Tag Archives: Filipino

Magtanim Ay Di Biro, English translation

Planting rice is not a joke

English translation by Roberto Verzola

Magtanim ay di biro

Traditional Filipino folksong


Come, dear fellow stewards of the earth,

stretching muscles is good for the health.

Let us pause so we can catch our breath,

and then tomorrow back to work!

Planting rice is not a joke;

the whole day you’re bent like an ox.

You cannot stand more than one bit;

till you’re done you cannot sit.

Oh, my arms, the feeling’s gone;

and my waist, its tired and sore.

My legs feel a thousand pricks,

soaked in water, six to six.

Mornings when I wake and rise;

I tell myself to think, be wise

and pray to find some land to till,

so I can have a tasty meal.

What a cruel destiny

to be born in poverty

If I don’t work with my two arms,

I won’t earn a single dime.


Halina, halina, mga kaliyag,

tayo’y magsipag-unat-unat.

Magpanibago tayo ng lakas,

para sa araw ng bukas.

Magtanim ay di biro;

maghapong nakayuko.

Di naman makatayo;

di naman makaupo.

Bisig ko’y namamanhid;

baywang ko’y nangangawit.

Binti ko’y namimintig,

sa pagkababad sa tubig.

Sa umaga pagkagising,

lahat ay iisipin.

Kung saan may patanim,

may masarap na pagkain.

Ay, pagkasawimpalad

ng inianak sa hirap.

Ang bisig kung di iunat,

di kumita ng pilak.

Translating Philippine folk songs

I’ve gotten some encouraging comments about my English translations of Filipino folk songs. This is probably because my translations can be sung with the original tunes. So far, I’ve done four: Bahay kubo, Paru-parong bukid, Leron Leron sinta, and Sitsiritsit alibangbang. I think my most appreciative audience is elementary school students, who have to do their homework.

If you want your favorite folk song translated, please email me the lyrics (rverzola@gn.apc.org). If it’s a song I like, perhaps I’ll translate it sometime.

No promises, though. Translation is tough work.