Though relatively young compared to other world literatures, Philippine literature has come a long way in evolving from the early forms of folklore literature to the contemporary literature we know today. The changing times and the cultural influences brought about by both the foreign and local people have shaped the fate of Philippine literature. On the earliest times before the Spanish colonization, myths, legends, and tales were the forms of literature at hand. These reflected the indigenous culture and tradition of pre-Spanish Philippines.
Stories were orally shared and passed down room one generation to the next. A bit before Spaniards came, the early natives had also developed their own writing system called Alabama and the earliest writings in Philippine literature were written in that manner on bamboo, leaves, stones, and other indigenous materials. These myths usually impart of the origin of man and the world, and mostly had a transcending spiritual purpose. Balkans or the priestesses were in charge of remembering and preserving the folklore which they preached to the people, especially to the future generations.
An example of well preserved myth is the lawful ale of Began and Gauguin that talks about the marriage of a goddess with a man and the death of their son which resulted in the creation of the world’s many things. Tales were in local vernacular forms and showed the diversity ad richness of culture by each region. On the advent of Spanish colonization, the earlier forms of literature were trashed and abandoned for the Spaniards wanted to convert the natives to Christianity and the only way to do this was to convince the natives into believing that these were evil and wicked.
That explains why the term “yaw” meaner devil, but in fact, Yaw was a airier Babylon from Bolo. Folklore was forgotten and natives were slowly but surely became Hipicize throughout the 300 years of colonization. Prayers, chants, and other religious acts were taught to the natives. Religion was a major topic in the Spanish era. Elite scholars were taught to read and write in Spanish and religion was the main subject matter. Since only the high class or the selected few had the privilege of education, this resulted in a few bright minds to explore the literature given by the Spaniards, the rest were only taught prayers.
These fortunate people were taught to read and write n Spanish and were sent overseas. This paved way for them to discover the diverse literature of the world. This gave them an utterly different perspective of literature and other matters. These scholars were inspired by the foreign revolutionary ideas and sooner than later, sparked the will to also change the system of their native land. These foreign ideas were adopted by Filipino writers like Jose Racial, Grecian Lopez Jean, Marcelo H. Del Pillar and Pedro Pattern who contributed to important Spanish literary work in the Philippines by the way of various historical documents.
Studying in Europe, Jose Racial was the most prominent advocate for reform in the Philippines. He wrote two books: the Nil Me Tanager and the El Filibusterer’s, writings and formed the ASK for revolution. It is evident in Benefaction’s poem Nag Hulling Habit Eng Filipinos (The final Cry of Filipinos) that he was on the verge of creating a revolution and that shows that on the dwindling years of Spanish rule, literature revolved around the idea of revolution and nationalism. It is true that the style and way of writing is very much affected by the need to write down the events that are unfolding.
A nationalistic era results in a nationalistic literary work. At the dawn of American colonialism?or as they called it “benevolent assimilation”, the American tactic was to not enslave us but to “befriend” us. They willingly taught the Filipinos to read and write in English, targeting the youth. Through these efforts, Philippine English literature bloomed. At the start, many Filipino writers still wrote in Spanish but gradually, as the years went by, more and more wrote in English. Since you have to learn to stand before you learn to walk, it took them a little while before Filipino writers could write literary works in English.
When the Second World War exploded and the Japanese occupied the country, writers were forced to either go underground or write in Toga. Writers were enthused to write in English again when the war was over. This period produced some famous writers like like Carols Bulbous, Alexandra Roses, Francisco Recall, Nick Joaquin. Filipino writers excelled in the short stories in English. It was at this time that Filipinos felt at more ease with using English as their medium of language. They took the writing in English language and transformed it into an artistic expression.
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