Growing Pains By Elise Ofilada

Growing Pains

for Kian Lloyd Delos Santos

Baby’s first political scandal summons a man who is named in reverse;
On local TV, there is every noise. Plunder rhymes with sense
of wonder
. My mother takes my hand. Joseph Estrada steps down.
Slowly. As all babies do, I learn to walk.

VHS tapes start to die. I kick my brother, make him cry, but it is Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo who is saying I’m sorry, eyes dead, center on the camera
where my mother is so angry. She is going to teach me a lesson: ABC
is to ZTE, is to Hello, Garci.

Whatever that means. In the third grade, all we studied
were the words to Taylor Swift’s Fearless and I don’t know, she sings.
How does it get better than this? My teacher asks me
to join the school paper. In Maguindanao,

Thirty-four journalists are murdered.
There is radio silence. There are no songs about massacre.
My mother changes the station, but all they are playing
is Many Villar’s jingle on infinite loop, asking kung nakaligo na ba ako

sa dagat ng basura? No. All I’ve done is fold my fingers
in the shape of my mother’s; in the shape of her mother’s; in the shape
of an accusation that my classmates think is funny
to put up on their foreheads. But, come election day, the letter

Is not a symbol for loser. It only means we’ve elected too many ghosts.
It only means my classmates and I do not go to high school
because PNoy says it doesn’t exist, anymore
than the forty-four, whose Exodus goes unaccounted

for, like the time my best friend transferred schools to Antipolo.
I took their hands and kissed them. This, too, is political. The PNP give
a boy a gun, tell him to go run. When my mother asks me, what I want to be
after Senior High, I must hesitate, before I say: I want to be alive.

I turn eighteen to the sounds of thousands being shot
every time Digong opens his mouth. This is the last juxtaposition.
He says my god I hate everyone, while wiping blood off his hands
with the viral headlines the media churn out, until they are clean.

But the bodies are still swaddled in garbage bags, too dark
for this time of day, I think, these poor people. The cardboard is still screaming.
This corpse is an example of our progress; our justice, without justification.
Tell me, Digong. What’s it like, on the losing side of the war?

If you can call this a war. If it’s not just that no one’s
getting any older. There is no growing up in a country
that has yet to do the same.

If my inheritance is babies crying
because the government killed their fathers,
you raise angry children who believe
there is little left

to lose.

By Elise Ofilada


Elise Ofilada is an incoming freshman at Ateneo de Manila University. Her work can be found in SOFTBLOW, Rambutan Literary, and The Ekphrastic Review, among other places. She lives in Quezon City, Philippines.

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