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Literary Pieces

Saudade by G

A chance encounter in Manila entwines the stories of two different women told through snippets spanning over 10 years.

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Saudade, defined as a deep melancholic longing for something or someone one has loved and lost, or a repressed knowledge that one’s object of longing will never return.

They met more than 15 years ago at a Christmas party in Manila.

Their parents were friends, officemates at a local bank. Marissa was no more than 17 that time; a grouchy, rebellious teenager with a penchant for black clothing. The other, Sara, was a petite and bespectacled girl of 15, dressed in a red cartoon-printed shirt and jeans.

They sat together at the same table; their respective parents willfully ignoring the plights of their daughters who want nothing else but to go home, change into their pajamas and watch television. The two young girls were the oldest children in the lot, which meant that most of the kids were either playing with their hastily opened gifts or busy bullying each other. That left Marissa and Sara the oddballs in the pack.

“Wanna grab a light?” Marissa suddenly asked, tucking a reddish lock of hair behind her ear as she stood up.

Sara turned toward her with furrowed brows, cocking her head to the side, “What?”

The older girl grabbed a netted black pouch, the familiar black and green cigarette box peeking beneath.

“Oh,” Sara said in understanding. Stupidly staring the pouch for awhile longer before hurriedly standing up. “Yeah, ok. Let’s?” Truth was, Sara didn’t smoke but she just needed a good reason to leave the damn place, even for a little while.

Sara began to walk towards the door as Marissa caught up to her, carrying Sara’s floral shoulder bag. “It’ll take awhile so better bring this,” Marissa said but did not make an effort to hand over Sara’s bag.

*

“You always do this?”

Marissa’s head turned towards her companion with half-lidded eyes, “Yeah.” Her face flickered for a moment as she gingerly lit up a cigarette. “Want another one?”

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“No, I think I’ve had enough,” the 21-year old Sara replied.

A white line of smoke dissipated into the air as the older girl puffed. “You want to go back?”

Instead of replying, Sara leaned further back in the swing, her long hair lightly grazing the grass. “I like this place. The stars seem so near,” as if to emphasize, she peered longingly towards the sky.

Marissa stared at the younger girl, not failing to notice the smooth curve of her neck and slightly parted lips. She looked away, feeling slightly bashful, “I go here when my mom brings me to parties in the city.” She paused. “Or when I need to escape.”

A few moments passed. “The next time you need to escape, call me. I’ll runaway with you,” Sara said, catching Marissa’s line of sight. Sara was pensive when she stood up from the swing and bent down to the older girl, “Okay?”

A smile crept into Marissa’s face. “Alright,” she replied as the younger girl leaned in for a kiss.

*

“I like your hair. Red makes the color of your eyes pop,” Sara absently said one day after they finished making love. Marissa had just celebrated her 27th birthday.

The younger girl was sitting halfway up, elbow supporting her weight. She reached out and played with a stray strand. Marissa caught the tanned hand, quickly maneuvering to change their positions so that the older girl was straddling the other.

“I’ll keep it this way, then,” said Marissa with a feral smile.

*

At 28, Sara lived her life following her heart. For thirty years, Marissa lived protecting hers.

They couldn’t be any more different. Even affection could not harden Sara’s edges nor soften Marissa’s.

They couldn’t be together—it was too complicated and too risky. But they couldn’t exactly stay away from each other; even their busy work schedules, shifts, and growing responsibilities were easily hurdled. Marissa understood this. That was when she decided to leave.

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Her homeland. The job she worked so hard to get. The good life. Her heart. And most of all, Sara.

It wasn’t that she was scared of confronting her feelings for the younger girl; Marissa knew Sara loved her back. And that was what pushed her away. What pushed her this far. Because she knew that even love was not enough to give Sara the life she wanted.

Marissa wished she could say she loved Sarah so much that she’s willing to let her go. But it was too cliché. And Marissa hated clichés and fairytales.

*

Even when she left for good, Marissa never changed her number.

But Sara never called.

*

Until more than two years after.

On Marissa’s 32nd birthday, Sara called. Marissa knew she wanted to ask the one question she left her home country to avoid. Instead, the younger girl settled for:

“Why did you leave?”

Marissa looked down at her leather boots; shame painting her face a sallow pink. Winter had come again.

“Because it’s easier to be cruel.”

A minute went by in silence.

Then Sara hung up.

Marissa changed her mobile number after that, grew her hair long until her roots had grown out then chopped her red tresses off.

*

With her black bob cut, Marissa stopped wearing makeup. She had lost weight and looked so much more older than her thirty-five years. On another winter morning, a call came from Laura, one of her friends in Manila.

“So, are you going?”

Marissa stopped midway of sipping a cup of freshly brewed coffee. She had stopped putting cream and sugar a long time ago. These days, Marissa took her coffee bare, black and strong. The faint aroma of coffee lingered in the cool air inside her newly bought flat.

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Winter had never bided good news for Marissa.

“Hey, you still there?” Laura distractedly asked. The raven-haired girl heard sounds of traffic from another line. Laura was probably walking her way to work, somewhere in the busy streets of Makati.

Marissa set her steaming cup down, “Yeah, I’m here.” After a moment’s hesitation, she asked, “Going where?”

A few honks resounded in Laura’s line before she continued, irritation making her voice go an octave higher, “Sara’s wedding, of course.” Pause. “They’re having a beach ceremony in Boracay. Sara’s always wanted to have a summer wedding. It is so her to send out invitations inside a small bottle a la Nicholas Sparks Message in a Bottle style,” Laura said.

“Oh,” Marissa replied; the past twelve years flashing before her. “I see. I didn’t get an invitation,” she swallowed, feeling her mouth go dry.

Laura waited a few seconds, “She waited for you, you know. All these years.” A few heartbeats after, she added, “You just… disappeared.”

But Marissa knew she had to end the call, right away, before she started saying anything else she’d regret later on. She settled with, “Best wishes to the bride, I guess. Look, I have to go. Meeting with my publisher in a few. I’ll call you later.” The short-haired girl abruptly hung up before her friend could reply.

After recomposing herself by taking a shower, letting the hot water sanitize her skin raw, Marissa put on a hastily chosen white wool shirt and jacket, she stepped out.

Outside her mailbox was a small, perfectly shaped bottle filled three-fourths with white sand and a rolled up piece of paper neatly packed inside.

Meet Sunshine Lavariel, a self-described "forever curious lesbian in her mid-20s with one foot out of Narnia". Sunshine spends time finishing her long overdue graduate degree, traveling the Philippines ("the world, soon." she says) with the girlfriend in tow, and writing about the everyday Filipina lesbian struggling in today's semi-open corporate world.

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Literary Pieces

My lovelife may have no direction, but my life has…

In a world obsessed with “finding the right one”, Gab Riel writes about the joys of singlehood; and about being alone but not being lonely.

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By Gab Riel

Last night I was asked over a coffee by a friend why I do not have lovelife until now. It’s been three years since we became friends and wala pa din ako kwento sa lovelife ko kundi ‘yung flings lang, like I’m not really serious. Crush ko lang and that’s it.

Masyado daw akong pa-virgin and serious looking.

I asked: Bakit nga ba?

Is it because it’s not my priority?
Is it because I do not look for it?
Is it because I’m used to being single and alone?
Is it because I am not good looking and no one dares fall in love with me?
Is it because I am too busy with something?
Is it because I prioritize my health, my family and my career?
Is it because I enjoy traveling with friends than dating?
Is it because I feel bored easily?
Is it because I’m reaching my goal of savings and investment?
Is it because I am choosy?
Is it because I have high standards (Wow bes!)?
Is it because I am waiting for someone else?
Or is it because I am afraid to fall in love? Again?

Too many questions but all of the above are valid questions and mostly true.
I am just a 25 year old who doesn’t want to settle at early age. I am free and careless.

Sometimes I am jealous of other people with partners, yes, but that goes away in a matter of day. Sometimes I wish I have a partner today, but the next day I would be thankful again I never had.

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My lovelife has no direction, but my life has.

May mga tao na hindi nagagawa ang mga bagay na nagagawa mo because they are confined with the idea na lovelife is sapat na.

Pero life is not about lovelife, it is how you enjoy it.

Ganun talaga, may mga bagay na hindi para sayo dahil ginusto mo.

Sabi nga ng iba, di baleng walang lovelife; ang mahalaga nadidiligan.

Antay lang. Dont rush things.
Malay ko kung at the age of 30 doon pa lang darating.
May five years pa para mag-enjoy alone.

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Literary Pieces

Over a bottle of rosé…

Patrick King Pascual writes about finding love and then losing it – via the experience of Peter and Richard.

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IMAGE FROM PIXABAY.COM

(While Yumeji’s Theme was playing)

His heart was pounding hard when he opened the door. He was greeted with a smile. He never thought that moment would come.

It was half past one in the morning and it was a Sunday.

They went inside his house and stayed in the balcony.

It was the first week of September.

His name is Peter. His friends knew him as a devoted and passionate person.

He was very excited and nervous. Every time their eyes would meet, he would respond to it with a smile.

Richard, on the other hand, is known to be caring and sweet in his own ways.

They shared stories, laughed at each other’s jokes, and flirted in between. He wanted to hold his hand, feel his skin closer to him – but every time he moves closer, a creeping feeling takes over.

Around three in the morning, they decided to end the night.

As they walked out of his house, Richard following very close behind him, he stopped. “Am I going to see you again?” Peter asked. Richard stepped closer to him and answered, “Why not?”

His heart was pounding hard again. He turned and faced him, and gave him a smile. They were just staring at each other. For a moment, it seemed like a scene lifted from a movie.

Peter’s face moved closer to Richard. Their lips met. Without saying a word or moving a muscle, they kissed. It was a slow kiss. It was a long and passionate.

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He removed Richard’s glasses. Maybe, to better see his face. Then, they kissed again.

They first met when Peter attended a gathering with his old friends. He was running late and had to leave to early. He felt a bit uncomfortable when he arrived. A few minutes passed, he asked if anyone from the group smokes. Richard, who was with one of his fiends, responded, “I do.”

They went out of the café. He introduced himself to Richard as he puffed on his cigarette. Their initial meeting was brief, but he knew he wanted to know him more. After two sticks and uncomfortable stares from his friends, he asked for his number. They went back inside. After a quick group photo, he left.

Present time. The following evening came. Peter messaged Richard. He can still feel his kiss. It was a memorable one, he said.

Richard arrived at his place half past 12 in the morning.

They went straight to his room and picked up where they left off.

The kiss was longer than the previous night. It felt like it was more passionate, has more meaning, Peter recalled.

They went all the way. They both wanted it to happen. It was intense.

“We might get used to this,” Richard whispered. Peter responded with a kiss.

For a moment, they were just staring at each other, still in bed and naked. He wanted to capture all the details of his face in his mind.

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The night ended with Peter giving Richard a tight hug. Richard leaned forward and gave him a kiss.

Peter waited for Richard for five years.

Ever since Richard moved to New Jersey, they consistently exchanged Skype and Viber messages. They, sort of, continued where they left off when they first met.

On Wednesday, Peter went to his house. He gave him a small cake. Maybe it was just an excuse to see him.

Then on Thursday, Edward went to Peter’s house. They stayed in the balcony again. Peter opened a bottle of rosé and a small pack of truffle cheese.

The Script was playing on his phone. He was surprised that the he also knew the words. After a sip and a slice, he noticed they were unconsciously singing together.

And then the strings of Yumeji’s Theme started. Peter walked towards Richard. He took his hand and pulled him closer to his body. Slowly they danced together.

Everything was in slow motion. The music seemed endless. He held his body tighter and laid his head on his chest. It was euphoric.

It was a poignant moment for Peter. He was not sure if Richard felt the same. But he knew what happened was not a knee-jerk reaction.

Richard was scheduled to go back to New Jersey the following week. It was a bittersweet moment for him. He missed his family and friends in Manila, but he needed to go back to fix his citizenship application.

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They had not seen each other for several days. Richard and his family went to Davao. But they continued to message each other.

When Richard got back, he stayed home because he felt sickly. Probably he was too tired after the trip.

They were supposed to meet the following night, Richard’s last night in Manila. But Richard’s friends surprised him with a party.

Peter did not reply to his messages.

The following morning, hours before Richard’s flight, Peter received a message.

“I’m on my way to the airport now.”

Peter replied: “Take care.” Then he sent another message, “I’m annoyed because we did not get to see each other before you leave.”

“I guess, I’m not sure, it is better that way. At least we won’t be thinking too much,” Richard answered back.

He was mad. He was sad. He was pissed off.

Richard has been in a relationship with his partner for three years now. Peter is also in a serious relationship with his longtime partner.

Maybe, what happened, they just picked up where they left off when they first met.

“Take care all the time. And always smile,” Richard messaged Peter.

Peter replied, “Yakap :(“

Theirs is not (yet) a love story. At least not the type you were hoping it to be.

But it was something real.

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Literary Pieces

Ikaw ay isang bahaghari

Evangeline Grace writes about being part of the rainbow life, stressing “kung pinagtatawanan ka ng mundo, Dahil hindi ka lang basta bughaw at kulay rosas, Itaas mo lang ang iyong noo… Dahil lahat ng bahaghari ay matatagpuan sa langit.”

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Ni Evangeline Grace

Ikaw ay isang bahaghari.

Hindi sinasabi rito
Kung ano ang nasa pagitan
Ng iyong mga hita
O kung gaano katangkad
O kaliit ang umbok
Sa iyong dibdib.

Hindi hinuhusgahan
Kung tinutubuan ka ng buhok—
Ng bigote o balbas
O kung malago ang nasa binti
At nakatago sa kilikili
Walang panghuhusga sa kung ano’ng mayroon ka.

Hindi ka pipigilan
Kung ang gusto mo ay mag pantalon
O kung mas gusto mo ang palda,
Ang maluluwang na damit
O ang masisikip na nagpapakita pa lalo
Sa hubog ng iyong katawan.

Hindi nito tinutukoy
Kung ipinanganak kang may tatak ng mga kulay:
Kung dapat ay bughaw ka lang
O kung dapat ay kulay rosas ka lang.
Walang sa’yo ay maaaring tumukoy

Pagkat ikaw ay isang bahaghari.

Hindi ka lang bughaw
O kulay rosas
O puti o itim.
Hindi kailanman dapat limitahan
Ng iba o ng mismong iyong tahanan
Ang kaya mong gawin.

Isa kang bahaghari.

Puwede kang maging kahit ano
O kahit sino na iyong gustuhin.
Tinatakan ka bilang bughaw,
Pero maaari kang mamuhay at gumalaw
Sa kahit anong kulay
Na gusto mong abutin.

Puwede kang maging kahit ano
O kahit sino na iyong gustuhin.
Tinatakan ka bilang kulay rosas,
Pero maaari kang mamuhay at gumalaw
Sa kahit anong kulay
Na gusto mong marating.

Ikaw ay isang bahaghari.
Huwag kang palilimita
Sa iisang kulay o dadalawa.
Maaari kang maging pula,
kahel, dilaw, o berde
Puwede kang maging bughaw,
Indigo o lila

Kung kulang pa para sa’yo
Ang pitong kulay sa harap mo,
Paghalu-haluin natin
Ang pula sa indigo
O ang berde sa kahel

Huwag kang palilimita
Dahil hindi iisa ang kulay
Na maaari mong pagpilian.
Kung pinagtatawanan ka ng mundo
Dahil hindi ka lang basta bughaw at kulay rosas,
Itaas mo lang ang iyong noo…

Dahil lahat ng bahaghari
Ay matatagpuan sa langit.

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Editor's Picks

Kahel at Bughaw

Jerome Cleofas contributes a literary piece that tells the love/life story of a gay man and his straight best friend. Here is also the link of the recording of the song, “Kahel at Bughaw”.

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Music and Lyrics by Jerome Cleofas

Ang taglay niyang kulay ay bughaw
At sa kakisigan niya ako’y napukaw
Ako nama’y kahel na marikit, isang baluktot na yagit
Na hindi maituwid kahit ano’ng ipilit
 
Musmos pa lang nang kami’y magkalaro
At sa mga kalaba’y ‘di sumuko
At kahit na ako’y sinasaktan, dahil ‘di pangkaraniwan
Sabi ni bughaw ako ay kaibigan, at siya ang aking pananggalang
 
At mula noo’y ibinigay ang puso ko
Sa isang pangarap na hindi magkakatotoo
Dahil ako’y isang kahel na ligaw
Na umiibig sa isang bughaw
 
At noong kami’y magbinata
Sa aki’y meron siyang pinakilala
Isang babaeng marikit, na maganda at mabait
Kaya si bughaw kay pula naakit
 
At sa altar siya’y naghintay
Sa babaeng aalayan niya ng buhay
Ako nama’y naro’n lang sa tabi, nakangiti kahit masakit
Ngunit ang makita siya na maligaya, ay sapat na upang ako ay sumaya
 
Dahil sa kanya pa rin tumitibok ang puso ko
Siya ang tanging pangarap kong hindi nagkatotoo
Ngayon ako’y isang kahel na uhaw
Na umiibig sa isang bughaw
 
At ang mga tao’y lumipas na
Siya ay nagkapamilya at ako’y tumandang mag-isa
 
Sa huling hibla ng aking buhay
Si bughaw sa aki’y naka akay
Sabi niya kahel kong marikit, sa palad mo nakaguhit
Ang pangakong ako ang ‘yong kaibigan, nandito lang ako kailan pa man
 
At hindi ko man ibinigay ang puso ko
Sabay naman nating tinupad ang mga pangarap mo
Salamat kahel at hindi ka bumitaw
Salamat, nagmamahal, bughaw

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Literary Pieces

Living the story of ‘The Rich Man’s Daughter’

Watching ‘The Rich Man’s Daughter’, Gee Cruz said it is like watching her life unfold. “We met extremely late. She is already married. This is a fact that we have to endure. For three months we are free to fly into each other’s arms, and then her rightful husband returns and stays for one month,” she says. “To subject ourselves in uncertainty, to sacrifice, to be invisible, to be silent, to look at each other from both ends of the table – to show love without saying it is the only way we know how to.”

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It is as if I am watching parts of my life unfold in front of me every night whenever I tune in to a local channel showing a series about lesbian love. I cannot remember the last time I have been so eager to go home after work just to watch a local TV series until they started showing The Rich Man’s Daughter. I would finish dinner in 10 minutes, take a quick shower, head to my room and dial a number until the person on the end of the line says “hello.”

We met online last year. After a few months she decided to visit Manila so we could finally see each other in person. After our very oriental dinner, we went out on another date before flying back to her hometown. That same night, we decided to be a couple.

I had a disclaimer. She knew from the very beginning how my other relationships started and ended (and this is something I am not very proud of). I made her understand what she is getting herself into, and all she said was very clear, “let me love you.” Simple as that.

Life would have been a lot easier if things were that simple. Nothing is. Both of us are closeted lesbians. She is from a Chinese family, and I am keeping my true sexual orientation because I know how dismayed my family would be. Although we are a very discreet couple, we have plenty of lesbian and gay friends who know about us. We feel the need to be with them on a regular basis because it is when we are with them when we can be a couple – when we could introduce ourselves as girlfriends and not us friends.

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The distance between us engages us in a long distance relationship. We still feel fortunate that only islands and regions separate us, and not continents and time zones. Still, we face challenges such as compromising our wake up times to be able to talk to each other before going to work and before we sleep. Facetime dates are reserved for special occasions, e.g. birthdays, Christmas, New Year, while a beach trip, et cetera. Video calls provide the sense of togetherness whenever we want to watch the sunset.

Unlike other couples who spend their money on weekly dates, we spend ours on plane tickets and hotels for our trysts. These are activities we look forward to every month because the feeling of sleeping beside each other gives us the most serene and comforting sleep. For us, airports mean two things: arrivals and departures, hellos and see you laters.

We met extremely late. She is already married. This is a fact that we have to endure. It is an open secret. Something that our friends know, but never talk about. Maybe nobody is brave enough to ask about it. For three months we are free to fly into each other’s arms, and then her rightful husband returns and stays for one month. Our communications lessened, making it even harder to endure our already complicated status. She married not because of any romantic connection. She married because it was a request from her elders.

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There are times when I would agree to have dinner with them, husband and wife, thinking if it goes on a regular basis, I would get used to the stabbing pain until I get numb. One day it will just be us. There will come a time when we will sit on a dining table and we do not have to hold hands under.

She told me to let her love me. I said: “I don’t know how to love like how others would love.” She said that it is enough to let her love me. To subject ourselves in uncertainty, to sacrifice, to be invisible, to be silent, to look at each other from both ends of the table – to show love without saying it is the only way we know how to.

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Literary Pieces

Quick Romance Now

Eugene O. Azucena pens an ode for ERN.

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By Eugene O. Azucena

The last straw of daylight
riding through the waves–
romance in sight.

The humping
of light and sea
create high waves–splashing.

Overlapping
The sounds turn louder
Swooshing..

Rolling and cuddling,
Until it reaches the shore
Panting..

Intertwined
losing the light slowly,
and slowly.

Signalling calm and peace.
Attracting serenity
and bliss.

Reaching ashore, they iron the sands
Their last cry–
Their final dance.

Leaving stones awash,
and shells,
and trash.

Light, alas, leaves.
The sea continues its dance
Bereaves!

The sounds and embraces have gone–
Romancing itself
Swimming on its own.

Waiting for the next–
Sunrise
To start fresh.

It’s now dark
At the other end,
Pray light may unbend.

The pain
Of longing,
the sorrow of losing

Light never really left,
Only circling to come back;
Make up for time bereft.

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