Category Archives: politics

Duterte’s dead

httpss.yimg.comnyapires1.2S30Kp_tWv.YqcaDoYQR8dg--YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjtzbT0xO3c9NDUwO2g9Mjc3O2lsPXBsYW Tony Perez photo of chick on top of coffin 17426098_1307916249295099_709865950848

photo by Erik de Castro found on Yahoo News

Duterte’s dead

are squirming with worms
that take the place
of forensic investigators.

They seek the shortest
and most efficient way
of exposing bone.

To those unacquainted
with the language
of final repose,

the worms render
each body
nearly identical.

Duterte’s dead
have lost the need
for food and water,

for the rare solace
of undisturbed moments
at the toilet.

Hope leaves no trace
in their hollowed skulls.
Only the living carry

that weight as they navigate
the mute streets, the dark
alleys, the witnesses

to the carnage.
Is there really
no memory in heaven?

-o-

The world seems to be on a tailspin – so-called leaders are intent on taking entire countries into variations of hell on earth. In my country of birth, it has been reported that over 8,000 people have been killed under the reign of President Rodrigo Duterte. Among the victims are children, innocent bystanders, and relatives who could not point to the whereabouts of a supposed target.

I entered this poem in the current Goodreads.com poetry competition. I don’t know if the good judges will choose it as a finalist, but I just wanted to put it out for as many readers as possible.

In the Philippines, there is a practice of not wiping the tears that fall on the coffin. It is also believed that if one places a young chick on the glass of the coffin with some seeds to peck at, those responsible for the death will never find peace.

The photo is credited to Erik de Castro, image found on Yahoo News.


Using what’s free to fight what’s wrong

protea going dry

I posted on Soundcloud.com audio recordings of both the original Filipino and English translation of my poem “Danica Mae” which won the Gabo Prize from Lunch Ticket. The texts were published here on Matangmanok as well as on Lunch Ticket.

I’m using Soundcloud as I have over 160 minutes of free time to fill. I thought I might as well use it as another platform to spread not just my poetry but to also express my disgust at the continuing murderous war on drugs policy of the Duterte regime in my country of birth.

I can’t say “Enjoy it!” as that is not the intention. Be bothered would be more apt.


Another State of the Nation Address (SONA) from Zuma will need some imagination

zuma-finger

photo from the Twitter account of ENCA

So, another year, another chance for Zuma to hypnotize us into submission. This year is likely to be the same as the past few years. With a few slightly different details such as the presence of 441 members (odd number, that) of the South African National Defense Force being deployed at Parliament in Cape Town, along with the restrictions on press movement (they get their own pen – perhaps without a pig, hopefully with ink) while covering the expected pomp (include all the negative things that word might conjure) and… yawning.

We poor citizens will have to use our rich imagination to entertain ourselves while being tortured and shown the prospect for another grim year under this man who has nearly 800 counts of corruption charges the National Prosecuting Authority should file but just won’t.

Here’s a suggestion. That photo. That hand behind Zuma. Imagine those fingers folding two while holding the middle one straight. Raise that hand. Aim at Zuma’s bald head. Then make him turn his head to that middle finger.

Feel a little better? Now aside from this exercise, get to work. Prove to him this country can be better without him sitting and laughing at us as if we were all fools.


Human Rights Day, the Gabo Prize, Danica Mae and the murderers who go unpunished

10 December is International Human Rights Day. In the same week the Philippine Congress has been busy trying to bring back the death penalty. It is not simply a step back for the country of my birth – more like running backwards down a dark alley littered with shattered rocks and corpses, wearing no helmet and blindfolded. Since the current president, Rodrigo Duterte, came to power the country has been gripped with a madness that his most blind supporters continue to embrace.

I wrote “Danica Mae” in response to the state-sanctioned killings that have summarily ended the lives of nearly 6,000 people as of this writing. I wish it wasn’t necessary to write it. The translation – or re-vision – in English, along with two other poems I originally wrote in Filipino many years ago, got the attention of Mark Statman, the judge for the Gabo Prize for Literature in Translation and Multi-Lingual Texts. He says

“There is something beautifully and sadly dense about these poems, which the poet, Jim Pascual Agustin, himself has translated. I found myself returning to them because I found them at once mysterious and ordinary, describing what I can only think of as tragic events (in “Danica Mae,” the actual death of one child, in “Standing in Tagatay,” the learned careless callousness in the life of another). The final short poem, “The Long and Brief History of the Bald Old Man and the Busted Pot,¨ presents the reader with a different kind of tragedy, a view of a long life at its unhappy end. Not easy to want to read, these poems nonetheless demand it. That demand is what I think I want most from a poem.”

Lunch Ticket has featured the winning work in its latest issue, Winter/Spring 2017, edited by Arielle Silver. Here is a link to the Filipino version that I posted on this blog earlier.

gabo-prize-danica-mae-lunch-ticket

Please read the issue, leave a note to the editor, express your reaction somewhere, anywhere, should you find resonance in what is plaguing my country of birth today.

Some links for those who might wish to know more about what has been happening:

ABS-CBN NEWS ITEM

NEW YORK TIMES photo essay

HUMAN RIGHTS DAY OF PROTEST

NEVER AGAIN

iDefend

My hope is that you share this post far and wide. Perhaps those in power may read it and respond. Perhaps those who feel they have little power to change this tragic course may find courage and learn that they actually do wield something that no violator of rights can ever take away.


TokHang Santa – first draft

TokHang Santa

PNP Chief Dela Rosa plays Santa to kids of those killed, caught in Tokhang
A total of 120 children of drug suspects received gifts from Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa (Bato), who dressed as Santa Claus at an event on Thursday.
Dela Rosa said giving gifts is the PNP’s way of bringing cheer to the lives of children whose parents have either no income, are in jail, or were killed during anti-illegal drug operations.
-Amita Legaspi, GMA NEWS ONLINE 01 Dec 2016

He believed his intentions were pure
and shiny like his lightbulb head when,
sometime after All Souls’ Day, he wondered
what it must be like to be a child

who had lost a parent. Perhaps once
when he was still small he had pretended
being an orphan, as most children do,
and that helped him arrive at the grand idea

of dressing up as Santa to bring some cheer.
How difficult could it be? Having no hair
meant that white wig would fit nicely,
not at all uncomfortable. The red suit

with fluffy white trimmings must be breathable
cotton, like the elf hat. Not at all like
being wrapped in a garbage bag and tagged.
Since he’s big and solid as a chunk of rock,

a kid on his lap will feel like a stuffed toy,
or an inflatable beach ball. Still, he has to be
gentle. These kids may not remember
that lost parent for a day, or forever

if they’re lucky to be too young to retain
memories. But surely they’ll never forget
the day TokHang Santa came for them, the chosen
120 from the ever-growing thousands.

-o-
http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/…
“TokHang” is a contraction of the Visayan words “toktok” (knock) and “hangyo” (request).

Since this is a first draft, I welcome all feedback, critiques, comments – as always. Thank you in advance.


“Danica Mae and other poems” will be featured in Lunch Ticket soon

UPDATED.

The English version of my poem, “Danica Mae,” along with two other older poems of mine I translated from the original Filipino, have been chosen by Mark Statman, guest judge for Lunch Ticket’s Gabo Prize in Literature in Translation & Multilingual Texts.

They made the announcement a few days ago.

gabo-prize-in-translation-multilingual-text-5

While Lunch Ticket prepares for the early December launch of their new issue which will feature my work alongside two other finalists, you can read the original Filipino version of “Danica Mae” HERE.

I wish to thank Alli Marini and Jennifer McCharen, founders of the Gabo Prize, as well as Arielle Silver, Lunch Ticket editor, and Mark Statman for allowing new readers to discover my work.

 


Aiza Seguerra, you will never meet Danica Mae

Thank you to Rappler for convincing Aiza Seguerra, newly-appointed by Philippine President Duterte as National Youth Commission Secretary, to read with much delight my rather old poem, “Litel Mis Pilipings.” I’m still working on the translation of the poem for a wider audience. I performed the poem myself many times way back in the early 1990s, to the disbelief and huge amusement of the various audiences who were (un?)fortunate enough be there. I’ll try and post an audio recording of my recent attempt to recreate those times. Or maybe not.

HERE IS A LINK to Aiza’s readingAIZA litel mis pilipings

Aiza has an interesting background, including ending up as a runner-up in the very contest I tackle in the poem.

(UPDATE: I posted on SOUNDCLOUD a scratchy recording of my own reading I did today.)

Aiza, if you happen to read this blog post, I hope you find the following poem I have just written, “Danica May,” worth your while.

 

Danica May eyes bnw manipulated

Danica Mae

Hindi kailanman lalapag malapit sa iyong barangay
ang helikopter ng Presidente. Hindi siya kailanman
maglalakad patungo sa bahay ng iyong ina, o magpapagpag
ng alikabok sa sapatos bago humakbang papasok ng pintuan.

Hindi kailanman hahagurin ng kanyang tingin kung saan mo
dating itinatabi ang iyong mga laruan. Hindi magmamabagal
ang kanyang mga mata pagtanaw sa mga damit mong nakasabit o tiklop na nakahimlay, ngayon ay hiwalay sa labada ng pamilya. Hindi niya tatanungin

kung ano ang pleybor ng paborito mong ays krim,
o kung paano ka humawak ng krayola,
o kung tinatakpan mo ng palad
ang iyong bibig tuwing matatawa.

Walang halaga ang ano pa man na aking sabihin,
lalo na sa iyo. Kahit pa man tukuyin kong hindi mga bala
ang kumitil sa iyong buhay, kundi mga salita.
Mumunting piraso lamang ng bakal

ang mga bala na maaari sanang naging pintuan
ng laruan mong kotse, o mga butones
ng damit na hindi mo na maisusuot
mula sa araw na ito.

-o-

LINK TO A HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH article

LINK TO A RELATED PIECE ON MATANGMANOK