{an excerpt from}


by Veronica Montes

—after “Nesting” by Jean Vengua

Jean Vengua,  Nesting , 2014. Acrylic on canvas.

Jean Vengua, Nesting, 2014. Acrylic on canvas.

Benedicta Angeles was born into a family of great and indisputable female beauty. While still in her crib, it became clear that she would bear the distinction of being the first known exception to the rule. Everything about her was too far apart: the expanse between her eyes, the tremendous width of her nose, the generous spread of her mouth. She grew into a quick and bright child, but only her older brother Romy seemed to realize it. The others — her parents, her cadre of cousins, her aunties and uncles, her lolo and lola on both sides — looked away from her too quickly to notice. It was as if they’d caught her at something embarrassing, as if she’d yawned wide enough to expose her tonsils or unearthed a booger the size of a marble.

At age 11, what bothered her most was not this inexplicable homeliness, but the way in which it contrasted with her name: Benedicta from the Latin, meaning “blessed” + Angeles from the Spanish, meaning “angel.” Oh my god, Benedicta thought as she fell asleep each night, what a joke, what a joke. Sometimes she said it out loud and Romy, in his bed across the hall, nodded.

Veronica Montes was born in San Francisco and came of age in the fog and mist of Daly City, California, along with thousands of other Filipino kids who frequently appear, sometimes unbidden, in her short stories. After living in Vancouver, Canada, Washington, D.C., and Santa Barbara, California, she and her husband, Andrew Wadhams, settled back home in the San Francisco Bay Area to raise their three daughters. Her writing has appeared in journals and anthologies, both online and in traditional formats. Her collection of fiction, Benedicta Takes Wing and Other Stories, is forthcoming from Philippine American Literary House in October 2017.



Jean Vengua is an artist, writer, and poet. Her visual art often explores haptic perception, especially the sense of touch and sound as well as other senses; the mind and body perceive and translate perceptions through the hands and chosen tool (pencil, paintbrush, pen). Her haptics are related to asemic writing, which is gestural and experimental, as well as to her zen meditation practice. She is currently working on a series of abstract paintings that explore California’s recurring “fire season” in the Central Coast/Big Sur areas. Jean is returning to painting after a having spent several decades focusing on writing and teaching.

Jean is the author of Prau, a collection of experimental poetry (for which she received the Filamore Tabios, Sr., Memorial Prize (2007, Meritage Press), and a chapbook, The Aching Vicinities (Otoliths Press). With Mark Young, she co-edited the First Hay(na)ku Anthology, and The Hay(na)ku Anthology Vol. II. In the mid 1990s, Elizabeth H. Pisares and Jean Vengua formed Tulitos Press and published and edited the Debut: the Making of a Filipino American Film by Gene Cajayon and John Manal Castro, and The Flipside, by Rod Pulido. Her poetry and essays have been published in many journals and anthologies. She is editor of the literary/art journal, Local Nomad and lives in Monterey, CA.