Short History of Philippines Literature
Philippine is an island country situated in Southeast Asia along the Philippine Sea, Sulu Sea, Celebes Sea and South China Sea. The language spoken by the people is known as Tagalog. The islands were a Spanish colony from the early 1500s. The US controlled the islands in the early 20th century. Philippines is the 11th most populated country of the world.
The Philippine islands have a rich oral history of legends, poetry and tales which is common with other aboriginal societies. Unfortunately, a lot is not known among urban inhabitants and the older generations have retained them in most cases who are the subject of an anxious project by universities and cultural awareness groups.
Legends were brought with the Taiwanese settlers, it was the first homeland from the Austronesian people. The old stories of heroes and gods are shared in many parts with the stories that are familiar for the people of Indonesia, Pacific islands, Madagascar and New Zealand. However, Philippines have been settled for a mot longer time that allowed home grown versions to develop. The story of monkey and turtle is a favorite tale with the Philippine children. The moral of the story was that one should always share everything with friends. This is a defining nature of Filipinos.
Written literature existed prior to the start of Spanish colonial period. Spain was however gripped by inquisition and the church passed a decree that the existing Philippines records should be destroyed including unique Philippine alphabets. They were all to be replaced by Catholic teachings in Spanish only.
Baybayin was the only surviving documents written in tagalong alphabets. The written form literature in Philippines is only known from times of the colonial period. Most of the works written in those periods were religious praising the Christianity to the population that was previously following polytheism.
Poems were energetically encouraged that could be read or used in church or local festivals. A poem written by Fernando Bagonbanta in 1605 contained many lyrics that could be sung. In 1705, Gaspar Aquino de Belen wrote quintillas in succession that were more serious as compared to Bagonbanta. Philippines still use them today.
Since the first half of 20th century, many poetry and literature of Philippines was written in Spanish. Tagalog was frowned as the base language not capable of great works. Francisco Balagtas was one of the greatest writers of Philippines. He was a man compared with William Shakespeare for his deep nature of works. Florante at Laura was his greatest work written in Tagalog. It is about a man and woman during the times of Greek Empire.
José Rizal was the Philippine national hero and is considered the father of native Philippine literature. His works were also published in Spanish language. José Rizal was not only revolutionary but he was also very intelligent. For him, Philippine independence was very important for survival of Tagalog language.
Jozé Rizal was a source of inspiration for many Filipinos. He was also a model for civilized living. He had also studied Philosophy and Medicine and he was awarded many degrees from several European universities. Rizal also spoke 22 languages. Unfortunately, his works on literature were limited to only two novels. The second one was a sequel owing to his execution by firing squad in 1896 at the age of 35 after being convicted of up roaring revolutionary ideas. Philippines came under US control after Rizal’s death. It was later associated with the US as a Commonwealth. The chosen language of the early 20th century was Spanish.
English became the preferred language of literature by the start of World War II. There was a brief flirtation with writing Tagalog during the Japanese occupation as Japanese forces were suspicious that Philippine spies would use English for passing secret messages to US forces.
On the contrary, writing in English allowed Philippine authors to successfully expand their horizons having their writing published globally. Several awards are offered annually that recognize the excellence.