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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Lesson for scholars

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“Like other regions, the Ilocanos themselves have the Iluko version of Cardinal Bellarmine’s Doctrina Cristiana”

The issue of a national language should provide a lesson for scholars who want to have a just and equitable representation of what truly makes up Filipino literature.

One must consider the oral and written materials of the different periods when the country was, sadly, under foreign rulers.

From these, one can have a glimpse of the soul of the inhabitants, later to be called by Jose Rizal the pride of the Malay race.

Aside from the literature during these periods, there were also materials – in the different genres –in Spanish or in English written in the different regions which should not be confused with the literature native to the region.

There was Philippine literature during the Spanish colonial period, from 1521 to the close of the 19th century, Philippine literature in English during the American era, and then Philippine literature in the aftermath of World War II, the bloody and deadly stretch when the Philippines became one of the staging areas for the Pacific theater, as well as the so-called contemporary period.

Without glossing over the literature during the different periods, we limit ourselves to oral and written – from some of the regions – without unduly suggesting those not mentioned don’t have their own materials.

Up north, in the narrow strip of the Ilocos region, some areas of the Cordilleras and the vast Cagayan Valley as well as some patches in the rice-rich Central Luzon Plains, the ancient Iluko writer expressed his joy and grief in folk and war songs.

He had the dallot, a versified exchange of chunks of wit between a man and a woman; the love song badeng; the kinnantaran, where men and women dance while singing a romantic interlude on stage; and the death chant, known as the dung-aw, often in a rhyming pattern unleashed by the elders during a wake and shortly before the body of a loved one is laid to rest.

Like other regions, the Ilocanos themselves have the Iluko version of Cardinal Bellarmine’s Doctrina Cristiana, printed in 1621, 100 years after the arrival of Magallanes in the islands, or 28 years after Doctrina Cristiana – written in Spanish and Tagalog versions, in xylography was published in Manila.

It was also during the 19th centuiry when Antonio Mejia’s Iluko translation of the Lord’s passion was published in 1845, written 224 years earlier which made it, in the view of some analysts like Wenceslao Retana, the first Philippine pasyon.

The Ilocanos also produced during that period the first known Filipino poetess overseas, Leona F. Florentino (1849-1884), whose poems, like Naangawan a Kablaaw (A Light-hearted Birthday Greeting) and Nalpay a Namnama (Shattered Hope), were among the earliest lyrical and satirical verses in Iluko.

Some of her works were also exhibited in the Exposicion General de Filipinas in Madrid in 1887 and in the Exposition Universelle de Paris in 1889.

An unprecedented growth of Iluko literature also blossomed in the last two decades of the 19th century, when Isabelo de los Reyes (1864-1938), Florentino’s son and recognized as the Father of Philippine folklore, founded in 1889 the El Ilocano, the first regional newspaper in the Philippines which published fiction and poetry.

Kurditan Samtoy, the literature of the Ilocanos, continued to flourish during the 20th century, as did the other regions’ own sets of literature.

Iluko novels, which to date ache for translations and wider dissemination, began to emerge in the 20th century, with the publication of such works as Biag Ti Maysa A Lacay Oenno Nacaam-ames A Bales (The Life Of An Old Man Or A Very Frightening Revenge, 1909) by Mariano Gaerlan (1887-1956).

Regionally popular sarsuelas were also writ during the period, like Neneng, Noble Revalidad (Noble Rivalry) by Mena Pecson Crisologo (1844-1927), and Dagiti Agpaspasucmon Basi (The Basi [sugar cane wine] Retailers) by Pascual Agcaoili Guerrero (1880-1958).

Like some regions, the Ilocos has translated Jose Rizal’s Mi Ultimo Adios – the first, registered in a 78 rpm recording disc which was disseminated in the 1950s, by Leon C. Pichay, and, the second, by Honor Blanco Cabie, included in the literary anthology Batonsileng (1992).

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