Celebrating Awesomeness (?) 

Panitikan: An Essay on Philippine Literature [1989]

History of Philippine Literature
1.) Pre-Colonial Period
                  • The evolution of Philippine literature depended on the influences of colonization and the spirit of the age. But before the change was done,                                          indigenous Philippine literature was based on the given traditions  and customs of a particular area of the country. Of course, Philippines is an archipelago country, consisting several islands, (7,107 islands to be exact).  And each of those islands has their specifications  of cultures and traditions, bearing different set of native literature.

                    I find this particular idea exciting. Of course, I would really want to get a glimpse of what they call “indigenous Philippine literature” during the pre-colonial period. It would really grant my intense interest to know the many different faces of Philippine literature. What was the literature among the Bisaya, Waray, Maranaw, to name a few.

                    • There were two literary forms during the pre-colonial period: written and oral literature. It’s really awesome how native people thought of having an interactive learning system for children considering the innocence they have in terms of civilization. Bugtong or riddle, for me, is an effective way to inculcate the ability of logical thinking of a child. Since its main target is to improve the vision of the child, of how he observes his surroundings and to make his mind work to find the right answer, I am pretty sure the native Filipinos were good enough in terms of this. The use of the metaphor as the heart of the riddle makes it very poetic and good to hear. And if any child at present isn’t even familiar of any Filipino riddle, he should definitely call himself an alien, for real. It is a must.

                    The rest of the gang like salawikain or proverbs (they have seriously the sound to make me reflect its hidden meaning through the good lines, and I like the fact that they provides good values), tanaga (whose form makes it beautiful), and the epic (I don’t want to cram negativity here but I hate epic, those involving powers and stuff) were the interesting written literature in the historic time.

                    • And about the oral literature, I find it very amusing in a way that they chant ambahan, songs about  nature or childhood, even during joking, drinking, and many other random chores. Oh, it will be best to assume that they really do enjoy the literature they have. And this game whenever they attend funeral wakes has a very mysterious impression to me. Well, I just hope they do won’t make the dead rise for enjoying the game while on wake. The bayok is common for me but the balagtasan is what makes it exciting. I love how “players” over an issue in a very poetic way of utterance

                    • The concept of preserving oral literature amazes me so much. So how were they able to transmit it verbally, I don’t want to know. They really had the memory skill to be able to do that. And as I found out, they performed oral literature in favor of the illiterate.

                    • And of course, because of this indigenous literature, Philippines had represented the ethos and identity of the country. Cool.

2.) The Spanish Colonial Period (1565-1897)

                    • 16th Century was the start of the deprivation of the indigenous Philippine literature. Spanish colonial government finally got in the scene. They were able to manipulate literature by monopolizing it under the religious orders.  Literature evolves mainly on the themes of Spanish/ European culture and of                                         course, the Roman Catholic religion.

                    • As a proof of the influence of Spanish colonization, the first book ever printed in the Philippines is a Christian Doctrine or Doctrina Christiana in 1593 by the Dominican press.

                   • Although they allowed Bienvido’s Lumbera’s “May Bagyo Ma’t May Rilim” be published, its Christian content was set in the colonial context therefore, depriving the native context of the Filipinos during the time. Spaniards were also, for me, trying to sugar coat their intention of using the Filipino writers in Spanish to widen their colony by somewhat giving the Filipinos an indication that they were also remembered. Taking  Memorial de la vida Cristiana en la lengua tagala  by Fernando Bagongbanta as an example, though they writers provided Tagalog translations to the Spanish lines, still the superiority of                                            the Spanish language was indicated. It is never in the form, it’s always the content.

                    • I think that one of the literary form, pasyon, although it was also influenced by the Spanish context’s of Christianity, at least they embodied several Filipino sentiments and values (the feeling of Filipino mother  towards a suffering son).

                    •I’ve always known that the terms pasyon and sinakulo go hand in hand and so I was kinda relieved when I read that pasyon was derived from the drama sinakulo. And it’s kinda of amusing how they were able to perform the pasyon chant in cooking for a special food. Maybe they needed guidance or                                                                 reflection while cooking? Pretty cool. Fortunately, I don’t cook.

                    • However, the once obedient Filipino writers in Spanish became conscious for the search for freedom. That’s how the story always goes, anyway. The modern pasyon already discussed the themes of protest and liberation --  the epic poem became interested in the social topic.

                     • Filipino writers are often deviating from the standards of what the society dictates. Marcelo H. del Pilar was one. In his Pasyon Dapat Ipag-alab ng Puso, his rebellious writing style was identified.  He wanted Filipinos to ban themselves from the convent and banish Pascual Poblete’s Patnubay sa Binyagan. He even associated Filipinos’ struggle for independence with Jesus’ life.

Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo made a very powerful contributions among the Filipinos the introduction of rejecting Spanish rule. He also influenced the succeeding writ 

                     • The narrative poems awit and corridor talked about world of royals, warriors and lovers (the basic concept in Florante at Laura). They were once oral literature but later were printed in novena-sized booklets. It was also the basis of the drama, komedya. Francisco Baltazar’s Florante at Laura embodied the concept of colonization and oppression which gave voice to their revolutionary action towards freedom.

                      • Because of the Spanish colonization, it can be said that it gave way to the idea of opening the nationalistic nature of the Filipinos through literature under the Spaniards (e.g. forced labor and the execution of GOMBURZA priests).

3.) The American Colonial Period

                       • Philippine literature in Spanish was starting to lose its track on the first decade. And the Filipino  writers’ eyes were all focused to the American colonizers. It may sound cliché but I always agree that “pen is mightier than sword.” Call me a person who needs life but it’s a noble thing. Protesting against   
deprivation or oppression using literature is always awesome. And those anti-American plays written by Filipino writers were wise actions. Truly, using one of the most influential aspect in the society, media, is an easy way to start a revolution.

                        • The poems of Fernando Ma. Guerrero (Crisalidas), Balmori’s Se deshojo la flor novel , and many others discussed revolution and sentiments for patriotism and reform prove that Philippine literature was used to claim freedom from the colonizers.

                        • And although Filipinos revolted against English colonizer still, we shall be thankful that their American insular government provided system so that Filipino learners might grasped a wide knowledge about the English language. Through the languages, the secondary learner writers were able to relate their experiences through writing. Philippine literature in English was more universal.

                        • Even if Philippine literature was in English, the preservation of the content for Filipino experiences were achieved. Making it a “Filipino” still.

                        • Short story writers in English like Manuel Arguilla in his “A Son is Born,” was one of the foundations of  the Philippine literature, not in Tagalog or in Spanish, but during this time, in English. Poetry in English were also founded.  Sarsuwela was overpowered by English drama.

                        • However, deprivation of the usage of native languages in Philippine literature wasn’t the case, which is a fortunate thing. Thanks to the people like Amado Yuzon in Pampanga [Buri Ku King Abalu Mu]. One’s mother tongue is always greater than any other second language learned.