Tag Archives: Philippine literary classics

#323 Writings of Nick Joaquin

Publicity poster for a theatrical version of Nick Joaquin's May Day Eve

The literary works of National Artist Nick Joaquin (1917-2004) are considered to be the best in the canon of Philippine literature in English. A journalist and historian, Joaquin was known for his plays, short stories, essays and novels, although he also wrote poetry, practiced journalism and served in a number of cultural posts as reviewer, art critic and consultant.

Among his most widely published works are the The Summer Solstice (short story), May Day Eve (short story), The Woman With Two Navels (historical novel), A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino (play) and Cave & Shadows (metaphysical thriller), to name a few. Joaquin’s works are translated in many languages and he was one of the few Filipino writers published by major publishing houses in the US and Europe.

Joaquin also wrote using the pen name Quijano de Manila. Known for his vitriolic humor and acidic criticism, Joaquin was nevertheless loved by both the Philippine literati and artistic circles for his prolific pen, masterful language and writings that illuminate or examine the Filipino psyche and experience if not the human condition.

Long live Philippine literature!

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#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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