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.
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.