The Last Migration

by Mary Gigi Constantino

(Tagalog version: Ang Huling Paglikas)

Dawn was colder than usual and the scent of rain was in the air. Marga burrowed into her corner of the jeepney and pulled the hoodie to cover her face. She leaned back and closed her eyes, trying not to listen to the chatter of the passengers in front of her. She wanted to get some sleep before getting to work but the gossipmongers were too loud.  They were arguing about the whale shark from last night’s KMJS show. It was fake, one of them insisted.  Marga didn’t know whom to believe, nor did she care.

She shivered as the wind rushed from the windows. The jeepney was going fast. They usually did when there were few pedestrians or vehicles on the road. The sun hadn’t risen yet, and some streetlights were broken. Sleep slowly took over. The sound of the engine drowned the voices of the others, until they sounded like mosquitoes in her ear.  The driver felt sleepy himself, so he decided to  give himself a jolt and play the radio at full volume.



She was sitting by the back of the driver’s seat and the speaker was above her head. The beats and the dancing LED lights drummed at her sleepy brain, like the world’s worst—or best—alarm clock. She stood up, holding on to the bars overhead to keep her balance, and quickly moved to the seat near the footboard, farthest from the speaker and the other passengers. 


“Marga, the city inspector’s report about the animal sanctuary is at your desk. You know what to do with that,” Ma’am Ivy said to her.

She wanted to say that she’s working on something else but when she turned and looked at her supervisor’s terminal, she saw that the woman was busy filling out the form for the Canadian Embassy. Ever since Marga started working here, Ma’am Ivy did nothing else except prepare the documents for her pending immigration.

Marga opened the envelope and read the inspector’s documents. The sanctuary followed the correct process of waste disposal. The animals were not noisy or caused any disturbance. They hadn’t bitten anyone and there was no sickness or any injuries found in the animals.  They were all healthy and clean. They had the needed permit to operate—however, it’s near expiration. In short, the inspector couldn’t find any fault.

She felt like throwing up. Just because she’s new here, they’re making her do this shit. They told  her to reject the permit renewal. They told her to do something, because there’s a big investor that wanted the sanctuary’s land so they could build a mall.

“What will happen to the animals if they lose their home?” she asked when they gave her the job.

“The pound will take them all,” Ma’am Ivy said.

“What? Isn’t it at full capacity now?”

“Don’t be stupid. You know what happens there, right? The pound never gets full.”

It’s only Monday,  and she already wanted to resign from her post. 


She wanted to take a break, so she asked Jhonel if he wanted to come with her and buy taho. Same as her, he’s also new to the job. He’s younger than her but he’s already got horns . He’d been accepting bribes left and right. He was open to any job if the pay was right. He didn’t care about anyone.  That’s why he’s her go-to person if she needed to sell her principles. 

“Ate Marga non-profits like that also steal some of those donations—Are you sure the animals live well after being adopted?”

These were some of the things he said when Marga told him what they wanted her to do. He maligned the sanctuary even more back then, but this morning, Jhonel was silent.

“Huy, what are you watching?” Marga asked, while they were standing in line for the taho.

“Didn’t you watch this last night? From KMJS? Here—”

Jessica Soho was in a helicopter and her team flew towards the summit of a mountain. From afar, it looked like the mountain was bleeding. There was a gash in the landscape. Up close, it was a whale shark that was swollen and decayed, its body feasted on by birds.  

A group of mountaineers found it. They were climbing at daybreak when they saw a great tail swinging in the fog. The whale was trapped between trees and rocks. When they reached its head, they realized it was still alive. Its eyes were open and were blinded by their headlamps. Frightened, it thrashed and flailed, trying to escape. The mountaineers ran away lest some rock hit them.  When they came back later, it was already dead.   

Jhonel handed her a new cellphone.

“Look at this, it’s not just the whale shark.  There’s really something weird going on,” Jhonel said as they climbed the stairs towards their department. They still wanted to hang around outside the building, but the rain started falling.

“Is that a dick pic!?” Marga said, trying to annoy her colleague.

“You wish. No, it’s not.”

A satellite image of the space shuttle that exploded last month was displayed on the screen.

“Yeah, I know this.  There was a leak in the engine–”

“No,” he expanded the picture and pointed to a group of dots by the side of the shuttle.  “They say it’s a leak.  But it’s not.  Look at the corner, there are birds in there.”

“What–there’s no–” 

Jhonel traced the dots, forming a distinct “V” formation.  

“It’s a trick of light or maybe it’s just debris.  It’s not possible that those are birds.  There are no birds in outer space.”


Afternoon was more like twilight because the sky was so dim. The rain was falling nonstop. PAG-ASA said it was just a monsoon, but it looked more like a Signal No. 3 storm. Everyone was waiting for an announcement that government offices could close that afternoon.  Marga texted her cousin, Haki, whom she rented an apartment with. There was no reply but she’s not that surprised since Haki worked at night and was asleep all day.

Marga  joined the group of people looking out of the windows and watching the floodwaters rise, too agitated to work. The glass windows shook because of the strong winds.  There was a big aratilis tree by the sidewalk, almost uprooted and about to fall, like a boxer about to be knocked down.

The wind seemed to lose strength and for a few seconds there was silence.  Lucky tree, Marga thought. She noticed the flood waters around it were bubbling, like something was moving underneath. She blinked, trying to look through the raindrops in the glass. She looked closer but her breath fogged the glass. As she wiped it with her jacket sleeve, she saw the tree’s roots rise from the flood, looking like bony fingers. They crawled and grew longer as if reaching for something. A strong wind suddenly hit the tree again and more roots were ripped from the ground. 

“Did you see that!?” she asked the guy next to him. 

She realized everyone was watching a woman wading through the flood while carrying a kid on her back.

“See what?”

“Tornado!” someone shouted.

Floodwaters were whirling, faster and faster, getting bigger each second. It swallowed plastics, cigarettes, fallen leaves and anything that came near it. Some people backed away from the window.  Others ran to the stairs.  Some stayed, like Marga, trying to catch it on video.

“Look! There’s two more!”

From a distance, the twin tornadoes looked like fangs. Marga didn’t know what to do. It was her first time seeing something like this. Everyone was panicking. Someone suggested that they all go down to the basement parking.  People ran and she followed.  


The flood was waist-deep in the basement. They decided to mount the vehicles—everything was ruined anyway. Some people helped each other climb to the top of a van. Marga climbed aboard a Montero. Some car alarms sounded off, but they all just ignored it.

She imitated others who were curled up and wrapped their arms around their head. There was a big explosion outside and the ground shook. She could hear glass shattering. People were screaming and Marga thought she went deaf because of the uproar. She couldn’t breathe.  When the power went out, people cried and hollered for help. In the dark, they could hear the howling of the wind and the rush of floodwaters.

Don’t think about it. Don’t think about it, Marga said to herself. It was useless because it made her picture herself falling off the Montero and drowning in the dark.

“Paro paro g paro paro g paro paro g—” she cried, trying to put herself back on that jeepney ride this morning. She imagined herself pissed off at the loud music and the other passengers—not scared out of her mind like this. She didn’t know if this would be her end. She should’ve ditched work today.

She didn’t know if she’s going crazy, but she could hear other noises with the roar of the wind. There was barking and yowling—a chorus of cats and dogs. She could also hear chickens and goats. Cows and pigs. She closed her eyes and covered her ears, trying to hold herself together, not wanting to go over the edge. 

She sang Paro Paro G until her throat felt sore.


They were in the basement for hours. The storm had long passed, and they couldn’t hear any noise outside. Some of the people turned on the flashlights on their cellphones. Marga could see them carefully making their way down the vehicles. She followed suit and got off the Montero too. The flood water was down to their ankles.

The front wall of their building was destroyed. Shattered glass was everywhere, and ruined office equipment was scattered all around. They carefully climbed the stairs and went outside. There was no mobile signal in the basement, so this was their chance to catch up with the news.

It looked like they were in the middle of war. A lot of the buildings were wrecked as if they were bombed. Electrical posts fell and cables snaked across the streets. Only the light of the moon illuminated the road. People were walking around like zombies, trying to find their way home.

Marga opened her cellphone, but she still couldn’t get any signal. She walked around, hoping to get at least one bar. She saw Jhonel sitting on a plant box where a coconut tree was planted before.

He was spaced out and panting. There were bloodstains on his polo shirt. She ran to him and tapped him on the shoulder. “Huy!”

He didn’t seem to recognize her. He was frowning and looking at her face, trying to remember who she was.

“Jhonel!? Are you okay? Why do you have blood on your polo?”

When he heard his name, clarity came bit by bit.  “Hey Ate Marga—where did you go–”

“In the basement–“

“–They took off.  Everything is gone.”

“What took off?”

“Up there,” he pointed to the sky.  “They went to the stars.”

Marga looked up but all she saw were the moon and clouds. Who was he talking about? She looked around, trying to find someone else she could ask.

“Just a minute, Jhonel.”

She left him. There was a group of teens nearby who were watching something on a cellphone. She squeezed into the crowd until she was able to get up front and see what it was. The video was far from the subject and quite shaky, but she recognized the aratilis tree. It was uprooted entirely, and its roots were reaching for the tornado. She could hear the person taking the video cursing in the background. 

“I was in the alley so I was able to record it—” said the boy who was holding the cellphone when someone asked him about it.

The tornado dragged the tree, along with other plants nearby. Marga noticed that the rats and cockroaches from the drains were also swept up into it and flung into the clouds. When all plants and animals were gone, the tornado became smaller until it disappeared.

The video moved upwards and there they were. Creatures and plants were in the sky, flying away like airplanes—until the earth and its buildings couldn’t reach them anymore. They flew with the birds—and other animals. Marga saw the cats and dogs from the animal sanctuary, chasing the clouds. There were the pigs, cows, goats, roosters and chickens that were probably from the nearby farms. Even snakes and lizards, butterflies and ants and other insects were there. She was surprised that even sea creatures like whales, turtles, crabs, octopi and shrimps, corals and other fishes were also flying. All kinds of plants and animals, rushing upwards. Everything seemed to be in a race, hurrying towards something—some other unknown place. 

When the video was finished, they looked at each other, confused. 

What was that!? What just happened? Marga wanted to ask, even though she knew no one could answer her. 

She texted her cousin again, but she still didn’t get any reply. She went back to where Jhonel sat, and they watched the others quietly. They heard several theories. The government had something to do with it—but others said that the same thing happened to other countries. Others were joking around, saying that the pigs got ahead of us in finding other planets to inhabit. There were others calling for action, telling others what to do, who to call, where to go. Everyone was brilliant, each one had their own plans and hustle. Marga didn’t know who to listen to. 

Nobody knew what’s going on, but everyone had something to say.

About the Author and Translator. Mary Gigi Constantinowas a fellow at the University of the Philippines’ Institute of Creative Writing Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio Writers Workshop for Speculative Fiction (2016). She finished the certificate program Sertipiko sa Panitikan at Malikhaing Pagsulat sa Filipino from Polytechnic University of the Philippines last 2021. Her work has been included in speculative fiction anthologies like “Kathang Haka: The Big Book of Fake News” (2022, University of Sto. Tomas Publishing House) and “May tiktik sa bubong, May sigbin sa silong” (2017, Ateneo Press). Her story “Dumaan si Butiki” was published by Adarna House and was awarded as one of the Best Reads for Children for 2014-2015 by the National Book Development Board and Philippine Board on Books for Young People. Her latest story, “Duyan Pababa Sa Bayan”, was published by Anvil in partnership with Room to Read.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *