morning of prayer and indignation
the country drowns in hunger
hope is pierced with despair
nothing is left
but the mountains still throb
with life and limbs of waterfalls
with laughter of bubles and froth
cascading offering itself
to the barren earth.
the moss in its silence
always remember the stones
and the fishes and the waves
and the ripples that have not missed
kissing the shore.
agony is nothing but a desire
thwarted by another desire.
everything seems to fade
as i look back into memory
things fade as i enter into tomorrow
but why pins and thorns remain vivid
still standing undisturbed?
frustration never heave its shoulder
to soldier the remnants of restiveness
those who drink blood drown in blood
the flow of air fails to foil
the onrush of filth clogging
the windpipe of revolution.
how can a race relive the greatness
of its grandparents’ lives
who understood the rubrics of wreckless
rumination of raw raspberries.
butterflies and boars have been sleeping together
but the vision of a better world spread its claws
like a spider waiting for its prey
moth have no teeth but the god of sorrow
has stricken it with a sordid soul
that torches anyone who dare look at it.
believe me the grass never fail
to change its color
only we who behold don’t change
what we want to see
even fishes shed off scales every minute
but who cares whether the slime
makes them slippery or shiny?
the sun never shine in single shots
the long and windy nights
have no relation at all
with the long and winding road
night is night and road is road.
i see bananas pine trees
ravine full of vines and flowers
and stones and moss and birds
why on earth can’t they fly
with closed wings?
the wind doesn’t respect timidity
only boldness become
in this world of wonder and wardrobes.
war wails to destroy the walls
of wobbling weaklings
tremendous strength stored in jars
jarring the smooth caress of ghosts
penetrating the impenetrable ignorance
of living men and women.
every dust seeks revenge
how else can nature conserve itself?
Published 2009. Author, Telesforo S. Sungkit, Jr. Central Book Supply Inc.: Quezon City. 215 pages. Finalist, 2010 Madrigal-Gonzales Best First Book Award.
Set in a land still untouched by foreign invaders and told in a powerful mixture of Tagalog and Binukid (the author’s mother tongue), Batbat hi Udan pulsates with what our contemporary literature lacks: rootedness in our precolonial past. At the very least, it provides a glimpse of how our ancestors understood and grappled with their world.
The novel is an intricate web of adventure, violence, romance, treachery, sacrifice, and love of banuwa — all woven in a world shared by humans and supernatural creatures and depicted through a cogent blend of magic and realism. Embedded in its plot is a recounting of why Mindanao is not hit by typhoons , why the balete tree is inhabited by alagasis (giants), and other legends etched in the Filipino psyche.
Novelist and poet Edgar Samar says that Batbat hi Udan, although written in prose form, is marked with the “classic narrative rendering of an epic”. But more than a mnemonic device, as Samar asserts, parallelism is used in the epic not only for aural adornment to aid memory but also for making description more forceful and vivid. For instance, the author seals off most battle scenes with the following repetition : Pingkian ng talim sa talim. Ng talim sa kalasag. Ng kalasag sa kalasag. Such kind of rendering, with which the whole opus is fashioned, does not only attest the author’s story-telling prowess; it also raises the novel to the level of fine poetry.
Batbat hi Udan revolves around the life and exploits of the central character Udan, a young man from Hanapulon who frees his people from the clout of the evil Kalibato, Tium hu Gaun, and other malevolent tagbayas. In the course of his journey, Udan – brave and adept in battle — has earned the respect and admiration even of his enemies who can’t help but marvel at how swift he swirls and how strong he strikes.
Udan’s adventure starts when his father, Datu Maghusay, tells him to join Datu Manlidasan’s caravan in carrying manggad (dowry) to Impasug-ong. Excited about the idea of “getting a whiff of air from the other side of the mountain and setting foot on foreign land”, Udan goes with the troop.
Little does he know that such journey will lead him, his tribe Hanapulon, and its neighboring banuwas – Lantapan, Yandang, Kimambong, Dalwangan, Impasug-ong, and Sumilaw – into the vortex of pangayaws (tribal wars), a series of battle that will take the lives of almost all his loved ones.
On their route to Impasug-ong, Udan loses his way and finds himself alone in a secret passage that leads to Lidasan, a world most of his kins believe exists only in the imagination. But Lidasan is real. Here Udan encounters creatures of various kinds — aligasis, bakesans, tagbusaws, mantianaks, and so many others that devour human flesh to exist. In Lidasan, Udan suffers great misfortunes and faces death eye to eye.
Lidasan, however, is also the place of Udan’s transformation. It is here where he attains his full human potential and realizes his power and prime responsibility as bagani. It is here where he discovers his place in the grand design of life’s cycle of destruction and rebirth. A fate that destines every human to obey.
It is in Lidasan where he meets Hapoy ha Tagkalegdeg, Bolak ha Mahumot (Blazing Flame, Fragrant Flower) or Ananaw — also an adept bagani — with whom he falls in love. With whom he experiences the bliss of losing innocence.
In his final encounter against the fiercest of his foes – Tium hu Gaun, the wind whispers to Udan that he faces an enemy much stronger than he is; therefore, he must perform the saut (war dance). He knows that the message comes from the same tagbaya that helped him defeat the first alagasis (giants) he fought.
But he already understands, now that he knows what befell his forebears when they accepted Tium hu Gaun’s help. Unlike them, he won’t pawn his heart and liver for a power he knows he himself possesses and can muster.
And Udan refuses to perform the saut: Bakit ako magsasaut? Sinasabi mo bang hindi ko kayang pumaslang ng tagbaya? Enraged by such irreverence, the tagbaya summons a great whirlwind in its attempt to subdue the bagani. But Udan has already attained his full humanity. Sapagkat ang lahat ng nananahan sa kaniyang katawan ay naging iisa. (Because everything that resides in his body have united and become one) .
Udan swirls and fuses with the whirlwind. When the wind settles, the tagbaya is seen kneeling, pleading the bagani to kill him as deserved by a vanquished. But the bagani does not oblige. Instead, he orders the tagbaya to drift away with the breath of trees and gain strength. He commands the tagbaya to guard the land of his ancestors against typhoons.
Then he swings his kampilan towards Tium hu Gaun. As its head rolls, sparks of light flash like lightning and thick black smoke envelops the surrounding. When the smoke disappears, the livers and hearts of all the humans eaten by Tium hu Gaun lay scattered all over the place. Beside each pair of liver and heart floats the gimokod (soul) of their owner. With this final act, Udan frees his ancestry from the curse of indebtedness to the most powerful tium and fulfills his destiny as the greatest bagani of his people.
Batbat hi Udan is written by a lumad of Higaonon tribe, the first writer from Bukidnon to pen a literary piece of this kind. The author himself says that the novel is a Philippine version of The Lord of the Rings .
Perhaps. But it surely is more than that masterpiece. Because the events told in Batbat hi Udan are part of our almost forgotten past, our very own stories vivified by the masterful rendering of Telesforo Sungkit, Jr.
gaze into me not with the eyes that fortress
a lie, just like the glint of dew that conceals
the tinge of dark in a dying petal;
gaze into me with the heart that bares
every faltering breath, just like the bud that bursts
into a flower in the silence of dawn.
My beloved womb
that birthed me, with the salty fangs
of your froths gnaw my body into a tiniest
sand, lest the sailing light smell the scent of
my rancid solitude sighing for death
beneath the moon’s golden hull. I once waded
against your current, whipping whirlpool upon
whirlpool of youth on the virginal azure
of your flesh; but your wounds heal
quicker than a whip; and I, a, how swift
my robust breath succumbed to the smallest
of your ripples. Now a piece of broken
pride, please send not my body
ashore. Just gently disintegrate me,
my beloved tomb.
The man gobbled up a plate of latik-laden
kalamay; while his dog nibbled in its paw
a bunch of garapata – those blood-
suckers that kept on thriving, despite the tons of anti-
flea powder and lotion the man had poured all
over the dog’s fur. The man and his dog, together
they bit, they chewed with a clack and a click
from their bleeding teeth. When the man sneered
and its gums the dog bared, a passing geek as if
bewitched, couldn’t tell which was
the beast.The man, with his tongue raked up
the crumbs of latik that fell from his mouth; the dog
scoured its back for another bunch of grape-
colored bugs. And they bit and chewed with
the clack and the click of garapata and latik.