Nubes

PEPE ALAS

Nubes encima de nuestro apartamento, cerca de la Laguna de Bay (14/09/2010).

La ciencia nos enseña que el propósito de los nubes son para contener la lluvia y envolver la tierra del calor extremo del sol. Es verdad. Pero hay otro propósito…

Tenemos los nubes entre nosotros para placer los ojos cansados de la humanidad, cansados debido a muchas tribulaciones, inundaciones, y presiones que esta realidad codiciosa nos inflige. Al mirar a estas raras blancuras en el cielo (por supuesto, es necesario usar gafas de sol cuando hace sol), se puede encontrar un tipo de comodidad que tal vez sólo una poesía pueda exponer en detalle. Es como una visión breve de la vida eterna.

Estos nubes de todos los tipos, de mechones juguetones, algodones gigantescos, como mecanismos de un sueño, complacen no sólo los ojos sino la mente agotada. Es triste que mucha gente toma los nubes un poco a la ligera.

La naturaleza no es sólo para sustentar la vida sino para animarla.

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A La Patria (Emilio Jacinto)

Tengo problemas con el Katipunan, la sociedad secreta fundada por francmasones en 1892 para liberar Filipinas del gobierno colonial español. La historia general nos enseña que los Katipuneros eran patriotas, héroes que nos liberaron de la tiranía española. Pero he terminado con esa mentira. No estoy diciendo que, aunque francmasones, los Katipuneros eran malvados. Yo sé que muchos de ellos vivieron por un ideal — todos los revolucionarios/rebeldes lo hacen. Pero así lo hace la sociedad contra la que se rebelan. No es de extrañar que José Rizal nunca aprobara la rebelión de Katipunan: comprendió cuál ideal debía permanecer en pie.

Sin embargo, aunque no soy un seguidor de la rebelión tagala, soy un seguidor de la literatura, sobre todo de la literatura bien escrita. Arte por el bien del arte, como ellos dicen. Así que os presento un poema escrito por Emilio Jacinto (1875—1899), uno de los miembros más jóvenes y oficiales de más alto rango del Katipunan. Este poema titulado A La Patria fue dedicado a su patria chica, Filipinas. Se debe notar que durante el tiempo de Jacinto, el concepto de la patria significaba dos cosas: la patria grande y la patria chica. La patria grande inmediatamente se refiere a la Madre España. Por otro lado, la patria chica denota la localidad de uno: en el caso de Jacinto y sus compatriotas filipinos, es Filipinas. Pero en A La Patria que fue escrito el 8 de octubre de 1897 (de hecho, es su aniversario el día de hoy) bajo los cocoteros de Santa Cruz, La Laguna donde vivió como rebelde-refugiado, ya había declarado que su patria grande era Filipinas, “sin el yugo español”.

A los que han leído el Mi Último Adiós de Rizal, se puede notar fácilmente cuán similar es el poema de Jacinto con el del héroe nacional. El de Rizal fue escrito seis meses antes de que Jacinto escribiera el suyo. Ambos poemas están dedicados a Filipinas. Y están escritos en el estilo Alejandrino (verso de catorce sílabas métricas compuesto de dos hemistiquios de siete sílabas con acento en la tercera y decimotercera sílaba). Bueno, sin más preámbulos, os presento A La Patria por Emilio Jacinto.

Talambuhay ni Emilio Jacinto

Emilio Jacinto, el “Cerebro del Katipunan” (imagen: Bayaning Filipino).

A LA PATRIA
Emilio Jacinto

¡Salve, oh patria, que adoro, amor de mis amores,
que Natura de tantos tesoros prodigó;
vergel do son más suaves y gentiles las flores,
donde el alba se asoma con más bellos colores,
donde el poeta contempla delicias que soñó!

¡Salve, oh reina de encantos, Filipinas querida,
resplandeciente Venus, tierra amada y sin par:
región de luz, colores, poesía, fragancias, vida,
región de ricos frutos y de armonías, mecida
por la brisa y los dulces murmullos de la mar!

Preciosísima y blanca perla del mar de Oriente,
edén esplendoroso de refulgente sol:
yo te saludo ansioso, y adoración ardiente
te rinde el alma mía, que es su deseo vehemente
verte sin amarguras, sin el yugo español.

En medio de tus galas, gimes entre cadenas;
la libertad lo es todo y estás sin libertad;
para aliviar, oh patria, tu padecer, tus penas,
gustoso diera toda la sangre de mis venas,
durmiera como duermen tantos la eternidad.

El justo inalienable derecho que te asiste
palabra vana es sólo, sarcasmo, burla cruel;
la justicia es quimera para tu suerte triste;
esclava, y sin embargo ser reina mereciste;
goces das al verdugo que en cambio te dá hiel.

¿Y de qué sirve ¡ay, patria! triste, desventurada,
que sea límpido y puro tu cielo de zafir,
que tu luna se ostente con luz más argentada,
de que sirve, si en tanto lloras esclavizada,
si cuatro siglos hace que llevas de sufrir?

¿De que sirve que cubran tus campos tantas flores,
que en tus selvas se oiga al pájaro trinar,
si el aire que trasporta sus cantos, sus olores,
en alas también lleva quejidos y clamores
que el alma sobrecogen y al hombre hacen pensar?

¿De qué sirve que, perla de virginal pureza,
luzcas en tu blancura la riqueza oriental,
si toda tu hermosura, si toda tu belleza,
en mortíferos hierros de sin igual dureza
engastan los tiranos, gozándose en tu mal?

¿De qué sirve que asombre tu exuberante suelo,
produciendo sabrosos frutos y frutos mil,
si al fin cuanto cobija tu esplendoroso cielo
el hispano declara que es suyo y sin recelo
su derecho proclama con insolencia vil?

Mas el silencio acaba y la senil paciencia,
que la hora ya ha sonada de combatir por ti.
Para aplastar sin miedo, de frente, sin clemencia,
la sierpe que envenena tu mísera existencia,
arrastrando la muerte, nos tienes, patria, aquí.

La madre idolatrada, la esposa que adoramos,
el hijo que es pedazo de nuestro corazón,
por defender tu causa todo lo abandonamos:
esperanzas y amores, la dicha que anhelamos,
todos nuestros ensueños, toda nuestra ilusión.

Surgen de todas partes los héroes por encanto,
en sacro amor ardiendo, radiantes de virtud;
hasta morir no cejan, y espiran. Entre tanto
que fervientes pronuncian, patria, tu nombre santo;
su último aliento exhalan deseándote salud.

Y así, cual las estrellas del cielo numerosas,
por tí se sacrifican mil vidas sin dolor:
y al oir de los combates las cargas horrorosas
rogando porque vuelvan tus huestes victoriosas
oran niños, mujeres y ancianos con fervor.

Con saña que horroriza, indecibles torturas,–
porque tanto te amaron y desearon tu bien,–
cuantos mártires sufren; más en sus almas puras
te bendicen en medio de angustias y amarguras
y, si les dan la muerte, bendicente también.

No importa que sucumban a cientos, a millones,
tus hijos en lucha tremenda y desigual
y su preciosa sangre se vierta y forme mares:
no importa, si defienden a tí y a sus hogares,
si por luchar perecen, su destino fatal.

No importa que suframos destierros y prisiones,
tormentos infernales con salvaje furor;
ante el altar sagrado que en nuestras corazones
juntos te hemos alzado, sin mancha de pasiones,
juramentos te hicieron el alma y el honor.

Si al terminar la lucha con laureles de gloria
nuestra obra y sacrificios corona el triunfo al fin,
las edades futuras harán de tí memoria;
y reina de esplendores, sin manchas ya ni escoria,
te admirarán los pueblos del mundo en el confín.

Ya en tu cielo brillando el claro y nuevo día,
respirando venturas, amor y libertad,
de los que caído hubieren en la noche sombría
no te olvides, que aun bajo la humilde tumba fría
se sentirán felices por tu felicidad.

Pero si la victoria favorece al hispano
y adversa te es la suerte en la actual ocasión,
no importa: seguiremos llamándonos “hermano”,
que habrá libertadores mientras haya tirano,
la fé vivirá mientras palpite el corazón.

Y la labor penosa en la calma aparente
que al huracán precede y volverá a bramar,
con la tarea siguiendo más firme, más prudente,
provocará otra lucha aun más tenaz y ardiente
hasta que consigamos tus lágrimas secar.

¡Oh patria idolatrada, cuanto más afligida
y angustiada te vemos te amamos más y más:
no pierdas la esperanza; de la profunda herida
siempre brotará sangre, mientras tengamos vida,
nunca te olvidaremos: ¡jamás, jamás, jamás!

Una exposición de arte por una buena causa

Ayer por la tarde asistí la apertura de una exposición de arte por una causa organizada por mi amigo, el Dr. Nilo Valdecantos. Él es un dentista de profesión pero un patrón de arte por vocación. Después de todo, es de Paeté, un pueblo (municipalidad) en la provincia de La Laguna que es famoso por sus escultores. Pero a través de los años la tradición escultórica de Paeté se vio aumentada por una nueva generación de artistas: pintores y también músicos. Por lo tanto, Paeté ahora puede ser considerado como un refugio para artistas.

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Kalikasan, Kultura, at Kasaysayan” en LRI Design Plaza, Ciudad de Macati.

El Dr. Valdecantos es un sobreviviente de cáncer. Fue capaz de sobrevivir a esa dolorosa experiencia porque tenía los medios para hacerlo. Pero durante esa dolorosa experiencia, pudo conocer a otros pacientes de cáncer que no eran tan afortunados como él porque eran pobres. No podían pagar la costosa medicación ni la quimioterapia. Así, su destino quedó sellado.

Después de sobrevivir a su terrible experiencia, el Dr. Valdecantos no olvidó a los otros pacientes de cáncer que había conocido durante su paso inolvidable. Por eso lanzó una exposición de arte para una causa se llama “Kalikasan, Kultura, at Kasaysayan” (Naturaleza, Cultura, e Historia) para el beneficio de los pacientes de cáncer. El evento presenta las obras de arte (pinturas y esculturas) de los mejores artistas de Paete en la actualidad como Fred Baldemor, Glenn Cagandahan, Ysa Gernale, y mucho más. Una gran parte de los ingresos de sus magníficas obras de arte serán para los pacientes con cáncer que están internados en St. Frances Cabrini Medical Center en Santo Tomás, Batangas. Kalikasan, Kultura, at Kasaysayan se encuentra en LRI Design Plaza en la Ciudad de San Pedro Macati (Makati City) y se extenderá hasta el 16 de octubre.

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“Three Graces Series” (Serie de Tres Gracias), una escultura en bronce por Fred Baldemor, considerado como el “Miguel Ángel de Filipinas”.

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“Fiesta”, óleo sobre lienzo por Amador Barquilla.

El Dr. Valdecantos, un patrocinador genuino de las bellas artes, espera que muchos otros patrocinadores del arte como él organicen más eventos como este. Que Dios bendiga su hermosa alma.

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El Dr. Nilo Valdecantos y yo. Detrás de nosotros está Joey Ayala, un famoso músico, junto con su percusionista vocalista de respaldo.

A close encounter with a Dick

Senator Dick Gordon has become relevant again these past few days. Not because of the Blue Ribbon Committee which he chairs but because he has revived yet again his deep-seated mania of adding a ninth ray to the sun in the Filipino flag. You may read Ambeth Ocampo’s latest column about this matter for more details.

After hearing all this latest news about Gordon’s ninth-ray obsession, I was reminded of a Facebook post which I wrote two years ago. It was about my first and only encounter with him during the 2013 La Laguna Festival. I’m sharing it now on this blog (with slight edits)…

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One balmy evening a few years ago, I was inattentively listening to Dick Gordon delivering a candid speech to a huge and festive crowd at the capitol grounds of Santa Cruz in La Laguna Province. I couldn’t remember exactly what he was talking about. What I do remember is that his presence there was irrelevant. Anyway, I was concerned with something else — my stomach was rumbling. I was having a bout of sudden diarrhea, and I hate doing the deed in some public restroom. But I couldn’t help it anymore.

I was at the left side of the stage by the stairs, my eyes surreptitiously scouring the huge grounds for a portalet, but saw none. I suddenly remember that there’s a restroom at the nearby DECS building (I wonder now if the old balete tree is still there). So off I went.

As I was slowly trudging the steps on my way to that building, Dick was already talking about rampant corruption in Filipino culture. Pointing the microphone to the audience, he asked who was to blame for all this corruption that we have in our society.

After a few seconds of playing with the crowd, he answered his own question. What he said was something unholy to my ears.

My diarrhea suddenly forgot that it had to embarrass me.

I had to look at him onstage. With a sick smile on his face, Dick was pointing his accusing finger towards our country’s Spanish past. I don’t remember his exact words, but he either said “Kastilà” or “Spaniards”. Whatever. What he said made my blood boil, especially since, after doing some reassessment of Filipino History through the years, I’ve discovered the reverse. But here comes this politician to a supposedly fun event, corrupting the minds of Lagunenses for whatever goddamned purpose he may had without even using pertinent data or sources.

But then again, why should he even cite sources? He attended a provincial fiesta anyway. It’s not a class lecture or any of that sort. But that’s EXACTLY the point! Why should he even talk about Filipino History —TWISTED Filipino History to be precise— during such an event? His speech was supposedly to animate the crowd, to greet them a happy fiesta, to make himself look cool even if he really wasn’t.

I stopped dead on my tracks, hesitated for a few moments, then went back to the stairs. I had to confront this buffoon. It’s now or never.

After several boring minutes of grandstanding, the hosts finally took the mic away from him. Dick Boredom was then on his way out, but it took him quite some time to get off the stage because so many people were greeting him, shaking his hands, patting him on the back, doing selfies and stuff. His personal goons couldn’t do much to steer away the crowd who wanted a piece of the Dick. He was a rock star that night.

But not to me. He was just another rock. An insignificant pebble. A troglodyte, actually (note: Jessica Zafra doesn’t own that word). He had to be given a Stone Cold Stunner if only to wake him up from his hispanophobic delights. But of course, I couldn’t do that. The diarrhea was at it again, especially when I saw his face getting closer to me.

I saw people near me shaking his hand. It gave me an idea. When the Dick was already standing right in front of me, still with a big smile plastered all over his face, I grabbed his empty right hand which was still looking for another hand to shake it. Since the music onstage was blurting out loud, almost as loud as the irritating sounds from within my bowels, I inched my face close to his ear:

“Get your facts straight, sir. The Spaniards did not teach us corruption. It was the Americans. Thank you”.

The plan was to immediately bolt for the DECS restroom. But he did not let go of my hand. He gripped it hard before I could leave, then tugged it towards him. Angrily, he whispered back: “It’s not the Americans, it’s the Spaniards!”

From the corner of my eye, I noticed that a goon or two of his noticed that their boss was getting upset. Before any untoward commotion happened, I shook off my hand from his grip in order to free myself. I didn’t say a word anymore, just a smirk on my face. I left him scowling towards me as I was walking away towards the old balete tree.

That was simply my purpose — to ruin his rock star night for disrespecting our forefathers who worked hard in order for us to have towns and provinces and Cross and cuisine and roads and bridges and cattle and agriculture and industry and arts and “palabra de honor” and culture and history and name for our country that we still use and apply to our daily lives. Somehow, I succeeded.

And yes, I did scream “success!” when I got out of the DECS building. 

But seriously, Dick, is hispanophobia a standard in all of your speeches? With a surname such as yours, I think I understand why.

To end this blogpost, let me leave you with the opening sentence taken from that Ocampo article I mentioned earlier. Because I find that opening as a perfect ending…

“Dick Gordon is so often starved for attention that the public is well-advised to ignore his antics.”

Apo Ni Isaac II

Kape Kesada Art Gallery, the de facto cultural center of Paeté, La Laguna, will celebrate the opening of Apo Ni Isaac II, an art exhibit featuring the paintings and sculpture of the famed Cagandahan siblings: Odette Cagandahan-Monfero, Glenn Cagandahan, and Christine “Tintin” Cagandahan-Aquilo. It is a belated sequel to Apo Ni Isaac which was exhibited nine years ago at the same venue.

Odette is a painter while Tintin and Glenn are sculptors.

The exhibit will run starting this Saturday, September 22, until October 30. For more details, please send a private message to the Facebook page of Kape Kesada  Art Gallery or to its owner, Dr. Nilo Valdecantos.

Did Fernando Mª Guerrero just talk to me?

I just woke up about an hour ago, past 10 PM. I then went to one of my bookshelves, grabbed a collection of poetry by Fernando Mª Guerrero (1873-1929), opened up the book (titled Aves y Flores)… then lo and behold! Something strange just happened!

Watch my Facebook Live video here to find out why!

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Aves y Flores, a collection of poems by Fernando María Guerrero (Image: Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes).

And to think that just a few weeks ago, I was wondering if he ever died as a Freemason or not. Incredible. What are the odds?

Heart Anatomy (a heartrequiem, not a literary critique)

Because justice is the hip word today, I thought it best to render one to a now-forgotten collection of poetry written by Amelita Málig, née Cuala, a native of Luisiana, La Laguna. The book, entitled Heart Anatomy, was published in 1973, six years before I was born. It didn’t receive much fanfare. It didn’t catapult the author to literary stardom. Copies were very limited and were given only to a select few, mostly to friends. But the book had served its purpose: it released the author from her “promethean / sea of agonized / red”, putting her “putrefied heart” and “blasted brain” and “broken body” at peace with the God she once doubted.

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Mrs. Málig (1934-2000), as most students used to call her, was my literary instructor at Adamson University. Her only son Christian was a batchmate who became a dear friend of mine (he, myself, and Yeyette who is now my wife once formed a faction; we called ourselves “The Triad” although that silly faction was really meant to be a joke on my then girlfriend). Naturally, I first knew about Mrs. Málig through Christian but never had the chance to talk to her. I only got to meet her two years into college. To my observation, Christian seemed to be apprehensive in introducing his friends to her. But perhaps rightly so because to us students, there seemed to be a touch of eccentricity in her (a usual trait of writers, anyway). Her Bohemian appearance (it’s difficult not to remember her large circular earrings, loose and wild-colored blouses, and heavily made-up face) and booming voice shook fear in the hearts of youngsters who had had traumatic experiences from terror teachers during their high school years. These same kids called her names behind her back (one such memorable tag was “Mrs. Maligno”).

But Mrs. Málig was no terror. She just had a peculiar way of dealing with people. This I found out when she became my teacher in one of the subjects she had handled (Essay and Essay Writing if I remember correctly). She entered the class with aplomb despite her small stature, immediately instructed a student in front to lead the prayer, and off she went with a fun rhetoric that seemed to have been delivered many times before but nonetheless still effective. Not once did she look us in the eye, her scrutinizing iris always gazing at the ceiling as she spoke. And she spoke only English, but her witty one-liners drew down the whole class of mostly provincial kids who rarely use this language in everyday speech, even in English subjects.

After the obligatory introductions, she then bid us to write an essay, any essay. Almost the whole class winced, even myself (believe me, writing is not an enjoyable task). She didn’t explain, but it seemed to me that what she was doing was some sort of a diagnostic test. After several minutes of contemplation, I jotted down a list of pet peeves in sarcastic fashion, ending each item with a “blast it!” exclamation. I then counted the number of students: around 30. There’s no way for her to read all our essays, I thought back then. I was sure that she will not read everybody’s work.

Two or three days later, Christian reported to me about that essay I wrote. He said her mom was all into it. I couldn’t remember if I had laughed. All that I remember was that I was able to grab hold of her attention, and it excited me of course. It was the first time I have submitted a written work to be read by somebody. I immediately got praise although to my mind, even at that early stage of my life, I have always thought that all my writings were mediocre.

On the second day of class, me and my classmates stood up to greet her and to prepare for the mandatory prayers. But she ignored the courtesy and called out my last name instead. In a loud and seemingly angry voice, she boomed:

“Where is Mr. Alas?”

I could feel the blood streaming up to my cheeks. What happened this time? Was Christian playing jokes on me? Slowly, I dragged my feet towards the front of the class. I walked down the aisle, with all my classmates looking down at me as if I was to be sent to the gallows. When I was a few feet from the poetess, she interrogated me… without even looking at my face!

“Since when have you been writing? What books do you read? Who are your favorite authors?”

I didn’t know if I should feel proud or embarrassed. I was sweating profusely as I answered her rapid-fire questions in a low voice. I could feel my classmates inquisitive eyes, wondering what in the world was happening.

She didn’t mention anything about the essay. She lavished no praises. After questioning me, she simply bid me back to my seat. After the day’s lecture, she called me again and asked me to accompany her back to the faculty room. She had some packages and books. I carried them for her.

It was the start of a weird friendship. She rarely talked about her son to me (I never bothered to ask anyway, haha). We didn’t even talk about literature at all, nor about the day’s lectures. She never taught me anything, never recommended any authors. I simply accompanied her from time to time, doing small talk. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t even remember the things we had talked about during those times that we had trod the aisles of the university.

It was during one of these walks when we bumped into Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera, a colleague of hers in the College of Liberal Arts. She introduced me to him as a fine young writer. I was embarrassed because Señor Gómez already knew me as one of his naughty students who never paid attention in his Spanish class, in fact was always absent; he later on gave me an incomplete grade (humorously enough, I later became a lifetime advocate for the return of the Spanish language in Filipinas). In response to Mrs. Málig’s introduction, the jolly Hispanist looked at me from head to foot and exclaimed in his thick Spanish-accent: “Admirable!” Señor Gómez has since become a close associate and a friend.

But there was this one time when me and Mrs. Málig walked home together that I will never forget. I was accompanying her towards the LRT station in United Nations Avenue. It was nighttime and there was a light drizzle as we hurried toward the covered Falcon Walkway. I’ve been having problems at home, so I involuntarily made a comment about the rain, and how it makes me lonely all the time (up to that point, I had never liked the rain). But I stiffened. I couldn’t pour out my heart to her, and she wouldn’t let me. She never probed. But she had said something about the rain, about its connection and non-connection to whatever I was feeling at the moment. About being and seeing. It was not the rain who’s at fault. It’s how I perceive the rain to be.

She had made me love the rain in an instant. Since then, I’ve become a pluviophile.

Mrs. Málig became my instructor again in another subject: Introduction to Literature. It was there where she introduced us to José García Villa’s poetry, paying more attention to his work than any other writer I could remember from that class. She pronounced Villa’s name as “Hosey Garsha Vila” (for all I know, Doveglion must have had pronounced his name in that manner when he was still alive in the States). It was obvious that she was an admirer of Villa’s uncanny poetry. Inadvertently (or was it purposely?), she made me an admirer, too.

Almost nobody in our class paid her much attention. What I mean is that the few others who had excelled in that subject did it for the sake of grades, not for the sake of learning the craft of versifying. I remember her instructing me and Christian to photocopy pages from her book of poetry to be given away to the rest of the class. The book contained techniques on how to master allegory, metonymy, imagery, alliteration, consonance, and a lot of other stylistic devices. We had it photocopied for days because the book was thick. After it was given away, nothing happened afterwards. We never discussed about literary devices. Nobody from the class bothered to ask. But I have always wondered.

(Fast forward to 2001, or a year before Mrs. Málig’s unexpected demise: On top of the mountain ranges of Abra de Ilog, my wife’s hometown in Mindoro Occidental. I was studying the contents of those photocopies. I studied and learned the literary devices she had given to us on top of a cloudy mountain, all by myself. Sometimes, I’d like to tease myself that those photocopies were really meant for me and not for the whole class).

Life had shown to me its rather unfriendly side when, in late 1999, I allowed immaturity to take over reason. Yeyette became pregnant, and we haven’t even graduated yet. Christian and her mom were one of the very few people whom we divulged our predicament to. Me and Yeyette got to talk with her in front of the SV Building. She gave us moral support by telling her lifestory. She was once a freethinker during her days in UP Dilimán, prompting her disappointed father to transfer her to St. Theresa’s College Manila (which has become a part of our alma mater since 1980). During her inquisitiveness, she had suffered a nervous breakdown, then went on a retreat with a group of religious to find herself. Along the way, she had met Jesuits as well as famous literary critic and poetess Josefina Constantino. She then took pen and paper and focused all her strength into creating this book that I now speak of  (Constantino gave it positive reviews).

She later invited us to her house. Actually, it wasn’t a house but a cramped up, studio type room in an ageing condominium near the expressway. There were three of them living there: she, Christian, and her husband who was suffering from colon cancer. Much of the small room was taken over by their large, double deck bed and a shelf filled with Mrs. Málig’s books and a TV set (Christian says she didn’t have any liking for it, calling it an “idiot box”). The shelf also served as a divider, creating a make-shift room for their dining space. There were boxes underneath the double deck bed, filled with more books and other papers. The room was dank and lonely, blighted even more by artificial light. Little did I imagine that a fashionable poetess like her would be living in such a cramped condition. But then again, she’s a writer, not an office worker.

We had dinner and small talk that evening. I remember it to be a cold one as Christmas was fast approaching. Before we left, she gifted us with a blanket, some pillow cases, and a ladle with her nickname etched on it. Something for us to start with, she said. We still use those items to this very day. And Yeyette is now a very excellent cook.

PEPE ALAS

That was the last time we saw Mrs. Málig. A few weeks later, we confessed the pregnancy to our respective families. Life soon followed, a life that ached the heart.

Yeyette gave birth to Krystal in July the following year. We were already on our own, living in a basement somewhere in Villamor Air Base. And a few months after she gave birth, Christian gave us the shock of our lives when he brought news of his mother’s demise. It practically stunned us since we were all expecting Mr. Málig to go first. We regret the chance of not being able to show Krystal to her in spite of our place’s proximity to hers.

Without mincing any words, Heart Anatomy is the story of Mrs. Málig’s poetic journey from agnosticism to Catholicism, and her newfound devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It’s divided in two parts. The first is about her spiritual struggles, her “heart transmutation”. The second is a new insight on the world, using her heart (instead of just her senses) from her newfound devotion. All her poems on this book are short. But it doesn’t matter. Just like what Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his essay “The Poet”:

It does not need that a poem should be long. Every word was once a poem. Every new relation is a new word.

And like Villa, she was nontraditional. Almost all her verses were experimental, dictated not by tradition but by the heart.

Ever since I became active on the Internet, I have always planned of publishing Heart Anatomy online as a token of gratitude for the literary inspiration she had planted in me and to a few other kindred souls (Palanca Awardee Joe Bert Lazarte, award-winning essayist Imee Rabang, and award-winning poet Radney Ranario) in one way or another. I feel bad and guilty because when I was still an active blogger (I was more active before than now), I’ve never given time for that plan. But two years ago, when I unceremoniously freed myself from writing constraints, I was able to snatch enough time to convert my only copy of her book into PDF form. I then uploaded each PDF page into my Facebook account as an album format, even changing its privacy settings to public in the hopes that it would reach many people. But the endeavor only proved how terrible I was when it comes to online marketing. Only four people “liked” it, and the only other person who left a couple of comments other than myself was Mrs. Málig’s daughter-in-law whom she had never even met.

About an hour ago, I received a chat message from Joe Bert (Mrs. Málig was much closer to him compared to myself and the other writers I mentioned on this blogpost). He told me of his plan to republish our teacher’s only collection of poetry. It excited me because exactly a year from now would be Mrs. Málig 85th birth anniversary (today’s her 84th, which is also the feast day of Saint Augustine of Hippo). It would be the best time to relaunch her book. I then thought of changing that PDF album to private, choosing only a very select few who can access it. It will do her justice if littérateurs would get to read her poetry collection in book form. Nevertheless, to honor her on her 84th natal day, I included below seven of her sensory-filled verses from her book’s poem one: you. You will, at least, be treated to witness a few steps of her versified journey from barrenness to a Land of Promise.

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