The first epics were products of preliterate cultures and oral poetic traditions. In these traditions, poetry is transmitted to the audience and from performer to performer by purely oral means.
A study done in the early twentieth-century by Milman Parry and Albert Lord revealed that oral epics tend to be constructed in short episodes, each of equal status, interest, and importance. This facilitates memorization.
Parry and Lord also believed that the most likely source for written text of the epics of Homer was a dictation from an oral performance.
The following are some of the main characteristics identified by Parry and Lord that are also found in Philippine folk epics:
1. The setting is vast: covering many nations, the world, or the universe.
2. Begins with an invocation.
3. Includes the use of epithets.
4. Contains catalogues.
5. Features long and formals speeches
6. Shows divine intervention in human affairs.
7. The epic hero embodies the values of the civilization.
8. The generally participates in a cyclical journey or quest.