Although writer Pablo Tariman has been reporting on the arts, the Philippine classical music scene in particular, since the 1970s—he first watched pianist Cecile Licad, who would become his lifelong friend, when she was 14 and performing in Legazpi City—people have been delighted by a recent revelation. For the past year, and more intensively during the COVID-19 quarantine, Tariman has been posting his deeply expressive, melancholic poetry on Facebook—and bowling over friends and readers accustomed to his usually acid tongue.
The fact is, however, poetry is not a new medium for this Baras, Catanduanes native who, on the side, did the rounds of publications, interviewing showbiz personalities. “I was writing poetry in the Quezonian, the literary organ of Manuel L. Quezon University, where I was literary editor in 1970-1971;I was studying journalism,” Tariman recalls. “When the lockdown started and the major papers slowed down on contributors, I found myself reacting to what was going on in the form of poetry. I just continued what I interrupted in the early ‘70s. My morning habits turned to poetry when my bread-and-butter assignments from major dailies suddenly stopped.”
The wry Tariman admits he was just “testing the waters” by posting poems on Facebook. “Then the good reactions started coming in, and I couldn’t believe it. Miracle of miracles, some poems went viral.” Tariman’s piece on the poor mother with five kids who died while waiting for a ride home to Bicol during quarantine was shared and liked by more than 6,000 netizens. He wrote almost daily, he recounts, and on the seventh month of the lockdown, had written more than 200 poems on various subjects. “His poetry is capturing the nation’s heartbreak,” commented restaurateur and writer Waya Araos-Wijangco.
When we note the sentimental tone of his poems—he shares memories of his hometown, childhood scenes, maiden aunts, moments with grandchildren—Tariman candidly states, “I am on a big nostalgia trip, as I know I have very little time. I turn 72 on Dec. 30, so I keep posting poems to find out how my readers feel about them.”
The good news: Tariman’s works are set to appear in a couple of anthologies, and he is reediting a few others for a publishing company. “A second wind? Just a continuation of a previous passion,” he says. “It was timely because at my age, I am writing with fervor, not so much to impress, but to chronicle this stage of my last season. I couldn’t have written those poems when I was younger. I just realized my ‘soft’ book launch happened on Facebook.”
Here, some poems by a most unlikely bard of Philippine social media.
-Alya B. Honasan
“But what does it mean, the plague? It’s life, that’s all.”
― Albert Camus, The Plague
Two quarantine verses
By Pablo A. Tariman
I – BRAHMS ON THE RUN
Something in me died
When I said goodbye to this heritage house
In Iloilo in December last year.
For parting gift,
I offered Verdi and Puccini arias
And left an ecstatic crowd asking for more.
At year’s end
A new virus took center stage
As a taciturn volcano found her angry voice
Turning the once green environs
Into a sea of volcanic ashes.
It feels like Good Friday
On the street where I live.
Even the voices of rice cake vendors
Seemed restrained and muffled
By fear of the unknown.
There is a constant urge
To run my palm over my grandson’s forehead
Trying to catch signs of fever
Or see a shortness of breath.
Verdi and Bellini are on the run
From Milan to Berlin.
A much-loved figure dies of the virus
In La Scala and struck with grief,
A Filipino tenor finds his death surreal.
Gounod is threatened in Magdeburg.
While Wagner’s “Der Fliegende Holländer has left The Met.
Gershwin and company have fled Manila
With music director found coughing
And sought self-quarantine
In his native Tokyo.
Puccini’s Il Tabarro & Gianni Schicchi
Are gone in Maryland.
Leaving music lovers asking:
Will Brahms in April suffer the same fate?
You turn to FB.
And find relief in YoYo Ma playing Dvorak.
Again, Faure and Catalani are fleeing Europe
Leaving Evgeny Kissin & Renee Fleming
Contemplating empty concert halls.
I find words of comfort in this young violinist saying,
“This is where the power of music is more important than ever.”
While playing a Bach Partita.
Musicians in Boston wash hands
With opening chords from Beethoven’s Fifth
While a displaced tenor
Opens faucet and wash hands
Singing La donna e mobile.
There is an urge
To go back to the island
And find solace on a cliff by the sea
And go back to the haunting melody
Of Tarrega’s Recuerdos de la Alhambra.
II – ANSWERED PRAYERS ·
The day feels like
The roads are clear
On my way
to the nearest train station.
The coaches smell of disinfectants &
Miracle of miracle, fewer passengers.
No pushing, no yelling for more spaces.
No shrieking babies;
And PWDs on wheel chairs.
The supermarket lines
Christmas in March;
But miracle of miracle,
No long lines for commuters
In accustomed mall corner.
Am I glad Good Friday came
One month before
The good Lord was nailed
On the cross.
My latest output in Pilipino:
Sanay akong maglakad sa isla
Pakatapos ng malakas na unos
Na sumira sa mga daan.
Sanay akong maglakad
Galing sa isang mall
pag ang pila sa taxi at FX
mas mahaba pa sa pasensiya ko.
Walang unos at walang pila sa mga mall
Bakit naglalakad ang mga tao
Galing Sta. Rosa sa Laguna
Papuntang Sta. Maria sa Bulakan?
Bakit naglalakad ang taong may leukemia
Galing Antipolo puntang Pasig
Para kumuha lang ng gamot?
Bakit naglalakad mga vendors
Galing Valenzuela punta sa pamilihan ng
Balintawak para magdiskarte
Ng pananghalian at hapunan?
Bakit naghihintay ng limang oras
Bago makalusot mga karne at prutas
Sa iba-ibang tsekpoynts?
Bakit kailangan paiyakin
Ang isang lola na hindi makauwi
Sa Marikina at nanginginig sa pag-alala
Sa mga apong naghihintay ng makakain?
Bakit kailangan hulihin mga traysikel drayber
Naghahatid ng pasyente sa mga ospital ng Pasig?
Nabigla ako sa Teevee Patrol
Nang angilan ng drayber ang mga pulis:
“Wala na kaming makain pagmumultahin mo pa kami!”
Hindi ko maintindihan si Ginoong Noli de Castro
Bakit nagdudunungdunungan sa
Tunay na kalagayan ng mga taga Pasig.
Sa totoo lang, pinapatay ko ang radyo
Pag nagngangawa na siya
Tuwing ala-sais ng umaga.
Masarap maglakad pag matino
Ang pag-iisip ng mga namamalakad.
Nang makita ko ang mga naglalakad
Sa Laguna puntang Bulakan
Naalaala ko bigla si Ginang Teodora Alonso
(Nanay ni Jose Rizal)
Na pinaglakad ng mga prayle
Mula Binan hanggang Maynila
Para ipakita ang kanilang kapangyarihan.
Matagal nang nawala ang mga prayle.
Bakit kailangang maglakad
Sa kani-kanilang paroroonan
Mga taong nahaharap sa malaking tagsalat
Sa panahon ni Haring Veerus?
– Pablo A. Tariman
Ika 19 ng Marso 2020