When Francisco Balagtas was born outside of Manila in the Philippines in 1788, one of four children and the son of a blacksmith, few might have guessed he would grow up to be one of the most revered writers of the Philippines. But in fact, Balagtas showed promise early on, studying the Classics, as well as law and philosophy. Perhaps most telling of all, his mentor was José de la Cruz (or Huseng Sisiw), one of the most prominent poets in the Philippines at the time.
Balagtas’ most famous work, depicted in today’s Doodle, is Florante at Laura, an epic poem that symbolizes Balagtas’ own life journey. The poem is written in dodecasyllabic quatrains, which means it has 12 syllables per line, four line per stanza. Florante at Laura is written in Tagalog, a bold and unusual choice, since at the time most writings were in Spanish. In addition to being a highly-skilled poet, Balagtas earned acclaim for writing for a Filipino audience and including Filipino themes (even though the characters were not from the Philippines).
In the first panel of the Google doodle, we see Balagtas himself at work writing Florante at Laura In the second, we enter the story with a view on the main character, Duke Florante of Albania, who has just been exiled and tied to a tree. This is followed in the third panel by Princess Laura, who has been held captive. As we continue to the fourth panel, we see Prince Aladdin of Persia, exiled from his own country. In the fifth panel, Aladdin’s fiancée, Flerida, frees Princess Laura from captivity. Finally, the two are reunited and reclaim their proper roles as King and Queen of Albania.
Florante at Laura remains one of the cornerstones of literature from the Philippines today. Students around the country learn of the adventures of Florante and Laura, as well as the rhythm and meter of the poem. Today we celebrate the legacy of Francisco Balagtas on what would be his 230th birthday. Click on the doodle on google.com.ph for more interesting information.