ORION, Bataan – A bronze statue facing the sea, the only one in the country, of great Filipino poet and orator Francisco Balagtas Baltazar was unveiled Monday at the Hardin ni Balagtas in this town.!–more–>
Virgilio Almario, chairman of the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWP), said the unveiling of the statue and opening of the Hardin ni Balagtas should have been done on the celebration of the 227th birthday of Balagtas on April 2 but the day happens to be Holy Thursday.
“Maipagmamalaki natin ang bantayog na ito dahil ito ang kauna-unahang legitimate na bantayog ni Balagtas. Ang bantayog niya sa Maynila at maging sa Bulacan kung saan siya isinilang ay kung sino-sinong folk artist lang ang gumawa,” he said. Almario, pambansang alagad ng sining awardee, said the monument of Balagtas in Orion is very special having been done by renowned sculptor Julie Lluch.
He said that while monuments of other heroes are made of concrete, Balagtas’ in Orion is made of bronze.“Ang sa ibang monumento nakatayo lang, naninigas pero itong kay Balagtas kakaiba, naka-pose bilang isang artist, isang manunulat na nakaharap sa dagat, nag-iisip kung ano isusulat. Very dramatic!,” Almario said. He said he was hopeful the Hardin ni Balagtas will not only be a park for Bataan but a national park where national and international tourists interested in literature will come.
As to why the monument faces the sea, Almario said it is based on a short poem of Balagtas about a poet who built a hut facing the sea and from there daily thought of his lost love. The poem apparently referred to Balagtas himself whom history books showed, was spurned by his first love before transferring to Orion where he married local lass Juana Tiambeng in 1842 with whom he had 11 children.
His eldest grandson, Primitivo Baltazar was parish priest of Orion while two other grandsons Luis and Jose Baltazar became the first and 13th mayors of the town, respectively. Balagtas has a surviving great granddaughter, 97-year old Ligaya Baltazar vda Guzman.
The poet was born with the surname Balagtas but changed it to Baltazar after a Spanish governor-general ordered Filipinos to adopt Hispanic names from a master list. Born in Bigaa, Bulacan on April 2, 1788, he stayed in Orion then known as Udyong from 1840 up to February 20, 1862 when he died at age 74.
Funding for the project came from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. Felipe de Leon, Jr., commission chairman, said the park will have plants and flowers coming from various areas in the country. “Meron ding mga tablet tungkol sa mga tula at kaisipan ni Balagtas upang maging inspirasyon sa mga kabataan,” he said.
Almario said the writings of Balagtas inspired other heroes like Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Apolinario Mabini and Marcelo del Pilar. “Kapag binasa ninyo ang Noli Mi Tangere na isinulat sa prose ni Rizal, kamukha ito ng Florante at Laura ni Balagtas. Dala ni Rizal sa Europe ang Florante at Laura. Sa pagtula naman ni Bonifacio, maraming linya na hawig sa mga tula ni Balagtas,” Almario said.
Youth from several Central Luzon provinces and Zamboanga City will hold an encampment Tuesday at the Orion Elementary School to be known as Kampo Balagtas.
Bataan Gov. Albert Garcia and Orion Mayor Antonio Raymundo thanked Almario and de Leon for the project. “Karangalan ito ng Bataan,” they said.