The Woman on Our 1000-Peso Bill Is a War Hero, a Feminist, and a Girl Scout
She was the subject of Google Doodle on September 20, which celebrates her role as founder of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines. In her life, she was also a civic leader, an advocate of women's rights, a teacher, and an activist. But most people know her simply as the woman on the one thousand-peso bill. Her name is Josefa Llanes Escoda, and it was recently the 120th anniversary of her birth. It's a good occasion to get to know her and what she achieved.
Josefa Llanes was born in 1898 in Ilocos Norte, where she would grow up a bright student. She graduated top of her class through grade school and high school, before getting a teaching degree from the Philippine Normal College, where she also graduated with honors.
Not long after, she earned a high school teacher's degree from the University of the Philippines, before joining the Red Cross as a social worker. She then scored a scholarship from the Red Cross, which sent her to the United States. There, she earned a master's degree in Sociology from Columbia University.
During her first trip to the States, she met a reporter from the Philippine Press Bureau named Antonio Escoda, whom she would marry. On her second, she would undergo Girl Scout Training, sponsored by the Boy Scouts of the Philippines. She then returned to Manila in 1940, to rally women's clubs and train young women in the ways of girl scouting: emergency first aid, home economics, and various other practical skills. The same year, President Manuel L. Quezon signed the charter of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines, naming Josefa Llanes Escoda to the role of National Executive. Around this time, she also held lectures in sociology at UP and advocated women's right to vote.
Then after the outbreak of World War II, Llanes Escoda, with her husband, Antonio, worked to bring aid and supplies to prisoners—American and Filipino alike—including those of the Bataan Death March. There are even stories of the couple
Sadly, her covert operations to help prisoners were eventually discovered. She was captured by the Japanese 1944 and executed thereafter. She is said to have left this message before her death: “If you survive, tell the people that the women of the Philippines did their part in making the ember sparks of truth and liberty alive till the last moment.”
In honor of her valiant efforts, she is depicted on the P1,000 peso bill alongside two other martyrs of the Japanese occupation: Vicente Lim and Jose Abad Santos. Josefa Llanes Escoda is one of our country's great heroines, whose example must live on for generations of Filipino women to come.
This story originally appeared on Esquiremag.ph.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.