Monday, August 11, 2008



O city, million-souled, thousand-streeted,

I  feel your breath upon me,

The sound of your many voices,

Tread of anonymous feet.

Goodbye, Manila, emporium of bills and kisses,

And ladies with the hurrying hips

And ever-freshly painted lips

Of a mouth where nectar drips,

Good-bye, we’ll see the Mrs.



And this will pass to nothingness:  These lights 

That change to day the avenue’s dark nights,

And beauty, too, because it will grow old

The extinct crater of the heart turned cold.

Tomorrow dies and quondam love is dead,

No catafalque, and soon lies buried,

The sultry city dries up, long a lake

Of hot desire but blessed for sweet love’s sake.

Where will youth fly, and where is passion flown?

With sorrow ‘tis not well to be alone,

And drop by bitter drop are shed the tears

Till they fall down the corridor of years.

Keen for the prey, why does my gorge so rise

At the world’s unbashed harlotries?

High-heeled, tight-fitted, they are spruced for slaughter,

Scented as sin, eve’s every breathing daughter.

In jeeps, in theaters, the swarming street,

In lightless hovels reached bys sinful feet,

They mill about, incessant cavalcade,

Fling their appointed second and then fade.

What thighs of alabaster and what breasts

Are these, volcanic and with tremulous crests?

What short-stepped gait, what cheongsammed, swaying hips,

What painted lids, what luster of the lips?

They are so many – Psyche, oh, must know –

Against which Cupid bends unerring bow;

 Mother of God, o mother of dear of sorrows.

How close the mark, how instant fly the arrows!

And they shall pass, day turn to sudden night,

Obliterate the boulevard of light.

The whirligig, the mad, mad masquerade

And the procession of the loveless dead.



Manila, city of noise,

All day the wheels have dinned in my ears

The cry for money, cause of all the noise,

All counters, offices, markets, bodegas, piers, movie-houses, hotels,

Repeat with variations the self-same theme,

As mosquitoes at night din in my ears the ancient cry for blood!

All the voices,

From painted lips, throats of newsboys, conductors,

Smile of salesgirls, press relations,

The Escolta Walking Corporation,

Even honeymooners intersperse money

With kisses between honey and moon!

Everything is on the auction block to the highest bidder!

Office, honor, sex, title,

Even the cat mews for Mike Cuaderno,

And for all we know too late the last time,

Our bills may not be worth the paper on which printed,

And all the vociferation which makes Manila

City nonpareil of noise,

Will give way to more.



Manila is a woman smiling through a mask of paint,

Breasts irradiant with cosmic challenges

And invitations to the rivers and the meadows of the explorable infinite,

An urgency at an intersection

With a clique of clubbing ruffians from behind.

Manila is a courtyard with quiet flowers

And unobstrusive walls,

A symphony in stone and wheels and sun

Blinking through roofs and grills,

Ending in an arc of blue sky.

A wilderness of streets dripping with blasphemy and imprecation of drivers,

A deceiver for faces appearances, distances, similarities,

A mendicant of habeas corpus and corpses,

A pandemonium, a morgue, a shrine,

A bus driver counting out his bills,

MalacaƱang, preposterously a symbol of national unity 

and the four anti-communist  Freedoms.

A city where God lives once.

For Manila is a sprig of orchids in a roof-garden above the smoke and noise.



Shouting in the sky-walled air.

The rig-driver’s voice is husky and his throat is hoarse with 

yelling and shouting in the sky walled-air.

He jerks the flesh-cutting reins and he dangles the sharp, 

blood-dripping lash.

The horse is hungry.

The legs are not sure of their footing as the animal heavily gasps for breath,

It’s blood kept warm by the cutting reins and whistling lash of the 

master with the harsh, angry voice,

It’s legs propelled by the smell of sweat and blood and distant 

bundles of grass,

By the ceaseless urge of the cracking wheels behind,

By the patter of hoofs on the pavement and the hollow, unmusical echoes.

The animal thinks of the sharp-toned man of the lash 

and the reins that cut as sharply,

Of the un breathing monsters of steel that brush past him without effort,

Of the frail-footed man whom his master slavishly obeys and the round, 

silver pieces that pass from hand to hand,

Of the bundled zacate that smells in the distance.

The rig-man’s musing are far from his laboring horse.

He thinks of his waiting wife and counts I his mind 

the fare he will empty on her lap.

He thinks of the swift-coursing car which riders prefer to his clumsy,

Creaking, two-wheeled rig.

He swings the lash to dispel thoughts of baffles, defeated toil,

And to quicken his slackening horse.

In the rig, a young man stares at the vacant space beside him which 

in former days was not so.

And again he sees twin stars luminous in the darkness,

Pretty red lips parted with the laughter and wine of kisses,

A warm, soft body pressed close against his own,

The perfume of her that sent the blood running in savage tumult 

through his veins.

Creaking the wheels,

Patter of hoofs on the pavement,


Whistling and hissing of the reins and the lash,

The young man’s dreams are brushed cruelly aside,

And he sends a sigh to the sky-walled air at the grim, heartless world of fact.



Here in the grass grows not longer

The eye to soothe, tired feet to cool –

For hills are blocks and masonry,

For lake exiguous swimming pool.

There are no haunts – around the corner

Death gasps in screeching brakes

Or uns on wheels – the giddy crowd

All momentary wakes.

On every curve cat-like one sees

Blend of the common and the strange

No dream, no dream, but streets and noise

And the mobility of change.

The city is a city, always new,

Fountain of endless, bubbling youth

Far to the night – at dawn a woman

Minus her paint, and old forsooth.



Out where the wild vines spread

Upon the winding walls,

I hear old madrigals

And music from the dead.

There the grasses hang

Their canopy of leaves,

Which oft at dawn receives

Matins the mayas sang.

Where peace holds sways

On mounted mossy squares,

Where panting thoroughfares

Are heard, but far away.

There will I sit and sing,

Far from the tramp pf feet

Upon the crowded street

And dream of crown and king.

Old walls now mouldering

In quiet, silent ease,

They knew not then of peace.

When glory was their king.

They tell of a long-lost reign

And love-forsaken beauty!

Of sentinels on duty

With musket and with wine!

Of war and wrathful fight,

Of mob and surging crowd,

Protesting clear and loud

Against the law of might.

Of pirate Limahongs,

Who raided towns and coasts,

While vengeful hordes and hosts

Were shouting war-time songs.

Of sailors bold and brave,

Of buccaneer Can Noort,

Morga, who sailed from port

The Spanish flag to save.

And of the years before,

When king was Soliman,

Whose rajah blood outran

To free his native shore.

Here once they held parade

Of saints and flaming torches,

Where now are crumbled churches

And convents all decayed!

Ah, walls that totter must,

Walls of pride and of power,

Living their day and hour,

Only to go to dust.

Walls, olden, ancient walls,

How many memories

And dismal harmonies

To mind your presence calls!

Thursday, January 24, 2008




From Asia’s teeming highlands, coasts, and bays,
They ploughed the outmost rim of ocean foam,
In pathless deeps envisioning their home,
Where suns perennial drop unsalted rays,
They ventured from the people-trodden ways,
And in their light, swift-winged barangays,
The seas below, aloft the flaming skies,
They found the ocean-haven of Malays.

They set their eyes on points unvisited,
On wave-lapped isles enchantedly remote,
The yawning reefs kept tally of the dead,
Transforming into graves the homes they sought;
From Asia’s naked shores, by fancy led,
They spread their sails, and drifted, monsoon-caught.


Upon these deeps in days remotely old,
A dauntless band of Malays flung their sails
Intrepidly. On tempests, storms and gales,
On ocean’s furies full their valor told,
Each gust a grave, each grave a tale unscrolled,
The unsung pathos of the toungeless wave
For utterance suspiring. O the brave,
Unnumbered dead who slumbered in their fold!

Some day, a bark of light will hereward glide,
By no one sent, whence no one living knows,
And, breaking centuries of deep repose,
Upgather from the sea an the dead who died
In quest of light. A gleam these deeps will tear,
And give new life to all who slumber there.



He left for Manila one day in April,
Said good-bye to the principal street in town,
To the tall, austere cathedral beside it.

At home the evening before,
His mother a seedling planted,
He stayed in the city seven years and came back in April.

He strolled in town as he often had
With friends in his youth years ago.

Calle Real was an alley at the brook commencing,
Ending, parted in three at the rice fields,
By the alley a chapel stood.

The seedling so tiny then when he left for Manila,
To a flowering tree had grown.
And the tree by the others called sampaga for seven years
He called love,
And his mother kissed him, calling him love.



From streets and the dirty places,
The frost of the forgetful faces
I have found me a refuge, the past;
From the heat and the dust, the bitter
Forgetfulness, it is far sweeter
To seek the soothing calm of the past.

Oh, the past is the books, in pages
That have come from the flight of the ages,
Like wings that have settled at last;
Oh, the whirl and the fret of the present,
Books are nights with a moon senescent,
Folded wings that are resting at last.

Books are empires, ‘twixt their covers,
The ruin or the memory hovers
From the wonder of states that have sped,
As I sleep, though soul-weary, I am able,
With an old book asprawl on my table,
To dream of empires that are dead.

Books are the dead, I must borrow
My lights from the print with some sorrow,
For I see in a book and old tomb;
The books, the dear books, are Death’s meeting,
Our times are short, the days are fleeting,
And a book is the dust - - and a tomb.



As from a sleep profound,
A long time in strange ground,
I woke to find my soul,
Young as when faint with thirst
Of love I knew it first.
Invincible and whole.

And this was all so strange,
This change - anulling change,
Which brought what passed before;
And strange it was to me,
In whom a memory
Still lived of what was o’er!

For as I live, I know
There was a long ago,
And recent yesterday,
A time of fleeting pleasure,
And sorrows without measure
That came, and passed away.

And surely as I stand
Above this wondrous stand,
I lived to love for years
In vain, and of the morrow
Lost hope in my deep sorrow,
And still recall the tears.

And surely I can say,
For yet and older day,
The soul progenitor
Of my own soul had lived
As I, and joyed or grieved,
Whiche’er the fate he bore.

A past existed surely,
However sweetly, purely,
The present lives in me;
And now so strange to seem,
Yet true with a dream,
The past is what may be!

A dream! a dream! and all
My pristine strength of soul
Returns as yesterday;
Unbound from chains of Time,
Triumphant as the slime
Of Man’s first animate to clay.
A dream! and nothing less,
A great, divine caress
Of grief and memory:
Across the fields of Time,
From death to life sublime,
It holds eternity.

From LGD's Instant Lyre manuscript which was given to me by the late Uncle Naldo.
I will be posting his poems (around 500 titles) from the manuscript from time to time...

Wednesday, December 05, 2007



Farewell, dear isles beloved of sea and sky,
Where once we envisioned the gleam of Paradise,
For your dear sake seems it divine to die,
And were life fresher, brighter still would I
Walk smiling onward to the sacrifice.

Down fields of battle in the undying faith,
Others face death without questioning why:
Place matters not: the laurel or the wreath,
The scaffold, torture, or the plains of death,
All are the answer to the country’s cry.

I die just when the sky purples in the dawn,
And day at last arises from the night,
And if your dawn a deeper hue would own,
My blood take also, may the color strown*
Shine as it mirrors the wakening light.

The dreams which fancy to my childhood gave,
My darling dreams when into youth I came,
Were to behold you, Pearl of the Orient wave,
One day with dark eyes clear, the brow held grave
Aloft, unfurrowed, free at last from shame.

Dream of my life, my burning, living desire,
Hearken my soul to you at parting cry.
Hail, my country! how lovely ‘tis to expire,
To die that you may live a life yet higher,
The dead to slumber underneath your sky.

If some day** by my tomb a flower blows
From eyes half-hidden in the tufted grass,
Please draw it to your lips and press it close,
And I shall feel deep down whence it uprose,
Your kiss and sigh as by my tomb you pass.

Let moons look on me in the brooding night,
Let morn its passing splendor o’er me bring,
The wind let whisper o’er me in its flight,
And if a bird upon my cross alight,
Its hymn of peace, above me, let it sing.

Let the hot sun up gather cloud and rain
And skyward turn them pure even as my plea,
Leave friendship o’er my early tomb complain,
And in the evening when some pray in pain,
Pray also, O my country, pray for me.

And pray for all who in ill-fortune taken
Died in the night in thankless martyrdom,
For widows, orphans, men who groan forsaken,
For our mothers with bitter sighing shaken,
And for yourself who sees redemption come.

And when the tombs in night are darkened round
And but the dead keep watch there all night through,
Seek not to break their slumber underground;
And should by chance you hear a windborne sound,
My soul it will be, singing unto you.

And when my grave by none remembered more,
Bears neither cross nor stone o’er my remains,
Let plow and plowman, treading, turn it o’er;
I will have turned to dust, and long before
I will have spread, wind-blown, upon your plains.

What matter then if you forget the slain,
When I will roam your sky, your space at death?
With tremulous note will I your hearing gain,
Turn beam and hue and scent and sigh that fain
Would echo still the burden of my faith.

O woe of me, my motherland, my own,
Philippines dear, hear you my last goodbye.
From those I loved and loved me I’ll be gone;
I’ll dwell where slave and tyrant are unknown,
Where faith brings life and god rules o’er on high.

Farewell, dear parents of my spirit part,
Dear comrades in the land loved best, farewell;
Give thanks that I from living will depart,
Goodbye, sweet stranger** friend and joy of heart;
Goodbye, my dear ones; death is rest. Farewell!

* strewn?
** someday
*** foreigner?

: Mr. Dato’s translation, which he entitled “Mi Ultimo Pensamiento,” has appeared in a number of publications in whole or in part, and is here published with new revisions by the translator. (A.V. Hartendorp, editor, Phil. Mag., ca. 30s)

Friday, September 08, 2006

LGD during 1st World Congress of Poets

Published in the Bikol Mail
1st World Congress of Poets
August 26- 30, 1969

Saturday, September 02, 2006

How I Learned to Write Poetry

I never took course in poetry writing, other than the prescribed courses in American and English Literature in high school and college. But I had written my early poems years before I took my college courses. By reading poems by Filipinos and by English, American and European poets, I learned to get the feel of poetry. I read poetry because I like it and also because in 1924 when brother, Rodolfo, was working on his “Filipino Poetry,” an anthology of Filipino poetry in English from 1911 to 1924, he had no time to over hundreds of poems in the file of the Old Filipiniana Division of the National Library in Intramuros, manila. As younger brother I could not disobey his assignment to go over all these poems, giving me discretion to select those to be considered for his anthology. By the time I had finished my stint, I had written one poem, “Among the Hills,” which my brother thought good enough to be included in his anthology.
Another reason why I learned to write poetry is inspirational. I fell in love more than half a dozen of times between 1920 and 1924, and more than a dozen times between 1924 and 1974. My loves gave me inspiration to compose – Rosario, my first love; Purita, my tragic Inday love, for whom I had a breakdown, who died of anemia pernicosa (leukemia I think medical science calls it today); Juliana, a rural maid; Felicidad, another unhappy love; Andrea, also a muse of Camarines Sur high school days; Virginia, a ManileƱa; Vicenta, my Spanish mestiza flame; Rosa, still another tragic love; Mely, my most recent and probably the last of my muses; not to mention more than a dozen puppy loves and minor liaisons, excluding others for whom I lusted with more than a momentary, dance-partner fascination, in an age when mini skirts and see-throughs were not needed for the pull of infatuation; and still others, married, unmarried or estranged from their husbands, about each of whom I could well write a full-length novel in reminiscence, had I have the time, the will, the creativity and the documentation.
And lastly, singled out of all, down the cavalcade of the years, and my climacteric in the 1930’s, Pacita, my national beauty, of remote Chinese descent I lost because I did not play my cards well, like the dolt that I was in my green, obsessive years, who caused me to defer my law course almost 20 years, my glory and despair of a lifetime.
In brief, to those who want to write poetry, who ask me how and why I wrote poetry as well as the question, “Is poet born or made?” my answer is:
Read poetry, the best in world literature, especially English, European, South American and Asian poetry. Imitate the way they think, the way they write.
Also, fall in love. Look around at our girls who, I think, are among the loveliest in the world. Break your heart with the pain, the anguish of unrequited love. Indulge in self-pity, if it cannot helped. But sublimate your frustrations. You are then in condition to write poetry, poetry from the depths of the soul.

What are the characteristics of my poetry?

1. Most of them are written in traditional or conventional poetry, that is, with meter or rhyme or both. I have written some free verse, being one of the first Filipino poets to write in this medium.
2. I have written what perhaps is the longest poem in English written by a Filipino, “The Life of Christ.”
3. I have written what is probably the longest sonnet sequence in the Philippines numbering nearly 200 sonnets. The longest sonnet sequence in English literature is of Shakespeare’s which is composed on 134 sonnets.
4. I was the first Filipino to translate Rizal’s “Mi Ultimo Adios.”
5. I believe that I have written more poems than any Filipino, dead or living, written in English, Spanish or the native languages. I have written no less than 500 poems.
6. I believe I hold the speed record for poetry writing in the Philippines, hence proposed to call, “The Instant Lyre.” It is not unusual for me to write a short poem in 15 minutes. On amidnight in 1964, I was able to write the rough draft of half a dozen sonnets within half an hour.

Evaluation of Dato’s Poetry

It is difficult for a poet to criticize and evaluate his own poetry. He is apt to be subjective and partial rather than objective and impartial. To any poet, his poems are masterpieces with not one word to be changed, not even one punctuation mark. However, I will try to be as objective and impartial as possible.
I am not a poet prodigy like Rizal, George Meredith, Thomas Hardy and others who began writing poetry as early as the age of three. I wrote my first poem in 1922 when I was 16. This is quite early, however, for a Filipino, considering that he is writing in English, a borrowed language. My first published poem appeared in the Naga Tribune in 1922, published in Naga, Camarines Sur (now Naga City). The editor was the late Juan Reyes, later to become Governor of Sorsogon, and older brother of Dr. Jose Reyes, former Dean of U.P. Cebu Junior College. My other early poems were published in Juan dela Cruz and Bicolandia, which newspapers stopped publication in 1930’s. Copies of these early published poems are now probably lost. But I remember through the mists of memory after a lapse of 50 years, one of these early published poems. It runs, as follows:

“Shades of night slowly falling,
All along my way,
I’m to life’s illusion calling,
Calling all the day.”
Lover’s voice I’m faintly hearing,
Not at last I hear,
And please God, I see her nearing,
She, my life, my dear!”

In 1929 at the age of 23, I wrote a complete Bikol version of the Bikol Pasion which I entitled “Life of Christ.” Book I was published in the Bicolandia during the Lent season of that year in weekly installments. The installments without duplicates were sent to the Bicolandia direct from our typewriter.
Book II could not be published after the end of the Lenten season and, therefore, remained among my papers and preserved for publication (in the Bicol Examiner in 1947 and the Bicol Star in 1952).
When World War II broke out, my file copies of the Bicolandia were lost, so also were the file copies of the newspapers in the possession of the Late Joaquin de San Agustin, Bicolandia editor who moved to manila where he became Secretary of the Senate. Other file copies of the Bicolandia owned by typesetters of the newspaper were also lost because according to one of them, Mr. Panoy, he used as cigarette wrapper during the Japanese occupation.
About 20 others of my poems have been lost in the course of the long passage of time, especially during the evacuations of the Japanese occupation and the melees of the liberation. Some 40 sonnets in “The Brown Goddess” were lost in typhoon Sening.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

An Autobiographical Sketch


Date of Birth : July 4, 1906
Place of Birth : Baao, Camarines Sur
Parents : Eugenio Dato y Esplana
Barbara Guevarra y Imperial
Paternal Grandparents : Damaso Dato
Nicolasa Esplana
Maternal Grandparents : Ludivico Guevara
Higina Imperial
Brothers and Sisters : Rodolfo Dato
Francisca D. Flores
Soledad H. Hidalgo
Pablo Dato (2nd Nuptials)

Schools Attended : Naga Central School, (1914 - 1917)
Tabuco Primary School, (1917 – 1918)
San Vicente de Paul Seminary (1918 – 1919)
Naga Elementary School, (1919 – 1920)
Camarines Sur High School, (1920 – 1923)
U.P. High School, (1923 – 1924)
U.P. College of Liberal Arts (1924 – 1928)
U.P. College of Law (1928 – 1933)
Southern Luzon College (1947 – 1949)
University of Nueva Caceres (1949 – 1951)
St. Anthony College (1971 – 1972)

Degrees : Associate in Arts, U.P., 1926
B.S.E., Southern Luzon College, 1949
Bachelor of Laws, University of Nueva Caceres, 1951
Master of Arts, (30 units) University of Nueva Caceres, St. Anthony College

Positions Held : Classroom Teacher, Iriga Elementary School, 1926
Baao Elementary School, 1937 – 1939
Municipal Mayor, Baao, Camarines Sur, 1941 – 1947
PRO, Provincial Governor’s Office, 1951 – 1959
Faculty Member, Naga College, 1953 – 1954
Faculty Member, University of Nueva Caceres, 1955 – 1967
Faculty Member, St. Anthony College, 1947 – 1951; 1967 -

Club Memberships : Sanghiran nin Bikol (1929 – 1931)
Akademiang Bikol (1956)
Knights of Rizal (1958 - )
Naga City Press and Radio Club (1965 - )
Los Viejos Alegres (1967 - )

Journalism : First Editor, Bicol Star (1933 – 1934)
Editor, Tingog nin Banwaan, 1939 – 1940)
Staff Member, Bicolandia, Juan dela Cruz, Bicol Examiner, Naga Times
Member, Board of Editors, Bicol Mail

Awards : First Prize, Bikol Meet Composition Contest (1922)
First Prize, U.P. High Oratorical Contest (1924)
First Prize, U.P. Liberal Arts Oratorical Contest (1926)
First Prize, U.P. Literary Contest, (1926)
Named “Outstanding Catholic Poet” by United Poets Laureate International (1965)

Books Published : Manila, A Collection of Verse (1926)
My Book of Verses (1926)
The Instant Lyre (Manuscript)
Vocabulario Bikol-Ingles-Kastila (1963)
Kantahon na Bikol (1969)
Morfologia kan Tataramon na Bikol (serialized in Naga Times)
Patotodon sa Bikol (Bikol Mail)
Sarabihon sa Bikol

Important Poems : Life of Christ
Handiong, Bicol Epic
Sonnets to the Brown Goddess
Translations of the major poems of Rizal
Translations of other Filipino poets in Spanish
Sonnets of the Liberation
Coronation and Proclamation poems
Love Lyrics
Alma Mater poems
Christmas poems
Translations of Spanish, French, Mexican and Nicaraguan poets
Other religious poems

Bikol Meet and Interscholastic poems : Home poems
Barrio poems