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Pre-colonial Period

Historical Background
The variety and abundance of Philippine literature evolved even before the colonial periods. Folk tales, epics, poems and
marathon chants existed in most ethno linguistic groups that were passed on from generation to generation through
word of mouth. Tales associated with the Spanish conquest also took part in the country’s rich cultural heritage. Some of
these pre-colonial literary pieces showcased in traditional narratives, speeches and songs are tigmo in Cebuano, bugtong
in Tagalog, patototdon is Bicol and paktakon in Ilongo. Philippine epics and folk tales are varied and filled with magical
characters. They are either narratives of mostly mythical objects, persons or certain places, or epics telling supernatural
events and bravery of heroes, customs and ideologies of a community.


 Biag ni Lam-ang
 The Agyu or Olahing of the Manobos
 Sandayo, of the Subanon
 Aliguyon or the Hudhud of the Ifugaos
 Labaw Donggon

Literary Forms during the Pre-colonial Period

A. Myths - Mythology, body of myths of a particular culture, and also the study and interpretation of myth. Myth is a
complex cultural phenomenon that can be approached from a number of viewpoints. In general, myth is a narrative that
describes and portrays in symbolic language the origin of the basic elements and assumptions of a culture.

Myths from the Different Regions of the Philippines:

Iloko: The Gods and the Goddesses Ibanag: Why There is High Tide during a Full Moon

Ifugao: Why the Dead Come Back No More Tagalog: Mag-asawang Tubig

Bukidnon (Mindanao): How the Moon and the Stars Came to Be

B. Legend (story) - traditional narrative or collection of related narratives, popularly regarded as historically factual but
actually a mixture of fact and fiction. The medieval Latin word legenda means “things for reading”.

Legends from the Philippines:

- The Legend of the Sleeping Beauty Kalinga - Legend of the Dama de Noche
- Legend of the Banana Plant - Legend of the Firefly

Post-colonial period

the study of Filipino American literature offers a place for the frames of postcolonial discourse and the literary efforts of
the “hypenated” or “ethnic” American to converge. This intersection offers a challenge to the putative need to separate
these endeavors on the basis of the United States’s seemingly shaky status as a colonial power (prior to the American
occupation, the Philippines spent three centuries under Spanish rule). American annexation of the Philippines occurred
after two separate wars: the Spanish-American War (1898) and the Filipino-American War (1899-1902). U.S colonial rule
of the archipelago was loosened during the Commonwealth Period of 1935-1946, a period after which the Philippines
gained its independence. In addition to that, the issues of colonization become complicated in light of the fact that the
Philippines experienced decades of enforced “free trade” with the United States up to and even after this independence.
Such a fact raises all sorts of useful questions about the effects of neocolonialism, and also the latent “colonialism” of
alienation and discrimination experienced by some immigrants (see Transnationalism and Globalism, Representation).

Commonly Cited Works of Fiction and Poetry

America is in the Heart (autobiographical), Carlos Bulosan (1946)

The Bamboo Dancers, N.V.M. Gonzalez (1959)

Dogeaters (novel, nominated for National Book Award), Jessica Hagedorn(1990)

Many Voices (poetry), José García Villa (1939)

The Peninsulars (deals with influences of Spanish colonization),Linda Ty- Casper (1964)
“Scent of Apples” (short story), Bienvenido Santos (1979)

State of War (novel), Ninotchka Rosca (1988)

Ilustrado, Miguel Syjuco (2010)

When the Rainbow Goddess Wept, Cecilia Manguerra Brainard (1999)

American Son, Brian Ascalon Roley (2001)

Dream Jungle, Jessica Hagedorn (2003)

When the Elephant Dances, Tess Uriza Holthe (2002)

Magdalena, Cecilia Manguerra Brainard (2002)

21st century period

21st century literature per se, is anything that was written and published in the year 2000s. It is a bit too early to give a
definite and elaborate description of the 21st century literature in the Philippines and the world. It is possible, however,
to approach contemporary literature as a reaction to and dialogue with existing forms of expressive culture. As we
engage in technology more and more, we create and discover more existing forms of expressive culture as well. We
have a wide range of resources through the internet and this gave opportunities to people, especially the youth, to
begin writing and expressing their thoughts, ideas, and feelings. A perfect example would be WattPad. It became
popular to the Filipino youth in 2006.

The idea is to create an e-book reading application, as e-books are becoming in demand during that time, however, the
founders thought that it would be time consuming to maintain their own catalog, so they decided to let the community
decide what they want to read, and they can also upload their works and content into the application. This had made it
possible for the youth to read more and to start creating their own compositions.

It has become a network.

Here are more examples of literary genres in the 21st century Philippine literature:

Creative nonfiction

It’s a rich mix of flavors, ideas, and techniques, some of which are newly invented and others as old as writing itself.
Creative nonfiction can be an essay, a journal article, a research paper, a memoir, or a poem; it can be personal or not,
or it can be all of these.

Some of the creative nonfiction in the Philippines are:

“The Cardinal’s Sins, the General’s Cross, the Martyr’s Testimony, and Other Affirmations” by Gregorio C. Brillantes

“Manananggal Terrorizes Manila and Other Stories” by Jessica Zafra

“Sapay Koma” by Jhoanna Lynn Cruz

Hyper poetry

Hypertext poetry and hypertext fiction are new genres of literature that use the computer screen as medium, rather
than the printed page. The literary works rely on the qualities unique to a digital environment, such as linked World
Wide Web pages or effects such as sound and movement. Hypertext “poetry” can consist of words, although not
necessarily organized into lines and stanzas, as well as, sounds, visual images, movement or other special effects.
Although the poem may be dazzling with sounds, perhaps of a lawnmower, while the words “mowing,” “stop,”
“Sunday,” and “morning” float across your computer screen in pseudo-three-dimensional letters, one will have been
hard pressed to identify the use of any formal poetics.

Mobile phone text tula

A cell phone novel, or mobile phone novel is a literary work originally written on a cellular phone via text messaging. This
type of literature originated in Japan, where it has become a popular literary genre. However, its popularity has also
spread to other countries internationally, especially to China, United States, Germany, and South Africa. Chapters usually
consist of about 70-100 words each due to character limitations on cell phones.
Chick lit

This is genre fiction, which “consists of heroin-centered narratives that focus on the trials and tribulations of their
individual protagonists”. The genre often addresses issues of modern womanhood – from romantic relationships to
female friendships to matters in the workplace – in humorous and lighthearted ways.

Some of the chick lit in the Philippines are:

Spotlight New Adult by Mina V. Esguerra

Tall Story by Candy Gourlay

All’s Fair in Blog and War by Chrissie Peria

Speculative fiction

It covers all stories from fantasy to science iction to slipstream to magic realism to urban fantasy — so on and so forth.
In other words (or in other worlds), it encompasses all the stories that are removed from the reality that we are
currently living in. As the introduction states, “speculative fiction is a type of story that deals with observations of the
human condition but offers the experience through a different lens…and challenges us to see what tomorrow could be
like or what the mythic past of our imagination actually is.”

Some of the speculative fiction in the Philippines are:

Smaller and Smaller Circles by FH Batacan

Sink by Isabel Yap

The Secret Origin of Spin-Man by Andrew Drilon

Flash fiction

Flash fiction goes by many names, including microfiction, microstories, short-shorts, short short stories, very short
stories, sudden fiction, postcard fiction and nanofiction. While it can be difficult to pinpoint an exact definition of flash
fiction based on word count, consideration of several of its features can help provide clarity, like its brevity, length,
background and purpose.

Some of the flash fiction in the Philippines are:

100 Kislap, by Abdon M. Balde Jr.

Karapote: Antolohia Dagiti 13 a Nasuerte A Sarita, by Ariel S. Tabag


A blog (shortening of “weblog”) is an online journal or informational website displaying information in the reverse
chronological order, with latest posts appearing first. It is a platform where a writer or even a group of writers share
their views on an individual subject.

Graphic novels

The ‘graphic novel’ has existed as an art form arguably from the time our species learned how to paint. However, the
term has only been in use since the 1960’s, and though it’s often a hotly debated issue, it’s generally accepted that a
graphic novel is a longer work or collection of works presented in ‘comics’ style.

Some of the graphic novels in the Philippines are:

The Mythology Class (Nautilus comics) by Arnold Arre

Light (Anino comics) by Rob Cham

Sixty Six (Anino comics) by Russell Molina

Maktan 1521 by Tepai Pascual

Contemporary writers often consciously draw inspiration and ideas from the writers who have come before them. As an
outcome, many works of 21st literature deal with the events, movements and literature of the past in order to make
sense of the current times. In addition, the technological developments of the 21st century have directed other writers
to theoretically write about the future, usually to comment on the present and suggest introspection.