By Melissa G. Bagamasbad
You might have seen him on TV and open-mic clubs performing his Filipino poetry. You might also have read some of his lines posted on Twitter, since he tends to trend quickly. Juan Miguel Severo became popular due to hit 2015 teleserye “On the Wings of Love,” where he played Rico. Aside from his character playing a friend to Albie Casiño’s Jigs on the show, his character also “revolutionized” Philippine TV in that spoken word poetry in Filipino became the norm in seryes and even on performances on ASAP, among others.
In 2016, Severo published a collection of his poetry titled “Habang Wala Pa Sila: Mga Tula ng Pag-ibig,” with the latest reprinting just this February 2017. Here are three reasons why we think this poetry collection is a gem, and a must on anyone’s bookshelf:
1. It revives the lost art of Filipino poetry and contemporizes it for today’s generation.
Who would’ve thought that reading and reciting Filipino poetry would be cool? But that’s what Severo did with his poetry, and the way he delivered them using spoken word performances and now publishing them in book form.
As Jerry B. Gracio, Commissioner of Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino and Southeast Asia Awardee says, “Ibinalik ni Severo ang lugod ng tula sa puso ng mga kabataang nawalan na ng oras sa panulaan dahil sa pagkaabala sa maraming bagay. Naging bata ako muli pagkatapos basahin si Severo.” Competing with social media and devices among millennials is no easy feat, but Severo found a way for his poetry to reach this generation, and this book is one of those ways.
Another thing to be proud of is that his poetry revives Filipino culture; if many of us know the romantic poetry of Pablo Neruda, we should also know the poetry from our local shores, right?
2. The old-fashioned romance in Severo’s poems will soften anyone’s cynical heart.
There’s a lot of traditional romance found in Severo’s poems that may be lost in today’s Tinder generation. The first poem, “Basang Sapatos,” speaks of a lover who braves the flood of Malabon, ruined shoes and all, just to see the person he loves.
Severo is also intense and straightforward in his prose and there are lines like “Mamahalin kita na para bang mauubusan tayo ng oras / Hahawakan ko ang kamay mo kapag ubos na ang sitsirya / nanakawan kita ng halik kapag pangit ang eksena” (from his poem, “Sa Parating Huli,” which refers to a couple in a movie theater). Lines like these make something so simple and everyday like movies more romantic and evoke feels from readers.
3. Your favorite poems by Severo are also in this collection.
If you’ve followed Severo ever since and watched him in On the Wings of Love, you would most probably know his poems for Clark and Leah (James and Nadine’s characters). His most famous poems from OTWOL are in this book such as “Kapag Sinabi Kong Mahal Kita” and “Ang Mga Lugar ay Pawang Mga Lugar Lamang.” OTWOListas would probably feel sentimental reliving Clark and Leah’s tender moments through these poems.
Of course, the breakthrough piece,“Ang Huling Tula na Isusulat Ko Para Sa ‘Yo,” Severo’s spoken word video that went viral in 2015 and which eventually led him to doing spoken word on OTWOL, is also included in the book.
“Habang Wala Pa Sila: Mga Tula ng Pag-ibig” is available in bookstores nationwide for P185.