The Josefa Llanes Escoda Museum in Dingras, Ilocos Norte

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Contemporary Philippine history has produced a great number of Ilocano heroes and heroines and prominent national leaders and icons. A few months after the declaration of Philippine independence from Spain, a child full of promise was born in the household of Gabriel Llanes and Mercedes Madamba in Dingras, Ilocos Norte on September 20, 1898. She was Josefa Llanes, the eldest in a brood of seven.

Josefa Llanes Escoda MuseumSoon Josefa Llanes was realizing those promises and potentials: graduated as top of her class in Dingras Elementary School, salutatorian from Laoag Provincial High School, a teaching degree with honors at the Philippine Normal College in 1919, a high school teacher’s certificate at the University of the Philippines, masters in sociology at the Columbia University.

In the US, Josefa Llanes met Antonio Escoda, then a young Philippine Press Bureau reporter. Upon their return to the Philippines, they got married and eventually had two children, Maria Teresa and Antonio, Jr.

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Her socio-civic involvements began as a social worker for the American Red Cross in the Commonwealth of the Philippines and after completing her masters became the head of its home service; helped in the campaigns fo the Philippine Leprosy Society and the Tuberculosis Section of the Bureau of Health; as executive secretary of the Anti-Leprosy Society (1928-32) and the Anti-Tuberculosis Commission (1932-41).

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After her trips to England and the USA, Josefa organized the Girl Scouts of the Philippines in 1940 to train young women from among the teachers of public and private schools to become Girl Scout leaders and organized Girl Scout troops.

On May 26, 1940, President Manuel L. Quezon signed Commonwealth Act No. 542 otherwise known as the Girl Scouts of the Philippines Charter, giving the movement the recognition of its role in leadership training of girls and women. Escoda became the first national executive of the GSP which she served with full dedication until she was captured by the Japanese.

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At the height of Japanese occupation in the Philippines during the Second World War, Josefa and her husband selflessly and tirelessly helped many Filipino and American prisoners in several concentration camps. Thus, Escoda was hailed as the Florence Nightingale of the Philippines. On August 27, 1944 in a strange twist of fate, Escoda was arrested and imprisoned in Fort Bonifacio where she and her husband were tortured by and at the mercy of the Japanese. At a young age of 46,Escoda died at the hands of her Japanese captors on January 6, 1945.

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By virtue of the Municipal Resolution No. 98-003 promulgated on July 17, 1998, a lot was donated by the Municipality of Dingras and the Josefa Llanes Escoda Museum was inaugurated on September 19, 1998, on the occasion of the birth centenary of the GSP founder.

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