These are two thoughts I am working on to express my experience here in the Philippines.   I started writing these in response to submission theme of bawal, which means “forbidden” in Filipino.  The U.S.-based journal intended this topic for creative reflection on the Filipino-American experience, but I thought my experience settling into the Philippines as a Filipino-American could be a permissible twist.


A videoke ballad crashes over the plantation; it gels into the night.  Sound fills the heavy wet spaces between the palms, rests on the broad leaves.

The videoke pauses between songs, and insects descend again upon the canopy.  A warring ebb and flow above.  The ripple of the insect, and the flood of a drunken human noise.  All sounds here are unnatural and ring like strange news, atemporal and unintelligible.

There’s a mystery of what pulls into the palm shadows overhead.  Hovers there in this country that I am supposed to know.  A frond bends, exposing the thrush of an alien moon against the waning sky.  I feel I am being watched.


Packets tuck into each other, obscuring their strange brand names.  A woman behind the counter either waits for my order or waits for me to concede her territory, her face as blank as the smooth faces of the pandesal stacked in the display case.

I say a word in the language I’m supposed to know.  The misbent letters of my tongue dissappear into some world that falls between me and her.

A pan of fish it seems are following into that dry atmosphere.  Laying elegant in silver, suspended in school mid-flight, opaque eyes.