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May 17, 2004

PATRICIA RUTH G. CRISTOBAL

How do you encourage a generation bombarded with an overwhelming amount of technology and less of traditional culture to fabricate words into a central theme and express using one of the oldest forms of poetry? Launch an SMS poetry writing competitions, that’s how.

Taking advantage of the Filipinos’ fancy for text messaging (more formally known as short messaging service or SMS) for the third time now, The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), in cooperation with the Filipinas Institute of translation Inc., Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas and the UP Institute of Creative Writing has sponsored a text poetry writing competitions as part of the annual February celebration of the National Arts Month.

First was launched was TEXTANAGA where the poet-contestant was to submit a tanaga – a quatrain with seven syllables per-line about love. Then followed DALITEXT where the poet-contestant were to text a message with a nationalistic theme, through a dalit – a quatrain with eight syllables per line. This years, continuing the aim to popularize and revitalize the tradition of one of the oldest forms of poetry by using modern technology, DIONATEXT was held. The poet-contestant was to text an entry expressing love within the family though a diona– three lines with seven syllables per line – an old example being :

Magkapatid mang buo,
Kung kapuwa suyo,
Parang pinssang malayo.

For four weeks of the contest proper , thousands upon thousands of entries poured in, coming from various places – from Benguet to Davao to Cavite to Pasig. The entries themselves were as widespread as their origins, with topics ranging from a mother’s birthday celebration:

Birthday ng nanay ko ngayon,
Handa ko ay sotanghon,
Paborito nya iyon.
(A. Tan, week 1 consolation prize)

To family members working overseas as contract workers:

Aanhin ang yamang Saudi,
O yen ng Japayuki,
Kung wala ka sa tabi?
(F. Gonzales, week 1 Text Makata ng Linggo)

To prodigal children:

Ako raw ay pasakit,
Pero pag nagkasakit,
Ina’y di makapikit.
(M. Lim, week 4 consolation prize)

Some were rather poignant:

Paa ay lipak-lipak,
Sa maghapong paglakad,
May uwi lang sa pugad.
(J. De Jesus, wek 3 Text Makata Linggo)

Kung aso hinahanap
‘Pag nagtampo’t naglayas
Ikaw pa kaya, anak?
(F. Bajado, week 2 Text Makata Linggo)

Others, less serious, with a dash of the popular culture:

Mama ko at Papa ko,
Ate, kuya at ako,
Sabay mag-ocho-ocho.
(D. Germio, week 1 consolation prize)

One, though alarming in its realty, could be quite amusing considering the poet’s surname and choppy sentence:

Uso kidnapan ngayon,
Ako ipon ng milyon
Para anak ma-ransom.
(L. Chua, week 3 consolation prize)

While the spectrum’s A to Z topic-wise, it is noticeable how some themes recur throughout contest proper. Quite a handful spoke of a mother’s love or grandmothers’ love:

Moog ka at kanlungan,
Mula pa kamusmusan,
Inang aking huwaran.
(B. Palad, week 3 consolation prize)

Buto ko’y tumibay,
Pakpak ko’y lumalabay,
Sa pugad mo, o inay!
(J. Barahan, week 4 consolation prize)

Wala mang lobo’t bola
Sapat na ang krayola’t
Mga kwento ni lola. (A. Gonzales,week 3 consolation prize)

Yet seldom does an entry speak solely of a father or a grandfather, with the exception of this one:

Lolo, ‘wag malulungkot,
Ngayong uugod-ugod,
Ako po’y inyong tungkod.
(G. Rodillio, week 2 Text Makata Linggo)

When an entry does mention the father, it always in side-by-side reference to the mother:

Ang kudyapi ng ama
At oyayi ng ina:
Wastong asal ang bunga.
(M.Tadeo, week 3 consolation prize)

Ama’t ina kong mahal,
Sa gutom man ay sakal,
Busog naman sa dangal.
(A.Guevara, week 4 consolation prize)

Ang payong ko’y si ina’y
Kapote si itay,
Sa maulan kong buhay.
(R. Pambid, week 1 Text Makata Linggo)

Does this reflect how the Filipino family tends to be more matriarchal in nature?

Another recurring theme is how the close company of the family compensates for poverty or lack of material resources and how familiar love is never matched by earthly possessions:

Nagdildil man ang asin,
Para ring nag-fried chicken
Kung pamilya’y kapiling.
(R. Palaypay, week 1 consolation prize)

Tagpi-tagping yero man
Sa piling ng magulang,
Abot ang kalangitan.
(L. Reyes, week 3 consolation prize)

Pa-milya, iyong alay,
MIL-yung pera’y di pantay
YA-mang pagmamahalan.
(F. Masnayon, week 4 consolation prize)

Interesting note is the Filipino’s affection for infants and toddlers, children is general:

Ang batang nasa duyan
Kailangang bantayan
Iugoy at kantahan.
(L. Espedido, week 1 consolation prize)

Sanggol na iniluwal,
Bunga ng pagmamahal,
Biyaya ng may kapal.
(J. Cruz, week 1 consolation prize)

With even further emphasis on those which are the youngest among the brod:

Paglisan mo bunso
‘wag kabigin ang pinto
Sisilip pa ang puso.
(G. Gervacio, week 1 consulation prize)

Tinig ng aking bunso,
Parang pana sa puso,
Buhay man isusuko.
(J. Regalado, week 3 consolation prize)

But affection and permissiveness were not the only topics explored. It is noteworthy how a number of entities were about discipline in the family context. Could it be said that the Filipino parents somehow strive to strike a balance between the former and the latter ?

Ang palo ng magulang
Parang ambon sa palay;
Pampaganda ng sapaw.
(N. Cruz, week 1 Text Makata Linggo)

Anak ay ssaranggola
Pisi ang displina
Paghila o alagwa!
(J. Malabanan, week 1 consolation prize)

As seen in the entries quoted above, there is a considerable amount of focus on the family in general, and parent-child relations. Little was written about the other dyads in the nuclear family – the spousal dyad and the sibling dyad. There was but one entry who spoke of sibling relationship:

Salita’y mas masakit,
Matalas pa sa tinik,
Kung kapatid ang magsambit.
(D. Altar, week 4 Text Makata Linggo)

Surprisingly, considering that many would describe the Filipino as being “clannish”, none was written about the extended family, other than the one or two written about grandparents. Totos, Titas, cousin, nepheww, niece, nieces, parents-, brothers- and sisters-in-law were not mentioned in any of the winning entries.

Through these entries sometimes witty, often insightful and always artistic, the fresh generation of Pinoy poets has once again shown not only the talent in expressing love for the Filipino family but also the ingenuity in marrying the old with the new.

This year’s top winners may already be announced but this does not spell the end for this kind of literary competition. With the interest for this unique fusion of literature and technology now sparked amongst the modern bards, we are bound to hear more of this kind of projects in the future.

Moreover, may this serve as an encouragement for all to take on the new way of passing a message and conveying a thought. Get connected – DIONATEXT style.