History of Philippine Literature
The history of Philippine literature dates from the era before the Spanish occupation. The early Tagalog and a few other groups had a script which they used in writing on strips of bamboo or palm.
Most of these early writings were destroyed by the Spanish missionaries. Of the rest, only a few have survived, because of the highly perishable materials on which they were written.
Native Filipino stories (Philippine folk literature) that were passed from generation to generation by word of mouth have also survived. Among such narratives are “Hudhod” and “Alim”, told by the Ifugao people of Northern Luzon, and the “Darangan” of the Maranao people of Mindanao.
The first book produced in the Philippines was Doctrina Christiana (Christian Doctrine), which was printed by Spanish missionaries from wood blocks in 1593. The first Philippine literature book to be printed from type-Pastrimirias, by Father Francisco de san Jose- appeared only a few years later.
Most of the early Philippine literary works had religious themes and were written by Spaniards. The best known of the early native writers was Francisco Balagtas (1789-1862), who is still called “the prince of Filipino poets.” Balagtas’ classic political satire, Florante at Laura, was written in the mid-19th century.
During the last half of the 19th century, Spanish schools were opened to Filipinos. Shortly afterward, publications in Spanish by Filipino authors began to appear. Poems, essays, and novels flourished in the 1890’s during the Filipino movement for independence from Spain. Among the movement’s literary spokesmen were Marcelo H. Del Pilar, Graciano Lopez Jaena, and Jose Rizal. Rizal wrote such novels as Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. His famous poem Mi Ultimo Adios (My Last Farewell)was written in 1896, just before his execution by the Spanish. Philippine writing in Spanish declined after the 1930’s with the pasising of the Spanish-educated generation, the spread of English, and the rise of Tagalog.
The Filipino writers who used Tagalog often evoked nationalistic feelings through poetry and plays. Some of their plays were banned as “subversive” by United States administrators. During the period from 1910 to 1925, often called the “golden age of Philippine drama,” the foremost dramatists who wrote on Tagalog were Severino Reyes and Patricio Mariano.
With the introduction of English in the schools during the period of United States rule, Filipinos turned to English in increasing the numbers. Today, it is the principal language of Philippine literature.