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ALBERT B. CASUGA, a Philippine-born writer, lives in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, where he continues to write poetry, fiction, and criticism after his retirement from teaching and serving as an elected member of his region's school board. He was nominated to the Mississauga Arts Council Literary Awards in 2007. A graduate of the Royal and Pontifical University of St. Thomas (now University of Santo Tomas, Manila. Literature and English, magna cum laude), he taught English and Literature (Criticism, Theory, and Creative Writing) at the Philippines' De La Salle University and San Beda College. He has authored books of poetry, short stories, literary theory and criticism. He has won awards for his works in Canada, the U.S.A., and the Philippines. His latest work, A Theory of Echoes and Other Poems was published February 2009 by the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House. His fiction and poetry were published by online literary journals Asia Writes and Coastal Poems recently. He was a Fellow at the 1972 Silliman University Writers Workshop, Philippines. As a journalist, he worked with the United Press International and wrote an art column for the defunct Philippines Herald.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Where were you when Man landed on the Moon?

I was on a midnight train going home to my family in San Fernando, La Union, after a week of frustrating academic work in the Manila school where I taught Literature. The beast of a train rattling on tracks built during the Japanese Occupation (40s) kept me awake and wild-eyed. It did not help that I could smell my beer breath when I sighed worrying about the day's excitement.

Will the moon landing by the American astronauts intensify the Cold War? was an urgent question for humanity. But I had another question in mind: Will this moon landing mean the demise of romance and mystery attached to the moon?
Will the rocky and barren surface of the moon vitiate forever its magic which has been celebrated in poetry and songs for centuries? Will the moon remain as the principal image of serenades? Of love?

As the train hurtled through the darkness punctuated by the scarce lamp-post lights lining the tracks, I could hear Sinatra croon to the Rachmaninoff melody:

Full moon and empty arms,
The moon is there
For us to share,
But where are you?
Dawn peeked through the Ilocos Sierras in the east, and I absently growled:
It is the East, and Juliet is the Sun,
Arise fair Sun, and kill the envious moon!
I must have rudely roused the passenger next to me, he staggered to another seat and threw me a dagger-look. This did not stop me from thinking that the Bard's Romeo and Juliet and the moon live on in the broadway and movie hit, The West Side Story's lyrics:
O moon, burn bright
And make this endless day
Endless night -- Tonight!
What will happen to moonlight serenades like that sang by actor Edmund Purdum in the movie "The Student Prince"?
Overhead the moon is beaming,
White as blossoms on the bough.
Nothing is heard but the song of a bird,
Filling all the air with dreams...
Could this beauty last forever,
I would ask for nothing more.
Believe me!
And the Blue Moon that every crooner from Crosby to Philippine balladeer Bert Nievera sang to make the ladies swoon? How blue will it be now that the spacemen have seen red rocks instead of azul?
Blue Moon, you saw me standing alone,
Without a dream in my heart,
Without a love of my own!
How would every lovelorn swain sing now about the Moon bringing back a summer love?
Though the night is dark and drear',
It seems, I see the Autumn Moon above,
And I pray one day, it will come,
And bring back my Summer love!
Those songs and poems with a lot of moons in the hundreds of Philippine languages and dialects, will they bespeak the love lost and regained? Will they be less effective as serenades for the inamorata on the window sill?
The standard Ilocano song has the moon as its central image as an objective correlative of the pursued loved one:
O naraniag nga bulan,
Un-unnoyko indengam!*
(O, bright moon,
Listen to my plea!)
And Moonriver? Will it still be wider than a mile? And the song of the pampas, Argentina's "moonlight and music and orchids and wine/ I am going stay down Argentina way!"?
But great though the American achievement must be, life will go on. How is the world reacting? I resolved to finish what I started in my empty classroom. Write a poem to remember a dying by.
What is the fuss all about?
Reactions: Apollo on the Moon

21 July 1969 A.D. (4:18 a.m., Manila). Man on the Moon !
-- A diary entry.

1. The Wife

Coffee boils the morning’s surprise away,
the children in bed. There is a new
neighbour outside gawking into some sky.
No new blueness here but talks true
to yesterday’s predictions. Today the earth,
tomorrow the moon. The eggs fry so slowly.
Do they mean it all, this morning’s mirth?
They will be late for school. Clocks gravely
Gravely rule even the grace of toast and tea.
“Tea, Sir? Tea, Madame?” O, the telephone.

(I miss you, sweetheart. I miss you. Really?
Are you coming home this weekend?
The moon?. Rocks? O yes, rocks. Tone?
No, no, darling. I’m sorry. An errand
This time of the morning? The Boss? But
The children. O, no classes? I forgot.
You’re not coming for the weekend? But…
All right, darling. Bye. Take care.)


I did not ask him: If I asked for the moon,
Would he have taken it for me? UGH!
After the rocks, and many rocks after…
How gravely, gravely clocks measure
Even the solace left from tea and sympathy.
Where did I put the cheese?

2. Nexus – Eden

Was it rock brought you back from Eden, Cain?
(The moon is a rock; rocks are purplish.)
Your rock is purplish, son. See you Abel, your brother?
(Whites are aboard the Apollo. – For Negroes only.)

(“We hope to spread the message from the
Sea of Tranquility…We shall try to work for
Peace and tranquility for all mankind.”)

Am I my brother’s keeper?

3. Manila Broadcast/Vatican/Time Magazine

The moon is a vast Rock punctured by craters.
(Tu es Petrus!)
The littlest rock is about two feet and a half.
(Upon this Rock, Peter, I shall build my Church.)
All about us are rocks; it looks like a dead planet.
(God is dead.)
Dread is the Rock here come so soon
Hushing the throaty crow -- from rock to Rock
A full circle here.

4. Barbershop/San Fernando, La Union

Kas’toy dagiti sarita a mangisubli
Iti bileg ken turay daytoy babai;
Sanikuana toy lubong, kunkunada pay,
Abak nat’ lalaki a patay-patay.
Kayatna a saw-en ngarud, gayyem,
Daytoy ti leksiyon nga inka adalen:
Saan nga gandat toy lalaki
Nga maala ti bulan tapno ni babai
In-na panawan ditoy daga a sileled-daang.
Masapul ngamin ni babai ni lalaki
Tapno daytoy Im-nas lumasbang*

*Translated from the Ilocano dialect.

(It is tales like this restore
To female principle its primacy;
Earth’s dominion not in store
As man’s insignia of ascendancy.
The homily, dear friend,
Is in the homespun teasing;
Surely it is neither man’s end
To gain the moon while leaving
Earth to his lass a-grieving
For she’s perfect only with man
Alive and living.)

(This was one of the Early Poems included in A Theory of Echoes and Other Poems which first appeared in Still Points (Selected Poems), 1972.
Are love songs and poems still enamoured with the Moon as Central Image? Poet Francisco R. Albano is a faithful believer. Yes, we must still swear by the moon. He has written his own reactions which you might want to check out in his blog:
The moon is there for us to share.

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