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Friday, June 03, 2016

Roman A. de la Cruz, Aklan's Literary Giant

Roman A. de la Cruz, Aklan's Literary Giant*

by Melchor F. Cichon
September 14, 2007

Every time, I go home to Aklan, I make it a point that I pass by the house of Mr. Roman Aguirre de la Cruz, or Tatay Omeng for some personal reasons.

But the last time I went to Aklan, I failed to pass by him because of my hectic schedule. I was then travelling with Prof. Virgilio Almario, a national artist who visited Aklan for a book he was writing on.

But I asked Sumra how Tatay Omeng was. And she said that he was OK.

I did not know that it was not so.

Tatay Omeng was not only a World War II veteran, but he was also a teacher, a sculptor, a politician, a novelist, a short story writer, a poet, and a dictionary maker. In fact his five-language dictionary is to me his most memorable legacy to Aklan and to the world. In this book, he was able to capture and publish thousands of Aklanon words that will be used by this generation and the generations to come.

I visited him not only because he would always gift me with his published works, but because he would discuss with me the present socio-political situations in Aklan and in the country. He would tell me his on-going projects like the one which he had at the Aklan Rehabilitation Center where he conducted a creative writing workshop among the inmates. I believed he made good in it because after several meetings with them, he was able to come up with a book of poems written by the prisoners. This to me is the first time in Aklan that a creative writing workshop was ever held inside a rehabilitation center.

And while he was inside the Center, he would persuade the inmates to go back to our Lord. And I think he was successful too in this because, he was able to put up a poster of our Lord Jesus Christ inside their cells. This is a part of his mission: to make this world a better place to live in.

On my part, Tatay Omeng helped me edit for free of charge two of my books of poems: Ham-at Madueom Ro Gabii? And the book, Haiku, Luwa and Other Poems by Aklanons.

Tatay Omeng was not only helpful to me but to all the members of the Aklan Literary Circles. He promised and fulfilled his promise to allow us younger writers to publish our works in the Aklan Reporter. On several occasions, our works were printed in the Aklan Reporter. He would also chip in to help finance the several creative writing workshops we held in Kalibo.

As mentioned earlier, Tatay Omeng was a poet.

We are aware of his famous 618-line epic poem on Ati-Ati, and his many poems in English.

But he did not write Aklanon poems until after we the younger writers encouraged him to write poems in Aklanon. That was when he was about 60 years old. As far as I know, he wrote ten Aklanon poems. These are all included in the book Song of the Ati-Ati and Other Poems, 1994.

Even at this age, and being already an accomplished writer, Tatay Omeng attended several workshops conducted by Dr. Leoncio P. Deriada, of the UP in the Visayas. He was a fellow in the Baguio and in Iloilo City creative writing workshops. While in Iloilo City, although he could afford to stay in hotels, he preferred to stay in a classroom together with younger poets so he could further discuss with them the different techniques in poetry writing being fed to them by Dr. Deriada.

Although he was there listening to the new theory of poetry writing, he was not always in consonance with Dr. Deriada’s teachings. He in fact put this in one of his poems: Ulihing Tubo.

Here is his poem.

Ulihng Tubo
Ni Roman de la Cruz

Ratong binohian mo nga pana, Toto,
Hay tumiurok sa dughan ku ginikanan nakon
Nga pirming nahawag sa hueag ku mga batan-on.
Apang ro ungon hay gulping naduea
Sa mabuot mo nga pagbawi.
Saeamat Toto.
Magahilubot kita. (1994)

In one of those workshops, in Baguio, Tatay Omeng wrote a poem which won a prize. The title of his poem is Ano Gid Man. It is a poem with religious underpinning.

Allow me to read that poem:

ANO GID MAN
By Roman de la Cruz

Itay, nagburoka si Nanay
Nga hubas eon ro atong taeagbasan.
Ring gin-uli sa pagpamanday
Basi buhinan mo pa para sa simbahan.
Kueang pa katon ro imong kinita.
Nahawag gid ako, Itay, basi hitaman ka.
Kanugon kon owa't kamatuoran
Ro imong ginatuohan.
Pabay-i eang, Toto.
Ro tubi nga nagailig paeawod
Mabalik man gihapon paagi sa uean.
Owa't pagwasi, owa't pag-uyang.
Kon buko't matuod rang ginatuohan,
Ano gid man,
Basta matuman ko ro hutik kang dughan

In another poem, Tatay Omeng focused on the rain that awakened him. Here his religious relief is apparent.

AGAHON
by Roman A. de la Cruz

Ro mga tudlo ku uean
Nga nagpatik sa sim
Hay redoblante nga nagpukaw
Sa akong hamuok nga katueogon.

Bangon eon sa kahayag nga magaabot
Ag humoeag ka.

As a parting line, let me read an excerpt of Tatay Omeng’s poems, Eulogy:

Indeed, greatness and humility are the same and one
And so when the last battle of life’s journey was won
And saw that the inevitable would soon come
When he could have been laid in the nation’s shrine among the high,
His votive wish was that when he die
He be borne back to the humble hometown that he loved
So that his folks here in the countryside
And in this one last wish of his
He proved his greatness still.

Tatay Omeng, you have not passed this way in vain.
Goodbye.

* This is the eulogy I delivered in honor of Tatay Omeng last September 14, 2007 at Kalibo Cathedral, Kalibo, Aklan.

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