Recording Oral Literature in a Literate Society: A case study from the northern Philippines


  • Roger Blench
  • Fredeliza Campos


Oral literature is the product of a world where there was no possibility of recording with any accuracy long or significant texts in any way other than through memory and interpersonal transmission. However, literacy and recording technology have penetrated even the remotest parts of the world, so that even where a guardian of oral tradition cannot read or operate a video camera, they are influenced by their knowledge of these technologies. At the same time, the impact of globalisation is threatening the characteristic boundary maintenance strategies of ethnolinguistic groups. Responses to this have been varied around the world, but movements to encourage ‘cultural revival’ and ‘heritage’ are not uncommon.

This paper concerns the oral literature of the Ifugao people in the Cordillera of Northern Luzon, in the Republic of the Philippines. The authors’ project, which commenced in May 2010, was to document representative examples of genres of oral literature. This paper provides an overview of the current situation of the various vocal genres preparatory to the task of transcribing the body of field materials. However, we also describe as realistically as possible the contradictions of recording oral literature where its performers are now embedded in contexts very different from those...


IfugaoNorthern LuzonPhilippinesoral literaturecultural contextrecording technologyliteracyglobalisationoral tradition
  • Year: 2010
  • Volume: 8
  • Page/Article: 49-65
  • DOI: 10.25894/ldd215
  • Published on 31 Jul 2014