TUGKAD Volume 1
Opening to the Unknown: An Introduction to Volume 1
John Wolff in A Dictionary of Cebuano Visayan defines the verb tugkad as “fathom, comprehend something mysterious”, “touch the bottom, standing in water” or “for the feet or something dangling to reach the ground.”(1) All fathoming is bodily, supported with devices that help us know something differently. And, indeed, these words reflect the nature of this inaugural volume of Tugkad: A Journal of Literary and Cultural Studies.
As an academic journal, it marks the beginning of our humble endeavor to carve a path in academic research in literary and cultural studies in Cebu and abroad; it is in this notion to find ground. Many of the articles in this volume are written in response to puzzle out something that confounds us – an appropriate undertaking in the face of research: a mystery or a question we seek to understand.
As scholars, we see the benefits of developing and sharing our ideas through publication. A journal is a valuable means, providing venue for scholarship. Tugkad embodies the breakthrough of research in the disciplinary areas of comparative literature and cultural studies. Each article present here is an act of inquiry that carries with it great social value and sheds light on the academic engagement of the future.
Just as fathoming undulates in the pressures and pleasures of the different and the diverse, fathoming also paradoxically shows us about the impossibility of mastery. Fathoming reminds us that the aim of knowing may not be finding the answer but rather asking a question and engaging with what turns up. How might this question, this answer, developing from these methods, and this time, work together in and with the world to point to other possibilities still unknown?
We attempt to break down barriers and seek out knowledge to discover what is beyond, bringing efforts of creativity as well to the interdisciplinary academic community. The journal includes a creative arm – lamdaman, a noun coined from the Cebuano terms lamdag ‘light’ and panumduman ‘thoughts’ – root dumdum – which is defined as “inspiration.”(2) In Lamdaman we publish a number of creative work, translations as well as special features and interviews with a diverse body of writers. We make particular effort to showcase the voices of aspiring writers and young translators at this time in which dynamic art is more needed than ever. We believe it matters even more deeply now that creative work find their way to readers. We are honored to share their contributions with all of you.
1 John Wolff. A Dictionary of Cebuano Visayan. New York: Cornell University Press, 1972. 1041.
2 Wolff 568.
Early Speculative Fiction in Cebuano Literature: The Pre-war Fantasy Novel
The current Interest in cultural studies has led researchers and students to pay attention to works that were previously not considered literary or serious. Texts such as letters, memoirs, and informal essays have been analyzed for their non-literary function, although many of these show an imaginative use of language that would qualify them as literary. The same interest pervades reviews of works of popular fiction thought to cater only to the entertainment needs of readers.
In studying Cebuano popular literature, one can appreciate the fact that fiction in Cebuano has pioneered, not only in historical allegory and in the noir genre (detective fiction), but also in speculative fiction or “spec-fic”. Of the three genres of speculative fiction – science fiction, horror story, and fantasy – Filipino writers have, until today, preferred using comics as a medium for the genre. But the fantastic attracted a few Cebuano writers, who produced fiction in this mode before the war.
This paper focuses on two fantasy novels that were serialized in the Bag-ong Kusog: Katingalahang Pulo kon Lungsod sa mga Serena by Vicente Arias (1936) and Ang Tirong by Angel Enemecio (1939). Written during the second phase of pre-war Cebuano literature that followed literary productions comprising propaganda and satire, these novels typify the motive of escapism and entertainment that found inspiration in local and foreign folklore and in Hollywood films. Although the readers of such popular fiction actively sought fulfillment of needs and desires in a vicarious manner, at the same time they sought an affirmation of certain values in their social life.
Keywords: speculative fiction, pre-war Cebuano literature, fantasy novel, popular culture
Konsinsya ug Paghusay: Domestic Wisdom in Vicenete Alcoseba's “Ang Katapusang Hinabang"
Bejay V. Bolivar
This paper explores Vicente Alcoseba’s zarzuela, “Ang Katapusang Hinabang” as a symbolic action set against the playwright’s milieu. Appropriating Lonergan’s levels of intentionality, this study attempts to explicate how the characters are motivated by their conscience with their varying moralities both at war and in dialogue with each other. Character analysis serves as an entry point to surfacing the zarzuela’s moral project and the author’s vision. The paper argues that as a symbolic action, Alcoseba’s zarzuela dramatizes the author’s position in the dialectics of a transitioning community, from a village-centric one to an urbanized outward community in search of a moral compass. The author symbolically writes his moral and social stance into the story by elevating the family as a self-sufficient moral community guided by the voice of conscience. By reading the zarzuela as part of a conversation, the paper draws attention to the voice of Vicente Alcoseba, a native of Carcar City, Cebu, as a dramatist and an ascendant moral figure. It also invites further exploration of local Cebuano drama from the 20th century as rhetorical vessels that reflect the collision of warring moral and social values, which may be relevant in both past and present contexts.
Keywords: conscience, zarzuela, symbolic action, Vicente Alcoseba, Cebuano drama
The sea, the unknown, and the Enlightenment in Temistokles Adlawan’s stories
Niño Augustine M. Loyola
This paper explores how the sea is depicted in the late Temistokles Adlawan’s short fiction “Pagsalig” (Confidence) and “Ang gidak-on sa dagat” (Immensity of the Sea) and its relation to the concept of the Unknown. Set in the coastal areas, Adlawan highlights the lives of fishermen-protagonists with local color and tackles the themes of superstition or fear of the unknown and machismo. The sea serves as a catalyst to the protagonists’ perception and reaction to the Unknown.
Keywords: sea stories, Enlightenment, local color, Temistokles Adlawan, Cebuano literature
The Romantic Seascape of Marcel Navarra's Fiction
Bea Yap Martinez
The use of the sea image as a metaphorical device in many of the short fictions of Marcel Navarra allows us to trace his maturation as a Romantic writer – as he moves from conceiving of the sea as fantasy image of reality to that of man’s journey towards self-figuration.
Keywords: Romanticism, Cebuano literature, Carcar, self-figuration, imagination
What happened in the Battle of Mactan
Resil B. Mojares
The received narrative of the Battle of Mactan in 1521 highlights the shifts and divergences in historical interpretation. Framed within Mactan’s larger significance, it is seen as a site that marks the first European circumnavigation of the earth. It is also seen as a site of nationalism, marked by the first Filipino resistance to European aggression. This narrative, however, is filled with gaps and silence. It is in light of these gaps and silence that one must ask why and how the Battle of Mactan was fought.
Keywords: Lapulapu, Magellan, Battle of Mactan, history of Cebu
Transforming lives: conduct literature in Maria Kabigon and Galileo Varga
Raphael Dean B. Polinar
In early Philippines, conduct literature was used to educate people in the expected social behavior. The most popular early Philippine code of conduct then was Urbana at Felisa (Pagsusulatan nang Dalawang Binibini na si Urbana at Feliza) by Modesto de Castro in the 19th century. Other works such as the anonymously authored Lagda, also known as Caton Cristiano (1865) and Antonio Ubeda’s La Teresa (1906), and other books which deal with the lives of saints, have also served as guides to good behavior. The selected advice columns of Maria Cabigon in the Bisaya (1948-1953) and the stories from the Bag-ong Kusog (1934) of Galileo Varga gave their readers instructions on the conduct of one’s self. Though both writers impart instructions on how to live a good life, their advices are inclined to an ideal life that seem impractical.
Keywords: Conduct literature, Maria Cabigon, Galileo Varga, Ang Panid ni Manding Karya, Tugon
Raphael Dean B. Polinar
This paper looks into how Cebuanos perceive the sea in literary texts in the interest of becoming “sea-literate”. The stories from SunStar Superbalita reviewed here, “Pawikan” (Turtle) by Samuel Rusiana and “Nabanhaw ang Dagat” (The Sea Came to Life Again) by Lamberto Ceballos, place the sea as the centerpiece. The different interactions of the sea and the characters show the depth of the relationship between nature and humans. Understanding the different relationships that have existed between the sea and humans, ones that encompass different times, geographies, cultures, peoples, and ways of thinking and imagining will enable a better stewardship of the sea and find a path forward to make a future in which both the sea and human beings thrive.
Keywords: Cebuano literature, ocean frontier, Lamberto Ceballos, Samuel Rusiana
Riding and Resisting Capital's Universalizing Tendency in Tow Gremer Chan Reyes Stories
Charles Dominic P. Sanchez
Conventional narratives and depictions of tradition and modernity tend to treat these generally abstract terms as opposing, black-and-white dichotomies, with qualities such as conservatism and backwardness attributable to the former, and openness and cosmopolitanism associated with the latter. In this essay, I detail how renowned Cebuano fictionist Gremer Chan Reyes blurs these distinctions by way of the actions and opinions of three characters from two of his stories, “The Fish of the Flower of Talikod” and “The Child, the Bird, the Man,” both anthologized and translated in his 2009 collection, Men at Sea and Other Stories. Through these characters’ behaviors, lines of dialogue, and overall experiences, Reyes intimately illustrates how modernity’s incursion into traditional landholdings and practices, fueled by what Vivek Chibber refers to as the “universalizing tendency” of capital, is a far more complicated, more nuanced process for those involved, with resistance and complicity to the global market economy’s overtures manifesting in multiple ways.
Keywords: modernity, capitalism, globalization, Universalizing Tendency, Gremer Chan Reyes
Ang bayot ug ang baybayon: the sea in selected queer-themed Cebuano short stories
Francis Luis M. Torres
This paper examines the sea in relation to the bayot, the Cebuano effeminate homo-sexual, in three Cebuano short stories and discuss how the sea queers commonsensical and heteronormative notions of gender and nature. In selected Cebuano short fiction, the sea is presented as two literary elements: as character and as setting. One short story presents the sea as a character through its protagonist, Mar. His indecision to undergo circumcision provides a venue to interrogate and conform to traditional ideas of masculinity in boyhood. Referring to both the Spanish word for the sea as well as the candidate in the real-life 2016 Philippine presidential elections, the character plays around the idea of the bayot as a pejorative within the political sphere. Meanwhile, the sea as a setting functions as a third space where interrogations on gender relations and of the sea itself are reimagined. The characters in these stories also present a queer dynamic between the ambiguously straight and the enigmatically gay. As a result, the sea becomes a site of queering and questioning. It also becomes a symbol of the proximate Other, which allows a glimpse of the completely unknown, blurring the thin line between established commonsensical and heteronormative binaries.
Keywords: bayot, queer ecology, sea, Cebuano short story, heteronormativity
An Order to Abstraction: An Understanding of the Spontaneous in Dezső Kosztolányi’s Kornél Esti
Dagmar Inez Uy
This paper is an analysis of the spontaneous in Dezső Kosztolányi’s novel Kornél Esti, concerned with the balance between the consciousness of craft (the concrete, the intended) and the element of spontaneity (the discontinuities, plot twists, ambiguities), by which the narrative elements of character (Esti and his double) plot and writing style are wound to each other. Determining the fashion of which the narrative elements are expressed will aid to understanding the workings of spontaneity in the text and the assumed order it takes.
Keywords: spontaneity, consciousness of craft, narrative elements, Dezső Kosztolányi
June Angelie Burtanog
It took a bullet
to keep him quiet.
The ground, once dry,
is now a thick pool of crimson.
The revolting smell of death pervades
the air and the neighbors eyes
are wet in disbelief.
What will become of his sons?
How will his daughter cope?
The page, in gray, narrates
yet his story stays untold.
Meanwhile, the same neighbors,
with eyes now dry and eager,
turn to the gossip section.
It is a death that forms soft tissues
of a hand which only knows how to take
and is still learning how to give back.
Truth Is an Old Woman in Ragged Clothes
June Angelie Burtanog
Her pace is no match
for this relentless city.
In this city,
before bedtime, everyone seeks
their own truths,
aided by the wisdom of
screens that glare back at them…
She sits still on a park bench,
possessing nothing else
but her tattered clothes
and a piece of stale bread.
She wonders if she belongs anywhere.
The moon, as if hearing her,
reaches out — her effervescent glow
caressing her saggy cheeks,
as if saying,
“You belong up here. They do not have to know.”
June Angelie Burtanog
with its elegance,
It illumines the eternal sky
poetry nourishes the soul.
Its beauty lies not in its facade,
but in the enigmatic way it comforts
the mad and the restless.
Poetry is not pretty for its rhymes alone
its perspicacity is its ultimate charm –
a haven for the wanderer.
As you walk alone tonight,
look up —
On the moon’s face
are words unwritten:
you have a poet’s heart.’
You Can’t Stop a Thousand Deaths at Night
Hazel Ann Cesa
The self dies one too many times
when the phone’s blue light
and the day’s headlines
dry out the eyes.
It is a death that fixes a blurry sight
with a new pair of eyes taking in
visions of times past
and times yet to come.
A death that perks up the ears
when an old man
perched high up the hills
speaks but only listens to himself.
Somewhere, bullets drown out
a drunken passerby’s
screams from heaven.
The self dies one too many times
when the notebook’s empty pages
and the day’s shock
leaves the mouth open.
It is a death that forms soft tissues
of a hand which only knows how to take
and is still learning how to give back.
Somewhere, a child longs for
the callused hands of his father.
Dying one too many times,
the self separates from the body at night.
But it doesn’t walk.
Somewhere, ancestral spirits march
The final death tricks their feet
that they have come so far.
But they haven’t arrived anywhere at all.
Season for Mangoes:
The Philippine Islands, 1907
That September, the rope’s end snarled
Around our necks. From the sheer sight of it.
Sakay wore it skywards, relinquishing any
Foothold forever. Unshod, dangling in air,
His muddy toes twitched in our sleep.
“The end of insurrection!” A myriad papers read.
Men and women wept. We children
Chewed on the bitter taste of newsprint.
The pulp of an almanac. But the almanac
Shipped in from Saranac
Concluded with contempt,
“Nothing in this colony can equal our cherry,
Our peach, our grape, our strawberry,”
Homing in on the homegrown,
How the sweet mango “tastes of turpentine.”
Faint with famine, yet full of fervor,
We sallied forth in search of it. Across
Plains, rivers, mountains Sakay left behind,
We hurried. Hurtled up every laden tree,
Tucking inside camisas what we could find.
Laughter, however, blew our leafy cover.
Stern as God, thunder struck. Shadows
Thudded to the ground. All of us, to our surprise,
Stood up. Thunder at our heels, we hightailed it.
We ran like the wind, all caution to the wind.
The almanac referred to is The Philippine Islands by John Foreman, published in New York by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1906.
To quote James A. Le Roy (The American Historical Review, vol. 12, no. 2, 1907, pp. 388–391. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1834075), “Probably no other writer on the Philippines has so often been quoted in the United States since 1898 as John Foreman. Certainly no other has so often been made sponsor for garbled versions of Philippine history and half-truths and downright inaccuracies regarding Philippines and Filipinos.”
For the Sake of a Name
Have you ever met such a mesmeric man,
A man with a name so magnificent
You must swoon into his open arms?
Nursing unknowable hurts, a runaway
Succumbs to such a man of resonance,
Absorbed in his avuncular embrace,
Squeezed by the snakes across
Each of his biceps. Cesar Vallejo,
Rumored robber and ruffian:
No radiance around his head
Except for his soothing songs
Of incarceration, the freedom
Of his caged lyrics: Themes of renewal
And release limned into my lullabies.
Gone from this world now and forever,
But during those years when I went
My own way, assuming alias after alias,
I’d hear of his troubles and tribulations
In all the dark penitentiaries
Across Cagayan Valley.
My own life? I meandered
For a while like a small tributary
Of a great river, not regretting sometimes
My nights in jail for drunkenness,
Disturbance: Figures to face up to
Would come few and far between
Until I read a book by Cesar Vallejo,
Namesake to be sure, but Peruvian,
In the public library of Bangbang.
Namesake or original, who was
Who but a swoon of double vision,
Avatars sent back to hold my hand,
Firmly or loosely, through this barren,
Unbearable valley. Namesake and original
In this vale of tears, I think about you
Unaccusingly, sages whose words
Were premonition of the enormities
In store for us, the street-wisdom born
Of terrible territories. Today this is how
I redouble my unstoppable industry,
Job after job to keep me alive, teetering
On the straight and narrow, foraging
For the chances our kind is denied:
At nights churning away lyrics
In a cold, narrow room,
The law of four narrow walls,
Narrowing down, little by little,
On this one, anonymous life.
“For the Sake of a Name” draws on the life of the Peruvian poet, Cesar Vallejo. For supposedly causing an insurrection in his home town, he spent many months in prison. There he wrote many of the poems that would comprise Trilce. When he was threatened to be put in jail again, he escaped to Europe, where he struggled without money and spent most of his time in severe poverty. After more than a decade in exile, he died in Paris, never returning to his country again.
According to an unwritten code, the mandarasal
cannot pray to God for her own well-being.
For your spare change, this proffer of persistent prayers
for seven straight days and nights, a passionate recitation
of prayers, a flutter of wings, perching near God’s cloudy ear,
ready with a whisper of wishes. The hour of your succor!
For how many of the world’s unprompted prayers ever
take flight, never flounder to the ground, never earthbound?
Listen, all the devout, the hopeless, clamor at my door.
But wish after wish fulfilled, how many remember my name?
Name the names of famous men and women
from Imelda Marcos to Fernando Poe, penitent ex-presidents,
teary-eyed tycoons, poiseless politicians praying for election,
a general, paraplegic, struggling to genuflect from a wheelchair,
all generous with envelopes I must refuse.
Name the names of action stars and matinee idols
made small with avowals of scandal after
scandal. Name the names of ordinary folks,
drunks with jaundiced eyes and sallow skin,
junkies who can’t kick the habit, a seaman
seeking a visa, a teenager a trimester on the way.
All your names! My tongue burns like tungsten for all of them.
Add the ready recitation of Hail Marys and Pater Nosters,
does it get any easier? God has become all the wiser,
more and more familiar with my tones and timbres,
even when I nurse a cold or work my voice.
Just between us, how He’s grown fond of my every sigh,
my hemming and hawing, my meows and growls.
But beyond my votive voice, shall my name echo in God’s good ear?
Just between us, I’ve come to understand divine whims and schemes:
Watch me crawl on bleeding knees en route to the altar.
Hear me weeping in deep prayer. Just for your spare change.
As much as has been said, none of it goes to my head. None of this
taken home. My shanty is neither numinous nor sacred enough.
Such is my divine power, you say, meant for those without a prayer.
But who am I again? Who has read my vocation’s fine print?
At the end of the day, no prayer enunciates my name.
Should I be next to death, who shall identify me for my sake?
My divine earnings can buy no divine merchandise.
My own prayers can’t rinse my sins clean like holy soap.
My own prayers can’t sate my hunger like the flesh of Jesus.
My own prayers can’t soothe my sorrows like a choir of angels.
For your spare change, who shall I beseech if I am sick?
For your spare change, shall I be denied a paradisal afterlife?
For your spare change, shall my whisper fall shy of God’s lofty ear?
The Abattoir of Agusan
after Philip Levine
A simple synonym for slaughter? So you think you know
what goes on behind its thick, hermetic walls
just because someone else told you?
You think that it’s plain business like any other?
Take away from me this one cramped room
whose one window overlooks this edifice so inescapable,
a facade you won’t ever suspect,
windswept by day, blaring songs by night.
Rise at dawn as a man always must,
just when you seem to catch above
the blasting songs the last of muffled cries,
the muted thud of hooves,
the hoarse passage of souls.
Take my last, frayed shirt
and dress up in the dark with a voice
that can no longer whistle
the lily-white songs at mass,
the work songs with fire and steel,
afraid that you might hear your son’s plaintive
voice rising and falling across cities
shade into the squeals of dying beasts.
Take a piss in an empty milk can
where your daily poisons gather,
your first piss since yesterday,
and you don’t know what’s wrong
with you, and you never dare to ask,
except that you must send your wages across the country,
where your wife needs a supply of quinine.
Take your helmet that won’t quite fit
down to a breakfast of rice coffee,
burnt to the deadliest carbons ever known,
and a meager mouthful of moldy bread.
Walk out into a world where work
waits to break you down. Whatever’s left of you.
Pass the dark and wet effluents on the pavement
in a manner of genuflection to this
monolith that mercifully sleeps again.
Pass the pigeons that alight and peck
at these rotten pools, its unmistakable stench of iron.
Fat and charcoal-throated,
how these pigeons circle overhead,
how, all of a sudden, swoop down to scalp you.
Think for a minute if you can. Put on your heaven-sent helmet.
in the bluish gloom of the early morning
i feel the summer solstice
brush against my shoulder
her rejuvenating breath,
her heart — pulsating to soft jazz
i dare to stare with human eyes,
and wonder what miraculous winding road
has brought this very manifestation of the rising of the sun towards me,
a man of the night — a black bird with no wings.
ever since she arrived,
my world has smelled of nothing, but chamomile;
i have seen nothing, but concrete lullabies;
and i have felt nothing, but clouds in graveyards of smoke.
though i have yet to understand,
the lexical apprehension of the everyday world
i, at the very least, know — that without her,
i wouldn’t have grasped the distinct mediocrity
of the word ‘alone,’ or even distinguish
the faint whispers of my heart
asking me to slice life in half, to try to know what love is
yet, she taught me, that i, the stillness of night
and she, the stillness of day —
as long as we remain ourselves,
will always and inevitably meet in the break of dawn.
Same Wing of the Same Sky
love in its essence
is proportional with how we see birds.
of flesh and flight
attracted to what we can’t reach;
the same sky of a different wing
another feather of the same kin
our notion on birds, in all regard — is love
for where we often see them,
we consider their home:
in the draft of winds,
on the clouds they breach
and the branches they call airports — tending to forget that they probably don’t rest where they fly
and love is already perceived
as flying birds and
instead of how
they are flapping their wings
in an attempt to fly;
or the morning songs they sing
and the varying pitches they bring,
yet we automatically define it as chirping
and that’s why love
in its very humane notion — is how we see birds
for we get obsessed
with all the familiarity
and now, love isn’t where
we hang up our hats
but where we often
find our feet standing upon
shall the incandescent paper planes glide
through the azure horizons of the sky,
may they alert and remind you
of the life you should be conducting.
air resistance, uneven wing spans and sudden gusts of wind — these might hinder paper planes
from the straight trajectory you want them to follow,
yet the importance lies behind the fact
that no matter how unsymmetrical the path may be, paper planes still fly.
somehow, the paper might potentially be riddled
with perplexing algebraic equations
or doodles that decipher a lack of creativity —
maybe even with an unfulfilled love letter
that probably wouldn’t make it to the most hopeless of romantics, yet — paper planes still fly.
they always do.
albeit the paper of the life you’re living
might be filled with regret and despair;
the destination seemingly unreachable
as you shift and turn at every route you painstakingly take,
always try to make the best out of every opportunity you get
to fold and fold until you beautifully form your own plane.
spread those paper wings, no matter how small or uneven —
The Self Is a Resting Place
As you tell me about my younger brother’s death, this house seems like a river mouth, the watercourse debouches into a sea. Then a boat is leaving for the other side of the earth. A child’s last breath marks an unmappable seascape in your memory. How the morning mourns with a mother: dismantle or burn the house in which her son died.
Five years ago, you narrated to me the story of the bones of your great-grandmother, how the skeleton was removed, given a ritual cleansing in the barrio, placed in a small chest—preserved and carried along if the family decided to move to Cebu. You tried to remember the childhood stories of your mother during the war. Then you cried, “Mama,” as if I saw all your great-grandmothers crying in front of me. I knew it was not about Lola. I did not know how to tame the currents within you. You were still remembering the tidal bore and erosion in the riverbank when everyone was near the waves of the sea.
The self is a resting place—an estuary, where the water from the river meets the sea, reminding of arrivals and departures. In the old Visayan culture, when all the healing rites failed to revive the moribund, there was one last desperate ritual to call back the departed soul. A coconut shell of water was placed on the stomach while chanting, “Uli, kalag, uli.” Come back, soul, come back.
“Mama, I imagine you with those lullabies instead of those chants.”
In the afterlife, a boat will arrive, filled with stories from the childhood of your grandmothers—sinking and slowly turning it into reefs on the seafloor. Only the sea’s humming, and the mellow voice of my brother when he will call you “Mama” for the first time, shall be heard. Your soul will always seek your womb. This world will own too many kinds of dying. But hopefully, death will be kinder than the earth.
Anne Katherine Aguilar
Her name was Corazon. Behind the largest kaimito tree in our elementary school was a large hole almost veiled by a thick curtain of cadena de amor. This led to a narrow pathway by the dike. An aged house reminiscent of mansions featured in those Western horror movies stood eerily, nestled under a queue of kaimito trees and acacias. That house was hers. The home of an aswang. Legend had it that when the moon was blood orange, full in its splendor, she would grace the empty rocky paths from the dike along Sta. Ana, and prey on her victims. Buried deep beneath her lawn were carcasses of children, women, and men who were awed by her charms — all of whom would never walk the earth again.
In second grade, I had a glimpse of her — the flitting image of her black hair sported a bun, her pale and willowy neck set on slender shoulders was enough to send shivers down my spine. I had nightmares that I would walk by the dike on lonely evenings while she would lurk in the shadows, ready to gobble up my young flesh. I would wake up in the middle of the night with my pillow drenched in my sweat. I coaxed myself to toughen up. Mama Ina, who never married, was the aunt who raised me after the death of my own mother, and she was quite the sceptic. I knew she loved me and I did her as well. But I could already hear her snorting at the stories of Corazon, the aswang, the monster in our midst.
People of the Philippines vs. Echegaray:
Capital Punishment for the Man who was Immortal
Faith Calisura Galve
It’s a curious case among those who study and practice the law. The case of Antonio Echegaray is talked about in whispers full of curiosity, disbelief, and wonder. Many say that it Is an urban legend, something to keep the law students entertained in their nightly bar crawls and coffee-filled nights. Others say that it holds some truth. At the very least, three things are proven as fact: first, that it is well-recorded that a man named Antonio Echagaray truly did exist in 1941, second, that the records of the case docketed as G.R. No. 87613 were lost in the turmoil of the Japanese occupation and only an excerpt of the court proceedings remains, and lastly, that the Accused was sentenced to death.
However, whether or not it is true, this is the case that will ultimately save my client whose life, liberty, and property will be placed in the hands of the fifteen men and women of the Supreme Court — the Gods of Padre Faura.
At the outset let me say: the case is nothing unique.
Eyebrows furrowed in curiosity, I saw her toss a cap-full of spirits to the ground. The amber liquid seeped through the soil and seemed greatly welcomed by the earth.
“La, why did you throw that away?” fifteen-year-old me asked.
“I don’t know. Tradition? It doesn’t hurt to follow,” she said with a happy grin lighting her face. “I remember when I was young…”
My grandma wears that grin with confidence, three missing teeth and all. She is only sixty-seven and very able. In her usual “old-lady” duster, wrinkles, and gray hair, this woman is the mistress of all tagay sessions in our family. She can indeed hold her liquor as well as any military man (her words).
Write your own truths because nobody will
An interview with JONA BRANZUELA BERING
You are in Vietnam after an enviable stint traveling places and a career teaching at the University of the Philippines-Cebu, and during your career, you have also been associated with poetry, travel blogging and giving workshops. Your work Tubod won the prestigious Palanca award and has been showered with praise. Tell us how you came to be here today.
I still think that I have not changed much in terms of principles and personal truths—and I do not know if that is a good thing or not.
I still struggle with impostor syndrome—that I am not good enough and will never be. I question the quality of my work and always compare my thin body of work with my fellow writers.
But living with this insecurity prods me to read more and write more, although I have not published anything solid in the past four years. But in due time, when the impostor syndrome is low and the PMS is locked up in its cerebral closet, then I will put my new works out there.
In general, though, I think I live the life I want to live. I still live life the way I want. I am constantly learning and growing—and that is what matters the most.
A Palanca award is something many writers aspire to. As a recipient of such a coveted award, can you offer any advice?
A Palanca award has its merit and puts a substantial weight in one’s CV, especially if the writer pursues a career in the Philippine academe.
For young writers, write your own truths because nobody will. Read. Diversify your readings. Look at the spines of the books you have read, if they are dominantly white and male, then something has to be done. Palanca is not the end, it is one of the possible starts. Winning it is good, but it is not that fulfilling, to be honest.
Rather, focus and keep on reading and writing. A lot of skills you learn from writing will complement other skills needed in the 21st century. That being said, learn a skill set or two that are relevant to writing but not necessarily aligned with the literary career you have in mind: Adobe Suite, Search Engine Optimization, coding, copywriting, and growth hacks.
Do not be a starving artist.
You have a personal blog. In your opinion, what are the personal benefits of having one?
Writing poetry, fiction, and creative fiction has a lot of restrictions. I always use the waterfall-tap metaphor/analogy for this. To be fully human is to be a waterfall or a rushing river: we flow without heed, without control. Emotions are like that. But to be a poet or a writer is to have control over these things. We are the hand that controls the flow of the water coming out from the tap.
Hence, I love the idea of having a platform where I can gush out as much as I want without thinking about enjambment, foreshadowing, central imagery, and other literary maneuvers we use in our creative work.
Aside from the selfish reason mentioned above, it certainly has some economic benefits. The economy has been shifting for a while now, and the digital world and our digital consumption have a massive impact on our decision-making: what to consume, what to wear—all these consumerist, capitalist realities we live in. My blogger identity, which I despised from the beginning, has allowed me to be where I am now: restless but floating economically.
One disparity I noticed in the Philippines’ literary world—either you end up in the academe or become a starving writer. The former is a great place to be, to some extent; the latter, not so. Having a personal blog was a great starting point for me to learn skills relevant to the 21st-century economy.
Is there any difference in focus between writing in Cebu to writing from Vietnam? Do you see your location as important or complementary or anything like that?
One of the sad things about living in a country where the language of transaction is primarily English (expat bubble) and Vietnamese (local) is the possible loss of other languages in our tongue. That being said, in the middle of designing a logo and while thinking of the metaphors associated with leaf buds, I thought of salingsing, such a beautiful word. But I could not remember the Bisaya for a flower bud.
Writing in Cebu feels organic, especially when I write poetry and essays in Cebuano. Everything flows seamlessly—the conversation, the nuances, the words. Writing in and from Vietnam, I have to rely on Spotify and YouTube and listen to distinctly Bisaya music for me to remember.
Writing in Cebuano becomes a reliance on memory: how places sound, feel, and taste, for example. Such simple things that we take for granted when we are at home become so evident when you are two flights away. For example, the taste of suka and toyo, (which we called patis in Cebu) here is so different from back home. The sounds of Carbon and Colon are fading in my head, and I have to cull my diary entries to remember them.
Being away for four years now, I feel like I am losing my Cebuano, which is an identity I cling to. But I will myself to work on it. Perhaps I should have online conversations or a video chat with Cebu-based friends for distinctly Bisaya textures and nuances to come alive once again. A virtual tagay maybe.
The Cebuano of my generation is already considered wanky and awkward and already raises eyebrows among purist Cebuano writers. While the purists’ concerns are valid, so are mine and my generations’. The kind of Cebuano that emerges from being a millennial, from being a digital nomad, from being exposed to varied realities—digital, communal, multicultural—is distinctive and anthropological. It is unique to our generation. And my generation of Cebuano writers should unabashedly, unapologetically write about these truths and experiences.
One positive possibility that comes out from me living here in Vietnam is the rich materials I am exposed to—how it is to be Bisaya/Cebuano in Vietnam and the myriad of stories that I experience, witness, and feel.
It seems to be a good idea to have this freedom where you can decide what you want to write as opposed to a day job that says “You need to turn this in, and this done, and that one, too,” and write what you feel is important.
I do and value both. I thought I would not be an 8-5 person, but I have become one. Being a teacher at UP-Cebu would hardly count. There were no clock-ins, and the schedule was pretty relaxed. Here in Hanoi though, I become a legit 8-5 person—working in an office in smart casual attire and 3-inch stilettos. And while I still loathe unnecessary paperwork and admin tasks, I genuinely love my work. Teaching Global Perspectives (academic research and writing grounded on social issues) is the closest to teaching literary criticism I could ever have here in Hanoi.
Day jobs feed the poet, literally and metaphorically. They pay the bills, and they give me materials to write about, especially in my case where the office feels like a United Nation. My day job also makes me entertain the idea of writing a novel—the material is too varied, layered, and rich that I do not think I am good enough to capture their complexities in a suite of poems: systemic racism, misogyny, internalized ethnicism, white privileges, lost souls trying to find their way in Hanoi, the LGBTQIAP+ community’ beauties and sorrows. Hanoi, in this sense, becomes home in the course of my stay. So I would say, freedom without intentions and actions is futile and useless.
What projects are you currently working on?
I am currently working on my second poetry collection in Cebuano-English—that world where I belong—always swinging, swimming, and often drowning in two languages. Another one in English—which is completely born from my life here in Hanoi. There is a collection of travel essays that becomes more complicated and uncertain over time. A collection of short stories in Cebuano. And there is a list of book projects I am not ready to disclose yet.
In your experience, what have been the challenges of the Cebuano writer?
I have tons of epistolary poems on this one. One major challenge is Maslowian and economic by nature. Some Cebuano writers already have a hard time making ends meet. We are all humans before we are writers. The stomach has to be fed before the soul is. This was particularly true and personal to me when I was in my early 20s—financially struggling while trying to put a dent in the local literary scene.
I do not think that Cebu or the Philippines have a reading culture. Readers are a vast minority. Writers read because we must read. But beyond the almost cliquish community of writers, who reads? Reading has to be rebranded and has to be inculcated in the psyche of the Filipinos, which then leads me to the political perspective involved here. The Korean government excels at this. They invest and make art popular by immersing the once-considered high-brow art into their pop culture. When you watch a popular K-drama, there will be a scene where a character holds a book and then a close-up of the book. This kind of investment in marketing local literature is vastly lacking in our country. Of course, in Cebu, we have the Cebuano Studies Center, but that alone is not enough. Writers need readers, and sadly, except for the community of young writers and our select writer friends and colleagues who read our work, we do not have an established community of readers.
How do you envisage the role of the writer in the new normal of Cebuano literature?
Pandemics happen every thirty years. But since the world has changed a lot. The travel and tourism industry—before Covid-19, contributed $9 billion in global GDP—has greatly contributed to the reach and spread of the virus. The Philippines, I might be wrong, has not experienced something this horrendous in the past.
With all the mounting death and debt around us, is there a need for a writer? Certainly so. Writing about pandemics is nothing new in literature. Alice Munro has a story or two on it. John Steinbeck. Albert Camus. But we do not have one in Cebuano literature yet, but then I might be wrong.
A new breed of literature will arise from this. Stories, poems, and essays on the maladies that come with or are augmented by the idiosyncrasies of Covid-19. I am hoping for works that transcend: from the confines of one’s room to the beauty and sorrows of the vast, borderless digital world. I am hoping for millennials’ and Gen-Z’s take on this part of human history.
It will be anthropological. Because, literature, at its heart, documents the realities of our lives—lived and otherwise.
Thank you for kindly taking the time to answer our questions for enriching Cebuano literature. We wish you the best of luck in what evidently is a wonderful and exciting career.
Thank you for providing this space and platform.
Kabisdak continues to beam its beacon of fellowship
An interview with MICHAEL OBENIETA
Thank you for doing this interview. I wonder if you would like to talk about your background in creative writing, how it developed and why you chose a career involved in literary arts.
Words, whether spoken or written, have always fascinated me. Back in my childhood when the radio was the sonic spring of news and entertainment, my father’s penchant to crank up the volume for various broadcasters’ voices on public affairs got me all hooked up on language and its link to the power of politics and politics of power. Those were the days of Martial Law, and words were embers in my ears as the wind and water of partisan sound and fury either set the words aflame with the rage and courage of revelations or render it muddy with lies or muddled with rhetoric. My father was a fan of Talyux Bacalso and Inday Nita, among others, whose commentaries soar on the wings of wit and swoop down with the gravitas of their convictions. They speak truth to power and soothe the powerless, and that’s probably as good as poetry in its effect to me in my greenhorn ears. Both my father and mother would also listen to this late-night radio program featuring some bands of “haranista” who would warble deep into the wee hours and lull me to sleep. My mother, apart from being a collector of Bisaya Magazine, was also a day-long devotee of soap-opera serials in dyHP. All the drama, the comedy, and the horror that I always overhear in my waking hours were more than enough intimations of the human condition.
Indeed, what my parents followed on air through the transistor, cued my inchoate consciousness into an intuitive appreciation of the significance and signification of language—its rhythms, its resonance, its reasons—whether their function was a polemical confrontation of Martial Law reality or imaginative escapism away from it all. What I heard gripped, riveted, haunted, and comforted me as well. That was no less a literary upbringing, I believe.
In the slums of Lorega and T.Padilla where I grew up, most of my childhood chums also sold newspapers and komiks. I eventually joined them and became a newsboy myself all the way to high school. I was hooked on it, not only because I was empowered to earn my own money even at a young age but also because I was consumed by the impressionable idea that the words and what they convey in the newspapers, the magazines, and the komiks have so much earth-shaking value that people would actually buy these as if were as basic for survival like the sustenance of food, water, and air. My beginning as an avid reader owed much to my tendency to pore over and read the stuff before I would hawk these out in the streets. And what I earned as a newsboy I often splurged in second-hand books in the stalls of Carbon’s Freedom Park and in the erstwhile Music House. It was affordable for me, too, to have my eye’s fill in movie houses where literally larger-than-life narratives rendered it easier for me to understand and cope with whatever craziness I saw in my youth.
In high school all the way to college, it became sort of a natural course to gravitate towards the campus publication as both writer and editor. Having soaked up enough words, I guess my experience with language from the radio, the magazines, and newspapers I consumed then gave me the advantage in essays and journalistic writing. It became sort of a habit to win in various school competitions and nationwide contests. With such academic background all the way to my professional foothold in Sun.Star Cebu— where I became a feature writer, Sunday essayist, and opinion columnist and ultimately the editor of its weekend magazine— I forged friendships with fellow wordsmiths with whom I journeyed in our common aspiration to join various national writers workshop and to publish our literary works in national magazines like Philippines Graphic, Philippines Free Press, Panorama, Sunday Inquirer, and Home Life. We sort of flourished together, nourished in a fellowship of adventure in creative craftmanship in both Cebuano and English.
In that context and in hindsight, my literary endeavors are apparently an outgrowth of my experiences since childhood, choosing me as much as I chose it not only as a work in progress but also as a purpose-driven adventure in making sense of and finding meaning in life.
I am interested in the relationship between the creative writer as constructed, in terms of the academe, which is what comes to mind immediately when you say the word creative writer – and author. I am wondering what you think the relationship between the two roles is.
I guess we who invest our energy and time in language all write out of osmosis. Our experiences—whether these are rooted and foregrounded in the academe or out of it— provide us with the material and the muscle to breach and push each other’s borders with the force of inspiration and ambition. Craftmanship is our common ground in authorship. We can widen the scope of our writing as much as we stay curious at and engaged with the creative universe beyond the sphere of our socialization (our inherited value systems and internalized worldviews) from which we wander through the wilderness of literary theories and praxis. This wandering, especially when we go out on a limb and get lost in the Bisdak sense of “mino”, must predispose us into a fearless and mindful willingness to take off our familiar clothes and wear it anew inside out. Such inversion is the way we must conjure our creative explorations.
In the practice of writing at SunStar Daily, where you worked previously, how were the various aspects of writing negotiated there? Do you think personal interests can manipulate the way creativity is presented or do they provide greater opportunities?
To the extent that deadlines were literally the lifeline for hanging on to a journalist’s job, whether as writer or editor, my career in Sun.Star was preconditioned on delivering on time what you’re paid for. To the extent that I have had to deal with constraints of time and challenges of public service—the soul of media work— in the face of profit motive that is the overarching interest of the publishers (who are politically tied up to the power structure in Cebu), creativity is the key so you will not lose sight of your purpose and continue to find more windows of opportunity than oppressive enclosures. Balancing acts are always present in any professions, providing us with challenges to thrive or topple over our core values. It’s up to us to rise above the occasion. It’s easier said than done, but that’s what imagination is for. There’s always a way to transcend as you tread on the dangers of the minefield. This mindfulness is how we survive and stay soulful, too. Something creative writers intuitively do.
You have been working passionately on Kabisdak part of the time. Could you discuss how that differs from your other work?
As an online literary lighthouse, Kabisdak has always been a passion project since I started it nearly 15 years ago after I left Cebu and moved to Kansas. To uproot one’s self from its comfort zone, especially in middle age when everything that keeps me sane has been in place for a long time, is to brace for the sinking feeling of displacement. The trauma of diaspora can weigh you down and drown out your voice, especially if the Bisdak sound you make in the scheme of national/global literature is already precariously peripheral, to begin with. Disorientation in the sense of “mino” is dangerous as you lose sight and slip off the ground, drifting away. In this context, the decision to imagine myself as a lighthouse keeper for Cebuano poets from various parts of the archipelago and elsewhere along globalization’s tide of immigration, is nothing less than a psychic survival mechanism. I’ve been doing it not because it puts beer in my fridge, but because it keeps me warm with the flow of kindred voices against the cold of solitude. I can never be lonely or feel lost despite the tidal waves of disorientation as long as Kabisdak continues to beam its beacon of fellowship with others who are caught in the crosscurrents of their creative voyages and explorations of identity through language. In this sense, imagining myself as a lighthouse keeper has grounded me enough to stay firm and find a structure for a creative collective of border-breaching Bisdaks. Without this work as a virtual lighthouse keeper, I don’t think I will have the stamina to continue writing in Cebuano in an alien land.
Finally, a question about your own writing practice, what do you think the potential of it for you in the future might be (since you are in America) and also why you think it remains so strong to so many Cebuano writers abroad?
Displacement may be disorienting, but it can also be paradoxically liberating. It can steer us beyond the confines of geography, if not the chains of parochialism. It can embolden us to raise the stakes of our voice in the wilderness of world literature. That much I can swear, and I assume it’s true as well for poets like Urias Almagro, Vicente Bandillo, Ester Tapia, Adonis Durado, and Cora Almerino whose voices in the mother tongue have stayed resonant in their rootedness despite their dislocation. As long as we stay true to our calling as poets, we can echo-locate like bats in the dark. Or like boats out in the night, gravitating towards the whirling wink of a lighthouse.
Last I read the news, there’s now a fifth ocean in the world beyond the familiar four. Who knows when the time will come for readers of world literature to discover the distance Cebuano poets have traversed and fathomed contra mundum?
Panamilit ni Dakulkol
Bag-o lang nakap-os sa ilang pamahaw karong buntaga sila si Leon ug ang iyang inahan nga si Nang Gloria. Wala pa mahiuli si Noy Digoy, amahan ni Leon; atua pa kini sa bungtod sa Banhigan, nanawat sa iyang buntagong tuba. Gipanglut-od ni Nang Gloria ang basiyong lusa nga mga plato ug gidala ngadto sa banggera sa ilang kusina.
Nanaog si Leon sa hagdanan sa kusina nga may gikumkom nga salin sa kan-ong mais. Misuong siya sa banggera nga ginama sa linipak nga kawayan ug mihangad. Nabati niya ang panagsingki sa mga plato ug kutsara nga gipanghugasan sa iyang inahan.
“Nay, dia ko silong, ha! Basig mayab-an ko nimog tubig!" pahibalo ni Leon.
Farewell to Dakulkol
Translation by Lamberto Ceballos
Leon and his mother, Nang Gloria, had just finished eating their breakfast that morning. Noy Digoy, Leon’s father, had not yet returned home. He was still in the hill of Banhigan gathering tuba from his sanggutan, a cluster of coconut trees tapped to produce the native wine. Nang Gloria collected the empty plates, the spoons, and the forks from the table and placed them in the kitchen sink.
Leon went down the kitchen’s stairs, his hand holding a platter of leftover corn meal. He passed under the banggera which was made of bamboo splits and looked up. He heard the clinking sound of the plates and spoons while her mother was washing them.
“Nay, I’m here under the banggera, ha! You might pour water on me!” said Leon.
Ang Mga Baki
Didto ko sa mingaw nga laybrari nagbasa og libro dihang nabati nako ang pag-uyog sa akong gilingkorang bangko, dayon niirog kini og gamay, samtang padulong pa og saka ang kalisang sa sulod sa akong dughan, apan wala pa nako masabti nga kato diayng akoang nasaksihang gamay nga kaguliyang sa sulod sa laybrari, kon asa tagsa-tagsa nang nagsugod og pangatagak ang mga libro, kay mao na diay usab ang sugod sa pagsaka sa intensidad sa pinakakusog nga linog nga niigo niining lugara.
Nakadagan ko pagawas sa laybrari kon asa dili na ko makabalik pa aron makuha ang akong mga butang nga gibilin sa bags depository. Wala gyod koy laing nabitbit, gawas sa usa ka gamay nga libro — bahin sa mga baki.
I was in the deserted library reading a book when I felt the chair shake, move a bit, as the turmoil in my heart continued to rise, though at first I did not understand that this little commotion in the library, where the books started to fall one by one was also the beginning of the rising intensity of the strongest earthquake that ever hit this place.
I ran out of the library where I could no longer return to retrieve the things I left at the bags depository. I had not taken anything, apart from a little book—on frogs.
translated by Ralph Semino Galán
I trace your words.
Whispering in the ears.
Each letter I examine
like caress on skin.
Before I flip it over, I linger
on the page of your mind
until I submerge in your world.
Though parts of it have rather wrinkled
my brow, I follow
the wind and the other rare
signs of your desire.
Contrary to your riotous laughter,
I excise. Marked by the ink
of my quill so as not to get lost
in the curve and cursive of your tongue.
But bit by bit I slide down the chair
when the gate of the cave of unrest
opens. Rustling, surging,
and smashing, indeed, I believe
I am trapped in the flow of darkness,
but bit by bit a rare ray of sunlight pokes
until it bursts. The released heat
radiates in the dark. When the end arrives
my soul gets deflated. I look up.
Panting. I sigh deeply
while the image still has a trace
in my vision—of the face
fashioned by pain and pleasure.
I wish to sleep over it
so I can contemplate correctly
all that has transpired,
but I am still haunted
by what you have revealed. Floating
through the cadence of your words.
Beyond my depths. Until now
I am silenced by the knowledge
of the murky boundary
between dream and reality.
Misubay ko sa imong mga pulong.
Gahunghong sa dunggan.
Matag titik akong gisusi
sama sa hapuhap sa panit.
Sa wala pa mopakli, milantugay ko
sa pahina sa imong paghunahuna
hangtod sa mibabad sa imong kalibotan.
Hinuon, dunay mga bahin nga nakapakunot
sa akong agtang, akong gisundan
ang hangin sa uban pang nihit
nga timailhan sa imong kahinam.
Taliwala sa imong gihungyaw,
akong gipangkutlo. Gimarka sa tinta
sa akong dagang aron dili ko masaag
sa kurbada ug pinakatay sa imong dila.
Apan hinay-hinay kong mius-os sa lingkoranan
sa dihang naabli ang ganghaan sa langob
sa kaguliyang. Mikasikas, mibalod,
ug mihampak, nagtuo gyod ko nga
natanggong ko sa dagayday sa dulom,
apan hinay-hinay midul-it ang nihit nga bidlisiw
hangtod mibugwak. Gibusilak sa kangitngit
ang init nga lingkawas. Inig abot sa kataposan,
mihungaw akong kalag. Mihanggad ko.
Gihangak. Lawom ang akong panghupaw
samtang nalakra pa ang imahen
sa akong panan-aw—sa nawong
nga nahulma sa kahapdos ug kalami.
Buot ko untang ikatulog aron
mapamalandongan kog tarong
ang tanang nanghitabo,
apan hamokon gihapon ko
sa imong gipangyangyang. Naalimukawan
sa tagaktak sa imong kapulongan.
Naguwas sa kahiladman. Hangtod karon
maamang ko sa alamag nga halap gyod
ang utlanan taliwala
sa damgo ug kamatuoran.
Translated by Ralph Semino Galán
Stray seed blown by the wind
into soil sown
Quickly the birds flock
feasting on ripe fruit
scattering small seeds
around the vicinity
blanketing the plains
covering the slopes
and shaping out there the green
Starting with a stray seed blown
by the wind
now holding the enigma already etched
in the womb of time
that keeps the mystifying creation, source
of a mystery that shakes
the universe—the mystery of LIFE.
Gumer M. Rafanan
Saag nga liso gipadpad sa hangin
sa yuta natisok
Daling nanugok ang mga langgam
hinog nga bunga gipistahan
gagmayng liso nasabwag
sa palibot nakatag
mihabol sa patag
mibukot sa kabakildan
ug naumol ngadto sa lunhawng
Nagsugod sa saag nga liso nga gipadpad
karon nagkumkom na sa tanghaga nga nakulit
sa sabakan sa panahon
nagtipik sa gikalibgang mugna nga tinubdan
sa usa ka misteryo nga mitay-og sa
uniberso—ang misteryo sa KINABUHI.
Summer in the City
Translated by Ralph Semino Galán
Stuffier than noontime
Are the faces of people trapped
In traffic. Squabbling are jeepney drivers
jostling for passengers, surrounded
by Badjaos suffering from hunger.
Sharper than heat is the curse
Of the one not wearing a helmet,
His license being confiscated
By the traffic enforcer.
While the ice drop vendor
Continues to traverse the street,
His throat parched.
Under high noon, nonstop
The old man with the loose screws
proclaims to the streets: “The end
of the world is near…”
Truth Is an Old Woman in Ragged Clothes
Gratian Paul R. Tidor
Labaw pa sa kaalimuot sa ting-udto
Ang mga nawong sa mga natanggong
Sa traffic. Nagsumpaki ang mga driver
Nga nag-ilog og pasahero, gialirongan
Sa mga Badjao nga hagbay rang napasmo.
Hagtik pa sa kainit
Ang pamalikas sa wa’y helmet,
Naimbargohan og lisensya
Sa gi-high blood nga enforcer.
Samtang padayong nagbaklay
Ang namaligyag ice drop,
Namalhan sa iyang tutonlan.
Ubos sa udtong-tutok, wa’y puas
Sa pagsangyaw sa kadalanan
Ang tigulang nga nalisoan: “Padu’ng na
Sa pagkatapos ang kalibotan…”
Erlinda K. Alburo is a scholar, critic, editor, poet, and translator, who was director of the Cebuano Studies Center from 1996 to 2011. She regularly serves as a panelist for the Iligan and Silliman National Writers Workshops, as well as a member of the board of judges for the Cebuano category at the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature. She is editorial board member of the Philippine Quarterly of Culture and Society. She has been the recipient of various grants and fellowships abroad, and has been awarded numerous distinctions such as Outstanding Argaonon for the 400th anniversary of the founding of Argao, Achievement Award from the National Research Council of the Philippines, and the Paz Marquez Benitez Award for Teaching Literature.
Bejay Bolivar is pursuing a PhD in English Language and Literature at the Ateneo de Manila University. She holds a degree in Master of Arts in Literature from the Cebu Normal University and a bachelor’s degree in Communication (Major in Media) with units in Professional Education from Saint Theresa’s College. She teaches in the University of San Carlos at the Department of Communication, Language, and Literature. Her academic interests include sociolinguistic studies in the regional context, the eco-spatial imagination, and regional literature.
Niño Augustine Loyola teaches literature at the University of San Carlos. He is also a creative writer who works part-time in literary and technical translation. His short stories and poetry were published in the Bisaya magazine and his awards include the “15th Jimmy Y. Balacuit Literary Awards” in 2017 and the “Labing Masaarong Bag-ong Magsusulats sa Bisaya sa Tuig 2017.”
Bea Martinez has a PhD English with concentration in Literary Studies from the Silliman University and is a recipient of the 2020 NCCA dissertation research award. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses at the University of San Carlos and works as a part-time librarian and senior high faculty at the Philippine Christian Gospel School.
Resil B. Mojares has won numerous national book awards as well as international recognition for his scholarship on Philippine culture and history. He has a Ph.D. in literature from the University of the Philippines and served as Visiting Professor in universities in the United States, Singapore, and Japan. A Professor Emeritus at the University of San Carlos, he was founding director of the university’s Cebuano Studies Center from 1975 to 2000. In 2018, the Philippine government conferred on him the title of National Artist in Literature.
Raphael Dean Polinar is MA candidate in Philosophy at the University of San Carlos. He is assistant to the director of the Cebuano Studies Center. His research interests include Cebuano literature, ethics, and the public space. He is a member of Mamugnaong Anak sa Dagang, Inc. (MAD) and works part-time as a translator.
Charles Dominic Sanchez is a literature teacher, essayist and fictionist from Cebu. His creative works have been featured in Brown Child: The Best of Faigao Poetry and Fiction 1984-2012, Pinili: 15 Years of Lamiraw, and online literary journal Katitikan.
Francis Luis Torres is an Assistant Professor of literature, creative writing, English, and communication courses at the University of the Philippines–Cebu. He also serves as the college Public Information Officer. Currently, his research focuses on gay/queer criticism, Philippine literature, and Cebuano culture and history.
Dagmar Inez Uy graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree majoring in Cinema from the University of San Carlos. She also holds a diploma in 3D Animation from Film and Media Arts International Academy. She is currently enrolled in the Master of Arts program, majoring in Literature, at the University of San Carlos. She is currently focused on the narrative aesthetics of Philippine Literature in English.
Anne Katherine Aguilar is based at the University of San Carlos, both as a teacher and as a graduate student pursuing an MA in Literature. She was a fellow to the 31st Cornelio Faigao Memorial Annual Writers Workshop, the CSC TALA Workshop and the Translation: Beyond Basics II. Her poetry have been published in Bag-ong Tala (2018) and her translation of Gumer Rafanan’s short story “Uhaw sa Pagpangga” was published in That Black God and Other Stories (2020).
Jona Branzuela Bering is at peace with her state of lostlessness. She authors Alang sa Nasaag (For the Lost), a poetry collection that swings between being grounded and flying away. She calls Hanoi, Vietnam her Point A. She won the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for her fiction.
June Angelie Burtanog works as a Communication Trainer. She is pursuing a Master of Arts degree in Literature at the University of San Carlos, where she graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Linguistics and Literature. Her poems have appeared in Folio Number 2: Still Waiting and Kuris, the literary folios published by CebuLitFest and Today's Carolinian, respectively.
Lamberto G. Ceballos is a multi-awarded fictionist, poet, and essayist. He was past president and member of Bathalan-ong Halad sa Dagang (Bathalad). He was one of the recipients of the NCCA-NCLA Taboan Literary Award 2013 and in 2014 he received from Unyon ng Mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas (UMPIL) the Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas award. He is a retired Certified Public Accountant and is presently connected with Sun.Star Superbalita as Cebuano language consultant and literary editor.
Hazel Ann Cesa is one of the first members of PALABRA, the official group for Literature majors of the University of San Carlos. She was a fellow to the 1st Bidlisiw Creative Writers’ Workshop and the BATHALAD Kagis Creative Writers’ Workshop in 2017. Her work was published in Bukambibig Poetry Folio of Spoken Word Philippines, the country’s first and only multilingual digital folio of performance poetry. She contributed to Inday-Inday, a poetry zine and Hangtod of the USC Department of Communications, Languages, and Literature. Currently, she writes technical articles for a global web solutions provider.
Jennifer Ebdani from Calbayog City, Samar, is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Literary and Cultural Studies at the University of San Carlos. She is a member of BATHALAD-Sugbo and has been a fellow to several writers’ workshops: UP Cebu Creative Writers Workshop 2014, Elements Camp 2014, Tagik Landasan 2015, Cebu Young Writers' Studio 2019, BATHALAD-Sugbo CWW 2019, WILA's Paglambo Regional CWW for Flash Fiction 2019, Katitikan's 1st Cebu Writers' Workshop 2020, and the recent 59th Silliman University National Writers Workshop. Her works have appeared in Superbalita Cebu and Katitikan Literary Journal of the Philippine South.
Ralph Semino Galán, poet, literary and cultural critic, translator and editor, is the assistant director of the UST Center for Creative Writing and Literary Studies. He is an associate professor in the UST Faculty of Arts and Letters. He is the author of the following books: The Southern Cross and Other Poems (2005), Discernments: Literary Essays, Cultural Critiques and Book Reviews (2013), From the Major Arcana (2014), and Sa mga Pagitan ng Buhay at Iba pang Pagtutulay (2018). His poems in English and Filipino won prizes in national literary contests. He is currently working on a research project titled Labaw sa Bulawan: Translating 100 Mindanao Poems from Cebuano into English and also a new collection of poems in Cebuano, Mga Kalag nga Nasalaag, Mga Dili Ingon Nato.
Faith Calisura Galve is currently taking her law degree at the University of Cebu. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Literature from the University of San Carlos. She is one of the translators for the 2017 postcolonial poetry book entitled ‘Patik’ and one of the writers of the 2016 “Forging Peoples” Gabii sa Kabilin.
Charris Lourdes Herrera graduated from the University of San Carlos, where she took up Bachelor of Arts in Literature. She is one of the translators of the 2017 postcolonial poetry book entitled “Patik." Currently, she works as a content and technical writer for a software development company. Herrera posts her stories and poetry in her personal blog at houseofrah.life, a website she runs with her sister.
Noli Manaig’s poetry has appeared in magazines, books, and journals like the Philippines Free Press, Sunday Inquirer magazine, and the Likhaan Book of Poetry and Fiction. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English Studies from the University of the Philippines Diliman. As a student, he received several Amelia Lapena Bonifacio Literary Awards for his poetry. He also won second prize for the same category at the 2014 Carlos Palanca Awards in Literature. In 2020, his first book of poems, The God Botherers, was published by UP Press. Of late, he has tried his hand at filmmaking. His short films have been exhibited by the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Gawad Alternatibo. In 2019, he won Best Experimental Film for Michel de Certeau’s Metaphor for Everyday Life.
Michael U. Obenieta is the recipient of the 2021 Gawad Balagtas (Lifetime Achievement Award for Cebuano poetry) awarded by the Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas (UMPIL). His works have been published by various magazines in the Philippines and have received awards in the national and international scene. A former editor for Weekend Magazine in Sun.Star Cebu, he has been based in Topeka, Kansas since 2007. He is the moderator/administrator of the online Cebuano literary lighthouse called Kabisdak and has recently launched his book of bilingual poems (Cebuano & English), “Sanga sa Angkla, Hangin sa Samin” (Branch of the Anchor, Air in the Mirror) published by the Ateneo de Naga University Press.
Rhuther Payales is an AB Literature sophomore studying at the University of San Carlos. He has been with the institution for over fourteen years, starting from his first elementary grade up until college. After taking Creative Writing classes for a brief quarter during his Senior High School years, he realized he wanted to write poems, create films, and build worlds.
Cindy Velasquez is an assistant professor of literature at the University of San Carlos. She was a fellow to the Cornelio Faigao Memorial Workshop, Iligan National Writers Workshop, J. Elizalde Navarro National Arts Criticism Workshop, Iyas National Writers Workshop, and the Kritika National Workshop on Art and Cultural Criticism. Her poems have been featured in local and national publications. Velasquez's awards include the Jimmy Y. Balacuit Award for poetry in 2009, the Vicente Ranudo Literary Excellence Award in 2019, as well as the Gawad Urian Best Music in 2020. Her first poetry collection Lawas was published in 2016.