Philippine Literature: Socio-Historical Background

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Historically, Philippine Literature in English began with the coming of the Americans in 1898. The Filipinos learned another foreign language and were introduced to another alien culture. Used to the “leisurely tempo and ornate phraseology of the Castilian speech”, they had to adapt to a new language that was more or less direct and less florid. Spanish continued to dominate the circle of the elite but in the 30’s, it began to give way to English. At the same time, the vernacular languages continued to be used in the homes even while Tagalog, the language of the capital and the provinces around it, successfully held its own against English and Spanish.

“The most effective means of subjugating a people,” write Renato Constantino, “is to capture their minds.” The Americans made English the medium of communication in the bureaucracy, and the medium of instruction in schools. It became therefore both an instrument for the acquisition of social status and even a requisite for employment. Hence, English was considered the official language of communication.

As previously mentioned, Spanish was retained in the homes and the business establishments of the old aristocracy who clung to the power and prestige which they had during the Spanish era. Soon, however, English gradually replaced it and was picked up by the middle class, the new economic and intellectual elite. The young generation became themselves the purveyor and staunch exponents of English, making it the medium of communication among themselves.

With the improvement of Fil-American relationship, American soldiers who were the first public school teachers, were replaced by professional teachers who at the start were all American teachers, in fact, who exercised the initial and one of the more important influences on the first Filipino writers in English.

A landmark in the literary development of the country along the lines of Western cultural...
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