Google doodle commemorates Francisco Balagtas’ 230th birth anniversary

Google is paying tribute to one of the Philippines’ most iconic literary geniuses in its own special way—through a special doodle that appears on its local homepage on Monday (April 2).

The most used search engine is joining the nation in commemorating the 230th birth anniversary of Francisco Baltazar, more prominent in his pseudonym Francisco Balagtas, who is best known for the literary classic Florante at Laura, an epic poem that also symbolizes his nationalistic life journey.

The special Google doodle features six panels. The first depicts Balagtas at work, as author of Florante at Laura. In the second, the main character of the literary masterpiece is shown—Duke Florante of Albania tied to a tree as he serves his exile. The third panel shows Princess Laura in captivity. Prince Aladdin of Persia, also exiled from his country, takes the fourth panel, while in the fifth panel, his fiancée, Flerida, frees Princess Laura. The last panel shows Florante and Laura reunited to reclaim their roles as Albania’s King and Queen.

Florante at Laura has been among the cornerstones of Philippine literature. In fact, it is mandated by law to be included in the high school curriculum. The poem is in dodecasyllabic quatrains—having 12 syllables per line and four lines per stanza.

At the time of its publication, the literature was considered bold as Balagtas chose to write it in the local vernacular, Tagalog, which was unusual in an era when most writings were in Spanish (the Philippines was a colony of Spain that time).

Balagtas was born on April 2, 1788 in Barrio Panginay, Bigaa, Bulacan (Bigaa was eventually renamed after him). He was the youngest of four kids of a blacksmith and a plain housewife. He was a protégé of the great Filipino poet from Tondo, Jose de le Cruz, also known as Joseng Sisiw.