Historical Background Long before the Spaniard and other foreigners landed on Philippine shores, our forefathers already had their own literature stamped in the history of our race. Our ancient literature shows our customs and traditions in everyday life as trace in our folk stories, old plays and short stories. Our ancestors also had their own alphabet which was different from that brought by the Spaniards. The first alphabet used by our ancestors was similar to that of the Malayo-Polynesian alphabet.
ANG DOCTRINA CRISTIANA (THE CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE) . This was the first book printed in the Philippines in 1593 in xylography. It was written by Fr. Juan de Placencia and Fr. Domingo Nieva, in Tagalog and Spanish. It contained the Pater Noster (Out Father), Ave Maria (Hail Mary), Regina Coeli (Hail Holy Queen), the Ten Commandments of God, the Commandments of the Catholic Church, the Seven Mortal Sins, How to Confess, and the Cathecism. Three old original copies of this book can still be found at the Vatican, at the Madrid Musem and at the US Congress. It contains only 87 pages but costs $5,000.0.
This first book printed in the Philippines derives its name from the Latin Doctrina Christiana , meaning the "teachings of the church." It contains the basic elements of the Christian religion based on the catechism of Saint Robert Bellarmine, a Jesuit theologian and Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, who was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1930. The first part of the book presents the set of sounds and symbols of the old writing system called baybayin. It is followed by the texts of the prayers The Our Father, Hail Mary, The Creed, Hail Holy Queen, and the basic teachings of the Christian faith in Spanish, old Tagalog, and baybayin texts.
Ang Barlaan at Josephat This is a Biblical story printed in the Philippines and translated to Tagalog from Greek by Fr. Antonio de Borja.
King Abenir (Abenner or Avenier) reigns over a vast Indian Kingdom outstretched beyond the lands of Egypt. He lives in luxury and worldly honors, and is known for his bravery and victory in battles. Yet despite being mighty in wealth and power, his happiness is marred, for he has no heir to inherit his throne, kingdom, and glory. Meanwhile, he learns that noblemen and senators have abandoned their luxurious lives and started laying their lives for Christ’s sake. Those who embrace the monastic life are growing in number. Hence, the king starts passing on decrees forcing Christians to renounce their religions, and later mastered various methods of torture to persecute them. Many of the followers who are weak in spirit are unable to endure the torture and yield to the king.
The others who rebuke him suffer and become martyrs. The threatened few seek refuge in the deserts and mountains. The king rules for many years and in this terrible state of error, the queen bears a child. The comely babe, they name Josaphat (Ioasaph). The king is filled with joy, and orders his men to gather his people to celebrate his son’s birthday. Although in shroud of fear, the people come, bringing offerings according to what each man has in store.
King Abenir’s joy is however short-lived when he learns from the oracles of kings that his son will embrace the Christian faith: “ From that which I learn from the courses of the stars, O king, the advancement of the child, now born unto thee, will not be in thy kingdom, but in another, a better and a greater one beyond compare. Methinketh also that he will embrace the Christian religion, which thou persecutest, and I trow that he will not be disappointed of his aim and hope .” King Abenir’s wrath and disillusionment is such as to have his men build a castle for his only son in a secluded city. There Josaphat (Ioasaph) lives, devoid of any contact from the outside world, except for instructors, servants, and guards–whom the king thinks fit to serve him. The young prince grows to manhood.
Meanwhile, in the wilderness of Senaar, there lives a hermit saint. This elder’s name is Barlaan (Barlaam). Upon witnessing an apparition, Barlaan leaves for the young prince Josaphat’s palace. In disguise as a merchant, he starts imparting the Christian teachings and works to Josaphat until the latter accepts the faith and finally gets baptized. When King Abenir discovers his son’s baptism, he is outraged. But after six years of his son’s persistent urging and encouragement, the king himself gets baptized. Not long after, the king dies, and Josaphat honors his body by burying him in a sepulchre where the devoted men lay and clothing him in a robe of penitence.
After erecting and establishing a church, Josaphat leaves his father’s land and entrusts the kingdom to a faithful servant and follower, Barachias. He embarks in a journey in search of true happiness and a life unobstructed by worldly confusions. Enduring sundry misfortunes and hardships, Josaphat finally finds his friend, Barlaan. The rest of their lives they devote in living godly lives and venerating the Lord. They took to an ascetic lifestyle until Barlaan’s death. Two years later, Josaphat followed. The news of their death reaches King Bacharias, upon which he orders the remains of Barlaan and Josaphat to be brought back to India and buried in the church that Josaphat has built. Since then, the believers considered Barlaan and Josaphat saints:
THE PASYON (Spanish: pasión ) is a narrative of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ woven into a poem with stanzas of five lines and each line having eight syllables. This form of the passion narrative is popular in the Philippines especially during the season of Lent and particularly during Holy week when the pasyon is usually read or sung at home. It is basically a form of religious expression, meditation and reflection. The indigenization of the pasyon was begun by Gaspar Aquino de Belén in Ang Mahal na Passion ni JesuCristong Panginoon Natin na Tola (The poem of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ), published in 1703 or 1704. The more popular version of the pasyon is the Casaysayan nang Pasiong Mahal ni Jesucristong Panginoon Natin na Sucat Ipag-alab nang Puso nang Sinomang Babasa (The History of the Passion of Jesus Christ our Lord that will set afire the heart of whosoever reads it). An 1852 erudition by Aniceto de Merced, El libro de la vida (The Book of Life), did not, however become popular with the masses.
URBANA AT FELISA - A book by Modesto de Castro, the so called Father of Classic Prose in Tagalog. These are letters between two sisters Urbana at Felisa and have influenced greatly the behavior of people in society because the letters dealt with good behavior.
Written in Tagalog by a priest famous for his powerful sermons, Urbana at Felisa is an example of the book of conduct that emerged in Europe during the Renaissance. Its author used the epistolary style where in a series of thirty-four letters, members of a family in Paombong, Bulacan gave each other advice on the ideal conduct and behavior expected of a middle-class and Christian family. Thus in her letters to her younger siblings Felisa and Honesto, who remained in Paombong, Urbana, who left for Manila to study, wrote not only of the need to follow the values and norms found in Christian teaching, but as importantly, to observe the proper mode of conduct as one dealt with people in society. The series of correspondences, including a letter from a priest on the duties and responsibilities of married life, touched on various facets of experience that a person underwent from birth to death both in the secular and spiritual realms.
In retrospect, Urbana at Felisa should be perceived as a text not only meant to regulate conduct and behavior, but as a discourse to contain the moral excesses of the period and affirm basic Christian tenets. Urbana at Felisa enjoyed tremendous popularity not only in the nineteenth century but in the first half of the twentieth century as proven by the numerous reprints and translations it underwent. Many of the norms articulated in the book, especially those related to the importance of purity, the ideal virtues that married people should cultivate, the view of life on earth as a vale of tears, among others, continue to shape contemporary value systems.
THE ADARNA BIRD Ibong Adarna , or the " Romance of the Life of the three Brothers Prince, Sons of King Fernando and Queen Valeriana of the Kingdom of Berbania ", is a popular Filipino korido or metrical romance set in octosyllabic quatrains. It contains 1,722 stanzas and is subdivided into five main parts: the search for the Ibong Adarna or Adarna bird, the descent into a well, the rescue of two captive princesses, the hero's betrayal at the hands his brothers and his search for a fabled kingdom, and, finally, the hero's restitution to his rightful place in the kingdom of Berbanya/Berbania. The Ibong Adarna is an original Philippine metrical romance although culled from European, Asian and even African sources. It tells of the adventures and magical powers, the romance and love, the courage and piety, and the treachery and betrayal of highborn characters.
Once there was a peaceful kingdom named Berbanya. It was ruled by a king, Haring Fernando, and the queen was Reyna Valeriana. They had three sons: the eldest, Pedro; the second, Diego; and the youngest, Juan. One night, while Haring Fernando was sleeping, he had a terrible nightmare and got sick. The nightmare was of Juan being thrown into a deep well by two men. The following morning, all the doctors in Berbanya were called for. Nobody could determine the ailment until a herb man was able to diagnose it. He said that the only cure was the song of the Ibong Adarna, which could be found in the tree of Piedras Platas on Mt. Tabor.
Fernando sent the two older brothers to search for the bird -- first Pedro, then Diego -- but both failed and were turned to stone by the bird's droppings. Fernando didn't want to send Juan for fear that his nightmare might come true, but Juan insisted and left Berbanya to find the Ibong Adarna. On his way he met an old man who was very hungry. Juan was kind to the old man and gave him his bread. Because of his generosity, the old man helped Juan in finding the Ibong Adarna. He found the mystical bird and managed to restore his brothers. On the way home, his brother Pedro was envious of Juan's success in obtaining the Ibong Adarna. He told Diego about his plan to do away with Juan and he agreed. They attacked Juan and dropped him down a well while they took the Ibong Adarna back to Berbanya.
With the help of Donya Maria a princess from Reynos de los Cristales, Juan was able to escape the well. He travelled to her kingdom, where he had to undergo a series of trials in order to be allowed to marry Donya Maria. At last he was able to marry her and together they inherited the kingdom after Maria's father. In the meantime the two brothers had brought the Ibong Adarna to Berbanya, and yet it refused to sing. When Juan returned with divine aid, the bird burst into song. It slowly changed into seven different colors during the course of its song, and the King was healed. Haring Fernando wished to impose the death sentence on his two older sons for trying to hurt their brother, but instead they were banished from the kingdom. And so the King was well, and Berbanya was at peace.
Florante at Laura (English: Florante and Laura ) by Francisco Baltazar (more famously known as Francisco Balagtas ) is considered as one of the masterpieces of Philippine literature. Balagtas wrote the epic(although its main characters don't possess any extraordinary powers or abilities) during his imprisonment. The work itself is dedicated to María Asuncion Rivera, his sweetheart, whom he nicknamed "M. A. R." and is referenced to as "Selya" in the dedication " Kay Selya " ("For Celia"). Maria Asuncion Rivera was later married to Balagtas' rival, Mariano Capule, who later made false charges against him.
TIBAG – the word tibag means to excavate. This ritual was brought here by the Spaniard to remind the people about the search of St. Helena for the Cross on which Jesus died. LAGAYLAY – this is a special occasion for the Pilareños of Sorsogon during Maytime to get together. As early as April, the participating ladies are chosen and sometimes, mothers volunteer their girls in order to fulfill a vow made during an illness or for a favor received.
THE CENACULO – this is a dramatic performance to commemorate the passion and death of Jesus Christ. There are two kinds: the Cantada and Hablada . In the Hablada the lines are spoken in a more deliberate manner showing the rhythmic measure of each verse and the rhyming in each stanza and is more dignified in theme; the Cantada is chanted like the Pasion.
The Cenaculo is written in octosyllabic verse, with 8 verses to the stanza. The full length versions take about 3 nights of staging. Performers come in costumes with wigs and performers are carefully chosen for their virtuous life. One performs the role of Jesus Christ and another the role of the Virgin Mary. Many famous Cenaculo players come from the Tagalog regions although there are also those from Ilocos, Pampanga, Bicol and both Sibulanon and Hiligaynon.
PANUNULUYAN – this is presented before 12:00 on Christmas Eve. This is a presentation of the search of the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph for an inn wherein to deliver the baby Jesus.
THE SALUBONG (or Panubong) - The Salubong is an Easter play that dramatizes the meeting of the Risen Christ and his Mother. It is still presented in many Philippine towns.
CARILLO (Shadow Play) – t his is a form of dramatic entertainment performed on a moonless night during a town fiesta or on dark nights after a harvest. This shadow play is made by projecting cardboard figures before a lamp against a white sheet. The figures are moved like marionettes whose dialogues are produced by some experts. The dialogues are drawn from a Corrido or Awit or some religious play interspersed with songs. These are called by various names in different places: Carillo in Manila, Rizal and Batangas and Laguan; TITRES in Ilocos Norte, Pangasinan, Bataa, Capiz and Negros; TITIRI in Zambales; GAGALO or KIKIMUT in Pampanga and Tarlac; and ALIALA in La Union.
THE ZARZUELA – considered the father of the drama; it is a musical comedy or melodrama three acts which dealt with man’s passions and emotions like love, hate, revenge, cruelty, avarice or some social or political proble.
THE SAINETE – this was a short musical comedy popular during the 18 th century. They were exaggerated comedies shown between acts of long plays and were mostly performed by characters from the lower classes. Themes were taken from everyday life scenarios.
THE MORO-MORO - Like the Cenaculo, the Moro-moro is presented also on a special stage. This is performed during town fiestas to entertain the people and to remind them of their Christian religion. The plot is usually the same that of a Christian princess or a nobleman’s daughter who is captured by the Mohammedans. The father organizes a rescue party where fighting between the Moros and the Christians ensue. The Mohammedans are defeated by some miracle or Divine Intercession and the Mohammedans are converted to Christianity. In some instances, the whole kingdom is baptized and converted. One example of this is Prinsipe Rodante.
KARAGATAN - This is a poetic vehicle of a socio-religious nature celebrated during the death of a person. In this contest, more or less formal, a ritual is performed based on a legend about a princess who dropped her ring into the middle of the sea and who offered here hand in marriage to anyone who can retrieve it. A leader starts off with an extemporaneous poem announcing the purpose. He then spins a “lumbo” o “tabo” marked with a white line. Whoever comes in the direction of the white line when the spinning stops gets his turn to “go into the sea to look for the ring.” This means a girl will ask him a riddle and if he is able to answer, he will offer the ring to the girl.
DUPLO - The Duplo replace the Karagatan. This is a poetic joust in speaking and reasoning. The roles are taken from the Bible and from proverbs and saying. It is usually played during wakes for the dead. THE BALAGTASAN - This is a poetic joust or a contest of skills in debate on a particular topic or issue. This is replaced the DUPLO and is held to honor Francisco “Balagtas” Baltazar. THE DUNG-AW - This is a chant in free verse by a bereaved person or his representative beside the corpse of the dead. No definite meter or rhyming scheme is used. The person chanting it freely recites in poetic rhythm according to his feelings, emotions and thoughts. It is personalized and usually deals with the life, sufferings and sacrifices of the dead and includes apologies for his misdeeds.
THE AWIT and the CORRIDO - Some use these two interchangeably because distinction is not clear. The terms 'awit' and 'corrido' are both related to music. 'Awit' is the Tagalog word for song while the Spanish word 'corrido' means "a metrical story, usually sung to the accompaniment of a guitar, in fandango style. Pardo de Tavera, an imminent Filipino scholar, believes that the word 'corrido' was derived from the Spanish 'occurido,' meaning "events" or "happenings". Korido is the generic name for Philippine romances. In Tagalog literature, an awit is distinguished from the korido basically by the number of syllables in each line. The korido refers to metrical romances in octosyllabic (8 syllables) verse called 'hakira' while the awit is in dodecasyllabic (12 syllables) verse called 'plosa.'