Central Luzon is composed of several provinces, producing varied literary pieces shaped by different languages, namely, Tagalog in Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, parts of Bataan and Zambales; Kapampangan in Pampanga, parts of Tarlac, Nueva Ecija and Bataan; and Ilocano in parts of Tarlac, Zambales and Nueva Ecija.
The provinces have strong literary traditions, but they have met modernism with approbation. For poetry, the tradition of rhyming and versification is now replaced by free verse. For fiction, the usual romantic and sentimental narratives are now supplanted by subtle story lines with dispassionate style.
The pieces in this collection exemplify the modernist trend that has rolled across the literary terrain of the provinces. The proverbial idea of pouring new wine into new wineskins is heralded in a profound sense. New thoughts are framed in relatively new patterns of writing.
Kapampangan poetry writing, known as kawatasan, has been very traditional—beneath the giant shadow of Crisostomo Soto and other famous Kapampangan literary figures. With exact metrical measurement, sonorous versification, and conventional motif as its fixed standards, Kapampangan poetry has been kept alive by generations of writers for several decades. It is against this background that the poetry writing style of Kragi Garcia and some budding writers may be considered leapfrogging out of the firmly established tradition. In a kind of historic advance, Garcia forges his own style, using free verse, bursting limits of metaphors, and invoking fresh images.
His poems illustrate how free verse enriches their meaning. For instance, in “Dayu” (“Distance”), the essence of separation from someone is intensified by the enumeration of single words—synonyms of “distance” or its associations—that are indicative of a train of thought. This reflection, harbouring hope tainted with cynicism, reveals the interplay of perception and feeling, which dramatically ends with a resolve, “Not at all.”
Garcia’s other poems are an exploration of the range that the Kapampangan language can offer in literary expression. Moreover, they are exacted from a sensibility which is conveyed by the resplendent amanung siswan or mother tongue of the poet. Garcia has meaningfully crystallized in histexts the reciprocity between his language and his new literary approach.
Another Kapampangan poet, Marco Paulo Lacap, also ventures into a more modern mode of writing. In his case, it is primarily to give vent to his youthful feelings that prods him to reinvent the conservative romantic literary form. The sinews of his poetic pursuit are made taut by the natural flow of free verse. His poem “Ika King Paninap Ku” (“You in My Dreams”) consists of a persona adoring and fantasizing of his love object. Featuring hyperbolic expressions, the poem has vestiges of traditional romantic poetry, but its novelty lies in its very light tone with ideas framed in free verse and with a funny double entendre as ending.
Bulacan, on the other hand, embraced modernism much earlier, and its contemporary writing has made a substantive reach—more subtlety, depth, and sophistication. Free verse has been a common feature in the dynamics of the literary development in the province. The meaning making of poetry is further enhanced by technical elevation learned from writing workshops.
Since Filipino is the language of the province, young writers usually have more opportunities to hone their craft in writing workshops, many of which are conducted in Filipino. New theories and techniques are acquired, given such exposure, and the quality and diversity of literary production can be expected.
Sample poems of a Bulacan young writer, Agatha Buensalida, are included in this collection. Unlike the newly modernized Kapampangan poems, hers are longer meditative lines in free verse. They direct attention to internal struggles which are illustrations of “showing” rather than “telling” principle in writing. Buensalida has also made use of paragraph poetry (in “Ang Lata ng S26 Gold”) which is still considered uncommon in other areas of the region.
The emotions captured in words, images, metaphors of her poems are almost enigmatic. Pain exuding from most of the poems seems to negate the kind of nihilistic passion paradoxically evident in the tone of the personas behind the poetic lines. The utterances, to a certain extent, tend to subvert the romantic and the pathetic. What reverberate are broken relationships— and voices of women in emotional upheaval are heard. Interestingly, distinct imagery, including those in the titles such as the visual “Ang Kulay ng Panibugho” and the olfactory “Lansa,” produces the sensory appeal of the poems.
The last author, Arthur Allen Baldevarona from Nueva Ecija, has contributed a short story. Similar to Bulacan, Nueva Ecija is also a Tagalog province. Thus, writers also have the same opportunities to attend workshops conducted in Filipino. And this exposure allows them to create a modern style. To “show” rather than “tell” is also the prevailing principle in fiction writing, and the usual didacticism and sentimentalism are now locked deep in the early literary tradition of the province.
Baldevarona’s “Tandang Supeng” is a story of an elderly woman suffering from dementia. Behind this illness is a sweet love story told as a flashback. The story is well-structured, starting with the Old Supeng’s worry about her hanging laundry because of the impending rain. Then the unfolding of her romantic past begins, with her husband expressing his deep love. But this happy moment ends tragically when he is struck by lightning during a stormy day. His last words, “Hanguin mo ang sinampay,” are retained in Supeng’s memory until she becomes old and demented. The story ends, coming full circle, with those last words.
To sum up, in their creative production, the Central Luzon writers have adopted modernism for a full engagement with their humanity and their given milieu.
Kragi B. Garcia
Marco Paulo B. Lacap
- Nang Dalawin Mo Ako
- Kaya Ko pang Magbilang
- Ang lata ng s26 gold
- Ang Kulay ng Panibugho
- Isang Gabi