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Literary

No Woman Is a Temple

They will never be possessions. And after every struggle, it is their voices that you will always remember.

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picture of a woman with the symbol on it
Artwork by Jessica Lopez

[trigger warning]

The first woman here is of infinite loneliness.

Thin-lipped and round-eyed, the girl has her arm sprawled across the desk, with her palm up and her fingers curled. Beside her is another girl whose full lips are smiling shyly, her arm also on the desk. The light is luminous on one side of their heads, yet it is the light on the smiling girl that they think is more beautiful—because the thin-lipped one is neither fair-skinned nor skinny. She tries to smile back, but she already has her arm under the table.

The second one is of perpetual silence.

Smoke billows out of the jeepney as the stop light turns red and a girl in a denim skirt and halter top comes out into broad daylight. She is attractive, everyone around her thinks, and so does the smirking man by the sidewalk. He calls her names, and she turns, baffled at first, then realizing all at once that he meant her, she flushed, abashed. For a moment she does not notice the stoplight turning green. At that instant, she simply wants to disappear, perhaps along with the black clouds of exhaust spewing out of the honking buses and vans.

The third one is of quiet rage.

Hands shove her legs apart. Always, always, they tell you it’s okay, you’re safe with me, with that almost-motherly voice they possess—soft, gentle, and kind. She thinks of her mother, imagining herself as a baby, cradled adjacent to her chest, her small head settling in the space by her mother’s neck. This is not like that. This is not a safe space. Hands that roam places that are not theirs to touch are not hands of love. This is home, the hands say, it’s okay. It isn’t.

Finally, the last one is nameless.

They call her a woman. They call her names. But oftentimes, they call her in a language only they understand — when she has to speak in a mild tone, when she has to drag the hem of her skirt down just one more time, when she has to put the dress back in the rack. Or when she and her girlfriend make vows in the grocery aisle. Whenever she has to say no, again and again, only to nod eventually because she has to be kind. She has to be poised. She has to be silent. She has to be a woman.

But loneliness is fleeting. Silence does not last. The rage is never quiet. And the nameless — at the end, they were never meant to be named. Because they will never be possessions. And after every struggle, it is their voices that you will always remember.

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Literary

Cities of Howls

This is the night in Manila,
the dark dirty alleys hidden between
plastered walls that can’t be seen.

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Artwork by Aldrich Aquino

The crumbling of cities —

Yelling, shouting for peace

Stumbling, fumbling for pieces

Of meat and medicine for the sick.

This is the night in Manila,

the dark dirty alleys hidden between

plastered walls that can’t be seen.

Bronze! Silver! Gold!

Children are all sold

So a man can taste a bottle of ale,

And buy women that are on sale.

A child saw his father,

Shot in the head by a police officer,

The man slips something in his father’s pocket,

And the child’s tears unseen from his father’s dead socket.

Tenants and sky towers, oh how

trees sang glorifying the city father

as souls tethered and chained with one another.

Do not peek in a dollhouse of husband and wife,

A happy family, everything is nice.

Unless you peek behind their curtains, knowing it’s not right.

And find out they’re made of plastic and bruises hidden from sight.

A man was given a wrong ideality,

Hide it behind the closet or you shall be sent to hell for eternity,

The society robbed him from his identity,

And ended up destroying himself entirely.

Unheard dreams and voices yet

Blessed are those who stole gold

Feasting, eating as another soul is sold.

Blessed are those who lived in high places,

Hidden behind a façade; a masked smile on their faces,

As caskets piled in front of their thrones

One after another; made of bones.

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Literary

Once a Home

It’s a good place for hanging out with friends, filled with exploding dim colored lights and loud music. But have you ever wondered why a simple house stopped becoming a place to call home, and instead became a place stuffed with noise and lots of stingy alcoholic beverages?

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Artwork by Ferdinand Marticio

Since time immemorial, Thomasians had widely known a particular old and cramped place along the well-lit street of Asturias — there stands an almost hundred year old house. It’s a good place for hanging out with friends, filled with exploding dim colored lights and loud music. But have you ever wondered why a simple house stopped becoming a place to call home, and instead became a place stuffed with noise and lots of stingy alcoholic beverages?

Perhaps being one of the most overlooked stories, the story behind the place we call, “Tapsi,” is darker as we had expected. The house was built in the early 1900s where the clash of Spanish and American Colonization happened. It was owned by a mestizo who had his wife killed inside the very place they call home during the Second World War. Since then, the house has been isolated and never been visited by anyone, but only the owner stayed home. He lived there until the last of his breath, and it was said that before he sold it to a rich family during the 1980s, he warned them of “Echoes and bloodshed,” but the new owners didn’t listen. Every night the new family that started to reside in there were haunted by blood curdling cries and sudden gunshots that can be heard randomly at night. When they look around the house, they find nothing. There’s no person crying, neither is there someone with a gun.

Ultimately terrified by the now haunted house, the new owners kindled an idea. To turn it into a restaurant-bar kind of place. And so they began their business of starting up a resto-bar inside the house. As time passes by, more customers came in and it became one of the busiest places around UST during nighttime. Since then, the cries and gunshots weren’t heard again…or maybe we just don’t hear it, because the banging of the loud music from the speakers and the voices of the constant chit-chatting students conceals the horrifying history of Tapsi.

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Literary

Ang Nagtatagong Humahalakhak

Gusto ko nang sumigaw at kumaripas ng takbo ngunit hindi ko mailakad nang mabilis ang aking mga paa. Hindi na ako lumingon at patuloy akong naglakad. Malamig ang pawis na tumatagaktak mula sa aking noo. Nanalangin akong kung sino o ano man iyon ay ‘wag naman sana akong sundan.

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Illustration by Aldrich Aquino

Sabi ng Lolo ko noong bata pa ako, habang nakaupo ako sa hita niyang nagkukuyakoy, ay may ibang mga nilalang daw na kasamang mabuhay ng mga tao. May mga tikbalang, multo, manananggal, duwende, manggagalaw, mambabarang, aswang, tiktik, tiyanak, at marami pang iba. Mananatili raw sila sa aming mga tabi dahil sila na ang mga nauna. Wala pa sa kalingkingan ng aking pang- unawa na kayaning paganahin ang rason upang kuwestiyunin ang mga sinasabi ni Lolo. Ngunit sa tuwing nais nila akong pasunurin o utusan, pinapagana nila ang mga istoryang kanilang itinanim sa mura kong isipan. Habang tumitibay ang aking karunungan, nawawaglit na sa akin ang mga paniniwala sa mga haka- hakang ibinahagi sa akin ni Lolo. Sa tuwing uulan habang tirik ang araw, huli ko nang naiisip ang kasal ng tikbalang dahil nauuna na ang lohikong eksplanasyon para dito. Ito ay hanggang sa tumungtong na ako sa kolehiyo.

Madalas akong gabihin noong mga unang linggo ng klase dahil wala pa naman gaanong pinapagawa sa eskwela. Panay ang paggala ko kasama ang barkada hanggang abutan na ako ng dilim sa pag- uwi. Gabi ng Huwebes noon, alas otso na ng gabi nang makababa ako mula sa UV express. Mula sa binabaan ko ay kakailanganing maglakad sa madilim na kalsada at sa dulo ay may isang pahabang waiting shed. Umaambon noon at ang tanging liwanag lamang sa daan ko ay ang ilaw ng mga sasakyang dumadaan. Hawak ko ang cellphone na nakabukas ang flashlight para makita ko ang aking tinatapakan. Pagkatuntong ko sa ilalim ng waiting shed, ay bahagyang mas lumamig ang hanging pumapalibot sa aking balat. Malamig man ang paligid, mayroong mainit na hangin na dumadampi sa aking kanang pisnge at leeg, wari mo ay may taong humihinga sa aking tabi.

Kahit nag-aalangan ay lumingon ako, ngunit malawak na kadiliman lamang ang sumalubong sa akin. Alam kong ako lamang mag-isa nang mga oras na iyon. Kahit nangilabot ako ay hindi ako tumigil sa paglalakad. Parang walang hangganan ang waiting shed na nilalakaran ko. Malapit na ako sa dulo ngunit bago pa man ako makalagpas, ay may narinig akong mahinang hagikhik mula sa kanang gilid ko. Gusto ko nang sumigaw at kumaripas ng takbo ngunit hindi ko mailakad nang mabilis ang aking mga paa. Hindi na ako lumingon at patuloy akong naglakad. Malamig ang pawis na tumatagaktak mula sa aking noo. Nanalangin akong kung sino o ano man iyon ay ‘wag naman sana akong sundan.

Nakauwi akong tulala at halatang nababagabag. Inilapag ko ang bag sa sofa namin at inalok akong kumain ng hapunan. Napansin siguro ni Mama na matamlay ang aking pagnguya kaya tinanong nya ako.

“Anong nangyari sa’yo?”

Sandali akong tumingin sa kanya at bumalik sa pagkain. Sa mga sandaling iyon ay nanariwa sa akin ang mga kwento ng Lolo ko tungkol sa mga elementong ligaw na namamalagi sa dimensyong ginagalawan ng mga tao. Kaya kahit walang konkretong paliwanag ay sumugal ako.

“Ma, ano ngang tawag dun sa elementong pinaglalaruan ka kapag mag-isa ka lang?”

“Hindi mo na naman dala ‘yung pangontra mo ano?”

Pinutol ko ang tingin sa kanya.

“Kaya nga binigay sayo ni Lolo Pail ‘yun, para ‘di ka lapitan ng mga ‘yan”

Mga ‘yan? Ano ba sila? Sino ba sila?

Ikinuwento ko kay Mama ang mga nangyari at inabisuhan nya akong dalhin ang pangontrang pinamana sa akin ni Lolo. Kinabukasan, sinubukan kong umuwi nang mas maaga ngunit nang dahil sa trapik, inabutan ako ng alas sais bago makababa sa kalye ng Maharlika. Mula sa kinatatayuan ko ay tanaw ang waiting shed na walang tao. May kakaunting liwanag pa mula sa langit ngunit hindi ito sapat para buwagin ang mga daga sa dibdib ko. Mahigpit kong kinapitan ang pangontra na nasa loob ng aking bulsa at pigil-hiningang nilagpasan ang waiting shed. Walang malamig na hangin, walang mainit na hininga, at walang mala- demonyong hagikhik. Pagkalagpas ko sa waiting shed, ay lumingon ako sa direksyon nito. Hindi ko alam kung namalikmata lamang ako ngunit may aninong nakatayo sa dulo ng waiting shed bago ang parteng nalalapatan na ng ilaw. Kumukubli ito mula sa liwanag. Pinagsisihan ko agad ang pagbalik ng tingin at kumaripas ng takbo papunta sa istasyon ng jeep.

Ngayon, sa tuwing dadaan ako sa waiting shed na iyon, mahigpit kong tangan ang pangontra ni Lolo at hinding-hindi na ako lumilingon… kahit pa tawagin nito ang pangalan ko.

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