Davao, and the Things You will miss Her for

Mount Apo, made golden by the sunrise. Seen from Toscana Homes.

When you leave Davao, you will miss the street lights of Toril, or the galaxy of raindrops seen from the glass window of the van from Kidapawan,a fanfare of light for your entrance into Her urban civilization.

You will miss the chirping of a thousand birds in Her trees right before the sun rises and right after it sets. You will miss how you can choose what to make of it: an alarm clock, a chime signalling end of class, or simply bass lines for the pandesal boy’s falsetto or the balut vendor’s baritone.

During the day you will miss that bamboo tree outside your room’s window, singing the voice of waterfall when the wind strums it. At night you will miss how the rain falling from the roof’s eaves become lightning bolts when made to glow by the florescent lamp.

You will miss the daily walks around Toscana, looking for metaphors. You will miss how the sunrise makes Mount Apo glow, Her consolation for the view of the mountain from Kidapawan’s Crossing Lanao that you miss. You will miss Mount Apo, from Toscana or from the Ateneo de Davao’s fifth floor lobby. You will miss how it drowns in morning mist,with only its three peaks  peeking to form islands in a sea of cloud.

You will miss your mother’s cooking. Oxtail in ginger broth, Kare-Kare, Dinuguan, Sinigang with buttery pork fat and Mustasa, dry garlicy Adobo, tangy Bangus Daing marinated for a week, Eggplants stewed in soy sauce, Cheesecake, Buko Pandan. You will still not know where mother hides that bottle of Home from which she takes a pinch every time she cooks.

But Davao will not be outdone by your mother, and you will miss Her good food too. You will crave for generously condimented puto bongbong, Jaltan’s creamy sapin-sapin and suman sa lihiya, almost everything they sell at Taps and at Ah Fat, the baby back ribs and potato salad at Coco’s, the lumpiang shanghai sauce at Dencia’s, the shanghai rice at Jack’s Ridge, the breaded bangus at Antonio’s grill.

You will miss nights at McDo Bajada or Matina and Jollibee Bajada with Christian and Renfred, your oldest friends. You will miss hearing about your batch mates back from Kidapawan (most of whom you don’t recall), about their sex lives, and you will miss coming home right after the sunrise.

You will miss reading in the local papers about the flamboyant but sensible-as-Switzerland things that the Dutertes do from time to time, making you think She is the best city in the country.

You will miss the little anecdotes She lets you hear on the jeep, from street vendors or from taxi drivers about men in black leather on motorcycles, suddenly killing noted wrongdoers walking scot-free because of a faulty National justice system.

You will miss that jeepney barker in Gaisano Mall who tells passengers to sit properly in English, and who dons messy makeup at night.

You will miss Her taxi drivers, polite, amicable, knowledgeable and honest, from whom you get fresh news you won’t even hear from media men.

You will miss the commanding view of Her from Jack’s Ridge, where street lights become stars and boulevards become constellations.

You will miss Her malls, where things are affordable but memories are free. The ghost of the fountain at Victoria Plaza, meeting people from the past you want to but don’t want to see in Gaisano Mall, recollections of the grade six field trip stop over at SM, writing down hope in KFC NCCC Mall, the audacity to try new things in Abreeza.

You will miss the time She gives you to think in jeepney rides, from Chowking Bajada to corner Acacia, or from Puan to Roxas, spent pondering the beauty of lips and petals, or of the fragility of human touch, or how life can culminate as road kill, or what to do with the garden once home.

You will miss the glorious solitude in her: that single Malibago tree standing right before Bangkerohan Bridge from corner Sandawa St.

You will miss Roxas Avenue, dominated by the Finster façade of the Ateneo de Davao and by the Marco Polo, a far cry from Quezon Boulevard.

You will miss the welcoming feeling of the Ateneo de Davao’s Humanities Division offices, where some of the most good looking people in the university slump on the couches and exchange gossip.

You will miss the brilliant and nurturing teachers of the Ateneo de Davao: sir Dom Cimafranca, ma’am Aurecel Alejandro, ma’am May Lynn Abella, ma’am Marjorie Belida, ma’am Rhodora Ranalan, ma’am Judith Dalagan, sir Hadj Balajadia, sir Nonoy Tomacruz, ma’am Maricar Panda, ma’am Annabelle Casumpa, ma’am Pam Castrillo, sir Noy Narciso, sir Lunar Fayloga, sir Meong Cabarde, ma’am Tetchie Aquino, ma’am Vicky Pre, sir Sonny Cirunay, sir Vincent Juan. The awe at seeing how people can influence.

You will miss the Ateneo library, where you squeal (deep inside, silence in the library please) at the sight of a copy of Dream of the Red Chamber. The giddying feeling of spending entire days reading at the Filipiniana section. The relaxing naps in the fifth floor during useless Philo or Theology classes.

You will miss the laid back AB English Major classes, 5 people in a room overlooking Roxas Avenue, talking of Derrida and Deriada. Clark’s suspicious but amusing patronizing, and the teacher’s amicability (doubly so with ma’am Ranalan). The freedom to ask her to postpone the quiz, or extend the submission of a requirement. The feeling of walking out smarter than students suffering under less humane  teachers.

Davao will make you miss the Ateneo students,  Her version of Manila’s conyo, undereducated and naive but amicable, attractive and fashionable. You will miss the constant danger of falling in love with one of them.

You will miss Her literary community. The Davao Writers Guild: ma’am Jhoanna’s indomitable vivacity, sir Mac’s simple but powerful wit, sir Ricky’s incredible friendliness heightened by his celebrity, ma’am Aida’s grandmotherly presence, kuya Julian, kuya Jondy, ma’am Weng. Her witty younger writers: Jepoy, Allen, Karla, Lola Meghan, the UP Min people, Macky. The feeling of being in civilized society.

You will miss the SALEM, course club turned literary society, your own niche in that literary community of Hers. The intelligent conversation with Karen, Pido, Jonathan, Lily, Koko, Raizza, Caryl, Alex, Diana, Ram, Audrey, Greysh, along with the vocal alumni Glyd, Karlo and Fifi. Its tradition of always having a Karlo in its membership. Its charming little idiosyncrasies.  You will miss sir Dom’s benevolent, guiding, almost fatherly presence. You will miss the feeling of accomplishment, of being admired, of being loved and of being cared for.

You will miss how She opened up possibilities for you, in the Ateneo and elsewhere. Kidapawan had not been kind to you, but She gave you a chance. You will miss how She made you feel that you were worth something.

You will miss Her own little flaws, which, with your heart twisted by love, become objects of an unusual fondness. You will miss how that fondness transforms frustration into the drive to change. You will miss how She tries to be someone else when she can be glorious if She was true to Herself. Her disregard for Her own worth. Her unsentimental proclivities. You will miss Her tergiversations. Her insecurities. Her inconstancies. Her denials. Her doubts.

Oh, you will leave Davao, and how you will miss Her!

A piece of teacher’s pedantry

One of the things I lament most about the Philippines is the prevalence of pedantry in its Education system. The teaching process is focused too much on assessment that what the student actually learns is of little importance. Teachers give lectures oriented such that the students would know what to answer in exams, and students would focus on getting the answers right, getting rid of any learning once the exam is over. Teachers make grades, students earn grades, end of story.  Some would call it Textbook learning, but I wouldn’t even call it “learning,”  all it involves is memorizing. “Zombies,” Jose Garcia Villa would call them.

While cleaning up some of my old files, I came across a recent instance of it, for in my academic life I’ve suffered the mind-numbing effect of this kind of teaching all too well. It was a quiz in a Philosophy of Morality class, which I took in the Ateneo de Davao when I was in 4th year college. The teacher was one of the worst I’ve ever had, his grading system (like many Philo teachers) was unclear and he was boring to the point of paralysis. I made it a point to enter his class late.

I reproduce below an item in my quiz, with the pedant’s annotations (grammatically incorrect as they may be) as italicized parentheticals. The annotations show how he is obsessed with exactness of reproduction from the assigned text to the point of absurdity. A student can fail his class for a trifle under his teaching.  I forget exactly what  question the item was supposed to answer, but I always answer questions directly (I never bluffed, I knew admitting ignorance earns points). He gave it a 70 out of 100. You be the judge of the soundness of my point!


“That which is evil is a frustration of Life, its preservation and actualization. The label of “ontic” evil is attached to this most fundamental of evils.The very existence of evil, then, is a consequence of the evil of life.

When ontic evil is deliberately and consciously (UNJUSTIFIABLY) inflicted upon others, the evil becomes a “moral evil.” People – and ultimately all lifeforms – will inevitably inflict moral evil in (MORAL EVIL CAN ONLY DONE BY MAN) their struggle to preserve and actualize themselves and their potentials.

Moral evil, then, originates  two-fold from Life: by the very definition of evil, and as a consequence of the lifeform’s struggle to continue living.”


(This one act play, written in Davao Tagalog, was submitted to the Ateneo de Davao’s Banaag Diwa, but was prudently, albeit conservatively, ignored by the editorial board. It was written after the then President of the student body, Aldwin Dumago, resigned from office following negative reactions to his decision to release a memo condemning homophobic acts of bullying from students of the College of Engineering and Architecture and the systematic negligence of its division student council. Apparently the Engineering students at the time “felt offended at the condemning generalization” of the memo, a reaction I found abhorrent considering how an Engineering student had killed himself the previous year after being bullied for his effeminacy. People have died because of bullying, and all they cared about was that they were offended. A school of Excellence indeed!)


Isang Eksperimento sa Damdamin sa loob ng isang yugto

Mga Tauhan

John Paul “JP” Pecas: bakla, 3rd year Management Accounting, orange ang naka-gel na buhok, may pimples, este freckles

ANGEL de Guzman: magandang babae, 3rd year MassCom, pwedeng model ng cosmetics. Uyab ni CJ at BFF ni JP.

CJ Pascual: lalaki, 3rd Year Industrial Engineering, hanggang tenga ang buhok. DoTA Boy na uyab ni ANGEL.

EVAN David: 3rd year Industrial Engineering din, may konting balbas at may katabaan. DoTA/kanto Boy.

RICHARD Durano: 3rd year Industrial Engineering na Treasurer ng EASEC. Heartrob student-leader

GERALD: Atenews EIC, matangkad at nakasalamin. Madalas na in-text citation ng mga tsismosa. Hindi siya lalabas sa kalakhang bahaggi ng Akto.

Diday: SAMAHAN Treasurer at Management Accounting din, babanggitin lamang siya sa Akto.

at si Bonifacio “Boni” Lutangan: hindi din siya makikita sa Akto.

Kabuuang tagpo: sa Mundo ng Ateneo de Davao University, sa kasalukuyang panaho’t kamalayan. Maggagabi.

Magaganap ang kabuuan ng babasahing dula sa loob ng isang araw, ngunit bukod nga sa unity of time at Catharsis, sasakalin ni Aristotle ang manunulat ng dulang ito.


Tagpo: sa Biko di Cafe, malapit sa Ateneo de Davao University, Jacinto Campus. May mga uphosltered na upuan na may coffee table sa gitna.

Nakaupo sina JP at ANGEL sa upuang nasa pinakagitna. May mga order na sila, at ang mga aklat at na-photocopy nilang hand-outs ay nasa coffee table na rin.

JP:         katagal lagi ng uyab mo, girl?

ANGEL:       Ewan gani girl kung naano yun. Nag-DoTA pa siguro.

Papasok sina CJ at EVAN.

JP:         (habang hinahalikan ni CJ si ANGEL. Ala Kris Aquino) hello there! Ba’t ang tagal mo, CJ?

CJ:        (bebeso-beso sa bakla at uupo) oy, Jayps, ‘musta? Wala pa ang Richard?

JP:         ikaw lang jud ang nagatawag sa akin ng ‘Jayps’ ba! Angel, baka ma-arbor ko ‘tong uyab mo!

CJ:        buyag, Jayps. (tatawa) Oh right, si David pala.

JP:         (ala Kris Aquino ulit) hello there!Kilala na man kami niyan ni Evan, uy.

EVAN:    (kay JP) bayot ka lang gihapon, Pecas?

JP:         bakit, magpa-chupa ka? (tatawa ang lahat)

CJ:        uy ingat ka Jayps, mahirap kalaban si Diday!

JP:         (werla-mode) Juskems! Bakit hindi mo gisabi agad, dear!? (lilingon-lingon) Mahirap na madasmagan ng SAMAHAN Treasurer! (tatawa. Kay EVAN) kayo pala ni mother Diday, ‘Van..!?

EVAN:    Oy p*ta, e! (tatawa)Pareha lang kami ng High school ni Diday, uy. Ewan gani bakit dito lang kami naging close sa Atenyu nga nung HS, wala man kami masyado nagausap.

CJ:        baka true love na yan bay.

EVAN:    (maharot na babatukan si CJ) gago! (tatawa)

JP:         pero gahot talaga yang si mother Diday sa MA, ba. Yung mga hand-out niya, minamarkeran niya yan ng bonggang-bongga! (titngnan niya ang makapal na libro sa coffee table) pa’no niya kaya nake-carry yun na grabe ka nakakalurkey ang MA..! kayo, boys, kumusta man ang Engineering?

CJ:        ay grabe, it’s hard gud masyado! Halos everyday na lang gud kami nagaquiz. Bukas o, may quiz na naman kami sa ME..!

EVAN:    minsan na lang gud ako maka-DoTA nito! Tapos may quizz pa gud din tayo sa Math, di ba?

CJ:        Aw, tama! F*ck this!

EVAN:    (titingnan ng masama si CJ) Pag-sure, kahit man walang quiz, hindi ka naman din ga-DoTA masyado. Dun sa NetEck, ginalibak ka na gud ng mga guys kay uyab ka na lang ng uyab, wala na’ng laro-laro. (kay ANGEL) ano man gigawa mo dito, ‘Gel nga grabe man ka-dedicated sa iyo!

JP:         ANGEL, mangkukulam ka! (tatawa) Pero in fairness, ha, hindi ka gipagpalit sa DoTA nito! Good boy ang nakuha mong BF, day!

ANGEL: oo nga! (hahalikan si CJ. Titili ang bakla)

CJ:        pero bitaw, kahirap na gud ng course namin, ay. I wanna shout or something!

ANGEL: relax babe (hahalikan ulit ang uyab, at muling titili ang bakla) buti nga kayo hindi kayo nagagasto masyado

CJ:        bakit? Kumusta man ang MassCom?

ANGEL: grabe! As in kadami gud ng requirements, grabe na ang gasto namin. Video editing here, photo editing there. Third year is gasto year talaga! Magsabay pa talaga ang Laws na kadaming case study na basahin. And let’s not talk about Philo!

JP:         My gosh yang Philo na yan! Ay, tama pala, girl (lalapit. Halos pabulong) classmate kayo nung si Boni di ba?

ANGEL:  (sisimangot at magro-roll ang eyes) I know, right..!

CJ at EVAN: yawa, si Boni!

JP:         (talk show host mode) welcome to the official libak-session sa pinaka-baduy, pinaka-damak, pinaka-chaka and definitely ang pinaka-lain, as in lain to the power of 10, na freak sa balat ng Atenyu: si Bonifiacio “Boni” Lutangan!


ANGEL: ay at least may kalingawan na din tayo in this laag! Pero wala gud ako masyado alam about that kuan, girl. Konting BG please.

JP: i       info-dump na ito, girl! (tatawavery well. Galing sa then-College of Nursing itong si Bonifacio, na gi-anggaan ng mga classmates niyang Engineering sa isang English class ng “Boni:” mas bagay daw sa kabayot niya. Pero juskems! Ka-cute sana ng name, ka-maot naman ng may-ari! (tatawa) Pero nahirapan man yan siya sa Nursing, friends, so, with a “hindi na kasi college ang nursing” frak, nagtawid ang Boni sa MassCom ng bonggang bongga! Oh di ba!? Pero kahit saan man siya magtawid, madami pa rin ayaw sa kanya! And why not? Hindi lang FC ang freak, friends, feeling bright at trying hard pa talaga!

EVAN:    -sa labas. Pero kung ano sa loob yung bayutang yun, si Richard lang na roommate ang makasabi. Asan na bitaw yun?

CJ:        ‘Van, ha, nakahalata na ako! Makuntento ka na lang gud kay Diday! Kaya pala bitter ka masyado kay Boni, ha…

EVAN:    (babatukan ulit si CJ) yawa! (tatawa)

JP:         … basta, ganun si Boni: FC, trying hard, chaka! Feeling bright pa talaga, di ba girl?

ANGEL: tama! Uber-feeler masyado yan siya sa Philo namin girl ba! Mag-explode na gud ang ugat sa temple ni sir Tamacruz sa ka-irita kay sige lagi salita, puro naman nonsense!

JP:         I know, right!? Kalurkey din masyado yan siya nung nag English 11 kami kay sige recite nga ka-chaka man ng English niya! (tatawa) but anyway, para maayos itong ating bonggang-bonggang libak-session ‘no, isa-isa nating ide-describe kung gaano ka-lain yang si Boni, one aspect at a time. So, sino ang carry magstart?

EVAN:    a-

JP:         ay, maka-vomit talaga ako sa face niya, guys! Aside gud sa “Boni,” madami pa yang tawag sa kanya ang mga classmates niya. “Igor” ang gitawag sa kanya noon ng mga MassCom kay hukot-hukot lagi, parang kuba. Ang mga kasama niya noon sa Nursing, “Janitor” naman kay kapangit daw ng lips.

ANGEL: uber-pangit talaga! Siguro kung nag-ulan si Lord ng kapangit, gitapat siya ng nanay niya sa gutter! (tatawa ang lahat)

JP:         kalurkey ka girl! Bitaw, and to cap it off, bulbolon pa jud ang hair niya. At ngayon na MassCom na siya, ayaw na ipagupit! Naga-wish na gud tuloy ako na mag-memo na si Fr. Sambora ng prescribed haircut! And let’s not even go sa kalagom niya! (tatawa)

pero hindi pa nakuntento ang Boni, friends! Pangit na gani, buki pa talaga masyado magdamit! I mean, chaka! Di ba eew masyado ang kanyang get-up pag washday!? Baggy masyado ang t-shirt na neon ang color, mas-baggy pa talaga na maong, at karaan na shoes! Ay ambot yung shoes niya! Parang fossils na sa ka-karaan! Akala ko gani nung una ko nakita, ginalumot na! (tatawa) papahingahin niya na sana yun uy, i-abono na niya! (tatawa ulit)

ANGEL: ugly na, buki pa!

JP:         ngayong MassCom na siya, siya na siguro ang pinakadamak na tao sa 5th floor! (tatawa ang lahat)

EVAN:    ay, speaking of damak, kung kadamak lang man din, ibang usapan na naman yun!

ANGEL: tama! Kadiri din masyado yan siya ba, bigla na lang magtulo ang laway!

JP:         eew!

CJ:        ay wala kayo! Minsan, sa klase namin sa Math, thumb talaga ang gipasok sa ilong ba! Gi-ikot-ikot pa talaga! (tatawa)

JP:         thumb!?

EVAN:    ay naalala ko talaga yan! Pero mas marami akong narinig! Alam niyo man siguro yung nag-ihi siya sa puno diyan sa kiosk, ‘no?

ANGEL: what!?

JP:         (tatawa) narinig ko yan kay Gerald! Nag-share ang Richard na nung galing sila sa AFYOP orientation, halos magsabog na daw ang ulo ni sir Rocky sa kunsumisyon!

EVAN:    sino man din hindi maglagot, ‘no!? (tatawa) pero alam niyo na nagasuka yan siya pag mabagsak? Tapos kahit saan pa talaga na makasuka na siya! Madalas gani sa basurahan!

JP:         what!? Eew!

CJ:        narinig ko bitaw yan. Yan man yung nabagsak siya sa Nursing, ‘no?

EVAN:    ay, every grading tingali! Pag-announce yan ng results ng exam. Minsan, nakita ko na ginagawa niya yan, kataw-anan gud! Ginapasok niya talaga ang ulo niya sa basurahan! (tatawa) Tapos kay gago man ako, gitingnan ko bitaw yan pag-alis niya, p*ta bay, may munggo pa gud! (tatawa ulit) Kawawa intawon ang mga janitor!

JP:         kaluod!

CJ:        minsan, dun sa Bio class namin – ewan lagi babe bakit palagi kami mag-classmate! (Hahalikan si ANGEL, titili ang bakla) Anyway, dun lagi sa bio namin, nag-utot yan siya habang nagasalita si ma’am Cabijes. Malakas masyado, buti na lang hindi mabaho. Kawawa gud si ma’am kay nag “ehem-ehem” na lang gud siya.

JP:         Juskems!

EVAN:    pero ang pinaka-damak talaga siguro niya, yung nasa-CR minsan. P*ta, kaluod talaga nun ba! Nasa-CR ako ‘no, naga-salamin, tapos maraming ibang boys. Bigla man may nagtunog ng igit-igit galing sa isang cubicle! Basa na malakas masyado na pagaka-igit! Hindi gud kami makatawa sa kaluod! Tapos naging mabaho na masyado, marami naglabas, gayawyaw. Tapos ayun, siya ang naglabas. Nung nakita niya na nakatingin kami lahat na naiwan, nag-smile lang ang bayot tapos umalis din! Hindi ko talaga makalimutan gano kabaho yun ba!

JP:         (medyo namumutla. Sa imaginary Yaya) Yayer! Alcohol, yayer! (hahagulgol kunwari) Ang brain ko yayer! I-alcohol mo ang brain ko yayer! (tatawa ang lahat)

ANGEL: kaluod uy! Pwede stop na kay masira ang food. (kakain ng cheesecake) masarap baya ang cheesecake dito sa Biko di Cafe. (kakain ulit) pero bakit kaya ganyan siya, ‘no? Lumad man yan siya, di ba?

CJ:        daw.

ANGEL: ano gani tribo, babe? “Ata Mabaho” ba yun?

JP:         (tatawa) Lavet, girl! Pag magdaan siya, makasabi ka ng “parang mabaho.” Tapos di ba isa pang salita ng “parang” kay “ata,” so “parang mabaho… ata mabaho!” Lavet! (tatawa)

ANGEL: (tatawa rin) sorry gud!  Pero whatever man yung tribo niya, dapat hindi niya ginabring yang kadamakan ng tribo niya here, iiwan lang yan there sa bundok ba nila o dagat ba, whatever. My God, ka-OA baya niya yan sa pagiging netibo niya, right!? Sabi ni Gerald, gina-claim daw din niya na yan daw ang dahilan bakit hindi siya ipatakbo SAMAHAN President ng Comelec! Na grades man daw ang reason, sabi ni Richard, di ba? And as if may mag-vote din sa kanya! (tatawa)

JP:         (may masisilayan na paparating) ay! Andyan na si Richard!

ANGEL: hala sige, mag info-dump ka ulit para sa readers natin!

JP:         Ay na-chugi na jud ang 4th wall! (tatawa) Si Richard Durano, mga friends, ay isang endangered species sa balat ng Atenyu. Gwapo! Matalino! And active sa extra-curricular skembular! Certified heartrob na jud itong 3rd year Engineering student na itich! And of course, sabi ng ginapagkatiwalaan kong source na si Gerald, ilang beses na daw itong si babe gi-alok ni sir Rocky na mag-Model sa mga publicity-skema ng Atenyu. O di ba!? Pero perfect na jud sana ang Richard, mga friends, kung hindi lang dahil sa isang mapait, mabaho at pangit na sagabal: ang kanyang uber-chakang roommate na si Boni!

EVAN:    (tatawa) siguro gani, kaya naisip ng bayutang yun na mag-takbo ng President kay feeling na niya kuyaw na rin siya kay officer ng EASEC ang roommate niya.

JP:         (ala Kris Aquino) correct!(papasok si RICHARD. Ala Kris Aquino rin) hello there! O, why the long face, babe?

RICHARD: huwag ka muna mag-ganyan sa akin ngayon Paul be, kay ngilngigan ako (uupo)

JP:         Suplado-mode siya today! Well anyway, magsali ka na lang sa amin para mawala yang sapot mo. Ginalibak namin si Boni! (tatayo) sandali lang ha kay maka-shuweewee jukems. (pupunta sa CR)

RICHARD:    (matapos sundan si JP sa mga mata) si Boni ba kamo ginalibak niyo? Samot! Yan pa talagang bayot na yan… Kayo na lang uy, maghiga lang ako dito, stress ‘syado…

EVAN:    uy, lain ka man lagi sa kanya ngayon..? Pero yun na lang pag-usapan natin sunod: ang pagkabayot ni Boni. Bago yan, lahat ba tayo dito naga-agree nga bayot gyud siya?

Lahat:    duh!

EVAN:    (tatawa) bitaw. Klaro man masyado ‘no? Ngilngig masyado kay pag nasa CR gud ‘no, pag may kasama siya dun na type niya pero di niya man gani kilala, kausapin gyud niya! Kaya ginalayuan talaga ng mga lalaki ang CR kung nandiyan siya –dahil na lang din siguro kasi luod lang gyud ng ginagawa niya sa CR (tatawa)

ANGEL:  stop there, ‘Van! (tatawa ang lahat maliban kay RICHARD)

CJ:        obvious bitaw masyado. Grabe yan siya maka-glare sa mga naga-pass by na lalaki, mag-“hi” pa talaga! Tapos halata masyado kay yung hindi niya gani masyado feel, hindi niya pansinin!

ANGEL: tapos ikaw, babe, ginapansin niya?

CJ:        buyag!

ANGEL: (tatawa. Hahalikan si CJ) kahit sa galaw lang niya, obvious man- magsabi sana ako na may ‘grace’ ang galaw niya, nga damak man masyado siya para matawag na ‘graceful!’ (tatawa ang lahat)

Papasok ulit si JP

EVAN:    ginapag-usapan namin kung gaano kangilngig yung bayot-

JP:         hoy! Kay bakit man din ngilngig ang mga bayot, be?

ANGEL: (tatawa) chill, girl..! Pero okay baya ang mga bayot, kay kadalasan sila baya yang matalino at active, right?

JP:         correct! Kaming mga shokot ang nagapatakbo ng bansa, ‘no! (tatawa)

EVAN:    (tatango-tango) bitaw, makatabang din baya sila. Si Diday man gani ang nagatulong sa akin sa mga assignment! (tatawa ang lahat maliban kay RICHARD)

RICHARD:    ka-luod niyo uy. Pa’no kayo nakasabi na okay ang mga bayot na si Boni man gani ang ginapag-usapan niyo kanina lang..?

EVAN:    (titingnan si RICHARD) bakit bay, ano pala yan si Boni sa dorm..?

RICHARD:    (bubuntong hininga. Kay JP) sorry pala kung masakit yung gisabi ko kanina. Pero sige Paul, ha. Sabihin mo ano masabi mo sa pagka-bayot ni Boni…?

EVAN:    ay ito! May kwento gyud pala talaga!

RICHARD:    may gigawa na talaga sa iyo si Diday ‘Van, ba kay interesado ka man masyado sa mga binayot na usapan!

EVAN:    p*ta, bay! (tatawa) sige na, magkuwento ka na tungkol kay Boni mo!

RICHARD: atin lang ‘to guys ha (tatango ang lahat. lilingon lingon. magsisimula) ganito: di ba 1st year pa man kami dormmates niyan ni Boni? Noong una kay nagatulong lang ako kay netibo lagi, galing sa bundok, tapos SICO baya ako. Mag-review, i-check ang assignment, ganyan. Okay lang gud sa una, baybs man kami. Pero na-lain na ako konti nung napansin ko na palagi siya naka-smile pag kasama kami. Medyo na-lain ako, pero okay pa rin ako sa kanya, baka pala imagination ko lang yun, di ba? Pero ngayon na year, medyo nasobra na man…

Parang bago lang man yun nag-start ang 1st Sem… nagatulog na kami ‘no. Nagising man ako sandali – you know, pag may bigla ka ma-alala na equation ba sa Calculus.

EVAN:    gahot ka talaga bay ba!

CJ:        huwag ka na magulo, ‘Van! Sige, Rich, tapos?

RICHARD:    ganun lagi, nagising lang ako. Tapos narinig ko man yan siya sa ilalim ng double deck na ginabulong ang pangalan ko. Akala ko ginatawag ako, pero pag-tingin ko tulog man..!

EVAN:    kaluod!

RICHARD: ay wala pa yan! Nung mga patapos na yung 1st sem, ‘no. Ganun din, nagising lang ako bigla sa gabi. Pero siya, gising pa, nasa desk namin, nakasindi ang desk lamp. Naga-iyak siya, so magbaba na sana ako para patahanin, kay bigla man niya gisabi ulit ang pangalan ko-

EVAN:    “Richard…”

RICHARD: (babatukan si EVAN) yawa! (tatawa ang lahat) anyway, ayun, gibulong bigla ang pangalan ko, so hindi ako naggalaw. Naglingon man yan siya, tinignan ako, pero kay nasa-dilim lagi ang kama tapos nasa kanya galing ang ilaw, hindi niya ako masyado makita – p*ta, kangilngig talaga ba! Nag-flying kiss siya sa akin!

CJ:        f*ck, bay!

RICHARD: I know, right!? Pero mas grabe yung mga early this sem. Ganun din, ‘no, nagising din ako sa gabi – dapat gyud talaga pilitin ko na sarili ko huwag magising ba! – pero yun lagi, nagising ako. Nagauga konti ang kama: alam ko na ano ginagawa niya sa ilalim… Wala lang din sa akin, pero bigla man niya yan gibulong ang pangalan ko..!

ANGEL: my gosh..!

RICHARD:    (lalapit sa mga kasama) tapos kanina, guys… ayun, gikausap na ako.

JP:         wha-!?

RICHARD: hindi ko gyud siya gilayuan kahit na ganun na ginagawa niya, ‘no. Pero kanina lagi, grabe na. Nasa-kwarto kami, ako nasa-desk naga-liquidate ng gasto ng SEC, siya nasa kama niya gabasa. As usual, siya ang nagsimula ng usapan. Pero first time niya magtanong ng ganun: may uyab-uyab na ba daw ako. Tinanong ko lang din siya ng “bakit man?” matagal siya nakasagot, naglayo pa siya ng tingin, nag ikot-ikot pa ng buhok niya, pero gititigan ko talaga siya. Ang sagot niya “I love you gud” tapos, ano yun..? “kailangan gud kita, Rich… lahat sila ayaw sa akin kay pangit ako, bobo ako tapos pang-bundok ang ugali ko… ikaw kay perfect gud masyado, Rich, mabait ka pa talaga sa akin… mahalin mo ba ako?..”

EVAN:    P*ta! tapos,ano ginawa mo!?

RICHARD:    nag-walk out, e. Hindi pa ako nakabalik sa dorm simula kanina umaga! Pero magbalik lang ako kung kailangan talaga, uy.

CJ:        dude, hindi ka takot ma-..?

RICHARD:    ay, makalaban man siguro ako! (tatawa)

JP:         my gosh… ka-lain niyan uy…. damak man yan na pagka-bayot ang sa kanya! Lain na pagka-bayot! Rich, huwag mo talaga isipin na ganyan ang ginapaglaban namin na pagkabayot ha! Damak, lain yan na pagka-bayot ang sa kanya! (tatayo) I declare right here and now na ginatakwil ng Kabaklaan ng Bonggang Bongga yang si Boni! (tatawa ang lahat)

RICHARD: pero sige na lang uy, laag baya sana ‘to di ba! i-cheers na lang natin ‘to. (itataas ang tasa ng kape. Magsusunuran ang iba) sige, a toast sa lahat ng mga weirdo, na malaman na sana nila kung pano gumamit ng gel at mag-terno ng damit; sa mga netibong mabagal, na maintindihan na sana nila na hindi pwede mag-ihi sa kiosk banda, na hindi pwede sukahan ang basurahan, at na walang gusto makarinig ng utot mo at maka-amoy ng igit mo; at sa lahat ng mga damak na bayot… kay Boni, na sana matikman niya ang kape dito sa Biko di Cafe para malaman niya na mas masarap ang kape sa tulos! (tatawa ang lahat bago iinom)

JP:         (may masisilayan ulit na paparating) si Gerald! Nandito na ang palagi nating source ng mga skema sa Atenyu… parang nagamadali siya! Naku, major-major na balita ang dala nitey! (papasok si GERALD. Ala Kris Aquino as usual) hello there! Anong-

GERALD:     (hinihingal) Richard, si-si Boni, nagbigti sa kwarto niyo.

Lahat:    ano..!?

GERALD:     Si Boni, ba, nagbigti!

Uulit-ulitin nila ang mga salitang “si Boni, nagbigti…” ng pabulong, na tila ba kung uulit-ulitin nila ito’y mawawala ang kanilang paninibago, gaya ng pagkawala ng kanilang konsensya sa mga panlalapastangang isinambit kanina lang.

Maiirita si GERALD sa tagal ng tugon ni RICHARD, at lalabas siya.

magbibintangan sa tingin ang bawat isa sa kanila.

(ilang araw makalipas, pag-uusapan na naman nila ang isang kaklase)

Elegy for a Tortoise by Christine Godinez -Ortega: An Analysis

Elegy for a Tortoise

In Siquijor I watched
Some old men hunt
The tortoise-
His crawl of half-a-century
Poised upon that moment,
Yellow folds on brown.
I saw the face
The beak that bore
The creases of the good years.

And when the oldest man
Raised his remaining strength,
The head of the tortoise rolled,
It rolled and stopped and watched.

The old man broke the shell
The bolo pierced the lungs,
Severed the heart, perhaps.
Before I closed my eyes,
I raised the tortoise and his tear
To straighten the curls
In my looking glass


While looking up works by Lina Sagaral-Reyes, the guest panelist for the 2012 Davao Writers Workshop, I came across a digital copy of a 1993 book entitled “Introduction to Poetry” by National Artist Edith Tiempo. I found her poem “Ichtys,” but I also stumbled upon this poem by Iligan Workshop Director Christine Godinez-Ortega, whom I met during the 2011 Iyas Creative Writing Workshop in Bacolod. “Elegy for a Tortoise”‘s deft use of ambiguity – along with fondness for ma’am Christine – caught my attention.

The body of poetry by Ma’am Christine that I’ve encountered has largely been felt, relying on image and musicality to evoke the experience. Her simple language allows for easier access into the scene she is depicting, and her poems give the reader the opportunity to experience even the simplest events in poetic vividness.

The same is true for “Elegy for a Tortoise,” which proceeds in a simple narrative form. The poem tells quite simply about how the persona witnessed a group of old men in the island of Siquijor hunting a tortoise.

The tortoise, ever the symbol of age, is described as of advanced years. But a striking poetic image is revealed in the lines “his crawl of half-a-century poised upon that moment,” revealing at once how every moment is the culmination of the life lived prior, and how death (which the tortoise will soon see) is the ultimate culmination.

The poem then proceeds to describing how the oldest of the men poises to strike the tortoise with a bolo, and the creature rolls its head and looks in anticipation.  Here, the poem takes on a different level of meaning.  With the shift of focus to the old man (revealing to us that the perspective is not limited to observing the tortoise alone) we realize that the first stanza’s personification of the tortoise is actually ambiguous. “I saw the face, the beak that bore, the creases of the good years” while immediately easy to attach to the tortoise for the word “beak” is in fact indirect in its pragmatic context.  Is the statement perhaps referring instead to the faces of the old men? The imagination who wishes to continue this line of interpretation can easily imagine the old man’s focused pout as he approaches the tortoise as a beak.

Further ambiguity is to be found in the last stanza, when the oldest man’s bolo has struck the tortoise. The blade is speculated to have “severed the heart,” a simply anatomical description of the tortoise’s evisceration on the literal level, but may be fancied as referring to the old man’s jadedness – or perhaps even the persona’s heart being moved – on a loftier level of meaning. When the heart of an animal being slaughtered is struck, is not the heart of the observer also struck by pathos, or the hunter’s own heart cut off from empathy?

The poem ends with a return to the persona, who raises “the tortoise and his tear to straighten the curls on her looking glass.” We can immediately think of a tortoiseshell comb with the description of “straightening curls,” and this gives room for interpretation of the persona’s own apathy. Upon seeing this scene, the persona combs her hair with a tortoiseshell comb – the observer’s heart too has been cut off from empathy!

It is rare to see ambiguity in poetry, and when it is found it is often provocative and magical. “Elegy for a Tortoise” captures in its clever ambiguity the apathy behind and arising from the materialistic slaughtering of centuries. A charming and enlightening read from ma’am Christine!


My Morning Walk

Go on a walk on a fine morning in Toscana Homes, the subdivision where I live. Try the route I take every morning, and take it with the music I listen to.

Begin from our house, right after looking if the 36 level cairn, taller than you are, is still standing. When you reach the acacia tree, play TM Revolution’s Heart of Sword and here him tell you from the earphones that though you’re alone so long as it’s dawn you will make it. By the first chorus you would have reached where Via Montalbano meets Via Firenze, turn right.

The song would have ended by the time you reach the basketball court. Play Kodo by the Yoshida Brothers when you’re right in the center. Go on towards the pool but stop to take one of the nearby hedges’ red, aromatic shoots to perfume your hands.

Go left and enter the club house orchard. If  it rained the previous night, you get to see the young fire tree saplings bear raindrops as crystal fruits. Up ahead, you will see the bamboo tree, wild but tamed with a stone-bordered earth dais. Go on ahead until you reach the slope back up, but look back to see the Acacia tree by the stream beyond the wall, whose canopy plays host to the meeting of morning fog and the smoke of kitchens cooking breakfasts.

Return to the pool side, where you will see Amaryllis plants bearing the weight of intrepid snails. By this time Kodo would have ended. But take time to listen to the mingling chirp of the birds and crickets. If you’re lucky you, get to see birds or bats or both swoop down the pool to take a sip of the sky they can never reach.

Go to the clubhouse and greet the guard good morning. Look to the left and see the mahogany canopies yonder framed by the open windows of the clubhouse hall. When you reach the ornately topiaried round ball, play Lama’s Fantasy, and begin ascending the steep slope. Remark the singular Malibago tree, growing alone on a small hill to your left. On sunny mornings observe the slugs playing spider as they spread out little silver threads on the cemented floor.

If you’re feeling lazy, you usually end here and return home. but when you’re feeling contemplative (which in my case is most of the time) walk ahead up to the round ball at the top of the slope.  stand in front of the Arc de Triomphe and look at the Araucarias and the Talisays and the Indians and the rows of Bougainvillea hedges leading up to the ornate clubhouse. At a  certain time in the morning you will see the sun rising to your right while the moon beginning to melt into the morning behind you.

But walk on. You will meet the kind Japanese father who always takes his baby girl on a walk. You will not be able to resist greeting the always smiling girl good morning. By the time Lama’s Fantasy has ended, you have reached the crossing between Avenida Toscana and Avenida Medici.

Turn left and play Kanon Wakeshima’s Calendula Requiem. But in the absence of actual calendulas, the tulip tree blossoms strewn on the ground will have to do. Once you’ve reached the end of Via Voltera, turn left and enter the first street to the right. By the time Calendula Requiem ends, you will have a spectacular view of Mt Apo. If it is a sunny morning, the whole mountain will be golden with the sunrise. If it’s a cloudy morning you will not see the mountain but three islands peeking from a sea of cloud.

Up ahead you will see dewy grass, and the morning sunlight will make the dew into a silver blanket.

If it is Sunday and you have something published in Dagmay, go down Puan. Walk on to the direction of the subdivision gate, and don’t forget to touch the tips of the Araucarias’ branches, like little green hands.

Get on a tricycle and feel the mornign breeze of Libby Road. Once you’ve made your purchase, go back up again. Make sure to ride the tricycle driver who found Diana Tuquib’s spider poem in Bisaya lovely, and who has since then come to like reading.

By the time you reach back home you will realize that you’ve stopped playing music, and that you didn’t really need it to color your morning. In fact you can take this whole walk without the music. You’ve read enough poetry, and those who read poetry will always find something magical in even the most ordinary morning walk.

Kasadya Ning Taknaa, A Translation of the Bisaya Carol to English

(“Kasadya Ning Taknaa” is a Bisaya carol with lyrics by Mariano Vestil. The immortal melody, composed by Vicente Rubi in 1933 for a drama festival in Cebu called Pili Kanipa-an, was later given Tagalog lyrics by National Artist for Music Levi Celerio, giving it the title “Ang Pasko ay Sumapit.” The usurpation of credit from the original Cebuano composers by a Tagalog remains controversial and continues to spark anti-regionalism and Manila Imperialism accusations.
I translated the lyrics on the request of literary mentor Rowena Torrevillas. Mom Weena wanted to teach her grandson Mikey to sing a Bisaya song. Seeing that the melody is so distinct it could be made international, I aimed the translation, while true to the thought, to also have the same meter as the original that it may be sang with the melody. Here’s to hoping it joins the rostrum of the world’s carols!!)

Kasadya Ning Taknaa

Kasadya ning taknaa
Dapit sa kahimayaan
Mao’y atong makita
Ang panagway nga masanglagon
Bulahan ug bulahan
Ang tagbalay nga giawitan
Awit nga halangdonon ug sa tanang Pasko



Bag-ong tuig
Bag-ong kinabuhi
Duyog sa atong mga pagbati
Atong awiton, ug atong laylayon
Aron magmalipayon!

Oh Happy is This Hour

Oh happy is this hour!
This place nearest to the Holy!
Where all that we can witness
are faces brightened up and jolly
Blessed indeed how blessed
Are the houses serenaded
with songs of noble sound and word, and every Christmas day
will be full of bliss!



With the New Year
is new life to live!
Together with all our wishes and hopes
Come let us sing them, oh come let us hum them
To fill our hearts with bliss!

Black Hole

(Another poem. Also a Miranda warning of sorts.)


I had once imploded:
The weight of matters overwhelmed
My deficit of space, time,
And I gave things
Too much gravity

And now I am this –
A singularity, unmoving
But with a heart so heavy
That the light of passing smiles
Cannot help but be sucked
Into the oblivion
Of my bitter apathy

But bright things, it seems
Are suicidal –
You, with your fresh hopes
And your concerned curiosity
Are drawn into the pull
Of my seductive solitude

Stay away.

When you have fallen
To me
You will find nothing
But time standing still,
Stuck in those black moments
Whose very weights
led me
to collapse