Florante at Laura

by Francisco Baltazar

(Booknotes / Summary in English)

The Florante at Laura is a shorter version of its original title, written in ancient Tagalog: Pinagdaanang Buhay ni Florante at ni Laura sa Cahariang Albania. Quinuha sa madlang "cuadro histórico" o pinturang nag sasabi sa mga nangyayari nang unang panahón sa Imperio nang Grecia, at tinula nang isang matouain sa versong tagálog. (The Life of Florante and Laura in the Kingdom of Albania: Culled from a publicly-displayed "cuadro histórico" or historical painting which describes the events which were occurring during ancient times in the empire of Greece, and penned by someone who enjoys Tagalog verse).

This literary masterpiece was written during Balagtas’ imprisonment in Pandacan, Manila (he used the pseudonym Francisco Baltazar). Florante at Laura was said to be the outcome of Balagtas’ heartbroken situation after losing the woman that he loved the most whom he referred to as Celia. Balagtas wholeheartedly dedicated this timeless book to Celia (Maria Asuncion Rivera or M.A.R.), who was later married to Balagtas' rival, Mariano Capule, a rich and powerful man. It was Capule who made false charges against Balagtas and used the power of money to put him in jail.

Dr. José Rizal (the Philippine National Hero) considers Florante at Laura to be the best awit (form of Filipino poetry) in his time. It was written as a depiction of the country's situation during the rule of the Spaniards. Balagtas was playful with his use of mockery, irony, paradox, satire, disdain; he sets all this up like chess pieces. The characters and the setting used were of foreign origin but the nature, gesture and custom are undoubtedly Filipino and the events in the story are similar to the real incidents during that period.

Florante and Laura is considered an Awit or a song in English. It has 399 stanzas and is written in poetic form that has 4 lines per stanza and 12 syllables per line and each stanza is full figures of speech.

At present, Florante at Laura is an important Filipino literary classic that is being studied in secondary school (in the second year) in the Philippines, in accordance with the curriculum set by the Commission on Higher Education.