The Biography of Francisco Balagtas
Francisco Balagtas was born in Panginay, Bigaa, Bulacan (now known as Balagtas, Bulacan) on April 2, 1788. He is the youngest of four siblings. His father is Juan Balagtas, who is a carpenter and her mother is Juana de la Cruz.
He studied in the parochial of Bigaa. There, he learned about prayers and catechism. At the workshop of his father, where customers of his father hang out, he heard many things that will shape his character.
Since childhood, he loved nature. He loved to see the sunrise and sunset, the blossoming of flowers, and observing the bird nests. Often, he will climb up the tree to see the chicks in the nests, which dream about flying to enjoy nature.
At the age of eleven, for his dream to attend school, he applied as a servant for the wealthy Trinidad family in Tondo, Manila. The Trinidad family enrolled him at Colegio de San Jose where he studied Humanities, Theology and Philosophy.
At that time, the poet Jose de la Cruz, whose penname is Huseng Sisiw, was prominent in Tondo. He used that penname because every time someone asks his help in poetry, he only asked for a baby chick (sisiw in Filipino) for payment instead of money. Often Francisco will ask Jose de la Cruz to help him arrange his poem.
Their friendship didn’t last long because there was a time when Francisco Balagtas wrote a romantic poem to send to a beautiful woman in Tondo for courtship. He asked Huseng Sisiw to arrange his poem prior to sending it to that woman. Since he didn’t have a baby chick as a payment for Jose’s help, Jose did not arrange his poem. Francisco Balagtas got angry, and since then, they parted ways.
That circumstance made Francisco Balagtas improve his poetry. He missed the chance to court that woman from Tondo, so he transferred to Pandacan, Manila. There he made a living by writing songs, plays and poems.
He fell in love with Maria Asuncion Rivera (Selya), who inspired him to write Florante and Laura (Florante at Laura). His rival to this woman was a wealthy man. That rival sent him to jail by falsely accusing him although it wasn’t clear what he was accused of.
Inside his jail cell, the news of Selya marrying his rival reached him. That’s when he wrote Florante at Laura, which until now is known as one of the greatest literary pieces in Philippine history.
Francisco Balagtas died at Orion, Bataan, on February 20, 1862 at the age of 74. Before he died, he uttered these words to his wife Juana Tiambeng: “Don’t let any of our children become a poet.” Contrary to his wish, two of his children became a poet, they were Ceferino and Victor.
The real surname of Francisco is Balagtas. When the Spaniard general, Narciso Claveria, ordered that all Filipinos should use a Spanish surname, Francisco Balagtas used the surname Baltazar.