The Spanish colonizers wanted to undermine the native oral tradition by substituting for it the story of the Passion of Christ. However, the native tradition survived and even flourished in areas inaccessible to the Spaniards. Also, the Spaniards were late in instituting a public educational system, which contributed to the survival of the existing folk literature.
The church authorities adopted a policy of spreading the Church doctrines by communicating to the natives in their own language. Doctrina Christiana (1593), the first book to be printed in the Philippines, was a prayerbook written in Spanish with an accompanying Tagalog translation.
The task of translating religious instructional materials forced the Spanish missionaries to employ natives as translators. Eventually, these natives learned to read and write both in Spanish and in their native tongue. These bilingual natives were called the Ladinos. They published their works, mainly devotional poetry, in the first decade of the 17th century. The most gifted among the Ladinos was Gaspar Aquino de Belen who wrote Mahal na Pasion ni Jesu Christo, a Tagalog poem based on Christ's passion, was published in 1704.
Until the 19th century, the printing presses were owned and managed by the religious orders. Thus, religious themes dominated the literature of the time.
In the 18th century, secular literature from Spain in the form of medieval ballads inspired the native poetic-drama form called the komedya, later to be called moro-moro because these often dealt with the theme of Christians triumphing over Moslems.
Fransisco Baltazar (1788-1862), popularly called Balagtas, is the acknowledged master of traditional Tagalog poetry. His narrative poem, "Florante at Laura," written in sublime Tagalog, is about tyranny in Albanya, but it is also perceived to be about the tyranny in his Filipino homeland.
Printing overtook the oral tradition,