Tagalog is a language spoken in the Philippines. One-third of people in the Philippines speak Tagalog as their first language, and the majority of others in the region speak the language as a second language. Also called Filipino, Tagalog is an Austronesian language. Although English and Spanish are becoming the primary language of many in the Philippines, many famous poets who are native to the Philippines write in the Tagalog or Filipino language, and there are many examples of beautiful Tagalog poetry that you can enjoy.
Tagalog is a beautiful language that lends itself to poetic writing. Any poem that makes use of the Tagalog language can be considered a Tagalog poem and there is no specific form or requirements in place:
One thing most poems do have in common is that Tagalog poetry is primarily written by Filipino authors. However, not all Filipino poets write or wrote in Tagalog. A great deal of poetry written by Filipino authors, both today and in the past, is instead, written in Spanish.
One example of a famous poet that embraced the Tagalog language was Francisco Baltazar. Baltazar, also known as Francisco Balagatas, was a prominent figure in Filipino literature. In fact, he was so prolific and his impact on Filipino literature was so great, that he is sometimes considered to be the Filipino equivalent of William Shakespeare.
One of the most famous poems written by Baltazar is an epic called Florante at Laura. Although Florante at Laura is actually an awit, or song, the work has many of the characteristics of a poem and is considered an example of Tagalog poetry.
Florante at Laura is divided into stanzas with four lines in each stanza and twelve syllables in each line. The epic also uses a classic Tagalog rhyme scheme of AAAA.
The following is an excerpt from Florante de Laura entitled Gubat Na Mapaglaw, or The Dark Wood. The full version is available at Project Gutenberg.org:
Sa isang madilim gubat na mapanglaw
(In this dark wood thick with gloom)
dawag na matinik ay walang pagitan,
(The thick weave of thorny vines…)
halos naghihirap ang kay Pebong silang
(Rays of Phoebus cannot pierce,)
dumalaw sa loob na lubhang masukal.
(Almost, the solid wilderness.)
Malalaking kahoy ang inihahandog
(Great trees loom, disclosing)
pawang dalamhati, kahapisa’t lungkot,
(Sadness only, grief, despair.)
huni pa ng ibon ay nakalulunos
(Mournful birds dispel)
sa labong matipi’t nagsasayang loob.
(The cheerful air, the stoic pose.)
Tanang mga baging, na namimilipit
(Convolutions of the vine)
sa sanga ng kahoy, ay balot ng tinik
(On branch and twig bristle with thorns.)
may bulo ang bunga’t nagbibigay-sakit
(Their fruit, as if downed with knives,)
sa kangino pa mang sumagi’t malapit.
(Wounds the passerby.)
Ang mga bulaklak ng nagtayong kahoy
(And flowers for the looming trees,)
pinakamaputing nag-ungos sa dahon,
(Specks of bright shooting through leaves,)
pawang kulay luksa at nakiki-ayon
(Wear the color of mourning,)
sa nakaliliyong masangsang na amoy.
(Sharpen the dizzying stench.)
Karamiha’y sipres at higerang kutad
(Clumps of cypress and young fig)
na ang lihim niyon ay nakasisindak,
(Cast a terrifying shade)
ito’y walang bunga’t daho’y malalapad
(Fruitless, they spread great leaves.)
na nakadidilim sa loob ng gubat.
(Darkness deepens on the weed.)
Ang mga hayop pang dito’y gumagala,
(And beasts that roam)
karamiha’y s’yerpe’t basilisko’y madla
(Are shapes of serpent, basilisk,)
hyena’t tigreng ganid na nagsisisila
(Hyena, tiger — beasts that prey)
ng buhay na tao’t daigdig kapuwa.
(On man and beast.)
To get started in your search for Tagalog poems, it is helpful to know that the Tagalog word for poem is Tula.
Many examples of Tagalog poems exist on the Internet:
As you read the examples of Tagalog poems, you can appreciate the beauty of the writing and the skill of the authors whether or not you are familiar with the Tagalog language.