April 2, 1788
|Died||February 20, 1862
|Citizenship||Spanish (1812 Spanish Constitution granted Philippine natives Spanish citizenship)|
|Alma mater||Colegio de San Jose (now San Jose Seminary)|
|Notable work(s)||Florante at Laura|
Francisco Balagtas y de la Cruz (April 2, 1788 – February 20, 1862), also known as Francisco Baltazar, was a prominent Filipino poet, and is widely considered as one of the greatest Filipino literary laureate for his impact on Filipino literature. The famous epic, Florante at Laura, is regarded as his defining work.
The name "Baltazar", sometimes misconstrued as a pen name, was a legal surname Balagtas adopted after the 1849 edict of Governor-General Narciso Claveria y Zaldua, which mandated that the native population adopt standard Spanish surnames instead of native ones.
Francisco Balagtas was born on April 2, 1788, in Barrio Panginay, Bigaa, Bulacan as the youngest of the four children of Juan Balagtas, a blacksmith, and Juana de la Cruz. He studied in a parochial school in Bigaa and later in Manila. During his childhood years. Francisco later worked as callboy in Tondo, Manila. He worked as a callboy to earn for his son's tuition fee.
Balagtas learned to write poetry from José de la Cruz (Huseng Sisiw), one of the most famous poets of Tondo, in return of chicks. It was de la Cruz himself who personally challenged Balagtas to improve his writing. Balagtas swore he would overcome Huseng Sisiw as he would not ask anything in return as a poet.
Balagtas' affections for MAR were challenged by the influential Mariano Capule. Capule won the battle for MAR when he used his wealth to get Balagtas imprisoned. It was here that he wrote Florante at Laura—In fact, the events of this poem were meant to parallel his own situation.
Balagtas published Florante at Laura upon his release in 1838. He moved to Balanga, Bataan in 1840 where he served as the assistant to the Justice of the Peace. He was also appointed as the translator of the court. He married Juana Tiambeng on July 22, 1842, in a ceremony officiated by Fr. Cayetano Arellano, uncle of future Philippine Supreme Court Chief Justice Cayetano Arellano. They had eleven children but only four survived to adulthood. On November 21, 1849, Governor-General Narciso Clavería issued a decree that every Filipino native must adopt a Spanish surname. In 1856, he was appointed as the Major Lieutenant, but soon after was convicted and sent to prison again in Bataan under the accusation that he ordered a rich man's housemaid's head to be shaved.
He was again released from prison in 1860 and continued writing poetry, along with translating Spanish documents, but two years later, he died on February 20, 1862, at the age of 73. Upon his deathbed, he asked a favor that none of his children become poets like him, who had suffered under his gift as well as under others. He even went as far as to tell them it would be better to cut their hands off than let them be writers.
An elementary school was erected in honor of Balagtas, the Francisco Balagtas Elementary School (FBES), located along Alvarez Street in Santa Cruz, Manila. There is also a plaza and park (Plaza Balagtas) erected in Pandacan, Manila while most of the streets were named after various Florante at Laura characters in honor of Francisco Balagtas. His birthplace, Bigaa, Bulacan, was renamed to Balagtas, Bulacan in honor of him. A museum, historical marker, monument and Elementary School has been placed in his birthplace at Panginay, Balagtas, Bulacan. A Mercurian crater was also named after him.
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