Philippine Literature is a diverse and rich group of works that has evolved side-by-side with the country’s history. Literature had started with fables and legends made by the ancient Filipinos long before the arrival of Spanish influence. The main themes of Philippine literature focus on the country’s pre-colonial cultural traditions and the socio-political histories of its colonial and contemporary traditions. It is not a secret that many Filipinos are unfamiliar with much of the country's literary heritage, especially those that were written long before the Spaniards arrived in our country. This is due to the fact that the stories of ancient time were not written, but rather passed on from generation to generation through word of mouth. Only during 1521 did the early Filipinos became acquainted with literature due to the influence of the Spaniards on us. But the literature that the Filipinos became acquainted with are not Philippine-made, rather, they were works of Spanish authors. So successful were the efforts of colonists to blot out the memory of the country's largely oral past that present-day Filipino writers, artists and journalists are trying to correct this inequity by recognizing the country's wealth of ethnic traditions and disseminating them in schools through mass media. The rise of nationalistic pride in the 1960s and 1970s also helped bring about this change of attitude among a new breed of Filipinos concerned about the "Filipino identity." Archaic Writing System
Compared to other Southeast Asian countries, the Philippines has very few artifacts that show evidence of writing, like the Laguna Copperplate Inscription. It is known that the Filipinos transferred information by word of mouth so it is not a surprise to know that literacy only became widespread in 1571 when the Spaniards came to the Philippines. But the early script used by the Filipinos called Baybayin (often mistaken by most Filipinos as "Alibata", although this was deprived from Arabic, which had no influence on the Philippine language whatsoever.) became widespread in Luzon. The Spaniards recorded that people in Manila and other places wrote on bamboo or on specially prepared palm leaves, using knives and styli. They used the ancient Tagalog script which had 17 basic symbols, three of which were the vowels a/e, i, and o/u. Each basic consonantal symbol had the inherent a sound: ka, ga, nga, ta, da, na, pa, ba, ma, ya, la, wa, sa, and ha. A diacritical mark, called kudlit, modified the sound of the symbol into different vowel sounds. The kudlit could be a dot, a short line, or even an arrowhead. When placed above the symbol, it changed the inherent sound of the symbol from a/e to i; placed below, the sound became o/u. Thus a ba/be with a kudlit placed above became a bi; if the kudlit was placed below, the symbol became a bo/bu.
Owing to the works of our own archaeologists, ethnologists and anthropologists, we are able to know more and better judge information about Philippine pre-colonial times set against a bulk of material about early Filipinos as recorded by Spanish, Chinese, Arabic and other chroniclers of the past. Pre-colonial inhabitants of our islands showcase the Philippines' rich past through their folk sayings, folk songs, folk narratives and indigenous rituals and mimetic dances. The most seminal of these folk sayings is the riddle which is tigmo in Cebuano, bugtong in Tagalog, paktakon in Ilonggo and patototdon in Bicol. There are also proverbs or aphorisms that express norms or codes of behavior, community beliefs or values by offering nuggets of wisdom in short, rhyming verse. The folk song, is a form of folk lyric which expresses the hopes and aspirations, the people's lifestyles as well as their loves. These are often repetitive and sonorous, didactic and naive as in the children's songs or Ida-ida (Maguindanao), tulang pambata (Tagalog) or cansiones para abbing (Ibanag). A few examples are...