Kallautang–Herman G. Tabin


Nota Bene: Excerpted from the book, “Kallautang–Poetics of Diversity, Displacement, and Diaspora: Ilokanos in the Americas Writing” (TMI Global Press, 2009). Published through a grant from UH SEED, in collaboration with the Ilokano Language and Literature Program, University of Hawaii. Edited, translated, and with a critical introduction by Aurelio Solver Agcaoili.


Herman G. Tabin

(ginurigor nga arapaap

kidag a minulmolan

tarigagay a mangadak

iti paraiso-langit



lubong ni Puraw)

naglayag askawmo

panagtawataw a duron

ti sangasakmol sangakur-ay a nguy-a

a dinurogan

kinaantukab dagiti burangen

saongan a didiosen

nangkidkid namagtunglab

agnannana nga ili!

iti umuna nga adak

paraiso’t laud

nga inukopan

di agpakabatubat nga in-inep

nagpayyak dagiti askaw

iti disneyland, hollywood, sea world…

ngem di mapupuotan

a dumteng-pumanaw dagiti agsapa

a waknit kinatangkirang

dagiti agdadata a pagteng:

aglilinnumba dagiti anges

iti freeway

iti estasion ti bus, iti diken ti tren…

sabasabali a widawid

sabasabali a puli

di agaammo, awan biniangan

agmalem, agpatnag

a mangkarukay iti barukong

dagiti nguy-a…

napilitanka a makiinnagaw

a kumaramot

mangpaatiddog gutad-anges:

adda dita ti kina-busser—

parbangonem panagisagana

pammigat iti maysa a hotel

agidasar, agpunno’t maabbatan a kape, gatas, juice,

agkalanukon, agugas, ag-vacuum;

adda dita ti kinaserbidor iti restaurant—

agawat iti order, serbidor, agukkon plato,

agpunas iti lamisaan;

adda dita kina-receiving associate iti wal-mart—

graveyard shift a panagukkuag ginabsuon a karton

agipalunapin produkto iti shelves;

adda dita ti kina-cashier iti 7-eleven

walo nga oras a nakatakder

pagbinatlagan dagiti matay nga urat-gurong;

adda dita ti kina-caregiver—

panagaywan kabaw a lallakay, babbaket

karit kinapasensia

panangugas, panangpadigos;

adda dita ti kina-houskeeper iti hotel—

ag-vacuum, agsagad, agibasura,

agpunas iti sarming ridaw, tawa

ket dita

makitam anniniwan


sika? sika a dati a propesional,

dati nga agkuykuyyakoy iti imeng ti de-aircon

nga opisina ti dakkel a banko…

maysa a mannurat? de adal?


ngem naunegen ti nakaigarangugongam:

kagatem ti tadem

iti panaglemmelemmengmo:

dika makapagwidawid no awan papelmo

ket kidemam panagpaadipen ken Angkel Sam!

ngem nargaaay ti ekonomia…

nagikkat, nagserra dagiti kompania…

iti ibaw ti panawen—

agregreg dagiti bulong

agminar paragpag dagiti kayo

puraddaw nga aplag ti niebe

ti makakumsial a kagat lamiis

ti ilulutuad ti panagrusing…

yik-ikkisen ti kaunggam—

isublidakon diay ‘Pinas!

ngem kaanonto?


Herman G. Tabin

(feverish dream

motive suckled

by desire to set foot

in paradise-heaven

this tease


in this world of the White Man)

your steps sailed

this wandering that is pushed by

a mouthful of eking out a life

flattered by the greed of fools

small gods with the pangs

that gnawed and drowned

the country with the festering pus!

in the first step

to the paradise of the west

incubated by the uneasy


the steps took on wings

to the disneyland, hollywood, sea world…

but without noticing

the early mornings came and left

that brought out into the open

what the events are:

breathings racing against each other

in freeways

in bus stations

in the rails of trains

a variety of gaits

a variety of races

that do not know each other

not minding each other

the whole day, the whole night

that scratches the breast

of eking out a life

you are forced to compete

to scratch out a life

to lengthen the thrust of breathing:

there you work as a busser–

in the early morning hours you prepare

breakfast in one hotel

serve food, fill up dried up cups for coffee, milk, juice,

gather the dishes, wash, do the vacuuming;

there is your being a waiter in a restaurant–

take orders, serve, gather the plates,

wipe clean the dining tables;

there you work as a receiving associate at wal-mart–

a graveyard shift that requires you to rip open piles of boxes

stock up products on shelves;

there is that cashiering work at 7-eleven

eight hours of standing up

tensing the veins on the legs that die;

there is that caregiving work—

the care of senile men and women

a challenge to your patience

washing them up, bathing them;

there is that of being a housekeeper in a hotel—

you do the vacuuming, sweeping, trashing,

wiping clean the glass of doors, windows

and there

you see your shadow

mocking you—

you? you who were a professional,

you who were sitting back in the comfort

of an air-conditioned office

in a big bank…

a writer? with a college degree?

you feel like you want to wake up!

but you have been put in an abyss:

you bite the blade

in your hiding away from it all:

you cannot act freely

when you have no documents

and then you take it all

your becoming a slave of Uncle Sam!

but the economy went on a downturn…

companies retrenched, closed shop…

in the clutch of time—

leaves fall

the skeleton of trees appear

the white blanket of snow

the stiffening bite of the cold

the coming of spring…

your deepest recesses now cry out—

you have me returned to the Philippines!

but when?


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