Candles by Alvin Pang: A Translation from Singlish to Davao Filipino

(I first heard the Singaporean poet Alvin Pang read this poem back in 2011, during the Iyas Creative Writing Workshop in Bacolod. This is easily the most popular poem by the great poet. Here, I translate the poem, written in the widely used but marginalized Creole of Singlish, into Davao Filipino, another creole that to some extent shares Singlish’s fate. To suit the cultural context, I also changed a few names.)

Candles

by Alvin Pang

A : oi, ah pa know you take candle from the church again, you going to get it.

B : nevermind i bring them back when you study finish. you dont say he dont know. so dark how to read, how to study?

A : got moon tonight can see a bit. ah leong house got light, i use mirror can borrow a bit of light. good enough. candle you bring back. i dont want wait get scolding because of you.

B : i bring all the way home you ask me to bring back for what? anyway tonight good friday church got so many candles they where got notice nine less?

A : notice dont notice also wrong. you bring them back.

B : dont want.

A : go now. late already, wait ah pa come home you die.

B : dont want. wait the sisters see me bring back so many candles they know i took them.

A : just say you give them to baby jesus lor.

B : so stupid, baby jesus is christmas lah. good friday is dead jesus!

A : anything lah. i not go church one how i know? you just bring them back there ok? ah pa always say people must be honest. cannot steal, cannot cheat, cannot lie.

B : ah pa say that but he also lie what. last week health inspector come he also lie, say our house very clean. actually he hide two dead cockroach under one shoe.

A : that was different. that was government. lie to government dont count because they dont care whether you good or bad, they just want money for licence. no license we die they where got care.

B : jesus also like government what. he where got care whether you blind or not, house got light or not. he just hang up there all day for people to see, put money in box, give him so many candles for nothing. he also not taking exam, i borrow some candles to study why cannot.

A : aiya up to you lah. say so much also no use. you better go study before ah pa come home.

B : say so much i hungry already. i go downstairs buy mee from Fat Girl, you want?

A : dont want, i full. ah ma see you eat some more she scold you. eat and eat, so stubborn and fat like pig. wait you dont study fail exam then you know. you so fat and stubborn next time can do what?

B : i can be driver like ah pa, or sell meat like ah leong or gangster like ah soon. then government come to ask for money i can call my gang beat them up. anyone bully you or sis i can beat them up.

A : xiao, you become gangster get injured how? head kena parang chop one big hole how?

B : then you better quick become doctor then if i need hospital you can cure me. then ah por cough also can cure. also make money so can have light in the house. then no need borrow candle from jesus anymore.

~*~

Mga Candles

A: Oy, bantay ka lang pag malaman ni papa na nagkuha ka na naman ng mga candle sa church

B: Sige na lang gud kuya, uy. Ibalik ko lang pagkatapos mo mag-study. Hindi man niya malaman kung hindi ka magsabi. Madilim kaya masyado, pa’no ka makabasa?

A: May moon man din, makakita ako konti. May ilaw din kila ankel Leon, nagakuha ako ng konti sa mirror. Pwede na ‘to. Ibalik mo yang mga candle. Ayaw ko makasab-an dahil sa iyo.

 B: Gi-uwian na gani kita, na kalayo-layo nitong bahay, ipabalik mo pa? Good Friday bitaw ngayon, dami masyadong candle sa church, hindi na yan nila mapansin na wala ang nine, a.

A: Mali pa rin kahit hindi nila mapansin uy! Ibalik mo na yan.

B: Ayoko

A: Sige na, kay gabi na. patay ka talaga pag-uwi ni papa.

B: Ayoko. Makita ako nila ate na nagadala ng madami masyadong candles, malaman nila na nagkuha ko.

A: Sabihin mo lang ibigay mo kay Baby Jesus, e.

B: Tanga mo ‘ya uy, Christmas man si baby Jesus. Pag-Good Friday kay patay na Jesus .

A: Basta, pa’no ko man din malaman na hindi man ako nagapunta ng church? Ibalik mo lang yan ha. Palagi baya ginasabi ni papa na dapat palagi honest ang tao, bawal magnakaw, bawal mag-daya, bawal mag-sinungaling.

B: Nagsabi ng ganyan si papa, pero nagasinungaling man lagi siya? Last week nagsinugaling man lagi siya nung nagpunta ang Health Inspector, malinis daw itong bahay. Na naga-apak gud yun siya ng dalawang ipis nun.

A: Iba man yun kay gobyerno man yun. Hindi man kasali ang sinungaling sa gobyerno kay wala man yan sila pakialam kung mabait ko o bad, pera lang man saka license ang hanapin nila. Kung walang license, patay tayo

B: Ganun din si Jesus ‘ya e, para ding gobyerno. Wala siya pakialam kung bulag ka ba, may ilaw ba sa bahay. Nagbitay lang siya dun buong araw para tingnan ng mga tao, lagyan ng pera yung box niya, bigyan lang siya ng mga candle. Bakit hindi pwede maghiram ng mga candle para makastudy?

A: Ay bahala ka diyan. Sige ka salita wala man din pulos. Mag-study ka na lang diyan bago mag-uwi si papa.

B: Nagutom tuloy ako sige salita. Baba muna ako magbili kay Fat Girl, ikaw ‘ya?

A: Ayoko, busog. Makita ka gani ni mama na gakain na naman pagalitan ka talaga ba. Sige kain, matigas masyado ulo, para nang baboy kataba. Pag hindi ka magstudy mabagsak ka talaga sa exam. Ano man mangyari sa iyo sa buhay na matigas man masyado ulo mo, mataba pa?

B: Mag driver na lang ako gaya ni papa, o magtinda ng karne gaya ni ankel Leon, o siga-siga gaya ni ankel Sonny. Para kung maghingi na naman ang gobyerno ng pera, ipakulata ko lang sila sa mga badi-badi ko. Kung may mag buang-buang din sa iyo, ‘ya, o kay ate, kulatahin ko din.

A: Ow, maging siga ka, tapos kong madasmagan ka? Pag mapukpok yang ulo mo, mabutas, pa’no yan?

B: Di maging doctor ka kaagad ‘ya para kung kailangan ko ma-ospital matambalan mo ako. Tapos kung mag-ubo-ubo si Lolo matambalan mo din. Para din magkapera, may ilaw na dito sa bahay, hindi na kailangan maghiram ng candle kay Jesus.

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