The Virtually Complete Luis G. Dato and The Philippine Magazine correspondence from the 1920s to the 1940s

by Stephen Cenon D. Talla

The Philippine Magazine, formerly known as the Philippine Education Magazine, was a publication intended for Filipino public teachers. When Abraham Van Heyningen Hartendorp (1893–1975), commonly known as A.V.H. Hartendorp, an American writer and Thomasite, bought the magazine in 1924, it became the outlet medium for aspiring writers. He became the editor of the magazine; and it became the literary and cultural hub of the time. A.V.H. Hartendorp was one of Luis G. Dato’s teachers at the University of the Philippines.

Luis would send works of poems and sonnets to A.V.H. Hartendorp to be considered inclusion in the magazine. In the interview in 1983,[efn_note]Volume 1 of Writers & Their Milieu: An Oral History of First Generation Writers in English, Doreen Fernandez[/efn_note] Luis mentioned that the editor paid him 10 pesos for each poem (Bienvenido Santos, a dear friend and his former dean at the University of Nueva Caceres, very modestly said, he was given 5 pesos for his). To put it in context, one copy of the magazine costs thirty centavos or three pesos for one year subscription. Anyway, A.V.H. Hartendorp and Luis exchanged letters during the duration of the magazine. Some of Luis’ letters ended up in the editorial section. One can say, this was how Luis gained national prominence.

Allow me to post snippets of their correspondence in the editorial section and the works that Luis contributed to the magazine over the years. The collection, by no means complete, will take us back when English literature in the Philippines was in its infancy.


The Philippine Magazine vol. 23 July, 1926 No. 2

SONNET

By Luis G. Dato

Our days in swift succession bid us on
To these unchartered, desolate domains,
Where over deserts strewn with the remains
Of unreturning caravans long gone,
We follow trails that, winding, go astray
Into the dull horizon. We know not
What ending’s there, what fortunes be our lot,
When tired and spent we reach our destined way.
We only know that with each onward move,
We leave behind us friends we cherished most,

Old friends, who, un-sustained, their path have lost,
Warm hearts that, hoping, beat for those they love.
We know that time relentless bids us on
To stranger lands, only to dead men known.

The Philippine Magazine vol. 23 August, 1926 No. 3

LOVE

By Luis G. Dato

In life there is no pleasure
To love and youth unknown
For love is life’s one treasure,
And love and life are one.

In youth there is one sorrow
To love and life well known,
For beauty fades tomorrow,
When youth from love has flown.

But love is like the shower,
That waters garden dry
And brings to earth a flower
That blooms but cannot die.

The Philippine Magazine vol. 26 June, 1929 No. 1

Morning

By Luis G. Dato

The morn beams my unseeing eyes caress,
And, sudden, like some olden sorcery,
Blind pupils open, filmy folds fall by,
And now I see what I could only guess,
The tumbled blossoms and a wilderness
And disarray arrest the wakened eye,
Here, here indeed must mortal beauty lie,
Earth’s loveliness, to heaven’s only less.

Asway on zephyrs, greening boughs careen,
A wet leaf falls, a fresh one blossoms forth,
Now shiver with unseen delight the green
Fresh copses of acacia, while the earth
Shines green and yellow-red, and in between,
Rose-pointed blossoms open to new birth.

The Philippine Magazine vol. 29 February, 1933 No. 9

Two Sonnets

By Luis Dato

Harvest

‘Mid stalks low-bending with sun-ripened grain,
You loomed upon my ravished, sinful eyes;
I listened lost in wondering surprise,
While in the evening rang your sweet refrain.
Weeping, I wished I were some hamlet swain,
And, like him, quietened into looks and sighs,
Your face to love till in me should arise
An olden whisper lifting life from pain.

Child-heart, for whom no cup of sorrow fills,
In innocence these valleys dwell among,
Here, by the murmur of the mountain-rills,
Live, where love’s word to utter seems but wrong;
Love were only sorrow to your heart of song,
And I would hear no singing in the hills.

Birth of Beauty

INTO the sorrow of my night you came,
A world of love inflowered in your face,
Aid limbs whose blue-veined loveliness were trace
Of charm more secret and too fair for name.
Down all the earth, the garden was the same
Of studied charm and soul-betraying grace,
Till you came forth from some far dwelling-place,
And, heaven-like, with humans kindred claim.

Of earth you seemed not, in your glance and look
Shone clear a light of glory then not here,
Perhaps some angel in a dream looked down
On mortals, and with pitying hope and fear,
The bough of heaven in the night forsook,
To bring to earth the heaven it had known

The Philippine Magazine vol. 30 June, 1933 No. 1

Editorial

The article, “What Would Happen in Case of an American-Japanese War?” by Manuel Olbes in the September issue, aroused quite a little comment…

Luis Dato wrote from Naga, Camarines, “We Filipinos will defend our country, not with submarines and airplanes and naval guns and infantry, but with the indomitable fiber of our moral natures. We are Catholics… What Mr. Olbes has forgotten in his lurid sketch is God….. We believe that the anger and hate necessary to support such a hectic war of invasion of the Philippines does not exist in the Japanese mind. Imagine only an army of 200,000 Japanese. Taking World War figures, that would mean around a half million Filipino dead. We see no reason why the Americans should love Philippine lives more than the Japanese, our fellow Asiatics and kinsmen. I do not think that we, who have succeeded in winning American sympathy and understanding, would so fail in establishing cordial relations with the Japanese people. We will help Japan destroy its war party and its jingo mind…. We will teach the Japanese about the Prince of Peace, whose gospel is the only true basis of world order and law…. But if in spite of all, it is necessary to fight, it would be a shame for the Filipinos to take the second-line trenches… and to tell the Marines to fight their battles. The Filipinos know their traditions of duty and honor and dignity and also know how and why to die…”

Mr. Dato, who is a poet, is on somewhat more accustomed ground when, in the same letter, he referred to Villa’s poetry: “I recognize Villa’s fine, instinctive sense of the lighter forms of the beautiful, and his life-like, though diminutive impressionism. Villa is flimsy, though tender, fragile, fantastic, false. Villa may develop his art, but probably not his mind. He is decadent in tendency…. He will never move to tears…”

As to Hernandez’s criticism of Balagtas and Rizal in recent issues of the Magazine, Dato wrote: “I believe Hernandez is a bit ignorant of the historical background. And he does not really understand the psychology of the woman who is in love. Women, and men, priests included, do not live by logic, are not logical in love and life, and are bundles of inconsistencies and contradictions. Ibarra was not a ‘mere native’. He was a well-bred, influential mestizo, his father a full-blooded Spaniard. I wish Mr. Hernandez would approach with more reverence the novel that, for all its defects, is our great novel, not only as an historical novel, but as a work of narrative and descriptive art. I do not deny visible traces of readings from Dumas and Hugo, and could cite, if I cared to, analogies with chapters from ‘The Man Who Laughs’, ‘Notre Dame’, ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’, and ‘Toilers of the Sea’. The Esmeralda plot is a possible inspiration for the Linares Ibarra-Salvi tangle. Philosopher Tasio, Padre Salvi, Simoun, have leases of life from Ursus and from Edmund Dantes and from the monk in ‘Notre Dame’. But I am boring you. Best regards!”

MARIA CLARA SONG

by Luis G. Dato

Sweet are the hours in one’s own native land,
Where all are friends who live beneath her skies,
Life bring the winds that roam upon her strand,
Death is a joy, and life a Paradise.

Warm kisses which a mother’s love oft places
On her child’s brow when glow the dawning skies,
Seek with soft hands and warm embraces,
And eyes that smile to greet the baby’s eyes.

Sweet are the hours in one’s own native home,
Where all are friends who live beneath her sun,
Death bring the winds that down her valleys roam,
When love and home and country we have none.

Luis Dato, who translated Maria Clara’s Song by Jose Rizal for this issue of the Magazine, was born in Baao, Camarines Sur. He is a law student in the University of the Philippines, editor of the Bicol Star, and a well-known poet.

The Philippine Magazine vol. 31 January, 1934 No. 1

MI ULTIMO PENSAMIENTO

By Luis G. Dato

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?

Note
: 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.

The Spouse

By Luis G. Dato

Rose in her hands and moist eyes young with weeping,
She stands upon the threshold of her house,
Fragrant with scent that wakens love from sleeping,
She looks far down to where her husband plows.

Her hair disheveled in the night of passion,
Her warm limbs humid with the sacred strife,
What may she know what man and woman fashion
Out of the clay of ire and sorrow. Life?

She holds no joys beyond the day’s tomorrow,
She finds no worlds beyond her love’s embrace,
She looks behind the form behind the furrow,
Who is her Mind, her Motion, Time and Space.

O somber mystery of eyes unspeaking,
O dark enigma of life’s love forlorn;
The Sphinx besides the river smiles with seeking
The sacred answer since the world was born.

The Philippine Magazine vol. 31 February, 1934 No. 2

Day on the Farm

by Luis G Dato

I’ve found you fruits of sweetest taste and found you
Bunches of duhat growing by the hill,
I’ve bound your arms and hair with vine and bound you
With rare wildflowers but you are crying still.

I’ve brought you all the forest ferns and brought you
Wrapped in green leaves cicadas singing sweet,
I’ve caught you in my arms an hour and taught you
Love’s secret where the mountain spirits meet.

Your smiles have died and there is no replying
To all endearment and my gifts are vain;
Come with me, love, you are too old for crying,
The church bells ring and I hear drops of rain.

The Philippine Magazine vol. 32 January, 1935 No. 1

Editorial

In contrast I received a letter from Luis Dato in which he states with reference to Professor Bugante’s article in the last issue of the Magazine, that it is needlessly alarming. “What the country needs is just the reverse of what he asks, and the leader who will save us today is He who saved Israel in its day: God, who is the light, the life, the way. Our nationalistic cultures have become towers of Babel which in our pride we have raised to displace God on His throne. We must learn that charity and labor are better than force, better than deception, better than all thought, for they contain the seeds of the only true wisdom: Love.”

The Philippine Magazine vol. 32 February, 1935 No. 2

Editorial

Cornelio Faigao some years ago took it upon himself to make an annual selection of the best Philippine poems each year, and in his third annual effort he listed Luis Dato’s “The Spouse” and Abelardo Subido’s “You Are Not Dead” among the five in his “role of honor”. Other Philippine Magazine poems were included in his list of twenty-nine poems given “honorable mention”, these being Luis Dato’s “Day on the Farm”, Trinidad L. Tarrosa’s “To Manhattan”, and Fidel Soriano Duque’s “Bagumbayan”.

A collection of Filipino poems in English, with their German translations by Pablo Laslo, also editor of the volume, was recently published by the Libreria Manila Filatelica. It is an interesting selection in which the Philippine Magazine poets fared better, and the translations are remarkably faithful and well done. It is to be regretted, however, that Mr. Laslo failed to give credit to the publications in which the poems he translated first appeared, not even in the preface. More than a fourth of the poems included are poems published in the Philippine Magazine and copyrighted. I could have the law on Mr. Laslo.

The Philippine Magazine vol. 34 January, 1937 No. 1

Editorial

Rodolfo Dato has recently published a second collection of verses of his brother Luis Dato. It is entitled, “My Book of Verses” and was printed by N. S. Sanchez, Naga, Camarines Sur. Seven of the forty-seven poems originally appeared in the Philippine Magazine, two sonnets as far back as 1926. One of the most beautiful poems in the book is “The Spouse”, published in the January, 1934 issue. The little book should be in the collection of every one interested in Filipino poetry in English.

Forgotten Songs

By Luis Dato

The songs I sang in childhood
When I from care was free,
Again I hear in moments
Entwined in memory.

And with the songs of childhood,
The past returns once more,
Again I am as yesterday,
A child by summer’s shore.

God grant that in my passing,
I end where I begun,
And hear the songs of childhood
Come with the set of sun.

Last Word

By Luis Dato

BELOVED, I regret
The world to leave,
Since you might not forget;
Still burns unquenched an ember.

You still remember
Was this my fate?
Still burns unquenched an ember
In you of hate.

Beloved, I must leave,
Is there regret?
If love were wrong, forgive,
If right, forget.

Luis Dato, poet of Camarines Sur, is preparing a third volume of poetry of which “Last Word” in, this issue, and his poem, “Forgotten Songs”, in the July issue, are to be included. — Sadly this did not materialize.

FORGETFULNESS

by Luis G. Dato

Will you forgive?
Bright drops of dew?
Around hurt petals balsam weave,
Will you?

Can I forget?
A nightwing flutters by
And whispers softly, “No, not yet!”
Will I?

The Philippine Magazine vol. 35 January, 1938 No. 1

COSMOS

By Luis G. Dato

With stars I tryst, and in the outmost Night,
Time thundering roams the skies,
I fear the alternation of the light,
Love, let me look in your eyes.

A funeral wind is moaning through the trees,
And Man so soon departing from his birth,
Saddens the soul and bids its fever cease,
With grief that lifts its question from the earth.

I confuse Time and Space, as one, and fear
Identity, O Woman, Friend, or Wife,
The boughs of trees seem human, gods disappear,
O, share me this terror of life!

POWER OF THE DREAM

By Luis G. Dato

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.

Editorial

The poem “Power of the Dream“, is the work of Luis Dato, well known Filipino poet residing at Baao, Camarines Sur, who wrote me flatteringly, after a somewhat longish period of silence: “With a feeling somewhat of shame, I now write to you, whom I used to regard as my spiritual adviser, but who, I fear, has outgrown me completely to become in reality the spiritual head of a large body of youthful Filipino intellectuals. [Here I had to stop reading to wipe my brow.] I severed my connection with the Bureau of Education last week because of concern for my health, and I now enjoy considerable personal freedom. The poem I am sending you is the first fruit of my furlough. I hope it will not be the last this year. The September issue of the Philippine Magazine was such a good one, that after finishing with my clipping of my copy for my private uses, there was barely the cover left. The Hearn article was especially interesting to me. With regards and X-mas greetings in advance, yours, etc.”

Luis Dato wrote me from Baao, Camarines Sur, in connection with this same exchange of letters that “modern culture does not belong to the West, and, as its basic elements are distinctly Oriental in origin, it should not surprise anyone that we understand it and recognize it as our own despite its modern Western garb and language… The English language of the Philippine Magazine does not shut off its pages to native perusal and understanding… Language and race are never pure, but mixed, and not only mixed but with an ultimate unity and identity of origin, and, also, of destiny. If the world now moves in separate marches, it is not our fault, but that of the perverted, misled intellects of the ruling sections in various supposedly enlightened countries. The West has parroted the East for generations, and because men’s memories are short, Westerners have taken it for granted that they are the original parrots. We in the Philippines have to thank the Philippine Magazine for its sponsorship of a resurgent Philippine culture before the eyes at least of the American public. The Magazine is a growth and product of the place, of the Philippine soil, as much as are the flowers and the valley-grass. I agree that the Magazine has not been appreciated enough and that there is a lack of power to appreciate it but only in degree. This Philippine Magazine should be on the desk of every Commonwealth official, from the humblest to the highest at Malacañan because it is as much a product of the country and the conditions of the time as is the government itself… The Magazine has carefully guarded against becoming entangled in politics-against the government, or, worse, in favor of it. The Magazine has been constructively critical of both the people and the government, uncovering their good points and glossing over somewhat the bad-largely leaving the latter as the rightful task of the more vociferous, supposedly more combative dailies to tackle, a responsibility which they, however, often do not meet… The ‘pseudo-culture’ of which your critic spoke, is not good
for any race and in fact explains the moral and intellectual perversion rampant in the West because it has led the people to mistake the shadow for the light… The only apparent claim of Western superiority is the machine, a superiority which is in itself of doubtful moral and spiritual value… because it destroys the balance between work and leisure, between flesh and spirit, between mass production and mass consumption, and serves as an instrument for the outright destruction of human life through war… It is an error to exaggerate the influence of either Spain or the United States in the Philippines. It is an error not to concede that it is the West and not we that carry the poison-cups for the
world. Machiavellianism must go-as between nations and races and no less as between individuals…”

The Philippine Magazine vol. 36 July, 1939 No. 7

THE STREETS AT NIGHT

by Luis G. Dato

The cruel muse with tumult fills the cities,
They rear with gasping breath,
And thunder beats upon their pavements,
Thunder that came from death.

The stranger’s heart at eventide is lonely,
And weary must be roam,
As down desert-lands of treason
Faith roams in quest of home.

Love is a weary stranger, sad-eyed, singing,
In the cruel ways of art,
A weariness in quest of its women,
A youth in quest of its heart.

The Philippine Magazine vol. 38 January, 1941 No. 1

Editorial

Another letter from still another poet, well known in the Philippines, read: “Please congratulate me for my overwhelming victory as Municipal Mayor of the Municipality of Baao, Camarines Sur, with a record-breaking and also heart-breaking majority of 301 votes over my nearest rival. Four contested the field, one anti, one rebel anti, one pro, and one Frente Popular. I am official anti. If you ask me how I did it, I will say it was Rizal, Mabini, Bonifacio, del Pilar, Luna, Quezon, Lincoln, and Philippine and world history that did the talking for me, for I quoted them and from them at length every time I made a speech. Though I lost in the Commonwealth Literary Contest, I found myself triumphing in another field! Thanking you for what little I know regarding political principles, I am, very sincerely yours Luis G. Dato.”


Postscript

At 35 years old, he was elected by the Baao townfolk as mayor from 1941 to 1945. And was appointed acting mayor after the war by President Roxas on June 14, 1946[efn_note]Messages of the President Book 5: Manuel Roxas (Volume 2)[/efn_note] effective from 1946 until the local elections in November 1947. The last entry (letter) on this essay, to A.V.H. Hartendorp was the last issue of the magazine (at least on the archive) as the Japanese plundered the Philippines later that year in 1941. A.V.H. Hartendorp was interned by the Japanese at Santo Tomas Internment Camp for 37 months during its occupation.[efn_note]The Japanese Occupation of the Philippines, A. V. H. Hartendorp[/efn_note]

When the Japanese arrived, Luis, with his family, fled the poblacion and refused to serve them. He did not want to submit to the Japanese authorities[efn_note]Rev. Demetrio Ramirez, Manuel Gaite, Kaiba Newsletter, 1996[/efn_note]. His wife, Cristeta B. Imperial (Lola Titay), would tell us story that whenever the Japanese officials would barge in their door in the middle of the night for information, Luis, suddenly, would deny knowing anything about anyone — so that the Japs would not know. In frustration, the Japanese would sometimes grab him by his collar (shirt) and push him to the floor. She would always cry whenever she told us and her children the story about how the Japanese hurt and beat him.

After the liberation, A.V.H. Hartendorp was unable to revive the Philippine Magazine. In 1947, he was invited to become the editor of the American Chamber of Commerce Journal for yet another 20 years. A.V.H. Hartendorp passed away in 1975. Luis would not know about this until the interview in 1983 for the book, The Writer and His Milieu.[efn_note]Volume 1 of Writers & Their Milieu: An Oral History of First Generation Writers in English, Doreen Fernandez[/efn_note] A.V.H. Hartendorp was a friend whom he regarded as his “spiritual adviser.”

Gallery

My mother, Greta D. Talla, told me lolo Luis has had a collection of clippings of his works published in magazines. Sadly, they were lost in the 60s during the typhoon Sening, along with his other works, including some of the pieces from the Sonnets to the Brown Goddess.

Thank you The University of Michigan Library Digital Collections for the digital archives that you have in your website.

No copyright infringement intended.

References

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  1. Good job, Stephen! So glad that one of the heirs of Baao’s pride, Luis G. Dato, initiated this great endeavor so that his works will be known by the young blood in the next generation. I hope that my fellow Baaoenos in Metro Manila will host small group poetry reading parties to enjoy his works. May the for.ce be with you, Stephen. Live long and prosper.

  2. Thank you Auntie Bella. Your support in disseminating information, of lolo’s work and his contribution to the Philippine literature, is very much appreciated. Sadly, as of the moment, the next generation of Baaeños is apathetic of his works. I am hoping that this endeavor will bend a dent in our townmates’ or even bikolano’s consciousness. Thank you. Please share this information.

error: Diri ngani kiton!!