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The Safe House

by Sandra Nicole Roldan

From the street, it is one box among many. Beneath terracotta roof tiles baking uniformly in the
sweltering noon the building/s grey concrete face stares out impassively in straight lines and angles. Its walls
are high and wide, as good walls should be. A four-storey building with four units to a floor. At dusk, the square
glass windows glitter like the compound eyes of insects, revealing little of what happens inside. There is not
much else to see.
And so this house seems in every way identical to all the other houses in all the thirty-odd other
buildings nestled within the gates of this complex. It is the First Lady's pride and joy, a housing project
designed for genteel middle class living. There is a clubhouse, a swimming pool, a tennis court. A few residents
drive luxury cars. People walk purebred dogs in the morning. Trees shade the narrow paths and the flowering
hedges that border each building give the neighborhood a hushed, cozy feel. It is easy to get lost here.
But those who need to come here know what to look for-the swinging gate, the twisting butterfly tree,
the cyclone-wire fence. A curtained window glows with the yellow light of a lamp perpetually left on. Visitors
count the steps up each flight of stairs. They do not stumble in the dark. They know which door will be opened
to them, day or night. They will be fed, sometimes given money. Wounds will be treated, bandages changed.
They carry nothing-no books, no bags, or papers. What they do bring is locked inside their heads, the safest of
places. They arrive one at a time, or in couples, over a span of several hours. They are careful not to attract
attention. They listen for the reassuring yelps of squabbling children before they raise their hands to knock.
It is 1982. The girl who lives here does not care too much for the people who visit. She is five. Two
uncles and an aunt dropped by the other day. Three aunts and two uncles slept over the night before. It is
impossible to remember all of them. There are too many names, too many faces. And they all look the same-too
tall, too old, too serious, too many. They surround the small dining table, the yellow lamp above throwing and
tilting shadows against freshly-painted cream walls.
They crowd the already cramped living room with their books and papers, hissing at her to keep quiet,
they are talking about important things. So she keeps quiet. The flock of new relatives recedes into the
background as she fights with her brother over who gets to sit closer to the television. It is tuned in to Sesame
Street on Channel 9. The small black and white screen makes Ernie and Bert shiver and glow like ghosts. Many
of these visitors she will never see again. If she does, she will probably not remember them.
She wakes up one night. Through the thin walls, she hears the visitors arguing. She can easily pick out
one particular uncle's voice, rumbling through the dark like thunder. He is one of her newer relatives, having
arrived only that morning. All grown-ups are tall but this new uncle is a giant who towers over everyone else.
His big feet look pale in their rubber slippers, a band-aid where each toenail should have been. He never takes
off his dark glasses, not even at night. She wonders if he can see in the dark. Maybe he has laser vision like
Superman. Or, maybe-like a pirate, he has only one eye. She presses her ear against the wall. If she closes her
eyes and listens carefully, she can make out the words: sundalo, kasama, talahib. The last word she hears clearly
is katawan. The visitors are now quiet but still she cannot sleep. From the living room, there are sounds like
small animals crying.

She comes home from school the next day to see the visitors crowded around the television. She wants
to change the channel, watch the late afternoon cartoons but they wave her away. The grown-up’s are all quiet.
Something is different. Something is about to explode. So she stays away, peering up at them from under the
dining table. On the TV screen is the President, his face glowing blue and wrinkly like an-old monkey's. His
voice wavers in the afternoon air, sharp and high like the sound of something breaking. The room erupts in a
volley of curses: Humanda ka na, Makoy! Mamatay ka! Pinapatay mo asawa ko! Mamamatay ka rin
P%t@ng*n@ ka! Humanda ka, papatayin din kita! The girl watches quietly from under the table. She is trying
very hard not to blink.
It is 1983. They come more often now. They begin to treat the apartment like their own house. They
hold meetings under the guise of children's parties. Every week, someone's son or daughter has a birthday. The
girl and her brother often make a game of sitting on the limp balloons always floating in inch from the floor.
The small explosions like-guns going off. She wonders why her mother serves the visitors dusty beer bottles
that are never opened.
She is surprised to see the grownups playing make-believe out on the balcony. Her new uncles pretend
to drink from the unopened bottles and begin a Laughing Game. Whoever laughs loudest wins. She thinks her
mother plays the game badly because instead of joining in. Her mother is always crying quietly in the kitchen.
Sometimes the girl sits beside her mother on the floor, listening to words she doesn't really understand:
Underground, resolution, taxes, bills. She plays with her mother's hair while the men on the balcony continue
their game. When she falls asleep, they are still laughing.
The mother leaves the house soon after. She will never return. The two children now spend most
afternoons playing with their neighbors. After an hour of hide-and-seek, the girl comes home one day to find the
small apartment even smaller. Something heavy hangs in the air like smoke. Dolls and crayons and storybooks
fight for space with plans and papers piled on the tables. Once, she finds a drawing of a triangle and recognizes
a word: class. She thinks of typhoons and floods and no classes.
The visitors keep reading from a small red book, which they hide under their clothes when she
approached. She tries to see why they like it so much. Maybe it also has good pictures like the books her father
brought home from, China. Her favorite has zoo animals working together to build a new bridge after the river
had swallowed the old one. She sneaks a look over their shoulders and sees a picture of a fat Chinese man
wearing a cap. Spiky shapes run up and down the page. She walks away disappointed. She sits in the balcony
and reads another picture book from China. It is about a girl who cuts her hair to help save her village from
Japanese soldiers. The title is Mine Warfare.
It is 1984. The father is arrested right outside their house. It happens one August afternoon, with all the
neighbors watching. They look at the uniformed men with cropped hair and shiny boots. Guns bulging under
their clothes. Everyone is quiet afraid to make a sound. The handcuffs shine like silver in the sun. When the
soldiers drive away, the murmuring begins. Words like insects escaping from cupped hands. It grows louder and
fills the sky. It is like this whenever disaster happens. When fire devours a house two streets away, people in the
compound come out to stand on their balconies. Everyone points at the pillar of smoke rising from the horizon.
This is the year she and her brother come to live with their grandparents, having no parents to care for
them at home. The grandparents tell them a story of lovebirds: Soldiers troop into their house one summer day
in 1974. Yes, balasang k4 this very same house. Muddy boots on the bridge over the koi pond, strangers poking
guns through the water lilies. They are looking for guns and papers, they are ready to destroy the house. Before
the colonel can give his order, they see The Aviary. A small sunlit room with a hundred lovebirds twittering
inside. A rainbow of colors. Eyes like tiny glass beads. One soldier opens the aviary door, releases a flurry of
wings and feathers. Where are they now? the girl asks. The birds are long gone, the grandparents say, eaten by a
wayward cat. But as you can see, the soldiers are still here. The two children watch them at their father's court
trials. A soldier waves a guru says it is their father's. He stutters while explaining why the gun has his own name
on it.
They visit her father at his new house in Camp Crame. It is a long walk from the gate, past wide green
lawns. In the hot surrey everything looks green. There are soldiers everywhere. Papa lives in that long low
building under the armpit of the big gymnasium. Because the girl can write her name, the guards make her sign
the big notebooks. She writes her name so many times, the S gets tired and curls on its side to sleep. She enters
amaze the size of the playground at school, but with tall barriers making her turn left, right, left, right. Barbed
wire forms a dense jungle around the detention center. She meets other children there: some just visiting, others
lucky enough to stay with their parents all the time.
On weekends, the girl sleeps in her father's cell. There is a double-deck bed and a chair. A noisy electric
fan stirs the muggy air. There, she often gets nightmares about losing her home: She would be walking down
the paths, under the trees of their compound, past the row of stores, the same grey buildings. She turns a corner
and finds a swamp or a rice paddy where her real house should be.
One night, she dreams of war. She comes home from school to find a blood orange sky where bedroom
and living room should be. The creamy walls are gone. Broken plywood and planks swing crazily in what used
to be the dining room. Nothing in the kitchen but a sea green refrigerator; paint and rust flaking off in patches as
large as thumbnails. To make her home livable again, she paints it blue and pink and yellow. She knows she has
to work fast. Before night falls, she has painted a sun, a moon and a star on the red floor. So she would have
light. Each painted shape is as big as a bed. In the dark, she curls herself over the crescent moon on the floor
and waits for morning. There is no one else in the dream.
Years later, when times are different, she will think of those visitors and wonder about them. By then,
she will know they aren't really relatives, and had told her names not really their own. To a grownup, an old
friend's face can never really change; in a child’s fluid memory, it can take any shape. She believes that-people
stay alive so long as another chooses to remember them. But she cannot help those visitors even in that small
way. She grows accustomed to the smiles of middle aged strangers on the street, who talk about how it was
when she was this high. She learns not to mind the enforced closeness, sometimes even smiles back. But she
does not really know them. Though she understands the fire behind their words, she remains a stranger to their
world' she has never read the little red book.
Late one night, she will hear someone knocking on the door. It is a different door now, made from solid
varnished mahogany blocks. The old chocolate brown ply board that kept them safe all those years ago has long
since yielded to warp and weather. She will look through the peephole and see a face last seen fifteen years
before. It is older, ravaged but somehow same. She will be surprised to even remember the name that goes with
it. By then, the girl would know about danger, and will not know whom to trust. No house, not even this one, is
safe enough.
The door will be opened a crack. He will ask about her father, she will say he no longer lives there. As
expected, he will look surprised and disappointed. She may even read a flash of fear before his face wrinkles
into a smile. He will apologize, step back. Before he disappears into the shadowy corridor, she will notice his
worn rubber slippers, the mud caked between his toes. His heavy bag. She knows he has nowhere else to go.
Still, she will shut the door and push the bolt firmly into place.


1. What is the dictionary meaning of "safe house"?

2. What is the double meaning of the title The Safe House? Why do you think this was used for the title?
3. Why did the narrator feel unsafe? What makes you feel safe? Can you relate to the narrator? Why or
why not?
4. Why did the man in the story have band aids instead of nails? What does this imply about the visitors in
the house?
5. Do you sympathize more with the visitors or the narrator? Why do you feel this way?
6. Why did the mother leave? Do you understand this decision? Would you have left as well? Why or why
7. How does the narrator's view of martial law differ from her father's view?
8. Why does she have a different point of view?
9. What effect does reading this story have on you? How does it affect the way you look at martial law?
What did you feel about it before you read the story, and after you read the story?
10. Why was it necessary for the narrator-to tell us that she locks the door against the visitors nowadays?
What does this symbolize? Do you agree with the narrator? Why or why not?

by Ron Darvin

Written as a springboard for discussion of how long-term separation impacts the lives of migrant
families, this short play was first performed at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada in
November 20'1,4. No set is required to stage this-play. The two characters-Isabel, a Filipino woman in her early
40s, and Miguel, her 1S-year old son-face the audience as they recite their monologues.

Isabel: Mabuhay! My name is Isabel and I'm from the archipelago of 7,107 islands, high tide-2108 low
tide-the Philippines! I'm 31. I’m just kidding! I'm 41. I just wanted to see if you'll believe me. Because you
know, my friends, they ask me "Isabel, what's your secret for looking so young?" And I tell them, "Hay naku,
lnday, it's all about moisturizing! That's why I use Dove. You know? 'Because you're more beautiful than you

There are many Doves, but my favorite is Dove Pomegranate. Ay, it smells so good! You know in
Manila I didn't even know what a pomegranate was. The first time I saw one here in Canada I said, Oh my! All
those seeds! So hard to eat! That's why I just put it on my face.

So I've been living here in Vancouver for eight years now. First two years as live-in caregiver for the
Choi family. After staying with the Chois, I got an open work permit so I opened the door of my life. I told
myself, "This is it, Isabel! This is your chance to find new opportunities!" And you know, when I was young, I
always said "I want to be on Broadway!" $o I got a job here at Tim Horton's near the train station... on

After another two years, I got my permanent residence, and of course I tried to get my family here right
away. But that took another two years. So much paper work! And plane tickets aren't cheap you know. I haven't
gone home to Manila for six years… Ay but who cares about that city? They don't film movies there like Fifty
Shades of Grey-unless you're talking about pollution!

Anyway, last yea4, my son Miguel...Miguel moved here to be with me. He's 15 now. He was barely
seven when I left Manila but now he's here. My son is here. And after all these years of waiting, this, this is all
that matters..

Miguel: Hey. Sup. Miguel here. Been in Vancouver for over a year. What's that? Oh yeah, Vancouver is
ok, I guess. Pretty different...well, aery different. Stuff here is crazy expensive like a hundred times more than
in Manila. We stay in this basement suite on 43rd and Fraser. Actually, I don't know why they call it a 'suite'
when there's nothing 'sweet' about it. Freezing during winter, and I can't play my music because Mr. Rajagopal
upstairs complains it's too loud. It's nothing like the place we had in Manila, where we had real windows that
overlooked the street. Now the street overlooks as.

Basta next year, I'm turning 16, and I can't wait to get a job. I'm gonna get one at Timmies, earn a
shitload of money, and get out of this dump. Yeah, that's all that matters.

Isabel: Sometimes I wake up in the morning, when it's still dark outside. I look at the white beams of the
ceiling, and I say to myself, "Where am I? How did I get here?" I feel like I'm in that movie of Leonardo di
Caprio. Uhm, what is that? The one where you're in a dream of a dream?... Ay alam ko na! l know I know.

Then I realize, OMGI The dream is real. I have to get ready for work! So I make breakfast for Miguel
and me. Spam, fried eggs, garlic rice, and lots of banana ketchup. I'm sure you didn't know you can make
ketchup out of bananas, no? Only in the Philippines! Because you know all the bananas in the world come from
FYI, banana ketchup is not yellow. It's red. We make it look like tomato ketchup so that you don't think
we're weird. You know in Manila, Spam is not cheap. We only eat it on Sunday, before going to church. Now I
tell my friends back home: You know what, lnday? In Canada, we eat Spam every day!

After cooking, I shower quickly, and by six, I'm out of the house to get to work. Miguel doesn't wake up
till eight. Hay naku, actually I don't know what time that boy goes to bed. I have a second job at a grocery on
Broadway, and I'm there until 10 pm. By the time I get home, Miguel's in his bedroom with his headphones on.
He always says he's doing his homework, but I think he's just watching videos. But what can I do? Teenagers
these days.

Sometimes, I want to go into his room and just ask him: "How was your day, anak?" "How's school?"
After a whole day of speaking in English: "How would you like your coffee?" "Two creams and a sugar, eh?"
"Would you like a plastic bag?" After a whole day of all that nonsense, I'd like to come home and hear his
voice, to speak to me in Tagalog. So that, you know, so that I could be home again.

Miguel: I got home after school yesterday, and I was starving. Opened the fridge. Bagels and tuna salad.
And leftover Spam. Ugh, I hate tuna salad. I'm sick of bagels' I want rice. And sinigang. Or adobo. Or kaldereta.
But Inay can only cook these dishes on Sunday, her day off. She'd make a whole pot, and we'd eat it the whole
week. But today is Thursday, and there's none left. That's what the tuna salad is for.

Back in Manila, when I lived at my Lola's-my grandmother----€very night we would have at least 3
dishes. My lola loved to cook. My cousins julian and Susan and uncle Alex lived there too. Julian is a year older
than me and Susan is I think, eight. Anyway, Uncle Alex works at a call center, graveyard shift. He's a customer
service representative for Telus. You know when you call to complain about yourcellphone bill and you call
Telus, and you think you're calling someone who's in Surrey or New West, but the truth is you're talking to my
Uncle Alex in Manila.
They're trained to speak in a Canaaay-deee-an aaacceent like "How can I help you today?" "Let me
adjust that bill for you." The other day, he told me that a customer was being friendly and said something about
the Canucks game the night before, and he said "Oh yeah, yeah, of course, the Canucks!" My uncle hasn't
watched a single hockey game in his life! If he saw e puck, he'd think it was a paperweight. Uncle Alex has
dinner with us before he leaves for work. It'd always be so noisy around the dining table. We'd be talking about
our day, joking around, and lola would keep on topping up our plate with food...Mary I'm hungry.

Now I go home to our suite and all I have is tuna salad, and the TV. I don't know any of the neighbors.
So I spend the rest of the evening playing GTA. And the best part is that lnay got me these kickass headphones
last Christmas so that Mr. Rajagopal upstairs would stop complaining about the noise. So that means I could
play until two in the morning-completely undetected! Yup, that's how it works. Isabel: Yesterday, I had a really
bad episode at work. I had very little sleep the night before because I did the laundry and there was just so much
to wash. Anyways, there was this woman who ordered a dozen donuts, and I mixed up her order and gave her
scones instead. If you ask me, I was doing her a favor by not giving her those donuts! Really!

Anyway, she had to walk back several blocks with her little daughter to tell me I made a mistake. Of
course, I kept on saying sorry, sorry, sorry. She wasn't rude or anything. In fact, when I handed her the donuts,
she smiled, and I apologized again. But then when started to head out, she turned to her daughter and said: "This
is why you have to study hard, my love. Because othenrrise you'll end up just like her."

I froze. "Just like her." The words echoed in my head the whole day, as I served these sausage biscuits
and maple donuts, and swiped cans of beans and corry and handed out plastic bags. ]ust like her. What does it
mean to be just like me?

When I got home, all I wanted was to see Miguel, to hear his voice. I wanted to find in his face some
sign that I've made the right choices, you know, that I've been a good mother? That I wasn't just "just like her." I
knocked on his door. Miguel?... Anak? ...But he was asleep.

Miguel: Couldn't sleep last night. It's exactly a year today since I last saw ltay, my father. I wonder how
he is. If he thinks of me, sometimes. When I was living with my lola, and lnay was here in Canada, my father
worked in Cavite, 40 kilometers away my lola's place. He had a sales job there, and because traffic is really bad,
he rented a room in Cavite, and left me with my lola. He would go see me on Saturdays, and sometimes held
stay till Sunday.

I remember he used to say, Don't worry, anak, we'll see your lnay soon. Just wait and next thing you
know, you'll be playing in the snow and eating spaghetti and meatballs every day! Every night I would wait for
the phone to ring, for lnay to call and say, Miguel, come to Canada tomorrow!

But as years went by, and as I waited for that particular phone call, I began to see less and less of my
father as well. At first, he'd say he had to work overtime, that they needed him to work Saturdays. Sometimes
it'd be because of the traffic... But you know even if he didn't come, I knew. I knew that just like me, he waited
for lnay too.

Isabel: Roberto? I can't wait for the time when my blood doesn't boil every time I think of that son-of-a-
bitch...Oh I'm sorry! Am I allowed to say that here? But yes, I guess there's no better way to refer to him. Or
wait maybe...uhnr, a@*h#le? .

Ten years ago, when Miguel was five, I was teaching English at a public high school, and Roberto was a
med rep-you know, a salesperson for pharmaceuticals. He'd go to doctors and talk about this new wonder drug,
and how it will cure everything from migraines to acne? Anyway, we realized at one point, that no matter how
hard we worked, what we were earning would never be enough to send Miguel to a good university, or to buy a

Our neighbor Pacing had a cousin who went to Canada through the Live-In Caregiver Program,-and
Pacing told us how their whole family got to go to Canada, and find jobs, and that life was good. So I thought to
myself, “Maybe, I could do this. Yes, I loved teaching but I want to give my kid a good future, and in Manila, a
teacher’s salary will never be enough.

At first Roberto didn't like the idea. Nakakahiya he would say- it’s embarrassing. What would the
neighbors say? A teach6r going abroad to be a caregiver in someone's house? I told him "Roberto, there’s no
space for hiya here. If we want to build this family, we'll have to let go of shame. We just need to do what must
be done."

Miguel: I know I really should do my homework, but who cares about that. Even if you don't get A’s,
you're still a winner hire in Canada diba? University is just for rich people anyway.

The other day, Ms. Nelson, that's my Science teacher-asked me something about the migration of
swallows, and I read about it and shit, but I couldn’t speak up… I guess you could say I was just kinda worried,
you know, that they might laugh again-the way they did a couple of months back when I said Shao-ne-ssy
instead of shaughnessy. I don't know why but I could never get that right.
Isabel: You know, in shao-ne-ssy, when I was working for the Chois, I got paid 8 dollars an hour. They
took out 325 each month for room and board, and that left me with around 900. I would keep 150 to pay for my
phone, my shampoo, and of course my Dove Pomegranate, and some money for going out on my duty, off. The
rest I would send home for Miguel's school and his living expenses.
I was happy to earn more than twice I was earning in Manila, but of course I was so homesick. I missed
my family, gossiping with my friends. I missed being a teacher. At first I would call Roberto every week, on
Saturdays when he and Miguel were together, but then sometimes Roberto couldn't go to Manila, and to save
money, I called every other week. Then it became once a month. Every night before going to bed, I would look
at our family picture from the last Christmas I spent in Manila, and think about how happy we were... ‘Ay, ano
ba, Isabel? What's a little homesickness? This is for your family! This...is for Miguel.

Miguel: When my mom finally got the Family visa for us to come over we had to wait another year to
get the money ready for our tickets, and stuff. Things were kinda ok the-first couple of months we were here.
Everything was so new and different. Snow. Poutine. Japadog.

As the weather got colder and colder though, temperatures at home got hotter and hotter. lnay and ltay
started fighting. A lot. And it was always about money. I could never hear everything at the start because they
used to fight in their room. Then later they'd fight in the living room-and by then, my headphones were already
my best friend.

One morning I woke up and went to get to get some juice in the kitchen and I saw that things were
missing-the TV the microwave. I ran to my parents' room to tell them: Inay! ltay! We've been robbed! Call 911!
But all I found was lnay sitting at the foot of the bed, crying. The closet was open and my father's clothes were
gone...I haven't seen him since.

Isabel: The moment I saw them at the airport I ran and I hugged Miguel so tight I think he couldn't
breathe! I was afraid people would call 911 and report me for child abuse!

I hugged Roberto, and then we headed for the Skytrain with all the luggage and sat in front. While he
and Miguel were looking outside the window to see what Vancouver was like, I remember looking at my son,
then him, this mary my husband. The mole on his right cheek, his mustache, his pointy ears-I recognized all of

But then I realized that there was also a part of him I didn't recognize anymore. And although I couldn't
put my finger on it. I knew something had changed.
Miguel: Things change so much here. The weather, the seasons. One day you're at your lola's where it's
always sunny and you have so much fury next thing you're in a city, trapped in a basement and it just keeps
raining. Your voice changes, your body changes and you feel just like a pancake at IHOP. Your whole world,
flipped upside down.

Isabel: So of course I took them downtown and I showed them Gas Town, Yaletown and my personal
favorite, Metrotown. Everything was new and exciting at first. But then things changed when Roberto, no
matter how hard he tried, couldn't find a job. He didn't want to do something like Tim Hortons. He thought it
was beneath him. I'd tell him "But this is how it works here. You need Canadian experience." 'Nakakahiya,"
he'd say, and we'd always end up fighting.

Because of my two jobs, I hardly got to see both of them. I'd be so exhausted when I get home. Many
times, Roberto would go five blocks away to the house of Kiko, who's also from the same hometown. Kiko

lived with his wife, two kids, his sister-in-law, and a cousin and Roberto would go there practically every day so
that they could talk about life back in the Philippines, and how everyday was a fiesta.

Kami naman, the only time we had as a family was my day off on Sunday when we went to church. And
that's when l'd pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary to knock some sense into my husband's head. Otherwise, I'11
knock his head with something harder!

Anyway, one night-this was like a year ago-he came home drunk. As I led him to bed and drew closer to
him, I smelled something on his neck and it was not the smell of Dove pomegranate! I know every fragrance of
shampoo, lotion and laundry soap in this house and I knew this was not one of them. "Roberto. Sabihin mo sa
akin ang totoo. Tell me the truth." He broke down and cried. He'd been having an affair with that sister in law of
Kiko for the past 3 months!

At that moment, I couldn't think straight. After a these years, working there in Canada, giving up my
hiya to care for him, for our son, this is how he repays me? “Lumayas ka dito! Leave us! Don't ever come
back!" He took his clothes, some of our stuff, and then he left.

Miguel: It's all her fault! Why ltay left. She's always "Roberto, you have to do this. Roberto, why don't
you do that." She's the same way with me, and she drives me nuts! Miguel, study hard. Do the dishes. Just eat
your tuna salad and stop complaining!

In Manila, I never had to do the dishes. Lola would always take me to school. Here, lnay keeps on
saying: "Tandaan mo anak, school is important." But she never helps me with my homework. She doesn't even
find the time to attend the, parent-teacher meetings, and I feel I'm the only kid in school whose parents never
show up.

When she gets home, she's so tired. "How can I give up a whole shift just to be able to attend a meeting
at your school?" It's always about making money. More money. "It's for you, anak, for your future." But what
about me now? What about my life now? She wants me to study college after, but what use is college anyway?
She graduated from a university in Manila, she was a teacher, now she makes sandwiches and works at a
grocery. What's a degree for? School is such a waste of time.

Basta next year, when l'm 16, I'm gonna find a job and make my own money, so that I don't have to hear
her say "Money doesn't grow on trees, Miguel!" and how she “sacrificed her life" for me. But living so far away
from me, not being able to see me for 7. F@#%ING. YEARS. Tell me...didn't she sacrifice me too?
Isabel: Sakripisyo. Sacrifice. This is what it's all about right? Blessed are the poor for theirs is the
kingdom of heaven. That's what Father Dela Cruz used to keep on telling us at our parish in Malabon when I
was growing up. I had this image of heaven in my head. Everything was gold-the walls, the curtains. And there
would be food everywhere- and snow! The angels would be flying around, and we'd all be dressed in white.

So even when my parents couldn't feed their seven kids, and we would go to sleep hungry, I thought,
that's, ok. In heaven, I'll have all the fried chicken I want with all the banana ketchup money can buy. All I need
is to wait. And so when I thought of coming to Canada, I thought-what's a few years of sacrifice? If I could do it
for a better life? For my son?

The night before I left for Canada, when Miguel was about to go to bed, I held him in my arms.
"Anak, tomorrow, Inay is going somewhere, ok?"
"Where Inay?"
"To this place called Canada."

"What will you do there?"

"I'm going to find us a new house where everything is gold, with lots of food, and where they have

"Wow,! I want to go with you, lnay!"

"Not yet anak, I have to go there first, and then you'll follow ok?" He nodded, and then fell asleep.

While he lay there, I looked at my son's face, his eyes, his cheeks. I knew that tomorrow, if he saw me
crying when I left, he would cry too, and I wouldn't be able to leave. So the next day, before he woke up, I
kissed him on the forehead. And then I took my bags...I took my bags and left. I was crying all the way to the
airport, I was crying on the plane...Sometimes, I feel, I haven't stopped crying since.

Miguel: Sometimes I feel this is when I started remembering things so clearly. That morning lnay left. I
remember waking up, with the white beams of the ceiling looking down on me. I remembered my dream-I was
in this beautiful place with bi& golden houses, and snow. "That must be Canada! That's where lnay said she was
going." I was so excited! I ran to the kitchen to tell her.
"I saw it, lnay! | saw Canada!" But she wasn't in the kitchen, and instead, I found my grandmother.
"Where is lnay, Lola? I want to go with her to Canadal" Lola bent down and held my hand, "Miguel, your lnay
has left."
"Left w-here? Aren't we going with her?"

"No, Canada, is very far away. This morning, your ltay took her to the airport."

"To the airport? Why didn't they take me?"

"Oh they don't allow kids at the airport!"

"Why didn't she say goodbye?"

"You were still asleep and she didn't want to wake yov"

"But when will I see her?" I remember the tears were already streaming down my cheeks. "I want to see
my Inay!" And all that Lola said was, "Sorry Miguel...you'll see her...soon."
Isabel: Sorry, anak, soon. I promise you. Life will be better. For you. For both of us. Soon.
Miguel: That time my mother left, when I was seven , ‘soon’ became days, weeks, months. At seven, I
realized a very painful truth: my mother had abandoned me. And as the years went by, and her image began to
fade. I could no longer remember what it was like. The way she touched my cheeks. The feel of her hands. Sure,
she sent home money, sent me toys, and chocolates. Sure, there were phone calls, and pictures. But you can't
hug a phone call, can you? And a picture can't tell you that everything will be all right.
Isabel: [faces Miguel] Just wait anak. Soon everything will be all right.
Miguel: [faces Isabel] lnay, all these years I've been waiting. Tell me, please tell me, when does soon

Flicker, Fade, Gone
by Carljoe Javier

He brought the pistol up to shoulder level, let his right-hand fingers wrap smoothly around it, put the
palm of his left hand on the butt for support. The gun was light in his hand as he swung it from left to right,
clearing the perimeter while he zoomed into the grocery store.
He’d been through this before, but he still tensed as he slid through the store’s shattered glass door. He
went over the mission’s specs in his head: at least 30 perps in the store, plus three employees still inside.
Bang bang bang, three to the chest. Reload. One had jumped in front of him as he stepped through the
diaper aisle. Next aisle, canned goods, three perps, one holding a knife to a hostage. His arm glided from left to
right, bang bang, two in the chest, perp down. Bang, headshot. Reload. Last crook on the right with the hostage:
one to the leg, hostage runs, bang, headshot. Reload.
He went through the rest of the grocery in the same methodical manner. Bang bang bang, reload; bang
bang bang, reload; bang bang bang, reload; it was a rhythm that he’d developed over the years. Cutting down
the perps gave him a rush, but his adrenaline got pumping whenever there was a hostage to save.
As he went through the cashier’s counters he could hear his heartbeat pounding in his ears and feel the
pistol getting slippery from his sweating palm. One more hostage, he thought.
Bang, ugh, he’d taken a hit. A thug had popped up from behind a counter with the hostage. While the
woman struggled against him the thug raised his arm to take aim again. Bang bang bang, reload.
ALL HOSTAGES SAVED. He smiled, put the pistol back in his holster and wiped his palms on his
pants. He watched onscreen as his statistics were tallied: Hits Taken: 1; Hostages Saved: 3; Shots Taken: 105;
Hits: 97; Accuracy: 92%. Not bad, he said to himself.
He left the machine and paced around the empty arcade trying to decide what enemies he’d face next.
He took the nylon string necklace that served as a key chain off. In his right hand he played with the master key,
sliding it through his fingers. With it he was the master of the arcade; with one turn of the key he could become
Spiderman or Cyclops, a World War II pilot, an F-1 racer; or he could take up a gun and shoot down secret
agents, terrorists, terminators, zombies, dinosaurs. He played almost all the games, and the games where there
were people to save drew him most.
He put the key into the slot, turned it, and put the key back around his neck. His hands slid onto the
keypad; right hand fingers crawling over the buttons, left hand wrapping around the joystick. Staring into the
screen he could see his reflection at first, but as the game started he felt his image fading, replaced by the action
He couldn’t remember what drew him first to the arcade anymore. He couldn’t remember what, but he
remembered well when.
He was seven, walking down the street with his father. All the stores on the street were brightly lit,
except for one that was dark black with flashing lights. Passing it he could hear explosions and clanks and
booms and pops and bangs and pows.
They went in and he walked through the aisles of the arcade peering up and barely seeing the screens.
The place was full of boys hunched over the machines tapping away at the buttons and swinging joysticks, their
bodies twisting to the unusual rhythms of the games they were playing.
His father brought him a chair to stand on so he could reach the keypad. With his father standing behind
him he began his first game, Space Invaders. He died quickly, his spaceship crashing against alien ships. His
father put in another quarter. He died again. Then another. And on his last quarter the coin slot jammed.
He stood there on the chair tapping buttons wondering what was wrong while his father went over to the
storekeeper. He was a burly man who wore a nylon necklace around his neck where a key hung. The man
turned to face his father, then started to walk over, taking the necklace off and letting the key wander through
his fingers. The storekeeper came to the machine, bent over, put the key into the hole below the coin slot, and
the machine started up again.
He could still remember the machine, the ridges on the key, and the awe he’d felt as the game started
again. With a turn of a key this man had control of the entire arcade. The storekeeper held the power and
pleasure of all these games in his hand, or on that string he wore around his neck. The only thing that he
couldn’t remember was what the man looked like. Although all those other memories remained vivid, that of
the man’s face seemed to have just faded away.
He wondered why he couldn’t remember that man’s face. It was just as if his presence was a flicker.
Occupying space, but just momentarily there, then gone from his memory with just the residue of presence but
no form. He felt he should remember what the man looked like, despite his not really knowing him, because he
spent many of his days at that arcade for the next few years. Still the flicker that was the man’s face escaped
him, to fade into the recesses of his memory, then to naught.
He used to dream of disappearing. He would stare at a mirror, looking first at his reflection, then through
it, until finally it seemed to him that the reflection was no longer there. That he was no longer there.
His mother caught him staring at the mirror once and asked him why he was doing it. When he
explained that he wanted to disappear into the mirror she grabbed him by the ear, told him to forget that
foolishness, and sent him out of the house to play with the neighborhood kids.
But he never got along with the neighborhood kids. They were loud and rowdy and rough and pushed
him to the ground and made fun of his scrawny body. They’d bump him aside or leave him behind and he’d
head home, wait for his mother to work on some chores so that he could grab a mirror and bring it to his room
without her noticing. Then his father brought him to the arcade, and he found the worlds that he was destined to
inhabit. Where the mirror made him disappear, the machines took him away, brought him to different places,
made him different people, important people.
Bang, bang bang, reload he’d fi re his gun rhythmically at the machine as he watched the flicker of the
shots and feel himself slowly fading into the screen.
Don’t you want to make something of yourself? What are you doing with your life? Don’t you want to
be someone in this world?
But he didn’t have to be someone in this world, he would tell himself as he zoned out of his parents’
sermons. They would yammer on about him throwing his life away, but he would only think of the many worlds
he had conquered, worlds where he was real, where he was someone.
And when the rest of his family migrated to another country he’d broken ties with this world. There was
no one here to keep dragging him back. He dropped out of school, moved into a room near the mall, and started
working as a shopkeeper at the arcade.
That key that he had been longing for since his first visit to the arcade was now his. He wore it around
his neck. He would fondle the string around his neck, tugging at it so that the key would slap against his chest.
Then he’d take the necklace off and slide the key through the fingers on his right hand. He’d enjoy the cold
metal’s jagged edges cutting against his skin. With it he was master of this galaxy, holding power over all the
different worlds with a mere turn of the key. It was all his, this was where he belonged.
For a few years he lost himself in the arcade. The only things bringing him back to the world where he
didn’t belong were the occasional calls, letters, and packages from his family abroad. Then he met her.
She went to the arcade every Sunday with her family. She had two younger brothers who played Dance
Dance Revolution, Tekken, Street Fighter vs. X-Men, Marvel Super Heroes, Capcom vs. Marvel, and House of
the Dead on the video game machines. She would join them sometimes to play F-1 racing or Skeeball and
Basketball to get tickets so that they could earn the minimum number to bring home the cheap plastic toys that
the arcade off ered in exchange for tickets.
He hadn’t seen her as more than the usual arcade visitor until he saw her in a Sunday dress that
reminded him of the pink dress worn by Princess Toadstool in the Donkey Kong and Super Mario Bros. games.
He remembered being Mario climbing through those pipes up past that evil gorilla or hopping across the bridges
and stomping King Koopa’s spiked shell to rescue the Princess. He saved her, he won her back, and she loved
him for it.
After that day when she wore the pink dress her face was embedded in his memory, the graphics in the
games changed and morphed to resemble her. She was the woman thanking him for rescuing her from the
zombie in the House of the Dead; she was the woman being held by the perp in the grocery store; she was every
woman in every game who needed his help, who needed to be saved. And every time that he cut a victim loose
or wrenched a hostage free she would thank him, feel her skin touching his, feel her breath warming his neck,
feel her thighs rubbing up against him.
He dreamed of touching her. The only things that touched his hands long enough so that he could
remember how he felt were the cold plastic of the keypad buttons and the harsh metal of the joystick. But as he
lay alone nights he would think about her hair, his fingers passing through the locks down to her neck. His
hands would go from her neck to her shoulders and he would bring her in close to him, allow him the now alien
sensation of flesh against flesh, warmth of another against his own. She would bring him the things the arcade
could not.
She brought him back to the world. Though he would find her in his electronic kingdoms, he knew that
she was around and there was something that the real world could offer him, something for him to desire that
the games could not give, something real, something he could feel.
Years had passed with him not noticing as he lost himself in the games, but now he was counting days
again. The games he played, the worlds he unlocked with the key were not his real life anymore, but now they
had become ways to pass the time until she came in on Sunday and he could watch her carry her brothers or
slide into a car racing console.
He would hope every time that she put a token into the machine that it would jam and that she would
call him over and he would come over and turn the key and grant her game and then she would talk to him and
then...but it hadn’t happened yet. So he waited.
She came in on a Friday. He was ecstatic to see her, happily surprised that his wait to see her hadn’t had
to last a week. It was after lunch and there weren’t many people so he watched her with her friends.
They were in their school uniforms, the girls in mustard colored dresses and the boys in blue pants. He
remembered when he was in school and would head straight to the arcade after periodical examinations just to
stay there till it was dark out, as he assumed they were doing.
He was throttled back into the present when he saw her, his Princess Toadstool holding one boy’s arm.
That boy was every villain that he shot down, every perp he nabbed, every demon he vanquished. His eyes
locked in on the couple, and he waited for his chance to storm the castle and pull the drawbridge out from under
this King Koopa.
The wait wasn’t long, because at one of the gunning games he lashed out at her. She had leaned over and
held King Koopa’s arm, which made him lose his aim, miss, take a hit, and get a game over. He threw the gun
down so that it hung by its metallic cord, turned to face her, and started calling her st*p#d , a waste of time, and
a mistake to have even hung out with.
And that’s when he came in, sliding between Princess Toadstool and King Koopa. He nudged her back a
bit, although she could barely move as she fought to keep her cheeks dry. Then he faced King Koopa, who was
wearing a green sun visor and spiky hair. He felt the urge to stomp the boy, but instead grabbed him by the
collar and led him out of the arcade and handed him over to the guard.
He came back to his Princess Toadstool who had succumbed to King Koopa’s attack and he held her
hand and led her to the back room where she could sit down. He stayed with her there, not knowing what to say
so not saying anything. He just absorbed her touch, felt the contact coursing through him. This was how it felt,
he realized. He had saved someone, had rescued, had been a hero, a protector.
He stayed with her that way, silent as she sobbed into his shoulder, until her friends came to get her. As
she was leaving she thanked him and he told her that he noticed that she came in every Sunday. She smiled and
told him that she was flattered that he had noticed. Then he said that he’d see her Sunday, and she smiled and
The night after and Saturday he didn’t play any games. He played with the key in his hand, wondering
what he needed it for now that he had the power to save people without it. He didn’t need to go into the games
to be a hero anymore; he’d already saved Princess Toadstool.
He waited anxiously for Sunday when she would come in. And he watched her as she came with her
brothers. They went to the usual games that they played, and he waited for her to call him, to come to her

The boys moved from game to game and she followed them. Then they went over to the skeeball
machines to try to win tickets. As the machine they were playing in spewed out five tickets a boy came over to
him and said that a machine had eaten his token, would he go over and please fix it.
He left them there at the skeeball machine, and went over to the other side of the arcade. He checked the
joystick and keypad of the game that they boy had led him to, then used his key to register a credit. As he
straightened up, he bent over again, and wanting to share his happiness, gave the key another twist so that the
boy got a free credit.
When he got back to the skeeball machine they were gone. He felt the key around his neck suddenly
fifty pounds heavier and weighing him down as he struggled to keep his neck up looking for them. Then one of
Princess Toadstool’s brothers came up to him and told him that his sister was calling him. The boy pointed to a
racing game so he went over.
She was sitting in the machine holding onto the steering wheel. She told him that it had eaten her token,
so he bent into the machine and gave the key a twist. Then he smiled up at her. She smiled back at him. He
waited for her to recognize him, to remember what happened Friday, what he’d done for her. She just gave him
a blank smile and thanked him for fixing the machine.
He spent the rest of the day in a daze. He felt as if his body was becoming a blank, taking up space but
having no matter. She hadn’t remembered him, hadn’t recognized his face, hadn’t known who he was. And as
those thoughts played like a looped reel in his mind he felt that no one knew him. No one bothered to notice
who he was. He was not a person; he was just the key that he held. People only approached him, only
acknowledged his presence when they needed a turn of the key. Who was he then? And how much of his
identity lay in the key.
He felt that he came alive only after a turn of the key, when he was in a game.
He could feel himself fading, knew that people were looking past him, seeing only the key that hung
around his neck. So he waited until there was no one left in the arcade.
He waited until he was alone so that he could turn the key and come alive again.
This wasn’t the world for him, and as he turned the key he knew which one was.
He stared into the screen, watched as his face began fading away, waited until it had disappeared. And
as he saw the game start and he wrapped his right hand fingers around the pistol and put his left hand up to the
butt he felt himself coming alive. As he approached the grocery store and started fi ring, bang bang bang,
reload, he could feel himself gaining substance, not being a blank anymore.
In the morning the guard came to find a gun hanging from its arcade machine. A copy of the arcade’s
master key was stuck in the machine’s slot. He figured the last man working the night shift had forgotten it so
he returned it to the arcade’s owner.
The owner asked if the guard had noticed the late shift worker leave, the guard said he hadn’t. He
assumed that the boy hadn’t shown up for work, shrugged his shoulders, and thought to himself that it was time
to call up the agency for another guy. He thought about the boy who’d worked for him these past years. The
peculiar thing was that he couldn’t even remember what the boy looked like.
Later that week, the owner had to replace one of the machines in the arcade.
Since that night the boy hadn’t shown up he’d been having a problem with that machine the guard had
found the master key in. It wouldn’t accept tokens, and the game would go on from start to end, with the display
following a distinct rhythm: bang bang bang, reload.

Virtual Center
by Raissa Claire U. Rivera

Delia stepped onto the escalator leading to the MRT as she did every morning. Beside her, robots were
making adjustments to the down escalator. As she ascended, she thought how lucky she was that robots could
not do the work she was doing now, had been doing for the past twelve years, ever since she graduated from
high school. She shoved her pass into the turnstile, and pressed a button to indicate her destination. The Center,
of course, as it was for virtually everyone else. The turnstile beeped, flashed that her ticket was accepted and
that the corresponding amount of money was deducted from her account. She was lucky to find a seat on the
She remembered her first trip on this train as a tiny child of three. Her mother had taken her, and they
had gone to visit her grandmother in the hospital. There were just as many people then, but maintenance robots
were just starting to be used. And there were the same number of stops, but more people got off at every stop.
Now everyone who got on was headed for the Center for work. After work, a few went shopping. Delia went
occasionally herself, but she avoided the malls when she was low on cash. That was the trouble with paying for
everything with a debit card. You could use up your money quickly if you weren’t careful. The debit card
machines showed you exactly what your account balance was every time you paid, but some people, like her
friend Mariel, never learned and sometimes had to go through the hassle of refunding an item or applying for
credit. Interest rates were so high that credit wasn’t worth it. If you tried to leave without paying, the security
cameras would record your transgression and the authorities would shut off your access to your bank account
until you returned to the store and paid. It was a foolproof system. Children who didn’t have debit accounts
would find their parents contacted by the authorities. Delia used to think when they introduced the system in
high school that it would never work. A person could simply hide his identity by disguising himself and never
be caught, right? She found out otherwise when her brother Nick and a couple of his friends tried shoplifting
wearing hooded sweatshirts and bandanas covering most of their faces. The exit beeped a warning, and the glass
doors slid shut, entrapping all the young miscreants, except her brother, who managed to dash through. Her
father had received a letter and pictures that informed them that their son had shoplifted, and if he did not make
restitution he would have a criminal record and his guardians would have restricted access to their bank
accounts. Nick returned the silver bracelet to the store, and never again tried to steal. He figured that the store
cameras had x-ray vision. And the government’s computers, their father told him, had records of every person
in the country, which had to be updated every year if they wanted to have access to their money.
Money really talked, nowadays, in a way it hadn’t when they were young children. Life certainly was
much better now than it had been in their parents' youth. Delia’s heart ached for her mother, who had been the
valedictorian of her high school class but got pregnant and couldn’t go to college. Instead, she worked in the
best job she could get without higher education. She took care of a rich family's children all her life, and died
miserable over not having been unable to truly utilize her potential. Her husband worked as a delivery truck
driver. Of course, such jobs were obsolete now. Only the poor had children now, and computers had replaced
human drivers just as they had replaced factory workers.
At the next stop, she saw Mariel through the window and waved at her. She wasn't sure Mariel had seen
her, but it didn’t matter, as she knew where to look for Delia. Mariel squeezed into the seat Delia had saved for
her. “Where’s your brother?” she asked Delia.
Delia threw up her hands. “On strike. Rebelling as usual, even if nobody’s following him anymore.”
Why should anyone rebel?" Mariel said. “So maybe our lives aren’t as great as those of the people we
take care of. But we certainly have things a lot better than our parents did. At least everybody has a job. Would
he rather farm?”

Since the government restricted access of all provisions and privileges to those who worked and those
who had worked and retired at the appropriate time, the only way one could possibly avoid depending on the
government for his daily bread was to go to the few wild spots left and live off the land. Few people knew how
to do traditional farming anymore. It was something you read about in history books. Computers and robots
took care of cultivation and processing these days. Who would want to work that hard?
“Nick complains it’s just like in our grandparents’ time. There’s class division. And there’s no way out
of it unless you can afford to pay someone to take care of you for life. And that they pay us just enough to feed
and clothe us and transport ourselves to the Center, so we’re never going to be able to break out of the cycle.”
“Well, that’ s just how things have been throughout history,” Mariel said. “Don’t tell me he’s becoming
a Marxist like those people back in the sixties, or was it the seventies? That was a hundred years ago! And they
didn’t accomplish anything, did they?”
Delia just nodded. She didn't let Mariel into her thoughts. She was remembering Reggie, her first and
only love. He had big dreams. He wanted to start a new society, free from their government. He had tried to
escape to the mountains. He had asked Delia to come with him, but she was frightened, and refused. A few
weeks later, his lifeless body was shown on the evening news, next to the makeshift vehicle he had created,
which had somehow caught on fire. Nick hinted darkly that he was attacked by the robotic patrol helicopters,
but Delia was sure it was an accident. One man alone seeking freedom wasn’t a threat to society, was he?
The train was growing increasingly more crowded, and even though Delia hadn’t been paying attention
to the number of stops, she knew they were close to the Center. She looked out the window and saw Manila
Bay, grayish and murky beneath her. She saw the Center, a massive dome of interwoven steel rods and glass,
appropriately looking not unlike a greenhouse. And then the train slowed to a stop and the recorded voice
announced: “Virtual Center Station.” Delia and Mariel got off the train, rode with the tide of workers, put their
cards through the turnstile and retrieved them, then stepped on to the moving walk that conveyed them to the
Center itself. They entered their identity cards through another turnstile. The steel door opened to the large
ward. And they went to work in an enormous room with a domed ceiling. Its temperature was nearly freezing,
despite the sunlight filtered through the mirror-tinted glass. It did not have the temperature of a greenhouse, but
it was like a greenhouse nevertheless, for it was here that bodies were cultivated.
The room was filled with people’s bodies strapped on chairs that belonged in the dentists’ offices of old.
They were fitted with masks, wires, electrodes, IVs and feeding tubes. They reminded Delia of her grandparents
on life support machines in the hospital after they had strokes or heart attacks, of her mother in the last days
before she succumbed to kidney disease. Except that these people were not ill. They were the very rich who had
given up on ordinary living and were living a virtual life. The masks on their faces were supposed to project
images they watched, images corresponding to the type of life they wanted to lead. Electronic impulses gave
them the appropriate sensations. Even their tongues had electrodes on them to stimulate taste. Delia and
Mariel’s job was to check on their bodies during their waking hours. They were programmed to sleep at a
certain time of the night, and to wake up and experience their virtual lives at nine in the morning every day. The
caretakers monitored the individual bodies, watched for signs of distress, listened to their requests (Delia’s body
often had a craving for pizza) and inputted these into the computers by the bedside. They also observed them for
any symptoms of illness or deterioration, though in this capacity they were really only a back-up to the more
reliable electrodes and cameras. Bedsores were prevented by the special cushioning of the seats. There was
really not much work to do, but no one shirked or moved from their place until the bell rang in the evening.
They were paid to stay there all day, making sure their particular charges were happy and healthy. They could
not die if they were cared for properly. If one happened to die, then the income of that body’s caretaker would
be terminated. Mariel called hers DOM, though his name, as indicated on the plate on the back of his seat, was
Roberto Paez. She often blushed while at his side, watching and listening. "Why couldn’t I have gotten a
woman?” she often asked Delia. The girl working on Mariel’s other side had the luck of having a former movie
star. They often laughed at her antics. She was always going to the beauty parlor and tossing her head, and she
would sometimes scream or cry alarmingly, but they soon realized that she was imagining herself acting in a
film. Delia had one of the youngest, a man who had been a famous singer in her youth She remembered
watching him on TV when she was little. He looked about her age, even though she knew he was at least ten
years older. In their refrigerated climate, protected from the stresses of daily living and pumped full of
hormones, the bodies hardly seemed to age.
She smiled at her ward, even though she knew he couldn’t see her. “Hello Art,” she said. He was
humming and moving his fingers as if playing a guitar. He did that a lot. The man beside her muttered, “I don't
see how he could have become rich as a singer. I'm glad I have a quiet religious woman to work on.” But Delia
liked Art’s voice. She remembered how, like most girls, she’d had a crush on him back in high school and was
devastated when he chose to retire to the Center. She couldn’t believe her luck when she was assigned to him.
Behind her, her brother’s friend Bert was instructing a substitute on caring for Nick’s body, the body of an ex-
politician who often startled them by uttering slogans in a loud voice. Nick often complained about his dull
speeches riddled with clichés. The new apprentice jumped back in surprise as the politician suddenly stretched
out his hand. “You don’t have to shake it,” Bert assured her. “The electronic gloves take care of making him
feel the pressure. The electrodes send the message to the glove that he imagines he's shaking someone’s hand,
and that’s when he feels it. Your job is to detect signs of complex emotions, mostly negative ones, and input
them and your recommendations for relieving them. You have the emotions and symptoms charts?”
“Yes.” She held up a folder which showed different facial expressions and gestures and the
corresponding emotions that they could be symptomatic of.
“We veterans don’t bother with that anymore, but you’d better refer to that now and then,” Bert advised.
“Any questions?”
“Yes,” said the girl. “If the support system is programmed to make their lives go the way they want it,
how come they still feel unhappy sometimes?” Bert whistled.
“That’s a tough one. Well, I think it has to do with hormones, and that what they want changes, and
sometimes it has to do with the fact that some people like to feel pain, like this old lady. She’s always
complaining that something hurts, and I input that into the computer, then she says, ‘Thank you, hijo,’ or,
‘That’s my good girl’ or something like that. In the profile, they gave me there’s this essay she wrote where she
says she wants to be in a virtual world where her children won't leave her and will take care of her all her life.”
“Oh,” the girl said. “What problems does this man have?”
“He gets into loud arguments once in a while, and the computer sets it up so he wins.”
“Mine is pretty happy,” Mariel said. “As long as he’s having sex, though he gets into arguments with his
jealous girlfriends once in a while. He likes making them jealous! The computer sets it up so that they always
forgive him and come back to him. Delia’s seems happy all the time.”
“He gets frustrated sometimes, though, when a song he's practicing doesn’t sound right to him,” Delia
told them. “The computer works it out so that he gets distracted from the song. There are some things the
computer can’t do, like make a song sound perfect. Not when Art himself doesn’t know how he wants it to
Art was making slurping sounds as he had his breakfast. He reminded Delia of Nick when he was a
Bert didn't seem surprised that Nick wasn't around. Maybe Nick had told him about his plan. But Delia
didn't want to ask Bert about it in front of everyone. Someone might report him. Nick had already been in
trouble for rebelling against the system, back when he was a senior in high school. Delia was already working at
the Center then. Nick questioned her constantly about her job. Then one day their dad had gotten a note from his

social studies teacher complaining that the boy was always challenging the system. Their father had talked to
him, and Nick had subsided, but after graduation he refused to work at the Center. He wanted to go to college
and major in Management. It was one of two courses available now. College graduates supervised factories or
stores or the Center, saving up until they could afford a virtual life. Some of them became teachers, who made
slightly less than supervisors, but occupied an exalted place in society, and were assured of a virtual life upon
retirement, paid for by the government. But college was expensive, and they couldn’t afford to send him. Nick
didn’t have any money to invest in the world stock market either, so he bummed around for a couple of years,
much to their dad’s disappointment. Then their father had become ill, and as the treatment for cancer was
expensive, Nick reluctantly joined Delia at the Center so he could help out.
Delia was getting hungry just watching Art eat, so she reached into the small food locker underneath his
chair for part of her daily ration. It was the apprentices’ job to stock the food lockers each day, and the rest of
the time to attend lectures and to observe the live action videos of the caretakers at work.
After Art ate, he talked to an imaginary girlfriend on the phone. Delia knew from his profile that he had
never found the perfect girls for him while he was living in the real world. Nobody understood him, he
complained in his essay. Sure, he was popular, but the people who lived with him always told him he took
things too seriously and laughed at things that were important to him. By the time he chose to go virtual, his
popularity was flagging. He wasn’t as young as he used to be, and he was afraid his imagination and energy
were waning.
How Delia wished she had known him before he had gone virtual. She would have understood him, she
was sure, and could have been a friend to him. Maybe he would have found the perfect girl in her. She
wondered what his virtual girlfriend was like.
Then Art went to the park, apparently to meet his girlfriend. Lucky him. There hadn’t been green grass
and trees in Manila since her high school graduation, except at the grounds of the Cultural Center of the
Philippines Museum, which could only be accessed by robots and seen from the windows of the Virtual Center.
Parks were low priority by now anyway, since most people were too busy working at the Center all day. The
middle class, the supervisors, had their own homes in the distant suburbs with grass and trees and flowers. They
monitored the factories, farms, stores, national security, power plants, museums, and the Center by computer,
and they had cooperative stores in their neighborhoods so they need never go to the dirty city. Teachers came
from the suburbs also and had their own shuffle to take them to their assigned schools. But luckily the school
was air-conditioned. Delia’s house was near the edge of the enormous landfill, and it depressed her terribly to
return there every day after working at the sterile Center. But housing was hard to find these days, and that was
the best place they could afford.
She wouldn’t mind leading a virtual life herself, she thought. In her virtual world, she would live in the
beautiful green suburbs. She would have a garden filled with every flower in existence. She would be married to
Reggie, whom she had never forgotten. They would have two or three children They’d have all the modern
appliances, and spend their days playing outdoors and listening to music. They could even travel. Nobody left
the country nowadays. It wasn’t necessary, since for business there was e-mail and there was virtual travel for
those who just wanted a vacation. It was much cheaper. Delia had tried it once when she got her Christmas
bonus. But of course, one thing the computer couldn’t recreate was Reggie and the experience of having him by
her side. After a while, it got boring swimming at the virgin beach alone. But if she described him accurately,
she would be able to have him back in her virtual world.
The rest of the day went as usual. Mariel’s DOM made startlingly loud grunting noises and soothed a
jealous girlfriend who had apparently caught him in the act. The new apprentice nearly fell asleep while the
politician made a lengthy speech. Bert’s old woman was thrilled to receive the news that she was going to be a
grandmother. Her other neighbor’s old woman prayed a novena. The ex-movie star on Mariel’s other side

amused them by going ballroom dancing, swinging her arms, kicking her legs and swaying in her seat. Art spent
a lot of his time singing.
Finally, the last bell rang, and everyone yawned and stretched and stood up to go. Delia joined the tide
of workers going to the MRT station. Many of her friends stopped her to chat, but she apologized, telling them
she was too tired, and hurried to the turnstile. Delia thought she saw Nick in the crowd, but she told herself she
was hallucinating. She didn’t know where he’d gone, but he was probably leading a demonstration in
Malacañang, which was now maintained as a museum only. People often held symbolic demonstrations there
anyway, knowing that the security cameras would show their activities to the government officials in their
homes in the suburbs.
She reached into her pocket for her wallet. It wasn’t there. She looked for it on the floor. Could it have
fallen? Nobody stole wallets these days, as you couldn’t access money in people’s bank accounts and debit card
machines demanded a thumbprint before acknowledging the transfer of cash. There was an impatient line
forming behind her, and she apologized as she retraced her steps. Where was the wallet? She went all the way
back to Art’s place. The apprentices were there cleaning up and restocking the food lockers. Her wallet was on
the floor under her chair. Most of the apprentices had finished their work by then and were leaving. She should
leave too. But she paused to gaze at Art, who was smiling and whispering, “I love you.” To his girlfriend, Delia
supposed. He looked so happy, and Delia longed to experience what he was experiencing. She impulsively bent
and kissed him, and he continued to smile.
The door alarm was sounding. The last remaining apprentices hurried through, and Delia ran after them.
But just as she reached the door, there was an ear-splitting explosion. The door slammed shut before she could
go through and she crouched against it instinctively, covering her head. She felt the rush of the stinking air and
the sprinkling of pulverized glass as the windows shattered. Alarms were going off all over the place, and she
heard the sound of screams and stampeding feet down the moving walk.
A rope was dropped through one window, and someone carrying a bright emergency lamp slid down it.
Nick, of course.
“What have you done?” she screamed at him.
He looked at her with concern. “No, I can’t believe I set off the bombs too early. My fault for being too
excited. Are you all right Del?” He went to her and held out his hand. She leaped to her feet without his aid.
“Guess you’re all right,” he said. He put down the emergency lamp and went to the bodies, pulling off
electrodes and undoing straps.
“What are you doing?" Delia demanded. “Explain. The authorities will be here soon, and I’d like to
know what to tell them.”
“Oh, don’t worry about them. They think the door has safely trapped me here until they’re finished
attending to the hysterical people outside. The security system didn't take into account someone blasting off the
glass with homemade bombs and climbing through on a rope anchored to the steel with an electromagnet, also
homemade, and pretty strong. Another fault of our government.”
“Some of these people could die,” Delia told him. “That lady, the one who’s always praying, must be
over a hundred years old.”
“Okay, I’ll concentrate my energies on the younger ones. Like this guy." He yanked the food tube out of
Art’s nose.
“But why?” Delia asked.

“They’re the ones who’ve entrapped us in our lives, Delia,” Nick exclaimed. “Because of them, we’ve
lost our freedom to choose how we’ll make a living. Our entire lives center around taking care of the rich so
their money will take care of us.”
“What’s wrong with that?” Delia said. “It seems like a fair arrangement to me. I was always happy with
“Are you happy that they control the government, that they made the rules before they went out like this
and we continue to follow them like programmed robots? We’re kept so busy by their demands that we’ve even
stopped noticing what an unhealthy place the real world is becoming.”
“So what? Someday we could go virtual too."
“If everyone were living in a virtual world, who would keep people alive?” Nick yanked off the last of
the electrodes on Art and started working on his straps. “They’ve set up the system in such a way that we can’t
ever get out, so we’ll always be there to look after them. Why do you think higher education is so expensive?
So, the lower classes won’t learn how to operate supercomputers and complex machines. And we can't sabotage
them either. And of course, we are taught by our middle-class teachers who have been bribed by the promise of
an eternal virtual life after retirement that the system is perfect. Perfect for these people maybe, but not for us.”
He removed Art’s mask and gave his shoulder a shake. “Come on, buddy, it’s time to see what’s happened to
the real world since you’ve gone.” Art rolled over and fell on the floor. “Ow!” he yelled, and sat up and rubbed
his eyes. Nick went on to free the politician while Delia knelt at Art’ s side. “Don’t be scared,” she said.
Art was looking around him in puzzlement. “What is this, a morgue?” he asked.
“It’s a ward for people who…just want to rest.” Delia didn’t know if she should explain. “Art, do you
feel okay?” she asked.
“I’m starving!”
She pointed to her food locker. “There’s food there, help yourself. Though you’ll be back soon.” He
helped himself to a sandwich, unwrapped it and took a big bite, then took a swig from her water jug.
The politician, now freed, stood up and reached his hand out to Art. “Thank you for voting for me," he
said. Art shook his hand, still looking puzzled, and suddenly the politician clutched at his chest and crumpled to
the floor. Delia rushed to him and put her ear to his chest, then began CPR. “He must have gotten a heart attack
from the shock,” she told Nick. “Nick, please stop. The shock is going to be too much, they'll just die and you
won’t accomplish anything!"
Nick ignored her and unstrapped the former movie star. She mumbled, “I need my beauty sleep,” and
covered her face with her arm. Nick went on to a fat Chinese man.
Delia just kept on doing CPR. There was a heartbeat, and she leaned back with relief against the
politician’s chair. She looked at Art. He took out a bag of chips and opened it as he gobbled up the rest of his
sandwich. He looked at her, swallowed and apologized, “Such manners, I know, but somehow food never tasted
this good. Thanks, miss. What’s your name?”
“Delia. I already know you’re Art.”
“Do I know you?" he asked.
“I’m a fan.” It was true enough and she felt the truth was too complicated to
explain now.

“Don’t lie to them!” Nick exploded. “How can I accomplish my purpose if they don't know the truth?”
He ripped the mask off the Chinese man, who sat up and blinked. Nick started working on another person.
“What’ s the last thing you remember, Art?”
Art smiled. “Sleeping with my girlfriend.”
“No, before that, way back. Do the words virtual life mean anything to you?"
Art thought for a while. “That rings a bell.” He paused, then said, “I remember
signing these papers. I wanted a certain kind of life, and they promised it to me. They
promised I would never get old or die. I would be free to do whatever I wanted.”
“Free!” Nick laughed. “That's a good one. Only in your mind.”
“Well, what other kind of freedom is there?" asked Art.
“The old-fashioned kind,” Nick said. “The kind of freedom which you don’t obtain at the expense of
half of society’s freedom. The kind of freedom where you are free to act but not to choose the outcome of your
actions. That is freedom!”
“Well, I was happy the way things were,” Art said. “I miss my girlfriend.”
There was a soft whir and Delia looked up to see a government security helicopter approaching.
“They’re after me,” Nick said calmly. “Listen, Delia, I'll tell them you weren’t involved. They’ll
probably let you out through the door. But you'd better escape through the emergency entrance once it’s
unlocked and bring whoever's awake and alive with you. Bring them to our house. That ought to be enough.”
“They don't have cards for the turnstile," Delia pointed out.
“Take them for a walk along the Bay, then.” The helicopter was fast approaching, and a long, thin robot
arm shot out and snapped up Nick. “Do it for me,” he told Delia, as he rose through the air.
She didn't say anything. She wasn’t going to do what he said. She didn’t care if the security cameras
were probably all damaged in the explosion. She had never been a rebel, and she wasn’t about to start now. She
would see to it herself that everyone was reinstalled in his or her virtual world.
Art was looking at her now. “Are you really a fan? I’d like to get to know you.”
“What about your girlfriend?” she said teasingly.
“Just because I have a girlfriend doesn't mean I can’t talk to other girls.”
“I’m afraid they're going to put you back to sleep,” Delia told him.
“Who are ‘they’? Whoever they are, I’m not afraid of them. Nobody takes my freedom away from me,”
Art declared. He picked up a large package of cookies. “I don’t really know what’s going on, if there was a
bomb or anything, but we’d better have provisions if we’re going into hiding.” He handed her the package,
filled his arms with sandwiches and hooked the handle of the jug of water with one finger.
A click informed Delia that the door was now unlocked. As it rose slowly to reveal the feet of the
Center’s supervisors, she made her decision. She picked up the emergency lamp, tucked the package of cookies
under her arm, grabbed Art’s elbow and hurried to the emergency exit opposite. She turned the handle, and,
ignoring the door alarm, went through, followed by Art.
She didn’t know where they were going exactly. She was surprised to find herself on the edge of the
bay, on the grounds of the Cultural Center. She hadn't been there since she was a little girl. Nobody really
bothered going to the museums, except students. They had been to all the museums for school trips, but there
was never anything new in them, so what was the point of going more than once or twice?
She crouched behind the wall, and Art followed suit Delia wondered if they should run, but she did not
see anyone at the emergency exit. They must be too preoccupied with the bodies to bother with her, she thought.
Or maybe they believed that since Nick had been captured, they had nothing left to worry about. Another flaw
in their government, Nick would say.
Art tensed at first, looked around wildly, then took a chance and peeked over the wall. “I guess we’re
safe,” he said. Delia looked too. The emergency door was shut, though they hadn’t bothered to close it. It must
have shut automatically, or maybe one of the Center’s officials closed it.
Art stood on the edge of the wall and looked about him. “Things have changed a lot in just a short time.
Where are all the boats?”
“You’ve been asleep for twelve years,” Delia told him. “Boats have been phased out. No more
international trade, no more need to travel outside of the country. There are MRT systems to take us to the cities
and suburbs.”
“Progress comes with a price,” Art said. “Did you know that I practically grew up here? My mother and
I lived on the grounds of the Cultural Center. She begged to put food in our mouths. She died suddenly when I
was about eleven, and I was found by the authorities and placed in an orphan’s home. That was where my
singing talent was discovered, and the rest is history.” Art sat down on the wall. “I remember swimming here,
and fishing, too. We didn't really catch much.”
“Just as well, since a lot of the fish were poisoned,” Delia told him.
“I liked watching the boats best, though, and sometimes I would dream of stowing away on one of them
and seeing the world.”
“Nowadays, all you need to do is go to a virtual travel salon,” Delia told him.
“I didn’t think that would really catch on, virtual travel. That’s just like looking through a guidebook.
You don’t really get to experience a place, do you? You see things, but nothing happens to you. No adventure!”
Art said. He turned to look at the dying palms. “I used to climb those and bring down coconuts.” And he
laughed. “I sound like an old man, yearning for the good old days.”
“You’re almost forty, you know,” Delia informed him. “I'm ten years younger than you, and I’m twenty-
Art looked down at himself in shock. He peered at his bony hands, inspected his long, gray-streaked
hair. He gasped. “No wonder the world has changed so much.”
“Those boats you talk about, they’re in museums now,” Delia told him. “There’s a naval museum down
there." She pointed to the other end of the bay, where there was an enormous tent and a few ships chained
together. “Come on, let’s go there.” Art followed her like an obedient child.
Museums were never closed, though all the objects were kept safe from prying hands all day and night
with burglar alarms. But there weren't really any objects displayed on the ships, anyway. They were the display
“I wish we could sail this ship,” Art said, as they walked along the deck of an early twentieth-century
“Where would we go?” asked Delia.

“Aren’t there still uninhabited islands around here?” Art asked.
“Maybe we could live on one of them. Like those people in that show they used to have when I was a
kid, Survivor. Did you ever watch that? They were always showing the reruns.”
“I don’t think I remember seeing that,” Delia said. “When I was a kid, technology was all anyone was
interested in. Virtuality, especially.”
“I can’t believe I bought into that,” Art said.
“But weren't you happy?” Delia asked in surprise.
“I thought I was,” Art said darkly. “I guess I was, but I always felt there was something missing, and
now, after our great escape, I know what it was.”
“What?” Delia couldn’t understand what could have been missing.
“Adventure,” Art said. “Challenge, surprise.”
“You sometimes got frustrated over your music,” Delia told him.
“Petty, very petty of me,” Art said. “Here I am, nearly forty, and I haven’t grown as a person at all. In
my virtual world, I was always twenty-seven or so. I never grew older and I faced the same type of petty
challenges over and over. I think I’d like to try something new.” He tossed the things he was carrying in a
lifeboat and inspected the pulleys that held it in place. Amidst horrible squeaking, he managed to let the boat
down a little way, just until it was level with the deck.
Delia expected an alarm to go off somewhere, but there was no sound other than that unbearable screech
of the rusted pulleys. “You know,” Art said. “I could use your help, Delia.”
“I don't know how these things work,” she said, nervously.
“Not that. I can figure out the mechanism. There's a sail here; I’m sure I can figure out how to set that up
too. It’s you I want, Delia. I need you to face the challenge of starting a new life with me. Will you come?” He
held out his hand.
Delia shuddered. “We only have a few provisions. We could die out there."
“We can get some more. Let’s take things as they come. That's how my mother and I did it, and I
She gazed at the face of the man she had cared for the past twelve years. She noted the determination in
his expression. And she knew she could not leave him to risk his life alone, no matter how foolhardy she
thought his enterprise was. She took his hand and climbed into the boat.
After much creaking, they hit the water. Art then struggled with the mast. Finally, he unfurled the sail.
They rode with a strong breeze to the south, not thinking to steer.
They rationed their food and water carefully. Just when they thought they were going to succumb to
dehydration, Art sighted an island. He took an oar and rowed them closer, struggling against the wind, then
decided to adjust the sail. The boat drifted onto the shore of the tiny island.
Art was at first disappointed to see some crumbling houses. Then he realized that they were abandoned.
There was a grove of coconut trees behind the houses. Art scrambled up one, laughing like a boy, and
tossed a bunch of coconuts to the ground. He battered one against a sharp stone until it split open He handed the
shell to Delia, and they ate their first meal on their very own island. That was how they began their new life
It was a wonderful life, but sometimes Delia wondered if they were really better off. She longed for her
father and brother. She feared to give birth to her first child alone. She was bored a great deal, much more than
Art, who was having fun trying out the musical instruments he made from odds and ends.
She wondered what world her children would choose. Would they go back to the polluted cities and
work as caretakers at the Center? Certainly, they couldn't go to college. Would they remain here and farm to
stay alive? But how could they be content and happy knowing there was a world of wonders across the waves
that they had never experienced?
And that was how she filled her lonely hours, when Art was busy improvising songs. Wondering. And
waiting. The child grew within her. And her fear grew, not fear of the pain of childbirth, but fear that she was
somehow cheating the child of a better life by remaining here with Art. He was loving towards her, he was
determined to be a good father, but surely the child needed more than that She had to provide the child with all
the available advantages, didn’t she? Any good mother would want her child to have the best life possible. She
sat on the beach for long hours, staring in the direction of Manila and wondering, what was the best way to live?
She could not decide.

by Anna Felicia Sanchez

IT WAS said that the oldest among them held the secret to immortality, and that it was this secret that kept the
land from drying, from crumbling under the weather of a world that had lost its way along its own axis. With
this knowledge, the rest of the land could be saved from drowning in the color of blood, and there would be no
need for the shadows of things long gone.
There would be life, Richard’s father had told him. As the story went: there would be life.
And now, as his cousin drove the grimy owner-type jeep into the dying jungles of Batangas heartland, Richard
Servacio cussed eloquently under his breath.
He had come here looking for a bucolic view of the countryside and warm afternoons on the beach-notions of
paradise, after two weeks of getting wasted on various alcoholic drinks in his apartment. Totoy’s text message
came out of the blue, but by then Richard had already realized how screwed up he was so he’d thought, What
the hell, things can only get better here on.
And here he was. He would've tried to shape words to describe what he was feeling, for he was supposed to be a
trained speaker perfectly at home with vowels and bilabials, but at the moment, only expletives pronounced
themselves in his mouth.
The sun's messing with my eyes, he swore, kneading his face, and there isn't anything in the trees at all-
“Ano ga, ‘Insan,” Totoy said, “are you okay, all right?”
There was nothing like Totoy's English to push anyone over the edge. Richard knew that his own Tagalog
wasn't to die for, but Totoy's speaking like this was no way to treat a cousin from Manila.
He could not quite tell Totoy that, no, he was not all right, which was why he was here in the first place.
Richard should’ve been facilitating corporate seminars in Makati, but two weeks ago his boss had showed him a
pile of evaluation sheets that revealed, in no uncertain terms, that Richard was a lousy motivational speaker. He
wouldn't have minded so much if it had been the first time he’d been told that, but it had been the fifth time, and
the fifth company, and Richard was only twenty-five. So much for a career.
He had believed he was on the road to success, and now he was literally in the middle of nowhere. Richard ran
his hands through his hair, feeling for lumps, evidence of the seven million times he'd banged his skull against
the jeep’s steel frame. He wondered if a concussion was making him see those black things flitting in the trees.
They were little more than shadows, but every time he tried to focus on them, they disappeared.
Optical fatigue, he told himself. And that isn't the fluttering of-
He felt another blow on his head as the jeep crashed into the brush. “Oh, for chrissakes,” he said.
Thorns made little screeching sounds against the jeep’s fender. Unfazed, Totoy jerked the jeep back on track,
his hair flapping, his lips curled in a grin that showed off his crooked teeth. Richard tried to recall just how
depressed he'd been right before Totoy texted to ask if he might like a vacation. Now Richard was wondering if
maybe suicide in his apartment had been the better option.
“Where are we going again?”

“Sa Martinés, didn’t I say,” replied Totoy. Richard stared at his cousin for a minute, waiting, and when Totoy
began to whistle a ditty that sounded like some terminally ill animal, Richard stifled a sigh and looked out at the
road instead.
At lunch, Totoy had asked him to come not on a trip to the beach or to the fields, but on an errand. To deliver a
gift, Totoy had added. Richard had been about to refuse when his aunt and uncle left the table, and Richard
made out the name despite their lowered voices. Martinés.
He'd asked Totoy who Martinés was, and all Totoy would say was that Martinés would change Richard's life
It sounded like a good thing a couple of hours ago. Now, as the sun glowered through the trees and burned his
skin, Richard brooded over what Totoy had actually said:
“That’s your–what you call it–destiny.”
“You know, ‘Insan, as in, it was destiny’s ga-a-a-a-mme, when you finally c-a-a-a-a-a-mmme… a-lllonngg…
only to find-”
To think that Totoy had just passed the board exams to become an engineer. It bewildered Richard that his
cousin had been going around smiling stupidly at him, bright eyes winking from under that shaggy hair. And
that whistling.
They were just the same age, with Richard only a few months older. But that was the one thing they had in
common. Richard had not visited the province in years, not since high school, when his father died of a stroke
and his mother went off to earn liras in Italy.
He had loved his dad, as any son would, and yet he had not been very affected by his death. What shocked
Richard about the whole thing was not the stroke itself, but the fact that something unexpected had happened to
his father at all. The man had probably never felt anything so exciting.
Richard had never understood his father's placid disposition, his contentment with the barest of lifestyles, his
devotion to the office he'd worked in for an eternity–duty, his dad had said, there were things that needed to be
done–or how anybody could stay rooted to the same place they had lived in all their lives, like the Servacio clan
They were the oldest family in the village, and Richard had heard tell that the rice fields would perish without
them, and yet it was not as if they were earning more than the other farmers. All their neighbors had houses five
times larger than Totoy's, for example.
Richard had aimed to reach for the top all his life, and he could not understand these people whose only
ambition, it seemed to him, was to reach a hundred years old and die on the same land where their child had
formed his first crooked tooth At least the neighbors had sense enough to send someone from their households
abroad, to greener pastures that delivered prosperity.
The jeep stuttered on, past tall nameless trees, a few wooden huts, patches of dried grass and thorny brush.
Where was this Martinés, Richard wondered.
He squinted into the woods. Those shadows again. He had always hated the country–the humidity, the gigantic
flies, the stench of animal dung that never seemed to go away–but that story about a stranger, and the stones as
red as blood–

There were no flocks of birds in the sky, and no red rocks among the shrubs. Richard shook off the feeling. He
was lost, after all, in his father's old town, and there was nothing else to do but endure his cousin’s tuneless
whistling, and the shrieks of plants that clawed at him from the sides of the jeep.

IN RICHARD’S head, while the ride in the jeep fell into a rhythm, and the sunlight engulfed his face in a
dizzying warmth, a story from long ago began to play out as a dream.
Once there was, said Richard’s father, a stranger who walked through a village.
These days nobody knows how this stranger looked like–not the height, the build, not even the gender. Only the
voice lingers in the memory–a voice that whispered like bamboo leaves, sweet as a woman's. It is said that she
came from the mountains, and with her coming, the earth began to unfurl with her every step.
The land on which the village lay sprawled was mainly rock and sand, and the only trees that would survive
were coconut. But when the stranger came she churned the earth till it was loam, so that vegetables and flowers
could blossom. She caused crops to grow, trees to yield fruit, fish and livestock to be bountiful. She dug out the
sweetest of waters and conjured mild seasons, filling the hearts of the villagers with the quiet desire to work and
It is said that seedlings bloomed like miracles on the places where she walked.
And so, they asked the stranger to stay. She could not, of course, for she had other villages to visit, but still they
Then, and only then, did she suggest the contract.
It is wise to suspect a contract, but it may be wiser to suspect one’s ability to keep one’s part of the terms. The
head of the village, thus confident, asked for the nature of the agreement.
And here was the stranger’s condition:
Remember? echoed the village head.
Remember, and your village shall continue to flourish.
And the village head asked: But what if we forget? For our memories die sooner than our bodies.
Then tell your offspring, said the stranger, and in this way, nothing can die.
But what if they forget? For our offspring inherit all our frailties.
And here was the stranger’s reply:
Then they shall be reminded.
And 10, a cloud overhead stretched across the village, and the people looked up to see the shape shatter into a
thousand birds, small and black like the shadows of memories, and they flew down to the edge of the village
where grew a young acacia tree. The villagers exclaimed at the miracle, but when they turned back to the
stranger, praises on their mouths, they saw only dents in the earth where she had stood.

RICHARD JOLTED awake. Totoy had just parked the jeep. He pulled out a length of steel bar, an empty jute
sack and a coil of rope from under his seat, then hopped out towards the undergrowth. “No, ‘Insan, you stay
there,” he said as Richard moved to follow him. “You don’t have to come.”
“The hell I don’t,” Richard grumbled, listening to his joints crack as he clambered out the jeep. “What are you
gonna do with all that?”

Totoy handed him the steel bar. It looked like it had been an old part of the jeep, and the weight surprised him.
His cousin shoved the sack into his own back pocket and deftly tied a few intricate knots as they walked into the
thicket “It's for, kwan, pangbitag,” he said.
“What in the world are you gonna set up a trap for?”
“For offering,” said his cousin, leading him down a slope and into a clearing, where the sound of rushing water
seemed to wash out Totoy's faulty enunciation. “For Martinés.”
A shallow brook bubbled over the stones in the clearing. From above, the leaves shimmered in the sun and cast
mottled shadows on the water. On the ground, blossomed dozens of patches of tiny flowers. Richard leaned on
the steel bar and pronounced, “Picturesque,” while Totoy strolled along the brook towards a small grotto,
whistling as he strung his rope
The grotto slanted into the ground through a small entrance, but Totoy easily slipped in a few knots of the rope
and then hid the rest under the bushes, where he set up a few more knots involving the stems of young trees and
pieces of rock.
“Is this what they teach engineers now?” Richard said, peering over his cousin's shoulder. Totoy had that sun-
browned smell of peasant folk that Richard associated with unsanitary circumstances, and he backed off.
Are you joking, ‘Insan?" said Totoy. “I have been catching animals since I learned how to walk.”
“You must’ve had a boring childhood.”
They settled down to wait among the bushes a few meters away. Totoy gave him his silly grin. “No, ‘Insan, it’s
you who missed out on many things. You will learn from Martinés.”
Martinés, Martinés, Richard muttered in his head. I won't even ask this time.
So instead he asked, “What are we trying to catch there?”
Totoy began munching one end of a twig, like he would a toothpick. “Martinés likes lizards. You want like
this?” He pulled the twig from his teeth and held it near Richard's face.
Richard flashed his cousin a tortured smile. “I’m fine, thank you.”
“Inang and Itang told me before, that long ago Martinés also liked musang.”
“All right.”
A minute later, when Richard could no longer stand not talking, he said, “What’s a musang?”
“Plenty of things you don’t know.” Totoy shook his shaggy head. “Small wild cats with dog-faces. Long ago
our grandfathers would catch musang and offer carcass to Martinés, but now no more, no more musang in these
forests. Only lizard.”
I’m in a zoo, he thought, gazing down at the steel bar in his hand. I've worked as language coach for two call
centers and speech trainer for three corporations. What in the world am I doing out here?
I really don't know, his boss had said. A nice enough executive, but Richard’s records and the hundreds of
evaluation sheets about him gave the old man no choice. Judged and found wanting.
Richard looked to the heavens. The sunlight blinded him, but not before he saw–or thought he saw–a small
black bird, its streaked wings flapping a short distance above his head.

“Did you see that?” he gasped.

His cousin’s eyes seemed lidless underneath his hair. “What, ‘Insan?”
“A bird–a crest on its head like a crown–I swear it was going to swoop–”
“You know, ‘Insan,” Totoy spoke as if he had not heard Richard, “you returned just in time.”
Richard shivered. That hadn't been a bird, he thought, Just the sun in my eye.
His cousin smiled kindly at him. “‘Insan, did you know that you're the oldest of our generation? Tata Onsing is
dying, and now you're here.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“Tata Onsing is the oldest brother of Tata Domeng.”
“Who the hell is Tata Domeng?”
“‘Insan, Tata Domeng is our–what you call it–great grampa. Lolo sa tuhod.”
Richard rubbed his eyes in frustration. “Sure, I remember now,” he said, just to end the matter. “Are you telling
me you didn’t see that black b–”
Totoy snatched the twig from his mouth and waved it at him for silence. Richard grimaced at the stray drops of
spittle, and then he heard bushes shaking, and the sound of something thrashing in the dampness of the grotto.
Totoy bit on the twig and crept through the thicket, running his fingers along the rope that he had knotted
around shrubs, to the opening of the grotto. The man might've been a reptile himself, Richard thought, the way
he slithered over the ground. Richard followed cautiously.
In one swift movement, Totoy clenched his fists around the rope, swung his arms, bolted down and then
straightened up, jerking the rope with his full strength. Richard heard the thwapping of the knots closing in on
the catch, and suddenly he was staring at the lizard dangling in front of his face.
Richard tightened his grip on the steel bar.
He had seen pictures of monitor lizards in encyclopedias before, and twice or thrice of the real thing in zoos, but
they had all seemed to Richard still as stone. But this lizard, despite having been bound at the jaws, limbs and
tail by Totoy’s system of knots, was as civilized as only a rabid wildcat could get. It could’ve been a meter long
from snout to tail, a lean, mean, writhing reptile.
“Huli,” Totoy smiled in delight, turning to Richard. He pulled the sack from his back pocket and instructed
Richard to hold it open for the lizard.

Richard did as he was told. He poised with the steel bar as Totoy pulled the thrashing lizard up towards him.
“Shouldn’t we kill it now? It's putting up a fight.”
“Martinés will do it.” Totoy spat out the twig and drove it into the ground with his heel. “Don’t worry, enough
time and it will know it is caught.”
The lizard held Richard’s gaze with its own yellow eyes as it fell.
“1 almost forgot,” said Totoy as he fought to close the sack. “Please, ‘Insan, pick some flowers from the water,
for on the way to Martinés.”

Turning me into a pansy, muttered Richard as he gathered a bunch of the white and yellow flowers from the
side of the brook. Totoy then hoisted the sack over his shoulder, and the thing did not stop bouncing and
thrashing about, even as it was tossed onto the floor of the jeep, and Richard kicked the steel bar against it, and
Totoy revved up the engine, and the jeep started to dodder up the dirt road again.
Only when the jeep had gone past the tangles of shrubbery into the coconut jungles did Richard notice that the
sack had finally stopped moving.
He should've just stayed home with the alcohol, he thought. He held on to the flowers the rest of the way, even
as the movement of the jeep rocked him back to sleep, and to the story in his dream.
AND SO, the sun and the storms took turns in their assault, but the waters remained sweet and the land was
always green and golden in the seasons of ripeness. And whenever the little birds rose like flowers from the
acacia, the villagers knew in their hearts what they had been given.
The leader of the village kept all these things until his death. When he died, the villagers turned to the youngest
members of his family.
The villagers said: You are young, and can remember well. Which of you will remember in your ancestor’s
And the oldest of these children said: I will, for I know more about the world than anyone else.
This is how things have been since then.
Many other strangers came as generations passed, visitors who wielded gold and fire and books, pale men in
odd clothing who tried to change the village with their own gifts. And the land thrived despite the false gifts,
and the people lived in much abundance, until the day came when the last villager who remembered was lain
down in the earth from whence he came
The village found none to replace him, for the youngest of the clan were mere babes, and there was no one else
who would take up the burden. The little black birds shrouded the sky, but still the villagers began to forget.
And then the disaster fell upon them–and for many nights the sounds of grief were so deep that the soil’s heart
broke in a flood of despair, grief so strong that the waters colored the rocks with blood, grief so sharp that it
shook the mountains and ripped apart the heavens.
And this was when the stranger returned, and where she walked, the seeds of the earth broke and blossomed.
She called to one of the birds that nested in the acacia.

A final gift, then, she said. One hand held the bird’s crested head so that it opened its beak-the other glimmered
with the silver of a knife. With fingers so delicate that the very air around them seemed to dance, the stranger
pulled out the bird’s tongue.
This is how you will be reminded, she said.
“YOU KNOW, ‘Insan, there is no such thing as miracles,” Totoy was saying as the jeep crawled along the road,
the tires rolling over the fallen coconuts, which made popping noises as they were sundered. “No coincidences
either. Reap what you sow, as they say.”
Richard rubbed his eyes, cursing under his breath. Couldn’t Totoy see that he'd fallen asleep? There’d been
something hovering in his dream, the air of a nightmare–

“Why did you agree to come home, ‘Insan?” said his cousin.
He wanted to say, I’m not home, you moron, I’m only visiting. But the unsettling feeling had welled up in his
throat. He glanced around. In these parts, there were no more huts and shrubs, just palm trees that towered
above them like gods, and in the west, the dark foliage of faraway woods. He had a vision again, of crested
birds with white streaks on their wings, of red, red rocks strewn across the land, but he pushed it all away. By
now the sun hovered above the woods, the deep glow of its light breaking into solid shafts.
“Quarter-life crisis,” said Richard irritably.
“What’s that, ‘Insan?”
“It means I’m doubting my profession."
Totoy's head bobbed. “Then you are lost.
“Something like that,” Richard conceded at last. He chuckled. “But I guess hotshot engineers wouldn't know
anything about getting lost.”
His cousin grinned with all his crooked teeth. “I’m engineer only so I can take care of Inang and Itang.”
“My mother can't come home yet. She’s earning so much there.” She wants to, he didn't add. But I told her,
she’s earning so much.
“Tiyo Rudy loved his home.”
Richard glanced up at the mention of his father. “I know,” he said. “Doesn’t mean I have to, though.”
There flitted across his cousin’s face a little smile that Richard would remember in the years to come.
The jeep wove on under the palm trees. A peculiar coconut tree rose into view, all trunk and withered leaves as
brown as the earth. The jeep slowed down to a stop beside the dead tree. Totoy turned to Richard.
“‘Insan,” he said, pronouncing his words well, “you don't know anything.”
Richard sat there blinking as Totoy took the flowers from him. With his free hand, Totoy dragged the jute sack
and the steel bar out of the jeep. He walked around to Richard's side, the sack slung motionless over one
shoulder, and waited.

“That way to Martinés’ hut,” he said, tilting his head towards the glowering sun. “Past this red rock into the
coconuts. Let’s go.” He turned, and then looked back at him. “Unless you want to go home by yourself.”
Richard couldn’t get over it. Had his cousin just patronized him, daring him to find his way back to the village
proper? Totoy walked ahead in the direction of the reddening sun. Richard climbed out of the jeep, but as he
was about to sprint after his cousin, a chill imploded down his spine and he froze in his tracks.
Past this red rock?

There it was at the roots of the dried tree, solid rock, misshapen, misplaced, and where the sunlight struck, the
red grain sparkled eerily. Richard placed one hand on the rock and felt heat in its coarseness. He glanced up at
the dead palm tree and thought he saw the light of the sun set the wilted fronds aflame.
If he could only remember where they had driven from, he would jump back into the jeep–
He shook himself and hurried after his cousin.
IT IS said that the stranger left the black bird to the care of the villagers. These days, however, nobody will say
where the creature was kept, or what became of it as the seasons came and went. What may be said is that the
stranger wept as she departed, and while her tears washed away some of the sorrows of the land, her very words
unfurled the earth.
If the contract is broken once again, she whispered, her voice the rustle of leaves in the trees, I will visit a third
time, to drain the land after your demise.
Trees took root where she walked, and they are all that remains of her voice.
And so, the pain is borne, because it is a language unto itself.
Thus, the bird learned, and grew, and spoke.
THE COCONUT trees seemed to gaze down at the two men, looming over them from the height of the sky. He
and Totoy walked in silence until Richard could no longer see where they had parked the jeep.
“Shouldn’t we have brought a flashlight or something?” said Richard. “The sun's about to set, and it’ll be
completely dark when we get back.”
Totoy grinned at him. “You see that tall acacia? That’s the hut of Martinés beside it.”
Richard looked straight ahead, and sure enough, there stood the one tree for miles around that wasn’t coconut.
Dwarfed by its slender neighbors, the acacia seemed to make up for its lack of height with thick branches,
reaching out with dark, impenetrable leaves. And right in the tree's shadow was the nipa shack.
“Near enough,” Richard shrugged, trying to contain his relief. They would drop off Totoy's gift and get the hell
out of there. There would be no need to talk about destinies, he would say–he would deal with his problems
alone, because it was his life and no one else's. Rhum and other such spirits waited for him back home.
He thought of the days in Makati, of the buildings that sparkled with offers and rejections. He thought of his
mother’s letters, the echo of loneliness from beneath her words. But then Richard glanced at Totoy whistling
that unearthly tune, flowers in his hand and a monster lizard in the sack slung over his shoulder, and he vowed
he would never return to this country again.

As they walked on, Richard saw that there was a clearing in front of the hut. Despite the twilight’s hue, he saw
the rust-red rocks-similar to the one that had marked the side of the road-littered across the ground. But as the
cousins approached the clearing, Richard realized that the rocks weren't randomly strewn from some long-
forgotten landslide. There were dozens of the small boulders, arranged across the clearing in clean, spacious
Totoy caught him gaping, and asked him if he was superstitious.
“Me, superstitious?” said Richard. He could not tear his eyes away from the rocks.

“Sometimes, the coconut farmers say–” Richard heard the little smile in Totoy's voice, “–at night, they hear the
crying of infants and children from the rocks.”
The cousins were walking across the clearing now, past row upon row of the rust-red markers. “That's messed
up, man.”
“You don't know about them?" Totoy prodded. “Tiyo Rudy told you nothing?”
And that was when Richard could not pretend about the memory anymore: a family history, a tale of black birds
and red rocks, a sacrifice that granted speech–
His gaze swung back to the acacia, and he saw hundreds of the birds perched among the branches, nesting in
holes they had carved in the tree trunk. They held Richard's gaze with their bright yellow eyes.
Totoy glanced up. “The martinés,” he said cheerfully. “Like the musang, they are now rarely seen here. Related
to myna birds, only the martinés have crests on their head and white streaks on their wings.”
When Richard said nothing, Totoy added, “When martinés are young, people can teach them to speak by
snipping their tongues bit by bit.”
Hundreds of black birds in the tree, thought Richard. Yellow eyes. A gust of wind from their wings.
“You were saying, ‘Insan,” Totoy went on, as if oblivious to how Richard had stopped in his tracks, “that you
were lost. Not anymore.”
He paused, and turned around to look at Richard. The sack on his shoulder trembled. Something else glinted
from under his arm. “The oldest of the youngest must take up the burden. Memory is a fragile thing.”
Richard stood still, breathless, not believing, gaping around him at the rows of red stone markers.
“Coincidence,” he said. He was confused now, with so many details and images digging their way up his brain
from old stories he had long ago rejected.
Totoy said nothing. He stepped forward.
There was probably a war, or an epidemic–lots of people used to die in wars and epidemics,” stuttered Richard.
His cousin took another step. “Destiny,” he said. Gently, he lowered the sack to the ground. “We come to

Richard whirled around to run, but there was a flash as steel hit him hard on the back of his head. The last thing
that he saw before he blacked out were the flowers, the flowers that Totoy was laying among the rows of rust-
red stones.
IN THE DARKNESS, Richard smelled the acrid odor of decaying wood. Of bird droppings. Of a dying reptile.
He heard the sound of tearing flesh.
He clenched his fists in alarm, but his hands were tied behind his back, and his feet, too, were bound with rope.
He was sprawled on the floor, and as he struggled to sit up, the sound took on another form: a chewing, a
gobbling, a flapping of wings. Richard cried out
“‘Insan,” came Totoy’s voice in a whisper, “Martinés is feeding.”

“Get me out of here!” Richard screamed. His voice sounded hollow in the dark. The beating of wings stopped.
“‘Insan,” still in a whisper.
“Light,” Richard muttered. His legs were bound tight but they quivered and shook like they used to, when he
was a kid waking up from nightmares of black wings and yellow eyes. “Turn on the blasted light.”
“Are you sure, ‘Insan?”
“A light, please…”
Richard heard a match strike, and a faint light crawled into his vision. He saw Totoy standing by a door, a
candle in his hand. Its flame enshrouded the tiny shack with a single, writhing shadow. Near the door was an
ancient table cluttered with books and sheaves of paper.
“‘Insan, Tata Onsing.” His cousin held the candle towards the figure huddled at the table. The light flickered
across the old man’s eyes, and they were eyes that would welcome death. Tata Onsing gazed vacantly at
Richard, and his ashen beard shuddered as he opened his mouth. Only a piteous moan rose from his throat.
Weakly, Tata Onsing lifted one gnarled hand, and with another whimper, the old man let his hand drop on a
sheet of paper. A pen scratched with difficulty.
“Told to him, and to him only,” Totoy murmured. His crooked teeth gleamed in the candlelight. “After him,
you. If I had been born before you, ‘Insan, I would have gladly accepted this burden.”
Something in the shadows of the room beat its wings again. Totoy bowed, and added apologetically, “But I am
only a builder of things.”
Richard shifted his gaze to the shadows, and the first thing he saw were the mangled remains of a lizard strewn
on the dirt floor. Bayawak, he remembered irrelevantly, that’s what it’s called.
Then he saw bright yellow eyes the size of bottle caps–a slimy beak–midnight wings streaked with white
The great bird hopped over the reptile's corpse. It hopped close to Richard’s feet, cocking its crested head.
When it hopped onto his knees, digging its claws into the tender muscles of his flesh, Richard tried his best not
to cry out.
He failed, and when his mouth opened, the great bird struck.

In the haze that took over his mind, Richard watched his cousin leave the candle on the table, seek Tata
Onsing’s feeble hand for a blessing, and creep out back to his owner-type jeep, past the rust-red rocks and the
coconut jungle. Richard wondered about Totoy, and Tata Onsing, and his mother in Italy, and his father long
gone, and the bayawak and musang, and the martinés perched in the acacia.
The Martinés bent its crested head to his ear and started to speak.

Lengua para diablo (The devil ate my words)
by Merlinda Bobis

I suspected that my father sold his tongue to the devil. He had little say in our house. Whenever he felt like
disagreeing with my mother, he murmured, ‘The devil ate my words.’ This meant he forgot what he was about
to say and Mother was often appeased. There was more need for appeasement after he lost his job.
The devil ate his words, the devil ate his capacity for words, the devil ate his tongue. But perhaps only after
prior negotiation with its owner, what with Mother always complaining, ‘I’m already taking a peek at hell!’
when it got too hot and stuffy in our tiny house. She seemed to sweat more that summer, and miserably. She
made it sound like Father’s fault, so he cajoled her with kisses and promises of an electric fan, bigger windows,
a bigger house, but she pushed him away, saying, ‘Get off me, I’m hot, ay, this hellish life!’ Again, he was
ready to pledge relief, but something in my mother’s eyes made him mutter only the usual excuse, ‘The devil
ate my words,’ before he shut his mouth. Then he ran to the tap to get her more water.
Lengua para diablo: tongue for the devil. Surely, he sold his tongue in exchange for those promises to my
mother: comfort, a full stomach, life without our wretched want . . . But the devil never delivered his side of the
bargain. The devil was alien to want. He lived in a Spanish house and owned several stores in the city. This
Spanish mestizo was my father’s employer, but only for a very short while. He sacked him and our neighbor
Tiyo Anding, also a mason, after he found a cheaper hand for the extension of his house.
We never knew the devil’s name. Father was incapable of speaking it, more so after he came home and sat in
the darkest corner of the house, and stared at his hands. It took him two days of silent staring before he told my
mother about his fate.
I wondered how the devil ate my father’s tongue. Perhaps he cooked it in mushroom sauce, in that special
Spanish way that they do ox tongue. First, it was scrupulously cleaned, rubbed with salt and vinegar, blanched
in boiling water, then scraped of its white coating — now, imagine words scraped off the tongue, and even
taste, our capacity for pleasure. In all those two days of silent staring, Father hardly ate. He said he had lost his
taste for food, he was not hungry. Junior and Nilo were more than happy to demolish his share of gruel with fish
Now after the thorough clean, the tongue was pricked with a fork to allow the flavors of all the spices and
condiments to penetrate the flesh. Then it was browned in olive oil. How I wished we could prick my father’s
tongue back to speech and even hunger, but of course we couldn’t, because it had disappeared. It had been
served on the devil’s platter with garlic, onion, tomatoes, bay leaf, clove, peppercorns, soy sauce, even sherry,
butter, and grated edam cheese, with that aroma of something rich and foreign.
His silent tongue was already luxuriating in a multitude of essences, pampered into a piquant delight.
Perhaps, next he should sell his esophagus, then his stomach. I would if I had the chance to be that pampered.
To know for once what I would never taste. I would be soaked, steamed, sautéed, basted, baked, boiled, fried
and feted with only the perfect seasonings. I would become an epicure. On a rich man’s plate, I would be
initiated to flavors of only the finest quality. In his stomach, I would be inducted to secrets. I would be ‘the
inside girl’, and I could tell you the true nature of sated affluence.

Excerpt from Banana Heart Summer

Chapter One

For those who love to love and eat

For those who long to love and eat

When we laid my baby sister in a shoebox, when all the banana hearts in our street were stolen, when Tiyo Anding stepped out
of a window perhaps to fly, when I saw guavas peeking from Manolito's shorts and felt I'd die of shame, when Roy Orbison
went as crazy as Patsy Cline and lovers eloped, sparking a scandal so fiery that even the volcano erupted and, as a consequence,
my siblings tasted their first American corned beef, then Mother looked at me again, that was the summer I ate the heart of the

So how did it all begin?

With this lesson about the banana heart from Nana Dora, the chef of all the sweet snacks that flavored our street every
afternoon, except Sundays.

"Close to midnight, when the heart bows from its stem, wait for its first dew. It will drop like a gem. Catch it with your tongue.
When you eat the heart of the matter, you'll never grow hungry again." From the site of her remark, I will take you through a
tour of our street and I will tell you its stories. Ay, my street of wishful sweets and spices. All those wishes to appease stomachs
and make hearts fat with pleasure. And perhaps sweeten tempers or even spice up a storyteller's tongue.

Let's begin with appeasement, my first serious business venture long ago. Let's begin with a makeshift kitchen, a hut with no
walls, under banana trees in bloom. Here, Nana Dora parked her fragrant wok at two in the afternoon. By three, the hungry
queue began.

Chapter Two

Turon: the melody

The sound of deep frying was a delectable melody. Instantly loud and aggressive when the turon hit the pool of boiling coconut
oil, then pulling back. The percussion was inspired to be subtle.

"Ay, it sounds and smells like happiness," I said, nose and ears as primed as my sweetened tongue. Happiness that is not subtle
at all, I could have added. Such is the fact about the turon, which is half a slice of sugar banana and a strip of jackfruit rolled in
paper-thin rice wrapping, then dusted with palm sugar and fried to a crisp brown. How could such fragrance be subtle? My nose
twitched, my mouth watered, my stomach said, buy, buy.

"So you're an expert on happiness?" Nana Dora asked. Her face glowed with more than sweat and the fire from her stove.

"Believe me, your cooking is music, Nana Dora."

"Hoy, don't flatter me, Nenita." She made a face. But I could see the flush deepening on her cheeks, the hand patting wisps of
hair in place and the coy turning of the neck, as if a lover had just whispered sweet nothings to her ear.

I hovered closer, bent towards the wok, no, bowed, paying obeisance to its melody: mi-fa-so-la . . . no, definitely a high "do."
There were about five turones harmonizing in the deep wok. The aroma climbed the scales, happiness from rung to rung. Can I
get one on credit? I wanted to ask, but only managed, "Can I help you roll, Nana Dora?"

"So you want to burn your nose or flavor my turon with your grease?" she scolded.

I withdrew the endangered appendage from the wok's edge, along with my grease, or sweat, which I imagined was what she
meant. She stared at me, sizing me up in my dress that was once blue.

"I'm just saying hello, Nana Dora," I explained. "If you must know, I'm actually off to a . . . a business venture." And I'll be
earning soon, so can I get one on credit? But the question drowned in the pool in my mouth. I swallowed, but another wave
washed over my tongue, my belly made fainting cries, like little notes plummeting, and my esophagus lengthened. "When you
feel it lengthen, you know it's really, really bad." Who said that first? Nilo, my fourth sibling, or Junior, the second, maybe
Claro, the third one, or perhaps Lydia? There were six of us, so it was difficult to tell who said or felt it first. Not that we called
it esophagus then. We just said "it" and motioned with our hands from the throat to sometimes beyond the stomach. Then we
squatted for a long time, "to arrest the lengthening." Better than saying we were feeling too faint with hunger to keep on our

"Business venture, hah!" Nana Dora snapped.

Of course she meant, leave business to me, girl, as she wrapped a turon in a banana leaf and handed it to a customer right under
my nose. I kept my hand in my pocket.

"Hoy, aren't you supposed to be in school?" Of course she meant, school is your business and don't you forget that! But I was
unfazed as I listened to the sweet noises behind me

by Daryll Delgado

A man died singing. He had sung a total of three songs before he heaved his last breath and collaps"d o.r u
chair. It happened at the Municipal Hall. The time was three in the afternoon-. The sun was high. Heat seeped
into people's bones. Tuba warned their blood even more. Someone's ninth death anniversary was being
celebrated. Another man's life in that party ended. It ended on a high note.

At that very moment, Nenit4 the wife, was at home, picking leaves for a medicinal brew. Earlier that day,
Nenita had been lying on the sofa, slipping in and out of an afternoon sleep she should not have heeded,
embracing Willy Revillame in her dreams. She had had n-o plans of taking a nap. She had just wanted to catch a
glimpse of Willy after she sent off her grandson for the city, just before she resumed her cooking.

At the sala, she opened the window to let some breeze in. But the air was so dry. Outside it was very quiet.
Everyone was at the Hall, to attend the ninth death anniversary of the juez. Most of them bore the judge a
grudge, but they were all there anyway, eager to see what kind of feast his children had prepared. The children
had all come home from America and Europe for this very important occasion in the dead man's journey. Nenita
herself did not mind the judge really, even if she had always found him rather severe. It was the wife whom
Nenita did not feel very comfortable with. There had been some very persistent rumors involving the judge's
wife that Nenita did not care so much for.

Turban Legend
by R Zamora Linmark

By the time Vince arrives at the Philippine Airlines departures terminal, it is already bustling with restless souls
who, with their balikbayan boxes, have transformed the terminal into a warehouse, as if they're returning to the
motherland on a cargo ship rather than Asia's first airline carrier. Comedians use these durable cardboard boxes
as materials for their Filipino-flavored jokes. "How is the balikbayan box like American Express to Filipinos?
Because they never leave home without it."

Everywhere Vince turns are boxes, boxes, and. more boxes. Boxes secured by electrical tape and ropes. Boxes
with drawstring covers made from canvas or tarp. Boxes lined up like a fortified wall behind check-in counters
or convoying on squeaky conveyor belts of x-ray machines. Boxes blocking the Mabuhay Express lane for first-
and business-class passengers. Boxes stacked up on carts right beside coach passengers standing in queues that
are straight only at their starting points before branching out to form more-or converge with other-lines,
bottlenecking as they near the ticket counter.

Boxes that ought to be the Philippines' exhibit at the next World's Fai1, Vince tells himself as he navigates his
cartload of Louis Vuitton bags in and out of the maze. An exhibit that should take place none other than here, at
the Honolulu International Airport, he laughs, as he imagines an entire terminal buried in the Filipinos' most
popular-and preferred-pieces of luggage.

With a balikbayan box Filipinos can pack cans of Hormel corned beef, Libby's Vienna sausage, Folgers, and
SPAM; perfume samples; new or hand-me-down designer jeans; travel-sized bottles of shampoo, conditioner,
and body lotion gleaned from Las Vegas hotels; and appliances marked with first-world labels that, as anyone
who's been to the Philippines knows, can easily be purchased at Duty Free right outside the airport or from any
of the crypt-like malls that are so gargantuan they're a metropolis unto themselves.

Filipinos will even throw themselves into these boxes, as was the case of the overseas contract worker in Dubai.
The man, an engineer was so homesick that, unable to afford the ticket-most of his earnings went to cover his
living expenses and the rest to his wife and children-he talked his roommate, who was homebound for the
holidays, into checking him in. He paid for the excess baggage fee, which still came out cheaper than a round-
trip airfare. En route to Manila, he died from hypothermia.

Vince, who had heard the story from his older sister Jing, didn't buy it. There were too many loopholes, too
many unanswered questions, like wouldn't an x-ray machine in the Middle East detect a Filipino man curled up
inside a box? He simply dismissed it as a "turban legend."

"You're missing the point brother," Jing said. "It's not the mechanics that matter. It's about drama. The extremes
a Filipino will go to just to be back home for Christmas with his family."

By Jose Wendell

Blood surges rapidly Shades of perplexity

Along Cronulla Beach To keep generations

Armed with bats, Pure and sterile,

White bodies are mad Spaces beneath vestiges

Replication of tents, Of hamlets from long ago

Parasols and sunblinds Have become driftwood,

Spreading all over Shells, cleavers of melting

What used to be kurranulla, Pots and succession,

Aboriginal landscapes, They are swaying cerily

The place of pink seashells Translucent as postcards

There is no chieftain Bereft of scintillating light

On the shore, no starfish In the heated-up weather

Where dominion matters, So, racializing, this soap

Not too far behind,

Thugs and their hand

Maids constrict exquisite

Padre Faura Witnesses the Execution of Rizal
by Danton Remoto

I stand on the roof

Of the Ateneo Municipal,
On this December morning,

Months ago,
Pepe came to me
In the Observatory.
I thought we would talk.

About the stars

That do not collide
In the sky:
Instead, he asked me about purgatory.

(His cheeks still ruddy

From the sudden sun
After the bitter winters
In Europe.)

And on this day

With the year beginning to turn,
Salt stings my eyes.
I see Pepe,

A blur
Between the soldiers
With their Mausers raised
And the early morning's

Still shimmering
Even if millions of miles away
The star itself

Is already dead.

by Ralph Semino Galdan

These are the accouterments of her office:

the blindfold symbolizing impartiality;
a golden pair of scales measuring the validity

of evidence given both pro and con;

the double-edged sword that pierces through
the thick fabric of lies; Thoth's feather

of truth which ultimately determines whether

The defendant's life is worth saving.
In J. Elizalde Navarro's oil painting titled

Is this Philippine Justice? The figure

of the Roman goddess Justitia slowly fades
into thin air, swallowed by pigments

cloudy as doubts. In my uncertain country

where right and wrong are cards
that can be shuffled like a pile of money bills,

even the land's Chief Magistrate

is not immune from culpability; found guilty
he has to face the music of derision

May Day Eve
by 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.

And it was May again, said the old Anastasia. It was the first day of May and witches were abroad in the night,
she said--for it was a night of divination, and night of lovers, and those who cared might peer into a mirror and
would there behold the face of whoever it was they were fated to marry, said the old Anastasia as she hobble
about picking up the piled crinolines and folding up shawls and raking slippers in corner while the girls
climbing into four great poster-beds that overwhelmed the room began shrieking with terror, scrambling over
each other and imploring the old woman not to frighten them.

"Enough, enough, Anastasia! We want to sleep!"

"Go scare the boys instead, you old witch!"

"She is not a witch, she is a maga. She is a maga. She was born of Christmas Eve!"

"St. Anastasia, virgin and martyr."

"Huh? Impossible! She has conquered seven husbands! Are you a virgin, Anastasia?"

"No, but I am seven times a martyr because of you girls!"

"Let her prophesy, let her prophesy! Whom will I marry, old gypsy? Come, tell me."

"You may learn in a mirror if you are not afraid."

"I am not afraid, I will go," cried the young cousin Agueda, jumping up in bed.

"Girls, girls---we are making too much noise! My mother will hear and will come and pinch us all. Agueda, lie
down! And you Anastasia, I command you to shut your mouth and go away!""Your mother told me to stay here
all night, my grand lady!"

"And I will not lie down!" cried the rebellious Agueda, leaping to the floor. "Stay, old woman. Tell me what I
have to do."

"Tell her! Tell her!" chimed the other girls.

The old woman dropped the clothes she had gathered and approached and fixed her eyes on the girl. "You must
take a candle," she instructed, "and go into a room that is dark and that has a mirror in it and you must be alone
in the room. Go up to the mirror and close your eyes and shy:

Mirror, mirror, show to me him whose woman I will be. If all goes right, just above your left shoulder will
appear the face of the man you will marry." A silence. Then: "And hat if all does not go right?" asked Agueda.
"Ah, then the Lord have mercy on you!" "Why." "Because you may see--the Devil!"

The girls screamed and clutched one another, shivering. "But what nonsense!" cried Agueda. "This is the year
1847. There are no devil anymore!" Nevertheless she had turned pale. "But where could I go, hugh? Yes, I
know! Down to the sala. It has that big mirror and no one is there now." "No, Agueda, no! It is a mortal sin!
You will see the devil!" "I do not care! I am not afraid! I will go!" "Oh, you wicked girl! Oh, you mad girl!" "If
you do not come to bed, Agueda, I will call my mother." "And if you do I will tell her who came to visit you at
the convent last March. Come, old woman---give me that candle. I go." "Oh girls---give me that candle, I go."

But Agueda had already slipped outside; was already tiptoeing across the hall; her feet bare and her dark hair
falling down her shoulders and streaming in the wind as she fled down the stairs, the lighted candle sputtering in
one hand while with the other she pulled up her white gown from her ankles. She paused breathless in the
doorway to the sala and her heart failed her. She tried to imagine the room filled again with lights, laughter,

whirling couples, and the jolly jerky music of the fiddlers. But, oh, it was a dark den, a weird cavern for the
windows had been closed and the furniture stacked up against the walls. She crossed herself and stepped inside.

The mirror hung on the wall before her; a big antique mirror with a gold frame carved into leaves and flowers
and mysterious curlicues. She saw herself approaching fearfully in it: a small while ghost that the darkness
bodied forth---but not willingly, not completely, for her eyes and hair were so dark that the face approaching in
the mirror seemed only a mask that floated forward; a bright mask with two holes gaping in it, blown forward
by the white cloud of her gown. But when she stood before the mirror she lifted the candle level with her chin
and the dead mask bloomed into her living face.

She closed her eyes and whispered the incantation. When she had finished such a terror took hold of her that she
felt unable to move, unable to open her eyes and thought she would stand there forever, enchanted. But she
heard a step behind her, and a smothered giggle, and instantly opened her eyes.

"And what did you see, Mama? Oh, what was it?" But Dona Agueda had forgotten the little girl on her lap: she
was staring pass the curly head nestling at her breast and seeing herself in the big mirror hanging in the room. It
was the same room and the same mirror out the face she now saw in it was an old face---a hard, bitter, vengeful
face, framed in graying hair, and so sadly altered, so sadly different from that other face like a white mask, that
fresh young face like a pure mask than she had brought before this mirror one wild May Day midnight years
and years ago.... "But what was it Mama? Oh please go on! What did you see?" Dona Agueda looked down at
her daughter but her face did not soften though her eyes filled with tears. "I saw the devil." she said bitterly. The
child blanched. "The devil, Mama? Oh... Oh..." "Yes, my love. I opened my eyes and there in the mirror,
smiling at me over my left shoulder, was the face of the devil." "Oh, my poor little Mama! And were you very
frightened?" "You can imagine. And that is why good little girls do not look into mirrors except when their
mothers tell them. You must stop this naughty habit, darling, of admiring yourself in every mirror you pass- or
you may see something frightful some day." "But the devil, Mama---what did he look like?" "Well, let me see...
he has curly hair and a scar on his cheek---" "Like the scar of Papa?" "Well, yes. But this of the devil was a scar
of sin, while that of your Papa is a scar of honor. Or so he says." "Go on about the devil." "Well, he had
mustaches." "Like those of Papa?" "Oh, no. Those of your Papa are dirty and graying and smell horribly of
tobacco, while these of the devil were very black and elegant--oh, how elegant!" "And did he speak to you,
Mama?" "Yes… Yes, he spoke to me," said Dona Agueda. And bowing her graying head; she wept.

"Charms like yours have no need for a candle, fair one," he had said, smiling at her in the mirror and stepping
back to give her a low mocking bow. She had whirled around and glared at him and he had burst into laughter.
"But I remember you!" he cried. "You are Agueda, whom I left a mere infant and came home to find a
tremendous beauty, and I danced a waltz with you but you would not give me the polka." "Let me pass," she
muttered fiercely, for he was barring the way. "But I want to dance the polka with you, fair one," he said. So
they stood before the mirror; their panting breath the only sound in the dark room; the candle shining between
them and flinging their shadows to the wall. And young Badoy Montiya (who had crept home very drunk to
pass out quietly in bed) suddenly found himself cold sober and very much awake and ready for anything. His
eyes sparkled and the scar on his face gleamed scarlet. "Let me pass!" she cried again, in a voice of fury, but he
grasped her by the wrist. "No," he smiled. "Not until we have danced." "Go to the devil!" "What a temper has
my serrana!" "I am not your serrana!" "Whose, then? Someone I know? Someone I have offended grievously?
Because you treat me, you treat all my friends like your mortal enemies." "And why not?" she demanded,
jerking her wrist away and flashing her teeth in his face. "Oh, how I detest you, you pompous young men! You
go to Europe and you come back elegant lords and we poor girls are too tame to please you. We have no grace
like the Parisiennes, we have no fire like the Sevillians, and we have no salt, no salt, no salt! Aie, how you
weary me, how you bore me, you fastidious men!" "Come, come---how do you know about us?"

"I was not admiring myself, sir!" "You were admiring the moon perhaps?" "Oh!" she gasped, and burst into
tears. The candle dropped from her hand and she covered her face and sobbed piteously. The candle had gone
out and they stood in darkness, and young Badoy was conscience-stricken. "Oh, do not cry, little one!" Oh,
please forgive me! Please do not cry! But what a brute I am! I was drunk, little one, I was drunk and knew not
what I said." He groped and found her hand and touched it to his lips. She shuddered in her white gown. "Let
me go," she moaned, and tugged feebly. "No. Say you forgive me first. Say you forgive me, Agueda." But
instead she pulled his hand to her mouth and bit it - bit so sharply in the knuckles that he cried with pain and
lashed cut with his other hand--lashed out and hit the air, for she was gone, she had fled, and he heard the
rustling of her skirts up the stairs as he furiously sucked his bleeding fingers. Cruel thoughts raced through his
head: he would go and tell his mother and make her turn the savage girl out of the house--or he would go
himself to the girl’s room and drag her out of bed and slap, slap, slap her silly face! But at the same time he was
thinking that they were all going to Antipolo in the morning and was already planning how he would maneuver
himself into the same boat with her. Oh, he would have his revenge, he would make her pay, that little harlot!
She should suffer for this, he thought greedily, licking his bleeding knuckles. But---Judas! He remembered her
bare shoulders: gold in her candlelight and delicately furred. He saw the mobile insolence of her neck, and her
taut breasts steady in the fluid gown. Son of a Turk, but she was quite enchanting! How could she think she had
no fire or grace? And no salt? An arroba she had of it!

"... No lack of salt in the chrism At the moment of thy baptism!" He sang aloud in the dark room and suddenly
realized that he had fallen madly in love with her. He ached intensely to see her again---at once! ---to touch her
hands and her hair; to hear her harsh voice. He ran to the window and flung open the casements and the beauty
of the night struck him back like a blow. It was May, it was summer, and he was young---young! ---and
deliriously in love. Such a happiness welled up within him that the tears spurted from his eyes. But he did not
forgive her--no! He would still make her pay, he would still have his revenge, he thought viciously, and kissed
his wounded fingers. But what a night it had been! "I will never forge this night! he thought aloud in an awed
voice, standing by the window in the dark room, the tears in his eyes and the wind in his hair and his bleeding
knuckles pressed to his mouth.

But, alas, the heart forgets; the heart is distracted; and May time passes; summer lends; the storms break over
the rot-tipe orchards and the heart grows old; while the hours, the days, the months, and the years pile up and
pile up, till the mind becomes too crowded, too confused: dust gathers in it; cobwebs multiply; the walls darken
and fall into ruin and decay; the memory perished...and there came a time when Don Badoy Montiya walked
home through a May Day midnight without remembering, without even caring to remember; being merely
concerned in feeling his way across the street with his cane; his eyes having grown quite dim and his legs
uncertain--for he was old; he was over sixty; he was a very stopped and shivered old man with white hair and
mustaches coming home from a secret meeting of conspirators; his mind still resounding with the speeches and
his patriot heart still exultant as he picked his way up the steps to the front door and inside into the slumbering
darkness of the house; wholly unconscious of the May night, till on his way down the hall, chancing to glance
into the sala, he shuddered, he stopped, his blood ran cold-- for he had seen a face in the mirror there---a ghostly
candlelight face with the eyes closed and the lips moving, a face that he suddenly felt he had been there before
though it was a full minutes before the lost memory came flowing, came tiding back, so overflooding the actual
moment and so swiftly washing away the piled hours and days and months and years that he was left suddenly
young again; he was a gay young buck again, lately came from Europe; he had been dancing all night; he was
very drunk; he s stepped in the doorway; he saw a face in the dark; he called out...and the lad standing before
the mirror (for it was a lad in a night go jumped with fright and almost dropped his candle, but looking around
and seeing the old man, laughed out with relief and came running.

"Oh Grandpa, how you frightened me. Don Badoy had turned very pale. "So it was you, you young bandit! And
what is all this, hey? What are you doing down here at this hour?" "Nothing, Grandpa. I was only... I am only
..." "Yes, you are the great Señor only and how delighted I am to make your acquaintance, Señor Only! But if I
break this cane on your head you maga wish you were someone else, Sir!" "It was just foolishness, Grandpa.
They told me I would see my wife."

"Wife? What wife?" "Mine. The boys at school said I would see her if I looked in a mirror tonight and said:
Mirror, mirror show to me her whose lover I will be.

Don Badoy cackled ruefully. He took the boy by the hair, pulled him along into the room, sat down on a chair,
and drew the boy between his knees. "Now, put your cane down the floor, son, and let us talk this over. So you
want your wife already, hey? You want to see her in advance, hey? But so you know that these are wicked
games and that wicked boys who play them are in danger of seeing horrors?"

"Well, the boys did warn me I might see a witch instead."

"Exactly! A witch so horrible you may die of fright. And she will be witch you, she will torture you, she will eat

your heart and drink your blood!"

"Oh, come now Grandpa. This is 1890. There are no witches anymore."
"Oh-ho, my young Voltaire! And what if I tell you that I myself have seen a witch.

"You? Where?

"Right in this room land right in that mirror," said the old man, and his playful voice had turned savage.

"When, Grandpa?"

"Not so long ago. When I was a bit older than you. Oh, I was a vain fellow and though I was feeling very sick
that night and merely wanted to lie down somewhere and die I could not pass that doorway of course without
stopping to see in the mirror what I looked like when dying. But when I poked my head in what should I see in
the mirror but...but..."

"The witch?"


"And then she bewitch you, Grandpa!"

"She bewitched me and she tortured me. l She ate my heart and drank my blood." said the old man bitterly.

"Oh, my poor little Grandpa! Why have you never told me! And she very horrible?

"Horrible? God, no--- she was the most beautiful creature I have ever seen! Her eyes were somewhat like yours
but her hair was like black waters and her golden shoulders were bare. My God, she was enchanting! But I
should have known---I should have known even then---the dark and fatal creature she was!"

A silence. Then: "What a horrid mirror this is, Grandpa," whispered the boy.

"What makes you slay that, hey?"

"Well, you saw this witch in it. And Mama once told me that Grandma once told her that Grandma once saw the
devil in this mirror. Was it of the scare that Grandma died?"

Don Badoy started. For a moment he had forgotten that she was dead, that she had perished---the poor Agueda;
that they were at peace at last, the two of them, her tired body at rest; her broken body set free at last from the
brutal pranks of the earth---from the trap of a May night; from the snare of summer; from the terrible silver nets
of the moon. She had been a mere heap of white hair and bones in the end: a whimpering withered consumptive,
lashing out with her cruel tongue; her eye like live coals; her face like ashes... Now, nothing--- nothing save a
name on a stone; save a stone in a graveyard---nothing! was left of the young girl who had flamed so vividly in
a mirror one wild May Day midnight, long, long ago.

And remembering how she had sobbed so piteously; remembering how she had bitten his hand and fled and
how he had sung aloud in the dark room and surprised his heart in the instant of falling in love: such a grief tore
up his throat and eyes that he felt ashamed before the boy; pushed the boy away; stood up and looked out----
looked out upon the medieval shadows of the foul street where a couple of street-lamps flickered and a last
carriage was rattling away upon the cobbles, while the blind black houses muttered hush-hush, their tiled roofs
looming like sinister chessboards against a wild sky murky with clouds, save where an evil old 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 the window; the bowed old man sobbing so bitterly at the
window; the tears streaming down his cheeks and the wind in his hair and one hand pressed to his mouth---
while from up the street came the clackety-clack of the watchman’s boots on the cobbles, and the clang-clang of
his lantern against his knee, and the mighty roll of his voice booming through the night:

"Guardia sereno-o-o! A las doce han dado-o-o!"