The Filipino language is beautiful. It draws its poignancy from a vast catalog of shared experiences, which, while universal, have different priority levels in the speaker’s mind.
For instance, the first two sentences I usually hear as a guest or wayfarer in a Filipino’s home are: kumusta ka na? Nakakain ka na ba? The guest is represented by the article “ka.” He or she is the priority in the speaker’s mind.
The Filipino’s emphasis on “ka” is nothing short of legendary. It’s so unique that it is even appended to other words to denote the sharing: kapuso (one heart), kapamilya (one family), or kapatid (sibling). There is a selflessness about this language, a determined willingness to connect and make everyone part of his or her life which I (and the rest of the world) so love.
I’ve been in love with Filipino for as long as I can remember. It’s my main spoken language, and my secondary written language (for economic reasons, I use English like many Filipinos).
As my main verbal tool, Filipino allows me to connect my body to the world. My mind understands my secondary language better, but the rest of my body – my bones, my heart, my spine, my stomach – resonates only to Filipino. You can scream “fuck you” at me all day long and to me, it remains an abstraction. But say “putang ina” once and my heart begins to palpitate in anxiety.
Or say “iniibig kita” and my stomach will start acting up again. Disoriented, I will accidentally brush the table napkin across the little candle and start a small fire in my hand, all over again.
If you hear me singing in Filipino, it means I’m communicating to you not just with all of my heart, but with all of me.
Tonight, I’ll be singing my dear friend Mesandel Virtusio (Ayer) Arguelles’ poem “Kasama” (meaning “companion” but “with you” feels closer to its truth) as well as another Filipino song I composed at Conspiracy Garden Café in Quezon City for the launch of his poetry album Namamatay Ang Mga Nagmamahal, the sale proceeds of which will go to a non-profit called ALAB.
It’s been a while since I last sang in Filipino and been emotionally “naked” in front of an audience. But having recently celebrated my 42nd birthday, I’ve since grown more confident of my emotional “body,” sculpted by heartbreak and toned by acceptance and equanimity: we are all just passing through, friends.
The poem “Kasama” is from one of Ayer’s books Menos Kuwarto (Pithaya Press, 2002).
Other like-minded writer-artists selected poems from his works to turn into song. They are: Khrisczen Agres, Cucay Pagdilao, Ian Paolo Acosta, Joseph and Rachi Saguid, Keith Bustamante, Marvin Laureta, Valene Lagunzad, Lolito Go, Vincenz Serrano, Regine Cabato, Bobby Balingit, Ryan Reyes and Apol Sta. Maria.
Except for Vince, a dear friend from an almost-forgotten time in my life when I lived and breathed poetry, and Bobby, a remarkable rock-guitar wielding painter I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing during my days at Pulp Magazine, all of these names are new to me. I’m looking forward to saying “putang ina” later to all of them (but only because they’re amazing!)
Namamatay Ang Mga Nagmamahal (roughly: Those Who Love Die) will be launched tonight, March 24 (Sat), 6pm at Conspiracy Garden Café, 59 Visayas Avenue, Quezon City. Gate is PHP200.
WATCH MUSIC VIDEO OF “KASAMA” BELOW: