Month: April 2014


Rio Alma

Malungkot sa Japan o Saudi

Wala ka kasi sa sariling bayan.

Panay ang sulat mo ng pangungulila

At lalong nangungulila

Kapag tumanggap ng pangangamusta.

Mas malungkot sa sariling bayan.

Umuwi ka wari

Sa sariling tahanan

At dinatnan ang lahat ng iniwan,

Tulad ng dati’y nagmamahal,

Tulad ng dati’y naghihintay

Kaya walang nagbago

Kundi ikaw.


Juxtaposing Baquiran’s “My Country’s No Paradise, Mr. Jacobson” and Dumdum’s “America”


by: Romulo P. Baquiran, Jr.

It’s not preposterous to say that we found

paradise in your country

                                              – a tourist

Don’t Mr. Jacobson,

Don’t say you’ve found

Paradise in my country,

Because behind the scent of women

That put leis ’round your neck,

The stinking smell of estuaries

Suffocate the people of Tondo;

Because behind the carpets and the chandeliers

That brought you to your comfortable room

There is merciless demolition

That haunt the people of Paranaque;

Because behind the banquets

That made you full,

Famine attacks Lupao;

Because behind the rondallas

That have brought you to the heavens

War kills the people of Sipalay;

Because behind all the magazines

That have showed you beautiful destinations,

The lash of the lack of books

Imprison the school children;

Because behind the choir boys and girls

That has made you clap your heart out,

There is evil in foreign customers

That scar the children of Ermita;

Because behind the expensive tablets

That made your fever go away,

There is epidemic of the common illness

That kills the children of my country;

Because behind the white beach 

That made you tan,

There is the burden of the military bases

That deprive my country of freedom.

So don’t, Mr. Jacobson,

Don’t call my country paradise

Until the root of injustice is gone.

Personally I am not fond of this poem; some lines are way off in some parallelisms, especially lines 21 and below. This is not the best on the topic, but it drives a good point (although cynical in tone): That the foreign tourist only sees the veneer of Philippine society and then he calls it a paradise, not aware of the social ills that befall the people. 

On the other hand, I juxtapose this other poem, and  say no more.


by Simeon Dumdum, Jr.

I listened to him speak

of West Virginia

(he was born in Leyte 

but was living 

in West Virginia).

He spoke as they do

in the movies,

and as Ronald Reagan does

on the radio.

Even the way

he said “Virginia”

was better than the way

Hinying, a girl I knew

whose hair fell down a shoulder

like the tail of a bird,

said her name 

which was “Virhinia”.

And on that warm evening,

I told myself

that’s where I want to be,

in West Virginia, or New York,

or San Francisco,

because cousin says

everything there is big

and cheap – big chickens,

big eggs, big buildings.

And big flowers?

Cousin looked at me

and said, Yes, big roses,

tea roses, and he was

about to name other roses

but the moon was rising

and it was bigger than in America.


Land of Our Desire

Amador T. Daguio


The land was a black dream

Of ruby

Or the navel of the earth.

We built our homes on her belly,

We tilled there our desires.

But we could not find the ruby

On the navel of the earth,

We could not make the ruby

Into the stone of a ring.

The land of our visions loomed

A rich, vast land for us,

But strange hordes came after us

And drove us all away!

Unspoken Words in a Coffee Shop

Sedfrey A. Ordonez


Both came alone

to drink with us

but eyes that shone

above coffee cups

signalled their wish 

to be alone.


I walked away

not looking back

not willing to show 

my thumping want

not to be alone.


Tagalog Rendering (Also by Author):

“Kabiguang Tagpo sa Kapihan”


Dalawa sila

sa ating harapan

kape nila’y di nabawsan

pakiwari ta’y

di tayo pansin

ng mata nilang

nagtalik sulyapan

Nag-iisa ka noon

(ako ri’t nag-iisa)

bakit nga ba

di pinagsama?


Cirilo F. Bautista


I walked towards the falling woods

to teach the trees all that I could


of time and birth, the language of men,

the virtues of hate and loving.


They stood with their fingers flaming,

listened to me with a serious mien:


I knew the footnotes, all the text,

my words were precise and correct – 


I was sure that they were learning – 

till one tree spoke, speaking in dolor,

to ask why I never changed color.

Our Hybrid Literature

I have just decided to change the tagline of this blog from “Philippine Poetry in English” to “Poetry by Filipinos”. It follows from that change that the poetry to be featured here will not only include the English poetry composed by Filipinos but also Filipino poetry, and other Philippine poetry written in the vernacular languages.

The motivation is this: The former tagline was, I believe, misleading. Misleading because it might lead readers to believe that the only Philippine poetry that matters is the body of poetry written in English. This is not so. The Philippines is a country of more than a hundred languages, and Filipinos write and recite their poetry in several languages, and all of them are BEAUTIFUL. I myself write poetry in three languages, and for me to have given primacy to English (as implied by my former tagline, and recent posts) makes me feel as if I have betrayed my native languages. I guess I thought first of the fact that one can reach a wider, or a more global, audience with English. 

The thing with Philippine literature in general is that it is many things. When you look at the Philippines on a map, you’d see that it’s a small archipelago consisting of literally thousands of islands. And because of the division in geography, there comes about a variety of languages and cultural practices: there are the Ilocanos up north, the Igorots of the Cordillera mountains, the Tagalogs in the capital, the Bicolanos of southeastern Luzon, the Cebuanos in the Visayan islands, the Chavacanos of Zamboanga, the Subanons of Sulu, the Islamic groups in Mindanao, and a myriad more ethno-linguistic groups…

The variety does not end there. Philippine history is as colorful as the cultural landscape. The Spaniards came in the 16th century and colonized most of the islands for more than three hundred years. The Spanish era spawned ilustrado literatures in Spanish and revolutionary literatures in the vernacular. The Americans came after the Spaniards and taught English. The Golden Age of Philippine literature emerged as more Filipinos were educated. And then the Japanese came…

I could go on and on about the characteristics of our hybrid literature. Some say that Philippine Literature has no abiding characteristic. That Filipino writers have not grasped their identity yet. That Philippine literature is said to have no distinct identity of its own due to its multiplicity. However, it is the multiplicity itself that defines Philippine literature. The identity of our people’s literature is its hybridity, like a coat of many colors.

It is many things, for we ourselves are many things.




Hence the new tagline.