Visayan Poems!

This year I published a popular science article and book chapter (and wrote some blog posts) in German and a lot of other blog posts in English. I also co-authored a scientific paper in English. So it’s time for a third language.

Visayan is spoken in the central part of the Philippines (the Visayas), and in the country’s south, Mindanao. If I remember my Philippine history correctly, big parts of Mindanao were settled by people from the Visayas in the last 100 years. Visayan is different from Tagalog, the national language originating in the region around Manila.

I am trying to write in the tradition of the late great HC Artmann, an Austrian poet who was incredibly playful with Viennese German. I am obviously having fun with the many duplicated syllables in Visayan. It’s a curious fact that many oceanic languages have few separate sounds (phonemes), and hence the need to generate more words by syllable duplication. Everybody who has been to Hawaii probably noticed this when reading the place names there (Kealakekua Bay, …). An interesting, but still hotly debated theory in linguistics is that when humans moved out of Africa 70000 years ago, the further they got (typically in the form of small groups), the more sounds their languages lost. Pacific languages, far from Africa, have few, and one way to generate words then is to duplicate syllables. Which are good raw material for poetry:

Akong halo kaon ug halo-halo sa Iloilo
Siya nagkaon daghang halo-halo
Maong kaning akong halo tambok kaayo

(My lizard eats ice cream in Iloilo
he eats a lot of ice cream
that lizard is fat)

Ang belong-belong naglangoy libot-libot sa lobot sa bahag-bahag.
belong-belong: naboang na ka?

(A silvery fish swims around the ass of a sea cucumber
silvery fish: are you crazy?)

Ang alindanaw naglupad-lupad sa Mindanao
Dako ang kabukiran sa Mindanao
Maong gikapoy ang alindanaw

(A dragonfly flies to Mindanao
there are big mountains in Mindanao
the dragonfly is tired)

Ang alibangbang sa Bacong
nakainom ug bino!

Boang! Hubog nga alibangbang sa Bacong!

(A butterfly in Bacong
drinks rhum
Crazy! A drunk butterfly from Bacong)

Many thanks to Ms. Glaiza Abril for proof reading these for spelling mistakes to the point where the poems have to be considered our co-production!