The Education of the Ilokano Immigrant of Hawaii

Education and Capacity Building

The tragic in the Philippine experience in the diaspora, including that of Hawaii, is that so many of the Americanized Filipinos have not gone past the ‘service industry’ mentality.

If we scratch the surface, this mentality extends the very logic of the plantation economy, with the coming over of the first 15 Ilokanos to Hawaii in 1906.

That initial Ilokano participation would eventually involve other ethnolinguistic groups in the Philippines, with the Visayans joining the Ilokano farmhands in 1909.

With 1906 as the reference point, we have 105 years of presence, or the equivalent of more than four generations.

It is a long story—and history—this.

And despite our claims to the many ‘firsts’ in the state, such as a first governor of a Philippine descent, an exhibit of our capability indeed, we cannot show much further than that.

The burden of proof remains with us.

In a capitalist economic structure, those who have the money to invest remain the captains of a community’s day-to-day existential narrative, that narrative dictating among others who get to be employed in which job, given certain job requirements.

The playing field is not yet leveled, with social and institutional structures remaining the same as that of the plantation economy days.

The base—or the economic infrastructure—remains in the hands of the same people, or their surrogates, as that of the old days.

Simply put, you do not have the money for capital—or if you wish, big investment—you cannot set the direction on where the Philippine peoples would go for a work to make them live, even when they have those many multicolored dreams to live on.

The service industry—people who work for hotels, resorts, and the similar playgrounds of the rich and financially able—is still dominated by the same people as that of the plantation.

The site of service has changed, true.

We have gone away from the big plantations, even if some have remained rooted there with their soiled hands, gnarled fingers, and burnt skin.

But the service mentality has remained intact among the immigrant peoples of the Philippines.

And this service mentality has been passed on from generation to generation for reasons that are complex, including that infectious and contradictory idea, particularly among Ilokanos—and by extension among immigrants—that one does not have to get an education to get by in Hawaii.

The logic is simple and yet twisted—and reduces the believer to a zealot: ‘You get an education, you get and employment, you earn. You do not get an education, you get an employment, you earn.’

In Ilokano parlance, one of those distorted formulas we hear on the streets, it is called the logic of ‘da same ting.’

Elaborated, it means: with or without education, you earn a living.

Never mind that there are parents who believe otherwise.

The key here is the infectious capacity of that belief—and the reduction of the immigrant people into the new servants of the industry for which Hawaii is known.

Never mind that among the ranks of immigrants working as chambermaids and maintenance people are Philippine college-educated people with an accent, and because of that accent, cannot land in jobs requiring that one has to lose one’s accent.

There is lesson to be learned in this—and to be learned the hard way and with seriousness.

We cannot leave our young infected with this service mentality any longer.

Together with them, we have to explore doors for them to get to college.

Together with them, we have to make them see that going to college, and getting out with a degree, will give them some fighting chance to make their life better, better than what many of us know.


We urge, therefore, our young people who are college-bound, and those who are dreaming of going to college, and their parents, to come and join as at the University of Hawaii at Manoa Experience on February 25.

A Agcaoili/
Observer Editorial, Feb 2012

UH Ilokano Program, UH Manoa Experience


Aurelio Solver Agcaoili

The UH Manoa Experience 2012 and
What It Means To Our Young People

The statistical data on college education retention and promotion among the ranks of children of immigrants in the islands remains something we can only hope for to change for the better—and soon.

In real terms, we have a lot to do to improve our standing in these numbers that remind us we have not done a lot yet.

In real terms, we have to yet to hit a number that will make us say that our immigrant peoples take college education as a matter of obligation to self and to community.

The Obama Administration has never been remiss in its constant reminder that our key to the integral development of the United States, to the enrichment of our community in general, and to the development of our individual capacities for a more qualitative life—in short, to the pursuit of a real and honest-to-goodness American Dream—is dependent on increasing the number of our peoples who have gone to college and have gotten out of there with new expertise, skill, value, and competence.

The production and reproduction of the right mix of knowledge for nation and community building is a nation-state’s political, cultural, and economic commitment.

It is also its best resource, its best capital.

We have an educated population, we have citizenship ideas and practices that are at the service of both our nation and our people.

We have people who are skilled with multicultural sensibilities and competencies, we have ideas and practices that are hewed on tolerance and understanding.

We have people who are skilled in industry and in the professions, we have people who are willing to take part in national development that is not only economic but also human and humane.

These are grand ideals—but all these are at the base of what the UH Manoa Experience is all about.

For several years, we at the University of Hawaii Ilokano Language, Literature, and Culture Program have taken part in this yearly gathering and re-gathering of cultural workers, educators, college students, high school students, and community members and partners.

At the UH Manoa Experience, high students and their parents are given the opportunity to understand what college life is all about.

Booths—some call them tents—are put up, and each both represents a number of the academic programs offered by UH Manoa.

Some other institutions outside the UH System also come to participate, which widens, and enriches, the scope of this academic experience.

The intent is to familiarize the high school students with options for college life, options that given the right mix of interest and abilities, might have help them choose their own career path.

We expect, therefore, a bunch of high school students particularly those with high English Language Literacy population to come and take part in this academic get-together.

Several of the lead participants in the UH Manoa Experience are various programs of the University’s Student for Excellence Equity and Diversity such as the Office for Multicultural Student Services (OMSS) through its Challenge Grant, and the GEAR-Up.

Two public high schools where Ilokano is taught as part of their World Languages curricular offerings have signed up to participate: Waipahu High School and Farrington High School.

The UH Ilokano Program has benefited much from the UH Manoa Experience. Through it, the Program has been able to reach out to many students who have come to take part in this one-day gathering.

In a more particular way, the UH Ilokano Program has been able to draw students across the various program of the University to its Indo-Pacific courses, such as Philippine Critical Discourses, Modern Philippine Film, Philippine Critical Discourses, Philippine Cultural Mapping, Modern Philippine Drama, Philippine Popular Culture, and Philippine Diasporic Literatures.

For those contemplating of going to college, the 2012 UH Manoa Experience is an opportunity for you to see what it takes to go to college, and get out of it with your own college degree.

Mark you calendar, please: February 25, at 9:00 AM, at the UH Manoa grounds.

Feb 2012

Heatland Poems-11


You are the long silence
between speech and grief.
There are no consonants

in your language, no vowels.
I hear you saying something
out of thin air, the elements.

It is fresh water I cup to quench
this stale searching that has been
so long, one for a home,

and another for a blessed land, a combo
of what can be drawn from dream
to a page so I can see the contours

of colours coming to a cartography
of journeys joyous and profound.
But here, in these strange islands,

I cannot see what you are. Maybe
you are not here afterall.
Maybe what you have is fire,

to ignite from the heavens
the warmth of spring. Winter
forgets its promise sometimes,

and we have all these blizzards
and rains and feet of snow
we must raze down, the way we

adjust the points of our fuzzy plans
to live life the second time around.
In my Ilokano mind refusing to let go

of what I have come to know,
and knowing each in the colored
sinews of what I am, you are

the dead silence of what one becomes.
Ballawang, come again
for a visit, so we understand

what is to listen once more
to the songs of our people.
We have left our shores to come

to another, and all we know
are more shores more stranger
each time. We find home wherever

we can. But here, in these islands,
are seas of our own making.
The sun rises in the west,

the moon comes from the sea.

Hon, HI/
Jan 26, 2011

Heartland Poems-10


Evildoer, you: some thousands of miles
away you chose to die without us listening
to what you can finally reveal to us. Were you

ever the false person of some false
name, powerful and flaunting,
this man your big brother the color of money,

the shape of what cannot be? Is he your older
kin true and true, one of the same flesh
and so compelling the logic of misdeed

that this last love for a suffering land
is nothing but a mirage for a wicked man
that knows so much? What fallible fear is

within the walls of a palace with its
rotten pillars, and you know that?
Somewhere in the crevices of those heights

from floor to floor are the dark shadows
only Jose Pidal knows and you, dying man,
you know that. And now you have left us

with nothing but your dead silence. Did you
leave anything written from somewhere,
on the edges of toilet paper a murderer

wipes his hands with, him murdering
hopes that are yet to come, and now
with your death, aborted before

they will ever see the light of our blighted lives?
We now wish you were more honest
with us. We are your brothers and sisters, too,

and in the twisted arguments of our bloodlines,
we are born of the same flesh, the same
faith for a callous, cancerous, corrupting land.

Hon, HI/
Jan 26/12

Heartland Poems-9

News of His Death

He dies, and goes to the underworld
to keep her deepest secrets, his too. From this
afternoon onwards, there shall only be silence

about what tragedies of a country he knows, all those
she inflicted upon us, all those he inflicted
upon her, and all those both wife and husband

inflicted upon the simple truth we hold dear.
We can never know this any longer.
The general has killed himself, and all the colonels

and majors of grandiose conspiracies, they have promised
to keep the vow of grave stones and street pavements
on which we blurt out what we cannot form

into words whose memes are our people's rage.
He dies alone somewhere, in the loneliness
of London, in the sterile ward that reeks of sin

and what it can offer to a man silenced
in the name of a brother’s flimsy honor, the family
more important than what this sad history

can uncover to tell us of wealth he did not deserve
but held it close to his chest nevertheless.
Brother and brother loving each other,

one brother the keeper of another, and here,
in these islands, they can go on to make another myth
of their greatness, and our people will never

ever remember how cruel this is, not anything, including
the calculations of generous dividends these brothers
will expect from not saying what needs

to be said. Words are cheap in this homeland,
and so are lives, but the wealthy die in
dedicated death rooms you pay in dollars, pounds,

or what class can offer. It is dying in style.
In the meantime, the poor die poorly,
dirt on their lips, dust on their loins.

Hon, HI/
jan 25, 2012

Heartland Poems-8

Rituals of a Waipahu Morning

You wake up to the tune of traffic
heading its way to another day,
one of those you mark on a Hawaiian

calendar of lei-ed men and women,
bronzed and bored by the words
of patriotic politicians on Fox News.

It is the same each morning, like
the jam of news sensationalized
so you become angry. It is anger

that makes you aware you are alive,
and these days, you need the emotion
more and more. To calm you down,

you go to your corner altar
and commune with water on a bowl.
You pick up the day-old offering

and think of all the gifts you have given,
the ones you received, and last
night’s rite of teaching students

the route to rage. They have become
too American, these people, and have lost
the lilt of the language of a suffering land.

You cannot blame the weather
for this change of heart, even if
for this winter, we only have warmth.

In the spring, the storms come,
and they tell us of the urge of the earth
for an upheaval of sorts. Several are

dead in the continent, the power
going away from the helpless
and the hapless. In the meantime,

by Waipahu, a couple last night
talked of sorrows by our street
pavement and the woman called

it quits with the remaining daylight
with her scream: ‘I want a morning
ritual with us!’ Your daughter calls

the police and says with disgust:
‘These people do not know
the quiet of our nights. Come,

pick them up. Or they will kill
the only hope we have got!’
And so today, at this hour,

you change your steps to the sacred place
on a corner: you look out the window
and mark the place of hatred last

night. From here, the freeway looms
large with its traffic of the rush hours.
Morning comes in Waipahu

and you say your prayers one more time,
one for your four Ilokano souls,
four for your wandering heart.

Jan 25/12

Translation--Bayan Ko

O Ilik a Filipinas

(Bayan Ko in Ilokano Translation by Aurelio Solver Agcaoili for IP 499: Philippine Cultural Mapping, January 25, 2012)

O ilik a Filipinas
Taeng balitok ken ‘ti sabong
Iti palad ket ti panagayat
Nangidaton pintas rimat

Ket iti emmana ken pintas
Nabalani ti baniaga
O ilik, nakulongka
Napan karigatan

Ayam man ket agwayawaya
Ikulongmo ket agsangit
Ili pay ngata ingget pintas
Di mayat a makaruk-at

O Filipinas a mutmutiaek
Umok ni lua ken ni rigat
Daytoy ti kalat:
Makitaka a nawaya

Hon, HI/
Enero 24, 2012

Hawaii Aloha (in Ilokano Translation)

Hawaii Aloha

Trans. by Aurelio Solver Agcaoili for IP 499: Philippine Cultural Mapping, Spring 2012

Verso 1:
O Hawaii, nakayanakan
Agragsakak bendision ti langit
O Hawaii, aloha

Naragsak ubbing Hawaii
Agrag-o! Agrag-o!
Pul-oy umapiras
Pammateg ‘ti Hawaii.

Enero 24, 2012

Poemas Politicas-2012-01

I, Mohamed

"Mohamed suffered a lot. He worked hard. But when he set fire to himself, it wasn't about his scales being confiscated. It was about his dignity." —Mannoubia Bouazizi, mother of Mohamed, Tunisia, in K Andersen, Time, Dec 14, 2011

I, Mohamed, am about
to do what is right.
I am going to set fire
to myself, and now,
and extinguish what I can
from my soul. This is Tunisia,
and its moon and sun
were my life, or what
passes for one. Its air
was my breath, its stars
my guiding light.

I walked the streets,
peddled what strength
can be vended from door to hope,
from the gawking eyes
of those who can manage
to give out what mercies
can be given each day.

The cart was my life,
its rusty wheels
in slow motion leading me
to a dream of food for mother,
an uncle who lost the courage
to go on in life for another day,
siblings desiring to dream
like the Pharaoh’s or sphinx’s
in every act of pushing
that leads to a ritual riddle
of want and more
while those who have the riffle
the strength of their voice
the baton to whip out what
honor has left of our sinews
beat us up to send the message
that we are not what we are.
I am a child of these claims
to life and faith,
and here I am, an orphan
of many promises
even as I look for no one
who has done before,
not in these streets,
not in this homeland
of my forefathers. It is this
fire that will bring out the gold
from this mulct of our lives,
and we will have pride,
on the table as in our prayer,
in our shrines, mosques, temples
as in our search for truth
we can feed on and on,
the good that comes out
of our death, given in freedom,
given for freedom.

Dec 15, 2011

Heartland Poems-7

Tender Mercies

I look at you, heartland dear,
from this thought. You are a
landscape of drought
and parched fields,
home to blood martyrs
dying for what death can offer
to those who desire to dream,
or remember all that can be
remembered. I ought to come
and visit you once again,
say the prayer for the saint
that gives abundant rains
so the seeding of the soil
can begin.

You are the amorphous light,
in between the Manoa
clouds of white fluffiness
and the dense mountaintop,
rich with its promise
of a cold night. You tease me
in this yearning, like the rain
thirsting for the earth,
or the dying sun for the stillness
of an alien's sleep. How could I
have run away from you,
and speak in a language
whose phrases are of pain
and sorrow? No, this thought
grips me so, keeps me beholden
to the sentence of quitting you.
Heartland dear, there will be
no return. At your airports,
I now fall in line
in the stranger’s queue, like one
thief sneaking into your inner room,
and there leaves his shadow
underneath the sheets
that smells of regrets,
the scent a trespasser’s grief.

Jan 12, 2012

Heartland Poems-6

Water’s Wound on the Toes

In the middle of this American Dream,
I am here, but you wake me up, you
the farm’s water’s wound on the toes.

You are Ilokano in the syllable
of a thought that wanders like this sadness
driving away this Hawaiian ennui.

I rise up from sleep so I can confront
you in each step that leads
to the cold of January, the time

the drizzle begins to fall, and then
the rushing light rains, and then the raging
downpour overnight that becomes a deluge

on the palm of those claiming
citizenship of this land. I am that,
or I am one of them. We cry to

the heavens, sick with longing of the plains
of Kunia like the worn souls queuing up,
the Ilokano workers of the soil bidding goodbye

to the earth they furrowed
to the fields they struggled with
so what with the gathering of the night in Waipahu

the darkness of not knowing where to go
accompanies them home. On the dining table,
we partake of something that warms

the epigastrium, the wild fowl
that in the other island permits itself
to be hunted so that on my plate

would my hungry portion be,
I who sold my strength and welfare the whole day.
In my falling asleep, you, water’s wound on my toes,

you are the yield of all agreements
when I lie to welcome my bruised body.
At the end of a hue-filled dream

you are there, in the interstices
and curves of words: these cannot be
interwoven with a story’s prologue. You are

a pain that does not go away, water’s wound,
in the middle of moist toes that feel
the absence of the soil I know

the loin of the tillers that dance in joy
with the father’s, or a mother’s lullaby.
Water’s wound: remind me

of the bygone days. You wake me up
from this nightmare. In my running after
the watchful hours that wake up so early

in these days of aimlessness, you be there
in each moment, become the beat, the pulsing
of the enchantment of love. Water’s wound:

you reside in this slumber,
in the warm pillows, in the Ilokano blankets
that are feverish so that on my bed

would be the thought that goes to rest.
Water’s wound, you who reminds,
please come home to me. Come.

Jan 15, 2012

Heartland Poems-5


Addaak ditoy, iti katengngaan ti panagarapaap
nga Amerikano, ngem lukagennak, sika
a tarindanum dagiti lagip iti kataltalonan.

Ilokanoka kadagiti silaba ti panunot
nga agallaalla, kas ti sennaay iti barukong
a mangiginggina iti Hawaiiano a pulkok.

Bumaringkuasak manipud iti ridep
tapno sangnguenka iti kada addang
nga agtunda iti lamiis iti Enero a rugi

dagiti bayakabak, sa dagiti aggangganat
nga arbis, sa dagiti makapungtot a tudo
nga iti agpatnag ket agbalin a layus

kadagiti dakulap dagiti makisiudsiudadano
iti daytoy nga ili. Siak dayta, wenno
maysa kadakuada nga iti panaglua

ti mail-ila a langit kadagiti mabibbibi a kapanagan
iti Kunia ket dagiti maintar-intar a kararua,
dagiti Ilokano a mannalon nga iti malem ket agpakada

kadagiti kinasinnanggol nga inurit,
kadagiti kinabalubal a kinelleng
tapno iti panagsaknap ti Waipahu

a malem ket ti agsipnget kadagiti amin
a panagmalmalanga. Iti komedor
ket ti panangsango iti pangdengngep

iti rusok, ti ballog a manok
nga iti sabali nga isla ket agpakemmeg
tapno iti latokko ket ti mabisin a labay

a para kaniak, siak a naglako iti pia
ken karadkad iti imigrante nga agmalem.
Iti pannakayepyep, sika, tarindanum,

sika ti bunga dagiti amin a kontrata
iti panangiyidda iti bannog. Iti arinunos
ti de-kolor a tagainep ket addaka sadiay,

kadagiti ginget ken sikkusikko
dagiti balikas, saan a maibinggas
iti pakauna ti salaysay. Paan-anawaka

a panaas kadagiti saka, tarindanum, iti baetan
dagiti agbabasa a ramay ti mangrikrikna
iti kaawan kadagiti nakariingan a kinelleng

dagiti agpamfandanggo a sellang ni mannaniw
nga ama, ni managduayya nga ina.
Tarindanum: ipalagipmo kaniak

dagiti amin a napalabas. Riingennak
kadagitoy a bangungot. Iti pannakilumlumba
kadagiti naridam nga oras kadagitoy nga aldaw

ti panagtawataw ket sadiayka kadagiti darikmat,
agbalinka a bitegbiteg, sugat iti nasalamangka
nga ayat. Tarindanum: agindegka iti pannakailibay,

kadagiti pungan a nabara, kadagiti ules-Ilokano
nga aggurigor tapno iti idda ket ti isip nga aginana.
Tarindanum, sika a palagip, umayka. Umayka.

Enero 15, 2012

Prayer to a dark god

NAZARENE’S FAITHFUL. Unfazed by President Benigno Aquino III’s terror warning, millions of Filipino Catholics took part in the annual procession for the Feast of the Black Nazarene from the Quirino Grandstand to the Quiapo Church in Manila Monday, Jan. 9, 2011—Inquirer, Jan 11, 2011

We come in barefoot
as required and the street
pavement is a bed of hope
for this god-forsaken land,
our own.

It is a sea of maroon, your
color, dark hardwood of Mexico
carved out of the passion
of colonized hands, veined
for crossing our fingers now famished
for what truth is, what is in here,
in this Quiapo sun shining through
even if night has come
to conquer us.

From afar, between a memory
and an experience shaped in words
a hundred times, we see you,
crucified of the earth looking
for what faith can do to lead
us to a road back to where
we all should go. Our president
speaks of terror lurking in between
the shadows of fear and another.
Bahala ditan. The gospel is the same
for each one, as in death too
when it comes. In the meantime,
we take our kerchief, wipe it unto
which part of your feet, lord, colored
and wooden from a faraway sea,
a he-god with thorns, your blood
dripping with our sweat, you
who will see us through
until the end of time, our own.

We promise a day of reverence,
and a full night too, the whole cycle
of the watch hour by the Mercury
that tells us of drugs we need
to buy to ease the pains on the knee
after walking from shrine’s grieving door
to your mourning altar.

Hon, HI/
Jan 11, 2011

Heartland Poems-3 Ilokano

Maskara ni Patay

Jigsaw: Hello Gloria, I want to play a game. So far in what could loosely be called your life you've made a living watching others. Society would call you an informant, a rat, a snitch. I call you unworthy of the body you possess, of the life that you've been given. Now we will see if you are willing to look inward rather than outward to give up the one thing you rely on in order to go on living. The device around your neck is a death mask. The mask is on a spring timer. If you do not locate the key in time the mask will close. Think of it like a Venus flytrap. What you are looking at right now is your own body not more than two hours ago. Don't worry, you're sound asleep and can't feel a thing. Taking into account that you are at a great disadvantage here I'm going to give you a hint as to where I've hidden the key, so listen carefully. The hint is this... It's in Singapore. How much blood will you shed to stay alive, Gloria? Live or die, make your choice.—From a Jigsaw Picture, December 31, 2011

Pagraemanmi nga Exselensia
a Babai a Presidente:
Panawenen tapno kadakam

ket ilawlawag
pakasaritaan nga insurat.

Kenka nga inyawatmi
iti manilengsileng a bandeja
a pirak tulbek ti pagarian.

Agrabrabii iti sibubukel
nga aldaw amin a tiempo intedmi
amin a masapul panangitunda

kadakam pagturongan,
adayo kadagitoy nga ammo
kas iti madagdagullit a pananggulib

dagiti presidente, iti panangipalubosmi
panangabalbalaydat’ balikas sapatami iti ili
a di makaammo a mangsuplit’ pammategmi.

Ti sapata ket karikaturat’ panagul-ulbod
sangaribu dagitoy, ket inikkanda met tiansa
panagpartuat sumagmamano pay manipud

lumlumteg a bassit-usit a dayaw.
Daga kadagiti makaammot’ agsukay.
Pagbirokan makabael a mangged.

Wayawaya kadakam a managtagtagainep.
Manipud adu a revolusion dagiti maris, verde
iti panangloko iti biagtayo manipud pupok ti amarilio

ti lualo a lualo a reformista ti balo
adda tapno ay-ayuenna laeng dagiti makasapul
ay-ayo, isuda nga agsasao iti Espaniol,

Ingles, Tagalog, karkarna a pagsasao amin,
di mangiyebyebkas kenka iti buya ti panagabuso,
panawenen tapno ibagam kadakami

ti narayray a maskara nga inusar
sa ti nangisit itan a naiparabaw iti ulo.
Kitaem ditoy, iti uneg ti maskara,

dagiti eppes a frase a rantam a ballikugen,
urnosen tapno dumawatka kadakami
iti pammakawan iti maminsan pay.

Makiay-ayamka iti daytoy maudin
a linnemmengan. Aglemmengka iti lawag
ti aldaw ket birokendaka.

Birokennakami iti sipnget
ket aglemmengkami. Impalladawmin
tulbek, binay-anmin nga agbirok

bukodna a tanem
iti barangabang panagpabus-oymi.
Mangabakka, maabakka pay laeng.

Hon,HI/Jan 1, 2011

Heartland poems, 3

Death Mask

Jigsaw: Hello Gloria, I want to play a game. So far in what could loosely be called your life you've made a living watching others. Society would call you an informant, a rat, a snitch. I call you unworthy of the body you possess, of the life that you've been given. Now we will see if you are willing to look inward rather than outward to give up the one thing you rely on in order to go on living. The device around your neck is a death mask. The mask is on a spring timer. If you do not locate the key in time the mask will close. Think of it like a Venus flytrap. What you are looking at right now is your own body not more than two hours ago. Don't worry, you're sound asleep and can't feel a thing. Taking into account that you are at a great disadvantage here I'm going to give you a hint as to where I've hidden the key, so listen carefully. The hint is this... It's in Singapore. How much blood will you shed to stay alive, Gloria? Live or die, make your choice.—From a Jigsaw Picture, December 31, 2011

Dear Your Excellency Madam President:
It is time to account what you have
kept away from the history you write.

We gave you on a shining silver
platter the key to the palace. All night long
all day long all time long we gave all

what you need to lead us to where we must go,
away from all these that we have known
like the redundant deceptions of presidents

we allowed for them to tinker the words of our
oath to a heartland we love but that does not know
how to love us back. The oath has none

of those caricatures of your lies,
a thousand of those, and we allowed
you to create some more out of your

swollen, puny pride.
It is land for those of us who till.
It is job for those of who can.

It is liberty for those of us who dream.
From the revolutions of colors, a green to fool
the life out of our incarceration to the yellow

of a praying reformist of a widow
out to appease what needs appeasing
like the elites of old who speak Spanish,

English, Tagalog, strange languages
that do not speak us to your spectacle of abuse,
it is time to account the bright mask you wore

and now the black mask in your head. Look inside
here what empty phrases you plan to reverse,
reorganize to ask for forgiveness from us

one more time. Take this final game
of hide-and-seek. You hide in the daylight
and we seek. You seek in the dark and we hide.

We have thrown the key away,
have it seek its grave in the abyss of our tolerance.
You win, you still lose.

Hon,HI/Jan 1, 2011

Heartland Poems, 2

Korte a Di Suprema ti Sanabagan

Korte a di suprema ti sanabagan.
Umuna nga aramid: itungtungkuam.

Korte a di suprema ti sanabagan.
Maikadua nga aramid: kinnumpadrean.

Korte a di suprema ti sanabagan.
Maikatlo nga aramid: palangguadam.

Korte a di suprema ti sanabagan.
Maikapat nga aramid: ikkatem ti bain.

Korte a di suprema ti sanabagan.
Maikalima nga aramid: pabengbengem ta rupam.

Korte a di suprema ti sanabagan.
Maikanem nga aramid: killuem ti linteg.

Korte a di suprema ti sanabagan.
Maikapito nga aramid: lintegem ti killo.

Korte a di suprema ti sanabagan.
Maikawalo nga aramid: sisiem ti nabati pay a lalat ti ili.

Korte a di suprema ti sanabagan.
Maikasiam nga aramid: manglutoka iti hukuspukos.

Korte a di suprema ti sanabagan.
Maikasangapulo nga aramid: agbitlaka maipapan iti wayawaya.

Korte a di suprema ti sanabagan.
Maikasangapulo ket maysa nga aramid: alaem ti gatilio.

Korte a suprema ti sanabagan.
Maikasangapulo ket maysa nga aramid: ikantam ti madam.

Hon, HI/Enero 01, 2012

Poems for the Heartland, 1

Taste of Sin

Ex-military comptroller in plunder rap now a lay minister in prison—Inquirer, December 30, 2011

The taste of sin is the companionship of bars,
cold in the Bilibid nights. I have come here
in the womb of this dark imprisonment,
listless with a conscience heavy with

the weight of light. It gets into my marble heart,
this light, its golden ray the gold I used
to count, in bundles as in bars, real
or its substitutes, like cheap loves whose supply

is more than I can demand. I am lonely
here, the saddest of the happy men
used to abusing the happy hours.
I need the company of god, my god,

any god, the better if he sports a Jesuit’s
ID, the better if he requires penance
so I can begin to dream of absolution,
pray the Pater Noster a thousand times,

recite the Ave Maria another thousand times,
and declaim the Glory Be, in ejaculation,
another thousand times.
I should like to be a reformed adorer,

like the Adoration people in the evenings
of a Wednesday romance, before the crucifix
as before a candlelight, when my sin is recounted
before the shy judge of a controller’s lie.

I am a shy man, you see. Shy, too shy.
There are things one can do right.
There are things one can do wrong.
It is this absence I cannot name,

touching me so even as I bead
the decades of grief away
in all the glorious mysteries
filling me with delight. I have millions

of dreams, true, and a million ways
of not saying a word to spare
The Madam the trouble. Her generals,
even the one who died in his own

dirtied hands. I am not going
tell anything about her commands,
thousands of those sorrowful mysteries
in the guttural incantation of a convent

girl bred in hypocrisy from Day One.
Now I kneel, learn how to say
the De Profundis, its words
not spelling regret, not my own. It is forgiveness

I seek in the dance of starless nights, penitent
as a penitent can be when the habited
are around. It is the white bread,
a tasteless piece of a savior’s body,

that I give to others now. I give hope
while I touch the bars of my prison cell
with my preying hands.

Hon/Dec 31, 2011