Virgin Beneath the Crocodile’s Foot Translated by Bernard Capinpin

The value of art lies in the tale: he explained to me why he must search for the wood out of which he would carve his sculpture. It does not lie in the hands of an artist. It is not found in the chisel he uses nor in the cast to be applied, but in the wood that he chooses. It is not just a simple matter of deciding whether to use the firmness of kamagong or the pliability of batikuling; it is in the story behind the wood. A wood with a story. It must not be just any story as that of wood bought from a lumber mill. The story of how lumber was cut down from the trunk of the oldest trees from national parks and how these were slipped past politicians and soldiers with a little grease. It is not the story of blood spilt by raining bullets in the middle of the forest. It is not the story of how many birds and animals have lost their habitat. It is not the story of the numerous lives buried underneath landslides because of deforestation. Because those stories are not remarkable. Wherever one may go, one will always find wood with such stories. They are like the mangoes and coconuts commonly sold along the sidewalks of markets. They are like dried leaves that are swept off at dusk. Nor is it just the story of the wood used by those from Paete to carve their saints. Because the story behind the wood of the sculptors from Paete has already been enshrined in legend. It is well known throughout the world. Even before Juan Luna began painting. It has already been part of history, never to be forgotten. It is sought by buyers from all over. If he were to use their wood to carve his sculpture, then he would be no different from the stock of sculptors in Paete. He must search for his own wood. To make a name for himself. He is not referring to the story that a father passes on to his children, that in the telling bestows a responsibility to reproduce to prevent cutting the sole line in know of the story. He is not looking for stories kept alive by a clan. He is referring to wood that has its own history, a history that resurrects the dead out of their effaced tombs, the forgotten. Because that is the only wood he could present to the world. That wood’s peculiar story is the factor that would transform his sculpture into art. 

That was why Bernard had asked me to accompany him to search for that wood. Bernard was raised in America. He was the son of the owner of the company I worked for in Makati. During our chats with my officemates, someone mentioned that he was just vacationing in the Philippines. After the crises brought about the collapse of the World Trade Center. Someone also said that Bernard would be staying in the Philippines for good. His parents had already divorced. Another stated that Bernard’s mother was poor, and that his rich father had only found out after their lavish wedding. Bernard’s father was in the business of exporting raw materials for furniture to other countries. Furniture made from carved narra, woven rattan, and other native materials. In the Philippines, they also sold ornaments that adorned a house to make it a home. They ran an import-export business in their office whose glass walls were sterling from the outside. From the inside, the glass was transparent, revealing a seldomly blue sky which oftentimes had the color of spilt oil on the streets we employees passed through as we went home exhausted from the day; the sky that, if there were signs of rain, had the silver gleam of an antique mirror that had not been wiped clean for a long time, not the silver of fish scales flickering near the shore. The president of the company I work for made the room blue to compensate for the dull sky. The flooring was blue; the wall paper was blue. Blue as the blood flowing in the veins of Bernard, the president’s unico hijo. Blue as the symbol of peace in the flag, as blue as the kingfisher that I had sometime seen as a child, that Bernard and I conversed about when we were on the bus to Sagrada. We talked about the blue kingfisher while passing along the green fields outside the bus windows. He had never seen a kingfisher in his entire life. 

I had been watching television back then. I no longer remember what show I had been watching. The video blurred suddenly which was not surprising as it usually happened then. Perhaps it was due to the strong wind that may have disrupted the antenna above our roof. I had gone outside to fix the antenna. I saw how the antennas were all aligned, towering over each other on the roofs of neighboring houses. Others had been fastened with umbrella frames. Fastened also were forks or other pieces of metal that could be offerings to the lightning. But I saw that the antenna had not been damaged. All I saw was a kingfisher perched on our television’s antenna. The kingfisher who was king of the river; the kingfisher whose sharp eyes could detect fish it could snatch with its beak. It was as if I had been summoned by the kingfisher from my spot in front of the television to see him in the vividness of his plume, in all his splendor. The kingfisher had presented himself to me like how the president had introduced Bernard to me as his son. He had just arrived; he was on vacation and still diligently finishing his studies. Bernard had asked me for help to accompany him to my hometown where he would find the wood he obsessed over. A mere visitor here in Manila, working for his father’s company, I was to be his guide. I still had not been with the company for more than nine months. I could not refuse his request even though I know that Bernard would still bleed red if wounded. But his father had another reason. I had studied Literature in college. He claimed that I would get along with his son who had studied sculpture in America. I could not refuse because I was trapped in an office whose mirrored wall emphasized the sky’s scarcity of blue, filled in by the carpet and the wallpaper in the remaining three walls. In a rather ironic turn of events, my job in Manila demanded me to go back to the town from which I came. 

After many hours travelling by bus, one had to cross a large lake to reach my town. Bernard and I rented a motorboat for ourselves so as to leave quickly before night fell. If not, we would have to wait for the boat to be filled with ten to fifteen people. We had caught the last trip at 5:30 in the afternoon, which would need to be filled up before it departed. Because of Bernard’s hurry and my fear of crossing the lake at night, we decided to rent a motorboat peacefully floating along the lakeshore. I did not know how to swim even though I was raised here. Along with sustaining my studies in Manila, my family supported themselves by buying and selling fish form the lake. But though my family’s livelihood came from the water, I did not know how to swim. My father would sometimes throw me overboard in the middle of the lake. That was how a child learned to swim. To throw overboard so that the child would learn to save himself. In the middle of the lake’s deep green, even the secrets it kept were green; how blue the sky was how green the lake, refusing to conform to the sky’s color. I could not paddle my feet, nor could I kick the water. My father had had to grab me from the water. Though the boat Bernard and I had rented had lifesavers, my fear remained because of the stories told of the lake. Stories of mermaids beneath it. Stories of strange dragging forces under the lake, incoming waves that waited for people to catch and haul down to the lake’s center, revealing its secrets kept in green. Because there were stories passed on by parents that one could do away with, like the necessity of learning how to swimming. But fate had decided that I would not live by the water. It’s no wonder why the Bible says: the child will kill his father.

As we alighted from the harbor, we immediately caught a ride with a tricycle. We tied our luggage to the back and the roof of the tricycle. We were only to stay there for a few days, but Bernard had brought many things. He had even brought his sculpting tools because he needed to carve his sculpture there. It was not as difficult to drive these two-way roads as before, because it was now paved. The roads were no longer rough. There were no cracks to avoid. The mango trees I used fear when I was a child because they were said to be haunted by the ghosts of men hanged by the Japanese, fled past us quickly. We passed the abandoned school that was turned to a prison by the Japanese. We passed the thicket of trees that hid the crater caused by the Americans’ bombing. We sped past the bridge where a headless Spanish priest had shown himself. It was already 6 o’clock by the time we arrived at the town plaza. The plaza was a quadrangle that had a bandstand in the middle. The townhall, church, the first stores in Sagrada, gas station, rural bank, and market were all facing the plaza. The last mass had just ended when the tricycle brought us there. Men with the girls they brought to church, who were veiled and carried their rosaries, were just leaving. In the light of the setting sun, I could not tell what kinds of glances they gave us. Whether there were hints of contempt, jealousy, anger, respect, or timidity. Perhaps they stared at us like the indios who first saw the Spanish. Or like a gaze given to a hero returning to the land where he was born, after being told that he was eaten by a giant fish.

My mother and father gave us a formal look when I offered them mano after the tricycle dropped us at my house’s gate. They even shook hands with Bernard. I had called them, informing them that I was with the son of my boss in Manila. The tricycle driver unloaded our luggage and brought it inside the house. Father paid the tricycle driver. One had to climb a few steps to reach the sala. Our house had a basement. Things that were old or unused were stored there. When father discovered that the basement was infested with snakes, he threw away everything there that was once held dear. The basement of our house had nothing left but air and a silent forgetting. The house was cool and the smell of decay and age that seeped through the wooden floors was gone. Dinner had already been served when Bernard and I arrived and so we immediately ate without unpacking our belongings. Bernard had nothing but praise for mother’s cooking: the fish that were obviously freshly caught from the lake in every bite. Or perhaps it was from the scent of the breeze coming from the lake that arrived in our house now that night was peaceful and people were going to sleep. 

After eating, mother apologized that Bernard and I had to share the same room. They had built only one room in the house apart from theirs because I was their only child. Mother and father had been old when they had married. They are now in their 70s. The help started using my room when I left. Whenever I came back for the holidays, they set their sleeping mats in the sala, near the television and radio. That was why Bernard and I were in the same room. I set a mat just below the bed where Bernard would sleep. Before we slept, we arranged our things in the closet that I noticed had been left empty, even the help’s belongings were removed. Mother might have asked them to be removed so that Bernard and I had space for our things. We first had to place our things in the closet because I could not set down the mat when the closet door was hanging open. 

We had already turned off the light in the room when I remembered that we still had to drape the mosquito net. I suddenly felt unaccustomed to the place. After a while, the mosquitoes residing in mother’s flowers outside the window feasted on us. I was unused to draping the mosquito net. Even though the nails for fastening the mosquito nets where still where I had placed them before going to Manila. The weather was not hot so we did not turn on the air conditioning. Once I lay down, I thought of what Bernard must feel being inside a mosquito net as I, who had grown up using mosquito nets, felt suffocated by it. It was as if I had been buried alive inside a coffin, or perhaps buried under the ruble after an earthquake. 

All of this just to search for wood with a story, a strange story unlike those of the coconuts or mangoes sold in the market streets, unlike the wood used by the sculptors of Paete. Bernard had yet to tell me the story he had researched about the wood we were looking for. While inside the mosquito net, waiting to fall asleep, I could see us in the morning chasing a chicken, a red or white one, pure white. After, we would look for an albularyo. We would seek his help in sacrificing the chicken at the foot of the tree inhabited by a spirit. Then I thought maybe the wood he would fell was located at the outskirts of town, at the edge of the mountain. Numerous stories have already been told of a kapre who resided in the kamagong, blocking the path of anyone who crossed it and offering them black rice that would snare them to his realm. Perhaps that was the wood Bernard, who was raised in America, who did not believe in such tales, would cut down. He probably wanted to pridefully prove with his own sculpture that the old legends had already died, he would prove it by turning them into art. Perhaps his pride would cause outrage in our town. Perhaps there would be curses cast upon him and even upon me who had brought him here. Who was I, merely trapped in a tower full of blue carpets, to refuse?

But I suddenly heard his voice. In the dim room where we slept, only the light from the lamppost outside the house entered because of the open window. Only his voice passed through the thin mosquito net. He knew that I also could not sleep. He too was probably suffocating inside the mosquito net. He asked me if I had heard stories of the statues stored in the museums back in the capital.

“No,” that was what I told him, and our conversation which was yet to start abruptly ended. Perhaps he wanted us to talk before starting the search for the wood in the morning. Perhaps he just wanted to break the silence that exaggerated the suffocation in the mosquito net. That was why, not waiting for a reply as to whether or not I would be interested in the story behind the statues in the museum, he told me the story. The two statues were 40 centimeters in height. Sculpted from the fine wood of batikuling. Ancient. Sculpted during the time of the Spaniards. When he first saw the statues, his attention was caught instantly. There was something different about the two statues that he could not point out. In some areas of the Virgin Mary’s clothing, the green paint was scraped off. Also, some areas of the wood itself had scratches. It was not even anymore. It obviously had undergone lots of stomping or crushing or hits against sturdier and more lasting material. It was only when the museum guide had pointed it out that he he noticed it. He pointed at the noses of the two statues. The noses of both statues had been chipped off. He told him that the antique statues were made during the Spanish era. They were sculpted by Chinese sculptures commissioned by Franciscan priests to fill up the retablo of their church. When the indigenous Filipinos revolted against the Spanish, the statues became the object of their anger when they found out the Franciscan priests had escaped, knowing about their planned revolt beforehand. The indigenous Filipinos unleashed their rage by pillaging the wealth of the church left by the Franciscans. They violated the sanctity of the altar. They threw the saints from their pedestals down to the marble floors, the saints that had been sculpted by the Chinese for their Franciscan clients. They chipped off the pointed noses of those statues.

I did not know anything about the saints whose noses were chipped off in our town. Nor did I know that we had a museum in our capital. I only knew of museums in Manila. In the morning, Bernard also inquired with mother and father about the said statues. The guide had told him that the statues had been found in our town and that many other replicas had been left. But my parents knew nothing about it. I knew Bernard was not surprised to learn that we did not know anything about it. That was probably the reason why he only mentioned it now. He knew that he would not get anything out of us. He only asked to make sure.

My parents only replied that we should ask Mang Karyo, the old albularyo in our town. He may know something about the story of the statues and where to find the others. My prediction of looking for an albularyo the other day came true. Only it was not to ask help to sacrifice a chicken but to ask him for the wood’s whereabouts because he was the most knowledgeable person in the town, especially in the history of our families. The albularyo did not disappoint us for he confirmed the story Bernard had heard in the capital’s museum. Mang Karyo added that before, the locals of Sagrada sold wildcats to the Chinese who had come to the town following the winding river that connected the lake of Sagrada to the sea’s briny blue. But when the Spanish arrived, some of the Chinese traders had stayed in our town to sculpt for the churches of the Franciscans. Sculpting saints for the Spanish priests was big business. That livelihood was more practical than the dangerous business of sailing in the sea in unforeseen weather. The Spanish priests were said to have filled the retablo of every chapel in every barangay with saints that the Chinese had sculpted for them.

The albularyo told us to visit the chapels from the different barangays of our town. We would have to ask around and surely, we would find at least one. When we arrived at the chapel in San Isidro, there was an old nun who directed us to a statue not unlike that described by Bernard. The statue was clearly old. In some of its features, the paint had peeled off and the damaged batikuling wood could be seen. It was a Virgin Mary whose slit eyes were already blind. Its nose had been chipped as if the saint had fallen face-down onto the rough, paved road. But its hands that prayed to the heavens were still attached. The feet were hidden underneath the carved garment of the saint. 

Bernard bought the santa for one thousand pesos.  The santa was put inside an old dresser outside the chapel It was dumped together with Christmas, All Saint’s Day and other festival decorations that could no longer be placed in the small room behind the chapel’s altar. It took a while before the nun could open the dresser because, being alternately exposed to sunlight and rain behind the chapel, its hinges and keys were rusty. The nun did not want to sell it because the old santas were usually buried underground like corpses. She told us how the wood that had been used to sculpt the santa was believed to have save its sculptor from a flood. When their house was being swept away from a flash flood, the sculptor almost drowned but he had clung to a piece of bark. After the bark saved him from nearly dying, he promised to use the wood to sculpt a santa. It was a story that Bernard said he disbelieved as we left the nun. Because if it were supposed to be a miraculous object, why was the santa abandoned in the back of the chapel? The santa’s power was probably just in the sculptor’s imagination. When he died, the vitality of the santa’s story had died with it, its power had also left and that was why it was relegated to the back of the chapel. It was curious to think how the impact of the story ended with the teller. It was curious to think how the vitality of the story had left when santa’s nose was hewn off. 

Bernard bought the statue and, on that night, while we were drinking lambanog, he began whittling. As dusk was falling, my parents had started fumigating below the acacia to drive the mosquitos away. That was why we could stay there in that spot. There at the bamboo table whose four legs were firmly placed on the ground, even the chairs surrounding it were also made from bamboo. So in the bright light that came from the window into the yard and from the lamppost outside our yard, Bernard and I sat down where he could start sculpting his statue from the antique statue of the Virgin Mary. Bernard laid out his tools on the bamboo table, beside the two glasses and the bottle of lambanog. Fortunately for my parents whom Bernard had praised countless times, they still lived under one roof despite their age. After many years together, they now shared one narrative and they did not tire of it. Not like his parents. Bernard confirmed the gossip circulating around the office, how his parents had eventually separated: his American mother and his Filipino father who had a bit of Chinese blood. I did not press Bernard anymore as to whether they only live separately or had continued with the divorce, or the reason for their separation. 

I asked Bernard if he would really start his sculpting that night. Would he not rest first? Would he not wait until we returned to Manila? While his mind was fresh with stories. He had long considered the manner with which he would make the sculpture, in the place, the town, where he would find the statue. There could not be any place else. Because there was an initially and outright imperceptible effect. Perhaps the night air influenced the wood he was sculpting. Perhaps the place itself would alter the design he had imagined. 

Without a doubt, the lampanog would have an effect, I told him. He laughed at me. That’s precisely it, he said, because that night, he was the town’s new albularyo who would capture our evening, our thoughts, the dreams released by those asleep while we were awake, carving. Isn’t it that alcohol is always the most important ingredient in every sacred ritual? When the Spanish arrived on the islands, they saw how the natives were intoxicated like how the disciples of Christ were intoxicated during the Last Supper, like how the priests were intoxicated during the holy Eucharist. 

That was why he needed me there. That I was drinking with him was a crucial factor that may influence his sculpture. When the bayawak meat arrived, my parents left us. We were told not to stay out too late so that we would not get sick outside. And to drink sparingly. I did not know where my parents had gotten the bayawak meat. They did not cook bayawak in our home. But no matter, they had one served to us today, after Bernard had mentioned that he had not tried it before. Father laughed at him and said that it tasted like chicken. But he was sure that it was different, declared Bernard. A chicken is a chicken, a bayawak a bayawak. The two were as far apart from each other as the old statue Bernard was carving and his new statue. That was probably why father had sought one to let Bernard and his son have a taste. To prove that bayawak tasted much like chicken. That night, it seemed that I did not recognize mother and father anymore. When they were grilling the bayawak in front of us, it was as if Bernard and I had become less different, while I had somehow become less like my parents. Bernard tasted the bayawak cooked with coconut milk and confirmed that bayawak truly tasted like chicken. I had a taste next and agreed that the meat prepared for us indeed tasted like chicken. It was dog meat that Bernard claimed he could not really tolerate, whatever reason they gave to convince him. Even when he was drunk. Father laughed at him again. But Bernard did not mind father’s teasing, but rather he wholeheartedly went along and joined in the laughter. 

Bernard sandpapered the statue of the Virgin Mary to remove the paint and to reveal the wood underneath before he retrieved different types of chisels from a sheath. They had different lengths and widths and I knew they were expensive. Chisels that could form new shapes and contours, not just from fresh timber but from old statues. The cost of the chisels used by our carpenters in our town were far cheaper than those. I thought about it to how I did not use my pen for writing anymore and, instead, merely used it to do the inventory for Bernard’s father who supported his study of sculpture. 

Slowly, I recognized what Bernard had sculpted out of the head and chest of the Virgin Mary. It was the head of a crocodile. It was then I understood. From the image of a Virgin Mary sculpted from wood said to have saved someone in the past, Bernard was sculpting the pagan god of crocodiles. It was like the bulul from the north whom the Americans went mad about when they came here to the Philippines. The lines were straight. There were a few curves. The head was evidently going to be larger than the body when it was finished. Small arms stuck to its scaly edges. Hands that were sculpted from the Virgin Mary’s habit. On the crocodile’s head, Bernard would crown it with the Virgin Mary’s halo. Instead of hair, the crocodile’s rough scales were etched. The base of the crocodile’s tale could be made out from the draped skirt of the Virgin Mary. The blind eyes of the santa could now see, but these were now the eyes of a crocodile. Its head did not look up to the sky but to the unsculpted ground, to its feet that still had to be sculpted from the Virgin’s skirt. Later, in Bernard’s sculpture, the Virgin Mary appeared as the crocodile’s pedestal. The Virgin Mary lay prostate beneath the crocodile’s feet that stepped on her. The god of the crocodiles must be resurrected, said Bernard. The god of the crocodiles who had been worshipped here in the lake of our town, if only I would read its history in books. Crocodiles to whom chickens, cows were sacrificed before voyaging peacefully in the green depths hidden under the lake. Bernard knew more about our lake than me. He knew more than me who had been raised here. It was because of a Chinese sculptor who had believed that the Virgin Mary had brought him out of the woods to save him that the god of the crocodiles needed to be revived. 

But Bernard did not finish his sculpture that night, not as planned. Even before the penis of the crocodile statue appeared out of the Virgin Mary’s dress, before the last traces of the statue that had once been a wooden saint made of batikuling, it rained. It merely drizzled; the rain did not fall heavily. It was a shower that did not turn into a downpour, so it lasted until the next day, just as we were about to leave. Before Bernard could even finish the details of the feet that trampled on the Virgin Mary and the torso of the saint itself, his father called him on his cellphone. As Bernard stood up, he immediately stumbled. I had to support him while he walked or else he would have fallen before he could ascend the stairs. I also carried his things and the unfinished statue. Bernard had underestimated the lambanog’s strength. Before the crocodile’s long tail could be completed, a bird passed by the front of our house while Bernard’s arm wrapped around my shoulders to help him walk. It was a night bird which was said to be a harbinger of aswang. Mother did not allow us to leave the house even although Bernard had already sobered up and had talked to his father. We needed to sleep. 

However, inside the room, Bernard wanted to finish his sculpture, although I was worried that he might cut himself with his chisels and confirm that the blood flowing in his vessels were actually red. The idol’s body should be complete and not left undone. If not, the message of his sculpture, his art, would not be complete. Whatever protest Bernard had put up, he eventually slept, perhaps due to tiredness, perhaps due to drowsiness, perhaps due to drunkenness, perhaps due to the numerous events that had happened throughout the day that had overwhelmed his mind. 

In the morning, Bernard carried the statue when we were leaving for Manila. He would have to complete and to paint it back in Manila. There, his sculpture would be finished, but it was here in our town that the initial framework had been carved. I bade my parents goodbye. I promised them that I would return soon and stay for a longer while. They accompanied us to the shore while the rain continued to drizzle. As we were boarding the motorboat, I made my promise. But they knew that I would not return soon because we could only take a break during Christmas, or Holy Week or All Saint’s Day. There were still months to go before All Saint’s Day or Christmas. All they told me was to take care. Nor did we have a chance to talk, it was as if they were prevented from talking to me because I was with Bernard. Perhaps they could do it when I came alone. Perhaps Bernard was right, I had to come back on my own. I needed to align, to link my work with the course I finished in college. I needed to leave my job at his father’s company. But how could I explain to him that it was not that easy in the Philippines. Here in the Philippines, people had to live separate lives. Everything did not have to cohere. Nobody said that a person’s aspirations were to be in accordance with the lives they lived. Bernard and I were not so different in that we came from a divided place, trying to reconcile the places each of us came from. Because he would return the United States after having completed his statue. That much was certain. How could I explain to him the paintings of Juan Luna, the artists shadowed in the wake of Rico Yan’s death, what Balagtas said to his wife: to cut off the fingers of his children who wanted to write. 

I could see Bernard gripping the statue as he ascended into the clouds back to the United States. The boatman and the two youths with him dropped our luggage in the boat. He started the motor and we were engulfed by the lake. We had nothing else to say to each other. Perhaps because we ran out of stories to tell. Perhaps because the journey had already ended. Perhaps because our heads were drifting because of the lambanog. We were being swayed by our thoughts. We were being swayed by the green secrets underneath the Sagrada lake. 

We suddenly noticed that the boat had stopped in the middle of the lake. Our surroundings immediately became quiet. The silence was not because the boatman had suddenly turned off the motor of the boat. I asked the boatman what was wrong, he then pointed at the green lake. The drizzling stopped. We were wrapped around warm air: we then noticed that the greenery of the lake disappeared. It was being replaced by stains of white. When we looked over the boat to the water below, we realized that those were fishes floating from the lake’s navel. They were dead fishes floating amidst the green lake. Their eyes were whitened. Their whiteness was a pale hue. It was like the glass back in the office of Bernard’s father that showed Manila’s destitute sky. When we were chanced upon by another boat, our boatman asked what had happened. The other boatman explained that the fish were probably poisoned by the chemicals used by fishermen on their fish traps. Perhaps a current had swept the chemicals further down the lake. Perhaps poison from the nearby volcano had been swept by the drizzle. The boatman did not start the engine again because the propeller would have been broken down by the dense fish floating in the water. He used the oars instead. He paddled. Bernard and I also helped row although we did not know how. We felt how the blade of the oar hit the dead fish. Our ears became more receptive to the sound of the dead fish hitting our paddles.

We had not gone far when the boatman suddenly screamed and pointed to the statue Bernard had placed at the center of the boat. He pointed at it as if it were more terrifying than the floating fishes surrounding us. When we saw the statue, we then understood. The sculpture Bernard had sculpted was bleeding from the old statue of the Virgin Mary. It was sweating blood. It was not merely the half-finished virgin trudged on by the crocodile. It was not merely the virgin’s eyes that teared blood, but also the eyes of the crocodile, whose etched scales also bled. The entire statue was bleeding as if the figures were one and the same, both crocodile and virgin not being separate entities. It was not only the virgin but the crocodile that trampled over her. 

About the Author:

A champion of Philippine languages and literature, Alvin Yapan is a celebrated writer and an associate professor at the Loyola Schools, Ateneo de Manila University. He has under his name some of the country’s top prizes in literature: Palanca Awards, the NCCA Writers Prize, and a National Book Award for his first novel, Ang Sandali ng mga Mata (This Moment of Eyes, 2006), and his first short story collection Sangkatauhan Sangkahayupan (Human Animal, 2016). He holds a doctoral degree in Philippine Studies from the University of the Philippines, Diliman.

About the Translator

 Bernard Capinpin is a poet and translator. He is currently working on a translation of Ramon Guillermo’s Ang Makina ni Mang Turing. He resides in Quezon City.

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