Tag Archives: Jim Pascual Agustin

A few poems in response to Duterte’s so-called War on Drugs and Rebecca T. Añonuevo’s writings

There are words and there are words.

In the 2017 film “The War for the Planet of the Apes,” words and the meanings they convey are key to an evolutionary leap toward “being human.” The film is a brave effort that attacks the politics of war and the blindness of hate. It turns on its head the entire idea of what it is that makes us human. You will need to see the entire trilogy of films to fully appreciate what the filmmakers have accomplished.

My country of birth, the Philippines, has grabbed headlines worldwide due to the seeming popularity of the current president, Rodrigo Duterte, and his murderous regime that has so far resulted in the killing of between 7,000 to over 13,000 (depending on the source of data).

Dead bodies continue to turn up every single day since Duterte took to power. Most of the victims are from poor communities. This is no war on drugs but a war on the poor.

Rebecca T. Añonuevo is an award winning poet in the Philippines. She is a friend, yes, even as she chooses to support Duterte. I cannot condemn her beliefs and opinions, as we all have them. But then she uses poetry every now and again to express or cloud her views, and I cannot help but respond in an attempt to dialogue. She has since broken ties with many fellow writers, including myself.

I am posting the following poems – perhaps more to be added one day – to open the dialogue to a wider readership. There is a Philippine literary tradition called “Balagtasan,” a kind of debate using poetry – or at least rhyming verse. In this vein, you could perhaps call this a modern version of the Balagtasan.

With good poetry, one is often forced into a moment of silence. But when poetry is used to confuse what matters, silence alone should not suffice.

There are words and there are words.

ps I am unable to supply English translations for these at the moment, so I apologize to those who cannot read Filipino.

-o-

Hindi Tabla ang Laylay na Bisig, Hindi Yero ang Basag na Bungo

 

“Limpiyo ang bugso ng hangin
Kahit humahaplit ang bagyo sa mga lalawigan.
Gumagalaw ang lakas ng mamamayan,
Nagdadamayan, magkakadaop-palad
Sa pag-alalay sa mga balo at ulila.
Nagtitindig muli ng humapay na haligi’t bubungan.”
– “Limpiyo,” ni Rebecca T. Añonuevo

 

Sa pader na kay tayog, kay kinis dahil sa araw-araw,
gabi-gabin pagkuskos ng mga tagalinis, may natanaw akong
akala ay dating kakilala sa pag-aararo ng mga salita
at diwa. Ngunit bangag na alingawngaw na lamang

ang naulinigan nang siya’y magwika sa megaphone.
Balu-baluktot na tila pinaglagos-lagos sa pilipit
na tubo ang mga kataga. Sa mga taludtod na sinukat
ng bali-baling patpat, hinugot ng isipan

sa kung saang lupalop malayo sa mga eskinita
na pinagdanakan ng mga pinangakuan,
ito ang kanyang sambit: Tabla ang laylay na bisig,
yero ang basag na bungo. Kay daling gawan

ng bagong tahanan ang mga naiwan,
bigyan kaya ng pagkaing kailangan,
sabihan na para sa higit na kabutihan
ang mga pinaslang. Walang lugar

ang palahaw sa kamaong umaga. Pumalag,
nanlaban ang aking kaibuturan. Ang mga binalo
at inulila, paano kaya mapapalitan
ang kanilang minamahal na hindi na muling

mayayapos o makakahabing-hininga?
Kumaway ako sa nakaupo sa pader,
isinigaw ang iisang tinig na nilunod
ng kaskasan ng mga tagalinis.

-o-

 

Agawan ng Eksena

 

“Pero wala nang kibo ang bata.
Nakadapa. Naliligo sa dugo.
May nagsabing berdugo:
May hawak siyang baril sa kaliwa.
Kanan ang bata kapag kumakaway.”
– “Bata,” Rebecca T. Añonuevo

 

May pusod ang lahat ng tao. Pusod ang dugtungan
ng kawad na laman sa inang bukal ng buhay
na hiram, hanggang sa sandaling putulin
sa tama sanang panahon, at hindi sa ibang dahilan.

Kaya naman walang katulad ang sidhi ng dalamhati
sa paglibing sa sariling supling. Winawarak nito
ang kaayusan na magulang ang dapat mauna
sa paglisan. Lalong kay tindi kung mga kuko

ng karahasan ang humugot sa isinilang.
Sandali. Bakit tila higit na tinitimbang kung kabataan
ang pinaslang? Ang huklubang pulubi,
barya na lamang ba? Hindi kailangang mag-agawan

ng eksena, matanda man o bata
ang libo-libong pinaslang.
Sa larangan ng trahedyang pambansa,
tinutupad lamang ng utusan ang utos.

Sandali. Tandaang bawat tao, may pusod.
Pikitmatang salatin mo ang sa iyo.
Damhin. Isaisip ang hugis
ng balang naglagos.

-o-

 

Ang Balahibo Mo sa Puwet

 

“Rodrigo, pasok na, nakalatag na ang dilim!
Puli na! Uwi pa ba iyan ng matino?
Hindi mo na nakikita ang balahibo mo!
Mare, ilabas mo ang hagupit, kung kailangang dalihin
Sa puwet ang palalong espiritung lumukob sa bunso.”
– “Mareng Soleng,” Rebecca T. Añonuevo

 

May mga naniniwala sa multo,
sa mga espiritung naglilipana
pagkagat ng dilim sa lansangan.
O kaya sa halimaw na umuusbong

mula sa tadyang ng kung anong puno,
sa nakaluklok sa tatsulok na bunton ng lupa,
sa mga halos-taong naglaladlad
ng mga pakpak samantalang inihihiwalay

mula sa baywang ang katawan,
at sa di-mabilang pang nilikha
mula sa mga takot at imahinasyon
ng mga siguro ay wala lang ibang magawa.

Minsan may mga kailangang bigyan
ng anyo nang may maitukoy
sa panahon ng pagkalito
o kawalan ng unawa. Mas maigi ito

kaysa umapuhap sa usok at pagdudahan
ang di-mahablot-hablot ng sariling kamay
sa karimlan ng pag-iisa. Isang araw
magigising ka paghipo ng balahibo mo

sa puwet, sa pumipintig na latay
ng inang malaon nang yumao ngunit
hinihingan mo pa rin ng payo.
Matatakot ka sa halimaw

na walang pangalan at papalit-palit
ng anyo. Mamumukhaan ang sarili
sa huling pagliko palayo
sa inihabilin na daan.

-o-

 

Sumpa sa Pagkawasak

 

“Sumusumpa sa watawat. Busilak
Ang pag-asa, ang pangarap, para sa bayang ititindig sa pagkawasak.”
– “Mamaw Pulis,” Rebecca T. Añonuevo

 

Hindi sanay magtapon ng pagkain
ang aming angkan na mulat
sa kahirapan. Ang kaning lamig

isinasangag kinabukasan sa sibuyas
at gulay mula sa tirang ulam.
Habang makakain, ihahain.

Walang sinasayang.
Walang basta itinatapon
nang hindi hinahanapan

ng katiting mang halaga.
Tila pinsan ng ganitong pananaw
ang kintsugi ng Hapones,

sining ng pagkumpuni sa nabasag
na seramikong mangkok o tasa,
gamit ang pinaghalong pulbos na ginto,

platinum, o pilak. Inililigtas
ang nagkapira-piraso
na dati ay isa at buo,

tila ipinagdiriwang
ang bagong anyong pinunan
ang kawalan. Mainam, ano?

Pero ang mga pinaslang
ng iyong mga pinupuri
hindi maibabalik ng kitsugi.

-o-

Walang Apoy na Namukadkad sa Kaniyang Tuntungan

 

Binuhusan siya ng langis ng nagdedeliryong pangkat,
Sinindihan ang posporo, ang panggatong, pero walang apoy,
Walang apoy na namukadkad sa kaniyang tuntungan.
– “Istorya ng Makata,” Rebecca T. Añonuevo

 

Samantalang dumadaloy, pawindang-windang
sa sapot-sapot na mga ugat sa buhay
na katawan, tila tubig sa ilog ang dugo.
Mainit, kahit sa sandali ng pagputol

ng hininga, paggapang sa kalsada.
Ngunit tulad ng nilisang katawan,
magmamabagal ito, mangungunyapit
sa kahit anong malapit

bago lubusang huminto
sa malamig at magaspang
na semento, sa bingit ng biyak
na imburnal, sa balat ng kapwa

pinatumba ng bala, o kaya sa paanan
ng nagmamasid lamang,
hindi iniinda ang umaalsang likido
na lumunod na sa kanyang tinutuntungan.

-o-

 

Ang Pagsalakay ng mga Peste

 

“Ingat ka, may oras ang pagsalakay ng mga peste.”
– “Daga,”Rebecca Añonuevo

 

Hindi ako tinuruan ng aking ama
kung paano manghuli ng daga.

Mapalad daw ako dahil hindi panahon
ng taggutom at digmaan ang aking kinamulatan,
sabi niya. Pero makulit ako, mapagtanong.

“Ano’ng lasa ng daga?”
“Kung tama ang pagkaluto, parang manok na rin.”
“Paano ang balahibo? Ang nguso?
Ang buntot? Ang maliliit na paa at daliri?”

Naglagos sa akin ang titig ni Itay,
parang may kung anong nagtatatakbo
at patago-tago ang sinusundan.

Nalantad ang mga litid sa kanyang leeg,
lumukso ang mga buto
ng kanyang mga kamay sa sandaling pagpalag.

Nanlamig akong bigla,
tinangay ng kanyang mga mata sa daigdig
na hindi ko nais makita.

-o-

 

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Acclaimed Novelist Edgar Calabia Samar Includes SANGA SA BASANG LUPA on his “Best Filipino Books”

It came as a surprise this morning when I was notified that highly respected writer Edgar Calabia Samar included my short story collection SANGA SA BASANG LUPA among the best books in Filipino released in the past three years.

Maraming salamat, Egay. Sana maniwala sa iyong payo ang laksa-laksa mong mambabasa.

EDGAR CALABIA SAMAR 2017 new-filipino-Books_640

Oh, my book gets first mention, too! And who can resist that eye-catching cover designed by… hahahaha… that fabric came all the way from Indonesia (if I remember right), on one of our last trips before the kids were born. The branch that looks like a snake came from one of our walks on Tygerberg Nature Reserve – and no, I didn’t break it off a poor plant, I found it on the side of one of the trails. The back cover image I took from NASA. You’ll have to buy the book just for the lovely cover. Hahahaha… no, really, I think it’s worthy of reading and owning. It might be my first and last short story collection in Filipino. It’s too much effort for me to write fiction. I need the space and time. Ah, we shouldn’t always be fighting for space and time.


An interview with Fixional: forget me, read my work instead

WIN_20170816_10_56_48_Pro (2)

I don’t like talking about myself. I prefer sharing thoughts about other things – literary, or otherwise. You can chat to me about movies, music, the ant climbing up the side of a wall, or just about anything else.

Don’t ask me how to read my writing. Unless we’re in a workshop environment, don’t ask me to explain what I’m trying to say in my writing at all.

But every now and again I get asked to respond to particular questions for an interview that will be made public. I only agree to interviews if I think they would help me find more readers. Please don’t see it as a marketing ploy. I would hate that.

Read the interview, consider giving my work a chance to be discovered by new readers. Tell your friends about the interview. Tell them that you read my blog regularly – or have just discovered it today. I want people to adopt my paper children. They need warm homes.

So… here’s the link to Fixional where my latest interview appears.

Fixional recently published my trilogy of poems that were based on the cinematic masterpiece trilogy by Krzysztof Kieslowski, Three Colors: Blue, White, Red.

Forget me. Read my work. Please. Maraming salamat.

PS – I haven’t read he final version of the interview, was too excited to. If you find typos or errors, please tell me. Fixional used to be NoiseMedium, which awarded my poem “To be an Orc” the Grand Prize last year.


Brief Bio for an Anthology

I stare at it like the beginning of a flatline,
that dash next to my year of birth.
Two lines down, a paragraph with nothing
but blurry snapshots of a life
unwillingly summarised for imagined readers,
strangers, for posterity.

Then that uncontrollable laughter kicks in.
It is shrill, like the wailing of an ambulance,
and drowns out all dramatic gestures
I have conjured for myself
on that page. Delusions of grandeur
stripped naked on a stretcher.

Sometimes oneself can be the cruelest critic,
the first to hold the blade
against such tender skin.

June 2008
-o-

(from Alien to Any Skin, UST Publishing House, Manila 2011)

This poem came to mind when a good friend, SA poet Raphael d’Abdon shared his bionote poem with his friends on Facebook. I hope I haven’t posted this before here. The book where this poem first appeared, Alien to Any Skin, was published around August six years ago (if memory serves me right).

DSCF9130

 


Wings of Smoke gets reviewed on Eclectica Magazine

ECLETICA MAGAZINE wings of smoke

I’m always thankful for every reader who spends some time with my work – whether it’s a haiku attempt, an essay,  a story, a poem. Then there’s that completely different kind of high when someone not only reads a whole book, but writes a review to share what s/he feels about it.

Wings of Smoke received very warm reviews from Aerodrome and The FilAm. And now this one from Ecletica Magazine! Lovers of poetry will find Jennifer Finstrom’s review engaging and, I hope, make readers consider getting a copy of the book.


Finally, a GOODREADS page for SANGA SA BASANG LUPA

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.

-o-

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!).

 

 


“Like a Log” on SoundCloud to mark UN Refugee Day

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I am bothered by news from back home. Internal displacement in Mindanao due to the fighting between government forces and the Maute group comes to mind. Disturbing news of the growing number of dead from the fighting as well as in the dire situation at refugee centers.

And then, of course, there is the ever-increasing number of people fleeing their own countries in desperation due to war. They try to cross treacherous seas, and, even if they survive, they are rarely met with open arms. They face borders.

Borders, before they become fences and walls, are imagined. Applied to people, they can easily be turned into tools of abuse, tools of turning one human being against another, tools of forgetting what happens when those armed and more powerful impose their will on the vulnerable.

Listening to the radio this morning, I learned it was Refugee Day.

I have never been a refugee. I’m an immigrant by choice – by luck. Even as all of us can be struck with a longing for our place of birth, the place where we took our first breath, tasted water, touched mud, got blinded by dust on a hot day, we can only imagine the struggles of refugees.

I’m sharing my poem, “Like a Log,” which first appeared in The Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Anthology VI. I’ve also posted a voice recording on SoundCloud. The link is HERE.

 

Like a Log

 

“I’m not going to tell you another story,
my boy. You laugh too loud,” grandfather said
as I begged. His voice sounded
like it was coming from the village well

before it was blasted. The stories he told
came from a time when the sky
was not yet something to be feared.
His eyes, clouded with cataract,
only saw white shadows.

But he could sense when someone
was stirring awake. He began to fade
into the damp wood. I whispered to him,
“I am afraid of the dark and the sound
of water splashing against the sides

of the boat.” Grandfather held
my small hands and then patted
the tied up bundle mother left me
before they threw her overboard.

-o-