recovering my native tongue

I’ve finally dove deeper into my consciousness where the dialect I was born with wrapped me like a cloth-swing. And in a magical instant, I began writing these haiku. What flight!


I was born in Ilocos Norte, a province in the northernmost tip of the Philippine archipelago. Our native ancestors are known to have migrated from Malaya. But my own ancestry is heavily Spanish. I grew up in my town but after I left for the university in Manila when I was fifteen, I hardly went back home, thrice at the most. Also, I hardly had the chance to speak Iluko, my dialect, anymore. English has been my language socially, at school and at work. Tagalog or Pilipino, our national language, is what I use colloquially.


Iluko, my dialect (the Philippines has 87 dialects) is Indo-Malay rooted. The syllables are pronounced as written. It has no dipthongs. All ‘a’s’ are short, all ‘u’s’ are long ooo’s. We read it like the Spaniards do, except for the c’s and z’s that we pronounce as ‘s’s’.


I tried to translate these haiku pieces but could only paraphrase the verses or wrote what comes closest in English. I hope you will enjoy the sound at least!




Iluko haiku

by Alegria Imperial 



batbato inta


sabsabong ti sardam


(stones on the


dawn flowers)



pegges ti karayan


idi kalman



the river

yesterday’s promise)



daluyon iti

tengga’t aldaw

ararasaas mo



at high tide

your whispers)



bulan nga


nagpakada kadi?


(setting moon

in the east

did you say goodbye?)




a pagay

tedted ti lulua


(pulled strands

of rice grain

tear drops)


Published in LYNX  February 2009

Posted in PoemShape

2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

-As you say you have spanish ancestry…maybe this translation is interesting for you:( I have translated from English)

1.Piedras en la
margen del rio
bajo las flores

el rio
la promesa de ayer

3.El orballo
del curso alto:
tus susrros

4.La luna saliente
en el oriente
dijiste adios?

5.La arena cayente
de granos de arroz:

Comment by Anton

Dear Anton,

Thanks so much for your wonderful translation!!

About my Spanish ancestry–it’s largely assumed from word passed on to the family. Since we have to rely on records that have become skimpy through decades, I simply go by snatches of it from stories in my childhood. Still, since I strayed into the international poetry scene, as well as in writing classes in New York, I’ve realized that such albeit ancestry apparently seeps in through “my voice”. Like to the chagrin of one of classmates, a South American, at NYU, another classmate even said, some of my phrases sort of reminded him of Allende and even Garcia Marquez.

It had rendered me speechless and humbled, but it also sharpened my awareness about that part of what we call heritage and culture as more than the visible in us because it resides in the spirit, hence, it streams through or even explodes apparently in art–in my case, poetry. Woouww! It’s the first time ever that I could say this succinctly! Thanks to you.

Please do come by again if you find anything interesting here, or you might also want to visit my writing/poetry blog, jornales. Thanks again.

Best regards

Comment by filipineses09

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