Of all Cebuano poems, the most beautiful:

Balaki ko ‘Day Samtang Gasakay Ta’g Habalhabal*

by Adonis G. Durado
A habalhabal in Valencia, Cebu
A habalhabal in Valencia, Cebu

Balaki ko day
Samtang gasakay ta’g habalhabal.
Idat-ol og samut
Kanang imong dughan
Nganhi sa akong bukobuko
Aron mas mabatyagan ko ang hinagubtob
Sa imong kasingkasing.
Sa mga libaong nga atong malabyan.
Gaksa ko paghugot
Sama sa lastikong
Mipungpong sa imong buhok.
Ug sa kainit sa imong ginhawa
Gitika kining akong dughan.
Ang mga balili unya
Nga naghalok sa ‘tong batiis
Isipon tang kaugaligong mga dila.
Dayon samtang nagakatulin
Kining atong dagan,
Mamiyong tag maghangad
Ngadto sa kawanangan
Aron sugaton ang taligsik
Sa uwan, dahon, ug bulak.

Recite to me, day, a poem while we ride a habalhabal

(the blog writer’s translation)

Recite to me, day
A poem while we ride a habalhabal.
Stick your chest closer
Here on my back
So that I can feel better the beatings
Of your heart.
With the potholes that dot our way
Embrace me tightly
Like the rubber bands
That you use to tie your hair.
And with the warmth of your breaths
Tickle this heart of mine.
And the amorseco
That kiss our legs
Let’s think of them as our own tongues.
Then while we’re speeding up
Our ride
Let’s close our eyes and face
The wide sky
To meet the drizzle
Of rain, leaves, and flowers.

Often times when we read a text, that is to say do a critique of a poem, a short story, a play, etc, we tend to sanitize the text and try as hard as we can to distance ourselves from the spirit of, say, poem. We measure the canto, the rhyme, as well as the relevance of the figures used, but we forget the beauty that makes the poem endearing. Objectivity takes away the true joy of reading a text. (By the way, I abhor using text to mean the subject of a criticism, I prefer to call it as how it should be called: a poem, a novel, a novel, but for the sake of generalization, although I detest the word, I shall use it anyway.)

I remember to have first encountered the poem Balaki Ko ‘Day Samtang Gasakay Ta’g Habalhabal in the Humanities class of Dr. Leoncio Deriada in UP Visayas. I admit that I am not an expert in any kind of poetry, but the images in the poem captured my imagination and there and then fell in love with the poem. I can speak and understand Cebuano, arguably the most popular language in the Philippines in terms of the total number of speakers, but I have never tried using it as a medium for writing. Adonis Durado used the language beautifully. He never made use of much garb and highfalutin Cebuano, rather he opted for a simpler and ordinary spoken Cebuano. The simplicity made it even more appealing.

For anyone who has tried riding a habalhabal, a local form of transportation that can carry as much as seven persons plus a cow tied infront of the driver and a sack of vegetable behind, the imagery of riding this sturdy transport while reciting a poem is truth distilled to its barest essential.

It may come as primal, if not sexual, yet the physical closeness of the persona, who is the driver of the habalhabal, and the woman passenger is full of innocence and drama of young love. Orgasmic as it may seem, the last part gave us so much promise of what lies ahead for the lovers.

When I introduced this in my class in Philippine Literature at the University of the Philippines, my students had the same reaction with some ‘kilig factor’ while they were relaying their textual intervention in the class. Balaki Ko ‘Day Samtang Gasakay Ta’g Habalhabal celebrates provincial love at its most beautiful. A perfection in Cebuano poetry.

Seating space maximized, habalhabal. A common for of transportation in southern Philippines
Seating space maximized. Habalhabal a common form of transportation in southern Philippines

67 thoughts on “Of all Cebuano poems, the most beautiful:”

  1. Hi! Good day, Just want to ask who is the author of the poem and how can i get connected with him/her i just need it for my subject Philippine Literature, im begging because i know it will be a good piece of literary works to present. Thank you hope to have a positive answer 🙂

  2. to byron:

    every poet has a poetic license and literature is constantly evolving. before you critique a piece, be sure you have sufficient background and knowledge about the thing you are critiquing. sometimes, our arrogance leads us into a pretentious speech, thinking that we are an adept of the thing we are talking about though in reality we don’t really know a thing at all.

  3. Gusto mo ug tinood nga balak? Diay sample


    Entiro gabii wa ko nakatulog
    Di ko makatuo ikaw akong kadulog
    Ikaw naghigda dinhi sa akong kiliran
    Akong mga bukton gihimo mong unlan

    Hamis mong paa kanako mitanday
    Aslom kong kili-kili gisimhot-simhot mo kanunay
    Humot mong ginhawa mipainit sa akong aping
    Naglutaw ko sa langit ug giduyan ang kasing-kasing

    Maayo unta di na moabot ang kabuntagon
    Aron sa kanunay ikaw akong gakos-gakoson
    Init mong parayeg nangurente hangtod sa pus-on
    Hangtod ako nahigmata ug mibangon kay kaihion

    Ako nakuratan kalit ka lang nahanaw
    Katapad ko Iring diay mitapad nako kay gitugnaw
    Giwakli ko si ming-ming ug sa unlan ako migakos
    Mobalik pag katulog kay damgo ko wa pa matapos. Bow!

    By : Jun Abines

  4. You call this “Balak” Sus intawn pud mo mga bag-ong tubo oi! “Balak” is about using the rich cebuano words in a gramatically correct fashion. No short cuts, no modern words, simply old cebuano words. That is what “Balak” is all aout, it in not just a poem, it is about using those words. If we continue to modernized the words used in a visayan poem, then call it a simple poem, not “balak”. Kalayo ra man tawn aning iyahang sinuwat kung ikumpara nimo sa ubang mga balak oi. This Adonis guy is using wrong words, he uses “nag halok” as if the habalhabal is stationary. Nag dagan intawn ng habalhabal oi, nganu gud tawn nag halok man ang balili sa ilang bitiis? Ug nganu gud tawn maka gitik man ang ginhawa sa dughan? Ambot lang, ang mga dili pure bisaya ra tingali maka-uyon ani iya gibuhat, pero sa tacloban nga waray, basin pa. I too studied at UP Cebu in High school and college and the persons who inroduced as to Balak was Ms. Madrilena “Madz” dela Cerna and Ms Sophie Alino. Speaking of balili, how does his words compare to this… “Day, ang imong pilok, daw dahon sa cogon kung huypon sa batang kabuntagon”, “ang imong mga mata, adunay talagsaong tinanawan nga daw nakig hinabi sa katawhan”, “ang imong mga aping, nag santing sa ka manggahon” “ang imo mga ngabil. nag duga sa katam-is” hahaha unsaon kaha ni Adonis pag sulti ni sah? ingon ani tingali… PILOK: “Pagka nindot sa imong pilok, tag-as kaayo”. MATA: “Pagka nindot sa imo mga mata day, mura man nag dala ud come here” APING: “pag ka hamis sa imo aping day, nag papaya soap ka?” LIPS: “lamia hagkan anang imo ngabil day oi, tam-is guro nah” For those of you who might get offended by my comments, that’s the reality, this poem is a simple poem and cannot come close to being called a balak. Its a modern poem and the review is correct, I cannot dis-agree. But please don’t call this a Balak.

    1. Migo i am not offended by your comment but i just want to stress out that language is constantly evolving, and poetry ( balak) or any forms of literary text is weaved in the fabric of the sociolinguistic code in which the writer resides. To say that the work of Adonis Durado is not balak is basically a sacrilege on many cebuano-visayan speaking community. Would you say that the work of modern writers are not poems simply because they do not use the syntactic structure of Shakespeare ? Wake up migo! it’s actually the simplicity of this poem that makes it a work of art. Would it not be amazing migo for a writer to clearly describe the essence of falling in love and fuse it with nature to the extent that it can be understood by everybody? Writing poetry is like painting, it’s not about the individual colors but it is the imagery that makes it a work of art.

    2. have you been in a creative writing class before? before you critique a literary piece, be sure you have enough background and knowledge of the craft u are criticizing. literature is constantly evolving. you cannot just put it in a single box. and besides, Adonis G. Durado is a poet thus he has a poetic license. No one has the write to say that his work is wrong. Yes someone could critique it but that someone could not judge if the work is wrong or right. Please be careful with your words for sometimes, we think we know a lot but the truth is, we are just so pretentious trying to impress everybody. it’s just about your ego. now, if you cannot appreciate a single piece like this, then all the hours you spent in a literary class is useless. don’t be so pretentious.

    3. Do imagery, symbolism and allegory ring a bell to you? Balak is all about sound and sense, not how fancy the words are. If you use deep and fancy words but we don’t use them in our daily conventions then that’s what we call hypocrisy.


      Kahayag sa bulan, kangitngit sa dalan
      Adunay babae nag naghubo, abo kog maligo
      Milatay sa tulay, abi kog magpakamatay
      Pesting giatay nalibang man diay…hahaha Bow

  5. Nindot kaayo pagkahan-ay ug pagkagama. Talagsaon ra kaayo ang kalidad nga susama niini. Salamat kaayo sa pag-ambit niini nganhi kanamo. Nakapadasig kaayo kini kanako, ug nakasiguro ko, sa uban pod. Anaa pod ako’y blog. Nanghinaut ‘ko nga mobisita pod ‘mo. Dili matawag nga usa ako ka-hanas apan anaa pod ako’y gamay nga maambit nga siguro inyoha po’ng magustohan. Nanghinaut ‘ko. Mao ni ang blog site: http://mgabalakninhejzheen.blogspot.com/

    Daghang salamat! 🙂

  6. Durado’s one of my favourite Balakero.. and this poem is his masterpiece.. I’ve been trying to emulate his technique but i cannot capture the image i want to capture.. i guess i have to read more and LIVE more. 🙂

  7. this is ♥. and i’m a visayan and i understand the poem completely without inhibitions. the translation gave it justice-trust me. it’s weird reading visayan poems that talk about lust and love. #opinion.

  8. Daghang Maestra naminyo og habal-habal dri sa san fernando pero sagad ang kutob ra jud sa habal wa minyoe. he he he he

  9. Daghang Maestra naminyo og habal-habal dri sa san fernando pero sagad ang kutob ra jud sa habal wa minyoe. he he he he

  10. Wow. This is beautifully written. I have been dabbling in Cebuano poetry myself, but have not been able to write anything I am satisfied with. Hence, I content myself with the writings of some contemporary Cebuano poets like Hope Sobanpan-Yu, Vince Cinches and the like. What I’ve noticed – of those I’ve read – is that even in it’s simplest form, the Cebuano language is so expressive and so vibrant that even mundane and every-day terms do not lessen, but actually, add to a piece’s artistic impact. This piece is just… Wow. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    1. cebuano is my second language but i am as good at it as i am at tagalog. not very good. but i enjoy listening to people speaking in cebuano, a very dynamic, colorful language, indeed. it’s best to tell humorous stories using this language.

  11. Kini laging habalhabal usahay, himoon nga higayon aron maka-tsansing sa mga tsiks nga kansang mga dughan daw murag kotson kon ikaw mosandig.

    1. indeed. hahaha. though i’ve never really tried riding it myself. thanks for the link, latigorapido.

    1. yzamae, i used to own an anthology of cebuano poems and short stories, but i lost it. you can try searching the web.

  12. Kanindot sa poetic moment sa habal-habal. Kanang sakyanan padulong sa bukid nga di maabot sa mga jeep. Like people and love, maningkamot makaabot bisag hain, usahay, and biyahe mas meaningful kesa destination.

    Unta ang mga schools ilang ma include sa mga texts for Philippine literature and mga texts sa mga regions parehas sa mga Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Ilocano, Pampango, etc nga mga dialects or languages.

    Ang pagka nindot sa mga balak nga inato gyud dili makuha sa mga Tinagalog lang or Inengles lang. Kasagaran, even the unschooled people have poetic language that comes so naturally! Ang ilang ability sa paghimo ug hulagway o pasumbingay or metaphor sa maski unsang abstract nga concept, pagka-nindot!

    More power sa balak Binisaya! Palihug email pud sa ako ang mga balak ninyo ha? Salamat!

    1. pearl,

      nalipay jud ko nga imohang advocacy ang paggamit ug sugbuanon. apang dili jud ko kaayo ing-ana ka mayo sa paggamit sang language, akoa jud nahibaw-an kung unsa ka importante nga atoang i-express ang atong mga nabatyagan, naisip, o kung ano man sa atoang sariling language.

  13. there is no poem “as beautiful as” because poems have different feelings in it, i mean the spirit, the beauty..should you write, it’ll be a beautiful piece of work but it is incomparable with Balaki ko ‘Day Samtang Gasakay Ta’g Habalhabal and in the same way, Balaki ko ‘Day’ is incomparable to yours..

  14. i read this poem because my colleague told it’s beautiful..but i say, beautiful is an understatement..
    the poet’s simplicity makes it unforgettable.

  15. i also read this poem in my humanities and poetry classes. the effect of the poem to my students was just amazing. they were intoxicated with the beauty of the cebuano language. even my maranao students giggled over the naughty vividness of the images. ars longa. vita brevis.

    1. I’m glad we share the same experience. teaching this poem in literature classes allows students to realize that any language can express all possible human emotions in words.

  16. i have long been a fan of adonis durado’s poignant poems way back in my college days. he used to be a writer in his school’s paper, and that’s when i first read his poems..the simplicity of the words he’s using creates an atmosphere of belonging: i become the poem..if my memory serves me right, i remember having read one of his poems which goes out like this: “katag pa sa tae’g kanding ang hunahuna ni papa..”. very simple,yet so deep in meaning..i lost track of him and his works when i graduated from college and just a month (or two?)ago, i went to a restaurant in tacloban city and saw a writing on the wall which was very familiar. and it was signed “adonis durado”. that gave me a feeling of nostalgia..anyways,thank you for posting one of his poems. do u happen to know any site where i can find some of his poems? pls email it to me..

    1. Pepperman, thanks for visiting my blog. I am not quite sure, but I got his poems from an anthology my professor provided us in college. However, the title escapes me. You may try visiting this site: http://balakerongdaku.blogspot.com/

      This simplicity also made me like Durado’s poems, and this one especially.

      All the best.

  17. hi jan, we kinda share a lot of things in common. lol. DCCES, polomolok and all that. it so happened as well that adonis, was once a roommate back in college. anyway, cool site.

    1. really? you also had your elementary schooling at DCCES? great. i seldom see people only who come from polomolok. it’s a good thing you passed by my blog.

    1. grabe daw tanan diri nga ga-comment were so into the gwapo driver….what’s with gwapo drivers?

    1. very true. this deadly vehicle becoming a catalyst for something that may last for a lifetime is one of the subtlest paradoxes there is.

    2. hahaha..tinood jud ka! i had a frnd (a teacher) who was assigned to a place where the only means for transportation is the habalhabal, gipanguyaban jud xa ug habalhabal driver..hehehehe

  18. sa mga cebuano ayus gyud ang poem nyu litson nu diha lami gyud.sa usa ka Illonggo gikan ining comment.Ay!!!!!! mga dodong mga inday pag halung gyud kamu uy diha s cebu inahg habalhabal ayus gyud!!!wala tay bugas ug kwarta basta cge panglisud ugma ara.basta dri s Iloilo k nami gd mag istar.

  19. nindot jud mgsakay sa habal habal,labi na ug wafu ang driver unya humot pa jud gggrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr if i wer in dat scenario,well how i wish that the road will never end…nyayaya bongga!..ganda ng poem,mag comment po kau!..
    isa syang mkabagbagdamdaming tula hehehe,very nice….

  20. sus, intawn dong, intawon inday, kaning motorsiklo nga gihimo sa Japan, mass transit na tawn ni, labi na sa bukid bukid..lupig pay mountain climbing ang adventure ani…tinuod gyod, madungog gyod nimo ang lagubo sa dughan sa imong tapad, kay lupig pa man ang dirty dancing ani tawn..mao na..

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