Philippine literature is the literature associated with the Philippines and includes the legends of prehistory, and the colonial legacy of the Philippines. Pre-Hispanic Philippine literature were actually epics passed on from generation to generation originally through oral tradition. However, wealthy families, especially in Mindanao were able to keep transcribed copies of these epics as family heirloom. One such epic was the Darangen, epic of the Maranaos of Lake Lanao. Most of the epics were known during the Spanish era.
Most of the notable literature of the Philippines was written during the Spanish period and the first half of the 20th century in the Spanish language. Philippine literature is written in Spanish, English, or any indigenous Philippine languages.
On December 1, 1846, the first daily newspaper, La Esperanza, was published in the country. 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 Boleaetín de Cebú (The Bulletin of Cebu) was published in 1890.
On 1863, the Spanish government introduced a system of free public education that increased the population's ability to read Spanish and thereby furthered the rise of an educated class called the Ilustrado (meaning, well-informed). Spanish became the social language of urban places and the true lingua franca of the archipelago. A good number of Spanish newspapers were published until the end of the 1940s, the most influential of them being El Renacimiento, printed in Manila by members of the Guerrero de Ermita family.
Some members of the ilustrado group, while in Spain, decided to start a Spanish publication with the aim of promoting the autonomy and independence projects. Members of this group included Pedro Alejandro Paterno, who wrote the novel Nínay (first novel written by a Filipino) and the Philippine national hero, José Rizal, who wrote excellent poetry and his two famous novels in Spanish: Noli Me Tángere (Touch Me Not), and El Filibusterismo.
Tanaga or haiku - Are short poems consisting of four lines with seven syllables each that rhyme at the end of each line.
Ladino Poems – Were natives of first Tagalog versifiers who saw print: highly literate in both Spanish and the vernacular.
Corridos – Were widely read during the Spanish period that filled the populace's need for entertainment as well as edifying reading matter in their leisure moments.
Awit – like corridos, these were also widely read during the Spanish period as entertaining, edifying, reading manner in their leisure time. It is also a fabrication of the writers imagination although the characters and the setting may be European. The structure is rendered dodecasyllabic quatrains.
Moriones – Refers to the helmets of participants dressed as Roman soldiers, their identities hidden behind colorful, sometimes grotesque, wooden masks. Found only on the island of Marinduque, it is down during Holy Week, culminating in a Passion play that adds the scene of Saint Longinus' conversion and martyrdom.
Panunuluyan– the Tagalog version of the MexicanLas Posadas, and literally means "seeking passage". Held during Christmastime but especially on Christmas Eve, it depicts Joseph and Mary' search for room at the inn in Bethlehem. The actors playing the Holy Couple chant their pleas for lodging in slow, mournful tones, while the innkeepers and householders would drive them away with haughty verses sang in dance-like metre.
Pangangaluwa – A practice formerly widespread during All Saints' Day which literally means for the soul[s], it is analogous to the now-defunct English custom of Souling.
Salubong – A ritual performed in the early morning of Easter Sunday a few hours after the Easter Vigil and before the Easter Mass, dramatising the meeting between the resurrected Jesus and his mother. In its basic form, the rite begins with two separate processions—one consists of males accompanying a statue of the Risen Christ, the other of women with a statue of the Virgin Mary veiled in black. Both processions meet at the churchyard, town plaza, or some other suitable area, where a girl, dressed as an angel, stands from a scaffold or descends on a rope and sings the Regina Caeli. The angel then removes the black veil to the sound of pealing bells and firecrackers, ending the penance and mourning of Lent.
Senákulo – Essentially a Passion play, which depicts the passion and death of Jesus Christ. It is customarily performed during Holy Week, and bears similarities to Mystery plays popular in medieval Europe.
Santacruzan – Performed during the month of May, which reenacts Saint Helena's Finding of the True Cross and serves as an expression of devotion to the Virgin Mary. The young women of a town, parish, or village dress in formal gowns and bear attributes related to religious themes, such as titles of Mary, with the last (often most beautiful) lady "Reyna Elena" representing the empress, and holding a crucifix, representing the True Cross. Its May observance is due to the pre-1962 date for the feast of Roodmas.
Comedia – It is about a courtly love between, a prince and a princess of different religions, and highlights concepts of colonial attitudes to Christian-Muslim relations.
Duplo – A forerunner of the balagtasan. The performances consist of two teams; One composed of young women called Dupleras or Belyakas; and the other, of young men called Dupleros or Belyakos.
Karagatan – comes from the legendary practice of testing the mettle of young men vying for a maiden's hand. The maiden's ring would be dropped into sea and whoever retrieves it would have the girl's hand in marriage.
The greatest portion of Spanish literature was written during the American period, most often as an expression of pro-Hispanic nationalism, by those who had been educated in Spanish or had lived in the Spanish-speaking society of the big cities, and whose principles entered in conflict with the American cultural trends. Such period of Spanish literary production—i.e., between the independence of Spain in 1898 and well ahead into the decade of the 1940s—is known as Edad de Oro del Castellano en Filipinas. Some prominent writers of this era were Wenceslao Retana and Claro Mayo Recto, both in drama and essay; Antonio M. Abad and Guillermo Gomez Wyndham, in the narrative; Fernando María Guerrero and Manuel Bernabé, both in poetry. The predominant literary style was the so-called "Modernismo", a mixture of elements from the French Parnassien and Symboliste schools, as promoted by some Latin American and Peninsular Spanish writers (e.g. the Nicaraguan Rubén Darío, the Mexican Amado Nervo, the Spaniard Francisco Villaespesa, and the Peruvian José Santos Chocano as major models).