Monday, November 3, 2014

Twelve Reasons I Love Philippine Literature

Dr Abe V Rotor 
Living with Nature School on Blog 
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio 
738 DZRB AM, evening class 8 to 9, Monday to Friday. 

1. Philippine Literature takes me to the domain of the gods and goddesses, to the kingdom of the Great Maker of Malakas at Maganda, in respect and awe to their power over mortals for which man submits himself through fear and dedication in the name of Bathala - the counterpart of Odin to the Norse andZeus to the Greeks . For literature started at the dawn of civilization in epics, songs and chants, myths, riddles, legends and folktales passed on from generation to generation.

2. Philippine Literature brings back the sweet days of childhood when children believed in the kapre (hairy giant) that lives in big tree, dwende in punso (anthills), the manananggal (half-bodied vampire) peeping through thatch roofs. The whole experience is distilled during adolescence, the courageous parting of childhood to adulthood, leaving the imprints of the unknown world always remaining enigmatic and entertaining in adult life. Sarangola ni Pepe, (The Kite of Young Jose), lyrical and typical of a ballad, takes one back in time, up to the sky, with the lilting laughter of a child that he was.

3.Philippine Literature unveils the world of the minutiae that provides bounty and source of merriment – honeybees converting nectar into the sweetest substance on earth – pukyutan (honey), caterpillars making the purest fabric ever – sutla or seda (silk), bubod (natural yeast) brewing the best wine in buried burnay (earthen jar) –basi, tuba, tapoy, bahalinalayaw, lambanog, and mead, the drink of the gods – these bring Bacchus and Dionysius into the midst of celebration. Sober they listened to a sage recount Biag ni Lam-ang (The Life of Lam-ang), Hudhod and Alim (Ifugao), Kumintang (Tagalog), Maragtas and Hinilawod (Panay-Bisaya) in like manner Homer related the Iliad and Odyssey to the Greeks hundreds of years ago.
 4. Philippine Literature is never passive and prosaic, it has moved on with the times, dating with post-romanticism and emerging with contemporary subjects, among them the glamorous Philippine Jeepney, converted surplus jeep into passenger vehicle, which introduced a different concept of beauty, overbearing in decorative accessories; the Bahay Kubo (Nipa Hut) romantic symbol of rural life, and now common feature in parks, and satellite of modern homes. It retains its coziness and quaintness in the midst of modern environment. Contemporarily, literature diverged from the traditional book and theater to cinema and television, making it accessible at homes, cinema houses and viewing centers – and now with hand-held electronic gadgets (tablets). Literature has entered a global trend of “ hybridization” enriched it in the process, with history, photography, ecology, archaeology, documentary, science, and other disciplines. Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, has a local version of submarine adventure, Spyri’s Heidi is typical of televovela theme. This is a global trend that brings “literature to the people, and not people to literature.” Noli, the Musical brought Rizal’s serious political novel to the grassroots, in performing arts shown on screen and electronic monitor with state-of-the-art technology.

5. Philippine Literature, on the other side of midnight, so to speak, portrays the dark, the painful and sorrowful events and conditions of life, yet gives a sense repentance and hope usually ending up with renaissance which is the foundation of ancient religions and later, Christianity. Man still believes that he can do so little without the intercession of the gods  and godesses – Anianihan (God of Harvest), Cabuyaran (Goddess of Healing) of the Cordilleras, and other deities like Maria Makiling (Legend of Mt Makiling) and Daragang Magayon (Legend of Mt Mayon) who guard our forests and fields. Probably there is no place without stories of spirits and ghosts, pastime of storytelling and subject of worship and superstition.

6. Philippine literature succeeded in toppling the pedestal of classicism and romanticism of Renaissance Europe in the 16th century with the discovery and subsequent colonization of the Philippines by Spain for almost 400 years. Towards the end, we gained from the toppling of aristocracy in Europe that gave way to proletarian and agrarian life – which is characterized by everyday drama of the people. It took several pathways to the grassroots – komiks (comics), popular magazines like Liwayway and Bannawag (Dawn, in Ilocano and Tagalog), and stage play, the Zarzuela (melodrama), and ramifying through multimedia today.Telenovela (TV drama) draws millions of viewers into tears and laughter. It is responsible in early closing shops and going home so as not to miss the excitement of every episode, reminiscent of the 1001 Arabian Nights when Scheherazade held the Sultan in suspense with her stories as a tactic in postponing her execution.

7. Philippine Literature exults beauty often envisioned in the Filipina, now a melange of Oriental and Occidental lineages, the subjects of stories, poems and songs, and while the Maria Clara image has fused with contemporary culture, still it captures the essence of womanhood and the role of women in present society. Decada 70, Tinimbang Ka Ngunit KulangOFW, and other related movies may still project the suffering Sisa in Rizal’s Noli, except that she is also a Gabriela, independent and militant. Literature would not be complete without the Filipina at the center of the story, notwithstanding her dual role in the workplace and the home. Carmen Guerrero Nakpil tells more in The Filipino Woman, so with Paz Mendez, The Principal Role of the Home in Making a Filipino.

8. Philippine literature produced not only great works but projected before the eyes of the world the greatness to the Filipino nation and people: Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo inflamed the Revolution led by Andres Bonifacio who penned the Kartilya, Graciano Lopez Jaena’s La Solidaridad, Carlos P Romulo’s Pulitzer winning essay, “I Saw the Philippine Fall; I Saw the Philippines Rise.” Florante at Laura by Francisco Baltazar (Balagtas) earned him the counterpart of Shakespere. And the stories for children gathered and compiled by the Grimm Brothers, and Hans Anderson in Medieval Europe - these too, have a local version in Mga Kwento ni Lola Basyang by Severino Reyes.

9. Philippine Literature is rich in mythology, largely influened by ethnic and Greco-Roman mythology, albeit the myths and legends of other foreign lands, for which reason our literature has gained rich diversity, from local versions of Medusa (woman with hair of snakes), centaur (half man, half beast - tikbalang), the balete as alleged hanging tree of the repentant Judas Escariot. The fact is, Philippine legends trace the mythological origins of places, objects, and events. Gaudencio V Aquino’s book of Philippine Legends gives us a glimpse of the fertile imagination engrained in our culture. Mythology is the core of our supertitious beliefs, rituals, prayers, and festivities, that largely comprise Philippine Literature.

10. Philippine Literature has a holistic nature, encompassing native songs like Paruparong Bukid (Butterfly in the Field), Ang Maya (Brown Finch), Bakya Mo Neneng (girl’s wooden clog), Bahay Kubo (nipa hut); music played by the Rondalla (string ensemble), dallot (skirt dance), prayers and adoration like pasyon (Passion of Christ), dung-aw (dirge). Florentino Hornedo’s Pagmamahal and Pagmumura (Love and Curse) shows the extremes of our human nature. Goodness always prevails as shown by bayanihan (cooperation), lamayan (wake), and the annual fiesta to commemorate a significant event or feastday of a patron saints. And if the incantations of the herbolario, (quack doctor), and the spiritista (faith healer), together with the lullaby (Ugoy ng Duyan, a cradle song), as well as other rituals to bring man closer to his creator - if these were to be retrieved deep from the remote sitio or purok (unit of barangay) in the twelve regions of the country - certainly these will further enrich the treasure of our literature and culture.

11. Philippine Literature needs to advance, over and above its present confines, to “come down to earth” in order to become relevant to the issues and concerns of the times. By so doing it keeps distance from cheap soap opera, blind devotion, and latent scholarship. “Get out of the house” cried the late national poetess Ophelia Dimalanta, “Bond with Nature,” a subject that has stirred all disciplines today on the subject of ecology. Literature must use the modern tools of communication - photography , the Internet and multimedia, because, literature as a medium of communication must exercise the power of the pen - the electronic pen with cyberspace to write on today.

 12. Philippine literature challenges both young and old, Quo vadis? (Where are you going?), to set the direction of change, to move out of the comfort of fraternity and shield of arrogance, to tap talents, especially among the young, and catalyze their expression, to make literature, technical writing and journalism compatible, a triumvirate in a vernacular language understood and appreciated by the people, not so much for stylistic quality but for advocacy towards a better life and a better world. Of equal importance, Philippine Literature must strive to be always vigilant and true, in the protection of its integrity from the trappings of the Good Life – pornography, violence, acculturation, materialism, institutional decline, particularly the family and village community. The homogenization effect that globalization poses is the biggest challenge not only in the Philippines but in other countries as well: the preservation of literature which is the precursor of culture, making it relevant and significant in our present age of postmodernism.~

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