We were pleasantly surprised to have stumbled on this video of a balagtasan posted on George Gange’s YouTube channel. While this literary form is hardly being staged in the Philippines nowadays, you can see in this video that our compatriots in the US seem to be enjoying it a lot.
The performance, featuring the witty (and naughty) exchanges of poetic verses between George and Edemira Placides (with Rene Pineda as “referee”), was held on August 9 last year during the Pistahan 2008 held at the Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco, California. “Itlog o bibingka” was written by Tino Jose of the Philippines Free Press, a pre-martial law magazine.
The balagtasan, named after Francisco Balagtas, usually involves two persons arguing on the pros and cons of an issue. At the end of the verbal wrestling, a board of judges will choose the winner on the basis of the contestants’ competence in rhyme and, of course, reason. This literary form became so popular that there was even a radio program till the 1970s that featured poets competing for the prestigious title of “Hari ng Balagtasan”.