Leona Florentino was a Pilipina poet who wrote both in Spanish and Ilokano. She is known as the “mother of Philippine women’s literature” and the “bridge from oral to literary tradition”.

She was born on April 19, 1849 to a wealthy and prominent family in Vigan, Ilocos Sur. She already showed great potential and skill at a young age when she first began to write her own poems in her native Ilokano tongue. However because she was a young woman she couldn’t receive a university education for laws at the time. She was then taught by her mother and private teachers, one was an Ilokano priest who was educated in Spanish, at the time a language only the elite and those who could afford higher education could learn. He taught the young Leona the language and encouraged her to pursue her love in poetry and let her voice be heard through written words. By the time she was 10 years old she could fluently speak and write in both languages and used them in her poetry.

Her poems were dedicated to her fellow Ilokanos and they were exhibited in the Exposicion General de Filipinas in Madrid in 1887 and in the International Exposicion in Paris in 1889. They earned fame and her works were included in the Encyclopedia Internationale des Oeuvres des Femmes (International Encyclopedia of Women’s Works) in 1889.

PP00182aUnfortunately Leona died at a very young age at 35 years on October 4, 1884. Her legacy, though not known by most in today’s showbiz worthy society, is one that has helped form the wealth of what is Philippine literature. Some of her works include “Rucrunoy” (Dedication), “Naangaw a Cablaw” (Good Greetings), and “Leon XIII” which was dedicated to Pope Leo XIII.

Though most of her brilliant work has been lost over time since her death, some of the original manuscripts have been preserved and kept in Madrid, London, and Paris. Today her former home has been transformed into the Provincial Tourism Center (Vigan Heritage Commission) where a statue of her in her honor and dedication sits watching over those who come to Vigan. The restaurant there is also named after her, Café Leona, which was named by a scholar of her work who studied who studied Leona’s work. He wrote that she was “a pillar of feminism in the country.”

She married a politician named Elias de los Reyes at the age of 14 and had 5 children. One of those children would later be the well known Labor Leader, Isabelo de los Reyes, a Pilipin@ writer, activist, and senator who inherited his mothers passion for literature.

Here is one of her literary works that have survived today.

BLASTED HOPES (ca. 1880)
by Leona Florentino
translated by M. Foronda, Jr.

What gladness and what joy
are endowed to one who is loved
for truly there is one to share
all his sufferings and his pain

My fate is dim, my stars so low
perhaps nothing to it can compare,
for truly I do not doubt
for presently I suffer so.

For even I did love
the beauty whom I desired
never do I fully realize
that I am worthy of her.

Shall I curse the hour
when first I saw the light of day
would it not have been better a thousand times
I had died when I was born.

Would I want to explain
but my tongue remains powerless
for now do I clearly see
to be spurned is my lot.

But would it be my greatest joy
to know that it is you I love,
for to you do I vow and a promise I make
it’s you alone for whom I would lay my life.


(original version:)

Amangan a ragsac ken talecda
dagiti adda caayanayatda
ta adda piman mangricna
cadagiti isuamin a asugda.

Ni Gasatco a nababa
aoanen ngatat capadana,
ta cunac diac agduadua
ta agdama ngarud gna innac agsagaba.

Ta nupay no agayatac
iti maysa a imnas
aoan lat pangripripiripac
nga adda pacaibatugac.

Ilunodconto ti horas
nga innac pannacayanacta
mamenribo coma naseseat
no natayac idin ta nayanacac.

Gayagayec coma a ipalaoag
ngem bumdeng met toy dilac,
a ta maquitac met a sibabatad
nga ni paay ti calac-amac.

Ngem umanayento a liolioac
ti pannacaammon itoy a panagayat,
ta icaric kenca ket isapatac
nga sica aoan sabli ti pacatayac.


Photo Sources: [x], [x]

About The Author

Executive Editor & Founder

Ligaya is the Executive Editor & Writer at Pinoy-Culture.com. She lives in NYC with her two dogs and spends her time reading, writing, collecting and buying books online and in safe haven, Strand Bookstore, watching her guilty tv show pleasure Vikings, and overdosing herself in coffee as a certified caffeine addict. Her book, Diwatahan: A Look Into the Precolonial Beliefs, Practices, Myths, & Folklore of the Philippines, is currently in progress and is scheduled to be published in Summer of 2017.

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