In 1900 English became the official medium of instruction in Philippine schools. The first teachers were army men and their wives. In 1901 the Philippine Normal School was founded to train the Filipino teachers to take charge of elementary education. In the same year the army transport, Thomas, bought 600 American teachers to the country to be incorporated into the educational system. These teachers introduced English and American literature to the Filipinos.
The period of 1910 to 1935 is generally called the period of apprenticeship or imitation. Virginia R. Moreno, in her “A Critical Study of the Shorty Story in English Written by Filipinos,” describes the years 1910-1925 “as a period of novices with their exercises in fiction-making and the rise of the new language.”
The Filipino writers imitated American and English writers. This fact is hardly surprising since the early writers were, for the most part, college students or young graduates whose literary education had been largely confined to American and English authors.
The University of the Philippines was founded in 1908. It became the center of the literary effort. In September 1910, the first issue of the UP Folio came off the press. This publication was recognized as embodiment of the early attempts of Filipinos at self-expression in English.
The UP Folio was replaced by the Philippine Collegian. Other publications which introduced Philippine literature in English to the public were Philippine Review, Independent, Rising Philippines, and Citizens.
In 1920 the Philippine Herald, the first Filipino daily in English, was founded. It paid for literary work it published and thus gave a financial reward to writers in English, especially in the short story.
The period of apprenticeship was inaugurated b two significant events. In 925 A. V. H. Jartendorp became the editor-publisher of the Philippine Education Magazine. This soon became the Philippine Magazine, the most influential literary magazine of its time. The Manila Tribune was established in the same year. It began publishing a Sunday supplement featuring original short stories and poems written in English. Other journals followed and there was a market, although still very limited, for Filipino literary output in English.
In 1927 the UP writers club was founded and began publishing the Literary Apprentice, which became the most prestigious college literary publication in the country. In the same year, the Bureau of Education published Philippine Prose and Poetry, which was prescribed as a high school textbook. Furthermore, Jose Garcia Villa introduced Walt Whitman to the Philippines with the publication of his unconventional “Man Songs.” This brought in a wave of experimentation and rapid development.
The literary output was further stimulated by literary contests. The first of these was that offered by the Philippine Free Press in the field of the short story. The short story became the favorite form among Filipino writers.
In 1927 the Free Press published the first anthology of Philippine short stories written in English. The short stories during this period were either romantic tales of the past with legendary figures or were imitations of plots and themes from American and other foreign sources.
The most significant short story produced during this period was “Dead Stars” by Paz Marquez-Benitez. It was published in the Philippines Herald on September 20, 1925. Her fellow writers immediately recognized the story as incomparably superior to all other Filipino short stories published up to then.
The poetry of the apprenticeship period was dominated by sentimental love lyrics. Verbal exuberance made the poems artificial and insincere. “Sursum Surda is the first known Philippine poem in English; it appeared in the Philippine Free Press in 1907.
The first notable collection of Philippine essays in English, “Thinking of Ourselves,” compiled and edited by Vicente M. Hilario and Eliseo M. Quirino, appeared in 1924. The essays dealt with Philippine traditions and history, religion, philosophy, ethics, literature and the arts, politics and government, and other significant matters bearing on Philippine culture.
The play produced during this period was mostly highly emotional rather than emotional experiences. Some were contrived melodramas or broad comedies. American influence on the Filipino drama was less discernable, but contact with American plays was extensive and foreign plays were often staged in Manila. However drama suffered from public apathy. It could not compete with the zarzuela, which was then at the height of its popularity.
The early novels in English were sentimental. The fact is that the cultural basis of literature was too thin to support a sustained, complex tradition necessary for a novel. Zolio M. Galang’s “Child of Sorrow,” the first Filipino novel in English, was published in 1924.
Serrano, J. D. and Trinidad M. Ames. A Survey of Philippine Literature in English. 1988. Phoenix Press: Quezon City, 2000.