Pre-colonial inhabitants of the Philippines have a rich oral tradition of literature, which is composed of folk speeches, folk songs, folk narratives, and indigenous rituals and mimetic dances.
The most common of these folk speeches is the riddle, which is tigmo in Cebuano, bugtong in Tagalog, pakatakon in Ilongo, and patototdon in Bicol. These riddles used the talinghaga or metaphor to reveal subtle resemblances between two unlike objects and a person's power of observation and wit.
Another popular form of pre-colonial literature is the proverb—basahanon (Bukidnon), and daraida and daragilon (Panay). Its extended form, the tanaga, a mono-rhyming, heptasyllabicquatrain, expresses insights and lessons on life.
Types of Philippine Proverbs
- Proverbs expressing a general attitude toward life and the laws that govern life
- Ethical proverbs recommending certain virtues and condemning certain vices
- Proverbs expressing a certain system of values
- Proverbs expressing general truths
- Humorous proverbs
- Miscellaneous proverbs
Folk songs express the hopes and aspirations, the lifestyle, and the traditions of courtship of a tribe. The following are different types of folk songs:
- Children's songs
- Work songs
- Love songs
- Drinking Songs
- Songs extolling the deeds of the dead
Folk narratives such as epics and folk tales often deal with the exploits of supernatural beings or are about super natural events. The epic is considered as the most important form of pre-colonial literature among the pre-colonial inhabitants of the Philippines. They are sung or chanted accompanied with indigenous musical instruments and dancing during important tribal events. The epic chanters are considered treasures and are repositories of wisdom in their communities.