Friday, February 6, 2009

Literature During the Spanish Era (no.1)

To all my students in Lit 1, this is the preliminary handout for our discussion on Literature During the Spanish Era.

Spanish colonization brought about great cultural changes which also greatly altered the content, medium and form of Philippine literature.

The simple and bucolic Filipino lifestyle became moresophisticated through a long period of exposure to the lifestyle of the colonizers. The Spaniards came with the Sword and the Cross; and, to serve the dual purpose of territorial expansion and evangelization, they needed literature to serve these twin purposes and goals.
The content of literature was mostly religious; lives of saints, religious books, prayers, psalms, Marian hymns, the pasyon (the "epic" of Christian life), and the like.

To reach the inhabitants faster and to enhance the evangelization process, the Spaniards needed interpreters and translators. To fill this need, they taught selected inhabitants to speakthe Spanish language; they themselves studies and acquired the native langauges and the indios. They introduced the Roman alphabet and later brought in the printing press (1593). Thus, the medium of literature became tri - lingual; the Castillian langauge, tagalog, and some still in the dialects of various communities. The oral literature could not be erased from the memories of our ancestors; but the Roman alphabet replaced the sylabaries of the natives; and literature began to appear in print.

Ancient literary forms were enriched with the various literay forms patterned after European metrical romances (corrido and awit), "zarzuela" recreational plays (Duplo; moro - moro, juego de prenda) and the "balagtasan".
The opening of the Suez Canal brought prosperity to the Filipinos. Soon the rich and landed sent their sons to study in European schools and brought home libaral ideas of freedom, equality, and a national fervor for independence and national identity.
Literature now assumed the role of catalyst, a tool for the awakening of the Filipino long enslaved and plundered by the "conquistadores".
The writings of Rizal, M.H. del Pilar, F. Baltazar or Balagtas, etc. exposed the abuses of the Spaniards and the colonial mentality and subservience of the Filipino. To the colonial masters, these writings were revolutionary in nature. Only the expurgated copies of Rizal's novels (Noli and Fili) were allowed for limited circulation. Literary medium was bilingual. Most writings were in Spanish and tagalog, their content, bicultural.
Today the literary outputs of our writers stil carry the Filipino's Spanish cultural heritage. Spanish loan words have become part of our vocabulary such as terms like Don/Dona, Senor/Senora, cedula and many more. They often are part of contemporary writing.