Wednesday, March 18, 2015

"In the Empty Places" : an anthology for a cause

The editors at In the Empty Places are putting together a second edition of the book! It'll soon be available for sale via Amazon, and at the moment can be bought through their website. My contribution is a story called "The Memory Cheetah."  

From their website:

"In The Empty Places contains stories from authors around the world. Many of these stories are being published for the first time, and many are also in translation for the first time. All the authors have generously donated their time and considerable talent to the this project for free, and we are heavily indebted to them.

"Every copy of the book sold, whether hard-copy or e-book, raises money to help the victims of child prostitution in Indonesia. The Bantuan Coffee Foundation provides scholarships, safe-houses, skill development and counseling to help children to escape child prostitution. If you would like to know more, see"

Monday, March 09, 2015

What floats your boat?

This man was paddling his way across the Thu Bồn river at a rest stop halfway between Hoi Yan and the ruins at My Son, Vietnam. Look closely at his raft!
The most amazing things resurface as you flip through your old travel pics. This is from November 2012. Photo by me.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Resident feline

At my parents' home in Dumaguete City, June 3, 2007. Photo by me.

No shortage of language

... There was always a gap between the family and the world immediately beyond our home. The Christmas I was seven, I was declared old enough to hand out candy to the children who came to carol. Once I counted out eight pieces, one for each caroler, as they watched, their eyes huge in their starved and dirty faces. I handed the candy, reveling in Christian charity, to the smallest boy, and in a flash he was off, grinning, leaving the other seven children to stare at me, closing zombie-like as I stood paralyzed, their palms out, that pleading, demanding singsong that beggars make rising from their throats. The selfishness of it, the opportunism of that stunted, crafty child, swamped me. I dashed back into the house, wailing for my mother.

I was terrified of the children for another different reason. I would situate myself in the front porch and jeer at them as they passed, daring them to pelt the house with a stone or a green mango. This they never did. They would hang their sun-bleached heads and shuffle guiltily past, towards the beach, sometimes swiping a hibiscus blossom just to spite me. I had power over them, as long as I remained in the safety of the house, and of my half-language, a collection of Binisaya insults that I had picked up at school. If they had turned around and shouted back at me, I would have had no words to reply. If I had called to them in English they would have mocked me and barraged the house with stones. That was what worried me, each time I peered out from the potted asparagus ferns to taunt them – that my toughness was fake, and that sooner or later I would be found out.

But there was no shortage of language within the confines of home. We discovered my father’s books early on: it seemed that, after his studies abroad, he had diligently shipped back every last book he had ever read or touched. Penguin classics, Life magazines, National Geographics, expurgated bestsellers from the Readers’ Digest, and the anthologies of literature that he relied on for his teaching. Where had all these books come from? How could he have afforded them? He never explained. They simply sat there, like three dimensional wallpaper. I had awakened from the sleep of infancy to find them already gathering dust. The family shelves were filled by the time I was in pre-school, a few years after he came home with his PhD. That was the year my mother and father began to enshrine and gild the memories of his foreign studies. Perhaps the books had come from secondhand sellers in the various countries he had traveled in. I could not tell which ones he had read and which ones he had always meant to read, and which ones were there to make his friends envious.  I could look at anything I wanted, but was forbidden to lend anything out. The collection was sacred. It had to be saved.

From "The artifice of recollection" by Lakambini Sitoy, an essay that appeared in The Dumaguete We Know, Merlie M. Alunan, ed. Anvil Publishing, Manila, 2012.

Monday, March 02, 2015

The Dumaguete I Know...

I WAS born in this city and I left it when I was 21. My memories of Dumaguete are those of a very young, unformed person. Which is not to say that the memories themselves are unformed – rather, gazing through a window of solid, two-layered glass at the snow-covered remains of my summer garden, through the lacework of naked tree branches to where an aircraft has left a white trail of vapor in the sky, I believe that the Dumaguete I knew was the one place I could call rock-solid, real.

Real, and safe, in the way a child in the bosom of her family believes herself to be safe.  A large part of my Dumaguete is private, personal, having to do with the textures of nature, the patterns of light on a bedroom wall, the pleasure of watching a servant at her tasks, the mystery of what adults did each day after the screen door banged shut behind them.

Every morning, my mother and father left for work, which was something terribly serious, because they discussed it incessantly as they bathed and dressed, and then came home at the end of the day to argue some more about what had been said and decided in those eight unseen hours. But the maid was quiet, methodical, competent. Imitating her, I learned to slice beans and pluck the odd-smelling malunggay leaves off their stems. I foraged in the ditches on the other side of the road for kangkong, learned to tell the green shoots apart from those of the morning glory vines. I begged for the honor of cooking the day’s rice from scratch. It was a game – scrub the grains between one’s palms and fill up with water a little past the second knuckle on one’s middle finger. Twist the gas tank ring, wrench the burner knob, and then, quickly, quickly, strike a match into life, before the smell of escaping gas overpowered me. My fingers would fumble with the damp matches until one flared into life. The flames came roaring out of the burner, singeing my fingertips. Blue fire tore up the sides of the pot…

From "The artifice of recollection" an essay that appeared in The Dumaguete We Know, Merlie M. Alunan, ed. Anvil Publishing, Manila, 2012.