The variety and abundance of Philippine literature evolved even before the colonial periods. Folk tales, epics, poems and marathon chants existed in most ethnolinguistic groups that were passed on from generations to generations through word of mouth. Tales associated with the Spanish conquest also took part in the country’s rich cultural heritage. Some of these pre-colonial literary pieces showcased in traditional narratives, speeches and songs are Tigmo in Cebuano, bugtong in Tagalog, patototdon is Bicol and paktakon in Ilongo. Philippine epics and folk tales are varied and filled with magical characters. They are either narratives of mostly mythical objects, persons or certain places, or epics telling supernatural events and bravery of heroes, customs and ideologies of a community.
Below are examples of ethno-epics popularized by different ethnic groups in the country:
Biag ni Lam-ang (Life of Lam-ang) of the Ilocanos narrates the adventures of the prodigious epic hero, Lam-ang who exhibits extraordinary powers at an early age. At nine months he is able to go to war to look for his father’s killers. Then while in search of lady love, Ines Kannoyan, he is swallowed by a big fish, but his rooster and his friends bring him back to life.
The Agyu or Olahing of the Manobos is a three part epic that starts with the pahmara (invocation) then the kepu’unpuun ( a narration of the past) and the sengedurog (an episode complete in itself). All three parts narrate the exploits of the hero as he leads his people who have been driven out of their land to Nalandangan, a land of utopia where there are no landgrabbers and oppressors.
Sandayo, of the Subanon tells of the story of the hero with the same name, who is born through extraordinary circumstances as he fell out of the hair of his mother while she was combing it on the ninth stroke. Thence he leads his people in the fight against invaders of their land and waterways.
Aliguyon or the Hudhud of the Ifugaos tells of the adventures of Aliguyon as he battles his arch enemy, Pambukhayon among rice fields and terraces and instructs his people to be steadfast and learn the wisdom of warfare and of peacemaking during harvest seasons.
Labaw Donggon is about the passionate exploits of the son of a goddess Alunsina, by a mortal, Datu Paubari. The polygamous hero battles the huge monster Manaluntad for the hand of Abyang Ginbitinan; then he fights Sikay Padalogdog, the giant with a hundred arms to win Abyang Doronoon and confronts the lord of darkness, Saragnayan, to win Nagmalitong Yawa Sinagmaling Diwata. Reference-NCCA
Other epics known to most Filipinos are the Ibalon of Bikol, Darangan which is a Muslim epic, the Kudaman of Palawan, the Alim of the Ifugao, Bantugan of the Maranao, the Hinilawod of Panay, the and the Tuwaang of Manobos. The Tagalogs pride their Myth of Bernardo Carpio, a folk hero said to hold the mountains of San Mateo apart with his powerful arms to prevent them from colliding.
There are shorter narratives that tell the origins of the people, the stars, the sky and the seas. A famous story that tells of the origin of man and woman is that of Sicalac (man) and Sicavay (woman) who came out of a bamboo after being pecked by a bird. This, and other stories of equal birthing of man and woman throughout the archipelago assert a woman’s equal position with a man within the tribal systems. Reference-NCCA
During the Spanish colonial period, the country has encountered transformations in their daily customs. It affected not only the country’s whole system but as well tainted the purity of their folklore traditions. And because of the western’s strong influence and forceful implication of their civilization, the locals’ forms of expression on national issues and self-consciousness were replaced through political essays, novels, poems and religious prose- a form of learning, however, that led to ultimate awakening of Filipinos regarding the unreasonable colonial rule in the country. Famous examples of these Spanish-adapted writings are the novels of Jose Rizal, El Filibusterismo and Noli Me Tangere.
Nowadays, Filipino writers have continued to patronize the intellectual influence started by Rizal but to further aim at reviving the richness of the country’s very own folk traditions and introducing it to new generations as a significant form of art.