November 24, 2014 
 
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Tagalog Literature: History and Tradition
Domingo Goan Landicho
Articles

GEOGRAPHICAL AREA

       Tagalog literature has been born, cradled, nourished and peaked into fruition in the provinces of  Southern Luzon, Central Luzon and the present Metropolitan Manila or the National Capital Region.

       Among the Southern Tagalog provinces are Cavite, Batangas, Laguna, Quezon, Aurora, Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro, Marinduque, Palawan and some towns of Rizal province. In Central Luzon, there are three provinces where Tagalog is predominantly used and these are the provinces of Nueva Ecija, Bataan and Bulacan.  Metro Manila is comprised of cities composing the national capital region namely Manila, Quezon City, Pasay City, Caloocan City, Mandaluyong City, Pasig City, Marikina City, Muntinlupa City and suburban towns of Malabon, Navotas, Valenzuela, Pateros and Taguig.  Some parts of the provinces that are not originally Tagalog cannot escape the onslaught of Tagalog language and culture, like some parts of the Bicol region and Pampanga.

THE CRADLE OF CULTURE

       Tagalog region is the birthplace of a rich tradition of Philippine culture in language, politics, economy and literature.

       The oldest university in the Philippines, University of Sto. Tomas is located in Manila.   The first printing press was established in Manila. This gave way to the publication of the first book, Doctrina Cristiana in xylography in 1593, written in Spanish and Tagalog versions. The bible was first translated into Tagalog in Barlaan and Josaphat in 1708 and 1712.  The life of Christ in epic tradition known popularly today as Pasyon was written in Tagalog by various writers like Gaspar Aquino de Belen and Fr. Mariano Pilapil.

       The literary tradition in the Tagalog regions specially outstanding in the field of oral literature like bugtong (riddle), proverbs, native songs.  These oral literatures are always in poetic forms, usually seven-syllabic rhymes, so Asian in form and perspective.

       Considering this rich and envigorating cultural matrix, it is not surprising that it is the Tagalog region that was destined to be the birthplace of historic men in Philippine politics, culture and literature that includes Francisco Balagtas Baltazar, Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Apolinario Mabini, Emilio Jacinto, Marcelo H. del Pilar, Jose P. Laurel, Claro M. Recto, Amado V. Hernandez, Lope K. Santos, Lazaro Francisco, Faustino Aguilar, Jose Corazon de Jesus, Alejandro Abadilla, Modesto de Castro.

       It is not noticeable that such men are not only man of history that played a great role in Philippine independence movement but men of letters as well.

THE LITERARY TRADITION

       It is the pens of these men that shaped the political consciousness of the Filipinos. 

       Balagtas could be said to have voiced out the first concept of nationhood in Philippine politics and literature in his epic poem, Florante at Laura.  Says Balagtas:

Sa loob at labas ng bayan kong sawi
Kaliluha'y siyang nangyayaring hari
Kagalinga't bait ay nilulugami
Ininis sa hukay ng dusa't pighati.

In and out of my miserable country
Repression is the dominant king
Goodness and well-meant intention are suppressed
Doomed in the grave of sufferings and grief.

       Although Balagtas used Albania as an allegory, the situations clearly spoke of the Philippines.  This epic poems of Balagtas had inspired a generation of young writers of the period, like Marcelo H. del Pilar, who spearheaded the Propaganda Movement in Europe and Jose Rizal, whose novels, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo set the conflagration of revolutionary spirit and movement.

       While Rizal was living in banishment in a far-flung town of Dapitan in Mindanao island, a man of the masses, Andres Bonifacio founded the Katipunan, a revolutionary organization that sought total independence from the Spanish yoke.

       Even the revolutionary struggle of the people was guided by the light of literature.   Bonifacio and Emilio Jacinto, his close associate in the revolutionary struggle were men of letters, both writing nationalist essays and poems.

       Jacinto in his essay, "Liwanag at Dilim" (Light and Darkness), discoursed on the spirituality of man's natural desire for freedom.  On the other hand, Bonifacio spoke of the dimension of love of country in his poem, "Pag-ibig sa Tinibuang Lupa" (Love for the Native Land).  He says:

Aling pag-ibig pa ang hihigit kaya
Sa pagkadalisay at pagkadakila
Gaya ng pag-ibig sa tinubuang lupa
Aling pag-ibig pa, wala na nga, wala.

Which love can be more powerful
More pure and noble
Than the love for one's native land
Which other love, there is no such.

       This tradition of Tagalog literature has been bequeathed upon the national consciousness of the Filipinos all over the Philippines.  Manila being the center of the country in all aspects of national life of the Filipinos becomes the logical conduit of national consciousness emanating from the literary legacy of the region's gifted minds.

       During the long period of Philippine subjugations by foreign dominations -- Spanish, American and Japanese -- vigorous literary traditions have been nurtured.

       In the contemporary Philippine society, Tagalog literature is continuing its role bequeathed upon it by historical development.

       However, Tagalog literature now, more and more is given a new name -- Filipino literature.  But this is another story.

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About the Author:
Domingo Goan Landicho is one of the most-awarded writer in the Philippines. He writes poetry, short fiction, drama, essays, biographies and literature for children. A professor of creative writing and journalism in Filipino at the University of the Philippines, he has authored more than 30 books, including four novels. He has travelled in so many countries as a writer. He is an actor for film, TV and theater and acted in 1983 with Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver in MGM's The Year of Living Dangerously.
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