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In Philippine mythology, the Kumakatok are three hooded figures who travel around cities and towns, knocking on doors. The sound of their knocking is said to be an omen of death—whether or not they are welcomed inside.


She has tried lamb’s blood in the shape of a cross, beads of garlic hung from the windows and ceiling, rosaries blessed by the local priest placed crooked on the doorknob. She has prayed, to Yahweh and Lisuga and Bathala; she has left the latch closed, wrought the doorframe with iron, poured holy water on the crib.


But when the rainy season begins in Quinapondan she wakes to three knocks in quick succession, and she forgets to be afraid. The latch comes open, the knob comes loose, and the beads of garlic left hung by the windows are blown to the floor by monsoon winds. In the doorway, three silhouetted figures greet her, draped with dark cloth, faces hidden. She slams the door shut, knowing it does not matter. When the Kumakatok come knocking, they do not make mistakes.


In the morning, a cry comes from the crib. She rests her fingers on her son’s forehead, feels him shiver with the cold. But it is not cold; the rain stopped in the evening, and the Philippine sun beats down. She whispers that until her breaths are ragged—it is not cold, the rain stopped in the evening; it is not cold, the rain stopped in the evening.


The child does not listen. He shivers in his mother’s arms until his eyes close.

ethan chua





Ethan Chua is a Chinese-Filipino spoken word poet, fiction writer, physics nerd, and occasional shower singer. He’s also the cofounder and literary editor of Ampersand, a literature and art journal for Philippine youth. His work has been published in major Philippine newspapers and the Philippines Graphic magazine; his work is also forthcoming in Strange Horizons, Eunoia Review, and Moledro Magazine.

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