Of romance and haikus: Cebuano poet-couple share secrets to long-lasting love and good writing

John Sitchon

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Of romance and haikus: Cebuano poet-couple share secrets to long-lasting love and good writing
'Underneath all poetry is love,' says Simeon Dumdum Jr., who has been married to fellow writer Gingging for over 46 years

CEBU, Philippines – Cebuano poets Simeon Dumdum Jr. and Ma. Milagros “Gingging” Dumdum have been happily married for over 46 years. Their secret? They have never stopped writing love poems to each other.

Gingging had always been a fan of good poetry since she was in college. She recalled days when she would read lines from Shakespeare’s sonnets, and Robert Frost’s poems. 

“I joined the Writers’ Club and enjoyed poetry readings that would be held in my classmates’ residences. I began to write poetry as a requirement in the Literature subject I took in my A.B. Course,” she said.

For Simeon, “poetry just came naturally,” as he first began writing while he was studying in a seminary in Ireland. There, he was able to get his first poem published in The Hibernia magazine.

Then, in the bright summers of the 1970s, Simeon and Gingging met. At the time, both poets were working as employees of the Department of Public Information. “First, we were friends and then became sweethearts,” Simeon said.

The couple shared how Gingging fell for Simeon’s words, while Simeon fell for the way Gingging gracefully moved each time they took to the dance floor.

“Perhaps, this inspired his publication of a book much later entitled, The Poet Learns to Dance, the Dancer Learns to Write a Poem,” Gingging said.

To love and be loved

Since getting married in 1977, both poets continue to write haikus and love letters dedicated to each other every Valentine’s Day, and on their birthdays and anniversaries.

“Underneath all poetry is love. The best kiss has the sound of a Shakespeare sonnet,” Simeon said.

Gingging shared that, at one point in time, Simeon encouraged her to write a hundred haikus, which through his mentoring, was completed and published in 2018 in a collection entitled Falling on Quiet Water.

Years later, both poets would publish a collection of collaborative poetry or renga in a book entitled The Sigh of a Hundred Leaves, apart from other tomes they had written separately.

“Writing renga drew our minds together in a fun way, as in a game of chess. This took us about three months only, as we played our game in the comfort of our home, in coffee shops, or while waiting for our grandchildren’s class dismissal,” Gingging said.

Today, both of them have two children, four grandchildren, and a full library of books and poetry that they keep in their humble abode in Talisay City, Cebu.

Their advice for couples struggling in relationships? “Be open to beauty and bring Christ into the relationship.”


Simeon is now an author of 18 books – four of creative nonfiction, and 14 of poetry; is a five-time Palanca awardee; and is a recipient of the National Book Award.

Gingging, on the other hand, is the former president of the Women in Literary Arts-Cebu, Inc., and has had multiple works published in anthologies and international publications like the British Haiku Society Anthology 2019, Under the Basho, Eastern Structures, and Pure Haiku, to name a few.

When it comes to writing, both poets agree that inspiration can come from anywhere.

“Anything inspires me if I only look at it long enough,” Simeon said.

Gingging explained that the challenge would always arise from writing whatever catches the poet’s attention in the first two lines, and ending the piece with a surprise or an insight by the third line — following the traditional 5-7-5 rule in formal haiku writing. 

“I believe that the strict limits of haiku compel one to be creative, clear, and economical with one’s words, and offer the non-reader a choice to enhance his experience of the ordinary,” Gingging said.

“I just write and see if it’s any good and if it’s not good, I just throw it away,” Simeon said.

This year, the poets are releasing new books to add to their collections.

In February, Simeon launched his book Why Keannu Reeves is Lonely and Why the World Goes On As it Does — a book about the lockdown, politics, love, terrorism, environment, time, death, and more.

Gingging’s next work, a haibun (a combination of prose and haiku) collection called Moving with Moonrise, is in the pipeline. 


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