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Literary

Superheroes Don’t Fly

Somewhere along the way, we keep forgetting that superheroes don’t always wear capes and have flashy superpowers; some of them are staying overtime at work, some of them are making dinner. Nonetheless, they save the world in their own ways.

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father's day
Artwork by Tricia Soto Jardin

We grow up in this world believing that superheroes exist—but the more consciousness we gain, the more we realize they don’t. Something that used to be so colorful and interesting slowly becomes dull and mundane. The superheroes we looked up to before fades into nothing and we’re left alone to think that we’ve been lied to.

Somewhere along the way, we keep forgetting that superheroes don’t always wear capes and have flashy superpowers; some of them are staying overtime at work, some of them are making dinner. Nonetheless, they save the world in their own ways.

All along, the superheroes we were looking up to the sky, waiting to pass by, have always been by our side—working for hours and hours on end, only to come home exhausted just to put food on the table and provide for the family. Our fathers have always been the superheroes we needed. They’re always right there to be our pillar and support when things seem like they’re falling apart; the guide that never led us away from safety and truth.

They never left our side. Even though they vary in shape and form, they all have one goal: to love us the way they know how—in soft caresses and a pat on the back, in hushed moments and in moments filled with laughter, it doesn’t matter how frequent—it all counts. They all do.

So when the day comes, let’s give them the recognition they deserve. The day that celebrates the love they’ve given and the sacrifices they’ve made. We shouldn’t let it all go to waste. Let’s show them how much we’ve flourished, how much we grew, and how we grew well because nothing is more rewarding for a father than to see their child that used to dream has now become that person they’ve dreamed to be. We’ll let them know they’re our superhero, not for just saving the day, but for saving us, in more ways than one.

The world is harsh and cruel, more than we could ever know. It will continuously say that superheroes don’t exist numerous times, and there will be times we will believe it. Not because we have little faith, but because we’re humans and we tend to make mistakes, and that’s okay. Someone out there, whatever we call that person, will keep proving us wrong and tell us repeatedly if they have to, that superheroes are real. We’ll keep thanking them, over and over, for all that they’ve done, for all that they’re doing, and hope that someday, we could also be superheroes in our own way, just like them.

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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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