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Mar 25th
Home Sections History Filipino Literature in the United States (Part 3 of Series)
Filipino Literature in the United States (Part 3 of Series) PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 26 May 2007 03:43

In the meantime Filipinos, who were American nationals at that time, tried their luck with mainstream American publishing houses in New York City. In 1925 Putnam Publishing printed the first book written by a Filipino. It was the first Filipino book published in the United States. It was a poetry collection called "Azucena" by Marcelo de Gracia Concepcion.

M. M. Kalaw authored in 1926 "The Development of Philippine Politics, 1872-1920." It was a historical study in English of the development of political parties in the Philippines.

It was in 1929 that the first Filipino novel published in the United States made its debut. Ernesto Lopez called it "His Awakening." Felicidad Ocampo's "The Lonesome Cabin" followed in 1931.

The first anthology of Filipino love stories, inevitably titled "Filipino Love Stories," was published in 1927. Paz Marquez Benitez edited it.

The first drama anthology called "Philippine Plays," as edited by Sol Gwekoh, was published in 1930.

The first Filipino short-story collection in English that an American publishing company printed was "Footnote to Youth" by Jose Garcia Villa. Scribner's, the American company, published it in 1935.

It was also in 1935 that Isabelo P. Caballero and Marcelo de Gracia Concepcion co-authored the book "Quezon." It was published in Manila. The McCullough Printing Company of New York published another book about President Quezon in the same year. The book, "Quezon, A Man of Destiny," was written by Carlos Quirino.

The Encyclopedia Britannica reported that "literacy in the Philippines doubled to nearly 50% in the 1930s and educated Filipinos acquired a common knowledge and a linguistic key to Western civilization. By 1939 27% of the Filipino population could speak English, a larger percentage than for any of the native dialects (languages)."

Triumph of the English Language

Geoffrey Bocca, a British-born American writer, wrote about the emergence in the Philippines of English as a dominant language in the 1930s. He said that the 1935 election for the Commonwealth presidency "marked another triumph, less widely noticed -- namely, the triumph of the English language. Orators like Manuel L. Quezon and Sergio Osmeña, journalists like Carlos P. Romulo, scholars and columnists used the English language as ably as any people (did) in the world. The standard of the English-language newspapers in Manila was as high as, and frequently higher than, newspapers in many cities of the world."

The first National Book Week was celebrated in the Philippines in 1934, under the auspices of the Philippine Library Association.

While there was not much writing done in the Philippines during World War II when Japan occupied the country, Filipino writing bloomed in the United States. In 1942 the first Filipino poetry anthology was published in America. The book was called "Chorus for America." It had a subtitle: "Six Filipino Poets." Carlos Bulosan (1911-1956) edited the anthology. He was one of the six poets whose works formed the basis for the book.

The Doubleday Company of New York published in 1942 Gen. Carlos P. Romulo's "I Saw the Fall of the Philippines." General Romulo (1899-1985) was the first Filipino winner of the Pulitzer Prize, America's most honored literary award.

The first Filipino best seller in the United States was "The Laughter of My Father," which Harcourt Brace published in 1944. Carlos Bulosan wrote it. Bulosan is also the author of "America Is in the Heart," an autobiographical novel published in 1946. In the novel were portrayed the lives of Filipino farm workers in the United States during the Great Economic Depression. Bulosan wrote also one of the moving descriptive texts for Norman Rockwell's "The Four Freedoms," which electrified the world of the arts.

From Wikipedia... (As posted by Fred Natividad of Livonia, Michigan):
One of his [Bulosan's] most famous essays was "Freedom from Want," commissioned by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as part of a series on the "Four Freedoms" and published on March 26, 1943 in the Saturday Evening Post.

From "America Is in the Heart:" A lecture by Bulosan to fellow countrymen of the 'Manong Generation' ran thus: "... we must not demand from America... Instead we must sacrifice for her... " Two decades later President John F. Kennedy's inaugural address had a similar line, asking the youth of America not to ask what America can do for them but to ask what they can do for America.

In 1946 the Appleton Century Company of New York published the book of the late President Quezon. The book was called "The Good Fight."

Nina Estrada Puyat was born in Tarlac, Philippines. She became known as the Elizabeth Barrett Browning of the Philippines. The Doubleday Company of New York published in 1959 her collection of fifty sonnets, “Heart of Clay,” but it was re-titled, “This Love Within.” She wrote political works, which included a three-act play, “The Cripple,” which the then Marcos regime censored. The poem "Elegy" was written on the night of the assassination of Benigno S. Aquino, Jr., on Aug. 21, 1983. This poem is said to be the most-significant piece of poetry to come out of the People-Power revolutionary days in the Philippines (1986 to 1992). Ms. Nina was the 1979 Poet Laureate of the Philippine Poets Association. She was also the first recipient of a special diploma of Master in Literature from the University of Santo Tomas, the first university in the Philippine that predated Harvard University by some five decades. Ms. Nina died in 1993 in Los Angeles, California, where she retired. She was one of the charter members of the Media Breakfast Club of Los Angeles.

(Author's Notes: The author emphasizes that this essay is just a preview of a coming book about Filipino literature in general, and Filipino writing in America in particular. A report on Filipino writing in the 1950s up to the present may soon be published in this online publication by several journalist-friends. The preceding paragraph illustrates the contributions of Filipino poets and writers like Ms. Nina Estrada-Puyat, who retired and died in Los Angeles, California.) # # #

(To be Continued . . .)


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Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 December 2010 11:23

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