Poetry Tuesday: Simeon Dumdum Jr.

When Is a Poem Already a Poem

from the Likhaan Book of Poetry and Fiction, edited by Jose Y. Dalisay, Jr. and Ricardo M. de Ungria (University of the Philippines, 1996)

I wasn’t listening when you asked that question.
I was looking out the window, at the boat
That was just then leaving the port of Dumaguete.
One more day and already I imagined
Myself on that boat, slumped in a chair,
Holding a book like a cup of coffee,
Hoping that during the passage across
The strait I could read without spilling
A word, but then I remembered I still
Had to send someone to buy me a ticket,
And there was your question, and how far the boat
Had gone out in the poem of the sea, now
That I wished someone there would think of us.
From the boat someone could see the mountains, but not us.
From the boat someone could see the mountains, but not us.
Already we had become the Cuernos de Negros.

Simeon Dumdum Jr. is a Filipino judge on the island of Cebu, and a well-known poet. We met in 2009, at an International PEN Conference. Have loved his poetry ever since.

Chance Meeting, Cebu Airport

In 2010, self gave a reading at a conference in Cebu (central Philippines). From there, she flew to her Dear Departed Dad’s hometown of Bacolod.

While she waited for her Bacolod flight, she decided to get a massage. The massage place was right next to the boarding area, how convenient. The customers are shielded from view (by screens?) of people in the boarding area (but not of fellow customers, there’s a row of beds placed side-by-side), and the strange thing is, there were men and women getting full-body massages right there, mere yards away from where a whole crowd of passengers were gathered. To preserve customers’ modesty, the masseuse draped a thin towel over one’s body.

Anyhoo, the story self wants to tell is: She was freshly massaged, and her hair was standing up on end (from a scalp massage), when a man walked up to her, introduced himself as a fellow writer, and said he had attended her reading.

Self asked him where he was from, and he said Cagayan de Oro. She found out he was a fellow writer. He signed a copy of his book and gave it to her (Self really wishes that she looked more orderly when she walked out of that massage place).

His book was in Bikolano (which self doesn’t speak). It was a collection of plays!

The writer’s name was Carlos A. Aréjola.

Here’s the production notes, setting, cast of characters etc. from his play Unang Yugto:

Tagpuan (Setting): Cottage sa isang resort (A cottage in a resort)

Panahon (Time): Kasalukuyan (The Present)


Edwin – matangkad, guapo (tall, handsome)

Toledo – mestisuhin (mestizo), 18 taong gulang (18 years old)

Dagul – 21, moreno (dark-skinned), medyo pandak (somewhat short), may body piercings.

Falcon – mestisuhin (mestizo), ayos na ayos ang buhok (Hair fussed over; sorry, that’s the best she can come up with)

Dalawang Dalaga (2 girls): college girls, magaganda (beautiful), mapuputi (white-skinned)

Mga Pasahero Sa Airport (Passengers in the Airport)

How self loves that the characters have to be differentiated by whether they are light-skinned or dark-skinned, and that the two college girls are beautiful (magaganda) and mapuputi (white-skinned). To be white-skinned is to be beautiful?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Reading Simeon Dumdum’s “America”

Simeon Dumdum, Jr. has written six books, four of which won the Philippines’ National Book Award given by the Manila Critics Circle and the National Book Development Board. He works as a Regional Trial Court judge in Cebu City and lives with his wife Gingging and daughter Yeni in Mohon, Talisay City, Cebu.


by Simeon Dumdum, Jr.

I listened to him speak
of West Virginia
(he was born in Leyte
but was living
in West Virginia)
He spoke as they do
in the movies,
and as Ronald Reagan does
on the radio.
Even the way
he said “Virginia”
was better than the way
Hinying, a girl I knew
whose hair fell down a shoulder
like the tail of a bird,
said her name,
which was “Virhinia.”
And on that warm evening
I told myself,
That’s where I want to be,
in West Virginia, or New York,
or San Francisco,
because cousin says
everything there is big
and cheap — big chickens,
big eggs, big buildings,
And big flowers?
Cousin looked at me
and said, Yes, big roses,
tea roses, and he was
about to name other roses
but the moon was rising
and it was bigger than in

Reading, Third Thursday of August (2013): “The Music Child” by Krip Yuson

Self is 3/5 of the way through Wolf Hall!  With any luck, she’ll finish in a week or so.  She hates to rush, but the book is overdue:  she’s already renewed it the maximum two times (six weeks)

She’s begun “The Music Child,” by Krip Yuson, in The Best Philippine Short Stories of the Twentieth Century.  The beginning is very enthralling.  It’s taken her 10 years to get to this point of the anthology because she’s lingered over each story.  She would really like to thank Isagani Cruz for the masterful job he’s done, assembling these.

Krip’s story is by no means a new story: she first read it about 20 years ago.  But reading it this evening, the writing seems very fresh.  Even more fresh is the fact that this is the first Filipino short story she’s read that’s narrated by an American:

I was in Southern Philippines for a follow-up story on muro-ami fishing, having already sent a report on the Manila end of the ecologically ruinous operations.

I had interviewed the big bosses of the Frebel Fishing Corporation, as well as a few legislators involved in a committee on natural resources.  Easy enough to get into these high offices when one represents Western media.

It was a dying issue as far as the local papers went.  Officials had upheld the ban on boy divers pounding the reefs with iron balls to drive fish into giant nets.  All that the greedy operators could do was take it on the chin and shrug.

But for the Examiner back home, the triumph of environmental concern would always rate a banner story in the features section.  So had my editor assured me as soon as I faxed Part One of the series.

Ecology couldn’t die as a cause in the world’s leading democracy.  And where better to flush out tales of horror than in Third World enclaves run by petty politicians?

Cebu City was a smaller Manila, just as dense, dustier, hotter, more humid, except at the seafront where I found the usual spot of calm amid the chaos, by sitting over cold San Miguel beer in a small restaurant.

Self finds herself thoroughly engrossed by the voice.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Personal Library 12

449 + 53 = 502 Total Books Tallied So Far

Self is now starting on the second bookcase in the dining room (Let’s see how long she can keep this up!).  Titles on this shelf include:

The Illustrated Sherlock Holmes TreasuryThe Ophelia Dimalanta Reader:  Selected Prose, vol. 2The World of the Shining Prince, by Ivan Morris;  When the Rainbow Goddess Wept, by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard;  Exactly Here, Exactly Now, by Nadine L. SarrealDeep Light:  New and Selected Poems, 1987 – 2007, by Rebecca McClanahan;  Blood and Soap:  Stories, by Linh Dinh;  The Hmong and the American Immigrant Experience, by Lillian Faderman with Ghia Xiong;  ERAPtion:  How to Speak English Without Really Trial, by Emil P. Jurado and Reli L. German; Life of Pi, by Yann Martel;  Birthmark:  Poems, by Jon Pineda;  The Forbidden Stitch:  An Asian American Women’s Anthology, edited by Shirley Geok-lin Lim, Mayumi Tsutakawa, and Margarita Donnelly (Managing Editor);  Oregon Handbook, 2nd edition, by Stuart Warren & Ted Long Ishikawa (part of the excellent Moon Handbook Travel Series);  The Cebu We Know, edited by Erma M. Cuizon

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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