Philippine Literature

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A Brief History of Philippine Literature in English

I.                    Pre-Colonial Period

-          Consisted of early Filipino literature passed down orally; oral pieces have a communal authorship – it was difficult to trace the original author of the piece since oral literature did not focus on ownership or copyright, rather on the act of storytelling itself;

-          Many oral pieces became lost in the wave of the new literary influence brought about by the Spanish colonization; however, according to the Philippine Literature: A History & Anthology, English Edition (Lumbera, B. & Lumbera C.), the pre-colonial period of Philippine literature is considered the longest in the country’s history;

-          Literature in this period is based on tradition, reflecting daily life activities such as housework, farming, fishing, hunting, and taking care of the children as well;

-          Oral pieces told stories which explained heroes and their adventures; they attempted to explain certain natural phenomena, and, at the same time, served as entertainment purposes;

-          Pre-colonial literature showed certain elements that linked the Filipino culture to other Southeast Asian countries (e.g. oral pieces which were performed through a tribal dance have certain similarities to the Malay dance);

-          This period in Philippine literature history represented the ethos of the people before the arrival of a huge cultural influence – literature as a cultural tradition, than a form of art that had a particular set of decorum.

·         Early Forms of Philippine Literature:

                    o   Bugtong (riddles; a bugtong contains a metaphor called,Talinghaga), Salawikain (proverb);                      o   Pre-colonial poetry – Tanaga (expresses a view or a value of the world), Ambahan (songs about childhood, human relationships, hospitality; sung by the Mangyan), Duplo (verbal jousts/games), Bayok (thoughts about love), Balagtasan (performed on stage);                     o   Epic poetry – romantic heroes and heroines that are a reflection of the world as perceived by the early Filipinos.      

·         Notable Works of the Pre-colonial Period:                     o      Tuwaang, Lam-ang, Hinilawod, Bantugan

II.                    Spanish Colonial Period (Mid-16th – late 19th century)

-          The Spanish culture, as reflected in the works of this literature period, showed a clash with the pre-colonial Filipino literature in the beginning. However, due to the length of stay of the colonizers, the Spanish culture was eventually imbued in the Filipino literature of the period;

-          Religion became an important theme that had influenced the early Filipino writings which had the presence of paganism – “Christian Folk-Tale”;

-          In addition, the influence of religion, besides on the daily life of the natives, was lead by the friar/missionary/parish priest who were appointed by the Spanish government; 

-          Despite the goal of the Spanish government to turn the country into a full-fledged European colony, the Spanish influence ironically inspired a reformation from the natives, which eventually turned into a revolution;

-          Yet regardless of the conflicts that plagued the relationship between the Spaniards and the Filipinos, a sense of nationalism was formed among the oppressed, and had caused them to rise up to a nationalistic cause;

-          The essay genre was recognized amidst the scene of editorial protest – Jose Rizal and Plaridel (Marcelo H. Del Pilar) were among those who opt in using the pen in voicing out the people’s cry instead of the sword;

-          Introduction of the roman alphabet that gradually replaced the ‘alibata’;

-          The Filipino literature of this period became the predecessor of many more literary works to come in the ages, wherein the theme of...
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