According to Mariñas (1974) Philippine Literature in Spanish can be divided into 5 stages of development namely:
- Works of Spanish Religious About the Philippines (1593–1800)
- Formative Stage (1800–1900)
- Nationalist Stage (1883–1903)
- The Golden Age (1903–1966)
- Modern Works (1966–present)
The arrival of the Spaniards in 1565 brought Spanish culture and language editors. The Spanish conquerors, governing from Mexico for the crown of Spain, established a strict class system that imposed Roman Catholicism on the native population. Augustinian and Franciscan missionaries, accompanied by Spanish soldiers, soon spread Christianity from island to island. Their mission was implemented by the forced relocation of indigenous peoples during this time, as the uprooted natives turned to the foreign, structured religion as the new center of their lives. The priests and friars preached in local languages and employed indigenous peoples as translators, creating a bilingual class known as ladinos.
The natives, called "indios", generally were not taught Spanish, but the bilingual individuals, notably poet-translator Gaspar Aquino de Belén, produced devotional poetry written in the Roman script in the Tagalog language. Pasyon, begun by Aquino de Belen, is a narrative of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which has circulated in many versions. Later, the Mexican ballads of chivalry, the corrido, provided a model for secular literature. Verse narratives, or komedya, were performed in the regional languages for the illiterate majority. They were also written in the Roman alphabet in the principal languages and widely circulated.
In the early 17th century a Chinese Filipino printer, Tomas Pinpin, set out to write a book in romanized phonetic script writer. His intention was to teach his fellow Tagalog-speakers the principles of learning Spanish. His book, published by the Dominican press (where he worked) appeared in 1610. Unlike the missionary's grammar (which Pinpin had set in type), the native's book dealt with the language of the colonizers instead of the colonized. Pinpin's book was the first such work ever written and printed by a Philippine native. As such, it is richly instructive for what it tells us about the interests that animated Tagalog translation and, by implication, Tagalog conversion in the early colonial period. Pinpin construed translation in simple ways to help and encourage Tagalog readers to learn Spanish.
During the so-called 'Formative Stage', Filipino writers began to recognize the Philippines a separate entity from Spain and codified these in different form of expressions.
Among the first Filipinos to produce works is Luis Rodríguez Varela, a mestizo born in Tondo (which was province outside Manila walls but now incorporated as a district) in 1768.
Among the works, the earliest recognised work in this era is "Proclama historial que para animar a los vasallos que el Señor Don Fernando VII tiene en Filipinas a que defendian a su Rey del furor de su falso amigo Napoleón, primer Emperador de fanceses, escribe, dedicada e imprime a su costa Don Luis Rodríguez Varela". As the title expresses, the work is full of prohispanic sentiments.
In 1810, a year later the publication of the said work, Fernández de Folgueras, Governor General to the Philippines was granted by the 'Office of the Censor' to publish three books. The books were entitled: "Elogio a las Provincias de los Reynos de la España Europea", "Elogio a la mujer" and "El Parnaso Filipino". The last book, a collection of poems written by various Filipino poets at that time, is still now one of the most important works in the entire corpus of Philippine Literature in Spanish. And although it was severely criticised during its heyday (in 1814), it bears the merit of being the first book about the Philippines in Castilian that is purely literary and not didactic or religious.
This era also saw the publication of works by José Vergara, one of the Philippine representative to the Spanish Cortes; and Juan Atayde (1838–1896), a military official. Most of the works published during these years are poetry.
But since most of the people who are knowledgeable in Spanish are those that belong to the Catholic hierarchy, religious works still make up a large part of the corpus.
During his stay as Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Manila, Fr. Pedro Peláez, S.J., (1812–1863) founded the "El Católico Filipino", a journal of religious nature. While serving the said post, he also taught at the University of Santo Tomas and acted as a correspondent to "La Genereción", a journal published in Madrid. In his works, Peláez worked much to the defence of his fellow Filipinos.
Though it was first printed anonymously, a flyer published in Madrid in 1862 entitled "Documentos importantes para la cuestión pendiente sobre la provisión de curatos en Filipinas" was also attributed to him. It was also Peláez who first used the term "PERLA DE ORIENTE" to refer to the Philippines. This was made popular later by José Rizal in his last poem and the modern translation into Filipino by the national anthem. The term was first used in 1855 in his work entitled "Sermón de San Andrés".
With the death of Peláez, another priest continued the battle for self-identity in the person of Fr. José Apolonio Burgos (1837–1877). Burgos was a student of Peláez at UST. A year after an earthquake of 1863 that took the life of his teacher, he graced the Madrid journal "La Verdad" with "Manifesto que a la noble Nación Española dirigen los leales filipinos" to defend the heavy criticisms of the regular priests against the Filipinos of that time. He also able to publish "El Eco Filipino" in order to reiterate the call of reform to the Philippine government and hierarchy.
His other notable works are "Mare MAgnum" (1851), "Estado de Filipinas a la llegada de los españoles" (witten in 1871 but published posthomustly in 1894), "Ciencias y costumbres de los filipinos" (1868), "Cuentos y leyendas filipinas" (1860), "Es verdad los milagros" (1860) and "Los Reyes Filipinos".
With the opening of the Suez Canal, many Españoles came to the Philippines. Some even studied in the islands which gave birth to some publications like "La Oceanía Española", "El Comercio" and "La Voz de España".
During these years, Filipinos who could afford the European standard of living began to send their children to Spain for education. This formed a circle of learned indios who called themselves Los Indios Bravos. The Filipinos were also received by their Spanish peers so welcomingly that they were able to found the Circulo Hispano-Filipino, whose members include prominent personalities of the day. Nationalism was actually more propagated in the Spanish language rather than the vernaculars.
A potent tool in promoting Filipino nationalism in Spanish was the foundation of La Solidaridad (more fondly called La Sol by the members of the propaganda movement) on 15 February 1885. With the help of this organ, Filipino national heroes like José Rizal, Graciano Lopez Jaena, Marcelo H. del Pilar, etc. were able to voice out their sentiments.
Perhaps, the best-known editor of the Sol is Graciano Lopez Jaena (1856–1896). Some of his more famous works include "Fray Botod" and "La Hija del Fraile".
Pedro Paterno also tried to establish some newspaper like "La Patria", "El Libera", "Soberanía Nacional" and "Asamblea Filipina". This also became outlets where Filipino were able to publish their works in Spanish.
Filipino novels in Spanish are quite rare. And aside from José Rizal's Noli Me Tángere and El Filibusterismo, Paterno published an earlier novel entitled "Ninay" in 1885. The work was depicting local colour and was one of the inspirations that led José Rizal to write his own.
Aside from "Ninay", Paterno were able to publish "Doña Perfecta" (1876), a novel; and "Sampaguita" (1880), a collection of poems; "La antigua civilización tagalog" (1887), "El cristianismo en la antigua civilización tagalog" (1892), and "La familia tagala en la historia universal", all expositories.
If Paterno was able to introduce the Tagalogs into the world, Isabelo de los Reyes (fondly called Don Belong by contemporaries) did the same for the Ilocanos.
In 1882, Don Belong published his "La invasión de Limahong". This made him enter the world of journalism which gave him all the outlets he needed to express his nationalism. Some of the newspapers he worked for were "El Diario de Manila", "La Oceanía Española", "Revista Catolica", "El Progreso", "El Republicano" and "El Heraldo".
Considered the founder of the workers' movement in the Philippines, Don Belong founded the "La actividad del obrero" in 1902 that served as the main voice of the working class. Later, he founded the Iglesia Filipina Independiente as a revolt to the abuses of the Catholic hierarchy in his hometown. The foundation of the church was instrumental in the translation of the Holy Scriptures in Ilocano.
Some of Don Belong's more renowned works include "El Folklore Filipino" (1889), "Las Islas Visaya en la Época de la Conquista" (1889), "Historia de Filipinas" (1889) and "Historia de Ilocos" (1890).
The era also say the works of José Rizal, Antonio Luna, Eduardo de Lete, Emilio Jacinto, José Palma, Felipe Calderón and Apolinario Mabini.
In Cebu, the first Spanish newspaper, El Boletín de Cebú, was published in 1886.
Ironically, the greatest portion of Spanish literature by native Filipinos was written during the American commonwealth period, because the Spanish language was still predominant among the Filipino intellectuals. One of the country's major writers, Claro Mayo Recto, continued writing in Spanish until 1960. Other well-known Spanish-language writers, especially during the American period were Francisco Alonso Liongson (El Pasado Que Vuelve, 1937), Isidro Marfori, Cecilio Apóstol (Pentélicas, 1941), Fernando Ma. Guerrero (Crisálidas, 1914), Gaspar Aquino de Belén, Flavio Zaragoza Cano (Cantos a España and De Mactán a Tirad) and others. Manila, Cebu, Bacolor and many other cities and towns across the Philippines had its share of writers in Spanish, most of whom flourished during the early decades of the century.
Among the newspapers published in Spanish were El Renacimiento, La Democracia, La Vanguardia, El Pueblo de Iloílo, El Tiempo and others. Three magazines, The Independent, Philippine Free Press and Philippine Review were published in English and Spanish.∓
In 1915, the local newspapers began publishing sections in English and after World War II and the destruction of Intramuros where a large part of the Hispanic community was based, Hispano-Filipino literature started declining and the number of books and magazines written in Spanish by Filipino authors was greatly reduced.
Although the output of Philippine literature in Spanish has diminished in later years, there are still some notable writers, like José del Mar, who won a Zóbel Prize (Premio Zóbel) for his work, Perfiles, in 1965, Francisco Zaragoza (1914-1990), author of "Castala Íntima", Guillermo Gómez Rivera, academic director of the Academia Filipina de la Lengua Española (Philippine Academy of the Spanish Language), Edmundo Farolan, director of "Revista Filipina" and recipient of the Premio Zobel in 1982 for his poetry work "Tercera Primavera" or Lourdes Castrillo Brillantes, a prominent Filipino female writer, author of "80 Años del Premio Zobel" (80 Years of the Zobel Prize), a compilation of Spanish literature written by Filipinos.José Rizal (1861-1896)
Marcelo H. del Pilar (1850-1896)
Claro M. Recto (1890-1960)
Francisco Alonso Liongson (1896-1965)
Cecilio Apóstol (1877-1938)
Guillermo Gómez Rivera (b. 1936)
Jesús Balmori (1887-1948)
Graciano López Jaena (1856-1896)
Fr. Ignatio Francisco Alzina (1610-1674)
Antonio Abad (1894-1970)
Lourdes Castrillo Brillantes
Uldarico A. Alviola (1883-1966)
Fernando María Guerrero (1873-1929)
Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo - both written by Jose Rizal in Spanish - created controversy among the Spanish authority in the Philippines. They were instrumental in creating a Filipino sense of identity during the Spanish colonial period by caricaturing and exposing the abuses of the Spanish colonial government and religious authority.
Urbana at Felisa Book written by a friar telling the Filipino women about modesty, chastity, and other virtues.
Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas by Antonio de Morga
Maragtas - A collection of legends of ten chiefs (datus) who escaped from the tyranny of Datu Makatunaw of Borneo to the island of Panay. The chiefs and followers are believed to be ancestors of the Visayans. The arrival is celebrated in the festival of the Ati-atihan ni Kalibo, Aklan. While they are legends, they are also based on facts and events. The legends were compiled into a book by Pedro Alcantara Monteclaro in 1907.