(Excerpted with slight revisions from the author's forthcoming
of Bamboo Leaves: Selected Haiku and Other Poems".)
first wave of Spanish colonizers arrived in the Philippines in 1521,
found a self-sufficient people with a primitive form of government
who were highly literate and rich in oral tradition. The early Filipinos
had a spoken as well as incipient written language of their own.
They used an ancient Tagalog syllabary called baybayin, which they
on palm leaves, bamboo or hard surface with a knife or stylus.
people did not use baybayin to write their important history and tradition
but instead used it for daily
and writing poetry. With the advent of the Latin alphabet the
script gradually became extinct from disuse, although the first
book using baybayin was published in the Philippines in 1593,
of the U S.
The early Filipinos
used oral and folk literature in their daily activities such as in
songs, hymns, chants, riddles, proverbs,
and maxims which
were handed down from generation to generation. Close to nature
- many are animists - the natives had poetry coursing in their
on, their verses follow some kind of rhythm and lines usually
have end rhyme.
Here are some examples
Ulong ulo't paa lamang,
walang pagod ng pagsayaw.
(Just head and foot
yet never tires of dancing.)
[Answer: Spinning top]
Ang tunay na kaibigan
sa gipit nasusubukan.
(A true friend is
tested in time of need).
Magtanim hindi biro,
is no fun, stooped the whole day).
Tagalog is one of
the major languages in the Philippines. There are over 70 languages
and dialects, but Tagalog is spoken and
all over the archipelago, in effect becoming the nation's lingua
franca. Filipino, based mainly on Tagalog, and English are
the official languages.
Meanwhile, Taglish (combination of Tagalog and English) is widely
used everywhere from the media, government, to the streets. It may
eventually supplant Filipino or Tagalog.
A brief history
The Philippines became
a colony of Spain from the 1500s to 1898 and, with the provision of
the Treaty of Paris, the country
to the United States, another colonizer, for 20 million dollars.
The US governed the Philippines from 1899 following the Filipino
War up to 1946 when independence was rightly returned to the nation.
As is true with any
subjugated people, they learned and imbibed the language of their masters.
Whereas Spain brought Christianity
a semblance of education to the elite, the United States gave
public education for all. Each era produced many writers and
poets writing in either their language or English, but not
necessarily neglecting their own dialects.
After the Second
World War, young talented Filipinos started going abroad for graduate
studies and some stayed behind to
the brain drain phenomenon. Now, Filipinos can be found all
over the world mastering the local language, embracing a new
universal men and women, world citizens.
If Japan has its
short verses like haiku and tanka and Korea has its sijo, the Philippines
has likewise a short poetic
which dates back to 1500.
Tanaga has four lines
with seven syllables each. Usually it has no title. In its traditional
form, all lines
modern form ranges from six to eight syllables per line
and also tends to be written in free verse. It is in
to revive it are gathering momentum, thanks to government
Filipino poets, and the Internet.
Here are examples
of my tanaga:
tulad ng aking buhay
ang liwanag ng araw
my life is like the
of midnight, gloomy and dark
when will the morning arrive
to warm the coldness of my heart
sa puso mo't iyong diwa
nanaig sa katuwiran
ahas na verde ang kulay
your heart and your mind
it overwhelmed reason
like a green colored serpent
Haiku, Philippine style
As of July
2005, there are at least two Yahoo groups on the Internet
on the writing and discussion of haiku,
Philippine style. The first
and original forum is called Brown Song, literally Kayumangging
awit in Tagalog. It was founded in October 4, 2004
by Robert Wilson, a
prolific haiku poet and the owner/managing editor of Simply Haiku,
the online literary journal showcasing Japanese shortform poetry.
to its description, "Brown Song is a forum of Filipino
poets and their friends in the Philippines and abroad who write
group is called Bahag-hari, meaning rainbow, organized March
30, 2005. Its pre-occupation at its
early stage is translating
haiku of Japanese masters to Tagalog. Haiku is spelled hayku in Tagalog.
of my English-Tagalog haiku:
sa tabi ng bakanting kama
ang kanyang lumang tungkod
near the empty bed
her worn-out cane
Vol. 3, Issue 2, Dec. 2003
palaki nang palaki
sa tungga ng alak
the fish grows bigger
with every sip of beer
Vol. 4, 2004
gumalaw and kurtina
sa bango ng rosal
the curtain sways slightly
scent of gardenia
World Haiku Review
Vol. 1, Issue 2, August 2001
Gendrana is a retired librarian from the Los
Angeles (California) County Public Library. From 1987 to 1999, he
published and edited Heritage magazine, an English-language quarterly
dealing with Filipino culture, arts and letters, and the Filipino
American experience. After 13 years of continuous publication, he
stopped publishing the magazine to fully attend to the needs of his
wife whose health started to worsen.
served as an outlet for his poems and other literary works and he
takes pride in publishing both established and fledgling
Filipino writers. He writes in both English and Tagalog, his native
Philippine language. Aside from haiku, he also writes senryu,
tanka, haiga, haibun, Korean Sijo and American cinquain. Since
days, he has been writing Tagalog poems, some of which were published
locally in the Philippines. While still working, he wrote book
reviews for Library Journal.
Gendrano is a member of the Haiku Society of America, the World
Haiku Club, World Haiku Association, Tanka Society of America,
and the Anglo-Japanese Tanka Society. His poems have been published
in numerous print and online magazines with some included in anthologies
like World Haiku Association’s World Haiku 2005 and World
Haiku Club’s Wild Flowers, New Leaves. Most of them are published
in World Haiku Review, but some also appeared in Lynx, Stylus
Poetry Journal, The Heron’s Nest, Mainichi
Daily News, Catholic Planet,
Haijinx, Our Own Voice, and others.
Born and raised
in the Philippines, Gendrano took his master’s
degree at Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York from 1963
to 1965. Earlier, he earned his Bachelor’s degree from the University
of the Philippines at Los Baños. Just before Martial
Law was declared in the Philippines in 1971 and worried about
future of the country, he returned to the United States and
settled in southern California for good. His family joined him