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by Yehoshua ben Peleh Shimonai
As a Filipino poet, it is my responsibility be familiar with the Philippine culture. It is a prerogative to me to know the hidden treasures and precious heritages of my own country (especially the special features of its literature), to treasure them, to be proud of them, and to show the world their beauty and worth. And so as to accomplish this responsibility, let me introduce to you an example of Filipino literary heritage called tanaga.

Also called luwa in *Ilonggo, a tanaga is a **pre-colonial Filipino short poem that traditionally contains philosophical ideas and views about the world, events, people, etc. It consists of four ***heptasyllabic lines and traditionally follows an AAAA rhyme scheme (that is, the lines should end with same rhyme). It was probably used by pre-Filipino elderly people as proverbs that teach morals to their young ones along with stories and myths. It was about to become a dying form of literary feature but is undergoing through a revival by Cultural Center of the Philippines and National Commission of the Arts, by some Filipino literary movements/groups, such as, and by some individual poets such as Angelo Suarez (, Eladio Abquina (, and, of course, me (
  • AAAA Rhyme Scheme:
Pagbuhay Ng Tanaga (Tanaga Revival)
Written and translated by Eladio Abquina
Sarili nating sining
Na kilanli’y nalibing.
Kaya’t akin nang hiling
Ibig dito’y, magturing!
(I point this to our own art
Where repute was took apart
So now this wish, I impart,
May it be fond to your heart!)
  • AABB Rhyme Scheme:
Tanaga #13: Bagong Buhay (New Life)
Written and translated by Yehoshua ben Peleh Shimy'onay
Ang buhay na kay Cristo
Ay 'sang buhay na bago;
'Di na tulad ng dati
Ang inalay sa Hari.
(A life to Christ is given
Is a life that is diff'rent;
No more same as the old things
What is offered to the King.) 
  • ABAB Rhyme Scheme:
Luha sa Labi (Tears in Lips)
Written by Rogelio Mangahas; English translation by Shimy'onay
Bakit ako may luha
Sa aking mga labi?
May lihim ang makata
At musa yaong susi
(Why have these joyless tears been
On both of my lips so blue?
Poet has something hidden
And a muse must be the clue.)
  • AABA Rhyme Scheme:
Tanaga #3 & #4 - Tagumpay (Victory)
Written and translated by Shimy'onay
Hindi sa kalakasan
Ni sa kapangyarihan
Kundi sa Espiritu
Ng Dios ng kabanalan.
'Pagkat lama'y papanaw
At mundo'y magugunaw
Ngunit ang 'Spiritu Santo'y
Ating wagas na ilaw! 
(It's not by human flesh's might
Nor by its power to fight
But by the Holy Spirit
Of the Holy God of light.
For human flesh will falter
And universe will flicker
But the Spirit of Jesus'
Our Shekinah forever!)

Traditional tanagas were not given titles as they are to speak for themselves. However, modern tanaga writers may opt to give titles for them. Traditionally written in Tagalog, tanaga restorers promotes this poetry in foreign languages. A modern tanaga may also follow other rhyme scheme such as AABB, ABAB, ABBA,ABBB, ABAA, AABA, AAAB, ABCD, etc. (Wikipedia: Tanaga)
*A Philippine dialect spoken in Iloilo.
**That is, before the Spanish Colonial Period of the Philippines
***Meaning, seven syllables
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