Island Memories — From the Philippines

About the Montenegro Ferry

Four in the morn’, stars spill
like glitter on dark canvas
high above silver black waves
lapping gently by Balanacan peir.

Montenegro floats like a beast whale
ivory bleach and silver pole,
ribbons of green gold mermaid’s hair
twining her glistening form.

Men and woman, teens and children
line up, purchasing tickets
seating by the open dock
their cups of hot soup
curling steam in the wet salty air.

Montenegro lowers her docking ramp
beckoning passengers and vehicles to enter.

A ferry horn sounds, engines hum
stirring ripples in the water
then rolling waves of power
gathering speed into the ocean
salt wind and spray
cooling, awakening, refreshing.

Whilst mothers bid their children to sit
and men station by the open deck
admiring the flying fish zipping over tidal waters
viewing the small foot islands pass
as Marinduque fades in the distance.

 

Barrio

To a symphony
of songbirds and crickets
and the warm yellow and emerald green
kaleidescope of the rainforest’s
early morning sunrise,
I wake with content
in the barrio.

In oversized shirt and cargos
and rubber chinelas
I pedal my bike
down rainwashed streets
passing children dressed in school uniform;
plaid skirts, khaki pants, white shirts
all who rise early
for their 7AM classes
yearning instead to play
sepak takraw and lusong-tinik
in the barrio.

And at the open-air market
the vendors call out
selling with cheer, and merry laugh
as if every day is Christmas
rice cakes, putu, bibingka
my pesos for their homemade treats
their grins and joking
a priceless gift
in the barrio.

The haggling calls
of fishermans’ wives
cry out from the seafood stalls
carried along with the pungent stench
of tilapia, bangus, shrimp, squid
adding to the overall chaos
of motorbikes and jeepney engines
as the marketplace breaks to life
when the afternoon comes round
in the barrio.

And I ride back home
full of brittle plastic shopping bags
as gangly young men sing harana tunes
to blushing young girls
and busy old men grimace broken tooth grins
chopping down banana fruits
from sagging roadside trees
while their lovely wives
prepare adobong manok
or carneng asada and rice
at their homes’ makeshift clay stoves
in the barrio.

Soon the town falls sleepy
in night’s starry cloak
and the huts and villas
light up softly
with kerosene lamps or candlelight
as the busy husband retires
not to bed but to Pare’s home
where drinks and pulutan
and Kareoke galore
add some humble festivity
of a simple night
in the barrio.

 

Beach Runaways

Mother hasn’t called
for dinner just yet

so they fill their hunger
with joy

two kids, racing
by great beach shores
holes in rubber chinelas
pockets empty of change
but filled
with shells
stones
candy

though
ragged they are
in second-hand clothes
still brightly their smiles
do light their eyes
and sweetly they cry
from dry dust lips
laughter and songs
with the roaring of
the ocean’s shifting waves

Mother calls
for dinner

which can only fill
a cat’s belly full

so they fill their hunger
with joy.

 

Street Flowers

In congested city streets
where smog and smoke
choke the air
and noise like
firecrackers bursting
haphazardly
on a New Year’s eve
deafen the skies
with lost yells
of stressed pedestrains
and vehiclists

a flower girl
hands out
paradise from fingertips
the scent of
sampaguita
jasmine
and gumamela flowers

sifting through
the coarseness and concreteness
of this tumultuous city life

like a flower that grows through
a crack between
grimy pavement streets.

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