DURING World War II, Japanese forces in the Philippines used La Loma Cemetery as an execution and burial ground for thousands of Filipinos who resisted the occupation. One of those who lies buried in an unmarked grave in this cemetery is Josefa Llanes Escoda.
Sixty-one years ago, Josefa Llanes-Escoda could have chosen a life of ease and freedom. For her devotion to help others, she chose death. But in so doing, she left us a rich historical heritage of heroism.
Of noble heart and character, Josefa Llanes-Escoda devoted her life helping others and serving the country without expecting anything in return. Dedicated to help and lead others by example, disciplined, kind, generous, and thoughtful of others – so may were the instances where she demonstrated these virtues. The many organizations and institutions she founded or headed bloomed under her selfabnegating guidance. She established Red Cross chapters throughout the country, tirelessly worked for the improvement of her countrymen’s health, worked for better condition in the country’s prisons, founded the Boy’s Town of the Philippines, founder of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines and the Federation of Women’s Clubs of the Philippines, and crusaded for women’s rights. Josefa Llanes-Escoda thus projected an enviable image of the Filipina woman before entire world.
The Japanese occupation of the Philippines saw her in the forefront of many civic activities, serving and easing the pains and sufferings of her countrymen in various prison camps. Offered a high public position by the enemy, she refused. For such refusal, she was suspected as an enemy and the Kempeitai marked for her execution.
Friends warned her to leave to escape arrest, but Josefa Llanes-Escoda remained firm in her conviction. She stood by her prisoner-husband and the rest who were incarcerated in Fort Santiago. A few days before she and her husband were executed in February, 1945, she left a message to her country and people: "I have done my duty to my country and God ... I have acted as a guarantor not only for the sake of humanity but also to encourage them to fight again. If you happen to survive, and I fall, tell our people that the women of the Philippines did their part in making the ember sparks of truth and liberty alive till the last moments."
Exemplary civic leader, social worker, suffragette, and World War II heroine, Josefa Llanes-Escoda is a sterling example of Dr. Jose P. Rizal’s ideal Filipina.