Monday, November 20, 2023


Two Monobons by Jenny Ortuoste


Instead of Halloween


Instead of Halloween we have the Piyesta Minatay, the Feast of the Dead. I was six and my father flashed his car’s headlights on the twisted iron bars of a cemetery gate. My mother struggled to open it while holding a bunch of flowers in the crook of her arm. I was six and my mother pushed open the bars of a grave-crammed mausoleum in Manila North Cemetery. A match was struck to light a candle; I smelled burning sulfur. My mother laid the flowers beside her father’s grave. I am no longer six but retain this memory of darkness and decay. Instead of Halloween I have a mother who was raised without a father. When she turned 21, her mother told her a secret: The army doctor who was a family friend and who had just passed away was my mother’s father. Instead of Halloween, we have an unknowable grandfather. When I was no longer six I realized my mother does not look like the doctor. He was not her father, nor my grandfather. My mother refuses to accept this in spite of physical evidence and family gossip. Some ideas are more frightening than ghosts. Instead of Halloween we have my mother clinging stubbornly to her delusion. I am no longer six and Halloween has been commercialized as an annual diversion, but in my family we still observe Piyesta Minatay, when my mother sets out the doctor’s photograph in a silver frame by her bedside and prays the Rosary for the repose of his soul. I cannot call him grandfather. Instead of Halloween, my real maternal grandfather is lost and unknown. Instead of Halloween I have a grandfather-shaped gap in my family tree. Instead of Halloween, I have a grandmother who kept secrets and lies. It is Piyesta Minatay and I smell sulfur and dank, decaying flowers. 


Not all feasts leave guests replete and complete.





Caveat Emptor

3 Nov. 2023


If I were charged fifteen thousand pesos to receive an award, I would write the title and accolades myself. This is to make sure the grammar is perfect and incontestable by netizens who think they know better. I would design the art card so that the photograph brings out my most distinguished profile. Don’t peer too closely at the legitimacy of the award-giving organization. They have been in “the Awards business for the past so many years.” It is futile to question their legality and the manner by which they capitalize nouns in their texts as if they were German. If that woman with hair dyed blond, face caked with makeup, and throat and ears glimmering with diamonds can receive “Asia’s Outstanding and Inspiring Entrepreneur, Empowered CEO and Leadership Award,” so too may I go home with an award littered with the glitter of words such as ‘inspiring,’ ‘versatile,’ ‘remarkable,’ ‘woman of substance’ (this last I saw on the image of a woman blessed with avoirdupois). Do not, under any circumstance, substitute the superlatives with the words ‘desperate,’ ‘vain,’ or ‘narcissistic.’ It’s not your money to burn.


Not all that glitters is gold; some of those who wander are actually lost. 





Palanca Award-winning essayist Jenny Ortuoste teaches communication and creative writing at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila. She has written opinion, sports, and book review columns for Manila Standard since 2008. Her essays, short stories, and visual art have been published in Philippine magazines and anthologies. She is the author of Fictionary(2007), a collection of her prize-winning short stories. She is currently working on several book projects.

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