Philippine literature is literature associated with the Philippines from prehistory, through its colonial legacies, and on to the present.


The styles and themes used in Philippine literature were born from a combination of the country’s history, mythology, culture, and foreign influences, evolving throughout different periods while also adopting common writing philosophies and movements of the time.[1][2] Philippine literature encompasses literary media written in various local languages as well as in Spanish and English.

According to journalist Nena Jimenez, the most common and consistent element of Philippine literature is its short and quick yet highly interpersonal sentences, with themes of family, dogmatic love, and persistence.[3] The use of commas, conjunctions, and a variation of English known as Filipino-English or Taglish are also most present in Philippine literature.[4][5] Many of these elements used by Filipino writers had an impact in the history of literature as a whole.


Precolonial period

According to Filipino historian Teodoro Agoncillo, the ethnicity that had the richest history in terms of story-telling were the Ilocano people, whose nomadic lifestyle in the highlands bred stories of adventures far moreso than other Filipinos living in the lowlands. Ilocano used an improvised, versified, and at times impromptu, long epic poem called a dallot, delivered and narrated in a song-like manner.[6] The most famous of these epics was the Biag ni Lamang.[7]

Other forms of literature written by pre-colonial Ilocano were songs (kankanta), dances (salsala), poems (dandaniw), riddles (burburtia), proverbs (pagsasao), and lamentations (dung-aw). Other traditional Filipino epics by other ethnicities include the Hudhud ni Aliguyon of the Ifugao, Hinilawod of Panay, Ibalon from Bicol, and Darangen of the Maranao.[8] During this time, different oral myths and folk tales were developed, eventually leading to their imprinment and embeddement later on, such as Ibong Adarna, Bernardo Carpio, Maria Makiling, and several creation myths.[7]

Spanish period

Noli Me Tángere is a novel published by José Rizal that sparked the Philippine Revolution together with its sequel El filibusterismo.

The Spanish colonization of the Philippine islands led to the introduction of European literary traditions. Many of these were influenced heavily by the Spanish language and the Catholic faith.[1] These traditions include poetry such as tanaga, ladino, corridos, and awit; religious dramas such as moriones, santacruzan, panunuluyan and senakulo; and secular dramas like comedia, duplo, and karagatan.[2] Many Filipino authors rose to prominence during this time, such as Francisco Balagtas, the author of Florante at Laura (1838); and Huseng Sisiw, author of Singsing ng Pagibig. Balagtas's title, which combines history, romance, and religion, became the premier Filipino story taught in schools nationwide.[9] Another influential writer was Leona Florentino, the mother of Philippine women's literature whose work catapulted feminism to the forefront of the revolution.[10][11]

On December 1, 1846, the first daily newspaper, La Esperanza, was published in the country.[1] Other early newspapers were La Estrella (1847), Diario de Manila (1848) and Boletin Oficial de Filipinas (1852). The first provincial newspaper was El Eco de Vigan (1884), which was issued in Ilocos. In Cebu City, El Boletín de Cebú (The Bulletin of Cebu) was published in 1890. One of the most influential Spanish-language Filipino newspaper also include El Renacimiento (1901), printed in Manila by members of the Guerrero de Ermita family until the 1940s.[12]

The pre-revolutionary decades and the Philippine Revolution itself brought a wave of nationalistic literary works. A bulk of the writers of the era were propagandists and revolutionaries who were basically Filipino nationalists that wanted changes for the betterment of the Filipino people, or total independence from Spanish authority. These include the works of Ilustrados like Pedro Alejandro Paterno, who wrote the first novel written by a Filipino, Nínay (1885);[13] Graciano López Jaena and later on by Marcelo H. del Pilar, who edited and published the pro-Filipino newspaper La Solidaridad (1889);[14] and the Philippine national hero, José Rizal, who wrote two famous novels in Spanish, Noli Me Tángere (1887) and El Filibusterismo (1891).[15]

American period

The American occupation and eventual colonization of the Philippines paved the way for newer styles and genres. Compared to the more rigid literature of the Spanish era, the American period saw the popularity of the "free verse" in the Philippines, allowing for flexible poetry, prose, and other wordcraft.[2] The introduction of the English language was also of equal importance, as it became one of the most common languages that Filipino writers would use back then until today.

The first English novel written by a Filipino was The Child of Sorrow (1921) written by Zoilo Galang.[16] The early writings in English were characterized by melodrama, unreal language, and unsubtle emphasis on local color. Short stories also gained popularity during this period with many serials and stories published independently or through newspapers. The most well-known was Manuel Arguilla and his anthology How My Brother Leon Brought Home a Wife and Other Short Stories (1940), which won first prize in the Commonwealth Literary Contest.

During this time, there was also a resurgence of interest in Filipino mythology and folklore, and many works concerning them would be published, with the most well-known being the many anonymous stories about the folk character Juan Tamad (1919).[17] The level of poetry in the Philippines had also risen, with poet Jose Garcia Villa making impacts in poetry history for introducing the style of comma poetry and the "reversed consonance rhyme scheme".[4]

Late 20th century

As the Philippines gained its sovereignty from America, patriotism once again became a central theme in Filipino literature. Besides stories of Filipino mythology and history, there was also a boom in tales depicting the simple life of the common Filipino.[18] These stories often took place in the countryside, and portrayed every day Filipino activities like church-going, farming, courting, and cockfighting.

The most well-known example was the short story My Brother’s Peculiar Chicken by Alejandro Roces.[18] Other prominent writers during the mid-20th century were Carlos Bulosan, Nick Joaquin, Bienvenido Santos, Lualhati Bautista, and Rolando S. Rinio.[19][20] Carlos Bulosan, in particular, published the novel America Is In The Heart (1946), which became one of the earliest glimpses and representations of the life of Asian-American immigrants in the West.[21] F. Sionel Jose is also a similar author who tackled social injustice and elitism in his Rosales Saga (1973-1984).[22]

It was around this period as well that the golden age of Filipino comics and sequential art emerged. Many Filipino comic books, strips, and graphic novels soared in popularity, making names of artists like Mars Ravelo, Francisco V. Coching, Carlo J. Caparas and Gilda Olvidado.[23] Later on, political and protest literature became wildly present, especially during the Martial Law era. By this time, there became a focus on criticizing and satirizing the current status of the Philippines rather than just celebrating the nation like those before it. These works include the powerful Mga Ibong Mandaragit (1969) by Amado V. Hernandez and the Conjugal Dictatorship (1976) by Primitivo Mijares.[24]

21st century

The rise of mass printing and digital technology led to better accessibility for Filipino authors who wanted to publish their work. The internet had become a revolutionary tool for Filipino authors to reach readers outside of the Philippines. Publishing houses like PSICOM flourished, and there was a rise in popularity of self-publishers and websites like Wattpad.[25] The first title to achieve this was Danny R.’s webnovel Diary ng Pangit (2013).[26]

Around this time, several Filipinos began to dabble into current literary trends, tackling modern issues of diversity and mental health, while also introducing international readers to Filipino culture. Two of the most popular Filipino writers of the early 21st century include Rin Chupeco, who made a name for herself publishing Young Adult fiction, many of which were inspired by Filipino mythology from Maria Makiling to the Mangkukulam;[27] and Louis Bulaong, who is an important figure in the pop culture genre, and one who popularized the use of international Filipino terms like “kilig” in his stories.[28]

The 21st century also saw the rise in popularity of many Filipina writers. One of the most famous is Ivy Alvarez, a Filipino-Australian who gained acclaim for her collection of poets entitled Disturbance (2013), which contained themes of domestic abuse.[3] Another writer is Yvette Fernandez, a children’s book author from Summit Media whose books tackled history and morality. Other contemporary Filipina writers include Marites Vitug and Merlie M. Alunan.

National Artists for Literature

The Order of National Artists of the Philippines is conferred to Filipinos with "exquisite contribution to Philippine art". The artists are chosen by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (Philippines) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines. The Order is given by the President of the Philippines.

Awardees of the National Artist of the Philippines Order, for Literature, include:[29][30]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Frank R. Blake American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 13, No. 3 (Jul. - Sep. 1911), pp. 449-457 JSTOR
  2. ^ a b c The Literary Forms in Philippine Literature
  3. ^ a b Jimenez, Nena. "5 Best Modern Filipino Writers". Pinas. September 5, 2020
  4. ^ a b Pinoy Lit. "Jose Garcia Villa". Retrieved February 25, 2008.
  5. ^ "Escapist Dream by Louis Bulaong (A Retrospective)". Archived from the original on October 29, 2020. Retrieved August 9, 2020.
  6. ^ History of the Filipino people by Teodoro Agoncillo
  7. ^ a b Manuel, E. Arsenio (1963). "A Survey of Philippine Folk Epics" (PDF). Asian Folklore Studies. 22: 1–76. doi:10.2307/1177562. JSTOR 1177562.
  8. ^ Hawley, John Charles; Nelson, Emmanuel (2001). Encyclopedia of Postcolonial Studies. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 177. ISBN 0313311927.
  9. ^ "K to 12 Gabay Pangkurikulum; FILIPINO; (Baitang 1 - 10)" (PDF). Department of Education (in Filipino). May 2016. p. 159. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 14, 2019. Retrieved September 7, 2023.
  10. ^ Blanton, S. (2016). A Threshold of Flowers: Public and Private Eroticism in the Poems of Leona Florentino. University of North Carolina.
  11. ^ Mabanglo, R. E. (2020). Leona Florentino: Mother of Filipina poetry. Philippine Graphic.
  12. ^ Gregorio, Ferdinan S. (September 4, 2012). "In Defense of Freedom: Philippine Press Through the Ages". National Historical Commission of the Philippines. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  13. ^ Matibag, Eugenio. "THE SPIRIT OF NÍNAY: Pedro Paterno and the First Philippine Novel". Retrieved June 1, 2011.(Abstract)
  14. ^ "José Rizal and the Propaganda Movement". Retrieved November 4, 2011.
  15. ^ "The life and works of Jose Rizal". Retrieved September 3, 2013.
  16. ^ Elmer A. Ordoñez's Book Review, The Sunday Times/The Manila Times, March 14, 2004
  17. ^ Anonymous (May 24, 2017). Búhay na Pinagdaanan ni Juan Tamad na Anac ni Fabio at ni Sofia: Sa Caharian nang Portugal na Hinango sa Novela (in Tagalog). CHIZINE PUBN. ISBN 978-1-374-87756-6.
  18. ^ a b Archived August 9, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ Escabel, Gabrielle. "Representative Texts and Authors From Each Region in The Philippines". Scribd. Retrieved September 23, 2023.
  20. ^ Adame, Lyn (2021). "A Survey of Authors". University of Southern Mindanao.
  21. ^ "America Is in the Heart: A Personal History" by Carlos Bulosan (Introduction by Carey McWilliams) Archived August 23, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, University of Washington Press,
  22. ^ Jose, F. Sionil (July 30, 2003). "Sense of the City: Manila". BBC News. Retrieved June 14, 2007.
  23. ^ Macaraig, Mynardo. ‘KOMIKS’ INDUSTRY FIGHTS FOR SURVIVAL, Planet Philippines (October 17, 2010).
  24. ^ Pineda, DLS (February 22, 2014). "So you think you love Marcos?". The Philippine Star. Retrieved October 4, 2015.
  25. ^ List of Well-Known Filipino Wattpad Authors
  26. ^ "Panget's beautiful story". October 6, 2013. Retrieved December 11, 2013.
  27. ^ northernplunder (October 5, 2018). "Spooky Q+A: Rin Chupeco". Northern Plunder. Retrieved May 30, 2019.
  28. ^ Hannigan, Carl (July 1, 2021). "Otaku Girl (Book Review): Where Memes and Literature Mix". Voice Media Group.
  29. ^ "List of National Artists of the Philippines". Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines. Archived from the original on April 3, 2023. Retrieved December 23, 2023.
  30. ^ "Order of National Artists". National Commission for Culture and the Arts. Archived from the original on May 9, 2023. Retrieved December 23, 2023.