The metrical romance Florante at Laura by Francisco Baltazar (1788-1862) is a unique case in the history of Philippine literature and publishing. It holds the distinction of being the only poem published in the country that has not gone out of print since its first publication, that has been translated into various local and foreign languages, and that continues to be read to this day. Baltazar, popularly known as Balagtas, has been hailed as the greatest of Tagalog poets and his Florante at Laura acclaimed as a masterpiece.
But beyond literary merit, what has ensured the survival of both poet and poem through the years is the great historical, social, and cultural value they have been granted. The poem was written while Balagtas was serving time in a Manila prison, beginning around 1835 or 1836, and published in 1838 after his release. It comprises 399 monorhyming dodecasyllabic quatrains in Tagalog, and its original full title is “Pinagdaanang Buhay ni Florante at ni Laura sa kahariang Albania, kinuha sa madlang “cuadro historico” o pinturang nagsasabi sa mga nangyayari nang unang panahon sa imperio ng Grecia at tinula ng isang matuwain sa bersong Tagalog” (The History of Florante and Laura in the Kingdom of Albania, based on various “historical”.
The setting was in the 19th century. Balagtas’ story was a poem of 12 stanzas. This Filipino classic is studied by highschool students in their sophomore year. It is a favorite material for dramatic plays as the story told of war and love. Above all, ”Florante at Laura” is woven by Francisco “Balagtas” Baltazar with his secret agenda of instilling awareness among the Filipino natives of the treacherous administration by the Spaniards during the colonial times.
Florante is alone and weary, in a deep dark forest, tied to a tree waiting to be eaten by ravenous wild beasts… Florante was the son of Duke Briseo of Albanya and Princess Floresca of Krotona. At a young age, Florante was sent to Atenas to pursue his studies. There he met Menandro and Adolfo. Adolfo was naturally selfish and envious even when he was still young. He held a secret hate towards Florante. Menandro was Adolfo’s exact opposite. He is a kind, loyal, and a trustworthy friend to Florante. Of the three, Florante was the smartest, which was the reason why he was the professor’s favorite. Adolfo’s anger fumes even more. He secretly swore to plot revenge upon Florante.
Once there was a dramatic play being help at the academy. Adolfo made true the part he played. He stabbed Florante for real, but failed to kill him because of Menandro’s speed and agility. He saved Florante. And everyone hated Adolfo. He was advised by Antenor to return to Albanya.
Meanwhile, Florante and his fellows stayed and continued studying in Antenas, until, Florante received a bad news from his father – his mother had died. Florante returned home to Albanya. Not very long, his father, the duke, introduced Florante to the king. And this is when Florante laid eyes on Laura, the beautiful daughter of King Linseo. Even it was only their eyes that met, the hearts of Florante and Laura had an instant and clear understanding. They loved each other from then on. However Florante had to go to Krotona, where his grandfather ruled. Albanya’s King Linseo assigned Florante to come to the aid of the warring Krotona. With God’s help, Florante succeeded. He saved Krotona against the Moors.
Unfortunately, when Florante returned to Albanya, he discovered that it was now the kingdom that was in peril. The moors had imprisoned his father, and even Adolfo. Nonetheless Florante saved them all and freed the prisoners once again. So King Linseo loved Florante even more. And Florante’s deeds became famous overseas.
Anyway, the four lovers all meet and try to catch up on old times. They were still, chatting when they are found by Menandro and his army who was out searching for Adolfo. The army rejoices when they find out that Florante and Laura are still alive. Not long after, Florante and Laura marry and rule Albania as King and Queen. Aladin and Flerida get baptized marry, and then return to Persia to rule their land.
The story also wanted to impart us that love conquers all, and this love could give us the strength to fight for the person that we really love. This story was said to be a result of the heartache that Baltazar received after losing the woman that he loved the most, Maria Asuncion Rivera, to a rich and powerful man named Mariano Capule. Rivera was said to be the woman to whom Baltazar referred to as “Celia” and MAR in his poem. Florante at Laura was also written as a depiction of the country’s situation during the rule of the Spaniards. The poem shows that religious difference should not be used to discriminate against one another.