Lunes, Hunyo 1, 2015

PALENG AND HER 100 SONGS



It’s 5 o’clock and the sky is covered in pink, orange and red sheets of clouds. Paleng’s family trembled in unison as the bell tower in the heart of the university sings out familiar tunes. Paleng’s family is the smallest of 46 bells and no matter how vigorous she dances, she can never hear herself amidst her family’s din and peels.
One day, she gets tired of being the smallest bell with the tiniest voice and said goodbye to her family.
She wobbled out of the window and rolled on green grass until she bumped into a grey stone, out in the field.
Oooofff!” the old stone complained. “Where are you off to, little bell?” he asked.
I want to hear my voice and I want people to hear my 100 songs!” the little bell said.
But how will you do it down here in the ground when there is no wind?”
The little bell suddenly missed the wind, her gentle caress, her playful push. She decided to go up high where the wind lives.
She rolled up and down 7 hills and finally reached a cliff. She called her friend Amihan but Bagyo heard her song. Bagyo is a nasty bully who brings his friends, Kidlat and Kulog. Together, they hurl Paleng to the sea where she is rocked by waves playing catch.
But Paleng, no matter how small and terrified, tried to be brave. She sang the songs she used to toll with her family every sunset. She sang her 100 songs. But the songs were drowned in the storm. Paleng was washed ashore, into a small fishing village. Half-covered in sand, she can no longer sing. She misses her family and wished she was back home, up and safe in the bell tower.
Suddenly, little feet appeared in the sand. Little hands uncovered Paleng and brushed off the sand. They dug her up, carried her and put her on a wooden post beside the school's flagpole.
Today, Paleng sings proud and loud amid young voices. She sings of bright mornings, of sharing snacks, of stories waiting to be told at home. She sings of family’s love, of friendship, of storms and of making dreams come true.


Miyerkules, Hulyo 2, 2014

BFD (Big Fat Dragon)


As far as dragons go, Fluffy is VERY different.

He spits a rainbow of fire.

He likes to walk, hates to fly.

He sheds emerald scales here and there.

And prefers a cart of watermelons to a family of hare.


No dragon would like to be his friend.

Not just because of his colorful fire 

or dainty walk,

glowing scales, 

or weird appetite.

But because of his heavy legs,

enormous belly and big behind.


Little dragons would throw rocks while he sleeps.

Lady dragons would point and laugh while he leaps.

The guys would trip him on his walks.

And no dragon would offer to help him up

as he lies there on his back.


But he doesn't care you see.

As long as he has his little friends 

and his family.

He likes being big and fat.

He likes his funky fire 

and wonky walk.

He even likes his silly shiny scales

that keeps falling everywhere.





Thanks to Monica, for egging me to write this :D The story was inspired by this fluffy dragon from Fluffy Pwets (who, according to Monica, was being bullied by her other dragons). Check out Fluffy Pwets cool cloth diapers at The Marshmallow Baby Online Shop.

Linggo, Marso 10, 2013


Uncle Junior and the Balete Tree


Lolo said the Balete tree is enchanted. Tucked in the sleepy town of Lazi, in the island of Siquijor, the tree towers over a spring where little fishes swim around your feet.
Lolo said the tree was already there when he was born. The Balete tree watched over Lolo’s father when he was growing up. The Balete was the spot where Lolo’s lolo courted Lolo’s lola. And all of them remembered the Balete tree as it is today – tall and proud with her feet submerged in clean, cold water. Lolo said the water is miraculous. It saved Lola’s life when she got sick. But it also took my Uncle Junior away.
Everytime we pass by the Balete tree on our Sunday walk to San Juan, Lolo always tells Uncle Junior’s story. We sit down on the bank of the spring, our feet swinging gently in the water until the skin on our toes turn into prunes. We eat our baon – Mama’s special biko with a sprinkling of latik on top. In between bites, Lolo would remember Uncle Junior’s mischievous smile and his laughing eyes behind the thick glasses.
Uncle Junior loved the Balete tree. He only took baths at the spring at the foot of the tree. When he was in High School, he used to stop by the spring before and after classes. He would play sipa in the water. One day, the round rattan ball got stuck in one of the Balete’s branches. Uncle Junior climbed up the tree to get it. But he did not come down that afternoon. That was the first of his disappearances. Lola found him the next day helping fishermen haul in their nets. The next time he did not come home, Lola saw him talking with the farmers harvesting rice alongside them.
When Uncle Junior started studying in the Unviersity, his disappearances became more frequent. At first, he would be gone for two to three days at a time. Each time he comes home, he would still be wearing the same clothes -- dirtier with dried mud, sweat and grass stains. Lolo would ask him where he went and Uncle would just laugh, saying he’s been inside the Balete tree with his friends.
Of course, Lolo did not believe him. But he did not ask too many questions. Uncle Junior is already a young man – old enough even to get married. But Lolo was worried, especially when Uncle Junior did not come home for months. And when he did, he would be thinner and darker, with long gritty hair.
Lola was even getting sick because of Uncle Junior’s disappearances. But when Uncle comes home, Lola would be well again. Lolo and Lola got tired of asking questions. They were just happy their son is home safe. Lola would cook all his favorite food – tinolang isda, ginataang alimasag and adobong pusit. I said Lola was like a witch fattening up Uncle Junior. Lolo laughed like a troll and tousled my hair. You have the same curly hair just like your Uncle, Lolo smiled sadly.
Lolo looked so sad. But he needed to finish the story so I asked him what happened to Uncle Junior. He said one day in 1976, Uncle Junior never came home. He went missing with some of his friends in the University. They left all their belongings, as if they didn’t need them where they are going. Lolo said Lola still believed Uncle Junior will one day walk through their door. But Lolo thinks Uncle Junior is happy where he is. When I asked where he went, Lolo looked at me, puzzled – his eyes wondering why I don’t remember the ending of the story he told me countless times.
Lolo said Uncle Junior was spirited away into the enchanted world inside the Balete tree. There, he is young once more, almost like a baby. There he can talk to fishes, plants and trees. And everything he wishes, even just in his mind materializes in his very eyes. I can almost see Uncle Junior happily describing Lola’s wonderful cooking to a golden fish. They would talk about a lot of things-- the hard life out in the fields or the dwindling number of fishes in the ocean. The fish would change its color to a shining silver when it disagreed with Uncle.
One day, Lolo promised, he will also go into the enchanted world. Lolo would then stare at the Balete tree, almost beseechingly, then slowly he would stand up. He would then shake droplets of water from his feet and wear his slippers. I do the same and we continue our Sunday walk.


I look back at the tree, its branches and roots almost dancing in the spring and the fishes cutting across the water, and I say goodbye to Uncle Junior.

_____________________________________________________________________

This story was inspired by a  sculpture by Daniel Dela Cruz. It's a subtle story about desaparecidos during the Martial law.

Sabado, Mayo 19, 2012



THE BOY WHO COULDN’T SAY NO


There was once a little boy who wanted to please everyone.
You would find him always nodding,
Always smiling,
And always saying “Yes.”

Dodong, does my Sarong go well with my blouse?” asked their colorful neighbor Nana Pacing, whose footsteps were always coupled with the jangle of bells on her ankles.
And the little boy would smile, nod and say yes.
(Even if the psychedelic skirt and the neon green blouse hurt the eyes.)

Ading, can you please watch the Dinengdeng? I’ll be back in 5 minutes,” asked their border, Ayat, who never cooked without adding a small cup of pungent Bagoong.
 Of course, the little boy would smile, nod and say yes.
(Even if she forgot about it and the little boy ended up cooking the vegetable stew himself.)



Boy, here’s your food. Make sure you eat everything I put there, ok?” said his aunt who followed him around all the time. 

Still, the little boy smiled his smile, nodded his nod and said yes.
(Even if he hated pancit canton—instant noodles tastes much better!)

Because of the little boy’s agreeable nature, he was always liked and loved.

One day, on the way to school, he stumbled over a grimy little cat carrying a small red flag in its mouth.
Oh, I’m sorry little kitten,” he blurted out.
To his surprise, the cat put down the flag and answered back, “I will only accept your apology if you agree to carry this flag for me and pitch it on the softest cloud in the sky before 9 o’clock in the morning. That way, I will know which bed I will sleep on tonight.”
The little boy, no doubt, smiled his smile, nodded his nod and said yes.
(Even if he thought he might be late for school, even though he was suspended in disbelief and even if what the gritty cat was asking for was totally absurd!)

The little boy, once again, headed for school thinking hard how he would manage to do the grubby cat’s errand before the morning bell. Just then, he felt a tug on his shirt. He looked around but saw no one except a small red balloon tied to a tree exploding with yellow blooms. 

Little one, can you remove this thing? My hand aches already and it’s ruining some of my jewelry,” the tree spoke.


The little boy stared hard at the tree, scratched his head, nodded a nod and said yes.
(Even if he could not figure out how the tree is talking and why he chose to answer at all and even if he believed he’s running late for school already!)

As soon as the boy untied the string from the branch, he felt a strong tug upwards. His feet were slowly rising until they’re completely off the ground!  A strong wind blew his way and up he went with the red balloon. The little boy looked down at the tree getting smaller and
smaller, the houses nearby transformed into miniature dollhouses his little sister played with. Oh, what a sight! But he’s surely going to be late for school now, the little boy thought.

An airplane whizzed through a cloud. The boy remembered the errand he promised to make for the little cat. He was at level with fluffy clouds in every shape imaginable. He touched the huge one that looked like their pet rabbit. It was squashy but wet. He reached for the one shaped like a woven duyan they have at home. It was spongy but too thin for a bed. He stroked the small cloud that looks like a fish. It was smooth and soft. This will do, the little boy muttered to himself as he let go of the balloon, landed on the fish cloud and planted the flag in the middle of the white puff.

Of course, now he’s really late for class! He squinted down and looked for his school among the many roofs below him. He wondered how he would be able to get down.
An enormous eagle flew by. “Little boy, do you have some food with you?” The little boy smiled, nodded and offered his merienda. (Even if his baon for the day was his all-time favorite: sweet potatoes cooked in brown sugar).

After the eagle finished off his baon, he asked the boy if it wanted a ride. The little boy grinned, nodded eagerly and climbed on the back of the eagle.
The eagle spread its massive wings and dived into the air! The little boy held on to the great eagle’s feathers as they whooshed back to the ground. In a little while, they landed on the school playground just as the bell rang.

The little boy shouted his thanks to the giant eagle as he sprinted off to class. He froze in the air when a shrill voice came from the ground he was about to step on. He looked down and noticed some ants in a neat file going underground. A small red ant on top of a mound asked in a high-pitched voice, “Would you like to see my home?”
The little boy who couldn’t say no looked at his school only ten steps away, looked back at the red ant and nodded hesitantly. As soon as he said yes, the world above the ground disappeared!

Amazingly, he fitted quite comfortably into the little ant holes. Right under the moist soil softened by the morning drizzle, the boy zoomed downwards with the ant. They passed sixteen pink earthworms eating and pooping their way in and out of the soil. They made way through a forest of plump and lanky roots. They went by a skeleton of long-buried dog until PLOP! They landed on what appears to be the main road of a little town of busy warrior ants. The street was flanked on both sides by rows and rows of red, juicy watermelons cut in triangular crescents. There must be hundreds of them! Inside these hundreds of watermelons are thousands of ants pushing the watermelon pits out of the red, juicy watermelon flesh. So this is where ants live, the little boy thought, in watermelon apartments!

The small red ant tugged at him, guiding him to one of the watermelon dwellings. It excitedly clambered up the fourth floor and proudly showed its home. The little boy bowed and with one eye, peeked at the dainty apartment unit. The ant invited him in for some watermelon juice.

 The little boy who couldn’t say no, thanked the ant, praised its home, but slowly shook his head. “It is nice of you to invite me but I have to go to school now,” the little boy said. “Not without taking a picture!” the ant replied. The little boy smiled his smile and nodded yes.

With the flash of a camera, the little boy found himself standing in front of his school building again. He looked around and started for his classroom. On the hallway, he met a tiny ragged cat carrying a small orange flag. He patted its scruffy little head, smiled, shook his head and said “Maybe next time.”


Linggo, Enero 29, 2012

PAGLAKI KO!



Pagkabilang ko ng sampu, nakatago na kayo. Isa!

  Kumaripas ng takbo sina Ning at Mayet.



Dalawa!

  Dali-daling sumuot si Dani sa silong ng kubo.



Tatlo!

  Mabilis na umakyat si Betong sa punong santol.



Apat!

  Pumuwesto si Cheche sa likod ng punso.



Lima!

Pambihira! Nagkasya si Sabel sa nakataob na batya. Sshhh! Sinenyasan nya ang ang nanay niyang naglalaba. Kumindat naman si Aling Cora.



Anim!

 Sandali lang! Sigaw ni Bing nang madiskubre na naagaw ang paboritong taguan.


Pito!

Humarurot na parang jipney ang kambal patungo sa likod ng balon.—talo pa ang MRT sa bilis!



Walo!

   Naku! Di na alam ni Pia kung saan magtatago. 


Siyam!
  Bahagyang dinilat ni Sansan ang mga mata.



Sampu! Andyan nako!


Pinigil ni Bing ang hininga.

Tumagatak ang pawis ni Dani.

Nanginginig sa sabik si Cheche.

Naghahagikgikan sina Rex at Russel.



Di pa man nakalalayo si Sansan mula sa puno ng mangga, ang kanilang “homebase”, nang umalingawngaw ang pamilyar na kalembang.


kLING-KLiNg-KLInG-kLiNG!


AYANNASYA! Sigaw ni Ning habang nagsilabasan ang lahat sa lungga at sinalubong ang tunog. Di tuloy alam ni Sansan kung sino ang ibu-BONG. Sa halip na bumalik sa puno ng mangga, nakisali na rin sya sa mga paang nangalap ng alikabuk sa bilis ng takbo patungo—

Kanino pa, kundi kay mamang sorbetero!


Dala ni Mang Karding ay ilang palapag ng makulay at patung-patong na sarap at

saya!


Nauna si Ning sa pila. Daig pa si Lydia de Vega sa tulin ng takbo. Parang medalyang ibinabandera ang anim na palapag ng sorbetes.

Namilog ang mga mata ni Mayet sa sari-saring lasa—keso, tsokolate, mangga o buko? Lahat nalang kaya!



Kulang ang mukha ni Dani sa laki ng kanyang ngiti lalo na nang dagdagan ni Mang Karding ng dalawang tangkal ang halos kasing-taas ng isang dangkal nyang tsokolateng sorbetes.

Agad ninamnam ni Betong ang natatanging meryenda—da best talagang palaman sa monay ang ice cream!



Walang kasing ingat nang abutin ni Cheche ang paboritong pampalamig. Parang isang laruang bago ang ice cream na hawak (nahulog kasi sa kalye nung isang araw ang sorbetes na binili nya).



Inunang kagatin ni Sabel ang pwet ng apa. Tsaka sinipsip ang tamis at lamig.



Inuunti-unti naman ni Bing ang kanyang tasa ng sorbetes. Layong patagalin ang bawat kutsarita ng linamnam.



Sabay na pinanggigigilan ni  Rex at Russel ang kanilang apa ng ice cream. At sabay din nilang naubos ito sa limampung segundo!



Di naman nakuntento sa isang apa si Pia. Aba! Heto’t bumili siya ng isa pa!



Mabilis na isinubo ni Sansan ang huling kagat ng apang babad sa halo-halong lasa. Sabay dighay ng malakas.



Umalingawngaw ang malakas na tawanan. Sa lilim ng punong mangga, wala nang sasaya pa sa mga magkakaibigang bundat sa paborito nilang panghimagas.


Masarap siguro maging sorbetero tulad ni mang Karding.” ang masayang sambit ni Russel habang dinidilaan and dulo ng malalagkit na mga daliri, “ Di ka mauubusan ng ice cream!” Bahagyang sumimangot sya sa malinis na kamay.



“Kung gusto mong maging sorbetero,” ani ni Dani habang binubuksan ang pangatlong pakete ng Cloud Nine nya sa araw na iyon.” “Ako naman gusto kong maging tsokolate. Naghagikhikan ang lahat. “Gusto ko kasing magpasaya ng mga tao. E di ba, pag may tsokolate e ngingiti na ang mga may problema?” Ang paliwanag ni Dani habang nginunguya ang dambuhalang kagat sa baong tsokoleyt.



Ako, paglaki ko, magiging magaling na doctor ako. Magsususot ako ng puting uniporme at gagamutin ko lahat ng sugat at sakit,” ang pagpapasikat ni Pia.



Tutulungan kita sa pag-alaga ng may sakit. Magiging nars ako at kakantahan ko muna ang mga bata bago injeksunan para di na sila iiyak,” dagdag naman ni Mayet.



“Basta ako, paglaki ko, gusto kong maging milyonaryo!” Malakas na pahayag ni Ning. “Sasali ako sa Starstruck, Game Ka Na Ba?, sa Laban o Bawi, Pinoy Big Brother at sa lahat ng pa-kontest! Bibili ako ng sangkatutak na Sweepstakes! At kung marami na akong pera, ililibre ko kayo ng ice cream araw-araw.”



Nagpalakpakan ang lahat.



Ako, paglaki ko…” Biglang natigilan si Sabel nang tumayo si Rex at pinalipad ang tinuping eroplanong papel.



Ako, iikutin ko ang mundo kasi magiging piloto ako. Ako ang unang magpapalipad ng eroplano papuntang buwan o sa Mars!”


“Ako naman, huhuliin ko ang lahat ng masasamang mga tao. Magiging pulis ako tulad ng tatay ko!” Pagmamalaki ni Betong.


Ibinibaba ni Sansan ang binabasang libro, “Paglaki ko, magiging presidente ako ng Pilipinas! Wala nang mamamalimos at magugutom na bata. Lahat sila ay makakapag-aral na.”


“Paglaki ko naman, gusto kong maging magaling na mang-aawit tulad ni Sarah Geronimo. Papalakpakan ako at tatayo ang mga tao pag kakanta ako.” Ang pagbibida ni Bing sabay ikot at awit ng paboritong kanta.


“Attention class, makinig kayo!” Pahayag ni Cheche habang pinapalo ang puno ng akasya gamit ang lapis, “Paglaki ko, gusto kong maging titser—parang si Titser Lina. Ang galing-galing nyang sumayaw at kumanta. Andami-dami pa nyang alam.”



“Ako naman…” wika ni Sabel, “Gusto ko maging tulad ng nanay ko. Para rin syang titser— alam pa nya ang sagot sa lahat ng tanong. Mahusay din syang doctor at nars kasi napapagaling nya ako pag may sakit ako. Isang halik lang nya, di na masakit ang sugat ko. Mas magaling pa sya kay Sarah Geronimo, napapatahan nya lagi si bunso! Para rin syang pulis, nahuhuli si kuya pag may ginawa syang masama. Pag binabasahan kami ng libro dinadala rin nya ako sa iba’t ibang lugar tulad ng piloto. At lahat ng problema, naaayos nya—parang presidente ng Pilipinas! Higit sa lahat, para rin syang tsokolate at sorbetes, napapasaya nya kami lagi. Para na rin kaming milyonaryo dahil sa nanay ko!”

Ikaw, anong gusto mong maging paglaki mo?




Lunes, Disyembre 26, 2011

Dr. Fish


Matinik is the resident physician of Malaya school of fishes.  Whenever a fish or any sea creature sustains injury, Matinik’s extra fish bones are always handy.


When Claustrophopic Talaba was locked inside his shell, Matinik came just in time.He whipped out two fish bones from his tail—a big and thick one to pry the shell open and a long thin fish bone to hold up the upper shell while Talaba was being transferred to his new home. “Matinik, how could I ever thank you…one more minute trapped inside that shell and I would have ended up….  ” and Claustrophopic Talaba ended up crying a shell-ful of tears on Matinik shiny scales.


When War Freak Swordfish broke his sword, Matinik came to the rescue.  He got four fish bones and strapped them on  War Freak Swordfish’s nose while he  wrapped a long broad sea grass around it. War Freak Sword lost his sharp composure when he saw his nose back in its place and hugged Matinik tight, too tight that he almost cut Matinik.


When Odd Octopus caught one of her seven tentacles in a bush of poisonous sea weeds, Matinik was there with his extra fish bone to cut the stubborn seaweeds.  With his famous antidote, Odd Octopus got better.  And from that day on, whenever Odd Octopus would run into Matinik, he would squirt jets of ink from excitement and would wrap all his seven tentacles around him as a gesture of thanks.


Not only was Matinik a healer of all sorts, he would also nurse a broken heart.  When Mr. Seahorse lost his wife in one of Pating’s eating frenzy, Matinik was there to comfort him with a ready fin to cry on. And when Starfish 1 and Starfish 2 were fightng over a wish fishybone, Matinik spared one of his to end the twin’s brawl.


One day,  the enormous Butanding had an encounter with the razor-sharp teeth of Pating, he went straight to the humble Matinik to recuperate.  Matinik magically produced another fish bone  which he used as a needle to sew Butading’s open wound.  Afterwards,the  great Butanding swam gracefully upwards, his booming voice echoing throughout the ocean floor, “Thank you Matinik! When I’m better, I’ll give you a ride.”


But there was no time to have fun for the whole underwater community, upon hearing about Butanding’s brush with Pating, was frantically preparing for the visit of the enemy. Grown-ups were busy fixing and fortifying their homes and hiding places.  Children were forbidden to go beyond the yellow corals.  The Chief Fish made sure the guard fishes always kept their watch so Malaya School of Fish would be warned of the approaching terror.  Mr. Seahorse almost went mad with fright just by hearing Pating’s name.


Matinik helped by giving away his fishbones.  The sharp and pointed fishbones served as weapons, reducing the fear that settled in the hearts of the inhabitants of Malaya School of Fishes.


On those dark days, Matinik went to visit Lakay Hermit Crab who lived in an old barrel beyond the yellow corals.  The blue water seemed to go on forever without a single coral on the sand floor.  Matinik felt a heavy presence following him but he dismissed it as the anxiety spreading like a disease among their community.  Besides, he needs to deliver the old Lakay Hermit Crab’s medicine.


Suddenly…


He felt a powerful ripple. Then a splash!  Matinik swam as fast as he can, blinded by fear.  His gills swelled from panic and he can hardly breath.  He whirled blindly and came face to face with jagged jaws.  The perfectly pointed teeth of Pating caught light and glistened under the fuzzy ocean water.


Matinik froze with terror. He closed his eyes, ready to be swallowed.  But the powerful snap never came.  Instead, he heard a sharp cry of pain from the great monster. Pating was wounded!

Matinik, who was always helpful, quickly came to his aid.  He inspected the wound and saw the cut was made by the strange mesh that loomed on the shallow part of ocean. Pating escaped the people’s and got hurt in the process.  Matinik whisked out a few of his fish bones to treat the wound.


When he was able to stop the bleeding, he stayed with Pating until the enemy opened his eyes.  “Dr. Fish, thank you for your kindness.  How could I ever repay you?” said Pating in a very weak voice.


“It’s my duty to help and I’m honored to be of service to you” said the humble Matinik.“I heard about you—you’re the gentle Matinik who cares for the residents of  Malaya School of Fishes.  Your compassion will go along way my friend.”


From that day on, Matinik and Pating became good friends.  And you would always find them sprawled on the ocean bed chewing on seaweeds or chatting inside Matinik’s little clinic that Pating helped built.


Pating never again laid a fin on the fishes of Malaya School of Fishes and Mr. Seahorse found himself a Mrs. Seahorse and was never afraid of the great Pating again.