Panginoon ng Lupa
Isang tunggalian ng salamangka
Itong pagbabalik sa lupang pinagmulan.
Napanganga ako sa hiwagang báti ng alaala:
Butil ng pawis na naging sinangag sa umaga;
Patak ng luhang naging panustos sa eskwela;
Bungkos ng damong naging gintong medalya.
Natuto na rin akong gumawa ng kababalaghan:
Isang butil ng pawis—
Dalawang boteng baság sa inuman;
Isang patak ng luha—
Tatlong putok sa parausan;
Isang bungkos ng damo—
Sandosenang rosas sa kasintahan.
Ipinagyabang ko ang mahikang natutuhan:
Panulat na naging tinig ng mamamayan;
Gapas na naging karit ng katapangan;
Aring nagsabog ng diamante sa katawan.
Nagbalik ako para angkinin
Ang malaon nang ipinamana sa akin.
At tulad ng lahat ng naging pag-aari,
Naglatag làmang ang palayan ng sarili.
Wala akong narinig na palakpak.
Sa pilapil, paspas ang pagaspas ng tagak.
Nagkubli ang nuno sa punso,
Naglungga ang daga at sumuong ang susô.
Akin ang buong mundong ito—
Ako ang panginoong mag-aararo
Nitong minanang siklo ng
Lord of the Land
A clash of spells,
This return to the homeland.
Charmed by memories, I recall:
Grain of sweat became a meal of rice;
Drop of tears sent me to school;
Bundle of grass turned into gold medallions.
I also became skilled in conjuring tricks:
A grain of sweat—
Two bottles broken in a drinking binge;
I, at a brothel, cumming thrice;
A bundle of grass—
For the lover, a dozen roses.
This magic I would brag about:
How the pen gave the people a mighty voice;
Sickle for harvest, scythe to the uprising;
My sex spurting diamonds upon the body.
I returned to claim
What had long been intended for me.
And like everything I owned,
the land would unravel just itself.
No applause was heard.
From the rice paddies, a swift flutter of heron wings.
The ancient one hid in the mound,
The rat scurried underground and the snail lumbered on.
This world is mine—
As master, I shall forge
Through the wheel I inherit:
The poem “Panginoon ng Lupa” (Lord of the Land) transplants medieval and Western elements of feudalism and magic into a tropical habitat. Translating the poem into English thus initiates another transplantation, a cross-cultural adaptation that reveals the dynamics of the dominant and the recessive, the retro-transposed and the hybrid.
The poem’s persona, a recurring voice in Alwynn C. Javier’s poetry collection Ang Pasipiko sa Aking Maleta (The Pacific in My Suitcase), is the balikbayan, the overseas worker, the returnee. In the poem, the balikbayan, accomplished in magic, confronts the inherited land upon his arrival. The pivotal tension between the person who had left and the same person who had just returned is unpacked in the first stanza: “Isang tunggalian ng salamangka/Itong pagbabalik sa lupang pinagmulan. (A clash of spells,/This return to the homeland.)”
Situated on every first line of each of the first four stanzas is a distinct expression of magic as salamangka, hiwaga, kababalaghan, and mahika. How these variations were employed predicates the transmutations of the persona’s states, estate, and State. For instance, the second stanza is premised by: “Napanganga ako sa hiwagang báti ng alaala.” The version of magic here is hiwaga. The adjective form “hiwagang” means enigmatic or enchanting. What was magical was “alaala,” which simply translates to “memory.” The line depicts a perplexing realization: what welcomed the returnee were memories. The act of returning enabled the looking back. To encapsulate this, the line was rendered as: “Charmed by memories, I recall:” In the next lines of the said stanza, the persona fondly recollects a privileged upbringing that depended on alchemical conversions—raw materials obtained from human labor (sweat, teardrops, and bundle of grass) and turned into objects and products which make sustenance, education, and wealth possible.
The third stanza draws the same raw materials from the previous stanza and establishes a new negotiation, this time into the consummation of erotic love. Again, the first line is key: “Natuto na rin akong gumawa ng kababalaghan.” The literal translation of “gumawa ng kababalaghan” is to “perform miracles,” as some magicians claim to enact. However, in colloquial Filipino, this phrase can mean to engage in inappropriate and deviant behavior. As such, I chose this translation: “I also became skilled in conjuring tricks,” to capture the stanza’s infusion of waywardness. Indeed, the third stanza deviates from the second in terms of form, structure, and equivalencies. For one, the lines are disjointed. In addition, consistent with the play on miracle and indecency, the formula for exchange computes a seemingly arbitrary multiplier (one grain of sweat for two broken bottles or three bundles of grass for a dozen roses). Nevertheless, these precarious transactions are integral to the persona’s identity. To preserve and enhance this aspect, the translation also took risks in the choice of words (transcoding “putok” as “cumming”), removed some of the parallelisms at the beginning of each pair of equivalences, and even increased the moments of pause (more numerous commas) to enforce further fragmentation in each line.
The cathartic declaration of ownership of both the self and the land culminates the return in the last stanza. The resolution is achieved not through entitlement or subjugation but by way of integration. The overarching image in this stanza is “siklo,” which straightforwardly signifies “cycle,” but is translated here as “wheel.” The return to the point of origin completes the circle. For the persona, the homecoming involves embracing the vast world of oneself and rounding up accumulated experiences, dreams, and emotions as indigenous and foreign, virtuous and profligate. The choice of “wheel” beckons the image of the cyclical and of course, a necessary tool in tilling the land; the word also summons “will,” emphasizing the hereditary bond to the homeland and the fortitude to sustain it.
Translation demands an engagement between languages and cultures. Hence, the translator, in one sense, is a balikbayan who must wrestle with the tensions and resolutions portrayed in the poem—the Filipino encountering the world, and the limitless convergences in-between.
Alwynn C. Javier. ‘Panginoon ng Lupa'. Queer Southeast Asia: a literary journal of transgressive art Vol. 1. no. 1, October 2016.
Paul Dominic B. Olinares, translator. ‘Lord of the Land.' By Alwynn C. Javier. Queer Southeast Asia: a literary journal of transgressive art Vol. 1. no. 1, October 2016.
[This is a poem from Pasipiko sa Loob ng Aking Maleta (Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2013)]