Could a father shape his child’s destiny?
Serafin Albano, my father taken when he was in the seminary in Vigan

Serafin Albano, my father taken when he was in the seminary in Vigan

Often, intensely quiet in insulated spaces is how days unfold here, undistracted spaces that let roam vibrant memories like this week. As I write this piece midway through selecting my poems for a Poetry Reading event at the Chapters Bookstore downtown, my first ever, sponsored by Vancouver Haiku Group to which I belong, the late Serafin Albano, my father—a central figure in my writing life—looms largely.

If he did not impose his will on my choice of what I’d be, I could be languishing now in a dark even dank office somewhere in a turn-of-the century old building in Avenida where notaries get signed and sealed for a small fee if I didn’t get a teaching job, that is. He lugged me instead led by the youngest of my mother’s brothers, then in his junior year at UST’s Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, to the office of the dean. I had waffled but in a quick turn of mind, I plunged into a future of writing. But I ended up neither a journalist nor a poet not until decades after graduation and long after he had died. Instead, I sneaked into a writing career via public relations, ghost-writing for years.

From a back glance this morning in a continent way across the Pacific, I feel that I had glossed over how my father felt through those years I got stalled in what he couldn’t understand as tossing out words and images in anonymity. Picking through hints, I remember how he must have had great dreams of my name spangled on printed pages, as in his first wrapped gift on my eighth birthday, Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper that he dedicated with a noble quote beyond a child’s grasp: “Education supplants intelligence but does not supply it.” Telling me a book was easier to find, he had hoped this gift would inspire me to write more—I had a year before then, sent him, where he lived and worked in Manila, a four-line poem scrawled on grade two paper, a ruse to ask for a doll.

Yes, I did write but not feeling particularly inspired only fed with words, perhaps, from books he and my mother piled on me. Early in college, I wrote a hilarious narrative on how giggly, overacting, mostly spoiled girls in a dormitory run by nuns from across UST, my first published article in Philippine Graphic magazine, in its ‘Student’s Page’ with my picture and a note on the author. It had so elated my father, he carried the issue opened on that page and showed it to everyone including waitresses. Some months later, I followed it up with an essay on fishes, which I used as a metaphor for the kinds of people we get to know in this “ocean of life”. I made him so happy he treated me out, and my friends at the dorm to dinner almost weekly. But none came long after that.

In a sudden spurt, probably stimulated by my travels in my job at the then National Media Production Center, I began weaving words into lyrical pieces for Dick Pascual’s travel page at the defunct Daily Express. My father brought each piece to Magallanes Drive, trudging his way through grime-textured air. Among the stash I dug out when clearing out stuff to immigrate to here, was a rough album he sewed on the side of those published pieces. And then again, I skidded into anonymity.

Still, we argued furiously about writing. Our last word-spars focused on my defunct Newsday lifestyle page, my first ever newspaper job. More critical and cutting than the late Teddy Berbano, then managing editor, my father devastated me by his correctness those evenings I dropped by to see him and my mother on my way to my own home—I had married by then. He had died by the time my page started shaping up and later when I wrote weekly full-page feature stories for Sunday lifestyle at Inquirer.

Once coming home from New York much later, I found the fiction writing paperback he kept sliding before me that I left unread, and cried and cried. The author, R. V. Cassill, also authored the Norton Anthology of Short Fiction from which my instructor in a writing course I took at NYU’s Continuing Education program selected our readings. Leafing through the pages he dog-eared and underlined, I had realized it’s exactly what I was learning. I’ve grappled with challenges he couldn’t have imagined like writing in NY alongside native speakers of English. But each step of the way, I would find his imprint.

Could a father shape a child’s destiny, carving a path like mine that I had long wavered to follow straight on? On the podium to read my published and award-winning poems here in Vancouver, a crowd their blond, blue, hazel, gray, maybe some black even green Irish eyes on me, I’m sure my father though invisible to all would be seated in the front row.

 Published in Peregrine Notes by Alegria Imperial, Business Mirror, Manila, June 24, 2013

Ti Agur-uray (The One Who Awaits)–daniw/poem

Another poem from my Iluko soul

I’ve posted this poem (daniw) at sometime ago and then I decided to submit it to Bannawag for consideration. More and more as I write in Iluko, I realize how I can transmute images that somehow flow into the theme from different tributaries so to speak, diving deep into waters I thought I had not been steeped in as a child. I’m still in awe–in fact, constantly exhilarated each time words well up and flow into images and thought. Now I can say I can write from my soul—the totality of me.

It’s no longer a mystery to me why native speakers write with ease—one word alone recreates a universe only they could conjure. I always take the Iluko word ‘ranitrit’ as an example. For me it does not only translate into ‘creaking’ but it also pictures the ‘kawayan’ and ‘bolo’ groves by the ‘kali’ where a kingfisher used to lord it over on early afternoons I used to frequent in the summer as a girl when the sun had just slid off the zenith with siesta-calm. I had loved this time to go there by myself braving through my grandmother’s warnings of rice snakes and phantoms just to listen to the wind soughing against the tightly clamped bamboo trees—in togetherness. ‘Ranitrit’, what a sound, what images, what feelings!

But there’s also ‘alusiis’, ‘sutsot’, ‘wagsak’, ‘palanguad’ and so much more I’m recalling and picking up from reading more Iluko pieces here and in a number of Iluko websites. Discovering has been a grace that has brought me home where I would have been lost forever.

But what steeped me deeper in waters I may never want to step out of now—deep in a consciousness that world I thought I had forgotten keeps sousing my heart in whispered songs—is my having stumbled upon the blog ‘basi republic’ (named after the legendary Ilocano wine) and dared to submit two of my poems. The blog owner, Roy V. Aragon, a name Iluko poet, liked my haiku with iluko translations, but two of my attempts at iluko poetry, “No Umadalem ti Rabii” and “Agsapa” have been accepted by the young poetry editor of Bannawag, Ariel S. Tabag, and this third, “Ti Agur-uray” published in August.

I grew up reading Bannawag, the 75-year old Iluko vernacular magazine. I used to want to finish all the stories and serialized novels that I wouldn’t stop even when the sun had set and the light has grayed over. Before our Coleman would flood my grandmother’s house where we lived, I would snuggle by the kitchen oil lamp, reading with a wavering tongue of light. Could all that possibly caused my astigmatism that still lures me to dive into floods of light as though these blind me?

Long before I knew who F. Sionil Jose was, the National Artist, I lived in worlds he created; I remember ‘The Pretenders’, one of his early novels in Iluko. But I left for university in Manila and hardly went back home. I lost my tongue and never once wrote with it. What a great gift to have it back, like perhaps a miracle of sight and speech. This poem for me, speaks of it.

Lynn Canyon river bed, Lynn Valley, BC 2009






Ti Agur-uray (The One Who Awaits) 

(Published in Bannawag 080210 page 6)

Nagangon dagiti bulbulong ngem awan ti imparipiripmo a panagsublim.

Ania ti nakataktakam ket di met nagsarday ti panagayus ‘ta karayan?

Ania koma no sinurotmo lattan ti lenned, kabus ken sellag?


Saanko met ket nga immaldit dagidi darepdepta iti kawaw a langit.

Sinurotko dagitoy kadagiti rimat dagiti bituen, kadagiti gilap ti init

No matnag ti sikigna iti danum a masinsinit, kadagiti agpukawpukaw

Nga apros ti bulan bayat ti panagdaliasatna iti umatiberber nga angep.


Naggapuanna koma ti im-impek a banglo iti pusok?

Intanemmo babaen ti arasaas a kas kalag-an ti panagtangep

Ti langit ken taaw— saan a marukod, matinep, masukog.

Kasano koma ngata a lipatek ti diak maaprosan?

Saanko nga inggagara ti panagrusing ti bukel— nagsabong met lattan.


Naraniag unay dagiti matam, kinuna dagiti makasabat kaniak,

Adda aglaslasbang a sabong iti kaunggam.

Ngem no agsarmingak, dagiti nasilap a luak ti makitkitak.


No agbisngay ti langit iti rumabii ket masilawan ti addangko

A mapan aguray manen iti ruangan, kuna ti kannag kaniak:

Anian a raniag ti anninawanmo!


Diakon mabilang dagiti rabii a nagkaradap ti bulan

Tapno bugiawenna ti sipnget ket ulsannak, kaduaennak.

Ta ti raniag, para kadagiti agladladangit iti sipnget.


Agyamanka kadagiti rabii a sinangsangitam

Umayen ti dimo koma maur-urayen

Silawanto ti sileng dagiti luam

Sabtento ti ayamuom ti pinetpetam nga arasaas.