…she took off the beads from around her neck and the comb from her hair, and hung them on the sky, which at that time looked like coral rock.
Then she began working, and each time that she raised her pestle into the air it struck the sky.
—from Philippine Folk Tales by Mabel Cook Cole
In our old house in Manila, my grandfather’s artifacts were the most wonderful storytellers.
I remember the kampilan – a long, single-edged sword, favored by the ancient kings and chieftains of the South – given in friendship to my grandfather. I always thought it was too heavy and imposing, but I admired its carved hilt, its unusual shape. Apart from this, I was ignorant of its provenance, of the hands that held it, their culture and hundred little gestures. Though brief and superficial, I consider this my first introduction to Mindanao.
When I learned how to read, traditional stories such as “How the Moon and the Stars Came to Be”, a folk tale from Bukidnon, fascinated me. Of course, as I grew older, other narratives, other images, took its place. Mindanao, to me, assumed the shape of a malong, the taste of durian, the sound of kulintang, along with pieces of a struggle I never fully understood. I saw a landscape that was, is, arbitrary, conflicted, yet full of promise.
It is this promise that we wish to know more deeply. Our 34th issue highlights the culture and literature of the island, the second largest in the Philippines. Carlos Bulosan is our 2011 Resident Poet. We also feature poems by Albert Alejo, Edgar Bacong, and Tita Lacambra-Ayala. Essays by Monique Brooks, Annabel Teh Gallop and Teng Mangansakan provide a history of the South. And in music and art, we chose works by Jojie Alcantara, Cynthia Alexander (formerly Cynthia Ayala), Joey Ayala, Bones Bañez, Bayang Barrios, Nana Buxani, Popong Landero, Mebuyan, Bert Monterona, Grace Nono, and Waway Saway. We bring the recent publications of authors, Patricio N. Abinales, Rick Baldoz, Jowel P. Canuday, Karl Gaspar, Arthur P. Casanova, Rolando C. Esteban and Ivie C. Esteban.
Our Bibliography section lists, in the words of our illustrious art director, [almost] “everything every Mindanao writer has ever written from 200 BC to current.”
And so, before the common era, the story went:
For some time she pounded the rice, and then she raised the pestle so high that it struck the sky very hard.
Immediately the sky began to rise, and it went up so far that she lost her ornaments. Never did they come down, for the comb became the moon and the beads are the stars that are scattered about.
San Francisco, April 2011