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Literary

Pause

Lenten activities, family meetings, how would he finish it all unless he threw himself into his books? At least he was ahead by two weeks for all the individual work. The group works, however, were a different story. 

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Artwork by Ana Victoria Ereno/TomasinoWeb

“How has your week been, Mr. Llanera?” 

Sir Anton glanced at the screen, gauging if Leo was still with him. It was their fourth session together, and he had tracked Leo’s improvement since they first met. It didn’t take much to get Leo talking, unlike before. 

The monitor Anton used was split between the video call and a document where he took notes. He wore his usual polo and kept his background to that of a nice lounge room—something to bring some semblance of normalcy. 

“I did schoolwork, reviewed for major exams, made some progress on a paper.” There it was again. The shaking in his voice, trembling at the legs. Although he knew who Anton was and assured him that nothing would leak, it didn’t help him keep eye contact. “I finished some work for org, too, while I was at it.” 

A well-used copy of the AP stylebook was on his bed and similar material was scattered at his desk. Silence. Dead air. 

Usually, he’d keep his place tidy, but not right now.

He received a nod from Anton, the counselor familiar with Leo’s stutter. Fear of silence invoked anxiety, the last thing he wanted to see. “Other than work, did you find time to unwind?”

“’Di po,” Leo replied. “I might fall behind.”

“Your professors told me you’re at least two weeks ahead,” he replied.

Leo masked a sigh. He wouldn’t have gotten into this mess if it weren’t for his theology professor. It was more than that, but there was no time to dissect how he ended up having a month of sessions with the guidance counselor. “Ah, that,” he stuttered. “I had a burst of inspiration. Besides, I’m on the dean’s list.”

“I see,” Anton said. He adjusted his glasses, using the opportunity to observe Leo as he spoke further. Most of them were complaints about the heavy workload placed upon him and his classmates. 

Leo’s face tensed up, eyes darting back and forth while trying to find the right words. “Let’s hope my profs don’t drop more work on us…but knowing them, they still would.”

“I understand why,” Anton said. “Finals are coming soon, yes? I’ve heard from other students about it. This whole rushed semester isn’t helping anyone.”

Leo could only muster a nod. He had sunken further into his seat but corrected the behavior immediately. “Most of the deadlines are right after Easter break.” 

Lenten activities, family meetings, how would he finish it all unless he threw himself into his books? At least he was ahead by two weeks for all the individual work. The group works, however, were a different story. 

Anton observed Leo sinking into his seat again, now engrossed with a nearby pen. “Oh. That’s unfortunate. Have you made some headway?” 

“Struggling, but I’ll get it done,” Leo replied. “It’s mostly group work, and I’m already done with my parts.” 

A nod. “I see,” Anton continued, noting what Leo said. “This break, I want you to rest and reflect on things,” he replied. “Do you have any other hobbies?”

“Not really,” Leo said. A glance at the papers on his desk. Red marks, a pen losing ink. Was it even a hobby if he made money out of it? “I do proofreading work.” 

“Do you consider it work or hobby?”

“Um, work,” Leo replied. 

“How so?”

“Well, I do make money out of it.” 

Anton nodded. “Well, work is defined as something you do for a living, but it’s not necessarily fun. Do you enjoy your work?”

“I guess I do,” Leo replied. “Sometimes it’s hard, but I manage.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Well,” Leo said, trying to gather his thoughts. “Sometimes, the papers I get are terrible, despite offering some good points. It’s a frustrating experience.” 

“I understand that. If you feel that this sideline burdens you, might I suggest trying to do some writing of your own?” 

“Writing…creatively? Other than term papers?” 

Anton nodded, smiling a bit. “Well, yes. I recall from our last conversation that you said that piling on work helped avoid certain emotions.” Leo wouldn’t admit it, but Anton wasn’t lying. His grades were due any day now. Don’t look like a nervous wreck. “Well, work’s the only thing I’m good at. If I’m not productive, it’s more time wasted.” 

“If that’s the case, you could reframe writing to be productive—other than just for work or academics. A journal could help. You don’t need to show anyone, but it staves off the urge to tick a to-do,” Anton replied. 

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Leo said with a smile. His cheeks were strained. He didn’t notice that the hour had gone by until he looked at the clock. Bad habit. Look at you, wasting time. “See you next week?”

“Yes, after the Easter break,” Anton replied. “Stay safe, Leo.” 

Leo left the meeting. It was over. When will this end? How many sessions do I gotta go through? He kepy thinking of things he couldn’t answer. Shouldn’t my professors be happy with my performance?

He shook his head. ”I’m making life easier for them, why aren’t they satisfied?”

Another look at the clock. The sound of a to-do ticked off the list. “I should get to proofreading,” he told himself while opening the latest document. 

“Leo!” A sigh escaped him. Why now? 

“Dinner’s ready!” Leo’s mother knocked on the door. “I made chicken adobo!” 

“Pababa na po!”  Leo tidied his papers in one of the desk drawers. Though he didn’t plan to spend the break, he’d at least have something to ponder upon over dinner.

Christine Nicole Montojo
Stories Writer | + posts

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Literary

The Revolution  

They carved out its limbs of corruption and abuse, broke its bones until it can no longer move 

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Artwork by Ana Victoria Ereno/TomasinoWeb

the skeletons that have witnessed it 

lay on their beds, still, tasting rust.

the whimpers of ghosts who fought 

still whisper wishes of protection 

 

those who know it

from textbooks and the stories of their kin, 

know its value and the erased scenes 

both in ink and pixel 

 

back then, oceans of beings pulsing from desire, 

with a thirst for freedom

joined hands in unity 

 

and on the 25th of February,

the footsteps marching along the streets 

became strong enough to crack Tyranny’s body,

They carved out its limbs of corruption and abuse, 

broke its bones until it can no longer move 

as the cries of the masses washed over blood-stained streets 

 

All for the country, 

All for democracy 

Aliah Basbas
Stories Editor, Stories Writer | + posts

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Literary

To you, from you

The firsts of love were something I had already experienced: the first time I kissed someone, held someone’s hand, and craved for someone’s presence. Yet the truth is, I regret that loving myself was not one of them.

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Artwork by Ana Victoria Ereno/TomasinoWeb

It was a golden afternoon. As I rested peacefully beneath the blossom tree, the melody of birds chirping was music to my ears. The grass meadow serenely went with the flow of the wind as the atmosphere was surrounded by nothing but white noise.

“The tree’s petals are finally intact,” I thought to myself, looking upon the branches from above and reminiscing how alive it looked compared to the last time that I had seen it. The rose-colored petals bloom beautifully as it sways with the breeze, reminding me of the celebration marking of what today is all about.

Today is Valentine’s day. At this moment, I could draw a million pictures in my mind of people going out on dates, giving bouquets of flowers to their better halves, and eating in fancy restaurants while pondering about the future, perhaps even holding each other’s hands. Yet, all I had in my palms was a small box I dug out from beneath the soil where this tree stands. I touched its rough and soiled surface and opened the box. I saw a letter inside with my name engraved on the paper.

I opened it and read it in silence.

“Dear little being, as you read this letter, you may not remember or make sense of the things I will say from the time I am writing this. But today, decades from where you are now, I chose others than myself. I left this tree I planted away from my care to pursue appreciation from others. The firsts of love were something I had already experienced: the first time I kissed someone, held someone’s hand, and craved for someone’s presence.

Yet the truth is, I regret that loving myself was not one of them. I would put others first and fulfill their needs instead of mine. In the end, I forgot how to love myself as I love other people, and the tree already wilted as I repeatedly refused to choose myself, leaving it colorless and without leaves. I hope you will not become like me wherever you are right now. To grow strong wigs and beautiful leaves, this tree needs nourishment from its roots, just as you need tenderness from within to be fulfilled.”

Before I arrived at the last line of the paper, I sipped the last drop of tea from my cup, flipped a few pages of my favorite book, looked back on the messy fragments of the past that I was so ashamed to feel before, and smiled in relief. I remember everything. I remember the strife of recognizing love as I myself did not cherish my existence. The flash of memories where I unlearned to recognize myself all came back to me. Yet, as I sit beneath the blossom tree, my heart feels like it is glowing just from being alone.

I looked at my wrinkled old skin, cherishing how far I had come through the depths of life. I looked at the tree’s branches, and they bloomed beautifully. No more blossom petals have fallen from the tree, and warmth filled my heart from its scenery.

I closed my eyes, cherishing my last drop of life to the fullest, knowing that I had finally lived life with self-appreciation. The last thing I will remember is the few final words sculpted at the end of the letter. 

“To you, from you.”

Wendell Adrian Quijado
Assistant Stories Editor, Stories Writer | + posts

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Literary

Scouring for castañas

He likes doing this: searching and scouring for gifts. It need not be perfect, he always thought. Regardless, he just wants to do it just because. 

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Artwork by Halley Carvajal/TomasinoWeb

The bells rang even from a distance. Along the bustling sidewalks of Novaliches Bayan, Joshua searches for something. He is looking for a present to give to his cousin, Luca. The sidewalks are filled with bangketas and stalls selling garments, house plants, rubber shoes, watches, candies, cigarettes, and leather goods. 

It has been years since Joshua went to Novaliches. It’s also one of the farthest places he has ever been to since the quarantine restrictions. He is now starting to be accustomed to being with an unusually large amount of people. He was used to his place, where he, his Tito, and his cousin, Luca, were the few people he interacted with. The bells’ sound reached him as he tries to squeeze into the crowd. 

He likes doing this: searching and scouring for gifts. It need not be perfect, he always thought. Regardless, he just wants to do it just because. 

Joshua has been like this before. He likes giving gifts no matter the occasion. Even if Luca didn’t manage to achieve a higher score from his school modules, his older cousin always bought him his favorite snack, castañas. Joshua often wonders why Luca liked it at all. He presumes that kids his age like candies or ice cream. It’s tough and isn’t sweet at all.  Nonetheless, Joshua still searches for the snack even though the ‘ber’ months have already ended.   

Yet, during the past few days, it’s as if Luca isn’t himself. Joshua couldn’t think of a reason. Did something bother him in his class? It’s as if he’s irritated, even when he arrived home from his work and brought castañas. Joshua only stopped insisting when his cousin got even more irate and his eyes tensed.

He reached the Susano Complex without finding a single stall. A little tired from walking, he stood beside the sidewalk to catch his breath. He looked at the opposite side of the road and saw the church right at the corner of an intersection. The attendees were flowing out while the newcomers were pouring in at the other opened gate. The cream-colored towers of the Shrine of Our Lady of Mercy is a sight that Joshua hasn’t seen for so long. 

Joshua crossed at the pedestrian crossing and went inside the Church. He found an available seat and noticed himself looking at whatever changed from his last visit. The churchgoers sat in intervals. There have been fewer people going inside, perhaps because it’s an hour before noon. He glances at a familiar sight behind him. He knows that spot well. 

His mother used to bring him there every Sunday. As anyone might expect for a child, the younger Joshua did all his tantrums in the middle of Mass. It’s routine for his mother to bring him outside and let him simmer down. Listening from afar, the two stood near the candle stands while people went past them. Even with his second tantrums, they will just go outside and repeat. After the Mass, much to his childish astonishment, they will always eat at his favorite fast-food restaurant nearby.

He sits there, dwelling in the silence and mumbles of silent prayers around him. Then the lay ministers and sakristans start to assemble at the entrance. Joshua looks at the altar, intently. He looks at Him intently and exhales. And the bells start to ring. He stood up and made his way into the exit gate. At the intersection, Joshua continues his search for his cousin’s favorite snack regardless. 

Lance Zafe
Stories Writer | + posts

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