by Carla Nicoyco
When the ground trembles let it be known that the sugarcane trucks are marching.
Your house near the highway has always been witness to their arrival.
When people are bewildered that you’ve never sucked the raw juice of a sugarcane,
Remind them that you have a ways to go, remind them that you have not arrived.
They say our words sound like molasses, too sweet even when angry.
I have never known my accent to betray me like this. Stretch my tongue.
Kabalo ka pa magpuli? Sin-o ka na subong? Tam-is pa abi imo luha?
San-o ka mapuli? Kabalo ka pa kung diin makadto? Sin-o imo ginikanan?
Using brown sugar to exfoliate your lips does not equate to re-learning.
Re-learning means bathing yourself in smiles. You came from that City.
You left home to go home. Ever since your feet touched the tarmac.
All this time you thought you were running away, going somewhere.
Translation of Hiligaynon parts:
Carla Nicoyco: It is inevitable that what I do now is closely tied to the English language, given the colonial history of my country. It is a privilege to learn the language, and it is also a stark reminder that there is much work to do. I can sum up my relationship with English in what Conchitina Cruz, a favourite poet of mine, says: “No amount of skill in producing finely crafted literature, even when it pointedly represents and expresses solidarity with the oppressed, can grant Filipino access to the material and activity of reading the way that equitable redistribution of wealth can.”
Carla Nicoyco is a high school English teacher. She is part of the following groups: Bahaghari, a militant and nationalist organisation of LGBTQ+; White Wall Poetry, a spoken word group formed in 2015; Ang Sabi Nila, a group of poets and videographers that organises monthly curated poetry shows; and Save San Roque, a group of professionals, architects, artists, writers, and volunteers that helps Sitio San Roque create its own community development plan. Carla has been trying to write again.