May Anne T. Jaro
The selections gathered by Prof. Isidoro Cruz, a well-published author himself, range from poetry, fiction to nonfiction, and reflect the unique characteristics of the culture in Western Visayas. They showcase the impressive abilities of the region’s skilled writers and the amazing potentials of the younger ones.
“Ang Mga Retrato sang Dalaga” by Anthony Capirayan is about a man who was separated from his beloved and the fruit of their love. He has earned a degree in Philosophy, but worked as a photographer. He might seem carefree as someone who has been living the life of a bachelor, but his dream reveals that subconsciously, he has worried for his child’s possible future. The story can happen anywhere, but other elements in this story are uniquely Ilonggo.
The collection of Kinaray-a poetry by Bea Altar not only highlights the use of the provincial Ilonggo dialect but also integrates elements that provide local color descriptive of the Ilonggo culture. “Tuka kag Magtangra” literally talks about what are observable with roosters and chickens, but it could relate to how humans struggle to feed themselves and their young ones. It also shows how simple people are thankful to the Heavens for the blessings they receive, and how helpless people could only watch while others who still have resources and energy, struggle for survival as they themselves simply wait for their sufferings to end. Her “Sa Punta kang Dalan Pabaybay” may have been inspired by another piece of literature like Dante Alighieri’s Purgatorio, but her own version relays interesting symbolisms that give the poem fresh ideas for interpretation. For instance, “anang sinipad daw ginkumus nga papel nga kon sa diin nakasulat ang mga kasal-anan” describes what seems to be a flower, but leads to the image of a crumpled paper usually meant to be thrown away as trash, which consequently, implies something about the nature of sin and the hope for forgiveness. In “Namat-an nga Bulawan,” the speaker could be referring to a hometown as something as precious as gold. (Namat-an can be defined as something one learned to know and to imbibe while growing up from the moment of his/her intellectual, psychological, social, or spiritual awakening.) In the poem, the speaker talks about a Narra tree, which could be compared to one having strong roots or to one strongly rooted to his/her origin; the pride he/she has because of this origin, brings forth something that could equally make anyone proud. Finally, “Butong-Butong,” is a poem that compares a mother’s love to a locally made sugar stick candy. Indeed, a mother’s love is as sweet, as sturdy, and as tolerant as the tough but stretchable sweet butong- butong.
“Nowhere Man, a Short Story” by Rey Alexander Palmares is actually a nonfictional discourse about the author’s uncle. It talks about the challenges a family encounters while living with a person who has post-traumatic stress disorder, a mental health condition triggered by a terrifying event that was either experienced or witnessed by the patient, and expresses the author’s realization of the significance of having this member of the family towards whom he is not explicitly sympathetic. The author does not speak of affection for his uncle, but his meticulous observation of his uncle’s gestures, behaviors, and simple words of wisdom suggests the special attention and growing respect that he has for the old relative. As he states that his uncle will still live long enough for him to apologize, he expresses a tinge of embarrassment and regret for how he has regarded his uncle in the past. Writing about his uncle has provided him with an opportunity to have some time for reflection and to realize a person’s worth before time is totally lost.
The collection of poetry in English by Elijohn Barrios displays one of the younger generation of writers’ gift for painting pictures with the use of words. The author’s poem “As If We Are Fish” compares the world to a sea of fire where humans struggle to survive like fish required to fly—as if saying that ambition is necessary for humans to overcome the challenges they must face in this world of burning pain. His poem “Farrah Fawcett and Arnold Schwarzenegger” describes how media influence people’s perception of themselves and what society tends to consider as something acceptable. And his poem “Father” could be a reflection of how he looks at greed and hypocrisy in society as threats to the dreams of the younger generation that should have been under the protection of this same society.
The poems of Adhoniz Babila Rebong highlight the use of Filipino to culminate the presentation of the variety of languages that the writers of Western Visayas use to express their creative ideas. They are expressions of love, aspirations probably inspired by others, hope for better things to come, and courage not to totally lose trust in humanity. His poem “Elehiya para sa Mandudula” relates the memories left by a respected dramatist. “Ang Lumang Relo” talks about an old watch left by the lover while the central character was sleeping—the clock no longer ticks since the batteries were in the lover’s pocket when he left; the love between them has become a thing of the past. “Kung ang Tigdas ay Naging Pag-ibig” talks about an outbreak as a pleasant thing if it were love; if only love can contaminate people the way measles does, this world will be a better place. “Pamamaalam sa Iiwang Dalampasigan” could be a reflection about death and the desire to leave this world in a positive note. And finally, the poem “Duyan” seems to be a lover’s invitation for the beloved to sway together to love’s peaceful rhythm of oneness, and to seek rest and refuge from the weight of challenges by relying on the lover’s strength to complement the beloved’s weaknesses.
These selections are representations that display Western Visayan culture and talent, provide fresh perspectives about life’s unending complications, and allow a glimpse of the wisdom and creative imagination that both the experts and the newcomers in the field of literature can offer to enhance the beautiful Filipino values and traditions, and to enrich the country’s literary heritage.