In December 1991, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas launched the one thousand peso denomination, featuring the portrait images of 3 significant but less known heroes featured on the bill's front part. Filipinos usually referred to them as "Tito, Vic, and Joey," the Philippine television's legendary comedic trio. Some may find it funny, but at the same time, it was not, for it portrays the inadequate knowledge that citizens should have about noblemen who persevered in resisting the Japanese occupation during the Second World War, the gloomiest three and a half years in the history of the Philippines.
But why should we be stunned with the lives of these three patriots, aside from the fact that we are seeing them on the face of the largest denomination in the country's general circulation?
Jose Abad Santos
Jose Basco Abad Santos is a lawyer and politician native from San Fernando, Pampanga. He became the fifth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shortly after World War II broke out.
He joined the Commonwealth government to Corregidor, where he administered the oath of office for the second term of President Manuel Luis M. Quezon and Vice President Sergio Osmeña. He also handled the supervision of the Commonwealth government currency's destruction to avoid its falling into enemy hands.
When President Quezon left for a government in exile, Chief Justice Abad Santos was invited to leave with him, but he declined, preferring to remain in the Philippines and bear his responsibilities to his work and family.
He was then assigned as the Acting President with full authority to lead in the name of, and on behalf, of the chief executive of the country in areas unoccupied by the Japanese.
However, he fell into the hands of Japanese troops with his son Pepito. Abad Santos was asked to swear allegiance to the Japanese flag, but he consistently refused. Because of that, he was imprisoned, tortured, and eventually executed by a firing squad. Before he was shot to death, he was able to say these last parting words to his son: "Do not cry, Pepito, show to these people that you are brave. It is an honor to die for one's country. Not everybody has that chance."
Josefa Llanes Escoda
Josefa Madamba Llanes-Escoda is a prominent civic leader, educator, and female suffragist born in the small and quiet town of Dingras, Ilocos Norte. After completing her social work studies in New York, she began training women to become Girl Scout leaders. Finally, she turned to organize the Girl Scout of the Philippines, where she served as its first National Executive. She also founded the Boys Town, where she fed the underprivileged young men of Manila.
When World War II broke out, Llanes Escoda, with her husband, Antonio, collected donations and secretly aided Filipino and American prisoners in several concentration camps, particularly those of the infamous Bataan Death March. She also kept records of the names and addresses of Filipino prisoners of war in Camp O’Donnell in Capas, Tarlac. Unfortunately, her covert operations were discovered by Japanese military agents. Antonio was arrested first and Josefa following months after, both being brought to Fort Santiago.
Josefa was last seen alive a year after her arrest, weak and showing signs of having been severely tortured. At that time, she was placed on a Japanese transport truck. It is presumed that she was executed and buried in an unmarked grave and thousands of other Filipinos who resisted the Japanese regime.
Knowing her imminent arrest, Josefa sent the following message to a friend: “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.”
Vicente Lim, talking things over with fellow Army officers in the dining room of the Lim family's residence in Vito Cruz. Many important discussions took place in this historic residence, including the National Defense Act which mandated the creation of the Philippine Army in 1935. Image from Brigadier General Vicente Lim facebook page.
Vicente Podico Lim was a military man from Calamba, Laguna, and the first Filipino to graduate from West Point Academy in the United States. He was the only foreign cadet to graduate during his batch.
Lim was a brigadier general when General Douglas McArthur tasked him with Southern Luzon's defense during the Philippine Army's incorporation into the American Forces.
After the infamous surrender of Bataan, the American and Filipino troops were forced by Japanese men to march from Bataan to San Fernando, Pampanga, and later proceeded to Capas, Tarlac. Those who could not march because of physical weakness were shot down or bayoneted. General Lim was among those who survived.
He convinced the Japanese of his incapacitation and admitted himself at Philippine General Hospital, where he organized several underground guerrilla activities in Luzon.
Later on, Lim was asked to make his way to Australia to join General Douglas McArthur in planning to recapture the Philippines. He also received information that the Japanese imperial military arm could pick him up at any time. He decided to try to escape from the country. While en route to Negros Island, he was caught off the coast of Batangas. He was imprisoned in Fort Santiago and the Bilibid Prison before being beheaded, along with Colonel Antonio Escoda, husband of Josefa, shortly before the liberation.
General Lim was reportedly executed at the Chinese Cemetery. His body was never found.
In his statue along Roxas Boulevard, this quote from his commencement address was inscribed: "We are born to live a life which is valuable only if we live it unselfishly, not for our own gratification, nor for that of our family - but for our country. Men should not fear death but dishonor and defeat. There is nothing more beautiful than to live and die for the defense of one's country against a common enemy. There is nothing meaner and more vile than to yield to that enemy without fighting to the last ditch."
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