POETICS: Foreign Tongues


Siya na lang ang wala
Kahit saan siya tumingin
namamasdan niya
mga magkasintahan, magkahawak kamay
magkasama, magkayakap
Bakit walang dumarating
para sa kanya
hindi naman siya pangit
hindi rin naman siya boba
Bakit nga ba
sa mga tipunan
siya ang laging lisan –
Walang kapareha?
Maari nang hindi guwapo
o mayaman o matalino
Pwede na kahit may bisyo
basta lalaki
Magbabago rin iyon
ayon sa kanyang gusto
Ang mahalaga
hindi na siya nag-iisa
may kahawak – kamay
may kalambingan
hindi na siya kaiba.
Siguro, sa kalaunan
sisibol din ang pagmamahal.


She is the only one
without someone
Everywhere she looks
she sees lovers holding hands
headed to their tryst
in each other’s arms
all through the night.
Why hasn’t she found
her special someone?
She is not that ugly
neither is she dumb
Why is she the odd person out
in a group –
without a significant other
He need not be handsome
nor rich nor brilliant
He may even have a vice
as long as he’s a male
He will change in time
according to her designs
What matters is
she’s no longer alone –
there’s a hand to hold
or one to make out with –
and no longer different.
Perhaps, love may even  blossom in time.


DVERSE Poets Pub‘s challenge this time inspired me to think and write in Tagalog, my mother tongue.    It was a breeze (well, in a manner of speaking).  I knew exactly the words I had to use to convey a feeling, a thought.  The more difficult part was conveying the same sentiments and message in English.  I had to  consult with a native speaker so that the translation would, at the very least,  approximate not only the literal meaning of the words but also their emotions and sentiments.

Oh, my husband asked me if the poem is autobiographical.  I  pleaded the fifth. 😉

29 thoughts on “POETICS: Foreign Tongues

  1. Love this…and writer’s prerogative to weave fact and imagination is always the way to go when pressed for “real or imagined”.
    Thank you for the effort you put into writing and translating the poem. I’m sure many can relate to it.

  2. Just love this. The poem is filled with love, a touch of complacency, settling, happiness and tinged with a small sense of sadness while at the same time offering the reader a nice bit of humor as well. How wonderful that you were able to combine so many stylistics into one piece with it reading so seamlessly, not choppy or obvious the tone was shifting and so forth. The tagalong flows brilliantly. I have to admit I never read a poem in tagalong before, and this, for me, is one of those poems I mentioned in the article. While reading the original, I had no idea what the poem was about, yet, there is that something that draws you in, exhilarating you with each word pronounced, probably many incorrectly but none of that matters as it is beautifully read. Thank you for sharing this with us tonight. Really enjoyed.

    1. Thank you very much, hobgoblin. 🙂 I am glad you liked it. It was a little difficult to write in the mother tongue because it felt so raw. Thank you for the inspiration to write in my language. 🙂

  3. When reading the orginal my eyes were drawn to the word Basta! Had no idea what it meant but felt it was central to the piece. The translation was a tad bit melancholy but hopeful…I like that.

    1. Thank you, Abruvanamedsly. 🙂 “Basta!” is one of those Tagalog expressions that could not be accurately translated in another language. It indicates resolve and petulance. It is especially expressive when uttered with a pout and the stomp of a foot. 🙂

  4. …ah, you’ve portrayed excellently a picture of one martyr in love…and even if you provided a translation in english this is still very Filipino in many sense & accounts… and forgive me for not using our mother tongue in my offering…maybe i’ve encountered same dilemma of yours finding it hard to produce clearly same thought / s from Tagalog to English… Tagalog is way difficult to translate in English as it can’t be literally translated unlike the french & spanish where you can have almost close to meaning translation/s from google…
    Gaano mo katagal natapos ang pagsulat nito? Hindi ako maniniwala kung saglit mo lang ginawa ito. Kasi natatandaan ko ng una akong sumubok gumawa ng tula sa tagalog ( series of sonnets actually) ..inabot talaga ako halos ng ilang buwan , or halos kalahating buwan para sa isang sonnet lang…inaamin ko mas mahirap talaga magsulat sa native tongue kaysa kung ang gamit mo ay english… Kaya nga i’m proud of you that can have your thoughts / sentiments excellently expressed in Tagalog e… Ang galing…mas magaling yung ginawa mo keysa sa elizabethan poem ko na hindi masyadong na pollish…irerevise ko yun later…thank you for a very refreshing poem Imelda though a bit sad to note a reality out of this…but maybe, at the end of the day love still wins…smiles…

    1. …p.s. dapat pala ang title nito ‘Desperada’…hehe… maybe she shouldn’t rush things out…maybe she should wait…until she finally have that one special soul for her…the more kasi nagmamadali ang isang tao when it comes to love the more din hindi masyadong ngtatagumpay ang relationship…kalaunan mauuwi lang sa pagiging martir ng isang taong umiibig ng tapat sa isang taong ipinilit lang ang pag-ibig…haayy…smiles…

      1. You know, “Desperada” was my original choice for a title. Kaya lang, naisip ko, masyado namang malakas ang dating noon, ayaw ko namang ma-offend kung sino man ang nasa ganitong sitwasyon.

        Tama ka, iyan ang nasa isip ko noong sinusulat ko ito. Ang daming relasyon na hindi naman dapat nabuo sa simula pa lang kung hindi napadala sa padalos-dalos.

    2. Naku, I understand why you did not write in Filipino. Pakiramdam ko nga, na-expose ang kaluluwa ko dito. Ay! Nahihirapan din ako magsulat sa Tagalog kasi kapag sinulat mo sa Tagalog, ang emosyonal. Hindi mo masyadong maihiwalay ang iyong sarili ‘di ba? Feeling ko, iyon kasi ang katauhan mo.

      Sinulat ko iyan habang naghihintay sa aking mag-aama na mag-shopping sa fish store para sa aquarium. Huwag ka na mag-taka – iyan ang biruan ng magkakabarkada noong unang panahon. 🙂 Tsaka, sa atin kasi, pag tumuntong ang tao, lalo na ang babae sa isang edad, bubulabugin siya ng tungkol sa boyfriend at pag-aasawa. At, wag mong sabihin na mas maganda ito sa ginawa mo – bilib na bilib ako sa pagsusulat mo. Ipagpatuloy mo – hindi malayo ang Poetry Book sa iyo. 🙂

      1. ….haha…sabi nga nila mas marubdob ang emosyon pag Tagalog ang isang tula…. talagang malalalim na salita ang kelangan pag tagalog… sobrang hirap talaga i-translate pag tagalog to english… mas madali pa nga minsan magtranslate ng english to tagalog e… hehe… buti ka pa kaya mo magsulat kahit nasaang lugar ka… ako sa bahay lang talaga at tuwing gabi lang ako nakakapagsulat… mas nakakapagconcentrate ako pag nasa bahay… Poetry book? super dream ko talaga un… kaso mukhang wala sa interest ng mga Pilipino ngayon ang magbasa ng mga poetry chapbook… mas gusto nila basahin ung mga anime, comics, pocket books, novels ng twilight and so on…. feeling ko kahit makapag publish ako ng poetry book dito sa Pilipinas, wala din naman atang gaanong magbabasa at bibili…. i mean i’m not after the profit naman… ang gusto ko lang maging published poet din… kaya nga english medium yung napili kong gamitin sa pagsusulat kasi feeling ako mas na-aappreciate pa ng mga taga ibang bansa and literature at poetry… mas tinatangkilik… like sa america, pag dun ka nagpublish ng book mabebenta talaga…. tapos pag nagconduct ka pa ng poetry reading sa park or bar talagang maraming nakikinig… e dito sa Pinas…magconduct ka ng poetry reading baka wala pang pumansin sau… kung meron man baka ni-require ng school… hehe… kaya nga somehow medyo masaya na din ako na meron akong blog para ipublish ung mga tula ko… hindi man sya book at least one creative way pa rin to inspire many in the world… hehe… thanks a lot… you’re too kind or given na talaga yun sa ating mga Pilipino… hihi… take care always… smiles…

  5. ha…the fifth might not be a bad thing to plead…lol….i like though that she finds him….it takes time…and everything happens in its season…maybe she was being saved for the right one…you know…

  6. Tagalog…very cool..enjoyed the read in a language i haven’t even heard of before…and i so hope she finds the right one when the time is right…

  7. Wow! I’ve heard of Tagalog, but I’ve never seen it written before. Is there any chance of a sound clip so that we can hear what it should sound like?

    The English translation flows really well – so you’ve done a good job of retaining the poetry.

    And, just in passing, literal translation is not so easy; each language has its own idioms which don’t translate at all well.

  8. Omigod! Unbelievable! Even the topic of the poem, love base on design for life. It’s kind of a grey area. Quite gripping, raw …. and/but very bold! The translation blended so well. This is AMAZING, Imelda! I feel like making another Featuring Bloggers post just to broadcast your brilliance.

  9. I’m impressed with the Tagalog and the English translation. The poem made me a little sad, though. I understanding the longing for love, especially when ‘everyone’ around has found it, but the poem almost made it sound like she would settle for just any ol’ man. I don’t think anyone should have to settle.

    1. Thanks, Janna. You are correct – there is a defeated atmosphere in this piece. It is a sad thing – that kind of attitude makes for a terrible choice.

  10. Imelda, I know exactly what you mean by the loss of meaning in translation of languages. Some sentiments just cannot be fully translated. I enjoyed reading this poem (the translated version), and I agree with Janna; there are longings and desires, but hopefully one will not be blinded by them for something less. 🙂

  11. Hi Imelda! Very interesting your poem…And very interesting you have the word “Basta”…It is also an Spanish word, and it means exactly the same…May be it comes from our old shared history? The rest is absolutely different and it looks like a very difficult language!

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