Notes on the life of Aling Choleng

Community News & Features Apr 16, 2005 at 1:48 pm

(Delivered at the Memorial Service for Soledad Hojilla Leynes on April 9, 2005 at 125 Scadding Ave., 10th Floor, Toronto)

Soledad Hojilla Leynes
Sept. 28, 1907– March 25,2005

Born Sept. 28. 1907 in Silay City, Negros Occidental to Fortunato Hojilla and Gaudiosa Jamoles originally of Jaro, Iloilo. Parents moved to Negros, acquired land in Victorias and became sugar planters.
Studied at Colegio de la Consolacion, PWU High School and University of the Philippines.

Widow of Gregorio Leynes of Quiapo, Manila. Son of Dr. Ricardo Leynes and Enriquetta Garcia.
Worked as a journalist, first with the publications of Don Ramon Roces. She knew nothing about proofreading, layout, etc. but she was a greenhorn who soaked it all up. Soon she was editing the women’s page — closing the page and putting it to bed.

During the American liberation of Manila she gave birth to her son Ricardo. Then several years later to a daughter, Maria Pilar. There were miscarriages in between.

She continued to write for various publications as a contributor. She wrote a food column for Manila Times, Evening News and Women’s Journal and a column on raising children for Weekly Graphic.

Memories: trips to bookstores like Alemars and Philippine National Bookstore, thrift stores run by American church women on Padre Faura where we stocked up on Children’s Digest, Mad Magazine, comic books and magazines. Cooking contests at Manila Gas and garden shows as far as Los Baños.
Being brought to interviews at big houses and playing with children of the rich and famous. Mom wanted us to be close to our cousins so we attended all the family events — there were birthday parties almost every month. Visiting cousins in San Juan and playing outside the Manalo Iglesia ni Kristo compound or stalking Susan Roces for autographs.

Soledad was well educated, well read and a progressive thinker. Nothing could shock her. We had gay and lesbian visitors at our house. My gay man cousin lived with us while studying hair styling at Realistic and one of my father’s best friends was a lesbian. That is why here in Canada my gay and lesbian friends were welcome at our house too. When daughter Pilar or Maripi was an activist, her friends would come to the house to be fed. Her income was affected by her daughter’s anti-Marcos politics. She was banned from writing in the Marcos cronies’s publications. Her daughter’s incarceration caused her so much anguish.

She left for Canada in 1986 to join her son and his family. Maripi followed after a year. In her journal, she wrote that her happiest years were those lived on Degrassi Street. Because it was very close to Chinatown where she was able to shop, eat and cook with gusto. She enjoyed the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood for a few years before her health declined. In the late 90’s she could no longer walk to the market. And she suffered from heart burn and diabetes.

But her mind remained sharp. She answered the phone and took messages but she spoke in a loud voice because she could not hear well anymore. Friends remember that and like to mimic her. She joined conversations when there were guests, to her daughter’s chagrin.