Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I’m not sure now where this piece got published. It may have been the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the one referred to in the second paragraph as “this paper.” But this is actually a translation and an updating of something I originally wrote in Filipino for my column, “Kung sa Bagay,” in the short-lived newspaper Pinoy Times, published by Inquirer founder Eggie Apostol. That particular column item was entitled “Bikini para sa Totoong Pinay,” and it came out in the Pinoy Times issue of May 1, 2000.

Bikini, Philippine Style

IT’S SUMMERTIME, and the living isn’t exactly easy, which is why a lot of us are fleeing from the enervating heat—and cooling off in the hot springs of Pansol or on the hot sands of countless beach resorts.

The hot news for the season relayed a little while back by the lifestyle section of this paper came to me as a bit of a shock. The hottest-selling item at department stores right now, according to the report, is the bikini.

Yup, the bikini, the swimwear made out of two bits of cloth and named, according to my usually unreliable sources, after an island that got split into two islets by an atomic-bomb test.

When I read that item, I realized that I belong to the tribe described in the song “Ang Boyfriend Kong Baduy” as in na in, pero out pa rin. In fact, I may be out na out altogether, because I can’t recall being in waters that the buyers of the bestselling bikini swim in.

I’m curious to find out if it’s Filipinas who are buying these bikinis. And of course I’d like to know on what beach or in what swimming pool in which part of this archipelago they’re wearing the bikinis they’re buying.

You’ll probably say: Boracay. That doesn’t count. As far as I know, Boracay has succeeded where the Abu Sayyaf has failed. It has seceded from the Philippines. It is now an independent republic ruled by backpackers from Europe, it has decreed that there shall be only one official season (endless summer), and its chief source of income, the business that fuels its economy, is bikini competitions.

Not counting Boracay—and of course not counting the beerhouses with names derived from the criminal underworld (Kakosa, Bartolina, Iwahig, for instance), and not counting that Piel Morena movie that got an X rating a couple of times because the heroine’s bosom kept overflowing from the itsy-bitsy teenie-weenie bikinis she was made to wear—I can’t think of any place where the swimsuit of choice is the bestselling item at department stores.

I realize that the reason for this could be that I don’t get to join the in crowd at the in resorts. I’ve never been to Boracay, for one thing. I’ve never seen genuine Pinays in genuine bikinis on a genuine beach.

The Social Weather Stations hasn’t made a survey of the phenomenon, but I’m willing to bet that genuine Pinays, or at the very least the vast majority of Philippine womanhood, still belong to the mahinhin variety. They haven’t lost most of the old-fashioned modesty they’re supposed to have inherited from Maria Clara, that friar’s daughter who became a nun and then committed suicide because she couldn’t buy a bikini in the nunnery.

I say this, and I hope modern-day feminists won’t crucify me for saying this, because the swimsuit that I see the vast majority of Pinays wearing on the beaches I’ve been to is a two-piece outfit of a different sort—namely, T-shirt and walking shorts.

In reality, this is really a three-piece, because usually there’s a one-piece Olympic-style bathing suit underneath the T-shirt and walking shorts.

When I first made this observation in another publication, a friend informed me via email that the shirt-and-shorts combination is not uniquely Filipina, because you can find it in New York stores, where it’s called a tankini. Judging from its name, however, the tankini may still not be acceptable to the modern Maria Clara. Its upper half is probably a tank top, which bears as much resemblance to a T-shirt as a micromini does to a malong.

I wish to put it on record that I have absolutely no objection to bikinis. I like leafing through the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated as much as any red-blooded male animal. When I speak of T-shirts and walking shorts as the Philippine-style bikini, I am simply describing current reality, not endorsing it.

But that being the current reality, I think something has to be done about it. The usual T-shirt-and-shorts combination I’ve seen is a catch-as-catch-can affair, with no flair or imagination or sense of style whatsoever.

If I were a Filipino fashion designer, I wouldn’t go aping Western inventions like the bikini. Instead, I would venture into new territory, designing tasteful color-coordinated combinations of T-shirts and walking shorts for the Maria Clara of the new millennium. I’m sure such a swimwear line is going to be an even bigger bestseller than the bikini.

Bench for Her can take it from here. I shall not demand royalties for my brilliant new concept.

Saturday, April 25, 2009



Nasa gubat muli ang ating diwata.
Managhoy man tayo'y hindi siya lalabas.
Ang ibig niya'y isang taksil na binata.

Pagsapit ng dilim ang mga bintana
ay dapat isara; dapat nang mag-ingat:
nasa gubat muli ang ating diwata.

Walang masabi ang mga manghuhula,
kahit sino'y walang magawa, sapagkat
ang ibig niya'y isang taksil na binata.

Matapos ang unos, sino ang gagala
upang aluin ang mga sawimpalad?
Nasa gubat muli ang ating diwata

at ngayon ay hindi na nababahala
kung ang mangangaso'y maligaw ng landas.
Ang ibig niya'y isang taksil na binata.

Laganap sa buong bayan ang balitang
tulala siyang lagi't tuhod ang kayakap.
Nasa gubat muli ang ating diwata
pagkat ang ibig ay taksil na binata. -


Mula sa MGA KAGILA-GILALAS NA PAKIKIPAGSAPALARAN: MGA TULANG NAHALUNGKAT SA BUKBUKING BAUL (Kabbala, 1979; second edition: Office of Research and Publications, Ateneo de Manila, 1996). Muling nalathala sa KUNG BAGA SA BIGAS: MGA PILING TULA (University of the Philippines Press, 2002; second printing, 2005).

Ang villanelle na ito ay kabilang sa mga tulang sinulat ko sa pagitan ng 1965 at 1969. Naalala ko ito nang mapabalitang ang artista at mang-aawit na si Karylle ay nag-pose bilang Mariang Makiling para sa mga pintor, iskultor, at potograpo. Ang event na iyon--na inisponsor ng Maria Makiling Foundation ng University of the Philippines--ay nagsilbing paglulunsad ng kampanya na pangalagaan at iligtas ang Mount Makiling sa Laguna.

Maria Makiling ang pangalan ng foundation, at madalas ding gamitin ang pangalang iyan ng iba, pero ang nakagisnan kong pangalan ng diwata ay Mariang Makiling.

Maria Makiling
Drawing by Rev Cruz
(Brush pen on bond paper)
Artwork from:

Reprinted with the artist’s permission

Narito naman ang “Legend,” ang sarili kong salin Ingles ng “Mariang Makiling.” Isa ito sa ilang salin sa Ingles ng sarili kong mga tula, na ginawa ko noong 1979 sa Iowa University, Iowa, U.S.A. Napunta ako sa Iowa nang mapasama ako sa International Writing Program, sa ilalim ng isang grant na ipinagkaloob ng U.S. International Visitors Program.

Ang salin sa ibaba, at ang kasunod na editorial note, ay nasa 1996 edition ng libro kong Mga Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran.


Our nymph is back in her forest lair.
However much we wail, she won't come out.
All she wants is a faithless lover.

When darkness falls, all our windows
must be shut; we must now take care:
our nymph is back in her forest lair.

Nothing is known by the fortune tellers,
nothing can be done by anyone, because
all she wants is a faithless lover.

After a storm, who will walk around
to comfort all the unfortunate?
Our nymph is back in her forest lair

and now she doesn't care a whit
if a hunter loses his way.
All she wants is a faithless lover.

The news is all over town that she's
always blank-eyed and hugging her knees.
Our nymph is back in her forest lair
because she wants a faithless lover.

LEGEND. This is based on one of the best-known Philippine legends, about a wood nymph, Maria of Mount Makiling, who falls in love with a mortal. In this particular version of the legend, she's jilted by the mortal; in another version, she loses him to Spanish colonial conscription. Mount Makiling, to this day, is the center of native messianic cults, some of which revere heroes of the 1896 Philippine revolution as saints, and have a trinity composed of God the Father, God the Mother, and God the Son. Slightly different versions of this translation were previously published in The Spirit that Moves Us (Volume 6, Number 1, 1981, Iowa) and Tenggara: Journal of Southeast Asian Literature (No. 12, 1981, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia).

In his book Waiting for Mariang Makiling: Essays in Philippine Cultural History (Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2002), Resil B. Mojares reprints this poem and the translation, and quotes me in a footnote:

“On the writing of this poem, the author says: ‘I wrote the poem after dropping out of college but before the First Quarter Storm [the wave of antigovernment protest actions in 1970]. I think I had already written it before I joined Free Press, which narrows the writing period to between January and September of 1965.’ He calls the poem ‘a skirmish in my continuing engagement with folk and popular culture’ (personal communication, Jose F. Lacaba, 31 October 2001).”

Click the link below for Resil’s reading of the “Mariang Makiling” poem:

http://books.google.com.ph/books?id=An-ggOOAqAUC&dq=resil+mojares+mariang+makiling&printsec=frontcover&source=bl&ots=i24cUV7CEz&sig=OoyG_M683F6Fe3nzv314xwCUkHw&hl=en&ei=lY_ySfedG5KUkAXr9-jaCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1 - PPA13,M1

Saturday, April 11, 2009

SA LUPA: Halaw kay Jacques Prevert


Ni Jose F. Lacaba
Halaw kay Jacques Prevert

Maganda raw ang langit
pero wala pa akong kakilalang
nakakita sa kagandahang iyan.
Ako'y kontento na dito sa lupa
na kung minsan ay talaga namang kaakit-akit,
puno ng milagro't misteryo.
Mga misteryo ng tuwa
ang batis sa nayon at bulaklak sa estero,
init ng Pansol at lamig ng Baguio,
tiyan ng paksiw na bangus,
pisngi ng pesang dalag,
dito lamang sa lupa,
kasing-galing ng Tatlong Persona.
Hitik sa himala't hiwaga
ang lupa
na kung minsan ay talaga namang kahanga-hanga:
magulang at anak, kapatid at kabiyak,
pag-ibig na umaawas at hindi kapani-paniwala.
Hindi rin kapani-paniwala
ang kasawiang-palad
sa lupa,
tulad ng tinatawag na pagpapahiga sa hangin:
ulo't paa'y
nakapatong sa magkabilang kama,
katawan ay nakabitin
hanggat matitiis,
hanggat ayaw magsalita
ng pinahihirapang bihag,
dito sa lupa.
Mga misteryo ng hapis
na kung minsan ay talaga namang kahindik-hindik
ang pawis, luha, dugo,
ipis, pulgas, lamok, langaw, daga,
karinyo brutal ng romansa militar.
Ama naming nasa langit,
subukan mong bumaba rito
at tiyak na sa Kalbaryo
ang bagsak mo.

Mula sa kalipunang Sa Panahon ng Ligalig (Anvil Publishing, 1991).

Muling nalathala sa Kung Baga sa Bigas: Mga Piling Tula (University of the Philippines Press, 2002; second printing, 2005).

Jacques Prevert
sa pabalat ng aklat

Ngayong araw na ito ang anibersaryo ng pagkamatay ni Jacques Prevert (born February 4, 1900; died April 11, 1977), ang makatang Pranses na may-akda rin ng tulang “Les Feuilles Mortes” (The Dead Leaves). Dalawang saknong ng tulang ito ang nilapatan ng musika, at sa kalaunan ay isinalin sa Ingles. Kilala natin ang salinawit na Ingles ni Johnny Mercer sa pamagat na “Autumn Leaves.”

Naging screenwriter din si Prevert, at kabilang sa sinulat niya ay ang script ng Les enfants du paradis (The Children of Paradise, 1945). Ang pelikulang ito na dinirek ni Marcel Carne ay madalas na napapasama sa listahan ng greatest films of all time.

Ang tulang “Sa Lupa” ay sinulat noong panahon ng martial law at bumabanggit sa "pagpapahiga sa hangin," na bahagi ng torture na pinagdaanan ko bilang bilanggong pulitikal. Ito'y hinalaw o inadapt ko mula sa tulang “Pater Noster” ni Prevert, mula sa aklat niyang Paroles. Ang mga unang linya ng pinaghalawang tula ni Prevert, sa saling Ingles ni Lawrence Ferlinghetti, ay: “Our Father who art in heaven / Stay there / And we’ll stay here on earth / Which is sometimes so pretty.”

Mababasa ang salin ni Ferlinghetti ng tula ni Prevert dito: http://www.meanderthal.typepad.com/meanderthal/page/11/

Paliwanag ni Ferlinghetti sa introduksiyon niya sa libro niyang Selections from 'Paroles' (Penguin Books, 1958): "Many of the poems in Paroles grew out of the Second World War and the Occupation in France, and it is plain that 'paroles means both 'words' and 'passwords.'"