A Cause for Poetry

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Daraga is a town lulled in the obscure glory of its history, its legend, its church, its “typical-ness”, and the customary violence of the monsoons, the mild daze of the short summers. For years it has been unhappening and levitating above the reach of its roots and below the lure of its reaching. It has almost been reduced to the essential drabness of the typical and classic provincial town: undistinguished, enciphered in the perfection of its insignificance. But drabness has its own mystique. The ambivalence given the town’s aspect by the cultural contrasts its harbors lends it a subjective uniqueness, a carrying further of its own idiosyncrasies. Often, in the routinary idleness of the consistent loafer who watches the somnolent drift of the automobiles at noon, there surfaces the characteristics tension of a locality torn between its own persistent melancholic complacence and the past-pace encroachment of urbanity. Any one hot noon or on a soggy wet day, the main street, i.e., the national road, assumes a dismal magic as you look at it from any point. It strikes you like one of those expressionistic-realistic scenarios of a Passolini film: stark box-house facades fronting each other and everything in violent immobility. They look as if they have been its own chronic lethargy. Sometimes though, depending on how the weather affects you, the centro takes on a comic similarity to the main street of a larger-than usual county in a Hollywood western which, it should be thought, the town would rather not be compared with – not in such a manner anyway. (But Daraga has had its own share of the vogue staging of the Philippine versions of the western: there was this “small-town drama: of national proportions which brought it back to the map and the banners of the national dailies.)

Ngana, Septiembre na barang
Visperas pa sana
Dakul nang tao sa banua.
Maski din ka magbirik
Makadungug ka ning ogik. 
Pagbagting ning alas-dose
Sa mga balay-balay
Ayo pa namaypay
Sing mga nagaragi
Ta an pagkaun grabe
-TiangAngge, 68

Speaking of maps and national dailies, Daraga is otherwise unknown; it has only its profound anonymity, a valuable possession, to suffer a cliché, dear to the hearts of Daragueños – for they seem contented in the town’s somnambulant peace.

To the traveller, Daraga achieves the height of its insignificance by being the last tired town of an afternoon journey from up north or way down south: a town of an afternoon journey passenger’s dust-blown gaze before he reaches Legazpi. But to the barrio folk and to the small traders to whom Daraga is as significant as its market place, it is a crossroad; and to the town people of course, Daraga is a point of departure.

Mariano Kilates, NGA
DPI Bulletin
Legazpi City,Wednesday, September 9,1976

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