Literary History of Luzon

The most populous island group in the Philippines is Luzon. The National Statistics Office’s (NSO) findings as of 2010 report that its population is at 48,520,774. This is more than half of the reported population of the Philippines which was 92,337,852 for that year. Almost half of the ethnic groups of the Philippines are found in Luzon (the 2010 NSO statistics tally about 48.8%). These ethnic groups use these major regional languages: Tagalog, Ilocano, Kapampangan, Bicolano, and Pangasinense. The English language of course is widely used in Luzon, just like in the Visayas and Mindanao.

It is not that surprising that people would want to live in Luzon considering that the economic and political center of the country, Metro Manila, is in this region’. To address the needs for education of Luzon’s big population, the most number of schools and universities can be found in this island group, making it the seat of literacy in the country. As a result of the efforts from the public and private education sectors in Luzon, 94% of its population has achieved functional literacy. However, the functional literacy in Luzon (and in reality the Filipino in general) must be further fine-tuned to address new technologies—such as that of the internet.


It must be noted that three of our country's most influential writers in the English language, Jose Garcia Villa, Nick Joaquin, and F. Sionil Jose, have deep associations with the city of Manila. Villa and Joaquin were born in Manila, while Jose, though born in the region of Pangasinan, has made Manila his other home over the decades of his stay in the city.

One of the biggest technological advancements of the twentieth century is the invention of the Internet, which has solidified the dawning of the Information Age. In the digital world of the Internet, physical borders as those found in the maps of nations seem to have become invisible, and people who connect online usually step out of the confines of their geographic reality and step into a global citizenship—that is to say, instead of being a citizen of a particular country, we become netizens of the globe.

Today, the Internet is connecting the people of our archipelago in so many ways. Filipinos have now begun using social media platforms (such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) not only for entertainment but also for social awareness. The Internet has also allowed writers to experiment with other forms for expressing their literary skills. In Philippines especially in Luzon where a good percentage of the population is wired, some new forms of creative output mediated by new technologies and devices are being created. Examples of these are the web log or the blog, online novels, and the mobile phone text tula. Although these forms are still not included in our national literary canon, we cannot deny that such works are opening new horizons for today’s generation of Filipino authors in Luzon and around the country.

As of 2014 the Internet and Mobile Marketing Association of the Philippines (IMMAP) recorded that there are 38 million Internet users of this country of the estimated 100 million Filipinos in 2015. IMMAP expects that in the next few years, Internet use would dramatically increase in the country as Internet access becomes more widespread and the prices of devices used to access the Internet gets more affordable (Montenegro 2014). Another important feature of IMMAP’s report is that two-thirds of Filipino Internet users are below 30 years old. Therefore, putting together the information on the functional literacy rate of people residing in Luzon with the rising Internet use in the country, we can surmise that functional Internet literacy (that is, literacy in the use of Internet technology) is also on the rise today. Functional internet literacy, after all, is a necessary skill today especially for this new generation of Filipinos who should be able to compete intellectually with people of other nations. Hopefully, with discipline, our functional literacy as a people would bring its own social and economic rewards to the country.

Exploring Texts and Contexts

Read “Flowers in the Crypt” by Catherine Garcia Dario, a work of creative nonfiction. Lee Gutkind defines creative nonfiction as a literary work that “can be an essay, a journal article, a research paper, a memoir, or a poem; it can be personal or not, or it can be all of these. The words ‘creative’ and ‘nonfiction’ describe the form. The word ‘creative’ refers to the use of literary craft, the techniques fiction writers, playwrights, and poets employ to present nonfiction—factually accurate prose about real people and events—in a compelling, vivid, dramatic manner. The goal is to make nonfiction stories read like fiction so that your readers are as enthralled by fact as they are by fantasy.”

The radio station DZRH’s radio program Radio Balintataw, hosted by Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, held a text tula poetry writing competition in 2015. Poems submitted were written in Filipino and it should be in celebration of mother’s day.

A text tula is a tanaga or a four-line poem (quatrain). It consists of four lines with seven syllables each with the same rhyme at the end of each line: a 7-7-7-7 syllabic verse ‘with an AABB rhyme scheme. The modern tanaga still uses the 7-7-7-7 syllable count, but rhymes range from dual rhyme forms (AABB, ABAB, ABBA) to freestyle (AAAB, BAAA, ABCD). Traditionally a tanaga does not have a title because the tanaga should speak for itself. However, in a modern tanaga you can opt to give a title.

The first prize winner of the radio show’s poetry contest is Tracer Maranan of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Valenzuela in Valenzuela City. Below is the winning poem:

Nanay ko’y di napapagod
Araw gabi’y aming lingkod.
Kaya ngayon aking handog
Ginhawa n’ya, akoy tungkod.

Following the mechanics of writing a text tula, try your hand in composing a text tula inspired by the plot or the theme of “Flowers in the Crypt.” You may use English, Filipino, or your regional language to write the poem. Consider these when composing your poem: the relationship between your poem and “Flowers in the Crypt” should be clear. Try your best to use your chosen language creatively.