Tag Archives: Philippine poetry

Walang Matris ang mga Mambabatas

Walang Matris ang mga Mambabatas


wala silang gunita
ng balat na iniuunat
sa bawat udyok ng paglaki
ng lamang hinabi ng mga pintig,

lamang nanahanan
nang ilang buwan,
nagpupuyos na kumawala
upang salubungin ang daigdig,

nag-uumapaw sa pagtataka
gayong panig-panig
ang panganib


wala silang gunita
ng pangamba at tuwa
sa mga unang pakikipagbuno
sa hatak ng lupa

ng munting katawan
hanggang sa wakas
makatayo sa mabuway
na mga binti,

bumitiw sa gabay
at buong giting
na buhatin ang isang paa
samantalang naninimbang

ang kabila
upang subukan
ang unang hakbang,


wala silang gunita
ng pagpigil-hininga
samantalang nakatalungko,
halos di-tumitinag
sa pag-aabang
ng baha-bahagyang
ng tila babasagin

na mga pakpak
ng tutubi


walang matris
walang puso
walang utak
walang kaluluwa
panay bulsa at bunganga
sino sila?

Image by Garciabillyjoe – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61272452

My Middle Name is My Mother’s Surname. No, Her Father’s!

sol plaatje iii in my hands low res

I finally have in my hands my contributor’s copy of The Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology Volume III! Took some time due to the mysterious appearance of a black hole, but what matters is that it has arrived intact ahead of the Cape Town launch in early December.

silent wing low res

I feel lucky to be in this anthology despite sending my three poems in at the last minute. The poems, “Silent Wing,” “Human Patience,” and “Exit Music for the Disappeared,” are part of a nine-poem cycle called Endings are Beginnings which is the last section of my manuscript in progress, Sky for Silent Wings. I just wish my middle name – which is really my mother’s surname… no, wait, her father’s surname! – had not been left out altogether… well, not entirely. I see it in the biographical notes!

human patience and exit music for the disappeared low res

I’m not complaining, not at all. Just a niggle, really. 🙂

Thank you to Liesl Jobson and all the judges. Maybe next year I’ll be even luckier. Hahaha! Keep dreaming, Jim Pascual Agustin!


My country of birth is still reeling from the devastation of Haiyan/Yolanda. There is no forgetting how this tragedy has ruined so many lives. And yet human kindness and generosity shine through despite the petty politics of various parties (media, politicians, and individuals armed with keyboards). I am thankful for those who continue to help in countless ways the survivors, and all those who see beyond this catastrophe, those who seek new ways of lessening the blows of climate change. The human family can come together, I believe. This I say in a world where often there seems so little to believe in, to hope for. Yet we continue to surprise one another. We are never alone.


Philippine Daily Inquirer reviews Baha-bahagdang Karupukan

My book Baha-bahagdang Karupukan was reviewed in the Lifestyle/Arts & Books section of The Philippine Daily Inquirer on 26 September 2011. I was only told about it the other day. 🙂  Just wanted to share the news.

Will post the text when available.  Meanwhile here’s a scanned image of the clipping, thanks to Wendell Capili.

The ALIENS have landed

The cover for Alien to Any Skin, photograph and design by John Marin Flores

Well, the copies of Alien to Any Skin, that is.  🙂  Now “Skin” can keep her twin sister “Karu”  (Baha-bahagdang Karupukan) company.  They can both wait together for new homes.  A bit like orphans, but definitely unlike Annie.  Oh my.  I need my coffee.

The kind folks of UST Publishing House will need two weeks before proper marketing and distribution can start, not that there are masses of eager readers at the gate.  🙂

This news comes as the world spins into further chaos and re-arrangement — floods, explosions in buses and airports, street protests, volcanic eruptions, drone fighter plane murders, new births.

ps I have foolishly convinced myself that a blog for each book should be put up.  so here: ALIEN TO ANY SKIN and BAHA-BAHAGDANG KARUPUKAN

Suddenly, Memory

Detail from the music video for Bjork's "Unravel"

From the music video of Bjork's "Unravel" directed by Lynn Fox

My cellphone went wild this morning – sounded like a maimed animal trapped in a dark cave.  It was the alarm for a reminder I had set over a year ago, around the time I visited my family back home after the Ondoy floods.  Today is the birthday of my youngest sister’s first son.  I tried to phone them to greet him, but the line was bad probably because of the super typhoon that had just wreaked havoc in the region.  I wanted to share with them some good news, but had to hang up.

Today also marks the day I took my first international flight in 1994.  I thought the flight was going to be cancelled because, just as now, a powerful typhoon had just dragged its vicious winds and heavy rains across the country.  I went to my old university that morning, hoping to bid farewell to any unfortunate being I might bump into.  Classes had been called off.  It was mostly working staff who were there picking up huge branches of trees strewn across the campus roads, shaking their heads at uprooted trees that were older than them.  Roots pointed to the brewing clouds.

I didn’t know I, too, was being uprooted that day.  I didn’t say goodbye to friends properly.  My best friend drove me to the airport doors, he wasn’t even allowed in.  I pretended not to be afraid.

A few hours after takeoff the plane caught up with the departing typhoon, so the shrimp dinner that was hastily served by rattled flight attendants said Hi to me a second time.  Singapore Airport was cold and mostly empty after midnight when the plane landed.  In transit for over four hours, dreading the longer haul, I stupidly spent sitting not that far from huddled countrymen who were on their way to hard labour in unwelcoming kingdoms.

I did not know how fortunate I was.  Or what really awaited me that October 1994.  South Africa was a country in the midst of transforming itself and I was merely an alien, just as uncertain of what lay ahead.

Today I also received word from the director of the publishing house back home which recently accepted my two manuscripts.  She sent me snippets of what the reviewers had said about my poetry collection in English.  I was overwhelmed.  I couldn’t believe what they thought of my work.

Then at the same time I felt like I was on my own.  That very moment I truly was.  It would be an hour before I was to see my wife and share with her the good news.  And the only friends I managed to get hold of were online ones — one in Phoenix, Arizona, and the other in central Cape Town.

Somehow all those years in between came rushing back.  Suddenly, memory.


Train Ride

Remember? she kept saying Remember?
as if it were the last few
bubbles from her drowning.

But she wasn’t drowning.
Her hair was dry
and she had a smile,
not the frozen stun
of someone sinking.

She could have said the word
over and over like she was
underwater.  And this guy,
her boyfriend, I gather
by the way she lost herself,
threw her the look
of someone pushing a stranger
into the cold, dark water.

I pretended to be still
reading the old newspaper
I found in the station.
Whatever she wanted him
to remember, I’d forgotten.

The train was pulling
again and all of us
felt the jolt.


This was written in March 1995 in a smokey restaurant that used to cater to university students who didn’t care (or know any better) how bad the drinks were as long as they could drown themselves in alcohol in the middle of the day.

I am still looking for the right image to go with this piece.

This poem appears in my book Alien to Any Skin (UST Publishing House, Manila 2011). www.alientoanyskin.wordpress.com

Train of Thought


Today I received a copy of Train of Thought, an anthology of poems put together to record a unique literary exercise.

Here is a quote from an Inquirer.net article, Get on board the ‘Train of Thought’ posted a good few months ago.


The “Tulaan sa Tren” project, which began in August to promote poetry to Light Rail Transit commuters, will soon reach school teachers, libraries and creative writing institutions after it was captured in book and CD form.

“Through the book, you can savor the poems for heavier reading,” said Andrea Pasion-Flores, executive director of project proponent National Book Development Board (NBDB).

“Tulaan,” she said, was such a success that it had gained attention from The New Yorker online, which said playing poetry on the trains gave the publishing industry a well-deserved boost.

By immortalizing the project, Flores said they will create a more lasting impression by distributing the materials to the academe.


My poem “Train Ride” was included.  This other article from Bulawan Online lists all the other pieces in the anthology.  According to the bibliography this poem of mine was also included in another book, One Hundred Love Poems: Philippine Love Poetry Since 1905, edited by Dr. Gemino H. Abad.  I wonder if I’ll ever see that book.

Unfortunately Train of Thought which comes with an accompanying audio CD of the readings that were played through the PA systems of various train stations is not for sale to the reading public.  Hmmm.  There must be a profitable business venture somehow lurking here.  Yeah right.