[SHC World Poetry Month] “Manggagawa” by Jose Corazon de Jesus

by John Andrew Evangelista

Jose Corazon de Jesus (1894–1932). Photo credits: The Philippine Star.

One of the premier poets of the Philippines, Jose Corazon de Jesus (1894–1932) wrote over 4,000 poems and was known as the King of the Balagtasan (versified debate). His style reflects the love for the country and social consciousness. His poem Manggagawa (Labourer) is a tribute to the working class. It honours their contribution to civilization and society. I chose to recite this piece because it represents a progressive tradition in Philippine literature that highlights the struggles of those who are marginalised.

“Manggagawa” by Jose Corazon de Jesus. Recited by John Andrew Evangelista.

“Manggagawa (The Labourer)”

by Jose Corazon de Jesus (The Philippines)

(English translation)

Every strike of the hammer to the iron you forge

sparks fly, fireflies in the darkness

the glistening of your sweat in the iron shines

a symbol of your handiwork in this entire Universe.

When you chiseled the stone, the cathedral was built

when you struck the copper the large bell bellowed,

when you have molten the silver money appeared,

you created Capital, but it now boasts itself.

If there was light that shone it was the light from your ribcage,

if there was an edifice that was raised, it meant you made its yoke

from your wrists moved the kid’s hammock

and even your hands have made the cross that bears the grave.

Thus you are worthy to be recognised and honoured

For you have made Civilization possible…

Dignity has been forged from every drop of your sweat

You brought the entire race to the pinnacle of its glory.

Long live and may you live forever, without end,

or this world will soon cease when you perish.

Recited by: John Andrew Evangelista (PhD 1, Faculty of Social Sciences)

Produced by: Editorial Team of the SHC Media Club, Nicolo Ludovice, Sean Suntoso, Aurell Sulaiman, Chong Sze Teng

A place dedicated to writers of Shun Hing College (HKU) — Hong Kong. https://www.shunhingcollege.hku.hk/