Philippine Copyright©2006 by A. R. Enriquez
Cover Design by Anton Vladimir V. Enriquez
Drawing by Nonoy Estarte
Asocena 6, Iguana 25, Pablo-Pedro 54, The Ant Hill 79
The Icon 97, Dance a White Horse to Sleep 167
To Forge a Voice 228, Writing in English 245
Zamboanga:the “Garden of Flowers”
never was! 255, Jesuits Return to Fort Pilar: 1666—
No Way! 259
Like most of the boys in Labuan, a
coastal barrio in Zamboanga, Chu had a farm
dog. He called him Leal, which in the native
tongue Chabacano means loyal. It was always
fun to watch Leal chase the big monkeys in the
cornfield, for as the dog passed under the low
branches of the trees on the slope of a small hill
above the slash-and-burn farm, the monkeys
hanging by their tails from the low branches
would reach out and pull Leal’s tail. This
always enraged the dog and he would bark at
the foot of the hill until the monkeys, bored,
left for higher branches. Chu could not think of
anything funnier happening to a farm dog.
Early one morning Leal was missing,
and Chu went up to their farm to look for him.
“Have you seen Leal, Pa?” he said.
“No,” his father said. “I thought he was
with you when I left the house.”
“I hope nothing has happened to him,”
the boy said.
The father noted real worry in his son’s
voice. His boy was taking it badly. He was too
“Maybe he’s in the house,” he said.
“I already looked for him everywhere
in the house,” the boy said, “and on the yard,
“Don’t worry, Chu,” the father said. “He
is just around somewhere.”
“Do you think, Pa,” Chu said, “anything
has happened to him?”
There was that worry in his voice again,
the father noticed. Chu looked bad trying to
hide his worry, not knowing how to handle it.
“You are a big worrier,” he said. “Why don’t
you look for him at the river? He loves to flush
those wild palomas pigeons along the river
The sun was still very young in the
morning. Chu walked barefoot along the
footpath, coming down the slope of the hill
through the meadow in front of the house. The
path was smooth and the dew was cool under
his bare feet. He passed the house and went
around the back and on to the long bank of the
river, his feet wet in the mud clay, and then
went up the river to a clearing below the woods
where the wild pigeons came down every
morning. But the palomas were quietly feeding
in the black sand, pecking at the small pebbles,
lumping low and short-legged on the river bed.
If Leal were here, he would come between them
and the clearing, and once they flushed they
would come whirring at him, some rising
steep,others skimming by his head, before they
angled back down into the brush. And so Chu
went on, around the clearing, taking the longer
route back to the house.
At lunch Chu would not eat anything.
He sat at the table staring at the food on his
plate. He had that worried look again, the same
one as at the farm, staring at his food without
His father said, “Don’t you want to
Chu said,” I’m not hungry.”
“The tapa sundried meat is
wonderful.” The father picked up Chu’s plate,
put a piece of fried venison on it, and, setting
the plate down in front of the boy, he said, “You
try it, hijo.”
Chu’s mother reached for a knife on the
table and cut the venison into slices. Then she
set the knife down beside the meat. She said,
“Try a tiny piece, Chu.”
“I don’t want to eat anything,” the boy
We heard the mother hen croak.
“Get up, Macario,” Ma said.
“The mother hen…”
“What?” said Pa, awakening.
We heard the hen croak again
and then, all of a sudden, become quiet…
“The mother hen,” Ma said.
“Maybe the iguana has entered the chicken
“Leche!” Pa said.
I am sitting on the top rung of the kitchen steps
with a .22-caliber rifle in my hands. I sit there
waiting for the iguana to come out of the
bamboo thickets across the river. It is morning,
soft and light.
Just then I hear mama call me from the
flower garden. I lean the rifle against the wall
of the kitchen and go down the wooden steps.
Then I go around the back of the house and on
to the footpath, worn smooth and scoured by
countless interminable feet, and then across
before the now useless, broken-down chicken
house. I go on. Suddenly the path levels off as
straight as a plumb-line toward the garden. I
walk a small way on the footpath before
stopping in front of the garden.
Ma is squatting on the ground before her flower
bed of daisies. Her hands are busy turning the
soft black loam over and patting it gently
around the stems. “Where is the water I asked
you for?” she says without yet looking up at
me. “Did I not tell you to bring me some
I have forgotten all about the water.
“You did not tell me, Ma,” I say. She stands up,
her hands caked with black loam and hanging
rigid at her sides. She turns toward me. Her
eyes become locked with mine, quiet and
searching. But I still don’t move.
“You must help me in the garden, hijo,”
she says. “For your father won’t lift a finger to
help me.” As I look back at her, I notice the
reddish blotches on the balls of her eyes and the
swelling around them, and I think, She cried
some more after Pa left. She cried there in her
room. Alone there in her room she cried as papa
tramped angrily out of the house.
Earlier Pa had shouted at her and was
very red behind the ears with anger. I was then
under the house, the bamboo-split floor not
three feet above my bare head, and I was about
to take the fodder to our pigs when I heard him,
in the sala, say: “I’m not giving you even a
centavo. Not one centavo, do you hear? Nothing
for that foolishness of a chicken house.”
“The iguana will kill all my chicks,”
said Ma. I suddenly stood stock-still under the
house, not making any noise that would warn
them. Then she said, “Last night I lost my last
chicken, the mother hen of those chicks. If you
don’t give me money to repair the coop, the
iguana will eat all those chicks tonight. See if I
I could hear them talking loudly in the
sala through the bamboo-split floor. I heard Pa
say, almost hissing with anger, “That wouldn’t
have happened if you had listened to me. But
you would not listen. What you listen to are
those foolish ideas which go around in your
“You do not care about the chicks,” I heard
mama say. “You would rather see them all eaten
up by the iguana than give a centavo to repair
the chicken house.” Standing under the bamboo
floor directly where they both stood or sat I
heard papa’s chair scrape as though he were
about to rise, and then just as suddenly he
changed his mind and remained seated, still and