Even before the foreign invaders came to the Philippines, the Filipinos already had their own cultural traditions, folklore, mythologies and epics. There were substantial writings by early natives that Jesuit historian Fr. Pedro Chirino noted: “All of the islanders are much given to reading and writing. And there is hardly a man, much less a woman who did not read and write. ” Epics are stories that are written in poetic form. They are usually described to display such tremendous vitality, color and imagination. Epic stories are tales about love and adventures of native heroes.
The heroes’ adventures are usually about how they become endowed with powers from the gods, battle monsters, triumph over formidable armies, ride the wind, travel on flying shields and protect the earliest communities of the islands. Through the years, epic poems have grown and matured. Early historians like Padre Colin, Joaquin Martinez de Zuniga and Antonio Pigafetta have all attested to the existence of these epics. At the arrival of Don Miguel Lopez de Legaspi in 1565, it was reported, the natives presented him with a dramatic play.
During festivities and special occasions, epic poems and songs area performed. Most often, these epic poems (folk epics or ethno-epics) were titled after the names of the hero involved, except for some which carry traditional titles like the Kalinga Ulalim; the Sulod Hinilawod; the Maranao Darangan; or the Bicol Ibalon. Old Time History, as stories about folk heroes of long ago are referred to, is used to study the lifestyle and beliefs of the people of that time. They were also referred to as lost, because they were soon forgotten by natives influenced heavily by Spanish and “western” colonization.
It has been said that during the early days of the Spanish intrusions, the priests destroyed all existing records of paganism, as well as all forms of writing and art work regarding the ancient Philippine folk heroes. This has been proven to be false due to the fact that the early epic poetry is still known and used at present as reference in studies of the past especially the lifestyle, love and aspirations of the early Filipinos. This valuable inheritance from the past must be preserved for this can be used as a proof for national identity.
It is from these that a Filipino can feel heroic, truly pulsating with splendor of a magnificent and authentic cultural force. Being composed of thousands of islands, it is no wonder that the country is rich in culture and tradition with various influences in different parts of the nation. As a result, the Philippines has become a melting pot of nations and is a source of a rich variety of culture and stories. The following are some examples of the epic poetry found in the country.