Gat Francisco Balagtas Monument
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 houseboy in Tondo, Manila.
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. (source: Talambuhay ng mga Bayani, for Grade 6 textbook) In 1835, Balagtas moved to Pandacan, where he met María Asunción Rivera, who would effectively serve as the muse for his future works. She is referenced in Florante at Laura as 'Celia' and 'MAR'. 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 under the accusation that he ordered a servant girl's head be shaved. It was here that he wrote Florante at Laura—In fact, the events of this poem were meant to parallel his own situation. He wrote his poems in Tagalog, during an age when Filipino writing was predominantly written in Spanish. 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 peace and later, in 1856, as the Major Lieutenant. 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. 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...
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