January 10, 2005


Textanaga, the first banner project of the Committee on Literary Arts of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, has received entries from all over the country that confirm the FilipinosÒ creativity and familiarity with the verse.

A competition on verse-writing that challenges the participantsÒ ingenuity in creating poetry, Textanaga is part of the National Arts Months celebration. Already, the judges have chosen weekly winners from among whom a final monthly winner will be picked. And what started as a contest may yet be the purveyor of a new interesting way of passing on information among the countryÓ³ Gentexters, way beyond this yearÓ³ celebration of the Arts Month.

Made possible by the Filipinas Institute of Translation Inc., Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas, and the University of the Philippines Institute of Creative Writing, this first and only literary contest encourages the Gentexter to join by texting his entry , which is a tanaga, or a quatrain with seven syllables per line containing a central metaphor:

Catitibay ca tolos
sacaling datnang agos
acoÓ‰ momonting lomot
sa iyo,I popolopot.

Friars Juan de Noceda and Pedro de Sanlucar, defined in their Vocabulario de la Lengua Tagala (1860) this Tagalog poetic form with great respect:

Ԑoesia muy alta en tagalo, compuesta de siete silabas, y cuatro versos, llena de metafora.Լbr>
Something happened, perhaps, after reading the following lines by Mr. Aonymous:

Ang sisiu nang ibong tica
yayang iyong inanduca,
aalilaiÓ´ nang tumaba,
di maronong manhinoca.

Then as now, tanaga has been regarded as a poetry of high quality. For one, it can be as quizzical as a riddle:

Nang ualang biring guinto
doon nagpapalalo;
nang nagcaguinto guinto
doon nanga songmoco.

Or as philosophical as a proverb:

Ang tubig maÓ©, malalim
malilirip cun libdin
itong burhing magaling
maliuag paghanapin.

That is why, even poets in the contemporary period of Philippine literature found it a powerful tool in depicting present-day realities.

It was lyric poet Ildefonso Santos who was said to be the first to discover the virtue of tanaga as an epitome of the dictum Ô¬ess is moreÔ when he wrote the metamorphosis of rice in four lines:

Palay siyang matino,
Nang humangiÓ¹ yumuko,
NguniÓ¹ muling tumayo:
Nagkabunga ng ginto!

In 1963, Jose Villa Panganiban showcased his collection of 100 tanaga ahead of its Asian counterparts Ö the Japanese haiku and the Malay pantun Ö which are more internationally famous.

After his 100th tanaga, the former director of the Institute of National Language posed a challenge to the angry young poets:

Hindi baga magaan
ang tanagang sandaan?
Ang hindi naibigan,
sige naÓ´ kalimutan.

Ikaw naman, O bata,
ang sumalok sa diważbr> Manlikha ng tanaga,
pukawin ang paghaka

A year after, Alejandro G. Abadilla, responded as if he felt he was being alluded to.

But AGA created his own version and called it Ô´anagabadilla.Ô 

Both in 1964 and 1965, he was able to publish two collections of a Ô¦racturedÔ tanaga:

Ô•mawit si Villa
At akoÓ¹ umawit,
Nguni magkakontra
Ang sa aming tinig.Ô¼/small>

Of course, Villa here is Jose Garcia Villa, his counterpart in English as the Ô†ather of Modernist PoetryÔ and AGA (as he is fondly remembered) has succeeded in striking a balance between looking back and looking forward.

Thus, his foreword became a forewarning:

ԁng taal na tanaga ay nakahanay na pitong (7) pantig at ang tugmaӹ
AAAA, at kaya Tanagabadilla ay sa dahilang mumunting kapahamakan
naming inihanay nang anim-anim at saka pinatunog nang salit-salit.
Hayan kami sa kanila, sa aming mga kapanahon.Ô¼/small>

And the succeeding generation got forearmed in the tanaga tradition of, say, Mar Al. TiburcioÓ³ as an example:

nang mahuli ng pusa
ang dagang-banggerahan,
ang kaputol na hitaÓ¹
sa aso ibinigay.

Or Pedro L. RicarteÓ³:

Sa makata ang sining
Ay isang tulang ilog
Na wala ang pampangiÓ´
Walang hulo ang agos.

Even Federico Licsi Espino:

Dahan-dahan, ang langit
Ay nagbababang-luksa.
Unti-unti, ang binhiÓ¹
Nabubuhay sa lupa.

In his Doktrinang Anakpawis (1979), poet/critic Virgilio Almario in a way tried the versatility of tanaga in his own brand of protest literature:

Isang pinggang sinangag,
Isang lantang tinapa,
Isang sarting salabat,
Isang buntunghininga.

As a teacher, Almario trained budding poets in his Rio Alma Poetry Clinic by leading them the way to tanaga before they would graduate and get into the Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika, at Anyo (LIRA).

Now on its 18th year, LIRAÓ³ founding officer Victor Emmanuel Carmelo D. Nadera Jr., with the help of his award-winning students Beverly Siy and Salvador Biglaen, paid a long-overdue tribute to tanaga.

By marrying the oldest poetic form in Philippine literature with the latest short messaging service in the Philippines Ö which is the text capital of the world (with an average of 300 million messages sent daily) — they came up with TEXTANAGA.

And since National Arts Month coincides with the Love Month, tanagaÓ³ flexibility can again be tested under romantic fire, so to speak, by asking possible contestants to text their love tanaga.

For their model, the organizers included the samples in their rules and regulations.

One is materialist.

mahal na ang de-lata
mahal pa’ng abre-lata;
minamahal kong sinta,
nagmahal ka na rin ba?

And the other is spiritualist?

Di maubos ang bango
ng kamya sa dibdib mo.
Masdan, ang paruparo
pagsagi’y nalalango.

This literary competition is, indeed, a break-in.

TEXTANAGA will make or break future projects of the same principle of fusion since its success, or failure, will determine the possibility of ending up with TEXTALINGDAO or TEXTIGPASIN or TEXTAGUMPAY.

And who knows, in the next National Arts Month, FAXSIDAI or E-MAILAJI or CHATIGSIK or DISCUSSIONBOARDUPLO or HOLOGRAMBAHAN could be a reality.

Or is it virtual reality?

The National Arts Month is almost over, with the top winners about to be announced. Yet the Textanaga fever need not be a thing that was Ó good and hotÔ while it lasted. Instead , Textanaga may yet turn out to be the Ô£oolestÔ way of passing on something creative and relevant, something that the receiver would not only appreciate but also identify with. Humorous, soul-searching, or uniquely romantic, this could be it. It doesnÓ´ have to be about love. It could be about world peace, a good movie, a bar that offers health food, or anything at all that the gentexter may wish to share with a friend, a classmate or a parent.

With the Gen XÓ³ innate talent for creating texts that are original and artistic, we can expect a lot more than what the TEXTANAGA competition hoped to achieve. LetÓ³ just wait and see.