GETTING TO KNOW THE BAT
Translated from Kinaray-a
They meet on a path into the mountain’s cave.
Their footsteps are without tongue, like fruits that should not fall
from the branch in the stir, the noise is a bunch of bats.
The stillness brings them to the awareness of grasses, trees,
flowers, vines. The garden and the forest grow in their mind.
Here they exchange stories, before light finds the cave.
Kabog, the woman prompts. The man imitates. His repetition
witnesses the wings that fly and scatter seeds in the mountains.
At the seashore, a bakawan waits; the fish take shelter.
One to two offspring each year, the woman continued. They can also
be found in Cebu, Negros, Sibuyan, down to Sulawesi. They reach the cave.
They see the trees but not the forest, and the garden is near the shore.
Left on the sand are the man’s footprints. Like the waves that carried him
and his elders to reach this island. The woman stops her narration,
even if she knows the bats sense and avoid humans.
A flight in the dark follows. In groping the wall of rock,
in the crack of wings above their heads, the man finds in the eyes
of the bats the sadness of this island, his own too, and that of the woman.
For the first time, he stares at the woman. In her shadow, his voice is muted.
Danger is not in the cave. It is out there on the shore where the sand’s whiteness
prohibits this woman and her people from coming. The man is deafened by the breaking waves.
He grabs hold of a branch at the mouth of the cave. The bats fly out past him.
He points them out to the woman and hears his own voice aping: kabog, kabog,
Kabog until they fly beyond the mountains, now with the names of hotel, resort, & spa.
GETTING TO KNOW THE CAT
Translated from Kinaray-a
The cat came to mind when I searched for you online.
I did find you: cat is your username’s tail
that is your name. Your photo is like a cry
at the door that I need to pick up and feed.
No warning of scratches or fleas: you become another friend.
Our footprints continued on the sand in the island—your tale
about the death of your beloved cat, along with the change in color
of your long-lasting love. You moved to another country.
But in truth, you were waiting to be brought back,
upon the return of your loved one. This rest is to amuse
the self. In the chatroom, I told you that the native Ati and Bisaya
of the island believe that when a cat – female or male –
starts to scratch its nose and mouth, someone is coming to visit,
like when a woman laughs a lot, she is looking for a husband,
and when the cat takes a bath, it will rain, even in dry season.
When it stretches in the morning, it signals bad weather. The weather
could become a tropical storm and cancel office: will take shelter in the internet.
And because the cat can see what we cannot see, most especially a wicked person,
it can command lightning and thunder. It is said that the lightning’s soul is shaped
like a huge black cat. Nonsense, you replied, and laughed like thunder coupled with lightning.
It strikes me and makes my body tremble. It feels like the lightning’s soul
falling on a huge tree, and on the leaves are marks of huge elephant’s tusks.
I wave my hands as if to ward off something. I panic and start looking
for ginger and garlic. Shoo, get away from me, you cat! l’m not looking for love!
I don’t know yet of any drug that can be bought as an antidote to that which the self desires.
“Getting to Know the Bat” and “Getting to Know the Cat” are excerpted from the bilingual edition Sa Gihapon, Palangga, ang Uran/Always, Beloved, the Rain (Ateneo de Naga University Press, 2014), Genevieve L. Asenjo’s Kinaray-a-language poetry collection that has translations by Ma. Milagros Geremia-Lachica.
Genevieve L. Asenjo, professor of literature and creative writing at De La Salle University in Manila, is included in the 2018 Cultural Center of the Philippines Encyclopedia of Philippine Art (Literature) for her multi-genre works in Philippine languages: Kinaray-a, Hiligaynon, and Filipino. Her new books are Ang Itim na Orkidyas ng Isla Boracay: Mga Kuwento (University of the Philippines Press, 2021), and Indi Natun Kinahanglan kang Duro nga Tinaga sa Atun Tunga/Hindi Natin Kailangan ng Maraming Salita sa Ating Pagitan: Mga Tula sa Kinaray-a & Filipino (University of the Philippines Press, 2021), selected as part of the Philippine Writers Series by LIKHAAN: UP Institute of Creative Writing.
Ma. Milagros G. Lachica was born and raised in Panay island in the Philippines. She worked as a research associate in folklore and culture studies at the University of the Philippines in the Visayas where she finished her BA in Comparative Literature. She moved with her family to the U.S. and currently works as a clinical research coordinator. She writes in Kinaray-a and English.