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Literary

Christmas Tree

Nakajacket ka pa rin na itim at may kahawak kamay. Tiningnan ko ng huling beses ang cellphone ko. Walang reply. Walang kahit ano. Huminga nalang nang malalim at pinindot ang delete contact.

Artwork by Aldrich Aquino

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“Magpapapicture tayo sa tapat ng Christmas tree ha!” Ito ang huli mong text sa akin. 

Siguro nga totoo ang mga multo at isa sa mga multo na ito ay nakasalamin, nakasuot palagi ng jacket na itim, at may nakakatunaw na ngiti. Hinayaan kong mamatay ng kusa ang aking cellphone hanggang sa makita nalang ang imahe ng sarili dito. 

Ilang buwan na din ang lumipas simula nang natikman ko ang lasa ng pait ng isang bagay na maihahalintulad ko na din sa pag-ibig. Ngayon, nandito lang ako sa may mga upuan sa tapat ng Plaza Mayor—nagmumuni-muni habang hawak ang reviewer sa Theology. Binalik ako sa wisyo ng katabi ko at sinabing magreview na kami. Oo nga naman, marami pa akong mga bagay na kailangang aralin at gawin. Tumayo ako at inaya ang kasama ko sa library, baka naman sakaling makapag-focus na ako sa acads. Pinagpag ko ang aking palda, itinago ang reviewer at nagsimulang maglakad.

Parang nagmamartsa kami, anong nangyayari? Lahat ba ng nasa harap namin may sprain sa paa? Napakabagal naman maglakad ng mga ‘to. Konti nalang at baka mapasigaw na ako ng, “Kaya ba this week?!” pero syempre hindi ko gagawin ‘yun. 

Dahil exam week, maraming nasa library. Walang maupuan, walang masaksakan ng laptop, at wala ding maupuan. Nang makaupo na kami sa Social Sciences, tiningnan ko ang cellphone ko, baka may nagtext na. Ay, wala pala. Nevermind. Aral na nga ako. Makalipas ng ilang oras, naubos na ang aking braincells. 

“Guys, uwi na ako ha?” sabi ng ka-block ko. Sabay na kaya ako sa kanya? Parehas naman kaming Dapitan, ayain ko na din kayang kumain?

“Uy teka, sama na ako.” sabi ko sabay ligpit ng mga gamit. Nagpaalam na kami sa mga kasama namin at umalis na. Ang lamig naman…next time magdadala na talaga ako ng jacket. 

Nang makalabas na kami sa library bigla siyang nagsalita. “Gusto mo ba kumain? Tara kain tayo.” Pumayag naman ako tutal ‘yun na din ang plano ko. 

“Angkong o Dimsum?” tanong ko. 

“Ricing Star nalang.” sagot niya. 

Pagdating namin sa V. Concepcion, ang daming tao. Lahat ng kainan puno. Naalala ko na naman ‘yung sinabi mo, na kapag ganito, umuuwi ka nalang sa dorm at natutulog. Pinagalitan kita noon kasi mag-isa ka lang at sa malayo ka pa nakatira, dapat inaalagaan mo sarili mo. Tumawa ka nang mahina at sinabi mong sweet ako. Hindi mo alam na unang beses kong magsabi ng ganung bagay, hindi kasi ako sanay. 

“May date ka na sa paskuhan?” nasamid ako sa tanong niya. 

“Wala e. Kasama ko lang mga kaibigan ko. Ikaw ba?” tanong ko. Pinakita niya ang likod ng cellphone niya. Ah may instax. Alam na. 

Nag-take-out nalang kami at nagpaalam na ako na uuwi na ako. Bago umalis, chineck ko ulit ‘yung phone ko. Oras at petsa lang ang bumungad sa akin pati na rin ang schedule ng mga klase ko. Siopao na yata ako ah? Asadong asado. Makauwi na nga. 

Isang araw nalang at magpapaskuhan na. Naalala ko pa nung Agape, pagbukas ng mga ilaw nanlaki ang mga mata ko, hindi dahil sa ganda nito pero dahil akala ko nakita kita pero mistulang guniguni lamang pala ‘yun. Nagtext ako ulit sa’yo habang hawak hawak ‘yung kahon ng Aristocrat, hinihiling na sana magreply ka kahit isang beses lang.

Kumusta ka na nga ba? Nakapasa ka ba sa quiz mo? Kung hindi, pakitandaan nalang ang mga bagay na sinabi mo sa akin, “Life starts after quiz 1!” napailing ako at napangiti nang mapait. Totoo nga ang kanta ng Rivermaya. ‘Ang bilis nga naman talaga maglaho ng pag-ibig mo, sinta.’

Mag-eexam na ako sa Theology at pagkatapos nito, wala na akong iisipin pang iba except ikaw, charot lang. Nag-eexam ka din kaya ngayon? O baka naman tapos ka na at naglalaro ka nalang sa Mineski? 

“Okay class, please get one and pass.” Ito na. Saint Thomas Aquinas, pray for us.

Makalipas ng isang oras, masasabi ko rin na mababawi ko na lahat ng nawalang tulog ko last week at ngayon. Ang mga blockmates ko naman nagsisitalunan na dahil tapos na ang exams. Sana all masaya. Tiningnan ko ulit ‘yung aking cellphone. Wala pa rin pero okay lang, may isang bagay pa akong pinanghahawakan––baka makita kita sa christmas tree bukas. 

“Kita tayo ng mga alas-singko bukas ha?” paalala ng kaibigan ko. Tumango ako at inayos ang mga gamit ko. “Okay ka lang ba?” tanong sa akin. “Oo naman. Nag-iisip lang.” 

“Alam mo, baka minulto ka na talaga.” sabi nila. Ngumiti nalang ako at sinabing, “Baka nga o baka nakuha ‘yung cellphone niya o kaya nahulog sa jeep diba?” Kung ano-ano na ang pinagsasabi ko pero alam ko namang ang totoo. “Una na ‘ko.” sabi ko sabay labas ng classroom. 

Gabi na ng Paskuhan. Ang daming tao na naglalakad at nagpi-picture sa mga ilaw. Napakaganda nga naman talaga ng UST. Humiwalay na muna ako sa mga kaibigan ko para makapag-isip-isip. Naikot ko na ang buong field at nakabunggo na ng iba’t-ibang tao. May maliit na parte sa loob ko na nagbabakasakaling mabangga kita at marinig ang mahina mong “sorry” pero alam ko din namang hindi ‘yun mangyayari. 

Sige na nga. Lalakasan ko na ang loob ko. Itetext kita, kapag hindi ka nagreply, lalapit ako sa Christmas tree at magpapapicture mag-isa.

Message sent. Benteng minuto na ang lumipas wala pa rin.

Dinala ako ng mga paa ko sa harapan ng Christmas tree at dito kita nakita na may kasamang iba. Nagpakita ang multong nakasalamin na may nakakatunaw na ngiti. Nakajacket ka pa rin na itim at may kahawak kamay. Tiningnan ko ng huling beses ang cellphone ko. Walang reply. Walang kahit ano. Huminga nalang nang malalim at pinindot ang delete contact. 

Binalot ako ng hangin. Napakalamig. Buti nalang at nagdala ako ng jacket.

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Literary

Nagmamahal, Anak ng Bayan

Ang mga bituin at araw na sa iyo nakaburda,
walang kawangis sa giting at pagkakaisa
Alab ng pusong buwis ay huling hininga,
ningas ng pag-irog sa kalupaang sinisinta

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Dibuho ni Tricia Jardin

O aming sansinukob ng kamulatan,
sa’yo’y lugod ang luwalhati’t paggalang
Mahal naming kandungan ng pangarap
Ang bukas nami’y sa iyo ang tanaw

Dalisay ang puri mong hindi mabahiran
ng sinumang mangahas na ika’y sugatan
Nakaukit na sa lahing pinaglaban
ang mamatay para sa iyong pangalan

Ang mga bituin at araw na sa iyo nakaburda,
walang kawangis sa giting at pagkakaisa
Alab ng pusong buwis ay huling hininga,
ningas ng pag-irog sa kalupaang sinisinta

Lingkis sa ugat ng mga dapat mabatid
ang kilusang sinimulan ng mga ninunong kapatid
Lahat tayo’y supling ng Inang mahabagin
Susugod, malulumpo
Kakambal na ang panulat at patalim

Ang dangal ay mananatiling nakatalaga
Hindi ipagpapalit ang mga siglong pag-aalsa
sa tinik na nananalaytay sa lalamunan,
sa mapanglamang dayuha’t kababayan

Ikaw na s’yang duyang nag-aaruga
sa lipi ng bayang kislap sa Silangan
Ang bawat tibok ng aming pulsuhan,
dugo’t pawis para sa tapat na limbagan
ay hindi magpapalupig sa anino ng sinuman
Walang higit na mas makapangyarihan
sa sinumpaan ng makabayan

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Literary

A Letter To Cupid

He was sure that the man was perfect for her but why did she walk away? Cupid checked his arrows to see if they work. With his target locked, he released the string with grace and let the arrow flew through the wind and into a man’s heart.

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Artwork by Tricia Jardin

When Corazon was young, her mother told her a story about a being named Cupid, she said that he was sort of an angel that shoots people with arrows and if you get shot by him, you instantly fall in love. As a child, Corazon was awestruck by romance, especially how people would buy flowers, chocolates, and huge stuffed bears for their partners. 

Growing up, she wondered about love, she fell hard and fell out of it in the same way. She was convinced that it wasn’t entirely her fault, maybe Cupid had a bad aim that led her to a bit of misfortune. If there was a list of ex-lovers, hers would be long enough to wear as a scarf.

Corazon had a heart like a child’s, even in her twenties, she still looked at the world with wide-eyed innocence. One morning while walking in the neighborhood streets, she bumped into someone. Her mind immediately made everything pink. The air felt nicer, the warm rays of the sun made their faces glow golden, “his smile could launch a thousand ships” she thought. The man asked for her name. Instead of her name, she said “Have a nice day” as she scanned the area like she was looking for something––or someone then continued to walk away leaving the man confused.

Cupid was fond of Corazon, he liked the way she beamed at everyone, charming them with her innocence. He still remembered the time when Corazon’s mother told her about him. Nothing is purer than a child’s amazement at something so complex, he thought. He followed her around and tried to strike anyone who he thought might be perfect for Corazon which was a mistake. He couldn’t help it, he wanted her to meet somebody badly.

Corazon’s action shocked him. He was sure that the man was perfect for her but why did she walk away? Cupid checked his arrows to see if they work, they are sharp and filled with magic, he tested them out on a few pedestrians walking by. With his target locked, he released the string with grace and let the arrow flew through the wind and into a man’s heart. In the same direction came a woman, with excitement, he aimed at the woman and once again shot an arrow. He watched the two move closer to each other. 

There was nothing wrong. His bow and arrow worked fine. Was Corazon immune from his powers? 

“I’ll try again tomorrow.” he said with eagerness and flew home. 

Corazon grew tired of love and the things that come with it but more importantly, she was convinced that Cupid meant more harm than good. She wanted him to stop meddling in her life. So, she grabbed a pen and paper and started to write a letter. 

Dear Cupid, 

I suppose you already know my sentiments. You are an archer with good aim and every time you strike me, I can feel it. I have been feeling these since I can remember. You’ve given me countless possible forevers but they don’t feel real at all. Love is complex and relationships don’t have to be on life support. Getting struck once or twice is enough but if you get struck more than a hundred times, the heart goes weak and so does the mind. You see, I was thinking that it would be best if you stop now. You have done quite enough and for that, I give my thanks. Sometimes, I know you mean well but now, I am not sure anymore. There’s this feeling inside of my chest that keeps telling me that nothing is genuine anymore. Maybe I need some time alone, to say the least. 

Sincerely, 

Corazon

After reading the letter––Corazon’s last plea, Cupid puts down his bow and arrow and retires for good despite being heartbroken. He still looks over Corazon from time to time. He witnessed her walk down the aisle, marrying a good man and finally settling down. 

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Literary

A blood-partner for life

A blood-partner in life once told me that at the very long road that we continued to walk over, everyone seeks their individualities and ends up being alone at some point for it was what she said—essential.

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Artwork by Tricia Jardin

Counting the time that is headed towards the day where love seemingly arises and everyone is seemingly enjoying the moment with their loved ones are about to come. A blood-partner in life once told me that at the very long road that we continued to walk over, everyone seeks their individualities and ends up being alone at some point for it was what she said—essential. Kind of ironic that her next words contradicted her first statement by stating that the process of it is just what makes us feel alone, for we focus on achieving for ourselves, for moving forward for sometimes, selfish reasons. But the truth is, we are never alone.

Humans are social beings, even with people who hated other people, we are still very connected to one another. The paths that we take are all terrifying, and the absolute lack of knowledge on to what lies ahead is what makes us hold on to our edges and halt at some point, but someone will always press our gears and move us. May it be an event that was made possible by people, a person who inspires, a person who was damaged and we take pity, and even a person who was already gone can push us to keep moving forward.

If not a lot, that are some of the few things that I learned from her and kept on believing even after a decade. I had faith in her that there are some things that won’t forever go smoothly as I would expected, but it is okay to stop, to relive of the people who made me reach this far. The memories of comfort and serenity were enough to ease the pain of a burning resolution, that is why sometimes we burn-out because of the excessive will of selfishness that only centers our ego and pride. Soothing me from my combusting, bright resolve is someone who will never go extinct from my memory, and cheesy it might sound—from my heart, also. A blood-partner that is existent as long as I continue to crawl, walk, run, and stop in my path.

Today, I am standing beside a polished gray rock along with my parents, visiting a day earlier from what should be the day of visit. Her name is engraved on the smooth concrete and I, with my mother and father recalls the days that she was standing with us. On the one-day early from the day of love and hearts, we stood watching, and in unison, we said: Happy Valentines, Ate.

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