by: Christine F. Godinez-Ortega
The diversity and richness of Philippine literature evolved side by side with the country's history. This can best be appreciated in the context of the country's pre-colonial cultural traditions and the socio-political histories of its colonial and contemporary traditions. The average Filipino's unfamiliarity with his indigenous literature was largely due to what has been impressed upon him: that his country was "discovered" and, hence, Philippine "history" started only in 1521. So successful were the efforts of colonialists 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 and in the mass media. The rousings 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." Pre-Colonial Times
Owing to the works of our own archaeologists, ethnologists and anthropologists, we are able to know more and better judge information about our 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 a rich past through their folk speeches, folk songs, folk narratives and indigenous rituals and mimetic dances that affirm our ties with our Southeast Asian neighbors. The most seminal of these folk speeches is the riddle which is tigmo in Cebuano, bugtong in Tagalog, paktakon in Ilongo and patototdon in Bicol. Central to the riddle is the talinghaga or metaphor because it "reveals subtle resemblances between two unlike objects" and one's power of observation and wit are put to the test. While some riddles are ingenious, others verge on the obscene or are sex-related: Gaddang:
Gongonan nu usin y amam If you pull your daddy's penis Maggirawa pay sila y inam. Your mommy's vagina, too, (Campana) screams. (Bell)
The proverbs or aphorisms express norms or codes of behavior, community beliefs or they instill values by offering nuggets of wisdom in short, rhyming verse. The extended form, tanaga, a mono-riming heptasyllabic quatrain expressing insights and lessons on life is "more emotionally charged than the terse proverb and thus has affinities with the folk lyric." Some examples are the basahanon or extended didactic sayings from Bukidnon and the daraida and daragilon from Panay. The folk song, 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 the lullabyes or Ili-ili (Ilongo); love songs like the panawagon and balitao (Ilongo); harana or serenade (Cebuano); the bayok (Maranao); the seven-syllable per line poem, ambahan of the Mangyans that are about human relationships, social entertainment and also serve as a tool for teaching the young; work songs that depict the livelihood of the people often sung to go with the movement of workers such as the kalusan (Ivatan), soliranin (Tagalog rowing song) or the mambayu, a Kalinga rice-pounding song; the verbal jousts/games like the duplo popular during wakes. Other folk songs are the drinking songs sung during carousals like the tagay (Cebuano and Waray); dirges and lamentations extolling the deeds of the dead like the kanogon (Cebuano) or the Annako (Bontoc). A type of narrative song or kissa among the Tausug of Mindanao, the parang sabil, uses for its subject matter the exploits of historical and legendary heroes. It tells of a...