How to study Philippine literary history? Here's my post in a another blog regarding how and what I learned about Philippine literature.
What we learn is that writing a history of Philippine literature is not that easy. As I wrote in that post, literary historians, "like creative writers, have to weave together all the disparate facts into a coherent narrative. And so they look for a pattern, a 'cause' for what they consider an 'effect,' a sjuzet from the fabula of facts...." So what are these facts, and how will these help understand us understand Philippine literature?
While Doreen G. Fernandez, in her Panitikan: An Essay on Philippine Literature (1989), locates particular literary works under historical periods, she advances the idea that the literatures (yes, plural) of the Philippines — from various eras, in oral or written form, in different languages, in the community or in academe — are alive and ever present (yes, even the ethnic epics) and will continue to flourish in the national consciousness. The video documentary based on Fernandez's essay (directed by Malou Jacob for the CCP) underscores this argument through a montage of images and footage juxtaposing traditional forms alongside the contemporary and performances transposed with printed works. [Film showing of Panitikan (CCP, 1989) during class session.]
Bienvenido and Cynthia Lumbera's Philippine Literature: A History and Anthology (2005), on the other hand, periodizes Philippine literary history into five distinct epochs: pre-colonial times (from ancient times to 1564), Spanish colonialism (1565-1897), US colonialism (1898-1945), the Republic (1946-1985), and the period after the EDSA uprising (1986-1995). While periodization undoubtedly makes for an easier classification of literary works, it also raises the issue of arbitrariness. For instance, we could ask what characteristics would allow us to classify a literary work under a particular period? (Unfortunately, the editors do not provide such an answer in their anthology.)
In their introductory chapter to precolonial Philippine literature, Bienvenido and Cynthia Lumbera credits William Henry Scott and other scholars for the wealth of information that would provide a clearer picture of literary production during this period. Lumbera and Lumbera point out some characteristics of the collected lore from this period:
My students also raised two interesting questions based on their reading of Lumbera and Lumbera's intro:
To be continued next meeting
We continue with our overview of Philippine literature. Last week, we watched the video documentary based on Doreen Fernandez's essay on Philippine literature. We also discussed Lumbera and Lumbera's introductory chapter on precolonial Philippine literature. This week, we reviewed Philippine literature from the Spanish colonial period to the period after the EDSA uprising.
If we are to summarize Philippine literature during the Spanish colonial period, we could come up with the catchword: religious to revolutionary. With Spanish rule, mostly under the church, literary production were either religious in nature or promoted moral precepts (mostly Catholic). Even the oral literature of precolonial times was "Christianized." The awit and the korido, with story lines drawn from Spanish ballads, replaced the native epics. Francisco Baltazar or Balagtas was the foremost poet who used the awit and korido forms in his works like Florante at Laura and Orosman at Zafira. These works, however, were also considered as political allegories.
With the growth of the local moneyed and educated ilustrado class, some of whom were educated in Spain (where they recognized the discrepancies between Spanish governance in Madrid and back in the islands), came the emergence of a nationalist consciousness and the reformist movement. Jose Rizal, with his Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, and other propagandists wrote about the oppressive stranglehold of the friars over the government and the people. This nationalist fire was also seen among the working class, especially with the waning of the reformist movement and the growth of the revolutionary Katipunan. A linguistic shift, from Spanish to Tagalog, marked this change in nationalist sentiments. Andres Bonifacio, the group's supremo, and other revolutionaries wrote in Tagalog "as a tool for organizing the masses" (Lumbera and Lumbera 45). Tagalog became synonymous with nationalist literature.
The revolution against the Spanish colonial government became a war against the American forces soon after Spain ceded the Philippines to the US. While the end of the Philippine-American War was declared in 1902, revolutionaries continued to resist American rule for almost a decade. America's pacification efforts, even as it continued the political co-optation of the local elites, changed gears from military exercises to free public education (with English as medium of instruction). This education in English (and the American way of life) led to the development of literary production in the borrowed tongue. The literary stature of writing in English (due to the privileged position of the English language in Philippine society) may be said to have overshadowed the robust production of literature in Tagalog and other local languages.
We will explore this writing in English (specifically from the 1900s-1950s) in the course of the semester. We will also look into the questions such writing may have raised, especially in relation to its relevance to the social realities of the period.
(We will set aside our overview of succeeding periods, as defined by Lumbera and Lumbera, for later discussion.) ✍
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