Recently, I discovered a poem entitled “Aswang” by Barbara Jane Reyes. Readings of the poem relate it to the subversive nature of powerful women. But the moment I chanced upon it, it reminded me of what I first learned about aswangs in my Philippine History class years ago, especially in the lines which read: “I am the bad daughter, the freedom fighter, the shaper of death masks.”

Reyes’ aswang never stayed the same way. She became “the snake, the crone,” or “the grunting black pig” or “your inverted mirror.” She shifted not to what the other person would deem desirable, but in the very creatures which would frighten them.

By the end of the poem, she dared the reader to “burn me with your seed and salt / Upend me, bend my body, cleave me beyond function. Blame me.” It was a powerful statement. Prodding the accuser to do the very thing they do best– inflict violence against those who challenge what they view as attractive, as normal, and as good.

The persona in the poem exposed herself, but not to elicit sympathy. At least, that’s what I believed. Instead, she dared the reader to do the very things which people would think could subdue her, and see whether or not she would be defeated.

I imagined the words to be uttered at a stake. Or maybe while the aswang was hanging upside down, tied to a tree branch, preparing to be whipped. She would stare at those around her with stingray tails, garlic, salt, ash, and whatever countermeasure they could think of. Then she would smile, passing on the fear within her to those who cast their stones.

“Blame me,” she would say.

I tasted the words of that poem, feeling them slide down my throat and settle in my bile. And then I devoured.



The end started on New Year’s Day 2022.

The silence roamed the streets like the Angel of Death searching for doors unmarked with blood, or a tiktik creeping in the shadows as it scouted its next fetal dinner. That morning, just a few hours past midnight, I discovered that the absence of sound, or any absence for that matter, could better reinforce the impact of an entity’s presence.

Maybe that’s why we believed in a God which we never saw, why we’re scared of creatures lurking in the dark, why monsters were more menacing as shadows, or why everyone in our home and in our church feared the wrath of my parents, who were over 7,000 kilometers away from us. Absence amplifies power, and distance strengthens authority, making it seem as if those we feared were more powerful than they actually were. And we do it willingly, we supply them with control, with the ascendancy to rule over us, using our fears as the yoke to keep us in line.

And that fear woke me up hours before the sun was allowed to shine over the New Year.

I sat at the bottom step of the stairs in our small up-and-down house in Calamba. It was the first time in months that I visited and stayed over for the night. But I made a promise to Nanay Mely and my siblings that I’d be home for the New Year.

But we didn’t even get to join the New Year’s countdown, because half an hour before the trumpets sounded, the motorbikes ran at full speed across the street, and the fireworks were lit, my parents found out that I was gay. They didn’t confirm that they knew, but I knew they did.

It was plain to see in their actions. Earlier, we had a quick call with them while having dinner. And their body language spoke for them. Papa was extra cheerful, greeting us with “blessings” for the New Year. Meanwhile, Mama was quieter, her jaw clenched. They know, I thought. I’ve lived with their passive-aggressive behavior for two decades to see their next steps. I just knew that after that quick call, there would be another one, wherein I would have to face them.

So instead of anticipating the time until midnight, I brainstormed a sort of battle plan for when my parents would confront me.

“I’m so sorry,” Kris said, frantic. “This is so unfair to you. Kuya is just really immature. Mame and Dade got mad when he came out so he threw us under the bus, too.”

“It’s okay,” I replied, holding his hand and rubbing the back of it with my thumb. He had been quiet the whole night since I asked him to stay with us. His brother drove him out of their home because their parents didn’t get mad at Kris, even after knowing about us. It was not okay.

“He got really mad. Started banging at my bedroom door until the knob broke and gave way. Then he started smashing my things. I didn’t know where else to go.”

Of course, I would take him in. I introduced him to Nanay Mely, Daddy Bing, and my uncle, Papa Ginno, as one of my friends. “Family problem,” I explained. They never prodded further, being used to me running away or being sent away by my parents when things got ugly. They just nodded and mouthed, “Ah.”

It was technically a gesture of love to take him in for the New Year. But a few weeks earlier, we already had a conversation about breaking up. So this must be eating up at him. I think it did, because the entire time Kris was with us at home, he tried to hold my hand even in front of my family. He never did that. Once, he even pulled his hand away from me because he saw a random stranger crossing the same path as us at night. It had been in Los Baños, where no one cared. So for him to do that, he must’ve felt the gradual crumble of our relationship.

A few hours later, as we were enjoying the food Papa Ginno and I prepared — spaghetti, pork barbecue, pansit bihon, and a makeshift charcuterie board full of sliced fruits and cheap cheese — Mama left a chat on Messenger.


Anak, is there something we need to know?
I knew something was wrong. How long will you keep lying to me?
Pray, anak. We’ll talk later.


I knew something serious was up because she called me “anak,” which she never used unless she wanted to reinforce her role in our family hierarchy. Our conversations recently oscillated between two things: her telling me to do something like editing or drafting official documents for their contracting business in Doha (for free!); and her lecturing me over me dishonoring them as parents, such as asking for a leave from church when I got COVID or seeing my bleached hair on social media. In those cases, she would leave a simple “Gershom” in my inbox, which never failed to make me anxious.

But “anak” was reserved for serious grievances, which was how I easily concluded that the news had already reached them.

So several minutes before New Year, Miles, Dave, Kris, and I went to the bedroom upstairs to discuss our battle plan. We decided that I should lie my way out of it, as my siblings and I usually did to pacify our parents. It was easy, lying to our parents. Once they heard what they wanted to hear, nothing else mattered. God’s will had prevailed once more, which was a toxic believer’s way of saying, “I got my way with you.” Or, I don’t know, maybe lying had become so much easier for us siblings since it became a survival tactic for us. It was a way to keep ourselves in the good graces of our family and our religious community.

The battle plan was simple: I was going to tell Mama and Papa that Kris was just someone I knew from school. I stayed over at their place for a few days to ask help for my thesis (which was technically true) and I just got whisked up in their family drama. I figured a long time ago that a good lie was always sprinkled with truth, bits and pieces weaved into the narrative in order to make it hard for your audience to separate the threads of facts from the threads of fiction.

“What do you think?” I asked Miles.

“Yeah, I think it could work. I mean I would believe it if I didn’t know the truth,” she replied.

“I mean, I’m not Lucifer, five-horned demon, for nothing, right?”

Miles and I laughed a little too loudly to cover up our anxiety. I didn’t ask Kris if the plan was okay with him.

Part of me felt some resentment toward him and his family. I was in a panic, my mind frantically searching for something to blame. But I also knew it wasn’t his fault that I got outed to my parents. So I kept the resentment inside, promising myself that I’d process things better once I’m done with the scheduled confrontation.

We tried to sleep just as the streets came alive with different noises. But even after the celebration had died down and the quiet of night reigned once more, I was restless, the way one would feel before a big family trip or before charging into battle.

So, at three in the morning, I got up and checked my phone. Just as I had expected, my parents have started bombarding me with messages about being “used by the enemy” and “weaving tapestries of lies again.”

That moment, I thought, to hell with it. I got up, went out of the bedroom, and sat down at the bottom step of the stairs. I called Mama and Papa.

When they answered, Mama’s eyes were red and Papa was pacing back and forth in the background.

“Anak,” Mama started, making my back tense up. “Kris’s parents called us and told us a lot of stories about you.”

“I know.”

“Is he there?”

“Yes, he’s sleeping upstairs.”

“Why is he there?”

I told them exactly what Kris told me about his Kuya.

“So it’s true, then?” Mama asked. “What is he to you?”

I thought this was it. Battle plan in sequence. Admit to staying over, and deny being gay.

But before I started the spiel I practiced in my head, I closed my eyes, remembering all the times I had to lie to them about who I was, just so they’d get to hear what sounded right to them. In that fraction of a second, I asked myself a lot of questions, one of them being: Till when did I want to keep this masquerade going?

“Yes po. It’s true. Kris and I are dating.”

Mama shed silent tears. Papa let out an empty laugh.

“How long has this been going on?” Papa asked, suddenly in front of the camera, his face smiling in a painful way.

“We met in August.”

“August,” Papa repeated. He left the screen again. I saw him look up to the ceiling and heave a huge, exasperated sigh.

They asked me why I stayed over at Kris’s house. I told them the truth, that I was having a hard time working on my thesis and figured a change in environment would help stimulate my brain. They asked if I stayed in Kris’s room during my stay. I said yes because they didn’t have a spare room. They asked if something happened between us.

“No,” I said. Technically it was true. I was too busy with my thesis to entertain any idea of sex. On the other hand, Kris was too scared his brother would hear us if ever we did anything.

“It’s happened before,” Kris had told me on one of the nights when his brother worked the night shift. “Kuya walked in and saw me naked with a guy. I was scared of having guys over ever since.”

Later on, his brother would use that information against Kris.

“Anak,” Mama said, making me wince. “Don’t think we won’t accept you, okay? You’re still our child.”

I was too stunned to speak. It took me a moment before I was able to reply, “Talaga po?”

“Of course. You’re our firstborn. Nothing’s going to change that.”

I started crying then. Mama smiled. “O? Why are you crying?”

I cleared my throat before replying. “I just thought you would hate me.” Specifically, I thought they would shun me after Pastor James found out about me and threatened to expose me to my parents if I kept going back to church, which happened the year before.

“Nothing’s going to change your status as our child,” Mama said. “Why would we hate you? That’s just the enemy using your emotions to make you grow distant from us.”

Mama reassured me that everything was okay. That they understood. And that they loved me. She said that was the reason she wanted to talk to me, because she kept dreaming about me again, that something bad was happening in my life. With that, I flinched a bit, remembering the last time Mama saw me in her dreams, and what Tito Emil said about it.

“Don’t let the lies of the Devil take you away from us, anak.”

For the first time, I felt as if that word was not just an affectation to mask Mama’s ulterior motives. I genuinely felt like their child. And it felt surreal. It felt unreal. I laughed through my tears.

“Oh, stop crying. Here’s your Papa. He loves you so much, he got worried about you.”

“Hello, son,” Papa said, using the English term. “How are you?”

“I’m kind of nervous po, to be honest.”

“You know I love you, right?” Papa said.

“Opo.” I chuckled as I wiped my tears with the back of my hand.

“When I heard what Kris’s parents said about you, it broke my heart, I’m not gonna lie. But right after, I realized that this is God’s will.”

“Thank you, Papa. Thank you for understanding.”

“Of course. All you had to do was tell us. In fact, after the call, I quickly went to Google to search ‘how to talk to your gay child’. It was painful, but I’m a father. And I have to be a father to you, especially now.”

“That means a lot, Papa. You don’t know how happy I am hearing this.”

After that, he went on with his usual barrage of Bible verses thrown at me. I usually got annoyed whenever he did that. In my head, it sounded like when academics or hardcore activists used words they know most people won’t understand, which only emphasized more in words the divide between their group and the masses.

But when Papa talked at that moment, I listened. I agreed and smiled. Maybe the New Year was going to present better things yet, I thought. Maybe our family didn’t have to fall apart. My battle instincts began to ease away. I stopped reading their every move and stopped strategizing against their next step.

After more than an hour of impromptu preaching, Papa asked if I was calm now. I nodded.

“Okay,” he said. “You are free now, son. You don’t have to hide anymore.”

“Yes po.” I sat a little straighter, suddenly confident.

“Now, it’s time to let God do His work on you. To change you. All you have to do is confess your sins, and your transformation will begin.”

It felt as if a cold bucket of water was dumped on my head. My claws scratched against the first wooden step of the stairs.

“Confess?” I asked.

“Yes, son. Surrender yourself again to God so that the Spirit may speak to you and rid you of the lies being fed to you by Satan.”

“I’m not lying naman po. I said everything I needed to say.”

“Yes, yes,” Papa said. “But only now, when we found out. What would happen if the Lord didn’t reveal to us tonight this problem about you? How long will the sin last before you confess?”

“My sexuality is not a problem. And it is certainly not a sin.” The warmth in my voice evaporated, replaced with something cold and dry.

“Isn’t it? Then why were you hiding it all this time?” Papa asked. “Anak, think about it. Would a thief go out to the streets to declare, ‘Hey, everyone! I’m a thief!” or a murderer for that matter? No! You know in yourself that what you have is a sin. That’s why you were hiding it.”

“What I have? Papa this is me. This is who I am.”

For the next five minutes, Papa and I went back and forth but never reached an understanding. When he got frustrated, he shoved the phone in Mama’s direction, saying, “Ikaw nga kumausap dyan.”

“Shom,” Mama said. “Your Papa is right.”

“But Mama, I just want to follow what my heart is saying. I just want to love someone. It just so happens that that someone is a boy.”

“Shom, listen. That is not true. In Jesus’ name!” she started shouting into the screen. “I rebuke the lies of the enemy from your mouth!”

I leaned back a little from the screen, my face turning hard.

“This is why we’re teaching the brothers and sisters here in Doha about the dangers of emotions. Beware, Shom. Your heart will put you in danger. One sister here left her family and the church to run away with a man almost half her age! Do you think that is something that can be trusted? It makes any person visceral, out of their minds.”

Maybe because you keep your emotions in a cage, I thought. I wanted so badly to retaliate. But I know they would never listen. They never did. This whole time, they only wanted to get me to follow their image of righteousness and say it’s from God.

“I was in your position before. I thought I was into women—”

“You mean Tita Lisa?”

“It was a long time ago. I strayed away from the path of God and gave up everything for what I thought was right. It was my mistake, even the problem your Papa and I had.”

“Which one? When you took his name out of the deed to the house or when you slept with Pastor Amir?”

“Gershom!” Mama shouted. Her eyes widened, her mouth turning into a hard line.

“Do not pin this on me. I have paid for my sins. Now it’s time to pay for yours.”

I was fuming. I had so much left that I wanted to say. But I kept my mouth shut. I leaned my head against the wall. The exhaustion of the hours of conversation got to me. It was all for nothing, I realized then. They would never understand.

They would just keep leaving breadcrumbs of hope for me to follow, false promises that the tides would change, that maybe this time, this time, this time it will be different.

I realized that they were the reason why I let myself cling to friends who only viewed me as a convenient tool, something they could pull up when necessary. Also, why I kept on ending up in relationships with boys who took advantage of me, and who I would forgive over and over again for their cheating and emotional puppeteering. Because they could leave traces of hope of becoming better boyfriends, and even without actually showing up for that hope, I would waste no time to give them the hundredth second chance.

How can I find the deadline for blaming my parents for messing me up when they continue to do so?

Right then and there, I decided I had enough. Everything ends that New Year’s morning.

“Is there anything else we need to know?” Mama asked, back in her soft voice. “If there are other things you’re hiding, lay them all down now.”

My tattoos. My stories. My status. They all flashed in my mind.

And I could already picture how they would react when they found out about those things. I thanked God for giving me the sense to not reveal everything about me, I thought as my fingers dug into the wood of the stairs.

“No, Mama,” I said with the sweetest smile. “I’ve said everything.”

I decided I was going to start the painful process of healing. And the first step would be to heed the call of my heart. It said: Run.

Because in situations which threaten to hold you captive, flight could be your fight.



“Less than 50 copies per mL. That’s the goal, Shom,” said Dr. Delgado, my attending physician in RITM. “If we reach that, it means you’re undetectable. Remember: U is equal to U.” Undetectable is equal to untransmittable.

That was four years ago, when I visited RITM for my second regular consultation. I haven’t seen her since.

At that time, I still relied on my allowance so I could go to Alabang for my laboratory tests and consultations. And I had to keep the whole thing hidden from my family. Thank God antiretrovirals are free. Or else, I would be forced to disclose my status to my family earlier than I planned. And the knowledge of my status is the only thing I had the most control over.

I say “most” because I know there were a few people in my life before who have disclosed my status to others without my consent. Basically, they could use it to destroy me. But technically, I could sue them for breaking R.A. 11166 Article 6. But I digress.

The reason I haven’t gone back to RITM to have my viral load checked was that back then, I didn’t have the time, the money, or the will to keep on living.

But an opportunity fell on my lap in March 2022.

I was just supposed to report on my medication and request for three new bottles of my ARV cocktail. As per usual, I had to provide my patient code, full name, birthday, the number of meds I missed, and the number of meds I had left (we’re encouraged to call the hub for a refill when we’re down to two weeks’ worth of pills).

After everything was done and I had a schedule for pickup, the teller told me to hold on for a moment. A few seconds later, she said, “Hello, Sir Gershom? One of our doctors wants to discuss something with you. Do you have ten minutes to spare?”

That was how I got involved in an ongoing five-year research project on young adults with HIV. The best part about it? I would get a transportation allowance for participating in the study, which I’d receive annually, and – get this – all my annual laboratory tests were now free. That includes my blood chemistry, my CBC, a chest X-ray, and of course, my viral load test. I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to disclose details about the study, but it’s supposed to go on for five years.

No more paying 700+ pesos on every lab test and I get money every year? Definitely worth filling eight vials of blood. And I would do so with a fucking smile on my face.

The entire thing happened in just one morning before I logged into my new work at 1 PM. What took time were the results.

First came the blood chem. Cholesterol at 4.15 mmol/L. Triglycerides at .70 mmol/L. LDL at 1.72 mmol/L. I wasn’t very sure what those meant, but Dr. Delgado, whom I finally saw again after more than three years, said everything seemed to be in order and I had been living a healthy life so far.

Then, came the chest X-ray. Lungs are clear. Heart is within normal size. Diaphragm and sulci are intact. Rest of the chest structures are unremarkable. Impression: Normal chest findings.

A week after that, I got my viral load results.

“First time since 2018,” said Dr. Delgado. I gave her an awkward, toothy smile that said, “Sorry, doc.” She just shook her head.

“We’re aiming for less than 50 copies/mL. This will determine how well you’ve been adhering to your medication. Whatever the result we find in your VL test today, you must show up for the next ones from now on, okay?”

“I will do my best, Doc. I’m not very suicidal now, so…” I gave her a smile and a peace sign through my laptop screen.

“Okay, you can input your password now to open the results file.”

Less than 50 copies, I prayed as I typed the password–my patient code and my birthday in numerical format. Please, please, please.

I willed my blood to listen. I negotiated with the black chick in my gut. Just give me this.

I hit Enter.








HIV-1 viral load determination by Real Time Reverse Transcription-Polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR)


0 copies/mL

HIV-1 Viral RNA not detected



Pattern Reminder

In your long-term relationships, what works best for you is being with a partner who will claim you. They should be upfront, make their intentions clear, and be unafraid of commitment. There should be no ambivalence – they clearly want you and are willing to devote themselves to you and the relationship. These partners are monogamous, loyal, and protective and you can lean on them in times of doubt.

Go Deeper


“Told you I’m the best jowa!” Teo said through the screen. He’s in his family home in Cavite for the weekend as I try (and fail) to finish an essay for my thesis. “I’m it, baby! Even The Pattern agrees.”

“Can’t I back out? I want a refund!” I replied. “I still have the receipt!”

“Sorry po, sir. We have a no return, no exchange policy. Wala na, you’re stuck with me.” He sat straighter in front of the screen, puffing his chest out and putting his fists on his sides with a determined pout.

I was laughing so hard at his ridiculous stance that I started crying. “Buddy, stop! My gut hurts!”

“Anong ‘buddy’? I’m ‘baby’ now!” he shouted. “Read the Pattern Reminder again. That’s me! One, I’m a serial monogamist, I am very protective – especially against your exes, lagot sila sa ‘kin – I’m very upfront and devoted to you only. Also, I have claimed you for the last six years!”

“Wait, what? What do you mean?”

“I mean, baby, it’s always been you. Don’t get me wrong, a. I think, for the most part, I did love my exes din naman talaga. But ask Pearl since I’ve been living with her for the last couple of years. I’ve always wanted us to get back together.

“And I’m going to keep on claiming you, even if it means having to face your mom. Would Kris be able to do that? No! Only I can!”

I burst into laughter. “Baby, there’s no competition anymore. You don’t have to do that.”

“You know me naman. I’m very competitive. I always need to prove that I’m better. Even more than your first boyfriend.”

“You were my first boyfriend.”

“Exactly,” he said, with an air of pride. “You know it in you that it’s always been me.”

He was right. Most of the fragments of my soul knew. He had his own gravity and no matter how hard I tried to fly with my bat wings into the night, my banana legs stood by him. I would always come back to this.

“Wait a sec,” I said. “I want to show you something in relation to that statement.”

I grabbed my phone and opened the GDrive where I kept the drafts of the essays I’ve been working on. I clicked on one of the two ambient essays I finished drafting and screenshotted the second half of it. Then I sent the screenshot to him.

“Check your Telegram,” I said.

I watched as his brows furrowed, looking at something on his screen. “Oh wow. Wait, baby. Before I continue reading this. Is this something you wrote about me or us? You know naman na you don’t have to show me your writing if you’re not comfortable, right?”

“Well…that’s the thing. I didn’t write it about you. It’s just a fantasy, you know? Something I would like to happen in the future when I’m finally free from all the trauma. But when I read it again recently, I noticed that you now fit the mold of what I wrote in that piece. I just wanted to show you because it’s so trippy that it fits you now.”

“This is Luwalhati, right?” Teo asked. “Are you sure it’s okay that I read this?”

“I want you to.”

So he did. He kept quiet, drinking every word. He always said his weakness was that he couldn’t multitask. At that moment, I finally saw the extent of it. It wasn’t just that he couldn’t multitask. When he focused on something, the world faded away and he got absorbed into whatever video game, anime, work task, or essay he was giving his attention to.

He clapped a hand on his mouth. “Oh wow.”

“What, what?” I asked. My heart pounded in anticipation of his reaction.

“Baby,” he started, before stopping himself. He smiled.

“What is it?” I asked more insistently.

“This is supposed to be your fantasy, right?”


“That’s not true. And before you say anything, I’m not doubting the truth in your work. I’m sure you thought you were describing a future scenario. I mean, you were so sure you sent your resignation email to Peter last month before you found it sitting idly in your drafts. So I get it.”

“Don’t remind me,” I whined.

“Point is,” he continued. “One, this is excellent writing. I’m a proud jowa. And two, this is a memory, not a fantasy.”

For a moment, I sat dumbfounded in front of my laptop.

“Wait, no. I wrote that in an all-nighter fever dream. What are you talking about?”

“Baby,” Teo said, looking straight through the camera lens. “I love you, but your memory sucks. Remember during my month-long stay there, I started kissing your tattoo? Then you said, ‘Buddy, if you keep doing that, it’s going to develop into an erogenous spot’? And the waist-pulling? I do that to you a lot, even during the months when we still considered each other best friends.”

“Oh,” I exclaimed.

I sank into my office chair. I had planned on being vulnerable, but I wasn’t ready to show the lower half of my body hidden beside a banana tree. But he was right. It did happen. The memory came back to me like a slap. It came swooping down, pinning me to the ground and gorged on my liver. I felt like throwing up.

“Is this too much for you?” Teo asked. “For what it’s worth, this is why I’m okay with you not letting me read the things you write. I can see through you plainly.”

“Yeah, this definitely won’t happen again. I won’t ever let you read my works anymore.”

Teo chuckled from the screen. “That’s fair.”

I clutched the back of my chair. Why was it so hard to breathe?

“I love you,” he said softly, a tinge of concern in his voice.

“I love you, too,” I replied. “I really do.”

Create a new fantasy. Don’t be scared.

You’ll carry a box of weathered books into your new home. Some of the books you had since high school which ignited your passion for storytelling, while some you’ve written yourself. Of those you authored, they’ll carry an accumulation of your own weathered stories gathered through multiple lifetimes and shapes shifted into.

You need to do this, to gather these memories and fantasies in pages, because otherwise, the good stories will just get buried like artifacts under the sand in the desert of your mind, never to be seen again in this era. Writing your memories in pages will preserve them through words which would turn drylands into loam soil. And they will grow and proliferate and expand beyond horizons.

By then, you’ll have quite a collection, wedged together in moving boxes which will be carried by your longtime lover, your siblings, possibly your own children and your nieces and nephews.

You’ll build your home slowly, filling the rooms with purposive furniture, trinkets brimming with adventures, and the memories with your chosen family which you won’t forget as easily anymore.

Within the walls and in each room, fear will not be able to fester. It will be a home, not a prison. Only comfort and support and a million stories you’ll tell from the journals and notepads and books you’ve written. You won’t need to flee anymore. You’ll be allowed to root.

The house will become your own forest of exploration, where you’ll be free to roam and to feel, to live instead of survive. There you can spread your wings, show your claws, bare your fangs, and devour the most visceral thoughts and emotions.

You’ll be scared of no one. No one will be scared of you.

You can bare your heart, your liver, and your blood.

Then you’ll feast.

1  – In the Bible, the heart (lev) is the seat of thoughts, emotions, physical sensation, and choice. It serves as the lake wherein every stimulus is dumped, sorted, and processed. So for the Hebrews, deciding with one’s whole heart meant making a decision with one’s whole being, rationality, and sensitivity. Prophet Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jeremiah 17:9), but I disagree. To forsake the heart meant forsaking the Self.

2 –  In Resil B. Mojares’ essay “Heart and Liver,” he discusses how “The pre-Spanish Filipino…believed that the liver (atay) is the seat of love. More: it is the bodily center of a person’s being, the source of power, courage, and strength. It is named in Philippine languages – atay, atey, hatay, hati, ati – and has spawned numerous derivations that signify what is treasured, affective and elemental.” The liver forms half of the words for dalamhati and luwalhati.

By Gershom Mabaquiao

Gershom Mabaquiao earned his degree in Communication Arts from the University of the Philippines Los Baños. Currently, he works as an insights editor and a freelance content writer. His works have been published in Tint Journal, Adelaide Literary Magazine,'s Young Blood, The Unconventional Courier, and Rappahannock Review, among others.

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