Jose de la Cruz
|Jose de la Cruz|
|21 December 1746 – 12 March 1829|
|Place of birth:||Tondo, Manila|
|Place of death:|
|Parents:||Simon de la Cruz and Maria Naval|
Jose de la Cruz (21 December 1746 – 12 March 1829) was a Tagalog poet and playwright in the 18th and 19th century. He was said to be the mentor of Francisco Balagtas, the author of Florante at Laura. De la Cruz was popularly known by his nickname, Huseng Sisiw, because of his fondness of eating chicks.
Early Life and Education
A neighbor taught him to read his first letters. He started to learn the cartilla (Spanish primer) and, later on, the catón (advanced Spanish reader). He then went on to study the prayer book and the catechism of the Christian doctrine. By the age of eight, he was already fluent in the Spanish language. It is not clear, however, how he was able to learn how to speak Latin and Greek.
According to one source, de la Cruz was fondly called Huseng Sisiw due to his fondness for eating chicks. Apparently, he liked everything he ate to be young . If it was roasted pork, for example, he would choose the meat of a piglet. People who availed of his services recognized this eccentric taste of his and often brought fattened chicks as payment for his verses.
De la Cruz was a skilled poet and writer. He could deliver lyric verses and even write dramas on the spur of the moment. On one occasion, he was invited to stage his plays during a town feast in the province of Batangas. He brought his works with him and asked the parish priest to choose which one his company of actors would stage. Instead of choosing from his collection, the priest ordered him to stage a play based on a historical event. In just one night, Huseng Sisiw was able to create a story and teach the lines to his actors. The play was a success. There are also claims that he could simultaneously dictate poems to five different scribes, all at the same time.
Aspiring writers and poets flocked to him to seek his advice and to learn the art of creating Tagalog poems. One of these poets was Francisco Balagtas, who would later be known as the “Father of Tagalog literature.” Churchmen also sought his help in editing their sermons, as he was well-versed with the Bible. At one time, De la Cruz also became a critic of Tagalog comedias which were to be shown at the Tondo Theater.
Known Literary Works
It was said that de la Cruz never became contented with his works, so that only a few were actually published. The following are those of his works which are listed by writers Jose Maria Rivera and Julian C. Balmaceda.
Songs and Ballads:
- “Adela at Florante”
- “Floro at Clavela”
- “Rodrigo de Villas” and,
- “Historia Famosa ni Bernardo Carpio” Comedia:
- “La Guerra Civil de Granada” (The Civil War of Granada)
- “Reina Encantada ó Casamiento de Fuerza” (Enchanted Queen or Marriage of Force)
- “Los Dos Virreyes ó la Copa de Oro”
- “Principe Baldovino”
- “Conde Rodrigo de Villas”
- “El Amor y la Envidia” (Love and Envy)
- “ Don Gonzalo de Cordoba” and,
- “Jason at Medea”
Family and Personal Life
It is known that de la Cruz was married, but the name of his wife and the date of the wedding were not known. A death record revealed that he was interred at Bitas Cemetery on 13 March 1829, which is generally assumed to be the day after he died.
- “Jose de la Cruz (Huseng Sisiw).” Tagalog Lang. (Accessed 9 November 2009).
- Manuel, E. Arsenio. Dictionary of Philippine Biography, Volume 1. Quezon City: Filipiniana Publications, 1955.