Tag Archives: Filipino


Sanga sa Basang Lupa front cover

It’s been nearly a year since my first book of short stories in Filipino, Sanga sa Basang Lupa at iba pang kuwento, was quietly released. A few months ago it joined other titles from the same publisher, UST Publishing House, in a group launch.

I finally found time to put up a Goodreads.com page for the book. Dreaming one day of seeing this little paper child translated to English for a wider audience. Help me dream some more.


p.s. I designed the cover! I found that branch that looks like a snake while I was taking my kids for a walk around Tygerberg Nature Reserve. The blue cloth was part of a massive roll of lovely fabric that my wife and I found during our travels in Indonesia (long before the kids were born!).




It took me this long to share the news of the release of my first (and perhaps last) short story collection in Filipino, SANGA SA BASANG LUPA. My Philippine publisher, UST Publishing House, has made the title available and announced it on 19 October 2016 on their Facebook post. I’m hoping a launch of sorts would follow, but times are difficult at the moment. My previous attempts to do a virtual launch for my recent poetry collection, A THOUSAND EYES, never materialized.

My own sister has warned me not to come home because of what’s been happening. Anyone can be killed and be declared a drug user or drug pusher. Anyone. Nearly 5,000 people have been killed since Duterte took to the presidency. That and the tight budget keep me from booking a flight back home. Home. That’s a tough word to say when you have your heart in too many places and official documents and procedures – aside from economics – bar you from moving freely among your loved ones. I include my paper children among my loved ones.

Sanga sa Basang Lupa took a long time to be born. If you read Filipino fiction, I hope you give this paper child of mine a chance. Apparently not many short story collections in Filipino get put out there these days. Mine took over 20 years to see the light. Please take care of this one, dear reader. Maraming salamat.


Off the Wall on 9 March 2015 – THE HAND THAT LEFT THE PUPPET GASPING

If all goes well, I’ll be reading at Off the Wall in Observatory’s A Touch of Madness bar and restaurant here in Cape Town. One of the poems I intend to read is “The Man Who Wished He was Lego” which appeared in Sixfold. I shared a link to that in an earlier post. But for those who missed it, HERE IT IS AGAIN.

I’m hoping not to make the audience fall asleep. Well, an audience would be nice to have in the first place. So if you are in Cape Town or plan to have a weird night on Monday, come on over. 🙂

I’m also going to read work included in the recently released NEW COIN POETRY bumper issue. If you ever read contemporary poetry, this journal has got to be on your list. Convince your local library to subscribe to NEW COIN POETRY (check them out on Facebook).

cover with hand

Hmmm wait, might as well post the poem here for lazy readers who cannot even click to a link. haha.


The Man Who Wished He was Lego

His hands would be yellow
and forever curved
into a semi-square “C.”
Designed only for quick
and easy snapping

of pieces meant
to fit. His shoes
would be the same color
as his pants with no zips
or buttons, no pockets

for slipping in notes
that could be shredded
in the wash. He would need
not worry about the shape
of his head, or haircuts

and thoughts for that matter.
And best of all, his chest
would be stiff and hollow,
far too small
for a heart.


My poem, “Wood and String,” is a finalist at Goodreads.com!!!

I’m happy to share this bit of news – my poem just got selected by the kind judges for the Goodreads.com monthly contest.

I will update this post as I get a chance. I originally wrote this poem after seeing a short video for a Poetry International competition (the poem was a finalist, too). The video can be viewed by choosing the photo of a puppet HERE.

other plans for this poem later.

Meanwhile, please do READ THE POEM, consider joining Goodreads.com and the Poetry! group so you can vote for it… or another poem you may perceive to be more worthy. Just being read alone would be nice. 🙂



UPDATE… my poem needs more votes… hmmm… not much I can do from here but wish. haha. oh well. thanks to those who voted! I don’t know when voting ends.

It’s Like the First Time Again

I’m stopping myself from rambling … just wanted to post this bit of news for now until my excitement settles down (less likely to say something stupid haha).

That amazing project started by Ted Hughes in the 60s is still going strong – Modern Poetry in Translation – and they are launching a new issue soon. I’m in it!!!!

‘Transitions’, is jointly edited by David and Helen Constantine and the poet and translator Sasha Dugdale, who will succeed them as Editor from 2013.


Thank you, David and Helen, for letting me in. Welcome to Sasha! Can’t wait to see the issue.

Lahat ay Puno ng Pag-ibig, subok-salin ng “All is Full of Love” ni Bjork

mula sa Homogenic ni Bjork — isang subok-salin

pagkakalooban ka ng pag-ibig
may kakalinga sa iyo
pagkakalooban ka ng pag-ibig
pagtiwalaan mo

baka hindi magbukal
sa iyong pinagbuhusan

baka hindi sa panig
kung saan ka nakatitig

lumingun-lingon ka
nakapaligid sa iyo
lahat ay puno ng pag-ibig
nakapaligid sa iyo

lahat ay puno ng pag-ibig
hindi mo lamang tinatanggap
lahat ay puno ng pag-ibig
wala sa himlayan ang iyong telepono
lahat ay puno ng pag-ibig
pinid lamang ang iyong mga pinto

lahat ay puno ng pag-ibig

from Homogenic by Bjork

you’ll be given love
you’ll be taken care of
you’ll be given love
you have to trust it

maybe not from the sources
you have poured yours into

maybe not from the directions
you are staring at

twist your head around
it’s all around you
all is full of love
all around you

all is full of love
you just ain’t receiving
all is full of love
your phone is off the hook
all is full of love
your doors are all shut

all is full of love

Bjork may never know or care that I have tried a translation of her song, but here it is anyway, in the words I grew up with.

Language as a Shield, Translation as a Bridge

A professor I had a long time ago, the great poet Benilda S. Santos, once asked me if I found using a second language – English in this case – helped me in any way in expressing certain thoughts and emotions better than my mother tongue.  Back then such a question didn’t really make sense to me.  I was writing in whatever language the poem came.  Or so I declared.

Through the years I started to write some poems in both languages at almost the same time – jumping back and forth, testing the limits of expression in each.  Sometimes I found it necessary to use one language to release ideas and images that the other could not quite capture easily.  I would then translate those parts.  But then I also found that there are some subjects that needed some kind of distancing in order for me to even attempt to tackle them.

The death of my father was one of them.  Perhaps because instinctively I knew that using the very language that I grew up with will rebound even harsher on me.  With using a second language I am somehow afforded a kind of shield, a layer of protection from that which might hit me too hard that I wouldn’t be able to finish the task.

I have to admit that I am a fairly slow reader.  I had a friend back in high school who claimed he could speed read.  He seemed to me like one of those contraptions in an office:  the grand paper shredder.  In goes the sheet, out come paper spaghetti.  Words disposed in a jiffy.  He read A Tale of Two Cities in a week.  I only managed the first half by the end of the semester.

A few weeks ago I chanced upon the slim book Shadow Child by Dutch author PF Thomese.  Written in vignettes, it tells of the loss he and his wife have had to endure when their baby died.  It is a small book but with such devastating power that leaves the reader gasping.  It made me wish I could read it in the original and then translate it into Filipino.  But that exercise (aside from the fact that I only know a few words of Dutch) might be too awesome an experience.

Perhaps it is enough that I have somehow reached the shore by another bridge, that second language of English.  Who knows, maybe one day I can learn enough Dutch and make my own bridge?  Then again, one could ask “Does grief sell?  Isn’t there enough of that in the world?”

Opposites are essential.  You know one thing because of another.  Dry cracked earth that runs in a path is the memory of a river that once rushed.  Burst of sunlight, whip of lightning and storm.