Moonlight on Manila Bay
By Fernando M. Maramag (1893 – 1936)
A light, serene, ethereal glory rests
Its beams effulgent on each crestling wave;
The silver touches of the moonlight wave
The deep bare bosom that the breeze molests;
While lingering whispers deepen as the wavy crests
Roll with weird rhythm, now gay, now gently grave;
And floods of lambent light appear the sea to pave-
All cast a spell that heeds not time‘s behests.
Not always such the scene; the din of fight
Has swelled the murmur of the peaceful air;
Here East and West have oft displayed their might;
Dark battle clouds have dimmed this scene so fair;
Here bold Olympia, one historic night,
Presaging freedom, claimed a people‘s care.
Marmag’s sonnet is written as a sentimental homage to a simpler time before the Philippine’s became a pawn in the imperial conquests of Japan and the United States. Manila Bay is an important geographical military asset for the country which hoped to control the Pacific ocean.
I harkened at a recent MPR story about the return of a church bell which the United States Navy had taken as a spoil of war in which Maramag’s sonnet is set. The Balangiga town’s church bells were taken as war trophies during the 1899-1902 Philippine-American War and had languished in relative obscurity in an army warehouse. But the Philippine town and the country had not forgotten about them and through an act of contrition and forgiveness the bells were returned after 117 years so that they could be restored to the bell towers in which they belonged, to herald hope that someday we might find ways to negotiate in ways that don’t require domination and subjugation as the starting point but rather equanimity, with the mutual goal of creating the best outcomes for a complex world.
To the Man I Married
You are my earth and all the earth implies:
The gravity that ballasts me in space,
The air I breathe, the land that stills my cries
For food and shelter against devouring days.
You are the earth whose orbit marks my way
And sets my north and south, my east and west,
You are the final, elemented clay
The driven heart must turn to for its rest.
If in your arms that hold me now so near
I lift my keening thoughts to Helicon
As trees long rooted to the earth uprear
Their quickening leaves and flowers to the sun,
You who are earth, O never doubt that I
Need you no less because I need the sky!
I can not love you with a love
That outcompares the boundless sea,
For that were false, as no such love
And no such ocean can ever be.
But I can love you with a love
As finite as the wave that dies
And dying holds from crest to crest
The blue of everlasting skies.