into the whirls of Ambiguity.

block R07: Nerudas in the making.

December 10, 2004

Bound for Saudi

Jose Dalisay, Jr. (1954 - ) was born in Romblon. He graduated from UP in 1984 (AB English, cum laude), and then received a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Michigan (1988) and a PhD in English from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (1991) on a Fulbright-Hays grant. He teaches English and Creative Writing as a full professor at the University of the Philippines, where he also serves as an Associate of the UP Institute of Creative Writing. After serving as chairman of the English Department, he assumed the post of Vice President for Public Affairs on 1 May 2003. Aa a creative writer writing in both English and Filipino, he has won 16 Palanca Awards in five genres--entering the Palanca Hall of Fame in 2000--five Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) awards for playwriting, and Famas, Urian, Star and Catholic Film awards and citations for his screenplays.

This poem talks about a life of an OFW, particularly one who is "bound for Saudi". I picked this poem because a lot of Filipinos become OFWs for financial purposes, and though I cannot relate to the poem personally, I can see Filipinos in this poem, not just the ones who are working in Saudi, but also those who are in Singapore, U.S., and also in Iraq, where there have been many current issues regarding OFWs.

Bound for Saudi
by Jose Dalisay, Jr.

Airports are where
The families of the poor
Reconstitute themselves

Around the loss
--Albeit temporary--
Of one bound for money.

His passport gleams;
Again he checks the spelling
Of his unusual name.

His contract clads
His abdomen in iron;
No one will go unfed.

While businessmen
Rush past him, wifeless and cool,
To Tokyo, Rome, and LAX,

Deserts blanket
His cold brain. He dwells on their
Irrigable vastness.

Cousins bemoan
The porkless tracts of Jiddah.
(Go for the VCR!)

Uncles applaud
His inbred plumber's genius.
(Tax-free Johnnie Walkers!)

His father counts
The interest to pay on
Their mortgaged happiness.

His mother frames
His swarthy neck with special
Bishop-blessed crucifix.

His bride endures
The taunts, his gritty silence,
Their hard, abraded love.

He wonders if
It will still be morning when
They lick the scraps of his

Feast, propitiate their saints,
Then bolt the door, and sleep.



  • At December 12, 2004 at 7:49 PM, Blogger R07 said…

    The one icon which probably captures the definition of contemporary Philippines is the overseas worker. The persona in the poem represents the thousands of Filipinos who search for greener pastures in foreign countries. I like how, although he used simple words, Dalisay was able to encapsulate how a family hopes to escape poverty by means of the one man who will work abroad.

  • At December 15, 2004 at 10:48 AM, Blogger R07 said…

    I find a lot of sad ironies in this poem. As the persona leaves for Saudi he is filled with dread. He is afraid he will not see his loved ones for a long time, but these people he loves wish for him to leave so he can bring gifts when he returns. It is sad to know that our biggest export in the Philippines is human labor.
    -Tony Oposa

  • At December 18, 2004 at 10:45 PM, Blogger R07 said…

    A lot of OCWs sacrifice their lives here in the Philippines just so that they may be able to earn enough money. It is sad to see though, that some of the relatives of the OCW somehow look forward for the material possessions while overlooking the fact that their loved one sacrifices a lot just for them.
    -- nica javelosa


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