Speaking Truth

(After reading Robert M. de Ungria’s An English Apart (from Pinoy Poetics edited by Nick Carbo)

They painted English on my tongue.

Borrowed words to cover the language of my birth

I was proud because of the fluency of my English

I had mastered the master’s tongue.

(Not Taglish, not accented English, but English as the Americans speak it.)

Now, in a distant land, my English is overlaid

with the language of a country that isn’t mine.

My heart yearns to say to the one seated beside me

I am the color of earth, I am kayumanggi

and so is my tongue.

In my ears, I hear the chants of the storytellers

from long ago.

I hear the song of the noseflute

I feel the gongs drumming in my blood.

Maphod. Maphod.

I realize too late how much I have lost.

Is it not a tragedy that I can spell far better in these foreign tongues

than I can in the languages of my birth?

Who here will teach me? Who here will speak to me in the languages

of the Beloved Country?