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Literary

A Long Way Home

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THE night seemed to be too quiet. I was apparently waiting for a ride home. Buses were kind of rare and I had no choice but to wait for one because I was not able to bring my car. How stupid of me. I thought to myself.

I decided to walk along the sidewalk. Some lights on the post were noticeably flickering in the aura of the night. Yet, I heard the familiar revving of an engine. As a response, I turn to see a bus finally coming towards my way.

As the door opened, my hands immediately grabbed the two edges where the door was shaped, and got in. The bus was just as empty as the street I was walking along and I sat down somewhere near the end of the vehicle.

The vehicle took me farther from where I was, yet closer to my destination. Two passengers got in. Then we’d passed by an empty lot. I used to hear stories about this lot. It was covered with grass all over that you could even barely see the things that were lying in it.

The stories went everywhere. A number of which were passed on from person to person. One of the stories was about a woman, raped, murdered and her body was thrown in the lot. Shivers caught my arms, and I found them rising up to my neck, then to my face.

Another was during the Spanish times. They said this was once a place where the Spaniards dumped the dead bodies of the Filipinos they killed in the war. When I heard that story, goose bumps had branded my body.

Moreover, one story got me intrigued. My friends kept talking about it. It kind of spread like wildfire, but being the skeptic I was about ghosts and superstitions, I shrugged off the story that time. It wasn’t until today that I felt like it was real because it was the first time I came home this late. The story went like this:

A bunch of kids were in the grassy field. They were playing Spirit of the Glass. A tree stood at the corner of the lot, and they sat in front of it to play. Their intention wasn’t to awaken some kind of evil spirits or ghosts but just to answer their call of curiosity. Consequently, like any other Spirit of the Glass session, it ended horribly. As they narrated, there were originally five of them but only two of them survived. The other three, apparently was killed by some entity, the survivors described as something demonic. It was probably a story that had disbelief all over, and practically, I found it hard to believe. The two kids, from that point onward in their life, fell into some kind of trance. Nightmares shook them; consciousness of the world around them drove them to the edge of insanity. I still found it to be a baffling rumor, pondering upon whether it was true or not.

I plugged my earphones in, and to dreamland I was. A few minutes later, I was awake by the sound of the bus door that opened. A woman got in, her head down. I tried to look at her face as I attempted to find an angle to see her. She was wearing a nurse’s uniform, at least that’s what I think she wore. The driver kept looking at the mirror to see the woman. The conductor traversed his way to the end of the bus where she sat. She looked normal, except for the fact that I couldn’t make something out of her façade of silence.

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The conductor let out a frustrated scream, quickly making his way as the woman who got in, had a bloody face. Disbelief kept its ground on me and I stood up, attempting to touch the entity before. But as soon as I got a clear look, I remembered the photo of one of the kids killed, and they showed resemblance. I was about to part my lips to ask her some kind of question, but I found myself on the ground. The woman’s hands around my neck, making it hard for me to breathe. An evil and wicked grin was on her face and I heard her whisper faintly into my ear.

“You Are Dead.”

And the void was black.

I woke up.

I heard them speaking in the background.

“Kid’s got guts; he’d saved himself. He put up a fight.”

A fight? What fight? I was so coned about the whole situation but as soon as my gaze travelled to the corner near the door, a woman in her nurse uniform was sitting. The woman from before. Panic conquered my whole system, and she looked at me. With that terrifying grin on her face once more, I surged up in fear, falling to the floor. My head hit the pavement and I saw nothing.

Photo By Vitt Salvador

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Literary

The Myth of Apo Lakay

Whatever my hometown patronized, I saw harmless. It was not until years later that I understood everything.

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Artwork by Patricia Jardin/TomasinoWeb

Adu met lang ti nagsiyaatan na idi tiempo na, uray komporme ti ibagbaga da,” (“No matter what they say, he did a lot of good during his time.”) my grandpa would always say, while I was sitting on his lap, listening to him retell stories from years past, eating balikutsa—a candy made out of sugarcane, one of my favorite Ilocano delicacies.

I remember not knowing much then, as one would expect from a six-year old with barely any conceived awareness. I was too trusting of the stories I was told as a little girl, owing to my naïveté. Whatever my elders said, I always assumed were correct. Whatever my hometown patronized, I saw harmless. It was not until years later that I understood everything.

They said it was the Golden Age, the years dating back from 1972 to 1986. There was discipline and barely any crime, and the value of 1 peso was equivalent to that of 1 US dollar—it was almost like a folklore back in the province, shared by the collective memories of fellow Ilocanos. They called him Apo Lakay and built statues in his memory. In the North the people pride themselves for speaking in the same language that a late dictator once spoke. To them it was a language that held a significant amount of heft. A significant amount of power. One that could take over a country and leave it with nightmares decades after.

Nasimsimple pay ketdi ti biag idi,” (“Life was a lot simpler back then.”) they would often say. Everything I knew about Martial law was an inherited memory from my hometown, weathered down by the works of historical revisionism and misplaced loyalties. There was nothing true about what I was told. There was nothing to celebrate about Martial law.

At some point I wanted to unlearn the dialect largely because of shame, I wanted to outrun the identity of being an Ilocano. I wanted to believe that it wasn’t going to be the defining feature of my being one—this urban legend of a fascist who was responsible for the deaths of many and the shared trauma of Filipinos that persist until this day.

And so in place of those ill-conceived tales, I try to reconstruct them through stories that I learned were more historically correct. I start with my little cousins, so they don’t grow up brainwashed with toxic regionalism like I was as a little girl. They will grow up to learn the words ‘fascist’, ‘kleptocrat’, and ‘democracy’. Through this I take on my grandpa’s place in telling stories by telling mine, this time more accurately, this time in favor of the ones who greatly suffered in that so-called Golden Age. There should be no place in Ilocos for immortalizing a dictator.

I could hear the crickets nearby. I could sense grandpa was nearing the end of his stories. I could tell his legs were numb from sitting me on his lap for hours on end. I barely understood his stories, I was only six years old. The last balikutsa melts in my mouth. He says, “Dagijay nga taw-en ti kamayatan para dagiti Pilipino idi.” (“Those were the best years of the Filipinos.”) No, grandpa, those were the lost years of the Filipinos. I wish I could reach into years past and tell him he was wrong.

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Literary

This Thing

Swallowing the sun and rain
But myself still remains
Soaking up all my validity
It eventually shifts my reality

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Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

I don’t know when it came
For there is no one to blame
On the other side of this face
There, standing with disgrace

This is a source of danger
A voice of a slipping reminder
Is this probably the truth?
Feeling estranged from my youth?

Conflicted with my ideals
Finding what would appeal
My mind that was in blight
Would eventually find its light

All alone this body is terrified
This takes over just to terrorize
Authenticity has been eliminated
Like the luster being defeated

Lies ahead were vivid hues
I was blinded, but I would choose|
Reaching out to that lucidity
Maybe to achieve serenity

Leaving this catastrophe
Can’t be done casually
But possible with a tenacity
Evacuating from that apathy

Swallowing the sun and rain
But myself still remains
Soaking up all my validity
It eventually shifts my reality

Not anymore fragmented
This, that has been connected.

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Literary

Still, The Land Dreams

In the guarded fence made of
steel,
They will not be silenced. 

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Artwork by Patricia Jardin/TomasinoWeb

The pearl of the orient seas
was muted, chained in absolute obedience
a forsaken motherland weeps.
But among the close-eyed sheep,
There are those who refused to blink. 

In the guarded fence made of
steel,
They will not be silenced. 

Gabriela Silang from the North
led thousands of men and
feared by the hands that dared them.
Andres Bonifacio,
in the tangled woods lies not the leash
a hidden cause; wolves baring their teeth.
Teresa Magbuana from the South,
the Visayan Joan of Arc, a sharpshooter
of the three-headed beasts. 

They spilled ink and words began to
breathe.
It bends, whispering, “we’re here…” 

Dr. José Rizal,
phantoms chased the ink, it laughs
because even Death has eluded it.
Graciano Lopez Jaena,
botod, loved dearly by the masses
revelled until the friars sneered.
Marcelo Del Pilar,
smooth easy-teller of tales
a guide-post, words map of streets. 

The motherland carries timetables of heroes and heroines
wounded whispers and dreams.
August 31st, the youth walked
on the path of ghosts.
the trees rustles, the land laughs.
A cycle begins: 

When freedom is in tatters,
when the streets of cities
have habits of making people disappear
when blood is shed on the asphalt
the heroes began to sing and
mirrors reflected a long history:
                            The people will not be silenced.

 

by Johanna Leelan Gee

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