FILIPINO poet Francisco Balagtas was honored during the opening of the National Literature Month held at Hardin ni Balagtas in Orion, Bataan, last April 2.
Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) Chair and National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario said they decided to make April the National Literature Month because it coincided with the birthday of Balagtas.
Balagtas is the author of the Filipino classic “Florante at Laura,” which, aside from being a required reading in high school, is also considered one of the greatest Filipino literary works.
Almario said the works of Balagtas, especially “Florante at Laura,” could be compared to the masterpieces of Shakespeare, Cervantes and Dante Alighieri that have withstood the test of time.
He also praised Balagtas for being an inspiration to heroes such as José Rizal, Andres Bonifacio and Apolinario Mabini.
He said he and his peers were pushing the government to recognize Balagtas as a Filipino hero.
He said the Philippines did not have a hero that would represent culture. He said the list of the country’s heroes was composed of martyrs, generals, presidents.
Culture shapes the way people think, Almario added.
“Ang gusto namin ay makilala ng tao, lalo na ng ating gobyerno, na napakahalaga ng kultura, na napakahalaga ng panitikan,” he explained. “Kailangan natin ng isang bayani na nagmula sa kultura, hindi sa pulitika at hindi sa ekonomiya. At pinaka-unang maikakandidato natin ay si Balagtas (We want the people, especially government, to recognize how important culture is, how important literature is. We need a hero who came from culture, not from politics or the economy. And our best candidate is Balagtas).”
The launching of the Philippine Literature Month in Orion, Bataan, also coincided with KWF’s Kampo Balagtas, a national conference that aims to teach and train student writers as a movement to encourage the “development and enrichment of national literature.”
The three-day camp was conducted as part of KWF’s annual Araw ni Balagtas celebration April 1-3 at Orion Elementary School.
Balagtas was born in Balagtas, Bulacan, on April 2, 1788. He died at 73 in Orion, Bataan.
A total of 86 participants from Grades 7 to 11 from the Cordillera, Laguna, Metro Manila, Iloilo, Samar and Leyte attended Kampo Balagtas.
Lecturers included film and TV writer Jerry Gracio and fictionist Edgar Calabia Samar.
KWF also held the awarding ceremony for the winning poets of Talaang Ginto: Makata ng Taon 2016 and Gawad Dangal ni Balagtas 2016.
Poet and columnist Mark Anthony Angeles won Makata ng Taon. Accountant Adelma Salvador and University of Santo Tomas philosophy instructor Levine Andro Lao won second and third places, respectively.
Gawad ng Dangal ni Balagtas was given to prolific writer José “Pete” Lacaba. He wrote the films “Rizal sa Dapitan,” “Orapronobis,” “Sister Stella L.,” “Jaguar.”
Lacaba also wrote the books “Mga Kagilagilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran,” “Sa Panahon ng Ligalig,” “Sa Daigdig ng Kontradiksyon,” “Edad Medya,” “Kung Baga sa Bigas: Mga Piling Tula,” “Days of Disquiet, Nights of Rage” and “Showbiz Lengua: Chika & Chismax about Chuvachuchu.”
Poet Vim Nadera, activist Mae Paner and poet Michael Coroza participated in the event. Paner and Coroza took part in a balagtasan, in which they debated whether to blame the government or the public regarding the current situation of the country.
Aklatang Balagtas, a small library in Hardin ni Balagtas, was inaugurated on April 2.
National Literature Month is held throughout April. It is spearheaded by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, KWF and National Book Development Board.