by Stephen Cenon D. Talla
Manila A Collection of Verse was the first book published by Luis Dato in 1926. The collection bears the same title as that which won the Student Council award in the University of the Philippines. Some of the poems included are published by the author in the Juan de la Cruz, The Philippine Collegian, The Tribune, Philippine Education Magazine and the Filipino Poetry.
The book narrates the author’s experience in the city in the 1920’s considering his provincial upbringing. It is one of the first poetry books in the Philippines in English in just 20 years after the American occupation.
Luis G. Dato, wrote in the PREFACE:
Poetry and those who write poetry have been accorded treatments which, however diverse they may be, are always different from those customarily given other arts and artists. Poets are supposed to have, by an unaccountable, stroke of fate, an outlook on life too uncanny to be human, hence the inhumane attitude towards them.
Too full awareness of this fact has filled the mind of the author of this collection with many a scruple as to the prudence of publishing his attempts at poetry. A man of flesh and blood, he is naturally not willing to risk his good relations with his fellows in the event they learn that one among them belongs or aspires to belong, to that species of doubtful characters who live in dreams and dream in fact. However, the saving thought that, after all his aspiration will always remain an aspiration, and his friendships be closer thereby, has prevailed upon his hesitancy. The themes which the author has written about, as the title of the collection indicates, are naturally the sights and sounds of Manila life with which he comes in daily contact in the brief intervals between work and study in the classroom. At times, he shrinks no longer from the haste and hurry and
“….the fretful stir
Unprofitable, and the fever of the world”
but instead seems to hear in the very places where usually he has found dissonance and empty sound
“The still, sad music of humanity”
as distinctly as if he were musing in silence and solitude on a moonless night along the white, blanched pile of rocks beside Manila Bay. But this is not usually so. His heart has become steeled to the whirl and eddy of the hurrying crowds. He sees faces with hardly a semblance of feeling. He longs for a glimpse of a face he knew and loved so well. He wishes for wings that he might take flight and revisit the quiet, pastoral scenes of happier days. He craves for the far away in space and time till he fancies the great heart of the ocean is swelling and sobbing in unutterable accents of sympathy.
And it is because when the author is himself, he retreats from the multitudes and retires to solitude, disturbed only by his thoughts, that the verses he has penned are at once a protest and a prayer. The prayer may be the more feeble because of his very despondence, the protest less intelligible by its sheer defiance. They must be. For who has heard that in the Pearl of the Orient seas, there sprang of a clear summer morn the leaping lark flooding the earth with its soulful measures, or that on a long winter night the spell of silence was broken by the moody, tearful tones of the nightingale?Manila, A Collection of Verse, Luis G. Dato 1926