Sa pagkain natin ng bangus noong Setyembre 21 – Maureen Gaddi dela Cruz

Sa pagkain natin ng bangus noong Setyembre 21

Maureen Gaddi dela Cruz

Nagkataon lang siguro na Setyembre 21
noong huli tayong nagsalo
sa paborito mong inihaw na bangus.
Habang marahan kong tinutuklap ang malutong na balat
at unti-unting hinihimay ang tostadong laman,
kinamusta mo ako na parang kay tagal nating di nagkita.
Tulad ng dati, nagpalitan tayo ng kuro-kuro –
tungkol sa pagtaas ng aking matrikula,
sa kilos-protesta noong nakaraang linggo,
sa mga pangarap ko kapag ako’y nakapagtapos.
Matiyaga mong pinakinggan ang aking mga kuwento
hanggang maubos ang toyo’t kalamansing sawsawan.

Kung tutuusin, ako ang nais magtanong.
Kung noon bang hinuli ka’y di ka rin nakapalag
na parang isdang nilambat.
Kung matapos kang idarang sa pananakot
at ibabad ang pagkatao sa alipusta,
hinampas ka ba sa likod
hanggang halos matuklap ang iyong balat.
Kung papayagan mo ba akong himayin
ang tatlong dekadang gunita
at unawain ang ikinukubling dusa.

Kung maaari lamang sanang pira-pirasuhin
ang iyong katahimikan
upang matikman ang dahas na nanuot
sa bawat hibla ng iyong laman.
Hangad kong isa-isang bunutin
ang mga nakahadlang na tinik
at palayain ang naumid mong paninindigan.
Patawad kung nais kong ungkatin ang mga bangungot.

As We Were Eating Milkfish Last September 21*

(English translation by Alexander Martin Remollino, 1977-2010)

It was perhaps just a coincidence that it was September 21
when we last feasted together on your favorite,
grilled milkfish.
As I was slowly removing the crisp skin
and little by little tearing to bits
the toasted flesh,
you asked how I was
as though we hadn’t seen each other for ages.
Like before, we exchanged observations —
about the increase in my tuition,
about last week’s protest action,
about what I dream of doing after graduation.
You patiently listened to my stories
until the soy sauce-and-calamansi condiment ran out.

It is I in fact who want to ask questions.
When you were seized,
were you also unable to fight back —
like a fish caught in a net?
After you were burned with intimidation
and your person soaked in abuse,
were you whipped in the back
until your skin was almost removed?
Would you allow me to tear to bits
those three decades of memories
and understand the concealed sufferings?

If only I could tear to bits your silence
and taste the violence that forced itself
into every inch of your skin.
I would like to pull out one by one
the fishbones blocking the way
and free your silenced convictions.
Forgive me if I wish to uncover the nightmares.

(*This poem is for the poet’s father, Ely dela Cruz, who was a political detainee during the period of Martial Law in the Philippines, which was declared on September 21, 1972.)

Maureen Gaddi dela Cruz, J.D. is a writer, visual artist and humanitarian worker from Laguna, Philippines. She graduated from the University of the Philippines College of Law in 2010 and took the Philippine Bar exams in 2013. She is a member of the poetry organizations Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika at Anyo (LIRA) and kilometer 64 Poetry Collective (km64), a 2010 fellow (for poetry in Filipino) of the Ateneo de Manila University National Writers Workshop, and an associate member of the National Union of People’s Lawyers. Her poems and feature articles in English and Filipino have appeared in various mainstream and alternative publications. Mao currently works for an international humanitarian organization.
The late Alexander Martin Remollino was a poet, journalist and activist from Laguna, Philippines. As an associate editor at and staff writer at, he wrote primarily about human rights and development issues affecting the marginalized sectors of society. His poetry in English and Filipino, which also focused on his advocacy, was published in several anthologies and alternative websites. Alex, a co-founder of Filipino Youth for Peace and Independent Media Center (Indymedia) – Quezon City and a member of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, passed away in 2010 at the age of 33.

Publication information

  • “Sa pagkain natin ng bangus noong Setyembre 21” — Panata sa Paglaya (Manila, Philippines: kilometer64 Poetry Collective, 2009) and Lirang Pilak: 25 Taon ng Makatang LIRA. Ed. Virgilio S. Almario (Quezon City, Philippines: Aklat LIRA and Vibal Foundation, 2010)
  • “You are not mere names” — Duguang Lupa (Manila, Philippines: kilometer64 Poetry Collective, 2010)
  • English translation “As we were eating milkfish last September 21” by Alexander Martin Remollino (with prior permission for publication and performance)

Offering What We Can / Cacophony – Tan Xiang Yeow


This is the music of the Hanoi streets,
those tango footsteps of pedestrians
and courtship dance of motorbikes.

Here, a symphony of dust swishes
to an orchestra of noodle scents.
Lustrous oil bubbles swell, crackle.

But do you hear the thundering?
That irate rattle of bus engines.
Here we are, sauntering forth,
tongues clacking to camera beats.

Offering What We Can

To the pagoda, they offer their best –
fruits swollen with summer’s light,
blossoms of pink and marigold.

Their prayers, they hammer and press
into gemstone chains, hard yet bright,
then laying them in the buddhas’ fold.

This life is wretched, my guide stressed,
we must bow to our turbulent plight;
let’s donate gold for it is gold.

In the sky above, those crows jest,
chasing and cawing in mid-flight,
offering dollops of white-green mold.

Photo taken by Xiang Yeow in Myanmar.
Photo taken by Xiang Yeow in Myanmar.

Xiang Yeow’s poems have appeared in The Missing Slate, LIVEpress, A Tapestry of Words and elsewhere. In 2014, he co-edited Red Pulse II (Ethos Books), an anthology centred on a sunny island set in the sea. He has also contributed commentaries to The Kent Ridge Common, an independent online newspaper maintained by the students and alumni of NUS. Although he has barely started working, he is already looking forward to his retirement which he envisions as an iteration of reading-writing-sleeping.

The View / Telaga Batu – Tse Hao Guang

The View

Halfway up the dappled flank of
Mount Lawu, choked and twisted paths
draw mouths like moths to greasy windows.

Tawny Java spreads itself about,
patchwork of tobacco, tea, chili, pisang,
tea, tea; parasite pickers are riding its heave.

Strange how we keep repeating,
plucking at stone eyes of Candi Sukuh,
the temple perched on these lips of the land.

Oily bowls of floret and wax are
secreted in secret nooks; weathered
faces of goddesses demand to be restored.

Loam and crop below, a skeleton
Candi above, hungry visitors above that:
strange how we see all and nothing from this

sacred level. Not quite the view of
Lawu, but close enough. Our guide prays:
“Sometimes at night, the clouds come down.”

Telaga Batu

“Hooded by seven cobra heads with
flat, round crown jewels, broad
necks and neck wrinkles”,
flesh emerges from rock; things become
things and take more than
sounds to grasp them.

We shall be akin to this, unafraid of
diverse beginnings—still some
tremble at the Hydra—
and “gradually merge into the flat surface
of the stone”. Angels’ tongues are
ammunition for our

apotheosis. “On the front side, 28 lines
of script are visible”, and though
“badly weathered and
illegible” still testify. When was the last
time words had this much power?
How is it that curses and

blessings mingle thus and demonstrate
the ubiquity of ambivalence? Yet
script “is separated from
the roughly flattened underpart by a protruding
horizontal ledge”, a realm where
poetry dares not enter.

“Thus a groove is formed, passing in the
middle part into a spout” in the
shape of a woman’s
fruit, a secret waiting to be told. Makan
sumpah! Makan sumpah! I don’t
want you to speak or

listen: I want you to swallow any possibility
of promise so the weight of all
there is becomes a
part of you. Swear allegiance to no-one
and everyone; watch meaning
weep from rough stone.



Tse Hao Guang is interested in form and formation, creativity and quotation, lyrics and line breaks. His chapbook is hyperlinkage (Math Paper Press, 2013) and a full length collection, Deeds of Light, is forthcoming. He graduated from the Masters of Arts Program in the Humanities at the University of Chicago in 2014 with a concentration in poetry and creative writing, and co-edits the cross-genre, collaborative literary journal OF ZOOS.


The View

  1. Mount Lawu: Volcanic peak on the border of East and Central Java.
  2. Pisang: Bahasa Indonesia. Literally “banana”.
  3. Candi Sukuh: 15th Century Javanese-Hindu temple or Sukuh on the slope of Mount Lawu. The three levels of the Candi are believed to be increasingly sacred the closer to the sky.

Telaga Batu

  1. Picture: McKinnon, E. Edwards. “Early Polities in Southern Sumatra: Some Preliminary Observations Based on Archaeological Evidence”. Indonesia 40 (October 1985): 1-36.
  2. Telaga Batu: A place in Southern Sumatra where an ancient Srivijayan curse inscription, carved on a naga stone, was found. Water was poured over the stone, running over the inscription, and drunk to bind the drinker to an oath.
  3. “Hooded by … ” and all other quotations: De Casparis, J. G. “Old Malay Inscription of Telaga Batu (South Sumatra)”. Prasati Indonesia II. Bandung: Masa Baru, 1956. 15-46.
  4. Hydra: Creature from ancient Greek mythology. Serpent-like beast which grew two heads for every one cut off.
  5. Makan Sumpah: Bahasa Indonesia. Literally to swallow an oath, to forswear oneself.