Luzon Literature

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what is the literature of luzon

Ubod Online


Central Luzon is composed of several provinces, producing varied literary pieces shaped by different languages, namely, Tagalog in Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, parts of Bataan and Zambales; Kapampangan in Pampanga, parts of Tarlac, Nueva Ecija and Bataan; and Ilocano in parts of Tarlac, Zambales and Nueva Ecija.

The provinces have strong literary traditions, but they have met modernism with approbation. For poetry, the tradition of rhyming and versification is now replaced by free verse. For fiction, the usual romantic and sentimental narratives are now supplanted by subtle story lines with dispassionate style.

The pieces in this collection exemplify the modernist trend that has rolled across the literary terrain of the provinces. The proverbial idea of pouring new wine into new wineskins is heralded in a profound sense. New thoughts are framed in relatively new patterns of writing.

Kapampangan poetry writing, known as kawatasan , has been very traditional—beneath the giant shadow of Crisostomo Soto and other famous Kapampangan literary figures. With exact metrical measurement, sonorous versification, and conventional motif as its fixed standards, Kapampangan poetry has been kept alive by generations of writers for several decades. It is against this background that the poetry writing style of Kragi Garcia and some budding writers may be considered leapfrogging out of the firmly established tradition. In a kind of historic advance, Garcia forges his own style, using free verse, bursting limits of metaphors, and invoking fresh images.

His poems illustrate how free verse enriches their meaning. For instance, in “Dayu” (“Distance”), the essence of separation from someone is intensified by the enumeration of single words—synonyms of “distance” or its associations—that are indicative of a train of thought. This reflection, harbouring hope tainted with cynicism, reveals the interplay of perception and feeling, which dramatically ends with a resolve, “Not at all.”

Garcia’s other poems are an exploration of the range that the Kapampangan language can offer in literary expression. Moreover, they are exacted from a sensibility which is conveyed by the resplendent amanung siswan or mother tongue of the poet. Garcia has meaningfully crystallized in histexts the reciprocity between his language and his new literary approach.

Another Kapampangan poet, Marco Paulo Lacap, also ventures into a more modern mode of writing. In his case, it is primarily to give vent to his youthful feelings that prods him to reinvent the conservative romantic literary form. The sinews of his poetic pursuit are made taut by the natural flow of free verse. His poem “Ika King Paninap Ku” (“You in My Dreams”) consists of a persona adoring and fantasizing of his love object. Featuring hyperbolic expressions, the poem has vestiges of traditional romantic poetry, but its novelty lies in its very light tone with ideas framed in free verse and with a funny double entendre as ending.

Bulacan, on the other hand, embraced modernism much earlier, and its contemporary writing has made a substantive reach—more subtlety, depth, and sophistication. Free verse has been a common feature in the dynamics of the literary development in the province. The meaning making of poetry is further enhanced by technical elevation learned from writing workshops.

Since Filipino is the language of the province, young writers usually have more opportunities to hone their craft in writing workshops, many of which are conducted in Filipino. New theories and techniques are acquired, given such exposure, and the quality and diversity of literary production can be expected.

Sample poems of a Bulacan young writer, Agatha Buensalida, are included in this collection. Unlike the newly modernized Kapampangan poems, hers are longer meditative lines in free verse. They direct attention to internal struggles which are illustrations of “showing” rather than “telling” principle in writing. Buensalida has also made use of paragraph poetry (in “Ang Lata ng S26 Gold”) which is still considered uncommon in other areas of the region.

The emotions captured in words, images, metaphors of her poems are almost enigmatic. Pain exuding from most of the poems seems to negate the kind of nihilistic passion paradoxically evident in the tone of the personas behind the poetic lines. The utterances, to a certain extent, tend to subvert the romantic and the pathetic. What reverberate are broken relationships— and voices of women in emotional upheaval are heard. Interestingly, distinct imagery, including those in the titles such as the visual “Ang Kulay ng Panibugho” and the olfactory “Lansa,” produces the sensory appeal of the poems.

The last author, Arthur Allen Baldevarona from Nueva Ecija, has contributed a short story. Similar to Bulacan, Nueva Ecija is also a Tagalog province. Thus, writers also have the same opportunities to attend workshops conducted in Filipino. And this exposure allows them to create a modern style. To “show” rather than “tell” is also the prevailing principle in fiction writing, and the usual didacticism and sentimentalism are now locked deep in the early literary tradition of the province.

Baldevarona’s “Tandang Supeng” is a story of an elderly woman suffering from dementia. Behind this illness is a sweet love story told as a flashback. The story is well-structured, starting with the Old Supeng’s worry about her hanging laundry because of the impending rain. Then the unfolding of her romantic past begins, with her husband expressing his deep love. But this happy moment ends tragically when he is struck by lightning during a stormy day. His last words, “Hanguin mo ang sinampay,” are retained in Supeng’s memory until she becomes old and demented. The story ends, coming full circle, with those last words.

To sum up, in their creative production, the Central Luzon writers have adopted modernism for a full engagement with their humanity and their given milieu.

Kragi B. Garcia

Marco Paulo B. Lacap

Agatha Buensalida

Arthur Allen P. Baldevarona

About the author

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Julieta Mallari

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what is the literature of luzon

Literary History of Luzon

Genres of Urban Writing

The most populous island group in the Philippines is Luzon. The National Statistics Office’s (NSO) findings as of 2010 report that its population is at 48,520,774. This is more than half of the reported population of the Philippines which was 92,337,852 for that year. Almost half of the ethnic groups of the Philippines are found in Luzon (the 2010 NSO statistics tally about 48.8%). These ethnic groups use these major regional languages: Tagalog , Ilocano , Kapampangan , Bicolano , and Pangasinense . The English language of course is widely used in Luzon, just like in the Visayas and Mindanao.

It is not that surprising that people would want to live in Luzon considering that the economic and political center of the country, Metro Manila, is in this region’. To address the needs for education of Luzon’s big population, the most number of schools and universities can be found in this island group, making it the seat of literacy in the country. As a result of the efforts from the public and private education sectors in Luzon, 94% of its population has achieved functional literacy. However, the functional literacy in Luzon (and in reality the Filipino in general) must be further fine-tuned to address new technologies—such as that of the internet.

It must be noted that three of our country's most influential writers in the English language, Jose Garcia Villa, Nick Joaquin, and F. Sionil Jose, have deep associations with the city of Manila. Villa and Joaquin were born in Manila, while Jose, though born in the region of Pangasinan, has made Manila his other home over the decades of his stay in the city.

One of the biggest technological advancements of the twentieth century is the invention of the Internet, which has solidified the dawning of the Information Age. In the digital world of the Internet, physical borders as those found in the maps of nations seem to have become invisible, and people who connect online usually step out of the confines of their geographic reality and step into a global citizenship—that is to say, instead of being a citizen of a particular country, we become netizens of the globe.

Today, the Internet is connecting the people of our archipelago in so many ways. Filipinos have now begun using social media platforms (such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) not only for entertainment but also for social awareness. The Internet has also allowed writers to experiment with other forms for expressing their literary skills. In Philippines especially in Luzon where a good percentage of the population is wired, some new forms of creative output mediated by new technologies and devices are being created. Examples of these are the web log or the blog, online novels, and the mobile phone text tula . Although these forms are still not included in our national literary canon, we cannot deny that such works are opening new horizons for today’s generation of Filipino authors in Luzon and around the country.

As of 2014 the Internet and Mobile Marketing Association of the Philippines (IMMAP) recorded that there are 38 million Internet users of this country of the estimated 100 million Filipinos in 2015. IMMAP expects that in the next few years, Internet use would dramatically increase in the country as Internet access becomes more widespread and the prices of devices used to access the Internet gets more affordable (Montenegro 2014). Another important feature of IMMAP’s report is that two-thirds of Filipino Internet users are below 30 years old. Therefore, putting together the information on the functional literacy rate of people residing in Luzon with the rising Internet use in the country, we can surmise that functional Internet literacy (that is, literacy in the use of Internet technology) is also on the rise today. Functional internet literacy, after all, is a necessary skill today especially for this new generation of Filipinos who should be able to compete intellectually with people of other nations. Hopefully, with discipline, our functional literacy as a people would bring its own social and economic rewards to the country.

Exploring Texts and Contexts

Read “Flowers in the Crypt” by Catherine Garcia Dario , a work of creative nonfiction. Lee Gutkind defines creative nonfiction as a literary work that “can be an essay, a journal article, a research paper, a memoir, or a poem; it can be personal or not, or it can be all of these. The words ‘creative’ and ‘nonfiction’ describe the form. The word ‘creative’ refers to the use of literary craft, the techniques fiction writers, playwrights, and poets employ to present nonfiction—factually accurate prose about real people and events—in a compelling, vivid, dramatic manner. The goal is to make nonfiction stories read like fiction so that your readers are as enthralled by fact as they are by fantasy.”

The radio station DZRH’s radio program Radio Balintataw , hosted by Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, held a text tula poetry writing competition in 2015. Poems submitted were written in Filipino and it should be in celebration of mother’s day.

A text tula is a tanaga or a four-line poem (quatrain). It consists of four lines with seven syllables each with the same rhyme at the end of each line: a 7-7-7-7 syllabic verse ‘with an AABB rhyme scheme. The modern tanaga still uses the 7-7-7-7 syllable count, but rhymes range from dual rhyme forms (AABB, ABAB, ABBA) to freestyle (AAAB, BAAA, ABCD). Traditionally a tanaga does not have a title because the tanaga should speak for itself. However, in a modern tanaga you can opt to give a title.

The first prize winner of the radio show’s poetry contest is Tracer Maranan of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Valenzuela in Valenzuela City. Below is the winning poem:

Nanay ko’y di napapagod Araw gabi’y aming lingkod. Kaya ngayon aking handog Ginhawa n’ya, akoy tungkod.

Following the mechanics of writing a  text tula , try your hand in composing a  text tula  inspired by the plot or the theme of “Flowers in the Crypt.” You may use English, Filipino, or your regional language to write the poem. Consider these when composing your poem: the relationship between your poem and “Flowers in the Crypt” should be clear. Try your best to use your chosen language creatively. 


what is the literature of luzon

The Other Other: Towards a Postcolonial Poetics by Isagani R. Cruz

what is the literature of luzon

Literary Criticism on Philippine Literature

what is the literature of luzon

The Filipino Modern Essays

✦ Magical works ✦

“literature is one of the most interesting and significant expressions of humanity.” — p. t. barnum, category archives: literary works from luzon, “youth”, by maximo d. ramos.

These have known the tingling freshness

Of the coming forth from God;

The sweetness of mother’s breast

The ringing sinewiness of growth,

The feel of the loved one’s cheek, the song

Of April suns and showers…

And these will know

The quiet dimming down of age

And the silent wonder

of going back

Review: This poem was written for the youth of today and this is all about how these young ones could turn their backs to their creator. But with the help of the guidance from their parents together with the light and love from God, the youth would eventually change their hearts and continue their strong relationship with God.


By f. sionil jose.

Conrado Lopez fell deeply in love for the first time when he was thirty. It was one of those beautiful things destined to bleakness and from the very beginning, he had an inkling that this was how it would be. And all because Alice Tan was Chinese.

When he first saw her, it seemed as if she had blossomed straight out of a Chinese art book; she had a complexion as clear as it was fair. When he got to know her better, he used to trace the blue veins in her arms, the blood vessels in her cheeks. Her nose was perfect, and her Chinese eyes had a brightness that could dispel the gloom which came over him. Long afterwards, when he remembered her eyes, how she looks, how she smiled, an intense feeling akin to physical pain would lance him.

Alice Tan’s parents used to run a small grocery store in Ongpin; both came from Fookien and Alice could trace her family back to Amoy. Conrado Lopez did not know his lineage beyond his great grandfather and not interested in the Chinese traditional kinship system. But he got so interested afterwards, he started to delve into his own background. He lived with his spinster sister, Remedios, in a small house in Makati, a sidestreet parallel to Rizal Avanue in Santa Cruz. He had inherited the house with its pocket-size yard from his parents. The lower floor which had its own entrance was rented out to a lawyer who was adept at fixing things at City Hall. He and his sister lived in the second floor which had two bedrooms, a living-dining room and a toilet and kitchen with antique fixtures. His sister looked after the house, his clothes and his general well being. Conrado had finished accounting at one of the Azcarraga universities and would have accounted to something more than being an accountant in Makati and his older sister whom he supported. It was because of such a responsibility that he had never really been serious with any girl.

He was unprepared for Alice Tan; in fact, in the beginning, he was not sure at all about his feelings for her. It started in March when brownouts were frequent so that when the lights went out that early evening, he thought it was another brownout. But he noticed that the lights in the other house were on so he immediately concluded there must be something wrong with the fuse so he threw the main switch off and change it. But he had hardly thrown the switch on when the line on the ceiling started sputtering. Then a loud report and darkness.

By now, Meding was alarmed but Conrado assured her the house would not burn down as long as the switches were off. He dashed off to Bambang two blocks away to one of the electrical shops there.

He had passed the New Life Electrical Supply a few times but had rarely looked in; for once, he never bought electrical supplies in the neighborhood as he always bought them in the supermarket in Makati. It was then that he saw Alice Tan; she was in jeans and a katsa blouse with a high, lace collar and long sleeves that imparted to her an appearance at once regal and demure.

It was not a big shop. It carried hardware, nails, ropes, flashlights, but mostly electrical goods. She sat behind the glass counter and when he came in, she put down the weekly women’s magazine she was reading.

“I don’t think I would need an electrician,” he said. “It is just a burned line, I think. I put the switch off.”

“That is the first thing one should do,” she said with a professional tone. “I think you will need rubberized tape, and a pair of new fuses.”

“I am sure of that,” he said. “But how do I go about fixing it?” He was not sure now, having forgotten most of his physical classes in high school, the positive, the negative . . .

“Simple,” she said, bring out a roll of blue tape from the counter. “The lines should never get mixed up. When the covering is worn out and they cross each other, that’s when the trouble starts.”

“It is like a boy and a girl then,” he said with a laugh. “If they really get mixed up, there’s bound to be some result . . .”

She smiled at his little joke. “I hope you are not fooling me.” She said

“You can come to my house – its close by, in Makati,” he said. “It is dark.”

“I believe you,” she said. “Well then, first see to it that the main switch is off. Then look for the line that was burned. Sometimes rats gnaw the line. If you touch it and it is live . . .”

“I will not forget that,” he said.

“Clean the wires, then tape them individually. See to it that they do not meet. That they do not touch.”

“No touch, no fireworks,” he said. “Thanks for the lesson.”

In three months, Conrado Lopez learned a bit more about electricity and a lot about Alice Tan. She was studying in one of the Recto universities in the morning and in the afternoons, immediately after school, she came to the shop where she had lunch, usually cooked by her aunt. At eight in the evening, she walked to Avenida for her ride to Ongpin and the apartment she shared with her brothers. She seldom went out even on the Sundays when the shop was closed. She looked at televisions or play Ping-Pong in one of the Chinese clubs in Binondo.

Conrado Lopez took to having a late merienda at the shabby Chinese reataurant across the street. The restaurant was never full – there was always an empty table dirty with noodle drippings and dried blobs of beef, the loud of jeepney drivers who frequented the place, and the juke box oozing Rico Puno and Nora Aunor songs. It was a good place to watch Alice Tan as she went anout her chores.

Many a night, too, he would return to the restaurant for a cup of bad coffee and wait for her to leave and walk the short stretch to her jeepney stop, sometimes with him just a few steps behind.

In three months, too, Conrado could have opened a small shop for electrical supplies. He was buying yet another light bulb when Alice finally accosted him.

“I will not sell it to you,” she said simply.

He was taken aback

“I don’t know what you are trying to do but I know that you are not buying the goods to use. You don’t need all those bulbs. I have been counting them. A light bulb lasts more than six months. You have bought more than a dozen in a month.”

“I like changing them, you know different watts.”

“Mr. Lopez, tell me the truth.”

“I also like collecting lengths of electric wires, sockets, rubber tapes. Have you heard of Thomas Alva Edison? Maybe, I am an inventor . . .”

“You are a liar,” Alice Tan said, her eyues crinkling in a smile.

Conrado Lopez melted. “Yes, a terrible liar, am I not?”

“What are you really trying to do?”

Conrado Lopez stammered. “I . . . I wanted to talk to you. I want to see you. I enjoy talking with you. That’s the simple truth. Believe me. And I don’t mind buying all this useless stuff as long as I can see you . . .”

“But you can talk with me anytime as long as there are no customers. My uncle does not mind . . .”

He sighed. “That is good to know. But I was not sure. You are Chinese . . .”

“I am a human being.” She said. “Will you stop buying things then?”

“No, I cannot come here without a reason. I must talk with you again even if I have to spend doing it . . .”

She appeared thoughtful. “All right, as long as it is not too often. And there are no customers . . .”

The door at the rear opened and Alice’s uncle came into a cup of coffee. He looked at Conrado without a flicker of recognition then sat before his table, impassive and still.

“Thank you, Miss Tan,” Conrado said gratefully.

The following night, he finally found the courage to walk up to her. She thought, perhaps, he was one of those bag snatchers who had became a blatantly open, her first impulse was to hold her bag tightly and draw away when he moved closer to greet her.

“You frightened me, Mr. Lopez,” she said.

Bambang was never brightly lit. They walked slowly. “I would to take you home,” he said. “But I don’t have a car. We can take a taxi if you like.”

“I prefer calesas,” she said,” but it is such a fine evening, can we walk?”

Indeed, an evening washed with rain, the street glistening. Home was quit a distance but it pleased him nonetheless for they would have a lot of time to talk.

He asked how long she had lived in Ongpin and she said, all her life, that she was familiar with its alleys, its shops, just as he knew Makati and Bambang and Misericordia – these were the names of the streets of his boyhood as he remembered them.

“We are Ongpin Chinese,” she said. “Do you know what that means?”

He shook his head.

“That means we are not rich,” she said. “The rich Chinese are in Greenhills. That’s where they live anyway. Before the war, they said it was in Santa Mesa.”

He did not realize there were social Distinctions among the Chinese, too; he had always thought they were all same class, that they were all Fookienese, and that to a man, they lokked down on Filipinos, what with their Chinese tong associations, their schools.

He wondered if this was the time to bring out his clinché sentiments and he eorried that if he did, he would be creating a barrier between them. He decided it was better to be frank, to be honest.

His difficulty was that he could not quite trust his feelings no matter how strong they were; he did not know enough about the Chinese really. “I must just as well admit, Alice,” he said, “that I have some views on our Chinese problem. I am really glad that the Chinese schools should have been closed a long time ago . . .”

“What don’t you like in us?” she asked, looking at him briefly, a smile darting across her face, a smile so prêt that it disarmed him completely.

“Your clannishness, for one,” he said.

“But you are clannish, too,” she said. “Look at all the people in power, they are either Ilokanos or from Leyte.”

“Chinese girls never marry Filipino Boys. It is always the other way around.”

“You call us Intsik Baboy.”

“Because it is true – you are filthy. No, not you personally.”

“And the Filipinos are stupid. Not you personally,” she mimicked him.

He checked himself. “Hey,” he said, “on our first time together – and look, we are quarreling.”

“You started it,” she petulantly.

“I don’t like quarrels. Can you imagine how it would be if we are married?”

“You are going too fast,” she said. “Now, you are talking about us being married. We barely know each other.”

“After all those things I bought from you? I could start another store . . .”

“I don’t want you money wasted,” she said.

“Give them back to me and I will sell them for you.”

They had reached Recto and had crossed over, the air around them now thick with the scent of rotting vegetables and chicken droppings as they passed the public market. They walked on through a dimly lit neighborhood, the street pocked with craters, the gutter slimy with refuse and mud. Beyond, the lights of Ongpin shone. Chinese characters in red and blue. Now, the sidewalk was red brick, the shops bright with red candles, gold leaf pictures. Calesas jostled each other on the street and the uneven sidewalk was crammed with fruit stalls. Around them, the smell of Chinese cooking, of incense and acrid oils, the wail of Chinese flutes. They went beyond a stone arch, bright green and red, and creek which befouled the air, then turned right and after a few steps, she stopped. “This is as far as you go. I live over there,” she said, pointing to an alley.

“But I want to see you to your door. I am not hiding. I am a bachelor. My intentions are honorable. I would like to visit your house, maybe not tonight, but someday, meet your parents . . .”

“I have no parents,” she said. “I have three brothers and I am the youngest. My uncle – Mr. Tan, you have seen him in the store, he is our guardian; he took care of us when we were young . . .”

“I still would like to see where you live.” He said.

“No.” she was firm and there was an edge to her voice. “This is as far as you go, or you will not walk me home again.”

He did not argue. “Is it because I am Filipino?” he asked dully, as she turned to go. She took three, four steps, and then she turned, and shook her head.

He watched till she entered the alley and disappeared in its black maw. He stood there for a while, taking in the huddle of houses, the people talking in a language he could not understand, absorbing the feet of exotic distances. Then it started to drizzle.

The following evening, Conrado Lopez passed by the shop before proceeding to the Chinese restaurant across the street. Her uncle was not there but Alice was and as he passed, their eyes locked. He positioned himself in the restaurant, toying with his cup of coffee, and watched her reading a magazine. Soon it was time to close. Mr. Tan went out to close the steel accordion door shut, and it was then that Conrado noticed the black Mercedes in front of the shop to which, as if she was in a hurry, Alice went. She sat in front with the driver and as they drove off, in the soft dark, he could see her turn and take a last look at him.

He now realized with some apprehension, of panic even, that she was being cordoned off, and he wondered if this was her doing, if she did not really want to talk with him again. He reproached himself for having talked so openly when what he should have done was to say the usual niceties. In his office that Saturday, he asked to be excused in the afternoon. He proceeded to Bambang at once; he must see her, apologize to her, anything to have her talk with him again, walk with him again.

She was at the store and he was vastly relieved when he saw that her uncle was not at his table. The moment Conrado went in, however, her eyes told him that this was not the time to talk. “I am sorry,” he said, barely raising his voice above a whisper, “but I would like to see you again.”

He could not continue for the door at the rear opened and Mr. Tan came in, a coil of electric wiring in his arms.

Without telling her, Alice stood up, got a bulb from the shelf and tested it. “It is three pesos and eight centavos,” she said, wrapping it in a sheet of old newspaper. She took some time writing receipt while Mr. Tan brought down another roll of writing from the rack and started measuring a length.

“It is in the receipt,” she told Conrado, handling him the receipt. “The receipt,” she repeated with a smile.

That evening, as he and his sister sat down to dinner, he told her about Alice Tan. “I have been thinking about our life,” he said. “I don’t think we would need to spend much more if I got married . . .”

Meding looked at him; she was fifteen years older but she had taken good care of herself and really looked no older that forty or so. She could have easily got married – there was still that chance if she had a mind to – but she had been reclusive. It had often bothered Conrado to think that she had not got married so that she “could take care of him.”

“And if I go get married, you will continue to live with us, of course, like it always has been. How does the idea look to you, Ate?”

He had expected her to sulk and was pleasantly surprised when she beamed. “I have often wondered when it would be,” she said. “I am sure by now you know the right kind of girl . . .”

It was then that he told her she was Chinese, that he was interested in having them meet . . . he did not realize till then the depths of his ignorance about his sister’s feelings, but from the expression on her face, he knew at once that Alice Tan – if and when the moment came – would have difficulty living in the same house with her.

Through the night, he could not sleep, wondering how he would be able to talk with her, to see her without that Mercedes tailing them, without Mr. Tan eavesdropping on them. Sunday morning, he decided to go to Ongpin, to the maze of wooden houses and shop that made up Chinatown. He went up the alley where she had disappeared in the nigh; it was a dead-end, a dark and dispirited place, flanked by decrepit apartment houses, with laundry in the window and a pile of garbage at the end. Children were playing in the alley, and the houses were filled with people who did not once look at him as he passed. He peered briefly into open doorway, and soon reached the dead-end without seeing her. He walked back to the main street clogged with calesas and vehicles and entered the first movie house he passed. It was a Kung Fu movie in Chinese, without subtitles and he could not understand a word but with all that action, dialog was hardly necessary. It was when he finally went out long past noon, that he remembered how Alice gave him his receipt. She had repeated, “the receipt,” Then, it struck him, what she was trying to say. He grabbed a taxi and hoped to God that his sister had not emptied the wastebasket where he had thrown the piece of paper. Breathless, he dashed to his room and was greatly relieved to find the receipt still there. Sure enough, in her legible penmanship: “Rizal Park Post Office, Sunday four p.m.”

He looked at his watch; it was three fifty. By no miracle could he get there in ten minutes by just the same, he raced down to Avenida and told the taxi driver to hurry, in heaven’s name. it had started to rain when they crossed the Pasig and it was really pouring when he reached the Park Post Office in front of the Manila Hotel. He was also fifteen minutes late. He dashed from the cab to the shade of the Post Office marquee. He cursed himself not so much for not bringing an umbrella but for being so stupid not to have understood what Alice wanted to know. She must have got tired waiting and had left. He sat, wet and forlorn, on the stone ledge. Maybe, if he went to her apartment – that was what his sister always said that a man whose intentions are honorable should always visit the girl in her house.

The rain whipped the Park in gusty sheets. It was stormy weather and beyond the Park. The Walled City and all of Manila seemed enveloped with mist. But in half an hour, the rain diminished, then stopped altogether and in the direction of the Bay, the dark clouds were rimmed with silver.

It was Alice Tan who was late and it was good that he did not leave; he saw her get out of her taxi and his heart leaped and pounded so hard he could hear it. He ran to her and hardly heard her apologies, how she had difficulty leaving; he was aware of nothing else but this creature who had come bringing light to this dismal afternoon.

They walked to the sea and now, with the rain that still threatened the city, they had the whole sea-wall to themselves.

“I am stupid,” he said, “for not having understood when you said, it is in the receipt.”

“I was worried about that,” she said, sitting close to him so that their arms touched. “Filipinos are like that, anyway. Gong.”

“What’s that?”

“Stupid, like you said.”

“Now,” he said. “I hope we will not start an argument again. What don’t you like in us, anyway?”

“First,” she said, “you are lazy. You don’t know what industry is – and this is why, no matter what your leader say, you will never amount to anything.”

“You don’t know what you are saying. We work very hard.” He said. “Our farmers work very hard.”

“My father used to wake up at four in the morning.” Alice Tan said with pride. “And we never went to sleep earlier than eleven o’clock at night.”

“Many Filipinos are like that.”

“Show me,” she said. “And then, you are so corrupt. Why, almost every week, someone goes to the shop – policeman, revenue agents, all of them. All they want is money. My uncle always gives of course. And every time, he increases the price of what we sell. In the other end, it is the customer who suffers.”

“He is just as then,” Conrado told her.

“My father had to pay a bribe of ten thousand pesos – way back in 1950 – for his citizenship. It almost broke him.”

“So you are a Filipino citizen then,” he said. “This is where you make your living, where the rich Chinese and your uncle make their money, exploiting the country, its resources, and its people. If you don’t like it here – why don’t you go back to Peking or Taipei, whichever you choose?”

“Be careful now,” she told him. “You misunderstood me completely. My oldest brother – he was very impressed with what the communists were doing in Peking. He went there and returned, disillusioned. It was not so much that the life there is harsh . . . it was that he did not feel at home. Can you not see, Conrado? Our home is here. China – it would be foreign to me, although I could get sentimental about it. I just want this country to have better things – less corruption, less enmity, less poverty . . .”

He realized then that he had spoken again in a way that wouldn’t endear him to her. He was determined to salvage the afternoon. “It is just as well that we have our arguments now. For when we get married . . .”

The waves lapped on the rocks below them. She turned to him, wonder in her eyes. “Please don’t talk about something impossible,” she said. “Let us just be friends . . .”

“But I am serious,” he said. “a am not making a lot just a thousand and a half a month. Plus that four hundred pesos rent from the house. I can support you, not in style. But I have a career still ahead of me. You can go on with your schooling if you want to. We may have some problems with my sister but she will adjust. Why don’t we go and meet her? There’s just the two of us . . .”

It was then that she told him. “It cannot be, Conrado. I have been promised in marriage to someone already. There is just a little time for us . . .”

For the rest of his life, Conrado Lopez would never really know why Alice Tan saw him again, and still again, every Sunday at four p.m. in the park. When he took her back to Ongpin that evening, she had extracted from him a promise that he should never go to the shop again, or sit like some corner thug in that restaurant across the street where it was obvious to her uncle even that he was watching her. He got her address in Ongpin and he promised too that he would never go there unless it was for some very, very serious reason. She would see him again that Sunday and the Sundays thereafter. Now, at least, Conrado Lopez had something to look forward to. He went eagerly back to his history books, to the references on the Chinese, Limahong, the Parian, the galleon trade which carried Chinese silks and other luxury goods to Mexico thence to Europe. He asked the Chinese embassy in Roxas for handouts and in the bookshops in Avenida, he searched for pocketbooks and other bargains that described China. He even fancied himself learning Mandarin and going to a Buddhist temple although Alice Tan had told him that she was Protestant.

On the next Sunday, the sun was out; a storm had just blown over and the grass was soggy. Alice Tan arrived in a blue print dress; it was the first time he saw her in a dress and her legs, as he has always suspected, were shapely. They went to the Manila Hotel for a cup of coffee – that was all that he could afford when he studied the menu and he warned her about it. This time, they did not argue. Instead, she told him about herself, that it was her dream – as it was the dream of most Chinese girls – to get married and raise a family. She had gone out with Chinese boys to discos in Makati and had exchange confidences with her Chinese girlfriends who had dated Filipino boys and they were all agreed that their Filipino dates were more interesting, for the Chinese dates talk nothing but business. And yes, she said with a slight laugh, they told her, too, that Filipino boys were quicker and that they made better lovers.

“And now,” he said, “you would like to find out for yourself.”

She unwrapped her special hopia that she had brought while an amused waitress looks on. A couple of Chinese boys passed; they stared at her so she whispered to him: “See?” they never like Chinese girls to date Filipino boys. They think Filipino boys are just making fools of us . . .”

“Am I?” he asked.

She reached across the table and almost spilled the goblet, held his hand and pressed it.

On the fifth Sunday, Conrado Lopez took Alice Tan to one of the motels on M. H. del Pilar. The August sky was threatened with rain clouds, it had become dark and they had embraced behind the palms near the sea-wall. He had told her simply that he wanted to hold her, make love to her and she had not replied but had, instead kissed him with passion. They walked to the boulevard and hailed a taxi. She sat wordless beside him, and even when they had finally entered the motel garage, and the door had shut behind them, still, she did not speak.

Only when they were finally in the room, her face flushed, his hands eager and his whole being inflame, did she tell him that she had expected this to happen, but not too soon.

She was a virgin and the sheet was soiled. They lay together for a long time and he told her what he knew of the old days, how the Filipino groom would hang the blood-stained blanket by the window the following morning for all his relatives to see. And she said it was the same Old China.

It was when they made ready to leave that she started to cry, the sobs torn out of her in pain and trembling. He embraced her, kissed her cheeks wet with tears, her hair.

“We will get married in the morning – if this is what worries you,” he said. “Now – if you wish, we can walk to Malate Church and ask. I did not do this to take advantage of you, to fool you . . .”

“I know,” she said, pressing closer still to him.

“Then what are you crying about?”

“I cannot marry you,” she said.

He drew away and looked at her tear-stained face.

“Is it because you are Chinese?”

She nodded.

“But you love me, you said so. I am not rich but you will not starve . . .”

“It is not the money.”

“If it is not the money . . .?”

“Tradition, custom. Whatever you call it.”

“Hell with it!” Conrado cursed in his breath.

Then it came out. “My uncle, Conrado. He took care of us when we were orphaned. I told you. And there is this rich Chinese who live in Greenhills. He is a widower. He has helped my uncle. Given my brother very good jobs . . .”

He drew farther from her, looked at her, beautiful and true then he went to her, hugged her. “Don’t Alice,” he said in a voice hoarse with entreaty. “Let us elope. Let us go to my house now. They cannot find you there . . .”

She looked at him and shook her head. “I am Chinese,” she said simply.

When he passed the shop that Monday, he was surprised to see she was not at the counter; he hurried around the block, and when he got to the shop again, she was still not there. He returned shortly before eight when Mr. Tan would bring the accordion iron shutter down but neither the black Mercedes nor Alice were there. Every day that week, he passed by the shop. Sunday, he went to the Park and stayed there till dark.

That Monday afternoon, straight from his office, he went to see Mr. Tan. There was no hint of recognition in the face of Alice’s uncle – just this bland, expressionless mien, as Conrado introduced himself.

“Where is Alice, Mr. Tan?” he finally asked.

He replied in excellent Tagalog; Alice was no longer working in the shop.

“Where can I find her then?”

The Chinese shook his head and did not reply.

“Mr. Tan,” he said in a voice which quavered “I know you don’t like a Filipino husband for your niece. But I love her and I want to marry her. You think I am interested in her money – then don’t give her any dowry. No dowry, is that clear?” He took his wallet out and drew a calling card, laid it on the counter, “I have a good job with a big firm. I am young and industrious. A can support her and I can even continue sending her to school. I know you took care of her and I am grateful.”

The Chinese shook his head again and this time, he smiled, gold teeth flashing, and held Conrado Lopez’ arm across the counter. “Don’t misunderstand,” he said. “But you are very, very late. You must leave and don’t bother us anymore. There is nothing I can do for you . . .”

“What don’t you like in me?” he asked tersely as he backed away into the noisy sidewalk.

He had memorized the address which she had given. He took a taxi to Ongpin. It was very dark, the neon lights were on. He walked up the alley, and when he got to the door, 14-D, on it was posted a sign in Chinese. A young man was at the next door playing a guitar and he asked where the people next door were. “They have moved,” he said, “to Greenhills.” Did he know the street? The number? No. and what is this sign? “For rent,” the young man said.

For many days, it was as if Conrado Lopez was in a daze, in a limbo without rim. After office hours, he would wander around the shop in Binondo in the hope that he would see her visiting the old neighborhood. He made a list of the best Chinese restaurants in the city and on occasion, visited them especially at night when there were parties attended by the wealthy Chinese. He would wait in their lobbies, watching, searching.

On Sunday and holidays, he frequented the supermarket in Greenhills knowing this was where the wealthy Chinese shopped and many a time, he would hurry after what seemed a familiar back, a turn of the head, only to find it was not her.

He took to compulsively reading on China until he was quite familiar with contemporary happenings there. On Sundays, he made a round of Ongpin and even got to visiting funeral parlors – “La Paz” particularly, where the Chinese held the wake for their dead. And twice, he went to Benavides, to the air-conditioned Protestant chapel there, hoping that Alice would attend a service.

He no longer went to the Park except one Sunday in mid-February; it was a cool, pleasant afternoon with a pure blue sky. He sat on the stone ledge as he had done in the past. It was four and for a time, he was lost in reverie, remembering how it was the first time, the splashing rain, the anxiety that he would miss her.

It was then that he noticed the black Mercedes parked at the edge of the green and beyond it, Alice walking to the car, her arm held by a fat, bald Chinese, old enough to be her father. She was big with child and as she looked at Conrado, there was this brief, anguished look on her face which told him not to move, not to speak. She got into the car, her husband after her, and as they drove away, he still stood there reeling with emotion, knowing clearly now what it was all about, the tong that must be paid, the life that must be warped because it had to be lived.

Review: The story tong Is all about the main character Conrado Lopez who always buy at Tan’s grocery store and fell in love with the niece of the owner. One day, while buying, the girl named Alice, asked him why is he always buying light bulb in their store even the bulbs that they sell can last up to six months. Conrado said he’s buying to see her, and she said he can stop by anytime even without buying. They started to have mutual feelings with each other but they didn’t end up together because Alice got married with a rich Chinese. 

The author is a good writer because he gives the story a good flow of events. The main characters, Conrado lopez and Alice Tan, are like modern Filipino lovers seeking for attention and love. It is a tragic romance; it ended in an unexpectedly bad way. The author concluded life do not go as we planned it to. 


By carlos bulosan.


If you want to know what we are who become animate at the rain’s metallic ring, the stone’s accumulated strength, who tremble in the wind’s blossoming (that enervates earth’s potentialities), who stir just as flowers unfold to the sun;

If you want to know what we are who grow powerful and deathless in countless counterparts, each part pregnant with hope, each hope supreme, each supremacy classless, each classlessness nourished by unlimited splendor of comradeship;

We are multitudes the world over, millions everywhere; in violent factories, sordid tenements, crowded cities; in skies and seas and rivers, in lands everywhere; our number increase as the wide world revolves and increases arrogance, hunger disease and death.

We are the men and women reading books, searching in the pages of history for the lost word, the key to the mystery of living peace, imperishable joy; we are factory hands field hands mill hand everywhere, molding creating building structures, forging ahead,

Reaching for the future, nourished in the heart; we are doctors scientists chemists discovering, eliminating disease and hunger and antagonisms; we are soldiers navy-men citizens guarding the imperishable will of man to live in grandeur,

We are the living dream of dead men everywhere, the unquenchable truth that class-memories create to stagger the infamous world with prophecies of unlimited happiness_a deathless humanity; we are the living and the dead men everywhere….

If you want to know what we are, observe the bloody club smashing heads, the bayonet penetrating hallowed breasts, giving no mercy; watch the bullet crashing upon armorless citizens; look at the tear-gas choking the weakened lung.

If you want to know what we are, see the lynch trees blossoming, the hysterical mob rioting; remember the prisoner beaten by detectives to confess a crime he did not commit because he was honest, and who stood alone before a rabid jury of ten men,

And who was sentenced to hang by a judge whose bourgeois arrogance betrayed the office he claimed his own; name the marked man, the violator of secrets; observe the banker, the gangster, the mobsters who kill and go free;

We are the sufferers who suffer for natural love of man for man, who commemorate the humanities of every man; we are the toilers who toil to make the starved earth a place of abundance who transform abundance into deathless fragrance.

We are the desires of anonymous men everywhere, who impregnate the wide earth’s lustrous wealth with a gleaming flourescence; we are the new thoughts and the new foundations, the new verdure of the mind; we are the new hope new joy life everywhere.

We are the vision and the star, the quietus of pain; we are the terminals of inquisition, the hiatuses of a new crusade; we are the subterranean subways of suffering; we are the will of dignities; we are the living testament of a flowering race.

If you want to know what we are — WE ARE REVOLUTION!

Short review: This poem wants to tell us that even as an ordinary individual, we can do something about the world we live in because we have many capabilities and are full of potentials. If people will start to realize of what they can do, then surely, we can start a revolution and make a change for the  welfare of everyone. 

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