Dialog on Pre-Colonial Literature

From the philippinestudies-l, April 1995

Date: Sun, 23 Apr 1995 19:58:46 -0700
Message-Id: <199504240258.TAA13732@ix5.ix.netcom.com>
From: polmansl@ix.netcom.com (paul manansala)
Subject: Re: PRECOLONIAL PERIOD (-1564)
To: philippinestudies-l@postbox.anu.edu.au

You wrote:

I'm doing research for the Historical Background of Phil. Literature and try to clear out something:
  1. What was the form of literature during the pre-colonial period?
  2. According to Scott, much has been said about Filipinos during this time is misleading. Why?
  3. What were the themes of literature during the time?
Raoul R. Diez (raoul@durian.usc.edu.ph)


Although many of the pre-colonial Filipino peoples were highly literate, little has survived in the form of written literature. Jose Rizal, Pedro Paterno, and other Filipino scholars believed that such written literature was extensive, and that it was destroyed by the Spaniards and their zealous Filipino converts. I agree with these views.

Most of what we know of pre-colonial literature deals with oral traditions. These are in the form of epic poems, oral geneaologies, rhymes, riddles, wise sayings, folk tales, etc. The themes of these works was often spiritual or cosmological, or they were moral tales. Rizal et al, believed that the Filipinos kept extensive histories and they claimed that the old folk in their own times had actually seen such documents. The recent discovery of the Laguna Copper Plate Grant tends to bear out their views.

I am not sure about which views of Scott you are referring to. I assume you are talking about William Henry Scott. If you would like to discuss the subjects further, please email me or post on this list.

Paul Kekai Manansala (polmansl@ix.netcom.com)

Date: Sun, 23 Apr 95 23:21:45 HST
From: David Martin <dmartin@uhunix.uhcc.Hawaii.Edu>
To: philippinestudies-l@postbox.anu.edu.au
Subject: Re: PRECOLONIAL PERIOD(-1564)

At the request of Paul Manansala, I am forwarding his reply to my question to the list.

Note follows

Date: Sun, 23 Apr 1995 18:23:39 -1000
Message-Id: <199504240423.VAA19282@ix5.ix.netcom.com>
From: polmansl@ix.netcom.com (paul manansala)
Subject: Re: PRECOLONIAL PERIOD(-1564)
To: David Martin <dmartin@uhunix.uhcc.Hawaii.Edu>

You wrote:


Would you please tell us more about the Laguna Copper Plate Grant?


Dave Martin

Dear Dave,

As you might know, many Western scholars had denied claims by Rizal and others that Filipinos had ever used their writing skills for anything but writing messages to each other (love letters?).

In January 1990, a copper sheet with an apparently legal inscription was turned over to the National Museum by workers who had excavated it in Laguna. After examination by a number of experts in the field, the grant was found to be authentic. The grant has a Sanskrit date, which was common throughout Southeast Asia, of 900 AD. It is written in a mishmash of Tagalog, Old Malay, Sanskrit and Old Javanese. The grant is written in the same type of Philippine script that was found when the Spanish arrived in the islands. It deals with the granting of full acquittal of a debt to Lady Angkatan and her relative, Bukah, by the chief of Tondo. The full translation is covered in detail in an article by Antoon Postma in vol. 40 of Philippine Studies, second quarter, 1992.

Hope this helps,

Paul Kekai Manansala