Born in Quezon City and raised in Camarines Sur, Paolo Sumayao was a Literature Major at the Ateneo de Naga University before beginning a decade-long career in Manila working with some of the country’s top global retail companies as a buyer for international brands. The editorial calling came through after a brief stint writing for several publications such as Garage Magazine and Team Magazine. After having several poetry works published in NCCA’s Ubod, anthologies such as Girok (Bikol Erotica), Ani, among others and art-directing the Bikol lifestyle website, OurVibe.PH, he has found himself in full circle: pushing for the publication of the first anthology on Bikol Queer Writing with Dr. J Pilapil Jacobo, BKL/Bikol Baklalater this year. He currently lives on a suitcase between business trips to Naga, Manila, Biñan and Puerto Princesa and if there is anything that he believes in completely, it’s his family, the Universe, and laing.
Lolobngan Nin Mga Dawani
(A Grave of Rainbows)
English translations by Johann Vladimir Espiritu
Where I'm From
About two hundred fifty kilometers south of cosmopolitan Manila, I am from underneath the last sleeper of the railro ad that used to link our mainland to the megalopolis. What used to be our Orient Express is now reduced to coaches or coffins waiting for its oxidizing demise. We took to buses, planes, ships later on but we tread with less joy. Where I am from, joy springs from both the journey and the destination. In typhoon-speak: it’s the belly of the beast, the apple of the eye of the storm, its entry point to a Luzonian wrath. It bathes in the Pacific as if it owns it, for it takes charge of the ring with five volcanoes so active that the muddy soils where gabi leaves grow ripple a little.
Where I am from is a factory of sashes, crowns, sequins, and beauty queens: Quiambao, Raj, Peters, Gray. We adore the spotlights, the booming sound of the speakers, the thunderous applause of the crowd. Home is a well-lit powerplant of glitters spewing tons into the skies, falling on coconut tree-lined highways.
Ah, coconuts. Where I am from, the force of the hands squeezing out the last drop of coconut milk is dinner’s announcement: three huge tilapias fileted and stuffed with ginger, onion, garlic and kamias wrapped in gabi leaves cooked in coconut milk. Where I am from, our tongues are friends with sili’s fire, our nostrils know the smell of gata slowly boiling. Dinner is served at home while April Boy belts the last notes of Esperanza.
I am from a house facing a crossroad, across a carinderia-lined street. Fortified with Mother’s bougainvilleas and gumamelas, it is a light-blue vision two storeys high, heralding the two opposite highways for vehicles passing by. If blue is the color of royalty, it very well sits perfectly along a highway called Maharlika.
When throwing a fit, Mother speaks Rinconada, the royal tongue of her Father, the language of the dollared and sassy. When Father is around, which is not often, he speaks the charming language of provincial politicians: archaic, intelligent, macho. The same language that sent me to school back in the days when they were still in love.
Where I am from is a closet I didn’t have to hide in: it kept my mother’s shoulder-padded, waist-cinched day dresses and pasadya pieces in Pucci-fied prints. Denied of Parisienne hardware, covered buttons embellish each piece in complimentary fabrics.
Mother, ever the single mother that she is, would drop me off at school before work knowing I’d be gay because I’d insist being picked up before Cedie airs in the afternoon. At home, like Cedie, I am a prince. A prince and a princess, a princess and a princess.