The Steep Climb over the Ridges

She got out of the shower and stood by the doorway soaked. It was hard not to watch her body glisten in the light. She asked me about the fight, on why I over-reacted like that. Obviously she was upset about the whole thing and I did not want to make matters worse so I turned the other way. I told her that I didn’t mean to scare her and all, but it’s something that I did not have control over like how I was when I am around her sometimes. Like the polar caps in the heat of the sun, I guess we just simply melt away.

Lightheaded, I asked her if she can go to the front desk to get some fresh bandages and anesthetics. Miles Davis’ Blue in Green was on the static radio. I looked outside and noticed that the moon was a bit distant than the usual. It was turning out to be a really slow night.

When I was about to reach a complete state of deep slumber, I felt a sudden jolt which pulled me right off from respite. And in her softer version of a whisper she said that we had no time and we ought to be going soon before the sun rises. “Movement is life, and there is no telling what the road holds for us today.”

She was always the wiser one.

I looked around trying to get some grip of what’s going on. My head still felt woozy from the sedatives and vodka I took. On the newsstands some guy from the government was causing trouble in the south. I then skimmed the column and memorized the name on the byline and thought that the writer was one tough guy to be able to say things like that. And I wished wordlessly, that someday I could be as brave.

We sat down along the roadside by the line of shrubs under the canopy of the trees. The heat was gentle and the dews were still present on the soft landings of the open leaves. We waited for the first bus trip while drinking cool stale water from our canteens and watching the day unfold. The wound from my head was starting to dry off, a bit painful still, but it was better. Across the benches there was a sidewalk vendor selling herb oils and healing mantles, who signaled to me for a remedy, but I rather self-heal.

We bought a local wine to get us through the cold by the time we reach the highlands. This helpful advice was taken from an old commuter, whose business was to bring farm and household supplies to the villagers up north. He was a light hearted fellow with a pair of shiny, rosy cheekbones. We thanked him for the tip and offered if we could buy him a bottle as well but he respectfully declined and said that he does not drink while working. Instead, he offered his home to us in a couple of days during the cropping of the harvest. And then he added that we could also help out should we want to earn a few pesos or just for the experience. We said we would definitely consider that and thanked him once again for his generosity.

The day was ultimately different compared from the last few days. As if there was something grounded governing those mountains. I never felt so still in my life. And in those moments I genuinely heard the voice of silence speaking to me, as the waves of the wind carried its message across, it was like an endless cradle of fleeting conversation with nature itself, it was inexplicably serene.

Then I surveyed the scenery around us, from the line of trees with their broken shadows cast on the road to the uneven terrains of the hillside, heaving deep breaths as I began to wonder if the thought of staying has ever occurred to her. And in the midst of this wandering contemplation I suddenly arrived at the conclusion which I have always known, that she was a runaway, and like the great mustangs in the west, she is always meant to run.

And so I hid these and leaned against her shoulder thankful still.


Internship Paper

I was at the receiving area waiting under a bamboo ornament, for the Colonel – who I was interning for at the time- was concluding unofficial business matters in the other room with a tarot card reader who was also his lover. I kept on looking at my wristwatch hoping it would wind up faster. Earlier that day, he said he had received a phone call from the lady and demanded it imperative that he must come by her place at once. But he couldn’t really say why and therefore I couldn’t, in turn, determine which role portrayal she was on that afternoon. The Colonel was not always this superstitious; matter of fact, he was quite critical and sensible. His decisions have always been based on his years of extensive military service and never believed in anything supernatural. Word was, a few years back, he saw an aparicion in the mountains and for days he had fallen ill and had serious episodes of convulsions which ensued from this chain of events, him being rather delirious and “undetermined”. According to the rumors, once, he snuck out of the camp, climbed over the steel fences and was found by roving soldiers talking to barks of trees and wandering about in the shadows. All of these, of course, in respect to his rank, were not stated on the official routine reports.

Flipping over a magazine and chain smoking, across where I seated were four comfortable looking armchairs each decorated by carefully embroidered apple green throw pillows, of which the designs represented the celebrated animal zodiac of the year. I preferred to stay near the front door where I amused myself with daydreaming and brewing empty, sobering thoughts. The place was always lit red whether it was day or night, and the embellishments on its interiors were limited to beaded curtains, fortune plants, oriental figurines, and wind chimes, which I suppose for the purposes of being economical more than being spiritual. The lady across me was fourth in line and she appeared to be accustomed to the culture of the queue. She was right about mid-forties, had a good posture, and still had good set of teeth. She was with her daughter who appeared to be oblivious on where she was, and was absorbed watching videos on her mom’s phone.

I was about to doze off, when a fast pacing movement caught my attention and saw the Colonel and the fortune teller crossing the street getting into a white taxi. And it flashed to me the instructions I had received from one of the high ranking officers to not lose sight of him. Hurrying, I looked over the counter (to make sure), peered through the slightly opened reading room, and figured that they had used the backdoor.

I saw the Colonel look back from his side of the backseat as if motioning with his expressions that the future has been foretold and everything was out of his hands. I witnessed the slopes of his discontent vanish in the light of the sun that glared on the glass window. In his eyes I saw the greenest meadow lands on a perfect summer day. I turned the other way, and with earphones on, I walked up those festive streets warm on the eve of Chinese New Year. I turned around and the vehicles behind me were reduced to blurry hazes and bylines. I couldn’t tell where they turned, but in the absence of, something from within welled up, as if a part of me was working again.

Then I remembered the moment I first met the Colonel. It was my internship interview when he started talking about cigars eagerly, about the types of wood, and how the Ilocanos traditionally made theirs. I knew nothing about these of course, but I caught myself nodding between these expanding points. And I thought to myself that I knew him, that he must have had a familiar soul.

Nowadays I still wonder about the Lady and the Colonel. On how she undresses and tucks herself beneath the warm sheets underneath the pale moon. And how the Colonel would watch her and think to himself how beautiful she is especially when she cries. Not that her grief amused him, but it was more about the honesty that shaped her. It was like an encapsulating shell that preserves every piece of humanity that was left there for us to feed on. That fate and luck must have decided to reconcile this time around, amidst chaos and the inevitable misalignments of our limited capacity.

Photo By: Bianca Osorio



It was cold and windy when he stepped out of the publishing house. While its appearance was uninviting, its cragginess still appealed to him nevertheless.  Although its elevators no longer worked after the last world war, the staircases were wide and generous, while windows were tall, quite suitable for thinking and writing.

He thought it was indescribable what he felt holding the manuscript finished in his hands. Links of sleepless food stalls wailed, and prolific choreographed routines of evening companions for hire flooded the atmosphere.  Artists of all sorts stood around at the corners performing, while middle aged men who’d rather refer to themselves as aficionados lounged in wicker chairs on narrow alleys.

It was four days before his birthday, exactly two weeks after the car accident.  And although the doctors told him he was lucky, the experience still attracted him.  It gave him something to look forward to, a journey to profoundly aspire for.



He was driving west in the rain when the car swerved off the freeway, until it tumbled off the cliff and dived.  It was a hard rain, he couldn’t see. Half conscious, he thought it was beautiful, how the dark, electric blue flashes in the patches of the clouds would entertain him while he waited for the sirens to come.



When he got discharged, the first thing he thought about was getting a haircut. Nothing grand, just good old fashioned clean haircut. Grooming was after all his pilgrimage back to civilization. It was how humanity saw it, he wanted to compromise.



As he strolled there was a hint of rain in the air.  A few swelling beads of raindrops crackled onto his leather coat just about when he reached the turnstile to catch the late night train.

In this pluvial darkness he pulled up his collar close, and the lapels which overlapped across his chest warmed him.  A few celebratory drags then he flicked the cigarette half-done to the puddle, staying with it as he watched it hiss before entering the station.

Just the same, even after all, he still thought it was a good time for a drive, but he could not.  Instead, he imagined steering the wheel in the darkness through the same night until he catches the first light of the next day.  As he stood on the platform, he thought about how the rain will wash away the world clean as it always did.  There were a few lines that he wanted to write her, regrets even.  But he couldn’t.  His hands are failing him.

Photo by: Bianca Osorio

Fender Bender

A friend once told me “do not try to fend off the good” apparently this has always been my problem according to her.  Given that it is non-clinical, and it is encroached upon the merits that it is all based on pure alcohol induced speculation, I guess, I should believe her prognosis.

“Everyone is a character, in a plot of this book told by a satyr or a romantic.  You could either live lavishly like the Divers or die tragically valiant like El Sordo defending the Spanish hilltops.”

But I was not anywhere near any of it.  I could no longer see fit to entwine myself to the life of a poet.  Sure, I still believed in desserts and an occasional ticket pass to the pictures, but I seemed to have lost something between the sweet taste and the closing credits.

From a table napkin dispenser, she withdrew a couple of sheets that she used as substitute for parchment paper.  She could have written an entire volume on them had it not been for the limiting light from the blue screen monitor overhead.  I can’t remember what exactly she wrote there, knowing her, she could have probably written something about the cooling waves under the moon in those sultry nights or something about a duck.  She wrote happily, and lived, and coyed with the boys her age, she did it all.  She was a God.

Until one day she ran away with an older boy whom she met in a smoky room.  I can still remember that night quite well; they were smoking by a dying florescent lamp under a frameless Joan Jett poster taped on a wall.  I never had the chance to talk to her about that in fact, and I reckoned that we must, like we used to in the past.  There was an occasion when I saw her in a middle of a crowd somewhere in Cubao, I knew it was her; she had a Mao cap on, carrying a canvas tote.

I guess for now I will just have to see her in our conversations, in her stories, or perhaps this time, among the pages of my fictions, until then.

Photo By: Bianca Osorio

Necropsy Narrations

First Born

“Wake up Alice!”   He leapt out of the bed to get ready for school, rushing awkwardly, boxers in prints, sprinting across the heap of overnight clothes and leftover fast food styros on the floor.  It was Monday and he felt forcibly contending with everything that basically moves.  But the floodlit room entranced with rays and rubies, promises of fresher beginnings, in their gentlest graduation life has sprouted. On this eve oozed within him the end of the term in March, it was finally summer, after all.

He swung over a long sleeved shirt lying limply on the couch, its embroidered crest patch stood out on the bright white linen chest pocket.  While facing the reflection on the mirror, he briskly half brushed his bristled hair, tracing the remnants of adolescence on the skin, the innocence radiating there, surfacing, and joyously immersing in his debonair youth.

Late afternoon radio-drama was on the background, for a moment of pause, he passively watched the fornicating dogs on the street by the fish-ball cart while sat there at the corner wall was Alice clasping the hems of her skirt nervously.  She held in her hands a curious strip.  It had two blue lines faint in color, keen on him for an opportune chance to dialogue.  He scuttled underneath the sofa for his shoes.

Her beautiful dark hair was neatly tucked behind her ears, thick healthy curls down to her shoulders, prim like the holy mother.  Fearful of the divine and the sins outside matrimony, her family follows the traditional and the sacred.  She dreads and shudders.  She never felt more alive.


Strange Fiction

She opened her mouth to catch the unusual rainfall, having a little taste of the sky, of that sweet, sweet rain in that midsummer.  She struggled, plunging the blade inwardly until it was no longer seen.  The blade must be dull, or her strength just dwindled.  She is fading, drenched.

In her mind she used a skiff to dump his body on the other side of the riverbank under the bridge where there was soft red earth – This she contemplated while staring at the cream firming up in the luke-warm coffee by a Collin Classic.  Earlier, they clinked glasses and loathed by the fire, all against the skies and their cardinal oppressors.  She placed her head against his chest and sobbed.  She loved him too well that she doubted, and knew.  “Will you please stay for the night, will you love?”

“Of course” said he.  Where else would I be?”

She shook her head, as if coercing understanding.  “But you won’t.”


Amaretto Sour

Her breath smelt of Italian spring flowers, and how it reminded him to set out and see the other side of the world even though he detested traveling.  Cigarette locked in between her fingers, dragging cold, flavored smoke.  He wanted his soul to taste like nicotine that night.

They talked about poetry and what could have been like as if it were in the movies, of rewritten screenplays, oh how they loved a kiss, and another, under a bridge, draped under the tender lights of Manila.



He held up an old framed photograph that sat on a wooden chest, on a crochet table mat her mom made. Immaculate white curtains wavered over it like a ghost gliding in the nightlight.  “It was such a strange thing to see mother dancing like that.  Who knew?  And I wonder whatever happened to the songs they indulgently danced to anyway? Like their youth in time, they must have simply transposed, minutely into mere fragments of recollections we now share.”

His voice strained but it had maintained resolute permanence.  It’s almost never easy to live in the past his father concluded.  In the mind of the old man, it is almost like an attempt to recover a deep lasting sleep, trying to recapture a wonderful dream he once had, at least what’s left of it.

And he can never, anymore, remember how many wonderful weekends he spent with those whom he loved, nor the feeling that they carried along with them.  The night lamp was dimming along with the diminishing chirps of bush crickets in the enclosing windows, until the fire had flickered no more, until the dark had devoured the nothingness and the absolute.



Buck Fever

We were set to meet the week after Earl was found on the bathroom floor in her parents’ house. Everyone had to lay low for a while, but clearly it was also a way of saying that the club was about to end. The climate was inclement distinctively that night. The smell of sanitized concrete was clean and calming which paced my driving slow. The man in a green suit and pointy front teeth directed me to where I could park; hand-gesturing to a space behind the steel fences by the backdoor, where I found a graveyard of cigarette stubs and puddles of dark water left by the rain.

I cranked the hand break and checked the parking job from the rearview, and waited for the engine to die down before pressing the dial.  The phone rang a few times over until finally a coarse voice answered lazily hinting a dozy reluctance.

It wasn’t her, so I hung up.  I went inside and nursed my impatience coupled with anxiety, while I sank in my usual spot at the corner where it was dark and cool and relatively isolated.

I repeatedly went over the unfavorable odds, and faulted myself for it.

So I drank, and shook a pinball machine instead.

A little over a year ago, Earl and I stayed in a summertime retreat house near the eastern coastline that a relative of his handsomely sponsored. It was a favor that I had to go through which he insisted, since I had nothing especially to do that vacation period anyway. Besides, I have already given tita my confirmation, which would be considered a huge let down if I had changed my mind the last minute. We were made to do preplanned activities which were part of the program, which also ensued, consequently, the day to day itinerary adversely tight for anything else.

On the fourth night, I thought of getting up before the sun did.  Sleep was a novelty that was not there since the time we arrived. The moon was too bright it seemed prying, stars too many that I felt naked under them.

It felt like I was making up for lost time. I had a mini viewing deck in my room, sat there with my early cigarettle. Looking through the binoculars following a tree line over the ridge, I saw a beautiful white domestic canary gliding over the sloping into the narrow passages until it disappeared, completely.  The entire landscape was starting to warm up until it was finally soft and rosy all around, while the ocean whimpered across the shore on the opposite side of the lodge.

And it seemed tranquil enough to begin, for anyone who wanted to start all over – like a moth to a lamp I was drawn to it.

It was after breakfast when I saw her waded in the shallows.  The water was clear, and blue, and sometimes green in the day. The skiff shifted, it was about the perfect time to daydream, and what better way to do it than sailing away from the coast. When the waters were right about her hip, she went in and plunged.  She paddled on patiently, her arms made consistent circular motions toward the direction of the horizon.  She tasted the salt upon turning her head for air, and permitted the sea to wrap itself around her young body, to flow through her hair and touch her eyes.

I have never seen anyone so beautiful. She was the countless sand in that ocean, slipping away through my fingers.

Consumed, she took a rest on the raft, and lay there as if entwined with the planks; she felt the weight sinking beneath her and the water trickling down the surface of her now warm skin.  Her complete state heeded to the call of gravity, and the sun was almost midway up when she stared at it through the gap between her thighs.

She also saw the passing of the skiff, the sails were unfamiliar, but the face she knew.  Even so, she paid no mind to it, then she turned to her side and thought about the other boy instead.

Photo by: LJ Jumig

The Visit (homage)

It echoed to her, ringing into her ears.  Circling, hovering in the air suspended.  A thought that lingered, a shadow cast, a return mail, or perhaps in this case of her’s a puzzle piece that she’d rather not complete. On the side table sat a half filled glass of water and a mat of aspirins accented by the crumpling of drugstore receipts.  She got up but not quite making it and leaned against the two giant pillows propped on the wall. The day was not over yet, the soft glow of twilight brimmed across the wide horizon making the sky flushed up in that gentle orangery burst.

Her body was warm, a leg was bent and both arms sagged across the bed. The wrinkles of the undone fitted sheets gave out, it was almost dark and she was turning into a bat.  A familiar musk of which only a man could only produce made her senses and her entire anatomy felt defensive.  She dabbed on her side hesitantly, lips were half open, curious words stifled by this uninvited ambiguity. She can hear innocence and lightness in the breathing that accompanied her. It was dry and rhythmic, almost melodious in tone.  It got louder as she leaned forward, causing her head braced.

She then dragged her fingertips quietly forward until finally they had made contact with a crooked body.

“It is not a dream” She thought. “But I do not know this man”.  She pricked herself again and again – for sometimes she would wake in a dream and would wander off in another.

“I slept the day away. But why aren’t you scared silly? Alas! At the very least weirded out by all this, stupid…” She gasped and slowly moved back to her side and tapped her left sole first onto the floor to get into her bedroom slippers.

Half an hour past she walked toward the table that stood by the open window, dragging a trail of blanket behind her, covering herself to the chest.  She waited there staring at the burrowed face on her bed, behind the mosquito net beneath the moonglow that showered through the faint curtains. This woke the crooked body and arose almost in stealth, propped on its arms on the sides.

This time she can see him, but not entirely.  Half of his chest and most of his being were concealed, unshared. But there was nothing to show, it spoke finally. “It is I, Juliana” his tone low and suited the sultry tropical weather.  He was just a faceless man, not of the flesh but made of stencils, and paints, and narratives – a pigment of her imagination, an absolute manifestation of her mind.

Surely she was not running a high fever to cast this delirious persona she checked.

The dream if it were, was surprisingly placid, she rationalized.

Behind the scaffolding, a grimy mirror on the mahogany closet held her reflection.  And she traced the light of the night outlined her shape, the slope of her forehead, the swell on her chest, and the rugged top knot of a painter’s panache she was sporting.

She was humbled by what she knew – She saw the sketching of the skies, the molding from clay, a creation of someone else’s dream.

She reopened a note she retrieved from the drawer and read:

“Let us linger in time before things disintegrate completely before us like paper in the rain.  Perhaps it will help you remember.   With complete vigor and youthful view round the backseats, as we drove up north, and decided on how you and I should face each other, now, then, in front of, or miles apart, we will always be the same people who we chose to be.  Like our favorite characters in those films.  So I’ll see you there, amour.” 

The Visit
Photo By: Bianca Osorio