Monday, December 1, 2014

Twelve Reasons for Loving Philippine Literature


1. Philippine Literature takes us to the domain of the gods and goddesses, to the throne of the Great Maker of Malakas at Maganda, in respect and thanksgiving, to submit to their power over mortals, and know their wishes and caprices for which man submits himself through devotion in the name of Bathala.


Dark clouds and red sunset – sign of coming typhoon, San Vicente IS.  

 2. Philippine Literature brings back the sweet days of childhood when a kapre (hairy monster) lives in big tree, dwende in punso (anthill), the manananggal (half-bodied vampire) peeping through thatch roof; then the whole experience is distilled from the world of fantasy in adolescence, the courageous parting of childhood to adulthood, yet leaving the imprints of the unknown world always remaining enigmatic and entertaining in adult life. 
  
Children’s playground under a kalumpang tree, QC
 
3. Philippine Literature unveils the world of the minutiae – honeybees converting nectar into the sweetest substance on earth – pukyutan (honey), worms weaving the purest fabric – silk (sutla or seda Ilk), bubod (natural yeast) brewing the best wine in buried burnay (earthen jar) –  basi, tuba, tapoy, bahalina, layaw, lambanog, and mead (honey wine), the drink of the gods – all these bring Bacchus into the midst of our ancestors.  Sober they listened to a sage recount Biag ni Lam-ang (The Life of Lam-ang, a legenary hero), in like manner Homer told of the Iliad and Odyssey to the Greeks hundreds of years ago.    

 Honeybee at work.  Honey is the sweetest natural substance on earth.

4. Philippine Literature has never been dull and prosaic as it moved on with the times to post-Romanticism, among the subjects the glitter and glamor of the Philippine Jeepney in post-war era, revolutioned some concept of beauty and order, although overbearing and frivolous; the Bahay Kubo (Nipa Hut) remodelled as satellite of modern homes and business establishments, yet retaining its coziness and quaintness in the midst of a postmodern environment.

The Jeepney – Filipino art on the road

5. Philippine Literature, on the other side of midnight, so to speak, portrays the dark, the painful and sorrowful events and conditions of life, yet gives a sense repentance and hope usually ending up with redemption and renaissance – the foundation of our ancestors’ religions and later, Christianity.  Man can do so little without the intercession of the gods and godesses – Anianihan (God of Harvest), Cabuyaran (Goddess of Healing) of the Cordilleras, and other deities like Maria Makiling (Legend of Mt Makiling) and Daragang Magayon (Legend of Mt Mayon) that guard our forests and fields. 

Joy and innocence of childhood Calatagan Batangas


6. Philippine literature succeeded in toppling the pedestal of fundamental classicism and romanticism of Renaissance Europe in the 16th century with the discovery and subsequent colonization of the Philippines by Spain for almost 400 years. It was a downshift from aristocracy to proletarian and agrarian life – the drama of everyday life of the people.  It took several pathways to the grassroots – komiks (comics), popular magazines like Liwayway and Bannawag (Dawn, in Ilocano and Tagalog), and stage play, the Zarzuela, and Comedia finding their way into today’s multimedia.  Telenovela (TV drama) draws millions of viewers into tears and laughter, keeping them in suspense  every day, reminiscent of the 1001 Arabian Nights when Scheherazade held the Sultan captive with her stories so as to escape her execution, ultimately ending up with the two “living happily ever after.” 
 
        The Filipina today, a melange of races with the gift of beauty and brains.

7. Philippine Literature exults beauty often envisioned in the Filipina, now a melange of Oriental and Occidental lineages, the subjects of stories, poems and songs, and while the Maria Clara image has mingled with contemporary culture, still captures the true essence of womanhood and the role of women in present society. Decada 70, referring to the tumultuous 70s, Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang  pictures still the suffering Sisa except that she too, is the new Gabriela. Literature would not be replete without the Filipina at the center of the story, notwithstanding her dual role in the workplace and the home.  Carmen Guerrero Nakpil tells more in The Filipino Woman, so with Paz Mendez, The Principal Role of the Home in Making a Filipino.   

8. Philippine literature produced not only great works but projected to the eyes of the world the greatness of the Filipino nation and people: Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo inflamed the Revolution led by Andres Bonifacio who penned the Kartilya, Graciano Lopez Jaena’s La Solidaridad, Carlos P Romulo’s Pulitzer winning essay, “I the Philippine Fall; I Sawthe Philippines Rise.”  Florante at Laura by Francisco Baltazar (Balagtas) earned for the title of Shakesperean literature in this part of the globe. And the stories for children gathered and compiled by the Grimm Brothers, and Hans Anderson in medieval Europe - these too, have a local counterpart in Mga Kwento ni Lola Basiang by Severino Reyes.

Legends and folklores abound everywhere in the country. Tikbalang - half man, half horse. 

 9. Philippine Literature is rich in mythology, largely influened by ethnic and Greco-Roman mythology, albeit the myths and legends of other foreign lands, for which reason our literature has gained a rich diversity, from local versions of Medusa (woman with hair of snakes), centaur (half man, half beast), the balete as hanging tree of Judas Escariot.  If fact, Philippine legends traces the mythical origin of important places, and objects - legend of the carabao, piƱa, and the like.  Spirits, good and bad, are found everywhere.  They are the central theme of supertitious beliefs, rituals, prayers, and festivities, that comprise Philippine Literature.   

Rondalla- ensemble of stringinstruments, players in native costumes

10. Philippine Literature has a holistic nature, encompassing both lyrics and songs like Bakya Mo Neneng (girl’s wooden clog), Bahay Kubo (nipa hut); music like in the Rondalla (string ensemble), dallot (skirt dance), prayers and adoration like pasyon (Passion of Christ), dung-aw (dirge).  These have been instrumental in the preservation of culture and values like bayanihan (cooperation), lamayan (wake), and the annual fiesta in commemoration of a significant event or feastday of a patron saint. And if the incantations of the herbolario, (quack doctor), and the spiritista (faith healer), together with the Lullaby  (Ugoy ng Duyan, a cradle song), as well as other rituals to bring man closer to his creator;  if these were to be retrieved as deep as in the sitio or purok (unit of barangay), from the twelve regions of the country - certainly these will further enrich the diversity of our literature, so with the richness of our culture.  

Fr James Reuter SJ dramatist, writer, spiritual adviser.

11. Philippine Literature needs to advance, over and above traditonal measures, and to “come down to earth” as well, in order to become relevant to the issues and concerns of the times,thus distancing from tear jerker emotion, blind faith and devotion, and close-door  scholarship. “Get out of the house” cried the late national poetess Ophelia Dimalanta, “bond with the people, bond with Nature,” a call for a responsive change.   Literature must make use of the modern tools of communication - photography, the Internet and multimedia, because, literature is communication, it has the power of the pen - now the electronic pen with cyberspace to write on - so to speak.

12. Philippine literature challenges both young and old, Quo vadis? (Where are you going?), to set the direction of change to be relevant, to move out of fraternal comfort and arrogance, to tap hidden talents and catalyze their expression, to create a literary approach compatible with technical writing and journalism – and vernacular language.  (KMD and AVR)

Children playing under a kalumpang tree. 



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