Words and Pictures

I am small poem
on a page with room
for another

Share with me
this white field,
wide as an acre
of snow, clear
but for these tiny
markings like the
steps of birds.
Come. Now.

This is the trough
of the wave, the seconds
after lightning,
thin slice of silence
as music ends,
the freeze
before melting.
Lie down beside me.
Make angels.
Make devils.
Make who you are.

I got this exquisite poem from the film, Words and Pictures, directed by Fred Schepisi. It’s interesting how this film elaborates on how rich, complex, and Brobdingnagian art is. There is variety in its unity. It’s as though the grand-master of creation appears to us in many faces. Each of His form is perfect and unique. There is contrast yet complementary.

In response to the film, I would like to share some of my students’ artworks. This gallery is their interpretation of the memoir, Angela’s Ashes. These static images reveal ideas of poverty, hardship, and this desire in us to have better life.

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Paraiso

I’d like to feature a favorite song written and composed by a Filipino musician — Ryan Cayabyab. The song received an overwhelming response from my students when we used it in class for close reading. It sort of immersed the students to a kind of life they don’t normally see around them. They realized that they are lucky after all — they’ve got free education, free transportation to school, free notebooks, a decent house to live in, a simple yet ‘closely-knit’ community, free access to water, free hospitalization, and many others.

I remember having to be exposed to poverty in slum areas of the Philippines when I was in high school. The school had a Social Action Program that encouraged us to show compassion and think of some really good ways we could help the people around us. I tell you, those were truly humbling moments, and they taught me a lot of valuable lessons giving me a sense of purpose and meaning in life. I learned to value simplicity, justice and fairness, humility, cura personalis, preservation and care for nature, among others.

The song tries to describe what a child sees while he roams around a dump site in the Philippines called Payatas where poor families wrestle over mountains of garbage in the hope to find food and reusable things. Below, you will find some photos of children in Payatas which I’ve gathered from the net. The kids in these photos show you smiles of happiness and joy. They show you laughter despite poverty and hardship — an irony of life. However, you also get to see the weight of the world on their shoulders. They stare back with eyes not of innocence but of questions and dismay. Ironically, the song talks about paradise (paraiso) that is totally the opposite of what we all know paradise is. There is good play of language here, and perhaps you can talk about them as you respond to this post.

Here’s the song:

Paraiso
Written and Composed by: Ryan Cayabyab

Return to a land called Paraiso,
a place where a dying river ends.
No birds dare fly over Paraiso,
no space allows them to endure.
The smoke that screens the air,
the grass that’s never there.

PAYATAS CHILD WORKERS

And if I could see a single bird, what a joy.
I try to write some words
and create a simple song to be heard
by the rest of the world.

child-labor

I live in this land called Paraiso,
in a house made of cardboard floors and walls.
I learned to be free in Paraiso,
free to claim anything I see.
Matching rags for my clothes,
plastic bags for the cold.

And if empty cans were all I have, what a joy.
I never fight to take someone else’s coins
and live with fear like the rest of the boys.

Paraiso, help me make a stand.
Paraiso, take me by the hand
Paraiso, make the world understand
that if I could see a single bird, what a joy.
This tired and hungry land
could expect some truth and hope and respect
from the rest of the world.

payatasboy

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