The church authorities adopted a policy of spreading the Church doctrines by communicating to the natives in their own language. Doctrina Christiana (1593), the first book to be printed in the Philippines, was a prayerbook written in Spanish with an accompanying Tagalog translation.
The task of translating religious instructional materials forced the Spanish missionaries to employ natives as translators. Eventually, these natives learned to read and write both in Spanish and in their native tongue. These bilingual natives were called the Ladinos. They published their works, mainly devotional poetry, in the first decade of the 17th century. The most gifted among the Ladinos was Gaspar Aquino de Belen who wrote Mahal na Pasion ni Jesu Christo, a Tagalog poem based on Christ's passion, was published in 1704.
Until the 19th century, the printing presses were owned and managed by the religious orders. Thus, religious themes dominated the literature of the time.
In the 18th century, secular literature from Spain in the form of medieval ballads inspired the native poetic-drama form called the komedya, later to be called moro-moro because these often dealt with the theme of Christians triumphing over Moslems.
Fransisco Baltazar (1788-1862), popularly called Balagtas, is the acknowledged master of traditional Tagalog poetry. His narrative poem, "Florante at Laura," written in sublime Tagalog, is about tyranny in Albanya, but it is also perceived to be about the tyranny in his Filipino homeland.
Printing overtook the oral tradition, and it set for the development of prose. The first Filipino novel was "Ninay," written in Spanish by Pedro Paterno.
National hero, Jose Rizal (1861-1896) chose the realistic novel as his medium. Rizal's two novels, "Noli Me Tangere" and its sequel, "El Filibusterismo," chronicle the life and ultimate death of Ibarra, a Filipino educated abroad, who attempts to reform his country through education.
Inspired by Rizal and his two novels were Andres Bonifacio (1863-1897) and his closest aide, Emilio Jacinto (1875-1899). Both were writers and social critics who were profoundly influenced by the liberal ideas of the French enlightenment.
The Philippne revolutionary period also had its share of women writers. Gregoria de Jesus, wife of Andres Bonifacio, wrote notable Tagalog poetry. In Vigan of the Ilocano North, Leona Florentino, by her poetry, became the foremost Ilocano writer of her time.
For the complete NCCA article, click on the link provided below:
Philippine Literature during the Spanish Colonial Period