Long before the Spaniard and other foreigners landed on Philippine shores, our forefathers already had their own literature stamped in the history of our race.
Our ancient literature shows our customs and traditions in everyday life as trace in our folk stories, old plays and short stories.
Our ancestors also had their own alphabet which was different from that brought by the Spaniards. The first alphabet used by our ancestors was similar to that of the Malayo-Polynesian alphabet. Whatever record our ancestors left were either burned by the Spanish friars in the belief that they were works of the devil or were written on materials that easily perished, like the barks of trees, dried leaves and bamboo cylinders which could not have remained undestroyed even if efforts were made to preserve them.
Other records that remained showed folk songs that proved existence of a native culture truly our own. Some of these were passed on by word of mouth till they reached the hands of some publishers or printers who took interest in printing the manuscripts of the ancient Filipinos. The Spaniards who came to the Philippines tried to prove that our ancestors were really fond of poetry, songs, stories, riddles and proverbs which we still enjoy today and which serve to show to generations the true culture of our people.
Pre-Spanish Literature is characterized by
A. LEGENDS. Legends are a form of prose the common theme of which is about the origin of a thing, place, location or name.
The events are imaginary, devoid of truth and unbelievable. Old Filipino customs are reflected in these legends. Its aim is to entertain. Here is an example of a legend is THE LEGEND OF THE TAGALOGS
B. FOLK TALES. Folk tales are made up of stories about life, adventure, love, horror and humor where one can derive lessons about life.
These are useful to us because they help us appreciate our environment, evaluate our personalities and improve our perspectives in life. An example of this is THE MOON AND THE SUN.
C. THE EPIC AGE. Epics are long narrative poems in which a series of heroic achievements or events, usually of a hero, are dealt with at length. Nobody can determine which epics are the oldest because in their translations from other languages, even in English and Spanish. We can only determine their origins from the time mentioned in the said epics. Aside from the aforementioned epics, there are still other epics that can be read and studied like the following epics.
a. Bidasari-Moro epic
b. Biag ni Lam-ang-Ilokano epic
c. Maragtas-Visayan epic
d. Haraya-Visayan epic
e. Lagda-Visayan epic
f. Hari sa Bukid-Visayan epic
g. Kumintang-Tagalog epic
h. Parang Sabir-Moro epic
i. “Dagoy”at “Sudsod”-Tagbanua epic
j. Tatuaang-Bagobo epic
k. Indarapatra at Sulayman l. Bantugan
m. Daramoke-A-Babay –Moro epic in “Darangan”
D. FOLK SONGS. Folk songs are one of the oldest forms of Philippine literature that emerged in the pre-Spanish period. These songs mirrored the early forms of culture.
Many of these have 12 syllables. Here are the examples:
b. Kumintang o Tagumpay c. Ang Dalit o Imno
d. Ang Oyayi o Hele
OTHER FORMS OF PRE-SPANISH POETRY
E. Epigrams, Riddles, Chants, Maxims, Proverbs or Sayings
1. Epigrams (Salawikain). These have been customarily used and served as laws or rules on good behavior by our ancestors. To others, these are like allegories or parables that impart lessons for the young. 2. Riddles (Bugtong) or Palaisipan. These are made up of one or more measured lines with rhyme and may consist of four to 12 syllables.
3. Chant (Bulong). Used in witchcraft or enchantment.
4. Maxims. Some are rhyming couplets with verses of 5, 6 or 8 syllables, each line having the same number of syllables.
5. Sayings (Kasabihan). Often used in teasing or to comment on a person’s actuations.6. Sawikain (Sayings with no hidden meanings)