IT’S POETRY on wheels.

In an unconventional mix of love for literature and the environment, Instituto Cervantes, together with Renato Redentor Constantino and the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC), launched the “Berso sa Metro: Jeepney Poetry Tour (La Poesia Viaja en Jeepney)” last April 17, a poetry-reading event which made pit stops at various bookstores in the metro via electric jeepneys, an innovation of the iconic Filipino transport vehicle ran by electricity and does not require gasoline to fuel its engine.

A Different Bookstore in Bonifacio High Street, Powerbooks at Greenbelt 3 in Makati and Mag:Net Café in Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City were the three stops of the route which served as venues for the readings.

With Thomasian poets Vim Nadera and Michael Coroza on board, the e-jeepneys sported verses of famous Spanish poets with its corresponding Filipino translations on the exteriors of the environment-friendly vehicle.

“We wanted to promote poetry and reading on something environment-friendly, hence the use of the e-jeepneys,” said Jose Rodriguez, director of Instituto Cervantes.

Rodriguez also explained that the primary goal of the institute was to bring back the culture of reading books and appreciating literature among Filipino people, especially to the young generation whose interest have significantly dwindled. Likewise, the campaign also aims to strengthen Spanish-Filipino ties.

Along with Nadera and Coroza, the tour also featured poets such as Ramon Sunico, Marra Lanot, Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta, Pete Lacaba, Joel Toledo and Jose Luis Gomez Tore, a famous Spanish poet who flew into the country to grace the event. Tore read his pieces in his native language which a Filipino poet later translated.

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At Serendra, poets recited their pieces concerning “city life”. Lacaba’s “Sa Kanto ng Langit at Laong-Laan” delved into the sinister elements of the streets as he described his journey along Laong-Laan while riding a jeepney. “EDSA” by Marra Lanot is a nostalgic take on the once peaceful avenue as the poem ends with “Nasaan ang bahaghari ng dating Highway 54?” Ture shared his plight as a foreigner in a strange land in his poem, “Extranjero en Delhi (Foreigner in Delhi)”.

At Powerbooks, the theme shifted to “Memories, Dreams and Nightmares”. In “Serenade on a Pitch-Black Night”, Sunico describes the confusion in darkness once a worker comes home at night to a black-out. Lacaba’s “Bangungot” narrates his eerie descent into his own nightmare and a brush with Death himself.

The last stop at the Mag:net Café, a known hub for lyricists and poetry reading, gave the poets freedom to choose and read their own selection of works. Lanot first recited “Riding the Full,” a poem about the effect of the full moon on women’s monthly cycles and then “Como Quisiera,” her poem in Spanish that was about an unreachable dream.

After each reading session on three stops of the e-jeepney route, Coroza and Nadera would perform a balagtasan, a Filipino poetic debate which the two poets spiced with much humor and wit. The two lyricists jousted about living in the province and in the city on the first stop in relation with the city-life theme. At the next stop, Coroza disputed the stance of ‘being awake’ over Nadera’s ‘asleep,’ with which he literally “dozed-off” as Coroza justified his stance with consciousness fully alive. And on the last stop, the two poets debated if writers were good lovers or not. The Coroza defended that poets were great romantic lovers with their mast ery in words to capture their beloved’s heart, while Nadera stood for the bitter, opposite end.

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“So far, Instituto Cervantes has been successful with their advocacy. They have been recognized for their efforts in their reading campaigns,” said Nadera. The institute received an award from the Public Relations Society of the Philippines (PRSP) for their first “Berso sa Metro” poetry and reading campaign which featured poems recited in the Light Rail Transits 1 and 2 and the Metro Rail Transit.

“As Filipinos, we should be the ones initiating campaigns like this instead of foreigners doing it for us,” added Nadera.

“Berso sa Metro” is a project in line with Instituto Cervantes’ “Dia del Libro” (International Book Day) which they had celebrated last April 24.


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