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Frances Tracy C.

Pasicolan BS Management II- B Lit 1-H (MTh 1:00-2:30 pm)



History of Philippine Literature

Written accounts of the early Filipinos, by the Spaniards, Chinese, and Southeast Asians or by early
Filipinos, revealed that we already have an enriched and developed culture of our own. Through
letters and symbolism, alibata as the native alphabet, early Filipinos were able to preserve our history
verbally and nonverbally. Early Philippine literature is basically an oral cultural tradition, the act of
story-telling itself. Folk lyrics and folk narratives reflect daily life activities and indigenous rituals and
mimetic dances such as housekeeping, farming, fishing, hunting, child-minding. Oral pieces such as
riddles containing metaphor, employs on a persons wit. Proverbs expresses a socially-acceptable
behavior, community beliefs, and bits of wisdom. Folk Songs (i.e love songs, serenade songs, drinking
songs, work songs, narrative songs, and lamentation songs), or folk lyrics expresses the peoples hopes
and aspirations, the peoples lifestyles, their love. Oral folk tales shows our primitive belief in
superstition and supernatural events; epics are myths about heroes or heroines, legends are
explanation on the origins of things, and fables are stories about animals that reflect human nature
and teach moral lessons. With the entry of the Spaniards in to our land, early Philippine literature
gradually decline and subverted into Iberian ideology. Our cultural identity lost.
Philippines had become the middle man, confused of the mixed cultures and estranged from
his own culture. Our history had written and molded by the colonizers into their own likeness, a
history that is ours but not our own. After centuries of subjugation and adaptation of the Spanish and
American ideals, Philippine literature, in English or in dialect, was in search for and recreate his lost
voice and identity.

Philippine Literature under Spanish Colonial Period

Spanish colonizers, upon their entry in the Philippines, used God through religion in
converting the early Filipino animist or pagans into Catholicism. Religion, the power of belief, is an
influential mechanism in the domestication of the Filipinosintroduction of the Iberian ideology
and introduction to what is moral and what is not (such as the concept of virginity, womens
greatest price). The Spaniards imposed their monarchy, the concept of authority (of power) and of
hierarchy and Roman Catholicism over the Filipinos. The moralization of the Filipinos, however,
instigated the illiteracy, slavery, and venality of the Filipinos. Church is the center of every town,
surrounded by market, school, and housesreligion as the focal point of the Filipinos daily activities
(i.e. novenas, Sunday and special occasion mass, celebrations and festivals of Jesus, of the Blessed
Virgin Mary, and of saints). Roman Catholicism through catechetical schools introduced and imposed
Latin, but was not taught to Filipinos. The friars, a high regard official appointed by the Spanish
government, had their eyes and hands all over the Philippines. Through the Ladinos, the early
catechist, the Spanish friars learned our native language. As evident in Rosario Cruz Luceros short
story, The Death of Fray Salvador Montano, wherein Spanish Fray Salvador Montano worked on a
dictionary containing Hiligaynon dialect. Even if the friars taught the Ladinos Spanish and Latin, it
was only enough for the Ladinos to understand and to follow the friars orders. It was through
religion that the Spaniards, fooled, deceived and oppressed the Filipinoscontradicting the Catholics
principles and doctrines of morality and goodness.
The Spaniards also introduced a social class system, elite (Spaniards and hybrids), middle class
(ilustrados), and indios (mass Filipinos). With the social class system, society was dividedthe taga-
bukid or the taga-bundok (ruralindios and rebels) versus the taga-bayan (urbanmiddle class).
Aside from the religious lyrics such as novenas and pasyons (e.g. Gaspar Aquino de Belens Ang
Mahal na Passion ni Jesu Christong Panginoong Nating Lahat) sung during Lenten Season, religious
narratives such as Modesto de Castros Pagsusulatan ng Dalawang Binibini na si Urbana at si Feliza
whose characters, Urbana and Feliza exhanges letters that lay down proper and socially acceptable
behaviors, attitudes and actions. Castros Pagsusulatan ng Dalawang Binibini na si Urbana at si Feliza,
is called a protonovel, a framework of good moral and right conduct. Theatrical plays called Komedya
or Sarswela, reflects the romanticism from 16
th
century to late 19
th
century. Romanticism, a literary,
artistic and philosophical movement in 18
th
century that emphasized imagination, fantasy, emotions,
melodramatic, is evident in secular lyrics such as awit and koridotales of love, and heroismsuch
as Francisco Balagtas Baltazars Florante at Laura. Amidst the control of publication, of language, and
of subject, Balagtas, in his Florante at Laura, was able to conceal his opposition and his resistance of
the Spaniards through the allegory of characters. Vengeful Heaven: Florantes First Lamentation, an
excerpt in Balagtass Florante at Laura, reflects the cries of Filipinos from misery and suffering which
is somehow comparable to Andres Bonifacios The Final Cry of Filipinas.
After a Spanish Royal Decree was passed in 1863, wherein Spanish and Roman letters should
be taught to the mass Filipinos but only in catechism, it gave way for Filipinos but only those in
middle class, who can afford education (local or abroad), to speak and write fluently in Spanish and in
Latin. But it was officially in late 19
th
century, that Philippine literature in Spanish or in Filipino
(Tagalog) stimulated the national consciousness and patriotism of Filipinos. Pedro Paternos poetry
(e.g. Sampaguita), presents the irony (or double meaning) of the sampaguita that represents the
Philippines and the Filipinas. The ilustrados, taga-bayan, who had higher education (literature,
medicine, politics, art, science, and business), who can speak and write in Spanish fluently, used pen
and ink for political essays, novels, and poetries. The ilustrados formed the Propaganda Movement,
whose audience were the Spaniards, both secular and lay, wrote and published their editorial protests
for reforms and assimilation of the Philippines in their official gazette, La Solidaridad. Jose Rizals
famous novels, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, shows the marginalization and discrimination
of the indios (i.e the harsh and injustice working conditionsforce labor and low payment
overpricing and over taxing, exploitation of women, unlawful imprisonment and sentencing, mass
illiteracy, secular and religious corruption, and social inequalities) and voices out the peoples rage
and pain. Andres Bonifacio in his poem, The Last Cry of Filipinas, whose audience was the masses,
amidst being a self-thought man in Spanish, used Filipino (Tagalog) in infusing patriotism of Filipinos
not only with pen but if necessary, with sword. Bonifacios opposing views with that of Rizals
(comparable to the opposing views of Elias (Katipunan) and Ibarra (Propaganda) in Rizals Noli Me
Tangere) reflect the aim of the Katipunan movement, liberation and independence of the Philippines
and of the Filipinos from Spain.
Eventually, these socio-political realism and nationalism led to the Philippine Revolution of
1896. If it wasnt for the pen, there would not have been a sword. And if it wasnt for the sword, we
would not have the Philippine Independence in June 12, 1898.



Philippine Literature under American Colonial Period

But Filipinos independence was short lived. Spain, under the Treaty of Paris, sold Philippines
to the Americans. Philippines can be compared to a slave trade in the West wherein African-
Americans were auctioned, then slaved and worse, lynched by white Americans. In Carlos Bulosans
Two Faces of America, an excerpt from his semi-autobiographical novel America is in the Heart,
America is presented as a country suffering from a separate identity. The main character, Carlo, a
Filipino migrant worker (who was part of a labor union protesting for labor reforms) was tortured by
white American men. Luckily he escaped and found himself in the warmth and tender hands of a
white American woman, named Marian. As Carlo says, What was the matter with this land? Just a
moment ago I was being beaten by white men. But there was another white person, a woman, giving
me food and place to rest. And her warmth! In early 20
th
century, in America or in the Philippines,
racial and gender discrimination and injustices is still prevalent. Amidst the evil face of America, such
as the atrocities it has committed to Filipinos (e.g. killing and burning of a whole town in Samar and
further exploitation of Filipinas though prostitution), America showed its good side through its
pacification (peace) campaign and reforms (labor, prison, and education). Unlike in the Spanish
colonial period wherein education is suppressed (only those who can afford can learn, and minimal
knowledge of Spanish and Latin was taught to mass Filipinos), America utilized education, a powerful
tool, in the pacification and suppression of the uprising and resistance in the whole Philippines.
In 1901, mass/public education was institutionalized. English, the power of language, became
the medium of writing and instruction in schools. The Americans did not only teach Filipinos their
language but they taught us how to write, speak and act like them, the American ideals. Filipinos
easily adapted the American style and form of writing, which eventually led to the decline of
writings in Spanish. But early Philippine literature in English was formalist, giving emphasis to the
structure or format (that contains the introduction of the characters, description of the background of
characters, rise of challenges/problems of the protagonist/antagonist, resolution and
realization/lesson). Romanticism, in prose or in lyric was still evident, combined with the American
pop culture or European influences, instilled social realism or social consciousness to Filipinos. The
first short story in English written by a Filipino was Paz Marquez Benitezs Dead Stars, a timeless tale
of love. Americans gave way for a freer publication. However, like the Spaniards who had
publication power, the Americans through its Anti-Sedition Law, suppressed verbally or written
Filipino nationalism. Anyone who violates the anti-seditious works, anyone who speaks ill of
America will be punished through death penalty.
With the founding of state schools and universities in early 1900s, such as the Philippine
Normal School in 1901, and the University of the Philippines in 1908, which is basically Pro-
American helped English spread and boosted the cultivation of Philippine literature in English
through school or mass publication. Filipino pensionados or government scholars gave way for the
Filipino writers in English or in native dialect to developed their own style and form of writing. In
1930s, the redefinition in the context of content and form became a turning point in the Philippine
Literature, either in English or in dialect. Filipinos writers, whose style of writing and thinking was
greatly subjugated to Spanish Romanticism and American universality, and democracy, was in search
for his own language and his own subject. In 1930s to 1940s, through the modernism of the
Philippine Literature, Filipino writers sought to find his thought, feeling and voice, not borrowed or
adopted, but by reconstructing his own Filipino pride and sense and by creating rediscovering his lost
Filipino identity. Filipina writers, who hide in the guise of a male name, found her voice and her
place in literature through education and broadening their perspective and skill in art.
New literary forms such as free verse (in poetry), conventional short stories, and critical
essays emerged from our Filipino writers. Politically or socially conscious writers such as Arturo B.
Rotor, Manuel Arguilla, Lope K. Santos, developed vernacular writings whose purpose was art for
peoples sake. Unlike Lope K. Santos, Jose Garcia Villas literary principle of art for arts sake was
evident in his eccentric and ambiguous poetry (e.g I, It, Saw, Here) wherein he separated every word
with a comma, giving emphasis or gravity to each word, images, and detail. Villas artful and cunning
is similar with E.E. Cummingss, a famous American poet during the early 20
th
century, who showed
the flexibility of the English language with his use of free verse, punctuation marks such open and
close parenthesis, and vagueness in his poetry. The Filipino writers redefined the Romantic Spirit
through New Criticism, the concentration and attention to arrangement, style or artistic means that
presents irony, ambiguity, paradox of the social and cultural milieu of their time.

Philippine Literature under the Republic

The archipelagic structure of our land created a diversity of race, ethnicity and culture as
evident in our multilingualism. Amidst our confused and curbed hybrid of culture, during the
Commonwealth Republic under President Manuel L. Quezon, Filipino (Tagalog) became the national
language of the Philippines. During World War II, under the Japanese Occupation in 1943-1945,
Tagalog was favored by the Japanese military authority. Japanese, an ethnocentric race, whose strong
sense of nationalism to its country and to its emperor, reflects their love of their language by
supporting Tagalog as medium of communication and of literature among Filipinos. But after World
War II, English language flourished while Filipino language became stagnant and passive. The taga-
bukid or taga-bundok, the guerillas from province, versus the taga-bayan, the PRO-US and Anti-
Communist in the city, resurged a social division in our country. The HUKBALAHAP, the radical
guerillas (from the impoverished agricultural sector) rose against the Japanese military and the puppet
Philippine government, Filipino writers in English and in Tagalog honed their craft in literature and
technique with New Criticism in 1940s and in 1950s. Filipino writers critical literature, a political
and social activism, presents their unwavering nationalism and the Filipino experience before,
during, and after the war. Stevan Javellanas Without Seeing the Dawn shows the unpleasant and
rough conditions faced by Filipinos from the hands of the Japanese (e.g. torture of Filipino and
exploitation of women). Simeon Dumdum Jr.s Third World Opera, an example of social satire poetry,
echoes the Filipinos resistance and discloses politically corrupt undertones.
New Criticism, the power of detail, imagery, and description, as presented in Bienvenido N.
Santoss The Day the Dancers Came, a short story that used images or objects as vessels of memory
sentimental valueand keeping things like keeping memories. The concept of memory (progressing
or evolving recollection of experiences) and of nostalgia (stagnant and stuck in the past recollection of
experiences) as seen in the character of Tony and Fil, respectively, from Bienvenido N. Santoss The
Day the Dancers Came. For the constraints of New Criticism, the struggle of breaking free from the
patterns imposed by formalism or structuralism in 1950s to 1970s was represented through an image
of Filipinos stuck in the middle or lost in the foreign land and the conflict between the past and
present culture and generation such as in Nick Joaquins novel, The Woman Who Had Two Navel.
Charlson Ongs Another Country, reveals the search of identity as represented in Arthur, a full
Chinese blood raced in Manila (a hybrid of culture) who had no sense of belongingness, and the
concept of looking back and looking forward of home as represented in Nancy Wang and in
Arthurs father, Chinese self-expatriates who lived in Taiwan and in Manila, respectively, but who
always reminisce and tells stories of China. In 1970s, Filipino writers broke free from formalism, from
writing alike, the content and form is open, post-structuralism (going against the currentbreaking
the barriers of language), and liberated. Unlike the rhetoric representation and contradictories of
New Criticism, allegory, irony and ambiguity is still present but more relaxed and real to the
audiences sensibility such as Rio Almas poem, To the Still Life Painter. Edith L. Tiempos Bonsai, in
free form, presents metaphorical experience through a big to small and small to big pattern, of
memory and of its implications.
In 60s, 70s, and 80s, not only the decades of pop, punk rock, disco, but also the decades of
civil, political, and social unrest. After the declaration of Martial Law on September 21, 1973 by
President Ferdinand E. Marcos, the declaration of Proclamation 1081 suspension of civil rights and
imposition of military authority over the civil society became the dark ages of the Philippines.
Lualhati Bautistas Dekada 70, a fictional novel but based on real Filipino experience during the
Martial Law (i.e. suspension of civil or human rights such as freedom of speech, innocent civilians
convicted without trial, withheld of right to assembly, denial of due process, government control
over media, political prisoners or patriots mysterious disappearance without no trace of body or
remains, corruption and poverty). The novel and its movie adaptation present the ideological
apparatus to a woman and to a man, and how Amanda Bartolome, a mother of a middle class family,
struggle to find and create her own sense of being from the expectations and difficulties of being a
mother. Dekada 70 presents political activism in a feminine persona and philosophy which is
apparent to the second wave of feminist movement in 1960sgender equality and women
empowerment. Philippine literature, in English or in dialect, instilled socio-political and cultural
awareness among Filipinos, through social realism and political activism. Jun Cruz Reyess Utos ng
Hari shows the powerlessness of a student in breaking free from the confinements of the traditional
education system and in changing the crooked system. The story is an allegory of the oppression of
the weak and the struggle of the inferior (Filipinos) to be heard and to reconstruct the dysfunctional
system of our institution (corrupt government and officials). Jojo Boys philosophical judgments and
street language, even incorporating Jesus, Einstein, and Beethoven in his humoristic sense, reflects
the colloquial and post-structuralism way of thinking, writing, and speaking among Filipinos
especially the teenagers. Jojos blasphemous yet humoristic account on Jesus reflects existentialism,
the question of faith and of society.
In comparison to the Spanish period, if it wasnt for the pen, there will be no national
consciousness of Filipinos. But in contrast to the Philippine Revolution of 1896 wherein Filipinos
used sword to attain independence and democracy, the Philippine Revolution of 1986, against the
dictatorial regime of Marcos, was a bloodless revolution. EDSA People Powers Revolution, on
February 25, 1986, was a united power, courage, and faith of all Filipinos who stood up and voiced
their cries, without tolerance of violence and bloodshed, against the corrupt and oppressive
government. The Filipinos showed the true power of democracy, as evident from the successful
trampling and ousting of Marcos dictatorship.

Philippine Literature under the Contemporary Period

After the People Power Revolution of 1986, the Filipinos, marked by a new critical sensibility
and post-structuralism found their voice again. The media had found again the possibility to write
what one wanted and how one wanted. Essays, today, do not only reflect analytical and formal
philosophical or historical tones but it reflect personal impression and sentiments, making literature
more real or truer to its readers and creating a space for readers experiential response. Dog Eaters, an
essay by Randy David., which focuses on the idea of how true reality (or nonfiction) is, and how the
eye through cameras lens chooses what to see and how to see it. Postmodernist writers began
questioning the grand narrativethe formalist imposition of a moral or the right lesson in a story
(What is the meaning of the story?). Contemporary writers concerns and focuses on the
meaningfulness of the story (What is your understanding of the story)how a persons
interpretation (of the story) is a story itself. Cerebral poetry, understanding what and how the story
looked like without imposing any meaning, and genre bending, new form of poetry (i.e. poem in a
paragraph or footnote form) as evident in Conchita Cruzs News of the Train. The alteration of
languagecreating a fiction of reality, and alteration of ones consciousnesscreating reality outside
language as seen in the News of the Train, the I or the narrator of the story is absent-minded or
lured into the allusions of the past, present, and future and how ones deception of the past had
created the present on its ownbiases of the narrator/writer. The newfound press freedom, women
writers, who is more adventurous in resisting genre classification, combining technical prose or lyrics
with artistic value and human sentiments and emotions. With the emergence of a post-modernist
form (i.e. predominantly Western), content (ranging from diverse subject such as gender sexuality,
environment, cultural identity, individual freedom etc.), and variety of genre-bending technique (i.e.
magic realism, metafiction, minimalism, science fiction, parable, comic book, gothic horror, and
postmodern parody), gave way for the rise of new talent of Filipino writers (whose age ranged from
to 40 years old). Budjette Tan and KaJo Baldisimos Trese series, though a comic book reinforced
Philippine mythology and folk lore (such as the aswang, tikbalang, kapre) in a present-day setting.
Filipino writers broke the taboos about sex, passion, and homosexuality in our prose and poetry,
introducing the concept of sexuality and implanting gender sensitivity among Filipinos. For
examples, Carlo Vergaras Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni ZsaZsa Zaturnnah, J. Neil
Garcias The Conversion, and Bernadette Villanueva Neris Ang Ikaklit sa Aming Hardin present the
struggle of LGBTs (lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders) in choosing, either to conform to the
social constructions of the institution or to go against the heteronormative society. Contemporary
writer, who were generally well-schooled, well-read, and well-traveled, marked by transnationalism
created a new critical consciousness and philosophy as reflected in the feminist expanses of
Lakambini Sitoys Touch, adventure into and among the Chinese-Filipino of Charlson Ongs Another
Country, and in letting go of the past and moving forward of a mother-daughter conquest of Merlie
M. Alunans Bringing the Dolls.
Amidst our multilingualism and our confused bilingualism, Filipinos should reclaim our
languageFilipinothrough reinforcing our Filipino language through Philippine History and
Philippine Literature subjects, courses, and workshops offered inside and outside schools and
universities. Because of dynamic and unpredictable environment, Filipino writers, today, struggle to
create timelessness in their literature, not ephemeraleasily forgotten. Through the constant
changes in the milieu, i.e. surroundings, peoples ideal and philosophy, and social conditions, comes
the continuous progress and evolution of language, content and form in redefining and recreating our
own mark, a truly Tatak Filipino.