#81 Florante at Laura

Florante at Laura (Florante and Laura) is one of the enduring Philippine tales written by the prolific 19th century Filipino writer Francisco Baltazar, popularly known by his pen name Francisco Balagtas.

This mythological-based tale used to be required reading in primary and secondary schools throughout the country although the myth’s characters, setting and narrative seem to be drawn or inspired by Arabian Nights-like stories.  

The tale is known as one of the early masterpieces in Tagalog  literature and was composed in a sonnet-like (awit) format. Balagtas wrote the epic during his imprisonment in the 19th century. The work itself is dedicated to Maria Asuncion Rivera, his sweetheart, whom he nicknamed “M. A. R.” and is referenced to as “Selya” in the dedication “Kay Selya” (“For Celia”). Maria Asuncion Rivera later married Balagtas’ rival, Mariano Capule, who made false charges against Balagtas (Wikipedia).

The story is about the struggle and love of the Duke Florante and Princess Laura of Albania during the warring period between the Christian Albanians and the Moros (Muslim people). From a political and historical perspective, Balagtas tale also referenced the conflict between Christians and Moslems particularly in Mindanao, southern Philippines, albeit in a romanticized manner.

Filipino schoolchildren in previous generations have their first taste of European-like mythological epics in tales such as Florante at Laura, complete with castles, knights and vengeful kings which are all foreign as snow and winter in tropical Philippines.

Long live Philippine literature!

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