Lázaro Francisco (1898-1980), National Artist for Literature, had his share of tragedies.
One of the children by his first wife Pelagia Duran, Isagani I, died in infancy, and Pelagia herself passed away after only seven years of marriage. His youngest brother David Francisco and first son Lázaro Francisco Jr., by his second wife Trinidad Arrieta (Miss Nueva Ecija), both unsung heroes of World War II, were killed in the Bataan frontlines in 1942.
Out of Lázaro’s grief emerged “Sugat ng Alaala,” the novel which for me is his most affecting and memorable, although critical consensus is that his last, “Daluyong,” is his finest.
Ka Saró’s youngest son Hernani, tall, well-built and a champion swimmer, died in the Pampanga River at the age of 18 while trying to save a friend. Rescuers seached for his body for days, to no avail. Then one night an uncle dreamed about Hernani—actually heard his voice saying, “Tio, andito ako (uncle, I am here). The following day Hernani’s body was found, in the exact place he pinpointed in the dream.
And eldest grandson Lázaro Francisco III, “who passed the New York Bar on first take while it took John Kennedy Jr. three times,” died of cancer in 1990.
The Francisco family was originally from Orani, Bataan at a time of tension between Catholics and Protestants (in the North it was Catholics against Aglipayans). The Franciscos were Methodists and overzealous Catholics made life difficult from them, so the family moved to Cabanatuan City, worked in the government, wrote his powerful novels of social injustice in Central Luzon, and lived the rest of his life.
His works were first serialized in Liwayway magazine, readers breathlessly awaiting each installment.
Often bypassed for the National Artist Award, he was finally given this coveted honor (posthumous at that) in 2009, during the second Aquino administration.
“Pamana” is tribute to Lazaro by Floriño A. Francisco, physician, feature writer and a son of Ka Sáro and Trinidad. Filled with anecdotes, memoirs, quotes and photos which recall the highlights of the novelist’s eventful life, it is a tribute
of an accomplished clan (doctors, lawyers, writers professors, engineers et al) to their famous father and grandfather, whose works enriched Philippine literature in Tagalog.—CONTRIBUTED