Ancestral house in Vigan holds rich history of first Filipino poetess

VIGAN CITY – At the western section of the cobbled walk of Crisologo street here is the monument of the most venerated resident Vigan ever had – the first Filipino poetess Leona Florentino.

Across the statue is Florentino’s two-storey ancestral house where visitors can read Leona’s brief life story in a marker inscribed by the Philippine Historical Committee. Another marker was made for her son, Isabelo de los Reyes, the Father of Philippine Labor Movement.

A separate marker describing the house was a project of the city government under Mayor Eva Marie Medina. It was installed on September 8, 2001 in time for the Solidarity Day of World Heritage Cities. The project was in cooperation with Department of Tourism and Save Vigan Ancestral Homes Association, Incorporated.

The Florentino house was built in 1797 by Don Marcelo Pichay, the Cabeza Actual of the Mestizo district of Vigan, and his wife Dona Maria Estefania.

Dona Luisa, their daughter, was the first heir of the house. She was married to Don Josep Florentino de San Joaquin on April 22, 1801. Her family that stayed in this house brought forth children in generations. They were prominent in Vigan throughout history.

Their second child, Marcelo, was the father of Leona. The first was Paula who was married to Lorenzo Alberto of Binan, Laguna. He was the grandfather of the mother of Dr Jose Rizal. Victor, the youngest, married to Ysabel Carlina Pablo, built a number of ancestral houses in the Mestizo area of Vigan. Of the 247 surviving ancestral houses in the city, 17 of them were built by the Florentinos.

The Florentino house is the fourth, southeast of the Cathedral. It has wooden upper floor made of molave and narra. The enclosed balconies called ‘volada’ surround the house to protect the inside from the sun. This was also used when walking around the house without disturbing others in the main rooms. The shutters (ventanas) made of capiz (kulintipay) keep the sun light or rain out. The balustrade lower windows keep air circulating into the house. They can be closed from the rain or sun light.

Today, the house of Leona houses the Ilocos Sur Tourism Office where the products of the 32 towns and two cities of the province are sold. The Café Leona serving local and foreign foods is also under its roof.#