Mother Leyte

Caren breasts
Image: “obra untitled” by caren ang-oayp, watercolor pencils on sketchpad paper, 2013



With the recent global environmental catastrophes within the past month, e.g. the earthquakes in Mexico, the hurricane devastation of Irma and Maria in the US and the Caribbean, wildfires across California, the floods in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal, just to name a few, I wanted to share this poem, “Mother Leyte,” which originally appeared in the anthology Walang Hiya.

I originally wrote this poem in 2006 in response to the deadly mudslides that hit Southern Leyte. The official death toll was 1,126. Decades of heavy deforestation from logging and mining in the area were speculated as precipitating the catastrophe. Within a few days, the region not only suffered torrential rainfall and deadly mudslides, but an earthquake to top it off.

In the midst of the current devastation that climate change has wreaked and the stubbornness of those who deny it, I reprint “Mother Leyte” here to demonstrate the relationship we have with Mother Earth and how that affects our relationship to each other. I’ve placed a trigger warning as the poem contains graphic imagery of rape and violence against women as I see Earth very much a mother to us, and whose plight at human hands, at what modern civilization claims as “progress,” very much affects our survival and well-being as her children.


To the innocent victims of Leyte who continue to lose their lives and their families, but especially to beautiful Mother Leyte whose spirit remains amazingly strong and whose vengeance is tragically necessary: yesterday, today, and the inevitable tragedy that will strike again tomorrow. Will anyone ever help her save herself?

From the belly of the earth
her insides are torn, plundered
all her riches
precious children
wood, rubber, bauxite, nickel, copper, gold, and silver
are extracted from her
Her male enemies
foraging, plundering, extracting from her torn belly
eating, beating, using, and manufacturing
Just to gain simply
a product
with no rest offered between her legs
with no rest offered inside her belly
Her soil is tirelessly ripped open
for constant mass production
by the world famous frat brothers
the United States, China, Japan, Australia
and other masked ones at the drunken booze party
After their countless numbers take simultaneous turns on her
“such a whore”
they leave on the nightstand
their hundreds of thousands of filthy
paper money and coins
with no real relief
from the Red Cross
and donating hands
a rapist’s hands are NEVER a savior’s hands
Such wolves in sheep’s clothing
Beware of the company you keep
“But here, the Mining Act of 1995 says
we have rights to mine you.”
So, under the abortionist’s instruction
the frat brothers fuck her
rip apart her body
drill open her belly
extract her precious children
with their forceps of mass steel
while the frat brothers and military boys
cheer each other on
with not even a dollar to slip
between her breasts
for what she’s got to give
She has no choice
She has no voice
There is no courtroom to hear her case
And her pimp
those 60 wealthy families of her own blood
sip their lemonade in Laguna
fanned by their provincial maids
After her last nightmare in December 2003
She screamed out again in February 2006
crying out for her children
ready for the world to hear
her skin peeled completely away
while her children
are nowhere to be found
her shudders shake the ground
she shivers, cold, worn out, barely alive
crying, uncontrollably shaking at a small 2.6
From her muddied wounds
heavily stung by her sister’s moved tears
the sky above who wept ten days
Mother Leyte’s thick, muddy blood finally heaves
sliding down the slopes of her breasts
between her torn legs
over the rooftops of schools
over the rooftops of homes
blanketing and overpowering
her innocent human tenants
dragging them in her muddy sorrows
so that they are laid to rest
buried in her placenta
dying without their American cell phones to save them
Alas, her umbilical cords slither free
like huge serpents without revenge
but rather lost
And all suffer because she suffers
1970, 1991, 2000, 2003, 2006
and the other forgotten centuries of rape
while American soldiers trample her body
for one last laugh
while Americans back home
are chiding Mother Leyte
“God bless America
that we are there to help”
Oh, why do the photographers take her picture
when her beauty has been replaced by sludge
She is a prostitute for the world’s Playboy
the world never seeing her tears
in aerial photographs

– from Walang Hiya © 2010 by Lolan Buhain Sevilla and Roseli Ilano
Featured authors retain the rights to their work.

Categories PoetryTags , , , , ,

2 thoughts on “Mother Leyte

  1. beautiful poem….. it touches the heart!


    1. Miraming salamat po, tita caren! Much love and endless gratitude to you. We make a great team. Art and activistas forever.


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