POST-WAR PHILIPPINE FICTION IN ENGLISH

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POST-WAR PHILIPPINE FICTION IN ENGLISH
POST-WAR PHILIPPINE FICTION IN ENGLISH
ILLA SARVIA
fiction in English is one of the many consequences of Spain's cession of
the islands to the United States after the war of 1898. The coming of the Americans
mtroduced a new language and a new culture to the people. During the early part of the
twentieth century Spanish continued to dominate as the literary idiom, but works were
also written in the vernacular languages such as Tagalog (Pilipino), Ilokano and
Cebuano. Writers of this period who deserve mention are the pioneering novelist L. K.
Santos, Fanny A. Garcia, a noted writer of short stories and fiction in Pilipino, Jose F.
Lacaba, who was a poet and a journalist in both English and Pilipino, and Bienvenido
L. Lumbera, a literary critic and authority on Philippine vernacular literature.
However, 1908 saw the establishment of the University of the Philippines which, as
the first English university in the country, became deeply involved in the rise of
Filipino literature in English. English became the medium of communication and of
instruction in schools and by the 1930s was also increasingly popular as the language of
literature.
Fiction, particularly the short story, proved to be the most popular form of literary
expression for Filipinos. It found an outlet in periodicals, in newspapers, and in literary
magazines such as the College Folio, produced by the University of the Philippines.
Other titles worth recording include The Philippine Review^ The Philippine Free Press,
The Philippine Magazine (P.P.8006.eg) and The Literary Apprentice (Ac. 1923.ba), the
oldest and most famous college publication in the country. Many Filipino novels were
first published in serialized form in these magazines.
New professional bodies were another factor in the promotion of Filipino literature.
The Philippine Writers' Association was founded in 1953, as was the National
Organization of Writers. In 1955 the Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature was
established and in i960 both the Republic Cultural Awards and the Republic Award for
Merit for literature. In 1961 the Government of the Philippines started sponsoring the
Rizal Centennial Awards, and the Barangay Writers' Project was also organized. These
grants and awards proved an important stimulus to writers. B. N. Santos wrote The
Volcano, 1965 (X.958/26528), on a grant awarded by the John Simon Guggenheim
Memorial Foundation of America, and a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation allowed
Nick Joaquin to complete The Woman Who Had Two Navels^ 1972 (X.909/35338). As a
PHILIPPINE
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result, the Philippines have produced more novels in English than many other countries
where English is the second language.
After the Second World War the main problems confronting the Philippines were the
economy and the need for reconstruction and rehabilitation. In 1946 the Republic of the
Philippines was born amid social, political and economic confusion and great poverty.
These factors are reflected in the short stories and novels of the time.
Writers during the post-war years were inspired by American school and college
teachers, and were able to borrow their techniques, achieving a greater mastery of the
English language. The years between 1945 and i960, therefore, were a productive period
for Philippine authors. They also saw the beginning of the teaching of Philippine
literature as a subject at college level. Writers were concerned with the idea of the
Filipino as a pilgrim in search of his identity, and contemporary fiction emphasized the
courageous deeds, sacrifices and suffering that made up the people's lives. However,
there are a variety of themes in Philippine fiction in English: these explore religious faith,
legends, superstitions, and fantasy; social problems, poverty and class conflict; political
manoeuvrings, nationalism and foreign domination; and adultery, morality and sex.
Other popular subjects include the experiences of the Filipinos under American and
Spanish domination, and wartime stories about the Japanese occupation and liberation.
As a result of growing political unrest and the bombing of the Plaza Miranda, Martial
Law was instituted by President Marcos in 1972. These events and socio-economic
changes in the country inspired writers to confront the harsh social realities of their time.
Concern at corruption, rising unemployment and the depressed economy is mirrored in
contemporary novels. Significant among these is Fernando Castro's Let There be Light,
1954 (YA.i987.a.729o), which reflects the poverty that prevailed. A. T. Misola wrote
about the causes of peasant unrest and the activities of the Huks, whose rebellion had
been organized by the Communist Party as a guerrilla movement against the Japanese,
in Cries from the Furrow. D. V. Santos's Filipino Valor, 1963 (YA.i987.a.i4928), is
devoted to the campaign for democracy and the military operation against a Russian Huk
commander who impersonated an American GI called 'Williamson'. Continuing the
social theme, many of these novels deal with the exploitation of the urban masses,
corruption and prostitution. N. V. M. Gonzalez's A Season of Grace, 1967 (X.989/
20525), expresses the highest form of social concern: the welfare of others regardless of
their socio-economic status. The novel reflects the busy life of the people, their struggle
against a harsh environment, their habits, their customs, their beliefs, their joys and
sorrows. His The Bamboo Dancers, 1959 (011313.r.20), deals with Fihpino culture and
traditional values, while Mindoro and Beyond, 1979 (YA. 1989.b. 1230), Children of Ash
Covered Loam and Other Stones, 1977 (YA.i989.a.540i), and Look Stranger, on This
Island Now, 1963 (X.908/30403), bring to the fore the exploitation of the urban masses.
The everyday life of the ordinary people has proved a fertile source for writers.
Brother, my Brother, 1976 (X.950/43273), by B. N. Santos, reflects the author's own
background, especially his childhood years in the district of Manila where he grew up.
Francisco Sionil Jose's ^WG^ 'Rosales' novels are set in a small town of that name in
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Northern Luzon. The best. My Brother, my Executioner, 1979 (X.950/31650), examines
the themes of power, money and Filipino society through the story of two half-brothers.
Edith L. Tiempo's A Blade of Fern, 1978 (X.958/31917), describes rural life in
a mining village in the Southern Philippines and the miners' struggle for survival.
Abide Joshua and Other Stories, 1992 (X.907/14029), His Native Coast, 1979
(X.958/22671), and The Alien Corn, 1992 (YA.i993.a.ii8i9), by the same author are
also well known.
^ickjozquin's The Woman Who Had Two Navels, ig'j2(X.gog/2S33^\5ymho\izQstht
dual Filipino heritage: its Spanish past and its American way of life. In 1963 Joaquin also
published a collection of short stories. Prose and Poems (X.981/9922). Joaquin's fiction
is socio-political and particularly concerned with issues such as the exploitation of
tenants by greedy landlords, the conflict between rich and poor, and the relationship
between the individual and society. As a result, his creative works have a special place
in Filipino literature.
Many novels are tales of identity and change. The Pretenders, 1980 (X.950/34189),
one of Sionil Jose's 'Rosales' sequence, is a story of Filipinos who find themselves lost
or betrayed. Mass, 1982 (X.950/46119), is about a young man's search for identity. His
other novels and collections of short stories like Tree, 1977 (YA.i989.a.65i9; 1988
edition, YA.i995.a.3657), Po-on, 1989 (YA.i995.a.3659), The God Stealer and Other
Stories, 1986 (YA.i988.a.i5872), Waywaya, and Other Stories from the Philippines, 1980
(X.958/25994), and Olvidon and Other Stories, 1988 (YA.i99o,a.i86i4), reflect the
Filipinos' search for identity and their quest for integrity in a corrupt society.
Novels about sex, violence, mystery and suspense, such as Nick Joaquin's Cave and
Shadows, 1983 (YA.i987.a.323), have also been published. Set in Manila, it is one of
his best novels. B. N. Santos's Villa Magdalena, 1986 (YA.1988.a.13572), is a novel of
intense power marked by its understanding of the sensual aspects of the human
emotions. F. Sionil Jose wrote about rape and prostitution in Ermita, 1988
(YA.i990.a.i5435), the story of a girl living in an orphanage who becomes a prostitute.
On the same theme, E. A. Enriquez produced The Devil Flower, 1963 (WPB.29/1535),
a story of sexual misadventure and other contemporary social issues. Similarly, Antonio
E. Sta Elena's A Voyage of Love is a narration of sexual adventure.
Much post-war fiction reflects the lives of expatriates and their sense of isolation in
foreign lands. Carlos Bulosan (1913-1956) lived in America and was the first Filipino
writer in English to take as a subject the struggle of his working class countrymen to
survive in a foreign country. He portrayed the harsh economic realities of Filipino life
in America, the working conditions of the Filipino peasants, their humiliation and
suffering. His America is in the Heart, 1977 (Mic.A.i745i), is written in autobiographical
form, and is not only his story but that of every Filipino who went to America in the
expectation of easy living and sudden wealth. It gives a moving account of his own grim
struggle for existence there, his loneliness, his hardships and sufferings. Despite this, he
will also be remembered as a teller of comic stories. In his Laughter of my Father, 1945
(12729.a. 16), he satirizes the economic system and the Filipino weaknesses for gambling,
30
wealth and the admiration of foreign things. His The Power of Money and Other Stories
was published posthumously as late as 1990 (YA.i992.a.4O32).
The best stories of B. N. Santos are also about Filipinos in America. He portrays their
loneliness, alienation and homesickness and reminds his countrymen of their miseries
and the cultural riches they have lost. His You Lovely People, 1976 (X.908/43003), The
Man who (Thought he) Looked like Robert Taylor, 1983 (X.950/46133), What the Hell for
You Left your Heart in San Francisco, 1987 (YA.1989.3.12681), Brother, my Brother,
1976 (X.950/43273), Dwell in the Wilderness, 1985 (YA.i987.a.968) and Scent of Apples,
1979 (X.909/87374), are some of his finest works.
Many historical novels have also been published, notably those of Linda Ty-Casper,
the most famous and successful novelist and short story writer the Philippines have
produced. Her The Peninsulars, 1964 (X.981/5040), set in the Philippines of the 1750s,
recounts the British capture of Manila in 1762. The Three-cornered Sun, 1979
(YA.i988.a.19597), is set in the Spanish period, particularly the Revolution of 1896, and
is a remarkable work. The Ten Thousand Seeds, 1987 (YA.i989.a.9O5), portrays the
injustice and suffering that resulted from President Marcos's abuse of power following
the imposition of Martial Law. Awaiting Trespass, 1985 (NOV. 1987/2937), shows the
effects of Marcos's rule on the people, while, in Fortress in the Plaza, 1985
(YA.i987.a.494), Ty-Casper describes the events leading up to the throwing of the
grenade at Plaza Miranda in 1971.
While post-war Philippine fiction is predominantly narrative, simple in style and easy
to read and understand, it abounds in vivid descriptions. Filipino writers have shown a
remarkable degree of skill in expressing their ideas in a foreign tongue and most of them
provide striking insights into the lives and struggles of the Filipinos, whose main aim has
been to free themselves from political and economic bondage.
BIBLIOGRAPHY OF LITERARY CRITICISM
1 Casper, Leonard, New Writing from the Philippines: a Critique and Anthology (Syracuse, N.Y.:
Syracuse University Press, 1966).
2 Casper, Leonard, The Wounded Diamond:
Studies in Modern Philippine Literature (Manila:
Bookmark, 1964).
3 Croghan, Richard V., The Development of Philippine Literature in English {since igoo) (Quezon
City: Alemar-Phoenix Publishing House, 1975).
4 Demetillo, Ricaredo, Major and Minor Keys:
Classical Essays on Philippine Fiction and Poetry
(Quezon City: New Day Publishers, 1987).
5 Dimalanta, Ophelia and Mata, Virginia M.,
Philippine Contemporary Literature in English
{from the 20's to the Present) (Manila: U.S.T.
Printing Office, 1985).
6 Essays on the Philippine Novel in English, edited
7
8
9
10
by Joseph A. Galdon (Quezon City: Ateneo de
Manila University Press, 1979).
F. Sionil Jose and his Fiction: The Filipino's
Journey to Justice and Nationhood, edited vi'ith an
introduction by Alfredo T. Morales (Quezon
City: Vera-Reyes, 1989).
Maramba, Asuncion David, Outline History of
Philippine Literature in English from the Beginnings to igj2 (Metro Manila: National Book
Store, 1981).
Pathways to Philippine Contemporary Literature
in English, edited by A. G. Roseburg, rev. edn
(Quezon City: Alemar-Phoenix Publishing
House, 1966).
Philippine Contemporary Literature in English
and Pilipino, edited by Asuncion David Maramba, 4th edn (Manila: Bookmark, 1974).
Philippine Literature (Quezon City: Manlapaz
11 Philippine Fiction: Essays from Philippine
Publishing Co., 1971)Studies, !g$;^-igj2, edited by Joseph A. Galdon
(Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila at the Uni- 15 A Survey of Contemporary Philippine Literature
in English, edited with an introduction by
versity Press, 1972).
Visitacion
R. De La Torre ([Manila]: National
12 Philippine Social Sciences and Humanities Review.,
Book Store, 1978).
vol. XXXV, nos. 1-2 (Quezon City: College of
Arts and Sciences, University of the Philippines, 16 Veloro, A. T., Enriquez, S. R. and Alejandro,
Rufino, A Study of the Types of Philippine
Mar./June 1970).
Literature with Special Emphasis on the Novel
13 Richardson, Jim, Philippines, World bibliogra(Quezon City: New Day Publishers, 1987).
phical series, vol. cvi (Oxford: Clio Press, 1989).
14 San Juan, Epifanio, The Radical Tradition in

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