Secretary li”, malumi not mabilis, and meaning
of the Interior Dean Worcester to “catch” or “caught”—is a story by a
muffle the freedom of the press and very young writer, Catherine S. Bucu,
of expression to advance the interests and uses the device of double inten-
of imperial America in the Philip- tion ingenuously. The narrative de-
pines. Through the use of the “Koro” picts how a friendly and exciting fish-
(chorus) as “conscience” and a foil ing expedition for the butanding (the
character, Mateo, the Filipino who Philippine whale-shark) turns into
acts as Worcester’s aide, Villanueva an extraordinary event for friends
unfolds the drama of early American and lovers. An outstanding quality of
exploration in the highlands of the this story is its unfolding of passion,
Cordilleras. courage, and drama on the high seas,
making it one of surprisingly few
“Rayuma” by Alwin Aguirre is Filipino stories that acknowledge and
speculative Filipino fiction at its best. make use of the Philippines’ archipe-
The writer uses his keen understand- lagic waters as a setting and factor in
ing of the quirks of tropical weather the narrative.
and merges this with an incisive
description of the pain of longing and “Minsan sa Binondo” is a nostalgia
aging. The main character in this piece by Amelia Lapeña Bonifacio—a
story is thus vested with an intense writer better known for her drama
desire to live through it all—the nasty in English and her advocacy of
and unpredictable weather, and old children’s literature through her pup-
age itself, in order to reach a destina- pet troupe, Teatrong Mulat. In this
tion and a dream. excerpt from her first novel, Binondo,
a familiar haunt in the imagination
“Ang Heredero ng Tribo Hubad sa of many Manileños, is relived and
Isla Real” by Mayette Bayuga is a revived. Memory is aided by a narra-
peregrination story that combines tive that exhibits a childlike wonder
mythmaking with clear references for the old, innocent and untainted
to anthropological excavations and Binondo, long since lost to urban
historical accounts and taunts our sprawl and decay.
sense of identity and reality. The
protagonist in the story is baffled by All four pieces of fiction, it will be
the mystery of the naked tribe on Isla noted, are stories of setting, which
Real, only to find himself one among means that the stories focus on places,
them. And like all members of the events, and action. This is a welcome
14 l i k haan
departure from Filipino stories that groundbreaking poet-critic Alejan-
are almost always focused on charac- dro G. Abadilla.
ters (tauhan) who engage in struggles
against all kinds of enemies, natural While we have been deeply gratified
or manmade. In these particular sto- by the quality and variety of this first
ries, protagonists and antagonists are crop—our most senior contributor,
not clearly defined as the characters Amelia Lapeña Bonifacio, was born
flail and flow into the setting, and are in 1930 and the youngest, Catherine
defined or define themselves in the Bucu, was born in 1986—we know
process. full well that this journal can yet be
better, sharper, and more compre-
The essay in Filipino, like the poetry hensive. We have more plans for
collection, also reveals virtuosity in other sections of future issues: the
and mastery of the Filipino language, aforementioned inclusion of graphic
which has established itself as a lan- works, for example, a bibliography of
guage for all classes and all occasions. the past year’s literary publications,
With and in this essay, Filipino flexes and works representing or devoted to
its verbal muscle, demonstrating that translation and children’s literature.
it can be as colloquial and intellectual
as any world language, as useful in All this, we are certain, will come in
the streets and the marketplace as good time. In the meanwhile, and on
well as in the classroom or laboratory. behalf of the university that shel-
tered and nourished our own literary
Reuel Molina Aguila’s meditation on aspirations, we proudly present this
the “Haibun” is a challenge to both first issue of Likhaan: The Journal of
poets and literary critics. Aguila com- Contemporary Philippine Literature
pels us to see that haibun can deepen as UP’s initial contribution to yet
our mastery of our own poetic forms another century of vibrantly imagina-
as well as liberate Filipino poetics tive writing by and for Filipinos, and
from all manner of inhibitions and for the world at large.

In addition to these contributions, jose dalisay, jr.

the editors also actively solicited two Issue Editor
pieces that should serve as templates
for future articles of a similar nature: j. neil garcia
an interview with National Artist lilia quindoza santiago
for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera Associate Editors
and a pictorial essay on the great,


Ngayong ako’y matanda na huwag mo akong babayaan,

Katawan ko’y mahina na kaya ako’y huwag iiwan.
Awit 71:9

M ATAGAL-TAGAL na ring ang tanging hinihimas ng kanyang

ugating palad ay ang kanang tuhod.
Magtatapos na ang Nobyembre at kasabay ng pagsulpot ng mga
neon na parol ang pagdating ng lamig na pinatindi pa ng artipisyal na
niyebeng babagsak tuwing ikasiyam ng umaga at ikaapat ng hapon sa
bawat umaga at hapon ng bawat araw bawat linggo, dalawang ling-
go bago sumapit ang Pasko hanggang sa huling araw ng Disyembre.

16 fi cti o n
Magandang ideya. Ito ang pauso ng Winter Smile Subdivision sa Mariki-
na. Upang mapagtakpan ang pangamba ng mga prospective buyer sa
fault line1 na tutuhugin na tila isaw ang mga bahay sa bagong subdibi-
syon, nagpapabagsak ng snow tuwing panahon ng kapaskuhan sa pama-
magitan ng microclimactic control.2 Kagat naman ang mga tao. Kahit pa
lumaki ang gastos dahil sa installation ng insulation na glass o cellulose
fiber upang kumutan ang buong bahay at mapanatili ang kaaya-ayang
temperatura sa loob, dagdag pa siyempre ang airconditioning system na
kakailanganin, at ang nakagigimbal na electric bill kada buwan. Sino
naman ang makatatanggi sa slogang IF YOU LIVED HERE, THEN
malalaking titik sa ilalim ng mga nakapanginginig-lamang ngiti sa mga
mukhang (plastik) naglalarawan ng isang buong pamilyang tila nagmula
pa sa Antarctica. Si nanay (nakaputing fur coat at asul na mata), si tatay
(naka-ski mask, trench coat at makapal na bigote), si kuya (nakaakbay

1  a. Kung malapit ang kinatatayuan mo sa fault line, malamang na kapag nagkaroon

ng paggalaw sa mga plate ng mundo ay mamamaalam ka. Ayon sa plate tectonics theory,
ito ang sanhi ng mga lindol—ang paggigirian ng mga plate sa lithosphere. Teorya ito,
ngunit maganda ring paniwalaan. Naghahain man ng lindol sa sansinukob, naghahan-
dog din ang penomenong ito ng muli’t muling pagbabago sa mundo dahil sa paggalaw ng
mga plate. Tila ba naghuhunos ng balat o nagbibihis ng damit. Isipin din natin na wala
sanang mga bundok kung wala ang mga paggalaw na ito ng plates. Kunsabagay, hindi
madali ang pagpili sa pagitan ng lindol at bundok. Obij, R. (2018). The World and Us: An
Introduction to Geology. QC: Wallington Press.
b.  Noong Setyembre 4, 2002, idineklara ng World Summit on Sustainable Develop-
ment na ang malalim na fault line sa pagitan ng mayayaman at mahihirap na bansa ay
nagbabanta sa ganap na pag-unlad ng mundo.
2  Wala raw dapat ipangamba sa magiging epekto ng ganitong pakikialam sa klima
ng isang lugar sa iba pang karatig-pook. Dahil nga naman sa ang mundo ay umiinog
sa isang circle of life, noong una’y nangatal ang mga tao sa posibleng reaksiyon ng pan-
gkalahatang klima sa proyektong ito. Baka lumala ang global warming. Paano ang el
niño? Walang dapat ikatakot: self-contained ang sistema sa Winter Smile Subdivision.
Saalvendrano, E. (2025).[Panayam kay Dr. Rufus Guerrero, Research and Engineering
Chief, PhilDreamHomes Realty, Inc., New Mandaluyong, Pasig City]. Smile Newsletter,
ag uirre i Rayuma 17
sa isang pekeng snowman na di naman maipagkakailang gawa sa styro),
si ate (na kung ano’ng ikinahaba ng berdeng turtle neck kung kaya’t tila
nawala na ang leeg ay siya namang ikinaigsi ng paldang kita na ang kung
anuman at siya ulit inihaba ng nakatirintas na pigtails), at ang pinaka-
mahalagang miyembro ng isang tipikal na pamilyang Filipino, si Bantay,
na sa isang kamangha-manghang kaparaanan ng teknolohiya ay may
ngiting katulad ng kanyang mga amo. Ang asong nakangiting-tao. O,
yung tao ngiting-aso. Kung anupaman, puno ng ngiti ang Winter Smile
Subdivision. Kahit na ang panahon ng taglamig sa lugar na ito ay di na-
man lalampas pa sa isang buwan na hindi karaniwan sa isang tradisyong
meteorolohikal (masyadong mahal na kung lumampas pa). Kahit pa ang
tag-init at tag-ulan ay kumakain pa rin sa mas malaking bahagdan ng
tunay na klima dito sa Winter Capital ng Shoe Capital na River City sa Pili-
pinas. D’ Original! Ang mga sumunod ay gaya-gaya lamang (’ika nga ng
mga pasaring sa kanilang brochure—The first and the only one true snow-
capped town in town! Come one, Come on! ). Ang Wyt Lyf Executive Vil-
lage sa Valenzuela, ang Chilly Habitue Homes sa Parañaque, Coolie Villas
sa Mindanao Avenue, ang Nova Vida Towns sa Pasay at kung saan-saan
pang pangunahing siyudad (at kung minsa’y maliliit na di-alintanang
purok sa kalakhang Maynila, maging sa Bulacan at Tarlac, Baguio at
Aparri) na dinudumog naman ng mga nais magkabahay sa isang tipak
ng kalamigan sa isang tropikal na kapuluan3.

3  a.Sa huling taya ng NSO, sampung subdibisyon na sa Metro Manila at lima ang
itinatayo pa sa labas ng Maynila sa Luzon. Sa nalalapit na panahon ay magkakaroon na
rin sa Cebu at Davao (ayon sa isang korporasyon) ang may ganitong atraksiyon (para sa
kompletong listahan, tingnan ang
b. Ang Micro-climated Habitat kung tawagin ng marketing ng naturang mga real
estate corporation ay tila nagiging matagumpay na estratehiya sa paghikayat sa mga po-
tensiyal na kliyente na nagnanais nang magkaroon ng sariling bahay, lalo pa’t kung ito
ay nasa rent-to-own scheme kung saan 20 taon na babayaran sa PAG-IBIG ang isang 30
square meter na unit sa halagang P250,000.00/mo. (
18 fi cti o n
Nagsusumiksik na sa kanyang pandinig ang karoling ng mga tao.
Ang mga batang tuwang-tuwang magkakakatok sa bahay-bahay ng bu-
ong komunidad na nakasuot ng makakapal na panlamig, bonet, scarf at
guwantes. Malalaman mong may matatanda pa silang kasama sa bahay
kung may saliw ng kalansing ng tamburing tansan ang kanilang pagtili.
Biglang papalahaw ang mga ito ng mga awiting pamasko—binibirit ang
bawat tono ng mga nanginginig na tinig na ang vibrato ay mula sa pan-
gangatal ng mga babang nagyeyelo na sa lamig. Tuwang-tuwa pa rin na-
man. Lalo ang mga magulang habang sumusunod ang mga labi sa mga
titik ng mga awiting di na nagbago. Pumapalakpak nang walang tunog.
Manginig-nginig na ngingiti. Nanlalaki ang mga mata. Mapapahatsing.
Masakit sa tainga. Lalong masakit sa tuhod. Di naman tumatalab
ang kahit na anong gamot. Di rin mapagaling ng kahit na sinong dok-
tor. Nangako naman si Sonny na dadalhin siya nito sa espesyalista sa
Amerika kapag nakaluwag-luwag sa trabaho.
Amerika. Noon gustung-gusto niyang marating. Gustung-gusto
naman ng lahat. Ito ang pinakamataas na pangarap ng lahat ng tao
sa kanilang maliit na bayan ng Maybunga sa Quezon.4 Ay, Imo, anak,

c. Impormasyon mula sa PhilDream Homes Realty, Inc: maaaring makakuha ng

mas malaking unit kung ang bibilhin ay dalawang magkatabing unit at babaklasin na
lamang ang dingding na namamagitan sa dalawa. Magandang balita para sa mga mas
malala­king pamilya. Yun nga lamang, kailangang magkamag-anak o mag-asawa ang
dalawang taong nais magpabakbak ng pader. Hindi hinahayaan ng PAG-IBIG na pagsa-
mahin ang dalawang unit kung hindi magkamag-anak o kasal ang dalawang tao. Kahit
pa nagmamahalan sila. (Kritik sa PAG-IBIG. QC: Malayang Bahay-Malayang Buhay,
Ink., 2006)
4  Estratehiko ang heograpikal na lokasyon ng Maybunga sa Quezon. Pitong mu-
nisipyo ang nakapalibot sa hilaga, timog at kanlurang bahagi nito. Malaki ang papel ng
naturang maliit na munisipyo sa patuloy na pagpapaunlad ng pandaigdigang daungan
sa Infanta.
Ang pangalang Maybunga ay sinasabing nagmula sa isang matapang na pinuno ng
lugar noong bago pa dumating ang mga conquistadores. Si Gat Bunga na gayon na nga
ang naging palayaw dahil sa kapansin-pansing kargada nitong tila bungang nakasabit
sa sanga na di naikukubli ng kanyang damit pang-ibaba. Ayon pa sa mga kuwentong-
ag uirre i Rayuma 19
paglaki mo, dalhin mo rin kami sa Isteys, ha. Tulad ni Kuya Gildo ni Ni-
nang Lupe. Nagniningning na mga luhang nagbabalon sa gilid ng mata,
aapaw pagtingala sa mga bituin at buwan ng pusikit na kalangitan. Mula
pagkamulat ng ulirat, aasamin ng isang paslit na marating ang paraiso
na itong nagniningning sa dilim, nakabubulag ang liwanag sa umaga.
Parang morning star. Parang star of Bethlehem. Ang Pasko. Ang tuwa.
Ang paraiso. Kaya nga’t di nakapagtatakang ilang taon na lamang ay
mawawala na sa mapa ang lugar na ito dahil mauubos na rin ang mga
tao. At napag-alaman din niya sa pakikipagkuwentuhan kay Manong
Willy na dito sa Smile, halos lahat ay may kamag-anak sa Amerika, o sa
iba pang bahagi ng mundo. Tila sa tamang edad, ang mga Filipino ay
sisipsipin ng higanteng ispeysyip at ilalagpak sa ibang panig ng daigdig.
Sa di kalayuang panahon, ang matitira na lamang ay mga magkaka-
mukhang bahay na tila pinilas sa magazin, na tuhog na tuhog ng fault
line. At siyempre pa, ang pamilya Smile sa malaking bilbord sa entra-
da ng subdibisyon na nakatapat sa highway. Ano pa ba naman ang ha­
hanapin natin sa Winter Smile?
Ang mga anak man niya’y gayon din. Ang isa’y nasa California
bilang computer analyst. Ang isa’y paroo’t parito bilang senior project
consultant ng isang robotics company sa Texas. Ang isa’y account officer
sa isang insurance firm sa New York. Lahat, may sinabi. Siya, walang
masabi. Siya na lamang yata sa kanilang pamilya ang natitira sa Pilipi-
nas. Kung may iba pa siyang kamag-anak, hindi niya na alam. Mahirap
na ring maghagilap pa lalo na sa kanyang kalagayan sa kasalukuyan na

bayan, ang naturang pinuno raw ay itinuring pang fertility god ng mga sumunod na
henerasyon. Ayon naman sa iba pang sabi-sabi, pinuntirya raw ng mga mananakop ang
naturang pinuno dahilan sa di sila makapaniwalang may native na may ari-ariang mas
malaki pa kaysa sa kanilang mapuputlang…May katotohanan man o wala ang mga
kuwento, kakatwang ang nakatirik na monumento ng lokal na bayani ay kilala bilang
Pagoda ni Gat Bunga.
20 fi cti o n
nagmamatigas na ang tuhod. Ni wala na nga siyang makausap kundi si
Manong Willy dahil kakaunti na rin ang matatanda sa kanilang lugar.
Dalawang buwan na ang nakararaan nang huli silang magkakuwen-
tuhan na buhay pa ang tubong-Pangasinan. Noong nakaraang buwan
naman, huli niya itong kinausap bago bawiin ng lupa. May ibinulong pa
siya sa tainga nito, kahit pa nasa likod na ito ng salamin ng ataol—hindi
kita malilimutan. Sa likod ng isip niya’y tila isang malamyos na tinig mula
sa unang panahon ang tumawid.
Tulad niya kay Willy, hindi rin naman siya nalilimutan ng mga
anak. Hindi tulad ng marami na ring nabibilang sa bagong henerasyong
tila galit sa pagtanda at sa anumang nagpapaalala sa natural na baitang
na ito ng siklo ng buhay-mundo. Kaya nga’t umaalis, nililisan ang ti-
nubuang lugar, ang kinagisnang magulang, ang kinalakhang kaligiran.
Takot sa pagtambad ng katotohanang ang pagtanda ay bahagi ng buhay.
Di maiiwasang antas ng pagkanilalang. Natutuhan niya ito sa namayapa
nang kakuwentuhan.
Di niya malilimutan ang mga salita nitong kaibigan. �������������
Noong nabubu-
hay pa ay panay ang lektyur. Sa kanya ngang pakiwari’y tila siya na la-
mang ang napagbubuhusan ng kaibigan ng mga tira-tirang elemento ng
pagka-propesor nito sa kolehiyo. Laging sinasabing ang lipunan daw ay
malupit sa matatanda. Na ang panahon daw ay katunggali ng pagkaka-
roon ng edad. Na ang kahahantungan ng buhay ng isang tao ay ang kata-
pusang nilikha mismo ng tao sa kanyang pagdating sa antas na iyon ng
buhay. Na ang pagiging matanda ay tila hindi natural na pag-unlad ng
isang nilalang, kundi isang kasalanan. Mas malupit, parusa sa kasalanan.
Ano nga raw ba naman ang silbi ng matatanda sa kasalukuyan? Mga
paalala lamang na ang isang tao ay may pinagmulan. Na ang isang tao
ay may babalik-balikang kasaysayan ng kanyang buhay. Na sa tuwing
magsisentimyento ang tao, may lilingunin siyang nagdaang maaaring
makapagpaliwanag kung nasaan siya ngayon. Kung nalalaman nga lang
ag uirre i Rayuma 21
raw ba ng mga tulad nilang may edad ang lakas na ibinibigay nila sa
kasalukuyang henerasyon, maaari silang mag-alsa upang mas mapaal-
wan naman ang kanilang kalagayan. At ito ang pinakabumaon sa kan-
yang isipan, na galit raw ang kasalukuyang henerasyon sa matatanda.
Sapagkat ito ang paalala sa kanila na anuman ang kanilang gawin, wala
silang ibang pupuntahan kundi pagtanda rin. Na katapusan. Na kawa-
lan. Iyan, diin ni Manong Willy na ang pagkakapinta sa kanyang isip ay
may matalim na mata, pinid na mga labi, nanginginig na lawlaw na balat
sa mukha, ang balik sa kanila ng panahon. Pilit niya pang inaalala kung si-
nundan nga ba ito ng kulog at kidlat nang hapong iyon isang Huwebes.
Ngunit hindi siya lubusang mapaniwala ng kaibigan kahit noon
pa man. Ano pa nga ba ang kanyang hahanapin? Di man niya kapiling
ang kanyang pamilya ay batid naman niya sa kanyang puso na mahal
na mahal siya ng mga ito. Ang isa’y laging may tawag, lalo kung kaa­
rawan niya. Pinakaabangan niya ito, siyempre, maliban pa sa regalo na
ipahahatid mismo sa kanyang pintuan—mga paalala na siya’y lagi pa
ring naaalala. Ang isa’y laging may padalang mga larawan kasama ang
mga kaibigang nagkakasayahan, ipinakikilala pa isa-isa ang mga mukha
sa bawat kuha. At si Sonny, regular namang dumadalaw. May mga bit-
bit pang kung ano-ano, madalas ay thermal pants para di malamigan
ang kanyang mga kasukasuan at maiwasan ang rayuma. Di naman nai-
iwasan ang pagtanda. Ay, ang kanyang tuhod.
Kahapon lamang ay nagpasabi si Sonny. Sa videofon na padala rin
ng bunso. Lumabas ang mukha ng isang babaeng maigsi ang buhok at
maliliit ang mata. Dadalaw raw ang bunso mula America kinabukasan.
Dadaan sa kanya matapos ang isang pulong sa Maynila. May pagkandirit
sa kanyang dibdib pagkarinig sa balita.
Aminin man niya o hindi, paborito niya si Sonny, ang bunsong
anak. Di mabura-bura sa kanyang isipan noong bata pa ito at laging may
bitbit na kung ano-ano para sa kanya galing lamang sa kung saan-saan.
22 fi cti o n
Kung galing eskuwela, may bitbit na makulay, halos di-maunawaang
dro­wing sa papel na may guhit na asul at pula. Kung galing laro, may bit-
bit na maliliit na bulaklak-talahib o bato na sa mga salita ng paslit ay mga
regalo. Kung galing sa pasyal, may dalang tirang sopdrink sa plastik na
baso, nakatupi ang straw upang hindi raw marumihan kung ibibigay na
sa kanyang tatay. Gumuguhit ang malawak na ngiti sa kanyang kulubot
na mukha sa tuwing napapadaan sa isipan na dala-dala pa rin ni Sonny
ang pagkamaaalalahanin kahit sa pagtanda. Ito ba ang sinasabi ni Willy
na sumpa ng katandaan, pagmamalaki niya sa sarili. Eto nga’t tumawag
na naman ang bunso. Hindi nga lamang ulit siya mismo ang tumambad
sa monitor kundi ang sekretarya, maigsing buhok, maliliit na mata, good
afternoon, Mr. Cardena will be there at 4, thank you. Tulad din kahapon,
bigla na lamang nawala sa screen. Ni di man lamang nagpaalam. Tres
minutos matapos ang alas-tres. Eksakto. Kung alas-kuwatro, maluwag
pa siya nang higit sa tatlumpung minuto.
Dalawampung minuto kasi ang ginugugol niya sa paglalakad mula
sofa hanggang pintuan. Ika-ika. Marupok na paglalakad. Tatlumpung
minuto higit pa ang nalalabing oras upang ito’y kanyang paghandaan.
Iniisip niya na baka naging malaki ang epekto kay Willy ng napa-
nood nilang dokumentaryo ukol sa matatanda5 sa Golden Acres. Gaano
katagal na nga ba ang institusyon na ito? Sintanda ng matatandang pa-
tuloy na tumatanda sa matanda pa sa matandang matandang bahay-am-

5  Kapansin-pansin din ang lumalaking fault line sa pagitan ng bata at matandang

henerasyon. Tulad ng paghahati sa pagitan ng mayayaman at mahihirap na bansa, sagka
rin sa pag-unlad ang pagsasantabi sa matatanda. Ilang grupo na tulad ng Organisasyon
ng mga Lolo at Lolang Dependents (OLLDS) at Geriatric Endowment Network (GEN)
ang nagparating ng pagkondena sa hayagang pagsasantabi ng pamahalaan sa kanilang
sektor. Ang UGAT-Sining naman na grupo ng matatandang artista ay nagsabing hindi
sila titigil sa pagdala sa kalye ng kanilang hinaing sa pamamagitan ng mga pagtatanghal
at sining-biswal. Bagamat sampung miyembro na nila ang dinakip ng lokal na pulisya
simula noon pang isang buwan nang maabutang nagpipinta ng protesta sa mga pampub-
likong lugar. Staff. (2012, Enero 18). Mga Matatanda, Nag-alsa. PDI, p. 5.
ag uirre i Rayuma 23
punan. Noong napanood nila iyon ay nakita nila si Fortun. Dating kasa-
kasama nila sa huntahan. Nakatira sa labas ng Smile ngunit bumibisita
tuwing Huwebes ng hapon upang makibalita, at kung napapanahon,
upang makalapat ang paa sa lupang binalutan ng yelo. Dito nga nagsi-
mula ang regular na pagkikita nilang tatlo tuwing Huwebes. Isang araw
sa isang linggong tila napupunan ang kahungkagan ng iba pang araw sa
buong linggo. Nang makita nila si Fortun, lalong lumawlaw ang mga
lawlaw na nilang balat. Sa sandaling iyon, tila umukit ang sandaang gu-
hit sa ginurlisan nilang mga mukha. Walang sinumang nakapagsalita.
Kung totoo ngang may dumaraang anghel sa tuwing maghahari ang ka-
tahimikan sa mga nagkukuwentuhan, sandaang anghel ang sa kanila’y
nagpabalik-balik, may kasama pang sayaw. Nakita nila, at di malili-
mutan, kung paanong ang kaibiga’y paika-ikang naglalakad palabas sa
hardin ng bahay-ampunan. Nakatutok ang nag­luluhang mata sa kung
saan. Di na mabitbit pa ng mga pisngi ang ngiting pilit na iginuguhit sa
labi. Hukot na hukot. Tungkod lamang ang tanging nakapagpapatayo
sa mahinang kabuuan. Ika-ika. Ika-ika. Tila narinig nila ang lagutok
ng mga kalawanging buto. Huli nilang nakita ang matagal nang di na-
kitang kaibigan bago ito makalabas ng pintuan. Dinaanan lamang ng
kamera. Hindi naman talagang siya ang pakay ng palabas. Wala naman
yata siyang makabagbag-damdaming istorya ng buhay na maaaring sali-
wan ng lumang awiting nakapaninindig-balahibo at nakapagpapababa
sa enerhiyang tuluyang sisira sa isang buong araw. Noong mga sandaling
iyon, saka nila naunawaan kung bakit bigla na lamang nawala ang kai-
bigan. At matapos makadaan ang sandaang anghel, tumayo na lamang
si Manong Willy, at diretso palabas sa pintuan. Sikapin man niyang hu-
makbang nang may lakas at sigla, sa paningin ni Imo ay tila naulit muli
ang eksena ni Fortun sa katatapos lamang na palabas.
Ilang minuto rin siyang walang naiimik noong hapong iyon pag-
kaalis ng kaibigan. Aapaw na sana sa kanyang bibig ang masasamang
24 fi cti o n
salitang busog sa sama ng loob nang biglang naisip na hindi. Sa kanya’y
hinding-hindi mangyayari ang nangyari kay Fortun. Mahal siya ng mga
anak. Dama niya iyon. Walang pag-aalinlangan. Siya’y babalik-balikan
nila. Tulad ng sinabi ni Willy, ito ang lakas niya. Ang magpaalala sa
kanyang mga anak sa kanilang pinagmulan.6
Halos buong araw ay nakaupo na lamang siya ngayon. Hindi na siya
makapasyal pa sa labas dahilan sa, kahit pabalat-bunga lamang, malamig
naman talaga ang panahon. Wala na rin naman si Willy na kanyang ta­
nging kakuwentuhan. Kunsabagay, malambot naman ang sofa niya. Ku-
lay dilaw, maliwanag na dilaw na di man niya paboritong kulay ay nag-
bibigay-liwanag pa rin sa kabuuan ng aalog-alog na bahay. Galing kay
Freddie. Italian silk daw ang materyal. Kaya pala kakaiba sa pandama.
Nakatanghod sa harapan ng telebisyon. Padala ni Tere, pinakabagong
modelo raw. 24 inches para di na siya kailangang lumapit pa, de-remote
naman. Flat screen, parang kuwadrong nakasabit sa dingding. Kata-
bi ng iba pang nakakuwadrong mga larawan nila ng pamilya. At ang
kanyang suot na pajama, galing kay Sonny. Yari sa kung anong tela na
nakapagdudulot ng maaliwalas na init sa panahong kanyang pinakaki-
nasusuklaman. Napapangiti rin siya minsan kung naiisip na baka naman
ang pagkadama sa pagmamahal ni Sonny sa tuwing suot ang pajama ang
nakapagdudulot sa kanya ng init na iyon. Ay, kay lambing.
Maayos naman ang kanyang tinitirhan. Sa isang maaliwaas na
subdibisyon na puno ng smile at hindi sa isang tuluyan ng matatandang
ina­bandona na ng kamag-anakan. Kaya naman walang problema kung
uupo lamang siya dito sa buong araw. Isa pa, mahirap na talaga para sa
kanyang tuhod ang labis na paglalakad. Tila may napapatid na litid sa

6  May kasabihan ang mga Filipino na, “Ang di lumilingon sa pinanggalingan ay

hindi makararating sa paroroonan.” Isa pang halimbawa ay, “Aanhin pa ang damo, kung
patay na ang kabayo.” Sabi naman ni German Gervacio sa kanyang Salawikain/Kasabi-
han 2000, “Aanhin pa ang damo, makababatak naman ng shabu ke kabo.”
ag uirre i Rayuma 25
tuwing gagamitin niya ito. Kaya’t napagpasyahan niyang sa mahahala-
gang bagay na lamang niya ito pagaganahin. Tulad ng kapag dumalaw
ang mga anak, lalo si Sonny, at siya ay ipasyal. Naaalala niya noon nang
sinabi ni Sonny na ibibili na lamang siya ng electronic wheel chair upang
di na niya problemahin pa ang paglalakad. Tinanggihan niya ito. Nais
niyang ipakita na hindi ganoon kawalang pag-asa ang kanyang kalaga­
yan. Na hindi ganoon kawalang-buhay ang pagtanda. Na kaya pa niya at
may lakas pa siya kahit sa ganitong edad. Hindi mawaglit sa isip niya ang
mga luhang nangilid sa mga mata ni Sonny. Napakainit ng mga yakap
na iyon ng bunsong anak. Nakapulang sweater. May hikaw sa kanan.
Gakuntil na pilak sa pasalok na tainga. Iniisip nga niya na kung hindi
lamang kailangang maghanapbuhay sa ibang bayan ay pipiliin ng anak
na makipisan sa kanya. Sa tuwing dadalaw ito ay damang-dama niya na
tila ayaw na nitong umalis pa.
Masuwerte siya sa kanyang mga anak, lagi niyang nasasambit sa
sarili, lalo sa bunso. At saka ililibot ang malalamlam na mata sa mga
larawang nakasabit sa dingding (katabi ng flat screen tv), nakapatong sa
lamesa at nakatatak sa gunita.
Ang pinakamalaking larawan sa dingding—ang kasal nila ni Ma.
Amelina. 1978. Magsisimula ang bagong dekada. Ikinasal sila sa Kapilya
ng Krus sa Maybunga. Tandang-tanda niya ang lioness look ng mapapa­
ngasawa at ang puting pangkasal nito na nagsasayaw nang malumanay sa
pag-imbay ng hangin. Nagliliwanag ang espasyong nakapalibot sa kan-
yang pinakamamahal habang naglalakad papuntang altar, patungo sa
kanya, sa kanilang pag-iisang dibdib. Tila dinuduyan lamang ng hangin
ang mga paa ni Mame noong palapit siya sa altar. Walang kahirap-hirap.
Tila walang lupang tinatapakan. Kung hindi niya ito kasal ay maaaring
natakot na siya sa tila paglutang ng iniirog. Ngunit puno ng liwanag ang
oras na iyon, at ang kanyang si Mame ay nagsasayaw lamang sa alapaap
papunta sa kanya.
26 fi cti o n
Ang larawan sa kaliwa. Kuha ni Mame nang naghahabulan sila ng
mga anak. Luneta. Naaalala niya kung paanong nag-iiyak si Tere nang
mahulog ang strawberry ice cream na tangan nang mabangga ni Freddie
dahilan sa kanilang takbuhan. Kamangha-mangha ang larawan, naiisip
niyang lagi tuwing tinititigan ang kuwadrong ito. Kung paanong napa-
hinto nito ang eksaktong sandali na sila’y tumatakbo. Na tila sila mga aso
at pusang naghaharutan. Ang mga binti at braso’y malayang nakalatag
sa hangin. Ngayon lamang niya napansin kung paanong natsambahan ni
Mame na lahat sila’y nakunan nang wala man lamang paang nakasayad
sa damuhan maliban kay Tere na tulad ng kanyang ice cream ay napa­
salampak sa lupa sa pagngawa. Tila silang tatlo nina Sonny at Freddie
ay iniaangat ng mga invisibol na pakpak. Naiisip niya ang mga anghel at
kung paano sila tumatalbog-talbog sa mga ulap.
Ang kuwadro sa kanan. Walang tatalo dito sa isang ito. Para sa kan-
ya, ito ang pinakamagandang retrato sa buong mundo. Ito ang larawan
ng kanyang pinakamamahal, katabi ang kasisilang pa lamang na bunso,
habang nakapalibot sina Tere at Freddie na ipinagmamalaki ang mga
ngiping bungi.
Di na nga malinaw sa kanya ang eksaktong sitwasyon kung paa-
no binawian ng buhay ang kabiyak. Basta’t naaalala niyang nakuryente
ito nang mahawakan ang grounded na refrigerator habang nakapaang
nakatapak sa basang sahig na dulot ng tumatagas na tubig mula pa rin
sa ref na naka-defrost. Matapos noon ay magulo na ang lahat Di na niya
maalala ang mga pangyayari. Tila pagmulat muli niya sa panandaliang
kisapmata ay umaalingawngaw na ang palahaw ng mga kaanak sa li-
bing. Ni di nga niya nadalaw pa ang puntod. Kahit nga noong nakaraang
undas. Masakit. Labis na masakit. May mga bagay na sadyang kinalili-
mutan upang makausad ang isang tao, lektyur iyon ni Willy. Isa sa mga
leksiyon na di niya malilimutan.
ag uirre i Rayuma 27
Ngayon lamang niyang naalala na wala nga siyang nakita ni isang
larawan ng kahit sino sa bahay ni Manong Willy. Kahit sa dingding,
o sa mga eskaparate. Maliban na lamang sa mga mukha ng artista sa
anunsiyo ng Waiting for Godot at kalendaryo ng 2012 na may mga la-
rawan ng ibon na noong nakaraang taon ay luma na nang dalawang
taon ngunit nakasabit pa rin malapit sa pintuan. Naisip niya tuloy kung
si Willy ba ang umalis o siya ang iniwan? Sino ang lumimot at sino ang
kinalimutan? Sino ang uusad at sino ang maiiwan? Tiyak niyang si Wil-
ly ay nakausad na. Ngayon din lamang niya napagtanto na sa burol ni
Willy sa Smile Chapel ay wala siyang nakilalang kamag-anak nito, tila
labis siyang naging abala sa pagluluksa. Sumilip din sa kanyang utak
kung gaano manggagalaiti si Willy kapag napanood nito kung saan man
siya naroroon kung paano nadiskubre ang kanyang malamig nang labi
sa loob ng kanyang bahay isang linggo matapos siyang bawian ng bu-
hay—isang malaking buong tipak ng matigas-malamig-na-malamig na
kar­neng nakatalungko sa isang sulok ng banyo; tirik ang mata, laylay
ang panga; tila umaawit ng kung anong himno sa kung anuman sa itaas.
Siya rin ang nakaalam, Huwebes na muli kasi matapos ang Huwebes
nang sila’y huling nagkita. Noong una’y inakala niyang ang sanhi ay ang
labis na lamig. Stroke daw pala, sabi ng paramedic. Naiisip din niyang
maiisip ni Willy na mas malungkot ang ayos niya nang ang bangkay
niya’y inilalabas mula sa kanyang bahay kaysa sa ayos ni Fortun sa napa-
nood nilang dokumentaryo sa bahay-ampunan.7

7  a. Isang matandang inabandona ng mga kamag-anak ang natagpuang malamig na

bangkay sa Winter Capital ng Shoe Capital na River City sa Pilipinas isang linggo mata-
pos itong bawian ng buhay. Pangatlo na siya sa mga matatandang natatagpuan na lamang
na patay sa nasabing subdibisyon ilang araw matapos silang mamatay. Mga matatanda,
namamatay sa lamig. (Disyembre 18, 2045). Pipol’s Tonight, p.14.
b.  Ayon sa Age Concern, tumataas ang bilang ng mga pensiyonadong namamatay
dahilan sa hindi na nila matustusan ang pagpapainit sa kanilang tahanan sa buong pana-
hon ng taglamig. Winter deaths among elderly rise. (October 24, 2002). BBC News, p.14.
28 fi cti o n
Natitiyak niya sa sariling hindi mararanasan iyon. Kukunin na
siya ni Sonny bago pa mangyari sa kanya na matagpuan na lamang na
isang malamig na katawan matapos ang isang linggo sa loob ng kanyang
Sa araw na ito, ang orasan sa dingding ang pinakamatalik niyang
kaibigan. Sa tuwing tititigan niya noon ang makinang na stainless steel
na mga kamay nito, naiinsulto siya sa ipinamumukha nitong pag-usad.
Lalo kung idinidiin nitong ang bilis lumakad ng panahon. Maya-maya
ay ibang oras na naman. At siya, wala na. Hindi na makasabay pa sa pag-
inog. Latak na lamang ng nagdaan. Sa kaunting panahon ay bibitiwan
na rin ng mga kamay ng oras. Ito ang naririnig niyang ibinubulong ng
hambog na orasan. Bigay din ng bunso. Hindi na nagbago etong isang ‘to,
ayaw pa-late.
Tulad ng ibang nagmamadali, abanse ang relo ni Sonny dahilan
sa ayaw na ayaw niyang nahuhuli sa kahit na anupaman. Tiniyak niya
ang oras habang nagmamaneho. 3:58. Twenty minutes advanced. Nasa
bahay na siya ng ama sa loob ng dalawang minuto.
Bago pa mag-alas-tres kuwarenta nang tumayo si Imo at sinimulan
ang matagal-tagal ding paglalakad patungong pintuan. Inisip niya kung
saan kaya sila mamamasyal ng anak. Sa Luneta? Napahagikgik siya.
4:00. Tiyak na sabi ng relo ni Sonny. Tumimbre.
Nagulantang si Imo. Iilang mumunting hakbang pa lamang ang
kanyang nabubuno. Tinataranta pa ng isang bisitang di naman inaasa-
han. Inangilan niya ang kung sinumang nasa likod ng pinto. Naisip
niyang sana’y may baong kodak ang anak pagdating nito mamayang
alas-kuwatro nang magkaroon naman sila ng souvenir sa snow ng
Marikina. Itatanong niya mamaya kung may pagkakaiba ba ito sa snow
sa Amerika.
Timbre. Mahaba. Nakatutulilig na pag-atungal ng buzzer.
ag uirre i Rayuma 29
Limang minuto nang nagtititimbre si Sonny. Nagsisimula
nang ku-
munot ang kanyang noo. Inisip na kung saan na naman naroon ang ama.
Mayayamot at maaalala na di na ito nagbago—lagalag pa rin.
Alas-tres singkuwenta sa orasan. Walang problema. Di lalampas
sa sampung minuto ay nasa pintuan na siya. Sandali na lamang niyang
aaba­ngan ang pagdating ng bunso. Wala siyang pakialam sa kung sinong
anak-ng-demonyo ang gumagambala sa pinto. Hakbang. Ika-ika. Hak-
bang. Ano naman kaya ang pasalubong nito, tanong ng munting ngiti sa
kulubot na mukha. Binatak niya ang mga litid sa leeg upang magbulalas
ng mga paos na mura sa kung sinuman ang sinumpang nagpipipindot
sa buzzer.
4:08 sa relo ni Sonny. Sabi ng lcd, labis na paghihintay na iyan. Pud-
pod na ang hintuturo sa kapipindot sa timbre. May hahabulin ka pang
flight pabalik sa Texas. Naghagilap siya ng kung ano sa bulsa ng jacket.
Inunat ng palad ang gusot na piraso ng resibo. Sinulatan ito. Sandaling
ngumuya ng chewing gum at ginamit itong pandikit ng papel sa pinto.
Dali-daling bumalik sa sasakyan.
Dos minutos bago alas-kuwatro. Maaga pa nang kaunti para sa pag-
dating ng anak. Pagbukas ng pinto ay nainis at nanghinayang siya nang
di maabutan ang kung sinumang ang akala sa sarili’y kung sinong-anak-
ng-kung-sinong-diyos kung magtititimbre.
Isang minuto bago mag-alas-kuwatro. Sabi ng stainless na kamay
ng orasan, sabik na sabik niyang tinatanaw kung may papalapit na sasak-
yan. Pilit na pinalilinaw ang malabo nang paningin. Nakaligtaan kasing
bitbitin ang salamin na nakapatong sa mesa. Mahirap namang balikan
pa. Pilit ding ipinapagkit ang ngiti sa pisngi.
Ilang sandali pa’y isa-isa nang nagsilabasan ang mga kapitbahay
mula sa bawat unit ng Smile. Tulad ng pamilya Smile sa may highway,
may mga ngiti (aso) rin sa mukha ng bawat isa.
30 fi cti o n
Patuloy na tinatanaw ni Imo ang mga sasakyang pumapasok sa gate
ng subdibisyon. Inaabangan ang isa sa mga ito na lalapit sa kinatatayuan
niya at hihinto, bubukas ang pinto, may lalabas na lalaking may gakuntil
na pilak sa pasalok na tainga, may bitbit na ano naman kaya, at sa kanya’y
yayakap nang may init. Buntong-hininga. Gaano katagal (ilang ulit) na
nga ba niyang pinananabikan ang pagkakataong ito. Konti na lang.
Sa hapong iyon, ang unang patak ng yelo8 ay marahang naglimayon
sa himpapawid. Umikut-ikot pansumandali bago tuluyang humalik sa
kanyang kanang tuhod. Matalim ang lamig sa buwan ng Disyembre.

8  Hindi nahuhuli sa schedule ang snowfall sa Smile. Alas-nuwebe ng umaga at alas-

kuwatro ng hapon. Dalawang oras din ang itatagal ng bawat pagbagsak. Dalawang oras
na kaligayahan para sa mga residente ng Smile. Iyon
ang aming serbisyo para sa bawat ta-
hanan sa aming komunidad. Saalvendrano, E. (2024).[Panayam kay Dr. Lilia Pamintuan,
Research and Engineering Chief, PhilDreamHomes Realty, Inc., New Mandaluyong,
Pasig City]. Smile Newsletter, p.4.

Ang Heredero ng Tribo Hubad

sa Isla Real

H ANGGANG NGAYON, walang nakaaalam kung anong bansa

sa Asya o aling probinsiya ng Pilipinas ang tunay na sumasakop
sa Isla Real. Pinatutunayan ng ilang expert sa international law at aral
sa isyu ng territorial boundaries na bahagi ito ng mga isla ng Kalayaan.
Pero isang Presidente ng Pilipinas mismo ang nagdeklarang ito’y “off
Palawan.” Madalas na di ito kasali sa mapa dahil napakaliit, mukhang
tilamsik lang ng alon sa kalawakan ng China Sea.
Ito ang isiping rumerepeke sa utak ni Emiliano Ricafrente habang
madaling-araw pa’y bumibiyahe nang pa-Norte, kung saan sumasakay
ng pumpboat sa Taytay Fort papuntang isla.
Isa siya sa mga mahigpit na nakikipaglabang bahagi ng Palawan
ang isla. Di taal na Palaweño si Emiliano o Lolo sa mga kaibigan. Nagde-
sisyon lang itong doon manirahan habangbuhay nang makapagtrabaho
doon noong early ‘70s. Lonely backpacker ang tawag niya sa sarili noon
habang ginagalugad ang probinsiya sa unang pagkakataon. Work-re-
lated bilang empleyado ng rural extension program ng isang state col-

32 fi cti o n
lege ang ibang lakad niya, pero mas madalas sariling pagliliwaliw. Nag-
ing guide niya sa pagsuot sa kung saan-saang sulok ang lahat na yatang
klaseng tao—katutubo, ermitanyo, tambay, pati cafgu. Minsan, marat-
ing lang ang isang lugar na mahirap puntahan, sumama siya sa medical
mission. Kahit kontra-partido, sumali siya sa caravan ng isang politiko
isang campaign period masuyod lang ang kahabaan ng Sur. Napag-
sawaan niya ang isang sikat na talon bago ito naging panturista. Nauri
niya ang mga antigong tapayan ng isang kuweba bago pa dalhin ang mga
iyon sa museo sa Maynila.
“8:00 pa po ang pumpboat, Sir,” humihitit ng sigarilyong sabi ng
bangkero, habang nangunguyakoy sa pagkakaupo.
“Akala ko 6:00,” kunotnoong tanong ni Lolo, sabay pakisindi.
“Isa na lang po ang biyahe ngayon, wala na iyong 6:00.”
“Magtatatlong-araw na po di ba, bumiyahe tapos di na nakabalik.”
“Haaa?” nalaglag ang sigarilyo ni Lolo. Napasalampak siya sa tabi
ng bangkero.
Narinig na ni Lolo ang tungkol sa hiwaga ng isla kaya gusto
niya itong puntahan. Pero di siya handa sa pinakahuling balitang ito.
Kadarating kasi niya nang nakaraang araw galing Maynila, kung saan
nainterview siya at na-deny sa US Embassy. Ayaw niyang makipag-usap
kahit na kanino. Di niya sinabi sa mga kaibigan niyang pauwi na siya.
Nagmukmok siya pagkagaling sa airport. Nang maghahatinggabi’t di
pa makatulog, bigla niyang naisipang totohanin ang noon pa ipinangako
sa sariling pagpunta sa isla. At least pag nagkuwento siya sa mga kaibi-
gan, hindi ang tungkol sa kanyang visa ang uukilkilin kundi ang tung-
kol sa isla.
“Ilan ang sakay? Ano’ng nangyari?”
“Si Mang Natuy lang ho, ‘yong bangkero. Susunduin lang sana
iyong mga German na nag-overnight doon.”
b ay uga i A n g Hered ero ng Tri b o Hub ad s a Is l a R e a l 33
“Hinanap ba? Nakita ba ang katawan?”
Nangingilabot si Lolo habang nagtatanong. Alam na niya ang sagot.
Kapiraso man ng pumpboat at ng bangkero di nahanap. Nawalang pa-
rang bula. Nawalang kasama ng bula. Luma na ang ganoong kuwento
sa isla.
Sakay ng isang private plane ang isang congressman at dalawang
kaibigan papunta sa isla ilang taon na ang nakararaan. (Oo, may airstrip
sa isla. Ipinagawa ito ng heredero ng isang business empire na nanirahan
doon.) Ang sabi ng mga nakakita, malapit na malapit na sa isla ang pri-
vate plane nina congressman. Minuto na lang daw at lalapag na ito. Pero
bigla itong bumulusok at tuluy-tuloy pumailalim na parang hinigop ng
dagat. Frontpage sa lahat ng mga pahayagan ang balita. Sikat si con-
gressman, na inaasahang tatakbo bilang senador. Galing ito sa pamily-
ang yumaman sa pagmimina. Anak naman ng mga tycoon ng logging at
quarrying ang mga kasama. Lahat sila certified yuppies.
Kataka-takang sa lapit na iyon sa pampang, wala ni katiting na ba-
hagi ng private plane ang nahagilap. Umupa pa ng mga barkong may
sonar equipment daw na kayang ma-detect ang nasa kaila-ilaliman ng
dagat. Pero kalabisan nang umasa pang makasalba ng kahit kapiraso
ng suot na Armani ni congressman para sa memorial niya. Pati na ang
mga beterano ng muro ami fishing sa Tubbataha Reef noong di pa ito
protected area, nakihanap. Wala. Ang kumalat na sabi-sabi, buong-bu-
ong kinuha ng diwata ng isla sina congressman. Mahilig daw talaga ang
diwata sa spoiled rich boys.
Walang takot si Lolo sa diwata ng isla. Unang-una, hindi siya
spoiled. Lalo namang di siya rich. At hindi siya boy, ‘no, Lolo na nga ang
tawag sa kanya.
Iba naman ang paraan ng pagkuha sa herederong nagpagawa ng
airstrip. Eksakto kay congressman at sa mga kasama nito ang profile ng
una. Macho guapito ang tawag sa kanya noong panahon niya. Base sa ku-
34 fi cti o n
wento, tumira sa isla ang heredero dahil nabigyan ito ng financial grant
ng isang funding organization sa Europa. As expected sa mga tunay daw
na de buena familia, sa pinakamahusay na unibersidad sa Europa nag-
aral ang heredero. Nang mahasa ang utak, naibenta nito ang ideya ng
isang tribo sa Palawan na di pa naaabot ng sibilisasyon.
Hindi nakatala sa kasaysayan ang tribo noon. Ni wala itong pa­
ngalan dahil wala namang tawag sa sarili bilang isang grupo. Iilan
lang ang mga ito, di nga umaabot sa isandaan; nabubuhay sa batas ng
kalikasan at sa mga panuntunang nakaayon sa gusto ng sinasambang
Manlilikha. Walang kamalay-malay sa pagdating at pag-alis ng Kastila,
Amerikano at Hapon, nananatiling pangangaso ang pangunahin nitong
Pangangaso ang naglapit ng heredero sa tribo. Binatilyo pa lang ay
sumasama na ito sa hunting expeditions ng kanyang abuelo sa iba’t ibang
bundok ng Pilipinas. Pero ang naging pinakapaborito nito sa lahat ay
ang private hunting ground sa Palawan ng isang family friend. Hindi
kasi tamaraw, pilandok, baboyramo at iba pang hayop na likas sa bansa
ang mapagsasamantalahan doon para patunayan ang pagkalalaki, kundi
giraffe, zebra, at iba pang hayop na imported galing sa Africa.
Hindi sinasadya ng herederong mapahiwalay sa mga kasama nang
araw na iyon. Parang may humila daw sa mga paa nito papunta sa isang
kubling bahagi. Agad nitong ikinasa ang baril nang makarinig ng mga
kaluskos sa likod ng madawag na mga pakpak-lawin. Mabuti na lang
bago nakapagpaputok ay nasino nito ang isang taong nagsusumiksik
doon. Hubad ito, nanginginig sa takot, at ungol, paswit at imbay ng ka-
tawan ang tanging lengguwahe. Kung paano nitong naikuwento kung
sino ito, saan galing, paanong napadpad sa private hunting ground na
iyon, etsetera… ay bahagi na ng kasaysayan ng tribo. Katumbas ang ka-
saysayang iyon ng limpak-limpak na perang napasakamay ng heredero
sa ngalan ng sibilisasyon.
b ay uga i A n g Hered ero ng Tri b o Hub ad s a Is l a R e a l 35
Sa Isla Real nakatira ang tribo, kaya biglang naging sikat ang isla,
na sa totoo lang dati ay ni walang pangalan. Bininyagan ito ng heredero,
kagaya ng pagbibinyag nito sa tribo. Itinala sa kasaysayan ang Tribo Hu-
bad ng Isla Real.
Di kagaya ng ibang tribong humahabi ng isususot o nagtutuhog ng
mga butgay, siit, at iba pang bagay-bagay para gawing pantabo’t pala-
muti sa katawan, ang Tribo Hubad ay walang sabit na kahit na ano.
Patakaran nilang hindi dapat balutan, tusukin, sugatan, o gawan ng ano
pa mang di likas ang katawan.
Buong tiwalang tinanggap ng mga katutubo ang heredero dahil
ginawa nito ang simula noon ay naging pamantayan na ng pakikiisa sa
mga ito, hubo’t hubad na pakikisama. Dahil doon kaya ibinukas sa he-
redero ang napakaraming hiwaga ng tribo, na siya palang dahilan kaya
ito nakaligtas sa lahat ng uri ng pananakop. Ang mga nasabing hiwaga
ay kaugnay ng mga hiwaga ng isla.
Ang pamantayang iyon naman ang naging dahilan kung bakit di
magkalakas-loob si Lolo na pumunta sa isla. Kasi nga naman, di puwe-
deng kung nandoon na ang isang self-proclaimed scholar na tulad niya,
di pa niya dadalawin ang tribo. Sa matagal na panaho’y di niya mau-
bos maisip, sus Ginoo, talagang feeling niya di kaya ng powers niya, na
mamuhay nang hubo’t hubad. Paano niyang pag-aaralan ang kultura’t
kalinangan kung asiwa siya dahil tumatalbog-talbog ang kanyang mga
Sa mga pahayagan sa Europa unang lumabas ang balita tungkol
sa tribo. Nang makarating ito sa Pilipinas, samutsari ang naging reak-
siyon. May napanganga sa pagkamangha. Meron ding nagkibit-balikat.
Pero ang higit na nakararami ay humanga sa heredero, itinuring itong
bayani’t kabalyero, hinirang na diyos-diyosan. Ito na ang bagong Lam-
ang, Palaisgen, Bernardo Carpio… Ang ilang umidolo dito’y isinali pa
36 fi cti o n
ang mga la­rawan nitong ginupit sa diyaryo sa kanilang scrapbook nina
Tirso Cruz III at Edgar Mortiz.
Ang islang dating hindi kilala ay pinagnasaang dayuhin ng mara­
ming tao. Pero hindi lahat ng nagtangkang pumunta ay nakarating,
dahil sa mga di-kapani-paniwalang hadlang at kakaibang pangyayari.
Hanggang magkaroon ng mga bulung-bulungan tungkol sa heredero
at sa tribo. Ang sabi’y gusto nang angkinin ng heredero ang isla, at da-
hil marami itong pera, kayang manipulahin ang dagat, langit, ulap at
hangin, para walang kahit anong sasakyang makarating. Iyon daw ang
dahilan kung bakit maraming pumpboat na di makadaong sa isla. Di
daw makalapit ang mga iyon dahil may mga mekanismong ikinabit sa
pampang. Ganoon din daw ang ginagawa sa mga eroplano, hinaharang
ng makapal na ulap o malakas na ulan, kaya naliligaw.
At hindi lang iyan. Halos lahat daw ng mga babae sa tribo ay na-
katalik na ng heredero. Walang konsepto ng pag-aasawa at pagbubuo
ng pamilya ang tribo; walang lolo’t lola, ama’t ina, asawa’t anak, at iba
pa. Bawat batang ipapanganak ay anak ng tribo; bawat lalaki sa pag-
babago ng boses at tindig ay itinuturing na binata ng tribo; bawat babae
sa pagdaloy ng unang regla ay nagiging dalaga ng tribo. Nagpasasa ang
heredero sa kalakarang iyon.
Makalipas ang halos kalahating dekada, isang organisasyon ng mga
intelektuwal galing sa iba’t ibang bansa (anthropologists, historians, pro-
fessors, scientists, at iba pa) ang nagtagumpay na marating ang isla at
makipamuhay sa tribo. Matapos iyon ay agad silang naglabas ng pahay-
ag, na inilathala sa lahat ng diyaryo sa lahat ng panig ng mundo. “The
Great Hoax” at “Deception of the Century” ang itinawag nila sa proyek-
to. Marami silang inilatag na puntos para patunayan ang konklusyon.
Pero ang natatak sa isip ng mga Filipino ay ang tungkol sa napakakinis
na kutis ng mga nasabing katutubo. Kahit na kinuskos na ng dagta at
ugat ay halatang flawless ang buong katawan ng mga ito. “Very well-
b ay uga i A n g Hered ero ng Tri b o Hub ad s a Is l a R e a l 37
tanned overstaying tourists” ang isa sa mga ginamit na paglalarawan sa
mga ito.
Naging usap-usapan ang heredero, kung paano nitong binaboy ang
isla, kasama ang mga binayaran para magkunwaring katutubo. Bakit
naman daw nga kasi pinagtiwalaan ang heredero, na antimanong ga­ling
sa salinlahi ng mga suwapang. Ang sandamakmak na baho ng buong
angkan nito ay pinagkakalkal. Di nga ba’t kaya ubod ito ng yaman at
maraming pag-aari sa buong kapuluan ay dahil kinamkam ng mga
ninuno nito ang lupain ng mga katutubong Filipino gamit ang enco-
mienda. Ang isang ninunong barumbado sa Espanya, na nagkunwaring
fraile nang pumunta sa bansa, ay nagpasasa naman sa mga kababaihan.
At magpahanggang sa kasalukuyan, namumutakti sa tonta at estupida
ang lengguwahe ng mga tiyahi’t kapatid nitong señora at señorita kapag
kausap ang mga katulong sa bahay. Ang herederong dating ka-level na
ng mga bayani sa epiko at singkisig na ni Fernando Poe, Jr., ay naging
manyak, bandido, siraulo.
Hanggang magsawa ang mga tsismoso’t tsismosa. Ang inisip ng
marami, dahil bistado na, umalis na ang heredero at mga kasama at di
na babalik pa. Pero hindi nawala ang interes ng mga tao sa isla. Naging
bukambibig ng mga nakarating doon ang white sands, wild orchids, red
rocks at kung ano-ano pang likasyaman. Ke camping o seminar man
ay doon gustong gawin ng mga opisina, mga organisasyon at iba pang
grupo. Ang kataka-taka, sa sangkatutak na nagplano, wala pa sa sam-
pung grupo ang natuloy. Kung ano-anong problema sa schedule at mga
aberya ang humarang sa kanila.
Isang grupo ng mga opisyal ng lgus at POs galing sa iba’t ibang
panig ng Palawan ang nagpilit makarating isang tag-araw. Kalma ang
dagat; arkilado ang mga pumpboats; pinaghandaan ang pagpunta sa isla.
Pero wala ni isang nakarating sa grupong naghati sa tatlo. Ang ipinagpa-
pasalamat na lang nila, walang napahamak sa kanila.
38 fi cti o n
Kuwento ng mga sakay ng pumpboat na unang bumalik, kita na
nila ang isla. Sa tantiya, mga labinlimang minuto na lang popondo na sila.
Pero mag-iisang oras na di pa nila ito maabot. Parang hindi nagbabago
ang layo nito. Ang pakiramdam ng mga bangkero, parang gumagalaw
ang isla, parang may gumagaod dito palayo. Kaya hindi nila ito kayang
habulin kahit de motor pa sila. Hanggang magsimulang mahilo at mag-
suka ang mga babae, at ang isa dito’y magmakaawang huwag na silang
Nag-iiyakan ang mga sakay ng pumpboat na ikalawang bumalik sa
fort, pati na ang kanilang mga bangkero. Nagulat daw sila nang biglang
bumulaga sa harap nila ang isla. Halos nakadikit na sila sa baybayin nito!
Napansin nilang parang nakaangat ito sa dagat, nakalutang sa ere…
Pero iglap lang iyon, dahil noon di’y pinaghahampas sila ng mga alon.
Wala na ang isla pagmulat nila. At di na nila alam kung nasaan sila. Sa
tindi ng wasiwas ng mga alon, pakiramdam nila nasa open sea na sila.
Ayaw gumana ng compass. Panay static ang naririnig sa kanilang radio.
Naglabasan ang mga rosaryo at agua bendita, pati healing oils. Alas dos
ng hapon ng araw na iyon sila nakabalik, humigit-kumulang tatlong
oras mula nang maligaw sa gitna ng dagat.
Pero ang naging sentro ng balita ay ang nangyari sa ikatlong grupo.
Dahil di sila makontak, napagdesisyunang ipasundo na sila. Maayos na
nakarating sa isla at nakabalik sa fort ang mga sumundo, pero ni anino
nila di namataan. Inalerto ang Coast Guard. Gabi na, wala pang linaw
kung anong nangyari. Di pa panahon ng cellphone noon at mahirap
pang kumontak sa landline, kaya maghahatinggabi na nang makahinga
ang mga kaanak ng grupo. Noon lang nakapanawagan ang grupo sa
isang istasyon ng radyo. Simple lang ang kanilang kuwento. Malapit na
malapit na sila sa isla nang dumilim, kumulog, kumidlat at bumuhos ang
napakalakas na ulan. Kasunod noo’y pinaghahampas sila ng gahigan-
teng mga alon. Tinantiya nila ang pampang at nagdesisyong lumundag
b ay uga i A n g Hered ero ng Tri b o Hub ad s a Is l a R e a l 39
na at lumangoy kaysa tumaob pa sila’t mawalan ng balanse. Kompleto
naman silang nakarating sa pampang, pero laking gulat nila nang mala-
man sa mga taong nadatnan doon na nasa Visayas sila.
“Sir, Sir, sasakay pa ba kayo?”
“Ha?!” naalimpungatan si Lolo sa pagyugyog ng bangkero sa kan-
yang balikat.
“Oo, bakit? Aalis na ba?”
“Kayo na lang hinihintay, Sir.”
Pinunasan ni Lolo ang mga namuong muta, di makapaniwalang
nakatulog siya sa pagkakasalampak. Puno na nga ang pumpboat. Ni isa
wala siyang kilala sa mga sakay. May dalawang foreigners na obviously
ay mga turista. Ang iba pang sakay, ewan niya kung ano ang pakay sa
“All aboard!” sigaw ng balahibuing foreigner, sabay tungga sa
dalang bote ng beer.
“Cheers!” sagot ng ilan sa mga pasahero, kasabay ng pag-andar ng
motor ng bangka.
Ayaw ni Lolo ng mga ganoong eksena. Para bang premonisyong
may haharaping pagsubok ang biyahe nila.
“Isla Real, here we come!” dumagundong ang boses ng isa pang
Matitinding hampas ng mga alon ang naging sagot sa foreigner.
Napakapit kay Lolo ang isang babaeng parang nauupos ang mga tuhod
sa paggewang ng pumpboat. Nanginig ang buong katawan ni Lolo nang
tingnan ito, dahil isang naaagnas na mukha ang humarap sa kanya.
“Gaano katagal ang biyahe?” buti na lang at may nagtanong sa
bangkero kaya nahimasmasan si Lolo.
“Mga isa’t kalahati hanggang dalawang oras, Mam,” sagot ng
40 fi cti o n
Iniwasan ni Lolong tingnan ang babaeng agnas. Pero ewan kung
bakit parang pilit itong humaharap sa kanya. At bakit parang siya lang
ang nakakakita sa lagay nito. Sa pagkakaalam niya, wala naman siyang
third eye. Di tuloy niya maiwasang isipin ang ilan pang narinig tungkol
sa isla.
Isang matandang Griyego daw ang tumira sa isla. Binusisi nito ang
flora and fauna at palihim na naghukay sa ilang lugar. Noong una ay
lagi itong mag-isa, may dalang mga mapa at kung ano-anong epektos.
Pero paglipas ng ilang buwan, nagsimula itong makitalamitam—sa
mga turista, bangkero, bantay-isla—para lang maikuwento kung ano
ang natuklasan. Ang sabi nito, bahagi ng matagal nang hinahanap na
lungsod ng Atlantis ang isla. Marami daw siyang nakalap na patunay,
gaya ng mga nahukay niyang buto ng toro. Ang mga torong iyon daw
ay inialay sa altar ni Poseidon. Kapansin-pansin din ang mga mapupu-
lang bato. At lalong di daw maipagkakamali ang ilang tanda na may
mga estrukturang gumuho sa ilang bahagi ng isla. Tugma daw ang mga
ebiden­siyang ito sa isinulat ni Plato tungkol sa lungsod. Nasira ang ulo
ng Griyego sa sobrang pag-iisip, deklarasyon ng marami sa mga nakau-
sap nito.
Pero hindi tinawag na siraulo ang isang Italyanong scientist-philan-
thropist na matagal nang pabalik-balik sa Palawan. Kilala ito ng lahat
at naging panauhing pandangal na sa pagtitipon ng mga local club at
student organization. Sinabi nitong base sa masusi niyang pananaliksik,
ang isla at ang buong kapaligiran nito ay bahagi ng Bermuda Triangle.
Siksik-liglig sa impormasyon ang teorya ng scientist-philanthropist
kung paanong nagkaugnay ang Atlantic Ocean at ang China Sea, etse-
tera. Pero ang interesante lang kay Biring, na suki ni Lolo ng daing na
bararawan sa palengke, ay ang ideyang hinihigop ng isla at ng karagatan
sa palibot nito, ang ano mang mapalapit sa kanila. Ganoon din si Mimo
ng Oplan Linis, na katsika ni Lolo tuwing nagwawalis sa harap ng in-
b ay uga i A n g Hered ero ng Tri b o Hub ad s a Is l a R e a l 41
uupahan niyang apartment. Pero may tanong ito, “Bakit mayroong mga
naliligtas sa paghigop? Bakit pinipili ang hihigupin?” May sagot naman
ang ilang kampo, gaya ng mga diehard environmentalist na nagsasa-
bing ang hinihigop lang ay ang may maitim na balak sa likasyaman ng
isla. Meron daw kasing mga tipong ecotourism kuno ang sadya pero ang
totoo’y pasimpleng ocular na kung puwedeng magtayo ng resort o mag-
quarry o magmina sa isla. Pero mas klaro kay Mimo ang matagal nang
sinasabi ng matatanda tungkol sa diwata ng isla, na walang kiyemeng
tunay na namimili ng kukunin, base sa gandang lalaki. Ang ibig daw
sabihin, babae ang diwata.
Ang diwata ng isla… ang sabi, pag nagustuhan ka nito, pag pinili
kang kunin, bago ka pa man makarating, magpaparamdam na ito…
magpapakita… sa iba’t ibang mukha… sa maraming, maraming
“Totoo bang may diwata ang Isla Real?”
Nakagat ni Lolo ang kanyang dila. Buong akala niya siya ang nag-
tanong dahil iyon ang hustong nasa isip niya nang sandaling iyon, pero
sa iba nakatingin ang bangkero nang sumagot ito. Doon din nakamata
ang lahat ng iba pang sakay ng pumpboat, pati mga foreigner. Nakatayo
ang babae sa prowa, nakaharap sa kanilang lahat, habang pinaglalaruan
ng hangin ang maluwag na blusa at mahabang buhok. Halos hindi na
ito nakilala ni Lolo, dahil kaisa na ng bughaw na bughaw na langit, ng
liwanag ng araw, ng bahagya nang kumislot na mga alon… hindi na
nauupos ang mga tuhod, hindi na agnas ang mukha.
“May diwata…,” hindi naituloy ng bangkero ang sasabihin.
“Aaaaahhh!” Napasigaw silang lahat.
Akala ni Lolo, tuluyan na silang babangga. Bigla na lang kasi’y nasa
harap na sila ng naglalakihang mga batong malapader sa gitna ng dagat.
Mabuti na lang mahusay ang bangkero. Nagkatinginan sila ng ilan sa
42 fi cti o n
mga kasama. Pakiramdam ni Lolo, iisa sila ng iniisip. Totoo pala ang
sinasabing mga pader na batong iyon….
Ilang taon pagkatapos madeklarang hoax ang proyekto at mawala
ang heredero sa balita, isang mangingisda ang nagsabing nakita niya ito
nang minsang mapadako siya sa malapader na mga bato habang nama-
malakaya. Inaakyat daw ng heredero ang pader, parang nanghuhuli ng
balinsasayaw na pinapasok ang mga malakuwebang lagusan, kinakatok
ang bawat sulok. May ilang nagsabing hinahanap daw nito ang daan
pabalik sa tribo sa isla. Ang pader na iyon daw kasi ang nagsisilbing pro-
teksiyon ng isla. Pero mas marami ang hindi naniwala. Baka nakaabot
daw sa Coron ang mangingisda at turistang nagti-trekking papuntang
Lake Cayangan ang nakita nito. O baka naman daw nasa El Nido na ito.
Ang ilang nakarating na sa isla ay nagsabing wala namang indikasyong
may pader na batong nakapaligid dito. At ang mga nakakaalam na-
man ng karagatan sa paligid ng Palawan, ipinagpilitang walang mala-
pader na mga bato sa buong kalawakan nitong tugma sa kuwento ng
Sinilip ni Lolo ang pader, nagbakasakaling matanaw ang heredero.
Pero maiitim na bato lang ang nakita niya.
“Ayy, bakit ganun, bakit may dugo?” nagsisigaw ang isa sa mga
babaeng kasama nila.
May bahagi ang pader na pula ang mga bato. Kapag hinahampas ng
alon, nagkukulay-dugo ang tubig na umaagos dito.
“Reflection lang ho,” di napigilan ni Lolong sagutin ang babae. Pero
siya ma’y nanghilakbot sa kulay-dugong tubig.
“Totoo nga! Totoo nga! Hindi na tayo uuwing buhay!” niyugyog ng
babae ang balikat ng kasama.
“Mam, huwag kayong matakot. Wala pong mangyayari sa atin,”
sagot nito, sabay antanda.
b ay uga i A n g Hered ero ng Tri b o Hub ad s a Is l a R e a l 43
“Tama sila, dapat nakinig tayo! Ito na nga ang pinto ng impiyerno!”
nagmumuwestra kasabay ng pagsasalita ang babae, iginuguhit ang hugis
ng krus sa hangin.
Noon naintindihan ni Lolo ang gusto nitong sabihin. May isang
grupong dumating noon, sabi’y mga psychic. Nilibot nila ang iba’t ibang
lugar sa Palawan, nanirahan sa ilang bayan, pero sa isla nagtagal. Mai­
ngay magdiskusyon ang grupo tungkol sa kanilang mga pinag-aaralan sa
kung saan-saang pampublikong lugar. Maraming nakarinig sa deklara-
syon nilang ang isla ay isa sa mga pinto papuntang impiyerno. Ito ang
kaliwang balikat ng krus na itinatakda ng Punta Diablo sa Bahile, El
Limbo sa Buenavista, at Siete Pecados sa Coron. Binabantayan daw ito ni
Samael, isa sa mga pinakamakapangyarihang anghel, na na-contact nila
thru telepathy. Naging matunog ang ideya, naging table topic mula sa
mga hotel hanggang sa mga chaolongan sa Puerto Princesa. Kaya sa ser-
mon ng pari sa Immaculate Conception Cathedral isang araw ng Linggo,
nangaral ito tungkol sa mga demonyo, kung paanong manggulo ng isip
ang mga ito. Balewala ang lahat kay Lolo dahil personally ay hindi siya
bilib sa mga madadakdak na tao. Paniwala niya, ang totoong mahusay
ay nagpapakatahimik, di ipinangangalandakan kung ano ang alam nila
at kung sino ang nakausap nila, si Lucifer man o si Dios Ama.
“Diyos ko, ipag-adya Niyo po kami!” tili ng babae.
“Malapit na ho tayo,” kalmadong sabi ng bangkero. “Ayun na ho
ang isla o.”
Isla Real.
Di sapat na sabihing namangha, o nabighani, o napamaang si Lolo.
Dahil para sa kanya, namatay siya nang sandaling matitigan ang isla.
Tumigil sa pagtibok ang kanyang puso’t pulso, napugto ang kanyang
hininga, di dumaloy ang kanyang dugo, natuyot ang kanyang utak,
nagkabali-bali ang kanyang tadyang….
44 fi cti o n
Nang makahuma siya, nagkakanya-kanyang lakad na ang mga
kasama. Ang babaeng nagsaagnas na lang ang naiwan sa dalampasigan,
parang hinihintay siya. Pero sa puntong iyon, wala na siyang pakialam
sa kahit na ano, o kahit na kanino. Iniwan niyang lahat ng nabalitaan at
narinig tungkol sa isla—sabisabi, ideya, tsismis, teorya, patotoo, panana-
liksik, pag-aaral, danas ng iba, at kung anu-ano pa—para tunay itong
Hinubad niya ang pares ng sandalyas. De-kalibreng foot spa ang
puting-puting buhangin. Di niya napansing banayad na binubura ng
mga alon ang bawat yapak na iniiwan…. Nasipat kaagad niya ang ideal
na puntahan. Isang bahagi ito ng islang natural ang pagkakasalansan
ng mga bato at napapayungan ng iba’t ibang puno. Sa malayo’y mukha
itong altar. Doon siya magmi-meditate. Doon niya ihihinga ang lahat ng
sama ng kanyang loob. Iyon ang totoong sadya niya sa isla, ang mapag-
isa sa sinapupunan ng kalikasan at kausapin nang tapat ang sarili.
Mabigat na ang buhat niyang backpack. Mainit na ang kanyang
talampakan. Nakailang liko na siya, pero nananatiling malayo ang al-
tar. Nagpalinga-linga siya, wala nang ibang tao, ewan kung nasaan
na ang mga kasabay sa pumpboat. Ibinaba niya ang backpack, kinapa
ang cellphone sa bulsa, at parang wala sa sariling humakbang nang
Nang bumalik ang huwisyo ni Lolo, di na niya matandaan kung
saan nailapag ang backpack. Bagong charge ang kanyang cellphone,
pero low batt ito. Di niya alam kung bakit patay ang kanyang relong
kailan lang pinalitan ang baterya. Madilim ang paligid; di matanaw ang
altar. At mainit, napakainit, bagnas na siya ng pawis. Hinubad niya ang
kanyang long-sleeved shirt para pahiran ang pawis sa noo, leeg at dibdib.
Pero namamaybay ang init sa kanyang mga hita, sa tuhod, sa bukong-bu-
kong. Sunod niyang hinubad ang pantalong maong at iginala ang tingin
sa paligid sa paghahanap ng mapagsasabitan nito. Kaya pala madilim ay
b ay uga i A n g Hered ero ng Tri b o Hub ad s a Is l a R e a l 45
dahil sa nagsalimbayang mga dahon ng dao at baleteng nakayungyong
sa natural na salansan ng mga bato… sa…
Nasa gitna na ng altar si Lolo!
Nauupos ang mga tuhod na napaluhod siya, di makapaniwala. Ayaw
niyang mag-isip, alam niyang di niya makakayang arukin kung paano
siyang nakarating doon. At di na niya makaya ang nararamdamang init,
parang sasabog ang kanyang mga lamanloob. Uhaw na uhaw siya pero
ubos na ang baong mineral water. Noon niya naulinigan ang malakas,
kakaibang lagaslas ng tubig… hinuha niya, nasa kabila ng altar.
Bantulot siyang humakbang palapit sa naririnig, nangunyapit sa
mga baging na nagsalabid sa dakong ulunan. Tuyo na ang kanyang lala-
munan. Nanginginig ang kanyang mga tuhod. Isa, dalawa… ahhh…
napalugmok siya sa paanan ng gahiganteng altar.
Nag-iisa siya sa sinapupunan ng kalikasan. Tahimik maliban sa
mga huni’t lawiswis. Pagkakataon na niyang ibulalas ang mga binitbit
niyang hinanakit sa mundo. Pero ewan niya kung bakit magaan ang
kanyang pakiramdam, ni kaunting sama ng loob sa buhay wala na si-
yang mahugot sa sarili.
Kasabay ng buntunghininga’y nakita niya kung saan nanggagaling
ang malakas na lagaslas… natatakpan ng nagsalimbayang ugat dahon
tangkay baging damo at kung anu-ano pang halamang ilang ang isang
Umaagos ang tubig ng talon… namamalisbis… dumadaloy… Naa-
limpungatan si Lolo, hinabol ng tingin kung saan naglalagos ang tubig.
Noon niya nahinuhang hindi likod lang ng altar ang nasasakupan ng
talon. Lumalagaslas ang tubig sa buong paligid dahil napagigitnaan siya
ng talong natatabingan ng mayayabong na halaman. At habang patuloy
na umaagos ang tubig, di siya nababasa sa kanyang kinalulugmukan da-
hil nasa paanan siya ng altar, nakatuntong sa ilang bahagdan ng salansan
ng mga bato.
46 fi cti o n
Kahit walang batayan, alam niyang nasa pinakasentro siya ng isla.
Ito ang puso ng Isla Real! At hindi siya nag-iisa, mga kulang-kulang
dalawandaan sila. Galing sa iba’t ibang kubling bahagi, naglabasan ang
mga tao, nagpadausdos sa tubig… nagtampisaw sa agos… nakipagpalig-
sahan sa mga alon…
Kung sa pumpboat napansin niyang wala siyang kasabay na ka­kilala,
dito naman pamilyar ang ilang mukha. Napalunok si Lolo sa pagsipat sa
lahat. Tipong matagal nang nagpapasasa sa isla ang mga ito kaya walang
kiyeme nang ipinaglalantaran ang kanilang hubo’t hubad na very well
tanned bodies. Pero nataranta siya nang mapansing siya man ay ganoon
din, dahil sa kung paanong paraan ay hindi na niya suot ang kanyang
brief. Hiyang-hiyang hahagilapin sana niya iyon nang makitang papala-
pit sa kanya ang isang matikas na lalaki. Sigurado siyang kilala niya ito,
di lang maisip kung saan nakasama.
“Emiliano Ricafrente!” iniabot nito ang kamay sa kanya, sabay yu-
kod na mala-caballero. “Maligayang pagdating sa Isla Real!”
Napalugmok uli ang babangon sanang si Lolo nang masiguro kung
sino ang kaharap. Ang heredero! Wala siyang panahong mamangha,
dahil sa isang iglap, nakapalibot na sa kanya ang buong Tribo Hubad.
Nanumbalik ang lakas niya. Tinungga niya ang sabaw ng inalok na
buko ng isang katutubo. Noon niya napansin ang tatlong lalaking di na-
kisalamuha sa kanila, tahimik na nakamasid lang mula sa kinauupuang
malalaking bato.
“Natatandaan mo pa ba sila?”
“Si Congressman!” palatak ni Lolo.
Marami pang ibang nagsidating. Lahat ng mga deklaradong
nawawala dahil sa pagpunta sa isla nakausap ni Lolo, pati ang bang-
kerong si Mang Natuy. Iba’t iba ang dahilan nila kung bakit pinili nilang
huwag nang umuwi.
b ay uga i A n g Hered ero ng Tri b o Hub ad s a Is l a R e a l 47
Nagpalakpakan ang lahat nang dumating ang isang matandang la­
laking may mahaba’t maputing balbas, buhat sa kanyang likod ang isang
buhay na toro. Inilagak nito ang toro sa harap ng altar, kung saan ito
sumingasing bago nagpatirapa.
“Alay natin ang toro kay Poseidon, pasasalamat sa iyong pagdating
sa Atlantis!” sabi ng lalaki kay Lolo.
Nagsalimbayan ang tugtog ng agong, biyulin, trumpeta at iba pang
instrumento. Nagpasikat din ang musikong bumbong. Habang tumi-
tikwas ang paa sa balse, di naiwasan ni Lolong maalala ang kinaasarang
mga psychic na nagsabing pinto ng impiyerno ang isla.
Impiyerno o langit?
Sa Tribo Hubad ng Isla Real, walang kahit anong klasipikasyon.
Walang lalaki’t babae, bata’t matanda, malakas-mahina, mayama’t ma-
hirap, tama’t mali, mabuti’t masama; walang lahi’t salinlahi, matalino’t
mangmang, tunay at peke, pangit at pogi; walang buhay at patay….
Walang langit at impiyerno.
Magdamag. Maghapon. Hindi na alam ni Lolo ang takbo ng oras.
“Ano’ng ikukuwento mo tungkol sa Isla Real?”
Tinitigan ni Lolo ang nagtanong. Mismong sa harap niya’y nag-
babago ang itsura nito, nagiging tuod, tao, halamang-ugat, bato…. Ngu-
miti siya. Mabuti na lang walang nakaaalam tungkol sa pagpunta niya
sa isla. Pag nagkita sila ng kanyang mga kaibigan, pababayaan niyang
usisain nila kung ano ang nangyari sa lakad niya sa Maynila. Ibubulalas
niya kung paano siyang pumila nang halos maghapon para lang ma-
deny sa U.S. Embassy.
At kung sa mga darating na araw ay may magtanong kung alam
niya ang tungkol sa isla, o kung narating na niya ito, o kung totoo ang
Tribo Hubad, iiling lang siya. Napakarami nang naikuwento tungkol sa
Isla Real. Sapat na ang mga kuwentong iyon.


K ASALUKUYANG uso ang paghuli ng mga hybrid na butanding.

Matatagpuan lamang ang mga nasabing cross-breed ng pating at
balyena sa Philippine Sea. Bunga ang mga ito ng isang lumang eksperi-
mento—kung saan sa mahabang panahon, inipon ang mga namumuong
bagyo na papalapit sa Pilipinas at saka binabasag sa nasabing dagat.
Mataas ang sikat ng araw sa labas. Matingkad na asul ang dagat, at
maliwanag naman ang sa langit. Walang kahit isang ulap. Walang ibang
hydrofloat sa paligid. Mula sa malayo, hindi matutukoy kung gaano ka-
lapit sa ibabaw ng dagat o kalayo sa ibabaw ng langit ang nag-iisang
hydrofloat, ang pag-aari ng mga Adriano.
Tahimik ang pasilyong nagdurugtong sa cabin area papuntang sun-
deck. Maririnig lang sa sahig ang takong ng sapatos ni Ivy at ang pagkis-
kis ng rubber sole sa seaboots ng asawa niyang si Jaime.
Kung pagmamasdan mula sa dulong kuwarto ng cabin area, aaka-
laing lumulutang ang bilugang gel light na may gabuhok na wires. Iyon
ang nagdurugtong ng mga ilaw sa pader, kung saan naman nakalatag

bucu i H uli 49
ang electrical network ng hydrofloat. Maliit lang ang mga ito kapag
maliwanag pa sa labas.
“Maganda palang tingnan ang mga ilaw na ‘to,” sabi ni Jaime. Hu-
minto siya at lumapit sa isa sa mga gel light. Hahawakan niya sana ito,
nang big­lang lumaki ang mga ilaw. Humakbang siya patalikod. Napan-
sin niyang hindi na rin pantay ang sahig ng cabin area. Gumagalaw na
ang sahig at patay-sindi ang mga ilaw. Humawak siya kay Ivy.
Hindi naman binitawan ni Ivy ang asawa. Hinila niya ito papunta
sa kabilang pader at saka pinindot ang emergency communicator, na na-
kadirekta sa captain’s deck. Bago pa niya ibuka ang bibig, bumalik na sa
dating laki ang mga ilaw. Tumigil na rin ang pagyanig ng hydrofloat.
“Anong nangyari—bakit—ang gel lights—pati sahig!” tanong
agad ng asawa niya, habang humahangos. “Kapitan, sumagot ka!”
Pinindot ni Ivy ang button ng e-comm. “Huminahon ka, Jaime.”
Muli niyang pinindot ang button at sinabing, “Pasensya na po kayo, ka­
pitan. Ano po bang nangyari?”
“Pasensya na rin po, ma’am, sir at hindi kami nakapagwarning
kaagad. May good news po,” sabi ng kapitan.
“Ano namang maganda dun e—” naputol na tanong ni Jaime
“Kapitan, tama ba ang narinig namin, good news?”
“Opo, ma’am. Ang naranasan po nating pagyanig kanina ay dulot
ng water vibrations na galing sa isang malaking butanding.”
“Narinig mo ‘yun, Jaime? Butanding! Mukhang mapapaaga ang
sabak mo.”
“Malapit na ba ‘yun, kapitan?”
“Malayo pa po, sir, pero sa ganung kalakas na impact, siguradong
malaki ‘yun.”
“Okay. Sa susunod mag-announce naman kayo ‘pag may darating
na pagyanig.”
50 fi cti o n
“Opo, sir. Pasensya na po ulit. May kararating lang pong mensahe
mula sa food crew. Handa na raw po ang almusal ninyo sa sundeck.”
“Maraming salamat ulit sa balita, kapitan”
“Wala pong anuman, ma’am.”

NANG MALAPIT na sila sa sundeck, ibinaba ni Jaime ang equipment

capsules at isinandal sa pader ng bukana. Ang nabakanteng kamay, inak-
bay niya sa asawa at nagpatuloy sila sa paglakad.
“Dear, ito na ang hinihingi mong retrotropical ambiance,” sabi ni
Jaime, at saka ito huminto. Nasa sundeck na sila.
“Oh, let me guess, sa internet mo rin nakuha?” tanong naman ni Ivy,
habang pinagmamasdan ang bagong furnish na bahagi ng hydrofloat.
“Not really. Si lola pa ang tinanong ko d’yan. Kumuha lang ako ng
magaling na sketch artist para makinig sa kuwento ni lola tungkol sa
prime tourist spot natin dati, at eto na.”
“Tourist spot, natin?”
“Ng Pilipinas. Remember Boracay, na tourism laboratory na lang
“A, okay. Nakalimutan kong hindi mo nga pala pag-aari lahat,”
sabi ni Ivy. Ngumiti siya, pagkatapos ay umiling-iling.
“Totoo, pero malapit na rin dun. Balak kong magpagawa ng resort
na replica ng dating magagandang beach, dun sa isang barangay sa La-
guna,” sabi ng kanyang asawa.
Nanlaki ang mga mata ni Ivy. “Yung wedding gift sa atin ng isa sa
mga ninong mo?”
“Oo. Pinadisenyo ko rin para maging mini-seahunt area. Para na-
man hindi natin kailangang magpunta dito for practice.”
“Sinasabi ko na nga ba.” Napabuntunghinhinga siya. “Salamat na
rin.” Pagkatapos, nag-iwan siya ng mabilis na halik sa pisngi ng asawa.
bucu i H uli 51
“Siguro naman mababawasan na rin ‘yang obsession mo sa tropical
“Interest lang ito, dear. Ang seahunting mo ang obsession.”
Magsasalita pa sana ang asawa niya pero naunahan na ito ng kamay
niya sa bibig nito. “Saglit lang, at tatawagan ko ang lola mo.” Pagkatapos,
nagmadali siyang naglakad pabalik sa may bukana ng deck at kinuha
ang roaming communicator na nakasabit sa pader.
Sa gilid ng sundeck, may dalawang palochinang bilog na mesa na
may lumulutang na malalaking burlap beach umbrella sa itaas. Naro-
roon si Dino, ang trainer ni Jaime sa paghuli ng butanding.
Nakaupo siya sa isa sa mga plastic egg mould chairs, nakaharap
sa dagat habang umiinom ng juice. Abala naman sa kanya ang tatlong
babaeng tagapagsilbi. Para silang mga asul na bubuyog na di-magka-
mayaw sa pag-aasikaso sa kanya.
Ininom niya ang huling patak ng juice sa baso.
“Sir, juice pa po? Gusto n’yo pa po ba ng ibang mix sa guava-ponk-
an-mangoosteen juice niyo?”
“Pwede bang rambutan?”
“Siyempre naman po,” sagot ng unang tagapagsilbi. Nakahakbang
na ang isang paa nito patalikod bago pa man makasagot si Dino.
“Ano pong gusto n’yong luto ng itlog pugo, sunny side up, scram-
bled, poached o yung self-boiled chicken egg na lang po?” tanong naman
ng ikalawa.
“Poached na lang.”
Bumalik ang unang tagapagsilbi, at muntik na nitong makabang-
gaan ang papapaalis pa lamang na ikalawa. “Masusunod po,” tugon nito
at nagmadaling lumakad papunta sa portable kitchen.
“Multivitamin pandesal, sir,” sabi ng ikatlo at huling tagapagsilbi.
Napakalaki ng pagkakangiti nito, pinipigil ang paghangos at may kaun­
52 fi cti o n
ting pagtawa sa pananalita. “Dito rin po mismo sa Philippine Sea kinuha
ang asin n’yan,”
“Philippine Sea salt? ‘Yan ba yung eksklusibo lang sa mga country
club?” Unti-unting lumaki ang ngiti ni Dino.
“Opo. Pero dito po ginawa sa hydrofloat. May de luxe seawater salt-
er po kasi si Sir Jaime. Kaninang umaga lang din po hinango ang asin.”
“Salamat, salamat.”
Nilagyan ng ikatlong tagapagsilbi ng tatlong pirasong Multipan
ang plato ni Dino. Dumating naman ang ikalawang tagapagsilbi at nag­
lagay ng dalawang poached eggs sa tabi ng mga Multipan. Nakahilera
ang tatlong tagapagsilbi sa gilid ng mesa.
Habang ipinapalaman ni Dino ang umuusok na poached egg sa
Multipan, nagpaalam naman si Ivy sa lola ng kanyang asawa na nasa
kabilang linya ng roam comm. Pagkatapos, kinuha ni Jaime ang kamay
niya at saka sila naglakad papunta sa may mga mesa.
“Excuse me,” sabi ni Ivy.
Pumagitan silang mag-asawa kina Dino at mga tagapagsilbi.
“Nasaan na ang mangoosteen juice ko?” tanong niya sa mga
“Pasensya na po, Ma’am Ivy,” sabay-sabay na sabi ng tatlo.
“Saglit lang po.” Hinila ng una at pangalawang tagapagsilbi ang
dalawang upuan sa kabilang mesa.
“Sir, ma’am, maupo na po kayo,” sabi ng una.
“Kayo po, Sir Jaime, ano pong gusto n’yong kape?” tanong naman
ng ikalawa.
“Herbal tea na lang,” sagot ni Jaime. Umalis agad ang una at ikala-
wang tagapagsilbi.
Lumapit naman ang ikatlong tagapagsilbi para lagyan ng Multipan
ang mga plato ng mag-asawa; dalawa kay Ivy, apat kay Jaime. Hiniwa ng
tagapagsilbi sa gitna ang mga Multipan at umalis na papunta sa portable
bucu i H uli 53
kitchen, ilang dipa ang layo sa mga mesa. Lumapit ang ikalawang taga­
pagsilbi at nilagyan ng itlog ang mga plato ng mag-asawa. Sunny side up
na quail egg ang kay Jaime at self-boiled egg naman ang kay Ivy.
Bumalik ang una at ikalawang tagapagsilbi na may dalang mango-
steen juice at herbal tea; ang unang inumin ay nasa basong hugis pinya at
ang ikalawa naman ay nasa malaking transparent na tasa.
Ipinatong ni Ivy ang kamay niya sa kamay ng asawa na nasa ibabaw
ng mesa. “Dear, hindi ba masyado ka nang nasosobrahan sa mga herbal
health products na ‘yan?”
Tuluyan naman siyang hinawakan sa kamay ng asawa. “Well, may
proven scientific data naman,” sabi pa nito. Humigpit ang hawak nito
sa kanya.
Inalis niya ang pagkakahawak ng asawa sa kanyang kamay. “Na
ano?” tanong pa niya. Tapos, kumuha siya ng isa pang Multipan. Ini-
lagay niya sa egg sheller-slicer ang self-boiled egg at ipinalaman ito sa
“Na nakakaincrease ng chances ng longevity by more or less thirty
“More or less.” Kumagat si Ivy sa tinapay. “More or less dear,” sabi
niya ulit at tumawa nang mahina habang ngumunguya.
“Really, darling. H’wag ka nang masyadong mabahala. Besides,
hindi naman ikaw ang pinaiinom ko. Hindi rin naman kita kinukwest­
yon sa mangoosteen juice weekend regimens mo.”
“Iniiba mo ang usapan.” Pinuno ng unang tagapagsilbi ng mango-
steen juice ang baso niya. “Umiinom lang ako nito dahil paborito ko ‘to
simula pagkabata.”
“Pare-parehas lang inumin ang mga ‘yan, Ivy. Baka nga dapat subu-
kan mo rin ang herbal drinks, para mabago ang isip mo sa pagkakaroon
ng—” Huminto si Jaime.
“Ng ano, ha?” tanong ni Ivy, na bahagyang tumaas ang tono.
54 fi cti o n
Umugong ang tubig.
Gumalaw ang sahig ng sundeck gaya ng sa cabin area. Nanatili
namang nakadikit ang mga plato at mga nakalagay dito sa ibabaw ng
mesa dahil sa magnetic field na siya ring nagpapalutang sa mga burlap
na beach umbrella.
Namumutlang nakatitig si Dino sa mag-asawa.
“Wala ‘yun, pareng Dino. Baka gumalaw na naman papunta dito
ang malaking butanding na ibinalita ng kapitan kanina,” sabi ni Jaime.
Kinuha nito ang digital speargun na inihatid ng isang tagapagsilbi. Nag-
simula nitong punasan ang speargun gamit ang chamois rag.
“Pasensya ka na,” sabi naman ni Ivy.
“O, ano pang hinihintay mo? Saluhan mo kami dito,” sabi ng asawa
niya bago bumalik muli sa paglilinis ng digital speargun.
Sumunod naman agad si Dino. Muling bumalik ang dugo sa mukha
nito nang makaupo na kasama ang mag-asawa.
Kulay kapeng may gatas ang balat niya. Sa tabi siya ni Jaime umu-
po. Makikitang mas matangkad ito kaysa sa katabi. Mas matipuno rin
ang kanyang katawan na mahahalata sa ilalim ng manipis niyang khaki
jumpsuit. Ngumiti siya sa mag-asawa. Sumabay sa pagngiti ang singkit
niyang mga mata habang hinahangin ang maikli, ngunit kulot na buhok.
Nginitian naman siya ni Ivy habang abala pa rin sa paglilinis ng speargun
si Jaime.
“Totoo pala ang usap-usapan sa country club. Kayo na nga po ang
may pinakamagandang asawa,” sabi ni Dino.
Namula si Ivy. Inilapag ni Jaime ang kanyang speargun, at daan-
da­hang umakbay.
“Napakaswerte ko nga. Pero hindi naman pwedeng nasa akin na
lahat, ‘di ba? Kaya nga kinuha kita para ma-advance ang kaalaman ko
sa spearhunting.”
bucu i H uli 55
“Alam ko naman pong makakaya ninyo ang advance training
na pinlano ko para sa inyo, Mr. Adriano. Isa pa, ‘pag nahuli natin ang
pinakamala­king butanding, siguradong wala nang masasabi ang mga
kaibigan niyo.”
“Pinakamalaking butanding? Hindi kaya ‘yun ang sinasabi ng ka­
pitan?” tanong ni Ivy.
“Baka nga ‘yun na. Sa ganung lakas ng vibrations na nililikha sa
tubig, kahit sa napakalayong distansya, siguradong napakalaki nga nun.
Mabe-break ni Sir Jaime ang lahat ng records,” sagot ni Dino sa kanya.
“At highlight din yun sa career mo bilang trainer, tama?”
“Totoo. Kaya nga excited talaga ako sa proyekto nating ‘to. Kayo ba,
Sir Jaime, Ma’am Ivy?”
“Please, Ivy na lang. Ayos lang sa ‘kin. Gusto ko naman ng konting
adventure sa buhay. Hindi pa kasi ako nakakakita ng butanding sa
“Jay na lang ang itawag mo sa ‘kin. Tutal kaedad ko lang din naman
ang kuya mo.”
Tumango si Dino.
“Dear, nasabi ko bang graduate cum laude siya ng hydrography,
major in terrain and marine life mapping? Sa local college lang, pero
mahusay pa rin,” sabi ni Jaime.
“Impressive. So, Dino. Ilang taon ka na sa trabahong ‘yan?” muling
tanong ni Ivy.
“Magdadalawang taon pa lang. Isang taon bilang professional train-
er sa speargun hunting. Naengganyo lang ako ng dati kong propesor. Isa
kasi siya sa mga nagdevelop ng sport na ‘to.”
“Tingnan mo na, Jaime. Dapat kinuha mo na ‘tong PE nung college
sa halip na electronic chess o word game theory.”
56 fi cti o n
“Ivy, darling, ‘yun ang napagkasunduan namin ng orgmates ko sa
Future Philippine Corporate Leaders.” Tumingin siya kay Dino. Yu-
muko ito at tumuloy sa pagkain.
Hindi sumagot si Ivy. Bahagya nang magkasalubong ang kilay
“Sorry, dear. Alam ko namang ayaw mo ng nostalgia sa hapag kai-
nan. I’m very sorry.” Umakbay si Jaime sa kanya at humalik sa pisngi.
Huminga nang malalim si Ivy at sumagot ng, “Apology accepted.”
Gumalaw si Dino sa kanyang kinauupuan.
“Besides, nandito ako para i-enjoy ang dagat. Matagal na ulit bago
tayo makabalik dito. Alam mo naman ang activities ng country club la-
dies ngayon. Masyado na silang concerned sa rehabilitation ng post-Mar-
tian attack Manila.”
“Ma’am Ivy, nasubukan n’yo na po bang maghydrofloat skiing?
Medyo old school pero siguradong mag-eenjoy ka.”
“Wala nang ma’am. Talaga? Hindi pa.”
Tumunog ang atomic wristwatch ni Jaime. Ala-una na ng hapon.
“Dear, I have an idea. Sasabay na ako sa inyo pagbaba para subukan
yung sinasabi ni Dino,” sabi ni Ivy. Tumayo siya at saka minasahe ang
balikat ng asawa.
Inalis naman nito ang kamay niya. “Marunong ka ba nun?” tanong
pa nito. “Dino, tara na. Kukunin pa natin ang ibang equipment.” Tu-
mayo ito at naglakad papalayo sa mga mesa.
Sumunod naman si Ivy. “Jay, kaya nga susubukan.”
“’H’wag na. Baka madisgrasya ka pa,” sagot ng asawa niya sa
Tuluyan nang nagsalubong ang kilay niya. Namumula ang buong
mukha niya at mamasa-masa na rin ang kanyang mga mata. “May life-
guard naman,” dugtong pa niya at saka tumayo sa daraanan ng asawa.
Umiwas lang ito ng daan.
bucu i H uli 57
“Tuturuan ako ni Dino,” sabi niya. Tumabi siya kay Dino. “’Di ba,
“Dear, speargun hunting ang ipinunta niya dito,” sabi ni Jaime. “In-
tindihin mo naman yun.”
“Naku, okay lang ‘yun. Wala pang fifteen minutes, marunong na
Hindi umiimik si Jaime. Sinasabayan niya ang masasamang titig
ni Ivy.
Tiningnan ni Dino ang mag-asawa. Lumunok ito ng laway bago
sabihing, “Nauna na po akong kumuha ng initial data kanina. Puwede
n’yo na pong ilagay sa record ng digital speargun at ultravision goggles
“One fifteen na. Ikaw din ang nagsabi na bandang ala-una ang best
possible time. Lalo na sa pagbabantay sa dinaraanan ng mga butanding,”
sabi ni Jaime.
“Dear, narinig mo naman siya. Fifteen minutes lang. Hindi naman
pwedeng ikaw lang ang mag-eenjoy sa seahunt na ‘to,” sabi naman ni
Ivy. Tinulak siya papalayo ng asawa.
“Alam ko. Kaya nga nagpaset-up na ‘ko ng synthetic beach sa base-
ment ng hydrofloat. Dito ka na lang.”
“Salamat, pero bago ‘tong gagawin ko. Hindi ba mas mabibilib sa
‘yo ang mga kumpare mo ‘pag nalaman nilang adventurous din ang asa-
wa mo, kagaya mo?”
“Ivy, h’wag nang matigas ang ulo mo.”
“’H’wag mo nga akong banatan ng tonong ganyan? Hindi mo ‘ko
“Ayaw mong magkaanak.”
“Walang kinalaman yun dito. Sasama lang ako, Jaime, hindi
“Ganun na rin yun.”
58 fi cti o n
“Anong sinabi mo?”
Umugong ang hydrofloat. Namatay ang gel lights sa pasilyo ng
cabin area. Pumasok na ang tubig sa deck. Nabasa ang dilaw na UV
shield sundress ni Ivy, gayon din ang suot ni Dino. Nagbilog-bilog na-
man ang tubig sa waterproof na damit ni Jaime. Nahulog na rin ang mga
burlap na beach umbrella. Natumba ang mga mesa kasama ang mga
nakapatong dito, habang patuloy na idinuduyan ng paghampas ng alon
ang hydrofloat.
“Jay, malapit na ang butanding,” bulong ni Dino.
“Pero akala ko malaki yun. Imposibleng makagalaw nang ganun
kabilis,” sabi naman ni Jaime.
“Hybrid ‘yun ng pating at balyena, Jay. Kayang magshift ng up-
down o side-side na paglangoy, depende sa current ng tubig.”
“Pero malaki pa rin s’ya,” pinindot ni Jaime ang e-comm.
“Kapitan, ibigay mo nga ang stats ng butanding.”
“Kasing laki ng average 100-storey skyscraper sa pre-Martian attack
Manila, sir”
Patuloy sa pag-alog ang buong hydrofloat.
“Jaime! Malapit na ang butanding,” sigaw ni Ivy sa asawa. Kumapit
siya sa kuwelyo ng jumpsuit nito.
“Ano pa ba namang ebidensya ang gusto mo?”
“Pero malaki ang katawan nun, kanina lang malayo pa sa radar, at
“Hindi mo na naiintindihan, hybrid ‘yun? Magkahalo ang lakas ng
dalawang hayop sa isang katawan!”
“H’wag kang makigulo sa usapan.”
“Alam ko ang konsepto ng hybrid!” sabi niya.
Tumagilid ang hydrofloat. Pagbalik nito sa dating posisyon, nasa
may bukana na silang tatlo ng sundeck. Tumayo si Dino. Hinawakan
bucu i H uli 59
niya ang tig-isang kamay ng mag-asawa at saka hinila sila patayo. Ku-
mapit sila sa railing ng deck.
Mahigpit naman ang kapit ni Jaime sa digital speargun, kaliwa’t
kanan ang pagpindot sa controls. “Dino, ano na?”
“Ang ulo, Jay, parang sa pating”
“Alam ko!’’
“Ang hugis na ‘yun ang nagbabawas ng drag ng malaking katawan
sa tubig, at nakapagpapabilis ng langoy para sa konting amount of energy”
sagot ni Dino at saka humawak sa balikat ni Jaime. “Think clear. Isipin mo
ang training. Mata sa target, isip para sa peripheral area, ok?”
“Nasa likod n’yo lang ako. Kompleto tayo sa equipment. Ito na ang
highlight ng career mo.”
“Enthusiast lang ako.”
“Jaime, this is no time for excuses,” inalis ni Ivy ang kanyang sapatos.
Kinuha niya ang safety gears ng asawa malapit sa angkla ng hydrofloat.
Isinuot niya ang vest sa asawa, pagkatapos, ang helmet.
“Kaya ko ‘to, Ivy.”
“Tumutulong lang ako.”
“’H’wag mo kong tarantahin!” sigaw ni Jaime, sabay talon sa single
water navigator.
“Hindi lang focus ng speargun ang mahalaga. Automatic ‘yun.
H’wag mong kakalimutan ang sa ‘yo,” sabi ni Dino, hawak ang manual
heavy speargun niya. “Gumamit ka lang ng red signal ‘pag ‘di mo na
kaya.” Ibinaba na niya ang navigator ni Jaime sa hydrofloat, ilang metro
mula sa ibabaw ng tubig.
Pinaandar na ni Jaime ang makina ng navigator. Pagbaba nito sa
tubig, umahon ang nguso ng butanding. Mistulang makintab na itim na
pader ang tumambad sa harapan niya.
60 fi cti o n
Una niyang inasinta ang mata ng butanding. Tumama ang bala ng
speargun sa kanang mata ng hayop. Naulanan ng nangingitim na pulang
dugo si Jaime. Tila lumakas ang loob nito, at minaniobra ang navigator
papunta sa bumbunan ng butanding.
Sa makapal na sapin ng taba, tumagos ang electrowaves na nag-
papatakbo sa navigator. Nataranta ang butanding at bumaligtad ito.
Nawala itong kasama ni Jaime sa ilalim ng tubig.
Tumakbo si Ivy, nasa sahig na ngayon at gumapang pabalik sa rail-
ing, papunta sa e-comm. “Ano nang nangyari kay Jaime?”
“Malabo ang signal, ma’am. Pero hindi pa niya binubuksan ang
red signal. Maghintay-hintay lang po tayo,” sabi ng kapitan, bahagyang
napupunit-punit ang boses sa patuloy na pag-alog ng sasakyan. Lumayo
na nang kaunti ang hydrofloat mula sa hunting point kung saan naro-
roon si Jaime. Sa paanan naman nito, nakaabang si Dino sakay ng isa
ring navigator.
Lumitaw ang kamay ni Jaime, pagkatapos, ang ulo. Nakangiti ni-
tong itinuro ang dalawang duguang mata ng butanding, na mabagal na
ang paghinga. Nakakapit na ang spikes ng navigator sa ulunan ng na-
sabing hayop.
“Jaime! Bumalik ka na dito!” sigaw ni Ivy, gamit ang ampliphone.
Lumapit siya papuntang gilid ng deck, dahan-dahan sa paglakad kahit
humupa na ang mga alon. Kinawayan siya ng asawa, bago nito paanda­
ring muli ang navigator.
“Jaime! Fo—” Naputol ang bilin ni Dino.
Nabitawan ni Ivy ang ampliphone.
Umahon ang butanding. Kumislap sa ilalim ng araw mula ulo
hanggang paa nito, at umikot na parang nagsasayaw. Pagbagsak, mala­
king latag ng tilamsik ng tubig ang saglit na humarang sa araw. Isang
mabilis na pag-ulan ang pumatak sa hydrofloat.
bucu i H uli 61
Dumikit na ang damit na suot ni Ivy sa kanyang balat. “Dino! Tu-
lungan mo na si Jaime!” sigaw niya, habang nakikita ang nag-uumpu-
gang kilapsaw sa ibabaw ng dagat.
Ilang sandali pa, banayad na ang mga kilapsaw, ngunit gumaga-
pang na rin ang pula sa asul na tubig.
“Kapitan, lumapit na tayo doon! Bilis!” sabi niya. Agad namang
sumadsad ang hydrofloat sa ibabaw ng tubig na parang lumulutang.
“Hanggang dito na lang po ang pwede nating ilapit, ma’am. Kung
hindi, baka mapagkamalan tayong ibang hayop ng butanding.”
“Sige, maraming salamat,” tugon ni Ivy. Nanginginig siyang lu-
mapit muli sa railing at pinagmasdan ang mapulang bahagi ng dagat.
“Dino! si Jaime!”
Lumitaw muli ang bumbunan ng butanding. Nang nakalabas na
ang buong ulo nito, nasa pagitan na ng mga ngipin si Jaime. Parehas
silang nagpupumiglas; ang isa sa malalaking ngipin, at ang isa naman, sa
malaking tama ng manual spear sa gitnang bahagi ng katawan. Maya-
maya pa, isa na lang ang gumagalaw—ang butanding.
“Buhay pa si Jaime, bilisan mo!”
Naglagay si Dino ng tatlong panibagong manual spear sa kanyang
Pinipilit namang abutin ni Jaime ang digital speargun niyang naka­
singit sa kalapit niyang ngipin ng butanding.
Nakatitig si Ivy sa kanyang asawa. Binasa nito ang pagbuka ng
bibig ng asawa, parang pangalan niya ang sinasabi.
Muling bumilis ang paggalaw ng butanding. Kamay na lang ni
Jaime ang gumagalaw.
Hindi na nagdalawang isip pa si Ivy. Binasa niya ang emergency ins­
tructions sa lcd panel ng angkla. Pagkatapos, binuhat niya ito at inilagay
ang piercing controls sa maximum. Nang ma-lock niya ang target land-
ing, sa bumbunan ng butanding, pinindot niya ang release button.
62 fi cti o n
Kinalabit ni Dino ang multiple-fire ng speargun.
Matinis at nakabibinging huni ang binitawan ng butanding.
Nabasag ang navigator, sakay si Jaime. Sabay silang lumubog ng
butanding. Pagkatapos, lumutang ang ilang piraso ng bubog sa ibabaw
ng mapulang tubig.

MAGMUMULAT ng mata si Ivy.

“Tumawag na ako ng rescue team. Pinasunod na rin ni kapitan ang
mga law agent n’yong mag-asawa,” sabi ni Dino sa kanya.
Tumingala siya at nalamang nakahiga pala siya sa binti nito. Sa may
ulunan niya, makikita ang dalawang bangkay—si Jaime sa sahig at ang
mga piraso ng butanding na nakakadena at nakasabit sa malaking na-
kalutang na hook.
May tatlong manual spears sa bumbunan ng butanding. Naka-ilaw
naman ang red signal ni Jaime, sa ibabaw ng dating pinaglalagyan ng
dibdib nito.
“Wala kang kasalanan, Ivy,” sabi ni Dino.
Madilim na ang langit at walang buwan. Madilim na rin ang dagat
maliban sa ilang talang nasasalamin sa ibabaw nito, at ang isang puting
tuldok— ang hydrofloat ng mga Adriano.
Tiningnan ni Ivy si Dino. Kinuha nito ang ulo niya at niyakap.
Ilang sandali pa, inihehele na siya ng pagtaas-baba ng dibdib na kanyang

An Epistle and Testimony

From June 13, 1604

D URING THE RENOVATION of the Madrid city archives in

August of 1999, a letter was found with a manuscript attached.
Together, these caused a stir in both historical and theological circles.
Though initially branded as a hoax, testing indicated that both the letter
and the manuscript were contemporaneous with their stated date, with
the name of Padre Tomas Rodriguez also being present in the registry
of Dominican missionaries sent to the Philippines during the early 17th
century. However, some historians have pointed out that some significant
historical events were left unmentioned. Moreover, attempts at content
analysis have not been able to conclusively address speculation that the
manuscript is nothing more than 17th century religious propaganda. As
such, the letter and the manuscript, their full text translated from the
Spanish and reproduced below, are still subject to much debate.

64 fi cti o n

Pax Christi. Glory to the Lord.

LAST YEAR I wrote to you of the circumstances surrounding my voy-
age from Nueva España to this city of Manila, as well as a brief descrip-
tion of the city from one so unacquainted with the Indies. Over the past
year, Padre Gonzales and myself have busied ourselves with seeing to the
needs of the order’s hospital near the Parian, the Chinese quarter outside
the city walls. We have learned enough of the language to engage the
Sangleys in simple conversation and hope to begin instructing them in
matters of the faith within the following year.
Doubtless word has already reached Madrid of the manner and cir-
cumstances of the Sangleys, as well as the Chinese revolt that happened
on the feast of San Francisco the previous year. I have also no doubt that
it also has been known that thousands of Sangleys have been put to death
for conspiracy in this affair, which saw the martyrdom of Padre Bernar-
do de Santa Catalina, among many others of the Faith, at the hands of the
Sangley infidels, who, it is said, lost heart at the miraculous apparitions of
our crucified Lord and San Fransisco during the melee. For this reason,
and therefore to save you from any inconvenience, I shall say little of the
circumstances surrounding all this, except that which directly concerns
my person as well as what I am about to relate to you.
From the time I have spent in the Parian, I have no doubt that what
our countrymen have been saying—that not only are the Sangleys a
shrewd and cunning race, always greedy for money, but they also keep
hold of the necessities of the city, so much that the natives are regulated
to their inherent idleness—has some truth. However, I too have seen nu-
merous exceptions to this, having encountered Sangleys that have been
exemplary in their piety and faithfulness to both our Lord and our faith
throughout the past year, as well as Sangleys that, priest that I am, have
shown me wonders that I struggle to comprehend. Such a wonder was
exemplified by a certain Tu Tzu-Ch’un, also known as Lazaro de Chino,
c a ndano i An Epistle and Testimony from June 13, 1604 65
who seemed to carry the wounds of our Lord Himself and whose per-
plexing and terrifying fate I can only relay through this manuscript that
I am attaching to this letter. I pray that you may be able to furnish this
manuscript, entitled The Wondrous Case of Lazaro de Chino during the Re-
volt of the Infidel Sangleys in Manila in its entirety to the Brothers de Joya,
whose success in the publishing of true accounts from Nueva Espana and
beyond has been unmatched.

The Wondrous Case of Lazaro de Chino during the

Revolt of the Infidel Sangleys in Manila
I FIRST LEARNED of Lazaro through the traitor Juan Bautista de
Vera, a Christian Sangley otherwise known as Eng Kang, who before be-
ing executed for his treason, held office as governor of the Chinese, both
Christian and Pagan. A few months after taking over the administration
of the hospital following the demise of the beloved Padre Domingo, of
whose pious life our Lord will certainly take notice and reward in para-
dise, both Padre Gonzales and myself were extended invitations to an
informal gathering on the eve of the feast of Santa Catalina de Siena by
the Chinese Christians.
During the course of the festivities, the coward de Vera, in whose
house the gathering was being held, approached me. His breath reeking
of wine, he asked if he could speak to me in private. I could only nod and
stare at his rotting teeth. De Vera led me to the corner of the room, then
asked that no other party be privy to the contents of our conversation
– something that although not unreasonable, I am obliged to break given
the present circumstances, for without doing so, I will not be able to re-
late the events surrounding Lazaro de Chino. De Vera then informed me
that the previous Friday one of the Christian Sangleys in Binondo was
afflicted by a strange malady.
66 fi cti o n
According to de Vera, at around three ‘o clock in the afternoon,
Lazaro’s wife, a native, who was with child, was roused from her nap
by a scream. She found Lazaro lying on the floor in a feverish delirium,
his hands clasped in prayer around the holy rosary. Later, upon being
roused from his fit by his wife and some of his neighbors—all Christian
Sangleys, Lazaro claimed that a winged seraph had visited him while he
was praying and in a voice that was not of this world, asked him to share
in the wounds and suffering of our Savior. Without giving him a chance
to answer, the seraph then extended its arms, and a dazzling and pain-
ful light enveloped Lazaro’s hands. The people present were inclined to
believe this to be symptomatic of his delirium; however, when they saw
that on Lazaro’s hands were wounds out of which flowed blood with the
fragrance of incense, they became excited, and proceeded to call de Vera
so that they could conduct themselves in an orderly manner. Upon de
Vera’s orders no news of this event was to be heard on the streets under
the punishment of death. I have no doubt that the reason for this was that
de Vera did not know what to do with such a perplexing and wondrous
event. Not only this, but I also suspect that this was precisely the reason
why he had sought to obtain my counsel on the matter.
As I was intrigued by his story, I asked him the circumstances of
this Lazaro de Chino. Why would a Sangley, a recent convert who would
normally apostatize at the first sight of silver, be so blessed to bear the
marks of our Savior?
De Vera replied that Lazaro had been born in Ch’angan to a landed
family. In his youth he had left his families’ lands in a state of neglect, and
like the young San Agustin, had greatly indulged in the pleasures of the
flesh. Likewise, he squandered his inheritance, and soon found himself
in debt and a fugitive from his numerous creditors. He escaped on a junk
laden with goods, and found himself in Manila a few months later.
c a ndano i An Epistle and Testimony from June 13, 1604 67
At this point it should be known that despite the restrictions limit-
ing the amount of Sangleys in the Parian, a Sangley wanting to stay in the
colony could do so with ease, given the huge number of Sangleys already
in the city. Thus it is no surprise that Lazaro was able to wander around,
still without anything to his name. According to de Vera, Lazaro spent
most of his nights near the vicinity of the order’s hospital, where under
the guidance of Padre Domingo, he was baptized, adopting his Christian
name and eventually taking one of the natives as his bride and settling
down in Binondo while learning the trade of stone carving.
After listening to the story of Lazaro de Chino’s conversion, I be-
came even more intrigued. I asked de Vera what kind of Christian the
man was. He replied that Lazaro was deeply religious, and through the
guidance of Padre Domingo was wont to receive the Holy Eucharist dai-
ly and also diligently fast on Fridays. Lazaro also became an avid reader
of the Book of Hours, of which a translation had been made by Padre
Domingo. De Vera also added that Lazaro had also performed numer-
ous charitable acts, to which his neighbors would certainly attest. This
being said, I told de Vera that if it were possible, I would be pleased to
meet such an individual. De Vera stood silent for a moment, apparently
trying to assess the consequences of such a meeting. Then he said yes. He
would be happy to introduce me to Lazaro de Chino, who without doubt
would be pleased to meet the successor of Padre Domingo.
It was five days later, the fifth of May—on a terribly rainy Mon-
day—that de Vera led me through the narrow Binondo streets to meet
Lazaro, whose house stood near the vicinity of the church. The pouring
rain turned the streets ashen, and by the time we arrived at Lazaro’s
house both de Vera and myself were soaked.
As, doubtless, word of the smallness of the typical Sangley house has
already been made known in Madrid, I can merely say that the house of
Lazaro de Chino was characteristic of his race. Lazaro’s wife, a homely
68 fi cti o n
native in the first months of her pregnancy, ushered us in and proceeded
to call her husband.
How shall I describe the man who had been the cause of my great
excitement over the past few days? I must confess that in my excitement,
I had imagined Lazaro de Chino to be a Chinese San Francisco, chosen
by our Lord to share in His pain and suffering and in His simplicity
and wretchedness while having both greatness and strength as well. In
reality, Lazaro’s features did not stand out in any way. He was dressed
in the typicality of his race, and save for the bandages wrapped around
his hands, there was nothing to distinguish himself from his Christian
De Vera greeted Lazaro, then introduced me as Padre Domingo’s
successor. Whereupon Lazaro bowed to de Vera, and then to me. He
greeted us in the Chinese tongue then bade us to sit down in broken
De Vera told him of the purpose of our visit. “Padre Rodriguez is
interested in what happened to you two Fridays ago. Perhaps you can ex-
plain it to him yourself,” he addressed Lazaro with that uncouth mouth
of his. At these words Lazaro nodded and looked at me, then asked if I,
indeed, had succeeded Padre Domingo. I nodded.
“Padre Domingo was a good man,” he added in his broken Castilian
while he shook his head vigorously. I did not understand why he did not
want to talk about the events that de Vera had told me so much about.
Was he afraid of something? Only now do I realize that rare in the Sang-
ley mind can be found de Vera’s directness, and during that time I could
only nod and agree with him.
“Padre, when I first arrived in this city I had nothing but my clothes.
I spent most of my days and nights begging for food near the Christian
hospital.” With that he related how he met Padre Domingo. “I used to
see him walking to and from the hospital every day. I did not think he
c a ndano i An Epistle and Testimony from June 13, 1604 69
noticed me but one day he stopped and asked me why I was there every
day. ‘Did I not have a family to support?’ he had asked. I said I had none.
He then asked for the reasons for my being there. I told him that I had
spent all my money on rich food, wine and women, and that I had to
leave because the people to whom I owed money had threatened to kill
me. To this Padre Domingo asked if I thought money was really my
problem. I replied that I had given much thought to this topic, and that I
had concluded that I had lived a life that ill-fitted my families’ fortunes.
If I had the fortunes of a high-level mandarin, I would be able to live a
life of comfort for the rest of my days.”
Having heard this, Padre Domingo then gave Lazaro a few pieces
of silver, telling him to live the life he wanted for that day. If the mon-
ey would run out tomorrow, he would gladly replenish it the follow-
ing day. Though I had always known that Padre Domingo was a good
man, this was the first account I heard about him giving money. I found
this strange, especially considering his peasant origins. Doubtless Padre
Domingo had a source of income other than the Order’s treasury, for
all the pieces of silver in our hands have been accounted for. However,
uncovering this source of income would be most difficult because of the
plentiful possibilities for earning money in the city, and for this reason, I
shall make no further mention of this.
Let me now continue the account related to me by Lazaro. After he
had been given the silver, Lazaro said that he tried to spend the money
wisely, breaking his morning fast with the simplest and cheapest gruel to
be found in the city. But in the course of the day, he began buying food
and drink that although was inferior to the kind he had enjoyed while
still in China, was expensive. And so by the time the sun had set, Lazaro
once again found himself no better off than he had been when he first
arrived in the city.
70 fi cti o n
True to his word, Padre Domingo passed by the next morning. He
asked Lazaro if he had lived satisfactorily the previous day and if he
thought the money he had given him was sufficient. To this Lazaro said
that although he wholeheartedly gave his thanks to Padre Domingo for
his charitable deed, even before the end of the previous day not a single
silver piece remained. According to Lazaro, Padre Domingo smiled
upon hearing these words, and then asked if he indeed, needed more
money to live a life of comfort. Lazaro then said that he could only nod
his head at these words, as he was still too embarrassed to speak. Padre
Domingo then tripled the silver he had given Lazaro the previous day,
and after giving him the same instructions as before, left.
After Padre Domingo had left, Lazaro said that he made a promise
to himself. He would manage his money with diligence, so that he would
be able to return to China, pay off all his debts and live a life greater than
the legendary mandarins. Yet once again he did not succeed in this, with
all his money being spent on pleasures of the flesh before the sun had
By the time he had realized this, Lazaro said that he became morti-
fied, and could only wait until morning for Padre Domingo to arrive. Pa-
dre Domingo arrived at his usual hour, and upon seeing Lazaro, walked
towards him.
By this time Lazaro had become excited. His face became more ani-
mated and he seemed to forget my presence as he talked quickly in a mix
of the Chinese and Castilian tongues, almost as he was looking at some-
thing beyond myself. Since my own comprehension of his speech was
inadequate, I had difficulty understanding his exact words. However,
it would appear that after learning of Lazaro’s inability to manage the
money given to him, Padre Domingo had pressed even more money on
him. He apparently gave Lazaro the same instructions as before, but this
time saying that if he was not able to make do with that amount—which
c a ndano i An Epistle and Testimony from June 13, 1604 71
was equal to forty times a workman’s daily wage—then there would not
be much use in giving him any more money. According to Lazaro, the
words of Padre Domingo moved him to tears, as he realized that the
problem was not that he lacked money, but that he was always using it
wrongly. He told Padre Domingo that he had been drawn to luxury and
had been ambitious and greedy. Being devoid of luxury, ambition, and
greed had not been enough, since he was wont towards these things even
when he had no money. As he was saying this, Padre Domingo kept
silent and only smiled. Lazaro then promised to use the money Padre
Domingo gave him not for his comfort, but to put most of it in the service
of orphans and widows. At these words Padre Domingo then asked him
if he was really willing to leave his love of luxury behind. Lazaro said
yes. At that, Padre Domingo taught him about our Savior Jesus Christ
and the Faith.
With that, Lazaro finished his account of his conversion. He had
thrown himself into his new Faith with vigor, trying to become the best
Christian he could possibly be to the extent of his faculties. I could still hear
the rain falling outside. However unorthodox Padre Domingo may have
been, that he had brought about a pious convert from the Sangleys was a
cause for joy. I thought about how Saul had been converted by our Lord
from one who hated the Christians to San Pablo—who sacrificed his life
for the Church. Truly there is no one who is deaf to His Word!
“Padre, even after I was baptized, I did not consider myself a Chris-
tian yet,” Lazaro said after a few moments of silence. I looked up. Laz-
aro’s look was focused and all his words once again became slow and
deliberate. “Because for me, a Christian is one who is willing to share in
our Lord’s Words and suffering. At that stage in my life I was not ready
to share in Christ’s suffering even if I held His words to my heart and
tried to love others as He had loved us all. I could not comprehend how
much He suffered.” I found the Sangley’s words touching, and I began
72 fi cti o n
to reflect if I myself would be willing to share in the agony that our Lord
went through. I imagined the stinging sharpness of the crown of thorns,
the heavy weight of the cross, the hot pain of each nail driven through
both skin and bone, and the final pain of the spear thrust in addition to
all the humiliation He suffered. Until now I do not know if I would be
willing to go through everything our Lord sacrificed for us.
Lazaro then said that he had taken the Holy Eucharist a few weeks
after his conversion. At the first touch of the Holy Eucharist, Lazaro had
felt that every bit of the Sangley Tu Tzu-Ch-un was replaced by a pres-
ence of joy and sorrow. A few months later, he married a Christian native
and settled in their present house while trying to learn the skills of a stone
carver in order to provide for his household.
By this time I began to feel weary and looked at de Vera, who shot
me a look that conveyed his understanding. We excused ourselves, and
after expressing our gratitude to Lazaro and his wife, left.
It was still raining that night. Not being able to sleep, I pondered the
events of the past few days. I had not been given the answers I wanted
and had yet to even see the wounds of Lazaro de Chino. I thought that
while his digression was typical of his race, his direct avoidance of the
topic was unreasonable even for a Sangley. I could not gauge the man’s
thoughts. Was it because de Vera was present? I was even tempted to
think that everything that de Vera and Lazaro de Chino told me was
false. Surely they had no reason to do so. The ancient Greeks would
never have fared well in this city. However, I resolved to put my faith in
the Lord and find out the circumstances of the mystery surrounding this
Lazaro de Chino for the greater glory of the Faith.
Accompanied by a Sangley servant sent by de Vera, I visited Lazaro
de Chino again a few weeks later, on the twenty-seventh of May. De
Vera was unable to accompany me because of the demands of his position
– three mandarins, together with their entourage of servants, secretaries
c a ndano i An Epistle and Testimony from June 13, 1604 73
and the like, had arrived on the twenty-third and had presented them-
selves to Governor Acuña as emissaries of the emperor, and as governor
of the Sangleys, de Vera was supposed to see to their needs and enter-
tainment. I have no doubt that it was during those days that the Sangley
uprising was planned as I would learn later that de Vera had begun to
incite the Sangleys and had collected numerous armaments shortly after
the said visit of these three mandarins was completed.
The sky was downcast when I arrived at the house of Lazaro, whose
wife immediately saw to my needs despite my protests for her to do oth-
erwise, lest she upset her condition. I told the coolie to come back after an
hour had passed. Lazaro came out after a few minutes. As he bowed to
me in the Sangley manner, I noticed that his hands were unbound.
At that time I could only think that truly only God could bestow
such a gift that can never be comprehended by man! On both his hands
were wounds; it seemed as if nails had been driven through them. Each
wound was bright red. The heads of the nails could be seen on the palms
of his hands. Since scabs had yet to form, I could see light through each of
Lazaro’s hands, which indeed, smelled of incense.
Lazaro must have noticed the attention I was paying to his wounds
for he asked his wife to bind them. While his wife bound each hand
tightly, Lazaro spoke. “Now that you’ve seen them, Padre, tell me—what
do you think?” This outburst was not only uncharacteristic of the Lazaro
de Chino who told me of his conversion to the faith only a few days be-
fore, but it was also uncharacteristic of his race. “I think the wounds are
proof that you are in our Lord’s favor,” was what I could only mumble
at that point.
Lazaro nodded. “I cannot explain it, Padre, but I’ve always felt that
no matter what happens to me, no matter what I do, I can never be truly
a Christian.” He held his hands to his face. I noticed that the bandages
were beginning to be stained. “You do understand, right, Padre? No one
74 fi cti o n
understands.” I must admit that I did not understand what he was say-
ing, and although I felt that I should say something to put the Sangley at
ease, I could not. “Why so, my son?”
“Because I still cannot say that I am a true Christian. I am neither
like you nor Padre Domingo. Even if I love our Lord very much, I do not
know if I am worthy to share in his suffering.”
“To share in our Lord’s suffering is a calling that all of us hear, but
can never fully answer,” I replied although I was unsure it this was true.
Had not our martyrs put our Lord above their lives? Did this mean that
my journey here is, in truth, of no consequence? I realized that I was
mistaken in my words, especially since we of the faith, despite not being
martyrs, have given our lives in the service of our Lord, for whose sake
we would readily lay down our lives. “Although we can all strive to act
in our own little ways to make certain that our Lord’s suffering was not
in vain,” I added in order to lessen the impact of my error.
Lazaro stared at me with his slit eyes for a few moments. I found it
hard to read his thoughts as his face was without any emotion. Then, in
a voice that was barely audible, he whispered that he had witnessed and
felt our Lord’s pain on the day the seraph came to him.
“Padre, I should have told you earlier but I was scared,” he said.
“The moment a lot of people find out what happened would mean the
end of my life as I have lived it.” I looked at the Sangley’s face. Indeed,
the presence of fear and desperation were there.
“My son, I promise that you will be able to live as you have lived.
Did not our Lord heal the blind and cure the sick because of their faith-
fulness? Surely He will not forget you!” At these words, the Sangley
took in a deep breath and began to narrate the events surrounding the
miraculous gift of his wounds.
As de Vera had already told me, Lazaro was praying the rosary
that Friday afternoon, after he had arrived from the stone quarry that
c a ndano i An Epistle and Testimony from June 13, 1604 75
morning. At exactly three ‘o clock, the hour of our Lord’s death, after he
had just finished the first sorrowful mystery, he was blinded by a bright
radiance that was unlike any he had seen. A beautiful winged creature
appeared and addressed him without words. Through its wordless lan-
guage, the seraph told him that his conversion and perseverance had
deemed him, through a special provision by God, to become transformed
in the likeness of the Lord. The seraph then spread its wings and two
darts of light that was the color of blood struck Lazaro in both hands.
Lazaro said that at moment he felt an intense pain, so much so that he
could do nothing but cry out and lose consciousness. I asked him when he
was able to regain control of the faculties of his mind and body.
“I am not certain, Padre,” Lazaro replied. “I remember awakening
in a garden. It was nighttime, and aside from myself, there were only four
people there. One of them was kneeling down in prayer. The other three
were asleep. Moving closer, I was shocked to see that it was no less than our
Lord Himself that was the one praying!”
I trembled at the Sangley’s revelation. Was this possibly true? At
that time I understood that although I wanted to believe, part of me still
felt in disbelief. I thought that this was probably what Santo Tomas felt
when he faced our resurrected Lord for the first time. “How are you sure
that it was our Lord you saw?” I tried to control the tone of my voice.
“He looked like in the painting of our church,” said the Sangley.
“Only His features were livelier. His blue eyes were overflowing with
tears as he clenched His fists in prayer. He did not seem to notice any-
thing—not even the snoring of the disciples. It was like every thing was
frozen, Father. I felt our Lord’s sadness as He prayed. His sadness made
me cry.”
Lazaro then described how he suddenly saw our Lord in the pos-
session of the Romans. “I did not see them arrive, Padre. It was as if our
Lord and His weeping faded and He suddenly was being held by two
76 fi cti o n
Roman soldiers. Behind them was a crowd of people whose faces I could
not really see. The apostles were already awake, standing helplessly at
the side of the garden. One of the three had a drawn dagger in his hand.
I could see blood dripping down the blade. The apostle with the drawn
dagger was looking at our Lord. I then saw that one of the Roman sol-
diers’ ears was bleeding. The blood poured down the soldier’s chin in a
long steam, and after a few moments, disappeared. Then there appeared
to be no wound on the soldier.”
“Did you see our Lord touch the soldier’s ear in the manner of what
is written in the scriptures?” I asked. Lazaro said no. “No one was mov-
ing, Padre. Everyone just stood in their places as if they were statues. But
I could see that they were real. Their eyes were all fixated on our Lord,
whose face looked like it contained all the sorrow in the world.”
The Sangley then continued, saying that after a few moments all
the people—including our Lord Himself, faded with the garden. Lazaro
then saw Him in front of a tribunal of three people with white, overflow-
ing beards. “I did not feel at ease with the looks on their faces, Padre,”
Lazaro said. “I could see that their distinguished dress and cultivated
manners were deceiving. Their faces were full of scorn and spite. One
of them even had a finger pointed at our Lord, who held His gaze to the
ground. After a few minutes the tribunal disappeared and our Lord was
left in this same manner, but this time in front of a portly man, who was
washing his hands in a brass basin held by two servants. The portly man
appeared to be addressing someone other than our Lord, who remained
motionless. I turned around and saw a crowd of people assembled below
the balcony. I could not see their faces but I felt their burning hatred. It
was too much to bear, padre. I could only think about how these people
who jeered and mocked our Lord might have once loved Him. The Lord
may have felt the same way, because it seemed as if we were sharing in
c a ndano i An Epistle and Testimony from June 13, 1604 77
His sorrow. At that point, I was already trembling. I longed for my wife’s
touch and wept.”
When the Sangley said these words I must confess that I could not
help but think that the loneliness which is inherent in our lives in the
Indies, without even the smallest of pleasures so easily found in Spain, is
of no comparison to the one our Lord suffered in his supreme sacrifice. I
found it astonishing how our Lord went past any apprehensions, loneli-
ness and fears that He may have had. The will of God is truly supreme!
On account of this realization I felt rejuvenated.
At that point the Sangley must have noticed that my thoughts were
elsewhere, for he ceased to speak and began to watch the shadow of the
candle’s flame flicker. I told him to continue with his tale.
With his slit eyes narrowing, the Sangley resumed his narration,
this time in a more subdued voice. He said that although the crowd, the
plump man, and even our Lord eventually faded and disappeared, he felt
our Lord’s loneliness and sorrow only intensify, so much so that he was
reduced to weeping as the next figures were beginning to materialize.
“Next I saw our Lord tied to a pillar. There was a soldier holding
a whip behind Him. I did not see the soldier whip Him but I knew that
they were doing so. With every lash I felt my skin tear off. I felt like I was
going to die. While I fell on my belly and prayed for the pain to stop, the
Lord stood still. I could see His blue eyes overflowing with pain.”
“Did the pain stop, my son?”
“No, Padre. After a while I thought it had stopped. Our Lord was
still standing at the pillar. But the soldiers began to fade and disappeared.
They reappeared closer to where our Lord was standing. One of them
was standing in front of Him. Suddenly, I felt a sharp pain on my head.
A crown of thorns appeared on our Lord’s head. It was so painful that
I could do nothing else but weep. Blood dripped down our Lord’s face.
Through my tears I saw my sight turning red as blood dripped to my
78 fi cti o n
eyes. The faces of the soldiers were full of amusement and mockery. Yet
at the time I could barely feel the humiliation because of the pain,” the
Sangley paused. He seemed to be staring at something heavenly, as his
gaze remained transfixed on the candle flame for a few moments.
“Then, what happened?” I had to ask, since I felt I had the obliga-
tion to further the interests of both our Faith and the truth, whose au-
thorities would be severely compromised if the Sangley’s relation were
not heard and verified.
“After our Lord and the soldiers disappeared, I found myself on the
way up a barren hill. A lot of people were gathered along the path. Again
I could not see their faces but I knew that they were excited. It seemed to
be a festive occasion. I suddenly felt an immense burden on my shoulders,
and had to sit down on the ground. I then saw our Lord carrying His
cross. I could see the dried blood on His clothes and the weariness on His
face. As much as I wanted to help Him, I couldn’t because of the weight
that was also bearing down on my shoulders. Our Lord was flanked by
rows of soldiers on both sides. Although I could see no one move, I knew
that our Lord was dragging the cross with His battered body up the hill,
since my knees creaked and my back ached as I stood in my place. I felt
our Lord stumble thrice, each time feeling the heavy weight of the cross
fall on His back, and tasting the dry soil of the path. On one occasion, I
felt the burden lighten, and saw a man carry the Lord’s cross. But after
a few minutes, the man disappeared too and the burden was the Lord’s
again. I don’t know how to describe what I felt during that time, Padre.
It seemed that I felt all sorts of emotions. I did not know whether I was
grieving, angry, lonely or fulfilled. Perhaps a little of all.”
At that point Lazaro was speaking rapidly, his mastery of the Cas-
tilian tongue faltering as he bombarded me with phrases that, although
I admittedly had difficulty understanding, I nonetheless took pains in
reconstructing. It seemed that after seeing our Lord on His way up the
c a ndano i An Epistle and Testimony from June 13, 1604 79
Place of the Skull, and after having seemingly served as a witness to the
multitude of feelings and emotions our Lord must have felt on His way
of the cross, the Sangley found himself on top of the hill. The corpses and
bones of the previously crucified lay around him. Lazaro then saw the
soldiers lay our Lord down on His cross. Likewise, he also said that there
were also two other prisoners being laid down on their crosses. Noting
that he did not see the actual blows, with this scene, like the others before
it, being comprised of the most vivid pictures, Lazaro said that he felt the
nails being hammered through our Lord’s palms, puncturing both flesh
and bone. The Sangley then said that during that moment, there was
nothing left for him to do but writhe on the ground in pain. He then felt
the Lord’s feet being nailed to the cross, this time more forcefully than
His hands. Lazaro said that he was in so much pain that he only fleetingly
saw that the soldiers, as well as our Lord Himself, who was just nailed
to the cross, were disappearing. The pain did not stop for a moment as
Lazaro saw our Lord, as well as his two companions, already crucified,
with the soldiers standing beneath their crosses.
The Sangley gave a moment’s pause, then said that at that point
he had seen a look that was both serene and pained on our Lord’s face.
Since I could not adequately envision such a thing I asked him to ex-
pound on his statement. However, this was of no use as he said that he
would be unable to further elaborate on what he saw on the Lord’s face,
as there was nothing really comparable to what he had seen. Lazaro then
said that he next felt a spear pierce the Lord’s ribs to His heart. But for
the Sangley at that point it seemed that it mattered little, since another
wound on an exhausted and dying body did not appear to have mattered.
The Sangley then said that he felt his body go limp, and before he loss
consciousness, he heard the only words spoken in the whole duration of
his vision—“Eloi, Eloi, lama, sabachthani?”
80 fi cti o n
With that, Lazaro ended his tale. He said that he had woken up
with his wife, neighbors, and even the Governor of the Sangleys at his
side. Strangely, it was only his hands that continued to bleed and hurt,
with barely a trace of our Savior’s suffering on the other parts of his per-
son. Since it was getting late, Lazaro’s wife served a supper of a little
rice and fish and I, together with de Vera’s servant, who had been wait-
ing outside Lazaro’s house for the past few hours, partook of the simple
meal. After having eaten, I bid goodbye to both Lazaro and his wife, and
before I left the house, the Sangley’s wife whispered to me to come the
following Friday at three ‘o clock to witness what her husband had been
talking about earlier.
I must admit that I was very excited upon leaving Lazaro’s house,
especially since the possibility of a Sangley who, on account of an evil life
and numerous debts, would not be able to go back to China without any
severe consequences, would be able to convert and claim to have experi-
enced things that only the blessed have, showed me that our Lord’s grace
is without any pretext. As such, the lives of the countless missionaries sent
to the different colonies had surely not been wasted in vain. I thought of
the possibility of not only the Sangleys becoming true believers, but also
of China becoming a nation of believers. Truly such a move would be
possible if only an understanding of the Chinese mind could be reached.
But how could such a thing be achieved?
Such were the thoughts that kept me preoccupied during the next
few days, in which I also decided that any report about the circumstances
of Lazaro de Chino woould have to be substantiated by more evidence.
Although I was undoubtedly amazed by the Sangley’s wounds as well
as his tale, further proof would be needed to erase any doubt that I may
have had to vouch for the Sangley’s story. It was on this account that I
decided to put to mind the words of Lazaro’s wife and visit on Friday, the
sixth of June, at three ’o clock – eleven days after my last visit.
c a ndano i An Epistle and Testimony from June 13, 1604 81
By that time I had twice visited the Sangley’s house, and as such, was
able to visit the place unaccompanied. A slight drizzle notwithstanding,
I was able to reach the Sangley’s house without inconvenience. Lazaro’s
wife again let me in and despite the burden of her pregnancy, led me past
the table where Lazaro and myself had conversed the previous times, and
into their bedroom.
Lazaro was lying on a cot. His face was deathly pale and a mous-
tache and beard - traits uncharacteristic of his race, had grown over the
past few days. He appeared to be asleep so I quietly sat down as Lazaro’s
wife left to attend to her own concerns.
At exactly three ‘o clock in the afternoon a series of events happened
that I would be ashamed to even write about were I not there to witness
it. At that stated time, the Sangley suddenly opened his eyes and stared at
something beyond the confines of the room. To my amazement, his eyes
had turned deep blue in color and his face was contorted in a sorrow un-
like any I have ever seen. For one moment I had the feeling that he was
about to shed tears, but none were shed.
For a few moments the Sangley was of this manner. However, his
face abruptly changed, with his eyes becoming downcast despite his being
laid down on his cot, as well as how his features were contorted. While
the sadness and pain on the Sangley’s face were still visible, it seemed as
if he were concentrating on the judgment passed by an invisible tribunal
that heard the accusations against our Lord. Suddenly, the Sangley began
thrashing around on his cot. Streaks of dark red blood began to appear
all over his garments as his face cringed in pain. It was a truly terrifying
and amazing thing to behold, as I thought I heard a crack of a whip with
every streak of blood smeared on the Sangley’s clothes. A spasm of fear
suddenly came over me as the Sangley’s body slowly rose over his cot. I
almost succumbed to the temptation of cowardice but remained steadfast
at the thought of my vocation to our Faith and our Lord.
82 fi cti o n
There were no new streaks of blood seen on the person of the Sangley
as he lay suspended in the air by the power of forces beyond comprehen-
sion. After a few seconds rows of blood appeared on his forehead, drip-
ping down to the Sangley’s ears and onto his cot. His face remained in a
state of pain that I know not how to illustrate in words. Next, it seemed
as if a heavy weight was entrusted to the Sangley, as his body appeared to
droop. This made his suspension in the air appear to be uneven in nature.
His feet and legs also appeared to be shaking as they dragged themselves
through the air. The Sangley then stretched both his arms in such a way
that it appeared as if he were going to embrace something. However, his
arms did not embrace anything as the wounds on the Sangley’s hands,
which had been dry until this point, suddenly opened and bled.
The blood on the Sangley’s hands flowed down his palms, dripping
onto his cot, spreading the smell of incense throughout the room. In a
few moments, the Sangley’s feet, which previously did not bear marks of
any kind, also bled, with a wound on the right foot appearing before the
left. Still suspended in the air, the Sangley suddenly turned upright, with
the blood from his hands and feet pouring even more atop his cot. The
Sangley remained in this manner for a few moments. I must confess that
never in my life had I seen so much blood, and as such, felt so terrified
that had I not felt petrified, would have bolted out of the house during
that time. As I tried to listen to the sound of my breathing in an attempt
to calm myself down, the Sangley started bleeding even more, with a
wound appearing in the region of his heart. Watching him I felt as if all
his vital liquids would be drained. Then, with a barely audible voice, the
Sangley appeared to mutter a few words and started to descend. He was
so pale that I thought I had seen the most vivid image of death.
Now lying prostrate on his cot, the Sangley appeared to have been
drained of any life he may have had. In minutes, his wife went into the
room, and asking if I was all right, said that she would see to Lazaro’s
c a ndano i An Epistle and Testimony from June 13, 1604 83
needs and told me that it would be to the best of my interest if I were to
go home, since Lazaro would still take a few hours to awaken.
Such was what I experienced the next two times I was able to visit
the house of the Sangley—on the twenty fifth of July, as well as the twen-
ty-second day of August. However, on Friday, the fifth day of September,
I insisted to the Sangley’s wife that I should stay after Lazaro had fin-
ished with his visions. Despite her admonitions for me to do otherwise,
I remained seated and waited for the Sangley to be roused. Looking at
the Sangley’s face, I realized that in the course of his visions, it was more
than the Sangley’s eyes that had changed. His whole face had changed
as well, in such a way that he began to resemble an Oriental version of
our Lord, Himself. What I mean by this is that the Sangley’s other facial
features—his nose, his mouth, and even his cheeks, had begun to appear
less Chinese, taking on the characteristics of not just any white man, but
of our Lord. The Sangley’s wife took off his bloodied garments. Surpris-
ingly, the wounds on his feet as well as his heart had begun to fade. Ac-
cordingly, his face also started to revert to that which is characteristic of
his race, with his mouth, nose and even eyes beginning to constrict. By
the time his eyes appeared to be slits once more, only the wounds on both
hands remained. Since the wounds on his hands appeared to be dry by
this time, it would have been unbelievable for me to think that what had
taken place a few hours earlier was true were I not there to witness it.
The Sangley then appeared as before, even regaining his original color.
Although Lazaro stirred from his rest after a few minutes, I must confess
that I was unable to converse with him during that occasion as he was
disoriented, and as such, barely coherent as I tried to talk to him.
The next few days proved to be worrisome. In the weeks that had
passed since the departure of the three mandarins, who had made such
an impression on the Sangleys that talk had begun to circulate that a
Chinese fleet would be arriving in Manila within the next year. Since our
84 fi cti o n
galleons were only few in number, owing to the departure of the Jesus
Maria and Espiritu Santo for Nueva España, as well as the deployment
of the Santiago for Japan, there was already much talk among the Sang-
leys, as well as the clergy of the possibility of a Chinese invasion, so much
that the topic became that source of most of the conversations in the city.
Accordingly, Governor Acuña took measures to prevent such a tragedy
from happening, strengthening the fortifications of the city, as well as
enlisting the help of both the Indians from the province of Pampanga, in
addition to the Japanese, who are hostile to the Chinese, to defend the city
from any attack launched by the Sangleys. It was only later that it came
to my knowledge that during this time, the traitor de Vera had begun,
with the aid of his countrymen, the construction of a fort in Tondo. How
such a thing happened without our knowledge, I do not know—perhaps
serving as a testament to the cunning of the Sangleys.
On Friday, the twenty-sixth day of September, I once again paid a
visit to Lazaro de Chino. However, because of the heavy pouring of rain,
as well as a meeting with the archbishop on the situation of the Sangleys
living in the vicinity of the Order’s hospital, in addition to the still-unver-
ified reports of people seeing a negress who had declared that morning
that a great fire and much bloodshed would coincide with the feast of San
Francisco, it was already evening when I arrived at Lazaro’s house.
After being let in by Lazaro’s wife, who appeared nervous and wor-
ried, I found the Sangley sitting down on the floor. His eyes were red and
he appeared as pale as he had been during the times that his vision had
just concluded. After acknowledging my presence with a nod, the Sang-
ley spoke in a barely audible voice, both in Castilian and in his own native
tongue. What the Sangley told me was so terrible that I was unable to
speak for the next few days. In fact my hand still trembles as I write this,
which due to the Sangley’s occasional incoherence and his predilection
for speaking in both languages, I am unable to relate word for word.
c a ndano i An Epistle and Testimony from June 13, 1604 85
According to the Sangley, at the appointed time a bright light once
again appeared. However, it was not a winged seraph that appeared
before him but a distinguished-looking old, Taoist priest bearing three
glowing pellets, the light from which hit both the Sangley’s hands, as well
as his heart. The Sangley lost consciousness, and when he awakened,
found himself in a barren cistern, which was filled with murky water.
From where he stood, the Sangley said that he could make out the shapes
of a few people gathered together, as well as the faint sound of wailing,
which grew louder as he approached the group. Upon drawing near,
the Sangley saw, to both his surprise and dismay, that the wailing was
coming from no less than his wife herself, who garbed in the manner
and dress of a Chinese courtesan, was on her knees. The people around
her appeared to be the creditors that the Sangley had left in China, but
their skins were dark blue and they were wearing clothes made from the
skins of tigers.
The Sangley’s creditors gathered around the woman. One of them
held the Sangley’s wife by her hair, saying that they would let her go if the
Sangley gave them was due them. Upon hearing this, the Sangley said
that he tried to call attention to himself by throwing a stone in their midst.
The Sangley’s demonic creditors all looked towards his direction and the
moment they saw him, stared at him in a way that he felt he would melt.
The demon creditors then drew near him, demanding that he speak.
However, try as he might, not a word escaped from the Sangley’s mouth.
Enraged, the creditors threatened to behead the Sangley’s wife if he did
not speak, which he was unable to do so no matter how hard he tried.
Strangely enough, the Sangley also mentioned that even though he tried
his best to speak, he felt that a part of himself was apathetic to the whole
situation despite seeing his wife in that manner.
Seeing that the Sangley had perhaps no intention of talking, one of
the demon creditors drew out his sword and was about to cut off the head
86 fi cti o n
of the Sangley’s wife when a great rumble was heard and the approach of
an army of tens of thousands of soldiers was seen. The Sangley then said
that at the sight of the thousands of banners and flags, war chariots and
horsemen, the demon creditors spat at the ground, cursed the heavens,
and together with his wife, disappeared into the mist. Just as soon as they
were gone, the great army that had put them to fright arrived.
The Sangley said that the army was comprised of fearsome-looking
soldiers, with their swords drawn and their bows already taut. There
were ghosts and the walking dead, with their exposed organs and missing
limbs visible, as well as large creatures clad in full battle armor. Among
the huge creatures, there was a huge warrior that Lazaro estimated to be
over ten feet in height that was seen riding atop a magnificent black stal-
lion. Both the warrior and his horse were clad in gleaming metal armor.
Beside the huge creature was a slightly smaller creature of about eight
feet in height with the head of an ox.
The huge warrior approached the Sangley and after saying that he
was called the General, asked him who he was who dared to remain in
his presence. The Sangley tried to speak yet was still unable to do so as if
his tongue had been cut. In voices that the Sangley said made his blood
curdle, the ghostly soldiers began clamoring for him to be killed; some
said that they wanted to shred him to pieces, while others said that they
wanted to shoot an arrow through his heart. Yet since the Sangley still
refused to speak, the General ordered him captured and brought before
him and the other officers of his army. The Sangley said that he was then
bound in chains, and led along the barren road to the General’s camp.
Upon arriving at the General’s camp, the Sangley said that he was
brought to one of the gargantuan tents and was told to wait by a soldier
who had half of his face torn off in such a manner that half of his face was
that of a grinning skull. After a few moments, the General went into the
tent, accompanied by the ox-headed creature as well as other monstrosi-
c a ndano i An Epistle and Testimony from June 13, 1604 87
ties with heads of dragons, horses, serpents, and other animals. They
were not wearing their armor as they were clad in long, flowing robes
and wore hats reserved for high-level mandarins instead of helmets.
According to the Sangley, the General spoke first, saying that the
Sangley had to identify himself, else he would be executed on the spot
and his body hung up a post to feed the birds. Yet the Sangley was still
unable to utter a word, causing the ghostly soldiers at the entrance of the
tent to jeer him, saying that he should have been killed for his impudence
from the very start. In the midst of such a commotion one of the General’s
officers—a burly creature with the head of a scorpion, shouted for all to
be quiet and said that it was already to their knowledge that the Sangley
was named Tu Tzu-Ch’un—a thief and a heretic who had run away to
escape the people that he had defrauded. To this the General said that
the Sangley had to attest to this himself and clapped his hands in such
a manner that the Sangley said sounded like thunder. Immediately, the
Sangley’s wife appeared, still dressed in the manner of a Chinese courte-
san. The Sangley said that at the sight of her, he was filled with sorrow
but was unable to speak.
The General then told the Sangley that if he were to continue to
remain silent, his wife would die a terrible death. While the Sangley said
that he was still unable to talk during this time, part of him felt at ease
with the General’s words—as if everything was a dream. Consequently,
the General nodded to one of the soldiers at the back—a small demon
with the head of a fish, who drew a dagger and tore off the clothes of the
Sangley’s wife and starting from the woman’s feet, began to slowly peel
off her skin in thin strips.
As she was being peeled, the Sangley’s wife began to scream, curse,
and beg for Lazaro to speak. But despite her screams and pleas, the Sang-
ley was still unable to utter a word, and stood in front of everything, still
silent. By the time the fish-headed soldier had gone to peeling off the skin
88 fi cti o n
from the belly of the Sangley’s wife, the Sangley said that he could hear
his wife breathing her last. At that point, the General called attention
to the woman’s pregnancy, and nodded to the fish-headed soldier, who
broke open the thick flesh of the Sangley’s wife, who at that moment,
expired. The fish-headed creature then reached into the womb of the
corpse and pulled the unborn child out with his scaly hands.
Accordingly, the Sangley said that he was both nauseated and want-
ed to tear his hair out in grief. However, he still remained standing in
his place, not a single sound escaping from his mouth. After the fish-
headed soldier laid the Sangley’s unborn baby on the table in front of the
General, the soldier disappeared. In a rage the General then ordered the
Sangley kept in a cage outside the tent, until the Sangley would speak or
his unborn child reached manhood.
The Sangley then said that the General’s soldiers locked him up in
a cage full of tigers, serpents, scorpions, and fierce lions. However ter-
rifying this may have been, the Sangley said that he was unable to make
a sound, and the animals, some of whom even took to leaping over him
as well as snapping at him, eventually disappeared. The Sangley then
said that hail and rain started to fall as a huge storm suddenly appeared,
turning the whole sky black. Whorls of fire encircled the Sangley while,
at the same time, bolts of lightning began to fall near him. In moments
the waters around him began to reach several feet high, as it seemed like
the mountains were beginning to crumble and in the same manner, the
land began to break open. The Sangley said that so terrified was he that
he tried to keep his eyes closed, yet he still did not stir from his place nor
utter a sound. When everything seemed to come to pass, the General’s
soldiers came to fetch him and accordingly, led him once more into the
Inside the tent, the Sangley said that almost nothing had changed—
the General and his officers were still seated at their places, while the
c a ndano i An Epistle and Testimony from June 13, 1604 89
ghostly soldiers still stood near the entrance of the tent. However, the
Sangley did not see his unborn son as in its stead was a young man with
brown skin and a face and mannerisms that the Sangley recognized as his
own. The Sangley’s son resembled his father in all physical aspects—from
his nose, to his eyes and mouth, with the exception being his skin, which
was that of his mother’s. Since the Sangley still remained silent, the Gen-
eral said if he would not speak, his son would accordingly be punished.
After he had uttered his words, the General took a goblet of water and
gargled, spitting on the ground a dark red liquid. The Sangley said that
he could see beads of water stuck on the General’s thick, long beard.
The General’s ghostly soldiers then led the Sangley and his son out-
side the tent and, after stripping the son’s garments, tied him to a pole.
A fire was then lit around the feet of the Sangley’s son and a soldier with
the head of a pigeon drew near, holding an iron rod with a tiger claw
attached at its end. With hard strokes, the soldier began flogging the
Sangley’s son, who despite wincing at every blow, remained as silent as
his father. After a few dozen strokes the soldier stopped and some of the
other ghosts brought out two cauldrons—one of black, hot oil and the
other brimming with melted bronze.
Untying the Sangley’s son from the pole, the soldiers then threw
him into the cauldron of hot oil. While the Sangley could see the pain on
his son’s face, the young man remained silent. After a few minutes the
soldiers pulled out the young man from the cauldron. His body, already
raw from the beating he took, was burnt black, with some of his limbs
appearing cooked to a crisp. The soldiers then dragged the Sangley’s son
and put him into the second cauldron. When the soldier pulled him out,
the Sangley said that his son looked like a horribly contorted statue, with
his charred limbs appearing to have hardened. The Sangley also said that
more than his inability to speak, a deep numbness had taken possession
of him.
90 fi cti o n
Despite his condition, the Sangley’s son was still alive, his burnt and
metal-coated chest still rising and falling with his every breath. Seeing
this, the soldiers laughed and brought out a box of scorpions, taking turns
putting these on the young man’s head.
The scorpions dug their stingers in the ears, eyes and skull of the
Sangley’s son, who was writhing silently in pain as the soldiers laughed.
The Sangley then said that after a few moments, the soldiers brought
out a cross that was lacquered bright red and told the young man to
carry it, and his father to follow. Weakened by his ordeals, the Sangley’s
son carried the cross while dragging his burnt and heavy legs as the sol-
diers began to lead both father and son towards a hill full of swords. The
Sangley said that he still felt numb as he followed the soldiers up the hill.
He could see a lot of skulls and corpses impaled on the different blades
of various sizes and shapes. As the Sangley’s son carried the cross, he
dragged his legs through the path, the sword blades cutting into his legs
so many times that he fell thrice before they reached the top of the hill.
Upon reaching the top of the hill, the soldiers then laid the young
man’s cross on his back, and after pulling his arms in such a way that
his body was in the same manner as that which pinned him, drove huge
nails into the cross, right through his hands. The Sangley said that he
still could not feel nor say a thing as the soldiers broke his son’s legs by
stomping on his fried, metal-covered limbs. The Sangley also said that he
was not able to see hi son’s face the whole time as his son was still pinned
under his cross.
The soldiers then erected the young man’s crucifix upside down,
in such a way that the son’s head was suspended and his broken limbs
dangled in the manner of a puppet. The Sangley said that he could see
his son’s breath begin to weaken. The ox-headed officer then appeared,
bearing an ax that the Sangley estimated to be fifteen feet in height. The
Sangley said that with ease, the ox-headed creature wielded the ax, placed
c a ndano i An Epistle and Testimony from June 13, 1604 91
the blade near the head of the young man, and cleanly severed it from his
neck. The head of the Sangley’s son rolled on the ground. However, the
Sangley said that as it lay on the ground, his son’s head suddenly spoke
in a voice that was chillingly his own, saying “Abba, Abba, lem, sabach-
thani?” before he breathed his last. At that point, the Sangley said that
he had lost consciousness and had once again awakened in his house, his
wife tending to his attention.
At the conclusion of the Sangley’s account I confused, especially
since by no means had I expected such a frightening tale. Since I did not
immediately know what to make of the Sangley’s story all throughout
his narration, I must confess, with some embarrassment, that I had been
unable to notice that the Sangley’s hands were unbound and instead of
the wounds I saw a few months before, the palms of his hands only had
a small hole in the middle, with a bigger wound at the back of his hands.
So distraught that I was with this realization that I left the Sangley’s
house immediately, and upon returning to the convent, fell to a state of
weeping. For three days I was in such a state, unable to eat nor perform
my priestly duties that the others became worried.
How shall I go about explaining my circumstances during those
days? In vain did I try to thrust from my memory the horrors narrated by
Lazaro de Chino, for it seemed that these were overwhelming even for
one such as myself. In my fear and sorrow I sought solace and strength
from our Lord’s experience—His temptation by Satan as well as His pas-
sion and death. In the end, the scriptures allowed me to conquer these
feelings that owing to their inherent complexity, I am unable to explain
in any words. As a testament to our Lord’s power and glory, I resumed
my priestly duties after resting for an additional two days, a move that
proved itself necessary for the trials of the next few days in which not
only did the Sangleys revolt, but which also saw the demise of Lazaro de
Chino, his native wife, and unborn son.
92 fi cti o n
As I have already said, on the feast of San Francisco on the third of
October, word had spread that the former governor, Don Luis de Das-
mariñas, had asked Governor Acuña to dispatch soldiers as it was to his
knowledge that the Sangleys in both Tondo and Binondo had begun
to rise up in rebellion. Although uncertainty and nervousness was felt
throughout the city, it was only between the hours of one and two o’ clock
that the alarm was sounded, and a state of commotion broke out among
the city’s inhabitants, owing to the few numbers of our countrymen in
these islands. Accordingly, the walls of the city were manned; however,
owing to the aforementioned shortage of men, both soldiers and of other
occupations, it was decided that the clergy would also take part in the
defense of the city. Owing to the malady that I had just experienced, it
was agreed that I would serve as a watchman, being unable to effectively
use musket, pike or sword.
Positioned from the top of the city walls, I could see the Sangleys,
in their frenzy, setting fire to everything in their path. I must admit that
despite the tumultuous circumstances of those moments, I was bothered
by the thought that among the Sangleys responsible for the carnage be-
low, were those whose needs Padre Gonzales and myself have sought to
answer to over the past few months. The Lord have mercy on their souls.
The attack from the Sangleys commenced in a few hours, with members
of the clergy helping to keep the Sangleys at bay—one of the order of San
Francisco, a former soldier, proved himself with valorous deeds brought
by his skill in musketry. Eventually, the Sangleys were forced to retire,
retreating to the outskirts of the city as well as the surrounding provinces,
where they were eventually routed by our forces.
It was only after the revolt had been quelled that I was able to hear
about the events and battles that followed after the Sangleys had been
repulsed by our efforts, such as the capture and execution of the traitor
Juan Bautista de Vera, whose claims disavowing any role in the revolt
c a ndano i An Epistle and Testimony from June 13, 1604 93
were not taking seriously, and his properties confiscated and his lands,
sprinkled with salt; however as you must have heard about these, as many
reports detailing these events have been sent to Spain, I will not delve into
such things anymore. Likewise, it was only after the uprising that I also
learned of the death of Lazaro de Chino, as well as his wife and unborn
child during the first days of the revolt.
According to several eyewitnesses—mostly neighbors of Lazaro
who also worked with him, on the morning of the third of October, Laz-
aro was quarrying stone for his work on a statue commissioned by our
archbishop for the upcoming feast of the Candelaria. While it was appar-
ent that all the Sangleys knew about the planned uprising, some chose to
ignore the call to arms made by their countrymen, opting instead to stay
home, with some even having enough courage to continue practicing
their trade. As such, these eyewitnesses said that at around ten ‘o clock in
the morning, when most of their countrymen were already outside the
city walls, Lazaro was working in the quarry when a seraphic apparition
of no less than San Francisco made himself visible. Accordingly, the men
stopped working, with some of them fleeing in fright, and the others—
those too stunned to do likewise, remaining at their positions, unable to
move. It is said that upon seeing the Holy Father San Francisco, who
stood around forty feet in height, Lazaro was also struck dumb and re-
mained in his place. According to the eyewitnesses, Lazaro did not offer
any resistance when San Francisco held him by the neck with hands that
they said also bore the marks of our Lord, as these people were among
those who had originally reported to de Vera about Lazaro’s condition.
It is said that the saint then strangled Lazaro, who expired within sec-
onds, his body bursting into flames as San Francisco released him from
his grip, whereupon the apparition vanished, leaving behind a pile of
charred bones that had been Lazaro de Chino only moments before. The
94 fi cti o n
eyewitnesses said that they fled soon after, as they were terrified by the
event that they had just witnessed.
I also learned from others that were familiar with the Sangley’s fam-
ily that coincidentally, Lazaro’s pregnant wife also left the realm of the
living during the revolt, this time on the second day, the fourth of Octo-
ber. According to witnesses, at around one ‘o clock in the afternoon, after
the attack of the Sangleys was repulsed by the defenders of the city, some
of the Sangleys in Binondo who were sympathetic to their countrymen’s
endeavors chose to join the revolt. Since the family of Lazaro de Chino
was known among his people as sympathetic to the Crown of Spain, a
group of Christian Sangleys went to his house, where the Sangley’s wife,
who was already in her final month of pregnancy, was resting. Vaga-
bonds with nothing to lose, these Sangleys sealed the house of Lazaro de
Chino by barricading it, after which they set the house on fire from all
directions, burning both Lazaro’s wife and unborn baby as they razed the
house to the ground.
With the news of the strange circumstances of Lazaro de Chino’s
death, as well as the unfortunate murder of his family by several of his
countrymen, I found it interesting to hear reports that the holy father San
Francisco was also seen atop the city walls while we were defending the
city, killing the Sangleys who had tried to scale the walls as the crucified
image of our Lord dripped blood above—something that although I was
present, I am unable to account for as I did not see such a thing. However,
it is true that despite their superior numbers the Sangleys did indeed be-
come disheartened after trying in vain to breach our defenses. This leads
me to wonder whether our miraculous victory can indeed be attributed to
such a marvelous event, and also whether or not San Francisco appeared
above the city walls after taking care of the account of Lazaro de Chino.
Yet I must confess that the reasons for the death of Lazaro de Chino, as
well as the apparent miracles that he had shown and told me, still lie be-
c a ndano i An Epistle and Testimony from June 13, 1604 95
yond my comprehension, especially since it has been unanimously attested
that the Sangley was exemplary in his deeds and actions as a Christian. I
believe that to these questions no answers on this land will ever be found;
however, let this account be a testament to the wondrous events that sur-
rounded Lazaro de Chino’s life and death. May the Lord have mercy on
his soul!
Doubtless you have read the manuscript I have prepared—before
you course it to the Brothers de Joya, please do an honor to my person by
placing it under your scrutiny for any errors in language that I may have
committed. As I think about everything in the manuscript, the words of
our Lord ring clear in my heart. Truly He is the way, the truth and the
life! Despite the experiences that I have had with the Sangleys, I remain
confident that the Lord’s words will eventually reach them as a people.
We must not assume that the Sangleys will remain forever blind and deaf
to our Lord’s message, their being a people who despite their shortcom-
ings remain industrious and smart. I can only hope that there will come
a day when we would be able to preach to the Sangleys in their own
land, so that there will be Chinese ministries and churches in the future.
I believe that help must be accorded to them so that not only would they
be able to help themselves, but others as well. For this reason I believe
that what the order has been doing in these Islands with regards to the
Sangleys is for the best.
Since you know the people who I am acquainted with, I also ask of
you to greet them in my name. Tell them that I am doing well despite hav-
ing encountered things that my priestly training had not prepared me for,
inasmuch as both Padre Gonzales and myself have made great strides in
our work with the Sangleys, of whom have once again been growing in
number despite the thousands that perished during the uprising and its
aftermath, as the junks have once again begun to arrive over the past few
96 fi cti o n
weeks. The Lord have mercy on us as we strive to compel them to hear His
Word, not just for their sake, but for the sake of all humanity as well.
(In the city of Manila, on the thirteenth day of June, in the year of
our Lord one thousand six hundred and four.)

Padre Tomas Rodriguez.

A M E L I A L A P E Ñ A - B O N I FA C I O

Minsan sa Binondo

1 Tag-ulan

M ALALAKI ang patak ng ulan sa Kalye Benavidez sa Binondo. 

Sabi nga ni Leah, kapag nagsama-sama ito sa bubong ng mga
bahay ay parang higanteng bumabayo sa yero. Para kang nasa Hinulu-
gang Taktak kapag nakita mo ang agos ng tubig sa basag na alulod ng
bahay ng mayamang Viuda, ang pinakamalaking bahay sa kalyeng iyon.
Doon nagtatakbuhan kaming magkakakapatid, para isahod ang am-
ing mga kamay. Doon sala-salabid ang aming mga binti at mga braso,
nakataas ang mga mukha para sumahod ng tubig ang aming nakabu-
kang mga bibig. O, ang hindi magkamayaw na halakhak! O, ang hindi
magkamayaw na tili at sigawan! Matalim ang patak ng ulan sa aming 
mga katawan, sa balikat at dibdib. O, masarap na tubig ng ulan! O, ang
malinis at malamig na tubig! Parang hindi titigil ang bagsak mula sa
bumubukang langit sa pagitan ng mga abuhing ulap. Sabi nga ay gra-
sya ng Poong Maykapal na ibinibigay Niya sa panahong ito lamang. Sa
malamig at binabasbasan Niyang panahon ng tag-ulan. 

98 fi cti o n
Takbuhan kami nang walang kasawa-sawa. Humihiga sa baha sa
bangketa, paikot-ikot, patihaya at padapa, kunwaring lumalangoy sa
malalim na karagatan, lumulusong sa matataas na alon na walang pa-
tid ang pagsipot at paghaplos sa aming maliliit at halos hubad na mga
Titigil bigla ang bunsong si Greg at haharap kay Maneng. “Bakit
ka parang papel?”
“Oo nga,” sabat naman ni Mina. “Isa ka sigurong paper boy!”
“I am only a paper boy,” paawit na sabi ni Maneng habang nakataas
ang kanyang mga kamay at mukha. “Sailing over, sailing over…”
“Sailing over a mouselem tree,” awit naman naming lahat.
At nagtawanan kami nang nagtawanan habang umiikot sa bu-
mubuhos na tubig ulan.
“Hoy, tingnan niyo,” sabi ni Mila. “Mga sundalong nagmamartsa!”
“Oo nga, “sambit naman ni Odette, “at nakahelmet pa!”
Itinuturo ni Kuya Pepe, “Ayan may mga ripleng dala!”
Sinasampal namin ang tubig habang umaawit:
“Kaliwa’t kanan, papadyak-padyak
De-medyas nga wasak-wasak
Papadyak, papadyak, papadyak!”
Sa kabila ng kalye, natatanaw namin ang aming bahay na asul, may-
roong apat na pirasong malalapad na kahoy, tigdalawa ang bawat pinto
para mahinto ang pagpasok ng tubig baha doon. Bago kami naglalaro
sa ulan, tumulong kami sa pag-akyat ng paninda sa ikalawang palapag
kung saan tuyo at ligtas sa baha.
Sigaw naming magkakapatid habang nagtatampisaw sa baha:
“Sige ulan, sige bagyo!”
“Ulan, ulan pantay kawayan!”
“Bagyo, bagyo, pantay kabayo!”
l ap eña- bo nifac io i Mi nsan sa Bi nond o 99
Si Inay naman ay alam naming nasa kuwarto ng mga santo, dasal
nang dasal na huminto na sana ang ulan.
“Naku, kawawa naman si Inay,” sabi ni Maneng, “e talagang maha-
bang ulan ang ‘sang ito.”
“’Sang linggo!” sabi ni Greg.
“’Sang buwan!” sabi ni Mina.
“’Sang taon,” sabi ni Leah.
“Dalawa na kaya?” alok ni Mila.
“E kung sampu!” sigaw ni Odette.
“Hanggang di maubos ang tubig sa ulap, di titigil ang ulan!” sabi
ni Kuya Pepe.
“Lahat balik sa Hinulugang Taktak!” sigaw ni Mila habang 
“At doon maligo tayo,” awit naman naming magkakapatid na bini-
birahan ng pagtakbo tungo sa ilalim ng basag na alulod. Nagsasayaw,
umiikot kaming lahat, itinaas ni Leah ang kaniyang maliliit na daliri at
waring may kahalong pagkamangha ay nagsabi,  “Hoy, tingnan ninyo,
kulubot na ang mga daliri ko!” 
“Akin din!” sigaw ni Kuya Pepe.
 “Akin din!” sigaw ni Maneng.
 “Akin din!” sigaw ni Odette.
“Akin din!” sabi ni Mila
“Akin din!” sigaw ni Mina.
“Akin din,” sigaw ni Greg.
At lahat ng mga kulubot na mga daliri ay nakataas sa ulan, patawa-
ng minamasdan naming lahat, tawanan at hiyawan, “Hoy, matanda,
matandang beho na tayo!”
“Lalo na ako,” sabi ni Maneng, “maputlang matanda!”
“Oo nga,” sigaw ng lahat. “Maputlang matanda! Maputlang
100 fi cti o n
Kawawang matanda! Kawawang matanda!”
Hindi kikibo si Maneng.  Hihiwalay, malungkot na di mawari, tila
yata nagtatampo. Kaya paiikutan naming lahat at yayakapin ito. Pahila-
hila kaming lahat hanggang makarating sa ilalim ng malakas na bagsak
ng tubig na tumatalbog sa aming mga ulo. Patuloy ang ulan, ang nangi­
ngibabaw na bayo ng malalaking patak sa yero, ang pasabog ng tubig
ulan mula sa basag na alulod. Patuloy ang pagsayaw naming pito, ma-
sayang-masaya sa ilalim ng ulan.
O, paminsan-minsan ganitong kalakas ang bagsak ng tubig mula sa
langit sa panahon ng tag-ulan! 
2  Ang Bahay na Asul, 738 Kalye Benavidez
KULAY ASUL ang aming bahay, asul na may mga guhit na puti sa
mga sulok at paharang ng kahoy. Dalawang palapag ito, may dalawang
malapad na bintana sa harap at malalapad ding mga bintana sa tagiliran,
tigdalawa rin. Kung baga, kapag binuksan mo ang mga ito, pati ang
mga barandilya sa ilalim ng bintana ay lagus-lagusan ang ihip ng hangin. 
Kaya kahit tag-init, malamig ang bahay lalo na kapag gabi.
Dito kami lumaking lahat sa bahay na asul. Siyam kami, sampu
kung kabilang iyong unang sanggol pa lamang. Siyam kami kung umpi-
sa ang bilang kay Ate Pat. Tapos sina Ditse Luz, Kuya Pepe, Maneng,
Odette, Mila, Leah, Mina at Greg. Dapat sigurong isama sa bilang sina
Tia Bet, Tia Nard at Tio Ser, dahil bago pa lamang sila nagbibinata at
nagdadalaga nang sumama sila sa Maynila, sa paglipat ni Itay at Inay
dito. Tutal naulila na sila sa kanilang mga magulang at mukhang mas
may pag-asa silang umunlad sa Maynila kaysa magpaiwan sa Bulacan.
Ang tulugan ay nasa ikalawang palapag. Para marating mo ito ay
aakyat ka sa isang maluwag at makinis na kahoy na hagdan na may dala-
wang bola sa umpisa ng tanganan nito. Dito kami madalas magpadulas
para mabilis makarating sa ibaba. Huwag matakot at salo ng bola ang
l ap eña- bo nifac io i Mi nsan sa Bi nond o 101
puwit mo. Ang una mong makikita pag-akyat ay isang bronseng kan-
delabra sa kisame at malalapad at makintab na sahig na kung gabi ay
natatakpan ng mga banig, unan at mga kulambo. Kapag maglalatag ng
mga banig (ang mababangong banig), at nagkakabit ng kulambo, ang
mga iyon ay para sa amin at sa mga kamag-anak na nakikitulog habang
nag-aaral o dumadalaw sa Maynila. Itinatabi ang mga kasangkapan
doon sa may bintana, ‘yong dalawang silyon, sofa, mga silya, maliliit na
mesang panggilid at iba pa na lahat ay yari sa narra at sulihiya.
“Pupunta ba kayo sa Maynila? Doon kay Tiyong Gorio at Tiyang
Pacita kayo magpunta. Malaki ang bahay, mabait at bukas palad. Mag-
dala lang ng ‘sang sakong bigas, manok at gulay, bastante na.”
Kaya parang dormitoryo ang salas at sa gabi, sa komedor, pagkalig-
pit ng mga pinggan at iba pang kasangkapan, puno ang mesang kainan
ng mga nag-aaral. Puwera kaming mga bata doon at pinatutulog nang
maaga. Pero mula kina Kuya Pepe, Ditse Luz, Ate Pat na noon ay nasa
high school na, at lahat ng magpipinsan, talagang walang imikan, panay
basa at sulat. Isang gabi nga biglang sumigaw ang aming pinsan na ku-
mukuha ng kursong parmasya. Nagdidilim daw ang kanyang paningin,
umiiyak at nabubulag daw siya. Kinabukasan pa naman ang unang ba-
hagi ng kanilang eksamen sa Board.
Pinahiga ni Inay at sinabihang magpahinga muna dahil sobra na
sa pagod. Kinabukasan nagising siyang malinaw na muli ang paningin. 
Mabuti ‘ika ninyo ay pumasa siya sa eksamen.
Ang sabi ni Itay, sakit ng biglang nerbiyos daw iyon.
Dalawa sa kanila ay nag-aaral ng pagkadentista, si Costeng na anak
ni Tio Teban, nakababatang kapatid ni Itay. Magkasama sila ng Tio Ser
na noon ay malapit nang matapos ng pag-aaral. Sila iyong mga nagda-
dala ng mga bungo sa bahay upang pag-aralan ang mga ngipin at ang
dinadaanan ng mga ugat tungo sa ngipin. Madalas nakikisali si Kuya
Pepe, kaya siguro nahiligan niya ang pagdodoktor naman. Mayroong
102 fi cti o n
nag-aabogado, mayroong nagtititser at kung ano-ano pang kurso. Sina
Tia Bet, bagamat valedictorian nang nagtapos sa Bulacan, ay hindi nag-
patuloy sa pag-aaral. Siya ang aming pangalawang ina at titser na su-
masalo ng mga gawain sa eskuwelahan, pati pagbuburda sa HE (home
economics) ng mga punda at night gown, kapag nakakatulog at hindi
matapos ang mga iyon.
Sa ikalawang palapag ay may isang kuwarto na puno ng mga estatwa
ng mga santong nasa kanya-kanyang verina. Sa gitna ng isang mahabang
altar ay ang krusipiho ng isang ebanong Kristo na napapaligiran ng mga
sinag na ginto. Sa magkabila nito ay dalawang ginintuang paso na may
debuhong asul at may lamang mga bulaklak, dahon at prutas at naka-
verina din. Kung ano-anong santo ang nasa altar tulad ni San Antonio de
Padua na may kargang bata, si San Jose na may akay na bata, mga birhen
na ubod nang gaganda ang maliliit at maputlang mga mukha at malilit
na kamay at nabibihisan ng magagandang kasuotang pelus at brokada
na pinatigas ng maraming burdang pilak at gintong sinulid na may sa-
bog na mga de-kolor na bato at maliliit na perlas. Ang kinatatakutan
naming lahat ay ang Ecce Homo, duguang mukha na napapaligiran ng
kulot at mapula-pulang buhok, na sinaksakan ng isang koronang tinik
na may dugo na dumaloy sa noo. Hanggang sa balikat lang ang Ecce
Homo at dito ay may nakabuhol na isang pirasong madugo ring lubid.
Parang sinusundan ka ng kristal na mata kahit saang parte ng kuwarto
ka naroroon. Sa gitna ng mga santo ay mahimbing na natutulog si Lola
Pelang sa kanyang malaking kama. Ang kama ay may apat na posteng
talian ng kulambo kung saan may nakaukit na parang paikot na sawa sa
mamahaling posteng kahoy na kamagong.
Bago siya matulog, kami ang tagapatay ng mga kandila sa altar. 
Minsan, habang hawak-hawak kamay kami na papasok doon, biglang
may katok mula sa ilalim ng altar.  Hiwa-hiwalay kaming nagtakbuhan
papalabas ng bahay.
l ap eña- bo nifac io i Mi nsan sa Bi nond o 103
Namumula ang mukha ni Tio Ser sa katatawa, hawak pa ang isang
walis na may mahabang tangkay.
Noong nag-espiritista si Lola Pelang, ipinamigay lahat ng maga-
gandang santo sa kanyang mga kamag-anak at ang iniwan lamang ay
ang ebanong Kristo at dalawang magkaternong paso na may bulaklak
at prutas, pawang naka-verina rin. Pati mga alahas ay ipinamigay rin
dahil handa na raw siyang mamuhay nang simple, sang-ayon sa mga
kagalang-galang at matapat na kautusan ng bago niyang relihiyon.
Si Lola Pelang ang may-ari ng bahay na asul na isinalin niya sa kan-
yang pamangkin—sa aming Itay—na noon ay bago pa lamang kasal at
naghahanap ng matitirhan sa Maynila. Kasama niya ang kanyang kabi-
yak na nalagasan ng unang anak na sanggol. Si Inay, na sampung taon
ang bata kay Itay, ay panay daw ang iyak. Naisip ni  Itay na ilayo siya
para magkaroon sila ng katahimikan at tuwiran sanang makalimutan
ang “napakagandang anghel” na tinatangisan gabi-gabi.
Sa ibaba ng bahay na asul ay isang tindahang itinayo nina Lola
Pelang at Lolo Nano. Mahusay sa negosyo ang mag-asawa at naging
kilala ang kanilang tindahan sa bahay na asul. Ang tindahan ay isinalin
din ni Lola Pelang kay Itay. Wala silang anak. Ang napagkasunduan ay
aalagaan ni Itay si Lola hanggang sa huling sandali ng kanyang buhay.
Nang maisalin sa kanila ay ipinaayos ni Itay ang bahay na asul. Sa
unang palapag ay nagpalagay siya ng lugar ng kainan dahil marami-
rami rin lang kumakain doon, mula almusal.  
Una, dahil doon nanggagaling ang pagkain, ipinagawa ni Itay ang
kusina. Pagpasok sa gawing kaliwa ay may dalawang maliit na silid,
isang banyo at isang kasilyas. Pagkatapos, ay may lababong hugasan ng
mga pinggan at iba pang mga kagamitan. Isang mahaba at makitid na
mesa ang ipinapako sa pader, nakapako dito ang kasinghabang bangko. 
Dito sa mesang ito ang tadtaran ng karne, linisan ng isda, hiwaan ng
gulay at pagrorolyo sa asin o paminta o arina, atsuete, toyo o patis na may
104 fi cti o n
pinigang kalamansi at ng kung ano-ano pa man para maging malasa ito. 
Dito rin kami nag-aaral sa hapon at dito nagbabasa ng Mahal na Pasyon
si Tia Nard tuwing Semana Santa. Sa kabila ay nagpakorte si Itay ng
malaking sementong mesa na may apat na kalan, nakasilong sa isang
malaking embudong tsiminiya na humihigop ng usok at uling pataas at
palabas ng bahay. Ang ilalim ng mga kalan ay lalagyan ng panggatong. 
Sa kabilang dulo, na natatakpan ng isang pader, ang labahan at sam-
payan dahil walang bubong at mainit ang sikat ng araw. Dito may ilang
tanim na halaman sa mga pasong nakasabit sa pader. Doon naglagay ng
isang kulungan ng baboy si Tia Nard. Siya ang pumipili at bumibili ng
biik at kanya itong pinalalaki, pinatataba at pinagkakakitaan.
Tama naman dahil maraming natitira sa mga plato na isinasalin
niya sa kainan at hinahaluan  ng darak para daw matibay ang katawan
ng biik habang lumalaki ito. Kapag malaki na ay may suki si Tia Nard
na dumarating para timbangin at bayaran ito por kilo. Gusto nila ang
alagang baboy ni Tia Nard dahil daw siksik ang laman  at walang mas­
yadong taba at maputi pa sa singkamas sa linis nito.  Pagkabayad, ni-
yayaya  kaming manood ng sine at kumain sa isang restawrang Intsik
kung saan may mami na kumukulo ang sabaw at siopaw na galing sa
umaasong tinggalang yero.
3  Si Lola Pelang
MAGANDA pa rin si Lola Pelang, kahit matanda na siya, diretso ang
tindig at  nababakas ang ganda ng kanyang mukha. Pusturyosa siya, la­
ging nakaternong mamahalin at maraming alahas na suot pati sa paligid
ng kanyang pusod, sa magkahalong itim at puting buhok niya na naka-
pusod ay natutusukan ng gintong suklay at may pasabog na maliliit na
bulaklak na may mga kukuti-kutitap na brilyantitos sa dulo ng aguhil­
yang pilak.
l ap eña- bo nifac io i Mi nsan sa Bi nond o 105
Noong buhay pa si Lolo Nano, magkatapat silang naglalaro ng
domino o baraha sa isang mesang marmol na bilog at natatakpan ng
de-gantsilyong sapin. Sa pagkain nila umpisa sa almusal, gamit nila ang
magagandang pinggan at kubyertos na pilak at mga basong mamahalin
at kung hapunan ay mga kopa ng mapulang alak. May pagka-fastidyoso
silang mag-asawa, laging may ulam na litson at mainit na sabaw ng tino-
lang manok.
Nang mamatay si Lolo Nano, isang atake sa puso (na siguro raw
nababalot ng taba ng litson ang puso noon), nag-iisa na lang si Lola
Pelang sa mesang bilog.  Kung minsan tinatawag niya kami. Alam ni-
yang sumisilip kami kaya’t inaalok niya kami ng masasarap na ulam.
Kung minsan tinatawag kaming lahat para maglaro ng baraha o
bingo. Agad kaming dumarating at, doon sa mesang kainan, pumapali­
gid ng upo. Ang lahat ay masaya dahil hinahati ni Lola Pelang ang mata­
tamis at may langgam na lansones mula sa  isang kaing  o ilang kilong
kastanyas na ginagawang pantaya. Biro mo, puwedeng kainin ang mga
iyon habang naglalaro—magtira lang siyempre ng pantaya. Masaya ang
lahat habang isinisigaw ang mga numero at taya. At si Lola Pelang na-
man ay nakakalimutan ang lungkot ng paghihiwalay nila ni Lolo Nano.
Madalas sinasabi niya na hinihintay daw siya ni Lolo Nano na nakita
niya tila sa isang panaginip.  Nakabantay daw sa tabi ng isang mataas na
pader na bakal na maputing-maputi. Doon daw matiyagang hinihintay
siya kaya siya ay naghahanda sa pagpunta doon, sa malayong lupain ng
isang bagong umaga.
Ngunit hindi nagtagal ay naengganyo si Lola Pelang na sumapi sa
samahan ng mga espiritista. Una, kasi ay dumalo siya sa isang sesyon na
puwede raw makausap ang kanyang mahal na kabiyak. Doon ay inutu-
san siyang sumapi ni Lolo Nano para pirmi silang magkausap. Sa gayon
nagkaroon siya ng mga gawain bukod sa maupo sa harap ng mesang 
bilog at kadalasan ay naglalaro ng solitaryo. May mga araw na umaga
106 fi cti o n
pa lang ay umaalis na siya, sakay ng isang kalesa ng naging suki niyang
kutserong si Mang Pedro. Paminsan-minsan, isinasama niya si Mila o
Leah para may umakay sa kanya pero kadalasan ay siyang mag-isa lang.
Magiliw naman daw na siya ay inaalalayan ng mga miyembro doon. 
Nagtatrabaho si Lola Pelang sa sentro, sumusulat ng mga koresponde sa
mga nais sumapi at sa mga dating miyembro at bukod pa roon ay nagli-
linis siya ng paligid ng hardin na pinupuno ng magagandang halaman,
kasangkapan at iba-ibang kulay na bombilya.
Minsan nga ay inutusan niyang bumili ng limampung silyang bati-
bot si Itay para daw madagdagan ang upuan sa sentro dahil dumadami
ang mga miyembro. Agad-agad namang bumili si Itay at pinapintahan
pa nga ng kulay dilaw dahil iyon daw ang opisyal na kulay ng sentro.
Inihatid ni Itay, lulan ng isang trak, at binantayan niya habang hinihilera
ang mga ito sa kanilang silid-pulungan. Ito daw ay isa sa mga kahilingan
ni Lolo Nano. Anuman ang hinihiling ni Lolo Nano sa isa sa kanilang
usapan ay agad tinutupad ni Lola Pelang, tulad ng pagpapamigay ng
mga santo na hindi na raw kailangan.
Minsan kinausap ni Lola Pelang si Itay. Ang pinakahuling bilin daw
ni Lolo Nano sa pinuno ng mga espiritista na ibigay ang nakadepositong
pera sa bangko. May isang libo daw na mahigit pa kung kukuwentahin
pati tubo ng naipon nila ni Lolo Nano. Medyo nag-atubili si Itay dahil
napakalaking halaga nito at mauubos ang kanilang naipon sa bangko. 
Ngunit matigas si Lola Pelang, ibinigay ang kanyang libro de bangko at
kanyang pirma na nagbibigay ng awtoridad kay Itay. Mas may siguridad
daw kaysa sa bangko ang kanilang kooperatiba ng mga espiritista at pu-
wede naman daw kunin kailan man kailanganin.
Bagama’t labag sa kanyang kalooban, ginawa ni Itay ang utos ni
Lola Pelang. Ngunit nang magkasakit ito at hindi na makapunta sa sen-
tro, inutusan niya si Itay na kunin ang kanyang pera. Ilang balik man ni
l ap eña- bo nifac io i Mi nsan sa Bi nond o 107
Itay, wala siyang napala. Sabi ni Lola ay magpasensiya at siguro hinihin-
tay ang tamang panahon para hindi maputol ang tubo nito.
“Makikita mo,” wika niya, “isang araw ay gugulatin tayo ng mis-
mong pinuno at dala ang pera.”
“Sana nga po, Tiyang,” sabi ni Itay, “Magkatutuo po sana ang sabi
“Siempre naman magkakatutuo, hindi ba buo ang tiwala ko sa
Ngunit matagal ding naratay si Lola Pelang. Sinuman na may
dalang pera ay hindi dumating, ni anino nga ay wala. Patuloy ang pag-
gastos ni Itay sa kanyang mga gamot at pagdalaw ng doktor. Ngunit
patuloy ang paghina ni Lola, parang hukab na ang mga pisngi niya at
malalalim ang mga mata. Parang may hinihintay pa siya.
“Pabayaan ninyo na lang, Tiyang,” sabi ni Itay sabay haplos sa mga
payat na kamay nito. “Kaya ko pa naman sagutin ang mga pangangaila­
ngan po ninyo.”
Isang umaga, lumapit si Inay at tinakpan niya ng pinagtagpi-tagpi
niyang kumot si Lola, “Ito ang kumot mo, Tiyang, palitan natin itong
manipis, makapal ito para hindi ka maginaw.”
“Aba, mahal ito, a” sabi ni Lola kasabay ng bahagyang ngiti, “sabi
ko na ibabalik din iyong pera para mabili mo ang mga kailangan ko.”
Habang hinahagod ang likod ni Lola Pelang, sabi ni Inay, “Magpa-
hinga kayo, Tiyang, at huwag mag-intindi ng anuman. Nandito kaming
“Salamat, Pacita, sabihin mo kay Gorio, matutulog na ako,” sabi ni
Lola na may dumaloy na luha mula sa mata bago iyon ipikit.
At ang mga salitang yon ay ang huling sinabi niya. Sa bahay ding
asul pumanaw si Lola Pelang, ligtas sa ginaw ng isang makapal na ku-
mot na pinagtagpi-tagpi ni Inay. Sa gitna siya ng kuwarto kung saan ang
natitira ay ang ebanong Kristo na napapaligiran ng gintong rayos at na-
108 fi cti o n
tatakpan ng verina.  Sa magkabila ay dalawang ginintuang pasong nag­
lalaman ng mga bulaklak na gawa sa maninipis ng telang seda at prutas
na gawa sa babasaging kristal na pinintahan ng iba’t ibang kulay.  Hindi
malalanta, hindi mabubulok, talagang parang tunay. May mga kandila
sa bronseng kandelabra. Nasa gitna pa rin ng elegansiya si Lola Pelang
tulad noong buhay pa si Lolo Nano. May takip pa rin ng de-gantsilyong
sapin ang bilog na mesang marmol at ang bintana ay nasasabitan ng lace
na kurtina.
Dapat daw ay mariwasa si Lola kung hindi niya ipinagkatiwala ang
kanilang naipon ni Lolo Nano sa pinuno ng samahan, ang sabi ni Itay.
Hanggang sa huli ay inalagaan nina Itay at Inay nang buong pagmama-
hal si Lola Pelang na nagbigay hindi lamang tirahan kundi pati hanap-
buhay nila.
Nang araw na mukhang hindi na gigising si Lola Pelang, nagtapat
si Kuya Pepe  ng isang malinaw na salamin sa kanyang ilong.  Nang hin-
di nanlabo ito at nanatiling malinaw ang salamin, at saka niya sinabing
talagang lumisan na si Lola, iniwan na kami ng matanda.
Lahat ay pumila upang makapagmano sa kahuli-hulihang pagka-
kataon kay Lola Pelang at isa-isa ring lumuhod sa paligid ng kama nito. 
Sa pamumuno ni Inay ay sinimulan namin ang dasal ng rosaryo bilang
pagsabay sa paghahatid ng kaluluwa ng isang pumanaw sa unang bahagi
patungo sa liwanag hanggang marating niya ang lupaing may bagong
Nagpunta na raw doon si Lola Pelang. Hayun at buong pananabik
na sinusugod ang landas sa tabi ng mataas na pader na maputing bakal
kung saan naroroon sa dulo at matiyagang naghihintay ang mahal ni-
yang kabiyak, si Lolo Nano.                              
l ap eña- bo nifac io i Mi nsan sa Bi nond o 109

4  Mga Kapitbahay sa Kanan

NASA gitna kami ng lahat ng aming pangangailangan. Naroon ang
Palengkeng Dulong Bayan, ang Katedral Binondo na napapaligiran ng
iba’t ibang maliliit at malalaking tindahan ng aklat, sapatos, damit, ala-
has, tela, balat, sari-saring tinapay at hopya at kasangkapan sa kusina
at ibang parte ng kabahayan, spare parts ng mga sasakyan, mga gamot
ng Intsik at gamot na moderno, mga karpet, mamahaling mga paso  at
estatwa at iba pang dekorasyon ng bahay, mga eskuwelahan, restawran,
klinika at iba pa.  May isang ospital,  pati isang Opera House at maliliit
na bodabilan at sinehan.
Sari-sari rin ang aming kapitbahay. Sa isang apartment ay may isang
pamilya ng mga musikero—Banda Pitogo, dahil pito lamang sila. Kapag
hapon nasa bangketa sila sa harap ng pintuan at nagpapraktis ng iba’t
ibang tugtog, masasayang  balse at martsa para sa kapistahan, kaa­rawan,
kasal at kapaskuhan, malulungkot na punebre para sa libing ng patay at
sa Semana Santa. Ngayon malapit na ang mga parada para sa kapistahan
ng Binondo, masigla at halos walang patid ang kanilang pagsasanay. Lalo
pa nga at ang dalaginding na anak ay sinasanay na magmartsa, mag-itsa
at sumalo ng baton. Naroon siya sa gitna ng kalye, nagpapraktis sa harap
ng maraming nag-uusyosong mga bata at matatanda na, ay naku, so-
brang dunong at sobrang dami ang puri at pintas, para bang sila itong
nagmamartsa at nag-iitsa ng baton sa langit.
Sa katapat ay parang isang lungga sa silong ng isang malaki-laking
bahay na hinati-hati sa maliliit na tirahan. Isa sa mga nakatira doon ay
si Catsupoy at kanyang pamilya. May isang anak na lalaki si Catsupoy
na parang pinagbiyak na bunga sa kanya—ultimong puyo sa ibabaw
ng ulo kung saan hinahati ang kanyang buhok. Medyo singkit din at
may lahi yatang Intsik si Catsupoy. Tuwing umaga, nasa labas ng bahay
ang kanyang mag-ina. Doon matiyagang nginunguya ng ina ang butil
ng nilagang mais at isinusubo ang mga ito sa bata. Malapit ang Benavi-
110 fi cti o n
dez sa mga bodabilan at Opera House kaya kayang-kayang lakarin ito. 
Tuwing hapon sumusunod ang mag-ina kay Catsupoy para panoorin
ang kanyang komedya. Malakas ang tawa ng mag-ina para malaman ng
mga nanonood na talagang mahusay na komedyante si Catsupoy. Kapag
inuunahan nila sa pagtawa, napapagaya na rin ang lahat sa pagtawa.
Kung minsan ay itinataas ni Catsupoy ang kanyang maliit na sombrero
at pinagagalaw ang kanyang bigote bilang senyal na dapat umpisahan
na ng mag-ina ang pagtawa. Napakasama kapag bumababa ang interes
ng mga nanonood, sabi ni Catsupoy. Naku, napakasama, para bagang
sentensiya ng kamatayan.
Sa katabing bahay na may mababang bubungan ay nakatira ang
pamilya ni Aning, ang best friend ni Leah. Ang mababang bubong ay
patuyuan ng isdang tinatapa at inaasinan ng kanyang ina at tinutuhog 
ni Aning sa payat na patpat kawayan at hinihilerang pabilog sa ilang
mga bilao doon sa ibabaw. Kapag kulimlim ang panahon at hindi ma-
tuyo-tuyo ang mga dinaing, puwedeng magkaroon ng uod ang mga ito. 
Kapag mainit ang araw, madaling natutuyo ang mga tuhog ng isda na
binabalot nila sa diyaryo. Sampu bawat balutan para madaling kuwenta-
hin ang bilang bago nila isalin sa isang suking tindera sa palengke.
Si Aning ay hindi pumapasok sa eskuwela kaya pagdating ni Leah
sa hapon, ikinukuwento niya lahat ang mga nangyayari doon, kompleto
pati mga inaral nila, kaya para na ring nag-aaral si Aning. Madalas nga,
ipinapakita ni Leah ang kanyang mga kuwaderno at ipinasusulat niya
si Aning doon at hinahayaang magtanong kung hindi niya maintindi-
han ang mga leksiyon. Mahina ang katawan ni Aning kaya’t hindi siya
pinag-aaral ng kanyang ina. Kapag lumakas daw siya ay babalik siya sa
eskuwelahan. Kapag sinasabi ito ni Aning ay kasabay ang ngiti sa kan-
yang mga labi.
l ap eña- bo nifac io i Mi nsan sa Bi nond o 111
“Makikita mo,” wika niya kay Leah, “hindi ako masyadong huli
dahil itinuturo mo ang mga leksyon sa akin.” At dagdag pa niya kasabay
ang pagyakap kay Leah, “Salamat, ha!”
 “Aba, e sino pa ang magtutulungan kundi ang mag-best friend!”
sabi naman ni Leah habang hinahagod ang likod ng kaibigan na nagsi-
simula na naman sa pag-ubo.  
Hindi nakabalik si Aning sa kanilang eskuwelahan dahil matata-
pos na ang Oktubre ay lumubha ang kanyang pakiramdam at tuluyang
lumisan na. 
“Ay naku,” sabi ng kanyang ina na luhaan ang kulubot na mukha,
“Bakit mo ako iniwan, anak?”
Kaya pala si Aning kapag lumalakad sila habang nagkukuwen-
tuhan ay kinakaladkad ang isang paa sa tubig sa kanal. Gayon niya
pinalalamig ang init ng kanyang katawan. Hindi nga malaman kung
ano talaga ang sakit niya. Lagi siyang mainit, parang may isang kalang
may palaging sinding apoy sa kanyang dibdib. Hindi siya nagrereklamo,
ni hindi binabanggit ito.
“Ay, mahal kong Aning! Saang tabi ng kanal ka naroroon ngayon?” 
Mahirap pala kapag nakagawian mo ang pagkukuwento sa isang tao. 
Miss na miss ni Leah ang kanyang best friend.
Bukod sa maliliit na tirahan doon, sa bandang gitna, sa tapat namin
ay ang malaking bahay ng Viuda na kung tag-ulan ay doon kami naliligo. 
May apat na makikisig na lalaking anak na pawang ayaw magsipag-aral
gayong kayang-kaya naman silang pagtapusin kahit saan mang paaralan
sa Maynila o kahit siguro sa ibang bansa. Kaya nga kung minsan ay tu-
matawid papunta sa aming bahay ang Lola nila upang kausapin si Inay. 
“Mabuti ka pa, Pacita, kahit iginagapang mo sa hirap ay puro nag-
aaral ang mga anak mo.” 
“Siguro ho nagkakagaya-gaya,” sabi ni Inay, “marami  ho kasing
nag-aaral mula sa probinsiya na dito nakikitira.”
112 fi cti o n
 “Ang mga apo ko ay walang motibasyon. Naku puro postura, puro
gasta nang walang kapararakan,” patuloy ng Lola nila. “Ayun ang pa­
ngalawang si Paking ay lumiligaw sa isang artista sa pelikula, maganda
pero magastos. Ayun tigitig-isang berlina, tigitig-isang kabayong pang­
karera. Naku kung buhay siguro ang nasira kong bunso na kanilang
ama, hindi maaari ang lahat ng iyan.”
Tuwing Sabado at Linggo, bukas nang todo ang kanilang mga
bintana. Para kaming nanonood sa balkonahe ng teatro mula sa aming
bintana. Tumutugtog ng biyolin ang panganay na si Boning, umaawit
ang pangalawang si Paking, kasabay sa piyano ang pangatlong si Con-
rado at sa klarinet naman iyong bunso at pinakaguwapo sa lahat, si Nar­
sing. Nakaupo sa magagarang upuan ang Viuda, Lola nila at iba pang
kasambahay na nakapaligid at nanonood  sa apat na makikisig na bina-
tang heredero.
Doon din sa bintanang iyon ay nakahilera sila kapag dumadaan ang
prusisyon mula sa Katedral Binondo, na humihinto sa tapat ng kanilang
bintana para masabuyan ng mga bulaklak ang mga santo. Magandang
tanawin, mga marahang pagsasaboy ng mababangong bulaklak ng sam-
pagita, ilang-ilang, tsampaka at rosas na  dahan-dahang bumababa sa
mga ulo ng santo. Mabango ang hangin at parang maganda ang lahat.
Habang nakapara doon, umaakyat ang isang pari para kunin ang isang
sobre na kontribusyon daw ng Viuda sa simbahan.
Maganda ang tanawin sa bintana di tulad ng pag-aaway nina Pa­
king at naging asawang artista, na may batuhan ng unan at iba pang
mga bagay. Ay naku, ang buhay nga naman. E, sasabihin mo bang mang-
yayari yon—nagsimula sa napakagandang  kasalan na lahat ng maya-
man at alta de sosyedad  ay imbitado. Naganap ang isang napakalaking
salusalo sa kanilang bahay na nasasabitan ng daan-daang mapuputing
bulaklak at mga laso at mga kawayan na arko na nasasabitan ng  mga
parol at banderitas. Pati ang bangketa at pasukan sa bahay ay nilatagan
l ap eña- bo nifac io i Mi nsan sa Bi nond o 113
ng alpombrang pula na ang unang nagdaan ay ang anim na paring nag-
misa sa kasal.
Sa harap ng mga hindi magandang pangyayari, ang Viuda ay patu-
loy  sa kanyang araw-araw na pagpunta sa bahay sanglaan  sakay ng kan-
yang kotseng Mercedes. Ang kanyang marosas-rosas na talampakan ay
nakatapak sa pelus na kutsong burdado ng perlas at abaloryong may iba’t
ibang kulay. May nakatakip na balabal sa kanyang balikat. 
Sa iba’t ibang araw ay iba’t ibang kulay ang balabal niya ngunit ang
damit ay palaging abitong tsokolate at may dilaw na tali sa baywang,
dahil deboto siya kay San Antonio de Padua. Siguro, at iyon ang sabi
ng mga kapitbahay, dahil si San Antonio ay santo ng imposible at mga
nawawala, doon siya nagdadasal upang matulungan siya sa imposible—
ang pagtutuwid ng kanyang nagwawalang apat na makikisig na anak na
kanyang tagapagmana.
5    Mga Kapitbahay sa Kaliwa
SA GILID ng hardin ng Viuda na may malaking puno ng mabangong
tsampaka ay isang linya ng apartment kung saan isa  sa mga nakatira
ay nanliligaw kay Ditse Luz. Minsan nagkataong nagsesenyasan sila sa
bintana nang pumasok si Leah sa kuwarto ni Lola Pelang. Hindi niya
isinumbong kay Inay dahil hindi naman siya sumbungera. Pero dapat
siguro para malaman ni Inay na may nangyayari na pala. Marami roon
ay taga-Pampanga, puro kabalen. Hindi lamang marami, tila lahat si-
lang magkakapitbahay ay galing sa iisang probinsiya. Kapag nag-aaway
doon ay dinig mo ang sigawan nila sa Kapampangan at kapag nagkaka-
initan na ay naglulusuban sila, hanggang dumating ang mga pulis para
mahinto ang awayan.
Sa harapan naman ay tindahan ni Akong Intsik na siya lamang
kakumpitensiya ng aming tindahan. Mabait naman at paminsan-min-
san ay dumadalaw para malaman ang wala sa tinda namin, para daw
114 fi cti o n
hindi sila magkakumpetensiya. Pati mga tinapay niya ay naiiba. Ang
sa amin ay inihahatid ni Insik Bejo na dala sa dalawang lalagyang lata
sa magkabilang dulo ng pinggang gawa sa kawayan. Oras na binuk-
san niya ang takip, maraming maliliit na kamay ang dumadakma  sa
iba’t ibang tinapay doon. Ang pinakagusto nina Leah ay ang tinatawag
na  “libro” dahil kuwadradong pankeyk na magkasaklob, malambot at
Sa kabilang kalye ay isang looban. Maraming bahay doon, ngunit
nangunguna ang bahay ng boksingerong kampeon na si Marco Antonio. 
Makisig siya, may pagkamestiso tulad ng kanyang amang boksingero
rin. Parating puno ng nanonood ang harapan ng kanilang bahay kapag
nagprapraktis siya. Nang mabiyudo ang kanyang ama, pinabayaan na
lang nila itong uminom ng alak para daw makalimutan ang kanyang
nasirang si Puring. Ngunit kapag nalalasing, dinig ng lahat ng kapitba-
hay ang kanyang paghagulgol  na may kasamang pagtawag, “Puriiing! 
Puriiing!  Puring!” 
Ang susunod ay ang bahay ni Maestra Cleotilde na nagtuturo ng
piyano sa mga bata sa paligid. Nag-aral din kami ng ilang  buwan, pero
aywan, mahirap palang tumugtog ng piyanong ang mga teklado ay
iginuhit lamang ni Itay sa mesa.
Sa harap ay ang bahay ng maglolong Esperidion. Sila ay nag-
aalmusal nang maaga sa maliit na restawran sa aming bahay na asul. 
Maraming mga nag-aalmusal nang maagang-maaga, karamihan ay mga
kutsero na ipinaparada sa kalye ang kanilang sasakyan. Pagbaba ng loo-
ban ay ang Cine Moon at sa kabila ng tulay ay ang Cine Star. Tuwing
hapon, isinasara ni Inay ang tindahan para makapanood kami ng  de-
seryeng pelikula tulad ng “Drums of Fu Manchu”  at iba pa.
Sa bungad ng looban ay ang pasugalan ni Mang Tolome na may
anak na baldado ang ulo,  si Umpong na ang hilig ay habulin at sampalin
ng flyswater ang mga langaw. Alam mo kung nagtatagumpay siya dahil
l ap eña- bo nifac io i Mi nsan sa Bi nond o 115
siya na rin ang pumapalakpak sa  sarili.  Marami doon ang nagsusugal o
nanonood ng mga nagsusugal. Isa sa kilala at talagang suki ay si  Black
Hawk na pirming may nakabuntot—ang magandang kerida niyang  si
Kikay. Kung dumadating sila ay sakay ng isang makintab na docart na
may disenyong mga bulaklak na yari sa makislap na nakar at botones
na pilak. Hila ito ng isang kabayong maitim din. Hinihintay ng lahat si
Kikay  dahil pirming maganda ang kanyang kasuotan, at napapaligiran
ng mabangong pabango,  tila dating artista daw sa pelikula pero sa ka-
tunayan ay  “extra” nga lang. Huli siya kung bumaba sa docart, habang
ang lahat ay naghihintay. Magkaternong kimona, saya at maraming ala-
has ang suot niya na bigay lahat ni Black Hawk. Parating may tangan
na magandang pamaypay na galing pa raw sa Espanya. Si Black Hawk
ay kilalang mang-aakyat ng mga bahay na walang tao. Mahilig daw siya
manguha ng mga maliliit na bagay na mailalagay niya sa bulsa ng kan-
yang itim na jacket at pantalon—iyon bang mga alahas at pera lamang. 
Ang dahilan daw ay para mabilis siyang nakakatakbo kung may biglang
darating. Kadalasan pa nga ay lumulundag siya ng bintana kaya nga
siguro tinawag siyang Black Hawk.
Magiliw siyang inaalagaan ni Kikay, nauupo sa likuran nito upang
masubuan  ng pagkain dahil hindi ito tumitindig kapag nagsimula na
ang labanan. Paminsan-minsan  ay  tuloy ang kutsara sa bibig ni Ki-
kay, kasunod ang pag-inom ng sarsaparilya. Pinapaypayan niya si Black
Hawk at inaalagaan ang mga napanalunan nito. Inaabot ang mga perang
papel (iiniwan ang barya), nirorolyo at isinisiksik sa pagitan ng kanyang
mabibilog na dibdib. Napapatawa lang si Black Hawak lalo kung si-
nusuwerte at panay ang dating ng magandang baraha.
Ngunit may katapusan ang lahat, ‘ika nga. Unti-unting napapan-
sin ng lahat ang  pagbabago sa  dalawa. Ang magiliw na pag-aalalay ni
Kikay ay inaayawan ni Black Hawk, kung minsan ay itinutulak pa ang
mga yakap nito. Iyon kaya ay dahil ang mukha  ni Kikay ay puno ng
116 fi cti o n
natutuklap-tuklap na mga singaw na hindi na maitago ng makapal na
pulbos? At tila kumakalat ang mga iyon sa leeg, braso, kamay at binti
Isang araw ay tumayong bigla si Black Hawk. Natumba si Kikay
na, tulad nang dati, ay nasa likuran niya. Walang paalam ay iniwanan
siya ni Black Hawk at hindi na nagbalik. Naglupasay si Kikay at ma­
lakas ang kanyang hagulgol.
“Tapat naman ako,” wika niya sa pagitan ng mga hagulgol, “alam
ng Diyos na hindi ako nagtataksil sa kanya miski kailan. Naku ito bang
mga ito, sa kanya rin nanggaling!”
Hindi malaman ng lahat kung ano ang gagawin. 
Inabutan ng asawa ni Mang Tolome ng isang tasang kape si Kikay,
habang sinasabi, “Magpasensiya na lang, Aling Kikay, siguro ho masama
ang gising.”
Nawala ang dalawa sa pasugalan.  Sabi ng iba, nakita daw nila si Ki-
kay sa isang ospital at naku, kaawa-awa ang kalagayan. Si Black Hawk
naman daw ay bumalik sa probinsiya, sa kanyang mag-ina. Ewan nga ba
kung alin ang totoo. Dahil mayroong nagsasabing sinasamahan daw ni
Black Hawk si Kikay sa ospital dahil  puno na rin ang kanyang buong
katawan ng mga tuyot at natutuklap-tuklap na mga singaw.

6   Si Maneng
MABILIS lumipas ang tag-ulan at malapit na ang Pasko nang bigla na
lamang nagkasakit si Maneng. Parang biglang nanghina at walang ga-
nang kumain. Si Dr. Guerrero, ang doktor ng pamilya, ay ipinatawag ni
Itay isang araw ng Sabado. Kapag pumupunta iyon sa aming bahay ay
doon na nanananghali dahil gusto raw niyang makasalo ang mga maga-
ganang (matatakaw) kumain ng gulay at isda. Masaya ang kuwentuhan
sa harap ng hapag na puno ng mga plato at kubyertos at mga bandehado
ng ulam at kanin.
l ap eña- bo nifac io i Mi nsan sa Bi nond o 117
Matapos kumain ay nagtungo sina Dr. Guerrero, Itay at Inay sa
kama ni Maneng doon sa dulo ng salas. Medyo matagal ding kinausap
ni Dr. Guerrero ang aming mga magulang, waring biglang tumahimik
ang buong bahay. Lalo pa nga at luhaan si Inay at mukhang maputla si
Itay nang  lumabas sila.
 “Kailangang ma-x-ray siya, Mang Gorio,” sabi ni Dr. Guerrero. 
Iyon at ilan pang mga test para masiguro nating tama ang diagnosis
“Kailan kami pupunta sa ospital?” tanong ni  Itay.
“Sa lalong madaling panahon,” sabi ni Dr. Guerrero. “Sa Lunes,
kung maaari.”
 “Kung maaari sana sa hapon, dahil sa umaga, papasok ako sa opi-
sina  para makapagpaalam.”
“Ihahanda ko ang lahat, Mang Gorio,” sabi ni Dr. Guerrero sa may
pintuan, “at hihintayin ko kayo.”
Inihatid nila si doktor sa kanyang itim na Ford at bago tuluyang
pumasok ito ay inabutan ng sobre ni Inay kasabay ang, “Maraming sala­
mat po, Dr. Guerrero.”
Tinapik ni Dr. Guerrero si Inay sa balikat. “Malalaman natin, Aling
Paz, kung ano ang talagang sakit niya.”
Mga ilang araw matapos madala si Maneng sa ospital, naging kata­
kataka ang pagbabago ng aming mga magulang. Naging lalong masuyo
sila kay Maneng. Maging  sina Ditse Luz at  si Ate Patring. At maging
sina Tio Sergio at Tia Bet at Tia Nard.
Ano ba’t lahat na yata ng magustuhan ni Maneng ay binibili para
sa kanya.
“E, wala pa namang Pasko,” ang puna ng bunsong si Greg.
“Oo nga,” sabat ni Mila, “tayo nga e naghihintay ng Pasko bago
maibili ng laruan.”
 “At saka, pipili ka lang ng isa,” sabi naman ni Odette. 
118 fi cti o n
 “Iyong talagang gusto mo,” sabi ni Leah.
“At iyong hindi masyadong mahal,” sabi ni Mina.
“Kayo naman, e mabuti nga marami tayong laruan ngayon,” sabi
ni Kuya Pepe.
“Oo nga ano,” sabi ni Odette,” biro mo noong minsan ang gusto
niya ay iyong tiket ng bus at iyong clipper baga na pambutas ng tiket.”
 “Ngayon lahat tayo e pasahero sa kanyang kama at si Maneng pa
ang driver at kundoktor na tagabutas ng tiket,” sabi ni Leah.
Nagtawanan kaming lahat. 
 “Noong minsan naman ang gusto niya ay trumpo na de bomba at
maganda ang tugtog habang umiikot,” sabi ni Kuya Pepe.
“Kaya lang,” sabi Mina,” kailangang pumila ka para mo malaro
 “Pila lang ba?  E, kailangang magbayad ka,” sabi ni  Leah.
 “Hindi bale na,” sabi ni  Odette, “sa kanya din naman galing iyong
perang peke.”
At nagtawanan na naman kaming lahat.
Isang araw ng Linggo, sa may bandang hapon, dumating si Padre
Islao mula sa simbahan ng Quiapo, may dalang mahabang kahon na may
matingkad na barnes. Malaking pasasalamat nina Itay at Inay at sinama-
han ito agad kay Maneng.
Nagsunuran kaming  lahat. Lahat ay gustong malaman kung ano
ang laman ng kahon. Inayos ni Itay ang isang silya sa tabi ng kama ni
Maneng. Naupo dito si Padre Islao at pinatong ang kahon sa kanyang
Lahat kami ay buong pananabik na naghintay habang kinukuha ng
pari ang isang bungkos ng mga susi sa bulsa ng kanyang abito. Pumili ng
isa doon at saka pinasok sa susian ng kahon.
l ap eña- bo nifac io i Mi nsan sa Bi nond o 119
“Aha!” sambit naming lahat na may pagkamangha nang malitaw
ang pula at makintab na pelus  na nakapalibot sa isang kamay at braso 
at humalimuyak ang bango.
“Naku po,” sabi ni Leah, “ang lalaki ng mga ugat, parang buhay
Sabi ni Inay, “Mga anak, ‘yan ang kamay ng mapagmilagrong
Poong Nazareno ng simbahan ng Quiapo.”
 “Inay,” tanong ni Greg na pabulong, “e bakit po maitim?”
 “Patay na ang Diyos,” sabi ni Inay, “magsiluhod kayo at
Iniangat ni Padre Islao mula sa kahon ang putol na kamay at braso
at pinahalikan ito kay Maneng. At ito rin ay iniligid sa kanyang ulo at
buong katawan hanggang paa nang may tatlong beses.
Mapula ang mga mata ni Inay at waring nais maiyak.
 “Kung maaari po ay lahat kami,” sabi ni Itay.
Nagkrus si Inay at yumuko. Inilapit sa kanyang noo ang maba­ngong
kamay at braso, at ibinaba  para mahalikan ito. Mula sa pinakabunsong
si Greg  at sa panganay na si Ate Patring, sa Tio Ser, Tia Bet at Tia Nard
at sa Itay ay iniligid ang milagrosong braso at kamay na mahal na Poong
“O Mahal na Poon, kaawaan ninyo kami,” dasal ni Inay, habang
pinapahiran ang mga luhaang mata. 
“O, kaawaan mo po sana,” ambag naming lahat, magkasaklob ang
aming mga palad. 
“O, mahal na Santo Hesus,” sabi ni Itay, “pakipakinggan mo po
 “O, pakipakinggan ninyo po sana,” sambit naming lahat.
Nang matapos ay hinandugan ni Tia Bet ng isang tasang kape at
isang ensaymada na malugod namang kinain nito. Samantalang si Itay
120 fi cti o n
ay tumawag ng isang karitela. Bago sumakay ang Pari, inabutan ni Inay
ng isang sobre, “Maraming salamat po, Padre Islao,” ang sabi niya.
“Nawa ay pagmilagrohan ang inyong pamilya,” sabi ni Padre Islao,
habang humahalik kaming lahat sa kamay nito.
 “Nawa ay magbibig-anghel po kayo,” wika ni Tio Ser na halos
“Kamuntik ko nang nakalimutan,” sabi ng Pari at inilabas ang isang
maliit na bote mula sa kanyang bulsa.  “Diyos Santo,” wika niya habang
winiwisik ang tubig mula sa bote.
“Teka po, ang aking anak!” wika ni Inay.
Bumalik ang Pari sa loob upang basbasan si Maneng.
“Naku, malaking utang na loob namin sa inyo,” sabi ni Itay.
 “Talagang marami pong pinagmimilagrohan ito,” dagdag pa ni
Padre Islao bago tuluyang umakyat sa karitela. Mahina ang padyak ng
kabayo at papalayo na ang karitela ngunit nakatayo pa rin kami at tina-
tanaw yon. 
 “Mahirap makumbida yan,” sabi ni Tio Ser na siyang nagpunta sa
simbahan ng Quiapo.
“Mabuti at nahikayat mo,” ang sabi ni Itay habang pumapasok ng
 “Naawa sa ating maysakit,” ang sagot ni Tio Ser. 
Mula noon, sa umagang hindi pa man sumisikat ang araw ay di-
nadala nina Tio Ser, Kuya Pepe at Itay si Maneng sa bahay ng matadero.
Doon sa ungol ng mga kinakatay na baka ay sumasahod sila ng isang
tasang dugo mula sa saksak na sugat nito sa leeg.
Tahimik lang si Maneng habang hinahagod ni Itay ang kanyang
likod. Iniinom niya ang dugo na mainit-init pa nang walang tutol. Na-
niniwala siya sa sabi ni Itay na iyon ay makadadagdag at magpapapula 
sa kanyang dugo at magpapabilis ng kanyang paggaling.
l ap eña- bo nifac io i Mi nsan sa Bi nond o 121
Kung minsan daw ay parang masusuka si Maneng sa kanyang pag-
inom ng dugo.
Ngunit nakangiti pa rin siya na ang mga ngipin ay mapula-mapula
sa dugo.
“Kaunting tiyaga lang, aking anak,” ang sinasabi daw ni Itay at
aabutin ang isang sigarilyong sinindihan ni Tio Ser. 
“Ito, humithit ka, anak.” At aabutin iyon ni Maneng na nakangiti
pa rin. Sa kanyang paglagay nito sa bibig ay mamumula ito sa dugo. 
Magpapataas ang usok sa paligid ng kanyang ulo habang tahimik siyang
humihithit sa patayan ng mga hayop na iyon, sa liwanag ng ilang mala­
laking bombilyang medyo pinalabo ng maraming agiw at alikabok.
Kaya daw natutong manigarilyo ang aming kapatid nang bata pa
lang siya. Labingdalawang taon lamang.
Matagal din siya humithit, para daw mawala ang lasa ng lansa ng
sariwang dugo.  Ay, ang kawawang Maneng.  Bakit kaya siya dinapuan
ng ganoong sakit?
Sana ay gumaling siya sa tulong ng dasal naming lahat.
“Sana tulungan mo po siya,  O mahal na puso ni Hesus!” 
“Sana tulungan mo po siya, O Santa Maria, Santang Ina ng
 “Sana tulungan mo po siya, O Santang Birhen ng mga Birhen!”
“Sana tulungan mo po siya, O San Miguel, pinuno ng mga
 “Sana tulungan mo po siya, O kayong lahat na mga anghel at
“Sana tulungan mo po siya, O orden ng mga banal na espiritu!”
 “Sana tulungan mo po siya, O San Huwan Bautista!”
 “Sana tulungan mo po siya, O kayong lahat na mga santo!”
“Sana tulungan mo po siya, O mga patriyarka at propeta!”
“Sana tulungan mo po siya, O San Pedro!”
122 fi cti o n
“Sana tulungan mo po siya, O San Pablo!”
“Sana tulungan mo po siya, O San Huwan!”
“Sana  tulungan mo po siya,  O mga apostol at ebanghelista!”
 “Sana tulungan mo po siya, O San Esteban!”
“Sana tulungan mo po siya, O San Lorenzo!”
“Sana tulungan mo po siya, O mga  martir!”
“Sana tulungan  mo po siya, O  San Gregorio!”
 “Sana tulungan mo po siya, O San Ambrosio!”
“Sana tulungan mo po siya, O San Agustin!”
“Sana tulungan mo po siya, O San Geronimo!”
 “Sana tulungan mo po siya, O mga banal na obispo at kumpisor!”
“Sana tulungan mo po siya, O mga banal na doktor ng Simbahan!”
 “Sana tulungan mo po siya, O mga banal na pare at lebita!”
 “Sana tulungan mo po siya, O mga banal na monghe at
“Sana tulungan mo po siya, O Santa Magdalena!”
“Sana tulungan mo po siya, O Santa Barbara!”
“Sana tulungan mo po siya, O mga banal na birhen at mga balo!”
“Sana tulungan mo po siya, O mga santo ng Diyos!”
“Maging maawain Kayo, iligtas mo po siya, O Panginoon!”
“Maging maawain Kayo, pakapakinggan po ninyo kami, O
Kay taimtim ng dasal namin mula sa kaibuturan ng aming mga
puso. Subalit hindi nangyari iyon sapagkat noong malapit na ang kapis­
tahan sa Binondo, nuong mga araw na masaya ang langit sa Binondo sa
dami ng mga makukulay na banderitas, si Maneng ay tahimik na nag-
sara ng kanyang mga mata upang hindi na muling idilat ang mga iyon.
Noong una akala namin ay natutulog lamang si Maneng. Nagsi-
paligid kami sa kanyang kama at naghihintay na tumawag siya upang
maglaro.  Tahimik siya, maging ang kanyang paghinga ay waring nawa-
l ap eña- bo nifac io i Mi nsan sa Bi nond o 123
la ang tunog. At ang kanyang mainit na kamay ay para na lang biglang
nakalupaypay, parang ibong nakahimlay sa ibabaw ng kanyang kumot. 
“O tignan n’yo,” ani Mila, na nakahawak pa sa isang kamay ni
Maneng, “parang lumalamig ang kanyang kamay.”
“O nga,” sabi ni Odette, “e, bakit ganon, sa kanyang ulunan may
parang tumataas na usok!”
Tahimik kaming lahat na nagmamasid doon hanggang nagsalita si
Tio Ser. “Nakakawala na ang kanyang espiritu, kasama siguro ng sumu-
sundo sa kanya, si Tiyang Pelang.”  
Para sa pamilya, ang mamamatay ay di dapat matakot. Hinding-
hindi maliligaw sa paghahanap ng liwanag dahil siguradong may maghi-
hintay o susundo.
 “Sige magsipila kayo,” sabi ni Itay, “Para makahalik sa kanyang
Nagsipila kaming lahat, nasa una ang bunsong si Greg at sa huli-
han ay sina Tio Ser, Tia Bet at Tia Nard. At isa-isa kaming humalik sa
mainit-init pa niyang noo. Luhaan ang aming mga mata ngunit ni isa
man sa amin ay walang humagulgol, matahimik na pag-iyak lamang. 
Binayaan naming dumaloy  ang luha sa pisngi at di man lamang naisip
na pahiran ang mga iyon. 
Matapos noon ang sabi ni Leah, bago kami magsimula ng pagda-
rasal ng rosaryo,  “Para lamang pagpatak ng ulan, di ba? Naaalala ninyo,
noong tag-ulan?”  

Banyaga: A Song of War


NOTE: Banyaga: A Song of War follows the lives of three Chinese boys who
meet on a boat from Xiamen to Manila during the 1920s. They grow up to
be patriarchs of Chinese-Filipino clans. The novel looks at nearly a hundred
years of Philippine history from the Commonwealth period to the ‘post-Edsa’
years from the point of view of the lannang or Philippine Chinese. These two
early chapters concern the brothers Ah Puy and Ah Kaw who were brought
to Manila by a Chinese woman who bought and sold Chinese children to the
lannang. In the past, Chinese families bought children for prestige or as extra
hands to help out in the family enterprise.

Chapter 4-: Candle Maker

M ANY YEARS LATER, when he thought himself an old man,

Hilario Ong Ah Puy would rue the moment when he and his
younger brother Ah Kaw left the Customs House with the fat woman.
Ah Puy had won Ah Kaw back his pigeon as promised and Ah Kaw
knew his brother would also take him away from the fat woman. As

o ng i Ba n yaga: A Song of War 125
the fat woman waved down a horse cart and haggled with the driver
over the fare, Ah Kaw pulled at his brother’s shirt and turned to look
at a man wearing a brown suit and round hat like that of a farmer but
shinier. He looked like a soldier and Ah Kaw remembered what Lim
Sian Beng told them about reporting the fat woman to the authorities.
Ah Puy knew what Ah Kaw meant. He also saw that there were many
alleyways through which they could run and hide from the fat woman
who could certainly not outrun them. Ah Puy thought that if he kicked
the fat woman hard on the shin and pushed her to the ground, it would
take a while for her to recover, by which time he and his brother could be
well lost among the huanna. His blood raced and his heart pounded. One
strong kick and they’d be free forever! But the fear of being lost among
strangers in a strange land overcame Ah Puy and he allowed himself and
his brother to be taken to a gray concrete house with window grills on a
street where he could see other lannang.
“I have brought the boys here at much expense and great peril, Lao
Lay and Big Sister So Bee. I hope they serve you well,” Ah Puy heard
the fat woman say to a thin lannang in a blue shirt and a woman who
reminded the boy of his own late mother, and he wanted to cry.
“Come here!” the woman said. The fat woman pushed the two
brothers toward the couple who did not seem too happy with what they
saw. The woman looked Ah Puy over and nodded, she turned to the
smaller boy and frowned. She pried open Ah Kaw’s mouth and inspected
his teeth with her fingers, pulled down his eyelids and stared into the
boy’s eyes. “The bigger one is all right, the small one we’ll send to the
province to help my cousin with his duck embryos.”
“No!” Ah Puy shouted, “We stay together.”
The fat woman slapped the boy hard: “How dare you disrespect
your mistress!”
126 fi cti o n
“I will kill you, you fat bitch!” Ah Puy heard his heart scream but
his tongue was stone. “He belongs to us now!” the man said as he came
over to the boy, “we will teach him how to behave.”
“He belongs to whoever pays me for my trouble.”
“Here,” the man said, handing the fat woman a brown paper which
she received with much joy. “You are quite generous, Lao Lay, a man
of true benevolence. I would not have agreed to this matter if I was not
certain of your kindness as well as that of Big Sister.”
“How dare you call me sister?” the other woman whispered under
her breath but only said: “Our business with you is concluded, Ah Lui,
we do not expect to hear from you again.”
“Come now, Big Sister, why so harsh? Who knows but destiny has
a way of bringing people back together….”
“Go,” the man said and that was the last Ah Puy thought he would
see of the fat woman Ah Lui and his gut ached.
The couple brought the boys before the ancestral altar and instruct-
ed them to light joss sticks and kowtow before the portrait of a lannang
wearing pigtails and white cheongsam and a woman in olive chi pao.
“Pay respect to the ancestors,” the woman said. But as the boys knelt
down the man said: “No, not the small one.”
Ah Puy felt he should protest once again but the thought that his
younger brother would be spared the shame of kowtowing before anoth-
er’s ancestral shrine warmed the older boy’s heart. The woman placed
the joss sticks in Ah Puy’s hands and told him to bow. “Our distinguished
father, So Teak Kian, mother Ku Siew Kim, here before you is our un-
worthy son, and your descendant, Sio Hio Tiam. He will fulfill the obli-
gations that our own Hio Ping was unable to fulfill due to his untimely
passing. Accept him into the clan, grant him wisdom, keep him safe from
all dangers that he may not meet with the same fate as our unfortunate
Hio Ping who has gone to serve you in the other world,” the woman
o ng i Ba n yaga: A Song of War 127
prayed in the name of Ah Puy who was aghast that he had been sold to
another clan, another name, far from his own. His innards shook and his
bones cried out for redress even as he saw Ah Kaw looking confused.
“He is Ong Tian Puy, I am Ong Tian Siong we are from Si-siya!
This is not our clan! You are not our parents, let us go!” the younger
child shouted.
“Silence!” the man said as he moved to drag the boy away. Ah Puy
stood up to protect his brother but the man turned to him with a look
that struck fear in the boy’s heart for the first time. “Kneel! How dare
you stand up? Kneel!”
Ah Puy stood his ground though he felt nothing beneath his knees
save air. He locked eyes with the man, he saw Ah Kaw crying and he
blamed himself for not escaping with his brother when they could. He
would have stabbed himself with his father’s sword had he managed to
bring it along with him or else struck out at the man before him.
“Come, come,” the woman whispered, laying her hand on Ah Puy’s
shoulder, “kneel my son, kneel, your brother will be all right, we will
take care of him.”
“I don’t want him sent away.”
“He wont be sent away,” the woman said as she looked to the man
who let go of the smaller boy.
Ah Puy knelt once more to pay respects to his new ancestors. As
he spoke his new name: So Hio Tiam—Tiam, ‘replacement’ for the one
recently deceased—he felt a lightness suffuse him, he seemed happy
for a blessed moment until shame overcame him with a vengeance. Ah
Puy looked to his brother who was crying and wished that they’d both
jumped into the sea that morning when the adults came at them on the
deck of the ship and swum back to Xiamen. But he remembered again
that he couldn’t swim and vowed to learn how and to teach his brother.
128 fi cti o n
So Pin Lay and So So Bee ran a candle making factory twice the
length of the Ongs’ paddy field in Si-siya during their time of plenty. It
was a house of stone and wood which was once a huanna church. The
couple employed four huanna workers who melted the used wax that
huanna kids brought in pails to the factory every morning to sell to So
Lay. So Lay taught Ah Puy—whom the couple now called Ah Tiam—
how to weigh and measure old wax. He showed his new son how to
haggle with the huanna kids.
“This is a country flooded with candle wax—churches, temples,
mausoleums, processions—used candle everywhere. We don’t pay more
than five centavos a kilo,” So Lay told the boy he called Ah Tiam. The
boy kept silent but decided that once So Lay left the buying of old wax to
him, he, Ah Puy would pay more for them and would urge the kids to
bring their merchandise to the half-breed Anselmo Yaptingco who paid
eight centavos a kilo. The thought brought a smile to the boy’s face. He
watched the workers take the used wax to a vat of burning liquid. As
they threw the balls of cold wax into the vat, melted wax flowed down
a gutter into a closed tank. Once a week, the white man Morrison and
his huanna assistant came with drums of beeswax, which Ah Puy knew
of back in Si-siya, and paraffin, which he had never seen before. The
workers poured the stuff into the closed tank and mixed them with the
melted wax. The new wax was then brought to the large candle-making
machine that was unlike anything Ah Puy had seen back home. This was
a land of steel and machines, he decided, just like “Old Gold Mountain.”
The wax was poured down metal tubes suspended across another set
of tubes. When So Lay pulled a lever the tubes dipped and moved and
churned along with the spool of wick at the bottom of the contraption.
After some minutes, the tubes rose again and coughed up hundreds of
candles—thin fat, thin, short, long—white, for the newly dead; yellow,
for those at the end of their mourning period; red, for the long dead
o ng i Ba n yaga: A Song of War 129
or seemingly deathless. Three hundred sticks at a time, So Lay proudly
declared to the boy he called Ah Tiam. It was the most advanced candle
making equipment this side of the earth, the man said. He’d bought it
from Americans who sent the machine from a place called Boston where
everything froze during winter and tallow turned itself into candles so
no one had use for such machines. In any case, the Americans had electric
bulbs for all occasions, even for the dead, and no longer needed candles.
The boy remembered the one winter of his boyhood when the river be-
came hard as rock and the neighbor’s infant daughter froze along with
the fish and the earth and he suddenly feared for his life.
“Progress,” the man said, “machines, electricity, running water, au-
tomobiles! If I’d stayed in the old country I’d still be carrying night soil
for the landlord’s women! And these fools, these old heads, always pin-
ing for the old country, they make me sick. There is only death in the old
country. Endless dying! See how fortunate you are, Ah Tiam, to have a
new life!”
“Yes,” the boy said in his heart, though he remained quite, as always,
in front of the man, “how fortunate to have a new life, a new name.”
“We used to roll candles by hand, boy, three sticks an hour, sweating like
pigs, your mother and I and the huanna help. You don’t get that kind
of help anymore these days, son. The huanna today, spoilt rotten by the
Americans. Everyone wants to be a lawyer, to be a taxman, a mayor, sit
on his ass!”
The boy remembered the pigs his other father used to raise, the ones
they took to the provincial capitol to sell and pay for their grandmother’s
funeral and he became said once more. He began to understand then how
happiness was like this slippery fish that swam up and down the river of
memory, sometimes back across the channels of a past life, sometimes in
present waters, always in sight but never to be caught, never slain.
130 fi cti o n
Despite the machine, So Lay still worked the candles. He did all
the carving, scripting, gold dusting and embossing—Christian saints for
the candles sold to the huanna, dragons and Chinese characters for the
candles bought by the lannang for the living and the dead. “Can you read
and write?” he asked the boy. “Some.” “You will go to school and learn to
write our language as well as that of the huanna. Some things you must
do by yourself.”
When the boy now called Ah Tiam saw his once-brother, Ah Kaw,
hunched over the hardwood table rolling lengths of wax, along with the
huanna children who sold them—one centavo a candle—to poor church-
goers, he tasted blood in his mouth. “What is my brother doing there?”
he asked the man. “He must learn a trade. He must learn to work for his
keep. Machines serve only those who own them,” the man replied. “And
he is no longer your brother.”
“Come here,” the man called out to Ah Kaw. “This is your young
master, So Hio Tiam, you will address him properly from now on,
The boy nodded, not looking at the one he once called Big Brother
Ah Puy. “Say it,” the man demanded. “Young master, Hio Tiam,” the
smaller boy mumbled, “How may I serve you?”
The bigger boy heard in his mind’s ear the one voice of his many
ancients: “What are you, Ong Tian Puy? Why have you sold your name
and your brother to slavery that you may feast at another’s table?”
“It wasn’t me!” the bigger boy wanted to shout, “I did not ask for
any of this. I am only a boy! I have no strength to take on the world. I
only want my brother and I to live!” But he merely looked at the ground
beneath his brother’s feet and imagined himself eating the dust. Mean-
while, the man So Pin Lay felt something akin to contentment descend
upon him. He looked at all that stood before him and discerned a bright
o ng i Ba n yaga: A Song of War 131
future ahead. After all the pain and loss, things were finally falling into
place; the world had at last decided to do right by him. He puffed on
his foreign cigarette and tried desperately not to smile and squander his
good cheer. “Progress,” he whispered, “progress.”

Chapter 5: Homing Pigeon

AT SCHOOL, the boy once called Ah Puy learned to write his new
name. Su Hou Tian, it was pronounced in Mandarin. He was behind for
his age but quick to learn and within two months had advanced from
sitting with kids half his age to fifth grade. He learned about the Yellow
Emperor who studied herbal medicines, about his wife Lei Zu who cul-
tivated silkworms, about the Great Yu who harnessed the power of wa-
ter and founded the Xia Dynasty, about Shen Nong who taught people
agriculture and Qin Shih Huangdi who united the Middle Kingdom
and burned books. The boy had read about some of these characters pre-
viously but the months without school and food had dulled parts of his
memory. He learned to read and write once more the language of his
elders. His fingers, callused by plow and rake, regained their touch for
calligraphy and he could wield his brush once more as his old school-
master did.
The boy learned too the foreign alphabet. He learned that the coun-
try he now inhabited was ruled by white men—Americans—who came
in large boats from across the other ocean—just as parts of the Middle
Kingdom were now ruled by other white people- ‘foreign devils’ the old-
er folk called them. How powerful these white people, the boy thought.
How rich and fearless.
“It is because they have no emperor. They are free to think and act
for themselves. They have science and new learning. This is why our
President Sun Tiong San led the overthrow of the Manchu dynasty and
set up a republic in Nanjing. This is why we must fight the warlords who
132 fi cti o n
want to break up our country,” his teacher, Master Tong, had said. “But
how do we fight them from here?” the boy had wanted to ask his teacher
who seemed to have read the boy’s mind. “This is why you must study
hard and learn and make yourself strong and earn money. So that one
day, when the time is right, when your country calls, you can go back and
help build a new nation, a great nation, once again.”
Master Tong’s words rang inside Ah Tiam’s head. He had never
heard such words spoken. He had never been told how he—a boy who
must now claim another’s name, and call his own brother ‘servant’ could
do great things for his country. Everything told him to disbelieve his
teacher, to treat such words as empty wind. Still, every afternoon after
school, he’d rush home to teach Ah Kaw all that he, Ah Tiam, had learned
in the morning. His adoptive parents knew Ah Tiam was spending pre-
cious time teaching his brother but allowed their new son some leeway.
They had refused to send Ah Kaw to school despite Ah Tiam’s pleas but
thought it would do the younger boy good to have some learning. They
were also secretly impressed with Ah Tiam’s teaching ability.
“We will go home one day to build a new country,” the older boy
said to the younger one, “you must grow up to be learned and strong.”
Ah Kaw listend to every word his once brother said. “Yes, young
master,” he’d say, nodding. “Don’t call me that when the old ones aren’t
around!” the older boy would retort, pinching the younger boy’s ear. “All
right,” Ah Kaw would say though he had long stopped believed anything
the older boy, once called Ah Puy, said.
So Bee helped her husband So Lay sell their candles. Priests, sacris-
tans, Buddhist monks, undertakers, both the lannang and the huanna,
came to So Lay’s store to buy candles for wakes, funerals, processions,
birthdays. Their business was bigger than many others in the neighbor-
hood, far bigger than that of Anselmo who spread the rumor that So Lay
o ng i Ba n yaga: A Song of War 133
used aborted fetuses for his candles. One day So Lay hired some tough
guys to hunt down Anselmo who had already fled to the province.
Occasionally, So Bee would tell Ah Kaw to deliver candles to the
temple or the funeral parlor for some wake. People liked Ah Kaw and
seeing how small he was, they often gave him food and loose change.
He kept money in a bamboo jar hoping for the day he’d have enough
to buy himself another pigeon. So Bee had given Ah Suy away without
telling Ah Kaw. She said pigeon feathers made her very sick so that she
couldn’t breathe. His young master Ah Tiam had tried to console Ah
Kaw. “Homing pigeons always find their way back, she’ll come home,”
the older boy said but by then the younger one could no longer see traces
of the big brother he once called Ah Puy. He saw only a well-scrubbed,
happy boy, wearing white school uniform and brown trousers, who ate
warm meals at the masters’ table along with his ‘parents.’ He heard only
the laughter in So Bee’s voice as she told the neighbor how fortunate they
were to have found a bright and hardworking replacement heir for this
lost Hio Ping. He remembered always the day the sari-sari store owner
Tan Kang came to buy yellow candles for Tsuy Mia—the season of the
dead. Tan Kang had handed the money to Ah Kaw when Ah Tiam gave
Tan Kang the candles. “The money is with your kid brother,” Tan Kang
had said. Ah Tiam nodded but So Lay happened by and looked hard at
Ah Tiam who turned to Ah Kaw then stared at the ground beneath Tan
Kang, imagining himself an insect. “He is not my brother,” Ah Tiam
said. “Oh? You have some resemblance,” Tan Kang said. “That is our
servant boy Ah Kaw,” So Lay said.
Eventually, So Bee told Ah Tiam to sleep in her room while Ah
Kaw continued to sleep in the storeroom with some of the help. Ah Tiam
realized then that the couple did not sleep together and many years later
he’d wonder whether this had something to do with why some of the
lannang who did not like So Lay described him as one ‘who preferred
134 fi cti o n
the back way.’ Alone with his new mother, Ah Tiam screwed up his
courage and spoke: “Why can’t you adopt Ah Kaw as well? We’re real
brothers, we won’t quarrel. We will both serve you well and worship our
“We did not want to tell you this, son. But, before you came, we
had sent both your birth charts to the astrologer. He found yours to be
quite fortunate. You are destined for great things Ah Tiam but Ah Kaw
will not live a full life; he will not live to maturity. This was confirmed
that day we took the two of you to the palm reader. We cannot adopt Ah
Kaw without sharing his misfortune. You can longer call him brother,
Ah Tiam, your karma is now free of his, do not tempt fate.”
So Bee’s words were like poison darts shot through Ah Tiam’s san-
ity. “Liar!” he wanted to shout at her, “My brother is not cursed! He will
grow strong and learned and together we shall return home to build a
new nation, a great nation!” The boy Ah Tiam felt tears rising from the
pit of his gut. He wanted to cry, to wail. But he swallowed his anger and
his fear and he lay down on his cot and made himself stiff as a corpse. He
decided then that he would no longer be So Hio Tiam, that he would not
be a replacement heir but would strike out on his own someday to build
a fortune together with his brother Ah Kaw. He would be Ong Tian Puy
once more no matter what they called him in school or at home.
In the evenings, after they closed shop and counted the day’s earn-
ings, and cooled down the equipment, So Bee would sometimes go over
to Tan Kang’s sari-sari store to chat with the other women while So Lay
went to his room to play his horsehair lute which sounded sometimes to
Ah Puy like the screaming of so many kittens being slaughtered. He even
heard the singing voice of a woman emanating from So Lay’s room and
wondered whether his father kept a wound-up record player, like the
one they had in school, inside his bedroom or invited some female actor
to perform for him. It all sounded much like performances from the mu-
o ng i Ba n yaga: A Song of War 135
sical operas the boy had seen back in Si-siya when troupes from the pro-
vincial capitol or from Guangzhou visited. He never understood much
of the proceedings but he and Ah Kaw always loved the acrobatics. He’d
been told that the lannang in Manila also had troupes that performed
these shows especially during the feast days of the gods when they’d per-
form on temple grounds for unseen deities. Sometimes, troupes from
the mainland came by. Still, the boy had yet to see any such performance
after five months in the city. But that one evening when Ah Puy was
overcome by curiosity and peeked into So Lay’s room he saw someone in
flowing yellow robes, a head heavy with what seemed a flaming tree, a
face painted red, white and black. He saw the figure move blithely like
the emperor’s concubine in an opera he saw as a child, waving her fan
in the air and spinning like a top, he heard her sing and wail in a sharp,
fractured voice. Suddenly, the figure stopped and stared at the boy and
smiled. Ah Puy froze and turned to flee but the voice called out to him.
“Come in,” it said and Ah Puy saw that it was his father So Lay. “Come,”
the figure repeated, waving the boy into its presence with the fan. “You
like the opera?”
“I’ve seen a few. I don’t understand them”
“Jin Lu Yi,” So Lay said in Mandarin, “the poem of the golden coat.
In this scene, the virtuous Tang Dynasty maiden Du Qiu Niang reminds
her suitor that material things, like a golden coat, are not as precious as
Ah Puy nodded, transfixed by the sight of his adoptive father trans-
formed into an ancient maiden. “Three generations of our family were
in the theater, Ah Tiam. In the old days many male actors impersonated
women. My father performed many virtuous female roles. He played
the role of the filial Dou E who was unjustly executed but redeemed as a
ghost. My father was the most beloved Dou E south of the Yangzi River.
My mother played the pipa. She sang like a goddess, a great beauty. I
136 fi cti o n
wanted to be Dou E. I grew up serving actors, training to become one.
But my father died of a strange sickness, our troupe went bankrupt, my
mother took my younger brother and sister with her to become the third
wife of a Kuomintang General in Sichuan. I was sold to a family of trad-
ers who brought me here when I was fifteen. My wife, your mother, is
my foster sister.”
“You look strange,” the boy said.
The figure laughed a man’s laugh, no longer maiden but proud
warrior. “In the opera, Ah Tiam, you can be any character you wish to
be. You can be maiden, gentleman, villain, or warrior. You can celebrate
victory or rue defeat, sing of fidelity or betrayal, kill or be killed. Onstage
you are only your body, son, and what your body becomes at any mo-
ment, that is your soul.”
“You are not assigned certain roles?”
“In most cases, yes. I tried to put up a troupe here some years ago
but I couldn’t find enough talent. Most people laughed at me, called me
names behind my back. They supported amateurs and dilettantes but
not a dime for me. We live among barbarians, Ah Tiam, ignorant fools
everyone of these lannang, and yet they deem to call the natives huanna.
So I retreat to this civilized world, son, at the end of my day and become
human again. Would you like to learn a bit?”
“I don’t know. I have no talent for this.”
“Here, take this.” So Lay placed the fan in Ah Puy’s hand and guided
its movement like a schoolmaster teaching a child his first brush stroke.
“Hold it gently, close to your heart, and it is a maiden’s fan, her virtue, her
treasure. Flay it open, slash the wind, and it becomes a warrior’s sword.
Hold it like a horsewhip and you are a horse rider.”
Ah Puy felt a surge of energy. He felt the man’s body against his,
felt the man’s beating heart. Ah Puy smelled camphor, mint, and face
powder. He felt the man’s hand, hard and callused—unlike that of a
o ng i Ba n yaga: A Song of War 137
maiden—on the small of his back. “You have a good body, supple yet
firm. You can make a good actor,” So Lay said and Ah Puy felt a strange
sensation- he was excited yet uneasy. “Who knows, we may yet put up
our troupe, Ah Tiam, who knows?” So Lay whispered, pressing his fin-
gers into the young man’s shoulder blades, feeling for the actor bones, the
civilized bones, lodged deep within the peasant frame. “Who knows?”
“What are you doing?” So Bee’s voice ripped the cultured silence. So
Lay looked startled and pushed the boy away. “I was showing him how
to wield a fan. He has potential.”
“He has school tomorrow. He has no time for this. The priest is
coming for the paschal candles early in the morning, better go to bed.”
So Bee ordered Ah Puy out of the room. “That is your father’s own
room. Never go in there again,” she told the nearly teen-aged man she
called Ah Tiam. Years later, when Hilario Ong Ah Puy decided that he
too must have his own room away from the rest of the world, he remem-
bered So Bee’s words and realized that no matter what dangers one faced
inside a stranger’s room, the most dangerous room on earth will always
be one’s own.
Ah Puy avoided So Lay for the next few days. His father grew dis-
tant and did not bring up the opera again. So Bee, for her part, urged her
son to spend more time away from the store, which was also their home
as nearly all the lannang lived in the rooms above their stores and work
places, and to make more friends among the neighborhood youngsters.
She even gave him money to buy new clothes and to watch the moving
picture show at the Escolta with their neighbor’s kid. She asked him if
he liked any of the neighborhood girls or whether he preferred finding
his bride among the So village mates in the old country when the time
came for marriage. Ah Puy had no answers for So Bee’s queries. He took
her money and enjoyed himself and saved a nickel every week to buy Ah
138 fi cti o n
Kaw his new pigeon even though the younger boy no longer accepted
anything from his former brother.
That Sunday afternoon when he came home from watching the
moving picture showing white people dressed in black coats riding in
black automobiles in a city called Paris that had a tall tower—taller than
the Great Wall, Tan Kang said- and then the moving picture of a train—
he had yet to see a real one—falling into the river, Ah Puy heard singing
once more from So Lay’s room. But he heard as well the voice of someone
protesting, he thought he heard fear and anger, he thought he heard Ah
Kaw and Ah Puy rushing up the stairs, the moving pictures still roaming
across his mind’s screen. He saw the man in white undershirt, his body
taut and sinewy, and gray trousers, holding down the boy. “This won’t
hurt,” the man was saying. Ah Puy could not tell what was happening
but he knew Ah Kaw was in trouble. Ah Puy took So Lay’s staff, the one
he wielded whenever he played the martial hero Gak Hui—Yueh Fey in
Mandarin—rushed forward and struck the back of the man with a blow
that might have split the staff in half. The man gave out a horrible yell
and fell to the floor.
“You bastard! You disloyal dog! You’ve broken my back!”
“Leave my brother alone, pig!”
“I was only teaching him how to move, how to act. Would you rath-
er he sold candles in churches the rest of his life?”
“Liar! I’ll kill you!” The tension within Ah Puy that he’d felt since
the time inside the man’s room now broke. He kicked the fallen So Lay.
Meanwhile, Ah Kaw had fled. Ah Puy ran after his brother. “Leave me
alone. I’m no longer your brother!” the younger boy shouted.
“You can’t hide from me, you bastards! I’ll send the cops after you.
I’ll send people to kill you. I’ll hunt you down, you murderers! You’ve
hurt my spine. You’ve destroyed me!” So Lay ranted.
o ng i Ba n yaga: A Song of War 139
Ah Kaw ran downstairs and out the door towards the back alley but
the sight of a pigeon perch on an electric wire running the high fence on
the concrete wall separating adjoining buildings made his eyes light up.
“Ah Suy, you’re back!”
Ah Puy saw his brother clamber up the wall and climb the steel
fence like a monkey. “Get down Ah Kaw, its dangerous. She’ll come to
you, come down!”
But Ah Kaw was deaf to the other boy. Ah Kaw saw only Ah Suy,
his one relative left in the world. Ah Puy despite his fear of heights went
after Ah Kaw. Ah Kaw was the climber in the family, he’d climb every
tree in Si-siya. Ah Puy saw his brother crawl across the thin rail that led
to the neighbor’s backyard. He heard Ah Kaw call out to the bird sitting
like an empress on her copper wire.
“Be careful!” Ah Puy called out as he too made it through to the
neighbor’s part of the fence. The younger boy had reached for the pigeon
when the gust of wind came—from the north, Ah Puy, would always
remember, from where wolves were born. It rattled the wire and the
bird flew off, and the boy thought for one unforgiving moment that he
too could fly and he went after his pigeon, flapping unborn wings, and
the wind carried both animal and child for a while, and Ah Puy would
always remember it so—his brother and the pigeon, dancing in the wind,
free—but the boy became too heavy for the wind and even for the two
angels whom Ah Puy would later remember had tried to lift the boy, and
he fell to the ground like a rock, smashed into many pieces and the angels
had come to Ah Puy, hoping to rest briefly inside the young man’s heart
but he would no longer open its doors to any creature with wings.

Foggy Makes Me Sad


M Y MOTHER is accusing me of killing her hydrangeas. Mid-

morning in April and she is yelling in the garden beside the san-
tan hedge. Her lemon yellow caftan, sheer in the brightness, reveals her
bony frame and makes me think of a kite. She is calling out to my father.
Toneee! She wants to tell him what I’ve done to her flowers.
Hydrangeas! Not in Alabang, no, and my father has been dead many
years. But it doesn’t alarm me what Mama says or thinks anymore. I get
it. Even Louise understands now. “Isn’t that like going crazy, Mom?” she
asked me when it all started. I had thought so, too, for what else was that?
But I told Louise, “No, it’s not.” Lola’s stroke was a big commotion in her
brain—like an earthquake, I told her—and it damaged the dams that di-
vided the waters of pasts and presents and futures. That’s why sometimes
she is just right and sometimes she is so very wrong.
Just last night, over dinner, Mama asked my husband what his name
was, and, with a hint of condescension, asked where he lived. Jack was
picking on a crab with his fingers, and Mama was looking at him as if she
and his table manners didn’t belong to the same table.

v i llanueva i Foggy Mak es Me Sad 141
“Joaquin Gonzales, Lola,” Louise said. “And this is his house,” she
added, patting her father on the arm. Her besotted father craned his
neck toward her for a kiss.
“And which of my daughters do you want to marry?”
“Neither,” said Jack, not missing a beat.
Mama had liked Jack from the start even if he is older than me ten
years. I met him on a plane when I was management trainee at prc-Uni-
lever. On the LA-Manila via Honolulu. I had settled into my aisle seat,
already reading Mabuhay, when he came on, last to board. I straightened
up and tucked my toes under the seat to make room for him. When we
were dating a while, we teased each other about this first meeting. “You
did light up when you saw me. You liked me at first sight,” he said.
“That smile was sarcastic. It was saying ‘Who do you think you are,
holding up the flight?’”
“Somewhere over the Pacific it occurred to me I might marry you,”
was how he began when he proposed, and I burst out laughing. Then
I said, “Me, too. In fact, I read your card in the toilet to check if you
were really VP at Citibank.” Mama used to say I shouldn’t joke with
him too much I might turn him off. But Jack is constant. Faithful like
my father.
Tomorrow we ride a plane to Baguio to attend the 80th birthday
party of Pacita Martinez, who is like family to us. Her son Fonsy is plan-
ning the formal event, and he said it is going to be “really big, lots of old
familiar faces.” Perhaps excitement over this is what causes my mother’s
fit in the garden. She is now whacking the santans with a fly swatter and
the florets fly out of their clusters, like sparks. “These are ugly.”
“Maaaa, it’s too hot out there. Come on in and have iced tea while
we wait for Coylee.”
Louise comes to the lanai with a bundle of clothes and a large pair
of scissors. She is cutting sleeves off her shirts, legs off her pants. She is
142 fi cti o n
eight. She leaves in the next weekend to summer with her cousins in Ta-
cloban (my husband’s people) by the sea, and is putting together a beach
wardrobe. I tell her to get her grandmother out of the sun first “and don’t
just yell at her, I already did that.”
“I don’t yell at her, Mom.”
Which is true. Louise is a dear. She is now leading Mama back in,
holding her hand. They walk as if they are brides with long trains behind
them: that old Salazar elegance that somehow rubbed off on everyone
but me. But I got sense of humor—joie de vivre—from the Romeros,
which is a good bargain.
Mama downs a glass of iced tea and sits. Louise whispers to me,
“She called me Tini. She thinks I’m you.”
My sister Coylee arrives, looking fresh in a sleeveless blouse and
loose trousers. All-linen. All-white. All poise. She visits my mother on
Saturdays, and if Ma is up to it, they go out for a manicure or sit at Star-
bucks where, I tease Coylee, she lets Mama talk to her chocolate drink
while she reads.
“I made you pasta and bread with balsamic dip,” she says to my
mother and kisses her on both cheeks.
“Why?” says my mother.
“Why?” Coylee repeats, annoyed. She and my mother have always
had a close but testy relationship, though Coylee is clearly Mama’s favor-
ite. They seem to understand each other best, yet leave them alone for a
while and they are at each other’s throats.
Louise squeaks when Coylee hugs her too tightly. Coylee had prayed
for a daughter until her house was crawling with boys. Five of them.
“Don’t suffocate her,” my mother says.
“Bad mood,” I say, when Coylee raises her eyebrows at me. “You
should have seen her earlier—throwing a fit in the garden. Too excited
about Baguio, I think.”
v i llanueva i Foggy Mak es Me Sad 143
“Oh my Lord, Baguio,” Coylee says with a sigh. “Are you going
to Ba-guio with them, Loo-weez?” she talks to Louise as if Louise was
“Neow,” Louise apes her. She has made a hair band from scraps of
fabric and is now tying it around her grandmother’s head. “We were just
there New Year. I’m taa-yerd of going to Baguio all the time.”
“I don’t blame you. Your mom’s a fool for Baguio,” says Coylee.
“Baguio is heavy traffic and smog and horses that smell, no?”
“You didn’t see the grandeur of the old days, Louise, when Baguio
air was so clean, it was crisp in your nose,” I say. “Tell her about the old
days, Coylee. How it was.”
“Oh, it was baaad, Louise,” she says, laughing. “The baddest, bor-
ingest, saddest…foggiest—” Louise makes a face as Coylee speaks, pre-
tending Coylee is making her cry.
“Foggy makes me sad,” Mama says to nobody in particular.

WHEN I WAS LOUISE’S age we were renting in a three-door apart-

ment house in Baguio. From the street it looked like a bungalow, but
from the back it was three-tiered like a wedding cake upside down. We
had the middle flat; the Martinezes who owned the property lived above
us, street level; and below us, Nancy.
Behind the back perimeter was a sharp slope that went way down,
so we had a wide vista of mountain and sky at the back. When the fog
came in, the blue-green curves of the distant mountains disappeared first,
then the pines nearest the cyclone wire fence, and then everything else—
until there was nothing but a wall of cloud and we couldn’t see what.
We moved in the middle of the school year, and Coylee and I were
plucked out of Colegio del Buen Consejo in Pasig without any prior ar-
rangements for our transfer to a school in Baguio. The first months felt,
to me, like an extended holiday, which it was, exactly, for it took a while
144 fi cti o n
before we started school at St. Louis, behind the Cathedral. But to Coylee
and Mama those early days were no holidays at all. They were gloomy
all day—my mother lying in bed, Coylee watching Mama lie in bed.
Like mama was training for “Glum Face Olympics” and Coylee was her
“It was a bit slow in the beginning when we didn’t go around
much—it was raining most of the time, and Mama was always in a bad
mood, or else depressed,” I tell Louise.
“And the late afternoon fog, that was so dreary.” Coylee says.
“It was not!” I protest. “Maybe melancholy, which means, Louise,
a sweet kind of sad. Anyhow the fog was beautiful—it still is, though
thinner now. And I made friends right off with Nancy so I wasn’t all that
bored. She was nice, made me call her Ate, like an older sister.”
“Nancy lives downstairs,” my mother says, as if Nancy were actu-
ally downstairs this moment, but Mama is smiling now, and I am re-
lieved. I was beginning to worry that the conversation would upset her
and change her mind about going to Baguio.
“Is that true, Mom?” Louise has learned to double-check her Lola’s
facts, which sometimes are really off, like she would say, coming from
shopping, that she had been to Escolta but really was just to Town Center
outside the village. But Mama has a more reliable long-term memory,
and this I tell Louise now as we make ourselves more comfortable on
the couch.
“Yes, that’s true,” I say. “Nancy lived below us. She was hip and styl-
ish like a model, but she had two fat sons, full of trouble. I hung out at
her place a lot because our upstairs neighbors were all in school and my
sister was a glumboat,” I say.
I loved Nancy’s place. She owned nice things: binoculars, snow
globes, a pair of wooden shoes, a cuckoo clock. She said her husband,
whom we never saw, was a ship captain in Europe. She had a tape re-
v i llanueva i Foggy Mak es Me Sad 145
corder with a microphone that she let me borrow sometimes. I would ask
my father to cue the tape, and then I read from a book or recited “The
Owl and the Pussycat.” He said I had good diction, and I always showed
off. Coylee did her recording in secret—in the bathroom: “It’s Going to
Take Some Time This Time,” trying to sound like Karen Carpenter. I
once played back her song in front of the neighbors —“After all the tears
we’ve spent, how could we make a-ha-mends?”—and, after she cried in
our room all afternoon, she decapitated my teddy bear. Even-steven, she
said, when it was my turn to cry.
“That Nancy was a little strange,” Coylee says. “She wore stiletto
boots and velvet hot pants for simple trips, like to Session for a roll of
film at Bheeromull’s. But her kids were funny. The older one—what’s
his name?—tortured the smaller one every chance he got.”
Louise’s eyes widen at the sound of ‘torture.’
“Freddie was the younger one. I think he was only two, but he was
huge! Nancy called him “chief,” because his hands were always on his
hips, like a supervisor. The older one, Bongbong, he once plunked a
whole can of rugby on Freddie’s head and Freddie still held his hips as
the goo dripped down his neck and all,” I say.
“You know, now that I think about it, that boy Bongbong had
adhd,” says Coylee.
“He slid his brother’s finger in the doorjamb of our front door, I
had to call a carpenter from the construction site to take the door off its
hinges,” says Mama.
“Ma, you’re so lucid!” Coylee says, kissing her again, and this time
Mama kisses back.
“Coylee, did you know about Nancy? That she had a thing with Tito
Otto, and that she left because she had gotten pregnant?” I say, meaning
to shock her. Roxanne Martinez, now Guggenheim, told me this about
her father only last week, when she arrived from Geneva.
146 fi cti o n
“No, not for sure, but I figured.”
“You figured? How could you figure something like that out?”
She doesn’t answer. Instead she asks me why I talk about things like
this in front of my daughter. She took courses in child psychology last year
that she said would help her with her work at Bantay Bata. But really
she has a restless mind that makes her take all sorts of odd courses—19th
century English poetry, development economics, personality theory, even
yoga. She’s big on advice. As if, oh God, she were my role model.

THE MARTINEZES—our landlords in Baguio and whose party we

are attending tomorrow—are a big family, eight children one after the
other. They had us for dinner the night we moved in, and Coylee and
I were dumbstruck by all the buenas, quieres, and cuantos años tienes we
were hearing from so many mouths. We didn’t know a word of Spanish
and felt grossly inferior, so we didn’t hit it off with the kids right away.
They would be eyeing me as I would be eyeing them when they came
home from school and lingered in their terrace in the afternoon. I was
always in the lower terrace in front of our flat, pretending to garden, but
actually staking them out. We became playmates eventually, and later,
my lifelong friends. We all went to school in St. Louis where I was in
the same class as Roxanne, and Coylee, two levels ahead, was classmates
with Fonsy.
At some point I became inseparable from the Martinezes except for
the older ones, Sofia and Bobby. Mornings, my father took Coylee and
me to school in his car, but we walked home with the Martinezes after
classes. Some lazy afternoons, we went straight home, stopping only at
the store for plastic balloons, inflatable paper balls and tira-tira candy.
But when we were in the mood for it, we crossed Session and played in
Burnham. Or else took a circuitous route home. We peeled bark off the
rubber tree in front of Baguio City High once and boiled them in sugar
v i llanueva i Foggy Mak es Me Sad 147
and maple syrup, because someone had theorized it would make chew-
ing gum. That was one of the few times our Mamas scolded us: don’t ever
play with the gas stove. Otherwise, they left us mostly alone.
At that first dinner, Mr. Martinez (we would later call him Tito
Otto) taught us to say buenas. He had a booming voice that we would, for
three years, hear from downstairs through the concrete floor. He played
golf at the Country Club every morning then hung out at the Romulo
Room until late afternoon, smoking cigars, talking with other regulars.
He was rabidly anti-Marcos, and he cursed the man all the time: Hijo de
puta, coño! Cabron, coño! I was scared of him. He had dark eyes and a
square jaw. It shocks me that he had seduced a tenant and had a bastard
son right under the noses of his children—and that Tita Pacita found out
but forgave him. How does one forgive something like that?
I was in awe of Pacita Martinez when I was a child. She was so fair
she glowed in the dark like my rosary. Mama pinched me secretly when
she caught me staring at her hips, which were so wide, eight children
could have fallen out of her all at once. She had to turn sideways going
through doors, and her legs were like tree stumps. But she had flair. She
exuded power with those hips that she swung like she was Amparo Mu-
ñoz, whose winning the Ms. Universe in ‘74—she was from Spain—was
cause for pandemonium at the Martinez household. And she was a kind
woman, with gray-green eyes that disappeared into her face when she
Their house was definitely a tight fit: full of books and antique fur-
niture, loud music and even louder people. You would know that Tito
Otto was home if operatic music wafted out of the windows. Him and
Mario Lanza. On the wall beside their TV was a scroll of carved pine
nameplates tied together by chains: Otto y Pacita at the top, and below,
Sofiah, Bhobby, Rhamon, Fhonseeh, Khelly, Rhoxanne, Dhavid and
Quitoh. It impressed us that Fonsy had made them himself, and later
148 fi cti o n
he made one for my sister—Coyleeh, in red—and we all started to tease
them. Fonsy-and-Coylee! Kissy-Kissy! We had no idea Fonsy was gay.
I looked like Louise then. Only I was so scrawny that when my
thick black hair hung loose I looked untidy. My mother didn’t just
say so—she turned a mop on its head and waved it to my face. This!
Like it was my picture. Look at Coylee’s hair. Short and neat. But I
wanted it long like the Martinez girls. So she tied my hair in a ponytail
so tight my scalp tingled and my eyes tilted upwards like I had had a
fourth facelift. Everyday. The boys upstairs called me Shintaro, after
this chinky-eyed guy we watched on TV whose ponytail swished as he
swung his samurai.
Coylee, three years older, had always been prettier, but she was quiet
and aloof, always reluctant to join in. We called her Coylee—kulelat—
she was so slow, she was always last to finish anything. She would have
been forever “it” in hide-and-seek had we not gotten bored and picked
someone else. She was always brooding so that Ramon once asked her,
“Penis for your thoughts?” She punched him in the face.

COYLEE IS NOT going to the party. She said the Bantay Bata, for
which she volunteers a huge lot of time and money, is staging a big fund-
raiser on the night of Tita Pacita’s birthday, though I doubt that is true.
I had expected her to decline the invitation anyway because for some
reason, she had not gone back to Baguio all these years and I didn’t think
this party could make her.
“Because she’s a rotten killjoy,” I tell Louise when she asks why
Coylee is not coming.
“Oh-my-lord, the things you say!”
She’s that kind of woman: caught in her own time warp and says O
my lord and okidokey like it’s 1964. I tell her, “What are you, then?”
v i llanueva i Foggy Mak es Me Sad 149
“I have important things to do. I’m not a party animal like some
people,” she says, a bit too sharply, I notice, but I let that pass because I
have known from childhood that getting into a fight with Coylee is like
slapping myself in the face, twice. She’s like a Sicilian Mafioso that way—
won’t let you get away with anything. She’s difficult. In the years after
we moved back to Manila in ‘76 she was unbearable. When my parents
refused to give her driving lessons at 15, she holed up in her room until,
after midnight, when all in the house was asleep, she drove Papa’s Cama-
ro onto Mama’s garden and into the concrete fence. I expected my father
to explode then, but he was calm. The next I knew, Coylee was seeing
Dr. Carandang “to help her,” said my mother, “deal with adolescence.”
Coylee is now past 40 and marriage and motherhood have softened her
at the edges, but still. “ I’m not an idle matron of leisure like your mom,
sweetie,” she tells Louise.
“Idol matron of what?” Louise asks.
Mama speaks before anyone could correct Louise. “Tini does noth-
ing but walk with her Papa.” Mama is lost in time again, back to our ear-
liest days in Baguio when our furniture hadn’t arrived from Manila and
all we had were the beds and the dining set we bought from Americans
at John Hay. Papa came home to a pall of quiet and he tried to stir the air
with cheer. “I’m ho-ome,” he would holler, and hearing it from wherever
I was in the compound, I came running home like Super Animation, a
dopey smile plastered on my face. But then my mother and sister would
hole themselves up in the bedroom just as he arrived, leaving the two of us
alone and bewildered in the empty sala. When it rained, he lit the fireplace
and pored over blueprints quietly. I did all sorts of tricks—dance, sing,
recite poems, burn myself accidentally in the fireplace—to get his atten-
tion. But clear days were good, because then we went out for long walks.
We hiked up Lower Session, past the Pines Hotel, then we sat on a bench
in Burnham, watched the boats until it got dark.
150 fi cti o n
Just once, I got him to ride a boat with me. The sky was overcast—
that must have been November—and the air smelled of rain and boiled
peanuts in the empty park. I was sitting across from him as he rowed,
and the gathering mist blurred the park behind him until all there was,
it seemed to me, was his face and the stark red of his parka. I imagined
we were alone at sea. The owl and the pussycat. In a beautiful pea-green
boat. They took some honey and pl-lenty of money. But there was some-
thing about the way he rowed, the way his eyes clung to the water below
that made me ask, “Are we sad, Papa?” He jerked his head as if I woke
him up from sleep, and our boat rocked a little. Just then a big cloud full
of cold rain went down on Burnham, on the lake, on us. “Oh no, race to
the shorehaha!” “Hahahahurry, Papahaha!” The rain wet the tip of my
nape above my jacket collar and crawled down my back like a worm.
“Your mom was a daddy’s girl,” Coylee says.
“Nye, nye, daddy’s girl,” my daughter says, teasing me the way I
always tease her, and I stand up and curtsy.
“We always asked you to come, Coyl, you and Ma, but you always
said no,” I say.
“Did you ever meet with anyone? On any of your walks?” Coylee
“No. We just walked by ourselves. Sat at the park. Why?”
“Tini didn’t see,” Mama tells me.
“What? Didn’t see what?”
“That we were unhappy. Misery,” Coylee says it like it was some-
one’s name.
“What do you mean, I didn’t see? How could I miss it? Just a little
more and Misery would come alive and be a third sister,” I say, making
Louise laugh. When Louise laughs I am reminded of the sound of spoons
tapping the sides of crystal goblets at weddings.
v i llanueva i Foggy Mak es Me Sad 151
Coylee walks over to where my mother is sitting and massages her
shoulders. “It will be good for you to go to Tita Pacita’s party, Ma. She was
awfully nice to you, remember? How she taught you how to cook all those
yummy español things? And remember, she and her amigas took you to
John Hay, play bingo Saturday nights?
“Churros con rhubarb jam,” Mama says.
“That’s right, Ma! You and Tita Pacita invented that. Oh my, I had
forgotten how that tastes,” Coylee says, and I remind her it was bad.
“What’s rhubarb, Tita Coylee?”

IT’S TRUE WHAT Coylee says about Tita Pacita having been good
to—and for—my mother. She got Mama out of her depression by get-
ting her to garden and by bringing her upstairs to her kitchen for paella
lessons and girl-gossip.
But Coylee! She was hopeless. The only time she perked up was
on our last months in Baguio, when she fell in puppy love with Tito
One afternoon, this man about my father’s age parked his car on the
road above our terrace and whistled at us girls playing drop-the-hand-
kerchief. The whole outfit intrigued me—black beret, a silky shirt that
hugged his body somewhat and leather jacket that hung on his shoulders
like a cape. The Martinezes all screamed. Tito Miling! He looked to me
important, maybe famous, so I rushed into the house to get my parents
and ran back out to ogle some more. He was taking out golf clubs and
suitcases from the trunk of the car, and I urged Dad to help him out,
but he said, “Who is that?” Then Tito Otto came and they slapped each
other’s backs over and over. We all stood there thrilled as they gingerly
walked down the steps with the load. Nancy had moved away by then,
and Tito Miling—he was Otto Martinez’s younger brother—took over
152 fi cti o n
the basement. He kissed our hands, Mama and Coylee and me. Buenas
He was new in the city, but he claimed to be a professional tourist—
“Been on adventures around the world,” he said. Around the world?
Arrround? When he spoke he always sounded like a barker at a circus,
and behaved as if Baguio were just that. He took us everywhere that
summer—our last in Baguio. We went to Trinidad Valley to pick straw-
berries; to Sto. Tomas peak, where we screamed in terror of the deep
ravines inches from the tires of our rented jeep. He got us passes to the
still-restricted Camp John Hay where we bought peach pie and apple pie
at the bakery some mornings. We hiked all the way to Mines View and
back, walking in the woods where we could, gathering pinecones. We
trailed Tito Miling like a pack of scouts. He whistled at those of us who
putted well at mini-golf, but hounded the bad shots. What golf score are
you aiming for—200? Coylee was always close by him, sometimes hang-
ing on to the hem of his jacket. We ate french fries and ice cream at the
Pines Hotel, pancit and Coke at the Star Café, played ten-pin bowling at
Mile-hi. “Let’s have tea at Nineteenth Tee!” we shouted at his instigation.
When it got muggy out, we stayed indoors. At home he wore a dark silk
robe over pajamas and smoked a pipe like in the movies.
Once, in a brownout, we played Scrabble with him and Mama,
with just the raging fire in the fireplace for light. He connected the word
“scarab” to my baby and I cried foul. “No Spanish words!” No,no,no
hija. That got him to talk about his trip to Egypt, about the pyramids, the
pharaohs and sacred beetles and sphinxes and curses and magic. It was as
if Tutankhamen himself was right there before us. Even Mama was mes-
merized. I watched the flames dance in the black of her eyes as she stared
up at Tito Miling with her mouth slightly parted. His voice was like ex-
otic music in the hush, broken now and again by the spit and crackle of
pine—and the hard breathing of Roxanne who was asthmatic.
v i llanueva i Foggy Mak es Me Sad 153
Tita Pacita and my Ma were taking turns feeding Tito Miling by that
time. “Women should cook, for how else will they earn their pleasures
from the men?” he said. Tito Otto and Papa and Tita Pacita laughed out
loud while Mama covered her face. We didn’t understand half the things
he said then, but it was our sense that he was smart. Man of the world.
He was gracious to us when he came to dinner. He always brought
token gifts “for the cook and her cookies”: a quart of whipped cream
from John Hay, a pack of sunflower seeds, all sorts of little things, even a
bottle of Prell shampoo. Once, he gave my mother a silver pendant in the
shape of a conch shell that he said he found on the roadside. Some eve-
nings, he and Tito Otto would call out to my dad from upstairs—Oye,
Tony Romero! they’d yell—and they would drink Black Label. In the
early mornings, Tito Miling walked in the terrace, whistling in the fog.
Baguio was more beautiful then, and colder, surely, with more pine
and bigger, brighter flowers. Blue hydrangeas were our favorite: tiny
flowerets sprinkled with blue powder, conjoined in clusters big as plates.
My mother grew them in the sloping terraces that were our garden. “Oh,
I can only look and admire, hija. If I stepped on those terraces, the world
will crumble under my hips,” said Tita Pacita, guffawing like mad. I like
her so. I never fail to pay her a visit whenever I am up in the city. On my
wedding she was principal sponsor, and I reserved four banquet tables
for the Martinezes at the reception, some of whom flew in from abroad
to attend. Tito Otto had died of a heart attack just a few months before
the big earthquake.

MY MATERNAL grandfather’s engineering company had won the

electrical contract for a big hotel construction in Baguio, and my fa-
ther was the project manager. In the beginning, Papa traveled back and
forth from Manila; he stayed at the Baguio Country Club a few days,
sometimes a week, and then he would come home. Later his absences
154 fi cti o n
got longer: two weeks, three. One day, we came home from school to
find our bags packed and our traveling clothes ready on our dresser. My
grandfather’s black Impala was idling in the garage, with Mang Andoy,
his driver, waiting to take us. “Your Lolo wants us to surprise Papa,” my
mother said happily, and at that Coylee and I made a racket of jumping
and screaming with joy.
Because “Are we there yet?” started as early as Bulacan, Mama in-
sisted we sleep, and somewhere in Tarlac, I guess because my mother was
pinning her down on her lap, Coylee gave in. But I wouldn’t sleep if she
gave me an upper cut on the jaw. It was already evening when we started
up Kennon—Zig-Zag Road then—but still, my face was plastered on
the car window. I felt goose bumps as the ghostly outlines of mountains
loomed above me, but I pretended I wasn’t scared. I was looking out for
Papa. I have to see Papa first. Me first. Instead I saw milky waterfalls in
the glimmering dark. Maybe I will see him on the next turn.
Coylee woke up feeling cold so we put on our woolen sweaters, and
Mama let us open the windows an inch so we could sniff the pine in the
air. The stakes were up: Coylee was looking out for him, too. When that
ghastly lion appeared on Coylee’s side of the window she thought she
had seen a monster and she screamed so bad I missed the lion. Saw her
tonsils instead.
“It’s just a statue, Coylee, hush.” She had buried her face in Mama’s
chest and was not looking for Papa anymore. I said she was a stupid
scaredy cat.
After Mama pointed out the General Hospital at a turn, I began to
feel a throbbing in my gut that pumped a flood of spit up my throat. I
turned away from the window and sat back rigidly, swallowing hard to
keep the drool in. I threw up at the veranda of the country club.
My mother took a while getting the key to Papa’s room and then she
had to apologize on my behalf and we waited some more for someone
v i llanueva i Foggy Mak es Me Sad 155
to come and clean up my mess. In the meantime Coylee tortured me.
Tini, you’re so embarrassing. You were cross-eyed, did you know? And
you stink. Papa won’t kiss you surely. She didn’t stop until I slunk into
a corner sitting on my haunches. (I did this a lot when I was a child, but
only when I knew my Papa was nearby. I would sulk in a corner, act
as if I were made of wood, a girl Pinocchio, and waited for Papa to fix
everything and make me human again.) I refused to budge until Mama
lost her patience and she and Coylee left me alone.
I had been sitting there like an anito for what seemed to me forever,
when a cold, quiet mist began to creep in from the dark, and everything
was covered in a blanket of flimsy white air. The pine trees in the golf
course disappeared—I thought for real. Everywhere I looked was the
sight of mist descending, of things fading away into nothing and I pan-
icked at the thought that I would never be found. Then, from out of the
wafting whiteness, my father slowly emerged. Like God.
I pitched this exact same scene for a toothpaste ad when I was a
rookie Brand Manager. I fought hard for it, too. What do you mean,
where is the romance? The father smiles—white teeth gleaming in the
fog, how beautiful is that?—and when the little girl sees him, she stops
crying and smiles too! What’s a better Close Up moment than that?
I lost. We don’t cater to milk teeth, they said, as if I didn’t know
that, I was Brand Manager for Christ’s sake. My idea didn’t even get to
come alive in a storyboard. Instead the agency came out with the same
formula of good-looking teenagers giddy with romance—white teeth,
fresh breath, love. (These days, it’s white teeth, fresh breath, French kiss.
But I have nothing to do with that—I retired as soon as I got pregnant
at 32.)
I supposed afterwards that my story idea bombed because it wasn’t
completely authentic. The truth was, when I saw Papa materialize in the
mist, I didn’t smile—I howled! I raked at him with my nails, pounded at
156 fi cti o n
him with my fists until my hands were numb. Coylee got to see you first!
Coylee got to kiss you first! He carried me upstairs and I was in deep
exhausted sleep before we got there.
What has been so amazing to me, all these years that I think about
it, was the earnestness of his apology. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry as though he
had done the puking himself. And when I woke up the next morning, I
saw him sleeping on the floor beside the couch where I slept. Guarding
me all night like a labrador. What tender, poignant love—to humor a kid
that way. These are memories I keep going back to Baguio for.
Louise is not even half the Papa’s girl that I was. Still, I make it a
point Jake understands how profoundly important it is that he remain
untainted in Louise’s eyes the way my father remained in mine. “I have a
solid sense of self because of that,” I told Jack once. You mean, it’s not the
two-hour daily at Fitness First? But he knows what I mean.

THE MORNING AFTER we arrived in Baguio and I threw that wild

tantrum on Papa, we sat at breakfast on the veranda, next to the golf
course. Mama and Papa were staring blankly at the blur of trees and
grass, their faces stiff, their breaths steaming. Coylee’s head was bowed,
mashing strawberries on her plate with a fork. A thick, solid wall of fog
had crept in and was now lingering around us. Like misery.
I am telling this story to Louise, who insists on hearing more of
Baguio as we wait for the maids to set table for lunch.
“So you know what I did? I chirped: I’m not mad anymore. It’s okay
Coylee got to see Papa first. Can we all be happy now?”
Louise laughs at the silly girl I was.
“Hala, Mom,” Louise says after a while. “Lola says she’s not going
to Baguio with you.”
“Oh, no. Here we go, here we bloody go,” I say.
v i llanueva i Foggy Mak es Me Sad 157
“Foggy—” my mother whimpers when Coylee and I glower at her.
She starts to cry.
“Maaa! It’s not going to be foggy tomorrow, I promise,” I lie.
“But I don’t want to see that Tony Romero!” Mama says.
“Ma!” Coylee barks. “Tony Romero is dead.”
“Is he dead?” Mama says. Louise puts a hand on her mouth, hiding
her grin.
“Yes, Ma, eight years already,” Coylee and I chorus.
“Oh, good. Good for him he’s dead.” Mama says. She grieved deeply
for Papa when he died, and never, to my mind, really recovered from
the pain of her loss until the stroke that left her partially demented. It’s a
good thing, in a way.
My mother is scowling. “Mama, come let’s take a look at your
gown,” Coylee says when Mama says something nasty again about my
father. Louise tells a funny story—how Mama said “I’m getting married”
when she tried on her gown at Aureo’s atelier last week.
“Come on, Ma, let’s go to your bedroom and see it,” she repeats.
“I’m. Not. Going. Basta!”
This reminds me of that first morning in Baguio, after that gloomy
breakfast—Mama sounded exactly the same, insisting on going back
home when we had just arrived the night before. We. Are. Going. Back.
Now. I counted on Coylee to cry with me, protest with me, but she was
silently watching Mama as if waiting for her face to explode or some-
thing. I couldn’t do my Pinocchio trick because of the trauma of the night
before, so my terror of leaving my father again—not to mention getting
carsick!—got me desperate. I wailed and rolled on the floor of the ve-
randa like an epileptic. It worked. We stayed three years, didn’t leave till
I was 11.
Mama says to Louise, “No, no, no! Tony Romero had a—”
“Shut up, Ma,” says Coylee.
158 fi cti o n
My nerves begin to get prickly—all that trouble! Getting my moth-
er up to Baguio was no simple operation. There were all sorts of lab tests
at the hospital for her clearance to travel, the visits to the designer for
her gown, the plane tickets for her and her two private nurses, all these
things for naught—and not just that, she just might have another stroke
right here, now. And so when Coylee raises her voice and says, “Oh, just
shut up and go, you crazy woman,” and Mama cries even harder, I lose
it. “You shut the hell up. You’re making it worse, Coylee. All your life,
you make things—”
I stop myself.
“All my life I make things what?” Coylee glares at me, gives me
the kind of portentous look that says I’m gonna get you. I signal Louise
to leave.
Now Mama is angry, too. “I brought the children all this way, Tini
was so carsick, and this, is this what we came here for?”
Coylee squats on the floor in front of Mama, massages her thighs
gently and talks to her, time and again glancing at me as if to make sure
I’m hearing. She says, “It doesn’t mean anything, Ma. Some women are
picked up on the street and sent home after men are done with them.
She is just one of those. Don’t cry now, Ma. Hush. He doesn’t even love
her; he loves us.”
“I want to leave now! Get Andoy. Get the children back in the car
now.” Mama yells.
“Papa doesn’t want us to go, can’t you see? He’s sorry. The girl is
gone. He will not see her again. He loves you and me and Tini. Don’t
cry now, Ma.”
Coylee keeps kneading Mama’s thighs, breathing aloud, deeply, in
and out, wanting Mama to fall into her rhythm.
v i llanueva i Foggy Mak es Me Sad 159
I sidle up to my mother and sister. “What are you talking about?”
I want to ask them, but they seem to be enclosed in a cover of cloud, the
air between them full of secrets.
“Tini didn’t see?” Mama whispers after a pause.
“No, Ma. She was in the veranda. She didn’t see anything.”
“But Coylee saw! I’m so mad! No child should. No child.” Mama
“Yes, Ma, but it’s all right. See? Look at me: Coylee is okay. You are,
too. Hush now.”
“Don’t tell our little Tini,” says Mama.
“I promise I will never tell her, Ma. I will not hurt Tini with this, cross
my heart.”

“AMAZING, HUH,” Coylee says. Mama’s grief had lifted like a veil
after she’d soothed her and was cheerful when she ate her pasta at lunch.
As if nothing happened. Coylee herself took her to the bedroom for her
afternoon nap, and she rejoins me at the dining table after our plates have
been taken away untouched. Her eyes have shed their sharpness; her skin
is no longer flushed.
“You just have to ride with her delusions. Sympathy does it,” she
says. “Be in her ‘present,’ whatever it is she’s imagining.”
“No, Coyl. No way you can take that back now. No,” I say, and I
don’t like the sound of my voice.
“Well, I guess,” she says after a while. “But don’t be sorry for her.
She got back at him. They’re square. Remember that clown, Miling?”
I nod.
“I saw them kissing—he and Ma—down the back where we hang
the laundry. I looked and I looked again. They were kissing. Didn’t even
notice me. I felt my knees literally buckle, I tell you, as I ran back up the
160 fi cti o n
“God, the things you saw,” I say, and I’m really sounding funny
now. Something with my voice.
“The horror of it was, I was in love with that son of a bitch,” she
“I know.”
What am I sounding like?
“And so when no one was looking, I got Mama’s trowel and hacked
at her flowers. Hydrangeas, dahlias, lilies, pitimini—I killed them all.”
I saw that ravaged garden. Roxanne and I figured it was a pack of
dogs did it. “Did you tell her you saw?” I sound like a pussycat. The Owl
and the Pussycat.
“Nah,” she says. “I told Pa.”
Coylee and I are quiet for a long, long time—we do things like sigh,
shake our heads, bite our lips—chuckle, even—but there are no words
between us even when Jack comes in from his golf game. He attempts
small talk, but he gets nothing. He excuses himself and looks for Louise.
I twiddle my fingers as I watch him: his graying hair, his tanned skin, his
bright red shirt. Red like a parka. On a boat. In the rain.
i  R AY M O N D D E B O R J A


We are thumbing through the tables,

english to metric, Spanish to English,

to a version we can fully understand.

It is nightbreak. The librarian switches on the lights.

Don’t you feel we are always in the interim?

The shadows are swept out in one breathing—

Light, a religion they will not serve. Hence,

they gather. Beyond the walls, they form their own.

Fe is faith. I walk out and spread the good news.

The logical people will never understand.

Sometimes I don’t believe in God. Sometimes I do.

Sometimes I don’t check my beliefs.

I was made logical.

There are some things I cannot feel.

A star explodes. Pure void. Pure gravity.

In some city they are dropping bombs.

162 p o etry
250 feet, 76.2 meters, 4 seconds.
In his next life he becomes a bird.

A multi-colored, caged bird.


Each day I am closer and closer to an understanding.

Because every exit is an open door. Every going out
then moving in is for some brief moment
a single event. Step now, and suffer. A street

branches out to a street. What does it mean

to have a choice? I’ve seen an old man
shut his eyes, in prayer, from the world
then claim to have spoken to God.

Back then, he had everything to ask.

All the isms coalesce and clash then are cast aside
after some post ism. Now, this: wavefront after
wavefront, all the weightless streams of light

accruing into something heavy, white,

which can stand for many things—peace,
purity, or nothing. Absence—
the spectral colors each to each to each
b orja i 163
Matter is neither created nor destroyed.
They are dropping bombs.

This morning, I walked past two funeral marches.

Two lives. A cortege of changed lives.

At the street, a woman yells at her child.

Her words are translated – part lesson,

part hate, part tears rolling down the cheeks

with the weight of a road’s reflection,

part immunity.
Next time, it will be more difficult to cry.

We study emotions. We understand them.

We don’t need them. Need can be manufactured.

This is the world. Virtue is relative.

Virtue can be customized.

Don’t you feel we are always in the interim?

The world is flat. The world is an assembly line.

There are no endpoints.

What seems to be the end ramifies and ramifies.

A Trappist monk commits suicide,

jumps off a 20-storey building –
164 p o etry
lost in each other… Closer
and closer, I say, because I do not trust
this sudden knowledge. A leaf
bursts into a universe. This grain of sand,

a world. This red flower is a heart— all feeling.

Because the crumbling house of age
does not leave room for questions.
“Hush”, I say, I must think.

And the word dissolves in the city

which may stand for the mind, bustling, while the gray
corridors of it wait for verity
to come in, shut the door.

Tell Me, Where Is the Soul

When we cut open the frog, we found the heart

slowly rid of its functions, its small beating,
still beating then just still. The focused eye,
the steady hand, I understand that stillness
is a way to knowing. When we opened the heart,
we found more of the heart and nothing more.
Oh, we know them by many names—the soul,
the spirit. What measures we have taken:
You split the lark to find the song; the swan
to collect the golden eggs; when they opened the door,
the room drank in its first taste of light for many months
b orja i 165
and the boy locked up for many years
couldn’t speak, has forgotten how to speak.
Silence is the primal language, and each day
many are called to remember: the man
who didn’t wake, the child who failed to return
from school, the purple-gray body on the autopsy table.
After the dissection, we were asked to scrape off
the skin and muscles, and name every bone --
here is where the heart was,
here the lungs, here the low croak.

The Limits of Archaeology

Understand there are no answers in this slow

science. What keeps us digging
are bones. The idea that always
there is something to find. Such faith.
But today there are fewer cities
underneath, lesser kings.
Sometimes I point to the sky, and curse,
and it answers back in birds.
This is fine however, meaningless.
Consider locusts, consider the passenger pigeons
which are now all dead.
I want to say a word heard only now,
clean, free of history until it spreads.
Word spreads so much happens when I’m not looking.
When we speak, we are sixty-percent
166 p o etry
of the time silent.
I say a word and no one hears it. The erasures
are carefully wrought: the finely
detailed walls, the open-mouthed corpses
on the brink of motion. How change
is sudden, then slow,
the disruptions become phases,
we can see them forever.

Incompleteness (Gödel)

What is missing? The professor holds a picture up

and expects an answer.

They are faceless; the two figures, man- and woman-bodied,

their human hands pressed against each other.

To myself, I say, complete.

But someone raises his hand and mentions eyes, ears,

lips... a voice travels through a cup, thin wire, cup, to another’s ear,

then stops in memory, where a voice is no longer sound,

where words can rest beside the broken china, a chicken running
a neon lamp flickering its last.
b orja i 167
A memory is kept as fragments, dry patches of land
you wish he’d been washed to.

But in today’s session, it is the river

where he knocks his head on a rock and drowns.
And someone’s voice breaks in the telling.

A man walks to you and tells you he is lying.

Believe him. He is.

It’s easy, really, all options weighed, the past articulated into a
choose B. this statement is false

or C. this statement is unprovable:

In a magic occasion, a woman in a barrel is cut in half
and, all smiles, waves.

But someone raises his hand and it’s the end of it.

I go to a bar wearing a faceless mask.

I read an abecedarian. It ends in zero.

168 p o etry
Uncertainty Principle

Then what keeps us alive?—

The widow still dreams of love,
or has she lost belief

in heaven? The battered wife,

her child. Her child?
She hasn’t thought of death.

While death almost labeled her: orphan.

The greaseman still walks the street.
And see how each of us

can aimlessly trudge the earth

and still claim the distances we have taken:
ours. Our bus goes the right way when we turn

left. Will we ever get to say we are there

when we get there? Take the wind
and how it loses and gains its name

at each stop and flux.

We are moving, and
we are always here: the ever changing

referent of here: sand and stone,

power lines and trees,
destinies and destinations,
b orja i 169
gods and men are transients taking root—
limbs spanning a shared duration
of permanence.

When we sleep, the margins of our dreams

are hazed. We can turn everything back
into smoke, which is the barest,

the actual form. Finally,

we are here.
Finally, we are here.


Sometimes the wind hates the city and begins to speak

in a language that only the leaves understand. I’ve learned
not to mind anymore. Sometimes the wind says something,
and sometimes it says nothing, and I can’t distinguish when.
I’ve learned not to say anything about things I can’t understand,
like how the moon seems sadder, larger, when sidewalks
keep absolutely still, or how, when car engines drone
in the distance, one is reminded of dragonflies, the way their wings
love movement, so much that one begins to think of a steady fire,
or a river seen from afar, or sometimes, nothing at all. But then
morning comes and the streetlamps are left on and I am left struggling
with the concept of change. Or the concept (how are they different?)
of suffering, the blank calligraphy of dawn that reminds one
of a leave-taking, the way the city silences the wind so fully
that when light remembers to hold itself up to you,
the shadows begin to look like the ghosts of fallen leaves.


But who’s to say we aren’t animals?

I know my potential for beauty,

co i 171
and for suffering, and both have ends,
and beginnings: In the beginning was the word,

and the word was made flesh

and eyes and teeth and a tail,

since animals came before men.

And before animals there was only God,

who sees things differently: This is light

somehow forgetting to wake up;

not a patch of void left untouched by his voice.

Not ruin, but a house embracing the earth.

A wife is as beautiful pressing a date to her lips

as she is with her back turned to you. Perhaps later

my dead daughters will call to me

with the voices of my many new daughters.

I will name my many new cows

after my dead sons. Glory to God in the highest,

who will grant me many new things,

and who has called my sons and daughters

and cows to His kingdom. Still I have so many

prayers to utter before the wind turns
172 p o etry
into an animal, so many moments of faith
before the boils on my skin disappear. Perhaps later

I will go to the ruins of my old house

and plant date-palms. Come harvest time

I shall search for my wife and offer her a basketful

of dates. Even now I can imagine her

pressing one to her lips, wiping her fingers on her dress,

and turning away


I see a wound and therefore I remember

when, as a child, I saw colors in the night-sky,
therefore I stumble upon this insight:
Is this working? How about: This
is the night and I see the gray surface
of the universe, I see the moon, I see a woman
clad in sackcloth carrying a barrel of rice
and I see craters and the chips on diamonds
and sapphires and a child pressing his palm
against a wound. He is thinking of a leaf.
Or a flower. How about: A flower blooms
and I remember some other flower, blooming.
Later it will wilt, later its petals will turn rust-brown,
death-brown, and I will remember when, as a child,
co i 173
waiting for rain, I held my hands up to the skies
until night came and colors came—this is the night
and many nights have come before and night slips
from my fingers and I remember fireworks. This
is an eyelash and I remember sweetness, this is a tongue
and I remember a word, words, sight memory epiphany
someone is listening, this is me trying to keep still
while things weave themselves into meaning,
meaninglessness, home, is anyone home I’m trying
to open a door, is anyone home can anyone hear me
I’m trying to light a match, I don’t want to wake
anyone up, is anyone home I feel a wound festering
on my palm, I see a wound and therefore I remember
a wound and therefore, as if I didn’t know
that the path home was strewn with wounds,
I stumble upon a wound.


And to think that: stories
are the startled children of forgetting
and what is it with the color of rain?
Picture of a dwarf, leaves, the light-heavy
apparitions that hold their warm fingers to our throats
and say, “Open, open. The borders of morning
fade with waking.” This waking, this hungering, open,
friend, hold me, I only want a moment to touch
me the way wet asphalt touches the soles
174 p o etry
of a rag-clad man’s feet, his string of many cans dragging
across a dead-end street, open, tell me a story:
once there was a leaf and a dwarf sat on it
and the sun shone on its face as it would on an apple. Once
a thief stole the morning and buried it in a grave marked
with no name, only dates, and now there are ghosts
that walk under the eaves of a building inside which
a man in a charcoal-gray suit signs your birth certificate
with a pen dipped in rainwater, Open, he says,
Open, this is the first day of your forgetfulness. Child,
one day you will tell a story. Inside the grave
where the thief buried the morning, you will find
a tongue. It is yours. Let no man take it from you
again. And to think that once you had no name.
And to think of stories.

Family Life

My wife is leaving.
No, that isn’t true—what woman would want to leave

a poet? But the fact remains: Only sad songs

make me happy now. That, and the hollow cursive of grandmothers
that spend their afternoons poring over scripture.

I sit in my room and wait for light to settle. I think of dust

and young lovers sitting on fallen leaves.
And skirts; I think of skirts and my hand
co i 175
reaches for the warmth of a pen. My wife,
she is in the kitchen, she is chopping onions.

Later she will wash her hands and read today’s mail. Bills,
and a letter from her mother. She never answers,
only calls her once a week to tell her how the kids are.

“John tells me of his dreams,” she’d say,

“The times when he falls and falls and wakes up
to another dream, then wakes up for real

and asks for a glass of milk.”

Once, while on my way to the fridge for a beer,

I overheard her say, “Oh, he’s taking after his father.

The way he holds a pen, you’d know his hands
were made for sadness. Sometimes he’d sit with me

while I chop onions, just so, he says,

just so his cheeks could get used
to the weight of tears.”

Beatific Visions

One morning along EDSA
I saw God climb a hundred-foot billboard
and preach his sermon atop Mt. Sharon Cuneta.
176 p o etry
The bus driver put on the brakes
and made the sign of the cross.
The multitudes strained to listen
but he was just too high up
for them to hear. I was thinking, Oh, God,
come down, get this over with.

That night I walked you home,
God was a bum sitting on a sidewalk,
asking for a cigarette.
We walked over and I gave him one
and lit it for him.
After he took his first drag,
he said, Thank you,
and asked you to smile.
When you did, I swear,
right there, I worshipped him.

At two in the morning
I ordered a burger from God,
and he asked me what I’d like with it.
I said, How about a beer,
and when he said he’d spot me one,
I thought he was joking.
I wanted to believe in him.
Two minutes later it was heaven:
there I was, in a stainless steel
co i 177
Burger Machine under the LRT,
sharing a bottle of beer with God.

A House

We begin with a house.

The spaces we inhabit
or used to inhabit. The silences.

The way we strain to listen

to something that’s no longer there.
Or the way we see:

at dusk: a lonesome shadow

dwindles into some other jaggedness.
Does it matter? Exactly a day later

it would dwindle back unto itself.

But this is not a poem about return,
the cycles the wind goes through,

or water, how it circles

the peripheries of each leave-taking.
This is a poem about a house:

a fence, wood peeking

from underneath sallow paint; a chime
musicless in its rusty solitude.
178 p o etry
This poem is about a house
and it is dark and it is raining
and no one is home.

Someone must have been here.

Someone’s always been somewhere. See:
the pith of an orange sits hardened,

orphaned on the kitchen counter. Imagine

the juice drying on a tongue.
Whose tongue? Maybe yours. Anyone’s.

Imagine the seeds, spit out, heavy

with the ghost of what’s not yet
anywhere. Imagine being there

when they become



Nagsasalikop sa rurok
nitong pook na walang kirot

ang liwanag sa kapwa liwanag;

hindi lamang aninag,

hindi lamang kislap.

Dito ay lantay ang pag-iral

ng pangaral, walang parangal

na sumisilaw sa nakakikita.

Dito, tagusan ang pagkilala

sa nararapat tumanggap. Maagap

na iluluhog sa pedestal na
ang kinang ay di bumubulag.

Dito’y di sinusukat sa parisukat

na hugis at apat na sulok ang mga nilalang.

Kumikilos ang lahat sa bilog, umiinog

walang katapusang pagtanggap

180 p o etry

sa maliit man o malaki, walang pagmamalaki.

Kaya ang sinag, lahat ay naaabot, walang bubot

na pagyakap, walang sayang na pagsisikap.

Dito ang lahat ay magkakalahok, kahit alikabok.

Basta’t kumikilala sa iisang

karapatan, may pananagutan.

Hindi laan ang pook iluminado

para lamang sa mga elitista’t ilustrado.


Kung ako ay isang anod ng tubig

na layon ay sa iyo sumanib,

dadaloy ako nang tahimik. Ayaw kong

dumating nang paragasa na may batong

madudurog o may dahong makakasama

sa pag-anod. Darating ako sa iyong kabuuan

nang payapa, halos di mo alam.

Sasanib sa iyong karagatan, magiging malaya

sa kabuuan ng aking pagyakap.

Batid kong malayo pa ang paglalakbay;
m ontes eña i 181

May mga kababawan sa pagdaloy,

ngunit titiyaking makatwiran ang paglulunoy

at sa batisang dalisay mamamaybay.

Sa pagsanib sa iyo ay magwawakas

na ang lumbay. Kuyumin man ng hahadlang

ay tutuklas ako at tutuklas ng butas;

walang makakaharang sa pagwisik

ng tanging layuning ikaw ay gisingin

ng aking pagdating at ako ay salubungin

hanggang tayo ay tuluyang maging isa.


Hindi kita makita sinta,

O sadyang hinahadlangan

ang tingin; panginorin

ng pagtatapos. Upos

na alaalang dagling pinalabo

ng kawalang tiwala. Wala

nang darating na tanaw; bahaw

na damdaming nanlamig; halumigmig
182 p o etry

ng mga titig na di maisilid

sa iyong mata; pangamba

na maglahong tuluyan
ang mga tinginan.

Kung abutin ng malas,

saka marahil kita mamamalas.

Marahil sa dilim,
mukha mo’y wala nang kulimlim.

Pagdating Sa Dulo

Laging bugtong
ang mga salita ko ngayon.

Dito ay pilit
itinatago’t kinakanlong
ang paglaki ng bilbil,
pag-urong ng libog
at singasing ng kahapon.
Sa mga palaisipan ikinukumpisal
ang mga kasalanang takasan man
ay muli at muling kinalulugdan.

Ano pa ang silbi ng pagsisisi?

m ontes eña i 183
Sa patuloy na pag-iimpok
ng hinagpis, walang dumating na saya;
O sadyang pinanlabuan na ng mga mata
kaya di nakita ang ganda ng iba.
Humina na ang pandinig
sa musika ng paligid, sumisigid
araw-araw ang hilahil, nanunutil
ang panahong ayaw papigtal, umuusal
ng panalangin, tapusin,
ang lahat ay baliin.

ang buhay ng tumandang
walang pinagkatandaan.

Sa Estasyon

Nakatayo ako sa estasyong ito.

Hindi ko batid kung ako ay sasakay

o bagong ibis; maghihintay sa pagdating

o susunod sa paglalakbay.
Marahil ganito ang pagkakataon:

Nililito ang lahat

upang hindi matagpuan ang pakay.
184 p o etry

Maglalaan ng pahirap
bago matuklasan ng lahat

na ang paghihintay ay paglalakbay;

ang paglalakbay ay pagninilay

ng kabuluhan o kabulukan,
ng katiyakan o alinlangan.

Nakatayo pa rin ako sa estasyong ito.

Bukas, hindi pa rin ako nakasisiguro

kung may hihinto na sa akin

upang ako ay pasakayin, akayin

sa daan kung saan ang paghihintay

ay may katuturan at ang paglalakbay

ay may hihintuang hanggahan.


Wala sa hinagap
na ang iyong hagahas,
hagarang hinga,
at mga hagawhaw
m ontes eña i 185
ay mga hagkis
na hinahagkan
ang aking pandinig.

Hagdan-hagdang hagibas
na humahagibis sa akin.
Bawat hagip sa puso’y sakit;
bawat hagok mo’y hagod
at ako’y walang magawa.

Di na mahagilap
ang iyong hagikhik;
ang nahahaguhap
ay iyong hagulhol.
Lumisan na
ang iyong hagutok
Hagurin ka man,
harangan ang himutok,
wala nang paglalagyan
ang iyong halakhak.

Halhal akong lumisan

at nang magbalik
ay wala nang mahalughog
na halinghing mula sa iyo.

May iba nang halimaw

na humahalimhim
sa iyong halimuyak
186 p o etry

hagahas – hinga ng taong may hika

hagawhaw – bulong, anas
hagkis – parinig
hagibas – hambalos, palo
haguhap – apuhap, paghanap
hagutok – malutong na tawa
halhal – gunggong
halimhim – paglilimlim


Kilalanin mo ang bawat aninong

pumapasok sa pintong ito.

Nakauungos sa iyo at di mo maabutan.

Silang mga nauuna pang mamahinga

sa iyong likmuan. Silang nauuna pang sumilip

sa di mo malirip na bahagi ng iyong tahanan.

Ikaw na nahuhuli’y kumilatis

sa ayaw pakilalang mga panauhin.

Paano susupilin ang kanilang

masibang panginginain? Ang lahat sa iyo’y

inaaring kanila. Ni ang iyong pagkurap

ay di mabawi sa kanilang umaapuhap, bigla.

Pahihintulutan mo bang sagarin nila ang lahat?

May mga nagbabadya pang darating.
m ontes eña i 187

Iinom, muling manginginain at hindi na

tuluyang aalis, hanggang ikaw ay di makatiis.

Ipinid mo na ang pintuan. Ang nasa loob ay ipagtabuyan.

Ipakilalang ikaw ang nagmamay-ari ng lahat

ng kanilang kinikilusan. Ikaw ang dapat

na maunang dumating. Walang iba, ikaw lamang.
188 p o etry



I love how things attach themselves

to other things: the rocks sitting stubbornly
beneath the river, the beards of moss.

I choose a color and it connotes sadness.

But how long must the symbols remain true? Blue
is blue, not lonely. After a time, one gives up

reading the sky for shadows, even rain.

There is no promise, only a possibility.
A moment moves to another, and still it feels

the same. Like old letters in boxes.

Or how the rain, at times, falls invisibly.
Finally, the things we love demand more love,

as if we have always been capable of it. Yet

I can only offer belief, mirages that mean water,
long travels leading somewhere. I am reading

old letters, trying to make something

of what’s been said. It might be raining;
some pages are unreadable.
t oledo i 189

And before the end comes, the complete

corrosion of all things beautiful,
what calls us back to dust and the fine
delicate things under rocks, the solemn
quarters of the dead, or the believing
children who simply cannot resist
looking at the sun, curious about the circle
behind the wide glare presiding over
the world, the price of temporary blindness
that panics them and teaches us
to grow old wise to the benefits of light,
the harm of looking, trusting instead
the close and ephemeral, the feel
of objects, love; and the long view
of the old who are now straining
to look past all the nearby losses,
to the stars and their kind shapes,
now gradually being put out,
seemingly more distant, also perishable.

Save as Draft

Or write as poem. The whole point is often

what we miss out on. To revise is to reconsider
the experience of, say, a leaf--never mind
190 p o etry
that it is not green anymore. Or, pardon the sudden
evening. The transition was nice enough;
the explosive colors of dusk. And, didn’t you feel
so much sadness? I cannot explain it any better
than how I could when the outlines were still there:
trees and some wonderful new shapes.
Since then, things have changed. A pale hand
moves in the darkness. And someone is calling out,
come to bed, come to bed. And it is just you.
The evening insists on evening. It is that simple.
It is late enough as it is.


Summers we would climb trees, collecting the carcasses of cicadas.

Those were bright days, small suns flickering madly inside
the abandoned shells. And how could we have resisted them?
We were far from the city and its hard surfaces; we had so much time.

We pried the shells off gently, careful with their brittleness.

We traced the absence with exposed hands. So that the insects
still clung to the trees late October, singing, we were here,
we have gone. Yet we kept them on in the evenings,

those sharp membranes that held light. They will come alive
any moment, or soon enough. The seasons that continue to split
their bodies will let the new selves out. There is no other way:
t oledo i 191
one by one, we are called home. Now my father sits, watching trees.
He is nodding vaguely, slow now to my presence, saying something
that makes no sense. Tell me again, son, he says. Tell me again.


How that age now comes back,

alive with things that resist meaning,
childhood and a journey where someone says
this, this is the sea, the generous blue that borders
all landscape. And there, the vanishing point,

the sudden vision of water taking hold of his senses,

the simple drowning and the moment when
he stops breathing, the given depths snatching
his body, for a while leading him away
from atmosphere. He picks up a stone, throws it,

watches as it skips above the water before sinking.

The child nods and sits on the sand, waiting,
knowing that moment that even this will come back,
the beautiful, sun-burnt rocks of the future,
the breaching whale, the risen dead fish,

bodies so calm and buoyant. The sea returns

everything back to the world. How it now whispers
this secret to the child, its many loneliness
borne on waves and emptying on the shore.
And how he hears it, this close.

A ng AGA na kinilala bilang Ama ng Modernistang Panulaan—na katapat sa Ingles ni

Jose Garcia Villa—ay isa ring kuwentista, mandudula, at sanaysayista.
Noong 1932 ang kanyang buwanang kolum, “Talaang Bughaw,” ang pinakaabangan ng mga
manunulat sa Filipino dahil naglalabas ito ng listahan ng kanyang napiling pinakamahusay na
tula at kuwento ng buong buwan at taon.

na dera i A n g AGA 193
Instrumental ito sa pagpapakilala at pag- gram na itinanghal na pinakamahusay na
papalaganap ng Modernismo sa lite raturang kuwento noong 1931 (ayon kay Clodualdo del
Tagalog—bukod sa kanyang mga mak- Mundo Sr.) at ang kanyang antolohiyang Mga
abagong tula na mababasa sa kanyang kali- Kuwentong Ginto (1936), Ang Maikling
punang Ako ang Daigdig at Iba Pang Tula Kathang Tagalog (1954), at Maikling Katha
(1955), Piniling mga Tula ni AGA (1965), at ng 20 Pangunahing Awtor (1957) katulong
dalawang edisyon ng Tanagabadilla (1964 sina del Mundo Sr., Federico Sebastian,
at 1965). A.D.G. Mariano, at Ponciano B.P. Pineda.
Bukod sa tula, nakapaglathala rin siya ng Sinubukan din niyang magsulat ng dula
dalawang nobelang Sing-ganda ng Buhay at ang kanilang dulang may isang-yugto na
(1947) at kasama si Elpidio P. Kapulong, Daloy ng Buhay ni Kapulong ay nagwagi ng
Pagkamulat ni Magdalena (1958), na gantimpalang Palanca noong 1957.
naging kontrobersiyal dahil sa detalyadong Nakalulungkot na ang kalidad ng
paglalarawan ng pakikipagtalik at sa paghula panulat ni Abadilla ay hindi gaanong
sa pananakop ng komunismo sa Pilipinas. napagpupugayan.
Isa siya sa mga nagbigay-halaga sa mai- Ang pagsusuri sa mga akda niya ay
kling kuwento sa pamamagitan ng kanyang matagal nang kailangang gawin sa dahilang
pagsusulat at pangongolekta ng mga maikling ngayon, higit kailan pa man, ang kanyang
kuwento para ilibro. pilosopiya ng sarili ay napapanahon.
Patunay rito ang kanyang Telephone- Sa kasalukuyang pinaghaharian ng

Si AGA (nakaupo, ikalima mula sa kanan) kasama ang pamilya

194 p hoto essay

Nakaupo si AGA (sa harap, ikaapat mula sa kanan)

indibiduwalismo ang buhay-buhay sa buong naglaon, sumakay siya sa bapor papuntang

mundo, makakaalingawngaw ang tinig ni Seattle, Washington dala-dala ang kaunting
Abadillang ni hindi pa naririnig ng Gen X, o salaping kinupit sa kanyang ama.
kaya ay Gen Y! Sa Estados Unidos, siya ay namahala
Silang mga biktima ng globalismo (na ng pitak-Tagalog sa Philippine Digest ni
kasingkuhulugan din ng kolonyalismo) ang Lorenzo Zamora, nag-edit ng Philippine-
nangangailangan ng pamana ng kanyang American Review, at naging bahagi ng
pagpapahalaga sa identidad, bilang mga Fili- Kapisanang Balagtas sa EU.
pino, na tinawag naman niya na “kaakuhan.” Noong 1925, umuwi si AGA. At unang
Maging ang mga kabataang makata na sumulat ng tula. Pumasok sa Unibersidad ng
nagsusulat sa malayang taludturan sa Filipino Santo Tomas at kumuha ng Pilosopiya noong
ay dapat mapaalalahanan na mayroon silang 1928 kung kailan din siya naging regular na
utang na loob sa lolo nilang walang iba kundi manunulat ng The Varsitarian.
si AGA o Alejandro Garcia Abadilla. Nagtapos sa UST ng Ph.B. noong Marso
Isinilang si Alejandro Garcia Abadilla sa 1931 at pagdating ng Mayo 30 ay nalathala
Baryo Sapa, Salinas, Cavite kina Agustin Aba- ang kanyang “Someday” sa Vox Populi.
dilla at Cecilia Garcia noong 10 Marso 1906. Idineklara niya ang 1931 bilang “unang
Nagtapos si AGA ng elementarya noong 1918 taon ng masasabing pangatawanang
at sa Cavite High School noong1922. Di pagyakap namin sa panitikan na inihudyat ng
na dera i A n g AGA 195
unang katha naming inilathala ng magasin ng Gar. Matute, Fernando Monleon at iba pang
Taliba, ang Telephonegram (na itinanghal kabataang manunulat.
ng “Parolang Ginto” ni Clodualdo del Mundo Noon din isinilang ang kanyang panganay
na pinakamahusay na ani ng taon dahil ito na si Luz na nasundan pa ng ikalawang si
ay “makabagong himig ng paglalarawan Cesar.
sa katotohanan na nararapat taglayin ng Ipinanganak naman ang panganay niyang
mahuhusay na kuwento”). antolohiya na Mga Kuwentong Ginto sa
Nagsimula sa kanyang kritisismo sa tulong ni del Mundo.
tulong ng kolum na “Talaang Bughaw” (na Nagtrabaho siya sa Palihang Bayan na
kinunan ng ideya ng Surian ng Wikang Pam- ang opisina ay kanyang pinaglipatan ng
bansa para magkaroon ng “Talaang Ginto”) kanyang pamilya hanggang makalipat sila
at naglabas sa Mabuhay Ekstra ng tulang sa Kalye Juan Luna kung saan isinilang ang
Sanaysay sa Tula: Isang Prologo bilang kanyang ikatlong anak na si Romulo.
sagot sa Mga Manununog ni Lope K. Santos Dinala muli ang kanyang pamilya sa Sali-
sa Liwayway. nas, Cavite pero siya ay namalagi sa Maynila
Naging konsehal ng Salinas (pero tumayo sa tahanan ni Brigido Batungbacal at siya ay
ring Presidente Municipal o punong-bayan naging sales manager ni Buenaventura Lopez
sa ngalan ng kanyang ama) noong 1932 at para sa Ang Tibay pero hindi tumagal si AGA.
pagkaraan ng isang taon ay huminto siya sa Noong 1938, namatay ang kapatid na
pamimili ng tula. si Martin kaya napilitang ipagbili ng ama ni
Noong 1934, tumigil sa panunungkulan AGA ang kanilang lupa na ang pinagbilhang
si AGA bilang konsehal at nagbitiw rin siya P900 ay pinaghatian nila ng kapatid niyang si
bilang kabalitaan o korespondent sa Cavite ng Victoria kaya nakabili siya ng lote sa Almeda,
Taliba-Vanguardia-Tribute Publications. Tondo at dinala niya ang kanyang pamilya
Pagkadating ng sumunod na taon, nag- roon kung saan isinilang ang kanyang ikaapat
pakasal siya kay Cristina Zingalaua (kaklase na anak na si Batis.
ng kapatid niyang si Victoria na nag-aaral Natanggap siya bilang ahente ng aklat
noon sa Unibersidad ng Centro Escolar), pangkultura ng isang malaking publistang
matapos na magbitiw siya sa patnugutan Amerikano at bilang ahente ng seguro.
ng Liwayway “upang ipakilala sa Bathalang Nagturo sa Jose Rizal College ng wikang
Putik si Ramon Roces (tagapaglathala ng Li- pambansa noong 1940. Noon din niya
wayway) na kaya naming mabuhay sa labas” pinamunuan ang protesta ng mga Panitikero
para mag-ahente ng seguro sa Philippine laban sa mga Balagtasista sa pamamagitan
American Life Insurance. ng pagsunog ng mga librong makaluma sa
Noon din niya binuo ang Kapisanang Pani- Plaza Moriones noong 2 Marso at nakipag-
tikan sa tulong nina Agoncillo, Salvador Bar- tunggali kay Lope K. Santos sa Villamor Hall
ros, Brigido Batungbakal, del Mundo, Epifanio ng Unibersidad ng Pilipinas sa pagdiriwang
196 p hoto essay

Dahil bingi si AGA, kailangan pang ilapit nito ang tainga sa bibig ni Brigido Batungbakal

ng Araw ni Balagtas noong 2 Abril. Subalit isinakatuparan ay ang pagsulat ng Saligang

makasaysayan ang taong ito sapagkat noon Batas na kanilang isinumite kay Magno Irugin
lumabas ang Ako Ang Daigdig ni AGA sa na noon ay nagtatayo ng isang puwersa sa
Liwayway (na hindi itinuring na tula nina Cavite.
Agoncillo at del Mundo). Habang isinasagawa niya ang kabayani-
Bandang huli ng 1941 nang sumabog ang hang ito, nagsumite si Iñigo Ed. Regalado kay
Ikalawang Digmaang Pandaigdig at sinakop Kini-ichi Ishikawa ng isang sanaysay na “Ang
ng mga Hapon ang Pilipinas. Idedeklara ng Malungkot na Pagpatay sa Tulang Tagalog” na
mga banyagang ito na opisyal na wika ang nalathala sa Liwayway noong 25 Hunyo.
Tagalog kaya mapipilitan ang mga manunulat Pinasagutan ito ni Antonio B. Rosales kay
sa Ingles sa gumawa ng dalawang solusyon: Abadilla—sa halagang P200 (mas mataas ng
(a) mag-aral at magsulat sa Tagalog; P100 kay Regalado) at ito ay ang sanaysay
(b) magsalin. ni AGA na “Tula: Kaisahan ng Kalamnan at
Kaanyuan” na lumabas sa Liwayway noong
Hindi ito ang problema ni AGA. Bagkus, 8 Hulyo 1944 pa.
nagtatag siya sa tulong nina Juan Estacion at Noong 1942, itinatag ni Irugin sa tulong
Eleuterio Fojas ng isang kilusan na mag- nina Kol. Emilio P. Virata at Kol. Ricardo Torres
tatanggol sa bayan at ang unang-una nilang ang Gerilya Mag-irog at hinirang si AGA bilang
na dera i A n g AGA 197
liaison officer o tapagpag-ugnay sa Cavite at kanyang tahanan sa Tondo ng mga sundalong
Maynila at bahagi ng intelligence network. Hapon at ikinulong sa isang sangay ng Fort
Upang hindi siya mahalata, naglingkod Santiago sa San Francisco del Monte sa
nang ilang buwan sa Surian ng Wikang Pam- hinalang siya ay isang gerilya.
bansa sa ilalim ni Lope K. Santos—na noon Pinahirapan siya hanggang sa mabingi.
ay nakasagutan niya—pero tinanggap niya Pinalaya rin siya nang hindi nagtatapat
diumano ang trabaho upang hindi sila muling kaya agaran niyang ibinalik ang kanyang
mag-away. pamilya sa Salinas, Cavite pero nanatili siya
Kaya lamang, dahil hindi niya kaya ang sa Maynila.
gumising nang maaga, minabuti niyang Noong mga panahong iyon, inamin niya
magbitiw pagkaraan ng dalawang linggo na nakikipagtagpo si AGA kay Hernando
at hindi ito tinanggap ni LKS ngunit nang Ocampo tuwing Sabado ng hapon upang
magbitiw siyang muli ay umoo na ang direktor magsulit sa isa’t isa ng bunga ng pagbabasa
sa dahilang ibig sumapi ni AGA sa Kapisanan ng linggong nakalipas.
sa Paglilingkod sa Bagong Pilipino (KALIBAPI) Dahil nga laging nasa Maynila ang aksi-
upang makatanggap daw ng libreng rasyon yon, lalo na sa panitikan, ibinalik ni AGA ang
ng bigas. kanyang pamilya sa Almeda, Tondo.
Sinulat niya, bilang tungkulin, ang isang Itinatag niya ang pahayagang Aruy sa
maikling nobelang Sing-ganda ng Buhay. tulong nina Mariano Hernandez at Servando
Nanalo si AGA ng P200 bilang karan- de los Angeles noong 19 Oktubre subalit
galang bangit sa pagsulat ng sanaysay para naidemanda sila ng libelo at sila ay natalo at
sa Manila Shimbun-sya noong 1943 kung nakapagmulta ng P200.
kailan siya nakapaglathala ng mga tula sa Nakatanggap ng backpay na umabot sa
ilalim ng sagisag-panulat para sa Liwayway P8,300 at pensiyong P100 buwan-buwan
sa tulong ni Manuel Principe Bautista. kaya nagpatayo ng bahay sa 2838 Interior B
Nagsulat din siya ng mga artikulo roon at sa Avenida Rizal Extension sa Maynila.
sa magasing Pillars—patunay lamang kung Itinatag niya ang pahayagang Ngayon sa
gaano siya kaproduktibo. tulong ni Emilio Ynciong ng Bagong Buhay
Laking galit niya nang tinanggihang ilabas pero nagbitiw nang hindi ibinigay ang hiningi
ng editor ng Liwayway na si Rosales ang niyang flat-bed press.
kanyang kuwentong “Banyuhay” dahil sa Nagsimulang malulong si AGA sa alak,
pagiging eksperimental nito kaya humingi si lalo na sa paborito niyang Ginebra San
AGA ng paliwanag kaya nagkaroon noon ng Miguel.
biglaang pulong na dinaluhan nina Arsenio Noong 1946, inilathala ni AGA ang
Afan, del Mundo, Gonzalo K. Flores, Matute, Kayumanggi, isang magasing pampanitikan
at Ocampo. sa tulong ng Raymond House Publications,
Walang ano-ano, dinampot si AGA sa na kapatid ng Philippine-American Review
198 p hoto essay
pero nagsara makaraan ang dalawang isyu Mariano, napamatnuguan nila ni Sebastian
dahil hindi mabenta. ang Silanganan, isang magasing pampaniti-
Pagkatapos ng isang taon, nailathala ang kan at pampaaralan na pinagtibay gamitin sa
kanyang nobelang Sing-ganda ng Buhay hay-iskul at Paaralang Normal.
sa Liwayway noong 30 Oktubre at naging Inilathala ang kanyang Ako Ang Daigdig
guro ng mga asignaturang pampanitikan At Iba Pang Tula noong 1955 kung kailan
sa National University pero nagbitiw rin siya din tinanggap ni AGA ang medalya at diploma
pagkaraan ng isang semestre. bilang “Pangunahing Kritiko” mula sa Kali-
Inilathala ni AGA ang Mga Piling Katha; punang Pambansa ng mga Alagad ng Sining
Mga Kuwentong Ginto ng Taong 1947- noong 2 Abril.
1948 pagkaraan. Pagka-isang taon, karakang naaprobahan
Sumunod dito ang Parnasong Tagalog, ang Silanganan bilang babasahin sa mga
na “unang katipunan ng mga tula na may pribadong paaralan sa Pilipinas.
historikal na perspektiba sa pamimili.” Noong 1957, nailimbag niya ang antolo-
Nagtayo si AGA ng isang paaralang kore- hiyang Maikling Katha ng 20 Pangunahing
spondensiyal para sa pagsulat. Awtor sa tulong ni Ponciano Pineda, nanalo
Noong dekada ring ito, nailabas niya ang ng karangalang banggit ang kanilang dulang
antolohiyang Ang Maikling Kathang Tagalog may isang yugto na Daloy ng Buhay ni
sa tulong nina Federico Sebastian at A.D.G. Elpidio P. Kapulong sa Don Carlos Palanca

Nakaupo si AGA (ikalawa mula sa kanan) at ang mga kasapi ng Kapisanang Panitikan
na dera i A n g AGA 199
Memorial Awards for Literature, at naging dahil sa kanser sa dibdib at natuto siyang
“Pangunahing Makata ng 1957” para sa kan- lumuha.
yang Ako Ang Daigdig At Iba Pang Tula ng Doon siya naglabas-pasok sa ospital si
Surian ng Wikang Pambansa noong 2 Abril. AGA dahil sa alta-presyon.
Inilathala ang kanyang ikalawang no- Noong 12 Hunyo 1966, ginawaran si AGA
belang Pagkamulat ni Magdalena kasama ng Cultural Heritage Award.
si Kapulong noong sumunod na taon. Pagkaraan ng isang taon, ipinasok muli
Saksi ang bagong dekadang ito sa si AGA sa Veterans Memorial Hospital at
kanyang pakikipagniig sa mga batang pagkalabas niya ay sinulat niya ang tulang
makata nang magturo ng panitikan si AGA sa Awit 32067 noong Marso.
University of the East at nakilala niya ang mga Natapos ang “Isang Pagsusuri at Pagbibi-
kabataang manunulat sa The Dawn tulad gay-Halaga sa ‘Ako Ang Daigdig at iba pang
nina Virgilio S. Almario, Lamberto E. Antonio, Tula’ mula sa Piniling Tula ni Alejandro G.
at Rogelio G. Mangahas. Abadilla” ni Macario C. Agawin noong 1968.
Taong 1964, inilathala ang unang edisyon Taong 1969, nagdiwang ng kanyang
ng Tanagabadilla. kaarawan kasama sina Almario, Antonio,
Noon din niya kinupkop si Bayani de at Mangahas na kanyang ikinapuyat kaya
Leon, dating editor ng The Varsitarian, dahil ipinasok muli sa ospital noong Abril.
naglayas matapos hindi papagtapusin sa UST Napag-alamang may kanser si AGA.
noong 1963 kung kailan din naging kaibigan Bandang 9:30 n.u. ng 26 Agosto, nama-
ng mga makatang rebelde ng Ateneo de Ma- tay si AGA sa piling ng anak na si Ningning.
nila University, Manuel L. Quezon University, at Lumabas ang balita hinggil sa kanyang
Unibersidad ng Pilipinas. kamatayan sa Taliba.
Inilathala niya noon ang magasing Tatlong tesis pa ang nagawa ukol sa
Panitikan. kanyang paghihimagsik: Ang Pilosopiyang
Sa kabilang banda, noon din ipinasok si Ako sa mga Tula ni Alejandro G. Abadilla ni
AGA sa ospital dahil sa ulcer at tuberculosis Sis. Donatilla Cruz (1972), Ang Modernismo
noong 26 Oktubre. sa Panulaang Tagalog (1900-1974) (1974)
Ano at ano man, nakuha pa niyang ni Virgilio S. Almario, at Ang Paghihimagsik
mailimbag ang kanyang Piniling Mga Tula ni ni Alejandro G. Abadilla Sa Tradisyon ng
AGA, ang ikalawang edisyon ng Tanagaba- Panulaang Tagalog (1977) ni Valerio L.
dilla; at ang Mga Piling Sanaysay. Nofuente.
Mabuti naman at kinilala bilang “Out- Magpahanggang ngayon ni wala sa
standing Author in Filipino” ng United Poets mga ito ang nailimbag para mabasa ng mas
Laureate noong Nobyembre. nakararami, lalo na ng mga kabataan.
Kaya lamang, tila may kapalit ang lahat: Kahit pa ipinagdiwang ang ika-100
namatay ang kanyang asawang si Tinang anibersaryo ng kanyang kapanganakan.


Samutsaring Tala at Gunita sa Simula ng Kolonisasyon
ng Estados Unidos sa Pilipinas
Sanyugtong Drama-Dokumentaryo

Dean Worcester Secretary of the Interior
Teodoro Kalaw Patnugot ng El Renacimiento
Mateo Filipinong alalay ni Dean Worcester
Sen. Albert Beveridge
Pres. William Mckinley
Mrs. Worcester Maybahay ni Dean Worcester
Koro Dalawang babae at isang lalaki
Kabataang Filipino Dalawang lalaki at isang babae

v i llanueva i Wh i te Love 201
Scene 1: Loving the Philippines and Filipinos


Papasok ang koro at kabataang filipino pupuwesto sila para sa group

picture. Nasa harapan ang koro; sa likod ang kabataang filipino. Naka-
saya ang mga babae sa koro, at naka-Amerikanang puti naman ang lalaki.
Papasok si dean worcester, pupunta siya sa harapan ng koro para
ayusin ang kamera at kunan ang kanilang larawan.

White Love.

The Beginning of America’s Love affair with the Philippines.

Sasabog ang flash ng kamera ni worcester. Magbibihis si worcester,

bilang field researcher.
Papasok si teodoro kalaw.

Ako si Teodoro Kalaw, isang peryodista. Naging editor ng pahaya-
gang El Renacimiento. Maikukuwento ko ang kasaysayan ni Dean C.
Worcester, bilang ilustrasyon ng pagmamahal ng Estados Unidos sa
Para gawin iyon, hayaan ninyong bigkasin ko ang isinulat kong
editorial na pinamagatang “Aves de Rapiña,” alay sa Amerika, mga opi-
syal at negosyanteng Amerikano sa mga unang dekada ng Amerika sa
202 drama

Scene 2: A Zoological Investigation

Sa screen: 1897, Worcester was a member of a zoological expedition

to the Philippines.

Makaraang magsuot ng bota’t sumbrero si worcester bilang field re-

searcher, maririnig ang tunog at huni ng mga ibon at kulisap sa gubat.
Papasok si mateo, hubad-baro; may dalang riple. May aasintahin sa
itaas. Magpapaputok. May babagsak na ibon malapit kay worcester. Dada-
mputin ni mateo ang ibon at iaabot kay worcester na ngingiting nasisiya-
han. Sa buong eksena’y masusing susukatin ni worcester ang bawat bahagi
ng katawan ng ibon.
Habang nagaganap ito, bibigkasin ni kalaw nang malakas ang unang
bahagi ng “Aves de Rapiña.”

Sa Screen: 1908, “Aves de Rapiña”

Ang editoryal ng El Renacimiento ang nagtulak kay Dean C. Worces-
ter noong 1908 na maghabla para patunayang hindi siya ang tinutukoy
ng artikulong pinamagatang “Aves de Rapiña” o “Birds of Prey.” Isasalin
ko para sa inyo sa Ingles ang editoryal.
(Bubuklatin at babasahin ang diyaryo.)
‘En la extensión del globo, unos han nacido para comer y devorar,
otros para ser comidos y devorados. ‘El águila, simbolizando libertad y
fuerza, es el ave que ha encontrado más adeptos. Y los hombres, colectiva
é individualmente, han querido copiar é imitar al ave más rapaz, para
triunfar en el saqueo de sus semejantes.
v i llanueva i Wh i te Love 203
Sa ibabaw ng mundo, ang ilan ay ipinanganak upang kumain at
manila, samantalang ang iba naman ay upang kainin at silain. Ang agila,
na sumasagisag sa kalayaan at lakas ang siyang pinakamaraming taga-
hanga. At ang mga tao, sa lansakan man o sa isahan, ay nagmimithing
pumaris at gumagad dito sa pinakaganid sa lahat ng ibon upang mag-
tagumpay sa pagnanakaw sa kanyang kapwa.

I’ve been in these islands twice as a member of a zoological expedi-
tion. First in 1887. I was only 21 then. The second trip was in 1890. I first
came to these islands to investigate its birds and animals. Many years
later, while serving as Secretary of the Interior, my enemies vilified me as
“a bird of prey.” They likened me to an eagle, a vulture, and an owl.
But I will make them pay; and it will surely cost them a lot.

Magpapalit ng maayos na damit si worcester. Huhubarin ang bota

at sumbrero; magiging anyong propesor.
Pagkaraan, ipapasok ni mateo ang mga gamit sa mesa: nakarolyong
mga mapa, mga panukat, gaya ng tape measure, ruler, weighing scale, atbpa.
Isang bitbitan lang.
Pagkatapos, ipapasok niya ang ilang specimen ng ibon: may buhay na
nasa hawla; may pinatuyo at nakakapit sa isang sanga; may nakababad sa
garapon ng alkohol. Yuyukod si mateo pagkatapos, saka lalabas.
Mula rito, sa bawat paglabas at pagpasok ni mateo ay buong pitagan
siyang yuyuko kay worcester.
204 drama
Mateo was a native from these islands. He was a great help in our
search for many specimens and animals. I brought him with me to Michi-
gan when we returned.

Lalabas si mateo.

Our search took us to places never seen before by any American.
We collected over 300 specimens of Philippine birds, 53 of which were
deemed new to science. One of them, a species of red and orange Philip-
pine parakeet, was named after me. Loricus philipinensis worcesteri. It still
survives in Bohol and Leyte to this day.

‘Hay hombres que, además de ser águilas, reunen en sí las caracter-
ísticas del buitre, del buho y del vampiro.

Ngunit may isang nilalang na bukod sa katulad ng agila ay may
mga katangian din ng buwitre, ng kuwago, at ng bampiro.

Scene 3: Think of the wonderful fertility of its soil!

Kakalasin ni worcester ang tali ng isang lumang mapa ng Asia-Pacific.

Ididikit sa isang board ang mapa.
Sa buong eksena, paulit-ulit na magkakabit ng mapa ng Pilipinas si
worcester. Patong-patong sa board ang mga mapa.
v i llanueva i Wh i te Love 205
Papasok sa harapan ang isang American Senator (Albert Beveridge). Pa-
pasok sa kabilang dulo ang koro bilang mga Amerikano; mauupo sa harap
ng senador. Magtatalumpati ang senador sa harap ng koro.Manonood sa
likuran si worcester.

Sa screen: 1898, Speech of US Senator Albert Beveridge in Boston

We are a conquering race! We must obey our blood and occupy
new markets, and, if necessary, new lands. American factories are mak-
ing more than the American people can use. American soil is produc-
ing more than they can consume. Fate has written our policy for us: the
trade of the world must and shall be ours… American law, American
order, American civilization and the American flag will plant themselves
on shores hitherto bloody and benighted but by those agencies of God
henceforth to be made beautiful and bright…

Palakpakan ng koro.

In the Pacific is the field of our earliest operations. There, Spain has
an island empire. In the Pacific, the United States has a powerful squad-
ron. The Philippines is logically our first target!

Sa screen: photo ni Admiral Dewey.

Maririnig ang pagsabog ng putok. Hiwa-hiwalay na lalabas ang ilang

Amerikano at senador. Maiiwan si worcester.
206 drama
America was ecstatic over the news of Dewey’s victory in those

Pupunta si worcester sa dating kinatatayuan ng senador;


Spain could have done more for the resources of these islands, ex-
cept for their lack of interest in capitalization, lack of roads and rail-
roads. Think of the wonderful fertility of its soil, the immense wealth
of its forest products and the presence of valuable and extensive mineral

Maglalabasan ang mga Amerikano, pabulong-bulong ng “We should

take them!”

Scene 4: But where are those darned islands?

Papasok si pres. mckinley.

Sa screen: Benevolent Assimilation; larawan ni mckinley.

In the beginning, after Dewey’s victory in Manila Bay, US policy on
the Philippines was vague. Before the Battle of Manila Bay, I could not
tell where the darned islands were within two thousand miles. My belief
was: While we are conducting a war, and until its conclusion, we must
keep all we get… when the war is over, we must keep what we want.
v i llanueva i Wh i te Love 207
My first hand knowledge of the islands proved profitable. My book,
The Philippine Islands and Its People Present, was widely and enthusiasti-
cally reviewed.

Papasok si mateo na nakasuot ng oversized na amerikana. Tutulungan

niya si worcester na magsuot ng puting coat.

I was soon acknowledged as an authority on these hitherto unknown
lands and peoples of which we have just been put in control. The Presi-
dent called me to the White House to consult with me on these savages
and barbarians. These big children who must be treated like little ones!

Pagkatapos pupunta si worcester sa White House. Sa harap ni mckin-

ley, magpapa-impressed si worcester sa Presidente.

What is our policy on these islands, Mr. President? What is our
policy for the Visayas group of islands? Do we have a separate policy for
the Christianized areas in Luzon?

(Sa manonood)
At first, I did not know what to do with the Philippines. But the
Philippines cannot be left to the Filipinos, because they were unfit for
self-government! One night, I fell on my knees and asked God for guid-
ance. And God told me, “Take them!” There was nothing to do but take
them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Chris-
tianize them as our fellowmen… I told our map maker to put the Philip-
208 drama
pines in the map of the United States and there they are… and will stay
while I am President.

In 1899, President McKinley appointed me to the Philippine

Lalabas si mckinley. Maiiwan si worcester sa opisina.

Scene 5: Worcester’s Career in the Philippines

Sa screen: Salit-salit na photos ni Dean C. Worcester kasama ng

Filipino natives.

Papasok si mateo, naka-long sleeves na puti at may puting hand gloves,

dala ang isang kahon. Bubuksan niya ang kahong may lamang mga bungo;
saka aalis. Sa buong tagpo, walang gagawin si worcester kundi isa-isang
ilabas mula sa kahon ang mga bungo; at magsukat nang magsukat ng bun-
go. Pagkaraan, mamarkahan niya bawat isa at ipapatong sa mesa na parang

For more than 20 years after that meeting with President McKinley, I
filled the public role of American expert in these islands. I was recognized
and respected authority on these childlike, indolent, intellectually inferior
and morally retarded savages.

Mamarkahan ni worcester ang ilang bahagi ng mapa ng Pilipinas.

v i llanueva i Wh i te Love 209
God gave these islands a bounty of natural wealth, which should not
be wasted in the hands of these indolent savages and barbarians.

‘Subiendo á las montañas de Benguet para clasificar y medir crá-
neos de igorrotes Y estudiarlos y civilizarlos y sorprender al vuelo, con
ojo de ave de rapiña, dónde se encuentran los grandes yacimientos del
oro, la presa oculta entre los montes solitarios, para apropiárselos después
gracias a facilidades legales hechas y deshechas al antojo, pero siempre
en beneficio propio. Autorizando á despecho de leyes y ordenanzas una
matanza illegal de ganado enfermo, para sacar beneficio de la carne in-
fecta y podrida que él mismo estaba obligado á condenar en virtud de su
posición official.

Umaakyat siya sa mga bundok ng Benguet upang diumano ay uriin
at sukatin ang mga bungo ng mga Igorot, pag-aralan at sibilisahin ang
mga Igorot. Ngunit habang ginagawa niya ito ay minamanmanan din ng
matatalas na mga matang tulad ng sa ibong mandaragit kung saan naka-
lagay ang mga deposito ng ginto. Subalit ang tunay na mandaragit ay na-
katago sa ilang na bahagi ng mga bundok at pagkatapos ay kakamkamin
niya ang mga ginto para sa kanyang sarili, salamat sa mga kaluwagan
ng batas na maaaring tuwirin o likuin para sa kanyang kapakanan. Sa
kabila ng mga batas at ordinansa ay pinahihintulutan niya ang labag-sa-
batas na pagkatay ng patay nang baka upang pagkakitaan ang maysakit
at nabubulok na karne na dapat na ipagbawal niya sa bisa ng kanyang
opisyal na kalungkutan.
210 drama
Sa screen: Worcester’s Chart of Racial Hierarchy in the Philippines;
nasa p. 90 of Exemplar of Americanism.

I believe human beings could be arranged hierarchically, accord-
ing to the evolutionary stages they had reached. And that evolution was
mental; that is moral and emotional, as well as physical…

Papasok si mateo, may dalang pink lemonade. Magsasalin sa baso ng

inumin at iaabot kay worcester. Pagkainom ni worcester, saka lalabas si

These primitive tribes—or, more properly, modern savages—were
residual evidence of a state of savagery through which Europeans and
Americans have long since passed. The inhabitants of these islands
belong to three sharply different races: the Negritos, the Indonesians
and the Malays. The Negritos, a virtually subhuman race, numbering
about 25 thousand out of an estimated population of eight million, are
doomed. They are incapable of any considerable degree of civilization or
Christian Filipinos descended from the Malays. They are consid-
ered pillars of Philippine society. They are proud and aggressive. But
despite their education and wealth, they are not capable of self-govern-
ment; and could not be trusted to look after the welfare of their non-
Christian brothers.
But instead of returning our love, Filipino insurgents seem intent on
making war. But traditional American social and political values could
change all that! Because civilization is about civilizing love and the love
of civilization.
v i llanueva i Wh i te Love 211
Sa screen: photos of casualties of Filipino-American war.

Presentándose en todas las ocasiones con el ceño fruncido del sabio
que consume su vida en los misterios del laboratorio de ciencia, cuando
toda su labor científica se reduce á desecar insectos é importar huevas
de peces como sí los peces de este país fueran menos nutritivos y menos
ricos, de tal modo que valiera la pena de sustituirlos con especies venidas
de otros climas.

Sa lahat ng pagkakataon ay ipinamamalas niya ang pangungunot
ng noo ng isang siyentipiko na nag-uukol ng buhay sa paglutas sa mga
misteryo ng agham sa laboratoryo; sa katunayan, ang tanging gawaing
siyentipiko na kanyang naisagawa ay ang pagbiyak ng mga insekto at
ang pag-aangkat ng itlog ng isda na para bang ang isda sa ating bansa ay
walang kalasa-lasa at sustansiya kaya’t kinakailangang palitan ng mga
nagmumula sa ibang bansa.

Why these hostilities? What do these Filipinos want?

Papasok muli si mckinley, kakausapin si worcester.

Why are they attacking US forces? By resisting the United States,
these Filipinos are being unreasonable!

They are big children who must be treated like little ones!
212 drama
As with errant children, they need to be disciplined. With firmness,
if need be, but without severity so far as may be possible. Is that under-
stood Sec. Worcester?

Yes, Mr. President.

Sa screen, tatakbo ang texto na parang scroll:

To pacify the Philippines, the Americans introduced the water cure,

a new form of torture.

The .45 pistol was designed for use against the Muslims in the

“My plan would be to disarm the natives in the Philippines, even if

we kill half of them doing it.” – US Gen. Shafter, 1898.

“I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn; the more you kill
and burn, the better you will please me.” – Gen. J. Smith, 1901.

“The Americans have yet to learn that something more than brute
force is required to make these ‘barbarians’ against their will become part
of the American people.” — Richard Sheridan.

Magtatapos sa larawan ng American soldiers sa harap ng mga patay na

Filipino “insurgents.”
v i llanueva i Wh i te Love 213
After the pacification of the Philippines, another war had to be
waged to protect the primitive and superstitious Filipinos; the war
against cholera.

Sa screen: Larawan ng lumiliyab na dila ng apoy; tapos mapapali-

tan ng texto: By 1904, cholera was estimated to have taken 109,461 lives;
4,386 in Manila alone.

Sa tanghalan, tila naglalagablab ang apoy sa paligid. Patakbong ta-

tawid ang ilang umiiyak na Filipino, kipkip ang kanilang balutan; habang
maririnig ang tunog ng mga nasusunog na bahay kasabay ng mga silbato ng

I ordered the burning of the Farola district in the mouth of the Pasig
River. Houses were burned; especially those unsanitary native dwellings,
the nipa huts; and infected persons were detained in quarantine camps,
and separated, forcibly if needed, from their relatives. People were not
annowed to consult their quack healers. There was great resistance
among the poor, uneducated, superstitious native whom we wanted to
protect and save from the dreadful disease.

Sa screen: By 1904, typhoons and the rains washed the rivers of the
already expended cholera germs; and people had gained immunity.

Despite tenacious resistance and an intense vilification campaign
against me, and my policies, American sanitation and medicine tri-
umphed against cholera.
214 drama

Scene 6: The Legacy of Dean C. Worcester

Muling magiging aliwalas ang silid ni worcester.

Maririnig natin ang huni ng mga ibon. Papasok si mateo, buhat ang
malalaking suitcases. Kasunod niya si mrs. worcester, sakay ng duyan. Ha-
halik ang babae sa asawa saka aayusin ang bihis nito. Ipapasok ng mga native
servants ang iba pang pagkain.

mrs. worcester
This morning, being less than three hours from our destination, we
did not have to make a very early start but got up comfortably at five o’clock
and were off at half past six after a most satisfying breakfast of eggs, potato
balls, rice, beef stew, chicken and coffee. (Kay worcester.) You’ve done a
wonderful job civilizing the indios!

Sa screen: Some men were born to eat and devour.

‘Tales son las características del hombre que es á la vez águila que
sorprende y devora, buitre que se solaza en las carnes muertas y putrefac-
tas, buho que aparenta una omnisciencia petulante y vampiro que chupa
en silencio la sangre de la victima hasta dejarle exangue.

Ito ang mga katangian ng taong ito na isa ring agila, na nanggugu-
lat muna bago manila, isang buwitreng nagpapakabusog sa mga patay
at nabubulok na karne, isang kuwago na nagkukunwaring may walang
hanggang karunungan, isang bampirong tahimik na sinisipsip ang dugo
ng kanyang biktima hanggang sa maubos iyon.
v i llanueva i Wh i te Love 215
Babalik si mateo, iaabot ang kopya ng Renacimiento kay worcester.
Mauupo si worcester, katabi ni mrs. worcester. Babasahin nila ang di-
yaryo. Papasok ding kasunod ni mateo ang ilang natives; aayusin nila ang
mesa na magiging breakfast table; may tablecloth at spray of flowers sa gitna.
Papasok si kalaw, magtatalumpati.
Magsasalita nang sabay sina worcester at kalaw.

Estas ayes de rapiña son las que triunfan. Su vuelo y su dirección
jamás se ven detenidos.

It is these birds of prey who triumph. Their flight and aim are never

Lalamukusin ni worcester ang dyaryo.

Why do they hate us so much?

Sa screen: Video clip ng September 11 bombing.

I shall put this particularly mischievous newspaper out of business!

Nagsampa ng demanda ng libelo si Worcester laban sa El Re-
nacimiento dahil sa editorial na Aves de Rapiña o Birds of Prey. Nanalo
si Worcester. Ginawaran siya ng Court of First Instance ng Maynila ng
60 libong piso. Sinintensiyahan ng anim na buwang pagkabilanggo ang
216 drama
publisher at editor-in-chief, saka inutusang magbayad ng danyos na
dalawa at tatlong libong piso. Napilitang ibenta ang pahayagan para
mabayaran si Worcester. Nagsara ang pahayagan.

Lalabas si kalaw. Pakakalmahin ni mrs. worcester ang asawa. Lala-

bas sina mateo at natives, matapos ayusin ang pagkain sa mesa. Yayayain ni
mrs. worcester na dumulog sa mesa ang asawa.

Scene 8: A Private Citizen

Dudulog sa mesa ang mag-asawang worcester. Nagkukuwento sa

asawa si mrs. worcester habang padulog sa mesa.

mrs. worcester
Can we make plans for Michigan now?

But I’m not done here yet, Nona. You know this kind of work
never really gets done.

mrs. worcester
But nothing ever gets really done in this place, dear. Especially, if
you’re the one doing the job. You’re such a hard-headed perfectionist!

But it’s not just a job.

mrs. worcester
Yes, yes, I know. I just thought after your government service, it
would be lovely if we can watch the sunrise in Michigan together! You’re
a private citizen now, Mr. Worcester!
v i llanueva i Wh i te Love 217
Surely, you don’t want me to just waste everything I learned about
these islands. There are many business opportunities for us in this place.
I did not labor so hard only to retire and watch the sunrise!

mrs. worcester
Oh no! I understand, dear. I suppose I have to settle for sunsets at
the Bay. Don’t worry about me; I’m going to write Mom a letter. …
(Magsusulat) This morning…

Kakain ang mag-asawa, habang naka-antabay lang si mateo na sa kat-

apusan ng pagkain ay maglalagay sa mesa ng chocolate cake.

mrs. worcester
Dear Mom, there is no danger of starving on this islands… It seemed
like perfect luxury. We had delicious soup for luncheon, stewed chicken
and dumplings, roast beef, potatoes, peas, and two kinds of pies. In the
afternoon, we had hot doughnuts, and tea… for dinner a chocolate layer
cake, besides all the rest of the good things.

Papasok si kalaw.

Unos participan del botín y del saqueo. Otros son tan débiles para
levanter la voz de protesta. Y otros mueren en la desconsoladora destruc-
ción de sus propias energies é intereses. Y entonces surge, terrorífica, la
leyenda inmortal: MANE, TECEL, PHARES.
218 drama
May ilang nakikinabang sa mga nadambong, ngunit ang iba ay
walang sapat na lakas na isatinig ang kanilang pagtutol, samantalang
ang iba naman ay namamatay sa pagkalupig ng kanilang lakas at interes.
Gayunman, sa dakong huli ay lilitaw rin, na may nakatatakot na kati-
yakan, ang walang kamatayang babala: Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin.

Lulugmok si worcester sa kanyang upuan. Nag-aalalang dadaluhan

nina mrs. worcester at mateo, pero huli na. Ipupuwesto sa gitna ang naka-
higang bangkay ni worcester.
Papasok ang ilang doktor at nurse para eksaminin, ayusin ang bangkay
ni worcester sa gitna ng entablado. Malungkot na nakatingin sina mateo at
mrs. worcester sa tagpo.

mrs. worcester
On the evening of May 1, 1924, his kind and loving heart begun to
trouble him. Death came the following afternoon. The doctors claimed
Dean C. Worcester died of chronic endocarditic and phlebitis.

Dean C. Worcester also died wealthy and unapologetic. (Lalabas.)

In 1924, my friend, our White Apo, who was almost a father to me
passed away. Shortly before he died, he gave me this anting-anting. (Ipa-
pakita ang anting-anting mula sa bulsa.) I said no, but he insisted. I wanted
to refuse the anting-anting because he had already given me a talisman
a long time ago, when he accepted me as a friend, loved me as his own
son, and taught me everything I knew. He even taught me the poem he
loves so much…
v i llanueva i Wh i te Love 219
“The White Man’s Burden”

Take up the White Man’s burden-

Ye dare not stoop to less-
Nor call too loud on freedom
To cloak your weariness.
By all ye will or whisper,
By all ye leave or do,
The silent sullen peoples
Shall weigh your God and you.

Take up the White Man’s burden!

Have done with childish days-
The lightly-proffered laurel,
The easy ungrudged praise:
Comes now, to search your manhood
Through all the thankless years,
Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom,
The judgment of your peers.

Aawit ng Ave Maria si mrs. worcester.

Sa screen: In 1924, Worcester died of endocarditic and phlebitis.

Dean Worcester died wealthy and unapologetic.

Sa screen: mabagal na pagrolyo ng obituwaryo ni worcester:

Dean C. Worcester
220 drama
Member, First and Second Philippine Commission;
Former Secretary of the Interior

Business shares and interests:

American-Philippine Company
Visayan Refining Company
Agusan Coconut Company
Philippine Dessicated Coconut Corporation
Philippine Refining Corporation
Lever Brothers
San Miguel Company.

Kasabay ng pagrolyo ng obituaryo sa screen, isa-isang ipapasok ang mga

korona ng bulaklak.
Mapaliligiran si worcester ng mga bulaklak na red, white and blue.
Kasabay ng pagpasok ng mga korona, ang pagtitipon sa isang sulok ng en-
tablado ng kabataang filipino, na nakasuot ng damit bilang contemporary,
Americanized Filipinos. Tahimik silang titingin sa bangkay ni worcester.
Maririnig ang awit ni Louie Armstrong: “What A Wonderful World.”
Magdidilim ang tanghalan.

wa kas



Fernando M. Maramág,
Poet and Critic

The Man

MARAMÁG is our first important poet in English because he matched

its poetic tradition—the young writer’s acid test at the time. It is vain
to ask who our pioneer poet in English was. If we mean, whose the first
attempt at English verses, then perhaps it is Ponciano Reyes who wrote
a long narrative poem called “The Flood” in 19051; but I have not come
upon any more verses by him. Or if we have in mind, who first broke
away from traditional verse, M. de Gracia Concepcion could get a laurel
leaf and Villa,of,course, a crown. Or if we are rather asking, who took
the English yoke and cleared a ground amid the Romantic and Victorian
lea—shall we point to our first wandering minstrel, Juan F. Salazar? We
have Maramág’s word for it, but not Salazar’s verses.2 Upon our third
query’s clearing then, Maramág wins the laurel wreath of tradition. His
poems dominate The College Folio and Rodolfo Dato’s Filipino Poetry.3

In point of time, Maramág is our first poet because he is

the first to combine in his poetry a sufficient command of ex-
pression with sustaining thought. In him also do we get the
first glimpse of that mental state which alone can produce
poetry—the highly ecstatic mood. He still has the faults of
his time but these were due to temperament and were nigh
insurmountable. Nor are they as obvious as those of his
222 essay s
No juster assessment, even if we might find Longinus (“the highly
ecstatic mood”) too steep a climb, or “temperament” a weak perch for
an apologia. More than his contemporaries’ verses—Maximo M. Kalaw,
Mauro Mendez, Francisco G. Tonogbanua, Procopio L. Solidum—
Maramág’s poems kindle with poetic fire, though often luxuriant and
slow-burning, and strike a high if at times heavy moral strain.
Maramág was born on 21 January 1893 in Ilagan, Isabela, to a tobac-
co plantation owner, Rafael Maramág, and his wife, Victoria Mamuri.5
He was enrolled in the public schools, unlike the children of other rich
families who preferred private institutions. Though he never took a for-
mal degree, he was an avid reader in Spanish and English in his father’s
own extensive library.6 At age 15, without graduating from high school,
he enrolled at the Philippine Normal School, then the premier teachers’
training institution; later, he entered the U.P. as a special student in eco-
nomics and history. He then began contributing poems to The Citizen,
the Philippine National Weekly, and The College Folio.
In 1915, while serving as high school principal at the Instituto de Ma-
nila (later, the University of Manila), he fell in love with a pretty colegiala,
Constancia Ablaza, then only 15 years old. Over “her mother’s vehement
protests, the lovestruck lass consented to be the wife of the 22-year old
unassuming principal.”7 Maramág had found his Lucy, fairer than Word-
sworth’s solitary star. “8 Tis a woman’s pure affection,” he says, “That is
life’s divinest law.”6 They had six children, two boys and four girls. But the
jealous Muse had fled. As Maramág himself seemed to have foreseen,

When love connubial shall have tied

This bosom to a virgin’s breast,
Must I that sacred gift deride
To have a lesser passion blest?9

For a time, Maramág was chief of publications at the Department

of Justice, and then, on special detail to Senate President Manuel Luis
Quezon. In 1917, he was editor of The Rising Philippines10 and later, the
Philippine National Weekly. Afterwards, he joined The Philippines Herald
and later, The Manila Tribune as its associate editor upon its founding in
1925.11 He became its editor in 1933 and made it “superior to the other
English dailies as far as editorials go.”12
abad i F er n ando Maramág, P oet and Cri t i c 223
Perhaps our best portrait of any first-generation poet in English is
“First Impressions of Fernando M. Maramág” by a second-generation
poet, Narciso G. Reyes, then only 20.13 On a Tuesday afternoon in Octo-
ber 1934, two years before Maramág’s death, the young Reyes went to see
him at his office in the T-V-T building at the corner of Azcarraga and
Florentino Torres. He had no previous appointment and so, he was ner-
vous but, as editor of The 1935 Quill, the U.S.T. literary yearbook, quite
eager to secure an essay that Maramág had promised the Quill’s faculty
adviser, Jose M. Hernandez.

… I had supposed [writes Reyes] Mr. Maramág to be more for-

bidding, being a higher genius [than Carlos P. Romulo]. I had
come prepared for frost and run full into warm sunshine.14
Sunshine. I can think of nothing that more aptly describes
the man. He was always a-sparkle, like a child hiding unsuc-
cessfully the glow of a secret joy. He was full to overflowing
with inner life and light. His eyes were always kindling, his
mouth irradiating smiles. For the moment I was so fascinated
by the play of alternate light and shadow on his face—he was
by swift turns grave and brimful with mirth—that I failed
to notice how hollow and deep-lined were his cheeks, how
abundantly streaked with gray and white was his thin black
hair. In appearance he was far indeed from being the youth
he seemed to be in spirit.
He reminded me of Stevenson: “tall, preternaturally
lean.” His chest was flat, his shoulders and his arms and legs
were very thin. He did not, however, give an impression of
frailty or of awkward lankiness. He carried himself well, sit-
ting or walking, with a certain rangy grace not unbeautiful to
see. He was not, like Stevenson, “restless and questing.” His
movements were deliberate and serene. But his eyes did seem
to me suggestive of quest. There was in them an expression
as of far-away radiance, as though they reflected the gleam
of a vision.
Perhaps that was why, in spite of his emphatically mature
appearance, the suspicion that he was young persisted in my
mind. That and his smile. There was something boyish in the
way he smiled, something of young candor and young zestful
eagerness. Something, too, of a child’s undisguised quizzical-
ness, a hint of wonder. In my mind I began calling him THE
224 essay s
BOY. THE BOY had been disturbed but he was not angry.
THE BOY was smiling, graciously polite. THE BOY …

I went home inwardly flushed and warmed. … I had

heard him … speak, I had seen him … smile—this “prince
of the pen,” whose captivating personality and consummate
grace and skill of expression are as two overflowing streams
from the fullness of charms within. Satis. [end of essay]15

Maramág was by then suffering from tuberculosis. Sent by Don

Alejandro Roces, Sr., to Baguio City to rest, he dictated his editorials
from bed and had them rushed to Manila. “His most miserable moments
were the times when he could not keep his mind occupied.”16
The essay which the young Reyes obtained from Maramág the day
after his visit, called “This Foolish Nostalgia,” captures best the spirit
of the first-generation poets who, by force of circumstance, had to leave
their youthful Muse for “realms of darker skies.”17 In the same poem,
Maramág says of his vocation as journalist,

Stern right and truth I have as friends

To battle with ambitious lies.

As Tribune editor, he was a man of “resolute will and high feeling,”18

and his work was “almost an obsession.”19 But in his heart of hearts, there
remained a yearning for the magic and power of poetry, and indeed, a
touch of guilt for the loss of “that sacred gift.” His short essay, “This
Foolish Nostalgia,” is quintessential Maramág:

There was a manner to my writing years ago, a manner

which to me had its magnificences because I liked it best. How
it grew to be a possession and what at times turned it into a
power, I could not say. I only knew that it was something in
me which at first was a far-away radiance in the emotions;
that out of its warmth exulted words in which was a germina-
tion of ideas not altogether futile and out of which emerged
traces of achieved technique.
This was in my youth; this was in the days when there
were no lost causes in my art. Then, I could summon words;
abad i F er n ando Maramág, P oet and Cri t i c 225
they were vassals to the authority of my thoughts. As I look
back now on the abandon with which I commanded them so
as to group them, that their accents play out the magic of mu-
sic, or to pair them or to isolate them the better to bring out
their capricious capacity for meaning, I feel the guilt of one
who dared an apprenticeship toward consummated victories
in prose.
Mine no longer that manner. I wish it were a gift return-
able to my inspiration. As it came from nowhere, I wish I
could recapture it from nowhere, and be again the beholder
of its luxuriance or the listener, in a lull, to the revival and
recitation of its idiom.
Not that I have not tried a restoration, in this page, of the
magnificences of that manner. This very confession is the full-
ness of my failure. These words are empty of articulate sig-
nificance, and emptier of sound artistry. They are a lassitude,
even as this foolish nostalgia is a lassitude of the spirit.20

Maramág, honest and self-critical, certainly means what he says, but

the words are not “empty” in his own feeling for “that lost manner,”
much less “a lassitude of spirit.” English, that “imperial tongue,”21 had
colonized a people’s mind; and that “manner to my writing” was a bent
of mind that the Romantic idiom had ineluctably established. This idi-
om had certainly its magnificences, especially in Maramág’s command of
English. It was a gift, a possession, a power, but it also possessed its taker.
The words were “vassals to the authority of my thoughts…I commanded
them…to bring out their capricious capacity for meaning.” Here is the
fundamental rift: “my thoughts” might already have been thought be-
forehand by the words’ alien history and culture; yet, the words’ “ca-
pricious” being or “capacity for meaning” might also create a space be-
tween “in which [is] a germination”—a space or clearing within language
where the poet could forge his own ideas “not altogether futile,” or play
out a native accent that “at first was a far-away radiance in the emotions.”
This possibility is the final magnificence in that “manner to my writing”
for which the poet yearns. If it comes from nowhere, he could also always
recapture it from nowhere: now and here, as lived in our own “scene so
fair.” The words themselves as capricious and unfixed are the very soil of
that ever-fresh possibility.
226 essay s
When on 23 October 1936 at age 43 “the boy” passed away at his
home, he was deeply mourned as “a man of truth and peace” and “an
advocate of English letters.”22 In the early ‘60s, when Carlos P. Romulo
was president of the University of the Philippines, he had a street on the
University campus in Diliman named after the poet and Tribune editor.

Maramág the Poet

While Salazar by 1909 was turning out verses during his hard and lonely
wanderings; while another wanderer, Concepcion, had by 1915 found
in “free verse” a possibility for self-expression23; Maramág was by 1910
already proficient in the English poetic idiom of the time. He embod-
ies in his poetic production the form and substance of Filipino verse in
English from 1905 well into the ‘30s. “Lost Friendship”24 in 1910 was, as
its sub-title says, “An Exercise in Eighteenth Century Meter.” This was
the same exacting if to lesser poets intimidating path through the English
body poetic that Angela C. Manalang-Gloria, Virgilio F. Floresca, and
other second-generation poets honed their poetic skill by. Freedom in
poetry, no less than in politics, was better achieved through such labor
and discipline, one reason being that the agon or contest with words,
with their meaningfulness through their historical usage, compels the
poet to criticize their gaps by the terms or vernacula25 of the poet’s own
self-identity in his own historical and cultural scene. Of course, the Eng-
lish or American poetic tradition is essentially bourgeois, a poetry of the
educated classes. But education, except perhaps in the totalitarian state,
is a two-edged sword: as propaganda, it serves the interest of the ruling
ideology and in-forms its clientele into its subjects; as criticism, it can ex-
amine that ideology, and even subvert its most hidden assumptions (its
very way of seeing and doing things), and so transform it across varying
“Sonnet,”26 composed when Maramág was 18, is purely Wordswor-
thian in metrical form and in Romantic solitude and Nature-worship.

When mortal bosoms grieve with thee no more

And thou, alone, doth feel despairing care,
Walk thou the woodland fanes and there implore
Each lovely blossom all thy woes to share;
abad i F er n ando Maramág, P oet and Cri t i c 227
Roam where the trees, like the apostles old,
In solemn silence sacred thoughts impart,
And with their spirits sweet communion hold
To teach thee have a more resignéd heart.
More tender sympathy thou shalt find
In Nature’s breast than in mortal soul;
For thee is pity more sincere, more kind
That feigns no warmth, and never knows a goal;
And if this blessing solace to thee yields,
Dare not profane God’s temples in the fields.

It would not be unfair to compare this sonnet with Cirilo F. Bautis-

ta’s “Woods: for Rosemarie”,27 if it is only in order to have a sense of the
poetic distance our writers in English have traversed:

Perhaps the woods intended us to stay
And see its wisdom in another way,
We could not tell what it was thinking then,
We had no ancestry by which to know.

We ignored the lone horse in the grass when

It would not raise its green head and go;
The pines needed trimming, the rocks water,
The winds blew as if we did not matter.

And what monarchs are we that woods to blame

If it recalls not our number and name?
We intruded in its private feeling
And had no password to protect our lie.

Perhaps there was no use in our stealing

Its secret wisdom why it cannot die,
Nevertheless we laughed as best we could
Because we are helpless while we are loved.

The great and obvious difference between these two poems lies in
“the manner of writing” and its “magnificences”: the poetic idiom and
the spirit and burden of its subject. In either poem, form and content are
one: by form, I mean the verbal composite we call “poem” as fashioned
by a particular usage of language; by content, I mean the subject-matter
228 essay s
which governed the creative process of fashioning. Form is the matter of
art, content the matter of interpretation.
In interpretation, I assume that in the lyric poem someone is speak-
ing, and speech is action. Someone’s action is as it were the “lyric plot”,
and such action (what one thinks, feels, and does), as fashioned by the
poem’s language, is the poem’s form or soul. To say it another way, that
action, as simulated by the poem’s words, constitutes the poem’s essential
subject-matter (an event or experience as imagined by the poet) by which
one is moved, and so governs all its parts or elements. In Maramág’s son-
net, we imagine someone giving counsel to a grieving person to seek
solace from “sweet communion” with Nature in “woodland fanes”; like-
wise, Bautista’s poem conjures up a speaker who recalls an incident where
the woods seem to impart “a secret wisdom” that, though inscrutable,
conveys to the speaker (with his companion, Rosemarie) a sense, not only
that our seeming perspicacity and self-importance are belied, but also
that “we are helpless while we are loved,” so that, in our discomfiture,
“we laughed as best we could.” In both poems, the speaker’s thought is of
course the content of his action: in one, his imaginary address, giving ad-
vice; in the other, his narrative account, a memory or recollection. While
it is often easy enough to articulate the content of a poem’s thought as it
progresses, it isn’t as easy in interpretation to convey a sense of one’s grasp
of the lyric speaker’s feeling or attitude; precisely, that is what the poem’s
diction (a particular usage of language) seeks to impart. We could say
that in Maramág, the speaker’s disposition is solemn, earnest and rever-
ent; in Bautista, the stance is sober yet lighthearted and teasing, skeptical
yet accepting.
We might comment briefly on Maramág’s diction that bears the spirit
and burden of the lyric speaker’s action. “Woodland fanes” elicits a mild
surprise when conjoined, though late, with “profane”; but with “temples
in the fields,” “lovely blossoms,” “sweet communion,” “tender sympa-
thy,” “Nature’s breast”, etc.—indeed, not single words or expressions but
all the usual accoutrements of Romantic poetry—Maramág imports an
English grove. Yet rightly so, during his time: the sonnet is no grove for
anitos. Needless to say, the poem draws also from the poet’s Christian
upbringing (“the apostles old,” “resignéd heart,” etc.). Maramág’s son-
net does succeed, though for readers to-day, on tired borrowed ground
abad i F er n ando Maramág, P oet and Cri t i c 229
where it appears somewhat precious and predictable (“the trees, like
the apostles old, / In solemn silence sacred thoughts impart,” etc.). In
short, while Maramág’s diction is, on the whole, borrowed, Bautista’s is
his own: not simply contemporary usage of English, which makes it ap-
pear natural and almost colloquial to us to-day, but his own refashioning
of it, as when he says, “We intruded in its private feeling / And had no
password to protect our lie.” Consequently, Maramag’s insight or counsel
appears to be a given verity but Bautista’s, fully earned through a credible
I should stress that I am reading and evaluating in 2006 a poem in
1911 when our writers were still imbibing the English poetic tradition
of their time; the imitation of poetic models was unavoidable, it was,
as Maramág himself recognized, a necessary “apprenticeship.” But, to
repeat, their tillage of the English lea cleared the ground for later poets
like Cirilo F. Bautista.
Like all his contemporaries who studied in the American school
system, Maramág was a Romantic in both his subject and “manner of
writing,” and a Victorian rather closer to Arnold than Hazlitt in his mor-
al sentiment and criticism. He speaks of “many categories of the lyric”
according to subject, such as “lyrics on patriotism,” “lyrics…expressing
intellectual curiosity,” “verses on the home and fireside,” songs on “the
pleasures and pathos of love [set] against pastoral surroundings,” and
“songs on nature as a temple of beauty and on nature as an understand-
ing kindred spirit to the human spirit.” Of these, the great poem for
Maramág is the poem of ideas “where the so-called intellectual curiosity
dominates [the poet’s] theme.”28
Maramág wrote on Sympathy (mark how often, from poem to
poem, “roses” and “nectar” appear: these words I have italicized)—

The North Wind weeps, and still the tears it sheds
To opening rose-buds bring their nectar sweet,

Alas! the tears but mock the yearning heart

That can not from its melancholy part.29
230 essay s
On Melancholy (for me, the last two lines of its first stanza are strik-
ing for their freshness and originality of expression and insight, which
Maramág calls “magnificence”)—

Woe, Melancholy, thy voice I hear,

Art thou unholy, thou ever near?
In each dry atom crushed by my feet
A cry I fathom – thy sad retreat.

For withered flowers whose future dusts

Shall find new bowers in other lusts,
My tears deploring can claim from thee,
Thou still ignoring, no sympathy.30

On the South Wind –

Bare to me thy secrets

Thou truant wind;

Embrace the young roses,
Bid them unfold

Hues that still may kindle

Passions grown cold.31

On Love, of course—

They met, they loved, they met again

When the moon was on the lea.

She moved him to his being’s core –
The depths where doubt had trod;32

And if a rose with thorns thou art,
Yet on my breast that rose may rest.

Oh, for a nectar kiss from thee,33

abad i F er n ando Maramág, P oet and Cri t i c 231
On the Poet or Dreamer—

Ah! not a rose with cankered leaves

But claims from me a sigh:34

And a moral fable, too, on Dalisay (a proud tree that vainly seeks
Praise from the forest throng) and Pasion (a treacherous epiphyte of a

Dalisay hopeful did allow

Pasion to deck his barren brow,
And, drunk with glee, he called on Breeze
To touch the lyres among the trees

“Oh! Miss Pasion, please leave my head!

I care no more for you to dight
My simple brow now wanting light;
I care no more for empty Praise,
I only care for feeding rays.

But she remained, and did not hie,
Dalisay thus was forced to die.35

In a very short time (1910 to 1915), the poet exhausted his Romantic
themes and their poetic idiom. It could not be otherwise for Maramág
and his contemporaries. In that alien geography of the soul, “All lose
their beauty, and no joy impart.”36 Maramág the poet was a true subject,
and in nectar and roses lay submerged all his own predicates:

For now the wild calaos strange loud calls

When Night with all her shining beauties falls;37

It was well that Maramág turned to journalism and the “realm of

darker skies” where, a man of peace and truth, he grappled with the
social and political realities of his time—with English as the weapon he
wielded against Ambition’s lies. If he had continued with his youth’s
Muse, he would have turned to didactic poetry more, as in “The Athe-
ist”38 and “A Christ without a Cross,”39 the latter possibly his last poem.
232 essay s
From his first verses, his poetic impulse was essentially moral. What he
says of Fernando Ma. Guerrero as “interpreter and seer” applies as well
to him: “a poet who could draw upon his imagination for colors and
sounds with which to clothe the moral truths in his verses.”40 The follow-
ing passage from “The Atheist” sums up Maramág’s moral vision:

……. Is there new life
Beyond the pale of things?
A soul’s empire
There is, wrought on a faith the ages leave
More steadfastly sublime; and thou who, proud
Of thy laurelled conquests, question too thy doubt
And doubt thy question, vacant shalt thou find
Thy earthly treasures; …
……… for e’en decay
Creeps in steel-sinewed towers, wrecks each thing
Discordant with the pulse of nature: man’s
Spiritless handiwork is but a sad
Unmeaning shadow – images that pass,
Reflecting visions in his conscious hours. –

Maramág the Critic

Our first important literary critic in English, Maramág subscribed to

classical standards—

… aesthetic excellences that conform with the demand of lit-

erary laws – excellences understood and enjoyed only by the

“Style, workmanship, and loftiness of thought” are the critical touch-

stones. Their application, however, “may seem premature and idle” in
1912 “because contemporaneous productions do not come up to the stan-
dard.” All the “judicious critic” may do is point out tendencies or forces
“that needs must have some bearing upon the development of our lit-
erature.” Of these tendencies, he singles out two: the writing of patriotic
verse and “the undue haste at publication.”
As regards patriotic verse, Maramág anticipates S. P. Lopez’s sever-
ity in 1940 by observing that
abad i F er n ando Maramág, P oet and Cri t i c 233

First of all there is the seemingly noteworthy inclination

among us to treat subjects that are calculated to bespeak an
author’s patriotism, but with motive too often ignoble, in that
it is not rarely a bid for mere fame, and manifests no ideal
devotion to his art by the literary aspirant.

He says of Guerrero’s patriotic verse that “At times, as the singer of the
revolution, he becomes argumentative and declamatory. That is always
fatal to great poetry, because his discourse becomes debate rather than ‘a
thing of beauty without name’.”42 It is in those “lyrics expressing intel-
lectual curiosity” that Guerrero truly becomes a poet: “his lines wander
from artifice to art.”43 Patriotic verse may still rise to art “only when a dis-
criminating mind gives [it] a telling interpretation [so] that its influence
becomes ennobling.” The standard, then, is chiefly moral: good patriotic
works have “less of misunderstanding and more of toleration, less of self-
ishness and more of philanthropy.” Understandably, Maramág wrote no
patriotic verse. A young scholar then at American U.P., wide-read and
tolerant, Maramág was enamored with “proud Olympia” and her demo-
cratic ideals. His reading and education had, as we observed earlier, “in-
formed” him (or formed him within) into a true colonial subject so that
the Anglo-American Romantic mind and sensibility also “in-form” his
verses, and the American democratic ideology, his editorials.
As to ‘undue haste at publication,”

It seems to me the idea among our writers that he is the mas-

ter genius who has composed the greatest number of pieces in
the shortest possible time on events of passing interest, a belief
easily refuted by a comparison between the poetry of Southey
and Coleridge.44

Hardly a dozen years had passed from the establishment of the

American public school system but Maramág could already ask “wheth-
er this will be an age of prose or poetry, or both, with poetry in the ascen-
dancy; whether the trend of our thought will be romantic, conveyed in
terms finished and classical in perfection, and withal in a language exotic
as is the English.” From the “quantity” of verses produced and the “en-
thusiasm” in their writing, we can from our distance now examine the
234 essay s
English smithy that forged a people’s consciousness. We might through
some reading or interpretation45 understand better how, with the alien
words and the alien manner of expression, the poet’s agon to convey a
sense of his own “scene so fair” must needs create a space between where
frail musings break the native sod.
It appears from our vantage point now that Maramág could not
quite break through the spell and delusory magnificence of the Romantic
idiom. Only in translation, in “Cagayano Peasant Songs,”46 does he seem
almost able to overleap the enchanted ground of the poem’s epitaph from
Wordsworth. If he had pursued this “quest to give permanence to the
undertones … of native ballads,” he could have achieved what he praised
Nicanor Abelardo for: “In him become renascent memories which have
been treasured by his audience and to which, as to a shrine, they turn for
the serene enjoyment of sweet, familiar things.”47
That quest was not unfamiliar to Maramág; it was in fact the chief
motive of The College Folio whose pages he dominated. The Folio sensed
no contradiction between “forwarding materially the present use of the
future national language [English]” and seeking “a thorough and critical
knowledge of our own [vernacular] literature together with intelligent
appreciation of our folk customs and beliefs … toward the formation of
a true Philippine nationality.”48 In fact, Maramág had a low regard for
“dialect literature” and spoke of Paredes’ Tagalog verse in Reminiscences
as “elevated to a companionship with English and Spanish. The Tagalog
writers … make up for the lack of quality in the great quantity of their
Maramág, perhaps our first advocate of English letters, called for
critics in 1912

to find if the Filipino public is susceptible to the imaginings

of a native Tennyson, and is thus capable of receiving a poet’s
message with that uplifting sympathy that reaches the divine
in the man. He is to conclude whether the ideals and aspira-
tions of the race can be fully expressed in English and yet
remain distinctly native. He is to elicit the wealth of materi-
als to be met with in things Filipino—whims to be satirized,
characters to be portrayed, natural beauties to be sung.
abad i F er n ando Maramág, P oet and Cri t i c 235
Neither Maramág nor the College Folio had really any doubt wheth-
er English could fully express “the ideals and aspirations of the race.”
The Folio unabashedly advocated the adoption of English as our national
language, to the scandal of the Spanish-speaking community in Manila;
and in the 1940 national Commonwealth Literary Contests (in three
languages, Spanish, English, and Tagalog), English seemed the favored
medium. The problem for Maramág’s critic was simply the literary edu-
cation of the masses to prepare them for “a native Tennyson” and the
proper motivation of the Filipino writer to engage with “things Filipino
—whims to be satirized, characters to be portrayed, natural beauties to
be sung.” In poetry, satirical verse developed much later from the more
obvious lyric invective (Julianus’s “Don’t You Know?”, Nicasio Espino-
sa’s “The She-Devil,” Virgilio F. Floresca’s “The Quacks at Helicon”)51
to less rhetorical, more effective forms like Trinidad Tarrosa Subido’s
“Vanity” or “”Of Critics”52 and A. E. Litiatco’s “slings.”53 There are early
forms too of the lyric portrait or character sketch such as Salazar’s senti-
mental “My Mother” or Procopio L. Solidum’s “Fair Rosario of Sagay”54;
later on, we find comic or satirical portrayals like Florizel Diaz’s “Por-
trait of an Unmarried Aunt” or Angela C. Manalang-Gloria’s “Old Maid
Walking on a City Street.”55 As to “natural beauties,” there was from the
outset a fair abundance of the descriptive lyric: say, Pablo Abada’s “Pag-
sanjan,” Leopoldo B. Uichanco’s “The Kuliawan” [The Oriole], Lorenzo
B. Paredes’s “Moonrise”56; later, the “nature poems” of M. de Gracia Con-
cepcion, Cornelio F. Faigao, and Maximo Ramos.57

Concluding Remark

For Maramág was possessed of a fine critical intelligence and a high mor-
al sensibility, and his verse production had true poetic quality despite
their Romantic fetters, he dramatizes more than any poet of the first two
decades (say, 1905 to 1924) the writer’s most basic problem. Any language
is a tool, a medium, but the medium itself is already the matter and sly
master of the message that it makes possible. Only the poet (here a figure
for all writers) masters language from within itself because he subverts or
transforms the realities it would create and so impose as to make it seem
no other are possible. The poet too is mastered by his language, but in
236 essay s
play they are equally matched. One bespeaks the other. If then the writer
at the outset is already enthralled with his medium, just as though its
words were innocent vassals to his own thought and feeling, the struggle
to shape the language anew to his own creative will is already quite fa-
tally undermined. The agon or contest with one’s chosen medium is nec-
essary, whether the language is foreign or indigenous; indeed, with one’s
native tongue, the struggle in every act of writing may without omen fall
short of the requisite discipline of imagination because the innocence or
fidelity of the medium has simply been assumed; whereas, with an ad-
opted language, the coming to grips with words and words is often more
self-conscious and keen because the gaps amongst thoughts and feelings
endorsed by the native and alien vacabula are foregrounded in every act
of writing. When the struggle fails, it gives painful notice; but when it
succeeds, there takes place a trans-lation into new discourse – that is, the
poet ferries across58 the essential void of words (for they are no longer for-
eign or vernacular) thoughts and feelings for which the language is the
poem itself. The new discourse is a fundamental criticism that refutes
or enriches the way of looking which its original medium propagates. It
must still needs have its roots there – be it a native idiom or an alien tra-
dition – but its fruits, ripened by the poet’s own response to his time and
milieu, are not predicated upon previous fertilities of the word.

1  The Filipino Students’ Magazine, April 1905 (first issue): 14-15.
2  Salazar was born in 1889 in San Roque, Cavite. He left for America in 1915 as a
mess boy on the transport Thomas—the same transport that brought the first American
schoolteachers to the Philippines. He worked in the salmon canneries in Alaska and
later joined The Sacramento Union in California where he rose from reporter to copy-
reader to feature writer. He succumbed to pneumonia in 1919. “The biography of Juan
F. Salazar,” says Maramág, “is the history of the beginning of Filipino English literature
… of the triumph of [the Filipino’s literary effort against the criticism] that English is too
exotic to reflect the native mood, the mannerism, the idiosyncracies of the Filipino mind.”
(Maramág on “Juan F. Salazar” in The Philippine National Weekly, 25 Jan 1919, as quoted
in Lourdes Villaluna de Castro, “Fernando M. Maramág: Man of Letters and Journalist,”
unpublished M.A. thesis, U.P., 1968; henceforth, de Castro: 197.)
3  Neither Concepcion nor Villa appears in Dato’s Filipino Poetry (Manila: J.S.
Agustin and Sons, 1924). The short-lived quarterly College Folio was published by stu-
dents in U.P. Concepcion had two poetry collections: Azucena, 1925, and Bamboo Flute,
abad i F er n ando Maramág, P oet and Cri t i c 237
1932. In the 1920s, Villa’s interest lay in painting and the short story. It was not until the
lyric sequence, “Man-Songs” (1929) and “Poems for an Unhumble One” (1933) that Villa
turned to poetry under the influence of e. e. cummings in America where Villa had exiled
himself in 1929. (See our biographical sketch of Villa in Man of Earth, 1989: 411-414; also,
Villa’s “A ‘Composition’” in The Literary Apprentice, 1953: 61.)
4  Theresa Arzaga Montelibano, “A Critical Study of Filipino Poetry in English”
(unpublished M.A. thesis, U.P., 1940): 53.
5  All biographical data culled from de Castro’s M.A. thesis. According to Ileana
Maramág, the poet’s daughter, the young Fernando was taught religion and reading by
an older cousin, Petra Claravall. (Ileana, “Sentimental Work,” in Nita Berthelsen et al.,
eds., An Anthology of Manila Newspaperwomen’s Club, 1959: 4). Young Fernando’s first
schoolma’am, Mrs. Edith Waggenblas, admired his quick intelligence.
6  According to Filemon Poblador, this library contained such works as those of
Rizal, Guerrero, and Cecilio Apostol; del Pilar, Lopez Jaena, Recto and Batikuling; Cer-
vantes, Lope de Vega, Blasco Ybañez, Manresa, and Morga. (Poblador, “F. Maramág,”
The Manila Times, 23 Oct 1955: 13)
7  de Castro: 14-15.
8  “To a Youth,” unpublished poem, dated Feb 1912; in de Castro’s anthology of
Maramág’s poems (part of her M.A. thesis): 183-184.
9  “A Farewell,” unpublished poem, dated Jan 1911; de Castro: 175-176.
10  The Rising Philippines was “the first weekly periodical to be put out exclusively
by Filipinos educated in the American school system.” It was edited by Mauro Mendez
and later, when it became a monthly, by Maramág. “After three years of a rather stormy
existence,” says Carson Taylor, “burdened with good articles and numerous debts, it
passed to the Great Beyond.” (Sylvia Mendez Ventura, Mauro Mendez: From Journalism
to Diplomacy [University of the Philippines, 1978]: 9)
11  The Philippines Herald, so baptized by Quezon, “was founded in 1920 by a group
of wealthy Quezon followers … to help the Senate President counteract the anti-Filipino
slant in the foreign-owned press.” Its first editor was Conrado Benitez. “Politically, [it]
opposed the supercilious policies of Governor-General Leonard Wood.” Maramág wrote
its feature articles. The editorials were in English and translated into Spanish.
Financially distressed because American businessmen withdrew their support, the
Herald was “received” by Alejandro Roces, Sr. Then it was bought outright by Vicente
Madrigal to save it for Quezon. Carlos P. Romulo, whose friendship with Quezon had
cooled, moved to the Roces camp to launch, on April Fools’ Day 1925, The Manila Tri-
bune. “Added to the Tagalog Taliba and the Spanish-language La Vanguardia, … the
Tribune completed the T-V-T chain of powerful Roces papers.” The Tribune staff were all
ex-Herald boys – Romulo, its first editor; Maramág, associate editor; Mauro Mendez, city
editor; and the principal staff members, among whom were Francisco G. Tonogbanua,
Ceferino Montejo, Jose P. Bautista (later, editor of the post-World War II Manila Times),
and Anacleto Benavides (later, editor of the post-War Manila Chronicle). (Ventura, Mauro
Mendez: 10-12)
12  Tom Inglis Moore, as quoted by de Castro: 15-16. Moore, an Australian, to-
gether with George Pope Shannon, an American, joined the U.P. Department of English
in1927. Together they “were responsible for the new tone and spirit in Philippine letters
238 essay s
at the time.” (Alberto S. Florentino, Midcentury Guide to Philippine Literature in English
[Manila: Filipiniana Publishers, 1963]: 14)
Carson Taylor also thought highly of Maramág as “possibly the foremost Filipino
literary man in English.” (As quoted by de Castro: 16) Taylor was at one time the pub-
lisher of the Manila Daily Bulletin. (Ventura, Mauro Mendez: 9)
13  Other than the aspiring writer’s usual adulation of established literary reputa-
tions, there also appears in Reyes’s essay a self-portrait of the young Filipino as writer
– quite unlike the brash, democratic American young man and the insolent campus writ-
ers of later days.
14  Earlier in the same essay, Reyes recalls “how, from the same eminence, - per-
haps, across the same desk – Mr. Carlos P. Romulo, then the editor of the TRIBUNE,
had frowned coldly at me when I came to ask permission from his secretary to read
the framed copy of Arthur Brisbane’s article, HOW TO BE A BETTER REPORTER,
which he kept in his office. I had supposed Mr. Maramág to be more forbidding …”
15  The whole essay is in Argonaut [a U.S.T. monthly], 15 Nov 1934: 9-11.
16  de Castro: 17.
17  Quoted from Maramág’s poem, “A Farewell” (cited earlier).
18  Carlos P. Romulo’s tribute to Maramág, “The Gleam – A Funeral Oration,”
The Manila Tribune, 27 Oct 1936: 16.
19  Manuel L. Quezon’s tribute, “President takes lead in honoring departed editor
of Tribune,” The Manila Tribune, 24 Oct 1936: 14.
20 The 1935 Quill, ed. Narciso G. Reyes: 16-17. It is remarkable how a very
early poem by Maramág, “Sonnet on a Remembered Voice,” bespeaks “This Foolish

Lost poetry where candid mem’ry clings,
Soul of remembrance painful to declare,
Bride to the heart when care was still not there,
Its silence tells but the sad end of things.
Oh whither has that voice gone, …
What charms can bid its urn ethereal bare,
Reveal to me those soft sweet murmurings
I search in vain, in an imagined grove

I find no semblance of the voice I love,
Hear not the concourse of its wondrous streams.

This unpublished sonnet, dated 12 May 1912, is in de Castro: 185; unfortunately, its
text there does not seem to be a very accurate copy of the original: “wither,” for example,
is obviously “whither.”
21  Ventura’s phrase in Mauro Mendez: 3.
22  Quezon’s tribute, cited earlier.
23  His flute was bamboo, but it had at times its songs – “his own notes,” he says,
“feeble as yet.” In contrast with Carlos Bulosan, his chief motive remained purely per-
abad i F er n ando Maramág, P oet and Cri t i c 239
sonal: “to express himself in words” and thereby find his own authentic selfhood in ili-na,
that is, his hometown. (Concepcion’s “Foreword” to Azucena)
24  The College Folio (henceforth CF), Dec 1910: 89.
25 Vernacula has useful implications. The Latin vernacula, from verna, “a slave
born and raised in his master’s house,” implies our colonial bondage; but “vernacular”
also refers to both a country’s native idiom and, as opposed to literary, the popular vo-
cabula (stock of words and expressions) or local dialects which best show regional differ-
ences in thought and feeling, in ways of looking and doing. By literary, I mean a cultivated
usage of one’s language, whether it is wrought from one’s own vernacular or from an
adopted language to fashion that art-object we call a “literary work” (short story or poem
or play).
26  CF, Aug 1911: 12; also in Dato: 20, and Makata 6: Early Poets (1909-1942), ed.
Alberto S. Florentino (Manila: National Book Store, 1973): 4.
27 Bautista, The Cave and Other Poems (Baguio: Ato Bookshop, 1968): 57; Weekly
Nation, 25 Mar 1968: 29; Pamana 5, Jun 1972: 44. Also in Abad, A Native Clearing (Uni-
versity of the Philippines, 1993): 451-452.
28  Maramág on “Guerrero, Poet and Patriot,” Leader, March 1933, as quoted in
full in de Castro: 210-212.
29  “Sonnet on Sympathy,” CF, Oct 1911: 45; Dato: 21.
30  “To Melancholy,” unpublished, Apr 1912; de Castro: 186; Abad and Manlapaz,
Man of Earth (Ateneo de Manila, 1989): 33.
31  “To the South Wind,” CF, Apr 1912: 163; Dato: 24-25. It is the only poem by
Maramág in Pablo Laslo, ed.-trans., English-German Anthology of Filipino Poets (Manila:
Libreria Manila Filatelica, 1934): 44, 46, as though to relegate Maramág in 1934 to a dis-
tant Romantic past. Also in Makata 6: 59-60.
32  “The Rural Maid,” CF, Oct 1912: 69; Dato: 27-28.
33  “Love’s First Adieu,” Dato: 39-40, from The Independent, 1 May 1915; also in
Richard V. Croghan, S.J., The Development of Philippine Literature in English (Since 1900)
(Q.C.: Phoenix Publishing House, 1975): 18, but Croghan mistook it for “The Rural
Maid,” and its last three stanzas were lopped off.
34  “The Dreamer’s Heritage,” CF, Nov 1912: 117; Dato: 31-32.
35 ”The Dalisay and the Pasion,” CF, Feb 1911: 152-153; Dato: 13-15.
36  Quoted from Maramág’s “Lost Friendship.”
37  Ibid. A postcolonial eisegesis of Maramág’s Dalisay and Pasion, though on the
“per-verse” side, might take Dalisay as a figure of the early Filipino poet in the English

A forest once had for a son

A tall and stout dalisay tree
That in the strife for light had won
A place in the high verdant sea
Of branches to the eye displayed.
A world of leaves in green arrayed,

Had caused the plants beneath its sway
240 essay s
To suffer woe, and day by day
To die for the oppressive shade,
Which left no light and made them fade.

The botanical imagery, which we find in other poets from Concepcion to Rigor,
gives us perhaps some warrant for a poetic substitution to a less obvious moral burden,
and so serves conveniently our postcolonial eisegesis. Pasion, “back-boneless” [sic] yet
lethal vine, is La Belle Dame sans Merci, the witching vine of that “imperial tongue”
English by which the poet is deceived and strangled:

“Oh! Miss Pasion, please leave my head!

I care no more for you to dight
My simple brow now wanting light;

But she remained, and did not hie,
Dalisay thus was forced to die.

38  Philippines Free Press (henceforth PFP), 23 Aug 1913: 7; Dato: 33-34.
39  PFP, Dec 1926: also in Philippine Prose and Poetry, III (Manila: Bureau of Educa-
tion, 1938, 1940): 325.
40  Maramág, “Guerrero, Poet and Patriot” (footnote 28).
41  Maramág, “A Call for Critics,” CF, Oct 1912: 62-64; all subsequent quotations
are from this Editorial unless otherwise indicated.
42  Maramág, “Guerrero, Poet and Patriot.”
43  It would of course be unfair to limit our evaluation of Guerrero to his patriotic
verses, for “poems on patriotism, to be the safe basis of greatness, demand the epic sweep,
which he had not: the marching, as it were, of a million forceful ideas detailing out the
overpowering figure of a hero or the vast movement of a common purpose, which he had
not.” To Maramág, then, Virgil’s Aeneid is probably the patriotic poem par excellence.
44  The American Philippines Free Press shared Maramág’s view such that, when
it published in 1913 Maramág’s long and overwrought didactic poem, “The Atheist,” it
felt constrained to justify what it had done, thus: “While the Free Press does not want to
fan into flame the all too ardent poetic yearnings in the Filipino breast, yet it may be par-
doned if once in a while it gives recognition to exceptional talent. And such is the plea of
justification in the present case, the verse, from a young Filipino by the name of Fernando
M. Maramag, showing more than usual talent.”
A remarkable apologia, just as though the Free Press were on trial – and in prose as
fastidious and cumbrous as Maramág’s verse.
Later, when Maramág wrote his “Introduction” to Lorenzo B. Paredes’s Reminis-
cences (Manila: Fajardo Press, 1921), he confessed to “a diffidence” in judging its merits,
and preferred “to remain silent on its originality, on the sweep of its vision, on the beauty
of its language, … on its message, if there be one, of hope and faith which would widen
the ultimate service of Art to Life.”
Cristino Jamias was to echo the same complaint in 1926 with more wit and felicity
of expression: “The truly aesthetic and scientific mind has been too rare a presence in
abad i F er n ando Maramág, P oet and Cri t i c 241
the midst of us. … The average writer rushes to print. Generalities, platitudes, salutary
verbiage rule our world of thought. Our culture is expressed in bad prose and worse
verse, which is not entirely due to typographical error. … Literature is not an infantile
occupation. There is more in it than dubbing juveniles as literary prodigies, more in it
than the threat of youngsters to be famous in the Byron style and keep us constantly ‘agog’
over the mornings of their awakening.” (Jamias, “Our Absent Intellectual Minority,” The
Plain Dealer, 6 Oct 1926: 1-2)
45  One instance may be our previous reading of Maramág’s “Moonlight on Manila
Bay” or Santiago Sevilla’s “My Dream” in “Inang Bayan Our Muse,” Diliman Review,
35 (1987), 2: 37-49. See also our “Introduction” to A Native Clearing (University of the
Philippines, 1993): 20-22.
46  CF, Aug 1912: 1; Dato: 25-26; also in Man of Earth: 34. The poem’s epigraph
tends to assimilate the translation into English pastoral poetry.
47  Maramág, “On Nicanor Abelardo,” Manila Tribune, 23 Mar 1934, as quoted in
full in de Castro: 213.
48  “Editorials,” CF, Dec 1910: 79-81.
49  Maramág’s “Introduction” to our first local multi-lingual (English-Spanish-Ta-
galog) anthology of one’s own poetry, Lorenzo Paredes’s Reminiscences (1921; see footnote
50  The “Editorial” of the College Folio’s maiden issue (Oct 1910: 16-18) states “our
aim to act as pioneers in … the adoption of the English language as the official tongue of
the islands. … [because of] The diversity of dialects and the imperfection of all of them
… unless we Filipinos mean to be cut off from the world of thought and action.” The
Editorial then compares Spanish and English which it assumes to be the “most widely
spread in the archipelago.”
Spanish “is strictly the language of the sentimental poet. … It is effeminate. … in
this tongue you do not and cannot find the manly vigor, the impelling force, the vigorous
expression which make up the language of the Anglo-Saxon. … and English is possessed
of a literature – … the first in rank, achievement, and importance in the history of the
world. … If we Filipinos desire to grow into a vigorous and manly nation, we must
have a language virile and forceful, … And the most widely spread, the commercial, the
practical language of the world is the language of Francis Bacon, Adam Smith, Newton,
Locke, and Darwin.”
The Folio editorials (Oct and Dec 1910) aroused the ire of “the Filipino press in
Spanish.” In its February 1912 issue, the Folio took up again “The Question of Lan-
guages” (pp. 130-131): “Being the first native paper to advocate English as the official
and the national language of the Philippines, we were termed anti-nationalistic and even
anti-patriotic. … In our opinion, the question as to which should be the national language
… is no longer a pending one: it was decided, not by the American flag when it was
first hoisted on our shores, nor by the government when it passed the law that makes
English the official language after 1913, but by the Filipinos themselves when in the
very beginning they showed their admiration and their support of the present system of
education, in which English is not only taught but is also made the medium of acquiring
knowledge. The constant demand for new public schools, the ever-growing enthusiasm
242 essay s
for education, the 600,000 Filipino children attending public schools, are great and con-
clusive proofs of the Filipinos’ preference for English.”
51  Julianus (Justo Juliano), in Dato: 48-49, from The Independent, 1 Dec 1917; also
in Makata 6: 17-18. Espinosa in Dato: 65, from PFP, 14 Oct 1922; also in Makata 6: 20. Flo-
resca in Floresca, Tiger, Tiger and Other Poems (unpublished TS, ed. John Jefferson Siler,
undated): 38-40, from The Varsitarian, 16 Sept 1931: 7; also in Man of Earth: 75-77.
52  “Vanity” in Laslo: 68, Makata 6: 70, and Man of Earth: 112. “Of Critics” in Two
Voices: Selected Poems (Manila: Manila Post Publishing, 1945): 30; Man of Earth: 116.
53  See, for instance, “Two-Volume Novel” or “To a Herrickose Swain” in Litiat-
co’s With Harp and Sling (Manila: Effandem, 1943): 90, 86; also in Man of Earth: 85, 86.
54  Salazar’s poem is in Dato: 7, from PFP, 9 Jan 1909; also in Philippine Prose and
Poetry, I (1927): 8. Solidum’s is in Dato: 60-61, from PFP, 17 Sept 1921, and Solidum,
“Never Mind” and Other Poems (1921; 2nd edn., 1922): 18; also in Laslo: 60, 62; Makata 6:
26; Solidum, Collected Poems (1961), ed. Amador T. Daguio: 3. Bibliographical data on
Solidum’s “Never Mind” and Collected Poems available to us are incomplete.
55  Diaz’s poem is in Man of Earth: 101, from The Philippines Herald Mid-Week
Magazine, 18 Feb 1939: 16. Manalang-Gloria’s “Old Maid” appears only in her Poems
(1950 edn.): 80 (which is the expurgated edn. rather than the original edn. of 1940); also
in Man of Earth: 69.
56  Abada’s poem is in Dato: 11-12, from CF, Oct 1910: 40; Makata 6: 2-3. Uichan-
co’s in Dato: 15-16, from CF, Apr 1911; Makata 6: 4-5. Paredes’s in his Reminiscences: 19,
from La Vanguardia, 1916; also in Man of Earth: 43.
57  Concepcion: “Rain” (in The Bystander, Oct 1931: 30) and “Silent Trails” (Philip-
pine Magazine, Sept 1931: 173). Faigao: “Birds in the Church” (Graphic, 24 Feb 1932: 52),
“Cogon Grass” (Philippine Magazine, Jul 1934: 277), and “Islands” (The Sunday Tribune
Magazine, 13 Oct 1935). Ramos: “Island” (The Evening News Saturday Magazine, 23 Aug
1947: 11), “Bats under the Moon” (Philippine Magazine, Apr 1940: 137), and “Oriole” (The
Evening News Saturday Magazine, 21 Dec 1946: 8). All these poems are in Man of Earth:
37, 38, 71, 73, 168, 170.
58  The Latin word transferre (past participle, translatus) means “to convey or ferry
across.” Indeed, any language may be regarded as always already a trans-lation of reality.


Pilgrim of the Healing Hand

O NE OF THE MOST common stories we tell is the journey. The

hero goes to war in a far-off city then makes a long, laborious re-
turn. Or he leaves home and takes his family and all his belongings with
him to go, in blind faith, where his God leads him. Or he flees a burning,
defeated city to found a new one. Or he puts on a spittoon, mounts his
donkey, and goes out, old man as knight-errant, to battle giants that turn
into windmills. Or he leaves the comfort of his verdant, rustic home to
destroy the ring of power. And so on and on, again and again, do we tell
the same story of the hero who leaves and perhaps returns, a changed
being in a changed world.
Often the journey takes the form of a quest, a search for something
of immense consequence but not necessarily known, not necessarily
found. The journey’s import is not in arriving at the destination but in
knowing what it means to arrive, and in knowing its cost. The traveler
breaches a boundary, geographical and personal, goes farther than he has
ever gone before. Sometimes the quest is unsuccessful, open-ended, and
the search continues, implied beyond the confines of the narrative.
I bring this up because the journey as fictional motif is something
that has been on my mind of late. I have taught fiction at the high school
and college levels; have been reading and loving stories and novels for
more than two decades. I have also tried my hand at writing stories. To
someone who reads and loves stories, who teaches them to students hop-
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ing to get them to read and love them too, who spends an inordinate
amount of time in these other worlds, there exists the temptation to think
that life unfolds like one. I will talk here of something true, something
that actually happened. It is not fiction. It is a common enough occur-
rence, a trip out of town, and it is perhaps forgivable if the journeyman
in this narrative fancies himself the hero of a story and tries to find mean-
ing where there may be none, to tie things together that may not fit.
The thousand quotidian bits that make up a life may not follow the neat
patterns found in the ordered terrain of stories. As I mull the events that
will unfold in this narrative I accept with reluctance that they may not be
burnished with the glow of fictional significance.

ON APRIL 19, the bus for Lucena pulls out of the jac Liner station in
Cubao at 5:30 a.m. just as Magandang Umaga, Bayan, an early-morning
show, begins. (Is there a provincial bus without an onboard TV and vcr
these days?). The show features chatter among smiling hosts and their
self-righteous pandering to populists. The outrage du jour: higher oil
prices. Oil companies are scolded in stentorian voices. Hopes of a quick
journey dissipate as the barely filled bus crawls along the length of edsa
picking up passengers. At six we make it to South Superhighway. The
morning show over, the conductor puts on a movie. It is a James Bond
movie: For Your Eyes Only. I must have watched it as a child. It features
Lynn Holly Johnson (I remember the name), star of Ice Castles, whose
treacly theme I used to play on the piano. Watching it now I am guiltily
amused to see how cheesy it is.
The air-conditioner is awfully cold, and the vents can’t be shut.
Good thing Hilda has brought a shawl. We grin and bear it. The sun
begins to rise on our left. Bordering the highway are the ubiquitous bill-
boards, their clear-smiled models in satisfied poses, consumer bliss pre-
sented as wildly erotic.
After more than three hours in the bus trying not to freeze, we ar-
rive in Lucena. We get off at the “crossing” and board a jeep going to the
bayan. We ask the driver how to get to the munisipyo. At a corner, the
driver turns to us and tells us to walk two blocks to the right. We disem-
bark and spot a McDonald’s on the opposite side of the street. The idea
of clean toilets and a greasy breakfast wins us over. Looking just like any
abo l a i Pilgri m of th e Heal i ng Hand 245
of its ilk in the metropolis, the McDonald’s is a guilty comfort, the thing
you hoped to leave behind—didn’t I sneer when I saw the golden arches
at the Petron on the highway?—yet are glad to see.
At 9:30 a.m. and breakfast over, we walk the two blocks to City
Hall. It is a smallish official-looking building, trying to look important
in the space it occupies, like a short overdressed man. When Hilda asks
him where the Register of Deeds is, the man at the Information desk
raises his left arm and points vaguely into the air, and says that the titles of
Lucena properties are in the “Annex.” Then he raises his right arm and
points in another direction; those of Lucban and other towns are in the
kapitolyo. We will need to go to both. Another man tells us which jeep to
take to the Annex. A jeep just to go to an “annex”? By jeep, the curiously
named structure is ten minutes away. (I am reminded of the bir office on
Quezon Avenue; one climbs to the second floor, then to the next, which
is not the third floor but the “mezzanine,” then on to what should be the
fourth floor, but which is only the third.)
Another curiosity is that the City Hall Annex (the words are embla-
zoned on its façade) is much larger than the City Hall, an afterthought
that dwarfs the original. The lot sprawls, the building is L-shaped, low,
and long. We find the register. Like fastfood restaurants, government
offices can be counted on to look the same from place to place. We enter
a rectangular room, the pale green of the walls fading. A long string of
Christmas lights is still tacked to the cornice that circumscribes the large
room. Uninterested people sit at desks simulating busyness, their faces
closed to the world. “It’s a government office,” Hilda says, after stand-
ing a few moments at the front counter, “no one will come to you.” She
goes past it and approaches a desk at which a gray-haired woman with
glasses sits.
The only young person, and the only one who seems to care to make
a positive impression, is a large dark man in an orange button-down
shirt. He goes up to me and asks “Kayo?” I point to Hilda and say, “Meron
na.” He nods, sits near the counter, and takes luscious bites out of a ma-
copa. A vendor comes in. (How many vendors go around a government
office in the course of a day?) He hawks children’s clothes and small
towels. He stops by the desk of a stoop-shouldered man with glasses low
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on his nose who makes loud excuses about his nephews and nieces being
too old already, he doesn’t know their sizes anymore.
There is some agitation between Hilda and the woman. She comes
over, papers in hand. The woman won’t accept them. “This is frustrat-
ing!” she whispers fiercely. “They won’t accept the papers piecemeal.
They want everything already. Ayaw nila nang tingi-tingi.” Just our luck
that this is one of the few places in the country where the tingi system is
unacceptable. We take a moment to consider. We have been up since 3
a.m., traveled for nearly four hours, walked around on a hot morning,
and have just been told that we will not get what we came all the way
here for. Hilda refuses to leave empty-handed and returns to the woman.
She asks for a complete list of requirements and writes them on a brown
Another vendor comes in, not ten minutes after the first, with a tray
of food in knotted plastic bags. She hands out the orders to the people in
the room, encouraging them to eat while the food is hot. We leave and
take a jeep to the kapitolyo.

HILDA’S MOTHER died in 1993, her father in 1996, the year we got
married. Together they owned properties in Quezon City, Lucena, Luc-
ban, and elsewhere in Quezon province. These would be passed on to
four children. Their two elder brothers abroad, one in Chicago, the other
in Toronto, Hilda and her younger sister put off the work needed to
settle the estate (the idea of a 35% estate tax was daunting; the calcu-
lations we would make every so often always produced an obligation
running into the millions). When Vivian left for the US, the task was
left to Hilda. Three years ago she engaged the services of a law firm and
finally got to it. There was plenty to do: finding land titles (who owned
what, exactly?); digging up documents in drawers, in dusty boxes and
envelopes; meeting the lawyers; waiting and following up and waiting;
dealing with a bir examiner who sat on his hands; frantically borrowing
money from relatives abroad to meet the deadline of a tax amnesty; driv-
ing around the city picking up checks, cashing them, and carrying bags
of money in the car under the passenger seat (it was the first time I had
actually seen one million pesos); filing the papers at a bank on the last
abo l a i Pilgri m of th e Heal i ng Hand 247
day of the amnesty; paying legal fees; and more waiting and following
up and waiting.
The extra-judicial settlement of estate was done, filed with the bir,
and finally approved. Now the lawyers were having the land titles trans-
ferred to the children. Hilda already had the spas of her siblings, grant-
ing her the power to sell a few of the properties as soon as the titles were
While the lawyers prioritized the titles of the properties in Quezon
City, Hilda and I decided on this trip to Lucena and Lucban hoping to
speed things up. Much of the farmland in Catanauan, Quezon, had been
taken by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, and the modest
compensation waited for its claimants at the Land Bank in Los Baños.
Armed with the settlement, she would file it at the register, get a receiv-
ing copy, then go to the Land Bank with it and the spas of her siblings.
We hoped to come back with a check. We would then use the money to
pay the bank that was about to auction off my father’s house.
It was her decision, made a week earlier when my family had held
another of our occasional meetings to discuss the latest problem and rack
our brains for a solution, to go to Quezon. She had already filed for a
three-day leave in her office because we had hoped to go to a beach, but
we cancelled the trip. She had not cancelled her leave, and the vacant
days combined with the money anxiety pushed the thought into her
mind. By going to Quezon Hilda and I hoped to move two narratives
forward with one act, to swell the stories of two families to a high point
with the same plot device.

AT 10:45 A.M. we enter the kapitolyo and go up a floor. A wide, dark

hall of dusty tiles stretches a long, shadowy distance under a ceiling some
thirty feet high. Many of the offices are double-doored. At the midpoint
of the hall a large, wide staircase on the left rises a story into a shut iron
gate. The pallor of dust and age is everywhere, but so is the tantalizing
suggestion of former grandeur.
The register is a small cramped office, a white room with wooden
floors, wooden furniture, and translucent windows. Several trusses rise
from the floor to hold up the ceiling. Our luck has not changed: as at the
munisipyo, the woman Hilda speaks to will not accept the papers con-
248 essay s
cerning the Lucban and Catanauan land. She points us to the Depart-
ment of Agrarian Reform office across the hall; farmland of more than
ten hectares needs dar “certification.”
We cross the hall into another room and take the narrow flight of
steps to the improvised second floor. The ceilings are so high many of the
rooms have been partitioned, mezzanines added for lack of floor space.
Hilda engages two helpful women in a discussion, and they explain what
other requirements she needs. More trips to more towns, more docu-
ments to obtain. Two electric fans blow hot air into the room.
We leave and take the stairs back to the first floor, stopping at the
landing halfway down to look at plaques on the wall. One announc-
es the structure’s building date: 1908. Reconstructed and expanded in
1930–1935, the contractor being the Manila Saw Mill, a name charmingly
lacking in self-importance. Rebuilt in 1946. We read mostly American
names, a few Spanish ones, on the plaques. On the walls of the first floor
are paintings of what might have been the original structures.
We spend a while in the park outside, a broad open area with a play-
ground, sitting areas, food stalls. Hilda smokes. I sip a cold Pepsi. Since
the register will not accept the settlement papers, we will have nothing
to show the Land Bank. And the money will languish there some more,
as well as our hopes for a quick rescue. It is 11:30, still morning, and our
business here is over. One sign that this is not fiction is that the resolution
of the plot comes too soon, the protagonists thwarted too early.
We mull our options. The prospect of another three to four hours
on a bus does not appeal, so we make our way to the terminal of jeepneys
bound for Lucban. Unlike the ones in the city, these are larger, with a
midsection for passengers who sit facing front, then a long hind section
where twenty or so people sit facing each other. One does not pay the
driver but the konduktor who rides in back, standing at the entrance. On
this one he is a boy, an early teen, with dark skin and short hair dyed an
orangy brown. He is curt, not given to thanks, reluctant to offer change,
and looks eager to demonstrate having acquired the stoic aloofness of
We get off at the familiar landmark, the large green gate, military-
camp style, of the Southern Luzon Polytechnic College. On the opposite
abo l a i Pilgri m of th e Heal i ng Hand 249
side of the road stands a Big Mak, as common in these parts as the owner
of the trademark they are infringing is in the metropolis.
We get to the house on Agueda Street, where Hilda spent many
childhood summers, just as Tia Luisa and Medy are finishing lunch.
Two dogs bark their greeting. Medy has cooked some adobo with lots of
bagoong and some vegetables. We eat hungrily. Tia Luisa, the sister of
Hilda’s uncle Quito (married to Remy, the sister of Hilda’s mother), has
plenty to talk about. She is unusually animated and energetic for a sev-
enty-nine-year-old. Her conversation pours out of her like shaken soda
finally unstoppered, and the names of relatives wash over the ice cubes.
She leads us to the guest room, which she added to the house recently.
We take a long nap.

THE WORLD of grownups is a world awash in grownup words, ones

we as children may have heard but had little use for. Words I have got-
ten accustomed to this past week include “mortgage,” “foreclosure,”
“sheriff,” “auction.” There is a kind of music in the thudding rhythm of
“due and demandable.” The words have a curious shape, angular, sharp-
edged, hard and cool to the touch, like stones on a beach that cut wet skin.
I have heard and read and perhaps even used them before, but they did
not burn a hole in my brain the way they do now. It has come to this: in
less than a week’s time the house my parents live in will be auctioned off
to pay my father’s debts to a bank.

LATE IN THE AFTERNOON we rise. Tia Luisa offers us merienda.

In the cool driveway she and Hilda continue their exchange of stories.
Tia Luisa has been tending to some of Tita Remy’s properties, many of
them farmlands productive and beautiful. She returns to her favorite re-
frain: that Remy and Quito should come home and settle things, sell off
some land, manage others, at the very least decide what to do with them.
I won’t be around forever, she says.
Hilda and I walk to the town proper so she can photocopy some
tax receipts. We find an Internet café-cum-copy shop. I check my mail.
Internet access at P25 an hour in Lucban; not bad at all. Still no word
from my father or siblings about efforts to raise money. We walk down
the main street. It feels more crowded than the last time we were here
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a decade ago; most noticeable are several new tall and narrow buildings
in bright colors that set them off against the old stone. A hotel beside the
square is new, but it isn’t the bed-and-breakfast Hilda imagines putting
up here one day. Too fancy, too pang-turista. We buy pasalubong, then
walk back.
We decide to have dinner at Palaisdaan, which is on the road going
back to Lucena. Tia Luisa says we should visit “the grotto” first. We take
a tricycle. The road is smooth asphalt, and on each side are fields of grass
and trees still a rich green in the dying light. Subdivisions are rising. The
sky is a heavy gray, and in the distance is a hill curiously marked by lights
in playful symmetry. We turn into a concrete driveway, ride to its end,
then disembark.
The hill with lights I saw in the distance is right before me. It has
been carved into large, story-high steps. On the left and right are much
smaller steps, two stairways where people ascend to a fifty-foot statue of
Jesus in white and red, his arms spread out to the world, and descend.
Tia Luisa says there are two hundred steps. At several points along both
stairways are orange and green coconut trees like Christmas parols, lit
from inside. “Gaudy,” I whisper to Hilda. “I know,” she says, beyond
earshot of Tia Luisa and Medy.
At the bottom of the stairway on the left is a twenty-foot black
wrought-iron gate suspended from two stone pillars. Two security
guards exchange easy banter. On the levels are scenes from the stations of
the cross (or Jesus’ life, I can’t tell) with life-size figures, softly lit. At the
halfway point of each stairway is a gazebo, for those who need to sit and
take a breath. A few levels below the immense statue of the Christ with
outstretched arms is a small shrine of Mary. “Gusto niyong umakyat?” Tia
Luisa asks. I remember the long morning we have had. “Tsaka na lang,
ho,” I reply. Hilda laughs softly. “Sa susunod na lang.”
We descend to a large open lot, big as two basketball courts, cut
up into small squares. In each are inscriptions of thanks, complete with
footprint, of grateful pilgrims. Billboards on both our sides announce
the schedule of “healing masses” of Father Joey Faller, “healing priest.”
A glance at the boards shows a very busy schedule. I make out locations
in Southern Luzon, with the occasional visit to Manila and Makati. The
side of the Kamay ni Hesus Healing Church, at the foot of the grotto,
abo l a i Pilgri m of th e Heal i ng Hand 251
is to us. Stacks of monobloc chairs fill the outer hall. We approach the
entrance. A free-standing blackboard announces a color scheme, seven
colors for different ailments. Large strips of green paper (“general ail-
ments”) are pasted onto the pillars at the church’s opening. “Para hindi
magsiksikan ang mga tao,” Tia Luisa says. “Kasi kapag mahal na araw, pu-
nong-puno ito ng tao.” She gestures up at the grotto, the open lot and
driveway, the rising land where the billboards are. Fr. Joey’s Masses start
at 9:30 and end at 11:30, she says, then the healing service goes on until
four in the afternoon. I look out into the darkness and imagine the place
crawling with people on a sweltering day.
We enter the church. Only a few months old, it has the sparkle of
the new, its tiles of red and cream gleaming below our feet. Behind and
above the altar is a larger-than-life figure of Jesus suspended from the
ceiling, lit from below, in flowing white robes, his brown tresses cascad-
ing, the beard cleft at the chin. “Manalangin tayong sandali,” Tia Luisa
says, kneeling at a back pew. Hilda kneels beside her. I step outside. The
air is cool, with none of the mugginess of Manila evenings. Mosquitoes
buzz lazily. The chatter of the security guards and of a smattering of
people in the grotto wafts over to me.
I wonder what it might be like to attend one such healing Mass.
A two-hour Mass amid a sea of people, a prelude to an afternoon-long
“healing service.” It is a small price to the devoted pilgrim whose faith
burns like the Philippine summer sun in the fields of this town.
How strongly we respond to signs and wonders. Perhaps this grotto
is an admission of defeat to the entertainment machine, an acceptance
of its necessity, the need to borrow its engineering for a higher purpose.
Who am I to say that walking up a stone stairway lit by orange and green
coconut trees will not truly bring salvation?
I cannot shake off my cynicism. To me the desire that drives one to
stand for hours in the heat of the sun hoping that a priest will dispense
miracles at the slightest touch bears too much of a resemblance to our
cultural need for the quick fix. Trying to get rich not by working hard
but by duping the customer. Putting money in pyramid schemes. Betting
on numbers or horses or basketball games. Is this a case of hoping to go
to heaven in twelve (or two hundred) simple steps? Salvation for Dum-
mies? Perhaps the upshot of sixteen years of a superior education at ex-
252 essay s
clusive schools is an inability to appreciate a simple-hearted faith. I have
become a sneering sophisticate, scoffing at the easy alliance of religious
fervor and the imperatives of spectacle.
We walk back to the driveway. On one side are stalls hawking food
and touristy souvenirs, t-shirts, shoes, trinkets, delicacies. We stand at
the driveway’s end, on the side of the road, and wait for a jeepney. Op-
posite us is a billboard brandishing a politician’s well-scrubbed face that
welcomes folks to the grotto. The billboard is like most others, bright-
smiled and garish.

FICTION OFFERS coherence. Events do not occur at random but

conform, however conceived by the writer, to some rules of rational op-
eration. A logical universe is presumed. Lizzy Bennet falls for the cad
Wickham because she is in need of chastening, her prejudice purged.
Ivan Ilyich falls ill not out of some capricious cruelty of life but because
only by confronting his mortality does he learn to truly live. Even Gregor
Samsa’s metamorphosis into an insect, bizarre and fantastic as it gets, is
reasonable in the nightmarish world of Kafka’s novella.
Stories also promise satisfying endings, even if not necessarily happy
ones. (“I hate it when the hero dies,” a student once wrote, explaining why
he never enjoyed reading tragedies, and inadvertently declaring why he
never would.) Mersault, on the eve of his execution for his indifference
as much as for killing an Arab, finally opens his arms to the absurdity
of the universe. Joy Sonido’s world of adolescent innocence is smashed
to pieces by war, a terrible force beyond her control or understanding.
Winterbourne rues his unfair judgment of the mysterious Daisy Miller.
The nameless protagonist of NVM Gonzalez’s “Bread of Salt” returns to
his bread-buying routine, the world of Aida, the rich and beautiful mes-
tiza, out of his reach. At the very least, stories promise a last page, so you
know, as you sink into confusion (so many names in this Garcia Marquez
novel!) and despair (will Gregor ever be human again?), that it will be
over, that your patience and attention and caring and hoping for the best
will be rewarded, that there is indeed a point to all this.
The coherence of stories, the coming together of disparate parts in
a unified whole that makes eminent sense, is one of their chief pleasures,
and perhaps their best consolation.
abo l a i Pilgri m of th e Heal i ng Hand 253
AT PALAISDAAN we gorge on tilapia (ginataan and inihaw), sisig, ini-
haw na talong, cold beer, and more stories of life in Lucban since we last
visited. The morning after, Hilda and I rise at six and take our leave at
eight, saying we might be back for the Pahiyas on May 15.
For the return trip, we try the Sta. Cruz-Los Baños route. The jeep
to Sta. Cruz goes down a winding road of vivid green, large trees, and
swathes of grassland. We pass through small towns with names like
Luisiana and Cavinti. Hilda talks of someday being a farmer. You be a
farmer, I say, and I’ll build and sell houses in Manila.
The bus we take in Pagsanjan goes through Los Baños, which turns
out to be choked with traffic at the peak of the morning. The Lucena
route might be some forty kilometers longer, but it would probably have
been quicker. The return trip, alas, follows our journey’s overall pattern
of expectation and disappointment. When we get to the highway—an-
nounced by a Petron, McDonald’s, Starbucks—the bus picks up speed.
At 1 p.m. we get off the bus in Cubao and take a cab home.
Upon entering the house it seems just as we left it. Soon enough I
am on the couch taking a nap.

HAVING TAUGHT fiction several times, I have come to be concerned

with symbol. I find that many students, when they get to college, have
endured literature much more than they have enjoyed it. And one of the
things they have learned to do is to mine the story or poem or play for
“hidden meanings” (why is the main character named Alma in “The
Walk”?), obscure symbols (why does the stool have three legs and not
four?), even unlikely but damning signs of the author’s sexual desires
(is the spoon the doctor forces down the child’s throat in “The Use of
Force” a phallic symbol and an indication of the author’s desire to mo-
lest his young patients?). I have to warn them time and again not to go
Yet symbols exist in fiction because they exist in the world. An ob-
ject, on the page or in reality, is rarely a simple thing. It is a bearer of
meaning, a locus of presence. A photograph. A song. A favorite shirt.
The adobo on the plate is not just food that tastes a certain way, but a
window to childhood, to one’s memories of sitting at a table in a house
that no longer exists. The ring around my finger is not just a band of gold
254 essay s
because my wife’s name and the date of our wedding is engraved on it,
bespeaking a claim and a promise. The wallet a friend and fellow teacher
lost as a ten-year-old child she remembers vividly as a thirty-four-year-
old because it belonged to her grandmother and was entrusted to her by
her father; she still recalls her fear as she wondered whether to inform
her father of the loss. The house my father lives in is not just a structure
of concrete and steel and glass; in my mind it is associated with words
such as freedom, aspiration, Sunday lunch, and, lately, with bad decisions
and debt and loss and stubbornness and anger and resentment.

AS I MOVE from sleep into that half-awake middle state, I hear a loud
crash coming from the garage. I stand and rush to the window, then out
the back door. Two cabinets attached to the garage wall have fallen. I
look closer. The wood had rotted inside thanks to moisture, and com-
bined with too heavy a load and the passage of time, it finally gave. Hilda
comes upon the scene—she has been asleep upstairs—and sighs, “The
house is falling apart.” It is something she has said before.
Hooked onto a narrative thread, pushed along by the machinations
of plot and action, the reader joins characters as they move toward an
inexorable end and find—justice? fulfillment? insight? redemption?
futility?—an ending that satisfies, that is surprising but inevitable, that
illuminates the world, that perhaps even stirs the soul.
Standing in front of the mess I grasp at straws. I do not know what
it means that the cabinet has fallen just as we got back from our trip. I am
not sure if it means more than it does. This is not a story, and I suppose
there is no finding any larger culprit than damp, rotten wood and over-
burdened shelves. Inside me I am asking for an answer, for some message
I haven’t found, but pilgrim as I am to the healing hand of fiction, I know
my god has no power in this realm. And since the object of my quest is
unattained (not the money in the bank, but respect, affection, a return to
the past when I did not know what I do now, when my responsibilities
were a child’s), at this moment I have no use for the deliverance promised
by fictional narrative.
Hilda, Nani (our housemaid), and I spend the rest of the afternoon
on the concrete floor of the garage, among splinters of wood, shards
of shattered glass, junk encrusted with rust and grime, plastic garbage
abo l a i Pilgri m of th e Heal i ng Hand 255
bags. The remaining daylight goes out, and no deeply felt emotions are
purged or cleansed, no insight into the human condition gained, no bur-
dens eased, no judgments averted. There is only the mild oppression of
an open-ended conclusion, the resignation that things will probably go
on much as they already have. One senses the presence of what Camus
called “the benign indifference of the universe,” and therefore there is
only one thing to do, and that is to endure.


Haibun: Panimulang
Pagpapakilala at Pagpapalaya
sa Panulaang Filipino

W ALANG nagpakilala sa akin sa haibun.

Maging noong estudyante pa ako ng panitikan noong deka-
da 70, maging nang magsulat ako at mapasama sa grupo ng mga manu-
nulat, hanggang sa makakuha ng MA sa pagsusulat, at makapagwagi ng
kung ilang gantimpala at papuri sa pagsusulat, walang ka-manunulat,
guro o kritikong nagpakilala o nagbanggit man lang sa lumang anyong
ito ng pagtula ng mga Hapones.
Para bang walang nakakakilala sa haibun samantalang natisod ko
lang ito isang Hapong sa halip na patulan ko ang pagngangawa ng ilang
manunulat na hindi makaasenso sa pagsusulat ay nag-surf na lang ako
sa internet.
Sa panimulang pag-surf sa internet panimulang masasabing ka-
makailan lang nga marahil nang bigyang-pansin ng ilang manunulat
mula sa ibang bansa ang haibun:

A detailed account of current experiments with the form

(haibun) can be found in Bruce Ross’s Journey to the Interi-
or: American Versions of Haibun (Tuttle, 1998). (Beth Vieira.
Haibun: Haikain Prose.
ag uila i Hai b un: Pani mul ang P agpap a ki l a l a 257
Ngunit sa paghukay pa nang kaunti sa internet, sasabihin ni Bruce

In the 1950s the so-called Beats turned to the form along with
other explorations of Eastern culture, such as Gary Snyder’s
diaries or Jack Kerouac’s fiction. Since then and with an ini-
tial focus on travel writing, beginning with a haibun on Paris
in 1964 by the Canadian writer Jack Cain, there has been a
flurry of international haibun activity, including book-length
travel journals, novel trilogies, neo-classic approaches, ex-
pressionistic experiments, and the like. (

May “flurry of international haibun activity” mula pa noong dekada

60? Ano’t ni hindi man lang kilala ang salitang haibun sa ating bansa?
Ayon sa makatang si Abet Umil, may mangilan-ngilang kabataang
makatang nagbabasa ngayon sa mga beat poet na sina Kerouac at Snyder.
Ngunit gayon ding walang banggit sa anyong haibun.
At bagamat sa Pilipinas ay may mga pa-beat poets din noong deka-
da 60 at pa-hippie noong dekada 60 at 70, walang nakapansin sa haibun
dahil nakatutok ang mga makatang nagsusulat sa Ingles at Filipino sa
mga tulang kinikilala nila bilang “makabago.”
Mapamakatang Ingles man o Filipino na labis na naimpluwensi-
yahan ng kanluraning pamamaraan ng pagtula, wala ni isang tula sa
anumang antolohiya ng panitikan ng bansa na naglalaman ng haibun.
Sinasabi rin sa internet na may address na na
maging ang mga makatang sina Charles Baudelaire (1821–1867) at Ste-
pahane Mallarme (1842–1898) ay nagbigay-pansin din sa haibun. Ang
mga ito ay higanteng impluwensiya lalo na sa mga Modernistang makata
sa Filipino.
Ngunit gayon din, ang mga sumamba at “nanggaya” kina Baude-
laire at Mallarme ay hindi kinakitaan ng haibun.
Waring ang pinagkakaabalahan ng mga makatang Pinoy noon at
ngayon ay ang Modernismo at Pormalismo; bagay na angkop naman sa
kolonyal na kaisipang hanggang ngayon ay nananaig.
Kayat naneloskopyo ang mga makata ng dekada 50-60 (at maging
ng 70 hanggang sa kasalukuyan) sa malalayong lugar para may pagku-
258 essay s
nan ng mga modelo sa pagtula; samantalang ang Asyanong ugat niya na
nasa tungki lang ng kanyang ilong ay hindi niya napansin.
Kung, at malaki ang posibilidad, may nakatisod din ng haibun,
waring hindi ito binigyan ng akmang pansin o hindi nakita ang mala­
king potensiyal nito sa panulaang Filipino.

Ang Haibun

Si Matsuo Munfusa o mas kilala sa sagisag panulat na Matsuo Basho

(1644–94) ang kinikilalang nagpasimuno ng anyong ito mula sa kanyang
mga paglalakbay.
Ipinanganak sa pamilya ng mga samurai, iniwan ni Basho ang ga­
wing ito at naglakbay sa kaloob-looban ng bansang Hapon; isang mong­
he ng Zen, habambuhay na mag-aaral ng kasaysayan at klasikong tula
ng Tsina.
Ang kanyang “travelogue” o nikki na Oku-no-hosomichi (The Nar-
row Road to the Far North; 1689; Eng. trans., 1974), ang sinasabing
nagtakda at lumikha sa haibun; sinasabing “absolutely nonpareil in the
literature of the world.”
Simpleng-simple ang haibun, gaya ng masining na kapayakan ng
mga tulang Hapones at Tsino.
Una sa lahat, kakaiba sa anumang uri ng tula ang haibun ay pinagsa-
mang prosa at tula.

Haibun is a combination of prose and haiku poetry. (Ray Ras-

mussen. )

Haibun is haikai prose, dense and terse, punctuated by haiku,

etiher at the end or throughout. The prose resonates with the
poetry but does not repeat it or explain it. (Beth Vieira. Hai-
bun: Haikain Prose)

Ikalawa, para sa isang retratong kuha sa instamatic camera o cell

phone, ang haibun ay mapaglarawan, kongkreto ang mga imahen.
ag uila i Hai b un: Pani mul ang P agpap a ki l a l a 259
Haibun prose is largely descriptive avoiding directly ex-
pressed ideas or philosophical comment. Most often (but not
necessarily) it is written in the present tense (as if the experi-
ence is unfolding now) and utilizes terse prose and abbrevi-
ated syntax to convey a stream of sensory impressions. (Ray

Ikatlo, nagkakatulungan ang bahagi ng prosa at bahagi ng tula.

Mula sa Contemporary Haibun Online:

The prose part ordinarily comes first and is usually concise. It

records a scene, or a special moment, in a highly descriptive
manner. The accompanying haiku has either a direct rela-
tion with the prose or a subtle one, but it encompasses the
gist of the recorded experience. The contrasting combination
of prose and haiku provides the reader with more powerful
insight from what might have been possible from either one
separately. It is important not to say anything directly, but to
paint a picture of the moment and let the reader use his or
her imagination to immerse in the experience of the writer.

At ikaapat, nagsisimula sa personal na karanasan ang haibun. Gaya

ng paglalakbay ni Basho, itinala niya ang kanyang mga obserbasyon at
paniniwala sa kanyang mga nakita. At gaya ng sino man, may kani-kani-
yang “paglalakbay” ang bawat isa sa atin; ang paglalakbay bilang isang
metapora sa pagtula.
Bilang pagpopormalisa sa depinisyon ng haibun, ipinirmis ng The
Haiku Society of America [hsa] ang ganitong pakahulugan:

A haibun is a terse, relatively short prose poem in the hai-

kai style, usually including both lightly humorous and more
serious elements. A haibun usually ends with a haiku. Most
haibun range from well under 100 words to 200 or 300. Some
longer haibun may contain a few haiku interspersed between
sections of prose. In haibun the connections between the prose
and any included haiku may not be immediately obvious, or
the haiku may deepen the tone, or take the work in a new
direction, recasting the meaning of the foregoing prose, much
260 essay s
as a stanza in a linked-verse poem revises the meaning of the
previous verse. Japanese haibun apparently developed from
brief prefatory notes occasionally written to introduce indi-
vidual haiku, but soon grew into a distinct genre. The word
“haibun” is sometimes applied to longer works, such as the
memoirs, diaries, or travel writings of haiku poets, though
technically they are parts of the separate and much older
genres of journal and travel literature (nikki and kikôbun).
(Mula sa hsa Definitions Web site)

Mga Posibilidad

Sa kasalukuyang konteksto ng panulaang Filipino, ang tula, pagtula at

pagtangkilik sa tula ay halos limitado sa iilang malilit na sirkulo na ka-
raniwang natatagpuan sa akademya at elitistang katipunan.
Mangilan-ngilan lang ang mga ito; at kadalasang sila-sila lang din
ang nagkakaunawaan sa kanilang sarili.
Samantala, labas sa akademya, nahihirati ang pagtula sa maka­
lumang sukat at tugmang pamamaraan na kadalasang didaktiko o nag-
tataglay ng romantikong pananaw sa buhay.
Lipas na ang panahong ang makata at ang pagtula ay sentro ng
panlipunang pansin.
Si Huseng Batute (Jose Corazon de Jesus) ay umani ng popularidad
na umabot sa antas ng artistang pampelikula (sa katunayan ay lumabas
pa nga bilang artista sa pinilakang tabing); isa sa pinakabinabasang di-
yarista sa kanyang panahon; tumakbong konsehal ng Maynila; at higit sa
lahat, laging bahagi ng mga programa sa mga kapistahan (na maalamat
pang naikukuwentong, hanggang sa sabungan ay tumutula, at tumitigil
muna ang pustahan at sagupaan ng mga tandang).
Ang Florante at Laura katulad ng iba pang mga awit at korido sa
panahon ng Espanyol ay memoryado ng sambayanan (bagay na hindi
kataka-taka, dahil na rin sa malakas na oral na tradisyon sa mga pana-
hong iyon). At kahit pa ang nakalimbag na bersiyon ng Florante at Laura
sa panahon ng Kastila at mga unang dekada ng ika-20 siglo ay masasa-
bing most reprinted na tula.
ag uila i Hai b un: Pani mul ang P agpap a ki l a l a 261
Kung paniniwalaan ang pag-aaral ni Hermenegildo Cruz sa kan-
yang Kung sino ang Kumatha ng “Florante at Laura” (1906), umabot hang-
gang 106,000 ang nalimbag na sipi ng Florante at Laura hanggang 1906.
Kontrobersiyal man ang ganitong pahayag, hindi pa rin maikakaila,
na sa ika-19 na siglo, ang Florante at Laura ay maikailang ulit na inilim-
bag o muling inilimbag; at gayon din sa unang hati ng ika-20 siglo. Hu-
wag nang sabihing katulad ng Noli at Fili ay dadamdunging ilathala sa
iba’t ibang bersiyon para magamit sa paaralan bilang required reading.
Gayundin ang obserbasyon ng mga sinaunang fraile at Espanyol
sa popularidad ng tula. Sinasabing sa halos bawat puntahan ng mga ito,
nakikita nila kung papaano ang tula ay bahagi ng buhay ng ating mga
Patunay rito ang 16 na uri ng awit na naitala sa Vocabolario de la
lengua tagala na isinulat ni Juan de Noceda at Pedro de San Lucar noong
Sa nasabi ring diksiyonaryong Tagalog, naitala rin ang masasabing
“taal” na tulang Tagalog, ang mga bugtong, salawikain at tanaga.
Gayunding magagamit bilang ebidensiya ng popularidad ng tula
sa mga ninuno natin ang paggamit ng mga fraile sa anyong tula upang
ipalaganap ang mga aral ng Kristiyanismong Katoliko.
Ngunit wala na ang mga panahong ito. Mula nang ang pagsusulat
ay naging panloob o pansariling gawain ng makata, ang pagtula ay puma­
loob din nang pumaloob sa maliliit na siwang ng lipunan; na kadalasan
nga ay makikita sa akademya na siyang walang patid na nagsusuri at
pumupuri sa kani-kanilang pagtula.
Ang ironiya nito ay habang “umuunlad” ang pagtula, nalalayo na-
man ito sa kanyang mambabasa. Hindi na kailangan pang patunayan ang
alegasyong ito ng anumang datos. Sapat na ang kasalatan ng pagtangki-
lik ng mambabasa sa mga nalimbag na aklat ng mga tula, at kakauntian
ng mga dumadalo sa tinatawag na poetry reading sa mga bulwagan man
ng akademya o pub house ng mga burgis.
Kaya nga minsan sa pagkadismaya ng mga makata ay sasabihin
mismo ng Pambansang Alagad ng Sining na si Virgilio Almario na pa-
tay na ang panulaan.
Pabubulaanan naman ito ng makabayang makatang si Gelacio
Guillermo, na marahil papatay na nga ang burgis na pagtula; ngunit
262 essay s
lalaging buhay at masigla ang nakikisangkot na panulaan. (Talababa
Blg. 2: Ang Makata sa Panahon ng Krisis: QC: Akdang_Bayan, 2006)
Sa ano’t ano man, ang pagtula ay waring napapanghawakan lamang
ng iilang makata. At tinatangkilik ng iilan ding uri ng mamamayan.
Aminin na nating alyenado ang tula sa sambayanang Filipino,
na kadalasan ay tumitingin din sa tula at pagtula na para lang sa mga
Sa ganitong konteksto ng panulaang Filipino, malaki ang posibili-
dad sa paggamit ng haibun bilang isang mapagpalayang anyo sa pagtula;
na maaaring sino man ay makakatula.

PERSONAL: Ang paggamit sa personal na karanasan (bilang kawa­ngis

ng personal na travelogue ni Basho) ay nagbubukas sa lahat ng uri ng
paksa mula sa panloob na pakiramdam hanggang sa mga pambansa/
pandaigdigang usapin (mula sa punto de bista ng makata na ikinaka­
wing niya sa relasyon niya sa kanyang kaligiran).

…haibun begins in the everday events of the author’s life.

These events occur as minute particulars of object, person,
place, action. The author recognizes that these events connect
with others in the fabric of time and literature, and weaves a
pattern demonstrating this connection. (Williams J. Higgin-
son. The Haiku Handbook. Kodansha, 1985)

Sa gayon, binubuksan ng haibun ang pagtula sa lahat ng nagnanais
tumula dahil sa sariling karanasan nagsisimula ang lahat. Masdan ang
isang karaniwang araw sa isang makabagong haibun mula sa Amerika:

I was shocked by yesterday’s events

I watched for awhile, then went to do some stuff
In the other room. At that time, the twin towers
were still standing.

I came back an hour later and they were gone.

What hit me the most were the stories of the

people jumping to their deaths.
ag uila i Hai b un: Pani mul ang P agpap a ki l a l a 263
Can you imagine going to work on a normal day,
then having to choose which mode of death is
least painful?

I read the report on the internet that two of the

people held hands.

This makes it even more personal for me. I started

thinking “who would I want to die with or for, if I
were on that ledge?”

I came up with three people and a dog, my best

friend Scott, my mom, my brother and “Benji”.

Not a long list. . .but a priceless one.

black clouds—
the New York skyline
forever changed
wail of sirens—
geese fly past
the smoke and fire
clouds of smoke
eclipse the sky—
a flock of geese
— Kathy Lippard Cobb, USA

Ang persona ay isang karaniwang maybahay sa Amerika na

gumagawa ng regular na gawain niya sa isang regular na araw. Para
bang isang karaniwang maybahay sa Pilipinas na nanonood ng paborito
niyang soap opera o teleserye; tapos na-interrupt ang panonood niya da-
hil may balita ng alinman sa Proklamasyon 1017, pagtaas ng presyo ng
bilihin, pang-kung-ilang bilang ng pinatay na aktibista, hanggang pati
sa hindi pa dumarating ang kanyang asawa, o kung dumating man ay
lasing o walang uwing suweldo.
Binabaklas ng haibun ang “elitismo” sa pagtula; na para bang ang
pagtula ay para lamang sa iilang marurunong sa mga paksain at damda-
min ng daigdig; o sa paggamit ng wika.
264 essay s
Nang tinalikuran ni Basho ang buhay aristokrata at nagpalaboy sa
mga liblib na lugar ng bansang Hapon, bitbit niya ang hangaring higit na
makilala ang sarili, ang kanyang bansa at ang panitikan. Upang gawin
ito, naging isang “hamak na bagamundo” si Basho; “namamalimos” ng
makakain; nakatira sa isang parang “barong-barong.” Mula sa kalaga­
yang ito, itinula ni Basho ang kanyang karanasan.
Sa gayon, ang pinakahamak sa mga Pinoy ay may posibilidad din
na “makatula.” Maaari siyang magsimula sa sarili niya at itula ang pag-
kahamak ng kanyang buhay.
Nagsisilbing first-person-account ang bahaging prosa ng haibun.
Tunay at puro ang dating; hindi tulad ng pa-intelektuwal na pakikiisa
ng mga nasa akademya kapag sila ay tumutula hinggil sa karanasan ng
Payak ang mga salita sa haibun. Halos nakikipag-usap ang tono;
parang inilalarawan sa isang kausap ang isang karanasan—bagay na Pi-
noy na Pinoy.

DIARY. Masasabing parang isang diary ang haibun. Sa gayon, lalong

nagiging magaan ang paglapit sa pagtula sa pamamagitan ng haibun.
Sa katunayan, ang pinag-ugatan ng haibun ay mula sa personal na
diary ni Basho mula sa kanyang paglalakbay.
Sa panayam ni Rosanna Licari sa makatang si Janice M. Bostok na
lumabas sa A Haibun Resource Book ng Contemporary Haibun on Line,
nilinaw ni Bostok na:

Traditionally, the haibun was a diary. After travelling all day,

one would stop at an inn or monastery and record the events
of the day.

Naririto ang isang bahagi mula sa “diary” na The Narrow Road Of

Oku ni Matsuo Basho:

The months and days are the travelers of eternity. The years
that come and go are also voyagers. Those who float away
their lives on boats or who grow old leading horses are for-
ever journeying, and their homes are wherever their travels
take them, many of the men of old died on the road, and I too
ag uila i Hai b un: Pani mul ang P agpap a ki l a l a 265
for years past have been stirred by the sight of a solitary cloud
drifting with the wind, to ceaseless thoughts of roaming…

When I sold my cottage and moved to Sampu’s villa, to stay

until I started on my journey, I hung this poem on a post in
my hut:
Even a thatched hut
In this changing world may turn
Into a doll’s house
(Donald Keene. Anthology of Japanese
Literature. New York: Grove Press, 1955)

Sa pag-aaral ni Bostok sa apat na uri ng haibun (ang unang uri ay

ang Imperial Haibun na para lamang sa emperador), ang tatlo pang uri
ng haibun ay pawang mga tala ng “paglalakbay.”

…the diary of the traveller; the diary of the non-traveller; and

one written while on pilgrimage. It is commonly considered
that whether one is a traveller or a non-traveller, their haibun
must move through some type of reasoning and come to a
conclusion and a better understanding of a problem or of life
in general. Therefore, the journey may be a physical one or
an emotional one.

Dagdag pa ni Bostok, dahil makata si Basho, ang diary niya ay la­

langkapan niya ng tula:

…he wrote poems about what he saw and experienced. The

poems at that time were probably what we now call haiku or
tanka. These poems would be interspersed at irregular inter-
vals within the prose.

Samantala ang makabagong haibun ayon pa rin kay Rasmussen sa

kanyang Haibun: A Definition:

Some have described haibun as a narrative of an epiphany,

but many haibun are simply narratives of special moments in
a person’s life. And, contemporary writers continue to write
of travel experiences.
266 essay s
Mula sa diary ni Basho na nilangkapan niya ng maikling tula umus-
bong ang haibun. Mula sa diary ng karaniwang tao, langkapan lang ang
mga ito ng maiikling tula, gayong makakaya na ang pagtula.

PALIWANAG: Ugali na sa aktuwal na pagbigkas ng tula, kadalasan

nagbibigay muna ng pagpapakilala ang makata (na kadalasang kung
saan-saan natutungo). Hindi na kakailanganin ito sa kaso ng haibun.
Nakapaloob na ang “paliwanag” na ito sa prosang bahagi ng haibun.
Kung sa pagbabasa naman ng tula, kadalasang hinihingan ang
mambabasa ng kaalaman sa konteksto ng tula upang higit niyang mau-
nawaan ang binabasang tula. Gayundin, ang ugnayan ng prosa at tula sa
haibun ay siyang tutugon sa suliraning ito ng mambabasa.
Isang larawan, isang kalagayan, isang konteksto ang maaaring la-
manin ng bahaging prosa ng haibun; na siyang magbubuwelo sa maik­ling
tula sa dulo, na siya ring magbibigay ng konteksto para sa mga babasa.
Ang ugnayan ng prosa at tula ay nagpapadali sa pag-unawa at sa
gayon sa pagkagusto sa kabuuan ng tula.
Masdan halimbawa ang haikung ito:

the neighbor’s lilacs—

a teasing hint of fragrance
on the breeze

Masesentruhan na isang romantikong eksena ang isinasalarawan.

Sabihin pa, puwedeng gamitin bilang tula para sa Clean and Green cam-
paign ng mga environmentalist. Ganito ang magiging basa sa haiku sa
itaas dahil walang anumang pagsasakonteksto ang tulang ito.
Ngayon, masdan ang parehong haiku sa kontekstong isinasala­
rawan sa kabuuan nitong haibun:

Seasons of War

Church in the early morning; a stop at the bakery for fresh

rolls; hopscotch in front of the house. The beginning of an
ordinary Sunday in our New England town.
December cold
rippling through the neighborhood
news of Pearl Harbor
ag uila i Hai b un: Pani mul ang P agpap a ki l a l a 267
Within weeks our lives change. No butter, no meat, no
short wave radio. Seasons blend one into the other. In the
spring, my uncle leaves for the army, his whereabouts a con-
tinuous worry. Each day the wait for his letter, and when
it comes, unable to read any meaning between censored
the neighbor’s lilacs—
a teasing hint of fragrance
on the breeze

At night, surprise black-outs. Listening in the dark to the

block warden’s footsteps approach and fade away.
the windows open—
supper by moonlight
until the all clear

My mother works now. The swing shift at the mill, weav-

ing olive drab and khaki.
rain in the air—
raking leaves with Grandpa
after school

As the months and years pass we develop new games. No

more playing cowboys and Indians. We become army nurses,
bomber pilots, soldiers with machine guns.
snowballs fly—
everyone wants to be
on the winning side

At home, the talk is often heavy with long pauses. Fre-

quent mention of “my brother in Naples, the cousins in Sic-
ily.” Our prayers are longer. A sameness settles in; even war
has a familiar routine. Another bond drive; a new scrap drive.
Nothing wasted and everything saved; make-do and make
over. “It’s the war” becomes the explanation for everything.
Victory Garden—
more buggy tomatoes
on the ground
(Adelaide Shaw. Contemporary Haibun Online. Winter Is-
sue 2005 – 06. vol 1 no.4)

268 essay s
Biglang-bigla, nag-iiba ang lahat. Ang romantikong pagtingin sa
nasabing haiku ay wala na. “It’s the war,” sabi ng haibun.
Dahil sa ugnayan ng prosa at tula, ang malaromantikong haiku ay
naging mapait na hambingan sa realidad ng digmaan.

INOBASYON: Isipin na lang ang kombinasyon ng dagli at ng tanaga.

Sa kasalukuyan, ang makabagong haibun ayon kay Beth Vieira:

Haibun as a form is in transition and still being developed.

Ganito rin ang diskusyon sa anyo at nilalaman ng haibun sa artiku-

long Haibun: A Definition ni Ray Rasmussen:

Modern English haibun is evolving just as is modern Eng-

lish haiku. So, the following characteristics portray general
patterns rather than hard and fast rules.
While the original Japanese haibun, by Basho for exam-
ple, tended to focus on journies, contemporary haibun tends
to focus on everyday experiences—the journey of the human
being living in urban settings.

Sa masiglang palitan ng mga haibun sa internet, may mga haibun

na may isang haiku lamang ngunit mayroon ding maraming haiku; may
nagwawakas sa isang haiku ngunit may nagsisimula rin sa haiku; may
mga prosang maiikli at mahahaba; at kung ano-ano pang inobasyon.
Ayon pa rin kay Bostok:

These novels (ni Kerouac), in particular ones like Desola-

tion Angels, On The Road and Dharma Bums are thought by
many people to be haibun novels, though set in a very differ-
ent age.

Ang mahalaga ay ang talinghaga ng “paglalakbay” pisikal man o

Sa Pilipinas, maaaring gagapin ang mga eksperimentasyon sa ma­
kabagong haibun ng mga makata sa ibang bansa. Ngunit maaari ring
gumawa ng sarili inobasyon ang Pilipinas.
ag uila i Hai b un: Pani mul ang P agpap a ki l a l a 269
Halimbawa, ang kombinasyon ng dagli at tanaga. Gayundin ang
posibilidad ng maikling kuwento at tula upang makalikha ng “haibun
short story” o “maikling kwentong haibun.” At sino ang makakapigil sa
“nobelang haibun?”
Ang dagli ay isang maikling maikling kwento. Isa itong katutu-
bong anyo ng prosa sa ating bansa. Naglalarawan ito at gayundin nag-
sasalaysay ng isang karanasan. Sa modernong panahon, lumaganap ito
noong mga unang dekada ng ika-20 siglo; at sa dekada 70 hanggang sa
kasalukuyan ay mabisang pamamaraang ginamit ng mga makabayang
manunulat upang maitala ang kanilang mga karanasan sa pinakamada­
ling paraan.
Samantala, ang tanaga naman ay ang maikling anyo ng katutu-
bong tulang Filipino. Binubuo ito ng apat na linya na may tig-pipitong
Ang ganitong kumbinasyon ay maaaring isang inobasyon ng Pilipi-
nas sa makabagong haibun.
Masdan, marahil, ang unang haibun sa Pilipinas:

Sa Mga Kalye ng Lunsod

Dumarating sila kapag nagdidilim na; lipakin at nanlilimahid,

mga supling ng bumabagsak na ekonomiya, kasinungalinga’t
pandaraya’t kawalang pag-asa. Wala. Wala silang 12 taong

Yaman ay isang karton

Sa lamig ngayong gabi
Bingi sa ingay-kalye
Bukas dapat bumangon

Sa pagbubukang-liwayway ay wala na sila. Saan nagpunta?

Ako? Magtatrabaho pa.

Maaari pang pahabain o palawigin ang bahaging prosa kung na-

naisin ng makata na isama pa ang ilan pang obserbasyon tungkol sa mga
batang-kalye. Maaari ring dagdagan pa ang tanaga; ng isa pa ring tanaga
270 essay s
o isang haiku, o isang tanka, o basta isang maikling tula. Katulad din ng


At ako’y bumalik. Nagsanga-sanga man ang mga papalayong

kalye’y buhol-buhol pa ring inunang di maputol-putol; hini-
hila pabalik sa sinapupunan ang nawaglit sa pinanggalingang
nagbago ma’y pamilyar pa rin. Dito ako nanghapin sa ilog
ngayong nagburak na. Sementado na pala ang daan patungo
sa elementarya. Parang lumiit ang plasang ito na dating may
pasine pa ng Cortal. Sarado na ang mga bodega ng kopra, at
haligi na lang na sisinghap-singhap sa alon ang dating pan-
talan. Sa mabatuhang dalampasigan, ako’y muling nagtapak;
naghahanap ng sinaunang sigay at dating kabataan. Alaala ay
pagbabalik, tabsing sa sugatan kong talampakan.

Balag ng gulay
Gabing baak ang buwan
May alitaptap
Alaalang nagliyab
Kahit panandalian

Napakarami ng posibilidad. At nagsisimula pa lamang ang pag­

linang ng haibun sa Pilipinas.

“Bagong” Anyo

Bagamat matandang anyo na ang haibun, ang pandaigdig nang pag­

linang dito ay kamakailan lang din.
Hindi katakataka ang ganitong hindi pagkapansin sa haibun. Una
na ay:

The mixture of prose and poetry is somewhat foreign to

our (Western) conceptions of literature. (Beth Vieira)

Mahihinuha, nang pansinin ng Kanluran ang mga tula sa bansang

Hapon ay kinuha lang nito ang bahaging tula o ang haiku sa kabuuan
ag uila i Hai b un: Pani mul ang P agpap a ki l a l a 271
ng haibun; hindi pinansin ang prosa dahil na rin wala pa sa bokabularyo
nila ang matulaing prosa.
Aminado ang mga kontemporanyong makata sa buong daigdig,
ayon sa mga entry nila sa internet, na evolving pa ang kanilang pagha-
wak sa matandang anyong ito ng panulaang Hapon.
Higit na mainam ito kaysa sa kalagayan sa Pilipinas na ngayon la-
mang nakatalisod sa anyong haibun.
Tulad ng Kanluran, ang kontemporanyong panulaang Filipino
ay makakategoryang Kanluranin din; dahil sumuso sa modelo ng Eu-
ropa (sa mga saling Ingles), Amerika; at maigi na lang, nabahiran ng
Pagtatapat nga ng makatang Rogelio Mangahas:

Sapagkat ng ikalawang hati ng sinundang dekada, kami

nina Rio Alma (Almario) at Lamberto Antonio ay pawang
nalulong sa pagkatha ng mga obrang imahenista, simbolista,
ekspresiyonista, realista at iba pa…(Virgilio Almario. Balag-
tasismo vs Modernismo, p. 204)

Umamin din si Almario mismo:

Minsa nga’y pinuna ni Lacaba ang hayag na implu­wensiya

ni T.S. Eliot sa mahabang tulang “Agunyas-Abril sa Lunsod”
ni Alma. Ang totoo, kapag sinuri sa tema’t istaylistiks kahit
ng mahaba ring tulang “Panambitan” ni Antonio o “Sa Pa-
mumulaklak ng Diliwariw” ni Mangahas ay mahahalataan
ng utang-na-loob sa The Wasteland o The Love Song of J.
Alfred Prufrock ni Eliot. Malakas din ang timo ng tulain ni
Quasimodo kay Antonio o ni Garcia Lorca kay Mangahas.
(Almario, 204)

At umatake si Almario:

Gayundin naman ang kapangyarihan ng tulain nina

Auden, W. B. Yeats, at iba pang makatang Kanluranin sa
tula ni Lacaba at ibang makatang-bagay. Maaaring halim-
bawang ikumpara ang balangkas ng “Paksiw na Ayungin”
ni (Jose) Lacaba sa “La Pomme de Terre” ni Francis Ponge o
kaya’y ang pokus, sentral na sensibilidad, at himig ng “Hingu­
272 essay s
tuhan” ni (Rolando) Tinio sa “Les Chercheuses de Poux” ni

At dumepensa at umatake uli si Almario:

Ngunit isang yugto ito ng panghihiram at isang di-mai-

iwasang bahagi ng pangkalahatang layunin ng mga Mo­
dernista. Kahit ang mga manunulat sa Ingles ay nagdaan
at kung minsan ay hindi makaalpas sa ganitong karanasan.
Malaki ang utang-na-loob ni Villa kay cummings at Ger-
trude Stein. Ang mga tula ni Nick Joaquin ay may kahimig
ni Garcia Lorca o ni Eliot. At gayon din ang mapapansin
sa sumulpot na henerasyon ng makata nitong dekada 60 na
gaya ni Cirilo R. Bautista, Gemino H. Abad, Jose Lansang
Jr., Gelacio Guillermo Jr., Alfredo Navarro Salanga, Alfred
Yuson at iba pang kundi may tonong beat o jazz ay maes­
tro si Dylan Thomas, John Crowe Ransom, William Carlos
Williams, Crane, Montale, Neruda o kahit ang nuno sa lahat
na si Whitman…Hanggang ngayon ay waring sumusunod
lamang ang panitikang pambansa sa kalakaran sa Europa at
Amerika. (Almario, pp. 208-209)

Dagdag pa, may pagmamalaki pang halos sabihin ni Almario na

“nagaya” na nila ang Kanluraning pinaghulmahan:

Ngunit maliit na ang agwat. Sabihin mang tatak ito ng mas

masidhing pagkahumaling sa estetika’t kaisipang dayuhan,
ang naganap na pag-agapay sa kontemporanyong paniti-
kang Kanluranin ay may naidulot ding kapakinabangan sa
halimbawa’y tulang Pilipino.

Labis na maka-Kanluranin. Para bang ang sukatan lang ng kahu-

sayan sa pagtula ay ang “panggagaya” sa Kanluran. Para bang naghaha­
nap sila (sa hulma ng Elvis Presley of the Philippines) ng “plakado” o
halos katulad ng mga makatang Kanluranin. Dahil sa “panggagaya,
nagkakadikit na ang agwat? “Eliot of the Philipppines?”
Aywan ko lang kung lingid sa kanilang kaalaman na ang modernis­
tang pagtula na sinasabing pinasimunuan ni Ezra Pound ay nagmula sa
bakuran ng Asya.
ag uila i Hai b un: Pani mul ang P agpap a ki l a l a 273
Sa katotohanan, lingid sa kaalaman ng maraming kontemporan-
yong makatang Filipino, ang modernismong ito ni Ezra Pound ay mala­
king naimpluwensyahan (hindi lang sa panulaan ng Pranses, bagkus), ng
imahenismo ng mga sinaunang tula ng Tsina; na siya ring masugid na
pinag-aralan ni Matsuo Basho sa paglikha niya ng mga haiku at haibun.

His (Pound) own significant contributions to poetry be-

gin with his promulgation of Imagism, a movement in po-
etry which derived its technique from classical Chinese and
Japanese poetry—stressing clarity, precision, and economy of

Mula sa bakuran nating Asya, inangkat ng mga makatang tulad

nina Pound, binansagang makabago o Modernista, (at sa ating labis na
pagsamba sa Kanluran) ginawa nating modelo ng ating pagtula. At saka
lamang nating madidiskubre na ang Kanluraning tulang sinamba na-
tin at inakalang bagong anyo ay nag-ugat pala sa ating sariling bakuran
noon pa man.
Kumbaga sa paghahanap ng “Stateside” o “blue seal,” local o made
in Asya rin pala ang pinagmulan.

Panimulang Hakbang

Ang paglinang sa haibun ay kasalukuyang sinisimulan ng isang maliit

na grupo ng mga makata na kinabibilangan nina Tomas Agulto, Abet
Umil, Alex Remonillo, Rommel Rodriquez, at ilang mag-aaral ng ma-
likhaing pagsulat sa Unibersidad ng Pilipinas.
Mula sa panimulang paglinang na ito, ipakikilala ang haibun sa
hanay ng karaniwang mamamayan upang magamit mismo ng tinatawag
na mambabasa ang bisa ng pagsusulat.
Maitatanong, ang paggamit ba ng haibun ay isa ring pag-aangkat?
Marahil. Ngunit maaari ring sabihing ang panulaang Tsino at Hapones
ay may malaking pagkakahawig sa mga naunang pamamaraan ng pag-
tula ng ating mga ninuno.
Sa hiwalay na papel ng may-akdang ito [Pag-uugat: pagbagtas sa
katangian ng katutubong tula. Di nakalimbag, 2005], ang sinaunang tu-
274 essay s
lang Tagalog tulad ng bugtong, salawikain at tanaga ay nagtataglay ng
kawangis na pamamaraan sa paggamit ng imahenismo ng Tsina.
Mula sa paggamit ng kongkretong paglalarawan, umuusbong ang
pananalinghaga; na ang talinghaga ang siyang kaluluwa ng panulaang
Masdan halimbawa:

Cacabaac na niyog,
Magdamag inilipot
(Noceda at San Lucar. Vocabulario de la lengua tagala. p. 163)

Upang matukoy ang sagot kakailanganing masdang maigi ang

imahen sa bugtong: ang kabaak o kalahating niyog na buong gabing ini-
sod. Mula rito ay lalabas ang imahen ng hugis; yaon ay, ang kabaak na
niyog ay hugis bilog. At ang tanging bilog sa gabi ay ang buwan na buong
gabing umuusad.
Masdan din ang tanagang:

Bata bapang magsayi

sa olang marayiri,
baquit damdaming burhi,
ualang pandongin moui.
(Noceda at Sanlucar, p. 42)

Narito ang salin ni Bienvenido Lumbera:

You don’t mind walking on

in spite of the unceasing rain,
so why be concerned that your heart
is exposed as it heads for home?
(Bienvenido Lumbera. Tagalog Poetry 1570-1898. p. 14)

Muli, makikita dito ang paggamit ng matinding imahenismo ng

katutubong panulaan. Isang naglalakad sa ulan ang waring walang pa-
kialam na mabasa o isang kayang batahin ang kung anong suliranin ng
buhay; ngunit hindi makayanan ang suliranin ng puso.
ag uila i Hai b un: Pani mul ang P agpap a ki l a l a 275
Nasa katutubong panulaan na ang imahenismong siyang pinagba-
tayan ng makabagong panulaan. At ang imahenismong ito ay nababatay
sa mga pinagsaluhang karanasan ng ating mga ninuno.
Dagdag pa ni Lumbera:

In the folk poems, it was a metaphor drawn from daily

life which always served as the pivotal element to which the
concept, whether stated or implied, was pegged. (Lumbera,
p. 102)

Sa ganitong konteksto mainam linangin ang haibun. Yaon ay, mula

sa pang-araw-araw na “paglalakbay” ng mamamayan, at sa paggamit ng
batayang imahenismo ng katutubong panulaan at ng kapitbahay na Asya
ay makatula ang malawak na sambayanan.


Born 1932 in Lipa, Batangas, Bienvenido Lumbera was named National

Artist for Literature in 2005 in recognition of several decades of exemplary
work as a poet, playwright, and critic. While he began his career as a writer
in English and took an MA and a PhD in Comparative Literature at Indiana
University, he soon chose to write primarily in Filipino, and has championed
nationalist and progressive causes in literature and society. He was briefly
imprisoned during martial law.
For this first Likhaan Journal interview, ICW Associates Jose Dalisay Jr.
and Lilia Quindoza Santiago and ICW Associate Director Romulo Baquiran
Jr. sat down with Dr. Lumbera to review the highlights and sidelights of his
long and remarkable career as a writer, scholar, teacher, and activist.

Likhaan: Tell us about your family.
Lumbera: I was an orphan. My father died when I was one year
old. I was told that he was good at playing baseball. My mother was a
seamstress. My family belonged to the lower middle class. I had an older
sister who was a schoolteacher.

When and how did your interest in literature begin? And why were you
writing in English then?
As a child in Barrio Balagbag, Lipa, I listened avidly to my aunt as
she read chapters of novels serialized in Liwayway. But when I got to the
i Bie n ve ni d o Lumb era i n tervi278

University of Sto. Tomas, I began honing my craft as a writer in English.

If you had literary ambitions in the 1950s, it was English you had to use
because most magazines that published literary works were in English.
The universities used English as their medium of instruction. Literary
discussions were in English; teachers conversed in English. This was the
situation. The use of a Philippine language for Filipino writers was out
of the question, at least for me.

Did you major in literature at UST, and were you already writing poetry
No. I took up journalism, which had a creative writing component.
Wilfrido Nolledo was my contemporary. So were Jesus Dimapilis, Oph-
elia Alcantara, and Lilia Amansec. I wrote fiction. My idea of the writer
was someone who wrote stories. My first story got published in the The
Sunday Chronicle Magazine courtesy of my teacher Manuel Viray.

So why did you turn to poetry?

I discovered that in poetry, the physical effort was not as exhausting
as it was in prose. I used a typewriter, but it was difficult because when
you had to erase errors on the original, you had to repeat the process on
the carbon copies.
i Bie n ve n ido Lumb era 279
Did you know you were going to be a writer for the rest of your life?
It might be an exaggeration to say that I knew I was going to be a
writer. I only wanted to join the staff of the Sunday Chronicle.

Did you consider other careers?

When I enrolled at ust, my guardians wanted me to take up Law.
I said I would take up Journalism first, just to fend off the prospect of
getting into Law.

Were you a good student?

I graduated from college cum laude. In high school I had good
grades in literature subjects and graduated Third Honors. My teacher
in Grade Six suspected that I did not write one particular composition.
I used high-faluting words I picked up from the dictionary. I felt then I
had a knack for writing.

Who were your literary idols?

Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Emily Dickinson, T. S. Eliot,
Dylan Thomas, Wilfred Owen, and writers featured in Robert Penn
Warren’s Understanding Fiction.

Whom did you hang out with?

Mostly ust Philosophy and Letters students. We congregated at a
sari-sari store back of the ust campus. The company loved gin and con-
sidered drinking a mark of the writer.

Were your writings already political then?

No, not at all. I was writing poems about loneliness. A young writ-
er’s pose of loneliness. I was envious of others who had real angst. I had
no idea what it was all about. They had problems with their parents and
girlfriends. My life was a breeze. I didn’t endure anything unpleasant,
anything like my friends were undergoing.

What was you first job?

I was a high school English teacher in Mabini Academy for one
semester in 1955. Then I was offered a job on the staff of a newspaper
280 i n tervi ew
based in Olongapo City called The Bamboo Telegraph. We were civilian
employees. But it was a very short stint. We were a proud bunch. We did
not like nor respect our boss, who found a way to fire us. Our American
supervisor intervened and talked to us. We told him our boss was no
good. He said, “I have never run into a group of such arrogant Filipi-
nos.” Two of us were fired, but the editor was retained, but she resigned
and joined us in going back to Manila. I went back to Lipa but my old
position was no longer available. I was told to take up Education units. I
enrolled at Far Eastern University for one summer. Then came an open-
ing at the publication office of the Catholic Welfare Organization. It was
Rolando Tinio who got me to apply. I stayed for one year, writing stories
on religious topics.

Are you a religious person?

A bit.

Does it show in your writing?

I don’t think so. All I know is that I accept certain church doc-
trines—Christ as a divine person, for one. About God—I consider God
as a spirit men run to when they need something that physical realities
cannot satisfy.

How do you reconcile this with your Marxist beliefs?

I don’t think political principle is incompatible with individual
faith. You can’t know for sure that there is a God, but you believe that
there must be one.

When did your political awakening begin?

Batangas is rich in patriotic lore. The elders spoke all the time about
nation. Many local personalities were associated with nationalism such as
Recto and Agoncillo. Recto was partly Lipeño. One of my grandmothers,
on the maternal side, belonged to the Recto clan.

Tell us about your graduate studies in the US.

After my job in cwo, I got a Fulbright travel grant and went to
Indiana University. In my first trip out of the country, and I had no idea
i Bie n ve n ido Lumb era 281
what to wear. I was in a woolen suit inside the plane. It was summer so
I itched no end.

What did you study in Indiana?

I did my MA thesis on Lorca’s drama. But for my dissertation, I
wanted to study contemporary Indian fiction, on which I wrote my dis-
sertation proposal. I thought Westerners would be interested in the sub-
ject because there were many excellent Indian works already in print.
And then I met Rony Diaz, who was shocked to learn what I was plan-
ning to do. “Why Indian fiction?” he asked. “Why not something Philip-
pine?” It was my turn to be surprised. I couldn’t immediately relate to
the idea. My orientation as a comparative literature student was to study
world literature. Focusing on the literature of an unknown nation just
wasn’t done then.

Didn’t you consider Nick Joaquin, Francisco Arcellana, et al as worthy sub-

jects of study?
I must confess I did not pay much attention to Filipino writers then.
But after talking with Rony Diaz, I began to think seriously about Phil-
ippine literature. Right away, I thought of modern Filipino poetry as
something Westerners could relate to. I was thinking of Abadilla and

In choosing India, were you already thinking of postcolonial theory?

No! I was just thinking here’s a country with a culture bound up
with poverty just like the Philippines.

Did staying on in the US cross your mind?

Friends suggested it, and it was an attractive idea. But I felt that
even if I stayed there I could never be part of US society. So I went home,
intending to write my dissertation in the Philippines. I taught at Holy
Ghost College for one semester. Then Ateneo de Manila had an opening
so I applied and got accepted. My colleagues at the Ateneo wrote in Eng-
lish—Rolando Tinio, Antonio Manuud, Eric Torres. Once again, I wrote
in English. But at Indiana, as early as my second year of study, I knew
something was wrong with what I was doing. Why was I writing in Eng-
282 i n tervi ew

lish while my Indian and European classmates were writing in their own
languages? Why was I writing in English when I couldn’t even claim
it is my native language? So I began writing in Tagalog. There were
many Filipinos in Indiana but there were no literature majors. I wrote
many Tagalog poems but I had no audience. I was able to put together
a slim volume of poems. It was about alienation, homesickness—free
verse. When I revised them, unexplainably some regularity appeared in
the prosody. Rhyming emerged. In the Philippines, these got published
in Alejandro G. Abadilla’s literary magazine Panitikan. He and I under-
stood each other. He lived in Sta. Cruz. I talked to him about modern
Tagalog poetry. He got interested in my writings because they were not
like the ones he attacked in his essays.

If you compare modern Filipino poetry to that of other countries or cultures,

what is so different about it?
Let me tell you about an invitation for me to participate in a po-
etry reading called Babel, a project of Comparative Literature majors,
sometime in 1967. It was a poetry reading in the original language and
in English translation. I was asked to do a program of Tagalog poems,
i Bie n ve n ido Lumb era 283

and I readily agreed. However, when I read Abadilla’s Parnasong Taga-

log, I couldn’t see anything modern about the collection. So I declined. I
couldn’t prepare a program. So I began writing Tagalog poems in ear-
nest, in imitation of Lorca and T. S. Eliot. Yet nobody could tell if indeed
what I wrote was modern. Back in Manila, I began to meet Filipino poets
older than me. They really had no concept of the modern in poetry. My
literary norms were picked up from graduate school. I considered poets
in Filipino as backward because I was not looking at their poems as prod-
ucts of a specific socio-cultural environment.

So when did you finally encounter the modern in poetry in Filipino?

It was in the late 1960s in the poems of Rogelio Mangahas, Rio
Alma, Lamberto Antonio, among others. What they were writing was
“modern” in the way I understood it then. They had direct links with
modern Western poetry. They knew Rilke, Salvatore Quasimodo, Eliot,
Lorca, and others.

So there really is a link between the English or Western literary tradition

and Philippine literature?
One cannot discount the impact of history, including foreign liter-
ary traditions, on Philippine literature. And our history is that we went
284 i n tervi ew
through a period of Spanish colonialism and we were in touch with
the literature of Spain. Then in the American period when we were
swamped with American literature. It became part of our tradition. And
so our poets from time to time look back to the Western tradition and
draw literary themes, forms, and concerns from it.

What is the best and the worst you can say about Philippine literature?
Philippine literature is the Filipinos’ attempt to come to terms with
their history and culture. The worst is that Philippine literature is hand-
icapped by the fact there are a very few readers that have access to it
mainly because of lack of education and poverty. Thus the production
of Filipino writers generally tends to move away from the concerns of
fellow Filipinos who cannot read, or cannot afford to get into the habit
of reading.

So you agree with Petronilo Daroy who said Filipino readers do not take
their writers seriously?
Yes. What the writers write about have nothing to do with the lives
of the majority of Filipinos. The writers’ concerns are usually personal,
or the concerns of their immediate circle.

How strongly does politics play a role in your writings?

In more recent years, quite pervasively. It all started with my un-
derstanding of the root causes of the widespread poverty of Filipinos.
This poverty keeps many potential readers away from the writings of
our literary artists.

How were you conscienticized?

It happened in the course of my stay in the US, in my contacts with
other people. One big issue at the time was civil rights for the blacks.
One time, a black student asked me, “What do you think of our struggle
for civil rights?” I said, “You know, you have gained many concessions
from the white community. In time, you will get all what you want.” He
said, “When you Filipinos fought for freedom from Spain, did anyone
tell you to wait because eventually you would get all that you wanted?”
That floored me. I never thought of it in those terms. I began to realize
that a struggle is not something that you passively experience until you
i Bie n ve n ido Lumb era 285
eventually feel you have gained what you want. It is something you need
to fight for. It means pain, suffering, even death. That experience firmed
up my political and social concerns. When I was in the Ateneo, I toed
the Jesuit line to educate the young to become leaders of society. Then I
went back to submit my dissertation and taught for a year in an exclusive
private college. I came across young people in the Peace Corps who were
preparing to go to foreign countries. I realized they were out to change
the way the United States related to other countries. When I returned
to the Ateneo, I found myself allying with the students who wanted to
change things in the Ateneo and how the school related to the rest of
Philippine society.

When the Marcos regime detained you, did you think you were near
Yes, that’s how I felt when I tried to run away from my captors. I
had knocked on a door which opened quickly, and somebody grabbed
my hand. I withdrew my hand and started running. I was hoping they
would shoot me and kill me so they would not catch me alive and tor-
ture me for information. That did not happen. I realized when I was
inside the car taking me to the military camp that the weakest moment
of a political prisoner is the moment immediately after capture. All is
lost, gone. If they forced me to talk at that time, I would have spat out
everything. But in prison, I met people who had been tortured yet clung
to their ideals. I was happy in detention. So when I was released, I felt
cheated. I was being removed from a society I enjoyed being in, and put
back into a world where again you had to struggle to live. At the time,
in display windows, the use of live human models who pretended to be
mannequins was all the rage. I was hurt looking at those people. I was
vulnerable to weeping over such situations.

When was the last time you cried over something close to your
Only last week, I wept over Monico Atienza. He is an activist who
went through everything. He was tortured, ambushed, and left by his
wife and family. Such sacrifices of one person in the name of political
belief. He is a model to many.
286 i n tervi ew
Did the experience of detention affect your writing?
It firmed up my convictions. I realized I was not alone, that there
were others who had gone through much more than me, and therefore
people needed my support as an individual.

Have you written about them?

I have written poems for Lorena Barros, Valerio Nofuente, and
other activists whom I met and knew personally.

Do you see yourself as someone on a mission?

On a mission in the sense that there certain things I want to hap-
pen. For example, that more Filipinos pay attention to writing from the
regions which is impossible until there are enough translators who can
make these available to readers. And writing from the regions is sadly ne-
glected because people from the regions who get into the universities and
specialize in literature do not read the indigenous literature from their
own place. They become scholars but their concern is literature writ-
ten in English, with a few exceptions like Lilia Realubit, a scholar and
promoter of Bikol literature, and Resil Mojares who has written about
the Cebuano novelists. The same thing happens to teachers from the re-
gions who study foreign literature and become purveyors of the usual
literature made available through the school system which is English and
American writing and European works translated into English.

Your assumption to the position of National Artist was attended by some

controversy. What did this tell you?
I was not too taken aback by the remarks of critics because at the
outset I assumed that there were not too many people who would be
sharing my political and cultural concerns. I had no high expectations.
When I was declared a National Artist, I saw it as a recognition by a
group of people who knew my work, and they were the ones who chose
me. As to the title that was given to me, that was something that I did
not seek out or expect. So I was not affected by the controversy. It was my
friends who were disturbed and who responded quite strongly.
i Bie n ve n ido Lumb era 287

How has your life changed since you became a National Artist?
Well, I get invited more often to open workshops, to give opening
remarks in conferences. This has been the more immediate effect of the
title on my life.

Of all things you’ve written, what have you been happiest with, and why?
And since you work as a teacher, critic, translator, film scholar, and playwright,
which genre do you find most exciting?
My work for the theater. There is an immediate feedback from the
audience. In poetry, you can hardly tell how your audience has been af-
fected by what you have written.

Do you maintain a daily writing regimen?

I don’t keep a journal or a blog. But somehow I have felt I have
always been writing something or other.

What do you do for fun?

I watch television dramas like “Maging Sino Ka Man.” I interact
with my grandchildren, listen to classical music, opera especially.
288 i n tervi ew
Any vices?
No wine, women, games, cigarettes. I gave up smoking in 1978.

What else are you going to write?

The Ramon Magsaysay Foundation is pressuring me to finish my
research on Filipino movies. I am now collecting my articles on film.

Any novel in the works?

Textbooks. I submitted a book project to the ncca, an anthology of
my political poems with an introduction explaining how the poems came
to be. Young poets might learn from it.

Has your wife Shayne helped you in your career?

Shayne plays a major role in my career. She is my cultural

Do you ever discuss with her what you write before you write it?

Does she read everything you write?

Not everything.

Do you ever argue about what you write?

Her arguments usually stem from certain points she fears might
offend people. I wrote a poem for a professor-friend in which I cracked
a joke about erectile dysfunction. She said, “Oh no! Some people might
find it offensive.” So what got printed was the censored version. The
humor was lost.

Have any of your children followed in your footsteps?

My youngest daughter took up creative writing in the Department
of Filipino.

Are you a stage father?

They do not show their writings to me. This is one of my

Gémino H. Abad is Professor Emeritus of English at the University

of the Philippines. A poet and scholar, he is currently doing research on
Philippine short fiction in English from 1956 to 1989, in continuation of
the late Prof. Leopoldo Y. Yabes’s critical-historical anthology of Filipino
short stories in English from 1925 to 1955.

Exie Abola (Alexis A. L. Abola) graduated from the Ateneo de

Manila University with an AB Literature degree in 1990 and now teaches
with the Ateneo’s English Department. He obtained a master’s degree in
Creative Writing from UP Diliman in 2006. A fellow at the UP National
Writers Workshop in 1990, Abola has won major awards for his short
stories and essays.

Reuel Molina Aguila is a poet and playwright who most recently

published a collection of erotic poetry titled Magdaragat ng Pag-ibig at Iba
pang Tula ng Pagnanasa (Voyager of Love and Other Poems of Desire) in
protest, he says, of the forbidden. He teaches Filipino at UP Diliman.

Alwin C. Aguirre teaches at the College of Arts and Letters at UP

Diliman. He is undertaking research on Asian science fiction under the
Asian Public Intellectuals program.

Mayette Bayuga has won Palanca awards for her short stories, and
in 2002 she published her collection Virgintarian at Iba Pang Akda with
the UP Press. Growing up on fairy tales and Dr. Seuss, she began writ-
ing at a very young age, and herself has become a favorite writer of many
young readers.

Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio began her writing life as a playwright in

English, but has since moved on to writing for children and to children’s
theater, as the founder and moving spirit behind Teatrong Mulat ng Pili-
pinas, the country’s leading puppetry troupe. She also writes stories and
reviews of children’s literature for the Philippine Journal of Education.

290 co n tri bu to rs
Catherine S. Bucu is a student of Malikhaing Pagsulat at UP Dili-
man, moving there from UP Los Baños to study with Jun Cruz Reyes.
Her story here was a result, she says, of watching the Discovery Channel
and Star Wars.

Douglas Candano graduated in 2005 from the Ateneo de Ma-

nila University, where he won the Development Studies Departmental
Award and the Loyola Schools Awards for the Arts for Fiction. He has
made the rounds of the national writers workshops and has been pub-
lished in several national magazines. He is doing consultancy work for a
project of the Canadian International Development Agency.

Raymond John A. de Borja recently graduated with a BS in Elec-

tronics and Communications Engineering from the University of the
Philippines Diliman. A ust and UP workshop fellow, he won in the Po-
etry Category of the 10th Amelia Lapeña Bonifacio Awards for Litera-
ture. He is a member of Pinoypoets.

Mikael de Lara Co graduated with a BS in Environmental Science

from the Ateneo de Manila University and now works as a freelance
writer. He was fellow at the ust, Ateneo, iyas and Dumaguete National
Writers Workshops; has published his poetry, fiction, and non-fiction
in journals, newspapers, and magazines; and is currently working on a
book of personal essays.

Francisco Arias Monteseña hails from Majayjay, Laguna. An ac-

countant by profession, he is an active member of Pinoypoets and lira.
His works are frequently seen on, “Sa Kabila ng Ritmo,” a poem
anthology published by Emanilapoetry, and the forthcoming “Dadaan-
in,” an anthology of short stories in 100 words.

Charlson Ong has authored three collections of short stories and

two novels, for which he has won a host of prestigious prizes, includ-
ing the Centennial Literary Prize for the Novel. He teaches Creative
Writing at UP Diliman and is a Resident Fellow of the UP Institute of
Creative Writing.
c ontributo rs 291
Joel M. Toledo has an M.A. in Creative Writing from UP Diliman,
from where he also holds undergraduate degrees in Journalism and Cre-
ative Writing. He teaches English at Miriam College. In 2006, his poem
“The Same Old Figurative” took second place in the UK’s Bridport
Prize. He also won first and third prizes in the 2006 Meritage Press Po-
etry Prize, aside from other prestigious poetry prizes in the Philippines.

Rene O. Villanueva is a Palanca Hall of Fame and Ten Outstand-

ing Young Persons awardee, earning those distinctions for a formidable
body of work in drama, children’s literature, and the essay. He is an assis-
tant professor at the Department of Filipino and Philippine Languages
at UP Diliman.

Socorro A. Villanueva studied Psychology at the Ateneo de Ma-

nila University and served as ceo of a packaging firm before taking up
a master’s in Creative Writing at the University of the Philippines and
winning Palanca and NVM Gonzalez awards for her fiction. A proud
mother of four, she is also a leading member of the Saturday Group of