In which I resurrect a villanelle

Because it’s Tuesday and suddenly I’m feeling very much like Tuesday’s child, here’s a villanelle* I wrote some years back for Rofel Brion’s poetry writing class…


Aralin sa Pamamaalam


Kanya-kanya ang kasanayan.

Sa pagtupad sa matandang sining,

Walang iisang paraan.


Habang naiidlip ang sintang lilisanin, maari siyang iwanan

Ng liham o larawang mapipilitan siyang yakapin paggising.

Kanya-kanya ang kasanayan.


Maari ring magtanghal ng isang pekeng alitan,

Isang away na ‘di alam kung ano ang pinagmulan.

Walang iisang paraan.


Maari ring maglaho ka na lamang sa kanyang harapan

Kung sa salamangka naman ang iyong hilig.

Kanya-kanya ang kasanayan.


At kung kaya mo, bakit hindi ikubli sa kanya ang buwan

At kitlin ang ilaw ng lahat ng mga bituin?

Wala namang iisang paraan.


Tandaan: Nakasalalay ang bagsik ng iyong paalam

Sa lawak at lalim ng sugat nitong lilikhain.

Kanya-kanya ang kasanayan,

At walang iisang paraan.


*A villanelle (also known as villanesque)[1] is a nineteen-line poetic form consisting of five tercets followed by a quatrain. There are two refrains and two repeating rhymes, with the first and third line of the first tercet repeated alternately until the last stanza, which includes both repeated lines. The villanelle is an example of a fixed verse form. The word derives from Latin, then Italian, and is related to the initial subject of the form being the pastoral. <;


In which I channel my inner DJ and then just press play

For the Grade 8 Reflection Period on 17 March 2014

When Mrs. Castañeda asked me (very nicely) if I could do a reflection for today, every fiber of my being wanted to refuse. In fact, I tried. But perhaps it’s a little known fact among students that you’re not the only ones who have great… respect for our GLC. So here I am.

She suggested that I talk about your thanksgiving song. But I thought Ms. Marasigan—another teacher whom we all have great… respect for—had already done a wonderful job discussing the meaning of the song with you. And I’m very thankful to her for that. So I thought of going in a different direction, doing a different playlist so to speak. Hopefully, I’ll still end up where I’m supposed to be.

To say that the past school year was tough would be an understatement. This is true not just for you students, but believe it or not, even for us teachers. In a previous blog which some of you got to read, I wrote that 2013-2014 was the toughest school year ever for me. Like you, I’m just thankful I had friends and music to help me get by.

When June came, summer—well, we had to Let Her Go. It was time once again to Play Hard, go back to the Gentleman mode. There were many Blurred Lines in the beginning. But soon enough, there was Clarity. What became clear to me was that I wasn’t just gonna Get Lucky. I knew that if I were to survive the year, I had to work very hard. I didn’t need Avicii to Wake Me Up. I was always up. Hundreds of my brain cells had died due to lack of sleep. But Do I Wanna Know that? All I knew was that We Can’t Stop. I kept at it until there was Daylight.
The days turned into weeks into months and “now we here.”

The year that was came into our lives like a Wrecking Ball. Of course, it wasn’t all that bad. I did have some days that I can nominate as the Best Day of my Life, some days that made me want to Roar—good Roar and bad Roar which my students just know all too well, some days when I felt like I was Locked Out of Heaven, and some days when I felt Safe and Sound. The past year just asked for everything that was in us until we felt like we had nothing more to give. Many of us are plainly exhausted; and often we don’t care anymore What the Fox—or anyone else—Says. We just want the school year to be over so that we can finally do “what all frozen things do in summer.”

Of course, we’d rather sleep in than wake up early for practice. Of course, we’d rather chill in an air-conditioned mall than stew in the heat of the Covered Courts or the Blue Eagle Gym. Of course, we all know that you’d rather sit in front of the computer or TV than stand in Line 1 Row 2 Quadrant 4 and have Ms Marasigan tell you where to go and what to do with your hands in how many counts.

So why this? Why can’t we just let the year fade out or fade to black? Why do we have to go through the rigor (and in your language, the BV) not just of the practices but also of the actual ceremonies, as though we have not suffered enough all year? Pink says Just Give Me A Reason, just a little bit’s enough.
Well, isn’t it enough that we are still here now, that the year was tough but we were tougher, that we have lasted this long, and because of that, perhaps it wasn’t just the Women’s Volleyball Team that was heartstrong? We had been living out heartstrong way before Coach Tai started doing his little dances on television. We had struggled and we are stronger for that. Isn’t that reason enough?

Isn’t it also enough reason that throughout this year (and the previous years in the Grade School), there were people who stood by us? Parents, siblings, teachers, classmates, and friends. We may not always like them; they may not always like us. But they will always care about us. We are loved beyond our ability to comprehend. Isn’t that reason enough? Are the people who love us and care about us not reason enough?

At the end of the year, after all that has happened—the good and the bad together, couldn’t we say Everything Is Awesome? Couldn’t our hearts be filled with so much gratitude “like the ceiling can’t hold us”?

Sa inyong awit ng pasasalamat, paulit-ulit ang tanong na iyan: Sapat na ba? Sapat na ba? Sapat na ba? Kayo lamang ng makasasagot niyan.

Sa paglubog ng inyong araw sa Ateneo Junior High School at Ateneo Grade School, sa inyong paglisan dito sa inyong naging tahanan sa loob ng isa o higit pang taon, ano ang inyong iiwanan? Paano namin kayo maaalala? O mas mahalaga bang itanong kung ano ang inyong babaunin? Anong karanasan, anong kaalaman, anong alaala ang bibitbitin ninyo pag-alis? Muli, kayo rin lang ang makaaalam. Ngunit sana malaman ninyo ang sagot “bago mahuli ang lahat, sa bilang ng tatlo o apat”.

Finally, I’d like to think that I speak for all of your teachers—past and present—when I say that at the end of the day, our wish is that you would say—or show in whatever way—that because you knew the Ateneo, you had been changed for good. And on a more personal note, we can only hope that because you knew us, you had been changed for the better, for good.

In which I try to write a poem about someone who tries too hard and perhaps wants too much

An Apology

You never understood what it was
About banana walnut pancakes for breakfast
That I needed to hear about.
It’s not like you invented them
Or were having them for the first time in your life.
And what’s new about bumper-to-bumper traffic
On your way to work? It was always
The same thing anyway, no matter what day,
No matter what time you left.

And what was so important about
What you dreamt about last night
Or what tie you’re wearing now
Or which pen you’re picking up to write with?
So what if the little boy in the elevator
Reminded you of a childhood friend
You never saw again after you moved away?
What do I care if you think
That tea doesn’t go with milk
Or that people shouldn’t leave
Their homes with their hair still wet?

So when you tell me, “This new playlist
I’ve been listening to is growing on me”
And I play it all day until I can hear it
Even in my sleep, and I could feel
The weight of every word as though
You had chosen it especially for me,
You just shake your head,
Pull me close and, ruffling my hair,
You plant a kiss on my forehead.
“All you need to know is
I’ll pick you up for dinner at 6.
And I love you to bits.”

I don’t think you’ll ever understand
Why I take mental snapshots all the time
Or why I’m always ravenous for every morsel,
Every tidbit of you that I can find.
Pardon me if your life is not just something
I’d like to gloss over or skim when I have the time.
Pardon me if I don’t wish to just thumb through it
Absent-mindedly, like it’s a dog-eared
Back issue of a teen magazine in a hair salon’s lobby.

Pardon me if I’d rather dig in than nibble
On the edges of your life, if I’m not one to push away
The stuff that most people do not want,
If I want every single bite in my greedy mouth.
My love is the kind that rips you open
And holds every piece to the light.
It’s an insatiable beast that feeds
On what is pure and true,
What is real and magical,
What is you.

11 March 2014