Tag Archives: Duterte
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
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?
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.
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.
Huge things are happening in my country of birth. A retired policeman has corroborated the testimony of one of the hired killers of the dreaded Davao Death Squad, saying the former mayor, now elected Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, created and conducted the vigilante-style group. During Duterte’s term as mayor of Davao City thousands were claimed to have been murdered or made to disappear by the DDS. Will this revelation change the course of my country of birth? One hopes for the better, as worse scenarios have been floated by various critics such as self-initiated revolution in order to force a change to federalism or even dictatorship (as Duterte’s hero, former dictator Ferdinand Marcos did in the 70s).
But the title of this post said something else! Yes, it did. My apologies. Here goes.
It is one thing an author wishes for his/her paper child – to be read. So I always thank readers who can find time to delve deeper into my work and come up with their own ideas about it.
Wings of Smoke may be ordered via my publisher’s website – www.onslaughtpress.com – and Amazon. It will be made available in South Africa in March 2017 mainly through the author who will be reading and launching the book at various venues: at the Writing for Liberty Conference at the Centre for the Book on 28 March, at Off the Wall (A Touch of Madness Restaurant) in Observatory on 30 March and at Kalk Bay Books on 4 April. More to follow during the year.
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.
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:
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.
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.
“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.
Carrion Flies and Congressmen
for De Lima and Dayan
Carrion flies, not Congressmen,
these buzzing before us. Unable
to keep themselves from prying
into flesh, they push their blunt
and moist mouths to break down
each morsel that they may suck
some sick nourishment. Compound
eyes unblinking, they imagine fragments
of wet dreams while questioning
a witness in the cold halls of Congress
that might as well be a makeshift morgue,
an EJK cottage industry offshoot.
Their wings transparent with such dark
veins, quivering with every imagined
movement of limbs behind closed doors.
Their feet have tongues that taste
possible fodder. Lust and love,
these flies could never have.