ON THE 229th birth anniversary of Francisco “Balagtas” Baltazar on 2 April, the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) is monumentalizing the way that he paved for national freedom with the theme Balagtas: Bayani (Balagtas: Hero).
The writings of Balagtas (1788–1862), particularly Florante at Laura (1838), were influential in stoking the consciousness of the leading heroes and masses who revered his works.
Included in this pantheon of heroes are Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Emilio Jacinto, and Apolinario Mabini who followed the revolutionary writings of Balagtas. According to eminent poet Lope K. Santos, in his Ang Apat na Himagsik ni Balagtas (The Four Revolts of Balagtas), he was 50 to a 100 years ahead of the mentioned heroes in harnessing the pen against the oppressive powers that be.
According to an 1887 lecture given in Berlin by Jose Rizal called Tagalische Verkunst or Tagalog Poetry, he introduced Balagtas as a model for excellence and clarity of expression among the Tagalog poets.
This influence seeped through the pens of Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Jacinto in the revolutionary literature of the Katipunan. In Liwanag at Dilim (1897), Jacinto reminds the Mga Anak ng Bayan (Sons of the Nation) on the value of work by lifting stanza 202 of Florante at Laura, “Ang laki sa layaw karaniwang hubad / sa bait at muni’t sa hatol ay salat.”
An exiled Apolinario Mabini in Guam, according to accounts, wrote Florante at Laura from memory when an American pointed out that there was no literature that Filipinos could be proud of.
The details mentioned above are testament to the influence of Balagtas. That is why on 2 April, KWF will lead the campaign in spreading his heroism and greatness on Araw ni Balagtas 2017. The celebration will kick-off with the Pambansang Kampong Balagtas 2017, a literary conference that will gather 100 student-writers from all over the Philippines. It will be held on 31 March–2 April 2017 at the Orion Elementary School, Orion, Bataan.
Outstanding writers will be honored on April 2 with the conferment of the Gawad Dangal ni Balagtas and Talaang Ginto: Makata ng Taon. The list of previous inductees in Gawad Dangal ni Balagtas, an award given by KWF that honors the lifetime achievement award for writing in Filipino, are esteemed poets Lamberto Antonio (2013), Teodoro “Teo” Antonio (2014), Rogelio Mangahas (2015), and Jose Maria “Pete” Lacaba (2016).
Since 1963, Talaang Ginto giving the best Filipino poets their due credit. Belonging to the illustrious list of Poets of the Year (Mga Makata ng Taon) are Lamberto Antonio, Teo Antonio, Rogelio Mangahas, Mike Bigornia, Ruth Elynia S. Mabanglo, National Artists Virgilio S. Almario, Cirilio Bautista, and Bienvenido Lumbera, among others.
The celebration is part of National Literature Month, now on its third year, with the theme Banyuhay: Panitikan. Lead agencies for the national celebration include KWF, National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), and National Book Development Board (NBDB). For more information, please call 736-2519, or visit kwf.gov.ph.