'Florante at Laura' at UP Vargas Museum

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One of the country’s most enduring literary masterpieces, Florante at Laura – written by 19th century poet Francisco Baltazar, also known as Balagtas – serves as the inspiration for an exhibition at the University of the Philippines Jorge B. Vargas Museum this February. It will be held at The Edge Gallery from February 8 until March 31, 2008.

Celebrating the visual arts and literature, the Florante at Laura exhibition features 22 figurative paintings inspired by different sections of the poem and a sculptural introductory piece, all based on the edition edited by National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario.

Ang Pagbabalik ni Florante sa Albanya
by Rex Tatlonghari

The artworks, reflecting a variety of styles, were made by Mark Arcamo, Buen Calubayan, Caña, Salvador J. Ching, Convocar, Marc Cosico, Cris Cruz, Leonilo Doloricon, Egai Talusan Fernandez, Alfred Galvez, Sajid Imao, Jon Jaylo, Jerome Malic, Wilfredo Offemaria Jr., Vincent Padilla, Jonathan Rañola, Laya Roman, Don Salubayba, Fernando Sena, Rex Tatlonghari, Roger “Rishab” Tibon, Inna Vitasa and Janice Liuson Young.

The artists breathe life to the events chronicled in the epic poem, from Florante being tied up in the forest and menaced by two lions to his dramatic reunion with his beloved Laura. Each painting is accompanied by a stanza that pertains to the depicted scene.

by Jerome Malic

Adding visual interest is a backdrop that reinforces the period and setting in which Florante at Laura unfolded. Rendered by the artistic team of Alfred Galvez Mural Designs and Finishes, the exhibit design features trompe l’oeil (fool the eye) effects such as faux columns and moldings and baroque decorative elements.

The rich exposition of imagery aims to engage viewers, especially those belonging to the younger generation, and help them rediscover the celebrated work of Balagtas. The Florante at Laura exhibition is curated and conceptualized by Susan A. de Guzman and Giselle P. Kasilag of Project Art.

Paglisan ng Natitira Kong Pag-asa
by Jon Jaylo

Florante at Laura is a Philippine literary classic and is deemed an integral part of the Filipino experience. National Artist Almario calls Balagtas the “First Filipino Poet”, claiming that the latter was able to demonstrate the power of a poet through Florante at Laura. For the first time, notes Almario, a poet dared to challenge his readers (in the exhortation “Sa Babasa Nito”) to carefully consider his written words because these would be of immense use to them. Balagtas is also said to have underscored a poet’s freedom from being suppressed.

“In a way, Balagtas broke free from the shackles of colonialism and paved the way towards freedom for the likes of Rizal, Bonifacio and many generations of contemporary poets,” Almario points out.

Walang Katiyakang Pag-ibig sa Walang Katiyakang Mundo
by Don Salubayba

The genius of Florante at Laura’s author was hailed by no less than national hero Jose Rizal, particularly in his novel Noli Me Tangere where Pilosopo Tasio muses: “Mahusay na makata at mahusay mag-isip si Baltazar” (Baltazar is a great poet and a great thinker).

The Florante at Laura project is the exhibit component of the Komedya Fiesta 2008 1st National Festival, one of the major activities marking the UP Centennial. Focusing on Balagtas’ signature work is considered an appropriate complement to the festival’s theme as Florante at Laura was not only written in the manner of the komedya theatrical tradition, but also because its author was the best known poet of his time.

Komedya Fiesta 2008 is presented by the University of the Philippines Diliman Office of the Chancellor, through the College of Arts and Letters and in cooperation with the Office of Initiatives in Culture and the Arts with the support of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

For more details about the Florante at Laura exhibition, please contact the UP Vargas Museum at tel. nos. 928-1927, 981-8500 locals 4021 to 24, 928-1925 or via e-mail at vargasmuseum@gmail.com or vargasmuseum@yahoo.com.

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