Poet, essayist and fictionist Alejandro G. Abadilla (a.k.a. AGA) was born in Salinas, Rosario, Cavite, on March 10, 1906. Finishing elementary school at Sapa Barrio School and high school in Cavite, he went abroad where he worked in a small print shop in Seattle. There he edited the Filipino section of the Philippine Digest , became managing editor of the Philippine-American Review , and established the Kapisanang Balagtas which aimed “to develop the Tagalog language.” Back in the Philippines, he earned a BA in Philosophy from the University of Santo Tomas in 1931. Until 1934, he served as municipal councilor of Salinas, after which he made a living selling insurance for the Philippine-American Life Insurance. He had eight children with wife Cristina Zingalava. He passed away on August 26, 1969.
Called the “father of modern Tagalog poetry” by the critic Pedro Ricarte, Abadilla challenged the established literature’s excessive romanticism and emphasis on rime and meter. He helped found the Kapisanang Panitikan in 1935, editing a magazine called Panitikan to propagate the group’s tenets of rebelling against stagnant art and of elevating the quality of Tagalog literature.
Abadilla upheld iconoclasm and rebellion against tradition in his writing. He exploded into the literary scene with Ako ang Daigdig at Iba Pang Tula ( 1955), and Piniling mga Tula ni AGA (1965). In his two editions of Tanagabadilla (1964, 1965), he re-imagined the traditional octosyllabic quatrain of the tanaga . His novels include Sing-ganda ng Buhay (1947) and the controversial Pagkamulat ni Magdalena (1958). As critic, he edited Parnasong Tagalog, where he collected for the first time in one book the major poems of Tagalog poets from the 1800s to the 1940s, and Mga Kuwentong Ginto (1936), with Clodualdo del Mundo Sr., Ang Maikling Kathang Tagalog (1954), with Federico Sebastian and A. D. G. Mariano, and Maikling Katha ng 20 Pangunahing Awtor (1957), with Ponciano B. P. Pineda, anthologies on the art of the short story.