When asked about Filipina Heroes, it’s usually the names of Tandang Sora and Gabriela Silang that come up in the conversation. When it comes to women and their contributions during the time of war, our lists are usually very short.
Although not a lot of women fought at the frontlines, many women have made significant contributions to the Filipino forces. Here are some of the women war heroes, history books might have forgotten to mention to us:
Known as the “Joan of Arc of the Visayas”, Teresa Magbanua Y. Ferraris fought against the American and Japanese forces.
Following her two brothers in the revolutionary movement, Teresa Magbanua led troops and won several battles. She is the first woman fighter in Panay and fought several forces during the Philippine – American War.
Although she did not actively fight during the second world war, Magbanua did what she could to resist the Japanese military. She sold her belongings to buy provisions for the local guerillas.
After World War II, Magbanua moved to Pagadian, Zamboanga until she died in August 1941.
JOSEFA LLANES ESCODA
Escoda trained with the Girl Scouts of the USA in 1939 and upon her return, she organized the first group of women who would then become the first Girl Scout Leaders.
Although Girl Scouting ceased upon the arrival of the Japanese forces, Escoda continued to provide support to the Filipinos fighting the revolution by conveying messages to their families, providing and distributing supplies, and collecting information for the resistance movement. She even set up and ran a community kitchen to feed the poor in Manila.
By 1944, Escoda was arrested by the Japanese Military and was sent to Fort Santiago. She was executed and buried in an unmarked grave in La Loma Cemetery.
DR. FE DEL MUNDO
Fé Primitiva del Mundo y Villanueva studied medicine at the University of the Philippines and mastered bacteriology at the Boston University School of Medicine. She also completed a two-year research fellowship at Harvard Medical School’s Children’s Hospital in 1941
Upon her return to the Philippines, she established a makeshift hospice and treated more than 400 children. Later, she sold her property and established the first pediatric hospital in the Philippines.
Since she sold her home to build the hospital, Del Mundo took residence on the second floor of the hospital and continued to do her rounds even if she was already bound to her wheelchair.
Del Mundo died on Aug 6, 2011, at the age of 99.
MARIA YLAGAN OROSA
Maria Ylagan Orosa was born in the town of Taal, Batangas. She studied at the University of The Philippines but was then transferred to the University of Washington in Seattle in 1916 to study pharmaceutical chemistry.
While studying, she worked in salmon canneries while learning about industrial preservation and packaging methods. Upon her return to the Philippines in 1922, she experimented on preservation techniques to address the problems of malnutrition and food insecurity in the country
Her expertise led to the invention of the calamansi juice powder, soyalac and the very famous banana ketchup.
During WW2, Orosa joined the Marking’s Guerillas and was designated the rank of captain. Instead of fighting in the frontlines, She made use of her expertise to provide food for the Filipino and American soldiers fighting the war.
On February 13, 1945, while working at the Bureau of Plant Industry building, Orosa was hit by shrapnel which led to her admission to the Malate Remedios Hospital. While being treated, a shelling hit the building causing another shrapnel to hit her which led to her death.
Josefina Guerrero was born in Lucban, Quezon Province, Philippine. In 1941, just before the Japanese occupied the Philippines, Guerrero was diagnosed with Leprosy which was considered to be very fatal at that time.
Despite her disease, she volunteered to be part of the resistance against the Japanese forces. At this time, Guerro was still twenty-four years old and was rejected by the resistance but she convinced them that there is still a lot that she can do.
She worked as a spy. She also had a sharp memory which made her remember faces and information easily. Her worsening skin condition grew more apparent over time but instead of hiding it, she would intentionally show it off so she could pass through checkpoints without a full-body inspection. Guerro employed more tactics to relay messages and information to the Filipino forces such as hiding paper in different parts of her body including her hair. She was never caught because of her leprosy.
War isn’t always about who held the rifles and blew the canons. Sometimes, it is about those who held the fort.
These women war heroes remind us that courage comes in different forms and at some point in history, they too laid an iron fist for the service of the country.