Johnny at Jun Belgica: Pananahan sa Rugaring

Penafrancia Raniela E. Barbaza


Juan Rafael Belgica Jr., nicknamed Jun, a poet from Albay, Bicol, entitled his most recent collection of poetry as Toob (2011). Toob is a Bicol word which, as Jun rightly notes, is boot spelled backwards. This orthographic coincidence, Belgica seems to imply, could not have been simply a coincidence. For to understand boot is to understand that the Bikolnon understands the human being as always already a kapwa. We find that one’s boot, as Fr. Tria explains, is measured by how one relates to one’s kapwa (Ako Asin, 37). If boot is the site of the kapwa, rugaring specifies that which is one’s own. One’s boot is still one’s rugaring. It is here that toob comes in.

What if, Belgica asks, one’s rugaring is no longer completely one’s own? “Pa’no kun ining burabod kan pagkatawo maraot, maghelang, magluya?” (“What if the core of one’s own breaks down, gets sick, weakens?”) (115). Toob, a ritual performed to drive away what is alien to one’s own, is then performed. Jun Belgica’s collection of poems is in a word, a pagtotoob.

Jun is the son of another Bikolnon poet, Juan Rafael Belgica Sr., nicknamed Johnny Belgica, who published rawit-dawits, poems in English and stories in English in the weekly An Parabareta in many of the newspaper’s issues in 1939. If Jun’s poetry draws its readers to dwell in what is one’s own as it is homed by one’s language, Johnny’s English poems and stories demonstrate the violence of being drawn away from one’s own through a foreign language. Johnny’s rawit-dawits clearly illustrate his command of his own language. He was, as Jun remembers, a pararawit-dawit of the people, coming up with a poem in an instant when needed.

This short article reads the work of Jun and Johnny as the struggle and triumph of dwelling in one’s own through language.

Keywords: Bicol literary history, Bicol literature, Bicol poetry, rawit-dawit

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ISSN: 2012-0788