Asul Dagiti Bulan

Asul dagiti bulan iti Enero
dagiti karurungsotan a tigtigre
a kadatayo makipagindeg
makikammayet a makikammaysa
agtagiuray kakaimbagan a gasat
sukal tratrahedia tawtawen
a nagtawataw palpaladtayo.

Kadua dagitoy nagal-alusan
a rikrikna wenno naglagisi nga alimpatok
tapno kadagiti ar-arapaap
iti law-ang nga asul, sa kolor-dapo
sa maris-dara, ditoy a maiparsua
agabuyo a kaunnaan a pammakada
tapno mangrugi a maikapaammo
paripirip agpenpenitensia
nga ayat ti piman a kamalala.

Asul dagiti bulan iti Enero
iti agsusukot a balikas
dagiti agpagungga a demonio.

Iti bukot ti panawen, ditoy
ditoy nga agdisso ti eklipse
ti umap-apuy a panagpalalo
tapno kadagiti maris ti asul
a bulan ket ti sumuko nga estranghero
kadagiti pantalan ni papauyo:
adu a malas a masukal
adu a panagpaputok iti luses
rebentador bawang trianggulo
plapla superlolo tapno agkuitis
dagiti ansisit a kadagiti suli
mabugiaw iti ringgor ti Enero.

Kas iti ili a pagilian dagiti ibit:
dagiti barko a lungon
nga iti agpakanito ket
ti pannakatay iti apagbiit
tapno kadagiti narungsot a danum
iti nakataltalna nga allon
ket ti waragawag ti pangulo
a no agsao ket agpuerong.

Agbiroktayo iti pangontra
sukal gitgita kadagitoy a malas
kadagiti siglo tapno ti buenas
a suerte ket kadagiti komedor
nga iti agnanayon ket aglabon.

A Solver Agcaoili
Marikina/Enero 1, 2009

From Down Under, This Lady

For Manang Fele Mann, for a gift of encounter on Dec 28, 2009

She comes from the sun,
this lady from down under
a proverb unto her own:
what is she who comes
with a smile even when
the angels are mad, raging
and restless in their flight?

She has gone away
only to return to where
she comes from
the warm soil, moist and dry,
that knew her veined hands
clasped in fervent prayer
her chanting cusped for the asking
for some salving to come
to assuage the bruised body
the bruised soul, bruised mind
and this story of return
offering a loving lullaby.

She keeps her appointment
with time and all those moments
that tell you of sins revisiting
the sinner only to talk about
that which gives some sweet
sweet balm.

We let go of the accounting
of lies, she tells, her voice firm,
that of an angel seeking light.
The deception is complete
and it cannot be undone.

We move on, she says,
to painting pictures with the colors
of that which will remind us
of the mercies we accord
to the lesser kind
some pretenders to some greatness
we cannot figure out how.

With her by my side,
I think of red here, like
the rebel word of a clown
or the clandestine cadre
of a poem about a metaphor
for a final freedom.

She says she is delighted,
so delighted we have met
for the first time after
miles and miles of letters
bridging what distance
separated us from her Darwin sun.

I tell her the same thing:
I send you my bright stars
my singing blue moons,
their alignment the meaning
of what I have become
in the Honolulu of my lifetime.

Stronger as you can see,
even if at times, some of the time,
the scars open up to countries
I have gone to journey
one meaning of what is beyond.

A Solver Agcaoili
Pasig, Dec 28/2009

Encounters at Cabalen

For Manang Fele Mann & Manang Francisca Javier

It is plural, this meeting
of minds, plural too
in their capacity for words
that bring in the healing
from the wounds, raw and unkind,
pestering and festering,
this continual discourtesies
of lies and what they can do
in their conjugal power
to destroy what love is
even if it abounds, well beyond
what a poem is, a boon
if it is love, beyond the dictator's touch,
to give as a gift to us.

She came with her bright light
and all you see are the many loves
of her vagabond heart,
she who has come all the way
from this nearness so far
we cannot touch her word
nor follow her laughter
to its counterpoint to reside
in the sacred places of our lives.

It is forgiveness she tells,
full and absolute
and she reminds you of her stories
their triumph beyond their conclusions
as she was with her sister
all through and through
in the blazing of roads and more
for us to go by in life
as in the way we dream of our homeland
our people in need of soul
spirit too in the way we say our word
like the trials we go through
in writing the first lines of our songs
when we come back again
once more in the company
of what was, this sacred past
we cannot go back to
not any longer, resisting
and resisting this forgetting
that has come to assault us,
we who have come
to make a pact with the word
that sings and sings for us.

I must thank you now:
two sisters like one, your joy
the conversion of sorrow
I have come to know.

And with you I laugh, laughing
louder than I should
in the company of strangers
with their buffet of stares
and approving eyes.

We partake of the food:
our recollections of events
that will heal us more and more.

A Solver Agcaoili
SM Megamall's Cabalen/Pasig
Dec 28, 2009

President Forever, My Wish

A child's wish, this, beyond innocence,
a nation's curse, lifetime
and forever the source of our ills:

for her reign to last a minute longer
and last forever, to be president
of murderers, allies in the massacre

of what we are, who could we be,
cheats of the highest caliber,
they who can even lie saying the matins

so priests and bishops can hear her
so her god can give her indulgence
so her thieving sons can defend her

tell of her immaculate heart and her novenas
to the Lady of Piat and the black Nazarene
her daily appointment with her small heart.

Never mind that this nation
erred in Error's name
wrongly gave her the mandate to govern

this land without the home, bleeding
as it has always been, ever since,
does not have any need for her lies

one like her, drunk as drunk
she can be with power, as she
has become, with her capacity

for greed while she smiles while she clings
to her prayer beads, dark in their sheen,
strung together by a gold wire

that could have strangled
the neck of those who refuse to die
or those who fight to make life

better for this country now bitter
for exiles, men and women who have
to go away to send in their love

from boxes and boxes of sorrows
from memories of remittance receipts
even if all these mean dying a thousand times.

It makes her big, bigger, biggest:
huge and large for her swollen sense
of self, her presidency for her allies

like Ilokanos elsewhere pretending
greatness borne of conjugal anomalies
desires, deceptions, demented claims

to some similes of their empty lives.
A minute woman, she, this president,
her stature is what compensates

what she cannot do: do, do
the right thing for a people
long in need of living human lives.

She promised a lot of blessings
and she stole what honor
we can have in slaving for others

even as coffins, cold and frozen,
come back to us in increasing number.
Her logic is that of a convent girl:

she knows the power of the novena
and the enchanting capacity
of waltzing with cheating soldiers.

A Solver Agcaoili
Honolulu/Jan 3, 2009

Las Bodas de Plata

For Leah Canete Antonio-Agcaoili

This is silver, shining,
shining through.

It is solid, metal of words,
living, true, forever be.

Bind it is, this,
eternal, timeless
and in the energy
of our circle
ringing us, we celebrate
this rare gift and grace
this love we have, endless
as endless can be.

It is this anniversary
we await
and this memory
we make
hold unto, now,
and more so.

We live through it,
this love.

In the freedom we have
for the love we have,
committing us boundlessly
tying us so
in the living laughter
of children, family, friends,
we come, so here we come
unto another land,
familiar and forgiving,
this sacred territory
of loving
and loving more
and more.

We come unto this country
of perpetual prayer
and from here
soar high in the heavens
where love, indeed, is real.

A Solver Agcaoili
Recited, Dec 26/09, at a las bodas de plata ceremony
Luyong Restaurant, Concepcion, Marikina

Marikina Blues, 2

These are the warm witnesses:
the feet of men on the lookout
for last loves in this river of blood

death, destruction too in the midst
of warm rain that gives off singing suns
and crooning moons, and all the loving

we need to come to terms
with what is left with messengers
of storm seasons announcing so much life

lesser and lesser now as it is
in these conflicted times, our own.
It is this river, now filled with lost laughter

now filled with the living ruins of memory
the dark vestiges of deluge in cadence
with the vendors' constant calls, their merchandise

the clues to what Christmas has come
to mean to us we who have seen all
what grief is when stormy days and nights

come to visit our merry-making loneliness
and tell us of abiding hope in as many
as jingle bells we can obligingly chant

plus or minus what holiday money
can buy from these rows and rows
of stalls lining this once graveyard

of dutiful countrymen and sinless children
who could not hold onto the liquid
dream of what endless redemption is.

It is Marikina, true, and it is
this season in this place that I remember
what dwells in my city's mourning heart

its dirge permanent as permanent can be
etched on the surface of dark waters
welcoming the flowers for its dead

beyond numbers still, without names
as the tales come out of the shadows
from gates and windows and walls

some stories of payoffs and hot hush monies
so the talking stops at the doorsteps of mothers
so the flowers for the dead come alive in whispers

just so we can protect the leaders anointed
who ask us to elect them for their gift of deceit
their gab those of angels with fallen, falling wings.

A Solver Agcaoili
Marikina/Dec 20, 2009

Marikina Blues, 1

Iti isasangpet a panagsubli
ket ti buya a mangyaw-awan.

Agsalsala dagiti parol
iti rabaw ti danum nga iti napalabas
ket tanem dagiti maigarangugong
a buteng, namnama, pakaasi,
paarayat, araraw, panagkari
iti mangirurumen nga agmatuon.

Iti Karayan Marikina
daytoy, iti oras ti anghelus
dagiti agdebdebosion a basol.

Iti rangtay ket ti aligaga,
estranghero a rikna itan
ngem residente iti isip
kadagiti amin a kita 
ti pannakalmes.

Agkiet ti agawid a rusok 
iti paripirip ti lagip ti Ondoy.  
kas kadagiti aminen
a didigra a kapay-an
iti panagpaspasugnod 
dagiti agmirmiron a balikas
tapno iti likud ti sipnget
ket ti aligaget iti sentido 
a kadagiti lua nga agarubos
ket ti ragsak a maaradas.

Ti gabat ti nangukkon
iti apagapaman a namnama
kadagiti naglugan iti daytoy
tapno iti rungsot ti gasat
ket ti panagpagungga ti layus
ken ti panangilili ni patay
iti kubbuar sa ti alikuno
kadagiti pannakatay a disoras
iti panangrugi kas iti panagikipas.

Ipalladaw dagiti sitsitik a redentor
ti tali ti pannakaisalakan
nga iti apagapaman
ket maarinebneb met daytoy,
kadua ti riper sa ti apres
sa ti awan patinggana a lansad
ti malas iti dawel nga alikuteg.

Amin dagitoy ket iti isip
nga agtaeng ita, 
ditoyda nga agindeg
tapno iti agsapa dagiti kararag
ket ti pannakipagrikna
ti agapon a panagmalmalanga. 

A Solver Agcaoili
Marikina/Dis 18, 209

Perpetual Transitions

You want to write on your journal, the red notebook you keep with you as if it were your soul.

You cannot go anywhere without this ubiquitous company like the 'kadkadua' of your ancestors, like the shadow for the other you.

In this is everything you see, feel, think, experience, and dream of: freedom as freedom can be despite your being holed up in airports that define you in your perpetual transitions, one after another, even as you dream of going home for the Christmas season for the first time in six years.

Your youngest is excited about the whole prospect of having you around during these long days of short school break. From her own perch of things familiar and secure, you have never been a presence in her Christmasses with the lights all over and the caroling that happens each night.

She has come to appreciate the twinkle in these lights and the noise of the caroling such that at angelus time, she announces the extreme need to turn on the switch so the lights will dance and bedazzle and make her dream of Santa Claus coming to your house.

She has come to savor the oftentimes cacophony of Christmas carols sung with bravado by kids on the take for what pretense this season brings.

She is anguished when the caroling begins, concerned more about what and how much to given than listening to the songs sung in off key.

When she hears the young carolers the constant "We wish you a merry Christmas", she scampers where the coins are or to who has some money to spare and her idea of Christmas becomes this until she blurts out her dream of going from house to house to do the same with her cousin and another girl of her age.

Her dream of caroling is, of course, made more intense by the recollections of her siblings of what they did when they were younger: for each night they would go from house to house, the same houses, to sing their off key notes of Christmas wishes.

These sights you have always remembered.

These sights you have not seen for a long while in your life as an exile elsewhere where the snow is white or where commerce is the new messiah.

In your old country, minus the snow, the commerce of Christmas is real as well.

Its reality demeans, true, but defines as well what this season is, what this season has become, so far away from that message about a God-becoming-man to announce human freedom.

You take the early morning flight that brings you to another land before you reach your homeland, the H-1 Freeway soaked by the streetlights flooding the concrete pavement wet with the early morning rain.

Your red notebook on hand, you begin to jot down your impressions of flight, this fleeing to somewhere you pray will be familiar once more, its landmarks the same where you left them when you finally called it quits six years ago.

You quitter, you write on the page of the notebook documenting the transitions you go through that are eternal, forever.

From one land to another, there you are.

From one thought to another, there you are.

From one feeling to another, there you are.

From one experience to another, there you are.

You think of the years you have lost with your children, six years of their most vulnerable period of their life you will never ever recover, reclaim, know, this last one only in snippets, in fragments, in the palimpsests of the now.

There is a tinge of regret in the memory you can never own.

But you justify that with one hope: that something good will come out of it.

Flight in transition delayed in Taipeh, you gobble up the same airline food to imagine you have it all, this filling up in the guts as if this were the only indication to have lived a full life.

You begin to ask the existential questions and in the transitions of your thought you say, Life is fair, life is unfair, life is fair, life is unfair.

You remember you told a revolucionario a day before: Count your marbles, young man.

You tell that to yourself now: Count your marbles, count your marbles.

You close your red notebook to take the final flight to home.

Marikina, December 20, 2009



1. His unfinished story, fragmented like drafts of earlier manuscripts, survive mainly through the details. A made-up room, its light blue walls, the singular window overlooking a frequently empty street, the white curtain that separates it from the adjacent room. A train, painted in green, left on top of a wooden chair. A young man riding the subway at 7 pm, an open book in his hand, looking out of the window and into an afternoon, once, when everything was home.

2. My mother calls out my name, her voice a soft, Sunday music from the kitchen. Geronimo, she repeats, and I remain in my room, holding the wooden train, responsible for its path, its destination. I continue playing. I want to hear her one more time.

3. "The narration of diaspora, of the exilic experience," the author begins, his soft voice pitched for storytelling, "is always one of reconciliation. With pasts and places that are never fully one's own, with an identity that is always in flux, flowing in and out of foreign and familiar grounds." The author pauses. His eyes, now looking at a memory, continue where he left off.

4. He suddenly remembers her. Her laughter, light and infectious on easy afternoons, the slight tilt of her head as the punch line kicks in. Her natural elegance, a certain softness that always surrounds her, a certain lightness of air. Her tenderness, as she folds her clothes, as if they are silk or satin, and puts them in the suitcase. Her stillness and poise, as her eyes scans the nearly emptied room, the vastness of blue walls. Her grace, as she slowly lifts a hand to say goodbye.

5. There were pictures of before, kept inside the wooden box on top of her cabinet, never to be looked at again. She once said that photographs do not capture moments; they just make the past appear more recent. It is us, she said, so choose what you remember.

6. I looked at photographs of an abandoned city, its remains mossed with nostalgia. I could have lived at that time, in that place and feel exactly the same way as we leave. A boy looking at everything familiar, for the last time.

7. I was certain the moment I saw her as she scans for a safe seat, hurried, but awkwardly and with much hesitation, her eyes unaccustomed to skins of other hues. There was no fear in her eyes, unlike mine. It was more of a slight irritation from a temporary inconvenience. She walked towards one of the chairs nearest the window, eagerly waited for the instructor to arrive.

8. Then she told me, after all those weeks, a smile on her face, that her father, already in Johannesburg, is expecting her by the end of the week. She handed me a white book, the title in gold, and informed me that the elegies are considered the poet's magnum opus. She recited lines about beauty and terror, that one is the beginning of the other. The verse encapsulated. I was silent. I shivered as she walked away.

9. Suddenly, I realized that it is gone. A place that existed in photographs, mentioned every once in a while in sullen conversations triggered by a distant relative's death, in infrequent emails of early friends, in the news. Now, it is fiction, a thing to be imagined.

10. Trains used to be toys, things for the imagination. I remember owning one once, I remember playing with it while Barry Manilow was crooning on the radio and not really liking the music that much, I remember fantasizing about far destinations, mountains, seas, the sense of conquest when returning, I remember my innocence with what distance really means. Now, trains are just metaphors, things of the imagination. Life in transit, one heads on from one destination to another, and, in between, watches everything go by.

11. The train halts, the doors open, the multitude bursts out. He comes out carrying the same book, the same old ticket inserted between the poems, but his hands feel as if they belong to a different man. He walks past cafeterias, some diners, a butcher shop, a closed bookstore, blocks that could've been half a world away. Then he stops, takes the keys out. He is home.

Sammukol ti Puso ti Kamalala

Sammukol ti puso ti kamalala
kaarngi daytoy ti daniw
a gumawgawawa iti apros ti piman

panagbirbirok iti panagagawa
iti maamitan nga ayat
a kadagiti agsipnget

ket kas saltek nga agiriag
uray no ti aklo ket ipayapay
tapno kadagiti pantok

panaginnala dagiti balikas
panagsinggalot dagiti kinatao
ket ti mamarpardaya a patutsada

dagiti agkamalala met a bassisaw
nga iti karatay, ditoy nga ipakni
tapno ti buyok ti aramid

ket akuen ti dumrigi a pari
idinto ta dagiti met mannurat
a kadagiti pader agikur-it

iti kawaw nga utek
ket ti baladia ti agdurek.
Sammukol ti rikna ti kamalala

tapno ti dur-as ken lung-aw
ket kadagiti linabag, sadiay,
sadiay nga agindeg, saanton

a kas pimpiman a pumanaw
kalpasan ti panaginnala dagiti rikna
pananggulib kas iti panangimameg

kadagiti agbalin a pangngarig
ti di maarikap a gagara
dagiti sao mailemmeng laeng

ti ay-ayam kadagiti isip
tapno iti nagan ti pangkis
ket ti agdadata a balangkantis.

Sammukol ti puso ti kamalala:
isuna nga iti nagan ti takneng
ket ti maaros nga edad ti agpalpalama

iti asi kas iti pannakaawat
tapno ti abakada ni ayat
ket iti lansad ti bubon ni arayat

sadiayto nga agresidente, mabayag.

A Solver Agcaoili
Manoa/Dis 10, 2009


Singkuentaisiete kas iti anges
a kadagiti buli ket mailuges
magamer iti pitak darat
maitantan kas iti saibbek
tapno kadagiti putan ti kalibre
a kadagiti buteng ket maiparit
ket ti pannakaidulin ti sangit.

Iti narukop a tapok kas iti biag
nga inungaw ledledda
ti rikna nga iti walang
ket iti ranggas nga agpaarayat
ket ti agultimo a sakuntip
a kadagiti sangi ti aldaw
ket ti panagibales ni ayat.

Todas iti todas
iti gatilio nga iti eksena
ti singkuentaisiete a pannakapadso
gumawgawawa agbirbirok
iti kamalala dagiti pimpiman
nga iti malmalday nga aldaw
ket ti makikkiki a sapata
dagiti puraw a lungon,
maibaratilio a maintar-intar
dagitoy kadagiti suli ti agdandanag
a mata tapno iti imahe a mabukel
iti mawaw a panunot ti anghel
ti didigra iti Ampatuan
ket ti ngudo ti paltog
kadagiti ngiwat barukong ulo
kilikili sellang batillog buto
kinatao nga adda kadagiti puerta
kinababai nga adda iti matris
nga iti panagbettak ti bala
ket ti bassit a dios nga agpagungga.

Kas kadagiti mannurat nga iti labes
dagiti lohika ket ti tadem ti balikas
kadagiti ikamadada a linia,
kampania iti panagperdi
tapno iti kinatao ket iti rekkang
ti rabii, sadiay, sadiay a mailbut
tapno iti barangabang ni estranghero
a sirmata ket ti embalsamado
a parparmata kadagiti ansisit a babassit
a barrairong wenno barrairong a higante
ti makaaliaw a panagderrep ti agsaksakidol
a kinaulpit dagiti daga tanem rabii
ket ti mabigatan a panagbabawi.

A Solver Agcaoili
Manoa/Dec 9, 2009


Maysamaysan a maitabon dagiti 30 nga agiwarwarnak a natay iti Maguindanao. Manipud kadagiti damdamag, Dis. 4, 2009

Daytoy ti bilang ti maaramid
a matansa: panagdawat iti gundaway
nga agisem tapno ti mannurat
maikur-itna ti wayawaya.

Ngem iti Ampatuan,
tuok dagitoy,
kas iti panangkali
iti abut a ditoy
nga idulin ti paragrafo
ti panagpauyo.

Anansata iti inaldaw-
aldaw a panagkalio
dagiti tutubbogan ti lua
ket ti panagsebba met
dagiti aglammin a katawa.

Awanen kadagitoy a sulsulinek
dagiti nawada a langit
a ditoy ket ti panagapit
iti kari a kadagiti higante
a parparipirip dagitoy ket babassit-usit.

Panakpak ti rifle ketdi
ti sungbat kadagiti sainnek
ket iti gibus ti pakauna
ket maudi nga ibit
ket ti panangaradas
kakaisuna a ladingit:
awanen ditoy Maguindanao
ti kaibatogan ti kaes-eskan
uray kadagiti tanem
a kadagiti nabungsot a lasag
isaruana itan.

ti sentido kadagitoy a buya:
ti ama iti anak ket ti pammakada
ti anak nga iti ama ket ti tabugga
ti ina nga iti imet-imet a biag
ket ti arakup ti daga
nga iti maysa laeng nga arbis
ket ti panagrupsa:
ti bagi kas iti tagainep iti kappia
ngem anansata trentakami
dakami a ginudas dagiti partidor
kadagiti balikas a makaagas
a kadagiti sugat mangted iti piglat
tapno saanton a sumuko iti ngudo
ti paltog, saanton nga agkumbawa
iti babantot ti paspasablog.

Ditoy nga ilimi ket mapan amin:
ti dusa kas iti nasarangsang
nga angin nga iti karuruotan
ket ti pammadso a mailemmeng.

Tallupulokami amin
a sumuko ken Apo Daga
tapno iti pakasaritaan ti ili
ket ti agungarto koma a kasaba.

Itan ket ti pammunpon
kadagiti amin a pamutbuteng
tapno iti puso ket ditoy nga arikapen
ti agrutruting a baro a pakinakem.

A Solver Agcaoili
Manoa/HI Dis 4, 2009



In pursuit of the commitment of TMI Global (Guild of Ilokano Writers Global) to bring to world literature the best of works by Ilokanos through a sustained translation program, this publishing organization of writers with country chapters in the Philippines, Australia, and the United States, will launch its newest book, Alie(n)ation: Nation and Nationalism in Ilokano Exilic Poetics.

Edited, translated, and with a critical introduction by Aurelio S. Agcaoili, program coordinator for Ilokano at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, president of Nakem Conferences, and executive director of Nakem Youth, the book gathers the poetic works and nonfiction narratives of writers who have moved from their birthplaces to other places including those who immigrated to other countries.

Alie(n)ation is TMI Global’s second critical anthology, and its second in collaboration with other writers organizations, including, Rekuerdo/Memento, released in November 2009 by the Ilokano Writers Association of Hawaii/GUMIL Hawaii, in collaboration with the Academy for Ilokano and Amianan Studies; and Kallautang: Poetics of Diversity, Displacement, and Diaspora. Both books have been edited, translated, and with a critical introduction by Agcaoili.

Alie(n)ation will be launched during the Ilokano Cultural Festival organized and hosted by TMI Global on March 6, 2010, at the Pagoda Hotel International Ballroom, Honolulu, Hawaii.

At this festival, a play, “Iti Nagan ti Ama/In the Name of the Father”, written and directed by Agcaoili, will be premiered.

A combined cast from TMI Global, GUMIL Hawaii, and Nakem Youth will act in the play.

"Iti Nagan ti Ama/In the Name of the Father" questions age-old declarations on sexuality and gender, domestic violence, feminism, male dominance and privilege, and human liberation.

The play is the third written and directed by Agcaoili that zeroes in on issues related to domestic violence.

"Our Word, Our World," a dramatic recitation of monologues based on the results of the creative writing workshop on DV and cancer awareness conducted by Agcaoili in 2008, was shown at Tenney Theatre in Honolulu at a Men's Day celebration in February 2008.

Another play, "Ruk-at/Unshackling" was shown at an Ilokano Culture Festival organized and hosted by GUMIL Hawaii in February 2009 at the Pagoda Hotel in Honolulu.