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This Anthology of ASEAN Literature was presented as a project by the Philippines to the Committee on Culture and Information (COCI) of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on its Fifth Meeting (Manila, 29 November - 2 December 1981). It was then approved as an ASEAN project to be funded by the Cultural Fund and subsequently approved by the Standing Committee, the highest body of the organization, on its Fourth Meeting (Singapore, 2 April 1982).

A Preliminary Meeting (Singapore, 14 - 16 June 1982), attended by three experts from each of the member countries namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singpore and Thailand, was held and the framework for the Anthology was discussed and approved. To quote the report of this meeting (page 2):

“That selection of literary works to be included in the Anthology, based on the criteria of literary merit and on a broad chronological order, be left to the national teams. Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore will coordinate on overlapping materials especially on Malay literature. ”

The Anthology, though conveived as primarily a systematic study of the national literature of the member countries, began at a certain point in time and working towards the present, each national team excavating and looking for literary treasures, perhaps for the first time, nonetheless will be a solid basis for the comparative study of ASEAN literature. Thus for this first

volume comprising of five books, one from each country, Indonesia has chosen a variety of oral literary genres observed in different linguistic areas in Indonesia. Oral literature must be treated as part and parcel of Indonesian literature.

Malaysia will present a collection of excerpts of traditional texts and folklore reflecting the richness of its indigenous cultural heritage, which are taken from both oral and written tradition.

The Philippines has concentrated on epics from the different regions of the country. From one hundred known epics, five were chosen from available texts : Aliguyon of the Ifugao, Lam-ang of the Ilocanos, Labaw Donggon of the Sulods, Agyu of the Manobos and Sandayo of the Suban-ons.

Thailand has selected the classical religion book entitled “Traibhumikatha The story of the Three Planes of Existence” by King Lithai, the first Thai Buddhist literature of the Sukhothai Period.

On account of complexities in its historical and social anticidents, Singapore eschewed the broad chronological approach and will base its volumes on genre, an arrangement that would best reflect the growth of the literature in the four official languages. The first volume is devoted to poetry.

This then is the first volume, an initial effort to record and make known the best literary works of the ASEAN. The whole project envisages five volumes. Translation of the first volume into the respective National language (s) as stipulated in the Preliminary Meeting, will be published next year. Then hopefully, the second volume will come out in 1985.


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