Gugma sa Syudad

Kung piyongon ang mata, madunggan nimo ang syudad. Bagting sa sirena nga nagtikaduol, wang-wang-wang, ug sa diha mahigugma ka og usab. Magsugod dinha, ug uban pa: ang tingog-panon sa hangin, ang dahunog sa pagdali-dali.

Huuush, sangpit sa bus nga nakiglumbaanay sa Buendia. Ang iyang ligid nagduso sa aseras. Kriiiiitsh, ilang tingog, dungan sa babaye nga milabang, gaiktin-iktin sa iyang nagtakatak nga sapatos.

Ang gugma mutubo sa wa-damhang konkreto. Ang iyang gamotgamot musaka pataas, musunod, sa pagplawta sa mga awto, sa pagniwniw sa buhok nga gipalid sa hangin. Ang iyang mga gamot mounlod ngadto sa gipangsapot nga mga dalan.

Dili mahimo nga mahigugma ang kasingkasing sa wala mailhi apan makakat-on kini og mga bag-o nga uyayi. Makakat-on kini nga matulog nga hinanok taliwala sa pagdukdok og mga martilyo sa silingang habog nga bilding.

City Love

Closing eyes, one hears the city. A siren closing in, ululating, and you fall in love again. It begins with that, and others: the crowd-hum in the air, the sound of rushing.

Whoosh, says the bus racing Buendia. Its tires pushing on the pavement. Screech, they go, and so does a woman trying to cross in her clicking heels.

Love grows in unlikely concrete. Its tendrils shoot out and up into the fluting of cars, the swish of windswept hair. Its roots sink deep into surly streets.

The heart cannot love the unfamiliar but it can learn new lullabies. It can learn new lullabies. It can learn to sleep soothed to the banging of hammers on the high-rise next door.

Pagpahimutang

Ibutang ta lang, dili ka mahiubos kun buot nakong mag-inusara usahay. Usahay lang man pud. Sama niini nga kahaponon diin nahidlaw ang akong kalag ug kasingkasing sa paglingkod dinhi sa usa ka cafe, nag-inusara taliwala sa daghan nga estranghero. No. Dili pud. Dili man sad sila tantong estranghero, kay pamilyar ang ilang nahimutangan, ilang kabtangan, ang ilang kinaladman–

isip babaye sa kalibutan nga naningkamot hatagan sila og luna bisan pa sa

pagbalewala, pagdagmal, pagdiskriminar nga padayon nga nag-okupar sa wanang nga alang kanila–

Pinahimutang ko milingkod dinhi. Walay ikasaway sa akong hitsura. Porma ba kini sa protesta, nga niining hapon, puros babaye ang nag-inusara dinhi? Mao nga, sa dihang mi-titot ang akong laptop, nag-anunsyo sa imong mensahe nga buot nimong muapas, wala nako kani ablihi? Taympa. Ipahimutang una nako ang akong pakigbisog, ang akong pakig-unong sa akong tribo.

Staging

Let’s just put it like this, you won’t feel bad if I want to be alone sometimes. It only happens sometimes. Like right now, this afternoon when my soul and heart longed to sit in this cafe, in solitude amidst many strangers. No. Not really. They aren’t really that strange, because I am familiar with their station, their assets, their depth–

as women in a world that is trying hard to give them a place despite

dismissal, abuse, and discrimination continuing to occupy the space set out for them–

I properly sit here. There is nothing to criticize in my appearance. Is this a form of protest, that on this afternoon, it is mostly women who are here alone? That is why, as my laptop bleeped, announcing your message that you wish to come over, I didn’t open it? Time out. I will stage my protest first, my solidarity with my tribe.

(Artwork by Ami Lavadia, The Freehand)

Haw-ang


Usahay, ang mga labihang makapasubo nga sugilanon mao ang kadtong mga wala pa masulat. Ang kasayuran sa ilang pagtunhay anaa na dinha. Nagmirida na daan ang trahedya, ang langiob. Walay hinungdan o rason sa uban, dili maaninaw sa kadaghanan, apan sa usa ka sensitibo ngadto sa isig ka ingon, tinuoray kini sama sa mga luha nga sayod sila ilang ihilak sa umaabot. Sama kini ka tinuoray niining hulagway sa usa ka baroto nga walay sulod, daw haw-ang og kinabuhi, apan mikati og bukal sa luha, aron tubigan ang usa ka gisaw-an nga gugma.

Sometimes the saddest stories are the ones not written yet. The prescience of their existence is already there. A premonition of tragedy, of despair. Illogical to some, unimaginable for many, but to the empath, it is as real as the tears that they know they would shed later on. It as real as this photo of an empty boat, seemingly devoid of life, but triggering that very wellspring of tears, to water a shared love.

(Photo credits: Roxanne Doron, San Remegio, Cebu, May 2021)

Danggas

Niining alingi-ing nga kagabhion, samtang akong gisuta ang daw balaknon nga lenggwahe nga anaa sa akong selpon, abi nakong milabay ka. Wala koy antiyohos, mao nga kadiyot didto akong gipiyong-piyong ang akong mata ug gihandum nga ikaw gyud to.

Niining mainit nga kagabhion, sayon ra mutuo nga tunawon lang sa kainit ang katuigan ug kahilom taliwala kanato.

Apan milabay ra ang gutlo. Ug sa dihang mipahiyom ako sa akong higala, akong gipaminsar kun siya sama nako adunay gugma nga galakag gihapon kanamo bisan gibiyaan na namo kini sa hataas nga panahon.

Fever

On this sultry night, as I make sense of what almost seems to be language poetry on my phone, I thought I saw you passing by. I didn’t have my glasses on and for a while there I squinted and wished it was you.

On this summer night, it was easy to believe that the heat could melt away the years and the unsaid between us.

But the moment passes. And as I smile at my friend, I wonder if he like I has a love that haunts us long after we left it behind.

Marigondon – 4.14.21

Hulagway

Kaniadto, dili nako masabtan kun nganong moulbo dayon ang kaspa sa akong inahan sa dihang pangtangtangon namo sa ako igsuon ang mga kodak nga hiniposan niya sa mga photo album sukad sa among pagkatawo niining kalibutana. Nabalaka siya, sa among kadanghag ug kakimas, mangawagtang ang mga kini ug mahanaw sa among panumduman. Karon, dako ang akong pasalamat nga maayo mutipig ang akong mama og mga hulagway, sama niini nga gikuha sa among high school prom sa Cebu Provincial Capitol Social Hall. Hulagway sa pipila sa akong mga suod nga higala nga halos dekada na sukad nakahimamat nako sa personal. Makakurat apan, bisan karon, sa akong pagtan-aw niining hulagway, mahikapan gihapon nako ang kaning satin nako nga gown, mabati ang akong kasagmuyo nga sayop ang kolor sa stocking nga gipalit ni Mama ug kasuya sa gwapa kaayo nga gown sa akong bestfriend (nga adlawng natawhan diay karong adlawa). Unsa man ning kolora ha, honeysuckle, blush? Hay, makamingaw.

Back in the day, I didn’t understand why my mother raised hell whenever my brother and I took out the pictures from the photo albums that she kept of us ever since she brought us into the world. She worried that our clumsy and forgetful asses would lose them and along with them, our memories. Today, I am very thankful that my mom is hoarder extraordinaire of photos, like this one of our high school prom held at the Cebu Provincial Capitol Social Hall. A photo of my close friends whom I haven’t seen now in person for over a decade. It’s kind of jarring how, even now, I can feel this satin gown on my skin and feel exactly my chagrin at my mother buying the wrong colored stockings and the beautiful gown of my bestfriend (who’s celebrating her birthday today). What is this color, anyway? Honeysuckle, blush? Sigh. How nostalgic.

Kamingaw

balaknon ang kagabhion

buot niyang ipaabot ang mensahe

pinaagi sa katugnawon

nga milusot sa mga liki sa pultahan,

sarado man duna gihapo’y kaagian.

daw pulong nga gihunghong

ang mga kuyamoy sa tun-og

mikatap, mikuyanap, mitungtong

sa akong lawas ug sila miingon:

ang kainit dili gikan sa gawas

gikan kini sa dinha sa ilawom,

ug ipagawas gikan sa lawas

kun diin kini giluom.

apan, kun walay madawdaw

nga kainit gikan sa lawas

nga nagtunhay sa katugnaw,

mahimo na ba nga muhulam

og kainit sa kape nga gikutaw?

maam-aman kaha ang utok

nga naglutaw dinha sa awa-aw?

January 2021, Guadalupe, Cebu City

Kahigwaos

Niana nga hapon, mibati siya og kahigwaos, kalit lang. Mikunsad kaniya nga sama niadtong gabon nga iyang giobserbaran pila ka tuig na ang milabay sa usa ka hilit nga dapit sa amihanan. Namugnaw ang iyang panit og miusbong ang singot nga bungot sa ibabaw sa iyang ngabil. Apan giuhaw kaayo siya, ang iyang tutunlan diha-diha miuga nga daw basakan nga gibisita og hulaw. Gipaspasan niya ang iyang paglakaw, kumpas sa nagtagubtob nga dughan. Taud-taud, miabot siya sa utlanan. No trespassing. Private property. Apan unsay pribado? Unsay pagpanag-iya? Iyaha ba gyud ang iyang kahigwaos? O hinulaman sa kagahapon nga naglakag kaniya?

Anxiety

That afternoon, she felt uneasy, all of a sudden. It descended on her like that fog that she observed some years back in a remote place in the north. Her skin turned cold and a sweat-mustache grew above her lips. But she was so thirsty, her throat immediately parched like rice terraces visited by drought. She quickened her steps, in cadence with the clamoring in her chest. Soon enough, she reached the borderline. No trespassing. Private property. But what is private? What is property? Is her anxiety really hers? Or is it borrowed from the past that is haunting her?

October 2019: Baguio City

Pag-unong

Tingali duol sa kasingkasing sa bulan ang mga tawo nga nagmingaw ug nag-inusara. Sulayi og lakaw sa awa-aw nga lugar sa panahon nga daw gipas-an nimo ang kalibutan. Hangad sa langit, ug kun masuwertehan ka, wala siya gibukot-bukotan og dag-om. Tutoki lang siya ug taud-taud imong mabatyagan: ang iyang pag-unong. Kuyogan ka niya bisan asa pa man ka mahisuok. Muhunong siya kun kinahanglan nimo muhunong. Mamati sa kahilom kung gusto nimo isiyagit ang imong kasubo. Lamdagan niya ang imong dalan hangtud ikaw mahiuli, maulian.

Steadfastness

Maybe the moon has a soft spot for the lonely and solitary. Try walking in a deserted place at a time when you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders. Look up to the sky, and if you are lucky, she will not be obscured by gloom. Just stare at her, and soon it will be revealed to you: her steadfastness. She will accompany you to wherever you find yourself. She will halt when you will halt. She will listen in silence if you want to shout out your despair. She will light your path until you are home again, and yourself.

(for JA)

29 May 2018: Bokod, Benguet

Nalumos

Nagdahunog nga gianunsyo ang imong pag-abot

Ug ikaw mitagbo kanako nga nagkagubot gikan sa layo.

Akong gisugat ang imong gahum nga di masanta,

Nagtuo nga dili matarog ang akong mga tiil sa yuta.

Apan nahugno ko sa imong paglamba diha kanako

Ug gianod ko sa imong makusganong pwersa.

Nagkapuliki ko, nagpunga-punga

Naningkamot makabawi, gipangita ang yuta.

Apan nahanaw siya dungan sa akong kahingawa.

Bisan ang adlaw inanay nga nahanaw

Parat, nagtuyoktuyok, aliluyok sa akong mga mata.

September 2016: Surigao del Norte

Who Owns the Land?

A friend lamented how she couldn’t understand how “squatters” stubbornly refuse to move out of their communities. Another friend commented that “squatters” should know they should move out because it’s not their land to begin with, and they should not be choosy about relocation sites to boot. I didn’t reply to the (Facebook) thread because I don’t want my friend to be defensive on her own wall. Whatever their class consciousness or political orientation, I am always a civilized debater with friends or foes. But I cannot be silent on things that I feel passionately about. After all, it’s human rights and urban poor week!

I will divide this response to that post into three questions, which I will answer one by one.

1. Do we have a right to decent housing?

2. What are the factors that gave rise to “squatting”?

3. Who owns the land?

Okay, now. First off, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to decent shelter, a.k.a housing. Unless we aren’t humans, then this is a basic right. But apparently, government doesn’t think all of us are humans. The poor are subhumans except on election campaign period. Government chooses to overlook the fact that it is their duty and responsibility to ensure that EACH of their constituents has a decent life.  

Am I saying that government should ensure all squatters should have a house? Yes. EACH one of its constituents. No exemptions. No favorites. HUMAN RIGHT remember? 

Some sputter back: But, but, price for urban land is sky-high, government can’t afford it! So who sets the price in the first place? Who establishes how much land is worth and what it should be used for? Should it be used for malls and office buildings for capitalists to earn more money off the sweat and tears of the poor? Do you know that we have more malls than parks in urban areas in this country?!

But before I start on the evil consequences of mall-sprouting consumerism in the Philippines such as disappearing vistas and heavier solid waste generation, let me go to the second question. How did “squatters” come to be?

Let’s go back 300+ years for the answer. Historically, our country was an agriculture-based economy. But with colonialism, rural and agricultural lands started going to the wealthy and politically powerful. First it was the Spanish friars grabbing the land from the natives. Then came in the American capitalists who wanted to exploit our natural resources. Land is required to produce more capital. Land is required for mining, monocropping, and other capitalist ventures that milk out our people for more profits. Thus our people lost their rights to the land. 

After hundreds of years of feudal exploitation and capitalist glamorization of urban living, the rural folk dreamed of greener pastures in the cities. To their dismay, life was harder in the city. Again, more intensely, they realized that land still belonged to the rich. And life, from the countrysides to the cities, is hard for the poor. They still cannot claim the right to a decent life. Much more to own land of their own. So they squat. Get demolished. And if they protest, they get a bullet in the head. No, they aren’t victims. They’re criminals. Illegal settlers. The term “illegal” gives me goosebumps. But hell, unfortunately, there are people who own the land and the law protects them.

SO WHO OWNS THE LAND? The answer is obvious: THOSE WHO CAN AFFORD IT! Who dares to demolish and kill people to evict them from their ancestral lands? Those who can afford it!  Can the poor afford to contest this fact? No. They cant pay for lawyers and worse, they get killed to contest it. Hacienda Luisita. Zamboanga, Mindoro, Surigao commercial mining interests. What do they have in common? Capitalists who can AFFORD to kill protesters and PAINT BLACK whoever who opposes them! 

Seen from a sociological perspective, urban migration is a complicated phenomenon. It is influenced by economic, political, and psychological factors, which a truly humane and pro-people government should study with gravity. While its true that the urban poor DON’T own the land (which is questionable by itself considering that only 1% own the land in this country), resorting to demolition is, at the very least, a band-aid solution, and at the most, a violation of human rights. Provision of a relocation site is just a basic requirement. There are more: housing, livelihood, and accessibility to health and other social services. The poor is “choosy”? And why shouldn’t they be? When the relocations sites don’t take into consideration their livelihood opportunities?

Unfortunately, in a capitalist world order where the interests of the rich and powerful weigh heavier than gold that the poor can only dream about, it’s all about private property. At the economic level, makes me want to ask, with skewed distribution of wealth, can the poor buy land when they eat only once daily? At the political level, why is fighting for basic human rights answered by violence? At the species level, who gave humans the right to claim land as their own? Furthermore, what right to we have to assign values to land? To say which land is pricier than another? God or self-serving men? Lastly, who gave humans the right to denigrate their fellow human beings and label them as illegal settlers? How just is it for Filipinos to be called as “squatters” in their own land? 

I come from the upper middle class. My parents own land. But I denounce my claim to land that my family cannot work on. I denounce my claim to land that generates more income that we need to live comfortably. I denounce my class and the rest of the upper class’ claim to own land that we don’t till and yet still get the bulk of the income from.

Many of us are misled by the propaganda of the capitalists. We think that the poor are lazy. That farmer families who rush to the cities and become impoverished squatters are too lazy to till the land. Who wants to till the land when they only get a pittance for it? When they’ve been tilling it for generations and they still get a pittance for it? 

Meanwhile, the landowners stubbornly refuse to let go of their land or justly compensate their tenant farmers. They say that they PAID for their rights. LEGALLY. What a sham/e. 

I challenge all my readers, especially the youth, to read more. Read on land ownership in the Philippines. Overcome centuries of mind-conditioning against the poor. Unlearn. Let our lost generation find its way home to the earth and the masses. Our true and only home.