Our Hybrid Literature

I have just decided to change the tagline of this blog from “Philippine Poetry in English” to “Poetry by Filipinos”. It follows from that change that the poetry to be featured here will not only include the English poetry composed by Filipinos but also Filipino poetry, and other Philippine poetry written in the vernacular languages.

The motivation is this: The former tagline was, I believe, misleading. Misleading because it might lead readers to believe that the only Philippine poetry that matters is the body of poetry written in English. This is not so. The Philippines is a country of more than a hundred languages, and Filipinos write and recite their poetry in several languages, and all of them are BEAUTIFUL. I myself write poetry in three languages, and for me to have given primacy to English (as implied by my former tagline, and recent posts) makes me feel as if I have betrayed my native languages. I guess I thought first of the fact that one can reach a wider, or a more global, audience with English. 

The thing with Philippine literature in general is that it is many things. When you look at the Philippines on a map, you’d see that it’s a small archipelago consisting of literally thousands of islands. And because of the division in geography, there comes about a variety of languages and cultural practices: there are the Ilocanos up north, the Igorots of the Cordillera mountains, the Tagalogs in the capital, the Bicolanos of southeastern Luzon, the Cebuanos in the Visayan islands, the Chavacanos of Zamboanga, the Subanons of Sulu, the Islamic groups in Mindanao, and a myriad more ethno-linguistic groups…

The variety does not end there. Philippine history is as colorful as the cultural landscape. The Spaniards came in the 16th century and colonized most of the islands for more than three hundred years. The Spanish era spawned ilustrado literatures in Spanish and revolutionary literatures in the vernacular. The Americans came after the Spaniards and taught English. The Golden Age of Philippine literature emerged as more Filipinos were educated. And then the Japanese came…

I could go on and on about the characteristics of our hybrid literature. Some say that Philippine Literature has no abiding characteristic. That Filipino writers have not grasped their identity yet. That Philippine literature is said to have no distinct identity of its own due to its multiplicity. However, it is the multiplicity itself that defines Philippine literature. The identity of our people’s literature is its hybridity, like a coat of many colors.

It is many things, for we ourselves are many things.




Hence the new tagline.


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