Leona Florentino House
Upon arriving in Vigan, the next best thing to do after depositing your belongings in your accommodation is to head straight for the Leona Florentino House located at the beginning of the historical and much-photographed Calle Crisologo. It sits near the main plaza and is among the first of the heritage houses that greet visitors with its old-world charm. This ancestral home of one of the most respected Filipino literary figure now houses the Provincial Tourism Center, the Vigan Heritage Commission and Café Leona, a favorite culinary destination. Here local and foreign visitors can get information from the friendly staff of the center regarding the best places to visit, things to buy and do, as well as how to get around. They’ll equip you with maps and brochures to arm you for your Vigan adventure.
It’s also the best place to have your first taste of Vigan food to give you strength and set the mood for the touring ahead. The food is set buffet-style and customers choose from the spread which dish they would like to order by pointing their finger at it. This is the Filipino way of ordering food which is called turo-turo. Visitors are encouraged to order the vegetable dishes that Ilokano cuisine is known for, as well as the Vigan bagnet (fried pork, sun-dried prior to cooking) and longganisa (a garlicky sausage). Café Leona also serves Italian food. They have a wood-fired oven where they cook their pizza. A novelty food item in their menu is the pinakbet pizza, which fuses Ilocano and Italian flavor and cooking. Visitors are advised to accompany their food either with the house ice tea or a try of the local basi wine.
Visitors will also see a statue of Leona Florentino in a small park across this 1797 house. It was placed there to give recognition to the first Filipina poet who achieved international attention.The house is indeed worth a visit if only to get to know who Leona Florentino was. She was a remarkable woman who came from a very distinguished family of patriots and produced a generation of new ones. She was the mother of the first champion of the labor movement in the Philippines and the Philippine Independent Church, Isabelo delos Reyes. Isabelo also inherited from his mother her literary talents, for he also made his mark in Philippine literature.
Although the name Florentino seems to spring from Hispanic roots, Vigan surnames that begin with F actually meant that the carrier is of Christianized Chinese blood. Native Filipinos’ family names start with A as pointed out in the Libro de Bautismo. Leona Florentino’s roots can be traced to a Chinese from Laguna who was appointed as Ilocos’ provincial treasurer. This wealthy Chinese was also the ancestor of the Philippine national hero, Jose Rizal. Members of her family tree have contributed greatly not only to their local communities but the whole nation as well.