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. Her work has appeared in Catapult, Buzzfeed, Literary Hub, Hyphen, and TAYO, among others. Her debut memoir, MONSOON MANSION (Little A/2018), was an Amazon First Reads Editors Pick and a Booklist Starred Review. 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