Under a mercury lamp In front of Father Tropa’s white house, By the sea off Dumaguete, Gather a crowd of bystanders Around bible-clutching ministers, Local sages, native philosophers, And self-styled prophets of doom Engaged in a free-for-all match Of rhetorics, semantics, Home-brewed knowledge, and folk beliefs About the myths and mysteries Ever shrouding the life of Christ.
From a distance, On top of the concrete seawall, Over heads and shoulders of the crowd, I watch with amused delight The endless bursts of wisdom, Strange revelations, Esoteric facts and fiction That send strong surge of friction Electrifying the soggy summer night.
Suddenly the lamp expires. The rabble-rousers do not mind. The demagoguery goes on unperturbed. Behind me I hear the sea waves laugh As they lap the craggy rocks. Swish. Swoosh. Swash. Even the quarter moon strikes a sheepish smile As a balut vendor cries his eggs out And a tricycle sputters fast – Its passengers shouting Obscenities at the crowd.
Cesar Aljama is an architect. He has won the Palanca Award for his poetry. He lives in Bae, Laguna, which is beside Los Baños. He was a fellow at the Silliman University National Writers Workshop.
Halfway on that long sea journey you remember the mountain swinging into view, blue slope shaping the island; the palm-lined shoreline drawing you closer into the harbor of that quiet sea town sheltered in the mountain’s shadow.
On the promenade by the w1ater they stroll late afternoons and early evenings, those students, teachers off from school, clerks from City Hall; an old man walking his idiot grandson; the wealthy Chinese dowager hobbling on stunted, bound feet stockinged in any weather, her retinue of servant girls toting fair-skinned fat-faced babies; earnest children, sad old ladies hawking sweepstake tickets, salted peanuts, bibingka, warm Coca-Cola. In groups or alone, they come for the breeze from the water, to watch shadows settle on nearby islands, Cebu, Panglao, Siquijor and, some days, the coast of Mindanao hovering on the horizon’s haze. At dusk they slowly head for home, the Angelus ringing Hail Mary, full of grace.
Night, and the fishermen go to sea regretting the moon that pales the glimmer of their lanterns on the water luring fish into nets, onto baited hooks dangled in dark depths.
Spread out, the bancas rock and sway on the tide, stringing their lights across the bay; the melancholy flames flash like sea snakes on the swish and rush of the moon-drawn flood racing, plunging. Magic and terror battering the constant shore.
In town at no fixed hour the people mark the coming and going of boats in the harbor by their whistles and horns: three blares for arrival, two for departure– Manila, Mindanao, Cebu; and sometimes at night a massive freighter from Liverpool or Amsterdam dropping or raising anchor blasts its horn; deep booms bounce off the mountain, echo and float in the shattered dark where the startled sleeper, waking, turns over, and resumes dreaming in that slumbering town by the sea.
Wishing to see more than vapor trails across the sky on that extended journey, you welcome birds broadcasting land. Seduced by other harbors, you think all ports the same, forgetting that which you loved well. Still, served by memory, time’s inconstant servant, summoned up by one thing or another, you dream someday arriving at the hometown you remember, and finding it there.
Myrna Peña-Reyes was born in Cagayan de Oro City, but her family moved to Dumaguete where she was educated at Silliman University from elementary through college, graduating with a BA in English. She went on to earn her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Oregon. While a resident of Eugene, Oregon where she lived with her late husband, the poet William T. Sweet, she was a winner of the Oregon Literary Fellowship grant for poetry in 2002. Presently retired in her hometown of Dumaguete, she continues her volunteer affiliation with Silliman University’s literature and creative writing program. Her poetry collections include The River Singing Stone (1994), Almost Home: Poems (2004), and Memory’s Mercy: New and Selected Poems (2014).
Under the shadow of this tree We are speckled by pieces of sun Sliding between the leaves. The wind falls In slivers Through the silences Of roughened bark.
We are above it all Perched like birds Sitting on the branch Like the foamed thoughts Of the poets meditating On the sea wall below.
Siquijor seems nearer to us Than in our dreams. And when the wind Slips Into our shirts, We puff up like chicks Wanting to fly.
Nerisa del Carmen Guevara is an Associate Professor teaching at the University of Santo Tomas. She has exhibited her installations and performance pieces at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, and other spaces. She has received a Palanca Award for her poetry, a Silver Cup for Dance Solo in the April Spring Festival in Pyongyang, and a Catholic Mass Media Award. She has an M.A. in English Studies from University of the Philippines, Diliman, and she is currently studying for a PhD in Creative Writing in the same university. A featured Southeast Asian performance artist, her documentaries Elegies and Infinite Gestures are currently in the archives of The Live Art Digital Agency (LADA), London. Guevara has done performance art pieces for the Philippine International Performance Art Festival, SIPA International Performance Art Festival, PERFORMATURA, and Grace Exhibition Space, New York. Her poetry is collected in Reaching Destination: Poems and the Search for Home [UST, 2004].
All that I love I fold over once And once again And keep in a box Or a slit in a hollow post Or in my shoe.
All that I love? Why, yes, but for the moment— And for all time, both. Something that folds and keeps easy, Son’s note or Dad’s one gaudy tie, A roto picture of a beauty queen, A blue Indian shawl, even A money bill.
It’s utter sublimation, A feat, this heart’s control Moment to moment To scale all love down To a cupped hand’s size,
Till seashells are broken pieces From God’s own bright teeth, And life and love are real Things you can run and Breathless hand over To the merest child.
Edith Lopez Tiempo was born in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya in 1919. After her marriage to Edilberto Tiempo in 1940, the couple moved to Dumaguete City, where she earned her BA in English in 1947. She later pursued her MA at the University of Iowa as part of the famed Iowa Writers Workshop, graduating in 1950. In 1958, she earned her Ph.D. at the University of Denver in Colorado in 1958. In 1962, together with her husband, she co-founded the Silliman University National Writers Workshop. Her books include the short story collection Abide, Joshua and Other Stories , the poetry collections The Tracks of Babylon and Other Poems , The Charmer's Box and Other Poems , Beyond, Extensions , and Marginal Annotations and Other Poems , and the novels A Blade of Fern , His Native Coast , The Alien Corn , One, Tilting Leaves , and The Builder . She has also published books on literary criticism, including Six Uses of Fictional Symbols  and Six Poetry Formats and the Transforming Image . She has received awards from the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas from UMPIL, as well as from the Palanca and the Philippines Free Press. She was proclaimed National Artist for Literature in 1999. She died in 2011.
there is a town where the roads crawl on their bellies to the sky. under storm, the roads murmur why the warrior, the lover, must learn while fallen and fettered to the dimness and futility of returning to a town where the roads mourn a short fire besieged by stormy sky.
Diana T. Gamalinda was a poet, and a fellow at the Silliman University National Writers Workshop. Her work is collected in Circle With Open Ends. She died in 1978. She was only 19 years old.
“Every night at 8:00 we shall ring the bells for Father Romano, and we shall continue to do so until he is found.”
—The Redemptorist Community, Dumaguete City, September 1985
Every night just as we settle To coffee or a mug of cold beer, They ring the bells— A crisp quick flurry first, then Decorous as in a knell, ten counts. Into the darkness newly fallen The cadence calls for a brother lost.
At home as we try to wash off With music and a little loving The grime of markets from our souls— The day’s trading of truth for bread, Masks of honor, guises of peace— The clear sounds infusing the air Deny us the salve of forgetting.
We know for what they lost him, Why expedient tyrants required His name effaced, his bones hidden. As we bend over the heads of children Fighting sleep, not quite done with play, The bells vibrating remind us how Our fears conspires to seal his doom.
We could say to the ringers: Your bells won’t bring him back, But just supposing that it could, What would you have? A body maimed, perhaps, beyond belief— Toes and fingers gone, teeth missing, Tongue cut off, memory hacked witless.
The nights in our town Are flavored with the dread The bells salt down measured From their tall dark tower. It falls upon our raw minds wanting sleep. Shall we stop them? Though we smart We know they keep us from decay.
Shared in this keening, A rhythm beating all night long In our veins, truth is truth still Though unworded. The bells Count in our blood the heart of all We must restore. Tomorrow, we vow, Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow.
Merlie M. Alunan spent time in different places in the Visayas and Mindanao at different times in her life and thus acquired a level of fluency in the major Visayan languages. She finished her Bachelor’s Degree in Education at the University of the Visayas, major in English; and her Master’s Degree in Literature at Silliman University. She taught in several schools all over the Visayas: Silliman University, Divine Word College in Tagbilaran City [now Holy Name University], and the University of the Philippines Visayas [Tacloban College] where she initiated creative writing workshops and intensified her advocacy to encourage the young to write in the native language. While doing her workshops with its specific advocacy, she became sharply aware of the lack of models for the aspiring Waray writer and the literal absence of any reading materials in the language. She has since published a collection of oral narratives entitled Susumaton published by Ateneo de Manila University Press.
There is a way to go about this place–how I let it settle on my left pulse and leave it there, when it’s never truly mine, but yours, irretrievably, like a word you just said: maybe sleeve, or sorrow, stranded in a slowness our arms are trying to imitate. The boulevard hangs here—not absolutely, but instinctively— with its brief incidents: the breakwater, shop stalls, trees. You know how this city works; so that when you start to speak in your native tongue, everything clicks into place, just right, probably unpunished even.
Some nights I want to believe that any stranger turns into a small country. I see one in every bar or café— Why Not, El Amigo, Memento—the kind that lets himself be struck by a silence so dissonant, foreign, that receives the soft light from every entrance with too much mercy, too much love. Once you told me, listening to Glenn Gould’s Bach, how you could almost catch his heartbeat between fragments and phrases: an animal making room. Yes, I am telling you there is no other way to touch the instrument but like this—a body that is fearless and difficult takes a most beautiful ease to breathe.
In time, we might learn that any gesture is a kind of displacement, that geography is as near and small as our birthmarks. If you happen to remember anything at all, that is because it is hard to forgive the world’s loveliness—the quick shape of movement, repetition, each fierce return. When the body refuses to mark the leave-taking, it becomes another quiet symbol, another continent shifting in its sleep. Then we wait, for nothing else will take on the same form ever again, only the same name, and suffer each likeness that constantly betrays us. Yes, I’d rather say that the world’s duty is to remain still and boundless; because we choose to stay longer, to touch means to forget.
Allan Justo Pastrana holds a Masters in Creative Writing [Poetry] from the University of the Philippines-Diliman. He finished his bachelors degree at the University of Santo Tomas Conservatory of Music [Music Literature and Piano Performance]. He is a two-time Thomasian Poet of the Year and a recipient of the Rector's Literary Award during his college days. He bagged the Grand Prize in the English Division of the Maningning Miclat Award for Poetry in 2005 and won for the Essay in the 2007 Palanca Awards. His first book of poems is Body Haul [UST PublishingHouse, 2011]. Pastrana teaches Literature at Miriam College. He was a fellow at the Silliman University National Writers Workshop.
Go now, and go at noon When this city shall stand Intense in the light, Equal to your silent grief.
There are many ways of taking leave: Even when we choose to be dumb Our bodies, hands, feet, senses, Motion their own speeches as we go numb Gathering things to pack from room to room Or weaving the streets and boulevard After the usual beer at sundown.
It is easier to leave In the middle of day — The view from the port, postcard-pretty, Accented by kitchen smoke And blooming acacia trees— An ordinary scene on an October day Which will probably be the same When you come back: a strange assurance Of infinities or that something We call indestructible.
Marjorie Evasco is a SEAWRITE 2010 awardee of the Philippines and an NCCA Ani ng Dangal 2011 awardee. Five of her books have won the Manila Critics’ Circle National Book Awards: for poetry [Dreamweavers and Ochre Tones]; for oral history [Six Women Poets: Inter/Views, co-authored by Edna Zapanta-Manlapaz]; for biography [A Life Shaped by Music: Andrea O. Veneracion and the Philippine Madrigal Singers]; and for art [Ani: The Life and Times of Hermogena Borja Lungay: Boholano Painter]. Her poetry books in English and Spanish translations by Latin American poets are Skin of Water and Fishes of Light/ Peces de Luz [co-authored by Alex Fleites]. She contributed poetry in groundbreaking anthologies like Agam: Filipino Narratives of Uncertainty in Climate Change , and Sustaining the Archipelago: Philippine Ecopoetry Anthology . She edited an anthology of memoirs, The Bohol We Love , which was a finalist in the 2017 National Book Award for anthology in English. She also published the biography Valentina’s Valor: Stories of the Life and Times of Valentina Galido Plaza . An advocate of literary development in the Visayas and Mindanao, particularly in creative writing in Binisaya and English, she has served as director and panelist in various workshops. She also serves as resource person of Bohol’s literary heritage. She is Outstanding Sillimanian Awardee for Creative Writing in 2008, and is a Regular Panelist at the Silliman University National Writers Workshop.
Finally, after the longest lockdown, pale feet stir, long to wander with an extra spring to each step
and the planes begin interrupting the skies again from their unchallenged immensity.
Here in my garden, flea beetles and aphids overrun the hibiscuses, buds shriveling
like the twists of parted clouds above. We are told of ways to get through these
minor inconveniences but the pests keep coming back. Another surge,
another shade of blue shed from the skies. Are they really minor though when
the birds are missing at this hour and each of our movement could be
the start of another long pause in our lives? Where does this shroud of gray come from?
Why does the whole open space still feels like a window we peer through from
the inside? Am I both witness and accomplice to these changes?
I wish someone could just convince me of a life hungry for more, make me want it
the way that split-second pushed Adam to take the fruit from Eve: ungardened
but bold, intrigued, perfectly human. If there is a secret to this, even if it means
having to wring it out of both gods and saints, then tell me. Give me anything
that would take me out of this garden.
Boar, Proposed Addendum to Definition of
: a storm with boundless intensity
: an aging comedian whose jokes have been retold again and again
: the weight of an idea (such as its preciousness, purpose, precarity)
: soaked back of a shirt, usually with perspiration after a long day of manual labor
: to laugh even in the absence of humor
: to clear everything in one’s path or direction, with or without intention
|| the car lost its brakes and boared through the market stalls
: having or showing an abrupt but patterned action, or an expected response
: of that which will stay, not leave immediately or be pushed around
F. Jordan Carnice is a writer and visual artist from Bohol. He graduated with a degree in Creative Writing from Silliman University in Dumaguete City in 2009, and was a fellow at the Silliman University National Writers Workshop in 2008. His works have appeared in Ani, Philippines Graphic, MIDLVLMAG, Anomaly, Sunday Mornings at the River, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine, among several others. He has won the poetry grand prize in the 2020 Cebu Climate Emergency Literature and Arts Competition for his poem “There is Too Much Light in this World.” He has authored two poetry chapbooks, Weights & Cushions  and How to Make an Accident .
I. Wala sang habak, sang panabîtábì, sang pangadi nga makasarang magsagang sa tuyaw sang unod sa siyudad nga tuman kapaang apang mayami kon hapulason. Ang lawas angingipot nga ginasuláy sang patay-siga nga bombilya, maya-pula sa luyo sang masinulugton nga paon. Tuman kalaba nga siod ang mga dalanon nga ginkatad sa wayang nga sementado.
II. Mariit ang mga yuhum sa sírum – ang mga pasiplat, ang mga pangilay, ang mga kalimutaw nga nagalanat. Bagat ang mga panitsit sa dulom. Makapatindog balahibo ang mga panihol, ang mga hutik, ang mga kuhit. Mahimo makasalapay bisan sa pinakahapaw nga pagdapat sang panit sa panit, sang bulbul sa bulbul. Mahubag, mabanog ang kinatawo bisan nga ang ihi wala magsumpit sa bungsod nga madugay na ginlukat ukon sa lunok nga sadto pa ginpapas agud ang sadsaran sang siyudad mapasad.
III. Masugod sa langaang tubtub mangin tuman ka taas nga hilanat. Ang alibyo yara nahamtang sa paghigda-kaya, pagpatumbaya. Pagbaton. Kag kadungan sang pag-agay sang tuman ka pilit nga bahulay, bayaan sang dungán ang nagaaliwasa nga lawas. Magabawod, magaliad, antes magkanay angay sa balud nga ginalabugay sang indi makita nga kamot sang ugsad.
IV. Sa mation-tion maumpawan ang tuyaw sang unod bangud sa hampol indi sang buyo kag kasla, sa hapulas indi sang lana, sa tayhup indi sang luy-a.
V. Sa mation-tion maumpawan ang tuyaw sang unod. Ang kauhaw mapalong kadungan sang pagpuswak, pagtubod. Kag samtang nagaamat-amat sákò ang panirbato sang mga salakyan luwason sang silaw sang sanaaw sa gátud sang patay-siga nga bombilya ang angingipot súbung nga ang maya makabúhì sa siod sa paglimunaw sang mga paon.
VI. Ang tuyaw magasohot balik sa lipod sang mga nagaalalsa nga landong. Magahulat sa liwat nga pagsamo sang katugnaw kag kadulum agud magbutwa kag maghólon sa lawas nga tuman ka gabok.
Ang Pispis sa Siyudad
Nagahapon sa sanga nga nagapamunga sang pula kag nagaigpat-igpat nga bombilya.
Nagalanton sa lipod sang mga landong sang kagab-ihon kay makabulungol ang dalanon kon aga.
Nagapamugad sa nagkalain-lain nga haligi kag atop apang wala nagabilin sang itlog.
Ang pispis sa siyudad ang nagapalapit sa siod kag ang pinakaulihi abot amo ang makatuka sang pinakadamo nga ulod.
Inday, ngaa sa iya pagwa sa inyo ganhaan kag pag-usoy sang banas padulong sa dalan, nagtulo man ang dugo gikan sa mata nga nagmuklat sa imo aliwatan?
Saksi kami sa imo walay paslaw nga paghalad sang luha kag bahulay sa ginaanay nga altar sang inyo gugma nga iya lamang ginasabat sang mga pagpamalibad kag kul-aw nga panaad
Sang ikaw nagtiyabaw, Wala ka gane niya ginbalikdan. Nagakaangay pa gid ayhan nga ang iya pagpangayaw sa butkon kag hita sang iban, imo dagâan?
Jhio Jan Navarro hails from Bags City, Negros Occidental, where he attended the Ramon Torres Ma-ao Sugar Central National High School. He studied Psychology at the University of the Philippines Visayas in Miagao. His poems have been published in Bulatlat, Revolt Magazine, Voice and Verse Magazine, and the Philippines Graphic.