by Angela Casauay
If my mind was a coconut, it would be
stuck underneath a sidewalk cart
waiting to be peeled
off to work, car tires flat-
lining towards a vulcanizing shop.
Hassle ang commute, I’d rather be
out on the boondocks, escaping
bumper-to-bumper angst. I’d rather be
up in the bundok, looking
down on sandcastles and algae shorelines.
Hey Joe, there’s gusot on your shirt.
Iron out your kinks, vad bibes not welcome here.
Sure, men. Op kors, men.
Open the light and then –
make sipa that ball, roll like a presidentiable.
They say planting rice is never fun.
I say naman – let’s make ani the palay under the scorching sun,
the plow chortles through crops and tree lines.
At sunset we’ll sip lukewarm liquid from a fresh coconut.
White flesh clinging to soft husks.
If you want to turn water to wine,
don’t me, please lang.
Salvage victims can’t salvage the remains
But if you insist, don’t be highblood.
Be as cool as the undercurrent
consuming the utter lack of a city.
Breathe and count from one to tweynty.
The itinerary is not confirmed until confeermed – actually.
Prepare wan payb only.
But wait. Time first!
Stop playing and face the music.
But it’s so traffic, we’re barely moving
on to greener pastures, god-willing.
Sacrifice pa more.
For now, let’s make do with a plastic bag of pulp and aircon.
Angela Casauay: Growing up in the province of Cavite—the historical capital of the Philippines and the gateway to the Southern Tagalog region, I grew up speaking Tagalog almost exclusively at home. My mother taught me how to read from a Tagalog booklet she bought from the local market. It was only when I went to school that I became exposed to English. The school I attended had an “English campaign”, and students were prohibited from speaking in Tagalog on campus, except during Filipino class. Anyone caught breaking the rule was met with punishment, which included staying under the sun for thirty minutes after the flag ceremony. Since I was on top of the class, I was one of those tasked to catch violators, even if I myself found it unnatural to speak with my classmates in English outside of the classroom setting. This stark childhood memory made me associate English with the feeling of superiority—that learning how to speak English guaranteed better opportunities; that one’s success depended on one’s English skills—so much so that I chose to pursue a career path that was related to it. Learning about Philippine literature from a postcolonial lens in university helped me unlearn these deeply-ingrained preconceived notions. I discovered how language appropriation from the perspective of the colonised can be a form of subversion. For me, English is my second language in every sense of the word. It is a means of negotiating and affirming my national identity with the world, with all its accents and permutations.
Angela Casauay is a former multimedia journalist and producer with an undergraduate degree in Creative Writing, minor in Philippine Literature, from the Ateneo de Manila University, and an MA in Journalism and Communication from the University of New South Wales. After a decade of working in the media covering politics, as well as peace and conflict stories, Angela is pursuing new passions and rekindling old ones. She is an incoming law student at the University of the Philippines. In between mountains of case readings, she plans to pursue writing once again.