Chapter 1- Introduction to the Study of Philippine Literature

Literature is a term used to describe written or spoken material. Broadly speaking, "literature" is used to describe anything from creative writing to more technical or scientific works, but the term is most commonly used to refer to works of the creative imagination, including works of poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction.
Philippine literature had evolved much before colonization. It is full of legends and tales of colonial legacy. Mexican and Spanish dominance over the land and the people, over varying periods of time, witnessed the incorporation of English, Spanish, Filipino and native languages, to express ideology and opinion. Literature in the Philippines developed much later than in most other countries. Evidence reveals the use of a script called Baybayin that flourished in 1521. Baybayin was used to write about legends, in Luzon, during Spaniard domination

The literature of the Philippines is predominantly a reflection of the influence of the Spaniards on the indigenous culture and traditions. The people of Manila and native groups within the Philippines used to write on bamboo and the arecaceae palm. They used knives for inscribing the ancient Tagalog script. The literature thus preserved was limited to the seventeen basic symbols of the language. With just three vowels and consonantal symbols that had predetermined, inherent sound, the literature handed down was in a 'raw' state and needed to be developed.

The Tagalog language script that was used initially to preserve and hand down literature, was limited to a diacritical mark or 'kudlit' that further modified pronunciation and writing. The dot, line or arrow head was either placed above or below the symbol. The literature thus preserved has played a very important role in the public schooling arena and the rise of the educated class. 'Ilustrados' such as José Rizal and Pedro Paterno contributed to important Spanish literary work in the Philippines and subsequently, Philippine Classical Literature. The cultural elite penned a number of historical documents. Literature in the Philippines also includes various national anthems, revolutionary propaganda and nationalist articles. Most of the literature of the land was initially in the Spanish language and the contributions were profound writings by Marcelo H. Del Pilar and Claro M. Recto, among a host of others. Philippine literature was preserved well through private publications like 'Plaridel' and the first Spanish newspaper 'El Boletín de Cebú' and 'Flora Sentino', by Orlando Agnes.

Literature in the Philippines was developed and preserved by native Filipino intellectuals. Isidro Marfori, Enrique Fernandez Lumba, Cecilio Apostol, Fernando Ma. Guerrero, Jesús Balmori, Flavio Zaragoza Cano and Francisco Zaragoza played a major role in the preservation of the stories handed down in time. Writers such as Castrillo, Fernandez, Rivera, Licsi and Estrada also spent a major part of their lives in the documentation of 'by-word-of-mouth' hand-downs. Columns and articles in newspapers such as El Renacimiento, La Vanguardia, El Pueblo de Iloilo, La Democracia and El Tiempo and magazines such as 'Independent' and 'Philippine Review' kept the legacies alive in Spanish and English.

Many of the world's best short stories are native to the Philippines. When the Filipino writers began using the English language for artistic expression, they took the original works of the Philippines to the west. The folk tales and epics were, in time, put into written word along with poems and chants that were the legacies of the ethnolinguistic groups. Literary work now available includes articles on Spanish conquest, native cultural heritage, pre-colonial literature and traditional narratives. Another very interesting segment of Philippine literature includes inspiring speeches and songs. This segment has effectively maintained the mystifying characteristic of Philippine epics and folk tales. The narratives and descriptions of various magical characters, mythical objects and supernatural are surreal, distinctly adhering to the ideologies and customs of the natives.

Ethno-epics such as Biag ni Lam-ang or the Life of Lam-ang, Agyu or Olahing, Sandayo of Subanon, Aliguyon, the Hudhud and Labaw Donggon are great examples of assimilated styles and language variations. Today, Philippine literature reflects national issues through political prose, essay writing and novels. Novels by Jose Rizal, El Filibusterismo and Noli Me Tangere patronize the revival of the rich folk traditions.