The palm-dotted Bicol peninsula, comprising the provinces of the two Camarines, Albay, Sorsogon, Catanduanes and Masbate, itself has in its trove charm verses which exploit the possibilities of words in folk poetry and narratives with mythical content.
The region also has corridos or metrical romances which became the main reading materials in the region for many years.
Like other regions overwhelmed by Spanish influences, Bikol also has the comedia or the moro moro which, in an earlier clime, had a comedia writer and a theater group.
The region boasts the existence of protest comedias like Comedia ni Hadeng Grimaldo sa Reinong Irlanda by Sabas Armenta which deviates from the Moro as villain theme.
Another comedia, Drama en Comedia de la Vida Conde Urbano by Juan Miraflor, advocates democracy and is partial to casting ballots for town leaders.
The region also has the rawitdawit or narrative poem which was a vehicle of social and political criticism, not to mention personal poems which mushroomed right through the peninsula and at least 20 translations of Rizal’s Mi Ultimo Adios.
The literature of the Eastern Visayas, which refers to literature in Waray and Cebuano by writers from Samar and Leyte – the southern part of Leyte speaks Cebuano – has started to be collected, recorded and documented by scholars and researchers.
This movement has been jump-started by the interest of German priests who were managing a university in Tacloban City.
Early chronicles of East Visayan literature date back to the 17th century when Spanish Jesuit, Fr. Ignatio Francisco Alzina, documented the poetic forms like the candu, haya, ambahan, canogon, bical, balac, siday and awit.
He also described the early forms of narratives in the region, the susumaton and posong.
At the same time theater presentations – the performances of poetry, rituals and mimetic dances – breathed through the environment.
Dances mimed the joys, grief, and other activities of the ancient Waray.
According to scholars and authorities of East Visayan literature, modern East Visayan literature, especially Waray, revolves around poetry and drama which were churned out from the 1900s to date.
Waray poetry particularly blossomed with the publication of An Kaadlawon, the first Waray newspaper.
The two islands of Samar and Leyte had magazines which published articles and literary works in Spanish and Waray, including, in Leyte, the satirical poems of Bagong Katipunero, Luro, Datoy Anilod, Ben Tamaka and Kalantas – pseudonyms which allowed the poets to criticize corrupt government officials, made fun of people’s vices, and attack the women of the area for adopting trendy social behavior.
When local newspapers ceased as vehicles for written poetry, radio stations took over the role, much like radio stations in Cagayan Valley which had air time for Bucanegan, the poetic jousts similar to the Balagtasan of the Tagalog provinces, particularly Bulacan.
The Eastern Visayas also had, like other regions of the country, sarzuelas, enthralling captive audiences with their innate musicality and drama.
The region also boasts hadi-hadi, which antedates sarzuela as far as development is concerned.
Sandwiched between the Eastern Visayas and the Western Visayas is Central Visayas, where Cebuano literature, both oral and written, depicts the character of many who live in Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor, Negros Oriental and the southern part of Leyte and some parts of Mindanao.
The Cebuanos, who speak Bisaya or Cebuano language, the mother tongue of about one-fourth of the country’s nearly 88 million people, have a rich oral tradition.
This includes legends associated with particular localities, like the Maria Caco legends of southern Cebu and those of Lapulapu and his father Datu Manggal of Mactan.
They also have folktales like the fable Haring Ganggis ug Haring Leon, which warn of abusive behavior by the dominant group.
Many of the tales reflect lessons in life and as many suggest the intrinsic worth of humor, wit and resourcefulness, as can be read in Juan Pusong trickster tales.
Cebuano literature also has plates for the early poetic forms of garay (verses), harito (shaman’s prayers), tigmo (riddles) and panultihon (proverbs).