Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Philippine Literature in Contemporary Perspective

 Philippine literature should uphold challenge both the young and the old; lend new light to old beliefs and ideologies and contextualize forthcoming trends; describe and comment on exigent national and global issues; and trace and outline history through the lens of the voiceless, oppressed, and marginalized.

Dr Abe V Rotor 
Co-author of Philippine Literature Today 
C and E Publishing Co., 2014
 Living with Nature School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School-on-Air) with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday

1. Philippine literature takes us back to the domain of the gods and goddesses, to the throne of Bathala, to the times of Malakas at Maganda.

2. Philippine literature brings back the sweet days of childhood when kapres still lived in big trees, dwendes in punso (anthill), and manananggal used to peep through thatched roofs.  

The whole experience is distilled in the form of fantastic tales - a sort of transference, a courageous parting from childhood memories, albeit leaving imprints of the unknown and ineffable aspects of the world - which serve as forms of nostalgia and entertainment during our adult years.

3. Philippine literature unveils the world of the minutiae - honeybee converting nectar into pukyutan (honey), worms weaving the finest sutla (silk), and fireflies emitting the brightest of lights.  

4. Philippine literature has never been dull and prosaic.  It has done away with romanticism and evolved alongside events that shaped the Philippines as a nation .  It blazed paths which remained untrodden, spoke about relevant issues that used to be unspeakable, and utilized modes of expression shunned in the past.

5. Philippine literature "on the other side of the fence," so to speak, portrays the wretched, pitiful, painful, and deplorable conditions of human life; but at the same time, it gives a sense of hope and redemption in the end.  Doing away with the idyllic representation of reality, literature is able to lend its voice to the voiceless, oppressed, and marginalized sectors of the society.

6. Philippine literature was inevitably shaped by a colonial past.  This led a lot of scholars and critics to prolematize and debate the "pureness" of our literature.  However, the point is not to categorize and evaluate our literary tradition and production in terms of its purported originality and provenance, but to trace and identify the historical events, processes, and departures that affected its development.

7. Philippine literature exalts the beauty of the Filipina - the subject of countless stories, poems, and songs - though the Maria Clara image of the Filipina has coalesced with contemporary culture.  Moreover, we can still say that the essence of Filipino womanhood is still present in the modern society.  Proof of this is the abundance of literary texts that feature the important role of women in our society. 

8. Philippine literature not only produced transcendent works, but also showed the world the greatness of the Philippines and its people: Rizal's Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo described the plight of Filipinos during the Spanish colonial period; Bonifacio's Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa inflamed the Philippine Revolution; Lopez-Jaena's Fray Botod exposed corruption and oppressive rule of the Spanish friars and Balagtas' Florante at Laura, unanimously considered as the masterpiece in Philippine narrative poetry,   

9. We have an extensive and pervasive oral literary tradition.  Most modern and contemporary literary forms trace their roots not only from foreign sources but also from native literary forms like the bugtong, dagli, ambahan, tanaga, dalit, diona, pasingaw, ulahingan, leyenda, awit, korido, duplo, zarzuela, kotkotan, hudhud, patotodon, etc.  This goes to show that our literature, despite the detrimental effects of colonialism and increased Westernization, still suckles from its original literary bosom. 

10. Philippine literature has been instrumental in the preservation of Philippine culture and values like bayanihan (cooperation), lamayan (wake), and the annual pista (fiesta). Through poems and stories that depict the richness and quaintness of Filipino life in the past, people of the present learn to appreciate the practices, values, and beliefs being passed on to them by their parents and forebears.  

11. Philippine literature needs to continuously question and reinvent itself; it needs to "come down to earth" to address relevant societal issues and concerns.  It needs to get out of the academe, its eternal comfort zone, and find new ways to articulate and tackle pressing realities.  "Get out of the house," cried the late national poetess Ophelia A Dimalanta. "Bond with the people, bond with nature," a call for responsive change.  On the other hand, literature should also utilize new mediums like the Internet and multimedia.

12. Lastly, Philippine literature should uphold challenge both the young and the old; lend new light to old beliefs and ideologies and contextualize forthcoming trends; describe and comment on exigent national and global issues; and trace and outline history through the lens of the voiceless, oppressed, and marginalized. ~

Bannawag (Dawn) is the oldest and largest in circulation Ilocano magazine with readers here and abroad. Right photo, author (right) and managing editor Cles Rambaud. Bannawag is currently published by Manila Bulletin. Its counterparts are Liwayway and Hiligaynon. Vernacular publications are vital in preserving traditional, ethnic and cultural values.       
Author and family with Bishop Teodoro Bacani (center) known for his hard hitting homilies and religious writings. 

Author and wife with Larry Henares, radio commentator and newspaper columnist  Author with Fr James Reuter SJ columnist and TV-Radio commentator, playright writer and dramatist, author of several books, teacher, retreat master and spiritual adviser.
 Icons of Philippine Literature Sedrey Ordonez, Ophelia Dimalanta,  Jose Villa (extreme right)
Biag ni Lam-ang (Life of Lam-ang) is the most popular Philippine epic. Evangeline or Tale of Acadie by Henry Wadsworth Logfellow was a popular romantic epic introduced to the Philippines by the Americans during the Commonwealth Era. 
Children's TV programs such as Nick Junior, Baby First, Baby TV has brought down literature to the level of children and babies as entertainment and early training.  Animation has changed the traditional Mickey Mouse of Disney to more educational and values oriented topics. 


“Oh, the stories I can tell you, if you but have the time to listen, but you are going away.  Everybody is going someplace.  They are all in a hurry; they will not listen to me.  And those who will tarry here forever, they have no ears for my stories, because they have seen them happen everywhere, and they don’t want them told, they are commonplace, they say they should be hushed and forgotten …
Bienvenido Santos, The Door

“I use the word “culture” in its broadest sense as denoting the sum-total of a nation’s achievements in art, religion, science, and letters; their philosophy and way of life; the ideals and instrumentalities by which they live.  Our culture, then , is the continuity of our traditional life, the whole body of the intellectual, moral, and spiritual values which have come down to us as our heritage after centuries of accretion and evolution.”
Salvador P. Lopez, The Problem of Our Culture  

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