Wondering Out Loud… and Dante, You May Never Read This

I don’t have a gadget that is mainly for reading ebooks. I use my laptop for most reading I do that isn’t off a printed page. I’ve been toying with the idea of re-releasing my first book on digital format, but my feet feel like they’re in a bucket of ice.

I’m still working on revising and translating the poems that originally came out in Beneath an Angry Star,plodding a little because of other stuff I need to work on. But it would be good to hear what friends or random readers might think. I know ebooks are nothing new anymore, but to me, when I read one, it feels less of a book somehow.

At the same time I can see the appeal in terms of ease, portability, and saving on paper. Are my words worth the lives of trees?

If you’ve ever read the first and only edition of this particular book, would you even bother to get hold of a revised, bilingual edition? Petty questions while other people struggle with matters far more troubling, like starting life after a super typhoon wiped out most of your family members.

Such is the immense tragedy of Dante Balura. New Bataan, Compostela Valley is close to newly discovered gold reserves. Some say it is the reckless mining that had caused unimaginable destruction from mudslides when super typhoon Pablo struck Mindanao.

Many years ago I wrote a poem after a flash flood claimed the lives of thousands of people in Ormoc, Leyte. That was in 1991 and I vaguely remember that intense logging on the mountains or hills in the area was blamed for the destructive waters that came rushing down to the town, dragging people to the sea.

Does writing about that terrible incident make any difference anywhere, to anyone? Dante, you may never read this.

-o-

Sa mga Bagay na Tulad Nito
Leyte, 1991

Yakap-yakap ang dagat
na ayaw namang magpayakap,
ganoon ang kanilang pagpanaw.

Maaaring iniinom na natin
ang kanilang mga luha,
pinampapaligo, pinanghuhugas
ng malamig na puwit ng bata.

Sa mga isdang ipinipirito kaya
maririnig ang kanilang mga palahaw?

Hindi ko na nais pang isipin
ang iba pang posibilidad.
Malupit ang aking imahinasyon
maging sa mga bagay na tulad nito.

-o-

LITERAL TRANSLATION

On Matters Like This
Leyte, 1991

Embracing the sea
that will not be embraced,
that is how they departed.

It is possible that we are now
drinking their tears, washing
with it our bodies and the cold
bottoms of our children.

Is that them wailing
as the fish sizzles in the pan?

I no longer wish to think
of other possibilities.
My imagination is too cruel
even on matters like this.

-o-

UPDATE… According to a 1992 article from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism it was the clearing of land for sugar cane plantations that may have caused the flooding in Ormoc in November 1991.

How long before we find out who/what is to blame in New Bataan, Compostela Valley – and perhaps keep this tragedy from happening again?

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About matangmanok

Jim Pascual Agustin writes and translates poetry. Sometimes he tries his hand at essays and stories. In 2011 the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House in Manila released BAHA-BAHAGDANG KARUPUKAN (poems in Filipino) and ALIEN TO ANY SKIN (poems in English). The same publisher released his most recent poetry collections SOUND BEFORE WATER and KALMOT NG PUSA SA TAGILIRAN. In 2015 a new poetry collection in English, A THOUSAND EYES was released. His first collection of short stories in Filipino, SANGA SA BASANG LUPA, was released in 2016. UK publisher The Onslaught Press launches his latest poetry collection, WINGS OF SMOKE, worldwide in February 2017. View all posts by matangmanok

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