By: Abdun Lira

Metaphors abound in this courtship poem, spoken by the father of a suitor to the mother of the intended bride or, according to some, by the young man himself. Broaching the subject of betrothal to a revered member of the family he hopes soon to become related to, the father (or son) uses extremely polite, metaphorical language. The poem is recited or its rhythm played on a percussion instrument such as brass gong or tambubuk, a tubular bamboo instrument struck to create a muted, gong-like sound.


1 I will go to bathe

2 A the crest of Makasing Falls.*

3 I will run to rinse my mouth.*

4 At the home of the intended maiden,


5 So that I may know

6 The thoughts of one who wears a golden comb,*

7 To ascertain the mind of one

8 Who dwells at the river of flowers.*


9 I would like to join a family of standing,

10 A family of power.

11 So I must try to ascertain

12 Whether our heritage is accepted by them.



By: Kibi’ Promon

These familiar courting poems are rich in decorative features such as the use of archaic words, doublets, metaphor and names of colourful objects inserted for rhyme or meter. The poems are recited for entertainment at gatherings.


1 Datan,* come along,

2 Datan, come with me,

3 Come with me to Bobuan.*


4 When we reach there,

5 Let us make an agreement,

6 Let us make arrangements.


7 What we will make an agreement about

8 Is that the village is upset.

9 It is wholly in ruin,*

10 The fault of another.*


1 The sound of the gongs wafts away,

2 As far as the joining of the streams.

3 Because of its floating downstream,

4 My intention are unfulfilled.



1 Sweet potatoes I chew like betel,

2 I tell this wandering Jew.*

3 Sweet potatoes I do not like;

4 I roar it like the sea.



1 Excuse me, I beg your leave,

2 You who stare and stare at me.

3 Excuse me, I will leave you,

4 You who never stop to blink.


5 He follows her with his eyes,*

6 Stealing many a glance at her,

7 Raising his brows at her.



1 For me, a bamboo drum,

2 You have now begun your beat.*

3 I have climbed the Apitong tree.*

4 This woman, myself, you cannot take to wife.

5 You are too poor for me.



By: Tegim Guilingan


The theme of this familiar poem is a young man’s determination and chagrin as he tries to win the hand of a maiden betrothed by her parents to another man during her childhood. The rhythm of first stanza may be played on a kutapi’, a violin-like instrument, or a Jew’s harp, into which the words are spoken, understood and enjoyed by anyone within earshot. Used only recreationally today, the poem was formerly used during engagement negotiations.


1 as he perches on the beam that extends beyond the house,*

2 The beauty of the young bird inside kindles his heart.

3 He sits perched on a rafter beam,*

4 His confidence glowing like and ember.


5 His hopes are dark, very dark,

6 Like the inside of a wooden chest,*

7 As tragic as an animal carried on a pole.

8 The key to the chest is broken.


9 Look at my bravery (the suitor says).*

10 See me boldly strike a shaman’s bowl.

11 Even a fearsome banyan tree* I climb;

12 Watch me find a bridge into it.

13 Even if I die or am lost,

14 I will love you to the death.


15 The flowerpecker bird* flutters up the river,

16 Swimming against the current and the wind.

17 Vying for one long promised,

18 For one pledged* to another.




By: Agdino Guilingan



1 Moon, moon, come up,

2 Quickly reveal your glow.*

3 Before this moon wanes,

4 Our decision will be clear.*



1 Uman,* uman, awake,

2 Uman, please awake.

3 A ring* has come to you,

4 From a western* land.

5 One has brought an overture,

6 Running swift for your reply.



1 The sound disturbs my sleep:*

2 The squeaking of the floor.

3 My rest is never deep;

4 The floor is never still.



1 A cloud floats upstream and down,

2 A long trail stretches far.

3 The stairs are sure to break;

4 Again he comes to see the flower.



1 Gongs sound across the river,

2 Echoing sweetly from that shore.

3 The flower is yet sheathed;

4 Their love should be affirmed.



1 If I do not like* the suitor,

2 I will surely make it clear.

3 If I like him not at all,

4 I will roar it like the sea.*



This text is a shorter version of a traditional poem recorded by Agdino Guilingan. The poem mentions a larger number of place names; this one demonstrates more symmetry of meter and rhyme.


1 The Dumalinao River* became a lonely stream.

2 Palandok River* asked where all had gone.


3 Dumagom* was made humble by a frightful plaque.*

4 Lobatis* suffered unutterable shame.

5 A pity,* nothing left, not even betelnut.

6 Without hope, or leaves* to wrap the betel chew.*


7 Sibuguey River* splashed as it rose and fell.*

8 Whie on the mountaintop, Lakewood* shook and shook.*


9 The town of Salagmanok* was a nest filled with eggs,*

10 At Mt. Sirongan,* waters reached the crest.*


11 Mt. Dumangkilas fell upon its face,*

12 While Mt. Bingkulis fell upon its back.*


13 At the mouth of the Tubod,* banks collapsed and fell.*

14  At Dumagok,* a log jam did its worst.*


15 At Siayan River,* no grass or brush remained.*

16 Piao River* was covered with debris.



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