Sa pagkain natin ng bangus noong Setyembre 21 – Maureen Gaddi dela Cruz

Sa pagkain natin ng bangus noong Setyembre 21

Maureen Gaddi dela Cruz

Nagkataon lang siguro na Setyembre 21
noong huli tayong nagsalo
sa paborito mong inihaw na bangus.
Habang marahan kong tinutuklap ang malutong na balat
at unti-unting hinihimay ang tostadong laman,
kinamusta mo ako na parang kay tagal nating di nagkita.
Tulad ng dati, nagpalitan tayo ng kuro-kuro –
tungkol sa pagtaas ng aking matrikula,
sa kilos-protesta noong nakaraang linggo,
sa mga pangarap ko kapag ako’y nakapagtapos.
Matiyaga mong pinakinggan ang aking mga kuwento
hanggang maubos ang toyo’t kalamansing sawsawan.

Kung tutuusin, ako ang nais magtanong.
Kung noon bang hinuli ka’y di ka rin nakapalag
na parang isdang nilambat.
Kung matapos kang idarang sa pananakot
at ibabad ang pagkatao sa alipusta,
hinampas ka ba sa likod
hanggang halos matuklap ang iyong balat.
Kung papayagan mo ba akong himayin
ang tatlong dekadang gunita
at unawain ang ikinukubling dusa.

Kung maaari lamang sanang pira-pirasuhin
ang iyong katahimikan
upang matikman ang dahas na nanuot
sa bawat hibla ng iyong laman.
Hangad kong isa-isang bunutin
ang mga nakahadlang na tinik
at palayain ang naumid mong paninindigan.
Patawad kung nais kong ungkatin ang mga bangungot.

As We Were Eating Milkfish Last September 21*

(English translation by Alexander Martin Remollino, 1977-2010)

It was perhaps just a coincidence that it was September 21
when we last feasted together on your favorite,
grilled milkfish.
As I was slowly removing the crisp skin
and little by little tearing to bits
the toasted flesh,
you asked how I was
as though we hadn’t seen each other for ages.
Like before, we exchanged observations —
about the increase in my tuition,
about last week’s protest action,
about what I dream of doing after graduation.
You patiently listened to my stories
until the soy sauce-and-calamansi condiment ran out.

It is I in fact who want to ask questions.
When you were seized,
were you also unable to fight back —
like a fish caught in a net?
After you were burned with intimidation
and your person soaked in abuse,
were you whipped in the back
until your skin was almost removed?
Would you allow me to tear to bits
those three decades of memories
and understand the concealed sufferings?

If only I could tear to bits your silence
and taste the violence that forced itself
into every inch of your skin.
I would like to pull out one by one
the fishbones blocking the way
and free your silenced convictions.
Forgive me if I wish to uncover the nightmares.

(*This poem is for the poet’s father, Ely dela Cruz, who was a political detainee during the period of Martial Law in the Philippines, which was declared on September 21, 1972.)

Maureen Gaddi dela Cruz, J.D. is a writer, visual artist and humanitarian worker from Laguna, Philippines. She graduated from the University of the Philippines College of Law in 2010 and took the Philippine Bar exams in 2013. She is a member of the poetry organizations Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika at Anyo (LIRA) and kilometer 64 Poetry Collective (km64), a 2010 fellow (for poetry in Filipino) of the Ateneo de Manila University National Writers Workshop, and an associate member of the National Union of People’s Lawyers. Her poems and feature articles in English and Filipino have appeared in various mainstream and alternative publications. Mao currently works for an international humanitarian organization.
The late Alexander Martin Remollino was a poet, journalist and activist from Laguna, Philippines. As an associate editor at Tinig.com and staff writer at Bulatlat.com, he wrote primarily about human rights and development issues affecting the marginalized sectors of society. His poetry in English and Filipino, which also focused on his advocacy, was published in several anthologies and alternative websites. Alex, a co-founder of Filipino Youth for Peace and Independent Media Center (Indymedia) – Quezon City and a member of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, passed away in 2010 at the age of 33.

Publication information

  • “Sa pagkain natin ng bangus noong Setyembre 21” — Panata sa Paglaya (Manila, Philippines: kilometer64 Poetry Collective, 2009) and Lirang Pilak: 25 Taon ng Makatang LIRA. Ed. Virgilio S. Almario (Quezon City, Philippines: Aklat LIRA and Vibal Foundation, 2010)
  • “You are not mere names” — Duguang Lupa (Manila, Philippines: kilometer64 Poetry Collective, 2010)
  • English translation “As we were eating milkfish last September 21” by Alexander Martin Remollino (with prior permission for publication and performance)
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