Today in Philippine History, April 2, 1788 Francisco Baltazar was born in Panginay, Bigaa, Bulacan

Sunday April 01, 2012 ()

On April 2, 1788, Prominent Filipino poet Francisco Baltazar, the Philippine counterpart of famed English writer William Shakespeare, was born in Panginay, Bigaa, Bulacan.

   Francisco Balagtas
   (Francisco Balagtas)

Known widely through his nom-de-plume Francisco Balagtas, he published in 1838 the famous epic "Florante at Laura" which became the first Filipino literary piece.

He served as the houseboy of his aunt, who was impressed with his literary talent, and attended school until he graduated at age 24 with degrees in Crown Law, Spanish, Latin, Physics, Christian Doctrine, Humanities and Philosophy.

Baltazar was among trendsetters of early 19th century Philippines as he wrote in Tagalog – a move considered as courageous and novel since literary work then was mostly published in Spanish. His work sealed legitimacy of writing literature in Tagalog and demonstrated this language's effectiveness in communicating one's thoughts.

His "Florante at Laura", along with Jose Rizal’s "Noli Me Tangere", are considered as among Philippine literary masterpieces. The government made these two masterpieces mandatory reading materials for high school.

Famous Tondo poet José de la Cruz, known in literary circles as Huseng Sisiw, became Baltazar’s mentor, particularly for writing in various literary forms like the "awit," "corido" and "moro-moro."

Baltazar’s writing prowess made him one of the most revered figures in Philippine literature.

"Balagtasan," a traditional Filipino debate in extemporaneous verse, was coined after his pen name to honor him.

His other literary pieces include "Orosmán at Zafira," a comedy in four parts, "Don Nuño at Selinda, Auredato at Astrome," three-part comedy "Clara Belmore, Bayaceto at Dorslica," "Abdol at Misereanan," a comedy staged by Abucay in 1857, "Alamansor at Rosalinda," a comedy staged at Udyong during the town's feast, "La india elegante y el negrito amante," a short play in one part and "Nudo gordeano."

Balagtas continued writing "awit" and "moro-moro" pieces until his death on Feb. 20, 1862 at age 74.

Authorities built in his honor an elementary school named Francisco Balagtas Elementary School located along Alvarez Street in Sta. Cruz, Manila. They also named after him Plaza Balagtas in Pandacan, Manila. Many streets bear names of characters in his "Florante at Laura" epic.

Balagtas Day has been celebrated in Orion, Bataan since April 2, 1959.

Reference: Philippine News Agency archives


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