from Homecoming of Age

Angela Gabrielle Fabunan


[n. ashes]

The Zambales countryside has your imprint—abó
the eruption of Pinatubo, covering all the pine
and coconut trees with the scent of ash. In this god-
forsaken landscape, we gather to a siesta, shifting
our bodies on the papag, bamboo beds that hurt
your bones as much as words do. Tell your mother
how much you love her—in this scene of lahar—
abó, mud and water that took her mango groves. Tell
your father, you are here to bear witness to this crime
scene of, not seafoam but abó, far as the eyes can see
turning the rivers and ilogs frozen as lead into grey
driving its way onto the branches of the flowering plants
taking the livestock with it. Ashes to ashes, all fall down.
Now there is nowhere to go but up, where the ash goes,
deeper into hidden mountainsides of Pili and Aglao, where
water can still manage to find passage under the earth
into the pumps they call bombas—tiny bombs. Ash-child,
weather-beaten but still standing, how do you fare?
Langit at lupa. Heaven, earth. Tubig at langis. Water, oil.
Anak at apo. Child, grandchild. Alab at abó. Fire, ash.
This is the aftermath, where your heart is the volcano.


No means no, but sometimes means, oo.

Ayoko, for what you don’t want, but your smile
says something different. Yes, just say oo, not uh-oh,
not oh-oh, but a solid and firm oo,
when he makes ligaw to you.

For all the lovers in the Philippines,
a no is never a hindi, but always an oo.

Sige na kasi, no ifs and buts. Haba ng hair,
you’re a heroine. Like a virgin, but not a drug.

OO, when you win the corona, OO when you win
his heart, then a bunch of OO OO OO, when you—
dance. It’s oo, tanga, not zeroes, but ohhhs.

You are the alpha and the omega,
You are the crown jewels,
You are a Dalagang Filipina.

This you hold in your hand as you say, no,
                                                as you okay
                                                as you “oo.”

Cadena de Amor

Landlocked in a place that harbors the sea,      you float
in everchanging phases
Back and forth the city traffic and the country breeze
                        you recall your amores in every place you’ve been
There was one in New York that loved the straw of your back
            angled towards the light           against the midday sun
Mama called Spain the motherland, we Filipinos who can trace
            our heritage from the boat that brought our family to Visayas
banka to bakya, row, row, row                  bumabalik
to Luzon                      to Zambales                to Manila
Your lover loved it when you called him by name
locked like roses
                                    his name on your lips
He cried when you left home, as your Mama cried, but you looked
over your shoulder, not isa, not dalawa, but habang buhay.
But when you came back         show me a word as sweet as bahay
he [you]            was transfigured                                   stone, salt, cold.