Verse Exercises

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Take Off

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She sat in the airport waiting for the plane. She sat there looking at her light luggage. She sat there flipping through her three language registers. There was English with its separate vocabulary, diction, and grammar. It was articulate and rational, though it could be rude at times. There was Bisaya, particularly Cebuano, replete with borrowings from Castillian, the language of the first white men who staked their claim on a random archipelago by giving it a name: Las Islas Filipinas. Come to think of it, there were generous borrowings from the Americans, too. But what does borrowing words really mean in the colonized world? Then, there was Filipino, made more legitimate the more it borrows. Every northerner she has ever met calls Tagalog, which she cannot help but clarify. No, it is not the same. Such differences were important for people who hailed from the south. Here were her three languages. She could unpack them all in the airport and air them out because the airport was a messy place where all sorts of tongues took to the air.

But outside the airport, place and setting demanded for a certain language. In university she had to speak Filipino, and without meaning to she came off as calm to most people she knew there. It was the way she used the language that had no punto. She did not really understand what they meant, only that in the university she was supposedly either an extremely collected person or rather indifferent. The way she speaks she never seems to get angry. The way she speaks her tone seems uninvolved.

At home she can be very funny because she knows Bisaya sensibility well. She knows its sound and idiom, though not grammar and vocabulary. There was never a need. This is why she cannot write poems in that language. This is why she cannot write stories in that language because in Bisaya she is never literary, only funny and brusque. Unsa ma’y ato bai, lantaw-lantaw man ka diha?Anong tinitingin-tingin mo diyan ha?You there bozo, whatcha gapin’ at? When one translates, it is never really the same.

When the plane comes and takes her off to the Visayas or back to Manila, she has to shift into something else again. in her displacement, she undergoes transformations into various roles and sensibilities mediated by languages that she never fully owns but always keeps growing into, as she does in the page, in this very page.

The plane is late and for now she is willing to be mute. She draws a book from a paper bag and turns to a marked page. It is a blessing not to have to speak, because hours later when the plane lands she will have to edit her sentences and take out the po’s and ho’s to speak in a language that does not have such honorifics. Oh but was she ready to laugh.

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Some sections have been slightly revised. The first draft was submitted as a non-fiction writing assignment on 17 Feb 2009. This is part of Triggers, a collection of writing born from images.

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Written by thedoe

February 17, 2009 at 8:28 pm

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