Houses, Homes

When we arrived
it was the middle
of summer
so the climate
wasn’t an issue then
but what surprised
us most,
was there were no fences around
my aunt’s house,
or any house in the street,
it also has a wide lush
front yard with grasses
we only saw
in the best parks
or high end cemeteries.

We stayed in the basement—another first—
which was converted into
a house itself:
living room, kitchen, bedrooms, complete.
It was cozy but I kept
at the windows wondering
what will happen
if a hard rain happens to fall
–I found out few months later.

The walls were made of
thin and light material thus houses
were assembled instead of built,
one could
easily hear the loud, excited relatives
and friends eager to meet us,
after months, years of paper work.

How do you like the place?
What do you think of Canada?
Do you miss home?

I answered these questions with a smile
as I want to rush
back to my new bed,
the only space aside from the airport
I completely explored.

After the feast,
apparently the favoured pastime here,
sleep still haunted me, so my cousin
invited us to
see the leaves outside,

See those maple trees; they will turn red soon.
See those pine trees; they will be the lone survivors of winter.
I’m so glad you guys are here.

As we strolled on
a park beside
our neighbouring great lake—
Ontario, one with few if any waves—
my father suddenly felt restless,
longing for his
12-hour shift job in the dessert—
only later would we be
lucky to get 5-hour shifts,
if a job at all. (After four months,
he still swore he
never felt so old.)

Things got serious.

life and work is hard, but then
you could get whatever you want;
shoes, bags, gadgets,
branded clothes,
in credit or whatever
mode of payment
you are capable. Besides,
would you do back in our
wretched homeland?
Remittances keep that
country afloat,
we are heroes by mere
daily survival.

It was just the beginning

of a toxic cycle of
nostalgia and disownment
whether the Filipino channel
is on or off.
It’s like being in two places
at one time but not feeling
the best of both worlds.

No one wants to
get back at my aunt’s house,
the sun was up until nine—another first—,
but the food needed
to be divided
and frozen as soon as possible,
like one’s fears.
Monday is,
after all, a few hours away.

It began to cool, and as
I was staring at
our tall shadows,
my sister said of the structures,

“They reminded me of doll houses.”




Isang taon
na ang nakalipas
nilunod ng sigwa
ang bawat
telebisyon, radyo,
at komputer
ng mga
imahe at hiyaw
hinagpis at putik,
kamatayan at lampastaong baha,
nawawalang kamag-anak at mga bubong,
kawalang katiyakan
sa mga mukha
ng biktima at nagresponde,

At para matakpan
ang bangungot
na ito,
ngayon, makinig tayo,
sa mga salaysay ng mga natira,
sa pagitan ng mga salita
ang pagnanasa na pati
sila ay kinuha na rin.
Mapupukaw ang
iyong damdamin
sa kanilang tibay ng loob,
ipagdadasal mo sila
mamyang gabi,
at pipigilan ang isip
sa pag-alala
sa pangmadlang libingan
na kanilang

Ibubulong sayo ng balita
na normal na ulit
ang takbo ng buhay
ng mga nasalanta
dahil bukas na ang
McDonald’s sa Tacloban.

Pero hindi pa tapos
ang daluyong
-nagsisimula pa lang-
Hindi nila bukambibig
ang mga salitang
‘resilience’ o ‘pag-asa’,
sumisigaw sila ng hustisya.
Kailangan nila ang iyong
tapang, paninindigan,
at pag-unawa
na para ganap na
kailangan may itumba.

Wag kang mag-alala,
ang iyong ambag
ay hindi mapapanis.