Friday, December 5, 2014



By Amanda [Ngoho] Reavey

I want to dance out of this earth and into another.

It would be a simple place. In the Philippines. A small town called Alinao in the province of Albay, situated along the coast of Lagonoy Gulf to the east and Mount Malinao, a dormant volcano, to the west. At the base of this volcano, in a small bahay kubo, would live a brown-skinned little girl named Luzvaminda and everyone would call her Luz. 

Luz loves to climb balete trees and irritate the duwende that live there. She loves to steam suman malagkit, sweet rice wrapped in banana leaves, in the earth. And she loves the smell of white sampaguitas and the jungle after it rains. Though unable to read, she holds three songs in her heart: one for her family, one for seafaring strangers, and one for the tangerine moon at night.

At the Babaylan Conference, I learned Malinao also means ‘an abundance of Alinao’. A native plant, alinao is a small shrub or tree with small pale blue flowers and purplish-red berries.

Immediately, I begin to research it, but it disappeared sometime between the Spanish-American War of 1898, in which the United States won thus gaining the Philippines as a territory, and the subsequent Philippine-American War, which lasted from 1899 to 1902.

The last time it is mentioned is in a book compiled by Elmer D. Merrill, a botanist who worked for the newly established government.

I don’t want to disappear. 

I want to be the one who controls where I am going.

When I was a child in England, deported there from the US due to misplaced paperwork, I lived at the Grange in Long Wittenham with my Aunty and Uncle. On my way to the local primary school, I often took a detour so I could walk along the Thames. I liked to collect four leaf clovers and tape them in my notebook made out of loose leaf paper stapled together.

With words, I only documented Saturdays. Before afternoon tea. When we would visit the thoroughbreds. My favorite was Chestnut who was golden brown with a blond mane. Sometimes I would decorate his hooves with glittery nail polish. Sometimes I would kiss his nose. Sometimes, as we trotted around the track, I would stretch out my arms like jungle crow wings and let myself sink into him, my body swaying to match the rhythm of his. 

In December of last year we returned to England. Because Gran had terminal cancer. All the horses were gone and the track lines were barely visible beneath the tall grasses and weeds that reclaimed it.


I want to dance myself into a new story.

On a scrap of paper I wrote three names of people whose deaths I witnessed, but whose bodies I never buried. And I watched it burn. To ashes. In a Charnel Ground, a rectangular structure made of bricks painted white. Afterwards, I lay in it, staring up at the orange clouds and azure sky through a rusted red grate.

Do not name the dead. Are you ready? Are you willing to let them go? 

At the mall, someone mistakes my friend for my adopted mother’s daughter: “your daughter looks beautiful in that dress.”

My mother says, “she isn’t my daughter,” and walks over to me, arm around my shoulders, “this... this is my daughter.”

‘Amanda’ means ‘worthy of love.’ 

My birth mother’s name was Adelia Malinao. My name was Marilyn Malinao. His name was 


Amanda [Ngoho] Reavey was born in the Philippines, and raised between Wisconsin and England. A recent graduate of the MFA Writing & Poetics program at Naropa University, she is currently the Marketing Director for Woodland Pattern and Drunken Boat. Ngoho’s work appears or is forthcoming in Construction Literary Magazine, TAYO and The Volta. She blogs

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