Education became a very important issue for the United States colonial government, since it allowed it to spread their cultural values, particularly the English language, to the Filipino people. Every child from age 7 was required to register in schools located in their own town or province. The students were given free school materials. There were three levels of education during the American period. The “elementary” level consisted of four primary years and 3 intermediate years. The “secondary” or high school level consisted of four years; and the third was the “college” or tertiary level. Religion was not part of the curriculum of the schools. as it had been during the Spanish period. In some cases those students who excelled academically were sent to the U.S. to continue their studies and to become experts in their desired fields or professions.
They were called “scholars” because the government covered all their expenses. In return, they were to teach or work in government offices after they finished their studies. Some examples of these successful Filipino scholars were Judge José Abad Santos,Francisco Benitez, Dr. Honoria Sison and Francisco Delgado. Many elementary and secondary schools from the Spanish era were recycled and new ones were opened in cities and provinces, among which there were normal, vocational, agricultural, and business schools.
Among the most important colleges during United States rule were: Philippine Normal School in 1901 ( Philippine Normal University) and other normal schools throughout the country such as Silliman University (1901),Central Philippine University (1905), Negros Oriental High School (1902),St. Paul University Dumaguete (1904), Cebu Normal School (1915) also a university at present, Filamer Christian University (1904), Iloilo Normal School in 1902 (now West Visayas State University) and Zamboanga Normal School in 1904 (now Western Mindanao State University) ; National University (1901);
University of Manila (1914); Philippine Women’s University (1919); and Far Eastern University (1933). Examples of vocational schools are: the Philippine Nautical School, Philippine School of Arts and Trades and the Central Luzon Agriculture School. The University of the Philippines was also founded in 1908. Schools were also built in remote areas like Sulu, Mindanao, and the Mountain Provinces, where attention was given to vocational and health practice.
Philippine literary production during the American Period in the Philippines was spurred by two significant developments in education and culture. One is the introduction of free public instruction for all children of school age and two, the use of English as medium of instruction in all levels of education in public schools. Free public education made knowledge and information accessible to a greater number of Filipinos. Those who availed of this education through college were able to improve their social status and joined a good number of educated masses who became part of the country’s middle class.
The use of English as medium of instruction introduced Filipinos to Anglo-American modes of thought, culture and life ways that would be embedded not only in the literature produced but also in the psyche of the country’s educated class. It was this educated class that would be the wellspring of a vibrant Philippine Literature in English. Philippine literature in English, as a direct result of American colonization of the country, could not escape being imitative of American models of writing especially during its period of apprenticeship. The poetry written by early poets manifested studied attempts at versification as in the following poem which is proof of the poet’s rather elementary exercise in the English language: Vacation days at last are here,
And we have time for fun so dear,
All boys and girls do gladly cheer,
This welcomed season of the year.
In early June in school we’ll meet;
A harder task shall we complete
And if we fail we must repeat
That self same task without retreat.
We simply rest to come again
To school where boys and girls obtain
The Creator’s gift to men
Whose sanguine hopes in us remain.
Vacation means a time for play
For young and old in night and day
My wish for all is to be gay,
And evil none lead you astray – Juan F. Salazar
Philippines Free Press, May 9, 1909| The poem was anthologized in the first collection of poetry in English, Filipino Poetry, edited by Rodolfo Dato (1909 – 1924). Among the poets featured in this anthology were Proceso Sebastian Maximo Kalaw, Fernando Maramag, Leopoldo Uichanco, Jose Ledesma, Vicente Callao, Santiago Sevilla, Bernardo Garcia, Francisco Africa, Pablo Anzures, Carlos P. Romulo, Francisco Tonogbanua, Juan Pastrana, Maria Agoncillo, Paz Marquez Benitez, Luis Dato and many others. Another anthology, The English German Anthology of Poetsedited by Pablo Laslo was published and covered poets published from 1924-1934 among whom were Teofilo D. Agcaoili, Aurelio Alvero, Horacio de la Costa, Amador T. Daguio, Salvador P. Lopez, Angela Manalang Gloria, Trinidad Tarrosa, Abelardo Subido and Jose Garcia Villa, among others. A third pre-war collection of poetry was edited by Carlos Bulosan, Chorus for America: Six Philippine Poets.
The six poets in this collection were Jose Garcia Villa, Rafael Zulueta da Costa, Rodrigo T. Feria, C.B. Rigor, Cecilio Baroga and Carlos Bulosan. In fiction, the period of apprenticeship in literary writing in English is marked by imitation of the style of storytelling and strict adherence to the craft of the short story as practiced by popular American fictionists. Early short story writers in English were often dubbed as the Andersons or Saroyans or the Hemingways of Philippine letters. Leopoldo Yabes in his study of the Philippine short story in English from 1925 to 1955 points to these models of American fiction exerting profound influence on the early writings of story writers like Francisco Arcellana, A.E. Litiatco, Paz Latorena. . When the University of the Philippines was founded in 1908, an elite group of writers in English began to exert influence among the culturati. The U.P. Writers Club founded in 1926, had stated that one of its aims was to enhance and propagate the “language of Shakespeare.”
In 1925, Paz Marquez Benitez short story, “Dead Stars” was published and was made the landmark of the maturity of the Filipino writer in English. Soon after Benitez, short story writers began publishing stories no longer imitative of American models. Thus, story writers like Icasiano Calalang, A.E. Litiatco, Arturo Rotor, Lydia Villanueva, Paz Latorena , Manuel Arguilla began publishing stories manifesting both skilled use of the language and a keen Filipino sensibility. This combination of writing in a borrowed tongue while dwelling on Filipino customs and traditions earmarked the literary output of major Filipino fictionists in English during the American period. Thus, the major novels of the period, such as the Filipino Rebel, by Maximo Kalaw, and His Native Soil by Juan C. Laya, are discourses on cultural identity, nationhood and being Filipino done in the English language.
Stories such as “How My Brother Leon Brought Home a Wife” by Manuel Arguilla scanned the scenery as well as the folkways of Ilocandia while N.V. M. Gonzales’s novels and stories such as “Children of the Ash Covered Loam,” present the panorama of Mindoro, in all its customs and traditions while configuring its characters in the human dilemma of nostalgia and poverty. Apart from Arguilla and Gonzales, noted fictionists during the period included Francisco Arcellana, whom Jose Garcia Villa lauded as a “genius” storyteller, Consorcio Borje, Aida Rivera, Conrado Pedroche, Amador Daguio, Sinai Hamada, Hernando Ocampo, Fernando Maria Guerrero. Jose Garcia Villa himself wrote several short stories but devoted most of his time to poetry. In 1936, when the Philippine Writers League was organized, Filipino writers in English began discussing the value of literature in society.
Initiated and led by Salvador P. Lopez, whose essays on Literature and Societyprovoked debates, the discussion centered on proletarian literature, i.e., engaged or committed literature versus the art for art’s sake literary orientation. But this discussion curiously left out the issue of colonialism and colonial literature and the whole place of literary writing in English under a colonial set-up that was the Philippines then. With Salvador P. Lopez, the essay in English gained the upper hand in day to day discourse on politics and governance. Polemicists who used to write in Spanish like Claro M. Recto, slowly started using English in the discussion of current events even as newspaper dailies moved away from Spanish reporting into English. Among the essayists, Federico Mangahas had an easy facility with the language and the essay as genre. Other noted essayists during the period were Fernando Maramag, Carlos P. Romulo , Conrado Ramirez.
On the other hand, the flowering of a vibrant literary tradition due to historical events did not altogether hamper literary production in the native or indigenous languages. In fact, the early period of the 20th century was remarkable for the significant literary output of all major languages in the various literary genre. It was during the early American period that seditious plays, using the form of the zarsuwela, were mounted. Zarsuwelistas Juan Abad, Aurelio Tolentino ,Juan Matapang Cruz. Juan Crisostomo Sotto mounted the classics like Tanikalang Ginto, Kahapon, Ngayon at Bukas and Hindi Ako Patay, all directed against the American imperialists. Patricio Mariano’s Anak ng Dagat and Severino Reyes’s Walang Sugat are equally remarkable zarsuwelas staged during the period. On the eve of World War II, Wilfredo Maria Guerrero would gain dominance in theatre through his one-act plays which he toured through his “mobile theatre”.
Thus, Wanted a Chaperone and The Forsaken Housebecame very popular in campuses throughout the archipelago. The novel in Tagalog, Iloko, Hiligaynon and Sugbuanon also developed during the period aided largely by the steady publication of weekly magazines like the Liwayway, Bannawag and Bisaya which serialized the novels. Among the early Tagalog novelists of the 20th century were Ishmael Amado, Valeriano Hernandez Peña, Faustino Aguilar, Lope K. Santos and Lazaro Francisco. Ishmael Amado’s Bulalakaw ng Pag-asa published in 1909 was one of the earliest novels that dealt with the theme of American imperialism in the Philippines. The novel, however, was not released from the printing press until 1916, at which time, the author, by his own admission and after having been sent as a pensionado to the U.S., had other ideas apart from those he wrote in the novel.
Valeriano Hernandez Peña’s Nena at Neneng narrates the story of two women who happened to be best of friends as they cope with their relationships with the men in their lives. Nena succeeds in her married life while Neneng suffers from a stormy marriage because of her jealous husband. Faustino Aguilar published Pinaglahuan, a love triangle set in the early years of the century when the worker’s movement was being formed. The novel’s hero, Luis Gatbuhay, is a worker in a printery who isimprisoned for a false accusation and loses his love, Danding, to his rival Rojalde, son of a wealthy capitalist. Lope K. Santos, Banaag at Sikat has almost the same theme and motif as the hero of the novel, Delfin, also falls in love with a rich woman, daughter of a wealthy landlord. The love story of course is set also within the background of development of the worker’s trade union movement and throughout the novel, Santos engages the readers in lengthy treatises and discourses on socialism and capitalism.
Many other Tagalog novelists wrote on variations of the same theme, i.e., the interplay of fate, love and social justice. Among these writers are Inigo Ed Regalado, Roman Reyes, Fausto J. Galauran, Susana de Guzman, Rosario de Guzman-Lingat, Lazaro Francisco, Hilaria Labog, Rosalia Aguinaldo, Amado V. Hernandez. Many of these writers were able to produce three or more novels as Soledad Reyes would bear out in her book which is the result of her dissertation, Ang Nobelang Tagalog (1979). Among the Iloko writers, noted novelists were Leon Pichay, who was also the region’s poet laureate then, Hermogenes Belen, and Mena Pecson Crisologo whose Mining wenno Ayat ti Kararwa is considered to be the Iloko version of a Noli me Tangere.
In the Visayas, Magdalena Jalandoni and Ramon Muzones would lead most writers in writing the novels that dwelt on the themes of love, courtship, life in the farmlands, and other social upheavals of the period. Marcel Navarra wrote stories and novels in Sugbuhanon. Poetry in all languages continued to flourish in all regions of the country during the American period. The Tagalogs, hailing Francisco F. Balagtas as the nation’s foremost poet invented the balagtasan in his honor. Thebalagtasan is a debate in verse, a poetical joust done almost spontaneously between protagonists who debate over the pros and cons of an issue. The first balagtasan was held in March 1924 at the Instituto de Mujeres, with Jose Corazon de Jesus and Florentino Collantes as rivals, bubuyog (bee) and paru-paro (butterfly) aiming for the love of kampupot (jasmine). It was during this balagtasan that Jose Corazon de Jesus, known as Huseng Batute, emerged triumphant to become the first king of the Balagtasan.
Jose Corazon de Jesus was the finest master of the genre. He was later followed by balagtasistas, Emilio Mar Antonio and Crescenciano Marquez, who also became King of the Balagtasan in their own time. As Huseng Batute, de Jesus also produced the finest poems and lyrics during the period. His debates with Amado V. Hernandez on the political issue of independence from America and nationhood were mostly done in verse and are testament to the vitality of Tagalog poetry during the era. Lope K. Santos, epic poem, Ang Panggingera is also proof of how poets of the period have come to master the language to be able to translate it into effective poetry. The balagtasan would be echoed as a poetical fiesta and would be duplicated in the Ilocos as thebukanegan, in honor of Pedro Bukaneg, the supposed transcriber of the epic, Biag ni Lam-ang; and theCrissottan, in Pampanga, in honor of the esteemed poet of the Pampango, Juan Crisostomo Sotto.
In 1932, Alejandro G. Abadilla , armed with new criticism and an orientation on modernist poetry would taunt traditional Tagalog poetics with the publication of his poem, “Ako ang Daigdig.” Abadilla’s poetry began the era of modernism in Tagalog poetry, a departure from the traditional rhymed, measured and orally recited poems. Modernist poetry which utilized free or blank verses was intended more for silent reading than oral delivery. Noted poets in Tagalog during the American period were Julian Cruz Balmaceda, Florentino Collantes, Pedro Gatmaitan, Jose Corazon de Jesus, Benigno Ramos, Inigo Ed. Regalado, Ildefonso Santos, Lope K. Santos, Aniceto Silvestre, Emilio Mar. Antonio , Alejandro Abadilla and Teodoro Agoncillo. Like the writers in English who formed themselves into organizations, Tagalog writers also formed the Ilaw at Panitik, and held discussions and workshops on the value of literature in society.
Benigno Ramos, was one of the most politicized poets of the period as he aligned himself with the peasants of the Sakdal Movement. Fiction in Tagalog as well as in the other languages of the regions developed alongside the novel. Most fictionists are also novelists. Brigido Batungbakal , Macario Pineda and other writers chose to dwell on the vicissitudes of life in a changing rural landscape. Deogracias Del Rosario on the other hand, chose the city and the emerging social elite as subjects of his stories. He is considered the father of the modern short story in Tagalog Among the more popular fictionists who emerged during the period are two women writers, Liwayway Arceo and Genoveva Edroza Matute, considered forerunners in the use of “light” fiction, a kind of story telling that uses language through poignant rendition. Genoveva Edroza Matute’s “Ako’y Isang Tinig” and Liwayway Arceo’s “Uhaw ang Tigang na Lupa” have been used as models of fine writing in Filipino by teachers of composition throughout the school system.
Teodoro Agoncillo’s anthology 25 Pinakamahusay na Maiikling Kuwento (1945) included the foremost writers of fiction in the pre-war era. The separate, yet parallel developments of Philippine literature in English and those in Tagalog and other languages of the archipelago during the American period only prove that literature and writing in whatever language and in whatever climate are able to survive mainly through the active imagination of writers. Apparently, what was lacking during the period was for the writers in the various languages to come together, share experiences and come to a conclusion on the elements that constitute good writing in the Philippines. The identity of a Filipino today is of a person asking what is his identity.” – Nick Joaquin “This is then what one finds in Filipino fiction: a self that shares in all of the contradictoriness of the national self.” – Ninotchka Rosca ————————————————-
The Postcolonial Meets the “Ethnic” United States
The study of Filipino American literature offers a place for the frames of postcolonial discourse and the literary efforts of the “hypenated” or “ethnic” American to converge. This intersection offers a challenge to the putative need to separate these endeavors on the basis of the United States’s seemingly shaky status as a colonial power (Prior to the American occupation, the Philippines spent three centuries under Spanish rule). American annexation of the Philippines occurred after two separate wars: the Spanish-American War (1898) and the Filipino-American War (1899-1902).
U.S colonial rule of the archipelago was loosened during the Commonwealth Period of 1935-1946, a period after which the Philippines gained its independence. In addition to that, the issues of colonization become complicated in light of the fact that the Philippines experienced decades of enforced “free trade” with the United States up to and even after this independence. Such a fact raises all sorts of useful questions about the effects of neocolonialism, and also the latent “colonialism” of alienation and discrimination experienced by some immigrants. ————————————————-
Filipinos in the United States
Approximately 150,000 Filipinos migrated to the United States during the period of 1906-1946, most of them settling in California and Hawaii (Hawaiian sugar plantations commissioned many Filipino laborers). After arrival citizenship evaded Filipinos for many years. The 1934 Tydings-McDuffie Independence Act merely elevated the status of these new arrivals to “nationals” from “aliens.” From 1946-1964, about 30,000 Filipinos, mostly World War II veterans and their families, arrived in the United States. 630,000 people came in the next wave of Filipino immigrants who arrived between 1965 and 1984. The United States’s 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act and the later political and economic uncertainty created by the Marcos regime in the Philippines are two factors which increased Filipino immigration during this period.
At present, the Filipino American population is the fastest growing Asian American group in the United States, and statistics illustrate that this community will surpass the numbers of Japanese and Chinese Americans combined in the next decade. American-born-Filipinos are referred to as “Flips,” a term whose origins are unclear. The suggestion that this term comes from a World War II acronym for the phrase “fucking little island people” has caused some to shy away from the term. Others have reclaimed it and changed the acronym to mean “fine-looking island people”. Others still find it more plausible that the term is just a shortening of “Filipino”. ————————————————-
Filipinos Writing in the United States
Jose Garcia Villa, 1953/ Library of Congress
The key question for Filipino writers and critics is how to retrieve (or gain for the first time) their “lost” and “unified”identity. The umbrella term “Asian-American” seems fallacious to those writers (e.g. Carlos Bulosan, José García Villa, Bienvenido Santos, and N.V.M Gonzalez) who migrated to the United States during the first part of the century. Villa was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1943, and Carlos Bulosan’s America is in the Heart (1946) continues to hold weight in literary discussions on Filipino American identity today. “I tell you to wait for the inevitable war/Of armies and idealogies, and the enduring love./In our time when every man must lie for life,/Nothing will survive but this historic truth,” writes Bulosan in “Last Will and Testament” (Evangelista 150). For these writers, the United States is a place of discovery and re-cultivation which are ends to a process akin to a necessary exile.
Critics like Oscar Campomanes and N.V.M. Gonzalez, in an anthology of Asian American critical essays, point to the discrepancies of models for true Filipino American identity as they remark on the recent success of Filipino-American writers like Jessica Hagedorn whose 1990 Dogeaters seems to search for a past and national identify not important to all Filipino writers (Cheung 80-83). Literary critics are also prone to question Carlos Bulosan’s dominant presence in studies of Filipino American literature. Campomanes claims, in Shirley Geok-lin Lim and Amy Ling’s Reading the Literatures of Asian America, that the emphasis on Bulosan’s work comes at the expense of a lack of equal concentration on other writers “whose exilic writing did not fit with the immigrant ethos” of the American mentality (55-56).
This claim is part of an ongoing critical discussion on the politics of the U.S literary marketplace and hasty generalizations about minority populations. The work of prominent writers of more recent decades (e.g. Ninotchka Rosca, Ephifanio San Juan, Linda Ty-Casper, and Michelle Skinner) adds to the richly complicated question of the possibility of a true Filipino American vision. N.V.M Gonzalez is particularly conscious of the categories and divisions of minority literature as he describes the work of Bienvenido Santos: “In such a writing as this, the themes of racial bias, nostalgia, and alienation find authentic expression, but the rendering must be understood not as ethnicized American or Western ideas, better that they be understood as ritual responses by the Filipino in full voice … stifled, silenced, and thus forced to echo itself ” (Cheung 71). ————————————————-
A “Different” Asian American Literature
The seeming indecisiveness of agenda for Filipino-American writers (to exile themselves from the home country, accept the status of a hyphenated American or find a bridge between the two) is not exclusive to this branch of what we term as “Asian American” literature. There are, however, some ways in which the Filipino American experience veers away from the “normal” Asian American lifestyle, and these differences contribute to these writers’ literary intentions. Ephifanio San Juan Jr. claims, in “Filipino Writing in the United States, “that Filipino Americans remain an exploited and disadvantaged, not a ‘model’ minority” (142). Oscar Campomanes, in his arguments that all types of Filipino American writing are “exilic” in some way, counters Bharati Mukherjee’s strict dichotomy of immigration and expatriatism( Lim and Ling 57).
The uniqueness of Filipino American writing comes, for critics like Campomanes, from its inability to fit neatly into divisive labels. What makes Filipino American literary efforts different, even from South Asian American writers, is the combination of the length of the total colonial experience, the involvement of the United States, and the varying degrees of willingness to assimilate into the American cultural landscape. Further complicating the matter is the Filipino appraisal of its own “national”language (Pilipino, stemming from Tagalog) which, according to an entry in the 1995 Encyclopedia Americana written by Leonard Casper, is known as “Filipino English.” The pluralism of national consciousness within the Philippines (eight vernacular languages and three distinct geographical divisions) also precludes an immediate and unified “home” or”national” identify. ————————————————-
Critics tend to agree upon the importance of configuring and re-creating functions of the imagination for Filipino-American writers. This imaginary attempts to ease the shock of alienation and isolation resulting from immigration and helps to bridge the homeland to the United States for the Filipino American. Rocio G. Davis describes the import of this quality along with the elements of irony and “double perspective” in an anthology of essays on Asian American immigrant literature (Kain 118-119).
In her explication of the work of Hagedorn and Rosca, she states, “the interaction of historical facts and memory are the tools that construct the immigrant’s elusive story as the need to see beyond superficial accounts and tell their own versions, albeit fictionally constructed — to create, ultimately, a mythos rendered official in the telling,” (125). The theme of invisibility is also one that is often explicated in critical works. San Juan attempts to differentiate between the themes of those writers like Bulosan who write of a “radical project of solidarity of people of color against capital” and writers like Santos and Ty-Casper who write with “conciliatory or integrationist tendencies ” (151). ————————————————-
Commonly Cited Works of Fiction and Poetry
* America is in the Heart (autobiographical), Carlos Bulosan (1946) * The Bamboo Dancers, N.V.M. Gonzalez (1959)
* Dogeaters (novel, nominated for National Book Award), Jessica Hagedorn(1990) * Many Voices (poetry), José García Villa (1939)
* The Peninsulars (deals with influences of Spanish colonization),Linda Ty- Casper (1964) * “Scent of Apples” (short story), Bienvenido Santos (1979) * State of War (novel), Ninotchka Rosca (1988)
* Ilustrado, Miguel Syjuco (2010)
* When the Rainbow Goddess Wept, Cecilia Manguerra Brainard (1999) * American Son, Brian Ascalon Roley (2001)
* Dream Jungle, Jessica Hagedorn (2003)
* When the Elephant Dances, Tess Uriza Holthe (2002)
* Magdalena, Cecilia Manguerra Brainard (2002)