Alfredo Elfren Litiatco was born on July 9, 1908 in Manila to Kapampangan and Tagalog parents. He was a poet, an essayist, a short story writer, a critic and an editor. He discovered such writers as Ligaya Victorio-Reyes and Estrella Alfon-Rivera while he was the literary editor of the Graphic.
He used to be called the “Ariel of Philippine Letters.” He was also called by noted writer Manuel Viray as “one of the foremost practitioners of light verse in the Philippines,” and Jose Garcia Villa ranked him as “among the best short story writers in the Philippines.”
His poem “Evaluations” is about how he had observed his reactions to certain situations. The poem starts with how he would react when he treads upon a worm wherein he squirms, and the next is when he sees dogs handled badly, he curses. The third situation is when he fumes at horses being punished by a rich man or its groom. As he progressed through the poem, his reactions to these situations are graduated as he went up the biological ladder. But then at the end of the poem, he said he would not cry if some people he knew died. By this time, the reader would have expected that his emotions would be much stronger towards these people who he referred to, but he actually doesn’t care a bit for these people.
He uses the word “some” to qualify the noun people, to emphasize that he wouldn’t feel that way about all people, but only for some. Maybe bad people, criminals, people who don’t care about anyone but themselves. Or maybe he had some people in mind who he hated very much. It could have been personal, people he knew very well, or people he had heard about from the news or from some other people, like the famous ones or those in power. He thought some people were undeserving of what they have or who they are, and this is what his poem tries to convey.
His poem “When Done for Thee” is a love poem, dedicated to a very special person, as the title suggests. The word in the title, “thee” is used to refer to someone of significant meaning, like when we use it when talking to God in prayer. The poem could have been for God, but he clarified in the second stanza that he is talking about a person. So Litiatco regarded this person very highly. In the first stanza, he wrote how insignificant gestures can mean so much when done for that person. He further expounded on this in the second stanza wherein he gave examples of these small tasks: “picking up a handkerchief, Or pulling out a chair”. This stanza also supports the idea that the poem is for a person and not for God because of the examples of the tasks that he gave, that one would only do for another person. In the last stanza, he demonstrated in another way the importance of that person to him. He showed that he is greatly inspired by that person. He wrote that he wants to make out of something for himself and it is that person who pushes him to do his best (“If essayed in thy name”).
Much of his poems were dedicated to his wife, and his only book entitled With Harp and Sling was published shortly after his death in 1943. This is a thin volume containing his best poems. In his foreword for his book, he boasts of his sonnets as “among the better ones in the entire range of world literature” while his light verse “has no equal in the Philippines.”
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Topic: Analysis of “Evaluations” and “When Done for Thee”
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