My photo
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.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


EDITH L. TIEMPO, poet and teacher, turned 90 yesterday, April 22. Honoured by her country as one of its National Artists, she continues to devote her life to the Literary Arts -- looking after the development of writers through her internationally acclaimed Silliman University Writer’s Workshop in Dumaguete City, in the southern Philippines.

If the yardstick of a useful artistic life is the crop of writers she has nurtured throughout the island republic, she has lived a sterling life, indeed. I was one of those she selected to go through her Workshop in the 70’s. To this day, being awarded a fellowship at that writers workshop remains to be a recognition of talent and artistic achievement.

Edith Tiempo leaves an indelible stamp of excellence on the SUWW. To her, a hearty toast: Viva, Maestra!

One Tiempo poem I treasure is her What Distance Gives (from her Tracks of Babylon)


When you reach for me in that obscure
World where like ashes of the air
Your eyes and hands and voice batter
With a stark and ghostly urgency
The transparent doors of my closed lids,
I struggle to confine the precarious grace,
The force, the impulse of this fantasy;
Yes, I grieve. But in its sure
Wise way it is this grief that bids
The ghost to go.
This is the reality we stand to lose:
That the push of muscle strength
Is also the dear enfolding brute embrace
Of reason shocking all our length,
The loss is gain for the will to choose
The distance-given right to know.

In my Aesthetics of Literature (1972), I cited Edith Tiempo’s use of figures (of thought, speech, and language) in the course of discussing what makes a figure appropriate, necessary, and effective.

“A figure is appropriate when it earns the meaning by making it assume an exact, concrete, and clear picture. It suits the idea in that its use does not steal away attention from the meaning. For example: “Like ashes in the eyes, the memory of the one being addressed intrudes: the eyes, sensing, become doors forced open by the memory, by the ashes.”

A student’s affection and gratitude are further expressed in this last part of Houses Are Better Off Without Porches Here, a group of poems I dedicated to Edith Tiempo, National Artist. The poem is included in my A Theory of Echoes and Other Poems (2009, UST Publishing House, Manila):

For Edith Tiempo, Teacher, National Artist

I guess it is "a distance-given right to know” as Edith Tiempo described it once in a poem. How is she? “Edith now lives on a ridge about half an hour from the city…the house is long, low, and airy – a single bedroom, a kitchen, and a huge space in the center for parties and conferences. The wall overlooking the sea is all glass…” -- E-mail from Lakambini Sitoy

Poet on the Ridge, hermana Maestra, pray for me,
as I would you, that the dusk catches us still swearing
by the rhyme, perishing on the rhyme, convulsing
on the sudden quiver that comes on a stealth
when rhyme and rhythm become the sound of the sea,
the pulsing river, cupping you in time for that
peremptory dive off your perch into that devouring sea,
betting life, love, and limb, surfacing again
to challenge Him with your nakedness,
(because you were always gentle and pure),
basking under Lo-oc’s sky, waves laving now brittle
haunches and God your sole voyeur.


In our native Ilocano, Maestra: Naragsak nga siyam nga pulo nga tawen yo! Agbiag kayo! Agbiag kayo ditoy puso ken dardarepdep mi! Saan nga mapukaw iti panagdayaw ken panagayat mi.

(Photo by Ian Casocot)


the spy in the sandwich said...

i love this poem by mom! will be posting this in my blog

Albert B. Casuga said...

OK, Ian. Thanks for the photo I used. I got a more recent one, but I will use it later.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr. Casuga! I'm Cris Barbra Pe, a PhD Literature student from De La Salle University - Manila. I am currently working on a future dissertation project on Dr. Edith L. Tiempo, specifically on her being a mother and/or teacher. May I interview you through e-mail? I'm sorry if I posted my request here because I do not know where to find your e-mail. Here is my e-mail address:

Anonymous said...

helo sir. i want to write poems but i dont know if it makes sense. can you please give some tips. thank you so much.