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The American Colonial Period

A new set of colonizers brought about new changes in Philippine literature. New
literary forms such as free verse [in poetry], the modern short story and the critical
essay were introduced. American influence was deeply entrenched with the firm
establishment of English as the medium of instruction in all schools and with literary
modernism that highlighted the writer’s individuality and cultivated consciousness of
craft, sometimes at the expense of social consciousness.

The poet, and later, National Artist for Literature, Jose Garcia Villa used free verse
and espoused the dictum, “Art for art’s sake” to the chagrin of other writers more
concerned with the utilitarian aspect of literature. Another maverick in poetry who used
free verse and talked about illicit love in her poetry was Angela Manalang Gloria, a
woman poet described as ahead of her time. Despite the threat of censorship by the
new dispensation, more writers turned up “seditious works” and popular writing in the
native languages bloomed through the weekly outlets like Liwayway and Bisaya.

The Balagtas tradition persisted until the poet Alejandro G. Abadilla advocated
modernism in poetry. Abadilla later influenced young poets who wrote modern verses
in the 1960s such as Virgilio S. Almario, Pedro I. Ricarte and Rolando S. Tinio.

While the early Filipino poets grappled with the verities of the new language,
Filipinos seemed to have taken easily to the modern short story as published in
the Philippines Free Press, the College Folio and Philippines Herald. Paz Marquez
Benitez’s “Dead Stars” published in 1925 was the first successful short story in English
written by a Filipino. Later on, Arturo B. Rotor and Manuel E. Arguilla showed
exceptional skills with the short story.

Alongside this development, writers in the vernaculars continued to write in the

provinces. Others like Lope K. Santos, Valeriano Hernandez Peña and Patricio
Mariano were writing minimal narratives similar to the early Tagalog short fiction
called dali or pasingaw (sketch).

The romantic tradition was fused with American pop culture or European
influences in the adaptations of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan by F. P. Boquecosa
who also penned Ang Palad ni Pepe after Charles Dicken’sDavid Copperfield even as
the realist tradition was kept alive in the novels by Lope K. Santos and Faustino
Aguilar, among others.

It should be noted that if there was a dearth of the Filipino novel in English, the
novel in the vernaculars continued to be written and serialized in weekly magazines
like Liwayway, Bisaya, Hiligaynon and Bannawag.

The essay in English became a potent medium from the 1920’s to the present.
Some leading essayists were journalists like Carlos P. Romulo, Jorge Bocobo, Pura
Santillan Castrence, etc. who wrote formal to humorous to informal essays for the
delectation by Filipinos.

Among those who wrote criticism developed during the American period were
Ignacio Manlapaz, Leopoldo Yabes and I.V. Mallari. But it was Salvador P. Lopez’s
criticism that grabbed attention when he won the Commonwealth Literay Award for the
essay in 1940 with his “Literature and Society.” This essay posited that art must have
substance and that Villa’s adherence to “Art for Art’s Sake” is decadent.

The last throes of American colonialism saw the flourishing of Philippine literature
in English at the same time, with the introduction of the New Critical aesthetics, made
writers pay close attention to craft and “indirectly engendered a disparaging attitude”
towards vernacular writings — a tension that would recur in the contemporary period.

American colonization
1. Dear Diary, 17th November 1898 I have witnessed how we Filipinos, heroically stood up to the
Spanish colonizers. All the while we thought that we have already gained independence from them.
However, our total victory was impeded by the collaboration between Spain and the United States,
where Spain handed over the Philippines to the US for 20Mdollars.

2. • The Cuban revolution against the Spaniards broke out in 1895. The United States supported the
Cubans because the latter‟s liberation from Spain would benefit their trading interests.• On
February 15, 1898, the warship Maine of the Americans was blown up in the Port of Havana.• On
May 1, 1898, the fleet of Commodore George Dewey destroyed the Spanish fleet led by Admiral

3. • On May 17, 1898, Emilio Aguinaldo left Hong Kong aboard the US ship McCulloch.• Although he
was assured by Dewey that the US had no plans to colonize the Philippines, unknown to him, US
forged an agreement with General Fermin Jaudines where: – A mock battle between the Spaniards
and the Americans would be conducted. – The Spaniards would surrender to the American troops. –
The Filipinos would not be allowed to participate in the Spaniards‟ surrender.

4. Mock Battle in Manila

5. • It began on August 13, 1897 at around 9:30 am by the bombing of Olympia in Fort San Antonio
Abad.• After an hour, General Greene‟s forces attacked from Malate. General Arthur MacArthur
troops advanced from Singalong.• By 11:20AM, the Spaniards waved their


7. The Peace Commission iscomposed of:5 Spaniards:• Eugenio Montero Ríos• Buenaventura de
Abarzuza• José de Garnica• Wenceslao Ramírez de Villa• Urrutia Rafael Cerero 5 Americans:•
William R. Day• William P. Frye• Cushman Kellogg Davis• George Gray• Whitelaw Reid

8. • On December 10, 1898, the Treaty of Paris was signed. It stated that Spain would turn over the
Philippines to the United States in exchange of $20,000,000.• US would recognize the rights of
Spaniards to sell their goods in the Philippines in the next ten years.• This anti-Filipino treaty proved
that US imperialists had never recognized the Republic of the Philippines.


10. • On July 12, 1898, Philippine independence was declared in Kawit, Cavite.• It was the first time,
the Philippine flag made in Hongkong by Mrs. Marcela Agoncillo was unfurled, while the “Marcha
Nacional Filipina”, a composition of Juan Felipe, was playing.• The Declaration of Independence was
written and read by Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista.• Aguinaldo established a republic that was not
sovereign, but a mere “protectorate”, under the protection of United States.

11. Revolutionary Government

12. • On June 23, 1898, Aguinaldo issued a decree establishing the Revolutionary Government.• The
decree created four agencies of the government: - Department of Foreign Relations, Navy and
Commerce - Department of War and Public Works - Department of Police, Internal Order, Justice,
Education and Cleanliness - Department of Finance, Agriculture and Industry and Manufacturing• It
also created the Congress which was tasked to look after the people‟s interests, implement the
revolutionary laws, uphold agreements and debts, study and affirm the reports of the Secretary of
Finance and new taxes.

13. McKinley’s “Benevolent Assimilation

14. • On December 21, 1898, President McKinley made his benevolent assimilation proclamation.•
He announced that the US would enforce its sovereignty over the Filipinos.• He also ordered his
military chief in the Philippines to extend US rule in the country

15. • On January 4, 1899, General Elwell Otis attempted to hide the real contents of the “Benevolent
Assimilation” by publishing a watered down version of the proclamation.• But General Miller,
another American Official, published the proclamation‟s original version.• When the revolutionary
government had taken hold of the proclamation, they immediately condemned it.

16. • Antonio Luna, editor of La Independencia, led in assailing the proclamation.• He called it “a
plot to temporarily silence the people before launching and unleashing all the hateful characteristics
of governance as employed by the Spaniards in the Philippines.”• On January 5, 1899, Aguinaldo
replied to the proclamation.

17. • Aguinaldo protested against the “harsh US invasion over a part of the territory of the
Philippines.”• In a revised proclamation on the same day, Aguinaldo opposed “the US intervention
on the sovereignty of the islands.”• He warned that the Filipino Government was prepared to fight
should the US troops attempt to colonize the islands in the Visayas.• General Otis considered
Aguinaldo‟s proclamations as challenges to war. The Americans silently prepared for a war


19. • On January 21, 1899, Aguinaldo proclaimed the Malolos Constitution. It was drafted by the
Constitutional committee created by the Congress.• It created a state with the government divided
into three branches: executive, legislative and judicial. The legislative, which was composed of the
Assembly of Representatives, was the most powerful.

20. The Constitution was also firm on the followingimportant provisions: - Separation of the church
and state - Recognition of each other‟s situation -Free public education at the primarylevel -
Protection of lives, homes andproperties - Collection of taxes as mandated by law• On January 23,
1899, Aguinaldo founded the Republic of the Philippines. He was also the first President of the
Republic of the

21. The Outbreak of theFilipino-American War

22. • The flames of war were ignited on the eve of February 4, 1899.• Private Willie Grayson‟s group
patrolled at San Juan.• Grayson fired at a Filipino soldier, prompting an exchange of fires between
two groups.• Gen. MacArthur ordered to or assault the Filipino troops.• Aguinaldo to Otis: “I had
not ordered the Filipino soldiers to fire” and “Armed fighting must be

23. The Hunt for and the Capture of Aguinaldo

24. • When the anticipated reinforcement of the US troops arrived, the aggressors intensified the
hunt for Aguinaldo.• When General Luna died, a good part of Filipino troops lost heart.• When
Aguinaldo found this out, he escaped, hid and chose difficult area to assault.

25. • In order to capture not just Aguinaldo, but the whole land, the Americans made an extra effort
to use wealthy Filipino traitors.• Finally, Aguinaldo fell into the hands of Americans, but the other
generals continued the struggles.• US imperialism only managed to colonize the Philippines after
thorough and merciless wars.• 130,000 US troops ( seven thousand were killed and wounded) vs 7
M Filipinos (more than 50,000 were killed).• They used several methods of cruelty: massacre, rape,
zoning, torture and concentration camps.


27. • The Americans needed new market for their products.• They were also on the lookout for new
sources of cheap raw materials.• The US hoped to use the Philippines as its base in its drive to
control the entire Pacific Ocean and other countries.• However, President McKinley and President
Wilson made the Filipino believe that the Americans intention was to teach the latter about
democracy and governance.


29. • The American colonial government expanded andspeeded up the production of raw materials
like sugar,coconut, wood products etc.• Philippine exports to the U.S. increased in 1913, afterfree
trade was implemented.• It was a set-up that made the entry of goods intoPhilippines duty-free and
tax-free.• Although it boosted production, free trade made oureconomy focused on exporting raw
materials whileimporting expensive manufactured goods.

30. •With the Americans‟ direct control of the country, theyinvested directly in: 1) Increasing raw
materials production 2) Trading in light manufactures 3) Infrastructure development• To facilitate
transportation and communication,which were necessary in trading, the colonialgovernment and
the American firms built and profitedfrom infrastructure projects.• They utilized loans from foreign
banks whichresulted to Philippines incurring huge deficits sincethe cost of import products was more
than that of thecountry‟s earnings from exports.
31. • American governmentpushed landless peasants forthe cultivation of morefarmlands to further
boostproductions.• To quell the peasants‟uprising in 1903, they broughtlands from friars
andimplemented the HomesteadAct so the people could avail oftitles for the lands they startedto
farm.• Landlords continued to exactrents or levy duties from their„tenant‟ farmers. In otherfarmers,
capitalist farmingarose in which farmers becamefarm workers.


33. The Military Government• The American troops went to a war towards establishing the military
government in August 1898 in the Philippines.• The power of every Governor-General who served
under this government came directly from the President of the United States, as the military‟s
Commander-in-Chief.• They organized the civilian courts, including the Supreme Court Justice. They
also appointed the first Filipino Supreme Court Justice.• The American military government
established a local government in every town and province that their troops had invaded. They
called an election, but those who were educated and well-off could vote and get elected.

34. The Civil Government• Even as the American troops were still fighting the Filipino
revolutionaries, Pres. McKinley had sent two Philippine Commissions tasked to establish a civil
government. The first failed to achieve anything significant, but the second was more successful.•
The Philippine Commission composed mostly of American civilians and military personnel,
performed the executive and legislative functions.• Dr. T.H. Pardo Tavera, Felipe Buencamino and
Dr. Pedro Paterno among others founded the first political party in the country, the Partido Liberal,
which called for collaboration with the U.S. In 1901, the Americans installed some of the party‟s
members in the Philippine Commission.• The Philippine Commission passed the Sedition Act, which
imposed imprisonment and the death penalty to anyone advocating freedom or separation from the
U.S. even through peaceful means.

35. • The Philippine Assembly was established in 1902 and served as the Lower Chamber. It took on
the roles of facilitating tax collection and allocating government revenues.• In 1916, the U. S.
Congress passed the Jones Law, also known as the Law on Philippine Autonomy. It was the first
formal and official American commitment to grant independence to the Philippines, “ as soon as a
stable government can be established herein.”• In 1901, the U.S. colonialists formed the Philippine
Constabulary which was headed

36. Cultural Policies

37. • In the process of molding the Filipino market came American movies, radio, automobiles,
literature, dances and games.• The Americans established the public educational system that used
English as the medium of instruction.• As schools were established, the Americans gave away free
books, supplies, candies and chocolates to encourage the children to attend.

38. • The first teachers were the American soldiers followed by trained teachers who arrived in the
country aboard the SS Thomas.• U.S. trade policies encouraged the export of cash crops and the
importation of manufactured goods; little industrial development occurred.• Meanwhile,
landlessness became a serious problem in rural areas; peasants were often reduced to the status of


40. • The first official and clear response to the call for independence was the Jones Law of 1916
which replaced the Philippine Organic Act of 1902. It established for the first time an elected upper
house, which would eventually become the Philippine Senate.• The Philippine Legislature
constituted the Independence commission which recommended sending Independence Missions to
the United States.• In 1919, Senate President Quezon led the first Independence Mission.
Unfortunately, it was not entertained by US President Woodrow Wilson.• In all, eleven
Independence Missions was sent annually. The government shouldered the huge costs of the
missions until Insular Auditor Ben Wright disallowed the spending of public funds for such.


ninth Mission known as “OSROX” (Osmeña and Roxas) brought home the Hare-Hawes- Cutting Act. •
After that, Quezon, in his solo Independence Mission, asked for another law that will grant freedom
to the Filipinos. He successfully brought home the Tydings-McDuffie Act in 1934. • The Tydings-
McDuffie Act allowed for a ten-year transition under a Philippine Commonwealth in preparing for
the granting of freedom on July 4, 1946.
42. • Pursuant to the new Act, and after American Governor General Frank Murphy set the elections
for the delegates to the convention in 1934, the Philippine Legislature called for a convention to
draft a Constitution.• After six months, the Convention finished and agreed on the Philippine
Constitution in February 1935.

43. Commonwealth of the Philippines

44. • First election - September 1935• Quezon and Osmeῆa joined forces against the Nationalist
Socialist Party and Republican Party = victory• Commonwealth Government was inaugurated in
Manila• Sec. George Dern (Secretary of War) read the proclamation under the Jones Law: – Ending
the US government in the Phil. – Start of Phil. Commonwealth

45. Changes During the Commonwealth Period • Filipinos oversaw the affairs of the gov‟t but still,
all major decisions had to be approved first by the U.S. • Economic set-up was retained. • Free trade
was extended until Dec. 31, 1960 • Intensification of production and Phil. consumption from the U.S.
• Philippine trade increased. • Development of mining industry • Revision of taxation

46. • Establishment of Phil. Congress – Senate – House of Representatives• Quezon reorganized

gov‟t bureaucracy – new departments formed: – Finance, Interior, Justice, Defense, Commerce,
etc.• Court of Appeals & Court of Industrial Relations were added. – Increase in judges‟ salaries•
National Defense Act – first law passed by Commonwealth
1. Planted seeds of nationalism in Filipinos
2. Language shifted from Spanish to Tagalog
3. Addressed the masses instead of the “intelligentsia”

: intellectuals who form an artistic, social, or political vanguard or elite

1. Propaganda Literature:
Political Essays
i. Diariong Tagalog
ii. La Solidaridad
iii. Noli Mi Tangere and El Filibusterismo
Literary Forms:
It was the first native daily newspaper founded by Marcelo H. del Pilar in 1882. This
bilingual, Tagalog and Spanish, newspaper existed only from three to five months.
It was the first daily published in the Tagalog text, where the Spanish
maladministration of the Philippines were publicly denounced . Attacks were mostly
directed against the friars whom del Pilar considered to be mainly responsible for the
oppression of the Filipinos.
i . Diariong Tagalog
La Solidaridad was the name of the all-Filipino organization established by the
illustrados of Barcelona on 13 December 1888, which sought to create Filipino
representation in the Spanish Cortes, abolition of censorship of the press and
prohibition of the practice of deporting citizens merely through administrative orders.
it was founded on February 15, 1889 and existed up to November 15, 1895.

ii. La Solidaridad
Noli Me Tangere is a Latin word which means "Touch Me Not" which was mentioned
in the Bible in the book of St. John the Baptist. Rizal described the Spaniards as a
disgrace which provided more hardships to the tlife of the Filipinos. The detailed story
about the sufferings of his countrymen were meant to awaken the Filipinos to the truth
that was adversely affecting the society and which had not been talked about by the
people most probably due to fear with the ruling Spaniards.
iii.i Noli Me Tangere
El Filibusterismo was written about four years after Noli; in it, Rizal reveals a more
mature and less hopeful outlook regarding the political and social situation in the
Philippines. The novel, along with its predecessor, were banned in some parts of the
Philippines as a result of their portrayals of the Spanish goverment's abuse and
corruption. These novels, along with Rizal's involvement in organizations that aim to
address and reform the Spanish system and its issues led to Rizal's exile to Dapitan
and eventual execution.
iii.ii El Filibusterismo
Political Essays
i. Kalayaan
i. True Decalogue
ii. Katapusang Hibik ng Pilipinas
iii. Liwanag at Dilim
Revolutionary Literature:
Katipunan’s newsletter, was formed and distributed during the late 1800s to stir the
masses’ yearning for freedom. he Katipuneros distributed copies throughout the
Philippine provinces to inform the masses on their cause and to let them know how
they can help the country. Through this advocacy, Katipunan inevitably grew its rank
as a reputable organization fighting for the country’s freedom.

On 24 June 1898, Apolinario Mabini printed a pamphlet that contained the documents
The True Decalogue and The Constitutional Program of the Philippine Republic, that
form the basic documentation of the programs pertinent to the revolutionary
government being established by the revolutionary government of Aguinaldo, in order
for the people, in Mabini’s words, to “understand that reason and your conscience
constitute the only solid and true basis of your moral education, in the same way that
honest work is the real basis for your material education,” (Palma, 1941, 41). Mabini
continued by stating that what was contained in the documents were his proposals for
the internal revolution for the people to adopt as their moral and behavioral guide, and
for the external revolution for the revolutionary government to espouse as the
framework of governance.
"True Decalogue"
"Katapusang Hibik ng Pilipinas"
"Katapusang Hibik ng Pilipinas" (apparently written in response to the poems "Hibik
ng Pilipinas sa Inang Espanya" by Hermenegildo Flores and "Sagot ng Espanya sa
Hibik ng Pilipinas" by Marcelo del Pilar), and the immortal "Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang
Bayan"--some of the lines of which would be set to music more than 70 years later by
Luis Salvador Jorque and repeatedly performed in rallies and militant cultural
presentations. His pen was also responsible for "Katungkulang Gagawin ng mga Anak
ng Bayan," a code of conduct for Katipuneros, and "Ang Dapat Mabatid ng mga
Tagalog", an essay which, though short, relates quite lucidly the hardships of the
Philippines under Spanish colonial rule and calls upon the Filipino people to rise
against oppression.
"Liwanag at Dilim"
The theme of the work is well-expressed in the title, for it is an effort, analogous to
that which inspired so many of Rizal's writings, to help his people, especially the
"Anak ng Bayan," to distinguish the true values of Filipinos, represented by light,
from the false ones of darkness.
Liwanag at Dilim: ito’y katipunan ng mga sanaysay na may iba’t ibang paksatulad ng
mga sumusunod: “Ang ningning at ang liwanag”,
“Ang Tao’y Magkakapantay”,
“Ang Pag-ibig”,
“Ang Bayan at ang mga pinuno”,
“Ang Gumawa”, at
“Ang Maling Pananampalataya”.
Philippine literary production during the American Period in the Philippines was
spurred by two significant developments in education and culture. One is the
introduction of free public instruction for all children of school age and two, the use of
English as medium of instruction in all levels of education in public schools.

Free public education made knowledge and information accessible to a greater

number of Filipinos. Those who availed of this education through college were able to
improve their social status and joined a good number of educated masses who
became part of the country’s middle class.

The use of English as medium of instruction introduced Filipinos to Anglo-

American modes of thought, culture and life ways that would be embedded not only in
the literature produced but also in the psyche of the country’s educated class. It was
this educated class that would be the wellspring of a vibrant Philippine Literature in

Philippine literature in English, as a direct result of American colonization of the

country, could not escape being imitative of American models of writing especially
during its period of apprenticeship. The poetry written by early poets manifested
studied attempts at versification as in the following poem which is proof of the poet’s
rather elementary exercise in the English language:

Vacation days at last are here,

And we have time for fun so dear,
All boys and girls do gladly cheer,
This welcomed season of the year.
In early June in school we’ll meet;
A harder task shall we complete
And if we fail we must repeat
That self same task without retreat.
We simply rest to come again
To school where boys and girls obtain
The Creator’s gift to men
Whose sanguine hopes in us remain.
Vacation means a time for play
For young and old in night and day
My wish for all is to be gay,
And evil none lead you astray

– Juan F. Salazar

Philippines Free Press, May 9, 1909

The poem was anthologized in the first collection of poetry in English, Filipino
Poetry, edited by Rodolfo Dato (1909 – 1924). Among the poets featured in this
anthology were Proceso Sebastian Maximo Kalaw, Fernando Maramag, Leopoldo
Uichanco, Jose Ledesma, Vicente Callao, Santiago Sevilla, Bernardo Garcia,
Francisco Africa, Pablo Anzures, Carlos P. Romulo, Francisco Tonogbanua, Juan
Pastrana, Maria Agoncillo, Paz Marquez Benitez, Luis Dato and many others. Another
anthology, The English German Anthology of Poetsedited by Pablo Laslo was
published and covered poets published from 1924-1934 among whom were Teofilo D.
Agcaoili, Aurelio Alvero, Horacio de la Costa, Amador T. Daguio, Salvador P. Lopez,
Angela Manalang Gloria, Trinidad Tarrosa, Abelardo Subido and Jose Garcia Villa,
among others. A third pre-war collection of poetry was edited by Carlos
Bulosan, Chorus for America: Six Philippine Poets. The six poets in this collection
were Jose Garcia Villa, Rafael Zulueta da Costa, Rodrigo T. Feria, C.B. Rigor, Cecilio
Baroga and Carlos Bulosan.

In fiction, the period of apprenticeship in literary writing in English is marked by

imitation of the style of storytelling and strict adherence to the craft of the short story
as practiced by popular American fictionists. Early short story writers in English were
often dubbed as the Andersons or Saroyans or the Hemingways of Philippine letters.
Leopoldo Yabes in his study of the Philippine short story in English from 1925 to 1955
points to these models of American fiction exerting profound influence on the early
writings of story writers like Francisco Arcellana, A.E. Litiatco, Paz Latorena. .

When the University of the Philippines was founded in 1908, an elite group of
writers in English began to exert influence among the culturati. The U.P. Writers Club
founded in 1926, had stated that one of its aims was to enhance and propagate the
“language of Shakespeare.” In 1925, Paz Marquez Benitez short story, “Dead
Stars”was published and was made the landmark of the maturity of the Filipino writer
in English. Soon after Benitez, short story writers began publishing stories no longer
imitative of American models. Thus, story writers like Icasiano Calalang, A.E. Litiatco,
Arturo Rotor, Lydia Villanueva, Paz Latorena , Manuel Arguilla began publishing
stories manifesting both skilled use of the language and a keen Filipino sensibility.

This combination of writing in a borrowed tongue while dwelling on Filipino

customs and traditions earmarked the literary output of major Filipino fictionists in
English during the American period. Thus, the major novels of the period, such as
the Filipino Rebel, by Maximo Kalaw, and His Native Soil by Juan C. Laya, are
discourses on cultural identity, nationhood and being Filipino done in the English
language. Stories such as “How My Brother Leon Brought Home a Wife” by
Manuel Arguilla scanned the scenery as well as the folkways of Ilocandia while N.V.
M. Gonzales’s novels and stories such as “Children of the Ash Covered
Loam,” present the panorama of Mindoro, in all its customs and traditions while
configuring its characters in the human dilemma of nostalgia and poverty. Apart from
Arguilla and Gonzales, noted fictionists during the period included Francisco
Arcellana, whom Jose Garcia Villa lauded as a “genius” storyteller, Consorcio Borje,
Aida Rivera, Conrado Pedroche, Amador Daguio, Sinai Hamada, Hernando Ocampo,
Fernando Maria Guerrero. Jose Garcia Villa himself wrote several short stories but
devoted most of his time to poetry.

In 1936, when the Philippine Writers League was organized, Filipino writers in
English began discussing the value of literature in society. Initiated and led by
Salvador P. Lopez, whose essays on Literature and Societyprovoked debates, the
discussion centered on proletarian literature, i.e., engaged or committed literature
versus the art for art’s sake literary orientation. But this discussion curiously left out
the issue of colonialism and colonial literature and the whole place of literary writing in
English under a colonial set-up that was the Philippines then.

With Salvador P. Lopez, the essay in English gained the upper hand in day to
day discourse on politics and governance. Polemicists who used to write in Spanish
like Claro M. Recto, slowly started using English in the discussion of current events
even as newspaper dailies moved away from Spanish reporting into English. Among
the essayists, Federico Mangahas had an easy facility with the language and the
essay as genre. Other noted essayists during the period were Fernando Maramag,
Carlos P. Romulo , Conrado Ramirez.

On the other hand, the flowering of a vibrant literary tradition due to historical
events did not altogether hamper literary production in the native or indigenous
languages. In fact, the early period of the 20th century was remarkable for the
significant literary output of all major languages in the various literary genre.
It was during the early American period that seditious plays, using the form of the
zarsuwela, were mounted. Zarsuwelistas Juan Abad, Aurelio Tolentino ,Juan
Matapang Cruz. Juan Crisostomo Sotto mounted the classics like Tanikalang Ginto,
Kahapon, Ngayon at Bukas and Hindi Ako Patay, all directed against the American
imperialists. Patricio Mariano’s Anak ng Dagat and Severino Reyes’s Walang
Sugat are equally remarkable zarsuwelas staged during the period.

On the eve of World War II, Wilfredo Maria Guerrero would gain dominance in
theatre through his one-act plays which he toured through his “mobile theatre”.
Thus, Wanted a Chaperone and The Forsaken Housebecame very popular in
campuses throughout the archipelago.

The novel in Tagalog, Iloko, Hiligaynon and Sugbuanon also developed during
the period aided largely by the steady publication of weekly magazines like
the Liwayway, Bannawag and Bisaya which serialized the novels.

Among the early Tagalog novelists of the 20th century were Ishmael Amado,
Valeriano Hernandez Peña, Faustino Aguilar, Lope K. Santos and Lazaro Francisco.

Ishmael Amado’s Bulalakaw ng Pag-asa published in 1909 was one of the

earliest novels that dealt with the theme of American imperialism in the Philippines.
The novel, however, was not released from the printing press until 1916, at which time,
the author, by his own admission and after having been sent as a pensionado to the
U.S., had other ideas apart from those he wrote in the novel.

Valeriano Hernandez Peña’s Nena at Neneng narrates the story of two women
who happened to be best of friends as they cope with their relationships with the men
in their lives. Nena succeeds in her married life while Neneng suffers from a stormy
marriage because of her jealous husband.

Faustino Aguilar published Pinaglahuan, a love triangle set in the early years of
the century when the worker’s movement was being formed. The novel’s hero, Luis
Gatbuhay, is a worker in a printery who isimprisoned for a false accusation and loses
his love, Danding, to his rival Rojalde, son of a wealthy capitalist. Lope K.
Santos, Banaag at Sikat has almost the same theme and motif as the hero of the
novel, Delfin, also falls in love with a rich woman, daughter of a wealthy landlord. The
love story of course is set also within the background of development of the worker’s
trade union movement and throughout the novel, Santos engages the readers in
lengthy treatises and discourses on socialism and capitalism. Many other Tagalog
novelists wrote on variations of the same theme, i.e., the interplay of fate, love and
social justice. Among these writers are Inigo Ed Regalado, Roman Reyes, Fausto J.
Galauran, Susana de Guzman, Rosario de Guzman-Lingat, Lazaro Francisco, Hilaria
Labog, Rosalia Aguinaldo, Amado V. Hernandez. Many of these writers were able to
produce three or more novels as Soledad Reyes would bear out in her book which is
the result of her dissertation, Ang Nobelang Tagalog (1979).

Among the Iloko writers, noted novelists were Leon Pichay, who was also the
region’s poet laureate then, Hermogenes Belen, and Mena Pecson Crisologo
whose Mining wenno Ayat ti Kararwa is considered to be the Iloko version of a Noli
me Tangere.

In the Visayas, Magdalena Jalandoni and Ramon Muzones would lead most
writers in writing the novels that dwelt on the themes of love, courtship, life in the
farmlands, and other social upheavals of the period. Marcel Navarra wrote stories and
novels in Sugbuhanon.

Poetry in all languages continued to flourish in all regions of the country during
the American period. The Tagalogs, hailing Francisco F. Balagtas as the nation’s
foremost poet invented the balagtasan in his honor. Thebalagtasan is a debate in
verse, a poetical joust done almost spontaneously between protagonists who debate
over the pros and cons of an issue.
The first balagtasan was held in March 1924 at the Instituto de Mujeres, with Jose
Corazon de Jesus and Florentino Collantes as rivals, bubuyog (bee) and paru-paro
(butterfly) aiming for the love of kampupot (jasmine). It was during this balagtasan that
Jose Corazon de Jesus, known as Huseng Batute, emerged triumphant to become
the first king of the Balagtasan. Jose Corazon de Jesus was the finest master of the
genre. He was later followed by balagtasistas, Emilio Mar Antonio and Crescenciano
Marquez, who also became King of the Balagtasan in their own time.

As Huseng Batute, de Jesus also produced the finest poems and lyrics during
the period. His debates with Amado V. Hernandez on the political issue of
independence from America and nationhood were mostly done in verse and are
testament to the vitality of Tagalog poetry during the era. Lope K. Santos, epic
poem, Ang Panggingera is also proof of how poets of the period have come to master
the language to be able to translate it into effective poetry.

The balagtasan would be echoed as a poetical fiesta and would be duplicated in

the Ilocos as thebukanegan, in honor of Pedro Bukaneg, the supposed transcriber of
the epic, Biag ni Lam-ang; and theCrissottan, in Pampanga, in honor of the esteemed
poet of the Pampango, Juan Crisostomo Sotto.

In 1932, Alejandro G. Abadilla , armed with new criticism and an orientation on

modernist poetry would taunt traditional Tagalog poetics with the publication of his
poem, “Ako ang Daigdig.” Abadilla’s poetry began the era of modernism in Tagalog
poetry, a departure from the traditional rhymed, measured and orally recited poems.
Modernist poetry which utilized free or blank verses was intended more for silent
reading than oral delivery.

Noted poets in Tagalog during the American period were Julian Cruz Balmaceda,
Florentino Collantes, Pedro Gatmaitan, Jose Corazon de Jesus, Benigno Ramos,
Inigo Ed. Regalado, Ildefonso Santos, Lope K. Santos, Aniceto Silvestre, Emilio Mar.
Antonio , Alejandro Abadilla and Teodoro Agoncillo.

Like the writers in English who formed themselves into organizations, Tagalog
writers also formed the Ilaw at Panitik, and held discussions and workshops on the
value of literature in society. Benigno Ramos, was one of the most politicized poets of
the period as he aligned himself with the peasants of the Sakdal Movement.

Fiction in Tagalog as well as in the other languages of the regions developed

alongside the novel. Most fictionists are also novelists. Brigido Batungbakal , Macario
Pineda and other writers chose to dwell on the vicissitudes of life in a changing rural
landscape. Deogracias Del Rosario on the other hand, chose the city and the
emerging social elite as subjects of his stories. He is considered the father of the
modern short story in Tagalog

Among the more popular fictionists who emerged during the period are two
women writers, Liwayway Arceo and Genoveva Edroza Matute, considered
forerunners in the use of “light” fiction, a kind of story telling that uses language through
poignant rendition. Genoveva Edroza Matute’s “Ako’y Isang Tinig” and Liwayway
Arceo’s “Uhaw ang Tigang na Lupa” have been used as models of fine writing in
Filipino by teachers of composition throughout the school system.

Teodoro Agoncillo’s anthology 25 Pinakamahusay na Maiikling Kuwento

(1945) included the foremost writers of fiction in the pre-war era.

The separate, yet parallel developments of Philippine literature in English and

those in Tagalog and other languages of the archipelago during the American period
only prove that literature and writing in whatever language and in whatever climate are
able to survive mainly through the active imagination of writers. Apparently, what was
lacking during the period was for the writers in the various languages to come together,
share experiences and come to a conclusion on the elements that constitute good
writing in the Philippines.
About the Author:
Lilia Quindoza-Santiago is the author behind “Kagampanan at Iba Pang Tula” and
“Ang Manggagamot ng Salay-Salay” (a collection of stories). She was named
Makata ng Taon (1989) in the annual Talaang Ginto of the Surian ng Wikang
Pambansa for her work “Sa Ngalan ng Ina, ng Anak, ng Diwata’t Paraluman”. She
teaches Philippine Literature at the University of the Philippines.