to bebet*

old man at lou lim ieok garden, macau ©papa osmubal

old man at lou lim ieok garden, macau ©papa osmubal

to bebet*

papa osmubal

Remember the rivulet, Fairy’s Silver Hair,**
as we called it, where we used to rest and tame
our young dreams and fires,
or to get away from dishwashing
we would deem appropriate
only for women and young girls?

We were gods, Narcissi, sailors,
burning with passions,
aboard banana tree trunks, our mighty caracoa,***
waving, pointing with bamboo sticks, our swords, our guns,
toward where the river was believed to hoard
its hope and gold and secrets.

Then destiny took its toll: it sent you– or is it me?–
to where life sprouts green,
to where the past has no roots for nourishment.

Like you, the river is now nowhere in sight–
a sad wraith, pulseless beneath my feet.

“Where is the river going?” we would often ask.
It is in the now-also-gone dreams of our ancestors, their lore
and legends, the stories of our childhood, in eternity
where life originates, where life is primeval, virgin.

I stand contemplating its tomb–
a vast pile of rubbish, a slaughterhouse,
a dumpsite for the massacred and raped, harlots’ harems,
makeshift casinos and pedicab terminus,
a shoe factory owned by a Chinese tycoon
who used to be our town’s most famous scrap buyer-seller,
whom people now are considering
to become the Republic’s next president.
Our river is no more– a dead man’s parched, gray vein.

It still flows, though, eternally,
continually towards me, my brother,
and I know towards you too, flooding us
with perpetual smiles: our youth’s sole tributary.

* poem first appeared in in a different format

** this rivulet, called Kitangil (Quitanguil), though small, was once the only source of irrigation and water to many farms and villages in the Province of Pampanga, north of the Philippine capital, Manila.

*** A caracoa is a large, fast boat used particularly in the southern parts of the Philippine Islands. The boat is generally used during piratical expeditions, in which they commit signal depredations in all the ports and along all the coasts of those islands, killing and capturing the people of them, and burning and ruining the country. (– from


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