Sofia Reyes de Veyra

(1876 - 1953)



One of the country’s leading feminists, educators, and civic leaders, Sofia Reyes de Veyra was born on September 30, 1876, in Arevalo, Iloilo, the second of six children of Santiago Reyes and Eulalia Tiaozon.


Early in her childhood, she entered a private Spanish school in Sta. Ana, Iloilo, established and conducted by the sisters of former chief Justice of the Supreme Court Ramon Avancena.  She worked for her board and lodging while at school.


During the revolution of 1896, her family moved from Arevalo to the town of Saravia in Occidental Negros. Her father, a former teacher, became the municipal head. She obtained a position in the town school. Later, the American teachers arrived. One boarded in the Reyes home. She took advantage of this to learn English, Arithmetic, and other subjects. She in return gave lessons in Spanish.


When the first public school in Saravia was put up, she handled the English class. After a year she was appointed matron of the girl’s dormitory and later transferred to Manila, to be assistant matron of the Philippine Normal School dormitory. But before leaving the province, she helped establish a school of nursing in Bacolod. In 1907, she and Mrs. Mary E. Coleman organized the Feminist Association. She was the first secretary.


The charming Ilonga met Jaime C. de Veyra, who was then editorial writer of the newspaper El Renacimiento and they were married on June 23, 1907 when he was governor of Leyte. She was able to combine active civic work and a congenial married life. She initiated the establishment of La Proteccion de la Infancia to provide assistance for undernourished babies. She remained a member of the Board of Directors of St. Paul’s Hospital for many years.


In 1917 her husband was appointed Resident Commissioner for the Philippines at the United States Congress in Washington, D.C., and he brought his whole family for the six-year stay. She fulfilled her role as wife with admirable grace, verve and imagination. She delivered lectures to convince the Americans that their treatment of the Philippines would be a fine example to other people in the Far East. She complemented her husband’s work.


Upon her return to the Philippines, she organized the Manila Women’s Club. She was elected president. The club branched out into the provinces, giving impetus to the formation of the National Federation of Women’s Club of which she became president. She also served in the governing body of the Philippine National Red Cross.


She was chosen twice to represent the Philippines in women’s conventions Wabroad. In Washington she was named delegate to the Pan American Convention at Baltimore, Maryland and spoke at one of its sessions on women’s club in the Philippines.


It was not all civic work. She was named head of the Home Economics Department of the Centro Escolar de Senoritas. When the college became a university she was promoted to vice-president which she held until her death. She served as a member of the Board of Review for Motion Pictures and the Board of Parole and Pardons. In 1951, she was decorated by President Quirino for her outstanding contribution to social welfare. She published books entitled Women’s Home Journal, Everyday Cookery for the Home and Character and Conduct.


Mrs. Quezon availed of her talents and varied experiences by appointing her social secretary Malacañang. When Quirino was president, she ably served as household supervisor of Malacañang, so that she was considered a member of the family.


Her daughter-in-law lived with her for over eight years. Not one angry word passed between them.


She died quietly at 7:00 o’ clock in the morning of January 1, 1953. Her death is just like the passing away of some sweet music which we will long remember, because in her life she had done much to spread sweetness and light.