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Sunday, May 06, 2012

The Beloved Idiom | A Reading of Villafania’s ‘Pinabli & other poems’

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In his memoir Elegy for Iris, John Bayley revealed that the young Murdoch wanted her first novel to have “something for everybody.” This was, at least for Bayley, akin to the very spirit of Shakespeare’s corpus. Also, I find this phrase the best way to describe Santiago Villafania’s latest book. For in terms of language, advocacy, and aesthetic vision, Pinabli & other poems, indeed has something in hand for everybody.

“Pinabli” is the Pangasinan word for beloved, perhaps a single beloved, but the reader will find that the direction of this passion disperses. This book extends itself, encompassing the country, the waxing and waning of its literature, blessing the Pangasinan language, embracing languages in their plurality and mutability (for—as a proper banquet—this book is generously attended by the translations of distinguished well-wishers into Filipino, Ilocano, English, Spanish, and Italian), drawing inspiration from Jose Rizal, Sappho and Cirilo Bautista, and singing of many personages, among them Jaime Lucas and Levi Celerio, a soulmate too, and an unnamed rebel poet.

However, in the same way that so many varied adventures lead to the fulfillment of a single quest, all these loves seem to pour into one overarching pinabli: Caboloan, that is, the ancient name of Pangasinan. To oversee this scheme, the poet chose the magnificent Urduja to recur as a figurehead, the heroine and muse.

In her introduction, Dr. Florangel Rosario Braid quoted Dr. Ricardo Nolasco’s remark that Villafania has produced models for succeeding writers. I followed this lead and found, happily, how judicously Villafania orchestrated the commingling of many poetic forms with the different languages, for example, how a Pangasinan tongue-twister assumed the form of a sonnet, how the anlong caught Jose Garcia Villa and Leonard Cohen unawares, how the haiku—in a pas de deux with Pangasinan—yielded to the cummings-type lyric that sought to cut in.

I can imagine how a reader can find fault in the scatter of this mass of poems. In my view, what the collection lost in terms of cohesion and elegance, it gains in sweep and ambition. Villafania needs such vision and range to translate poetic forms across the shores of cultures. He must willingly import and export these forms and languages, wholesale, so to speak, in order to assure the continuity of Pangasinan literature. If he wishes increase the repertoire of this particular literature, he must endow it with new methods of drawing breath.

The present collection proves Villafania equal to the challenge he set for himself.

Something in this book for everybody, I said, but what’s in it for me? There is this one poem, and I had the good fortune of hearing the poet read it himself, his delivery almost as sombre as his black shirt. Dalityapi sa Huling Paglalakbay speaks of the final journey of the cattle-caravans (those lovely cow-drawn shops laden with brooms, clay pots, toys, and many other products from the provinces) toward the city that decided to shun them. Villafania leads with this stanza:

ang mga bumabaroy ng Caboloan
ilang salinlahi din silang naghari
sa mga daan at lansangan upang sundan
ang bakas ng kanilang mga ninuno
at haraya ng lalawigang pinagmulan

Here is the penultimate stanza of the second movement:

sa ngalan ng ng paglago at pagbabago
ngayon ay mga dumi sila sa paningin
sa mga lansangang ipinagbabawal nang apakan
sa mga bayang pilit iniluluwa
ang kanilang kaluluwa pabalik sa silangan

Source : http://www.manilatimes.net/index.php/sunday-times/the-sunday-times-magazines/22332-the-beloved-idiom

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A Tao 道 Sign

Le poèt de Pangasinan

Santiago B. Villafania, a bilingual Filipino poet who writes in English and in his native language of Pangasinan, is the author of poetry collections Bonsaic Verses (2012), Pinabli and Other Poems (2012), Malagilion: Sonnets tan Villanelles (2007), and Balikas na Caboloan (Voices from Caboloan, 2005) published by the National Commission for the Culture and the Arts (NCCA) under its UBOD New Authors Series. He has been published in several countries and translated into several languages. Villafania is one of the 11 Outstanding Pangasinan conferred with the 2010 ASNA Award for the Arts and Culture (literature) during the first Agew na Pangasinan and also the 430th Foundation Day of the province on April 2010. He is a member of Philippine PEN writes a regular weekly column for the Sunday Punch.

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A collection of ghazals in Pangasinan language. Order now at Amazon.com


A collection of haiku, senryu, tanka, haiga, and other poems in English and Pangasinan language. Order now at Amazon.com


“Santiago Villafania is a searcher with a seemingly insatiable curiosity and endurance. His quest has brought him to explore world poetry from points East and West. He is no stranger to sophisticated verse forms such the Sapphic strophe nor to the diverse permutations of the Japanese haiku. But he is not a formalist, he has daringly explored Asian and Western cultures in a very personal way and writes his mind with a daring, invigorating, aesthetically pleasing ease. In his poetry Villafania displays not only a breadth, but it feels very much like a breath of fresh air.” – Ute Margaret Saine, poet, critic, translator, past president of PEN Orange County and the former editor of the California Poetry Quarterly

“Villafania’s emergence as a poet is a fine moment to celebrate. Another voice from the regions augurs a richer body of writing that Filipinos can hold up as a mirror of our native culture.” – Bienvenido Lumbera, National Artist for Literature

The Beloved Idiom | A Reading of Villafania’s ‘Pinabli & other poems’ by Dennis Andrew S. Aguinaldo


LCCN.: 2010338612

Order your copy now at CreateSpace or Amazon.com :)

"The publication of Malagilion: Sonnets tan Villanelles by Santiago B. Villafania should be a source of rejoicing for readers of regional literatures. This second book by Pangasinan's leading poet today is impressive in both form and substance. Villafania has created 300 sonnets and 50 villanelles in his own language that attempt to reflect the primacy of native culture and return the poet to the central stage of social life."A Boost to Pangasinan Literature from Breaking Signs by Cirilo F. Bautista (Philippine Panorama, 16 Dec. 2007, pp.25-26)

"Villafania is not only a visionary poet, he is a linguistic philosopher who codifies the origin of language and culture, dissects the myths and the common beliefs of the people against the urban legends, juxtaposes the literary tradition against the modern influences by dialectically infusing them in his poetic revelation of truth."Poetic Revelation in Language and Culture by Danny C. Sillada (Manila Bulletin, 12 May 2008, pp. F1-F2)

Photos: Book Launching at the Pearl Manila Hotel, 5 Feb. 2008


"Santiago Villafania's Balikas ed Caboloan certainly has reinvigorated the anlong tradition of Pangasinan that for a long period of time suffered silence from the hands of writers more attuned to English writing. Characteristically anacbanua, Villafania's poetry echoes his predecessors and presages a promising era for young writers in Pangasinan." – Dr. Marot Nelmida-Flores

Thesis: Bilay ed Caboloan - Reconfiguration of Space using a New Historicist Lens by Ayesah Tecson

from Pangasinan 'Anlong': Oral tradition into the 21st century published in Manila Times / Sunday Magazine, March 13 & 20, 2011.

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