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Literary

A Season of Love and Forgiveness

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Christmas is a wonderful season,
The world rejoice like they’ve won.
Accompanied with energetic songs and carols,
People go to parks or malls.

But – deep down the souls of people,
Are their lives already peaceful?
Truth is, they’ve been inside a wall –
They hide their troubles to jive with the occasion.

Christmas such an enticing day,
When adults talk and children play.
But, are they in good terms?
Or just setting aside their arguments for season?

It is not only the gifts that matter –
But also the relationships, which are slowly to shatter.
Open your hearts; do not falter,
To start a new life, a tremendous wonder.

Photo By Bria Cardenas

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Literary

Eight months and counting

I remember the rush my body felt as I filled up my laundry bag while talking to my friends via video chat and how eager I was to go home.

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Artwork by Fernadine Hernandez/TomasinoWeb

Flashback to the moment when Mayor Isko Moreno declared a one-week suspension because of the Coronavirus outbreak. At the time, we didn’t know that in a few months, everything would change completely. I remember the rush my body felt as I filled up my laundry bag while talking to my friends via video chat and how eager I was to go home. A lot can happen in a week, right? There was hope in the air, nothing would fall apart, after a week we would hurry to our classrooms for the first period with iced coffee and we would chat with our blockmates about what we did during the break—it was simple. 

Looking back, I wish that we could have been more cautious but then again, we can only do so much. Walking around the campus, seeing everyone wearing facemasks, showed how compliant we were. Placing alcohol and sanitizer dispensers at every building entrance, having our temperatures checked all the time, practicing safety measures—we did everything that we can and maybe that’s the reason why it has become frustrating to see the parts of what made our college life worthwhile, fade away. 

I remember the rush my body felt as I filled up my laundry bag while talking to my friends via video chat and how eager I was to go home.

Where the street is packed with students ordering buchicake and pancit canton, where fast printing services are found, and where the smell of smoke sticks on uniforms, Antonio now can no longer be recognized—empty and quiet, without any hint of fast-moving footsteps. 

In Asturias, where the crowds usually hangout in between periods and lunch breaks, a desert lies. The busy Jollibee had closed, leaving traces of memories within its walls. Its fate, similar to the convenience stores around the university, all covered with blank manila papers with no notes of return. The McDonald’s in P. Noval shut down, I remember walking by and seeing how packed it was every single day, especially during exam seasons; how it shined so bright under the midnight sky where Noval was silent, sleeping, getting ready for another busy day. 

Breakfast dates in McDonald’s Carpark come to mind, the long lines and full tables, the water dripping from the roof outside, wondering where it came from. How shattering it was to see that it closed down. It was one of the go-to food chains inside, who knew that it would end up the way it did? Not me, not in a million years. 

Antonio now can no longer be recognized—empty and quiet, without any hint of fast-moving footsteps. 

Remember how the golden sunlight covered the whole field? How it passed through branches and made you realize how easy it was to love mornings in UST? How the uneven pavement made your friend almost trip, making you laugh then after, it happened to you too? The scorching heat whenever you pass by Plaza Mayor and getting caught up by the 12 o’clock prayer, preventing you from taking shelter to avoid the heat, the long walks in lovers’ lane at night where you awkwardly pass at couples, the slow-paced walking of other students along UST Health Service, and the fountain in Q. Park that’s capable of giving you a heart attack everytime it bursts. It’s funny because I used to dread those moments but now, they are the ones that I truly miss. 

During October, the Paskuhan season starts, the lights all over bring magic to our lonely and tiring days. Now, a plain skeleton of the Christmas tree stands tall beside the grandstand with no company.

Remember how the golden sunlight covered the field? How it passed through branches and made you realize how easy it was to love mornings in UST?

It’s saddening. Eight months in and we still don’t know what the future holds. As for now, we only rely on the power of technology, on the spontaneous zoom calls with friends, on binging series and movies, and even just by taking a deep breath. 

If we only knew what would happen, we could have taken the time to feel that one last hug from our friends, to take time in eating at our favorite place, to spend an extra hour in the library, to walk slowly towards our buildings––enduring the simplicity of a normal day, because right now there is this lingering guilt that keeps on making us realize how we took things for granted and to be completely and brutally honest, I think we’re nearing towards the breaking point.

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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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