From the Vigan City Plaza to the Heritage Village, a conspicuous structure at the left side of the Crisologo Street greets the eager yet oblivious tourists. The building is called Leona Florentino House.
Named after the foremost Ilocano poetess, subtle satirist and playwright, the Leona Florentino House was built by Don Marcelo Pichay, Cabeza Actual of the Mestizo District, and his wife, Doña Maria Estefania. The original house was burnt to the ground during the great fire in 1797.
The house was inherited by their daughter, Doña Luisa, who married Don Josep Florentino de San Joaquin on April 22, 1801. The couple had three children: Paula, Marcelino, and Victor. The middle child, Marcelino became the father of Leona.
Born on April 19, 1849 in Vigan, Ilocos Sur to Marcelino and Isabel Florentino, Leona was already acclaimed as a poet at the age of 10. The gender inequality and double standard in her time however hindered her from attaining higher education. Her private education was given by her mother and several tutors.
She had a rather miserable married life. She married to a local politician, Elias de los Reyes, who bore her five children, one of them was Isabelo, who later became the Father of Philippine Labor Movement and co-founder of the Philippine Independent Church. Her feminist writings did not sit well with her husband and son.
Her exemplary works gained international recognition and were translated to different languages. Her poetry in Spanish and Ilocano were posthumously exhibited in the Exposicion General de Filipinas in Madrid in 1887 and in the Exposition Internationale in Paris in 1889. Her name with a list of some of her works appeared in the Bibliotheque Internationale des Oeuvres des Femmes edited by Madame Andzia Wolska in 1889.
Hailed as the Mother of Philippine Women’s Literature, Leona Florentino died at a young age of 35 on October 4, 1884.
In further recognition to her achievements and legacy, President Ferdinand E. Marcos issued on July 30, 1975 the Presidential Decree No. 756 which amended Presidential Decree No. 260 to include the house of Leona Florentino to its scope.
The Ilocos Sur Tourism Information Center and Cafe Leona are under the roof of the Leona Florentino House. A magnificent monument of Leona Florentino was erected and can be seen in front of the house.