Moonlight on Manila Bay by Fernando M. Maramag (Poem) - Meaning and Analysis

This poem was supposedly published in 1912. It's difficult to verify if indeed this was the year that the poem saw print. If this is true, then the poem was published when Fernando M. Maramag was only 18 0r 19 years old. Maramag was born in 1893. A few years later in 1898, the Battle of Manila Bay happened. Commodore George Dewey of America decisively defeated the Spanish fleet thus marking the end of the Spanish colonial period in the Philippines.

In the poem, the narrator pays homage to a Manila Bay of old. He talks about a peaceful and innocent bay before the arrival of visitors from the East and the West. These visitors turned this peaceful bay into a tumultuous setting that betrayed what it once was.

A light, serene, ethereal glory rests
Its beams effulgent on each cresting wave;
The silver touches of the moonlight wave
The deep bare bosom that the breeze molests;
While lingering whispers deepen as the wavy crests
Roll with weird rhythm, now gay, now gently grave;
And floods of lambent light appear the sea to pave-
All cast a spell that heeds not time‘s behests.

- Here, the narrator travels back in time and takes us back to a simpler Manila Bay. A time when the breeze and the waves linger and roll without any care in the world. The moon watches over them with its beams and ethereal light. The narrator of the poem looks back at these scenes with nostalgia.

Not always such the scene; the din of fight
Has swelled the murmur of the peaceful air;
Here East and West have oft displayed their might;
Dark battle clouds have dimmed this scene so fair;
Here bold Olympia, one historic night,
Presaging freedom, claimed a people‘s care.

- In these lines, the narrator travels to the time when Manila Bay becomes the setting for events that transformed the history of a country. Wars have been fought and troubles have occurred in this little bay. The Chinese and the Japanese of the East have their fair share of moments in this bay. And of course, the Spanish and the Americans of the West have turned the bay into a battleground.

In the last two lines of the poem, Olympia is mentioned. During the Battle of Manila Bay in 1898, the flagship of Commodore George Dewey was called USS Olympia. Indeed, this battle presaged freedom and captured the undivided attention and care of the Filipino people.

Other poems by Fernando M. Maramag: The Rural Maid