Historical BackgroundLong before the Spaniards and other foreignerslanded on Philippine shores, our forefathersalready had their own literature stamped in thehistory of our race.Our ancient literature shows our customs andtraditions in everyday life as traced in our folkstories, old plays and short stories.Our ancestors also had their own alphabetwhich was different from that brought by theSpaniards. The first alphabet used by ourancestors was similar to that of the Malayo-Polynesian alphabet.
Whatever record our ancestors left were eitherburned by the Spanish friars in the belief thatthey were works of the devil or were written onmaterials that easily perished, like the barks oftrees, dried leaves and bamboo cylinders whichcould not have remained undestroyed even ifefforts were made to preserve them.Other records that remained showed folk songsthat proved existence of a native culture trulyour own. Some of these were passed on byword of mouth till they reached the hands ofsome publishers or printers who took interestin printing the manuscripts of the ancientFilipinos.
The Spaniards who came to the Philippinestried to prove that our ancestors were reallyfond of poetry, songs, stories, riddles andproverbs which we still enjoy today andwhich serve to show to generations the trueculture of our people.Pre-Spanish Literature is characterized byA. LEGENDS. Legends are a form of prosethe common theme of which is about theorigin of a thing, place, location or name.The events are imaginary, devoid of truthand unbelievable. Old Filipino customs arereflected in these legends. Its aim is toentertain. Here is an example of a legend isTHE LEGEND OF THE TAGALOGS.
B. FOLK TALES. Folk tales are made up ofstories about life, adventure, love, horror andhumor where one can derive lessons about life.These are useful to us because they help usappreciate our environment, evaluate ourpersonalities and improve our perspectives inlife. An example of this is THE MOON ANDTHE SUN.C. THE EPIC AGE. Epics are long narrativepoems in which a series of heroicachievements or events, usually of a hero, aredealt with at length. Nobody can determinewhich epics are the oldest because in theirtranslations from other languages, even inEnglish and Spanish. We can only determinetheir origins from the time mentioned in thesaid epics.
Aside from the aforementioned epics, there arestill other epics that can be read and studiedlike the following epics.a. Bidasari-Moro epicb. Biag ni Lam-ang-Ilokano epicc. Maragtas-Visayan epicd. Haraya-Visayan epice. Lagda-Visayan epicf. Hari sa Bukid-Visayan epicg. Kumintang-Tagalog epich. Parang Sabir-Moro epici. “Dagoy” at “Sudsod”-Tagbanua epicj. Tatuaang-Bagobo epick. Indarapatra at Sulayman
l. Bantuganm. Daramoke-A-Babay – Moro epic in“Darangan”D. FOLK SONGS. Folk songs are one of theoldest forms of Philippine literature thatemerged in the pre-Spanish period. Thesesongs mirrored the early forms of culture.Many of these have 12 syllables. Here arethe examples:a. Kundiman – song of loveb. Kumintang o Tagumpay – war song
c. Ang Dalit o Imno – song to the Godd. Ang Oyayi o Hele - lullabye. Diana – wedding songf. Soliraning – song of the laborerg. Talindaw – boatman’s song
OTHER FORMS OF PRE-SPANISH POETRYE. Epigrams, Riddles, Chants, Maxims,Proverbs or Sayings1. Epigrams (Salawikain). These havebeen customarily used and served as lawsor rules on good behavior by our ancestors.To others, these are like allegories orparables that impart lessons for the young.Example:Aanhin pa ang damoKung patay na ang kabayo.
2. Riddles (Bugtong) or Palaisipan. Theseare made up of one or more measuredlines with rhyme and may consist offour to 12 syllables.Example:May binti, walng hitaMay tuktok, walang mukha.
3. Chant (Bulong). Used in witchcraft orenchantment.Example:Ikaw ang nagnanakaw ng bigas koLumuwa sana ang mata moMamaga sana ang katawan moPatayin ka ng mga anito.
4. Maxims. Some are rhyming coupletswith verses of 5, 6 or 8 syllables, each linehaving the same number of syllables.Example:Pag hindi ukolHindi bubukol.Sa marunong umunawaSukat ang ilang salita.
5. Sayings (Kasabihan). Often used inteasing or to comment on a person’sactuations.Example:Putak, putakBatang duwagMatapang ka’tNasa pugad
6. Sawikain (Sayings with no hiddenmeanings)Example:Nasa Diyos ang awaNasa tao ang gawa.