Long before the Spaniards came to the Philippines, the Filipinos already had their own culture. It was similar in some aspects to that of the Malays but was enriched through their contact with other Asians like the Chinese and the Japanese and with the people India and some Arab countries.
According to the early missionaries, the Filipinos had their own alphabet. The early Filipinos wrote on clay, barks of trees, bamboo tubes or palm leaves – materials that were easily destroyed, thus, explaining the lack of written literature of the time. For pens, they used the point of a knife, a piece of iron, or any pointed instrument like bird’s quills. Soot and sap from certain trees were used for ink.
Much of Philippine literature was oral. It consisted of folk narratives, riddles, proverbs, songs, ritual chants, and epics. The literature was community-bound and sprang from the experiences and observations of the people.
The most substantial of pre-Spanish literature is the epic. The Filipino epic is a long narrative revolving heroic deeds and supernatural events. It embodies beliefs, customs, ideals, or life-values of the people and used to be sung or chanted in communal gatherings like the celebration of a good harvest, a tribal victory, or at ceremonies mournings the death of chieftain.
The epic hero is imbued with characteristics of idealism – courage, wisdoms, beauty, endurance, chivalry, and justice. His legendary adventures are full of obstacles put up by supernatural forces or by people with supernatural powers. To overcome these supernatural obstacles, the hero has to be aided by friendly supernatural beings.
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