The Philippines has its fair share of heroes, but none is as badass as Teresa Magbanua, also known as the Visayan “Joan of Arc,” who fought in two Philippine wars and supported the army during World War II.
An educator turned general:
Magbanua, also known as “Nanay Isa” or “Nay Isa” among her fellow soldiers, was a teacher before the war between the Philippines and Spain, the Philippine Revolution in 1896, according to People Pill
- Not much is known about her birth, but scholars argued she was born between 1863 to 1871 in the municipality of Pototan in Iloilo province to a family wealthy enough to send her to college, Esquire Mag reported.
- She studied teaching at Colegio de San José in Jaro, Iloilo, but later moved to Manila to continue her education in three different all-female schools: Colegio de Santa Rosa (1894), Santa Catalina College (1886) and Colegio de Doña Cecilia, where she earned her teaching certificate.
- Magbanua later enrolled for her master’s degree at the University of Santo Tomas (UST).
- After her studies, Magbanua returned to Iloilo to teach and met Alejandro Balderas, who she married in 1898.
- She quit teaching and later worked on her husband’s lands where she learned how to shoot and ride horses.
- When the war finally reached Iloilo in 1898, Magbanua asked her husband if she could offer assistance and join her two younger brothers on the battlefield, but he declined her request.
- Instead, she rode a horse to her uncle, Major General Perfecto Poblador, whom she managed to convince to let her join the army.
The Three Wars: Magbanua joined the Katipunan’s women’s chapter in Panay and was given her own troops to fight against the colonizing Spaniards.
- She became the first and only female soldier to ever lead a troop in the Visayas region, CNN Philippines reported.
- Magbanua commanded 700 men wielding a bolo, a large cutting tool similar to the machete that can be found in the Philippines, and fought against around 400 Spanish soldiers with rifles.
- Her victory in the Battle of Barrio Yoting in Capiz and Sap-ong Sara earned her the title of “Visayan Joan of Arc.”
- Filipino troops were able to drive out the Spanish, but American troops soon moved in to replace them as the country’s next colonizers.
- Magbanua, and her two high ranking brothers General Pascual Magbuana and Major Elias Magbanua, once again took up arms to defend Iloilo against the Americans after the Mock Battle of Manila where the United States and Spain got into an agreement to give control of the Philippines to the U.S.
- She still continued to fight following the sudden, mysterious death of her two brothers, eventually surrendering in 1900 to the Americans following the takeover of regional headquarters in Santa Barbara, Iloilo.
Death and legacy: After the Philippine-American War, Magbanua returned home. Although there was never an official record of her rank in the army, Magbanua was referred to in some texts as “General.”
- However, war once again reared its head when the Japanese invaded the Philippines during World War II.
- Magbanua, who reached old age by that time, still participated in the war by selling all of her belongings after her husband passed away during the occupation and gave food and supplies to the local guerrillas.
- After the three wars, Magbanua moved to Zamboanga to live out her life with her sister Maria.
- She never remarried and had no children with her late husband.
- It was unclear when and how she died, but reports suggest Magbanua died in August 1947 with her burial only attended by close friends.
- Following her death, streets were named after the local Filipina soldier in Pototan and Iloilo.
- There were also awards given out in her name, including the Teresa Magbanua award for women’s and children’s rights presented to the Ilonggos of Western Visayas and the Gawad Teresa Magbanua Award for the teachers in Davao.
- She was also a character in two TV series in the Philippines, “Bayani” and “Katipunan”.