The Tagalog word for 'epic' is epiko from the Spanish. Philippine epics are lengthy narrative poems based on oral tradition. The verses were chanted or sung while being passed from generation to generation before being written on paper. The plots of their stories revolve around supernatural events and heroic deeds.
With the diversity of ethnic groups in the Philippines, Filipino epics are not national in scope the way the Kaleva is in Finland, for example. Instead of glorifying national heroes, Philippine epics are specific to a particular part of the country, and thus they are referred to as ethno-epics or regional epics. In fact, the epic poems of the Philippines are in many different languages, not just the currently dominant Tagalog.
Many of the Philippine epics that have survived and been recorded are from areas that have seen the least colonization by the Spanish and Americans. These are mostly pagan groups and the Moros who were not Christianized by missionaries.
There are around twenty known Filipino epic poems. Among the more famous ones are:
The Hudhud of the Ifugao
The pre-Hispanic epic poem Biag ni Lam-ang
The Ullalim epic songs of the Kalinga
The Ibalon epic from Bicol
The Hinilawod – the longest and oldest epic of the Hiligaynon people
The Darangan of the Maranao (recognized by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity)
The Darangan relates the adventures of a warrior-prince named Bantugan, who was the brother of the chieftain of a village called Bumbaran. Bantugan owned a magic shield, was protected by divine spirits and was capable of rising from the dead.
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