Francisco Baltazar of Bulacan and Bataan

If Francisco Baltazar were alive, do you think that he would be a famous writer? Or perhaps blogger? I was a second year high school student when I read his most popular work of art, Florante at Laura.

It was not because I was interested, it was because we were required to read his book and occasionally recite some of the stanzas. Francisco Dela Cruz Balagtas was born in April 2, 1788 in Panginay, Bigaa, Bulacan. Bigaa is now known as Balagtas. Born to a poor family, Kiko had to work as a servant to the wealthy Trinidad family of Tondo. This gave him the opportunity to finish his studies in Colegio de San Jose and then later in San Juan de Letran.

He had an inborn talent for writing and he was able to use it to his advantage. Being a hopeless romantic, he created poems for the women that caught his eyes. His greatest love (before meeting his wife) and greatest pain was a lovely lady named Maria Asuncion Rivera. He called her “Celia” in his writings and signed his works as “Francisco Baltazar.” He used this pseudonym until such a time when he legally registered it under the governor decree (adopt a standardized Filipino name and surname) issued by Narciso Claveria. Loving Celia caught the ire of his rival, the wealthy cacique, Nanong Capule of Malabon. He pressed false charges against Kiko with the aid of a paid witness. Kiko was said to be spreading false rumors about Celia and her family. He was sent to jail but what broke his spirit was when Celia married Capule. It was said that the Florante at Laura was a reflection of his own life and love story. In 1838, he was released from the jail and his works were already published.

O Love! Thou all-omnipotent one,
Who sporteth ev’n with sire and son;
Once sworn to thee, a heart then on
Defies all else: thy will be done.

He moved to Balanga, Bataan to start a new life. He accepted a job there and then later on met Juana Rodriguez Tiambeng who came from a rich family in Udyong (now known as Orion). Their union produced 11 children but only 4 made it to adulthood. Their most famous child was Victor who organized and led the local Katipunan unit in Udyong in the revolt against the Spaniards in 1898.

His quiet life did not last long as another problem costed them not only his freedom but their money, as well. For the second time, he was imprisoned in 1849 for allegedly cutting the hair of Alferez Lucas’ servant. He was released in 1860 and he came back to an impoverished house as their money was used for his case resolution. He went back to writing to support his family. Two years after his release, his health deteriorated. His famous last words to his wife on his death bed were “Ipinagbibilin kong mahigpit sa iyo, putlan mo ng mga daliri ang sinuman sa ating mga supling ang mangangahas na humawak ng panulat at magtatangkang manaludtod.” He discouraged any of his children from writing because as most people believe during those times, writers did not make any money.

He died in February 20, 1862 and was buried in Udyong. Balagtas Day is celebrated in Bulacan and then in Bataan (since 2018) to commemorate the most notable Filipino poet of all times.