The tanaga is a Filipino verse form consisting of four lines with seven syllables each. The rhyme scheme was originally AAAA, but today it can vary: AABB, ABAB, ABBA, and others exist. They do not usually have titles because the tanaga should speak for itself. Most are handed down by oral history and contain frequent metaphors, proverbial forms, moral lessons, or snippets of a code of ethics.

Quatrain verse in Tagalog,
  —Filipino analog—
Seven syllables per line
Vary in the way they rhyme.

Classical Tanaga

Aelia: A Tanaga

Martial skewered many folks;
Satire made them butts of jokes.
Aelia endured his pokes
And the fame his name evokes.

He observed she had four teeth,
All of which soon came to grief.
Coughing fits, to make this brief,
Took them like a common thief.

He advised she cough at will
—Teeth remaining totaled nil—
Doing so could cause no ill...
His account is with us still.

[ back to poetry page ]