In the Streets: A Translation of Paul Gumanao’s “Sa Kalsada”

(The following is a translation from the original Bisaya of Paul Gumanao’s short story “Sa Kalsada.” The story first appeared in the Banaag Diwa, Literary Folio of the Ateneo de Davao’s Atenews. It won second place in the 2011 Satur Apoyon memorial award for Bisaya Fiction. It consequently appeared in two installments in the Dagmay, journal of the Davao Writers Guild. In my selection of best short stories written by Ateneo de Davao writers for 2011-2012, this was my choice for best short story. Paul has allowed me to translate the story to English for greater accessibility.)

In the Streets

by Paul Randy Gumanao

Stella didn’t get to finish her coffee.

“Yes kuya, I’m on the way. Really, how impatient you are” said Stella while rinsing her toothbrush on the faucet. It was six thirty in the morning and she and her kuya Lucas were about to head for school.

“Sorry about that. We have an assignment in Araling Panlipunan, you see. I still have to copy from my classmates, that’s why we have to hurry. Let’s go.”

Lucas took his sling bag, which was on the table near the TV. He apparently forgot to close its zipper, and some loose change and his phone fell from it when he took it.

“Oh will you be careful, son! What’s wrong with you, you’re running around like a beheaded chicken. Take care of your things! Remember, we aren’t exactly rich. You’re lucky you get to have cellphones, but you don’t even take care of it? Goodness.” so said their mother, who tried hard not to start a sermon that early in the morning.

Lucas merely smiled as he picked up his disassembled phone. He reassembled the battery, keypad and casing. Then he pressed the buttons to see if it worked. Stella saw that her brother was agitated, observing the large beads of sweat on his forehead, and his somewhat slight trembling of the hand. She could only help pick up his loose change.

When they were done, they said good bye to their parents and went out.

While the two were walking in haste out of the narrow alley to wait for a jeep, Lucas noticed that Stella was lugging with her backpack. He felt sorry for this second year high school little sister of his. She’s an honor student, and she refused to leave any of her books and notebooks behind. If she could just have clothes with a built in bag sewn, she would have done so long ago. But then she didn’t want to look stupid, either. After all, those of that age were already beginning to be conscious of their looks. Stella was a young woman now. By now she should already be having admirers and crushes.

“Let me bring your bag. Here, let’s swap.” They stopped walking and Lucas handed his own sling bag while taking his younger sister’s backpack.

“Uy, kuya cares about me.” Stella smirked while poking Lucas’ right dimple teasingly. The older brother just smiled.

“What are you talking about, hahaha. I just took your bag so we can walk faster and get to school earlier. You thought I was being doting, huh?” He teased his sister and struck her left ear with his fingers. Then, he trotted ahead.

“Ouch! Just you wait kuya, you’ll see. I’ll tell on you to ate Lea. I’ll tell her to break up with you. Hahahaha.”

When Lucas heard his sister’s threat, he suddenly stopped running. He took out his phone and walked slowly while reading some messages from it. Stella caught up to him and retaliated with an ear-flick of her own. But she got no reaction from Lucas. He just continued walking, looking straight. He walked briskly. Brisker.

“Let’s hurry while the jeep is still there.” Lucas said.

Before long, they arrived at City High. It was six fifty and they had returned each other’s bags.

The siblings parted ways to head to their respective classrooms. Stella said aloud, “Bye kuya! I’ll head to you after class, okay?”

Lucas just nodded. Without a word. Without a smile.

He went to the fourth year building, then to their classroom. There, he came upon his classmates huddled together and hastily copying their assignment. Lucas decided not to join the flag ceremony that morning, there wasn’t enough time to copy. The assignment had to be an essay.

His classmate Ben called him. “Hey, Cas! Copy mine, I’ve finished answering it.”

“Oh come on, Ben. And when did you ever learn to think, huh? Haha. You can’t make a fool out of me. Give me that, let me see, you might make me copy something wrong.” His smile returned. For a while, he forgot what he was worrying about a while ago.

“And you’re to talk. You don’t trust me, man? I copied that from someone in pers klas! You don’t want it? Well, let me have it back.”

“Hm… it looks right. We had the same idea. Whoever answered this is smart, yup, smart. Payts, this’ll do.” And Lucas copied it hurriedly.

For some reason, Lucas always had low grades, and he kept on just copying. Almost all of his grades were line of seven. He really only got 80 in Math and MAPEH, thankfully.

“Hurry man, I still have something to tell you. Important very much.” said Ben.

Lucas looked up and asked what it was.

“Just finish that first, you might turn emo after what I tell you. I don’t want you to go soaking my assignment in tears. Later.”

After copying, Lucas tucked his paper in his notebook and returned Ben’s assignment. He asked Ben what the latter wanted to say.

Ben brought him to the garden behind their classroom.

Ben looked around to check if no one was listening to their conversation. Then, he said, “Cas, now you have a reason to join the Spiders. When you hear this, you won’t hesitate to join us anymore.”

“What is it, then? Will you hurry.” Lucas was growing impatient.

“Your girl, Lea.”

“Lea? Why, what happened?”

“Last night. She and Paclar. The gang saw…”

“And who the hell is that Paclar?” Lucas was really impatient now as he held Ben by the chest. Blood was rushing to his face and his forehead wrinkled. It was difficult to see where the brow started and where they joined, and Lucas was just as uncertain.

“Paclar, Kristofer Paclar, the right hand man of the leader of our enemy gang, the Bloods. The gang’s been tailing him for some time now. And last night,” Ben looked around again, “the gang saw the two of them… fondling each other there at the covered court. He and your girl.”

Lucas was pissed off at what he heard. In spite of the coldness of the morning, a drop of his sweat dripped down to the sandy earth, which absorbed it.

So that was why Lea didn’t reply to his text. That was why Lea was avoiding him whenever they met. Lucas remembered how the other week, Lea texted him that she was feeling hot and that she wanted Lucas to satisfy her. Lucas was confused for a while before he understood what she meant. Now he knew it was an invitation with temptation.

Lucas leaned against the Talisay tree and looked up to glimpse the gleam of the sun from behind the tree’s leaves and branches. He looked up to suppress the falling of his tears on the wet earth. The earth was still damp from the rain the night before.

“So, what about it, man? What’s the plan? The Spiders are ready to help you,” assured Ben. Before Lucas could reply, the school bell rang, signifying the start of class.

“Can I talk to you Spiders later? After class?”

Ben nodded and the two went into the classroom. Lucas, in no sound state of mind.

Around three in the afternoon, the students began filing out of the classrooms. Stella proceeded to the canteen near the fourth year building to wait for her older brother there. While waiting, she bought two pieces of panwich. She ate one. The other, she put in her pocket to give to her kuya Lucas when he arrives. She was sure her brother was hungry.

It had already turned four but Lucas had still not passed by the canteen Stella was in. She knew he would pass by there, for there were no other ways out of the building. She decided to go to Lucas’ classroom.

The young girl walked slowly while humming. It was already a bit quiet in that part of the school as most students have gone home. Before she arrived at her brother’s classroom, she heard the sound of boys talking, and she heard Lucas’ voice. Stella stopped heading towards Lucas’ classroom. Instead, she went around to the back of the room to see what the young men were doing inside.

“You won’t regret joining the Spiders, Lucas. We are always ready to help you. As long as you don’t betray us.”

Stella sought to see who said these words. When she looked, she saw that it was Louie Reston. The leader of the Spiders gang. She grew worried. She understood that her kuya was joining this notorious gang in Davao.

“Bros, let’s all head for the hideout and have this new friend of ours initiated there. Let’s plan on how to take care of that Paclar there too,”  so ordered Louie.

The young men left. They broke into groups. Lucas went with Ben’s group, which at that time was quiet and spoke little. But hatred and the desire to get back at Lea and Kristofer Paclar were clearly seen on his face. He was ready, even to kill.

while the Spiders went ahead, Stella closely followed. But she took care not to be noticed. Stella knew that this gang was wanted in the whole city. She also knew the DDS was still out killing members of any gang in the city.

The group arrived at an abandoned billiard hall in Jacinto. That was what they called their hideout. When all the Spiders got in, Stella came nearer. She peeked into a small hole and saw that the young men were going up the second floor. In her curiosity, she went in and left her bag on a table downstairs. She tiptoed up and peeked to see what the Spiders were doing. She saw her brother blindfolded and kneeling while the other members were around him. Louie stood in front of Lucas,saying something. Stella heard the words but she did not listen. The only thing on her mind was to know what they were about to do to her brother.

After a while, Ben handed to Louie a syringe filled with a green liquid. This was injected into Lucas. Lucas merely closed his eyes while biting his lips. Louie then took a baseball bat. He kissed this before ordering Lucas to stand.

Lucas stood up. Suddenly, Louie hit his legs with the bat. He struck as if he was hacking a tree. Not just once. Twice. Thrice. The legs. The waist. The rear.

“Aaaaahh….aaah! Aaaaargh!” This was all Lucas could scream as he fell down to the ground.

“Kuya Lucas! Kuyaaaa!” Stella could not restrain herself. Out of surprise she screamed.

The group of young men were disassembled and they rushed to grab Stella. The young girl cried as the men squeezed her shoulders painfully. She also cried out of pity for her brother.

“Stella! Why… are you… here? Go home!” Lucas tried to draw near his sister though he was already limping.

Louie suddenly came near. “What is this, man? Why does your sister know about this, huh? We can’t have that here in the Spiders. She has to be taken care of!”

“Huh? I.. I don’t know how she knew we were here. She must’ve followed us. Why are you here, Stella?

“I  was worried about you, kuya. I.. I was scared that.. that something might happen to you.. Why did you.. you join these bastards?”

“Damn! We’re bastards, she says, guys! Damnit!” the boys were furious.

“You don’t understand why I joined. Don’t get involved, god damn it!”

Stella was bewildered how her brother could treat her like this. She could not help but cry. Then, Louie came near her and gave a sign to the boys holding her to make her lie down on the floor. Two boys were holding Stella by the hands, two by the feet. Lucas understood what they were about to do to his sister. But he was weak, and the drug’s potency was overwhelming.

“Having done us something wrong, we might as well have fun with your sexy body and pretty face. We don’t want to waste this smooth skin of yours, now do we. Hehehe…” Louie said threateningly to Stella.

She cried violently as she struggled to free herself from the hold of the gang members. The menacing laughter of the boys and the sobbing of this one young girl melted into one another. Louie took of her shoes and opened her skirt with his tongue out, drooling. To her fearful eyes, he looked like a beast.

He opened her legs more before taking of her panties with his teeth. The boys were howling with delight. Lucas merely watched as they molested his sister.

After they took of her panties, they had her wear it as a mask. And they all laughed. Even Lucas. They laughed even louder when they saw the flattened panwich in Stella’s pocket. The panwich she was planning to give to her brother Lucas, who was now with the boys laughing while looking at her like this. Louie wiped it repeatedly on her genitals, stuffed it in, thrust it in and out, then ate it.

The young girl’s blouse and bra were taken off. All that was left were her skirt and the socks on her feet. There was a momentary silence. Louie took off his clothes and desecrated the body of this bound young girl. From head down. Down. Devoured. Desecrated. Defiled.

“Aah..ahh…aaaaahhhhhhh……animaaaaaals!!!” Stella had barely any strength to scream. She was drained.

Lucas merely went downstairs and went out of the hideout. It was dark. Blood still lingered in his face and he felt weak. He could not do anything for the sister who loved him. He bought a cigarette from the nearby store while the boys were still feasting on his sister. One after the other. Defiling her again and again.

Suudenly, a motorcycle stopped in front of their hideout. Three men with bonnets were on it, and two of them went directly into the billiard hall. He was only alerted when he heard a gunshot. Then he saw the other members of the gang scurrying away. After a while, a police car arrived and went after the members. Some of them were caught. Fearfully, he ran away too while five policemen chased after them.

Lucas was fleeing with Ben, who shouted “Run! Run! Don’t look back, let’s split up!”

When they parted at a corner, near the Freedom Park, Lucas saw a gathering of activists having a candle lighting activity. He suddenly thought of going thither and pretend to be part of the rally to avoid the police. He conversed with some of the student activists and pretended to join the rally. He saw the other members of the Spiders gang being caught. Some of them were those who were shot at the billiard hall.

Suddenly, the leader of the rally shouted.

“Justice for the victims of extrajudicial killings!”

“Justice! Justice!” The rallyists answered together with fists up. When he looked back, he saw Ben caught by the police, pointing at him. To really look like an activist, he raised his fist too and joined in the shouting of “justice.”

“Justice for the victims of all abuses!”

“Justice! Justice!”

After a while the rally ended. The activists all left.

Lucas set off as well. Slowly, he walked while thinking about the meaning of the word he was just shouting a while ago – the word “justice.”

“Stella! Oh God, my sister!”

Lucas ran towards Jacinto to go back to his sister. But he struggled running, for his body was aching and the heaviness in his heart was weighing him down.

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