I had wanted to write an obituary-style article about Captain Michael (“Mike”) Cuanzon, a dear friend who passed away in late March at the age of 91. However, Mike eschewed accolades. He once declined an ‘Outstanding Master Mariner’ award which a national association of ship officers had planned to bestow on him. He suggested that they give it instead to someone who was, as he put it, “hungry for recognition”. In light of this, I am sharing a song in Spanish in honour of this rare Filipino old salt.

‘Si Mi Voz Muriera en Tierra’ (If My Voice Dies on Land) features the soulful vocals of Alfredo González Vilela, a Galician singer-songwriter born in 1951. The song is sung to the text of a poem written by Rafael Alberti (1902 – 1999), one of the greatest of modern Spanish poets. I have reproduced below the text of the poem together with my English translation.

The poem written by Rafael Alberti

Si mi voz muriera en tierra
llevadla al nivel del mar
y dejadla en la ribera.

Llevadla al nivel del mar
y nombardla capitana
de un blanco bajel de guerra.

¡Oh mi voz condecorada
con la insignia marinera:
sobre el corazón un ancla
y sobre el ancla una estrella
y sobre la estrella el viento
y sobre el viento la vela!

If my voice dies on land
take it down to the sea
and leave it on the shore.

Take it down to the sea
and name her captain
of a white vessel of war.

Oh my voice adorned
with the sailor insignia:
an anchor over the heart
and above the anchor a star
and above the star the wind
and above the wind the sail!

— translation by Barista Uno
    © All rights reserved

Farewell, Captain

Captain Cuanzon as maritime mentor (2011)  © Marine Café Blog

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