Maria Evelyn Quilla-Soleta writes everything that her heart desires—about love, God’s interventions, humility, pain, relationships or friendships—through soulful poetry that evokes prayer and appreciation of the simple and the mundane.
Her mother, Felicitas, was her teacher in writing when she was 6 years old. Her first poem, “Ang Parol,” was published in their school organ in Miag-ao Elementary School in Iloilo.
Her mother, who was an elementary-school teacher on Guimaras Island, taught her how to write pen pal letters and diaries at an early age.
“When Nanay wrote in her tiny diaries at night, I would write mine, too. I have kept my journals,“ Quilla-Soleta said.
Together with the journals of her four daughters (Andrea Dayne, 30; Guia Dawn, 29; Daniella Rose, 27, and Dyan Laura, 23), their journals that were collected since the 1970s are kept in the family’s several “baul“ (trunk) at home.
“With all modesty, I credit my beautiful penmanship to my habit of writing. My mother taught me to write just about anything. Now, I encourage my children to do the same,” she said.
From a rustic town in Iloilo, Quilla-Soleta is a typical Ilongga, soft spoken, mild mannered and with a natural eloquence.
Her mother raised her and her five siblings well, but it was cut short when Felicitas passed away at her prime at 40. Her father, Jose, devoted his last 50 years raising their children until he died at 87. Quilla-Soleta is the third in the brood of six.
She met Danny in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to which they both belong. They served as full-time missionaries for 18 months, along with their daughter, Daniella Rose.
“I think if we didn’t become members of the Church since 1978, we won’t be able to have a stable marriage. We believe that families can be together forever. We believe in the sanctity of marriage. Inside our holy temples, we perform sacred ordinances. We believe we will be with our loved ones even after this life,” Quilla-Soleta said partly in Filipino
This doctrine of a “family forever” might be the reason why her father never remarried, even when he became a widower at a still young age of 47. He has already given his heart to his late wife.
‘Finding my heart’Quilla-Soleta quit her job and devoted herself to her family, her husband and her four daughters, with the third being a special child with Down Syndrome.
“I want to take care of [my children] while they are growing up, instilling in them the Church’s teachings, and with the same upbringing I had from my parents. I believe in the principle that everyone is God’s creation. I also believe that a grateful person is a happy person,” she said.
“I find my heart in every little thing. I may not leave my children with material blessings, yet I see to it that the legacy of worthwhile memories, happy ones left in their thoughts and in their hearts are also found in their bookshelves and chests,” she added.
One of the compelling reasons why she published her collection of poetry into a book is to “share her heart” with others.
In March 2020, when the pandemic started and the lockdown was implemented, Quilla-Soleta had ample time to sit down and compose her thoughts.
At the same time, she and Danny continued to give full service to the Church and extended help to the needy. Neither the pandemic nor this difficult time stopped them from working for the Lord.
In their current retirement age, the couple just enjoy the company of their two younger daughters, Daniella and Dyan Laura. Their two older girls, Andrea and Guia, both married, live in Utah, USA. They are happy grandparents of one and are looking forward to the second soon.
Gift from heavenly FatherHer first book My Twenty Poems was published in 2000.
“I have always loved my role being a mother. There are a million things to write about motherhood, such as faith in God, strength and humor,” she said.
She makes sure she writes a poem once a week.
“I am grateful for this beautiful gift of writing. Even if I didn’t have a formal education on it [having finished Accounting], I hone my inherent gift and share it with others through my prose and poetry, hence the conception of the second book, Finding My Heart,” she noted.
Besides poetry, she also writes short stories, fictions and feature articles. She used to be a ghostwriter and contributed to Women’s magazine.
Since last year, she has been submitting feature stories weekly to Nephite’s Tablet, a blog site, or would post one on her Facebook.
Her mother taught her well, but the pandemic also taught her another lesson: to practice one’s ability to write something from scratch, from the ordinary and make it extra special. Things that cannot be seen but must be felt, she said.
The collection of her 200 poems into a book was with the help of GMGA Publishing’s founder and editor, Ayo Gutierrez, who gave her “a very reasonable price,” she noted.
Started in November 2020, it was set to be launched in December 2020, in time for her birthday. But being a busy period and the holidays, the launching was postponed to January 23 via video conferencing.
The publication was supported by her family and friends here and abroad, with Gutierrez helping with the promotion on social media, among other things. The orange book’s cover design was done by her daughter, Guia, an artist.
Finding My Heart has reached No. 1 status in Amazon’s three categories—Asian Poetry, Asian Literature, and Family Poetry—in just a matter of hours after its launching.
Quilla-Soleta, with all modesty, besides being a wife and mother, has an Amazon Bestseller badge to her name.
“I am so grateful for my gift of words in writing poetry. I kneel down in prayer before I compose any poem. I ask the Lord to help me put beautiful words into paper so I can inspire my readers.
“I wish everyone would be able to read my book. There, they will know that the ordinary and mundane are the most beautiful,” she quipped.
Here is one of her poems:
The Woman that I Am
The Woman I see
Is the Woman I am.
(Mirrors do not lie).
Copyrighted by GMGA Publishing © 2015
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