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

MY COUNTRY’S NO PARADISE, MR. JACOBSON

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.

AMERICA

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.

 

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