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A Taste of Home

A pang of heaviness under Christmas lights and melodies lingers; a longing that can’t be sated, that even when I arrive back at my apartment—it’s still not home. 



Artwork by Krishma Elise Lilles/TomasinoWeb

It’s Christmas Eve. Here I am, a vague approximation of a model employee, on the busiest night of the year but what is before me is the exact opposite—empty chairs, emptier tables, and a hollowed-out version of Jose Mari Chan playing over the speakers. The branch in Makati had seen better days. There are seats colder than the buildings right across the street, the paint had already chipped in some places, and the mascot’s statue outside looked as if the problems of the world had ravaged it. 

I’m more surprised that people still come here.

Even though most people were home for the holidays, delivery services were at an all-time high. I still try to make small talk with the customers. Even though I do all the protocols, leave nothing to chance, the risk is still there, after all. I’m fully aware of that and I have no choice. 

The pandemic had whittled away the usual customers as most of them are now working from home. Usually, you’d see office workers or people going in for a quick bite; lunchtime lines were long and the delivery man was all worn-out from doing several deliveries at once. Back when it wasn’t just the three of us and there were more employees, we’d usually make bets amongst ourselves on which customers were more likely to stay for hours on end, making the place their makeshift workstation. It harkens back to a simpler time, to an era of hugs, and year-end parties—back when no one had to worry about masks or face shields.

No one would disagree that we wanted that back, that we wanted a livelier Christmas, one not marked by gloom and despair, and one that is not similar to a hollow version of a jingle that plays over and over again. 

I was manning the cashier while another tended to the kitchen. Meanwhile, Fred would deliver meals, if the orders were requested on our hotline and not ordered by some ride-sharing app. I remembered how the freezers were at full capacity, anticipating the yearly influx of orders. A sigh escaped my lips at the thought of parties like a five-year-old’s birthday, the way joy crinkled on the people’s lips, their festive squeals, and tons of kids running around the place, greeting our mascot with high-fives and hugs.

But now, the man who donned the mascot had been r etrenched after transferring to another branch. I remembered hearing about several branches in the area closing down. Good thing we got lucky enough. Maybe they’ll come back when everything gets better. 

These are remnants of a past that would never come back. All kept in memories that were prone to fading. Customers did come in for a short while but I miss the long lines and noise that brought the place to life.

I was checking the cashier when a young woman stumbled into the store, hair disheveled and a bit fidgety. 

“Welcome! Can I take your order?”

“Meron pa ba kayo noong 8-piece na chicken bucket?”

I smiled in response as I yelled to the back for her order. We stood quietly with her muttering something close to a whisper while I handed her the change. 

“Salamat,” she says before leaving with the big paper bag. While she was at the door, something from her bag rang. The scene of her talking on the phone reminded me of my parents. I still haven’t called them this week. I wonder how they are right now. Are they fine? Are they eating well? 

Thoughts drifted to home-cooked meals, the smell of our favorite dishes—steam rising as fresh rice comes out of the rice cooker. Pork and chicken adobo, some caldereta, and Lola’s paella—a feast for the eyes and for the stomach. I envision my family together, my cousins eager to open presents, not even finishing their food, while the adults would be chatting at the table as we wait for midnight.

How distant all of these are. 

I tried to shake off the gloomy atmosphere by thinking of how I would redecorate the apartment. Maybe I can change the family photos, buy new frames, add new ones or maybe make a collage of them. But despite the tiny excitement that sparked in me, missing them warped the festive atmosphere even more. The clock strikes twelve, signaling the end of my shift. I say goodbye to the crew. 

As the store faded from view, a pang of heaviness under Christmas lights and melodies lingers; a longing that can’t be sated, that even when I arrive back at my apartment—it’s still not home. It doesn’t have the smell of adobo and paella, nor the chatter I’ve grown used to, and even though I’ve tried to recreate it all before, I know that it will never be the same. 

Christine Nicole Montojo
Stories Writer | + posts



Ang ating tunay na kapangyarihan

Sa paparating na eleksyon, muli, may tungkulin ang sambayanang Pilipino na dapat huwarang itupad: ang pumili ng mga kandidatong dikit ang kalooban hanggang sa mga nasa laylayan.



Artwork by Iris Mirzi Cardenas/TomasinoWeb

Sa mga susunod na dekada, kapag muling bumali ng tingin sa mga taong nagdaan, ano-ano kaya ang tumatak sa ating mga isipan? Marahil unang maiisip ang halos isang taong nabalot ang Pilipinas ng pandemya dulot ng COVID-19. Nariyan din panigurado ang mga ilang buwan na imbis na pisara ang kaharap, laptop o kaya cellphone ang nakabungad tuwing mag-aaral. Tiyak, mahaba-haba ang mga nasa listahan!

Ngunit, sa mga pagkakataong tayo’y nagbabalik tanaw, maalala kaya natin ang libo-libong namatay sa kung tawagin ay war on drugs? Matatandaan kaya ang tila harap-harapang pagbebenta ng lupaing Pilipino sa mga makapangyarihang bansa? Maisip pa kaya ng mga susunod na henerasyon ang mga walang habas na pang-re-redtag sa mga sibilyang buong tapang na tumataliwas sa dahas?

Kung dumating ‘man ang araw na nakalimot ang lahat, tungkulin natin ang isaalaala ang mga karahasang sukdulan na sinapit ng karamihan. Tungkulin nating isaisip na hindi barya ang buhay ng bawat Pilipino.

Sa paparating na eleksyon, muli, may tungkulin ang sambayanang Pilipino na dapat huwarang itupad: ang pumili ng mga kandidatong dikit ang kalooban hanggang sa mga nasa laylayan.

Nasa masa ang tunay na kapangyarihan.

Nasa ating lahat na tunay na diwa ng demokrasyang Pilipino, at sa darating na eleksyon titindig muli ang boses ng Pilipinong sawa sa pangakong napako.

Piliin ang mga kandidatong bukas ang palad sa kritisismo na ipinapahayag ng kanyang pinaglilingkuran. Tayo’y tapos na sa mga politikong sasagutin ang kritisismo gamit ang dahas at kalupitan.

Sikaping suriin ang mga kandidatong umaabante para sa masa. Balikan ang pandemyang hinaharap at tukuyin kung sino ang naging aktibo, maagap, at tapat ang layuning tumulong sa kapwa. Ibaling ang atensyon mula sa mga fake news at bigyang pansin ang mga programang dapat ay tahasang isinusulong ang kapakanan ng bawat isa.

Kaya bago ang ika-Hunyo ng taong 2022, magbalik tanaw at mariing bigyang pasya ang nangyari sa ating bansa. Integridad, pakikiramay, at bukas na isipan; ito ang mga kalidad na dapat tingnan sa mga susunod na mamumuno ng bansa. Ito ang mga kalidad na makakapagsulong sa masang Pilipino papunta sa mas mabuting kinabukasan.

Hindi na muli hahantong ang panahong sukdulan ang kultura ng machismo—kulturang inuuna ang pagmamayabang sa halip na ang buhay ng mga mamamayan.

Sa atin ang lakas, sa atin ang kakayahan; sa atin magsisimula ang pagbabago.

Andrei Pineda
Stories Writer | + posts


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Regain what has strayed

Tomorrow, your courage will glow. And that serenity will eventually flow.



Artwork by Aliah Basbas/TomasinoWeb

Today, your braveness grows dim

and your sprouting fear goes grim

suffocating as the breathing shorten

praying in order to bargain,

the anguish to finally end.


days in the realm of the abyss,

while counting the dread of time

misty and cold, curled in isolation

waiting for nothing in absolute frustration.


the realization of your apprehension

governs your full comprehension

whispering that this is eternal 

a void within the internal.


but is this the culmination,

of your full determination?

undoubtedly there is more to contemplate

In this solitude, there’s an alternate.


despite all the anguish

there’s another you need to relish

the gleam of assurance

closing down the distance


a meaningful glance of desire

at the misery about to retire

go and treasure what’s valued,

and genuine delight would follow.


Tomorrow, your courage will glow

And that serenity will eventually flow,

Unshackled from the unease

As you go on your day, about to seize

Fluttering your wings in absolute bliss.

Bianca Labraque
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You and your remnants

He left parts of him scattered: an absent seat, a dust-sprinkled mug, sets of immobile shirts and basketball shorts, a sentence in a notebook without a period, and the half-empty cologne we bought at Divisoria.



Artwork by Aliah Basbas/TomasinoWeb

At the dinner table, plates were passed as laughter was shared alongside steaming dinorado and mechado. Lowered heads whisper family gossip about who and what while the row of picture frames stayed on their usual spots. 

In our house, things are all over the place. A lonely sock nudged between the sofa throw pillows, a heap of phone chargers where no one bothered to untangle, and forgotten coffee mugs that stayed untouched for days.

You know there’s a big occasion when they start bringing out party packs of store-bought ice cream. The moment someone announces that their favorite dessert is out and open, a swarm of children bolts, leaving their phones, and sprints into the kitchen. Glasses disappear. A line forms. 

I sat by an unoccupied seat waiting for everyone’s turn. Behind Tita Eunice, I started to notice a glass, with a spoon stuck on generous scoops of Ube-flavored ice cream, placed in front of the unoccupied seat. 

“That’s his. Bring it to your Tito Albert,” Tita Eunice said. I stood up and went into the living room.

There he was, all smiling with a peace sign. We couldn’t find any formal picture of him. Only photographs in wacky poses and crumpled faces. He wasn’t all prim and proper, he’s just Tito Albert. He and his glistening head. No one dared to touch anything inside his house office. No one plans to. Not even Tita Eunice. We have to wait for forty days, she reminded us. And then for a year for his other things to be given to relatives who need them. 

I stayed with Tito Albert and Tita Eunice ever since when my mother went to Japan. The power couple housed me as if I’m their child. The two were unmatched. The other couldn’t live without an arm’s reach of the other. They were lovebirds all their lives. I seldom see them argue. 

But when they did, it was a strange and bizarre sight. Their recent fight turned out to be their last. I remember giving them a letter. Inside was a wish, hoping for them to get along. But their fight still lasted for weeks, and he brought the fight ‘till his last breath.

I stood in front of his room and opened its creaking door. The dust swirling in the enclosed dank air irritated my nostrils and made me sneeze. There, at the right side of the room, is a bookshelf with all his collectibles and books. On the opposite side is his desk, where he worked on hours on end for a company that barely gave him enough. 

He left parts of him scattered: an absent seat, a dust-sprinkled mug, sets of immobile shirts and basketball shorts, a sentence in a notebook without a period, and the half-empty cologne we bought at Divisoria. He was my bicycle guide, and my medic when I crashed into a neighbor’s metal gate. Every morning, Tito was my motorcycle hatid ever since I was in kindergarten. 

In the end, I became his hatid. I brought his ashen body to his tiny room, at the columbarium. My embrace around his flat-topped urn tightened. Everything wasn’t gray, and the sky wasn’t a blanket of clouds. It was a searing Monday morning when the coffee wasn’t too bitter and the eggs weren’t too runny. 

Today is his day. A few months from now, we could’ve been alongside one another as he accompanies me to my last day in school. I brought him his Ube, and he gave me tears. 

I hate you, Tito Albert, and your bald head. But you left a part—parts—of you with me. 

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