SITSIT SA KULIGLIG (Whistling at Cicadas/Shusshing Cicadas). Published 1972. Author, Rolando S. Tinio. n.p.: Heart-Throb and Other Beats. 93 pp.
Sitsit sa Kuliglig is Tinio’s first book of poems in Filipino, after the publication of his English poems. As one of the writers from the modernist bagay school of poetry based at the Ateneo de Manila in the late 1960s, he veered away from the traditional rhyme and meter forms of Tagalog poetry, with its sentimental and moralistic character. As stated in the versified preface, the collection aimed not at being above its audience nor cater to its popular interests.
The book has a total of fifty-four (54) poems which are distributed into seven sections. In the first section’s poem, “Bagay,” an unnamed object demands to be understood by the reader and wants to be given a name. In “Takipsilim,” the twilight becomes the object of contemplation by a door that proceeds to describe a wall, and the neighbor’s roof at sunset. Nothing seems to happen in this given frame except the precise description of the changing intensity of light and the vivid naming of things in the immediate vicinity. It ends with a statement about the coming of night, “lansangang nilisan ng araw, dinaluhong ng anino” (street abandoned by the sun/overcome by shadows), a rather enigmatic expression of the “thing” subject.
In section two, the speaker in “Mirindal” narrates the events in the life of a neighborhood food vendor named Aling Pilang and her make-shift stall. It is told in meaningful detail and in a nostalgic manner by a long-time customer from the vantage of his room. She dearly misses the ginatan (coconut sauce dessert) and the old woman too whom she remembers so well and with deep understanding.
The poem “Ang Burges sa Kanyang Almusal,” from section four, satirizes wealthy Filipinos through the overly ornate use of language that signifies the sector’s outrageous affluence, affected manners, selfishness, and scandalous indifference to poor people. Some lines allude to the Philippine colonial experience and past exploiters of the poor, like the Spanish friars.
The book’s closing section, the seventh, contains the Taglish poems “Sa Poetry,” “Valediction sa Hilcrest,” and “Postscript.” Code-switching had been done before by the ladino poets in the 17th century in interspersed Tagalog and Spanish. Tinio’s poetic act certainly recalls these literary predecessors but in these modern works, the writer combines Tagalog with English. In “Postscript” he identifies closely with Filipino intellectuals who may or may not be acutely aware of their colonial world-view. He severely criticizes those who idolizes the West and as a consequence alienate themselves from the majority of fellow Filipinos.This social commentary is expressed not only through a fast-paced, irreverent language, but also through typographical means like capitalization, punctuations, indentions, and columnar cataloguing.
Sitsit sa Kuliglig‘s important contributions to Filipino poetry lie in its Modernist and creative presentation of themes and subjects, which was achieved through the aesthetics of bagay poetry. It broke away from the rigid and conventional writing style of traditional literature. It is one of the works that made writing poetry in Filipino modern, acute, and sophisticated.