Thursday, July 12, 2007

Tita Lacambra-Ayala's poetry

When I started out as a budding writer, I had to travel 4 hours by bus to Davao City on weekends to bring my short story manuscripts to Tita Lacambra-Ayala. She became my mentor and cheerleader. Their apartment behind a row of commercial establishments along Quirino Avenue, became my literary sanctuary. Joey and the rest of the brood went in and out of the house, planting a kiss on her cheek each time and surprising me with their calling her by her first name. Quite an unconventional set-up.

Her husband Joe would come home Saturday morning from the banana plantation where he worked and leave in the afternoon with bags of freshly laundered/ironed clothes and provisions. Often he would also bring home some of the paintings he had finished.

Some Davao artists and writers would also drop by to return/borrow books, for some chitchat, and to listen to what Tita had to say about the state of the arts in the city.

We would consume a prodigious amount of cigarettes, rum coke and pomelo or some fruits in season while she read and critiqued my stories. When we finish early, she would have me tag along to exhibits, poetry reading, book hunting.

Or she would ask me to reveal more of myself as a person. When I recounted to her how my father was shot dead by robbers, after I processed his SSS death benefits in Davao, she shed some tears. I should have joined her for a good cry, but I had to go back home that same day. I cried in the busride home. I was wearing a silver-coated crucifix on a string around my neck and a loose silk shirt embellished with blue peacocks that day.

The next time I saw her, she showed me a column she wrote about how she felt over my father's death. And soon after she wrote a poem for me and included it in one of the anthologies in her self-published Roadmap series (a book in the form of a roadmap featuring paintings and poems of local artists and writers).

This is the poem she wrote as published in Camels and Shapes of Darkness in a time of Olives, the poetry flipside of Friends - The Adventures of a Professional Amateur, her autobiography. This was published by UP Press as part of its Philippine Writer Series in 1998.

Counterpoint in Double Poem
(For Gilbert)

thong around your neck
crucified in gold
the blue peacocks
turn their eyes inwards
suspecting audiences
fanning summer's fall
smoke scrolls
the sunset air with
unlit fires
secret conflagrations
uncomposed poems
tumble into fits
of disaster
"some buses are longer
than the bridges
and cannot
make a turn --
the roads are bordered
with newtonian faults"
where farther to
the edge of things?
you are in their
continuous center
evolving platitudes
wise and angry
against this ravage
of violent


Mark Xander said...

Gilbs, thank you for the tip on downloading videos on YouTube. Ur the coolest! :)

rolly said...

Such a beautiful piece of work. How I wish I can write even just half as good as that one.

Angelica Viloria said...

Thanks for sharing this poem. That's what makes a great writer I guess. A keen sense of interest in people around them and the ability to connect. You are lucky to have such a mentor.

frank said...

tita is from baguio. how is she?

gilbert yap tan said...


she's fine and quite productive in other art forms like painting in Davao City.

Anonymous said...


They lived in Baguio during and right after the war. My grandfather was an enlisted military during that time. They have to live near the base. Am not sure until when they stayed there. My father didn't say much about it. Tita went to Davao when she got married to Joe.

They live in Quezon City now with Joey. Cynthia Alexander (Tita's daughter) on the other hand stays somewhere. They all make poetry and paintings as if they can easily let it flow from their souls.

She is a strong woman. I pray for her health.


Keith said...

I was looking for links on this woman when I saw announcement 9for Tala mundi: the collected poems of Tita Agcaoili Lacambra Ayala. This new release listed by one source at 35USD, and previous books of hers were found used from 50- 101 USD fort a used copy. I may end up buying the new book. She sounds like an exciting writer.

She writes mainly in English?

Keith said...

I would love response back, please at keith.stahr@yahoo.com. Thank you