Monday, January 12, 2009

POETRAIN (July 28, 2008)

When we became the lone Philippine representative to the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka's Kuala Lumpur World Poetry Reading 2004 we were able to heal certain sadness by reading works of Irish poet/dramatist William Butler Yeats, among others, inside their trains in Malaysia!

We may not have their ”longest driver-less type in the world” but we already had that poetry in train project from Monumento to Baclaran during the 90s!

Of course, Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) did it with the likes of Cirilo Bautista and other poets from De La Salle University whose students – together with people from all walks of life station after station – would crowd the nearest Vito Cruz Station day in and day out.

The thing there is not simply to teach old sardines new tricks while they’re in a hurry for the crispiest veggies from the Salad Bowl of the Philippines or for the earliest job interview in Makati or for the fastest way to go or get away from home to Tagaytay City for the weekends!

Perhaps the idea there is there – to give them an idea – as to how to view the world – differently that is, from the familiar hustle and bustle kind of existence through… (fanfare please!) the queen of arts… (fanfare again please!) poetry!
Well, well, well, what a way to change Juan’s outlook through the power and glamour of the what is considered to be -- a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary -- by Kahlil Gibran, the third bestselling poet in history after William Shakespeare and Lao Tse!
They’ve tried it in the London Underground transit system maybe after seeing the reflection of poet/painter William Blake’s fire in the rain, or rather in the train:

“To see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower,
hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour.”
They’ve tested it in the United States, too, long after its Transcendentalist Movement leader Ralph Waldo Emerson declared that every word was once a poem.
Via its Poetry in Motion® -- which was first developed by the Poetry Society of America (PSA) and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) New York City Transit in 1992 in 14 cities -- around 13 million daily commuters who get exposed to poetry heard in English and, at times, poetry seen in some Asian and European languages -- not only inside the train or subway but also the bus!
In our case, maybe we should knock on Claire de la Fuente’s door first for her and other bus owners to give poetry a try before she could sing out, after missing our point: SAYANG!
Last year, as if back with vengeance, LRTA partnered with Instituto Cervantes de Manila and the Committee for the Filipino-Spanish Friendship Day in a project called Berso sa Metro (Verse in the Metro) to encourage reading by putting up posters with poems of Jose Rizal, Jesús Balmori, Claro M. Recto, José Palma, Evangelina Guerrero, Pacifico Victoriano and Fernando Maria Guerrero; Spanish poets Calderón de la Barca, Lope de Vega, García Lorca, Antonio Machado, Luis Cernuda, Luis Rosales, Miguel Hernández and Gil de Biedma; and Latin American writers Pablo Neruda and César Vallejo -- all in Spanish but translated into Filipino.
Was it Robert Frost who said poetry is what gets lost in translation?
Now it's the turn of the National Book Development Board (NBDB), Optical Media Board (OMB), and Book Development Association of the Philippines (BDAP) to join forces with LRTA in entertaining and educating more than one million commuters daily.
But there's a sea of difference: (1) Tulaan sa Tren showcases excerpts of the best in Philippine poetry inside the trains and read by celebrities over the trains’ public announcement system; (2) Tulaan sa Tren highlights Harlene Bautista, Christine Bersola-Babao, Lyn Ching, Matt Evans, Nikki Gil, Chinchin Gutierrez, Edu Manzano, Miriam Quiambao, Rhea Santos, and Romnick Sarmienta; (3) Tulaan sa Tren puts special focus on the richness of Metro Manila as a hodgepodge of culture and experience, further enriched by the photos of Jay Alonzo, by the videos by Pablo Reyes, or by the music of JC Uy!
We were asked by Bookwatch editor Dianne Mendoza and her big brothers Glenn
Malimban and Bong Versoza, or rather tasked by NBDB’s Executive Director
Andrea Pasion-Flores, to coach these celebrity readers with Dr. Belen Calingacion how to recite
and how great they had proven themselves as bibliophiles who signed up
first and foremost for the Get Caught Reading campaign yet willing to share their love
for books and poetry, like Jose Corazon de Jesus’ Ang Tren:
“Tila ahas na nagmula
Sa himpilang kanyang lungga,
Ang galamay at palikpik, pawing bakal, tanso, tingga,
Ang kaliskis, lapitan mo’t mga bukas na bintana!”
Starting 9 August, at 1 in the afternoon, from the LRT Santolan Station, Pasig Depot, in Marcos Highway in Pasig City – Tulaan sa Tren will become part of the everyday train rider.
On that day, present to experience the train ride with poetry reading and inaugurate the Metro By Rail Exhibit and Shop at the Cubao Station will be LRTA Administrator Mel Robles, NBDB Chair Dennis Gonzalez, OMB Chair Manzano, and National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario who would always compare his long train ride in Moscow in the 70s to a crash course in Russian literature just by listening on the train to poets like Yevgeny Yevtushenko – as if foretelling the future of Tulaan sa Tren:
“Poetry is like a bird, it ignores all frontiers.”

Keep our communication lines open, feel free to email us at
A man was carrying three babies in a train.WOMAN : Are they your babies?MAN : Hell no! I work in a condom factory and these are customer complaints!


It is not how troubled the sea is that determines the course of your life.
It is who the pilot is.

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