Poet friend


One of the most sexually charged poems I’ve read in the regional languages is a poem below written by a classmate of mine in UP who eventually became my best friend. Ms Victoria Solis who is now based in Laguna writes in Kiniray-a, a language in Panay island spoken in the province of Antique and some parts of Janiuay, Lambunao, and Calinog.

Binahit nga Lasaw

Pagtiraw mo kanakon, daw lasaw nga bag-ong bahit sa kawa.

Samtang naga-indakal pa, amo man nga duut-duut ka dila.

Pagbahin mo kanakon sa pasok nga surudlan ka tuba,

Ginhawa mo man kasalud hay basi maula.

Kar-on hay nahanginan takon kag naagahan,

Ay ahay, ang maragkut, nagsapra kag namarhan.

Kang nadura ang init, imo run ako pinabay-an,

Kundi nga nasubayan kag nalangawan.

Nagabalabag run gali ako sa imong tubug,

hay kon magpanaw ikaw, wara gid ba, bisan tandug.

Handum ko raad may kalayo ikaw dara kon mag-abot,

agud isin-ad ako, para liwan nga magrapuyot.

I was searching for this kind of poetry when I came across these poems, and what is more surprising is that these were works of somebody close to me. And it took me a time to realize that these pieces of poetry were the ones I assigned as required reading for my students in Philippine Literature class in UP.

Gumamela kag Gardenia

Kaanggid ako kang gumamela

manaya-naya sa idalum ka sirak kang adlaw.

Ugaring kon mag-abot ang sirum,

rugto timo sa gardenia hay indi run takon kit-anun.

Kon pinsarun, pareho lang man kami

nga may duga kon sasaun ka tarawis nga bato,

nagalaway pa tana gani akon duga…

Ay gali dya ang gardenia

may gapabilin gid nga kahamot

sa imong dughan.

Pagdalia Keanna!

Pagdalia Keanna, ikapti run ang mikropono

kag magkanta

para kar-on, mikropono ko ang ikaptan mo

rugto sa Room 12.

Pagdasiga Keanna, ipitik run ang balikawang

kag idungan sa imong kanta

hay kar-on maliki-liki man ikaw sa musika

nga kita lang makabati.

Tapusa run ria, para matapos man kita

hay basi may ginabibit run nga binangon

si Nancy sa balay!

It’s an odd feeling to have actually met and spent a portion of your life, four years in my case, with the poet because then you’ll have an idea of the kind of life she lived. Still I am amused to have read sensuality in her poems. Not that she lacks sensuality, in fact she might have been all those times. Aside from the fact that these poems are socially relevant that sought to give light on issues of the modern-day milieu that confronted and inspired the poet. Notwithstanding commentaries she expressed on the general state of the country through her poems, one can still sense the voice of the persona that is not at all detached from the personality of the poet. And that’s my friend.

Victoria Solis, or Vicky as I endearingly call her is one of the most fascinating women I have met. She is your traditional probinsyana with a little bang. I remember walking a kilometer every night to their apartment in the banwa of Miagao to have coffee with her in the local bakery or to have mundane conversations on the day that passed. I remember asking for her help in the paper I was writing on the Post Colonial critique. She was there to explain to me the words I did not understand or to suggest way of approaching the problem I posed using a novel perspective.

She is however one of the most shy persons I’ve ever met. In fact when I called her to ask permission if I can use her poems in my class, she even hesitated because she thought they were not good enough. That’s even after the great Leoncio Deriada declared that she has talent when he personally endorsed her for a slot in the Visayas Writing Workshop at UPV Tacloban.

So I’m posting them here. You may personally leave comments or email me for traslation.

Poetry 2


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

Aside from being cocky, what is a U.P. student known for?

The UP Oblation

I spent five years of my life in Miagao, Iloilo. Four years as a student and a year as an instructor. These years may not be enough for me to make an in-depth, scientific, qualitative research on the character of the majority of UP students, but five years are more than sufficient to be impressed on me how the world outside UP thinks about the student body that composes it. In general they think that UP students are so full of themselves, a group of over confident bunch who gets really rowdy inside a jeepney especially if they think they outnumber the rest, who brag their maroon shirt with a logo of the Oblation when they go to the mall for window shopping, or speak the longest speech not to mention the forced, all-too conscious twang if asked to talk on youth participation during the Labor Day rally.

And I could never agree more. Gone were the days when the first thing that enters the mind of an ordinary Filipino man who is not given the opportunity to enter the University was that a UP student is the Filipino student at its finest–the product of the best education that the Filipino nation can offer. It is, however, not anymore the case. Instead, a UP student is now known for his most dominant characteristic: his cockiness. As with the whole system, we tend to forget an essential ingredient for an institution of higher learning to work, that is, constant self-evaluation.

If it is too much to say, UP students of my generation have been sitting on the laurels of those who have gone before them.

Students of UP Diliman

Now what is a UP student known for aside, of course, from being cocky?

When my former Humanities professor Leoncio Deriada, now a professor emeritus, criticized the way UP works and the University in general in our class, because of my too strong an idealism then, I always made sure to give a rebuttal after. He said that if an earthquake would strike UP Visayas and the cracks in the soil will swallow all the dumb UP student (idiot was the word he used), only a third shall be spared and the remaining two-thirds will all be eaten up by the monstrous cracks, and nothing will be heard from them. It was laughable, at first, I thought, but upon deeper self-evaluation, I realized that there is some truth to it. Although I know he was exaggerating, of course, but a voice inside me is telling me that the man is saying the truth.

Surely I have encountered exceptional students and can still remember classmates of mine who impressed me in class. But they are exceptions. Majority are made up of complacent, over-confident students who come to class thinking that a lesson on macro-economics, quantum physics, relevance of the African-American class struggle, or the hypodermic theory of communication are subjects that can be understood using nothing but pure guts, proper bearing, or a good imitation of the American English accent.

I maybe too harsh. I may have set the bar too high–but for the best institution of higher learning in the country, nothing is expected of a UP student but to be the best. From our rank the scientists, artists, professors, doctors, mathematicians, politicians, and the next president of the republic will come. And we simply cannot lower our standard.

Now if our only defining charcteristic is our cockiness, that’s going to be too sad–really sad.