The Girl Who Sailed with a Star

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There is a village in Benguet where a giant wearing a broad-brimmed hat spent days staring at the sun and nights talking to the moon. They called this giant Mt. Kalugong. For, the truth was, he was simply a mountain who came alive while children slumbered underneath thick knitted blankets and dreams.

At the foot of Mt. Kalugong, there lived a little girl shy as a tiny mouse. She rarely went outside the doors of their steel and wooden house.

“Nabuteng, please buy vinegar from Manang Rosa.”

“Can someone else do it, Mama? Aling Rosa scares me.”

“Gahh, fine, I’ll ask your brother. Balong, gumatang ka ti suka! Did you ask Manong Nestor if he’s done making your uniform already?”

“I haven’t, Mama. I don’t think I can speak in front of Manong.”

“If you won’t ask, who will? Not me, not your Papang, not Balong. Hay!”

Such was the usual exchange between Nabuteng and her mother.

One February night, a star danced over the child’s bedroom window. The star had heard about the girl who was too timid to go out. She peeked through the curtains. She watched the child’s chest rise and fall, and rise and fall, and rise and fall, and she wondered what scared Nabuteng so when she was awake. Sleeping, the child didn’t seem to be afraid of anything.

“Child, come away with me.”

They had already soared over mountains, over valleys, over hills, over plains when Nabuteng’s eyes flickered open. “Whe-where am I??? Wha-what is happening to me?”

“Hello, Nabuteng. Welcome to the world beyond.”

“Be-beyond?? Ta-take me home! Take me home please.” Nabuteng whimpered as she covered her face with her hands.

“You’ve made it this far. I will take you home. But I have yet to show you more.”

The child continued to snivel. But slowly, as they continued to sail over more mountains, over more valleys, over more hills, and over more plains, wonder replaced the fear in Nabuteng’s eyes.

“This… This is amazing…”

“It is. I’d like you to meet some other stars, too.”

“Wha-what? Other sta-stars? No – I can’t!”

“Yes, you can.”

And on and on they sailed.

“Hello, Nabuteng.”

“Hello, child.”

“Such a lovely girl.”

Little by little, the bashfulness in her heart disappeared.


“Hi… I’m Nabuteng.”

“Hello… Nice to meet you, star…”

And on and on they went some more, until Nabuteng realized that they were home.

“See, that wasn’t so bad now, was it?”

“No… It wasn’t. Thank you.”

The child crept back to her bed, the stars and the mountains tucking her back to sleep.

The next morning, as Mt. Kalugong said good morning to the sun, he saw at the corner of his eye a little girl emerging out of a steel and wooden house waving at the sky.

Assignment 3 (Coursera: Writing for Young Readers)

The Frozen Guitar


Billy’s guitar was frozen. Yes, frozen. No, not broken. He hadn’t used it in a while. Well, eleven-and-a-half months to be exact. A few more days and it would be a year since he strummed its silver strings and cradled its mahogany body. How he missed making melodies with his faithful friend.

But Billy wasn’t as faithful to his friend as his friend was to him. He had unintentionally tossed the guitar aside ever since he got busy with school, with his football team, and with trying to impress Leah, the loveliest girl in his grade. Actually, Leah was the reason he got into football in the first place. He reckoned she’d be into guys who did a lot of sports.

Yet, after months of kicking a black and white ball around, Billy apparently still didn’t manage to make it into the girl’s radar. As much as the smart, beautiful, kind schoolgirl made butterflies flutter inside his belly, Billy decided it was time to let Leah go and move on.

“There you are, old friend.” Billy found the guitar freezing away in an isolated corner of his room. Frost had crept along its neck. Icicles were hanging from its tuning keys. Crystal strings had replaced its silver ones. “What happened to you?”

The instrument hummed weakly in response. Regret washed over Billy as he recalled all the songs he and his guitar used to play together. “Remember Elvis?” came a feeble sigh. “Remember the Beatles? Remember Imagine Dragons?”

“I remember.”

Billy took the guitar into his arms. As he did, the ice began to melt away. Not magically, like in movies and cartoons. It was messy. Drops of water gathered around his bedroom floor. He patted the instrument dry using an old sweatshirt. “Let’s start making melodies again.”

Assignment 2 (Coursera: Writing for Young Readers)

By the La Trinidad Bonfire


There was nothing more delicious than the taste of marshmallows roasting on an open bonfire. Liwayway took a bite and the sticky sweet melted into a sugary blanket across her tongue.

“Is it Christmas in Australia already?” Liwayway’s younger sister was tugging on the hem of her woolen sweater.

Liwayway scrunched her eyebrows together. “I think so, Ningning. It’s around 10pm here. It should be already past midnight over there.”

Ningning pulled the bonnet with the words “Baguio City” tighter over her forehead. “Is it cold over there, like it is here?”

“No, Ningning. Tito Pacifico said that it is summer.” The little one was snuggling closer to her. Reluctantly, Liwayway put her arms over the child’s shoulders. When she looked at Ningning, two eyes as round as Jeepney headlights were looking up at her.

“Summer??? How can it be summer???”

Liwayway shook her head, exasperated, but only a bit. “It’s because they’re… down under.” Tito Pacifico had sent a greeting card through email earlier that day. It had a drawing of Santa Claus wearing shades and shorts, drinking lemonade by the sea. There was a red-nosed kangaroo beside him. “Merry Christmas from Down Under!” It said. Liwayway wasn’t exactly sure she could give a lecture about Northern and Southern Hemispheres just yet.

“So, does that mean… we’re up over?” Ningning began humming a portion of the Benguet Hymn. “Dear land of mine underneath the starry sky so close to God…” She thought to herself as she wriggled out of Liwayway’s arms. Surprise lit up her windburned face. “We are up over!”

Tita Maricor, who overheard the girls’ exchange, let out a hearty laugh. “Now what are you two talking about? I think you’re just too hungry, waiting for the Noche Buena. Come, let me pour some Tsokolate for you.”

“Yehay!” The two girls scrambled towards their aunt in excitement. But then Tita Maricor saw Ningning’s eyes cloud over slightly.

“What’s wrong, balasang?”

Ningning tried to smile. “Tito Pacifico won’t be able to enjoy Christmas as much us. It’s too hot for Tsokolate over there.”

“Oh, Ningning…” Liwayway chuckled as she took a sip from the piping hot drink. Hmm. Actually, there was something more delicious than roasted marshmallows. Tsokolate. And the tender love of her little sister.

Assignment 1 (Coursera: Writing for Young Readers)

Week #2: Broken

It was broken, but she was determined to fix the heart that hung limply out of her bloodstained chest. She winced as she tried to keep it in place. There was a drugstore nearby. Perhaps she could find some bandaids or bandages there.

The pain slowed her pace down a bit as she gingerly made her way towards the small shop. Some old fashioned chimes tinkled and an elderly woman with a smile as warm as hot chocolate welcomed her in.

“Hello there, darling. What can I do to help you?”

She tried to enclose the grotesque, dripping thing with her two small hands while trying to appear nonchalant. “I don’t suppose you have any bandages here, auntie?”

“Why, we have all sorts of bandages… Pink ones with flowers, rainbow-colored ones, sparkly gold and silver ones — but, oh, we have those plain white ones, too.”

“A white one will do.” She didn’t see the point of decorating her ruined heart with all that fluff.

“Funny. Most other people who come here lean towards the more frivolous stuff. They say it covers up some of the ugliness… but then again… tell you what. I have some scarlet here in my store. Do you think you’d want to take a look at that one instead?”

“Nevermind, auntie. I just want the plain ones.” Her heart, which had grown numb, started hurting again. “And I’d like to have them now, please, if it won’t be so much trouble.”

Into the store room the elderly woman went. She had two boxes in her hand when she emerged. “I know you said you didn’t want the red one. But maybe you still want to take a look.”

She heaved a pained sigh. Maybe she should give the box a chance. The auntie seemed so set on having her buy it. “Alright. But how much is it?”

“It’s free, deary.”


“Yes, free.”

She opened the box, exposing her heart — already falling apart — as she did so. She unrolled the scarlet bandage and held it out into the light. “It’s… beautiful. But it seems… pre-loved.” She tried to be politically correct with her term. In her mind she simply thought, “What on earth? It’s already been used!”

“Ah, yes.” The lady smiled. “But not recently. Someone did use it, but around 2000 years ago, deary.”

She thought of all the disease that she might get infected with if she tried mending her heart with this abused bandaged. A shudder crept through her already weakening body. “The white one? How much is it?”

“10 dollars. I suppose you want that one, then?”

“I do.”

But still something drew here to the scarlet one which she had unconsciously began to wrap around her shaking fingers. In an odd way, the bandage made her feel warm. Secure. Healed. Whole, even. What if she used it to mend her heart?


“Yes, deary?”

“Nevermind. I’ll take this one.”


Mr. Responsible

He needed to slow down. He was almost running on empty. Too many thoughts tumbled in and out of his mind. Thoughts about the bills. Thoughts about new houses with out-rented parking bays. Thoughts about mattress cleaning; sofa cleaning. Thoughts about broken bed frames and two-month-old cucumbers left rotting inside bacteria-infested refrigerators.

He needed a break. He needed to get away.

But if he did – if he let go, took an AWOL, who on earth would stay behind and make sure that all the expenses were paid?

Maybe he just needed to fill his gas tank up once more.

Camera 360


I’m so hungry. I haven’t eaten in three hours. Ugh. There are so many things to do! Maybe I’ll just grab a cracker. That should keep me going for the next few hours until I get myself a decent lunch.

I’m so hungry. I haven’t eaten in… I don’t know. Three days? Six? I have lost all sense of time. I’m no longer sure when the rain ended and when it began. What would it take to grab hold of a piece of cracker? One bite and maybe I can last a few days more.

What is up with this phone??? Ugh. It’s so darn slow. And what’s with the new updates? You call that an update? A two year old can come up with a far better design.

What is up with this phone??? I thought I was able to save it from the waters. But now it just keeps on blinking on and off. But it won’t do me any good, really, once the battery runs out. And oh, there’s no signal, so… How do I update my mother? How do I let her know that I am still alive? How do I send a message saying that my two year old is safe as well? I’ve got to let her know, somehow. She must be worried sick.

This is a disaster. I can’t believe the bed frame collapsed on me. Am I really that heavy? Tsk. Such bad timing, too. I am so tired. I can’t fix this tonight. This is so annoying. I guess I’ll just have to sleep on the floor then. Or the sofa.

This is a disaster. There’s nothing left of our house. Nothing. It’s all a heap of battered rubble. We will sleep on the floor tonight. But which floor? This one will do, I guess. This one next to what looked like it might have been our old sofa.

Life is so unfair. Why do these things keep on happening to me? Ugh. Life. Is. So. Unfair.

Life is good. I can’t believe I can still say that, what with all the things that have happened here. But we’re alive. We will continue to survive. Help is on the way. Life is good. God is good. He’ll take care of us here.

* * *

Dear Readers,

A strong typhoon (Yolanda, internationally known as Haiyan) has recently devastated the central part of my country. The aftermath is heartbreaking. The words I’ve typed out are pathetic and do little to capture what must be going on inside the hearts of the all the people affected. Now, if you’d like to help out, please do see how you can do so through these links right here:

Let’s set aside our first world problems for now and remember those who are in greater need.

God bless you all! We can all make a difference. :)

Defying Gravity

We were flying above a sea of clouds. Had they always been that fluffy? I’m not sure if I really noticed or cared before.

I was staring at the window, trying to keep tears from spilling out of my tired eyes. I had been travelling since two o’clock that morning. The plane was scheduled to make touch down that afternoon at half past five.

I should be used to lengthy and lonely flights. And, even more, I should be used to all those pathetic goodbyes.

“Defying Gravity” from Wicked and Glee serenaded us as we prepared for landing. How fitting. That was my theme song when I struggled with the same unwanted farewells four years back.

As we hit the runway, I started to sing along beneath my breath.

“It’s time to try defying gravity. I think I’ll try defying gravity. Kiss me goodbye, I’m defying gravity. And you won’t bring me down.”

The plane came to a halt and a single tear cascaded down my eye.

Post a Week: Home

Pick a letter, any letter. Now, write a story, poem, or post in which every line starts with that letter.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us SYMMETRY.

Home. He would be seeing home soon. He would be feasting his eyes upon the twinkling lights that dotted the mountainsides like ornaments on a Christmas tree. He would be looking at the pale moon that shone over Mt. Kalugong, welcoming him back after him being away for ten plus years.

His heart warmed at the thought of highland coffee, of soyfee, of drinking these brews while basking in the fog and chilly wintry air. Highlands coffee was the best. His grandmother always had a cup or more waiting for him at the dinner table.

Happily, he snuggled into the worn out provincial bus seat.

He would be seeing home soon.