Voices of Poetry & Prose Issue #1 June 2014 - Page 10

The Tanaga is a Filipino poetic form. It consists of four lines with seven syllables each; the rhyme scheme is AABB.

Traditionally, Tanagas don’t have titles and they are composed in the Tagalog language. Most have been handed down through oral history, and, according to Wikipedia, they “contain proverbial forms, moral lessons, and snippets of a code of ethics.”(1)

Here is an example of a Tanaga in archaic Tagalog(1):

Catitibay ca tolos

sacaling datnang agos!

aco’I momonting lomot

sa iyo,I popolopot

-Friars Juan de Noceda and Pedro de Sanlucar, 1754. From Vocabulario de la Lengua Tagala, Trabaxado por Varios Doctos y Graves. Manila: Imprenta de la Compañía de Jesús. pp. 324, 440.

Here is the poem once again, translated into English(1):

Oh be resilient you Stake

should the waters be coming!

I shall cower as the moss

To you I shall be clinging."

-Translation by Jardine Davies.

Unfortunately, the Tanaga has been dying out in its native Tagalog. The Cultural Center of the Philippines and the Philippines’ National Commission of the Arts have been trying to revive it. Several poetry groups and cultural groups have been promoting the form in English as well.

As you might expect, the form is beginning to change slightly because it has been discovered by non-traditional groups. Not only are Tanagas appearing in more frequently in English, they are picking up titles and varying their rhyme forms (for example, AABB, ABAB, ABBA, AAAB, BAAA, ABCD, and so on). Morals, ethics, and proverbs may or may not be present.

Additional Resources:



(1) Wikipedia.org - Tanaga

Poetry Form of the Month: Tanaga

by Jen at Blog It or Lose It

Tanaga Background Information