Hiligaynon is the lingua franca
of the West Visayas in Central Philippines. Politically labeled Region 6,
West Visayas is composed of the provinces of Iloilo, Capiz, Antique and
Aklan on the island of Panay; Negros Occidental, the western half of the
island of Negros; and the new island-province of Guimaras which used to be a
sub-province of Iloilo.
The mother language of West Visayas is Kinaray-a
or Hiraya, the language spoken by the central and southern towns of
Iloilo, all of the province of Antique and most of Capiz. Hiligaynon
is spoken in Iloilo City in all the coastal towns north of Iloilo City, in
all of Guimaras, in most of Roxas City in Capiz, and in Bacolod City and
most of the towns of Negros Occidental. The language is also spoken in South
Cotabato, in Mindanao, where many West Visayans have migrated. The northern
towns of Negros Occidental speak Cebuano or Sugbuanon, the lingua
franca of Central Visayas. The province of Aklan speaks Aklanon
which, like Hiligaynon, developed from Kinaray-a.
Though distinctly different from Hiligaynon,
Kinaray-a and Aklanon are conveniently considered by many
linguists and literary researchers as subsumed in the lingua franca. Current
writers in Kinaray-a and Aklanon have shown that it is not so.
Purely oral, West Visayan literature before the
coming of the Spaniards was in Kinaray-a which must have been the
language in folk literature of the ten Bornean datus who, according to the
folk account of the Maragtas, got the island of Panay from the
aboriginal Ati in exchange for a headgear of gold and a necklace that
touched the ground.
Folk literature ranges from brief riddles,
proverbs, ditties, ritual chants to elaborate love songs, tales and
extensive epics. A poem is called binalaybay and the tale is the
asoy or the sugilanon.
The paktakon is a riddle while the
hurubaton is a proverb. Both are usually in two lines and rhymed.
Folksongs may be as simple as the ili-ili
or lullaby or as intricate as the ambahan, a long song alternately
sung by a soloist and a chorus; the siday which can be a long poetic
joust between two paid poets respectively representing the two families in a
marriage suit (siday sa pamalaye); or a balitaw, a jocose love
song sung in a debating manner by a man and a woman.
The asoy may be a legend or a tale about a
folk hero or a local happening. Foremost among the Panay epics are the
Labaw Donggon and the Hinilawod.
Ritual chants are delivered by the babaylan
or healer to please the diwata or supernatural beings or spirits in
exchange for good health and luck in the home and the fields during planting
and harvest seasons.
The coming of the Spaniards and the conversion of
the people to Christianity produced new forms of folk literature. Written
literature also started, first with translations of Spanish texts of prayers
and lives of the saints.
Tracing their origins to the Spanish times are the
luwa, the witty quatrain recited by the loser of the bordon,
the most popular game during the belasyon or vigil for the dead; and
the composo, the ballad that sings the life of a folk hero or a
significant incident in the community.
Religious literature flourished during the Spanish
times. The Flores de Mayo is a devotional song-prayer held throughout
the month of May characterized by singing hymns to the Virgin Mary and
The Pasyon, which recounts the suffering of
Christ, is chanted during the Holy Week.
The gozos of the novena, the nine-day
devotional prayer to a saint, stresses Christian virtue or recounts
incidents in the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary.
Always part of the feast in honor of the patron
saint is the coronation of the fiesta queen. The local poet then delivers
the pagdayaw, an extensive ode praising the queen's beauty and
Purely secular is the corrido, actually a
medieval romance brought by the Spaniards. Most popular corrido in
West Visayas is Rodrigo de Villas.
Two theater forms developed during the Spanish
times. The moro-moro is full of action but is no more than a morality
play celebrating the victory of the Christians against the Moros. The
zarzuela is a musical but later made a vehicle for subversive activities.
The establishment of Imprenta La Panayana in
Iloilo City late in the nineteenth century by a Bicolano, Mariano Perfecto,
engineered written Hiligaynon literature. With his Pasyon,
novenas and corridos, Perfecto published Almanake Panayanhon (Panayan
Almanac), the all-time Hiligaynon best-seller. Almanake, which
published literary works by most of the early Hiligaynon writers, is
still being published today by the Perfecto heirs.
The coming of the Americans saw the so-called
Golden Age of Hiligaynon literature even if the orientation was still
heavily Spanish-- didactic and Roman Catholic though strongly nationalistic.
The relatively short period from the 1920's to the
coming of the Japanese is considered the Golden Age. This produced Angel
Magahum (first novelist for Benjamin), poet Delfin Gumban, poet
Serapion Torre, poet-translator (from Spanish) Flavio Zaragoza Cano,
essayist-journalist Rosendo Mejica, zarzuela masters Jose Ma. Ingalla and
Jose Ma. Nava, playwright Miguela Montelibano, novelist-poet Magdalena
Jalandoni, essayist Augurio Abeto and Abe Gonzales, and the young novelist
Ramon L. Musones and poet Santiago Alv. Mulato. The triumvirate of Gumban,
Torre and Zaragoza Cano ruled it out for years in poetry, their rivalry
magnified by the public balagtasan or poetic joust. The establishment
of Hiligaynon magazine by Liwayway Publications in Manila and of the
Makinaugalingon Press by Rosendo Mejica in Iloilo City further strengthened
Jalandoni, Muzones, Gonzales and Mulato wrote
their way through the Japanese Occupation and on to the fifties and the
sixties which saw two new novelists, Jose E. Yap and Conrado Norada. The
establishment of Yuhum magazine in Iloilo City by La Defensa Press
and of the short-lived Kasanag by Diolosa Publications, kept
literature not only alive but strong. Big names were Ramon L. Muzones,
Santiago Alv. Mulato, Conrado Norada, Abe Gonzales and the forever versatile
Magdalena Jalandoni. Jose E. Yap had started his series of science-fiction
novels. New names came like Hernando Siscar , Antonio Joquiño and Isabelo
The influence of English literature, especially in
the short story, became pronounced in the 1960's when Hiligaynon
writers became more aware of formalist guidelines like characterization,
local color and irony. The short story became popular while the novel with
Muzones, Yap and Norada at the helm kept its position. Emerging from the
sixties are important names of the present: Nilo P. Pamonag, Lucila V.
Hosillos, Mario L. Villaret, Romeo Garganera, Ner E. Jedeliz, Jr., Quin
Baterna and Jose Ali Bedaño who wrote under the name of Julius Flores. Two
prominent women novelists are Ismaelita Floro-Luza of Roxas City and Ma.
Luisa Defante-Gibraltar of Bacolod.
Yuhum stopped publication in the sixties
and resumed during Martial law. Hiligaynon closed during Martial law
and resurrected in 1989.
The Cory Revolution of 1986 is an important
milestones in the history of Hiligaynon literature. Because of the
new management of the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the creation of
the Presidential Commission for Culture and the Arts which later became the
National Commission for Culture and the Arts, new writing and new writers
have been born. The CCP and the NCCA have become truly the people's patrons
of the arts by paving the way for the creation of regional and local art
councils, providing writing grants to writers of marginalized languages,
supporting workshops and publications and conferring awards. Competitions
likewise have had their share in the ferment of new writing. Most
significant is the inclusion of the Hiligaynon short story, alongside
that of Cebuano and Iluko, in the Palanca Awards since 1997.
The Cory Revolution has also ushered in these
historical landmarks in the literature of West Visayas:
- The emergence of Kinaray-a writing;
- The emergence of Aklanon writing;
- The emergence of writing in Filipino which is Visayan-based;
- The ferment of campus writing in these languages;
- The emergence of multilingual writing in the region.
Important young writers in West Visayas today
include: Hiligaynon-- Alicia Tan-Gonzales, Peter Solis Nery, Edgar
Siscar, Resurreccion Hidalgo, Alfredo Siva, Alain Russ Dimzon; Kinaray-a
-- Ma. Milagros C. Geremia Lanchica, Alex C. de los Santos, John Iremil
E. Teodoro, Jose Edison C. Tondares, Maragtas S. V. Amante, Ma. Felicia
Flores; Aklanon -- Melchor F. Cichon, Alexander C. de Juan, John E.
All these writers are either bilingual or
multilingual. It should also be understood that West Visayas has produced a
big number of writers in English and a few very good writers in Spanish, but
they are not included here.