Arts & Culture

An Upcoming Graphic Novel Tells the Tale of Magdalena Leones, a Spy and Guerilla Fighter

She was the only Asian to be awarded a World War II Silver Star of Heroism by the U.S. government.
IMAGE WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, COURTESY OF DUTY TO COUNTRY
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A new graphic novel sheds light on one of Philippine history’s overlooked heroes: guerilla fighter Magdalena Leones. The novel entitled Felipa takes its readers through the life of Philippine-born Leones, who participated in World War II, and later moved to the United States after the war.  

An online platform called Duty to Country plans to publish the graphic novel both in print format and online. Established by the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project, the website aims to bridge the gap between the younger generations and Filipino and American World War II veterans through stories, films, graphic novels, and archives.

Who is Magdalena Leones?

Magdalena Leones was born in Kalinga. At the height of the Japanese Occupation, she was working as a teacher and preparing to enter the clergy. By the end of 1941, her family was separated. She is later reunited with her elder brother, who enlists her to become a guerilla fighter like him.

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Later, Leones served an even more crucial role in the war when she became an intelligence officer for the United States Army Forces in the Philippines-Northern Luzon (USAFIP-NIL). She was a messenger who transported confidential data, radio parts, and medical supplies between camps. These radio parts were used to communicate with General Douglas MacArthur and eventually paved the way for the Leyte Landing

During her time of service, she was arrested thrice by the Japanese and while imprisoned, learned to speak Nippongo.

Apart from these events, she was also credited for the plan to destroy Japanese planes in Tuguegarao and played a part in identifying enemy ships and its contents in San Fernando, La Union.

After the war, she moved to the United States and was granted citizenship. There, she made a new life as a nurse and later passed the story on to her Filipino-American granddaughter, whose accounts made it possible for Duty to Country to publish her story.

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She was the only Asian to be awarded a World War II Silver Star of Heroism by the U.S. government. When she died on July 5, 2016, a representative from the San Francisco board of supervisors issued this statement: “Corporal Leones has paved the way for many women that are breaking barriers in every arena. I look forward to her story and the story of the 250,000 Filipino World War II veterans being told for all to remember."

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About The Author
Hannah Lazatin
Features Editor
Hannah is originally from Pampanga and from a big, close-knit family who likes to find a reason to get together at the dinner table. Experiences inspire her. “Once, at a restaurant, I received an interpretation of my second name ‘Celina,’ and it meant 'someone who tries everything once' and that is me through and through,” she says. As for the job, she wants her “readers to be inspired by the stories of the people we feature and to move them to reach for greater things.”
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