Notes and anecdotes on the components of Philippine pre-colonial poetry, mostly taken from my Filipino 14 class under Mr. Popa.
There are three main components inherent in Philippine pre-colonial poetry. First and foremost is the talinghaga or metaphor. The employment of the talinghaga is the unifying system of the literary piece, uplifting it above normal conversation so that people would take notice. The talinghaga is an art in itself that showcases the literary prowess of the pre-colonial Filipinos, allowing them to describe certain facets of life in a metaphorical manner. An example is as follows:
|Umulan man sa bundoc,||Let it rain in the mountains,|
|houag sa dacong laot,||but not in the nearby sea,|
|aba si casampaloc,||my friend|
|nanao nang dico loob||who left without my consent|
|ualang bauong cumot.||did not bring a blanket.|
The term casampaloc is derived from the sampaloc (tamarind), whose fruit looks similar to the pea, with the seeds inside the elongated fruit. From it, the listener can discern the closeness that the speaker and the person he is referring to shares. The sorrow expressed in the poem is profound and deeply felt by the addition of the last line. The speaker is worried that the person left without a blanket to shield himself against the rain. Taking in the poem as a whole, one sees the poem as a metaphor for the sudden death of a person.
The other two components are tugma (rhyme) and sukat (meter). The incorporation of these into pre-colonial poetry stems from the evolution of literature from language. The tugma and sukat use the musicality of language to further achieve the objective of the poem.
The development of language during the Philippine pre-colonial period, an integral factor in the development of that era's literature, was rooted in the sounds and music of nature. The community's undeniable link with nature can be seen in the onomatopeic words formed that describe natural phenomena, such as the kaluskos ng dahon, aliw-iw ng batis, tikatik ng ulan, tiririt ng pipit, pagaspas ng bagwis, dagundong ng kulog, and the ali-it ng kawayan. The movements of nature were named by the people, both as a testament to their affinity with the natural forces but also as an easier method of communicating amongst themselves. The use of these words allowed them to articulate themselves better and easily describe situations in a vivid manner so as to leave no ambiguity as to their meaning. This property of language allows the sharing of experiences within the community. In this sense, language becomes a repository of the progress of the community through history, as defined by Rolando Tinio.
The first pre-colonial poems were done with the oral tradition in mind. The use of tugma and sukat was handy in inviting people to listen to the poem, elevating it above common everyday language to defamiliarize the listener from the experience. At the same time, the use of these two components allows the poem to be retained in the memory, which is very important in a community where writing is a rare, if not totally non-existent art. Tugma and sukat were also used to mirror the cycle of the seasons and other things in the environment, such as umaga/hapon/gabi (morning/afternoon/night), paglaho/pagbilog ng buwan (waning/waxing of the moon), pagkati/pagtaog (low/high tide), tag-araw/tag-ulan (dry/wet season), pagpunla/pag-ani (sowing/harvest) and pagsilang/kamatayan (birth/death). Tugma and sukat allow the poem to not only provide a visual description but an experience that appeals to all the senses, with emphasis on sounds.