National Artist for Literature (2009)
(February 22, 1898 – June 17, 1980)
Prize-winning writer Lazaro A. Francisco developed the social realist tradition in Philippine fiction. His eleven novels, now acknowledged classics of Philippine literature, embodies the author’s commitment to nationalism. Amadis Ma. Guerrero wrote, “Francisco championed the cause of the common man, specifically the oppressed peasants. His novels exposed the evils of the tenancy system, the exploitation of farmers by unscrupulous landlords, and foreign domination.” Teodoro Valencia also observed, “His pen dignifies the Filipino and accents all the positives about the Filipino way of life. His writings have contributed much to the formation of a Filipino nationalism.” Literary historian and critic Bienvenido Lumbera also wrote, “When the history of the Filipino novel is written, Francisco is likely to occupy an eminent place in it. Already in Tagalog literature, he ranks among the finest novelists since the beginning of the 20th century. In addition to a deft hand at characterization, Francisco has a supple prose style responsive to the subtlest nuances of ideas and the sternest stuff of passions.”
Francisco gained prominence as a writer not only for his social conscience but also for his “masterful handling of the Tagalog language” and “supple prose style”. With his literary output in Tagalog, he contributed to the enrichment of the Filipino language and literature for which he is a staunch advocate. He put up an arm to his advocacy of Tagalog as a national language by establishing the Kapatiran ng mga Alagad ng Wikang Pilipino (KAWIKA) in 1958.
His reputation as the “Master of the Tagalog Novel” is backed up by numerous awards he received for his meritorious novels in particular, and for his contribution to Philippine literature and culture in general. His masterpiece novels—Ama, Bayang Nagpatiwakal, Maganda Pa Ang Daigdig and Daluyong—affirm his eminent place in Philippine literature. In 1997, he was honored by the University of the Philippines with a special convocation, where he was cited as the “foremost Filipino novelist of his generation” and “champion of the Filipino writer’s struggle for national identity.”