Writing and Salvador P. Lopez
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As in poetry and the short story, the essay grew in many ways: in variety of subject, form, and style; in the number f productive authors; in he quantity and quality of their works. The old guard, composed of Romulo and his contemporaries, continued writing into this period, achieving stature and influence as editorial writers. Similarly, Vicente Albano Pacis, Federico Mangahas, Salvador P. Lopez, Jose A. Lansang, Ariston Estrada, and Pura S. Castrence distinguished themselves in political, social, and other reflective types of essay, largely through the newspaper columns. Ignacio Manlapaz, SalvadorP. Lopez I. V. Mallari, Jose Gacia Villa, Arturo B. Rotor, and Leopoldo Y.Yabes wrote criticism that compelled attention and directed creative writing, and was in itself significant writing, Solomon V. Arnaldo, F. B. Icaiano (“Mang Kiko”), Alfredo D. Litiatco, Armando G. Dayrit, and Consuelo Grau (“Catuca”) enlivened the scene with light-hearted and charming personal essays.
Three collections of essays stood out from the rest during this period. Thinking for Ourselves, edited by Eliseo Quirino and Vicente M Hilario (1924), which contained the best, most serious and most challenging essays, original and translated, of Filipino scholars and leaders (1924); Literature and Society nby Salvador P. Lopez (1940), the prize-winning essay collection in the 1940 Commonwealth Literary Contest, consisting of reflective, critical, and otherwise serious essays; and Horizons from My Nipa Hut, by Mang Kiko (pseudonym of F. B. Icasiano)which were reprints of the best of Icasiano’s essays previously published in Sunday Tribune Magazine under the column head “From My Nipa Hut”. Printed in 1941, Horizons is a relief from Lopez’s soberly thoughtful Literature and Society. It is delightfully “of the people,” for even its philosophical passages are stamped with the gentle humor and broad sympathy that attract the common tao./ In 1940 also,Camilo Osias published concept and drawing on native historyu, folkways, philosophy, psychology, and like studies for a fuller explanation of the Filipino way of life.
BIOGRAPHY. Easily the most noteworthy biographer of this period is Carlos Quirino, author of The Great Malayan (1941). Portraying Jose Rizal as an interesting personality-talented, versatile, and very human-this wosrk wass the prize-winning biography in the national contest sponsored by the Commonwealth of the Philippines in 1938. Before Quirino’s book, however we have Quezon, by I.P. Caballero and M.de Gracia Concepsion (1935) which similarly stressed the human side above the official character of this subject.
I.V. Mallari’s The Birth of Discontent, published in 1940, deserves special mention for that simplicity of language till all then rare in Philippines-English compositions, a simplicity that nevertheless reveals the subtlest feelings and profound thought of its sensitive author.
HISTORY. Historical writing that is factual in treatment has not made its appearance in the Philippines, again perhaps because the youth of the Filipino writers. What histories there are in English written for use as school textbooks.
Literary history, which is both informative and inspiring, yet remains to be written, The “Brief History of the Philippine Literature” published by Teofilo del Castillo in 1987, its fair enough beginnings, providing a factual, objective and authoritative reference for students of Philippines literature. It needs now to be revised and expanded.
Eventually, of course, some writers contributed to the Japanese English publications of the war years, but most of them did so for the money of which they stood in such dire need, or because of their fear of refusing the publisher’s invitations to write. When they wrote anything, the Filipino writers adopted a negative view on all possible subjects, wishing to remain passive and safe.
The most noteworthy of this period were produced abroad; the first two books of Carlos P. Romulo, namely I Saw The Fall of the Philippines and My Brother Americans, each a composite of narrative, reflective, and inspirational essays; the two books of poetry of Carlos Bulosan, namely, Chorus for America, a compilation of six Filipino poets, and the Voice of Bataan, his own poems. One book of poetry was published in the Philippines in this period, but this was merely a collection of previously writted poems; With Harp and Sling, by Alfredo E. Litiatco. The spsecial ment of this book lies in its light verse so characteristic of its light-hearted author.
IV. POSTWAR REORIENTATION, 1945 TO DATE The postwar years witnessed an upheaval and change in all spheres of activity total liberations from the enemy, and sudden emancipation of mind and spirit, political independence from Mother America, the threat of a new set of ideas, destructive of the Philippine way of life; economic disturbance on a national scale, a lowering of moral standards. All of these called for a reorientation on a far more intensive and wider scale than that required kin 1898 because now there was a higher percentage of Filipino who had leaned to think for themselves and to express themselves in print than there was in 1898-1910, and their problems went beyond those of language and writing standards which had concerned the first group of Filipino literary aspirants. The seeking of solutions to postwar problems was reflected in the columns of the newspapers, many of which sprang up like mushrooms in the year1945.
Indeed it may be said that this period marked a rapid growth to journalistic writing rather than in creative literature. Newspaper and magazines contributors sought to re-examine existing institutions, including the Constitutions itself, the educational system, Capital-labor relations, Philippines-American relations, wages and the cost of living, the function of literature, the morality of the times. One critic noted that such uncontrolled writing was the mark of license, not of freedom of expression, another noted that the result of such frenzied writing from all quarters was confusion.
The general hasten to express to oneself on paper can be excused ,however, considering that the Filipinos had just been restored their prewar freedom of speech and were naturally eager to exercise it; as to the confusion reflected on their writings it should be recognized as a product of the uncertain times and not as a mark of the postwar writer’s inferiority to his prewar brothers. For, gradually as condition returned to normal, it became more and more evident that the difference between prewar and postwar literature in the Philippines was not in quality but in kind; political independence, a free press, the rise of new national and international problems touching the life of every citizens, were factors favorable the growth of Philippine journalism. Columns, features, magazines, articles and cartoons were produced in greater number than ever before, the editorials and articles were more vigorous and challenging than those of prewar periodicals; poetry and the short story made a relatively poor showing.
The books published in this period could not all be said to mirror the times. Some of them were collections or anthologies, or second editions of works published before or during the war and therefore contained only a minority of war places, and of the remaining books, many were biographical. For a record of the experience, significance and message of the war just gone through, the press and the screen rather than the books of the period are the richer source. Among the more noteworthy books (not including reprints) we have.