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Under the Storm: An Anthology of Contemporary Philippine Poetry

Friday. I had to rush out of the office so I can finally attend a poetry reading event, and listen to Lourd de Veyra. Pester my good friend, Paz, I must, for I will not be able to edit those advisories and leave the office just in time for the second leg of .mov International Film, Music, and Literature Festival.

Ayala Museum. The second to the last row looked decently inconspicuous for a late comer like me. It gave a good perspective of the stage too.  The volume of my psychological noises went down a little, then gone, as I beheld, listened to Michael M. Coroza’s poem, Magnanakaw (Thief). And my engagement to his dictation, the invisible scheme of his voice that matched the theme of his creation, became a solid round of applause. Here’s some excerpts from his poem:

 

“Ginigising tayo ng alinsangang

dulot ng kaniyang pangahas

na hininga ngunit dagling

naglalaho siya sa pagmulat ng ating pangamba.”

 

We’re startled where his warm

breath dares,

but quickly he darts

off even as our trembling

stirs,  its eyes wide open.

 

“Malaking puwang sa ating

loob ang iniiwang bakas

ng kaniyang pagdalaw sapagkat

tinatangay niya pati ang liwanag

sa palad nating binutas ng bagabag.”

 

A gaping void he

leaves within

when he comes visiting,

taking even the torch.

 

And I just have to add how igniting, burning, gorgeous the Filipino language is and kudos to those who have the love-lust to use it.

Then, came Marra PL. Lanot to read her poem, Ina. She asked the audience not to mind her guttural voice but it did give her reading an unusual effect. It made one good point that stings my mouth – and you’ll understand why of all my body parts, my mouth gets the spanking.

 

“Ako ang ilaw ng tahanan

na korteng kweba, kubo, katedral,

na mistulang parke at paaralan.

Ako ang gatas sa labi

sa halip na maasim na tuba

o mapait na serbesa.

Ako ang unang ngiting nasisilayan sa duyan,

ang mangkok na pinagbubuhusan

ng iyak ng mga anak

pagkagaling sa eskuwela,

ang batyang pinagbabaran ng galit

ng asawang napagod sa pabrika.

Ako ang yero sa pagbilad ng luha,

ang langgas sa sugat,

ang puntod ng dalamhati.”

 

I am the light of the home

shaped like a cave, a hut, a cathedral,

that appears like a park or school.

I am milk on the lips

instead of sour coconut wine

or bitter beer.

I am the first smile seen in a cradle,

the bowl into which children

pour their tears

when they come home from school,

the pail where the husband soaks his anger

when he returns from the factory.

I am the iron board where tears are dried

the  cure for wounds,

the tomb of grief.

 

“Sa kaunting init ng ulo,

sa malaswang galak,

sa sukdulang kamalasan,

sa silakbo ng damdamin,

bakit ako ang minumura,

ako na ina ng mga ina

at ng mga ama at diyos-diyosan?

Bakit, paano

sa labi ng musmos

naging puta ang ina?

Paano, bakit

sa dila ng mundo

palaging puta ang ina?”

 

At the slightest hot temper,

in a malicious joy,

in an extreme bad luck,

in an outburst of anger,

why am I being cursed,

I, the mother of all mothers

and of fathers and false gods?

 

Why, how

on the lips of children

did mother become puta?

How, why

on the tongue of the world

mother is always puta?

 

Jose F. Lacaba’s Tagubilin at Habilin and Pia Montalban’s Saleslady and my anxious desire to just hold the book while listening to the readers got me into buying the book – this is after all a book launch of – Under the Storm: An Anthology of Contemporary Philippine Poetry. It’s original price is at 800 PHP. I got it for 600, launch price but had I pre-ordered, I would have gotten it for 400 or 450 bucks (bad memory). It’s the first Filipino poetry book on my book shelf. It wasn’t that long before my attention was back again to the reader in front. This time, he was not only a reader and a poet, but also a ventriloquist. Ronaldo Carcamo blew me away with his laughable repertoire afore his candidly written poem, Ha-ha-ha.

Vigo enveloped the museum with their uncanny music which then readings from music and TV personalities followed: Mercedes Cabral of Ligo na U, Lapit na Me, Rox Puno, Ketsup Eusebio, who just recently starred in Rakenrol. The group, Why Not, gave a strong performance to cap the night. To thank and invite the crowd to the event’s after party, Khavn dela Cruz gallanted the stage and called this maverick event full of oeuvres a night, that I shall note as an unforgettable one.

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