POETRY MAN. The newly-put up monument of Felix Galura y Napao, prominent literary figure from Bacolor, who rebelled against Spanish. literary styles and forms. ca. 1920s.
One of the most prominent and versatile writers at the turn of 20th century Pampanga was the Bacolor native, Felix Galura y Napao. The multi-facetted literary giant did not only wield his pen as a poet, translator ( he translated Rizal’s “Noli” into Kapampangan ), playwright ( “Ing Mora”/The Moor Maiden), editor, religious writer (he composed original Kapampangan prayers and a Pasyon), grammarian (he authored “Gramatica Castellana” and “Sanayan A Malagwang Pipagaralan King Amanung Kastila”) and newspaper man, but he was also a passionate Revolutionist, a military man ( Lt. Colonel under Gen. Tomas Mascardo) and a political leader (Bacolor’s municipal presidente for 9 years).
Born on 21 Feb. 1866 to Manuel Galura and Carlota Napao, the young Felix was educated in local schools, but circumstances did not allow him to get a college education. But even so, he was a quick learner, with the uncanny ability to absorb knowledge so easily. His close association with the brilliant lawyer, Don Roman Valdes, for example, enabled him to become an expert on law and jurisprudence.
But writing was Galura’s first love. He assumed the pseudonym “Flauxgalier” (an acronym of his name), and became a regular contributor to the bi-lingual newspaper “E Mangabiran/ El Imparcial” which began publication in 1905. Exposed to Spanish works at an early age, he set about translating prayers, plays and literary pieces into Kapampangan. Galura turned Spanish plays into Kapampangan adaptations like “O, Kasiran” and “Azucena”.
With Juan Crisostomo Sotto, he wrote the zarzuela “Ing Singsing A Bacal” (The Ring of Steel) which was based on a Spanish play. Galura was led to conclude that the Spanish literary forms available in the country were the main cause of the backwardness of Filipinos. After all, these “comedias” were full of incredible tales of magic, enchantment and nonsensical scenes.
His response was the opus ”Ing Cabiguan”(The Misfortune”), a verse narrative published in 1915, which would become his best-known work. It recounts the ill-fated love of Jaime and Momay, whose planned elopement was thwarted by Rosa, Momay’s mother. This resulted in the imprisonment of Jaime for 8 months. Hoping to reunite with Momay after his release, he finds out that she had died while he was languishing in jail.
Though his work had a romantic plot, “Ing Cabiguan” was full of jabs against Spanish works. The work was prefaced with a reader’s warning to not expect improbable scenarios (like a duel between a princess vs. a lion) and unrealistic characters (e.g. talking animals) that are staples in Spanish-inspired comedias and curirus. It was Galura’s direct exhortation to readers to break away from these whimsical writing tradition that are insulting to one’s senses, and instead, embrace more realistic forms.
The first printing of ”Ing Cabiguan” totalling to 500 copies was quickly sold out, and a second edition of 1,000 more had to be rushed on 10 November 2015 to accommodate the demand. Apparently, Galura’s work still had the cloying romanticism that was also the characteristic of the curiru, the same literary forms that he had wanted to replace.
Certainly, though, it paved the way for Juan Crisostomo Soto to depart fully and truly from the favored Spanish-influenced style. His masterpiece “Lidia”, proved to be very contemporary in every respect, from the use of prose to the modern plot, providing a clear distinction from the metrical romances of old.
Even as he was writing, Galura continued to run the affairs of Bacolor as the town head from 1909 to 1918. A year after his term, he was hospitalized for pneumonia, an illness from which he would no recover. He passed away on 21 July 1919, at age 53. For his departed friend, the poet Don Monico R. Mercado wrote the elegy ”Ing Bie Na Ning Tau” The Life of a Man) .
On 24 December 1924, a monument was put up in front of the Bacolor Elementary School by Aguman 33, a band of grateful citizens and friends, dedicated to the memory of a beloved son of Bacolor--“Caluguran Nang Anac Ning Baculud”—Felix Napao Galura.