by Luis G. Dato
How blessed the barrio life of ease,
Where man is with the world at peace!
Those pristine days, those sunny hours
When field and tree are gemmed with flowers,
Khaki and blue or yellow-hued,
To deck each marsh and bank and wood;
The scent of mud and growing things,
The arch of sky, the whir of wings,
The gnarled dapdap with blossoms red,
The rank, tall grass, the reeds o’erhead
That ripple in the summer wind–
What scenes could one more placid find?
Hear Terry, sweetest barrio lass,
Dwells in a hut of thatched grass,
Its roof of nipa and its wall
Grazed by green boughs, fruit-laden all,
Where birds in merry roundelay
Full-throated sing the livelong day.
But sweeter far the maiden’s voice
To hear which makes the heart rejoice,
Beside her one again feels young,
And though to all the word unsung,
She’s dearer to the barrio swain,
Hiss peerless blossom of the plain.
Her lips clear-toned and honey-sweet,
Her eyes where light and darkness meet,
The long, black tresses of her hair
Which waft a perfume, rich and rare,
Strange loveliness to her impart
To make a slave of every heart,
For in the barrio Beauty still
Commands with undisputed will.
All is not perfect, it is true,
Here Poverty exacts its due,
It is not always harvest time,
For all year round a mellow chime.
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 headless death;
On nights some house is brightly lit
Unwonted, where Death’s wing has flit,
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,
I 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 fate
Some wretches in this orb, somewhere,
Who, freezing, supper-less, have gone
To bed, un-friended and alone?
Good God! In this our native hearth,
In this blessed portion of the earth,
Such things as hunger cannot be,
Howe’er our depth of misery;
The climate is by contrast mild,
Crops grow effusive, even wild,
And food is still, in Malthus’ spite,
In war and peace, the poor’s birth right.
Thus livelier shines the full, warm moon,
Which hide us not to sleep too soon,
But stray outdoors, 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,
Vestige of ways they well condemn;
Not by the clothes upon his back,
But what he does, 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 furrows 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 star 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 values bathed in soft beams,
Our conscience clear, the world in peace,
This is the barrio life of ease!
Here in the barrio.
Minalabac, Camarines Sur
January 12, 1964