Tag Archives: Beneath an Angry Star

Ginahasa Ka Namin, Magpakamatay Ka na Lang – first draft

Many years ago I wrote a poem in Filipino in reaction to the rape and subsequent suicide of a movie actress. She was called a “starlet” – the label that sticks forever if one never gets out of b-movie, soft-porn productions – and one of the so-called “softdrink beauties” as promoted by an imaginative talent scout. Three daily TV show hosts were the rapists. It’s a surreal poem which may not work well in translation. I am posting that poem later here. Today I’d like to share a first draft of a new poem that is slightly more bitter (and perhaps less subtle – if that is even possible).  Apologies for the missing translation. I’ll have to see to that when I have more time. This poem came to mind as I read about the new antics of the same lot of “comedians” who remain popular and influential in my country of birth.

UPDATE: as this is a first draft, please feel free to tell me what you think of this new work. well I’m always open to critique, so treat the old poem and its translation the same way. maraming salamat.

UPDATE 2 (thanks to Ed Maranan) HERE is a link to a news article on the rape and death of Pepsi Paloma. Yes, some people remain in power despite everything they do.

Ginahasa Ka Namin, Magpakamatay Ka na Lang

dahil sikat kami at sanay
magpatawa. Softdrinks ka lang,
hindi pa seksi ang iyong bote,

GI goodbye Joe ang tatay
samantalang kami may daily TV show
na patok, habambuhay habang

dinudumog ng masang tila
bangaw. Ikaw, ililibing na balot
ng tabloid. Starlet

na hindi man lang kumisap.
Sino ang mumultuhin mo balang araw?
Hindi kami. Hindi kami.

-o-

Kuwentong Kalbo
para kay Pepsi Paloma

May anghel na nagbigti
sa puno ng kamatsile.

Kaya nagturok ng tinidor
at nagsalang ng kutsara
ang mga palaka

bago bumaha ng kidlat
sa dibdib ng langit
sa mga sandaling hindi pa sila nakapagliligpit

ng patay na butete
at lobong napunit.

Naglampungan ang mga dahon
bago lubusang huminahon
ang araw.

Kung mayroon lang tikbalang
sa kalapit na balete
nagkaroon sana ng munting salu-salo

at nagpamisa pa sana
ang mga mukhang taeng-kabayo.

Subalit mababang uri
ang anghel na ito
na nagbigti,

kahit pa man
siya’y nakaputi.

-o-
draft translation

Bald Story
for Pepsi Paloma

An angel hung herself
on a kamatsile tree.

Frogs heated spoons
and used forks as needles

expecting lightning to come
flooding over the sky’s bosom.
They had not yet cleared up

dead tadpoles
and torn balloons.

Leaves grew ecstatic
until the sun
became less aroused.

Had there been a tikbalang
on the nearby balete tree
there would’ve been a quick feast

and those with horse dung faces
would’ve called for a mass.

But this was only
a lowly angel
who hung herself,

despite her white
dress.

-o-

NOTE: Pepsi Paloma was one of a number of starlets discovered by a talent scout who gave them screen names after particular softdrink brands. Pepsi was raped by three comedians who hosted a popular noontime TV show: Joey de Leon, Richie “the Horsey,” and Vic Sotto (brother of another comedian, Tito Sotto, who would one day be a Senator). After being convicted for the crime, the three asked Pepsi for forgiveness. Soon after she pardoned them, she committed suicide by hanging.

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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?


Am I a Puddle or a Pebble? Neither? (just a silly title haha)

I finished the initial translation of the first of three sections from my first book of poetry, Beneath an Angry Star (Anvil, Manila 1992). It comes as a surprise to me that most of the poems still work – at least based on my own attempt at “pretending-to-be-reading-someone-else’s-work” – and that, translated into or from English, something new starts to quiver as if coming to life. There are a few from the original Filipino that just flounder in translation because the subject matter itself demands a particular knowledge of (dated) local popular culture.
Although I do this work on the side, I do have my own deadline to meet. I need to complete this work so I can get on with writing new poetry, and perhaps get back to attempting essays and stories which, in my experience, take more time and effort.
After I finish translating and editing the text, I intend to find a publisher or, failing that, put it out as an ebook on my own.  I am declaring this to the world in case some good soul urges me to persevere, or even offers me a door. It does seem like a long and lonely road, otherwise.
A pebble that never gets thrown will never cause a ripple. hahahaha. A terrible inverse (or some other term perhaps?) of a poem by one of my heroes, Emmanuel Lacaba, called. . . ready for this? . . .

Poem

In puddles and rivers
Pebbles hit bull’s-eyes
Before targets are drawn.


Resurrecting Words

I am in the process of translating my poems from two early books – Beneath an Angry Star (Anvil, Manila 1992) and Salimbayan (with Argee Guevarra and Neal Imperial; Publikasyong Sipat, Manila 1994) – in the hopes that I can release a new edition as an ebook that will be bilingual, expanded, and slightly revised. I hope I won’t have to leave out some poems due to translation difficulties or space limitations. After this I plan to put together a selected poems manuscript initially intended for South African readers. I need friends to keep me focused on this. Any out there? (… there… there… there… — think of echoes in a dark cave)Image


National Bookstore chain will soon have my books on display

I just got news from my publisher that both my books – Alien to Any Skin and Baha-bahagdang Karupukan – will soon be available at the behemoth retailer National Bookstore (in the Philippines they are far too easy to bump into). The titles won’t come up in their website’s search box I bet, but I’ve been told you can start phoning their branches to add some pressure in putting the books on display.

I remember when my first book came out – it was a back to back edition with another poet’s collection (ouch!). Whenever I went into a National Bookstore outlet that had it I would go over and flip the book so that my side would be visible.  🙂  Naughty me.  And the “hidden” employee (a paid character who pretends to be a customer just to keep an eye on shoplifters) would come over and look at me funny, until I told him I was the author and he smiled and left me to my petty devices.

Here’s the cover of that book which, if you search on Amazon.com, you will find to be on sale as a collector’s item at a staggering price.