Friday, October 1, 2021

Mang Teban and The Weather by Josue Rem Siat (Poem) - Literary Analysis

Mang Teban and the Weather is a poem by Josue Rem Siet that playfully pokes fun at how fickle people can be when it comes to the weather. One second, you are praying for rain because it's too hot. The next second, you are cursing the rain and wishing for a sunny day. The poem reminded me of a catchphrase by a local television host - "ang buhay ay weather-weather lang".

Mang Teban and The Weather
by Josue Rem Siat

One April noon when all was bright
And clear and dazzling to the sight
Beside the road Mang Teban stood
Wiping his face in sullen mood.
He saw the heat waves in the glare
As devils on to stage a fire
And chafed in the sultry air
And wished for rainy days.

Then (when salt sold at treble price)
And muddy pools mocked cloudy skies,
Mang Teban, passing dripping trees,
With trousers rolled up to his knees,
Reproached the sky and saw the rain

As diablos dancing in the mire-
And shrank in the pelting rain-
And wished for sunny days!

Notes and Analysis

- The poem is set on an April noon. In the Philippines, the summer season is in full swing during this month. The first stanza perfectly paints a picture of what a summer day in the Philippines looks like. Heat waves play with your vision. From a distance, they look like small dancing devils. The warm air doggedly sticks to your skin making you wish for drops of rain.

- The second stanza is a reversal of the first stanza. The heat waves are long gone. They have been replaced by muddy pools and cloudy skies. You can't go anywhere without rolling up your pants to prevent them from getting wet. The wet world makes you wish for a bright and sunny day.

- Who is Mang Teban and what's his profession? Readers usually assume upon first reading of the poem that Mang Teban is a farmer. But nowhere in the poem does it say nor hint that he tills the land for a living.

Phrases for Discussion

1. when salt sold at treble price - During the rainy season, the price for salt significantly increases because of the decrease in supply. Salt are usually made by drying seawater under the unmerciful sun. The coming of the rains means less sunny days and less salt production.
2. muddy pools mocked cloudy skies - When you look at a pool of water on a road, you can see that it often mirrors the clouds and sky above. So the pools seem to be mocking the sky and clouds.