Girl Power – 10 Extraordinary Filipinas of WW2

Filipinas are known to be strong and resilient, yet loving and caring. Trust us, the last thing you want to do is to piss off a Filipina, especially a Filipina mother. Throughout history, we’ve seen a few Filipina heroes who stood up and fought for our freedom, but very few of them actually make it to the history books.

Below are 10 extraordinary Filipinas who dedicated their lives in helping and serving during the Second World War.

Josefa Llanes Escoda

Josefa Llanes Escoda

Your probably more familiar with Josefa Llanes Escoda as the female face on the 1,000 peso bill or as the mother of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines. She has a pretty impressive resume. She took her master’s degree in Columbia University and was trained in girl scouting there. She returned to the Philippines and organized The Girl Scout of the Philippines as its first National Executive. During the war, she helped feed “Death March” prisoners and assisted the internees at UST. She also helped collect donations and delivered them to the prisoners. When the Japanese learned about her efforts, they arrested her and her husband. Many believe that they were both executed, but her death still remains a mystery. Posthumous awards were given to her which included the Philippine Legion of Honor Medal from the AFP and the Silver medal from the American Red Cross.

Carmen Rosales

Carmen Rosales

Carmen Rosales was famous for being an actress. She was born in 1917 and started working for radio as a singer in the 30’s. She earned her big break after staring in the movie “Mahiwagang Binibini” and signing a contract with Sampaguita Pictures. After her husband got killed by the Japanese, Carmen decided to become more than just an actress. According to Carmen’s eldest son Rene, his mother joined the underground movement as a “sharpshooter who toted a .45 and sometimes wore a moustache in order to disguise herself…” Some of the movies she’s even stared in were inspired by her experiences during the war.

Josefa Capistrano

Josefa Capistrano

Known as “Mindanao’s Gabriela Silang”, Josefa Capistrano was the founder of the Women’s Auxiliary Service (WAS) which was a group of women who stood up and fought in the war in Mindanao. Under her leadership, there were more than 3,000 members of the WAS by the end of the Second World War. The brave women of the group, which includes Muslim royalties such as Princess Tarhata Alonto, nursed wounded soldiers as well as served as spies and intels for the Filipino-American forces.Capistrano’s achievement didn’t stop there. She demanded that the Women’s Auxiliary Corps become an official part of the AFP, and then President Diosdado Macapagal approved, giving every Filipina the chance to serve for her country by joining the army.

Celia Mariano-Pomeroy

Celia Mariano-Pomeroy

Although she was born into a middle-class family, Celia was already disturbed by the growing poverty and other social injustices in the country. After finishing a degree in education from the University of the Philippines, she met numerous radical thinkers from the Philippine Youth Congress (PYC) from whom she learned the principles of communism. Before long, she was convinced to join the Communist Party of the Philippines. When the second world war broke out, she allowed her comrades in the party to use her family’s farm in Tanay, Rizal as the base of the guerrilla operations. She then became an official part of the anti-Japanese group Hukbalahap in Central Luzon, educating people to join the Resistance movement. After the war, she continued to serve the communist party, together with her husband. They hid in the in the jungles of Sierra Madre for many years before finally being captured. The two were given amnesty and both settle down in England.

Valeria “Yay” Panlilio

Valeria “Yay” Panlilio.

Yay was a Filipino-American guerrilla icon during the second world war. She grew up in Colorado with her Filipino mother. At 16, Yay left home and married Eduardo Panlilio, a fellow Filipino that was nine years older than her. They flew back to the Philippines but eventually separated. This gave Yay a chance to pursue her passion for journalism. Before the war, Yay made a name for herself working as The Philippines Herald reporter and broadcaster for the KZRH radio station. During the war, she joined the underground movement and became a member of US Army Intelligence Agency. Yay fell in love with Marcos “Marking” Villa Augustin and both formed Marking’s Guerrilla, one of the most formidable, ruthless, and famous guerrilla movements of WWII. Yay’s strong character became clear when she wrote “Filipinos will die for love, and Americans will die for principle.  I am half-and-half.  I die the same way.”


Amparo Quintos-Bonicillo

A teacher by profession, Amparo Quintos-Bonicillo joined the Resistance movement, along with her husband, when the war broke out. She was a warrior, aside from doing propaganda and espionage work, killing more than 22 enemies with her gun. In addition, she was also a medic, attending to sick and wounded soldiers and civilians, as well as helped kept the camp running smoothly by running errands, cooking and even fetching water for guerrilla fighters. After the war, Amparo still chose to serve her countrymen and continued to teach. She has received a number of accomplishments and awards, including one for a short story from the National Board of Directors of the Philippine Normal College Alumni Association, Inc. She also received a Philippine Veterans Legion Gold Medal as an Outstanding Filipino Woman Veteran of WWII.

Felipa Culala

Felipa Culala

Little is known about Felipa Culala before the war. Before she joined the -Japanese guerrilla group Hukbalahap, she (along with a few Filipino fighters) succesfully won the Battle of Mandili. It’s said that as the Japanese were on their way to distroy Barrio Mandili, Culala’s hometown, she and the rest of the fighters game them a surprise attack. Culala was known to be intimidating. Fellow members of the Huk described her as a “huge woman” with “masculine personality with a commanding demeanor.” She was feared by everyone. It’s no wonder she was the only woman to be elected into Hukbalahap’s Military Committee.


Ma. Agripina Cagulada

For someone who has a holy background, you wouldn’t expect that Ma. Agripina Cagulada to have gone through all her exploits during the second world war. Known as “Pining” to her family and friends, she started out as a business woman with a buy-and-sell business in the Visayas and Mindanao. Soon after the war broke out, she served as a spy against the Japanese, pretending to be on business trips as she secretly tracked down Japanese hideouts. She accomplished her tasks well and was even offered a trip to the United States to study Secret Operations. However, she soon realized it was not for her so she ditched the offer and followed her true calling–to be a nun.

Army Nurses pose in a Japanese photo in Santo Tomas Internment Camp, Manila, Philippines, in 1943. Left to right: Bertha Dworsky, Sallie P. Durrett, Earlene Black, Jean Kennedy, Louise Anchieks and Millei Dalton. They were captured in May 1942 after the fall of Corregidor Island, and cared for civilian prisoners of war for nearly three years, despite being near starvation and battling disease. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army Center of Military History)

Bataan’s Angels

The Bataan death march was one of the most horrific events during the second world war in the Philippines. This was when 75,000 Filipino and American troops on Bataan were forced to make an arduous 65-mile march to prison camps. Although many doctors and nurses left, Dr. Guedelia M. Pablan and nurses Carmen Lanot and Bruna R. Calvan had promised not to leave Hermosa town in Bataan during WWII. Dr. Pablan’s mission was to survive the war so that others could survive as well. She and her nurses stayed steadfast, caring for American and Filipino soldiers even when their hospital was burned by the Japanese. It even got to the point where they had to create a makeshift clinic by the fish ponds. They even had to fake documents to help give quinine to malaria-infested guerrilla camps in the mountains. The women continued to provide medical assistance throughout the war, even under the suspicion of the Japanese.


Elena Poblete

The daughter of the commander Jose Poblete (alias Kumander Banal), Elena followed the footsteps of her father. There’s little information about her life, except for what fellow Huk members tell about her. Also called Kumander Mameng, she was well-educated in guerilla tactics, leading squads of fighters to victory. However, she met an untimely death after getting shot during a confrontation. After days of getting chased by Japanese soldiers, resistance members were awaken by exploding bombs after the Japs found out where they were hiding. Kumander Mameng joined other Huk soldiers in the front line of defense, making herself an easy target for the Japanese.

Females represent! Know more brave Filipinas during the second world war? Share them by leaving a comment below. Don’t forget to share this article to show what Filipinas are all about.

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