Because we open the lights and jingle
in the C. R., because we eat and run


and couldn’t care a damn, it’s really
more fun in the Philippines, more feelings,


more everything else but the kitchen sink.
Come, let’s join us, let’s gimmick somewhere


out there, maybe Boracay but if there’s no
budget, Puerto Galera will do. Promise?


In fairness, we’ve come a long way since
those days of Marcos, when Imelda loomed


over Manila like a giant butterfly.
These days, you’ll sell hotcakes if you’re young


and pretty enough to be a viral video.
Just don’t make a sex scandal, OK?


Joke only. Basically, you have to go
with the flow, try and try until you die.


If worse comes to worst, then at least
the worst is over and you can rest in peace,


language spilling like garbage, words and phrases
salvaged, the chatter of a hundred


million people cacophonous, each mouth
barking at the wrong dog, the wrong tree.



Inspired by Paolo Manalo's “Jolography”, the poem riffs on Philippine English, highlighting the code switching, literalism, humor, and multiple meanings that arise from a hybrid language. “Open the light” is a metaphrase, a word-by-word translation of its Tagalog equivalent for “turn on the light”. To jingle is to urinate, which one does in a C. R., short for Comfort Room. Filipinos who attend a social gathering just for the sake of food are said to “eat and run”, a pun on “hit and run”.


The poem is also an homage to Miss International 1979 Melanie Marquez, who became an actress (as most beauty queens do, in my pageant-obsessed country) and is (in)famous for botching the English language with her malaproprisms:


I coudn’t care a damn!


Don’t judge my brother; he is not a book.


I don’t eat meat. I’m not a carnival.


“More fun in the Philippines” is a slogan adopted by the Department of Tourism, which, I think, also encapsulates how English has been adopted and adapted in a country that has openly embraced a colonizer's language, where the meaning of salvage is not to save but to kill, vigilante-style. I invite readers to decode the rest of the lines, overheard in the spirit of fun and poetry.