Valediction sa Hillcrest

The poem “Valediction sa Hillcrest” talks about the persona’s reminisce of the current place he is staying in before he moves back to his original home. The tone was bitter-sweet, rather than cheesy with all those ‘memories’ attached to it. Before anything else, let me just share a few things I could recall about my own home: I have been living in the same house ever since I was born. Everyday, I am awakened by the sunlight, directly flashing its rays across my room like a spotlight on a stadium. The smell of steamed rice and dish would greet me as I go downstairs for the first meal of my day. Our house consists of three floors, and four rooms. We only used one room when I was a child since there were only three of us (my mother, grandmother, and I). The rest are occupied by useless junk, and other things we don’t use but simply cannot throw away yet. The top floor of our house is made of wood so whenever strong winds pass or a thunder strikes, the whole place shakes along (Thank God it never really collapsed). At night, the voices from the streets rise up and you could simply eavesdrop on every passerby’s conversation.

Going back to the poem, the persona is actually the author himself, Rolando Tinio, who is a prolific poet and writer having the title of National Artist of the Philippines for Theater and Literature in 1997 (year of his death). He happened to have studied abroad, earning a degree in M.F.A. degree in Creative Writing from the State University of Iowa. In his poem, he describes the place he was living in with various changing backgrounds. A little research (and with the help of our professor’s discussion) tells us that Hillcrest (or the Hillcrest Hall to be more precise) is an actual place in the University of Iowa. N-311 should be the room where the author stayed in, and he starts by giving a visual tour of the hallway of their dorm. Its as if they were in catacomb of some sort, and the area encloses him into a smaller and smaller space.

Hillcrest Hall, a campus residence in University of Iowa

The nameplates on the doors were like filing cabinets, with their labels all uniform and the dorm rooms all the same, lined up next to each other. Obviously, it should be winter season then as he tells from the start of the poem what apparels he is wearing, and the presence of Morning Glory, which only grows in the cold. He ends his short recall by stating that all things must go and nothing stays permanent, just like how snow melts and everything falls back to place again. He will have to return to the Philippines once again whether he likes it or not.

One queer thing to this poem is its mix of Tagalog and English languages. The persona, being a Filipino, sounded as if there was a struggle whether to follow his native language or the other. In my interpretation, this could be related to the identity crisis we are experiencing right now as we are highly Westernized and English has become our second language (even considered superior compared to our native medium of speech). This is usually the case for ex-pats who came from abroad, and act as if they have been baptized by Uncle Sam, or received some Western-blood transfusion of some sort. They confuse their language (which is why the term ‘conyo’ exists as a term to mock those who use tag-lish a lot, its sosyal kasi eh).

“Learn to love what you can love at the moment.” Even though we may be loyal to our roots, family and home, we must learn to adapt to changes in the environment. It is difficult when have already gotten used to it and suddenly by taken back again. Not that we no longer want to return, its just that nasanay na kasi. Nonetheless, we simply to adapt ourselves again – a valediction because everything is temporary.

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