Ayaw ko suwatig balak


–tutuki lang ko

gikan sa akung samaran nga ulo hangtud sa mga bungtud nga gaginhawag lawum

totoy, tiyan

ug kwebang baba


kabantay ka unsay kalahian nako sa uban?

ako kay estatwa

oo, tawu ko nga nahimung batu pero tawu gihapun

gaginhawa, hilum

apan sa uban


kay dili kahipugngan ang mga ngalan nga muduaw sa akung panumduman, ngalan sa mga tawu nga akung gibiyaan

bisag dili pa ko intawun





Don’t write me a poem


–just look at me

from my wounded head to the mountains that breathe deep

breasts, stomach,

and the caved mouth


have you noticed what makes me different from the others?

I am a statue

yes, I’m a person transformed into stone but a person still

breathing, silent

but for the others


because no one can stop the names from visiting my memory, names of people

who I have deserted

even when I’m not yet



*image by Krista Mangulsone



Tigsingkwenta, puti

nga chrysanthemum

sama sa sando ni papa

nga karun akung gikuso-kuso

para mawala ang mantsa

sa suka.


Puti, humut

dili sama sa aslum nga baho nga

taud-taud na pung mugawas gikan

anang na-ughan nga baba.


Puti, luspad

sama sa kalimutaw sa uwak nga gahuwat

gawas sa amung balay.



Fifty peso-worth, white


like papa’s sando

which now I had to wash

to remove the vomit

staining it.


White, fragrant

unlike the sour scent

which had been flowing out from that

drying mouth.


White, pale

like that of the crow which waits

outside our house.


*image by Aaron Burden

Bisayangdako: Writing Cebuano Culture and Arts (Erlinda Kintanar Alburo)


For a book that covers the long and enduring story of Cebuano literature, Bisayangdako is an easy and pleasurable read.

Perhaps, we can attribute it to the fact that I’m a homegrown Bisdak (Cebu City-bred). Some words (gugma), places  (Parian), and events (Sinulog) are familiar to me. And then the rest is a whole, new world —and yes, I had to accept that horrible truth that I don’t know a lot about Cebu, its history, culture, and literature —which is why this book is for me. Maybe, it’s for you, too. 🙂

Take a peek!


I know. It’s absurd that I don’t know much about my own culture and literature even though I’m certainly on it, through it. It’s childish to blame it to some invisible things or people or institution (haha), but… I think it boils down to your own “personal culture.” My father’s Tagalog while my mother’s Bisaya (taga-Badian). And while my siblings and I were raised here, I can’t really say that our values are purely Bisaya (if “pure” really exists). My father who closely monitored our activities (and own ideologies) had been quite influential in the development of my personal culture. For instance, when we were young, his Bisaya vocabulary was so limited, he’d often speak to us in Tagalog. Naturally, I got confused —why do kids at school laugh when I say it’s “bubuyog” (Tagalog for bee)?  For them, it’s just “buyog.” Speaking in English was also stressed more at school, especially during university.

Going back… 

I’ve gained my interest  in reading and writing in Bisaya at Cebu Normal University and went to attend local poetry sessions with fellow grad students. Still, I saw myself at a disadvantage to others who had deeper foundation in the Cebuano/Bisaya language. I’ve noticed that those people who hailed from neighboring provinces or islands had a wider stack of Bisaya vocabulary. I also have this friend whose writing voice she hypothesized to have been lifted from her childhood — times she had spent listening to the local AM radio with her lola.

Now, how can I top that? I can’t. And I guess, I don’t really have to. My own personal culture, mixed with another regional culture, may actually benefit my never-too-late attempts at learning or re-learning our own culture, our literature.

More and more…

Books like Bisayangdako has showed me the progress others before me had had. Perhaps, one day I could do my part, too (cross-fingers).


Top book image from Mary Martin Booksellers

Bathing ears

Bill Williams.png


I closed my eyes, let it surrender to the bright yellow glare of a bulb overhead. I let the sounds of the nearby engine bathe my ears. I’ve shut my eyes and opened my ears, letting its straining auricles drink the mess of a Friday night where everyone is dressed to dine out, have fun, chatter, and giggle every chance they get because tonight, some people can’t.

I’ve let the sound of the bustling city wash away the pained cry unleashed by a woman upon hearing the news of her uncle’s death. He was shot dead. Because he was an addict.

And it didn’t matter if it was a “was” — who the hell gives a shit?


*image by Bill Williams


Sometimes, we can no longer pretend that their deaths don’t affect us. 

When Spoken Poets Gather & Cebu Sits to Listen


You’re supposed to get up the stage. You fumble over the microphone stand, or with the help of a crew, set the microphone at a height that’s able to capture your night’s chosen expression:  spoken poetry.

It was the first Cebu Literary Festival Open Mic + Music — one down and two more to come for this weather-beaten July. Pockets of crowd gathered around an intimate yet open garden at The Walk Cebu IT Park. You’ve seen some familiar faces, the ones you’ve met in both formal and informal poetry reading sessions. The rest were a blur of university students, armed with backpacks, snapbacks, eye-glasses, and Converse shoes. And before the view of heads, legs, arms and faces assault you with awe — that yes, at such time, they’re gathered to hear your stuff, your poetry, your almost unspoken story — you had to clear your throat, offer a brief intro of what that poem is about, and start.



These straining necks and ears were waiting. And as much as you want to capture their undivided attention, it’s hard. A new batch of people would come in and add to the existing chatter. There’s food, drinks, and merchandise on the side. In other words, there’s always going to be something to fill in the time-lapse you were making.

Yet, there’s hope for the likes of you, dear aspiring spoken poet. Otherwise, the Little Boy Productions wouldn’t take interest in coming up with something as awesome as this, right?


The free event was set to keep your feet planted and readied for the launching of the spoken word in English, Filipino, and the region’s dialect, Cebuano-Visayan (or Bisdak). It’s uncanny how the open-mic event seemed to do more than just showcase. It revealed more.

In your nervous stupor, you might’ve failed to notice these. Some people found it easy to be entranced by certain lines. Others just don’t. Some find themselves in your poem because your imagery fits their experience, from the last time you two met, to the last goodbye. Love was (and probably, is) the most popular theme for this open-mic poetry reading; yet, adding through the layers of personal and straightforward confessions were the ever-present humor in Bisdak poems, which are locally referred to as “balak.”


The night wasn’t very long, but the words certainly poured out. You’ve made it now; yet you’re wondering if you can write more, read more.

Want to find out? Register for the next two open-mic sessions because yes, as Dustin Farivar puts it, “courage is a muscle.”

~All photos by Dorothy Dalisay (@voiddorothy)