“Gabu” by Carlos Angeles
A New Critical Reading
Carlos A. Angeles was born in Tacloban City, Leyte on May 25, 1921. He finished high school in Rizal High during the year 1938 and proceeded to college, going to various universities such as Ateneo de Manila, University of the Philippines (where he became a member of the UP Writers’ Club), and Central Luzon Colleges. He, however, stopped and did not return to school after World War II. Despite this, he had a notable career, working at various institutions. He first worked at the Philippine Bureau of International News Service from 1950 to 1958. He went on as a guest of the US State Department on a Smith-Mund¬t leader grant. He also worked as a press assistant under the Garcia administration and as a Public Relations Manager of PanAm Airlines. All these were from 1958 to 1980. He later on also served in the Board of Directors of the Philippine Chapter of International PEN.
During 1964, when poetry was, for the first time, included in the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, Angeles’ A Stun of Jewels, which was a collection of 47 poems he wrote, mainly dedicated to his wife, received first prize in this esteemed contest. The collection also won the Republic Cultural Heritage Award for Literature.
He has been residing in the United States of America since 1978. Married to Concepcion Reynoso, he has seven children and eighteen grandchildren, all of which are also residing in the United States of America.
“Gabu” is an actual place along the coastline of Ilocos Norte, located in the northern parts of the Philippines. The Philippines is known to the world as one of the most dangerous places to live in due to the fact that the country plays host to multiple typhoons every year. The coast of Gabu is no exception to these catastrophes. It is one of those areas which are frequently visited by the said typhoons. Every time a typhoon hits, most of the local flora and fauna gets ravaged. Perhaps this is the reason why the poem has a general tone of sadness, brought about by the “havocs” of Mother Earth. This will be discussed further on as we move through the new critical / formalist reading of the poem.
Now that the general background information about the poem and its author has been established, it is perhaps best to move on to the analysis and the reading of the poem itself. The poem will be read in a manner which presents various ironies, paradoxes, tensions and ambiguities. These pressures in a poem are the marks of a new critical / formalist reading, tensions that when read closely, actually account for the poem’s stability, and not necessarily for its destruction.
The poem starts off on the first stanza with a general attitude towards describing the devastations brought about by the “battering restlessness of the sea”. The sea, as we know it, is a common imagery of life. However, it is represented as something that “insists a tidal fury upon the beach”. Words such as “sea”, and “beach”, denote life, and happiness, and a general tone of positivity. When one thinks of the sea, and the beach, normally, it is accompanied by thoughts about the beautiful sunset, while we’re peacefully reading a book or drinking wine with a loved one, having meaningful conversations that give us some time off from the cruel realities of life. However, all those lovely thoughts about the sea and the beach are totally reversed by the poem right from the beginning. The persona talked about a “wasteland”, most probably referring to a filthy shore. Perhaps the shore that the persona is talking about in this poem is not something which resembles lovely beaches like Boracay. Perhaps, it is a shore full of garbage that people have thrown, along with all the dirt and grime accumulated by the waves, mixed up with all the moss. According to the poem, this wasteland is being “havocked”. Another notable irony present in the first stanza is the apparent restlessness of...