One of Abi’s Poems


an old woman tells me
by the warmth of her humble
sloped home
that life is hard in Guina-ang
but her eyes and brow
they are merry as verses spill from her soul
weathered hands from toiling earth and rain
speaking, telling, what She can only say

down below beside the rice granaries of Tongfar
community members prepare
the sugarcane
and the young men and women
from the old woman’s house
will join tomorrow’s patpat
for the precious inti and basi

in Guina-ang
life is hard
the old woman tells me.
toil is the earth
and land is the life.
the peasant village-tribe
is familiar with the time of year and day
when to rest
when to wait
when to reap.

children befriend the cold and drizzle
like playmates in the day
barefoot in the clayed soil
cracked cheeks and frayed hair
never ending stories and songs

to greet the birth of another year
the church is packed with young and knowing souls
women are in their best beads
tapis, apoyong
the gongs sound deep into the mountains
towards ridges and open rice paddies
the day is long but the night
is longer.
tomorrow, the gongs will be cradled
into safekeeping
until the next consensus
until the next butchering.

as time in history
is doing to such indigenous communities
there is fear of the creeping
loss of tradition and culture
that binded the village at the turn of planting and harvests

yet in Guina-ang
where life is hard—
so the old woman says—
and her eyes do not lie,
people live, people toil.
knowing when the next reaping,
the next wait.


by Abigail Bengwayan


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