05 May 2009

published in Phil Graphic: "The Sound of Blue"

according to the print version of The Philippine Graphic, my short story entitled "The Sound of Blue" was published there. oo naman, nakita ko naman at may hard copy na ako nito.

pero sa online version, tila di yata sinuwerte at nakaligtaan ang kuwentong ilagay doon sa archive ng specific issue na ito.


nonetheless, ilalagay ko na rin dito yung version na sinumite ko sa kanila.

haha nakakatawa lang when i remember the ed in chief telling me that my story is out na, and she then apologized kasi si tessie aquino oreta ang cover of the issue where it came out. hahaha! naaliw lang ako sa komento. i heart journalists hehe.

this story was originally a product of our 2001 (or 2002-03?) informal online writing workshop of fil writers based everywhere, spearheaded by fil-am author cecilia manguerra brainard. other members of the workshop at the time i joined were fil-ams marianne villanueva and veronica montes, fil in singapore nadine sarreal and noelle de jesus, and phil south-based susan evangelista. the goal of this workshop was to stimulate writers into writing new works, kahit raw, as inspired by introducing weekly prompts na kelangan naming gamitin every week to write something new. the prompt used for this story was given by cecilia herself, which went: "on his/her 40th birthday, juan/juana found out that he/she had turned stone deaf." you were then free to manipulate the prompt accordingly. tapos after a week, isasalang mo whatever you wrote and they will all comment.

that was a fun time. i miss writing like that, actually. marami rin akong nagawa because of that workshop. isipin mo, kung wala iyon nung time na iyon... wala, wala akong naisulat. that was the time when i experienced artistic drought in all manner kasi. but that's another story...

of course the story evolved since then, after several revisions, and has become part of my MA thesis (a 17-piece collection of lesbian shorts stories) now.

o sya, eto sya. keri ang komento. sige lang. share-share.


By Libay Linsangan Cantor

She knows how blue looks like. She knows how blue feels like. But did she ever discover how blue sounds like?

Maybe she knows now. But that’s so insensitive of me.


The handwritten note was from Carla, Juana’s best friend. Juana thought why Carla had to write in boldface. Her writing slants to the right, so she thinks Carla’s really a very emotional person who sways with her emotions. She said so herself, several times.

“Carla’s really a very emotional person who sways with her emotions. Look at the way her writing slants to the right, and the way she dots her I. Full circle, not just a dot. Certainly a dreamer. And the way she crosses her T is also evident of that. The cross hardly touches the main part of the letter. That’s why sometimes it’s not good for her to handle the depression counseling. The girls always thought she might give detached advice or something. Hm.”

I smirked. “I see you didn’t give up on your graphology lessons there. I thought that was just a passing fancy after that cover story with the graphology expert. It was, for me, but then…well, you’re a different person. You always have been, I guess…”

Silence. Juana didn’t answer back. Hey, maybe she got offended by what I said. Could be. Just then, her alarm clock rang off, and it startled me. But it didn’t startle her. And that was when I remembered – how truly insensitive of me, talking to her this way, now that she is this way.

I reached for the clock to turn it off. I whispered to myself. “Five o’clock. Time to hit it…”

Then Juana startled me. “Five o’clock. Time to hit it!” I didn’t notice that she was already facing towards my direction, and looking at me intently. “You don’t have to whisper, you know, just because I couldn’t hear you much. I can already read lips now.”

Embarrassed, I averted my eyes, avoiding her gaze. I looked down for a while, but I immediately looked up, looked back at her, stared into her eyes, and saw how hopeful they were. Mine were ashamed.


She laughed at me, crumpled Carla’s letter and tossed it to the trash bin. “Don’t be. I’m not.” She stood up and gave me a hug and I gave her one, too. “Such sweet lips. That’s my girl.” She kissed me, one time, just a peck, and then sat down in front of her TV. “Let’s get ready in a while.”

On her 41st birthday, Juana woke up and discovered she was nearly stone deaf. But she didn’t look it. It was a gradual development, anyway. Nobody knew she had a condition, especially me. We would hold conversations normally about the magazine she ran, where I freelanced, discussing what to cover in the Filipino community. She would then drive me to Columbia where I enrolled for my masters, and we would have coffee and conversation in between trips. She enjoyed touring me everywhere in the East Coast, everywhere there were Filipinos, everywhere there were lesbians like us, especially lesbians working in advocacy groups. It was easy to fall for her, even if it wasn’t my plan to do so; everyone loved her – the community, the lesbian feminists, the people. Everyone. I didn’t mind the age gap, too; it’s just ten years, anyway. Even if she was older, she didn’t look it.

But that was there, New York. And we are here, now, where more Filipinos are located. Perhaps that’s the reason why she wanted to move back here – the familiarity of the people. Wish I could stay with her, but I have to finish this semester. I hate to be away from her.

She was originally from here, California, and her family welcomed her back here, hence the party downstairs. I could already smell the aroma of Filipino food, and can’t wait to taste authentic adobo and sinigang again. Her relatives are both elated and worried, due to her worsening condition. Everyone thought, after the incident, that she was going to be okay, that she would recover. We all thought wrong.

It has been six years since that day, six years ago today, to be exact. She says she doesn’t mind what happened, but we all do. We still do. Who could forget? CNN had documented it so well. And every year’s tribute gets flakier and flakier. It even became a new tourist feature in Manhattan. Sick, but that’s how Americans fashioned it now. Tragedy is always in fashion in this country, it seems.

Juana turned on the TV. CNN. TV specials were on. As if on cue. “Nine one one. Strange how these harmless little numbers could signify so much.”

I fell silent. I just saw that on TV, originally, back home in the Philippines. She saw that live, as it happened. How it must have felt. But she doesn’t look sad. Never did. How it must have hurt. Where does she keep the pain? She reminds me of conversations I had with my Lola about her living during the Japanese occupation. Even if it seemed magnanimous an event in her life, I could never relate to how she felt about it. I could only imagine, and re-imagine, with her. It was harder. Of course, I wasn’t there. And there was no CNN or BBC to cover it, blow by blow. But even now, with this, it’s still hard to relate, simply because I wasn’t there.

She lost her original office, a part of her life. But she was able to rebuild it. After six years, she decided to close shop, and reopen it here, at the opposite coast of this country we borrowed and called home, her more than me, now facing a different tune, marching to the beat of a different drum, perhaps. But it doesn’t matter. What’s important here is, she’s still here. That’s what we always tell her. But sometimes, I’m not sure if she hears me. Or us.

Juana laughed out loud and faced me. She was holding a framed photo of her younger brother. I walked near her. “Good thing Jonas was still Filipino in mind and spirit. Filipino time! His tardiness saved him!” She playfully punched my arm. “Ikaw! You’re not Pinoy. You’re always on time. Appeared in my life on time, when I wanted somebody… Di ba, non-Pinoy? Mwah!” She grabbed my hand and kissed it.

I smiled at her, didn’t know how to react to that.

She laughed again, this time louder, as she played with the TV’s remote control. “Ha-ha! At least I wouldn’t hear that awful socks joke anymore, remember? Or maybe you’re still young to remember what I remember of our country. When I was in school back in Manila, my barkada and I just loved listening to ‘80s music. Cyndi Lauper was one of our favorites back then, and ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ was our favorite song. And they would say ‘Knock Knock.’ And I would say ‘Who’s there?’ and they would say ‘Juana’s socks.’ And I would say ‘Juana’s socks who?’ and they would sing ‘They just wanna, they just wanna-ha-have fun. Medyas ni Juana, medyas ni Juana-ha-have fun. Crazy! Ha-ha-ha! I never got over how funny that joke is!”

Well, I can see she herself never lost her Filipino-ness. In spite of serious circumstances, she manages to laugh.

Medyas ni Juana. Yes, that is funny.

“At least I won’t hear that anymore. And, everything else, anymore… for that matter…”

Silence. Just how do you answer that?

Maybe one just doesn’t.

I sat beside her and put my arms around her. If she saw me as a lifesaver, someone who appeared on time, that was her for me, too. At a time when I needed to forget where I came from and who I were—or what happened to me back home—she was there, ready to listen, to counsel as a feminist, to support as a friend, and to love as a partner. Funny how I never got counseling back in Manila after I was raped. Perhaps I needed some kind of foreign detachment as I narrated my ordeal to a stranger. I wanted the stranger to be far removed from who I am, but not too far, just enough closeness to understand me as well. Juana’s feminist counseling groupmates were such a big help. They were Filipinas, females, and lesbians, so they understood, but they were from here, not there, Americanized, hence a bit distanced. Fil-Am. It was the foreign detachment I was looking for. It worked. Worked well. Eighteen months since it happened. I’m okay. Really, I’m okay.

I just wish I could offer the same level of comfort to her, now. After eighteen months, I feel hopeless, again. I hate that feeling.

She looked at me, and I noticed her eyes welled up, but she was struggling very hard, struggling not to let her tears fall. “It’s too early to party. Can we just snuggle up here for a while?”

I smiled at her. “Sure. Whatever you want.”

For a while, we sat there in front of the TV -- she looked at the images, I tuned them out. But I can’t tune out the sounds. Another tribute, a series of updates, recollections, retellings. I looked at her and saw how intent she was in absorbing the images. I sighed.

And now, I know how blue sounds like, too.

*** end ***

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