Centuries before the Spaniards came, 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." (Relacion de las isles Filipinas-1604)
Stories of epics, done in poetry displayed tremendous vitality, color and imagination. Tales of love and adventures about native heroes, endowed with powers from the gods, battle monsters, and triumphs over formidable armies, rode the wind, traveled in flying shields and protect the earliest communities of the islands.
Established epic poems of notable quality and length blossomed. And early historians like Padre Colin, Joaquin Martinez de Zuniga and Antonio Pigafetta have all attested to the existence of these epics. There were even reports of a dramatic play given by natives at the arrival of Don Miguel Lopez de Legaspi in 1565.
Epic poems and songs about the exploits of enchanted folk heroes were performed during festivities and proper occasions. 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 Ullalim; the Sulod Hinilawod; the Maranao Darangan; or the Bicol Ibalon.
Stories about folk heroes of long ago were described as "Old Time History" because; they can be used to study the lifestyle and beliefs of the people who produced them. They were also referred to as "Lost", because they were soon forgotten by natives influenced heavily by Spanish and "western" colonization. The famed orientalist, Chauncey Starkweather , stressed that : "These epic romances are charming poem in the Malayan literature."
But there are those who perpetuated myths that in the early days of Spanish intrusion, priests in their zealous rage against paganism destroyed all existing records, as well as all forms of writing and art works, regarding ancient Philippine folk heroes. But this is not true. The colorful and fascinating literature of pre-Hispanic Filipinos are still here. Giving the new generation an over view of a heritage that is an unusual and invaluable source of joy and information. Regarding the life style, love and aspirations of early Filipinos. It is from these, wonderful epics, where a Filipino can find his or her national identity.
It is from these that a Filipino can feel heroic, truly pulsating with splendor of a magnificent and authentic cultural force.
The [[Igorot]] tribe has an epic hero named Torogi (Giroto) Torogi was a brave and strong warrior with various powers. In one story, he rode a lightning bolt to the land of Kiyangan and later, met the maiden of the Aerie Hiyan, a very beautiful maiden that cannot be described because of her very beautiful appearance, she was running away from the young man of Kalinga: A giant with great vigor and power. Torogi and the giant fought but it was an even match. So the giant used his magical powers and threw a Lightning and a Fireball at the hero. Entwining itself at Torogi, our hero used his own magical ability to call the water and the wind to repel the Giant's attack and called Angin with a specialty magic ability of Wind. Angin nearly died because when the Giant attacked Angin like a Tsunami but instead of water it is fire. Torogi saved Angin, and killed the Giant with his bare hands. Many years have passed, Torogi died from a Dragon that they call, the monsters god, but he also killed the Dragon with his magical power the Fire. When Torogi died, Angin fought the monsters and Giants that destroyed the Bauko when Torogi died. He succeeded to defeat his enemies and many of the monsters ran away and went to destroy other places like La-Union but they also failed because of the other heroes like Lam-ang that killed the one eyed Hydra and the heroes of Ibalon that defeated the Giant that can make humans rock and Bantugan the Hero from Mindanao.
From the Bicol province comes the Ibalon. The Ibalon relates the mystical origins of the first man and the first woman of Aslon and Ibalon, which are current provinces of Camarines, Albay, Sorsogon, Catanduanes and Masbate. Hiandong, one of the heroes of Ibalon (The others are Baltog and Bantong) was a great leader of warriors. He fought against a giant Cyclops for ten months, defeated the winged Tiburon and the fierce Sarimao and won over the seductive serpent Oriol before starting a village.
His Village prospered and soon, others invented the plough, harrow and other farming implements. Events in this epic also had a flood story similar to that of the Biblical Genesis.
The Hud-Hud is about the life and heroism of the native Ifugao. The most prominent and well admired native Ifugao is Aliguyon of the Gohandan tribe.
Aliguyon possessed strange power and strength. He had the ability to travel to far away places without the need to rest, eat or sleep. He could also arrive in a place, after a long journey without feeling tired. Aliguyon had never been beaten in any fight or battle. He could catch and face any weapon from the air, and he could defeat his avenging foes.
this poetry its always true. In the beginning, Aliguyon only wanted to kill the enemies of his father. But after learning that his father didn't have enemies, Aliguyon was advised by his father to just use his strength and power to win a female rightful to become his wife and companion in life.
One extraordinary event in Aliguyon's life was his duel against Pumbakhayon, a warrior who had the same fighting strength and skills as Aliguyon. Pumbakhayon was from a nearby tribe called Daligdigan. Aliguyon and Pumbakhayon had a duel that lasted a year and a half. After a brief intermission, the two resumed their fight which lasted for another year and a half. Eventually, both men realized that they will not be able to beat each other. Therefore, they made a simple arrangement.
Aliguyon agreed to marry Bugan, a sister of Pumbakhayon. While Pumbakhayon married Aginaya, a sister of Aliguyon. The arrangement unified the tribes of Gohandan and Daligdigan. Here ended the story of the Hud-Hud epic.
For the first time, the father of Ilocano poetry named Pedro Bukaneg put down the epic poem in writing around 1640. The hero, Lam-Ang could talk immediately after birth. He picked his own name, chose his own sponsor and asked for his father’s presence. Barely 9 months old, Lam-Ang fought against the headhunters who killed his father. He was also eaten by a sea monster, but was reborn from his retrieved bones. He also journeyed to get the beautiful Ines Kannoyan accompanied by his pets; a rooster and a dog. (This reminds us of an old Japanese tale titled Momotaro the Peach boy.) Ines Kannoyan’s place was filled with suitors, Lam-Ang’s rooster flap it’s wings and the long house toppled. This amazed every body, especially Ines. Then, Lam-Ang’s dog barks and the long house rose to it’s former. Lam-Ang gave Ines two golden ships filled with treasures, and then he married her from noah.
The people of Mindanao had rich literatures that exist only in their minds and memories. Only recently that these epic poetries were put in writing, so these can be studied by the public. Locally called "Darangan", these epic poetries were similar to those of that Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey.
The Darangan tells of the sentimental and romantic adventures of noble warriors, one of them, is about a warrior-prince called Bantugan.. Prince Bantugan was the brother of the chieftain of a village called Bumbaran. Bantugan owned a magic shield, was protected by divine spirits called "Tonongs" and was capable of rising from the dead. Once his enemies attacked Bembaran, thinking he was dead. In the nick of time, Bantugan’s soul was recovered and he saved the village.
There is also an episode, where Prince Bantugan was on a quest and fought his enemies with his magic Kampilan (Native sword). Soon, he got tired and fell on to the water. A crocodile delivered him to his enemies, but he regained his strength, escaped his captors, and commands an oar less ship and won the battle.
There were also “Darangan epic poetries that relates stories of wars about abducted princesses. Just like the chronicles of the Trojan War.
The Darangan is one of the oldest and longest Philippine Epic poetries. Several nights were needed to recite the twenty five beautiful chapters. The Darangan, sung in it’s original, possessed a sustained beauty and dignity, it might be studied for it’s esthetic values alone.
The Maragtas Chronicles of Panay is a history of rulers of the island from the time of the Ten Malay Datus (rulers) that settled from Borneo. The "Legend of the Ten Datus (chieftains)" narrates about the forefathers of the Filipinos and the story of ten Bornean chieftains who escaped the cruel regime of Sultan Makatunaw. Datu Puti along with other nine chieftains plans to leave Borneo. Riding their native boats, they ventured into the night and across the wide ocean. At first, the ten rulers and their families were afraid that they might perish in the middle of the sea. Soon, they have reached the islands of Panay and befriended with the natives called Aetas. The Aetas are quite friendly and decides to sell a piece of their land to the ten chieftains. The chieftains gave the Aetas leader, Marikudo a golden Salakot (Native head piece) After this; the chieftains and Aetas lived in peace and harmony. The Haraya is another epic poem from Panay. It is a collection of rules of conduct told in the form of heroic tales. The "Hari sa Bukid" of Negros is a mythical epic of Kanlaon (Kan comes from a Persian word "Khan" meaning "King" and "Laon" from a Malay word meaning "Ancient.") and "Hinilawod" an epic poem made by the early inhabitants of Iloilo, Aklan and Antique also from Panay. The hero of Hinilawod, “Humadapnon” was of divine ancestry. He had super natural powers and guardian spirits to protect him. His most exciting adventure was his search for Malitong Yawa Sinamagling Diwata: A beautiful maiden whom he saw in his dream. He boarded his golden boat, sailed amidst dangerous seas, and was captured by an enchantress/engkantada. Finally, he found and won the love of Malitong Yawa Sinamagling Diwata.
Dr. Jose Pangaea, in his book on Philippine literature mentioned that "Old Folks" in the Battalions area which anciently covered part of the Rizal province up to Morons, all of Lagoon, Combatants, Quezon , Marinduque and the Mindoro Province, mentioned an epic that their elders used to chant but can’t remember. These are not definite stories. Only war songs and war dances accompanied with music on the "Kulintang". The "Kulintang", it should be noted, is a native "Tom-Tom" consists of a bamboo reed with "strings" raised up from its own fibers. Josue Soncuya mentions the epic that Dr. Jose Panganiban calls "Kumintang", in Chapter XIX of the Boletin dela Sociedad Historico-Geografica de Filipinas. There was a tale around the 14th Century: King Soledan sent his sons Bagtas, manduquit and Likyaw of the house of Madjapahit to mai and Lusong which were then, part of the kingdom of Lontok. The conquest of the northern territories through singing and dancing of warriors form the integral part of the "Kumintang." Other epic poems being written and chanted are: The Sud-ansud of the Tagbanuas from Palawan The Dagoy, also from Palawan The Parang Sabil of the Sulo Muslims The Ulagingen and Selch of the Manobos The Panglima Munggona and Jikiri of the Tausog The kalinga Banna Bidian of the Ibaloys The Sulod labaw Denggen …and, bagyu of Bukidnon. Eulogio B. Rodriguez, former director of the Philippine National Library said that "Anonymous vernacular writers of past ages had no thought of bringing glory to their own, but labored with the central idea of transmitting to prosperity in a concrete and permanent form, the great mass of Philippine legends which was only preserved by word of mouth…With their work as corner stone, later writers have been gradually adding block by block to the literary edifice to approximate something similar to a national literature of our own." When the late American Noble Prize winner William Faulkner visited the Philippines, he was impressed by our epic poems. He stated that: " The Filipinos have their own traditions of poetry in their folklore, in their language and dialects. This must be recorded and that’s the job of the writers. In doing that, he gives a pattern of hope and aspirations for the people to advance not merely as a nation of people but as a member of a family of nations, the human family."