Cover Photo: Illustration by Kim Salt for Catapult
Illustration by Kim Salt for Catapult

What I Found When I Searched for My Long-Lost Sister

This was not the information I was looking for. This was not the truth I wanted.

I had her year and city of birth: 1976, Cebu City, Philippines.

Mara, meaning bitter,




If you leave me now, you take away the biggest part of me.

Oooh, girl. Baby, please don’t go.


I found nothing. But I also found empathy for my mother.

Cinelle Barnes is a memoirist, essayist, and educator from Manila, Philippines. and is the author of MONSOON MANSION: A MEMOIR (Little A, 2018) and MALAYA: ESSAYS ON FREEDOM (Little A, 2019), and the editor A MEASURE OF BELONGING: 21 WRITERS OF COLOR ON THE NEW AMERICAN SOUTH (Hub City Press, 2020). Her work has appeared in Catapult, Buzzfeed, Literary Hub, Hyphen, and TAYO, among others. She is currently the writer-in-residence at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, and is at work on a collection of essays. More about her at