Hidden Messages, oil and ink on wood, 2016
Image: “Hidden Messages” by Mek Yambao, oil and ink on wood, 2016

Follow-up to We Are No Longer Babaylan

I bury myself in the dark room
shaded by golden hibiscus flowers
dreaming of her who
demands my attention

as I grit my teeth in my sleep
and my throat is in knots

as I’ve spent the early part of the morning
screaming at her in my dreams

when she cannot hear
doesn’t want to hear.

She sloughs off a piece of her spirit
she a witch a babaylan a ma-mao
seeping into my dreams like glycerin
not cleansing but slathering
all over me a mess
with scents of lilac and blue Agapanthus
slithering on hands and stomach and knees
pulling at the roots of her hair while
wrestling to bloom in the dark.

Since early adulthood I
had been assigned her babysitter of
daily late night phone calls
flowing between gossip story ideas
political ramblings relationship advice
her divulsion of insecurities
her suicidal threats.

Little did I know her mandatory communications
would smooth me out like rocks in a riverbed.

I would come to believe
I am her canyon –
the long-time erosion of my body
while resistant
to her constant weathering.

“How is that even fair to shoulder her weight
for them to even ask you to expect that of you?”
my beloved partner asks.

Lurking inside the question
are further questions:
is the world really made up of Hitler followers?
Marcos followers? Mao?
Mussolini? Ceaușescu?

You may think I digress. I don’t.
Not about monsters. Not about followers.

History reveals we let sociopaths rule over us
when we let them.

I return to the question of fairness.
“How is that even fair to shoulder her weight
for them to even ask you to expect that of you?”

It isn’t fair. Of course not.

I know. But she
doesn’t want to know.

Her unstoppable charm to
overnight vulnerability triggers
from some elusive smoking gun
I cannot exhume
no matter how much time I
dig in the dark –

(((I’m starting to wonder whether
Robert Louis Stevenson was a confidant to
Jekyll and Hyde)))

I barely clutch her bouts of sweetness
like a necessary secret ingredient.

How could she think I could ever abandon her
as she guts and snatches grains of me
even as I sleep?

Watch her
leave me
wide open and dry
an astronomical gaping wound
cracking open myself.

We share a double helix
but the erosion has been great
I’ve pushed her direction off course.

I draw boundaries
when historically there never were or
maybe that is what
we were always taught to believe.

If we wake will we see our ancestors choosing
never to pass on the memory of familial fissures but
prefer we rollick in the fable of perfect family ties
of perfect Maganda and perfect Malakas?

Were there fissures before the Spaniards came?
Or were the fissures exacerbated after
their conquest of our magical matriarchs
in Siquijor?

It matters. This history.

And then it doesn’t.

She doesn’t want boundaries –
this unheard of thing.

We are brainwashed to
preserve familial ties
at any and all cost
even when those ties threaten
being and becoming.

She and I betray our ancestors when maybe
our ancestors betrayed us
betrayed each other and in turn
were betrayed by those
who proselytized and promised them
the Kingdom of God.

There are those who want to break us into silence.

There are those who want to break us.

Our own families do not
ever share stories of pain
as if speaking up is

We are taught strength is
the suppression of our hurt when it is
nothing but further enslavement of
the mind desperately clawing its way
toward liberation.

They think it better
to pass down happily-ever-afters
when such denial such silence
forces the mind to
cannibalize itself
threatening our descendants into
a perpetual corner of
shame and guilt and paranoia if

we are ever held captive
by the “White Man’s Disease”:
its three dark horsemen –
Depression Suicide and Fear
– while the hegemony steadily
erases us through omission.

Whose ways
do we adopt?
Is the White Man’s Disease
really white?
Do we reign or
are we somehow held hostage
into a constant state of
internalized perfection?

Watch as her traumas are not just hers
but giftwrapped with ribbons
into our sororal subconscious.

She.                 I.                  We.

She remains relentless
still pushing past my strata.

From birth we did not always choose
our becoming.

Now            here          we           are.

I still make choices.


















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