Children’s book tells stories of Filipina fighters in WWII
A new children’s book, “Kalayaan: Filipina Heroines of World War II,” puts the spotlight on unsung women heroes of the Filipino guerrilla resistance movement against the Japanese occupation forces.
Among those underground fighters were Maria Orosa, Josefa Llanes Escoda, Nieves Fernandez, Valeria Panlilio, Januaria Constantino Keller, Josefina Guerrero, Magdalena Leones, and Simeona Punsalan-Tapang.
Filipina author Kathryn Serrano, 42, got the idea for the book two years ago after coming across an internet article on a woman guerrilla.
She was Kumander Liwayway, a leader of the Hukbong Mapagpalaya Laban sa mga Hapon (Hukbalahap) whose real name was Remedios Gomez-Paraiso.
Gomez-Paraiso was a beauty queen who fought battles while wearing dresses, nail polish, and red lipstick. She lived to the age of 95 and died in 2014.
Raised in Edgewater, New Jersey, Serrano said even her Filipino parents did not know about the women fighters.
Artist Casielle Santos-Gaerlan from Brooklyn illustrated the women’s brief profiles and exploits.
After coming across the story of Kumander Liwayway, Serrano started doing research and found out about more Filipina heroines.
Among them was Llanes Escoda, a social worker, civic leader, and the founder of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines. She was executed by the Japanese in 1945.
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Orosa, a chemist who invented the banana ketchup, was with the Marking guerrillas when she died in 1945 at 52. Leones meanwhile was an intelligence officer under the US military command in WWII, who won the Silver Star for gallantry. She died at 96. Guerrero was a spy and resistance courier. She had leprosy but survived the war, dying at 79 in 1996.