‘Every Ounce of Courage’ is a testament to this Fil-Am journalist’s war hero mom
How well do we really know our parents? For people of Asian heritage—especially immigrants—our parents’ lives before we came into the picture can be a mystery. Sure, important details might come up in passing, but the full story is hardly ever shared without asking.
An unexpected late-night conversation revealed exactly what the missing pieces were for Filipino-American journalist and cookbook author Elizabeth Ann Besa-Quirino. “You don’t know me, but your mother saved my life” was what the person on the other end of the line told her.
The mysterious caller turned out to be an American World War II veteran and prisoner of war whose life he owed to Besa-Quirino’s mother, Lulu. Unbeknown to her, Lulu was a bonafide war hero who spent her wartime days saving people’s lives.
“Every Ounce of Courage”: Where it all began
“This phone call changed my life,” said Besa-Quirino. “I knew very little about my mother’s life during World War II, she never talked about it. Nothing prepared me when I discovered how many lives my mother saved and the dangers her family faced.”
Little did she know at the time, but for the next 20 years, Besa-Quirino would walk down a path of discovery about her mother’s bravery and compassion—during times of war and afterwards.
You may also like: This children’s book puts spotlight on Fil-Am labor hero Philip Vera Cruz
The memoir “Every Ounce of Courage” is the result of Besa-Quirino’s decades-long search for her mother’s heroic acts. From her difficult early childhood in Iloilo and her life as a socialite in Manila to her days covertly helping victims and prisoners of war (which led to her being awarded two Medals of Freedom by then President Harry Truman) and after, the book is a love letter to her mother and a reflection of what her mother’s life means to her.
With Besa-Quirino’s experience as a cookbook author, she also includes recipes her mother loved to make as well as anecdotes surrounding those dishes at the end of the book. These recipes paint a picture of how family life changed before and after the war.
You can order the book here.