Writing Cebuano Poetry

Not many of my friends know that I pen poems from time to time. And they may even be surprised to know that other than poems in English, I actually write verses in Cebuano as well.

The desire to write in Cebuano was birthed when I attended my first literary writing workshop — the Cornelio Faigao Memorial Writers’ Workshop way back in 1995. It was during this workshop which has been run under the University of San Carlos’ (USC) Cebuano Studies Center in Cebu City that I began to welcome the idea of writing in Cebuano. I had submitted poems in English for this workshop but as I read the Cebuano poems (or balak, as we call them in Cebuano) of other fellows during the two-and-a half-day workshop, I found myself enjoying them and imagining myself writing some myself. And so the following year, when I applied once more as a writing fellow, I handed in Cebuano poems. I was, thankfully, accepted again.

There Β is beauty and pleasure in writing using one’s first language. That is one reason I would give if I were asked why I continue to write Cebuano poems. Other than that, there is freedom. It is putting forth something from your very own roots. After all, I was not born American nor any other nationality. I was born a Filipino, I was born a Boholana (from Bohol, Philippines). I was born Bisaya or Cebuano speaking. Of course, going to school meant learning Tagalog, English and Chinese (I was enrolled in a Chinese school). I even went on to take Spanish classes for 2 semesters at USC and learned Thai while I was in Thailand for 3 years. But well, Bisaya or Cebuano — now that’s my first language. It is just an added blessing that I could speak and write in other languages such as English (just as I am now doing in this blog) but at the heart of it all, when you remove all other added languages known by my tongue and kept by my brain — there is the Cebuano language at its core πŸ™‚

Below is one of the latest poems I wrote in Cebuano. It has been published in Kabisdak, home of Cebuano writing moderated by multi-awarded writer, Michael U. Obenieta. Check out the site for more Cebuano poems and stories.


sa may baybayon sa phuket,
10 ka tuig gikan sa nahitabong tsunami

Hunghong sa mga balod: kalimti
ang akong kaisog.

Ang akong paghasmag
sa inyong mga gipuy-an– usa lang
kadto ka adlaw sa atong dili maihap
nga panag-uban. Tan-awa

ang baybayon nagpabiling
putli sa pagpaabot
sa imong pagbalik. Ako
andam sa paghalok

bisan kutob lang sa imong mga tunob,
bisan hangtod lang sa imong mga lapa-lapa.