LIFE IN THE BARRIO

By Luis G. Dato

How blessed the barrio life of ease,
Where man with all the world has peace!
All is not perfect, it is true,
Here Poverty exacts its due,

It is not always harvest time,
Nor all year round a mellow clime,
Time brings its share of grim disease,
And rural joys have too brief lease,

In its appointed hour the breath
Of life is snuffed by heedless Death,
On nights some house is brightly lit
Unwonted, where Death’s wings has lit,

Some poor man’s morrow to destroy
And end for aye his homely joy;
But, like the field where furrows soon
Are levelled by the rains of June,

Or, like the stream where ripples show
And instant as they come, they go,
So in the current of our life,
With gladness and with grieving rife,

Death comes to claim its flow of tears
But soon is staunched in the swift years;
And grasses grow, and flowers bloom
To hide the edges of the tomb,

And tell that life’s but mortal breath,
And birth the prelude to our death,
Where’er we be, whate’er our state,
Who all inherit one same fate

Befalling Adam and his kin,
The imprint of Original Sin,
Mysterious start, mysterious end,
O’er which the dumb, glum heavens bend.

The long December nights, they can
Be cold and pitiless to man,
One shudders with the thought, how fare
Some wretches in this orb, somewhere,

Who, freezing, supper-less, have gone
To bed unfriended and alone?
The climate is by contrast mild,
Crops grow effusive, even wild,

And flood us still, in Malthus’ spite,
In war and peace, our poor man’s right.
Thus lovelier shines the full, warm moon,
Which bids us not to sleep too soon,

But stay awake, strum our guitars
And serenade beneath the stars,
While the dark tops of trees grow bright
Where swarms of fireflies pool their light.

Here in the barrio, man is man,
Not what he owns, but what he can,
Not by the suspect breadth of brow,
Which sees beyond the here and now;

Not bellies fat, absurd to them,
Tokens of ways they well condemn;
Not by the clothes upon his back,
But what he does, the length of track

Or trail that, slippery or dry,
By day or night he can go by,
By carabao or boat or foot,
A load of grain or goods to boot;

By the straight furrow he can keep,
In sun and rain, what he can reap
Or thresh or winnow, wind or none;
These are the tasks which done, undone,

Daily, not only now and then,
Mark men for what they are to men.
Meantime, what bliss on earth to be
Alive, inhibitless and free,

With earth and Nature to commune,
With stars and skies to be in tune!
A Heaven ’tis to pass the days
In peace and dear content always,

When daylight fades and night draws near
Rest from our labors without fear,
To wake next day refreshed with dreams
And find the vales bathed in soft beams,

Our conscience clear, the world in peace,
This is the barrio life of ease!

Luis Dato
Luis Dato

Luis G. Dato (July 4, 1906 - January 29, 1985) was a poet, writer and educator from Sta. Cruz, Baao, Camarines Sur. He published books in English including Manila A Collection of verse (1926), My Book of Verses (1936) and the Land of Mai in 1975. He also wrote several books and text in Bikol such as, Vocabulario Bikol-Ingles-Kastila (1963), Cantahon na Bikol (1969), Morfologia kan Tataramon na Bikol (serialized in Naga Times), Patotodon sa Bikol (Bikol Mail) and Sarabihon sa Bikol.

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