Joi Barrios is a Filipina poet and activist. She writes Tagalog poetry (the primary language in the Philippines). To give an idea of the importance of her work, Virgilio Almario, one of the best recognized literary critics and a scholar of Filipino poetry, has stated that there are only four recognizable women poets in Philippine literature. Joi is one of them.
Ms. Barrios completed her Ph.D. in Philippine Literature at the University of the Philippines (UP). She taught at the University and also served as an Associate for Fiction at the UP Likhaan: Creative Writing Center. She has won various honors and awards, including the Palanca Award, the most prestigious literary award in the Philippines. During the Marcos dictatorship and the tumultuous years that followed, she became well-known as a freedom activist and rally poet. She has taught in Korea, Japan, and is currently working as a visiting Professor at the University of California, Irvine.
In writing about her work, Joi "touch(es) on topics closest to my heart--the love of country, women's issues, history. With these poems, I reaffirm my commitment to the national democratic revolution" (translated from the introduction of her book, Minatamis at Iba Pang Tula ng Pag-ibig - Sweetened Fruit and Other Love Poems).
In a distinct, tender and passionate manner, Joi moves the readers of her poems by talking about love, freedom, what it is to be a woman, and what it means to be a human being. I consider her to be a hero, friend and a great poet.
(Inspired by Pablo Neruda’s “United Fruit Company”)
Would you like a pineapple?
Open a can of Del Monte Pineapple.
Would you like a banana,
Bland but unblemished?
Peel a Dole banana.
Would you like some papaya?
Not just for dessert
But for an Asian woman’s dream
Of fairer skin.
Avail of papaya products from Passina.
Imported from Europe,
But made from fruits picked in Surallah,
Twice circling the globe
For customers like you.
Canned fruits are sweeter
In minds poisoned by the pesticides
Of a country’s colonial past.
*This poem was commissioned by the Instituto Cervantes and read in a program honoring Pablo Neruda, and featuring Filipino poets influenced by Neruda.