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Volume 2, Number 44               December 8 - 14, 2002            Quezon City, Philippines

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Critics Pick ‘10 Most Nationalist Poems’  

National Hero, Andres Bonifacio, whose birth anniversary was marked Nov. 30, is the literary critics’ choice for nationalist poet. Bonifacio was a worker and was never known among many Filipinos as a poet. He led the armed revolution against Spanish colonialism in 1898 – Asia’s first.

By Ronalyn Olea
Contributor, Bulatlat.com 

The “Ten Most Nationalist Poems” in the Philippines, all written at the height of struggles for national freedom, have been selected by some of the country’s prominent literary critics.  

Andres Bonifacio

The Gising Kabataan!, a network of patriotic and freedom-loving youth formed recently, collected the choices of Bienvenido Lumbera, Elmer Ordonez, Roland Tolentino and Bonifacio Ilagan.

Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa by Andres Bonifacio was hailed as the best of these poems. Bonifacio was the founder of Katipunan and the leader of the revolution of 1896 against Spanish colonialism.

Amado Hernandez’s Kung Tuyo na Ang Luha Mo, Aking Bayan, one of the poems often read during anti-imperialist rallies, was another unanimous pick. Hernandez was a poet and labor organizer. He served as an intelligence officer of the Hukbong Bayan Laban sa Hapon (Hukbalahap), an armed group against Japanese invasion during World War II.  During the US’s direct colonial rule, Hernandez was detained for rebellion. His Isang Dipang Langit, which was written in prison, also made it to the list. 

Another classic poem written in 1896, Mi Ultimo Adios by Jose Rizal, was an inevitable choice.  The original poem has been translated to Filipino and foreign languages by various poets.    

Jose Corazon de Jesus’s Ang Bayan Ko is a popular song in almost every struggle, from the anti-U.S. protests of the 1920s and ‘30s, to the resistance movement against the Japanese invasion in the ‘40s, the First Quarter Storm of the ‘70s and the 1986 People Power. De Jesus, also known as Huseng Batute, is popular for his traditional forms of poetry.

Republikang Basahan by Teodoro Agoncillo was included in the list.  Agoncillo, a foremost Filipino historian, wrote books on Philippine history from the point of view of the Filipinos. Some of his famous works are The Revolt of the Masses; The Story of Bonifacio and the Katipunan; Malolos, The Crisis of the Republic; Philippine History; and the History of the Filipino People.

Sa Loob at Labas ng Bayan Kong Sawi is part of Francisco Baltazar’s masterpiece Florante at Laura.  It depicts the sufferings of the Filipino people during the Spanish occupation.

Joma Sison

Jose Maria Sison’s A Guerilla Is Like a Poet was also selected.  He wrote the poem in 1968.  Sison is the founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines and one of the founders of Kabataang Makabayan (Patriotic Youth).  During the martial law years, he was arrested, tortured and held in solitary confinement for almost 10 years.

Two other poems written in English made it to the top: If You Want to Know What We Are by Carlos Bulosan and Open Letters to Filipino Artists by Emmanuel Lacaba. 

Bulosan, author of America Is in the Heart, worked in the sugar plantations of America in the ‘50s.

Lacaba was former editor of The Guidon, the student publication of the Ateneo de Manila University.  He wrote the three parts of the poem in 1975 and 1976 from the hills of Mindanao.  He died an NPA fighter.

The critics who made the selection are some of Philippine literature’s most respected. Lumbera is a poet, teacher and critic. A recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Literature and professor emeritus of the University of the Philippines, he now teaches at De La Salle University.

Ordonez has edited many anthologies of Philippine literature.  He used to teach also at the University of the Philippines.

Tolentino is a well-known fiction writer. On leave from the University of the Philippines, he is a visiting professor at the Department of Southeast Asian Studies in Osaka University, Japan.

Ilagan is a writer and director. A member of the Concerned Artists of the Philippines, he has written articles on Philippine alternative cinema. Bulatlat.com

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