HomeThe Journal of Historyvol. 50 no. 1 - 4 (2004)

Cultural History Through the Lens: Tracing the Nationalist Literary Tradition in Postwar Cinema

Joyce L. Arriola

Discipline: History



The dislocation suffered by the Filipinos during the Second World War was successfully transformed into a cultural idiom through the body of a nationalist literature produced during the post-war years. The polemical state of literature in English and in the vernacular can be traced back to the literature of the 1896 Revolution and the Philippine-American war. The same literary tradition had been subsumed in the post-war film productions, from the 1946 to the second golden age of Filipino cinema in the 1970s.


This paper offers a disavowal of the common perception of Philippines cinema as conveyor of conventional and trite formulas of melodrama, if not oversimplified representation of historical episodes. Instead, the evolution of the nationalist mode in cinema can illumine haw culture is interrogated in the service of history, or how history is interrogated in the service of culture. If post-war realities call be the consciousness map for the Filipino search for identity and concept of nation, the cinema can provide a picture of the cultural community the people partly lived and partly imagined. The cinema, traditionally perceived as popular and mass-mediated, could offer certain possibilities for a variety of responses: representation, accommodation, resistance. The nationalist imagination, with its genesis in the literary mode, may find echoes in post-war cinema initially through borrowings and adaptations, and later through contestations and resistance.