The Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF), the government agency tasked to promote Philippine languages, is encouraging Filipinos to read the works of the late National Artist for Literature Lazaro Francisco, whose 120th birth anniversary the agency commemorated last Thursday.
“His writings embody the spirit of nationalism,” award-winning writer and KWF education and networking chief John Torralba said.
Francisco was able to express his nationalism without compromising the quality of his writings, he added.
“We can learn a lot about love of country by reading his writings,” the KWF officer said.
Francisco’s 11 novels, which include “Ama”, “Bayang Nagpatiwakal”, “Maganda pa ang Daigdig”, and “Daluyong”, are “now considered classics of Philippine literature,” the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) said.
According to the agency, Francisco developed Philippine fiction’s social realist tradition.
The novelist became famous not only for his writings’ social relevance, but also for his masterful handling of Tagalog, NCCA said.
To better advocate Tagalog as the national language, Francisco established the Kapatiran ng mga Alagad ng Wikang Pilipino (Brotherhood of the Disciples of the Filipino Language) in 1958, it added.
“(Francisco) championed the cause of the common man, specifically oppressed peasants,” writer Amadis Ma. Guerrero once said of the author.
“His novels exposed the evils of the tenancy system, the exploitation of farmers by unscrupulous landlords, and foreign domination,” he added.
The late journalist Teodoro Valencia had described Francisco’s writings as dignifying the Filipino and highlighting everything that was positive about the Filipino way of life.
“His writings have contributed much to the formation of Filipino nationalism,” he said.
For his part, National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera said that “when the history of the Filipino novel is written, Francisco is likely to occupy an eminent place in it.”
“Already in Tagalog literature, he ranks among the finest novelists since the beginning of the 20th century,” he added.
“In addition to a deft hand at characterization, Francisco has a supple prose style responsive to the subtlest nuances of ideas and the sternest stuff of passions,” the national artist said.
Son of Bataan
Francisco was born in Bataan province’s Orani town on February 22, 1898, the fourth child of Eulogio Francisco and Clara Angeles. He eventually lived in Nueva Ecija province.
The novelist earned several accolades during his lifetime, including the Balagtas Award in 1969 and the Republic Cultural Heritage Award in 1970.
Francisco died on June 17, 1980 at the age of 82.
The government posthumously conferred on him the National Artist for Literature honor in 2009.