Philippine Poetry: Its Form, Language, and Speech

Philippine poetry is a unique and vibrant art form that incorporates rich history, diverse cultures, and the voices of countless individuals. Although it shares many similarities with poetry from other parts of the world, Philippine poetry also has distinct features that set it apart. To fully appreciate these nuances, it is important to understand the essential elements of poetry that define it.

A Journey Through Form, Language, and Speech

Early 20th-century Filipino poetry embraced Romanticism, with verses brimming with love and passion. A prime example is “Florante at Laura” by Francisco Balagtas, a timeless epic tale that explores love, betrayal, and resilience.

As the years progressed, poetry shifted towards Formalism, where the poet’s focus leaned more towards the form and language used, exemplified by works like “Sa Aking Mga Kababata” by Rizal. This poem emphasizes the importance of education and nationalism using elegant and formal language.

Today, Philippine poetry thrives in its modernity. Authors like Eric Gamalinda and Marne Kilates exhibit a spirit of experimentation, pushing boundaries and exploring diverse themes.

Nowadays, writers are more adventurous in their craft.

Elements of Poetry

So, what are the elements of poetry? Elements of poetry used by local writers in the Philippines include:

  • Senses
  • Imagery
  • Diction
  • Rhyme Scheme
  • Idea of a speaker
  • Structure
  • Word order

Senses and Images

Writers use these to describe their impressions of their topic or object of writing. These are carefully chosen and phrased words to create imagery that the reader can see through his or her own senses.

Filipino poets are known for their ability to paint vivid pictures with words, engaging all five senses:

The Five Senses in Poetry

Sight (Visual)

Using evocative language to paint visual imagery, like “the vibrant colors of a bustling market” or “the soft glow of fireflies at night.”

Sound (Auditory)

Employing descriptive words to capture the sounds of nature, city life, or even emotions, like “the crashing waves on the shore” or “the rhythmic beating of a drum.”

Smell (Olfactory)

Evoking specific scents to create a richer experience, like “the aroma of freshly baked pandesal” or “the earthy fragrance of the rice fields after rain.”

Taste (Gustatory)

Using words that conjure up specific flavors, like “the sweetness of ripe mangoes” or “the bitterness of strong coffee.”

Touch (Tactile)

Employing tactile descriptions to make the reader feel the texture of something, like “the roughness of old tree bark” or “the softness of a mother’s hand.”

Use of Figurative Language

Filipino poets also often use figurative language like metaphors, similes, and personification to further enhance their sensory descriptions. This creates a deeper connection with the reader, allowing them to not just see but also feel, hear, smell, taste, and touch the world within the poem.


The words in a poem are carefully chosen to express just the right feeling or idea. This is called diction. Filipino poets pick words that not only mean something specific but also evoke emotions or memories. Take Jose Corazon de Jesus’ “Bayan Ko” for instance, where every word feels charged with passion, stirring a sense of pride and unity.

Rhyme Scheme

This refers to the way the author arranges words, meters, lines, and stanzas to create a coherent sound when the poem is read out loud. It may be formal or informal, depending on the way the poem was written by the poet.

Have you ever noticed how some poems sound like songs? That’s because of their rhyme scheme. It’s like a musical beat that makes the poem flow smoothly.

While not a defining feature of all Filipino poems, rhyme scheme can be a powerful tool for creating musicality, memorability, and emphasizing specific words or phrases.

Idea of a Speaker

When you read a poem, it’s like someone is talking to you. That someone is the speaker. Sometimes, the speaker is the poet themselves, but other times, it’s a character or persona created by the poet.

Technically, speaker in the poem is the voice that talks to the reader. Sometimes, it refers to itself as “I” or “me” or, sometimes, in the third person (she, he, his, her).

You should also note that the speaker is not necessarily the poet. The poet may have a different persona in mind while writing the poem and may not have taken the situations in the poem from his or her life experiences.


This refers to the arrangement of words and lines, either together or apart. It also refers to the way the interdependent parts of it are organized to form a whole poem.

From traditional forms to experimental free verse, Filipino poets harness the power of structure to evoke specific moods, convey profound insights, and engage readers on a visual and intellectual level.

In Francisco Balagtas’ epic “Florante at Laura,” the meticulously crafted structure lends a sense of grandeur and narrative cohesion to the sprawling tale of love and heroism.

Word Order

This is the natural or unnatural arrangement of words in a poem. A poet may use a word grammatically or not — often called a poetic license – and may invent words, too.

Filipino poets have the freedom to use poetic license which allows them to play around with the structure of their sentences. They may use unconventional word order, bend grammar and syntax to suit the demands of rhythm, meter and aesthetic impact. By not following the usual linguistic norms, poets add a sense of spontaneity, creativity and linguistic innovation to their verses.

In the works of contemporary Filipino poets, such as Merlinda Bobis and Conchitina Cruz, the playful manipulation of word order adds an extra layer of complexity and intrigue to their poetic compositions.

Key Takeaway

Philippine poetry is a beautiful expression of emotions, colors, and sounds. It allows us to see the world from a poet’s perspective. By looking at the different parts of a poem, such as sensory imagery, diction, rhyme scheme, speaker, structure, and word order, we can understand its meaning and beauty. Let’s explore the world of Philippine poetry and appreciate the magic within its lines.

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