The rise of the “modern makata” has brought Filipino poetry back with a vengeance.
No longer confined to the works of Balagtas and Rizal that we were required to study and revere in schoolrooms, modern poets such as Juan Miguel Severo and his peers from groups like Words Anonymous and Collaboratory PH have made the art accessible and relatable for a new generation of listeners – and future poets.
This Buwan ng Wikang Pambansa, be swept away by these 8 spoken word performances in Filipino!
A scion of a family of storytelling legends, Leandro Reyes is the great grandson of Severino “Lola Basyang” Reyes. Spoken word poetry often lends itself towards angst, but sometimes a bit of fun can cut through the fog. Leandro’s poems feature witty storytelling combined with comedic timing, resulting in pleasantly humorous performances.
Listen to his piece “Umpisa, Gitna, Dulo” which is basically Parokya ni Edgar’s “Halaga” peppered with modern references.
Hailing from Bataan, Maimai Cantillano rose to become one of the most prominent local female poets today after her performance of “Sa Pagitan Ka Natagpuan” garnered viral attention. Her pieces use simple language to tell frank and truthful stories that resonate with her audience.
Listen to “Sa Pagitan Ka Natagpuan”, a piece about finding remnants of a lost love in the in-betweens.
Carlo Hornilla got his start writing monologues for a theatre, and from there was encouraged to look into spoken word poetry. A native of Taysan, Batangas, he tells Wow Batangas that he grew up listening to his elders speak Classical Tagalog. As such, his pieces use deeper words than what we usually encounter in Modern Tagalog.
Listen to “Adik”, a piece about being hopelessly in love with someone to the point of obsessive addiction – but with a twist at the end.
Abby Orbeta is a member of Words Anonymous, and a pioneer of the Speak! Philippines, a non-profit community of spoken word poets in the country. For Abby, spoken word poetry is for everyone who wants to give the art a shot. She tells The Lasallian, “Hindi lang siya yung for a select few…everybody has a story to tell, and for me, spoken word is storytelling.”
Her piece “Hindi Namatay Si Rizal Para Lumandi Ka” juxtaposes a narrative of personal heartbreak with a sequence of political issues in the country, ultimately calling us to look beyond our small worlds and see a country that needs our attention outside.
Jonel Revistual is a communications graduate from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, who is now a spoken word poet affiliated with Words Anonymous.
Jonel’s work proves that poetry isn’t just about heartbreak and hugot; his work often tackles socio-political issues. Listen to his piece on state violence against farmers, “Isang Magsasaka, Dalawang Panginoon”, and “Biyaheng Malandi”, an impassioned poem about how sexual assault is no joking matter (featured here).
Zuela Herrera is part of Words Anonymous. Her voice has been described by a UST school paper as “dark [and] strong”, and certainly her work is not afraid to get deep and heavy as well. Her piece “Trajectory” is about losing a loved one to gun violence – a poem that pierces straight through the heart in today’s era of extrajudicial killings.
Ian Sudiacal is a member of Collaboratory PH. His poems are told in a truthful, kiss-and-tell style, described as “confessions wrapped in metaphors” (though he’ll always deny who his works are about when asked).
Listen to “Umibig Ka ng Dalawa”, a poem about how the next time you fall in love, you should give your heart to two people – your beloved, and yourself.
Filipino-Australian ecopoet Eunice Andrada is taking international stage by storm. Her award-winning poems addressing climate change and environmental issues have been translated into Tagalog and Hiligaynon, as well as other languages such as Spanish, Italian, French, Czech, and Japanese.
Listen to her timely piece on loving your mother tongue and bringing the language of your home wherever the road takes you.
Got any more recommendations? Share them with us below!