Aquino declares Sept 20 non-working day in Ilocos Norte

MANILA, (PNA) — President Benigno S. Aquino III has declared Sept 20 a special (non-working day) in Ilocos Norte in celebration of the 115th birth anniversary of World War II heroine Josefa Llanes Escoda.

The Chief Executive issued the declaration to give the people of Ilocos Norte the full opportunity to celebrate and participate in the occasion with appropriate ceremonies.

Born on Sept 20, 1898 in the rice-growing town of Dingras, Escoda was the eldest of the seven children of Mercedes Madamba and Gabriel Llanes.

She graduated valedictorian from the Dingras Elementary School and salutatorian from the Ilocos Norte Provincial High School (now Ilocos Norte National High School).

She obtained a teaching degree from the Philippine Normal College where she graduated with honors in 1919.

While teaching, she earned her high school teacher’s certificate from the University of the Philippines in 1922.

She earned a masteral degree in Sociology from Columbia University in 1925.

During her first trip in the US in 1925, she met Antonio Escoda, a reporter from the Philippine Press Bureau.

After their return to Manila, they got married and were blessed with two children, Maria Teresa and Antonio Jr.

In 1939, Escoda returned to the US to undergo an intensified training in Girl Scouting sponsored by the Boy Scouts of the Philippines.

When she came back in 1940, she began to train some teachers of public and private schools to become Girl Scout leaders and then proceeded to organize Girl Scout troops.

On May 26, 1940, President Manuel L. Quezon signed the charter of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines (Commonwealth Act. No. 542), giving the movement the recognition of its role in leadership training of girls and women.

Escoda became the first National Executive of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines.

During the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, Escoda and her husband helped Filipino and American prisoners in several concentration camps.

On Aug 27, 1944, she was arrested and imprisoned in Fort Santiago where she and Antonio were reported to have been interrogated and executed.

Every Sept 20, the Girl Scouts of the Philippines pays homage to Escoda by celebrating her birth anniversary with activities that would create further awareness of her martyrdom and contribution to youth development.