The first balagtasan took place on April 6, 1924 at the Instituto de Mujeres in Tondo, Manila. The event was held at the Instituto de Mujeres (Women’s Institute) as part of the celebration of Francisco Balagtas' birth anniversary. The two protagonists of the poetic debate were poets José Corazón de Jesús and Florentino Collantes. Balagtasan was derived from duplo. The verbal joust became popular among both the masses, intellectuals and the debutantes. This led to the adaptation of similar literary forms such as the bukanegan by the Ilocanos named after the father of Iloko literature, Pedro Bukaneg. Balagtasan saw a significant decline after the death of de Jesus in 1932.
Balagtasan is participated by two or more protagonists who engaged in a debate on a selected subject. Each protagonist are to express their views in verse and with rhyming. Refutations shall also be done in the same manner. A judge, known as the lakandiwa if male or lakambini if female, will decide the winner of the balagtasan. The judge shall also announce the winner in verse and with rhyming. The participants are also expected to impress before a watching audience.
- Edward Hirsch -A Poet's Glossary 2014 - Page 52 "The balagtasan, a poetic contest, developed in Philippine poetry in the second quarter of the twentieth century. It is named after Francisco Balagtas (1788–1862), “the father of Tagalog poetry,” and grew out of the popular folk form of the duplo."
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- San Juan, Epifanio (1974). "Introduction". Introduction to Modern Pilipino Literature. United States: Twayne Publishers, Inc. p. 23. ISBN 0805731296.
- Francia, Luis (18 October 2011). "Balagtasan on the Bowery". The Artist Abroad. Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 28 September 2015.
- "Get to know your modern-day Balagtasan stars". filipinotimes.ae. Retrieved 2016-01-23.
- "Balagtasismo Versus Fliptop Mismo?". pinoyweekly.org. Retrieved 2016-09-25.