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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.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


The Poet on the Ridge


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, limb,
and surfacing again to offer God your nakedness,
basking under Lo-oc’s sky, waves laving now brittle
haunches because you were always gentle and pure.

Paalam, maestra. 

---Albert B. Casuga 

(Revised 08-21-11, From the author’s last strofe in Houses are Better Off Without Porches Here, a poem dedicated to Dr. Edith Tiempo)


Reprinted from Dateline Philippines, 08-21-11 Post

National Artist for Literature (Poetry) Dr. Edith L. Tiempo passed away this afternoon at 5:30 her hometown of Dumaguete City, where she and her (late) husband, world-renowned novelist Dr. Edilberto K. Tiempo had founded the Siliman University Writer’s Workshop to nurture and hone the talents of Filipino writers over the last five decades.

Born Edith Lopez on April 22, 1919 in Bayombong, Nueva Ecija, she became the first International Fellow from the Philippines for poetry at the prestigious Iowa Writer’s Workshop in the United States in 1947. Tiempo’s entry into the Iowa workshop as a fellow for poetry was groundbreaking, as Paul Engle, then the Iowa University workshop director, had thought it too early for a poetic tradition in English to have taken root. It was Tiempo who blazed the path that many Filipino poets in English later trod to the Iowa workshop and which they continue to tread to this day.

Prior to being named a National Artist, Edith was conferred the Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas in 1988.

She leaves the nation with an inheritance of letters, from her novels “A Blade of Fern (1978),” “His Native Coast (1979),” “One, Tilting Leaves,” “The Alien Corn (1992),” “The Builder (2004),” “The Jumong (2006)” and the short story collection “Abide, Joshua and Other Stories,” to the intricate, image-rich and multi-layered poetry she finally received National Artist honors for in 1999: “The Tracks of Babylon and Other Poems (1966),” “The Charmer’s Box and other Poems (1993),” “Beyond, Extensions (1994),” “Marginal Annotations and Other Poems,” “Bibliophile” and “The Return.”

The legacy she has left does not end with her beautifully-crafted works, though those are treasures in and of themselves. To quote the words of University of the Philippines professor emeritus Dr. Gemino Abad about Tiempo in the book “Beyond, Extensions”: “It can justly be claimed that over the years, through her literary and critical works, her writing classes and the Siliman Writer’s Workshop, [Tiempo] established a tradition in writing that to the present invigorates Philippine letters in English.”

Fondly called “Mom Edith,” this woman’s legacy lives and breathes in all the richness of a literary tradition in English that has nurtured many of the nation’s finest writers, whose works continue to reap honors for the nation.

Reposted from my April 23, 2009 post: 

Remembering Edith Tiempo

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.



Paulo Pangilinan said...

Hi Sir, Do you have the poem "Rowena, Playing in the sun" By Edith L. Tiempo, and "Love" by Fulton Sheen, been looking in the net all day long, but haven't found any link for those. Thank you. :)

Anonymous said...

Good day, Sir! I would like to ask if you have a copy of Maestra's "The Return"? Cannot found any in the net. Badly need it for our report in Philippine Lit. Thanks in advance, Sir. God bless!

Anonymous said...

Can you please help me understand Bibliophile by Edith Tiempo. I'm really having a hard time interpreting it. I really need this for my report in Philippine Literature. Thanks! God bless!