MANILA, Philippines – Irish rock band U2 is playing a historic first show in the Philippines on December 11, and a Filipino poet's work will be part of it.
The band is featuring the poem "Filipineza" by poet and novelist Bino A. Realuyo. The band planned to include poetry that expresses the experience of each country they're performing in, and asked the poet for permission to flash the piece on screen as the audience waits for the show to begin. (READ: What to expect from U2's 2019 Philippine concert)
The band often includes poetry in their concerts. For their US tour in 2017, the shows featured the poems of Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes, Rita Dove, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Robert Pinsky.
First published in The Nation, the poem is about the plight of Filipino domestic workers in Europe. It opens Realuyo’s first collection of poetry The Gods We Worship Live Next Door, which won the Agha Shahid Ali Prize for Poetry in 2005 and Philippine National Book Award for poetry in 2009.
For Realuyo, his poem's inclusion in the band's show is an opportunity to bring poetry to a mass audience.
“U2’s songs and lyrics were light in the dark and nameless streets of my early years in America. Thirty-two years of Joshua Tree is equivalent to the 3 decades of my immigrant American life," Realuyo said. Realuyo grew up in Manila and immigrated to the United States when he was a teenager.
"There is ultimately poetic justice in being included in U2’s concert not in the US but in their first ever concert in Manila, the city of my birth. I am humbled and moved. I hope the poems do serve their purpose for inclusion – as points of reflection for those who attend the concert, and in the case of my poem 'Filipineza' to warn us about the dark side and perils of the Filipino diaspora," he said.