After years of being a student under UP Rural High School, the poem we have previously covered, “Kung Tuyo na ang Luha Mo, Aking Bayan” by Amado V. Hernandez, still lingers in my mind. I may not have the whole poem memorized, but that title never fails to give me a sense of familiarity, and the opening line: “Lumuha ka, aking Bayan” always booms into mind whenever I see the title or the poem is brought up. Upon receiving this journal prompt, images of tears and burning fire immediately popped up into my head. There was always something so special and powerful about the poem’s tone and message, and that’s what made it so unforgettable.
The poem’s message is only one of its good qualities. Our persona — a citizen of our country that has witnessed wrongdoings forced upon our lands, who no longer chooses to stay oppressed and is not blind to the injustices— addresses a personified version of our country in five stanzas (the personification is merely a way to have an addressee and helps in imagery, although the real “country” the poem speaks of may be its people as a whole).
The first stanza mentions an instance of our country being colonized, even noting the way our language has become a slave to other languages. The persona tells our country to weep — to let out its cries for the injustice that has been laid upon it. The stanza mentions a historical event as well, the Battle of Manila taking place on the 13th of August, 1898.
The second stanza furthers the encouragement of letting out its cries of oppression. Mentioning key characters in Jose Rizal’s works and setting up a comparison of characteristics, the stanza highlights the helplessness and forced submissiveness of the oppressed. A representation of the bias in the system, the lack of honor given to those that have fought against the wrongs faced by the country: “Sa libingan ng maliit, ang malaki’y may libingan”. The third stanza does something similar, mentioning the give and take situation of colonization.
The fourth stanza provides vivid imagery with emotional words that truly convey the feeling of loss of freedom to the readers. The poem finishes off with the fifth stanza in which, after an expression of sorrow and loss, the country is told that there will be a time when the tears will dry, a time for the need to move forward and do something beyond weep. A time in which the country will fight back with a burning desire for freedom, and will turn the tears shed into the will take back what was once lost.
As previously mentioned, this poem still has an impact on me to this day. I realize now that besides its message, there is something in the structure and flow of the poem that helps me feel the tone and strength it was trying to convey.
Something to take note of is how there is a constant buildup in the stanzas, provided by how the author chopped up the lines. Observe how the fourth stanza lists off things, one after the other, using repetition as a way to emphasize the given situation:
Lumuha ka kung sa puso ay nagmaliw na ang layon,
Kung ang araw sa langit mo ay lagi nang dapithapon,
Kung ang alon sa dagat mo ay ayaw nang magdaluyong,
Kung ang bulkan sa dibdib mo ay hindi man umuungol,
Kung wala nang maglalamay sa gabi ng pagbabangon,
Lumuha ka nang lumuha’t ang laya mo’y nakaburol.
It feels natural. The flow is smooth with the help of the commas. With how much stress and emphasis there is, the imagery comes out as vivid and clear. The constant buildup then transforms into a stanza in which we finally reach the climax:
May araw ding ang luha mo’y masasaid, matutuyo,
May araw ding di na luha sa mata mong namumugto
Ang dadaloy, kundi apoy, at apoy na kulay dugo,
Samantalang ang dugo mo ay aserong kumukulo;
Sisigaw kang buong giting sa liyab ng libong sulo
At ang lumang tanikala’y lalagutin mo ng punglo!
“Lumuha ka nang lumuha’t ang laya mo’y nakaburol” felt like a momentary pause in the buildup, but right after that line, we’re back to building up the momentum once more, with repetition (“May araw”) and the repeated use of images that flash in your head (dugo, apoy). This type of repetition, the symbols, the second round of building up, and even the exclamation points in the last line: they all help in getting the emotion across to the readers.
After the pause, you suddenly feel the burning need to stand up, once more. Decades of crying over the losses of our own, a feeling of helplessness: turning into images of red, and the feeling of needing to rise again with power from the fallen. Words are not enough to describe how the author perfectly uses the calm flow and turns it into a fast-paced wave of emotions — into burning motivation. This helps with further having the reader give their own value and meaning to the poem, as the pace can effectively deliver the emotions.
Another example of this pacing is found in the second stanza:
Lumuha ka, habang sila ay palalong nagdiriwang,
Sa libingan ng maliit, ang malaki’y may libingan;
Katulad mo ay si Huli, naaliping bayad-utang,
Katulad mo ay si Sisa, binaliw ng kahirapan;
Walang lakas na magtanggol, walang tapang na lumaban,
Tumataghoy, kung paslangin; tumatangis, kung nakawan!
Again, the persona lists numerous things. The contrast found in the line, “Lumuha ka, habang sila ay palalong nagdiriwang,” helps solidify the feeling of being helpless in the situation against those that are in power — how they are benefitting from the country’s suffering. The stanza continues listing off characteristics and situations that help you feel your inferiority, as seen in: “Walang lakas na magtanggol, walang tapang na lumaban,” and “Tumataghoy, kung paslangin; tumatangis, kung nakawan!” (emphasis with the exclamation point to get the message across — the feeling of being weak). It all helps with the aforementioned buildup, how these feelings of being lower can push you into wanting change, how you should want change.
Another good quality of the poem is the rhyme scheme. It is important to note that the poem uses a perfect rhyme scheme. This type of rhyming scheme being used on a poem of this nature helps build up the anticipation previously mentioned. It helps connect the lines with one another, helping in the tone of unity, which in turn helps build the suspense and emotions of the poem. This way, with the lines feeling connected, it doesn’t feel like there’s a cliffhanger at the end of each line. It freely flows instead.
Another objective one may deduce from the utilized rhyme scheme is the connection of ideas. Perhaps not noticeable at first glance, the tonal similarities of each line’s last words can actually help in forming the main thought of each stanza, as these words act as the conclusions — they’re the ones that give the most impact if read aloud. An example of this can be found in the last stanza: matutuyo, namumugto, dugo, kumukulo, (libong) sulo, punglo. It gives you a clear image. After the stage of calming down, comes the stage of a thousand voices unleashing their frustrations.
With all this in mind, Amado V. Hernandez’s poem is truly something timeless. With its message, it has the ability to remind us of what is really of importance when we think about our country. This poem, taking into consideration the numerous things occurring in our country at this time, is now more relevant than ever (although it always has been, really), and should be kept in mind during these modern trying times.