Why a Revision of the History of Philippine Literature may be Necessary


Literature of the Philippines

Movements in History

In Revaluation Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera's contention that the "History of literature in the Philippines demands re-writing" is more urgent today than when he first said it in the introduction of his book Revaluation. For starters this new history should map all kinds of literature without canonizing them. What needs study and recording is the evolution of current texts, for example, speculative fiction, fantasy, horror. and children's literature. Even if these genres have always been part of the Philippine literary landscape, they have not yet been fully mapped.

Rewriting the history of Philippine literature should also evaluate the impact of the proliferation of Romance series in Filipino and in English, focusing on genre excellence. Also in order is an analysis of Philippine literature in Taglish, other genre novels in all the major Filipino languages, even slam poetry, and graphic novels. Relevant web content by influential writers-celebrities and other bloggers may also require space in literary history. Screenplays of noteworthy independent films and film adaptations of literary text may need more than mentions in this historical appraisal.

Tracing the Development of the History of Philippine Literature
in the Evolution of National Consciousness

But the more crucial task is Dr. Lumbera's implication that the framework in tracing the development of Philippine literary history needs to be re-evaluated as well. The historical mapping is biased on the assumption of Philippine literature evolving parallel to the evolution of a national consciousness. Instead, this map should be more conscious of the in-between spaces of the Filipino struggle for national identity.  How representative, for example, are those texts reflecting positive or negative reactions to events in history? What other narratives have been neglected or marginalized in favor of defining a Filipino-ness anchored on any lived or imagined national struggle against an oppressive regime or administration? Contemporary texts may even be deliberately poking at or ignoring school- based narrative of Philippine history and national identity, using parody or satire.

Movements in Philippine literary history must then be reworked to come up with a more detached view of the landscape that will have seen every nook and cranny of all literary influence beginning from way back before the Spaniards even knew the Philippine archipelago existed. This re-evaluation will hopefully allow the literature to become more visible in the global context and give the diaspora greater confidence in their Filipino identity. There should be more translations to expand the audience. And versions of translations of every important novel should be critically read to expose nuances and enrich interpretation. Native language speakers should have enough encouragement to write from the heart, but they should also target the whole English speaking world at least, as readers. 

In the new Philippine history of literature, texts written in all the available languages must have equal weight. The agenda of this new history should not be merely to unite or 'nationalize', but also to aggressively promote Philippine literature in the world of letters.