Human Kinetics


(for Sherlyn Cadapan*)

I picture you swiftly
running around
the track reserved for athletes:
sprinting soles spiking tired
carabao grass.

Like those childhood dragonflies
that eluded chasing
they say you didn’t want to be
bothered while you do this.
Not for lunch, not for a radical chit-chat,
not for a high-five.

My lover says you were in his class.
How was she like?
He does not remember
a time when you weren’t disappeared.
It’s what keeps him still,
hopeful and with context.

Your mother believes
you did a Houdini.
And that great escape keeps you
roaming invisibly in regions
only she can map with gut-feel,
with hope and in desperation.
You are now her legendary Amazon.

Did I mention running this morning?
Sometimes when I put on
my running shades, I utter “Cadapan”
as I face the mirror with a triumphant smile.
Sometimes I think of going beyond
the awkwardness of being in a shirt
draped with warm sweat and tears.

You were there, your presence ablaze
amidst a crowd of bewildered shoppers
and striking workers.
The mall entrance staged
your very own dance steps
to the tune of Henry Sy’s loud music
that meant to drown
the megaphone which owned up
to your smoking agit-prop.
I still come to SM Cubao, Sherlyn.
And I don’t always remember you when I do.

I still come to mass demonstrations
to picketlines, to Mendiola, to Liwasan.
And not for the way we were.
But to claim time,
to claim history.
A miracle does not happen
when we revolt.
Only us.

*August 30 is the International Day of the Disappeared. Sherlyn Cadapan was disappeared on June 26, 2006. She was abducted with Karen Empeno by military elements in Hagonoy, Bulacan. Both of them are students of the University of the Philippines-Diliman who struggled for a mass-oriented, scientific and nationalist education by working for and with the farmers in Bulacan. Sherlyn was the College of Human Kinetics Representative to the University Student Council. We were with the political party STAND-UP during our college days. Sherlyn was two months pregnant at the time of her abduction. Raymond Manalo, in his sworn affidavit, testifies to the torture and abuse that Sherlyn went through while in the hands of the military. (

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  1. Maraming maraming salamat para sa napakagandang tula na ito… Here's to Sherlyn and Karen. Nawa'y hindi sila mawala sa ating ala-ala at pagkilos.

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