Leona Florentino (April 19, 1849-October 4, 1884) was a Filipino poet in the Spanish and Ilocano languages. She is considered as the "mother of Philippine women's literature" and the "bridge from oral to literary tradition".
Born to a wealthy and prominent family in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, Florentino began to write her first verses in Ilocano at a young age. Despite her potential, she was not allowed to receive a university education because of her gender. Florentino was instead tutored by her mother, and then a series of private teachers. An educated Ilocano priest taught her advanced Spanish and encouraged her to develop her voice in poetry.
Florentino married a politician named Elias de los Reyes at the age of 14. They had five children together. Their son Isabelo de los Reyes later became a Filipino writer, activist and senator. Due to the feminist nature of her writings, Florentino was shunned by her husband and son; she lived alone in exile and separately from her family. She died at the age of 35.
Her lyrical poetry in Spanish, and especially that in Ilocano, gained attention in various international forums in Spain, Paris and St. Louis, Missouri. Her literary contributions - particularly 22 preserved poems - were recognized when she was included in the Encyclopedia Internationale des Oeuvres des Femmes (International Encyclopedia of Women’s Works) in 1889. She is believed to be the first Filipina to receive this international recognition, an homage that occurred after her death at a young age.
- The History of Filipino Women's Writings, an article from Firefly - Filipino Short Stories (Tulikärpänen - filippiiniläisiä novelleja), 2001 / 2007