by Stephen Cenon D. Talla
I received a facebook messenger call from Ms. Marietta Buena Barrameda, a fellow Baaeño from Texas, U.S.A. She is on her mid 70s, as she is a contemporary of Nanay Greta. She introduced herself , also, as the friend of my late Auntie Myrna, and expressed my Auntie’s intent to collect Lolo Luis G. Dato’ works and publish it someday.
She told me a story on how she, in 1965, requested an elocution piece from Lolo Luis. Her older sister, Purificacion Buena Magistrado, who approached Lolo luis for an elocution piece, earlier, won the grand prize in a contest.
So, Marietta was in Lolo’s house, paper and pen on hand. Lolo was sitting on his butaka, rocking, a cigarette clipped between his fingers, eyes staring up the ceiling, dictating her piece like he was reading it. Fortunately, Marietta said, she was a fast longhand writer. (Lolo hated repeating himself during dictation, so Nanay said).
After a few paragraphs, Lolo asked her if it’s enough for a 15-minute speech. She said, “I think this will suffice.” But, then Lolo continued the dictation to the last stanza.
Marietta said the last stanza fits the piece, perfectly. It was the conclusion of it all. The resolution of the text. It was as if the whole elocution piece was in Lolo’s head since the start of the dictation. Then, there was the trademarked kudot from Lolo — in exchange for the piece.
Unfortunately, she was unable to preserve the piece, and she did not win the contest like her older sister.
And yet she recited, over the phone, a piece, dictated by Lolo Luis G. Dato to her older sister, Purificacion Buena Magistrado, in the late 1950s. Marietta said she recited this short poem at least three times, including the instance in an event with the Girl Scout of the Philippines in Bikol. She was picked to do what was instructed under her chair. She recited the poem with her introduction: “This poem was composed by the poet laureate of Baao, Camarines Sur, Luis G. Dato.”
After 50 years, she still knows it, by heart:
LOVE by Luis G. Dato Knock, knock, knock. I knock at the gate of your heart. Only the hollow rustling of dead leaves answered my call. What if a blight have passed To see the the beauty within? I shall be the dew to awaken the parched grass, I shall be the color to make life sweet gay, The sunlight to dispel the gloom. I am LOVE. Open the door for me.
She sent me the poem afterwards in this form. I asked if the text was written that way. She apologized and said, she is not well versed with her smartphone. But I loved the form and it goes well with the melody of the text. So I kept it. It reminds me of E. E. Cummings.
Thank you, Miss Marietta Buena Barrameda of Texas, U.S.A. for sharing your experience with Lolo Luis G. Dato, and this text. Very much appreciated.