Alfonso Manalastas is a published op-ed contributing writer, a poet, and a touring spoken word artist. He was invited to perform and speak for TEDxUniversityOfSanCarlos (Cebu) in 2017 and TEDxRoxasSt (Davao) in 2018. His op-ed articles have appeared in Rappler, Scout, and Inquirer, while six of his poems are part of the latest edition of Likhaan: the Journal of Contemporary Philippine Literature under the UP Press.
Factory of Alleged Virtues
Where I'm From
Where I am from is a spoonful of steaming white rice;
a parcel of ripe mango perched eloquently on top
like the spiral drip of a muse’s body.
Demetria is a homemaker through and through,
spit shines decades’ worth of antique flasks and clay bowls
before plucking mangoes from her garden of Eden,
poises all four feet and eleven inches of her body
onto the Narra chair for recuperation
as she mechanically summons
the odd quasar of a spoon into her mouth
with a trembling hand—sap and grain erupting
behind her sheepish, almost childlike grin.
This is how I remember the woman:
Demetria, climbing gates from inside to peer
above the fence, eyes probing for a boy in his bicycle
teetering down a street; his young, pulsing knees
hungry for the gush of asphalt heat. On some days,
the boy lends himself to a kite string, tugging
the make-shift bird against the dexterity of the clouds;
and landlocked still, Demetria lingers by the fence
to watch over the boy at war with the sky.
As nightfall looms, merienda is served: a mango
halved on a small plate next to steaming white rice.
One for Demetria, one for her grandson.
Every day, the boy learns to defy long held beliefs:
laws of balance, of gravity, of flavor, and as once told,
that everything good is better with rice. Everything is.