When I was in elementary, we were required to read the famous story of “Florante and Laura.” Written by an author I only knew on National Heroes’ Postcards, his name was Francisco Balagtas Baltazar. The setting of his most famous story was in a distant land of Albania which I first thought to be an imaginary kingdom. With knights, damsel in distress and full of sword fighting, it was an adventure.
Later on, I also found out more about this Filipino poet during the Spanish regime. Here is a short biography of this man.
“Francisco Baltazar (nicknamed Kikong Balagtas or Kiko) was born on April 2, 1788 to Juana deal Cruz and Juan Baltazar in Barrio Panginay, Bigaa (now known as Balagtas in his honor), in the province of Bulacan. He was the youngest of his siblings Felipe, Concha, and Nicholasa. Francisco attended a parochial school in Bigaa where he studied prayers and catechism, and later worked as houseboy for his Trinidad family in Tondo, Manila where he was supported by his aunt in his studies at the Colegio de San Jose. In 1812, he graduated with degrees in Crown Law, Spanish, Latin, Physics, Christian Doctrine, Humanities, and Philosophy.
His two former teachers Dr. Mariano Pilapil and José de la Cruz a famous Tondo Poet taught him how to write and mentored his poetry. Jose de la Cruz himself challenged Balagtas to improve his writing, and in 1835 he found his muse Maria Asuncion Rivera when he moved to Pandacan. He spoke of her in Florante at Laura as ‘Celia’ and ‘MAR’.
Balagtas was imprisoned by an influential and wealthy man named Mariano Capule as both men fought for the affections of Celia. While in captivity Balagtas wrote his historical piece Florante at Laura inspired by elements of his current life. His poetry was transcribed in Tagalog although at the time Spanish was the dominant language in Filipino writing. Balagtas was released from prison in 1838 and published Florante at Laura at that time.
He became an assistant to the Justice of the Peace when he moved to Balanga, Bataan in 1840, and sixteen years later he became Major Lieutenant and chief translator of the court. Two years after he met Juana Tiambeng of Orion, Bataan, they were married (July 22, 1842) Together, they had eleven children—five boys and six girls. However, only seven of them would live.
In 1849, Governor-General Narciso Claveria ordered that every Filipino native adopt a Spanish surname. Balagtas then became known as Francisco Baltazar. Balagtas became imprisoned for the second time in 1856 when a housemaid’s complaint publicized that he had cut her hair. He was freed in 1860 and resumed his poetry writing.
Balagtas died on February 20, 1862 at the age of 74. His last wish was that none of his children follow in his footsteps and become for fear that they would go through the same hardships that he did. He even went as far as to tell them it would be better to cut their hands off than let them be writers.
Balagtas is so greatly revered in the Philippines that the term for Filipino debate in extemporaneous verse is named for him: balagtasan. He was also honored by an elementary school that was named after him, the Francisco Balagtas Elementary School (FBES), located along Alvarez Street in Santa Cruz, Manila.“
His life was long and very interesting, we visited his house which was filled with history but the time we spent on his house was merely less than five minutes for the museum was closed. Beside the museum and the closed Nipa Hut there was nothing to do there, so we left out to our next destination, the town of Bulakan.
Florante and Laura
Here is a brief summary to Francisco Balagtas’ most famous work “Florante at Laura,”
On a faraway vast land, there’s a mystical forest outside the Kingdom of Albania. Florante, son ofDuke Briseo and Princess Floresca, was knotted tightly on a giant old tree in the middle of the dark forest. Sadness and emptiness crept around the helpless Prince. The scary woods and uncanny sounds of wild animals and creatures just didn’t help.
Just before two huge lions were about to ravish the poor Prince, a kindhearted Persian Muslim, Aladin, helped Florante. Aladin was on exile from his own kingdom because of his father’s cruelty. His father, Ali-Adab, took his lovely fiancé away from him. On his
way to the woods, he heard Florante’s scream trying to seek help from the lions nearly killing him.The two became good friends and they started to talk about their past and what brought them there in the woods. Florante told Aladin his true identity – a prince of Albania.
He also told his new friend about his another near-death experience involving a giant crow which was killed by his cousin, Menalipo, his schooldays at Athens where he met Adolfo whom from the beginning was his rival. Adolfo tried to kill Florante during their school play, the latter was rescued by Menandro, nephew of their kind professor – Antenor. Because of that terrible incident, Adolfo decided to go back home in Albania.
One day in Athens, a sad news came to Florante about the death of his mother. After two months, the Prince went back home in Albania. In Albania, Duke Briseo and King Linseo, father of Laura, gathered a meeting about their defense against the troops of Persian General Osmalik. Osmalik ruined the Kingdom of Kotrona. According to the King, he dreamt of a clever powerful Prince who looked like Florante, their only weapon to beat Osmalik. Florante instantly fell in love with Laura seeing her beauty. In his three days stay at their palace, he never had the chance to talk to the Princess. He only had few moments with her when he was prepared to battle. The princess only sent her tears and hopes. Alas, Florante defeated Osmalik. He stayed for another five months in the kingdom of Kotrona. He went home and was amazed what greeted him…Their enemy, Muslim, flag was waving high in the air.While Florante and his troop of soldiers were on their way down the mountain, they witnessed a girl whose head was about to be cut by Aladin’s troop. Florante and his troop rescued the girl who was Laura. Eventually, Florante saved his kingdom including King Linseo, Duke Briseo and Adolfo. After that triumph, another army headed by Miramolin tried to invade the Kingdom of Albanya.
Fortunately, Florante has succeeded victory again. In the midst of battle, Florante received a letter while he’s in Etolya. He had to go back to Albania not knowing it was just a wicked scheme to kill him. Adolfo made it all to kill the young Prince. Adolfo has
killed Florante’s father and took the crown and his kingdom. Florante has been captive for thirteen days. After that, the Count of Albania has condemned him to be thrown away in the wild forest to feed the wild beasts and lions.
Learning about his dark fate, it was Aladin’s turn to tell Florante about his life. Aladin left his father’s kingdom after his father king took his fiancé, Flerida. He left everything behind and went to Persia. When Florante has succeeded in claiming back Albania against Aladin’s troops, the king realized her son surrendered and for him it was a big shame. Because of that, he executed an order to catch Aladin and cut his head. But Aladin was thrown away from Persia and couldn’t come back again ever.While Aladin and Florante got to know each other ,they became good friends. They realized their own fate. In the middle of their chats, they heard voices of two people in the woods. They followed it and found out they were Laura and Flerida. Aladin then learned that Flerida escaped from the wicked hands of his father, Sultan Ali-Adab by disguising to be a warrior who fell down until reached the woods.On the other hand, Florante realized that he was Laura’s one true love although he admitted he thought the girl cheated on him so many times. Laura never had affections to Adolfo which is why the latter tried to enslave her ruin her but Flerida saved Laura by speared the pitiless man.
Menandro came looking for Adolfo only finding him dead. After all has settled back to normal everything went back into place in the kingdom and everyone was so happy. Everyone was celebrating in Albania. Florante and Laura married each other and celebrated their wedding. They became the new king and queen of Albania while Aladin and Flerida were baptized as Christians. They returned back to Persia to start a new happy life and became the new leaders of their kingdom.
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