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Read: ‘Fire in the Village of Water’

artex_pacifiqa

I profiled a woman who has been living in the flooded village of Artex Malabon for 45 years. You can find it on Pacifiqa, the website I write for. The incredible photos are by my friend Kim Pauig. I hope you find time to read it.

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Notes on Public Transit

1 – Shit on Wheels

The bus seats were melting. Tan foam, blue cloth, and yellowing covers were collapsing, ready to get lost among feet. The checked curtains barely filtered the sunlight flooding through the windows. The air was humid, stagnant, unbreatheable. A cockroach crawled over someone’s shoe. We were all thinking: why do we put up with this sordid state of transportation, this dilapidated excuse for a vehicle?! We looked outside the windows, even if the sun blinded us, even if all we could see was a bit of our neighbors’ profile, a sliver of cheek, an ear. Anything to avoid each other’s eyes.

 

2 – The Boy and His Envelopes

The child alights from the vehicle like a thief, lithe and nimble. By his oversize tattered clothing and filthy bare feet, you think to yourself that yes, maybe he is a thief. Maybe at night, he lurks in a dark street corner, waiting for a lady with a handbag to walk by and not see him. He steps into her shadow, maybe, and guts the lady’s handbag with a knife, expertly drawing a slit on its underside. And maybe when the lady returns home or rides a jeepney, her hand will fumble inside her bag for a wallet that is no longer there. Continue reading

shoeshine boy

the little boy stoops
next to your shoes,
holding a dirty rag
in his hand. why does he want
to clean your shoes
when they are mildewed, stitches coming
loose, seams on the verge of exposing
your feet like a national secret?
your new shoes were a waste
of money; they pinched your toes
until they turned blue. the old shoes begged
to be worn. you look into
the boy’s eyes. they ask
for truth but not mercy. you let him run
his rag over your feet and later
when he is gone, you bend down
to check the state of your shoes,
only to see them clean
like they have never been
used at all.