This is a picture I did not take
one uneventful afternoon
when all the self-confessed heroes of today
have finished fighting in their own four-walled battlegrounds
with the white, shiny boards as their flags
that they were all too willing to raise in surrender
an afternoon when I myself,
out of breath and full of sweat—38 degrees—
have put down
all my weapons and wits for the day—
just there, on the platform for my ride,
unguarded, without walls, without shields,
and in that instance, I heard a thud—
steps—and footsteps drawing nearer,
bringing to my peripheral
a stranger’s face that was all too familiar,
all too disorienting,
all too heart-arresting,
giving me enough breath just so I could gasp
a little louder than necessary,
and like overflowing water from an unsealed pitcher
make every memory with the stranger resurface—
walks in the park, our rides home,
popcorns and Marvel movies,
sneaky holding hands under the pool,
every caress, every inside joke,
every message cherished and regretted—
it’s a vivid picture I didn’t need to take;
It—he—has always been there.


Writing prompt (credits to Mr. Martin Villanueva, ACELT Workshop):

  1. Finish the sentence “This is a picture I did not take.”
  2. The sentence has to be one page long.
  3. The sentence must respect grammatical conventions.


Posted: May 29, 2019 in Poems
Tags: , , , , , , ,


In my mother’s embrace,
While yet unseen,
I began living.
Before I could ask for it,
I was given moments.

In my mother’s arms,
I was loved long before
I could yearn for it.
Before I could cry out for it,
I was lent my breath.
My movements.
My heartbeat.
My smile.

But while yet unseen,
I began leaving
My parents’ grasp, so loving.
While yet unheard
I felt my breath fading.
I am being called,
being reclaimed.

Before my race started,
I have been called away,
out of a world and its crooked ways.
And to my Master blessed,
who lent me this life and breath,
I now yield and say, “Yes.”

I have been given,
And now I am being taken away.
In my life’s short span
I’ve had brighter and darker days,
But never one that’s too far removed from grace.

And so, this borrowed breath,
I will give back to You–
In a sigh of surrender
In a sigh of cease
In a sigh with tears,
yet not without hope.

For this borrowed breath
Is but a fraction
of Your beautiful promises.
You have given me for a purpose
And have taken me away for a reason.

And in this I stand–
that in my fleeting moments
You have given me life,
and life abundant.


Posted: May 29, 2019 in Poems
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I stand in silent anticipation
as an old friend drives up my door.
He has come for yet another visit–
I swear he drops by more often than before.

He has never yet arrived quite unannounced,
but he’d always give a very short notice.
Yet perhaps no heads up is advanced enough
for someone’s visit such as his.

There are always more things to be done,
more preparations to look after;
And every time that he leaves,
there are countless details I wish I did better.

So with every goodbye he utters
every time he steps out of my place,
I would make amends on my planner
so as to receive him next time with more grace.

It’s been eight months since Death first knocked at my door,
since I first rehearsed and prepared for his return.
But no matter how much I plan my worded greetings,
every time he comes around,

I could only offer yielding silence.

(Written March 10, 2019)

Just Passing By

Posted: December 8, 2018 in Uncategorized

He always wanted to make me watch his Minecraft-inspired animation videos. The first time he told me, “Ate panoorin mo tong ginawa kong video,” I very enthusiastically tried to understand what Minecraft was and the concepts behind. I had to spend a lot of future 20 minutes watching cool animation videos I did not get nor understand. But still cool.

I never regretted watching those videos for him, even if the only “insights” I could give were, “Nice!” or “Good job!” or even “Ang galing mo na.”

He said he didn’t know exactly what course he wanted to take yet, not because he didn’t want to be anything in particular, but because he wasn’t sure if a “professional Youtuber” ever needed to finish college.

I told him he could take Entrepreneurship, and jokingly added, “Tapos mag teacher ka ng ABM.” He told me, “Pwede rin na teacher.”

I guess he’s teaching me lessons way more than any other ABM teacher ever could.

He would always, always wear my clothes. His favorite blouse to wear–because he’s too lazy to find his own shirts when at home–was my statement blouse that says, “She is clothed in strength and dignity.” And sometimes when I go home and see him with that blouse on, he would snicker and just guiltily say, “Wala na kong makitang damit ko eh.”

Today, it was my turn to fit into the clothes we would buy for him for the last time. As I slipped into the coat and slacks, I thought he would really look dignified with these. As I tried on the white long sleeves, I found myself thinking, maybe I’d want an identical one for myself, too. It would be my favorite polo to wear.

He would always find excuses for his not studying in school. He would laughingly tell me, “Hindi naman nagtuturo mga teachers eh,” or “Eh pumapasa naman ako kahit hindi ako nag-aaral eh.”

So I struck a deal with him–monetary compensation for better class performance. This year, I saw him get excited and hyped up with school and taking notes (he hates taking notes) and showing me his card.

Looking back now, I wish I doubled up the prizes. He really tried his best, gave all-out efforts.

I guess that 500-for-every-90 is one project off my quarterly budget. But I’m in high hopes that he is now in possession of a treasure far greater than any I could ever give him.

I’ve always asked and even toughly pressured him about his spiritual state. He would always just keep silent, but at one point he answered me with, “How can a dead man know when he’s going to be alive? How can someone pray for life when he’s dead?”

And I’ve always been waiting to hear him say something poetic like, “The dried bones that I am now have flesh and blood and life. Ate, I am no longer dead, but am alive in Christ.”

I guess I have to be content with hearing from Kuya that in his last conscious hours Calvin said, “I am saved.” That as he was having his last moments, the way he asked for his last damp of water to his lips was, “I thirst, like Christ.”

I guess I would have to read in between those four words what could have been the poetic. “I thirst, like Christ. I thirst, to be like Christ.”

I ordered a rainbow-colored cutlery set for him this Christmas because I wanted to tease him slash give him something he can really use every day. And also so that his classmates can’t steal the set from him because it’s gonna be a unique set and they can’t claim it, because who else would get a rainbow-colored spoon and fork?

I guess that’s one item off my cart tonight. I’m in high hopes that now he’s got a golden (or something better beyond human knowledge) set instead, and dining with my All-loving, All-wise Heavenly Father.

He used to always ask me to taste his new experimental food for dinner, eat some of the cookies he bought from the local bakery, check out his doodles in the sketch pad I gave him, and with those twitched, almost smiling lips he would share his new joys of drawing (and animation) concepts.

I’m in high hopes that now he is sharing a joy far more glorious than any doodle, or animation video, can give him, with beings far more glorious and heavenly than anyone here on earth. That he is now in the bosom of my Father who has so sovereignly and lovingly foreordained everything in eternity past.

All of us are just passing by. Some just finish the transitory journey faster than usual. Calvin did, and peacefully and quietly so.

I experienced waking up in the middle of the night because while I dreamed about a class activity that wasn’t in my preparation for the next day, I realized my lesson could be not enough. And so I add up on my lessons at 2 AM.

I experienced going home so late from school, not because of some late-night school programs, but because of a student who wanted to sit me down and ask for a listening ear, because her parents fought and broke platters again; or because his severe anxiety attacks again; because she feels her family and everyone around her doesn’t really care whatever happens to her; because he is being taken over by depression and contemplates on cutting himself again; because his girlfriend thinks he’s too busy for her; because her boyfriend cheated on her for some new student.

I experienced getting a knock in the faculty room to ask if Miss Bekah was there, and when I went out to see the student, she asks, “Miss, busy ka po?” And I remembered swallowing my inner cries for my impending paperwork deadlines and instead told her, “No, what’s the matter, dear?” Those moments took a toll on my sleep, but I never regretted it.

I have tossed and turned at countless nights. I have learned to always push aside my own concerns, my personal struggles, for a student who may need to have a listening ear. A comforting heart. A consoling soul. A kindred spirit. And I never regretted it.

There are decisions in my life I would always find reasons to regret making. But choosing to teach is not one of them. And I hope and pray that every teacher out there would not regret their decisions, too. That they, too, would find joy in what they do.

Happy Teachers Month!

Pwede Pa Ba?

Posted: October 2, 2018 in Poems
Tags: , , , , , , ,
Pwede pa ba

(Rebecca Plotnick Photography)


“Ang tagal na rin ah,” masasambit niya
matapos ang isa, dalawa, tatlong hakbang papalapit.
Malungkot na ngiti, sabay sabi ng, “Oo nga. Matagal na rin.”
Nanginginig na boses. “Kamusta ka na?”
“Okay lang ako.”
At pipigilan niya ang mga patak ng ulan galing sa kanyang mga mata.
Sa wakas, magkakalakas ng loob na sabihin
ang matagal nang hinihintay na marinig.
“Sorry. Sorry talaga.”

Titigil ang puso. “Ano?”

“Sorry kasi umalis ako ng ganon lang.
Sorry sa lahat ng pait at sakit dahil lang akala ko sigurado ako.
Sorry kasi binitiwan at binasag ko ang nag-iisang mahalaga sa’kin,
dahil lang takot akong panghawakan ka.”
At iiyak ang puso niya, pero hindi ang kanyang mga mata.
Matagal nang natuyo’t naglaho ang mga ulap ng luha para sa kanya.
Sa katahimikan, may malungkot na ngiti.
Sa gitna ng maingay na katahimikan
Susubukan niynag magsalita ulit.

“Pwede pa ba?”

Pwede pa ba? Pwede pa nga ba?
Ibababa ang ngiti. Lahat ng bubog, basag, at lamat ng nakaraan
na pilit niyang itinago sa pinakasuluk-sulukang bahagi ng puso
Lahat nagsilabasan, lahat mapanakit na nagbabalik.
Lahat hindi magpakukubli muli. Lahat ay nananakit.

“Anong pwede pa?” tatanungin niya.
“Kung pwede pang manakit ulit?
Kung pwede pang lalong palalalimin ang sugat na naka-ukit?
Kung pwede uling mahawakan ang basong basag na para durugin ulit?
Paki linaw kung alin dyan ang gusto mong maging pwede pa.”

At doon matatahimik siya. Siguro.
Gustong-gustong magsambit ng sumbat.
Gustong-gusto niyang magbitiw ng mga salita
Nang siyang umalis ay mapulaan at masaktan.
Gusto niyang ipagdukdukan at ipagpilitan
Na siya’y nagkamali sa pagbitiw at pag-iwan.
Na siya’y nagkamali sa kanyang paglisan.

Ngunit higit sa lahat gusto niyang patahimikin
Ang tahimik na boses na nagsasabing,

“Pwede pa ba? Pwede pa ba siyang bumalik? Pwede pa bang umulit?”

Bukas Ulit

Posted: August 14, 2018 in Poems
Tags: ,

Bukas Ulit

Ilapat ang masakit na likod sa kama.

Ipagdasal ang mga problema ng, at sa, sarili.

Ipahinga ang pagod na isip.

Itulog ang pagal na puso.


Bukas ulit. Bukas, lalaban tayo ulit.