Clamor grows for poet Balagtas’ hero status


By Catherine J. Teves


MANILA, April 1 (PNA) — An expert joined calls for renowned Filipino poet Francisco Baltazar’s formal recognition as Philippine hero.

Writer and educator Michael Coroza believes such accolade is due, noting Baltazar harnessed the pen’s might to advocate love of country and fellowmen.

“He inspired even our heroes,” Coroza said.

‘Francisco Balagtas’ was the pen name Baltazar chose for his work.

The country will celebrate Sunday the annual Araw ni Balagtas to mark Baltazar’s 229th birth anniversary.

Baltazar’s defining work was ‘Florante at Laura’ which experts consider as one of the country’s literary gems.

They noted Dr Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Apolinario Mabini and other Philippine heroes recognised ‘Florante at Laura’ as being work of the highest calibre.

The late Filipino writer Lope K. Santos also saw the spirit of nationalism in ‘Florante at Laura’ and believed this to be already enough for Baltazar to gain hero status.

“He started the campaign to make Baltazar a hero,” noted Coroza.

Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino is likewise seeking hero status for Baltazar, citing his advocacy for love of country and writing prowess that helped enrich Philippine literature.

Available data show Baltazar was born on April 2, 1788 in Bulacan province’s Bigaa municipality, the youngest of four children of Juan Balagtas and Juana de la Cruz.

Baltazar attended school and eventually learned to write poetry under the guidance of Tondo’s famous poet Jose de la Cruz whose pen name was ‘Huseng Sisiw.’

Philippine literary pieces then were mostly written in Spanish but this didn’t dissuade Baltazar from writing his poems in Tagalog, a local language.

Rivalry for the love of Maria Asuncion Rivera ended with Baltazar’s imprisonment as his competitor used influence and money to make this happen, available data show.

It was during such imprisonment that Baltazar wrote ‘Florante at Laura,’ a poem about love between fictional characters Duke Florante and Princess Laura.

According to some observers, ‘Florante at Laura’ likely mirrors events in Baltazar’s own life.

Santos saw ‘Florante at Laura’ as being much more than a love story, however.

In 1955, Santos cited four rebellions which he perceived from ‘Florante at Laura.’

He said those are rebellions against an oppressive government, false beliefs and wrong practices which undermine people’s unity and distort their mores and customs.

Also hidden in the poetry of ‘Florante at Laura’ was a rebellion against the proliferation of low-quality literature, he said.

Santos considered such rebellions as unmistakable acts of nationalism, available information further show.

“Baltazar’s ‘Florante at Laura’ taught us to be good people,” Coroza observed.

In modern-day Philippines, Baltazar remains a popular literary figure.

Authorities renamed his birthplace as Balagtas.

His ‘Florante at Laura’ continues being discussed in schools and performed onstage.

Local extemporaneous debates are still called ‘balagtasan’ after his pen name.

Coroza said ‘balagtasan’ commenced in 1924.

KWF is marking Baltazar’s birth anniversary this year by spearheading until Sunday the three-day 2017 Pambansang Kampong Balagtas student-writers’ camp in Bataan province’s Orion municipality.

Orion is reportedly the modern name of Udyong municipality where authorities said Baltazar died on Feb. 20, 1862.

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