I’m not going to pretend that this post is not about my second poem being posted in litratula.com because it is.
First off, I’m very happy that Ms. P. is my partner in crime for this piece. It’s a great new way for us to collaborate on art. Two forms, no less! And in… tandem. (See what I did there?) I’m very grateful to her for giving me (and our young writers) opportunities to share our work and to hone our writing further.
Taning is actually a song. I just restructured it to look less like a song. I already have a rough recording of it, but I’m not going to share it just yet. I plan to redo the vocal tracks and tweak the mix come June.
I don’t really write poems often. I write songs. Yes, yes, I know you can argue semantics here, but you know what I mean. I honestly think I have a knack for it, though you’ll ultimately be the judge of that when I finish and release the songs. But despite that, and despite the fact that some of them coming from very dark places, I am proud of my songs because what endures isn’t the subjectivity of valuing or the causalities; it’s the words, the music, and the craft.
I am especially proud and fond of the songs I write in Filipino. That’s because I had to learn on my own how to do it without sounding inauthentic or like it’s a direct translation from English. Make no mistake, I am very fluent in Filipino. But the language of my th0ughts is not Filipino, it’s English. And apparently, the language of your thoughts is the default language of your songs, despite being perfectly fluent in another language.
I spent a year learning how to write songs in Filipino. My first attempts really sounded like they were parades of English words in Filipino costumes. So, what I did was I listened to a lot of Eraserheads, Teeth, Parokya ni Edgar, Mongols (Ely’s post E-Heads band before Pupil), Sandwich, and Rivermaya (Rico Blanco wasn’t an actor back then). I listened for what made the language of the lyrics sound natural. Some songs used a more formal Filipino, while some were more casual, sometimes even in Tag-lish, but they all worked. Not one of them a Filipino-themed masquerade of English words. I could never put my finger on it though, so I just kept writing and revising until I came up with songs that sounded natural. Even now, I won’t be able to specifically point out to you what makes a song in Filipino sound natural, but I’d like to believe I have achieved an intuitive understanding of it.
But why go through all that trouble? Why even write in Filipino when it was much easier to write in English?
I’m proud to be Filipino. But that wasn’t why I pushed myself to learn to write songs in Filipino. In college, I took a course in contemporary Filipino literature. The class read short stories and poems by Filipino authors. And if my memory serves me right, none of the pieces we read were in Filipino. English was the main, if not the sole, medium. I no longer remember the pieces we read, nor how we analyzed and critiqued the works. But what I will never forget in that class was when our professor told us about the importance of writing in the vernacular. I am not completely certain if what he meant accurately matches how I understood what he said, but it stayed with me.
When you write, who you write for is just as important as what you write about. You have to make sure that your work reaches your audience in every aspect. And if my audience is the Filipino people, then it follows that I write in the vernacular. Because writing exclusively or mostly in any other language, even English, will alienate me from my audience. I’ll probably be reaching 10% at best, which, statistically, is a dismal failure. That’s why I took the time to learn how to write songs in Filipino; the Filipino is who I’m writing to reach.