GOOGLE on Monday celebrated the 230th birthday of Francisco “Balagtas” Baltazar with a doodle of his literary masterpiece entitled “Florante at Laura.”
An epic poem that symbolizes Baltazar’s own life journey, “Florante at Laura” was written in dodecasyllabic quatrains, which means it has 12 syllables per line, 4 line per stanza, according to Google.
The choice of language for “Florante at Laura” was “a bold and unusual choice, since at the time most writings were in Spanish,” it said.
In honor of Baltazar, Google altered its logo to show his famous poem, which he wrote while in prison for ordering a servant girl’s head to be shaved.
“In the first panel, we see Balagtas working on Florante at Laura. The story begins with a view on the main character, Duke Florante of Albania, who has just been exiled and tied to a tree. The third panel depicts his love, Princess Laura, being held captive. Next we meet Prince Aladdin of Persia, himself exiled from his own country. In the fifth panel, Aladdin’s fiancée Flerida searches for him in the forest before rescuing Laura. Finally, Laura and Florante are reunited and rule peacefully over Albania,” Google said on its website.
“In addition to being a highly-skilled poet, Balagtas earned acclaim for writing in Tagalog (most writings at the time were in Spanish) and including Filipino themes, even though the characters were not from the Philippines,” it added.
Aside from “Florante at Laura,” Baltazar also wrote three-to-four-part comedies such as “Orosmán at Zafira,” “Don Nuño at Selinda,” “Clara Belmorem,” and a one-part short play entitled “La India Elegante y el Negrito Amante.”
Baltazar learned to write poetry from José de la Cruz (Huseng Sisiw), one of the most famous poets of Tondo. It was also Huseng Sisiw who personally challenged Balagtas to improve on his writing.
In 1835, Baltazar met María Asunción Rivera, who eventually became his muse for his future works.
Twelve years after, Baltazar married Juana Tiambeng, with whom he had 11 children, but only four survived to adulthood.
Baltazar was the son of a blacksmith. He studied Canon Law, Philosophy, Latin and the classics at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran and Colegio de San Jose.
Baltazar later worked as a clerk of court in Orion, Bataan.
Baltazar was born on April 2, 1788 in barrio Panginay, in the town of Bigaa, (now Balagtas in his honor) Bulacan.
On his deathbed, Baltazar asked his children not to become a poet because he considered it a curse and that it would be better for them to cut off their hands than be writers.
He died at 74 on February 20, 1862.
Baltazar’s gift of gab and poetry gave birth to “Balagtasan,” a form of debate in extemporaneous verse.
An elementary school in Sta. Cruz, Manila (the Francisco Balagtas Elementary School) a plaza and park (Plaza Balagtas) and several streets in Manila were named after Baltazar and the characters of “Florante at Laura.”
President Rodrigo Duterte declared April 2 as a special non-working day in the province of Bulacan. CATHERINE MODESTO AND LISBET ESMAEL