Spanish Period

During the Spanish Rule (1565-1897), religion became one of the major vehicles used to modify Literature in the Philippines. Although the Spanish language was never propagated throughout the country, a few natives were taught the language in order to serve as informants and interpreters for the Spanish friars. Eventually, Spaniards learned the local languages and used these to teach their religion to the natives. Thus, Spanish became a language that was accessible only to the elite and to a few natives.

The first printing press in the Philippines was set up by the Dominican priests. Hence the book, Doctrina Christiana, was the first book to be published in the country in 1593. The Roman Alphabet was introduced, as well; thereby, replacing the native syllabaries used by the natives.

The friars, due to them learning the local languages of the natives, became familiar with the oral literature of the Filipinos. Although, ancient literature was slowly replaced by church-oriented pieces that promoted the Gospel as well as the varied teachings of the Spaniards.

  1. Poetry

    1. Pasyon – Considered one of the most significant literary pieces during this period, the pasyon is a verse narrative of the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ. Even today, one of the highlights of the Philippine Lenten Season is the pabasa, a chanting of the Passion of Jesus Christ.
    2. Corrido – A narrative poem that mostly spoke about chivalrous love and heroic adventures, the corrido was based on European tales and legends.
    3. Awit – Another narrative poem, the awit became popular because of Francisco Baltazar’s Florante At Laura.
    4. Komedya – Derived from Spanish ballads about noble warriors and their search for love and fame, the komedya advertised an air-brushed version of European society where consistent religiosity and stalwart loyalty to the monarch meant self-actualization and guaranteed victory.
  2. Prose

    Prose compositions during the Spanish colonization was made for instruction. Most were translations of catechetical guides, biographies of Catholic saints, and novenas made by foreign writers.

    1. Lagda – A collection of Visayan edicts.
    2. Urbana at Felisa – Authored by Fr Modesto de Castro, its goal was to influence the social practices of the natives.
  3. Drama (Play)

    It consisted of brief presentations done during the Lenten season, deemed to effectively promote Catholicism.

    1. Pangaluluwa – Term means “for the soul”; a practice derived from the impression that spirits are freed from purgatory during the eve of All Saints’ Day to beg for alms amongst the living.
    2. Panunuluyan – Based on the Mexican Posadas, it amplifies Joseph and Mary’s endless search for a place to stay in at Bethlehem during the night of Jesus’ birth.
    3. Sainete – A comedic adaptation of routinary life especially amongst the lower classes. Often, they are embedded in betwixt lengthier plays.
    4. Salubong – A play done during Easter depicting the meeting between Christ and the Virgin Mary.
    5. Sinakulo – A depiction of the passion and death of Jesus.Intime, the Philippines became more open to secular ideas due to international trade. Thus, Filipinos became aware of the different economic and political changes in other countries that, in turn, sparked a desire for reform within the country.

    In time, the Philippines became more open to secular ideas due to international trade. Thus, Filipinos became aware of the different economic and political changes in other countries that, in turn, sparked a desire for reform within the country.

    The Propagandists – Notable authors for this group are Jose Rizal and Marcelo del Pilar. They called for the inclusion of the Philippines in the roster of provinces of Spain.

    The Revolutionists – After Spain rejected the Propagandists’ campaign, Filipinos became started a revolution aiming to free the country from Spanish rule. Compositions were done in the local language, Tagalog, spearheaded by Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Jacinto. Then came the Philippine-American War which was peppered with more academic discourses and political discussions from writers like Apolinario Mabini.

References:

  • Ang Literatura ng Pilipinas, “The Literature of the Philippines.” CHED Technical Panel, Manila: De La Salle University Press, Inc., 1997.
  • Baltazar, Silverio, et. al. Philippine Literature: Past and Ptesent. Quezon City: Katha Publishing Co., Inc., 1981.
  • Bascara, Linda, et. al. “Philippine Literature.” Manila: Rex Book Store, 1999.
  • del Castillo, Teofilo T. and Buenaventura S. Medina, Jr. Philippine Literature from Ancient Times to Present. Quezon City: Philippine Graphic Arts, Inc., 1974.
  • Tomeldan, Yolanda, et. al. “Prism: An Introduction to Literature.” UP Printing Press, 1985.
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