Musician, and one of the “Bicol Martyrs”
A musician and one of the “Bicol Martyrs,” Florencio Lerma was born on February 23,
1861 in Quiapo, Manila. He was the second of the four children of Jose Lerma and Teodorica
Lerma, who were second cousins. His father inherited real estate properties from his parents, and
his mother was a vendor who also owned a carroceria, or carriage shop.
As a boy, Lerma was sent to the Colegio de Niños Tiples of the Manila Cathedral where he
learned the solfeggio and to play the piano and violin. Later, he studied at the Ateneo Municipal de
Manila, where he became a friend of Dr. Jose Rizal.
When he was a young man, he gave piano and violin lessons. He also directed an
orchestra, which furnished the music in stage presentations in the city.
At this time, the local theater was throbbing with new excitement with the arrival of a
group of Spanish artists from the Peninsula. He became associated with such performers as
Praxedes Fernandez, Valencia Suzara, Patrocinio Tagaroma, and others. He joined them on their
provincial tour in the north and south, where he met Simeona Navoa, a charming young stage
personality whom he married in 1881. In 1883, he was the musical director of another group,
organized by Juan Barbero and Carlos Rodriguez, which toured large towns in the Visayas. He
assumed that post later in the Chananay dramatic company when Valeriana Mauricio formed it.
This troupe staged Spanish zarzuelas in a number of provinces.
In 1889, Lerma was persuaded to move to Naga by a Spanish friend of his. He taught
music in the Colegio de Santa Isabel and, at the same time, gave private lessons. He also became
the organist at the Naga Cathedral. He opened a bazaar, but this was soon closed. Later, he
established a carriage shop and engaged in the rice and leather business at the same time.
Horseracing was his hobby, and he made trips to Manila with his best horses on racing days. He
also joined other enthusiasts in managing seasonal races in Naga. Of refined bearing and pleasant
speech, he became a friend to well-known families in Bicol.
When the Revolution of 1896 spread to Albay, many persons were arrested and tortured by
the Spanish authorities. Lerma was among them. First arrested and then freed, he was arrested
again on September 16, 1896. A rifle was supposedly discovered by the authorities hidden in the
organ he was playing. With other prisoners, he was put aboard the ship Isarog and was brought to
Manila, where he was tried and condemned to death. On January 4, 1897, he was shot to death
together with 10 others. Their bodies were dumped into a common pit which has never been
The Spanish authorities, leaving his family impoverished, seized Lerma’s properties in
Naga. Back in Manila, his wife was forced to appear on stage once more to support their children.
CCP Encyclopedia of the Philippines Volume VI. Manila: Cultural Center of the Philippines,
Manuel, E. Arsenio. Dictionary of Philippine Biography. Quezon City: Filipiniana
Quirino, Carlos. Who’s who in Philippine History. Manila: Tahanan Books, 1995.
Zaide, Gregorio F. Great Filipinos in History. Manila: Verde Bookstore, 1970.