Super Blue Blood Moon


The moon looked unusually large and orange the night Karla was born, but Conch, her mother, didn’t notice. It’s hard to notice the moon when you were yourself a moon, with a whole other lifeform growing and moving the organs inside of you. The lifeform was supposed to purge itself out a week ago but simply refused to budge. This felt like a metaphor, but Conch couldn’t care less about metaphors at this stage. All she could think about was how hard it was to walk without seeing her feet — something that hadn’t ever occurred to her before. It shouldn’t matter — you’re not even supposed to look down while walking — but somehow it did. It mattered, like a metaphor.

Well, this here was not a metaphor: Conch walking on her own along Roxas Boulevard after work. It was not a representation of how alone she was, how alone she felt, in this densely packed city where no one made eye contact. She was just alone, plain and simple.

“But you’re not alone,” her best friend, Julia, said when Conch attempted to confide in her. “You have your baby,” she added, punctuating it with a beatific smile. The smile of a person who believed that suffering brought you closer to God or whatever. A person, who, in fact, had never felt any form of suffering and perhaps wished for it to make her life more interesting. Conch felt bad thinking this way about her only friend, so she hid her smirk and nodded, to give Julia a sense that she was helping. Conch did not need another person abandoning her.

Conch knew everyone at the bank talked about her, dropping the word “disgrasyada” every now and then to excuse her behavior. Mostly they felt bad because they theorized that Pol, her boyfriend, did not want to marry her because he was convinced he was not the father. They had no idea that it was Conch who refused the shotgun wedding proposal, that she’d insisted on the lifeform taking her last name and not his.

Conch didn’t care about what they thought of her. Or she did, but only insofar as she could use their latent guilt and self-aggrandizing pity to her advantage. She let them buy her lunch and dinner. Then all the while she slacked off at work, not bothering to hide it. She took hour-long naps, sometimes even at her desk. She lashed out at rude customers, despite their training to grin and bear it.

One day, a regular client made an innocuous remark, “Why does it feel like you’ve been pregnant forever?” Conch smirked and shrugged without a word — she was being polite that day. She had to agree, though: what was taking this baby so long? So the very next day, she went to her OB. The doctor advised her to walk after work every day. Did Conch have any more questions, concerns, worries? Conch simply looked at her, mouth agape.

The doctor cocked her head to one side and asked where Pol was.

“Who?” Conch asked, only momentarily confused.

Conch took the doctor’s advice as soon as she left the clinic. Karla was born five hours later.  Nobody had bothered to tell Conch she’d given birth during the super blue blood moon. Or maybe someone did, but it didn’t register. Conch was too enamored with the baby in her arms for anything else to register. Because what could be more phenomenal than meeting this tiny person who was just hours ago inside her personal moon?


The super blue blood moon was all everyone could talk about in the office that day. As Karla listened in, she wondered whether they were just feigning excitement over it just for something to do. She didn’t dare ask. Ah, the spinster has killed the joy once more, questioning fun as always, she could hear them thinking. With these young people, it was always bound to be about her age.

“They say the last super blue blood moon happened on December 30, 1982,” said Michelle, the hip graphic designer with the quintessential nose ring scar and no ring.

The newbie — their in-house photographer — looked up and sought Karla’s eyes. “Hey, that’s your birthday,” he said. Then he went back to the photo he was retouching.

He knew her birthday. Not just the date but the year. And he wasn’t afraid to let everyone know that he did.

Okay…so he knew her birthday. What

of it, Karla?

What of it? Why then could she no longer concentrate on her task if she really “what of it?” about it? Why then did she keep seeing the look on his face when he learned that she was born on a super blue blood moon? Like it mattered.

“How’d you know my birthday?” she asked during lunchtime. They stood by the fridge where the newbie grabbed his Lock n Lock.

“You know what Martin Nievera’s favorite Kenny Loggins song is?”

“Is this one of your ‹you’re so old’ jokes?”

He ignored her remark. “It’s ‘Forever’,” he answered. “That’s why many of his songs have the word ‘forever.” He chuckled and rolled his eyes.


“I just remember these — things. You know, trivia. Inconsequential stuff.”

Karla’s heart sank. Trivia. 

Inconsequential. Stuff. That was how he viewed her birthday. Like Martin Nievera’s favorite song — it didn’t matter. She nodded then turned to walk away. She could feel his eyes on her. And then his hand on her arm.

“What, got another trivia for me?”

she almost asked.

He opened his lunch box. “Do you think it still smells okay?”

She couldn’t turn him away, so she granted his lunch a sniff. “Smells okay to me.” He beamed at her, causing her heart to sink once more.


Conch woke up giggling. She was 78 and about to get married in a few hours. What in the world was she thinking?

The giggles wouldn’t stop — not when she gingerly sat up on her memory foam bed, not when she fumbled with her toes for her bedroom slippers scattered on the floor, not when she mustered up the knee strength to get up and walk toward the bathroom. She only stopped giggling when she put her teeth back on. She looked at herself in the mirror, once again surprised to see how different her reflection looked from the image she had of herself. 

Still, she looked young for her age. At least that’s what everyone said. Whatever. She was getting married. For the first time. How silly. Talk about acting young for her age.

Outside the bathroom, Karla could hear her mother giggling and muttering, letting the water run like there was an infinite supply of it. Once again, Karla could feel her unnamed rage bubbling up. How dare she? was all she could come up with. And to her father, too. It was so silly.

Karla sat on her mother’s bed, ready for another unnecessary fight. She had no idea that this was how she was going to act around her mother when she first learned about the wedding a month ago via chat. It went a little something like this:

Conch: When’s the soonest you can come home for a vacation?

Karla: Golden week. So June. You know that.

Conch: Okay. Then I guess I’m going to be a June bride.

Karla: What do you mean?

Conch: Your father and I are getting married.

Karla: Interesting.

Conch: And I guess we’re getting

married in June.

It was a preposterous conversation, just like the other chat they had over a year ago, which went something like this:

Conch: I went to the doctor the other day.

Karla: As you should.

Conch: The long and short of it is I’m dying.

Karla: We’re all dying. That’s life for you.

Conch: Yeah, I know, only this time I have an actual deadline. Hehe. Deadline. I’m told it’s urgent.

Karla completely shut down after the chat. She deleted their chat history and went on unscheduled leave. A week later, she called her mother. Her father picked up the call. Karla lashed out at him like it was his fault that her mother couldn’t pick up. She was aware that she was not acting her age and yet she couldn’t help it. How dare her mother have a ticking time bomb? How dare her mother get sick and die?

“What are you giggling about?” she asked when Conch blasted out of the bathroom, smelling like anti-dandruff shampoo.

“Well, good morning to you, too,” her mother said as she towel-dried her hair.

“Done with your prank?” 

“Will you stop this nonsense?”

“Why should I? I’m not the one trying to live in a Nicholas Sparks novel,” Karla said.

Conch rolled her eyes. Karla and her pop culture references.


Was this it? Conch wondered as her stomach clenched and tightened. One minute she was just standing there, admiring the world-famous Manila Bay sunset, wondering how it was possible that it was just as beautiful as everyone claimed. Then suddenly, her vision spun, and she was forced to sit down. She concentrated on the burning glow on the edifice of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, that squat brutalist building. It had the haunted film center right behind it, standing on a foundation filled with bodies of dead, nameless workers. The thought of their ghosts wandering the halls of the building gave Conch goosebumps. All of a sudden she wanted nothing more than to leave the place. She stood up and her vision blurred, forcing her once more to sit back down.

“Are you okay, Miss?” A girl in a

St. Scholastica uniform looked at

her with concern.

“I think I’m about to give birth,” Conch said.

The girl panicked. For a second, Conch was afraid she would leave. But then the girl spun into action. Conch watched in wonder as the kolehiyala waved her arm about to flag down a taxi. Conch almost cried. Was this how her lifeform would look like at 18? 

“What’s your name?” Conch asked as the girl helped her into a taxi.

“Karla with a K,” she said. Conch watched her from the car window as the taxi drove away. Karla with a K glowed, already looking like a beautiful memory in the sunset.

At the hospital, Conch booked herself a room and then called Pol’s workplace landline on a pay phone. She didn’t ask to speak to him. She simply gave the hospital’s name to the person who answered the call.

Fifteen minutes later, Pol appeared, panting like he’d run all the way to the hospital. From afar she thought he was a young boy looking for his mother. As he drew nearer, she realized she was right. He was indeed a young boy, looking for her. A mother.


“This is for you,” the newbie said. He handed Karla a balloon that said Get Well Soon in sparkly pink.

Their teammates sniggered. They’d been wondering where he’d gone after lunch.

Karla took the stupid thing, trying

to smother a grin.

“It’s kinda like your birthday, isn’t it, so I thought you’d like this.”

“It says get well soon.”

“Oh, fuck, really?” He snatched the balloon away and reddened as he confirmed his blunder.

She chuckled then grabbed it back. “Let’s say it was an ironic joke. Haha.”

“You still want it?”

“You gave it to me. Thank you,” she said, adding the last two words reluctantly.

He grinned. “You owe me dinner.”

“I do?”

Everyone looked frozen and too busy behind their computer monitors, trying their best to appear they were not paying attention. Karla was well aware of how they viewed her. “You’re so virginal you could be nominated for ascension,” was the long and short of it, once summarized succinctly by a coworker at a team building. She wanted to prove them all wrong, but she also didn’t want to give them the satisfaction of seeing her cross a proverbial plot point in her life.

“Get back to work.” She hoped no one could hear the smile in her voice.

Everyone in their seats unfroze. The newbie, though, kept on grinning as he slid back into his chair, casting one last glance back at her. She pretended not to notice.


“Do you know when you’ll be back?” Ira asked when Karla had asked him to sign her leave form for her mother’s wedding. Ira was the head of the Pinoy job placement agency in Nagoya where Karla worked. Something almost happened between him and Karla back when she joined their company over 10 years ago. Or so Karla liked to think. Nothing really happened, though. If anything, Karla was good — the best, really — at making things not happen.

Illustration by Jimbo Albano

“I just need another week after Golden Week,” she said. He nodded then went back to his computer. She turned to leave but then heard his office chair squeak. Without turning away from his computer, he said, “Congratulations…to your mother.” As if he were reading the words off the internet.

“Thanks, that’s funny,” she said before she realized what had come out of her mouth. She left his office without looking back.


“No,” was all Conch could say when Pol asked her to marry him. In front of everyone — the nurse taking her vitals, Pol’s mother, and his sister. How dare she? was the sound of their collective nervous laughter. Pol shook his head, his smile tightening, his neck turning red. 

I don’t trust you, just as I don’t trust me, was what she really wanted to say. I don’t need another helpless child pretending to know what’s best for this tiny human in my arms. One is enough. It didn’t feel different from that one time she volunteered to cook him dinner even though she didn’t know how to. He had sensed her panic so he said he could help. She yelled at him to stay put. “Too many cooks in the kitchen,” she said. They both laughed at that time.

This time, she couldn’t even pretend to laugh, like everyone else in the room.


“You need to eat dinner, right? We both have that in common. So let’s just do it side by side,” the newbie said after work.

“What a romantic proposition,”

Karla muttered.

“Right? I get my moves from Dr. Love,”

he said.

“Do you make all these outdated references to make me feel less bad about my age?”

“I don’t care about your age. You’re the only one who cares, really.”

“Oh, yeah. Tell me more.”

He laughed. “I like you. You were just born a little earlier, but I’ve managed to catch up.”

She turned away, feeling her entire

head burning up. She let her hair down

to cover her cheeks.

Karla knew she was a cautionary tale among the younger ones, despite what he said. They all looked at her, thinking, I do not want to be like her — a 36-year-old supervisor who still worried about money even though she took care of no one but herself, whose life had been on the same straight path upward and then most instantly nowhere for the last 10 years. She did everything by the book, only the book she did everything by no one liked to read.

She hadn’t made any mistake — and that was her mistake. Was she really about to break her streak now?

“So, where do we eat, uh, side by side?”

“Somewhere with a view of the moon,

of course.”

Of course.

“When I was a child, I thought the moon was following me wherever I went,” the newbie said as they walked out of their office building together. Small talk.

“When I was a child, I thought I was a sofa. I thought I would one day wake up to find people sitting on me,” she said.

He laughed so much he cried. Karla

felt embarrassed to see how much she

cared that he did.


On the plane, Karla sat beside a father with a five-year-old. When the seatbelt sign went off, the father asked Karla to look after his child.

“Your father won’t be long,” Karla said

to the kid.

“Where’s your father?”

Karla sniggered. Really, universe?

“He’s home.”

“What’s he like?

“Old,” Karla answered. She hadn’t thought about her father in years. Her last mental picture of him was him in his early 30s, posing in front of someone else’s boxy red Toyota. She used to bear him no ill will. Her mother never kept him away from her, and he always visited her even after he had his own family. Karla came from a generation used to absentee fathers like there was no other way to be. Many of them either worked abroad or rendered long hours so that you only ever saw them during summers or Christmases as holiday versions of themselves.

But when she learned that her father was marrying her dying mother, all the resentment she should’ve felt back then

rose to the surface.

“Oh, so now you’re ready to commit to her now that she’s dying? Perfect timing,” she said when Conch forced her to talk to him over the phone that one time.

He clucked his tongue. “What can we do? We love each other.”


He laughed. “How old are you again?”

“You wouldn’t know, would you?” 

He laughed again.

Karla thought she knew her mother well. But apparently not. How could Conch fail to mention that she and Karla’s father were even in touch? So in touch that he was with her during all her check-ups, that he was there holding her hand as the doctor explained his diagnosis. Was that why Karla felt so angry at them both? For restarting their family without her? Like she’d been the one in the way during all these years?

“You can stay with us while you’re here,” her father offered.

“Who’s us?” she asked.


Conch pretended to be asleep when her mother arrived. Pol was still there. His family left hours ago.

“She said no again.”

“You poor child,” her mother said. Conch wondered whom she was referring to, for there were at least three children in the room to choose from.

“I don’t know what to do.” Was Pol crying? Conch was tempted to check.

“Give her time. She’s probably confused. Hormones,” her mother explained very poorly. 

Conch wanted to tell them that she wasn’t confused. In fact, she’d never felt as clearheaded. Years later, she would regret being so steadfast, especially whenever she witnessed her child treating life like a test she needed to get a perfect score in. Conch should’ve allowed herself to waver, should’ve allowed herself that mistake. Suppose it was this regret that grew so psychosomatic it turned itself into a tumor just for her to notice and take action?

At that moment, though, how could she have known? She kept her eyes closed, listening in as her mother tried to comfort someone else’s child.


The moon wasn’t as impressive as its long name implied. But Karla couldn’t very well say that to the newbie. How could he look at the moon the way he looked at her earlier when she’d agreed to go out with him?

At 20, Karla read her mother’s journal from the time she met Pol. It was just lying around the house so Karla thought she could simply help herself to it. There were only two entries about her father in the journal. One was a mention: a friend had told Conch about a man named Pol who wanted to be introduced to her. The next and last, shortly after their meeting: “He had a nice smile.”

Afterward, the journal entries were simply to-do lists, one-liners jotted down hastily. No more paragraphs, like she’d lost the ability to express herself at length after meeting this Pol.

Karla would’ve given anything to read about what had transpired between Pol and Conch before they became her parents and after. Her mother was always tight-lipped about it. That, or life had simply made her forget.

Karla blamed this gap in her history for her habit, imagining what her relationships would look like just barely into her first encounters. But the thing was, she wasn’t such an imaginative person. “A writer but not a storyteller,” a college prof once wrote on the margins of her manuscript. She always imagined her relationships the same way she imagined her parents’: a resolute fade-out.

She couldn’t change fast enough for the newbie, so before she could catch herself, she began to picture their relationship — their first kiss, the long walk home, the giddy-nervous phone call, then fast forward to a silly fight that would escalate from nothing to everything.

“Are you crying?” the newbie asked her as she mourned their imagined breakup.

“It’s just so beautiful,” she lied. He kissed her then. It was a nice first kiss and almost nothing like she’d imagined.

When he pulled away, he held her face in his hands. “Remember tonight.”

She laughed at his earnestness. He shook his head. “I’m serious.”

“Okay. What do you want me to do?”

He grinned then let her go. They would never talk about that night again.


“You’re not getting your makeup done?” Conch asked as Karla showed up in the room, fully dressed with a bare face.

“Suppose you don’t want me in

your photos.”

“Oh, they can just photoshop your makeup in. They do that now, you know.” 

“Photog’s here!” The wedding coordinator pulled him in.

Karla knew he was coming, but she still wasn’t prepared. He held out his hand to Conch, introducing himself with a grin. “You look beautiful,” he said before turning to Karla.

“Hi,” he said. Karla nodded before walking out of the room.

Later, she would see him again as she escaped the reception, which was in full swing. He was at the designated smoking area, halfway through a stick.

“You’re leaving?” he asked.

Karla nodded, checking her watch.

“You ok?” he asked.

“It’s stupid, she’s dying, so why’s she getting married? And to my father, too? Couldn’t she have picked a new person to commit a mistake with?”

“Why are you so convinced she’s making

a mistake?”

Late last night, Karla got drunk while her mother watched, amused. She begged her mother to reconsider getting married, but halfway through her argument, she lost her thread. Why was she so against the idea of her mother’s marriage? Was she trying to invent some conflict to keep her mother from dying? Somehow, Karla had convinced herself that joy could hasten her mother’s life, so she had to stop it from happening. She couldn’t possibly dare to die while her daughter was upset with her, right? It was a silly thought but it made sense to her somehow.

Karla looked at the newbie, knowing that not only had he caught up with her, but he’d somehow gotten further ahead in the race. With a family and all, kids in grade school, a full life beautifully documented in photos he shared on Facebook.

“Hey,” he said, pointing to the moon. “Remember that night?” he asked,

like a dare.

“I do,” she said. She remembered, because that was all she did. She remembered, and not even very well, considering what little life she had to commit to memory.

“Aren’t you scared?” Karla had

asked her mother. “Of committing

a mistake? Regrets?”

“I probably won’t live long enough to regret this one, if it ever turned out to

be a mistake.”

“But what about me?

“What about you?”

What about Karla, indeed? She glanced back at the reception, seeing her mother looking old and young, in her husband’s arms finally. Karla couldn’t picture the rest of her days — hers and her mother’s. How had Karla allowed herself to harden this way?

The newbie turned to her and offered her his newly-lit cigarette. She took it and imagined tasting his mouth on the filter. They met each other’s eyes. This young man, who was not so young — who was perhaps never as young as she thought. How she wished she could see what he saw when he looked at her all those years ago. It felt strikingly similar to the way he was looking at her now. Like she was the super blue blood moon. A phenomenon.  


Kannika Claudine D. Peña
Kannika Claudine D. Peña
Kannika Claudine D. Peña, 36, lives in Bataan. She is the author of the novel All the Lonely People, published by Milflores Publishing.


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