Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Some Big Shots Have Been Using Me: a Poem by Cirilo F. Bautista (Critical Analysis)

This is a critical analysis of the poem Some Big Shots Have Been Using Me by Cirilo F. Bautista (National Artist for Literature). This poem appeared in The Likhaan Book of Poetry and Fiction, 2006 (University of the Philippines Press).  

Some bigshots have been using me
for target practice. They call it Preparing
for Progress. I ask that my taxes be reduced,
bang goes my left ear. I demonstrate
against police brutality, bang go
my fingers that hold the placard. Floods

and lahar carry my patrimony
to oblivion and bury my town:
I ask the mayor for an old pair of shoes,
wham go my feet flying into
the garbage can. I beg for cheaper rice
to energize my mouth, wham break my teeth

like ice-cubes falling against the floor.
Democracy is a tiresome habit —
I have to stand erect or it will fail.
There is no coffee break for the honest.
My stomach grumbles for lack of food,
ping goes the light bulb of my mind

and darkness devours the empty kitchen.
“Keep quiet, keep still,” they hiss at me
as they feed bullets into their anger’s
chambers. Some bigshots have been using me
for target practice. O if they would only
shoot straight and hit me in the heart for a change!

- This poem is an indictment of a corrupt and oppressive government. Bautista uses "big shots" to refer to the oppressive government and the forces it uses to enact its oppressive policies. The poem is in the first person and the speaker represents the ordinary Filipino who wants equality, justice, and good governance. This Filipino is an activist, a guardian of democracy.

For the Filipino activist and demonstrator, "democracy is a tiresome habit" because he puts himself in the fire every time he raises a fist. When he calls for reduced taxes, they shoot his ear. When he demonstrates against police brutality, the police simply confirms the allegation by shooting at his fingers. When he asks for material assistance, he's met with violence. When he begs for cheaper rice, his teeth are knocked off his gums. Indeed, fighting for democracy is a heart-breaking endeavor. 

Adding insult to injury, the "big shots" only use the ordinary Filipino as a "target practice". That is they keep on hurting him over and over again but never putting him away for good. The "big shots" are nothing if the ordinary Filipino is dead. "O if they would only shoot straight and hit me in the heart for a change!" Not going to happen. The "big shots" will be shooting themselves on the foot if they do.

Elmer B. Domingo; Wikimedia Commons