nangangapal sa kalyo ang talampakang
walang init na nadarama; sanay sa hapdi
ng araw sa inaraw-araw na paghabol ng jeep

noo’y ugoy ng alon ang marahang duyan
ngayo’y kaladkad sa pinulupot na kalsada
nakatunghay sa kahabaan ng daang
ang pinipitpit ay libong sasakyan para magkasya

balot ng makulay na panyo ang noo
salo ang pawis ng maghapong pagpalaot
tapik ang tambol na gawa sa lata at plastik
ang tanong ay paano nga ba naanod
at paano nga ba babalik




Instructions: Save the panels. Print prior to drawing or process digitally or just read as you please. If you do make art on it, I’d appreciate if you’d show me. Reach me via e-mail ( Thank you.

The Dream of Princess Tamatori


Grandmother. She passed long before I was born but she’s always in my head; the picture of a mermaid, a bright pearl in the water, a shiny milkfish against a backdrop of electric blue.

Glowing in the dark
The silver lady circles
In depths of longing

Growing up, my mother would correct my fantasies of being the descendant of a sea goddess. Grandmother was a diver. Of course, she had skin that was sun-kissed if not sun-burnt. Her muscles were stiff on her legs and arms. She was neither beautiful nor delicate; an average woman with sunrise in her smiles.

The waves roll away
Glistening in golden sun
Calm before the storm

She married grandfather at 17. About the same time, the West caught up with the East and shamed divers for their nakedness. Grandfather kept grandmother in the house until the dark peeled off from her skin. The muscles chiseled in by the waves gave way to soft and pliant parts. She covered her breasts and combed away the salt in her hair.

The ama dove deep
Toba waited in silence
Patient as a wife

Ah, I imagine many nights after grandfather’s sloppy kisses, she would slip fingers between her thighs, pleasuring herself until the dead hours. Stories told she was caught by her sister with a fishmonger on her breasts. And when her tummy swelled to cradle my mother, it was said that the octopi she craved didn’t enter her body through her mouth.

Waters black under
All tentacles and pincers
The sea teems with teeth

Yes, grandfather would tell you that she drowned at sea at 24. Three days they spent looking and three nights they came home with nothing but sand and wet clothes. He’d tell you how he waited for her on the shore, but he would never tell you that the sea welcomed her as a lost lover.

Blue bubbling scarlet
The blood of Tamatori
Becomes one with foam

Art by Paul Medalla. Check out his work here.

Anxia: A post-holiday poem

I tell you that I don’t want to go to work tomorrow
That I’d rather stay where my bed meets my blanket
Sleeping away this cold January weather and oh
What a day to be had on my back, disconnected

But I also tell you that I’d rather go to work if only not to miss the calls
They will make to my number
Because some questions need to be answered and
Some deadlines are dying as I type and
Some things have definitely gone awry
And that should I let a day go by at home
I’d really just be standing by the phone

And so I tell you that I’d honestly rather go to work because
There are people to meet in the office
Meetings will be had and my boss will ask for me tomorrow
Just for tomorrow, solely tomorrow, and
She will wonder why I’ve not come and look back to the day
She first told me to “be responsible for these people”

You tell me it’s alright, that I can skip just one day
That I’m 27 and human
But I’m already halfway dressed and waiting for the bus
It’s 3AM and I’ve no sleep and all desire to vomit acid
Really, I’d rather close my eyes and wait for an oncoming car
So I can send a text saying I can’t go to work because I’m dead

Instead I tell you that I’m in the office already
Mushy brain and stomach-sick
Counting cigarette breaks until 5PM

Ang Ginoo sa Pag-iisa: Subok ng Salin ng “Gentleman Alone” ni Pablo Neruda

Silang mga binatilyong bakla at malalaswang mga dalaga,
Silang nagtatabaang mga balo na pawang bangag sa puyat,
Silang mga bagong maybahay na tatlumpung oras nang buntis,
At silang mga pusang naglalandian sa aking hardin tuwing gabi,
Mga nagpipintugang buhay na talaba
Sa palibot ng aking munting tahanan
Salo ay muhi ng aking kaluluwa,
Mga demonyong nakapajama
Na ang palita’y maiinit na mga halik, kunwari’y lihim na mga liham.
Sa tuwing sasapit ang tag-init, iniiwan ng mga nagmamahalan
Ang kanilang matatamlay na rehimyento,
May matataba, mapapayat, maliligaya, at malulungkot na mga pares
Sa ilalim ng naglalakihang mga puno sa tabi ng baybayin at buwan
May enerhiyang kaakibat ang palitan ng pantalon at panty
May huning kasama ang pagtatanggal ng stockings
Pati ang suso ng mga kababaihang tila makikislap na mga mata.
Maging ang padre de familia, matapos ang ilang sandali,
Matapos ang isang linggong pagpasok sa trabaho,
At matapos ang walang kalatuy-latoy na mga nobelang binabasa bago matulog,
Ay tuluyan nang nakipagkantutan sa kaniyang kapitbahay,
At ngayon sila’y naghihipuan sa madilim na sinehan
Kung saan ang bida sa mga pelikula ay kabayo o magigiting na mga prinsipe,
Dahan-dahang hinahaplos ng kaniyang sabik at pasmadong palad
Ang mabibilog at makikinis na mga hita.
Ang gabi ng mangangaso at gabi ng mag-asawa
Ay tila balumbon ng kumot na sa aki’y sumasakal,
Maging ang oras matapos ang tanghalian kung kailan nagbubulyos ang mga pari at estudyante,
At walang pakundangang nagkakangkangan ang mga aso sa daan,
At ang mga bubuyog na amoy dugo at hindi magkandaugaga na mga langaw,
At ang walang palyang paglalaro ng bahay-bahayan ng magpipinsan,
At ang mga doktor na nagnanasa sa mga batang pasyente,
Pati ang bukang liwayway kung kailan sumisiping ang propesor
Sa kaniyang asawa bago mag-almusal,
At kung hindi pa ito sapat ay nariyan pa ang mga taksil na siyang tunay na nagmamahalan
Sa mga kamang sinlaki at sintaas ng mga barko:
Paulit-ulit, walang hanggan
Ako’y unti-unting dinudurog ng baliko at buhay na gubat na ito
Kasama ng kaniyang higanteng mga bulaklak na wari mo’y bunganga at ngipin
Pati kaniyang nangingitim na mga ugat na tila ba kuko at takong.

The young maricones and the horny muchachas,
The big fat widows delirious from insomnia,
The young wives thirty hours’ pregnant,
And the hoarse tomcats that cross my garden at night,
Like a collar of palpitating sexual oysters
Surround my solitary home,
Enemies of my soul,
Conspirators in pajamas
Who exchange deep kisses for passwords.
Radiant summer brings out the lovers
In melancholy regiments,
Fat and thin and happy and sad couples;
Under the elegant coconut palms, near the ocean and moon,
There is a continual life of pants and panties,
A hum from the fondling of silk stockings,
And women’s breasts that glisten like eyes.
The salary man, after a while,
After the week’s tedium, and the novels read in bed at night,
Has decisively fucked his neighbor,
And now takes her to the miserable movies,
Where the heroes are horses or passionate princes,
And he caresses her legs covered with sweet down
With his ardent and sweaty palms that smell like cigarettes.
The night of the hunter and the night of the husband
Come together like bed sheets and bury me,
And the hours after lunch, when the students and priests are masturbating,
And the animals mount each other openly,
And the bees smell of blood, and the flies buzz cholerically,
And cousins play strange games with cousins,
And doctors glower at the husband of the young patient,
And the early morning in which the professor, without a thought,
Pays his conjugal debt and eats breakfast,
And to top it all off, the adulterers, who love each other truly
On beds big and tall as ships:
So, eternally,
This twisted and breathing forest crushes me
With gigantic flowers like mouth and teeth
And black roots like fingernails and shoes.

Salin sa Filipino ng salin ni Mike Topp ng orihinal na akda sa Español ni Pablo Neruda


In Loving Memory of the Joke

I recently posted a question on a social media platform that went like this: What do you miss the most from the pre-Internet days? The answers ranged from obscure pieces of technology, such as corded telephones and tube televisions, to less favored physical activities, such as biking and walking. I read all the comments in that thread searching for a response that reflected my own sentiments but nowhere did I find the joke. You see, what I miss the most from the pre-Internet times are the jokes.

Some say that the joke has been dying a slow death since the 50s, but I remember hearing and repeating narrative jokes in the early 2000s. In the same vein as myths and legends, these jokes were passed through oral tradition from friend to friend, generation to generation. These jokes required commitment to the memorization of actual stories ending with punchlines and demanded full performances with tones and facial expressions when shared.

The earliest joke I remember hearing and repeating myself is this question-and-answer that only appeals to six-year-olds as I was at the time: One maeko plus one maeko? Never mind that the word “maeko” does not exist in both the English and the Filipino lexicon. Approaching this logically, treating the maeko as a variable in an algebraic expression, which is something that good reason should warn you not to do especially when dealing with toddlers, should lead you to “two maeko.” Of course, to anyone who understands Filipino, “two maeko sounds like “tumae ‘ko (I pooped).” And for six-year-olds, nothing could be funnier than poop.

After the age of six, I remember encountering jokes in book compilations and in magazines. I’d go over them all, searching for jokes I could reserve for a better time. Almost everyone then had a favorite joke and this had been mine for a long time:

Three men were stranded in an island after their ship capsized. Unfortunately, the island was populated by cannibals who managed to catch all of them for supper. Terrified at the prospect of death, the men began to cry.

When the chief of the cannibals saw this, he took pity and said, “We won’t eat you if you pass our requirements. First, head to the forest and come back with the first fruit you’d see.” The men leapt and ran into the forest.

After three minutes, one of the men came back with a single blueberry. The chief then said, “Insert this fruit into your asshole. If you laugh, we will kill you.” When the man did this, he laughed and was immediately put to death.

A few minutes later, the second man returned with a cherry. The chief said, “Insert this fruit into your asshole. If you laugh, we will kill you.” The man did so and kept his composure for a considerable amount of time until he, too, was put to death.

In heaven, the first man met with the second man and said, “What happened? I saw you and you looked like you were never going to laugh.”

The man replied, “Everything was going well until the third guy came carrying a jackfruit.”

We are the jokes of our generation

A joke can only be a joke if it is made by someone and shared with someone else who would consequently declare it hilarious. That which was made and shared with the intention of being laughed at but garnered no applause is therefore not a joke but a sad statement until someone else validates it. In this regard, jokes can only be shared within a group of people sharing certain beliefs and perspectives. Every culture and subculture has a unique joke pattern or theme.

In the Philippines, for example, a popular joke features the character of Inday, the stereotypical maid from the Visayas islands characterized by her stupidity and inability to mimic the Tagalog pronunciation. One of her many domestic adventures saw her crying after the doctor told her that he would have to remove her butlig (rash), mistakenly thinking that the doctor said “both leg(s).”

It is important to note that Inday as a hilarious character found popularity only in Metro Manila and some parts of Luzon at a time when Tagalogs would look down at the Bisaya (people from the Visayas islands). Considering that Tagalogs dominated the capital, the government, and the commercial realm, Tagalog became the prevalent culture dictating what is correct and even what is Filipino. Many Bisaya at the time found employment as maids in the richer Tagalog households; their interchanging vowels when speaking the language of their employers was deemed incorrect and hilarious.

When the general attitude towards Bisaya changed, the jokes featured a different Inday, one who spoke perfect English and was too smart for the average Filipino to follow. Every time she opened her mouth, she caused “nasal hemorrhage” for the people within her immediate vicinity. No one understood her but she did not care for the lowly scum.

Comparable to the many jokes made and being made at the expense of the cultural minority, the hilarity of which remain subjective, the Inday joke is a product of its setting. Nowadays, most young Filipinos do not subscribe to these types of humor out of political correctness and cultural sensitivity. This fear of offending or being considered offensive may have partly resulted to the demise of the joke, the punchlines of which almost always poke fun at specific human attributes that are frowned upon by the dominant culture.

In 2013, popular Filipino comedian Vice Ganda made a joke about Filipino journalist Jessica Soho being raped. The joke was really about Soho being fat but it drew flak because it involved an award-wining and respected journalist in the same sentence as the word rape. Vice Ganda had to issue a public apology when the issue began making headlines. 

I do not write this to make claims about what jokes are acceptable or not as I do believe that jokes are a matter of taste. Instead, I would like to throw my hat in and say that a favorite joke of mine is the ngongo joke, made at the expense of persons born with cleft palettes and consequently, speech impediment. I know I am not perfect and you, too, are not perfect, but tell me what jokes you laugh at and I may be able to tell you if we can ever be friends.

Wherein we became the memes we love

The joke in itself may not be completely dead and maybe how we share it is actually what changed. As more of our friends relocate to virtual reality and as we spend more of our lives on social media, narrative jokes turned into memes. Short one-liners became images with text and anti-jokes became shitposts. Like the old narrative joke, memes are also unique per culture or subculture and are only funny for people in the know. Unlike the narratives though, these memes do not require an introduction and are as quick as they appear and leave on our social feeds.

This is not to say that the loss of narrative jokes in terms of popularity is a result of a cultural decline. I also do not have any desire of proclaiming one type of humor superior over another. What I lament is how I no longer meet anyone with a ready joke and a rehearsed performance. The oral tradition of joke-sharing has boiled down to one simple line of “Have you seen this meme?” For the joker, the performance is gone, and for the listener, the anticipation of a laugh is lost.

In a 2005 article for The New York Times, Warren St. John mentions that jokes were abandoned because the younger generation was insecure. Compared to the quick observational humor, the failure of which can go by unnoticed, jokes can turn a situation awkward if they do not lead to the desired effect. And while the same can be said for online jokes with zero likes and shares, it can be argued that an unnoticed original meme is much preferable to an oral joke no one laughed at. The former can even be deleted, unlike the memory of embarrassment from a failed joke.

What this phenomenon tells me is how much we’ve changed and not changed over the years. The reputed oldest joke dating back to 1900 BCE is all about women and farts. Thousands of years later, many people are still embarrassed or laughed at for poop, meaning that we still find the same shit funny. But we have changed a lot in terms of how we deliver humor, learning to protect ourselves from embarrassment and the loathing of others.

In case I haven’t bored you yet with how seriously the joke is taken in this little essay, I will share another favorite joke as a reward for making it to the end. This particular joke was shared to me by a classmate when I was around 15. It goes: What’s red and goes up and down? The answer, he told me, was a tomato in an elevator.

Now, I’ve never met another person who laughed when I shared this but I always thought the absurdity of a lone tomato finding itself in an elevator enough to merit a chuckle. For my friend and I, however, the real punchline came years later when, as a young professional, I carried a tomato in my handbag going up the elevator at work. Before leaving the red thing to go on its journey down, I took the photo below and sent it to him via Facebook.


I didn’t hear him over the Internet but I know a laugh was shared that day.

Love Letter to Greece

He said she was like Greece
At the time when the Euro debt blew up
A balloon that wouldn’t fly away
But sank deeper and deeper
Despite austerity, protests, and prayers

He said she was the Euro debt
A black hole sucking in Western Europe
Her long history of fiscal responsibility
Turned to Germany’s terrible investment
Saving her was trying to piece together egg shells
Because every sad person demands to be sad

But she had slits longer than her arms
Irrigation for the flowers of black and blue
Home-grown on paper-thin skin
All those years of training hands to withdraw from hot pots
And learning how to cross streets
But no one ever taught her that box cutters
Are only for cardboard boxes

No one else recognized on her face
The aftertaste of last night’s alcohol binge
No one saw the absence of Facebook posts
Something about the people awake at 3AM
Only I saw how she stretched her soul to fit her skin
Struggling for some semblance of comfort
Only I heard how she wished she were a puddle
A stone, a bed, dead, anything but feeling

He said she was like Greece, the Euro debt
I thought she was my mother
That one time she wore a necklace of ropes
I thought she was my brother
That night he carved his arms with a broken ruler
I thought she was someone I loved
I thought I saw her face before
I thought her eyes were mine a lifetime ago

He said the EU would be better off without Greece
So I wrote a letter of dissent
Followed up with one after the other
Tried to form my words into the shape of a blanket
Tried to form my words into the shape of her salvation
Tried to play god and hero
But only because I thought I knew
How it felt to be situated at the bottom of a sinkhole

He said she was a waste of time
At a time when she was asking me to wait
And I thought that if it weren’t in me to find my own place
The least I could be is someone’s safe space
So I wait


I was asked to participate in this spoken word activity in support of mental health awareness in the office. I remembered a friend who likened another friend to Greece.