Nicko Reginio Caluya translates Edgar Calabia Samar


Translated from Filipino

The first to turn to ashes were our memories.
We forgot her like the way we burn things

that we are leaving to the past. So now,
we have nothing to return to but the resentment

of other nymphs: Cacao, Makiling, Sinukuan.
We gaze at the flint and are baffled

with the lack of legends about fire
in this corner of our hearts and souls.

Which enchantress stole the embers from Ladlao,
our god of the sun, to fill the furnace of this body

with the heat of life? We are lovers filled
with a past worn thin by the curse of sunny

and rainy seasons every year. Survived by clearing
jungles, what is it that we’re still shocked about the menace

of natural things: the strength of the blowing wind
and flooding at the city’s center struck by typhoon; cracks

on the soil of the town rocked by tremors.
Our emotions are steeped with the churning

of water, earth and air, hence we are asking:
so when is the fire in our chests blazing?

She may have bidden farewell while the jungle
is being razed, and ashes we remain who gave love

to her unjustly because merely ordinary:
just coming in close the body is already being ravaged.

So we are telling now: there is no deity of fire,
while we lament the victims of the inferno

or remain sleepless with Amihan’s frigid air during rainy season



Translated from Filipino

Mother got lost before.
Turning to the wrong woods. Wrong turn
to the woods. An enchanted may have (al)lured.
Her clothes were turned inside out
but the way home wasn’t found.

There was no moon when she came back,
and her last month expecting. Eight months.
She was allowed back home
and life passed by.

On Good Friday I was born.
Murmured by many: Agimat.
Whoever was desired will fall in love.
Whoever got blinded will be possessed.
Mother’s moan was certain:
I did not cry.

She got home
but none returned.



Translated from Filipino

The legends of our land
swell. Memory held
in its wounded palm
those that could not be healed
by time: the insanity
of the nymphs, the crowding
of the manananggal and tikbalang
in the deepest corner of fear,
the settling of ghosts
on all the innocence
that the city turned away,
the escape of anito from recollection
of beliefs. It’s mysterious here,
warned the sorceress
of the thorn on our soles
while we are being misguided
by her invitation
to leave the dip nets that we hold
and wade through cries of currents
against the mossy stones.
Crashing so often 
are all our aspirations  
to leave what passed by.
Look back at where you came from,
whispered the mermaid to the waves
every time the river carries us away
to the sea of uncertainty.
But what we stumble upon
is only salt by the seashore.
The question from many tiyanak
who drown in the mystery of the night:
Where did the moon come from?
And we will feel the pang
of losing our minds
on their realm.
Moons are cure to years,
sighed the old nuno dwelling
on the anthill while watching
the fleeing light
of the fireflies. And also, we too
will depart: pressed on our hearts the pain
of those whose names left unbaptized
who are residing, depending
on the stories not listened to anymore.


Edgar Calabia Samar also writes novels and teaches Philippine literature at Ateneo de Manila University and Osaka University. Online, he’s @ecsamar on Twitter and Instagram.

Nicko R. Caluya is an Assistant Professor at Ritsumeikan University. Aside from teaching and researching Information Science, he loves writing and translating in English and in Filipino. You can find him online at or @nickocaluya on Instagram and Twitter.