Tuesday, May 31

writing challenge: casaroro.


the setting could have been perfect that day.

we were in the midst of casaroro, valencia’s beautiful waterfalls and the municipality’s gem that is frequented by tourists who bask in its almost ethereal beauty. casaroro falls is every trekker’s dream, and although it is inaccessible to even the most daredevil habal-habal drivers in this sleepy town of negros, several hikers still choose to endure the two-hour uphill climb that is ridden with sharp rocks and red soil that turns to mud once it is drenched by heaven’s tears. casaroro’s beauty, after all, is unmatched in all of negros, and once one is captivated by its natural serenity, the ordeal of trying to get there would not matter at all.

but this day was different – for amid the beautiful backdrop of casaroro’s poignant beauty, several people were huddled together in different groups: most of them were trying to subdue their sobs, while one of them, imelda’s mother, was wailing uncontrollably. as i was standing next to my brother, and merely observing the intensity of human anguish that had so consumed most of the people there that day, father vincoy was saying mass.

father vincoy is known in dumaguete as the priest who has the gift of exorcism, and several times before, he had been instrumental in purging the demonic spirits from those who were possessed by elemental beings. and while he endured the glare of the midday sun as he raised the sacristy for consecration, my mind had drifted towards the tragedy that happened four days ago.


five young souls who just graduated from high school were itching for an adventure before college would devour them whole in the coming school year. casaroro was their destination of choice, so before the break of dawn, they were well on their way to the treacherous trail that would lead them to one of nature’s finest creations. and at eight in the morning, all five of them were already bathing in casaroro’s freezing waters, and the morning fog had enclosed them in a world that was suspended in calming silence.

the water was rather peaceful that day, they all noticed, for they heard nothing but the soft ripples of water and the concoction of sounds from the birds and the early morning breeze.

but nature, they would later on learn, can be deceptive and inconspicuous with its wrath. for in an instant, the uneventful silence of casaroro was replaced by the anguish of large rocks that stampeded from the mountains – its hell path wreaking death on whatever or whoever it came in contact with. the sound of rock gritting, one of them would later say, was the very sound of death itself.

as they all scampered to the land for safety, one of them was caught by surprise by the sudden ambush of rocks, and as she flailed helplessly in the water to keep afloat, a rock hit her on the head. as the rapids continued its onslaught downwards, imelda’s body was helplessly tossed around like a twig by the wrath of the boulders – until finally, her body had drifted out of sight, and her companions were left crying for help on that fateful morning when nature, it seemed, decided to show its might and unleash its fury.

it would take three days and a massive manhunt operation for the authorities to finally recover imelda’s body. 300 meters down from where she initially was, her lifeless body was discovered entangled in a group of large rocks near one of valencia’s rivers. she barely had any hair left on her head and had swollen up beyond recognition. her body was in an advanced state of decomposition and it bore distinct wounds and bruises from being ravaged by the turbulence of the unrelenting rapids. the news spread like wildfire in dumaguete that by nighttime, numerous candles were lit at the altar for the eternal repose of her soul.


it was during the recitation of the apostles’ creed when i noticed that father vincoy seemed uneasy from time to time. ‘i believe in god, the father almighty, creator of heaven and earth…’, then he would momentarily pause for a good five to ten seconds, look up to where the water slowly descended from the mountain, and then continue on with his recitation of the creed. and because the midday sun was in its most imposing state as the mass was about to end, his face was lined with heavy streaks of perspiration when he was finally done with the eucharist.

it was during family dinner with father vincoy, one year after that unfortunate incident, when my father would once again revisit the grief that ensnared our small community when imelda had met her untimely demise. at the mention of the incident, the clairvoyant priest’s expression suddenly turned serious.

alam mo ba andy, may nakita ako nung araw na yun.’

everyone, upon hearing him say this, huddled closer to the table.

habang dinadasal ko ang apostle’s creed, may dalawang malalaking boses na nagmumura sa akin galing sa itaas. at nung tumingin ako sa itaas, may nakita akong dalawang maiitim na pigura na nakalutang sa ere.”

he suddenly paused, as though to pace himself for the clincher of his story.

at habang nakatingin ako sa kanila, ay nanlilisik ang mapupula nilang mga mata, habang sinisigawan nila akong umalis na dahil nasa kanila na si imelda.”


at nang tumanaw uli ako sa itaas, ay may nakita akong isang babaeng nakapatong sa isang malaking bato, katabi ng mga maiitim na kaluluwa. at kahit napapaliguan siya ng sinag ng araw habang nakaupo sa malaking batong yun, ay nakita ko ang maamong mukha ni imelda.”


other entries for the horror writing challenge:

louie's joshua.

Saturday, May 28


i guess it just happens when you least expect it to happen.

in the midst of spirited conversation and intermittent banter, what is bound to happen, happens.

i personally do not know when i came to that realization, but once i saw the irony of things making more sense and being more clear when the consciousness is altered and everything seems to be a blur, i came to understand that sometimes things can be too simple, but we are the very architects of our own evils, confusions, and paranoia.

"tagay", sambit ni dino.

"isa pa ka round", matod pang nelbin.

"di na ko, goods nako", tua ra si edon.

in that fleeting but very real moment of us collectively traversing the world of spirits, and transcending the limited possibilities of reality by the intrusion of the beautiful poison of choice, we have practically become brothers.

yes, in that shared moment of brotherhood and camaraderie, our hearts, for once, smile a genuine smile, and we know that even when the world can rip us apart and gnaw at our very core, we can still be happy.

memories, they say, can be very deceiving. sometimes, when your life is practically reduced to shit and you have nothing else to cling on to but the blissful recollections of the past and the nonchalance of life, you will think of happiness that was effortless, the temporariness of sadness, and the constant promise of love.

and when this juxtaposition ensues, your lips can only curl to form a genuine smile, and you know that even when the world has broken your heart and spirit, you can still be happy.

for in the rubble of an altered reality, the anecdotes that have been repeated for the umpteenth time, the beautiful poison of choice, and the fraternal warmth from those who have practically become your lifesavers, you suddenly realize:

yes, we all change, but our friendships will ever remain constant.

Sunday, May 22

on death.

mortality has always been something that has fascinated me -- and now, when it seems as though i am aging faster than i used to, i often think about how my mundane existence will eventually end.

i have heard stories of people breathing their last. anecdotes of that one final breath, whereafter everything, including your memories and consciousness, will cease to exist, and you will just be someone who used to be. until eventually, your very existence will dissipate from the collective memories of those who both loved and hated you.

i wonder how that moment of end happens -- when two realms converge for a fleeting split of a second, and thereafter the physical will accede to the finality of what happens after physical death.

my grandmother used to tell me that people see their relatives who have passed just when they too are to pass in the valley of death. and quite ironically, those were her last words before she succumbed to cancer. while in her deathbed, she smiled and told us that we were in the midst of relatives who were about to usher her into the afterlife.

my grandfather, before senility caught up with him, told me once that when death looms, the person traipses around the fine line which separates life and death. and when the constant bouts of ailments and sicknesses render their final blow, the spiritual realm becomes clearer, whereas the physical world slowly becomes a blur, its realness, like that of a dream, or a memory perhaps.

this has always made me wonder: do the two worlds co-exist, but it is our strength which makes us incapable of seeing the spirits around us? and if so, is it then our frailty which makes us see the bright white light that warps us onto the next life?

the dominant psychology theories contend that the main source of anxiety that people have over death is the possibility of being forgotten. because with this final ending, everything, including all traces of your existence, will wither away -- and even when people initially hold on to your memory, the incessant progression of days, weeks, months, years, and decades will render you insignificant and, harsh as it may seem, forgettable.

i wonder: will people remember how fickle my heart had been, or how fascinated i was with beer and politics, or how sometimes i simultaneously loved and hated the fact that my family had unflinching morals, or how passionate and reckless i had been in my early romantic exploits, and how jaded and untrusting i was to the subsequent transient souls who tried to teach me that i can fall in love again?

or if i satiate my inner narcissism: will people think of me fondly?

death, sometimes, can give us the most profound answer to all our questions about life and its real essence. we live our lives thinking about what our purpose is, and we strive so damn hard to achieve what we are set out to do -- but most times, during our lifetime, we are uncertain as to whether we had been successful or not. death, through retrospection, is ultimately the final arbiter that can tell us whether in the end, we either merely opted to live or if we chose to exist.

Sunday, May 15

on letting go.

he sits quietly still
in seclusion,
he, with his wrinkled face
and pallid skin,
his withered hair
and calloused hands,
and his wry, almost
mournful smile.

he is labored as he
stretches his lips for a grin,
and his spirit
is almost penetrable --
his seething pain as palpable
as the superficiality
of his wry, willed smiles.

his gloom is plastered all over
the numerous zigzag contusions
in the kitchen walls,
and the roaches and rats
that scavenge through
the living room,

and the darkening
and ashen sunflower tiles
in the bathroom floor,
and the kitchen sink
which silently dies away
with the birth
of molds and fungus
in its surface.

he continues to smile,
but he is bereft
of his once
adolescent vigor,
reduced to a sorry
and solitary fellow,
his drive to live
by nature's prodding,
and not his own;

he lives and yet,
he ceases to exist.

but each night
when the clock
would strike six,
he would light
a candle,
make a fist
and hold it
close to his heart,

look at her picture
in a white gown,
neatly arranged hair,
and the most pristine smile,

as beads of clear water
would drop from his eyes,

as he is again reminded
of his fate,
and as he resigns
to the inevitable --

that he is alone
and inconsolable.

Tuesday, May 10

on the day i turned 27.

april 21, 2011
part 1.

today, i turn 27.

yes, three more years before finally turning 30, but i must say, i do not feel as though i am intimately acquainted with the cosmos -- because until now, i still feel like a stranger who is treading an unfamiliar path.

last night, while musing about what this new lease on life really meant to me, i found it ironic to realize that even before we are thrust into the world to be part of the multitudes of desolate souls who seek refuge from the stars for guidance, our lives had already been mapped out before us -- or at least, we conform to the mold of societal expectations, whether we think of it as an inevitability or not:

as children, we cannot wait to grow up. there is a lot of time wasted from being excluded in the world of adults. i remember that as a young child, i could not wait to outgrow my innocence, because the world that adults thrived in seemed to be more real -- a relatively less farcical realm compared to the golden unicorns and fluffy cotton candies that were in abundance in a child's world.

as adults, we are taught to defy the world, discard all our preconceptions about society, and wage endless battles against the suffocating moral standards of the undiscerning majority. we are taught that there is no sense in absolutizing knowledge and truth, and that only fools allow themselves to be caged by standards that are premised on mere consensus. the morally didactic in society need to be questioned, the university keeps on reminding us, because we ought to be defiant, lest we end up like the rest of the unthinking subservients.

but as we leave the confines of the academe and we get broken to the ruthlessness of the world, we learn first-hand that idealism needs to be tempered at times. that life, we all inevitably learn, is all about daily routines and patterns, and at times, we just get by with the thought that we need to do what we routinely do because that has always been the norm of the world.

that the idealism that propped us up during adolescence needs to be tempered with the fact that the world is vast, that we are minute in its wide expanse, and that ultimately, we are left with no other recourse but to conform -- until we breathe our last, and death emancipates us from the ordeal of always trying to fit in.

part 2.

as a young child, i wish someone would have warned me that at times, idealism rips your soul apart, that love is sometimes feigned, and that promises aren't always meant to be kept. i wish someone would have told me that even when society is double-faced at times, we still need to be subsumed under its stifling dominion.

that as we age and inch towards mortality, our very humanity will slowly be spirited away from us -- and that most times, even when we are defiant, we are helpless and incapable of doing away with the imminent defeat.

Wednesday, May 4


i remember her from my childhood.

no, remember is not the correct term -- she was part of my childhood.

because if truth be told, my childhood recollections cannot be considered complete if she was squeezed out of the picture.

but as i look at her right now, and the apparent torment that is lurking underneath her disheveled exterior, i no longer recognize the sparkle of innocence that seemed so obvious before.

it is sad when friends we know have gone astray, or have outgrown us -- but linda's case was different, for neither one of us outgrew each other. but through the years, all her accumulated pain and sadness have scathed her, and this may very well be the reason why she no longer has her sanity intact today.

i've seen her twice or thrice probably, if my memory does not trick me, in the streets, virtually reduced to a beggar, wearing nothing but rags for clothes, and her body swollen all over with scabies.

once, i remember gathering enough courage to at least try to talk to her, in hopes of her recognizing me. but there was never a hint of familiarity in her eyes -- she only stared blankly at me for awhile, and then she walked away.

i honestly do not know if that was merely her defense mechanism because she was ashamed of what she had become, but as she looked at me, i was convinced that she had ceased to be my playmate who frequented our house during lazy summer days. she was no longer the sweet young girl who did everything to wake me up almost every morning so we could have our daily games of kayukok, dakpanay, teks, and dampa.

she was no longer there -- or if she was, she was pushed way inside her heart, unable to break free and once more see the beauty of living.

my sister, who had taken up nursing as her undergraduate course, shared that in their community immersion class, they were tasked to interview certain people with mental disabilities -- and after she was made aware of linda's case, she chose her to be her sample respondent. this was two years ago.

halfway through her research though, she was surprised to find out that like linda, her mother, aling edith, had also gone insane. and it was just as depressing when my sister later discovered that she was in a much more advanced state of insanity that she needed to be coercively chained inside her house so she would not roam around freely in the neighborhood.

linda, she observed, had more lucid moments back then and, during her better days, was still able to talk sensibly to her. but it had already become apparent that her living condition had taken its toll on her, and insanity was fast encroaching upon her rational faculties.

which is why lalab, my sister, was surprised to see her in her condition two years after -- her mental disability had worsened, and she had degenerated into a street vagrant who depended on the crumbs of those who were willing to dispose of what excess food they had to dogs and humans alike.

hushed whispers from neighbors and people once close to linda's family surmise that she had succumbed to post-partum depression after having given birth twice -- worse, they say, both had been fathered by her own father -- a drunkard who is notorious for his carnal trysts in our neighborhood.

all this started, they say, when aling edith became fully incapable of looking after herself. apparently, her departure from the household also signified linda's assumption of her sad role as the new woman of the house.

we live sad lives.

and just when we start to believe that stories such as linda's do not happen in real life, reality slaps us hard and makes us see that they are more than real. they, in fact, throb with life, and they serve as reminders that life's turbulence can sometimes scathe some of us irreparably.

linda may have transformed into a stranger. but as i see her in deep pain and anguish, i choose to remember her from before: when she was a carefree spirit and an innocent young child who was oblivious of what was to come later on in her life.

and i am certain that i am not alone in choosing to see her through her past -- because i know, i just do -- that deep within the recesses of her heart and soul, she is secretly wishing to be that little girl once more.

(written four-ish years ago.)