Sofia de Veyra: A Recollection

Last week, we wrote about Sofia de Veyra. As a founding member of the Asociación Feminista Filipina, she was a leading figure in the fight for women’s suffrage. While history remembers Doña Sofia as a tireless civic leader, she was also a committed wife and mother of four. We spoke to her granddaughter, Binggay de Veyra, to get an idea what it was like to have such an important part of Philippine history in the family.

Although Binggay has few personal recollections of Doña Sofia (she was very young when Doña Sofia passed away in 1951), she was able to share stories based on the family’s collective memory. Below are these stories, in her own words.

Striking a balance between work and family

“At the time – pre-war – the free press would feature model families of Manila and at one point they (Doña Sofia and family) were featured as a model family. She balanced her public life and her private life. She managed to raise her children very well… very educated… very cultured.”

Cultural work and apple pies

“At one time she was in Centro Escolar, then Gota de Leche, then the Federation of Women’s Clubs, and she was in the Suffrage Movement. Then in the US, she was very much involved in the Ladies’ Clubs. And she was a very good cook. She wrote a cook book. She wrote it in English and Spanish. She still had time to do that!

“My father loved his mom’s cooking. She was such a good cook that even during the war, she could make apple pie using sayote and it tasted like apple pie. My father loved apple pie, and he would always say, ‘I miss my mom’s cooking!'”

Grace under pressure

“As far as I remember from my mother and my aunts, she (Doña Sofia) was very soft spoken, she was very gentle. And very polite. That’s what I remember. I remember back in the old house, she was a very gentle woman.

“Her inner strength came out. And the fact that she was very cultured and very educated, people would appreciate and respect her for that. It was her inner strength that inspired change.

“She was not the aggressive type, but she had authority and a certain sense of elegance. She was a civic leader and a model mother, wife and mother. She was a great partner to my lolo (Leyte governor Jaime de Veyra), who was later resident commissioner to Washington D.C.”

Civic service: It’s all in the family

“My parents were into civic service. They were not simply fence-sitters. They were more vocal. They are not the kinds who would sit and grieve. They would do something, so in those days when you had to campaign for Manglapus or Manahan, they would come out and do so.

“I decided to run for Barangay Council. We (the neighborhood) decided to do something and make a difference. I kept my idealism. I was a child of the sixties. A child of boycotts. First Quarter Storm. Although I was not that radical. But you know, you start questioning things.”