into the whirls of Ambiguity.

block R07: Nerudas in the making.

November 09, 2004


Angela Manalang is one of the few Filipino poets who boldly attempted at writing poetry in English in the early 1920's. In 1925, barely a college freshman at age 18, she published her first poem “Angelita”. At that time, the general public was still grappling with a new language, that’s why her work then has not been given the attention it deserves and was, in fact, heavily criticized by her fierce rivals.

Today, modern day poets laud Gloria’s work for its daring stance at locating poetry in English within the contexts of other Philippine literatures, embodying a continuation of poetic traditions. Her poetry shows a good understanding of English poetics, with traces of the fixed poetic form of the Shakespearean sonnet. Her poems are also reminiscent of the syllabic nature of native forms and the romance introduced by Spain via Mexico in the seventeenth century.

This poem was considered “immoral” in 1940. Censors had forced Gloria to change the last word of the poem from “whore’s” to “bore’s” if she wished it to be included in Philippine textbooks. It speaks of a longing to “be alone at last”, “to be free” from the bondage of an uneven relationship. This can be interpreted in its political context where America as the male partner remains “a stark omnipotence”, and also in its social dimension that abhors the double standard of morality that favors male chauvinism.

For me, the poem echoes the realization of the Filipinos during the post-war era that America is not, after all, the kind benefactor it promised to be. To this very day, we still have to see that time when we are totally free from foreign domination in its truest sense. It also has a personal significance to me as a woman because it reflects the longing for society to liberate itself from the dominant male ideology.

Vina Carla V.Gonzaga

Angela Manalang Gloria

O to be free at last, to sleep at last
As infants sleep within the womb of rest!

To stir and stirring find no blackness vast
With passion weighted down upon the breast,

To turn the face this way and that and feel
No kisses festering on it like sores,

To be alone at last, broken the seal
That marks the flesh no better than a whore’s!



  • At December 9, 2004 at 8:39 PM, Blogger R07 said…

    this is a very bold poem for anyone to write. quite strange because it seems to view devirginization as both a gift and a curse.

  • At December 15, 2004 at 11:01 AM, Blogger R07 said…

    the comment above is mine
    -tony oposa

  • At January 3, 2005 at 3:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The poem is indeed, considering the time when it was written, a bold statement. It is very lyrical in tone and the images of a woman heavy with child and a harlot's enticing flesh are utilized to emphasize a woman's choices, or indeed, differing roles.
    If this were to be a veiled allusion to our homeland, then this is idealistic. Masked with the ideology of democracy, Filipinos live "freely" all the while choosing from things already chosen for them. We live in a postcolonial world, and to think that America is super-consciously controlling us would be nothing less than fancy. Instead, we are controlled by our own creation, by hegemony, or in our own language - sa pamamagitan ng gahum - control by consent.
    In the same way, women cannot fully expect themselves to be free from patriarchy. Our Filipino tradition instills it (is someone ready and can break the hundred years' worth of tradition?), Catholic religion warrants it and even our own aesthetics demands it (why do women, and men for that matter, go through lengths to be beautiful? Evolution?). Equality is an ideal, an element of utopia, therefore may exist only in small scenarios.
    In conclusion, before any torches are lit on this post, the goal is to be critical on our concepts about having a country (do we really have one or do we just have a collective?) and ourselves, the responsibilities we have; not to de-sex yourself but to function as an individual who is a woman or a man.

    Louise Andrea Bacoy is a sophomore creative writing student at AdMU. She thinks she is Ms Gonzaga's friend.


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