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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I am One of the Mountain People (Macario D. Tiu)

I did not want to go to Santa Barbara, but Ita Magdum forced me to go there. He wanted me to have a Christian education. He told me that he was not going to let me remain idle in the mountains, and consequently become as stupid as ignorant as the rest of his people. He said that I could learn many things from the Christian and in that way I could help improve the lot of the whole tribe.

I was then seven summers old and I didn’t understand what he was talking about. Although he made the prospect of going there very tempting, I refuse to go. Not even the trace of the three-storey school building, of running houses and plenty of food and toys convinced me that I should leave my home and my friends for Santa Barbara. And so Ita had to beat me to make me go with him to the Christian town.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Dog Eaters ( Leoncio P. Deriada)

Mariana looked out of the window toward the other side of Artiaga Street. A group of men had gathered around a low table in front of Sergio's sari-sari store. It was ten o'clock, Tuesday morning. Yet these men did not find it too early to drink, and worse. They wanted her husband to be with them. Victor was now reaching for his shirt hooked on the wall between Nora Aunor and Vilma Santos. Mariana turned to him, her eyes wild in repulsion and anger.
"Those filthy men!" she snarled. "Whose dog did they slaughter today?"
Victor did not answer. He put on his shirt. Presently, he crawled on the floor and searched for his slippers under the table. Mariana watched him strain his body toward the wall, among the rattan tools. He looked like a dog tracking the smell hidden carrion.
"My God, Victor, do you have to join them every time they stew somebody's pet?"
Victor found his slippers. He emerged from under the table, smoothed his pants and unbutton his shirt. He was sweating. He looked at his wife and smiled faintly, the expression sarcastic, and in an attempt to be funny, "it's barbecue today."
"I'm not in the mood for jokes!" Mariana raised her voice. "It's time you stop going with those good-for-nothing scavengers."

Querida (Angela Manalang Gloria)

The door is closed, the curtains drawn within
One room, a brilliant question mark of light...
Outside her gate an empty limousine
Waits in the brimming emptiness of night.
Old Maid Walking on a City Street* (1950)

She had a way of walking through concupiscence
And past the graces her fingers never twirled:
Because her mind refused the heavy burden,
Her broad feet shovelled up the world.

To the Man I Married (Angela Manalang Gloria)

You are my earth and all the earth implies:
The gravity that ballasts me in space,
The air I breathe, the land that stills my cries
For food and shelter against devouring days.
You are the eart whose orbit marks my way
And sets my north and south, my east and west,
You are the final, elemented clay
The driven heart must turn to for its rest.

If in your arms that hold me now so near
I lift my keening thoughts to Helicon
As trees long rooted to the eart uprear
Their quickening leaves and flowers to the sun,
You who are earth, O never doubt that I
Need you no less because I need the sky!

Revolt from Hymen (Angela Manalang Gloria)

O to be free at last, to sleep at last
As infants sleep within the womb of rest!

To stir and stirring find no blackness vast
With passion weighted down upon the breast,

To turn the face this way and that and feel
No kisses festering on it like sores,

To be alone at last, broken the seal
That marks the flesh no better than a whore's!

Change (Angela Manalang Gloria)

I have outgrown them all, and one by one,
These loves I took so mightily to heart
Before you came: the dolls that overran
My childhood hours and taught me fairy art;
The books I ravished by the censored score;
Music that like delirium burned my days;
The golden calf I fashioned to adore
When lately I forsook the golden phrase.

And thus I shall outgrow this love for you.
Sooner or later I shall put away
This jewelled ecstasy for something new.
Brand me not fickle on that fatal day:
Bereft of change that is my drink and bread,
I would not love you now. I would be dead.

Monday, April 4, 2011

May Day Eve (Nick Joaquin)

The old people had ordered that the dancing should stop at ten o’clock but it was almost midnight before the carriages came filing up the departing guests, while the girls who were staying were promptly herded upstairs to the bedrooms, the young men gathering around to wish them a good night and lamenting their ascent with mock signs and moaning, proclaiming themselves disconsolate but straightway going off to finish the punch and the brandy though they were quite drunk already and simply bursting with wild spirits, merriment, arrogance and audacity, for they were young bucks newly arrived from Europe; the ball had been in their honor; and they had waltzed and polka-ed and bragged and swaggered and flirted all night and where in no mood to sleep yet--no, caramba, not on this moist tropic eve! not on this mystic May eve! --with the night still young and so seductive that it was madness not to go out, not to go forth---and serenade the neighbors! cried one; and swim in the Pasid! cried another; and gather fireflies! cried a third—whereupon there arose a great clamor for coats and capes, for hats and canes, and they were a couple of street-lamps flickered and a last carriage rattled away upon the cobbles while the blind black houses muttered hush-hush, their tile roofs looming like sinister chessboards against a wile sky murky with clouds, save where an evil young moon prowled about in a corner or where a murderous wind whirled, whistling and whining, smelling now of the sea and now of the summer orchards and wafting unbearable childhood fragrances or ripe guavas to the young men trooping so uproariously down the street that the girls who were desiring upstairs in the bedrooms catered screaming to the windows, crowded giggling at the windows, but were soon sighing amorously over those young men bawling below; over those wicked young men and their handsome apparel, their proud flashing eyes, and their elegant mustaches so black and vivid in the moonlight that the girls were quite ravished with love, and began crying to one another how carefree were men but how awful to be a girl and what a horrid, horrid world it was, till old Anastasia plucked them off by the ear or the pigtail and chases them off to bed---while from up the street came the clackety-clack of the watchman’s boots on the cobble and the clang-clang of his lantern against his knee, and the mighty roll of his great voice booming through the night, "Guardia serno-o-o! A las doce han dado-o-o.

Kumintang (isang epiko ng mga Tagalog)

from Panulaang Tagalog, 1947 by Inigo Ed.
Regalado-Manila: Institute of National Language

Ang nuno nating lahat,
Sa ukulog, di nasindak
Sa labanan, di naawat
Pinuhunan ang buhay, hirap
Upang tayong mga anak
Mabuhay ng mapanatag.
Itong ating kabukiran
Sampung bahay at tahanan,
Ibig nilang kuning tunay,
Maagaw sa ating kamay
Tayo baga'y mag asal
Gayong buhay tila patay?
Halina nga at usigin
Ang aliktiya, mga bukirin
At ang mga anak natin:
Tayo naman may patalim,
Dugo't buhay puhunanin.
Aba tayo kung wala na
Ang tirahang maligaya,
Pati anak at asawa
Mananaghoy, magdurusa;
Kaya ngayon, ay tayo na,
At ang buhay ay ipara.

Ang Pagiging Bakla ay Pagkabayubay rin sa Krus ng Kalbaryo

(an anthology of gay poetry)
by Rolando A. Bernales

It's hard to be gay,
When you're gay.

Ang pagiging bakla ay habambuhay
Na pagkabayubay sa krus ng kalbaryo.
Papasanin mo ang krus sa iyong balikat
Habang ngalalakad sa kung saan- saang lansangan.
Di laging sementado o aspaltado ang daan,
Madalas ay mabato, maputik o masukal.
Mapalad kung walang magpupukol ng bato o
Mangangahas na bumulalas ng pangungutya.
Kailangang tiisin ang matatalas na sulyap
O bulung- bulungan at matutunog na halakhak.
Di kaialangang lumingon pa, di sila dapat kilalanin
Sapagkat sila'y iba't ibang mukha: bata, matanda
Lalaki, babae, ina, ama, anak o kapatid, mayaman o mahirap,
kilala o di kilala.
Sinong pipigil sa kanila? hindi ikaw
Anong lakas meron ka upang tumutol?
Makapaghihimagsik ka pa ba kung ang iyong palad
At ang iyong paa'y ipinako na ng lipunan
Sa likong kultura't tradisyon at bulok na paniniwalang
Nagdidiktang ang pagiging bakla ay isang kasalanan
Na nararapat na pagdusahan sa krus ng kalbaryo
Kahit na ika'y magpumilit na magpakarangal?!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Rice by Manuel E. Arguilla

Slowly, Pablo unhitched the carabao from the empty sled. He laid a horny palm on the back of the tired animal; the thick; coarse-haired skin was warm and dry like sun heated earth. The carabao by quietly, licking with its dark colored tongue and beads of moisture that hung on the stiff hairs around its nostrils. Dropping the yoke inside the sled, Pablo led the beast to a young tamarind tree almost as high as nipa hut beside it. A bundle of fresh green zacate lay under the tree and the carabao began to feed upon it hungrily. Pablo watched the animal a moment, half listening to its snuffling as it buried its mouth in the sweet-smelling zacate. A sudden weakness came upon him and black spots whirled before his eyes. He felt so hungry he could have gone down on his knees beside the carabao and chewed the grass.

My Last Farewell (Jose Rizal)

Farewell, dear Fatherland, clime of the sun caress'd,
Pearl of the Orient seas, our Eden lost!
Gladly now I go to give thee this faded life's best,
And were it brighter, fresher, or more blest,
Still would I give it thee, nor count the cost.

On the field of battle, 'mid the frenzy of fight,
Others have given their lives, without doubt or heed;
The place matters not--cypress or laurel or lily white,
Scaffold of open plain, combat or martyrdom's plight,
'Tis ever the same, to serve our home and country's need.

I die just when I see the dawn break,
Through the gloom of night, to herald the day;
And if color is lacking my blood thou shalt take,
Pour'd out at need for thy dear sake,
To dye with its crimson the waking ray.

My dreams, when life first opened to me,
My dreams, when the hopes of youth beat high,
Were to see thy lov'd face, O gem of the Orient sea,
From gloom and grief, from care and sorrow free;
No blush on thy brow, no tear in thine eye

Dream of my life, my living and burning desire,
All hail! cries the soul that is now to take flight;
All hail! And sweet it is for thee to expire;
To die for thy sake, that thou mayst aspire;
And sleep in thy bosom eternity's long night.

If over my grave some day thou seest grow,
In the grassy sod, a humble flower,
Draw it to thy lips and kiss my soul so,
While I may feel on my brow in the cold tomb below
The touch of thy tenderness, thy breath's warm power.

Let the moon beam over me soft and serene,
Let the dawn shed over me its radiant flashes,
Let the wind with sad lament over me keen;
And if on my cross a bird should be seen,
Let it trill there its hymn of peace to my ashes.

Let the sun draw the vapors up to the sky,
And heavenward in purity bear my tardy protest;
Let some kind soul o'er my untimely fate sigh,
And in the still evening a prayer be lifted on high
From thee, O my country, that in God I may rest.

Pray for all those that hapless have died,
For all who have suffered the unmeasur'd pain;
For our mothers that bitterly their woes have cried,
For widows and orphans, for captives by torture tried;
And then for thyself that redemption thou mayst gain.

And when the dark night wraps the graveyard around,
With only the dead in their vigil to see;
Break not my repose or the mystery profound,
And perchance thou mayst hear a sad hymn resound;
'Tis I, O my country, raising a song unto thee.

When even my grave is remembered no more,
Unmark'd by never a cross nor a stone;
Let the plow sweep through it, the spade turn it o'er,
That my ashes may carpet thy earthly floor,
Before into nothingness at last they are blown.

Then will oblivion bring to me no care,
As over thy vales and plains I sweep;
Throbbing and cleansed in thy space and air,
With color and light, with song and lament I fare,
Ever repeating the faith that I keep.

My Fatherland ador'd, that sadness to my sorrow lends,
Beloved Filipinas, hear now my last good-by!
I give thee all: parents and kindred and friends;
For I go where no slave before the oppressor bends,
Where faith can never kill, and God reigns e'er on high!

Farewell to you all, from my soul torn away,
Friends of my childhood in the home dispossessed!
Give thanks that I rest from the wearisome day!
Farewell to thee, too, sweet friend that lightened my way;
Beloved creatures all, farewell! In death there is rest!

Servant Girl (Estrella D. Alfon)

Rosa was scrubbing the clothes she was washing slowly. Alone in the washroom of her mistress’ house she could hear the laughter of women washing clothes in the public bathhouse from which she was separated by only a thin wall. She would have liked to be there with the other women to take part in their jokes and their laughter and their merry gossiping, but they paid a centavo for every piece of soiled linen they brought there to wash and her mistress wanted to save this money.
A pin she had failed to remove from a dress sank its point deep into her fin­ger. She cried to herself in surprise and squeezed the finger until the blood came out. She watched the bright red drop fall into the suds of soap and looked in delight at its gradual mingling into the whiteness. Her mistress came upon her thus and, shouting at her, startled her into busily rubbing while she tried not to listen to the scolding words.
When her mistress left her, she fell to doing her work slowly again, and sometimes she paused to listen to the talk in the bathhouse behind her. A little later her mistress’ shrill voice told her to go to the bathhouse for drinking water. Eagerly wiping her hands on her wet wrap, she took the can from the kitchen table and went out quickly.

Clay (Juan T. Gatbonbon)

It was beginning to get light when I awoke. Feeling the bamboo slats of the floor hard against my back through the mat, I looked up to where the bamboo rafters made light lines against the darker shade of the nipa roofing. Outside, a square of brightening sky was framed by the open window. Afraid Clay would be waiting, I got up, rolled the mat and walked to the kitchen to wash my face. Coming out into the open kitchen, I felt the wind: cold, sharp when I breathed too deeply. A light mist made the other houses gray and indistinct. The split bamboos that made up the kitchen floor were moist and the water in the earthen jar that stood near the stairs was like ice. The water was numbing to the hands and made the skin of my face tighten. I brushed my arms across my face and walked to the stove. The pot held rice left over from supper; although the barracks were only a few minutes’ run, I did not stop to eat. I went down the steps, the rungs wet and cold under my bare feet, and ran out through the still-dark street towards the barracks. The army camp was on the east side of the main street, a few houses away from the river. Clay would probably be sitting on the rail bamboo rungs nailed parallel on upright wooden posts that fenced the camp, his long legs swinging, the tips of his boots almost touching the ground, one big hand holding on to the rail and the other waving, his voice ringing: “Hey Kid!” as I came near.

Lines (Lakambini A. Sitoy)

SHE lived alone, she told me, in an apartment that could house a family of four. To fill the silence, the first thing she did as soon as she had settled in was get a phone.

"Yeah, me too," I said. "I had a second one installed a couple of months ago. Problem is every time it rings it's some asshole looking for a phone pal."

The company was a new one, eager to sign on subscribers. Brand new black wires now webbed the skies across the city. Strangers who had waited decades to get connected suddenly had unlimited access, to me as well as her.

And If the Heart Can Not Love (Jose Garcia Villa)

And if the heart can not love
death can not cure it nor sleep
no splendor of wound the heart
had no sound

Bloom has escaped it and
birth the miraculous flower
and music and speech leave
it unbewitched

God it can not spell nor sun
nor lover the beautiful word
and it has no sound no sound
nor wound

The Monkey and the Turtle (Bilaan Version)

One morning, a monkey and a turtle who were close friends talked about their situation. After a while, the monkey said, Let's go to the forest and make a trap for wild pigs." The turtle agreed. When they came upon a dakit tree, they saw the tracks of wild pigs. "Let's make a trap here." said the turtle, pointing to a base of the tree.

"No, let's make one trap up the tree because pigs go there and gather fruit," said the monkey.

"No, let's stay down here because the tracks are here."

"All right, you make your trap here while I make one up the tree."

So the monkey and the turtle went their separate ways. After setting their traps, the monkey said, "Let's return after two days. Wild pig should be here by then."

But the day after the traps were laid, the monkey went back to the dakit tree by himself. The turtle's trap had a pig, his has a bird. The turtle was right. To save face, the monkey brought the pig from the turtle's trap to his own and replaced it with the bird caught in his.

The Monkey and the Turtle

A monkey, looking very sad and dejected, was walking along the bank of the river one day when he met a turtle.

“How are you?” asked the turtle, noticing that he looked sad.

The monkey replied, “Oh, my friend, I am very hungry. The squash of Mr. Farmer were all taken by the other monkeys, and now I am about to die from want of food.”

“Do not be discouraged,” said the turtle; “take a bolo and follow me and we will steal some banana plants.”

So they walked along together until they found some nice plants which they dug up, and then they looked for a place to set them. Finally the monkey climbed a tree and planted his in it, but as the turtle could not climb he dug a hole in the ground and set his there.

The Legend of Mount Kanlaon

There once lived on the island of Negros a princess named Anina who lived a very sheltered life.

One day, Anina overheard her father talking to the kingdom's chief priestess. The priestess was frantic about a report that they could not find a single maiden who was unblemished.

Later, Anina asked her father what it was all about, and the king finally broke down. There had long been a seven-headed dragon threatening the kingdom, and the monster could only be appeased if an unblemished maiden was sacrificed to it.

In fear, all the women in the kingdom had cut themselves to disqualify themselves from the sacrifice. Parents cut their own baby girls so as to spare the infants from the sacrifice. But the king and the queen couldn't bring themselves to mar their daughter's beauty, and so Anina was the only remaining unscarred female in the kingdom.

Anina did not weep. Instead, she willingly offered herself for the sacrifice. Fortuitously, on the day she was to be brought to the mountain where the dragon lived, a man calling himself Khan Laon appeared. (Khan in his language meant a noble lord.) He said he came from a kingdom far away in order to slay the dragon and spare Anina's life.

No one believed the dragon could be killed, but Khan Laon insisted that his ability to talk to animals would help him. He asked the help of the ants, the bees and the eagles.

The ants swarmed over the dragon's body and crept under its scales to bite its soft, unprotected flesh, while the bees stung the fourteen eyes of the dragon till it was blind. The largest eagle carried Khan Laon to the mountain where he was able to easily chop off the seven heads of the writhing beast.

In gratitude, the king gave Khan Laon his daughter Anina to be his bride, and the people named the mountain after the noble lord.

And that is how, according to the story, Mount Kanlaon got its name. That it is a volcano is because of the spirt of the dead dragon.

Morning in Nagrebcan (Manuel E. Arguilla)

It was sunrise at Nagrebcan. The fine, bluish mist, low over the tobacco fields, was lifting and thinning moment by moment. A ragged strip of mist, pulled away by the morning breeze, had caught on the c umps of bamboo along the banks of the stream that flowed to one side of the barrio. Before long the sun would top the Katayaghan hills, but as yet no people were around. In the grey shadow of the hills, the barrio was gradually awaking. Roosters crowed and strutted on the ground while hens hesitated on their perches among the branches of the camanchile trees. Stray goats nibbled· the weeds on the sides of the road, and the bull carabaos tugged restively against their stakes. In the early morning the puppies lay curled up together between their mother’s paws under the ladder of the house. Four puppies were all white like the mother. They had pink noses and pink eyelids and pink mouths. The skin between their toes and on the inside of their large, limp ears was pink.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Midsummer (Manuel E. Arguilla)

He pulled down his hat until the wide brim touched his shoulders. He crouched lower under the cover of his cart and peered ahead. The road seemed to writhe under the lash of the noon-day heat; it swum from side to side, humped and bent itself like a feeling serpent, and disappeared behind the spur of a low hill on which grew a scrawny thicket of bamboo.

There was not a house in sight. Along the left side of the road ran the deep, dry gorge of a stream, the banks sparsely covered by sun-burned cogon grass. In places, the rocky, waterless bed showed aridly. Farther, beyond the shimmer of quivering heat waves rose ancient hills not less blue than the cloud-palisaded sky. On the right stretched a land waste of low rolling dunes. Scattered clumps of hardy ledda relieved the otherwise barren monotony of the landscape. Far away he could discern a thin indigo line that was the sea.

Legend of Hundred Islands

Centuries ago before the coming of the Spaniards to the Philippines, there was a brave rajah who ruled over the people of Alaminos, Rajah Masubeg. He had several hundred warriors to guard his kingdom, led by his son Dam Mabiskeg. The little kingdom enjoyed peace and prosperity, unmolested by its neighbors.

But one day, a report came that an invading force was coming from across the sea. The rajah called a council of war among his chieftains. It was decided to meet the enemy at sea. They must not be allowed to land. One hundred of the bravest warriors was summoned. They were placed in ten large bancas, armed to the teeth. Datu Mabiskeg, in the lead banca, commanded the task force.

The Visitation of the Gods (Gilda Cordero-Fernando)

The letter announcing the visitation (a yearly descent upon the school by the superintendent, the district supervisors and the division supervisors for "purposes of inspection and evaluation") had been delivered in the morning by a sleepy janitor to the principal. The party was, the attached circular revealed a hurried glance, now at Pagkabuhay, would be in Mapili by lunchtime, and barring typhoons, floods, volcanic eruptions and other acts of God, would be upon Pugad Lawin by afternoon.

Consequently, after the first period, all the morning classes were dismissed. The Home Economics building, where the fourteen visiting school officials were to be housed, became the hub of a general cleaning. Long-handled brooms ravished the homes of peaceful spiders from cross beams and transoms, the capiz of the windows were scrubbed to an eggshell whiteness, and the floors became mirrors after assiduous bouts with husk and candlewax. Open wood boxes of Coronaslar gas were scattered within convenient reach of the carved sofa, the Vienna chairs and the stag-horn hat rack.

Magnificence (Estrella D. Alfon)

There was nothing to fear, for the man was always so gentle, so
kind. At night when the little girl and her brother were bathed in the light
of the big shaded bulb that hung over the big study table in the
downstairs hall, the man would knock gently on the door, and come in. he
would stand for a while just beyond the pool of light, his feet in the circle
of illumination, the rest of him in shadow. The little girl and her brother
would look up at him where they sat at the big table, their eyes bright in
the bright light, and watch him come fully into the light, but his voice soft,
his manner slow. He would smell very faintly of sweat and pomade, but
the children didn’t mind although they did notice, for they waited for him
every evening as they sat at their lessons like this. He’d throw his visored
cap on the table, and it would fall down with a soft plop, then he’d nod his
head to say one was right, or shake it to say one was wrong.

Footnote to Youth (Jose Garcia Villa)

The sun was salmon and hazy in the west. Dodong thought to himself he would tell his father about Teang when he got home, after he had unhitched the carabao from the plow, and let it to its shed and fed it. He was hesitant about saying it, but he wanted his father to know. What he had to say was of serious import as it would mark a climacteric in his life. Dodong finally decided to tell it, at a thought came to him his father might refuse to consider it. His father was silent hard-working farmer who chewed areca nut, which he had learned to do from his mother, Dodong's grandmother.

I will tell it to him. I will tell it to him.

The ground was broken up into many fresh wounds and fragrant with a sweetish earthy smell. Many slender soft worms emerged from the furrows and then burrowed again deeper into the soil. A short colorless worm marched blindly to Dodong's foot and crawled calmly over it. Dodong go tickled and jerked his foot, flinging the worm into the air. Dodong did not bother to look where it fell, but thought of his age, seventeen, and he said to himself he was not young any more.

College Uneducation (Jorge Bocobo)

I wish to speak on “College Uneducation.” Is it possible that our college education may “uneducate” rather than educate? I answer “Yes.” It is a paradox but nonetheless the truth—the grim, unmerciful truth. We all believe in higher education; else we should not be in the University. At the same time, college education—like all other human devices for human betterment—may build or destroy, lead, or mislead.

My ten years’ humble service in the University of the Philippines has afforded me an opportunity to watch the current of ideals and practices of our student body. In some aspects of higher education, most of our students have measured up to their high responsibilities. But in other features—alas, vital ones!—the thoughts and actions of many of them tend to stunt the mind, dry up the heart, and quench the soul. These students are being uneducated in college. I shall briefly discuss three ways in which many of our students are getting college uneducation, for which they pay tuition fees and make unnumbered sacrifices.

Book Worship

In the first place, there is the all but delirious worship of the printed page. “What does the book say?” is, by all odds, the most important question in the student’s mind whenever he is faced with any problem calling for his own reasoning. By the same token, may students feel a sort of frenzy for facts till these become as huge as the mountains and the mind is crushed under them. Those students think of nothing but how to accumulate data; hence, their capacity for clear and powerful thinking is paralyzed. How pathetic to hear them argue and discuss! Because they lack the native vitality of unhampered reason, their discourse smacks of cant and sophistry rather than of healthy reasoning and straight thinking.

It is thus that many of our students surrender their individuality to the textbook and lose their birthright—which is to think for themselves. And when they attempt to form their own judgment, they become pedantic. Unless a student develops the habit of independent and sound reasoning, his college education is a solemn sham.

Compare these hair-splitting college students with Juan de la Cruz in the barrios. Now, Juan de la Cruz has read very little: no undigested mass of learning dulls the edge of his inborn logic, his mind is free from the overwhelming, stultifying weight of unassimilated book knowledge. How penetrating his perception, how unerring his judgment, how solid his common sense! He contemptuously refers to the learned sophists, thus: ”Lumabis ang karunungan mo,” which means, “Your learning is too much.”

Professional Philistinism

The second manner of college uneducation that I want to speak of is this: most students make professional efficiency the be-all and end-all of college education. They have set their hearts upon becoming highly trained lawyers, doctors, engineers, teachers, and agriculturists. I shall not stop to inquire into the question of how much blame should be laid at the door of the faculties of the University for this pernicious drift toward undue and excessive specialization. That such a tendency exists is undeniable, but we never pause to count, the cost! We are all of one mind: I believe that college education is nothing unless it widens a man’s vision, broadens his sympathies, and leads him to higher thinking and deep feeling. Yet how can we expect a; this result from a state of affairs which reduces a law student to a code, a prospective doctor to a prescription, and a would-be engineer to a mathematical formula? How many students in our professional colleges are doing any systematic reading in literature? May we not, indeed, seriously ask whether this fetish of specialization does not smother the inspiring sense of beauty and the ennobling love of finer things that our students have it in them to unfold into full-blown magnificence.

The Jading Dullness of Modern Life

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever,””says Keats. But we know that beauty us a matter of taste; and, unless we develop in us a proper appreciation of what is beautiful and sublime, everything around us is tedious and commonplace. We rise early and go out into, but our spirit is responsive to the hopeful quietude and the dew-chastened sweetness of dawn. At night we behold the myriad stars, but they are just so many bright specks—their soft fires do not soothe our troubled hearts, and we do not experience that awesome, soul stirring fascination of the immense ties of God’s universe. We are bathed in the silver sheen of the moon and yet feel not the beatitude of the moment. We gaze upon a vista of high mountains, but their silent strength has no appeal for us. We read some undying verses; still, their vibrant cadence does not thrill us, and their transcendent though is to us like a vision that vanishes. We look at a masterpiece of the chisel with its eternal gracefulness of lines and properties, yet to us it is no more than a mere human likeness. Tell me, is such a life worth coming to college for? Yet, my friends, the overspecialization which many students pursue with zeal and devotion is bound to result in such an unfeeling, dry-as-dust existence.



I may say in passing that the education of the older generation is in this respect far superior to ours. Our older countrymen say, with reason, that the new education does not lawfully cultivate the heart as the old education did.

Misguided Zeal

Lastly, this selfsame rage for highly specialized training, with a view to distinguished professional success, beclouds our vision of the broader perspectives of life. Our philosophy of life is in danger of becoming narrow and mean because we are habituated to think almost wholly in terms of material wellbeing. Of course we must be practical. We cannot adequately answer this tremendous question unless we thoughtfully develop a proper sense of values and thus learn to separate the dross from the gold, the chaff from the grain of life. The time to do this task is not after but before college graduation; for, when all is said and done, the sum and substance of higher education is the individual formulation of what life is for, with special training in some advanced line of human learning in order that such a life formula may be executed with the utmost effectiveness. But how can we lay down the terms of our philosophy of life if every one of our thoughts is absorbed by the daily assignment, the outside reading, and the laboratory experiment, and when we continuously devour lectures and notes?

“Uneducated” Juan de la Cruz as Teacher

Here, again, many of our students should sit at the feet of meagrely educated Juan de la Cruz and learn wisdom. Ah! He is often called ignorant, but he is the wisest of the wise, for he has unravelled the mysteries of life. His is the happiness of the man who knows the whys of human existence. Unassuming Juan de la Cruz cherishes no “Vaulting ambition which o’erleaps itself.” His simple and hardy virtues put to shame the studied and complex rules of conduct of highly educated men and women. In adversity, his stoicism is beyond encomium. His love of home, so guilelessly faithful, is the firm foundation of our social structure. And his patriotism has been tested and found true. Can our students learn from Juan de la Cruz, or does their college education unfit them to become his pupils?

In conclusion, I shall say that I have observed among many of our students certain alarming signs of college uneducation, and some of these are: (1) lack of independent judgment as well as love of pedantry, because of the worship of the printed page and the feverish accumulation of undigested data;

(2) the deadening of the delicate sense of the beautiful and the sublime, on account of overspecialization; and (3) neglect of the formulation of a sound philosophy of life as a result of excessive emphasis on professional training.

The Small Key (Paz M. Latorena)

It was very warm. The sun, up above a sky that was blue and tremendous and beckoning to birds ever on the wing, shone bright as if determined to scorch everything under heaven, even the low, square nipa house that stood in an unashamed relief against the gray-green haze of grass and leaves.

It was lonely dwelling located far from its neighbors, which were huddled close to one another as if for mutual comfort. It was flanked on both sides by tall, slender bamboo tree which rustled plaintively under a gentle wind.

On the porch a woman past her early twenties stood regarding the scene before her with eyes made incurious by its familiarity. All around her the land stretched endlessly, it seemed, and vanished into the distance. There were dark, newly plowed furrows where in due time timorous seedling would give rise to sturdy stalks and golden grain, to a rippling yellow sea in the wind and sun during harvest time. Promise of plenty and reward for hard toil! With a sigh of discontent, however, the woman turned and entered a small dining room where a man sat over a belated a midday meal.

Pedro Buhay, a prosperous farmer, looked up from his plate and smiled at his wife as she stood framed by the doorway, the sunlight glinting on her dark hair, which was drawn back, without relenting wave, from a rather prominent and austere brow.

“Where are the shirts I ironed yesterday?” she asked as she approached the table.

“In my trunk, I think,” he answered.

“Some of them need darning,” and observing the empty plate, she added, “do you want some more rice?”

“No,” hastily, “I am in a burry to get back. We must finish plowing the south field today because tomorrow is Sunday.”

Pedro pushed the chair back and stood up. Soledad began to pile the dirty dishes one on top of the other.

“Here is the key to my trunk.” From the pocket of his khaki coat he pulled a string of non descript red which held together a big shiny key and another small, rather rusty looking one.

With deliberate care he untied the knot and, detaching the big key, dropped the small one back into his pocket. She watched him fixedly as he did this. The smile left her face and a strange look came into her eyes as she took the big key from him without a word. Together they left the dining room.

Out of the porch he put an arm around her shoulders and peered into her shadowed face.

“You look pale and tired,” he remarked softly. “What have you been doing all morning?”

“Nothing,” she said listlessly. “But the heat gives me a headache.”

“Then lie down and try to sleep while I am gone.” For a moment they looked deep into each other’s eyes.

“It is really warm,” he continued. “I think I will take off my coat.”

He removed the garment absent mindedly and handed it to her. The stairs creaked under his weight as he went down.

“Choleng,” he turned his head as he opened the gate, “I shall pass by Tia Maria’s house and tell her to come. I may not return before dark.”

Soledad nodded. Her eyes followed her husband down the road, noting the fine set of his head and shoulders, the case of his stride. A strange ache rose in her throat.

She looked at the coat he had handed to her. It exuded a faint smell of his favorite cigars, one of which he invariably smoked, after the day’s work, on his way home from the fields. Mechanically, she began to fold the garment.

As she was doing so, s small object fell from the floor with a dull, metallic sound. Soledad stooped down to pick it up. It was the small key! She stared at it in her palm as if she had never seen it before. Her mouth was tightly drawn and for a while she looked almost old.

She passed into the small bedroom and tossed the coat carelessly on the back of a chair. She opened the window and the early afternoon sunshine flooded in. On a mat spread on the bamboo floor were some newly washed garments.

She began to fold them one by one in feverish haste, as if seeking in the task of the moment in refuge from painful thoughts. But her eyes moved restlessly around the room until they rested almost furtively on a small trunk that was half concealed by a rolled mat in a dark corner.

It was a small old trunk, without anything on the outside that might arouse one’s curiosity. But it held the things she had come to hate with unreasoning violence, the things that were causing her so much unnecessary anguish and pain and threatened to destroy all that was most beautiful between her and her husband!

Soledad came across a torn garment. She threaded a needle, but after a few uneven stitches she pricked her finger and a crimson drop stained the white garment. Then she saw she had been mending on the wrong side.

“What is the matter with me?” she asked herself aloud as she pulled the thread with nervous and impatient fingers.

What did it matter if her husband chose to keep the clothes of his first wife?



“She is dead anyhow. She is dead,” she repeated to herself over and over again.

The sound of her own voice calmed her. She tried to thread the needle once more. But she could not, not for the tears had come unbidden and completely blinded her.

“My God,” she cried with a sob, “make me forget Indo’s face as he put the small key back into his pocket.”

She brushed her tears with the sleeves of her camisa and abruptly stood up. The heat was stifling, and the silence in the house was beginning to be unendurable.

She looked out of the window. She wondered what was keeping Tia Maria. Perhaps Pedro had forgotten to pass by her house in his hurry. She could picture him out there in the south field gazing far and wide at the newly plowed land with no thought in his mind but of work, work. For to the people of the barrio whose patron saint, San Isidro Labrador, smiled on them with benign eyes from his crude altar in the little chapel up the hill, this season was a prolonged hour during which they were blind and dead to everything but the demands of the land.

During the next half hour Soledad wandered in and out of the rooms in effort to seek escape from her own thoughts and to fight down an overpowering impulse. If Tia Maria would only come and talk to her to divert her thoughts to other channels!

But the expression on her husband’s face as he put the small key back into his pocket kept torturing her like a nightmare, goading beyond endurance. Then, with all resistance to the impulse gone, she was kneeling before the small trunk. With the long drawn breath she inserted the small key. There was an unpleasant metallic sound, for the key had not been used for a long time and it was rusty.

That evening Pedro Buhay hurried home with the usual cigar dangling from his mouth, pleased with himself and the tenants because the work in the south field had been finished. Tia Maria met him at the gate and told him that Soledad was in bed with a fever.

“I shall go to town and bring Doctor Santos,” he decided, his cool hand on his wife’s brow.

Soledad opened her eyes.

“Don’t, Indo,” she begged with a vague terror in her eyes which he took for anxiety for him because the town was pretty far and the road was dark and deserted by that hour of the night. “I shall be alright tomorrow.”

Pedro returned an hour later, very tired and very worried. The doctor was not at home but his wife had promised to give him Pedro’s message as soon as he came in.

Tia Maria decide to remain for the night. But it was Pedro who stayed up to watch the sick woman. He was puzzled and worried – more than he cared to admit it. It was true that Soledad did not looked very well early that afternoon. Yet, he thought, the fever was rather sudden. He was afraid it might be a symptom of a serious illness.

Soledad was restless the whole night. She tossed from one side to another, but toward morning she fell into some sort of troubled sleep. Pedro then lay down to snatch a few winks.

He woke up to find the soft morning sunshine streaming through the half-open window. He got up without making any noise. His wife was still asleep and now breathing evenly. A sudden rush of tenderness came over him at the sight of her – so slight, so frail.

Tia Maria was nowhere to be seen, but that did not bother him, for it was Sunday and the work in the south field was finished. However, he missed the pleasant aroma which came from the kitchen every time he had awakened early in the morning.

The kitchen was neat but cheerless, and an immediate search for wood brought no results. So shouldering an ax, Pedro descended the rickety stairs that led to the backyard.

The morning was clear and the breeze soft and cool. Pedro took in a deep breath of air. It was good – it smelt of trees, of the ricefields, of the land he loved.

He found a pile of logs under the young mango tree near the house and began to chop. He swung the ax with rapid clean sweeps, enjoying the feel of the smooth wooden handle in his palms.

As he stopped for a while to mop his brow, his eyes caught the remnants of a smudge that had been built in the backyard.

“Ah!” he muttered to himself. “She swept the yard yesterday after I left her. That, coupled with the heat, must have given her a headache and then the fever.”

The morning breeze stirred the ashes and a piece of white cloth fluttered into view.

Pedro dropped his ax. It was a half-burn panuelo. Somebody had been burning clothes. He examined the slightly ruined garment closely. A puzzled expression came into his eyes. First it was doubt groping for truth, then amazement, and finally agonized incredulity passed across his face. He almost ran back to the house. In three strides he was upstairs. He found his coat hanging from the back of a chair.

Cautiously he entered the room. The heavy breathing of his wife told him that she was still asleep. As he stood by the small trunk, a vague distaste to open it assailed to him. Surely he must be mistaken. She could not have done it, she could not have been that… that foolish.

Resolutely he opened the trunk. It was empty.

It was nearly noon when the doctor arrived. He felt Soledad’s pulse and asked question which she answered in monosyllables. Pedro stood by listening to the whole procedure with an inscrutable expression on his face. He had the same expression when the doctor told him that nothing was really wrong with his wife although she seemed to be worried about something. The physician merely prescribed a day of complete rest.

Pedro lingered on the porch after the doctor left. He was trying not to be angry with his wife. He hoped it would be just an interlude that could be recalled without bitterness. She would explain sooner or later, she would be repentant, perhaps she would even listen and eventually forgive her, for she was young and he loved her. But somehow he knew that this incident would always remain a shadow in their lives.

Love in the Cornhusks (Aida Rivera-Ford)

Tinang stopped before the Señora’s gate and adjusted the baby’s cap. The dogs that came to bark at the gate were strange dogs, big-mouthed animals with a sense of superiority. They stuck their heads through the hogfence, lolling their tongues and straining. Suddenly, from the gumamela row, a little black mongrel emerged and slithered through the fence with ease. It came to her, head down and body quivering.

“Bantay. Ay, Bantay!” she exclaimed as the little dog laid its paws upon her shirt to sniff the baby on her arm. The baby was afraid and cried. The big animals barked with displeasure.

Tito, the young master, had seen her and was calling to his mother. “Ma, it’s Tinang. Ma, Ma, it’s Tinang.” He came running down to open the gate.

“Aba, you are so tall now, Tito.”

He smiled his girl’s smile as he stood by, warding the dogs off. Tinang passed quickly up the veranda stairs lined with ferns and many-colored bougainville. On landing, she paused to wipe her shoes carefully. About her, the Señora’s white and lavender butterfly orchids fluttered delicately in the sunshine. She noticed though that the purple waling-waling that had once been her task to shade from the hot sun with banana leaves and to water with mixture of charcoal and eggs and water was not in bloom.

“Is no one covering the waling-waling now?” Tinang asked. “It will die.”

“Oh, the maid will come to cover the orchids later.”

The Señora called from inside. “Tinang, let me see your baby. Is it a boy?”

“Yes, Ma,” Tito shouted from downstairs. “And the ears are huge!”

“What do you expect,” replied his mother; “the father is a Bagobo. Even Tinang looks like a Bagobo now.”

Tinang laughed and felt warmness for her former mistress and the boy Tito. She sat self-consciously on the black narra sofa, for the first time a visitor. Her eyes clouded. The sight of the Señora’s flaccidly plump figure, swathed in a loose waist-less housedress that came down to her ankles, and the faint scent of agua de colonia blended with kitchen spice, seemed to her the essence of the comfortable world, and she sighed thinking of the long walk home through the mud, the baby’s legs straddled to her waist, and Inggo, her husband, waiting for her, his body stinking of tuba and sweat, squatting on the floor, clad only in his foul undergarments.

“Ano, Tinang, is it not a good thing to be married?” the Señora asked, pitying Tinang because her dress gave way at the placket and pressed at her swollen breasts. It was, as a matter of fact, a dress she had given Tinang a long time ago.

“It is hard, Señora, very hard. Better that I were working here again.”

“There!” the Señora said. “Didn’t I tell you what it would be like, huh? . . . that you would be a slave to your husband and that you would work a baby eternally strapped to you. Are you not pregnant again?”

Tinang squirmed at the Señora’s directness but admitted she was.

“Hala! You will have a dozen before long.” The Señora got up. “Come, I will give you some dresses and an old blanket that you can cut into things for the baby.”

They went into a cluttered room which looked like a huge closet and as the Señora sorted out some clothes, Tinang asked, “How is Señor?”

“Ay, he is always losing his temper over the tractor drivers. It is not the way it was when Amado was here. You remember what a good driver he was. The tractors were always kept in working condition. But now . . . I wonder why he left all of a sudden. He said he would be gone for only two days . . . .”

“I don’t know,” Tinang said. The baby began to cry. Tinang shushed him with irritation.

“Oy, Tinang, come to the kitchen; your Bagobito is hungry.”



For the next hour, Tinang sat in the kitchen with an odd feeling; she watched the girl who was now in possession of the kitchen work around with a handkerchief clutched I one hand. She had lipstick on too, Tinang noted. the girl looked at her briefly but did not smile. She set down a can of evaporated milk for the baby and served her coffee and cake. The Señora drank coffee with her and lectured about keeping the baby’s stomach bound and training it to stay by itself so she could work. Finally, Tinang brought up, haltingly, with phrases like “if it will not offend you” and “if you are not too busy” the purpose of her visit–which was to ask Señora to be a madrina in baptism. The Señora readily assented and said she would provide the baptismal clothes and the fee for the priest. It was time to go.

“When are you coming again, Tinang?” the Señore asked as Tinang got the baby ready. “Don’t forget the bundle of clothes and . . . oh, Tinang, you better stop by the drugstore. They asked me once whether you were still with us. You have a letter there and I was going to open it to see if there was bad news but I thought you would be coming.”

A letter! Tinang’s heart beat violently. Somebody is dead; I know somebody is dead, she thought. She crossed herself and after thanking the Señora profusely, she hurried down. The dogs came forward and Tito had to restrain them. “Bring me some young corn next time, Tinang,” he called after her.

Tinang waited a while at the drugstore which was also the post office of the barrio. Finally, the man turned to her: “Mrs., do you want medicine for your baby or for yourself?”

“No, I came for my letter. I was told I have a letter.”

“And what is your name, Mrs.?” He drawled.

“Constantina Tirol.”

The man pulled a box and slowly went through the pile of envelopes most of which were scribbled in pencil, “Tirol, Tirol, Tirol. . . .” He finally pulled out a letter and handed it to her. She stared at the unfamiliar scrawl. It was not from her sister and she could think of no one else who could write to her.

Santa Maria, she thought; maybe something has happened to my sister.

“Do you want me to read it for you?”

“No, no.” She hurried from the drugstore, crushed that he should think her illiterate. With the baby on one arm and the bundle of clothes on the other and the letter clutched in her hand she found herself walking toward home.

The rains had made a deep slough of the clay road and Tinang followed the prints left by the men and the carabaos that had gone before her to keep from sinking mud up to her knees. She was deep in the road before she became conscious of her shoes. In horror, she saw that they were coated with thick, black clay. Gingerly, she pulled off one shoe after the other with the hand still clutching to the letter. When she had tied the shoes together with the laces and had slung them on an arm, the baby, the bundle, and the letter were all smeared with mud.

There must be a place to put the baby down, she thought, desperate now about the letter. She walked on until she spotted a corner of a field where cornhusks were scattered under a kamansi tree. She shoved together a pile of husks with her foot and laid the baby down upon it. With a sigh, she drew the letter from the envelope. She stared at the letter which was written in English.

My dearest Tinay,

Hello, how is life getting along? Are you still in good condition? As for myself, the same as usual. But you’re far from my side. It is not easy to be far from our lover.

Tinay, do you still love me? I hope your kind and generous heart will never fade. Someday or somehow I’ll be there again to fulfill our promise.

Many weeks and months have elapsed. Still I remember our bygone days. Especially when I was suffering with the heat of the tractor under the heat of the sun. I was always in despair until I imagine your personal appearance coming forward bearing the sweetest smile that enabled me to view the distant horizon.

Tinay, I could not return because I found that my mother was very ill. That is why I was not able to take you as a partner of life. Please respond to my missive at once so that I know whether you still love me or not. I hope you did not love anybody except myself.

I think I am going beyond the limit of your leisure hours, so I close with best wishes to you, my friends Gonding, Sefarin, Bondio, etc.

Yours forever,


P.S. My mother died last month.

Address your letter:

Mr. Amado Galauran

Binalunan, Cotabato

It was Tinang’s first love letter. A flush spread over her face and crept into her body. She read the letter again. “It is not easy to be far from our lover. . . . I imagine your personal appearance coming forward. . . . Someday, somehow I’ll be there to fulfill our promise. . . .” Tinang was intoxicated. She pressed herself against the kamansi tree.

My lover is true to me. He never meant to desert me. Amado, she thought. Amado.

And she cried, remembering the young girl she was less than two years ago when she would take food to Señor in the field and the laborers would eye her furtively. She thought herself above them for she was always neat and clean in her hometown, before she went away to work, she had gone to school and had reached sixth grade. Her skin, too, was not as dark as those of the girls who worked in the fields weeding around the clumps of abaca. Her lower lip jutted out disdainfully when the farm hands spoke to her with many flattering words. She laughed when a Bagobo with two hectares of land asked her to marry him. It was only Amado, the tractor driver, who could look at her and make her lower her eyes. He was very dark and wore filthy and torn clothes on the farm but on Saturdays when he came up to the house for his week’s salary, his hair was slicked down and he would be dressed as well as Mr. Jacinto, the schoolteacher. Once he told her he would study in the city night-schools and take up mechanical engineering someday. He had not said much more to her but one afternoon when she was bidden to take some bolts and tools to him in the field, a great excitement came over her. The shadows moved fitfully in the bamboo groves she passed and the cool November air edged into her nostrils sharply. He stood unmoving beside the tractor with tools and parts scattered on the ground around him. His eyes were a black glow as he watched her draw near. When she held out the bolts, he seized her wrist and said: “Come,” pulling her to the screen of trees beyond. She resisted but his arms were strong. He embraced her roughly and awkwardly, and she trembled and gasped and clung to him. . . .

A little green snake slithered languidly into the tall grass a few yards from the kamansi tree. Tinang started violently and remembered her child. It lay motionless on the mat of husk. With a shriek she grabbed it wildly and hugged it close. The baby awoke from its sleep and cries lustily. Ave Maria Santisima. Do not punish me, she prayed, searching the baby’s skin for marks. Among the cornhusks, the letter fell unnoticed.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Chieftest Mourner (Aida Rivera-Ford)

He was my uncle because he married my aunt (even if he had not come to her these past ten years), so when the papers brought the news of his death, I felt that some part of me had died, too.I was boarding then at a big girls' college in Manila and I remember quite vividly that a few other girls were gathered about the lobby of our school, looking very straight and proper since it was seven in the morning and the starch in our long-sleeved uniform had not yet given way. I tried to be brave while I read that my uncle had actually been "the last of a distinct school of Philippine poets." I was still being brave all the way down the lengthy eulogies, until I got to the line which said that he was "the sweetest lyre that ever throbbed with Malayan chords." Something caught at my throat and I let out one sob--the rest merely followed. When the girls hurried over to me to see what had happened, I could only point to the item on the front page with my uncle's picture taken when he was still handsome. Everybody suddenly spoke in a low voice and Ning, who worshipped me, said that I shouldn't be so unhappy because my uncle was now with the other great poets in heaven--at which I really howled in earnest because my uncle had not only deserted poor Aunt Sophia but had also been living with another woman these many years and, most horrible of all, he had probably died in her embrace!Perhaps I received an undue amount of commiseration for the death of the delinquent husband of my aunt, but it wasn't my fault because I never really lied about anything; only, nobody thought to ask me just how close an uncle he was. It wasn't my doing either when, some months after his demise, my poem entitled The Rose Was Not So Fair O Alma Mater was captioned "by the niece of the late beloved Filipino Poet." And that having been printed, I couldn't possibly refuse when I was asked to write on My Uncle--The Poetry of His Life. The article, as printed, covered only his boyhood and early manhood because our adviser cut out everything that happened after he was married. She said that the last half of his life was not exactly poetic, although I still maintain that in his vices, as in his poetry, he followed closely the pattern of the great poets he admired.My aunt used to relate that he was an extremely considerate man--when he was sober, and on those occasions he always tried to make up for his past sins. She said that he had never meant to marry, knowing the kind of husband he would make, but that her beauty drove him out of his right mind. My aunt always forgave him but one day she had more than she could bear, and when he was really drunk, she tied him to a chair with a strong rope to teach him a lesson. She never saw him drunk again, for as soon as he was able to, he walked out the door and never came back.I was very little at that time, but I remembered that shortly after he went away, my aunt put me in a car and sent me to his hotel with a letter from her. Uncle ushered me into his room very formally and while I looked all around the place, he prepared a special kind of lemonade for the two of us. I was sorry he poured it out into wee glasses because it was unlike any lemonade I had ever tasted. While I sipped solemnly at my glass, he inquired after my aunt. To my surprise, I found myself answering with alacrity. I was happy to report all details of my aunt's health, including the number of crabs she ate for lunch and the amazing fact that she was getting fatter and fatter without the benefit of Scott's Emulsion or Ovaltine at all. Uncle smiled his beautiful somber smile and drew some poems from his desk. He scribbled a dedication on them and instructed me to give them to my aunt. I made much show of putting the empty glass down but Uncle was dense to the hint. At the door, however, he told me that I could have some lemonade every time I came to visit him. Aunt Sophia was so pleased with the poems that she kissed me. And then all of a sudden she looked at me queerly and made a most peculiar request of me. She asked me to say ha-ha, and when I said ha-ha, she took me to the sink and began to wash the inside of my mouth with soap and water while calling upon a dozen of the saints to witness the act. I never got a taste of Uncle's lemonade.It began to be a habit with Aunt Sophia to drop in for a periodic recital of woe to which Mama was a sympathetic audience. The topic of the conversation was always the latest low on Uncle's state of misery. It gave Aunt Sophia profound satisfaction to relay the report of friends on the number of creases on Uncle's shirt or the appalling decrease in his weight. To her, the fact that Uncle was getting thinner proved conclusively that he was suffering as a result of the separation. It looked as if Uncle would not be able to hold much longer, the way he was reported to be thinner each time, because Uncle didn't have much weight to start with. The paradox of the situation, however, was that Aunt Sophia was now crowding Mama off the sofa and yet she wasn't looking very happy either.When I was about eleven, there began to be a difference. Everytime I cam into the room when Mama and Aunt Sophia were holding conference, the talk would suddenly be switched to Spanish. It was about this time that I took an interest in the Spanish taught in school. It was also at this time that Aunt Sophia exclaimed over my industry at the piano--which stood a short distance from the sofa. At first I couldn't gather much except that Uncle was not any more the main topic. It was a woman by the name of Esa--or so I thought she was called. Later I began to appreciate the subtlety of the Spanish la mujer esa.And so I learned about the woman. She was young, accomplished, a woman of means. (A surprising number of connotations were attached to these terms.) Aunt Sophia, being a loyal wife, grieved that Uncle should have been ensnared by such a woman, thinking not so much of herself but of his career. Knowing him so well, she was positive that he was unhappier than ever, for that horrid woman never allowed him to have his own way; she even denied him those little drinks which he took merely to aid him into poetic composition. Because the woman brazenly followed Uncle everywhere, calling herself his wife, a confusing situation ensued.



When people mentioned Uncle's wife, there was no way of knowing whether they referred to my aunt or to the woman. After a while a system was worked out by the mutual friends of the different parties. No. 1 came to stand for Aunt Sophia and No. 2 for the woman.I hadn't seen Uncle since the episode of the lemonade, but one day in school all the girls were asked to come down to the lecture room--Uncle was to read some of his poems! Up in my room, I stopped to fasten a pink ribbon to my hair thinking the while how I would play my role to perfection--for the dear niece was to be presented to the uncle she had not seen for so long. My musings were interrupted, however, when a girl came up and excitedly bubbled that she had seen my uncle--and my aunt, who was surprisingly young and so very modern!I couldn't go down after all; I was indisposed.Complicated as the situation was when Uncle was alive, it became more so when he died. I was puzzling over who was to be the official widow at his funeral when word came that I was to keep Aunt Sophia company at the little chapel where the service would be held. I concluded with relief that No. 2 had decamped.The morning wasn't far gone when I arrived at the chapel and there were only a few people present. Aunt Sophia was sitting in one of the front pews at the right section of the chapel. She had on a black and white print which managed to display its full yardage over the seat. Across the aisle from her was a very slight woman in her early thirties who was dressed in a dramatic black outfit with a heavy veil coming up to her forehead. Something about her made me suddenly aware that Aunt Sophia's bag looked paunchy and worn at the corners. I wanted to ask my aunt who she was but after embracing me when I arrived, she kept her eyes stolidly fixed before her. I directed my gaze in the same direction. At the front was the president's immense wreath leaning heavily backward, like that personage himself; and a pace behind, as though in deference to it, were other wreaths arranged according to the rank and prominence of the people who had sent them. I suppose protocol had something to do with it.I tiptoed over to the muse before Uncle as he lay in the dignity of death, the faintest trace of his somber smile still on his face. My eyes fell upon a cluster of white flowers placed at the foot of the casket. It was ingeniously fashioned in the shape of a dove and it bore the inscription "From the Loyal One." I looked at Aunt Sophia and didn't see anything dove-like about her. I looked at the slight woman in black and knew of a sudden that she was the woman. A young man, obviously a brother or a nephew, was bending over her solicitously. I took no notice of him even though he had elegant manners, a mischievous cowlick, wistful eyes, a Dennis Morgan chin, and a pin which testified that he belonged to what we girls called our "brother college." I showed him that he absolutely did not exist for me, especially when I caught him looking in our direction.I always feel guilty of sacrilege everytime I think of it, but there was something grimly ludicrous about my uncle’s funeral. There were two women, each taking possession of her portion of the chapel just as though stakes had been laid, seemingly unmindful of each other, yet revealing by this studied disregard that each was very much aware of the other. As though to give balance to the scene, the young man stood his full height near the woman to offset the collective bulk of Aunt Sophia and myself, although I was merely a disproportionate shadow behind her.The friends of the poet began to come. They paused a long time at the door, surveying the scene before they marched self-consciously towards the casket. Another pause there, and then they wrenched themselves from the spot and moved--no, slithered--either towards my aunt or towards the woman. The choice must have been difficult when they knew both. The women almost invariably came to talk to my aunt whereas most of the men turned to the woman at the left. I recognized some important Malacañang men and some writers from seeing their pictures in the papers. Later in the morning a horde of black-clad women, the sisters and cousins of the poet, swept into the chapel and came directly to where my aunt sat. They had the same deep eye-sockets and hollow cheek-bones which had lent a sensitive expression to the poet's face but which on them suggested t.b. The air became dense with the sickly-sweet smell of many flowers clashing and I went over to get my breath of air. As I glanced back I had a crazy surrealist impression of mouths opening and closing into Aunt Sophia's ear, and eyes darting toward the woman at the left. Uncle's clan certainly made short work of my aunt for when I returned, she was sobbing. As though to comfort her, one of the women said, in a whisper which I heard from the door, that the president himself was expected to come in the afternoon.Toward lunchtime, it became obvious that neither my aunt nor the woman wished to leave ahead of the other. I could appreciate my aunt's delicadeza in this matter but then got hungry and therefore grew resourceful: I called a taxi and told her it was at the door with the meter on. Aunt Sophia's unwillingness lasted as long as forty centavos.We made up for leaving ahead of the woman by getting back to the chapel early. For a long time she did not come and when Uncle's kinswomen arrived, I thought their faces showed a little disappointment at finding the left side of the chapel empty. Aunt Sophia, on the other hand, looked relieved. But at about three, the woman arrived and I perceived at once that there was a difference in her appearance. She wore the same black dress but her thick hair was now carefully swept into a regal coil; her skin glowing; her eyes, which had been striking enough, looked even larger. The eyebrows of the women around me started working and finally, the scrawniest of the poet's relations whispered to the others and slowly, together, they closed in on the woman.I went over to sit with my aunt who was gazing not so steadily at nothing in particular.At first the women spoke in whispers, and then the voices rose a trifle. Still, everybody was polite. There was more talking back and forth, and suddenly the conversation wasn't polite any more. The only good thing about it was that now I could hear everything distinctly."So you want to put me in a corner, do you? You think perhaps you can bully me out of here?" the woman said."Shh! Please don't create a scene," the poet's sisters said, going one pitch higher."It's you who are creating a scene. Didn't you come here purposely to start one?""We're only trying to make you see reason.... If you think of the dead at all...""Let's see who has the reason. I understand that you want me to leave, isn't it? Now that he is dead and cannot speak for me you think I should quietly hide in a corner?" The woman's voice was now pitched up for the benefit of the whole chapel. "Let me ask you. During the war when the poet was hard up do you suppose I deserted him? Whose jewels do you think we sold when he did not make money... When he was ill, who was it who stayed at his side... Who took care of him during all those months... and who peddled his books and poems to the publishers so that he could pay for the hospital and doctor's bills? Did any of you come to him then? Let me ask you that! Now that he is dead you want me to leave his side so that you and that vieja can have the honors and have your picture taken with the president. That's what you want, isn't it--to pose with the president....""Por Dios! Make her stop it--somebody stop her mouth!" cried Aunt Sophia, her eyes going up to heaven."Now you listen, you scandalous woman," one of the clan said, taking it up for Aunt Sophia. "We don't care for the honors--we don't want it for ourselves. But we want the poet to be honored in death... to have a decent and respectable funeral without scandal... and the least you can do is to leave him in peace as he lies there....""Yes," the scrawny one said. "You've created enough scandal for him in life--that's why we couldn't go to him when he was sick... because you were there, you--you shameless bitch."The woman's face went livid with shock and rage. She stood wordless while her young protector, his eyes blazing, came between her and the poet's kinswomen. Her face began to twitch. And then the sobs came. Big noisy sobs that shook her body and spilled the tears down her carefully made-up face. Fitfully, desperately, she tugged at her eyes and nose with her widow's veil. The young man took hold of her shoulders gently to lead her away, but she shook free; and in a few quick steps she was there before the casket, looking down upon that infinitely sad smile on Uncle's face. It may have been a second that she stood there, but it seemed like a long time."All right," she blurted, turning about. "All right. You can have him--all that's left of him!"At that moment before she fled, I saw what I had waited to see. The mascara had indeed run down her cheeks. But somehow it wasn't funny at all.

Dark (Delfin Fresnosa)

A woman and her son sat by the window looking upon the darkening road. Every now and then the woman would turn to the boy anxiously, trying tor read the expression of his eyes. The boy, sickly looking, with dark and sensitive features, seeming to note her gaze, would avert his face and shield it with his hand. She felt a great wordless pity for him, and a sense of her helplessness gave her keen anguish. He knew of her love for him and sensed her hurt like a sharp stabbing pain.

Men and women passed by on the road in front of the house, some coming from the fields carrying bundles or farm implements. Most of them walked slowly, tired after the day's work but glad of the cool wind and the coming night. They talked and laughed as they went by.

Farther down the road children were at play, shouting and kicking an empty tin can about. Occasionally they had to stop their game to let some carabao cart or automobile pass.

"Dis you see that car that just went by, full of people?" the woman asked her son.

"Yes." He said. "They must have come from an excursion."

"Yes, they were all talking and laughing. The people on the road shouted and laughed back at them."

Sometimes a man or a woman stopped a while in front of the house to exchange greetings with the woman at the window. The boy listened to his mother and to the voices of her friends. Some of them asked how he was, and he replied in a courteous voice that he was all right.

"Leon," suddenly said the mother. "Look at that boy with the monkey . He has monkey on hi shoulder. The monkey is jumping up and down."

"Yes," he said, laughing a little as if amused at the sight. "The boy is carrying a monkey."

He was again aware of his mother looking at him, trying to find his eyes, and again he turned his face away.

The boy with the monkey, and his father, a farmer, were now passing by the house. The monkey was a tame one and was crying out sharply and chattering.

"Can you see him, Leon?" asked the mother. "Can you see him? Can you see him a little?" The mother's voice was eager and urgent. There was desperateness in it. The boy knew that her lips were soundlessly forming the word she wanted him to say.

"Yes," he said softly.

The mother was suddenly deliriously happy. She crushed the boy's head against her bosom. Snatches of incoherent talk came from her lips. She wanted to shout to the people on the road that her boy could see again. Tears stream down her face and wetted the boy's head.



Her husband had not come yet. Where was he now? When would he come come so that she could tell him? He would be very glad. They would laugh and cry together in their gladness. She was almost choking with joy and she pressed the boy's frail form to her.

He was crying too, softly, silently, and then convulsively. How sharply he now regretted that "YES" that he had almost unconsciously given her, that word that he had felt almost wrung out of him.

Almost every afternoon when the sun was setting, he and his mother would sit at the window. She had become sad and a little embittered. But a few weeks before, a stranger had come to their town who people said was a healer. They had brought the boy to him. At night when she and her husband thought the boy asleep, they would talk about him and the sight that had become affected and then he had finally entirely lost. After the visit to the healer, they had taken some hope again.

The mother notice the boy was weeping. "What is the matter, Leon? Tell me why you are crying so hard," she said anxiously. But he could not tell her and went on sobbing.

"Look at those boys on the road," she said, as if to banish a renewed but unspoken fear." It won't be long now before you are playing with them again." She bade him look out of the window, gently holding his chin up with a finger. He could not hide his face from her any more as she looked first at him ad then at the boys in the road.

The boys had suddenly stopped playing and were huddled together in a group. Some passerby stopped, peering curiously at something the boys had picked up.

"what happened, mother?" said the boy.

"I don't know," said the mother. But the people were going on their way again and the boys were left to themselves. Again their voices were raised.

"It was a swallow," the mother said. "It was flying and hit the telephone wires. It fell to the ground and the boys found it."

"A bird," said the boy. "A swallow."

They sat silent now waiting for the father to come home. The mother was still excited, still impatiently awaiting her husband to tell him the reason for her happiness.

Finally she said: "There is your father coming down the road." The boy heard him at the gate.

"Hello, son!" he cried, but he slowed his steps and for sometime tarried in the yard.

The boy listened anxiously for his footsteps and agitatedly turned to face the door. The stood up watching him. There was complete silence in the house.

Then the boy, extending his two arms and widely smiling, cried "Hello, Father!" But the smile froze on his lips. The woman turned to the window, and seeing her husband still in the yard, burst into a sob.

My Father Goes to Court (Carlos Bulosan)

When I was four, I lived with my mother and brothers and sisters in a small town on the island of Luzon. Father’s farm had been destroyed in 1918 by one of our sudden Philippine floods, so for several years afterward we all lived in the town, though he preffered living in the country. We had a next-door neighbor, a very rich man, whose sons and daughters seldom came out of the house. While we boys and girls played and sand in the sun, his children stayed inside and kept the windows closed. His house was so tall that his children could look in the windows of our house and watch us as we played, or slept, or ate, when there was any food in the house to eat.

Now, this rich man’s servants were always frying and cooking something good, and the aroma of the food was wafted down to us from the windows of the big house. We hung about and took all the wonderful smell of the food into our beings. Sometimes, in the morning, our whole family stood outside the windows of the rich man’s house and listened to the musical sizzling of thick strips of bacon or ham. I can remember one afternoon when our neighbor’s servants roasted three chickens. The chickens were young and tender and the fat that dripped into the burning coals gave off an enchanting odor. We watched the servants turn the beautiful birds and inhaled the heavenly spirit that drifted out to us.

Some days the rich man appeared at a window and glowered down at us. He looked at us one by one, as though he were condemning us. We were all healthy because we went out in the sun every day and bathed in the cool water of the river that flowed from the mountains into the sea. Sometimes we wrestled with one another in the house before we went out to play.

We were always in the best of spirits and our laughter was contagious. Other neighbors who passed by our house often stopped in our yard and joined us in our laughter.

Laughter was our only wealth. Father was a laughing man. He would go in to the living room and stand in front of the tall mirror, stretching his mouth into grotesque shapes with his fingers and making faces at himself, and then he would rush into the kitchen, roaring with laughter.

There was plenty to make us laugh. There was, for instance, the day one of my brothers came home and brought a small bundle under his arm, pretending that he brought something to eat, maybe a leg of lamb or something as extravagant as that to make our mouths water. He rushed to mother and through the bundle into her lap. We all stood around, watching mother undo the complicated strings. Suddenly a black cat leaped out of the bundle and ran wildly around the house. Mother chased my brother and beat him with her little fists, while the rest of us bent double, choking with laughter.

Another time one of my sisters suddenly started screaming in the middle of the night. Mother reached her first and tried to calm her. My sister criedand groaned. When father lifted the lamp, my sister stared at us with shame in her eyes.

“What is it?” Father asked.

“I’m pregnant!” she cried.

“Don’t be a fool!” Father shouted.

“You’re only a child,” Mother said.

“I’m pregnant, I tell you!” she cried.

Father knelt by my sister. He put his hand on her belly and rubbed it gently. “How do you know you are pregnant?” he asked.

“Feel it!” she cried.

We put our hands on her belly. There was something moving inside. Father was frightened. Mother was shocked. “Who’s the man?” she asked.

“There’s no man,” my sister said.

‘What is it then?” Father asked.

Suddenly my sister opened her blouse and a bullfrog jumped out. Mother fainted, father dropped the lamp, the oil spilled on the floor, and my sister’s blanket caught fire. One of my brothers laughed so hard he rolled on the floor.

When the fire was extinguished and Mother was revived, we turned to bed and tried to sleep, but Father kept on laughing so loud we could not sleep any more. Mother got up again and lighted the oil lamp; we rolled up the mats on the floor and began dancing about and laughing with all our might. We made so much noise that all our neighbors except the rich family came into the yard and joined us in loud, genuine laughter.

It was like that for years.

As time went on, the rich man’s children became thin and anemic, while we grew even more robust and full of fire. Our faces were bright and rosy, but theirs were pale and sad. The rich man started to cough at night; then he coughed day and night. His wife began coughing too. Then the children started to cough one after the other. At night their coughing sounded like barking of a herd of seals. We hung outside their windows and listened to them. We wondered what had happened to them. We knew that they were not sick from lack of nourishing food because they were still always frying something delicious to eat.



One day the rich man appeared at a window and stood there a long time. He looked at my sisters, who had grown fat with laughing, then at my brothers, whose arms and legs were like the molave, which is the sturdiest tree in the Philippines. He banged down the window and ran through the house, shutting all the windows.

From that day on, the windows of our neighbor’s house were closed. The children did not come outdoors anymore. We could still hear the servants cooking in the kitchen, and no matter how tight the windows were shut, the aroma of the food came to us in the wind and drifted gratuitously into our house.

One morning a policeman from the presidencia came to our house with a sealed paper. The rich man had filled a complaint against us. Father took me with him when he went to the town clerk and asked him what it was all about. He told Father the man claimed that for years we had been stealing the spirit of his wealth and food.

When the day came for us to appear in court, Father brushed his old army uniform and borrowed a pair of shoes from one of my brothers. We were the first to arrive. Father sat on a chair in the center of the courtroom. Mother occupied a chair by the door. We children sat on a long bench by the wall. Father kept jumping up his chair and stabbing the air with his arms, as though he were defending himself before an imaginary jury.

The rich man arrived. He had grown old and feeble; his face was scarred with deep lines. With him was his young lawyer. Spectators came in and almost filled the chairs. The judge entered the room and sat on a high chair. We stood up in a hurry and sat down again.

After the courtroom preliminaries, the judge took at father. “Do you have a lawyer?” he asked.

“I don’t need a lawyer judge.” He said.

“Proceed,” said the judge.

The rich man’s lawyer jumped and pointed his finger at Father, “Do you or do you not agree that you have been stealing the spirit of the complainant’s wealth and food?”

“I do not!” Father said.

“Do you or do you not agree that while the complainant’s servants cooked and fried fat legs of lambs and young chicken breasts, you and your family hung outside your windows and inhaled the heavenly spirit of the food?”

“I agree,” Father said.

“How do you account for that?”

Father got up and paced around, scratching his head thoughtfully. Then he said, “I would like to see the children of the complainant, Judge.”

“Bring the children of the complainant.”

They came shyly. The spectators covered their mouths with their hands. They were so amazed to see the children so thin and pale. The children walked silently to a bench and sat down without looking up. They stared at the floor and moved their hands uneasily.

Father could not say anything at first. He just stood by his chair and looked at them. Finally he said, “I should like to cross-examine the complainant.”


“Do you claim that we stole the spirit of your wealth and became a laughing family while yours became morose and sad?” Father asked.


“Then we are going to pay you right now,” Father said. He walked over to where we children were sitting on the bench and took my straw hat off my lap and began filling it up with centavo pieces that he took out his pockets. He went to Mother, who added a fistful of silver coins. My brothers threw in their small change.

“May I walk to the room across the hall and stay there for a minutes, Judge?” Father asked.

“As you wish.”

“Thank you,” Father said. He strode into the other room with the hat in his hands. It was almost full of coins. The doors of both rooms were wide open.

“Are you ready?” Father called.

“Proceed.” The judge said.

The sweet tinkle of coins carried beautifully into the room. The spectators turned their faces toward the sound with wonder. Father came back and stood before the complainant.

“Did you hear it?” he asked.

“Hear what?” the man asked.

“The spirit of the money when I shook this hat?” he asked.


“Then you are paid.” Father said.

The rich man opened his mouth to speak and fell to the floor without a sound. The lawyer rushed to his aid. The judge pounded his gravel.

“Case dismissed,” he said.

Father strutted around the courtroom. The judge even came down to his high chair to shake hands with him. “By the way,” he whispered, “I had an uncle who died laughing.”

“You like to hear my family laugh, judge?” Father asked.

“Why not?”

Did you hear that children?” Father said.

My sister started it. The rest of us followed them and soon the spectators were laughing with us, holding their bellies and bending over the chairs. And the laughter of the judge was the loudest of all.