Another look at PH Literature

posted November 21, 2016 at 12:01 am
by  Honor Blanco Cabie
Very often, we hear people in coffee shops and in the academe talk about the state of Philippine literature. And almost as often, we hear them discuss what they describe as Philippine literature, its roots right in the national capital region and the surrounding provinces.

That, to say the least, is a rather sad commentary on not just the state of Philippine literature but on the orientation many have had for years and the focus of what really is literature that we can say truly and rightly reflects the soul of this Southeast Asian archipelago of nearly 88 million people.

Given the multi-racial, multi-ethnic society the Philippines has, is there really one brand that may truly be called Philippine literature to the unjust exclusion of the others similarly strong in foundation and appreciated not the least by many scholars as well as students of history and culture?

Since there are various regions—more than a dozen political or otherwise—in this country, discovered in 1651 for Europe by Portuguese navigator Fernando Magallanes, then sailing under the flag of Spain, it would be proper, if appropriate, that there must be a serious look at both the oral and written, if any, literature of the different regions beyond the audible echoes of the Manila Cathedral chimes.

Aside from a sympathetic understanding of the geographical divisions, we must as well note that the Philippines, heretofore called Las Islas Filipinas, had been under different political rulers.

And, in certain cases, the politics then included the educational and the spiritual dimensions, not necessarily taken together.

With this given, we can immediately see the need for more scholars and chroniclers as well as quality translators to compile and translate the native tunes and lyrics indigenous to each or to more than one region.

This is where any private effort should be matched at once by the government, which has the logistics and will to let one body, or committee, to work on and for the translation and dissemination of the various regional literatures.

A government, after all, should be the guardian of the culture of a country—in this case, the Philippine government of the culture of this multi-lingual nation whose sense of pride has been strengthened by the various eras imposed on them by colonial masters and conquerors in separate eras.

More than 40 years ago—not exactly a long time by any cultural crawl—high school, and even elementary, students up north were being pounded by Francisco Balagtas’ Florante at Laura by teachers in Pilipino.

The same academic scenario was also being unreeled in the other regions outside of the Tagalog-speaking capital and nearby provinces.

We do not suggest that Florante at Laura had no merits for discussion in classrooms, even if in some cases that situation then is today pathetically repeated in some colleges and universities.

But there are others deserving attention. These include, but not necessarily limited to, the Aliguyon or the Hudhud of the Ifugaos of the Cordilleras which narrates the exploits of Aliguyon as he waves hefty muscles and courage against his arch enemy, Pambukhayon, across the rice fields and terraces.

The parts narrate the exploits of the hero as he leads his people who have been unnecessarily driven out of their land to Nalandangan, a land of utopia, where there are no land grabbers nor oppressors.

More than 40 years ago—not exactly a long time by any cultural crawl—high school, and even elementary, students up north were being pounded by Francisco Balagtas’ Florante at Laura by teachers in Pilipino.

The same academic scenario was also being unreeled in the other regions outside of the Tagalog-speaking capital and nearby provinces.

We do not suggest that Florante at Laura had no merits for discussion in classrooms, even if in some cases that situation then is today pathetically repeated in some colleges and universities.

But there are others deserving attention. These include, but not necessarily limited to, the Aliguyon or the Hudhud of the Ifugaos of the Cordilleras which narrates the exploits of Aliguyon as he waves hefty muscles and courage against his arch enemy, Pambukhayon, across the rice fields and terraces.

Then there is the Agyu or Olahing, a three-part epic that rolls on with the pahmara or invocation, then the kepu’unpuun, or the narration of the past, and the sengedurog, or the episode which in itself is complete.

There are others similarly situated with a wealth of literary trove, like the Pangasinenses, the Pampangos, the Ibanags, and other marginalized communities, whose oral and written, however limited, literature must be translated now before they are lost in the storming winds of ruthless time.

Honro Blanco Cabie is night editor for Manila Standard.

Topics: Philippine literature , Another look at PH Literature
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