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I am starting a website to answer the call of the Committee on Literary Arts of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts of the Philippines, poet friends (Roh, Kiko, Mark, Kris, Jojo and the Pinoypoets!), and like-minded Filipinos who wish to resurrect a dying art from back into the limelight.

I am working to resurrect a dying ethnic art form. It is called the Tanaga.

The Tanaga is a type of short Filipino poem, consisting of four lines with seven syllables each with the same rhyme at the end of each line --- that is to say a 7-7-7-7 syllable form, with an AAAA rhyme pattern as in this example:

In the Old Tagalog original:

"Catitibay ca tolos
sacaling datnang agos!
aco’I momonting lomot
sa iyo,I popolopot."

In the Modern Tagalog syllabication:

Katitibay ka Tulos
Sakaling datnang agos!
Ako'y mumunting lumot
sa iyo'y pupulupot.

Translation (mine):

Oh be resilient you Stake
Should the waters be coming!
I shall cower as the moss
To you I shall be clinging.

The above Tanaga is attributed to Friars Juan de Noceda and Pedro de Sanlucar by Vim Nadera, and quoted them as saying “Poesia muy alta en tagalo, compuesta de siete silabas, y cuatro versos, llena de metafora.”

Originally a rhyme pattern of AAAA or AABB is used, but the modern tanaga is free to deviate from the rhyme, as in this tanaga by Alejandro Abadilla when he referred to his differences with another poet:

“Umawit si Villa*
At ako’y umawit,
Nguni magkakontra
Ang sa aming tinig.”

"Villa serenades
as I do sing,
But there is variance
in our voicings."

* referring to the Filipino poet Jose Garcia-Villa

A poetic form similar to the tanaga is the ambahan. The Ambahan's length though is indefinite, and follows the following form:

A rhythmic poetic expression with a meter of seven syllable lines and having rhythmic end-syllables.

It is most often presented as a chant without a determined musical pitch or accompaniment by musical instruments. Its purpose is to express in an allegorical way, liberally using poetic language, certain situations or certain characteristics referred to by the one reciting the poem. -

The tanaga however being more compact at seven-syllable quatrain makes it a more attractive and easy form to experiment with.

Poets test their skills at rhyme, meter and metaphor through the tanaga because not only is it rhymed and measured but also exacts skillful use of words to create a puzzle that demands some kind of an answer. - Wikipedia

Tanaga contains lessons or teachings and practical philosophies used by the elders to give reminders for the youth. It has a structure composed of four verses and seven syllables in one stanza. -


It was lyric poet Ildefonso Santos who was said to be the first to discover the virtue of tanaga as an epitome of the dictum “less is more” when he wrote the metamorphosis of rice in four lines:

Palay siyang matino,
Nang humangi’y yumuko,
Nguni’y muling tumayo:
Nagkabunga ng ginto!

In his Doktrinang Anakpawis (1979), poet/critic Virgilio Almario in a way tried the versatility of tanaga in his own brand of protest literature:

Isang pinggang sinangag,
Isang lantang tinapa,
Isang sarting salabat,
Isang buntunghininga.

- Vim Nadera

Since I write mostly in the English language, and quite sparingly in Filipino , I am advocating the use of the Tanaga in the English as well, and I am openning it to the world to use.

I encourage like-minded poets from all over the world, and not just Filipinos to use this form and spread it all over the world! Remember if it's 7-7-7-7, it's not haiku, it is Tanaga. ;-) If you use more than four lines at seven-syllables per line, it is called Ambahan.

If you are interested to submit a Tanaga in English or in the vernacular, do let me know so I can post it on the Tanaga blog with full rights reverting to the author.
Help ressurect a dying artform!


The following comments are for "Resurrecting a Dying Art Form"
by webguy

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