It feels like a kind of loving
February 19, 2015, 5:55 pm
Filed under: opinion | Tags: , , , , , , , ,


More as devotion, this kind of love has no bearing on the common notion though it feels like one for me. Or how does one explain the enormity of emotions it draws out—so compelling that we agonize over this beloved’s miseries, want to right the wrongs done to her, and even die for her sake? Yes, apparently it’s mother, this “loved one” for Filipinos.

And to my mind, this kind of love does begin at birth when with twin mothers we’re nourished in parallel yet dissimilar ways, one, with breast milk and the other, with the sun, air, sea, mountains, birds and flowers. Both as life-gifts, hence, taken for granted in our youth, until in a mysterious process, these rise from caverns within: first, as response in song, dance, and poetry, next, as work. While both revert to one’s own need of expression first, and existence, even a future, second, in the end, like atoms these coagulate into a mass wherein without our being conscious of it, we’re fused.

Drawn to symbols of her, like clarion calls or torches that flare in the dark, we’re magnetized when poised on us; either her wins, or defeats or dangers become ours. Yet, that’s not all—especially in exile whether or not of our choosing, longing for its gifts gnaws at us, seeing in alien landscapes her contours, grasping at likenesses in scents and sounds, envying the comforts and choices denied of her.

Or how would I explain the deep helplessness I felt at the Vancouver Public Library one afternoon over a sparse showcase consisting mostly of thin flash fiction volumes, CDs of telenovelas, children’s books not labeled Pilipino but Tagalog, that puts this sub representation at the far end of country collections in a shelf shared with the Vietnamese? Akin to finding out how a mother dressed inappropriately has been pushed aside, I crept home, nursing a hurt.

When I cried over a documentary film on women desaparecidos as one by one their oh-so-engaging-smiles served as ironic bitter punch to their unknown suffering to this day, I couldn’t explain why I did to a handful of Canadian women who had attended the small conference on an increased violation of rights. But they understood with their focus on the poignancy of the message spelled out in the constant juxtaposition of the country’s beauty and the rawness of brutality.

And what about when I grabbed the microphone in another conference on women’s history, and raved about the vastness of the Filipino’s reach versus the European and North American episodes presented. We’ve crossed the same paths, I proclaimed, sensing that no one seemed that much aware.

Books identify ‘love of country’ as patriotism, a concept linked to further abstract terms like “cultural attachment to one’s homeland” in varying contexts such as geography and political ideology. Could this be translated to my spasms of sorrow and pride in exile for what I would otherwise shrugged off had I stayed? Honestly, if I’m enraged over the evils the Philippines faces while its citizens scrape for a living, I wonder how I would respond to an accusation of not having the right, as I had traded my citizenship for another. Guilt does rankle in me at times, but I think this would absolve me: if I didn’t leave, I wouldn’t be as impassioned as I am now. More than it “does make the heart grow fonder” distance condenses the love-gifts of and for a mother.

Published in Peregrine Notes by Alegria Imperial, Market Monitor, February 16, 2015, Manila, Philippines

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
December 24, 2012, 6:32 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , ,

greeting 2012ed

                                   May the joys of the season

                        spangle your days the whole year

           through and on. May your wishes be like               

dewdrops on your mornings from hereon. With

                    songs of angels for you and yours. . .


           Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Thank you for your following and continued support

Naimbag a Pascuayo ken Naragsak a Baro nga Tawen  Kadakayo Amin

Maligayang Pasko at Manigong Bagong Taon sa Inyong Lahat

Pilipino (or Iluko) for willow tree, anyone?
March 20, 2010, 7:42 pm
Filed under: essay, language | Tags: , , , , ,


I took a break from the haiku that I usually post in and wrote this reply to someone who got to the site searching for the word willow in Pilipino.
I don’t think we have one like we don’t have a Pilipino word for snow–we call it yelo (hielo), which means ice in Spanish (Pilipino and some other Filipino dialects have a lot of Spanish words, understandably imprints of 300 years of colonization). Kaskas yelo is how Filipinos look at fresh-driven snow the first time as they scoop it to taste, recalling or wishing for a glass of halo-halo in hand.

Citing the absence of Pilipino (or Iluko) words for willow tree and snow demonstrates how language is deeply entrenched in culture: the totality of one’s being layered over by influences of earth, air, water, living things, language whispered, sang, murmured, chanted, stated, shouted, screamed, written for one to read under fluorescent light, Coleman light-flood, moonlight, candle light–how we whine and laugh and cuddle up wordless or word-full, with what flowers we offer our sighs, what trees we carve arrow-pierced hearts, from what looming shadows we scamper away, what wings we shoot down, from what edges of cliffs we plunge off to get to our dreams.

Borrowed language, borrowed tongues often entangle the mind. Take how words to describe autumn turn into phantom leaves in tropical groves narra trees crown and how the red and gold in song that trail sorrow are mimed on plastered walls in made-up nooks while out on a window in constant blaze, a row of arboles de fuego (fire trees).

In languages like mine born of life, a borrowed word–just one, say cry or sob–fails to bring out how anug-og in Iluko (the dialect I was born with of the 87, one of which is Tagalog out of which Pilipino is derived) pictures a bent figure broken in grief, shaking with spasms of pain, sobbing an animal cry that escapes from the depth of caves. Iyak in Pilipino (Tagalog) is less descriptive in my mind because it is a dialect I learned not one I was born with.

Dung-aw, simply translates as lament in English but in Iluko, unravels a dirge a man or a woman unleashes during a wake. An Ilokano says dung-aw and instantly pictures how a woman or man, not necessarily a kin of the deceased but known to the family (who isn’t family in a neighborhood or town, even, anyway?) veiled in black sadness has wrinkled, creeps to the dead, kneels and beating breasts, relates a life story now a dirge on the footmarks which those attending the wake follow in sorrowful steps, sniffling, but some chuckling, too, with humor thrown in–what life is ever without it?

Or saning-i, one of my favorite words, portrays someone–usually a woman in a dark corner splayed on the basar (suelo in Tagalog, floor in English), propped by a teddek (wooden post), the neckline of her dress naka-tallay (off shoulder in a careless way), the hem of her dress, nakayamukom (gathered)—deeply hurt, flayed in spirit, melting in helplessness, too enfeebled to even scream or sob, simply shaking with sorrow in what sounds like staccato coughing broken by wet sniffles. Saning-i is also the cry of a child suffering from chronic hunger pain as in children whipped into living skeletons due to kwashiorkor, or a baby burning with fever.

My sister came home once with news of how her boss shared the first laughter of his daughter on the speaker of his cell phone. The baby gurgled and laughed. Garakgak instantly came to my sister’s mind but could she tell her boss how garakgak actually describes the sound that thrilled him—how it describes how the baby’s laughter first cracks like a branch and screeches before it bursts into short squeals? Garakgak even illustrates how the mouth opens to let off three syllables coming off the cave of the mouth, hurtling from the base of the tongue. The baby must be half-bending from the stomach if she were standing or half-curled with legs up flailing if in bed that the Iluko word also pictures.

Language is as mysterious as the spirit, indeed.

Yes, I recall willow trees during Imelda Marcos’ time (said to have given orders to plant them) along a highway that beribboned a short stretch the buses to Bacarra, my hometown, pass through in San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte. (In pre-colonial times, according to notes on history, willow trees from Asia possibly brought by Chinese traders grew along river banks in some Philippine towns. These possibly exist to this day.) I named them but they didn’t seem to root in my spirit. When I came to North America and have walked by them through the four seasons, their name, willow, took on a breath and began to weave into my being, my writings as in one of my sequences published in The Cortland Review, Issue 39, May 2008 (New York, USA) and the haiku pieces I had posted at jornales.

No, dear friend who’s asking if there is a translation of willow tree in Pilipino, there’s none I’m aware of because unlike guijo, narra, bayabas (bayawas), algarrubo (acacia), mangga or lomboy (duhat) that spread luxuriantly under perpetual summer skies, a willow tree grows under other skies, skies that turn crystal blue in freezing winter against which weeping willow branches turn into a bundle of women whose dried thin hair hang like those of witches under the moon. None of our trees have looked as sinister—under Philippine skies that stars perforate, crowns of mangoes and some other trees sparkle. No, nothing that does not belong can be a match, can be translated.

Also posted  in its shorter version at

Copyright (c) by Alegria Imperial