Binalaybay

Tokhang: An Improvised Villanelle

By ALEXANDER SANGUINIS

…Three years since President Duterte launched the Philippine War on Drugs, much has been written regarding the degree of violence deployed by State and quasi-state mechanisms to rid the Philippines of an alleged 3.7 million drug users. Approximately 29, 000 deaths attributable to this policy have been recorded as of July 2019…Human Rights Watch (2017) has condemned the punitive treatment of suspected drug users and dealers. The concentration of victims in urban poor communities has led international and local groups …to report that the war on drugs is a war on the poor…

—Pangilinan, MKA et al. 2021. Examining the Effects of Drug-Related Killings in Philippine Conditional Cash Transfer Beneficiaries in Metro Manila 2016-2017. Journal of Illicit Economies and Development 2(2) p. 111 DOI: https://doi.org./10.31389/jied.50

When your voice no longer bears the weight
of what you must say, then language must have gone away,
or forcibly buried underground,
silenced the fascist way.

The eyes deliberately turned towards
a vision blinded by a full unquestioning
acquiescence and the tortured mind seeks
a possible means of utterance, escape,
or even a redress of grievance.

When your voice no longer bears the weight
of what you must say, then language must have gone away,
or forcibly buried underground,
silenced the fascist way.

For whatever you have to say
must be said without ever prodding
the rush of army boots, the camouflage
green uniforms, unwanted police warrants
foregrounded on stereotypes and sheer suspicion.

When your voice no longer bears the weight
of what you must say, then language must have gone away,
or forcibly buried underground,
silenced the fascist way.

Each home, every household—those hastily built makeshift shelters,
tenements right smack in the urban jungle, shacks lining the railroad tracks,
river banks of trash, or beneath bridges, or huts standing wobbly
on bamboo poles in coastal margins unguarded from storm floods,
vulnerable to the surge of the open sea.

When your voice no longer bears the weight
of what you must say, then language must have gone away,
or forcibly buried underground,
silenced the fascist way.

Those parts of the metropolis prone
to the vagaries of the tidal weather where the mid-morning
sun is hotter than the warm suburban midday
or the night darker, more ominous than the lighted
parks, avenues and boulevards at evening time.

When your voice no longer bears the weight
of what you must say, then language must have gone away,
or forcibly buried underground,
silenced the fascist way.

They had become battlegrounds, shacks riddled with bullets,
a shooting spree, blood at the tip of the rifle or gun, “..nanlaban kasi…”
they fought back.. we had no choice but to shoot—everyone
had been singled out: parent, sibling, teenager or child,
a pusher, user, dealer, an addict.

Their voices no longer bear the weight
of what they must say, their language gone away,
or forcibly buried underground,
silenced the fascist way.

The fascist way.
The fascist way.

Alexander Sanguinis is a pseudonym of the long published poet who is from the Hiligaynon-speaking Region (VI). The poet is an established writer in both languages of the Region and English. With anonymity, readers are enjoined to focus on the pieces rather than on externalities of the texts.

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