National Artist Virgilio Almario, also known as Rio Alma, gave a major lecture on a seldom-visited period in Philippine literary history on March 7 at Teresita Quirino Theater, University of Santo Tomas (UST).
Titled Ang Panitikan Para sa Kalayaan: 1838-1903 (The Literature of Liberation: 1838-1903), Almario described his lecture as a sweeping survey of 19th-century popular literature in Tagalog.
It traces the roles of the awit at korido and the komedya, the local offshoots and adaptations of European metrical romances in shaping the spirit of liberation before the propaganda movement, the formation of the Katipunan and eventually the Revolution of 1896.
The lecture, he said, attempts to chart the emergence of nationalist consciousness from Francisco “Balagtas” Baltazar to Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio and Apolinario Mabini. It covers unvisited territory between “Florante at Laura,” “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo.”
“Florante at Laura,” Baltazar’s allegorical epic on the Spanish conquest and colonization, is described as the foremost poem leading to the birth of Filipino nationalism. Rizal’s “Fili” and “Noli” sparked the Philippine revolution.
Almario said his lecture proposes a solution to the puzzle of how Bonifacio distilled the works of propagandists and introduced and inspired the masses to revolt.
Under the auspices of the UST Center for Creative Writing and Literary Studies (CCWLS), the event marks Almario’s 70th birthday.
As part of the celebration, the national artist also launched two books on criticism and one on erotic poetry. These were Si Balagtas at ang Panitikan para sa Kalayaan published by Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino, and Ang Tungkulin ng Kritisismo sa Filipinas by Ateneo de Manila University Press, which are both on literary criticism. The book on erotic poetry was Lungting Lungsod ng Lunggati by Filipinas Institute of Translation.