Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Notes on Philippine Literature During the American Period

Philippine literary production during the American Period was spurred by developments in education and culture. One is the introduction of free public instruction for all children of school age and two, the use of English as medium of instruction in all levels of education in public schools.

The use of English as medium of instruction introduced Filipinos to Anlgo-American modes of thought, culture, and life.

The educated class would be the wellspring of a vibrant Philippine literature in English.

Philippine literature in English, as a direct result of American colonization of the country, could not escape being imitative of American models of writing especially during its period of apprenticeship.

In fiction, the period of apprenticeship in literary writing in English is marked by imitation of the style of storytelling and strict adherence to the craft of the short story as practiced by popular American fictionist (Anderson, Saroyan, Hemingway)

In 1925, Paz Marquez Benitez short story, "Dead Stars," was published and was made the landmark of the maturity of the Philippine Writer in English. Soon after Benitez, short story writers began publishing stories no longer imitative of American models.

The combination of writing in English while dwelling on Filipino customs and traditions earmarked the literary output of major fictionist in English.

In 1936, the Philippine Writers League was organized; Filipino writers in English began discussing the value of literature in society. Initiated and led by Salvador P. Lopez, whose essay, “Literature and Society" won in the Commonwealth Literary Awards. This essay posited that art must have substance and that poet Jose Garcia Villa's adherence to "art for art's sake" is decadent.

The flowering of a literary tradition in English did not hamper the literary production in the native languages. The early period of the 20th century was remarkable for the significant literary output of all major languages,

It was in the early American period that seditious plays, using the form of the zarsuwela (a Philippine version of Spanish light operetta), were mounted.

Before the onset of WW II, Wilfredo Ma. Guerrero would gain dominance in theatre through his one-act plays, which he toured through his "mobile theatre."

The novel in Tagalog, Iloko, Hiligaynon, and Sugbuanon also developed during the period aided largely by the steady publication of weekly magazines like Liwayway, Bannawag, and Bisaya, which serialized the novels.

“Banaag at Sikat” or “From Early Dawn to Full Light” is one of the first literary novels written by Filipino author Lope K. Santos in the Tagalog language in 1906. As a book that was considered as the "Bible of working class Filipinos", the pages of the novel revolves around the life of Delfin, his love for a daughter of a rich landlord, while Lope K. Santos also discusses the social issues such as socialism, capitalism, and the works of the united associations of laborers.

Other Tagalog novelists wrote on variations of the same theme, the interplay of fate, love, and social justice.

Poetry in all languages continued to flourish. The Tagalogs, hailing Fransisco F. Balagtas as the nation's foremost poet invented the Balagtasan in his honor. The Balagtasan is a debate in verse, a poetical joust done almost spontaneously between protagonists who debate over the pros and cons of an issue.

The first balagtasan was held in March 24 at the Instituto de Mujeres. It was during this balagtasan that Jose Corazon de Jesus, known Huseng Batute, emerged triumphant to become the first king of Balagtasan. As Huseng Batute, de Jesus also produced the finest pomes and lyrics during the period.

The balagtasan would be duplicated in the Ilocos as the bukaneg, in honor of Pedro Bukaneg, the supposed trascriber of Biag ni Lam-ang; and the Crissottan, in Pampanga, in honor of the esteemed poet of the Pampango, Juan Crisostomo Sotto.

In 1932, Alejandro G. Abadilla with his poem, "Ako ang Daigdig" began the era of modernism in Tagalog poetry. Modernist poetry, which utilized free or blank verses was intended more for silent reading than oral delivery. 

For the complete NCCA article, click on the following link:


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