Inspiring Pinoys

The Visayan Joan of Arc


Belle Piccio
Belle Piccio | May 03, 2013


"One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it.
But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief,
that is a fate more terrible than dying."
~ Joan of Arc (1412 - 1431), French National Heroine


National Heroes' Day in the Philippines is observed every last Monday of August. It is considered a regular holiday commemorating the "Cry of Pugad Lawin" by the Katipunan (a Philippine revolutionary society) led by Andres Bonifacio. It is dedicated to the memory of the nation's heroes throughout its history.

The Katipunan was purely a patriotic society for men at the very start it was established. When it opened its admission of women to the society, it was estimated that about 20 to 50 women become members. To become admitted: she must be a wife, a daughter or a sister of a male katipunero.


A mural of Teresa Magbanua at Himlayang Pilipino; photo from


Initially, 29 women were admitted to the Katipunan. The first woman to become a member was the wife of Bonifacio, Gregoria de Jesus. And, did you know that we have a Visayan Katipunera?


Teresa Magbanua

Teresa Magbanua is known as the "Joan of Arc" of Visayas. She's the first woman in Panay to fight in the Philippine Revolution and earned the distinction of being the only woman to lead combat troops in the Visayas against Spanish and American forces.

She was born in Pototan, Iloilo, Philippines on October 13, 1868.


Teresa Magbanua


Teresa Magbanua preferred the company of boys more than girls during her younger years. She was said to have participated in little boys' brawls and took an active part in her brothers' fights against other boys from neighboring towns. She loved to climb trees, swim in the Jaluar River and ride horses and carabaos.

In 1885, she was sent to Manila and enrolled at Santa Rosa College and then at Santa Catalina to train as teacher and to learn the fundamentals of a graceful education fit for a lady which her parents so desired. She obtained her teacher's certificate from the Colegio de Dona Cecilia in 1894 and taught at several schools in the province.

But Teresa Magbanua gave up her teaching when she married Alejandro Baldero to work on the farm. She then gradually learned the rough ways of farm life, how to ride a horse and fire a pistol in their ranch. By then, the Philippine revolution had started and two of her brothers had become officers in the revolutionary army.

She came from a family of revolutionaries and suffered greatly from the early death of her brothers General Pascual Magbanua and Elias Magbanua. At the age of 28, Teresa Magbanua, volunteered her services to the motherland by joining the revolutionary forces even with the objection of her husband. She became an extraordinary marksman and horseman leading a large group of men in the Battle of Barrio Yating, Capiz in early December of 1898. She also had outfought the Spanish troops at the Battle of Sapong Hills where General Marin Teofilo Delgado, the commander in chief of the Revolutionary forces in the Visayas, commended her bravery and military abilities and entrusted her leadership in many military encounters throughout Panay Island.


That’s Teresa Magbanua at the far left; photo from


Her heroism was again displayed 50 years later. "Nay Isa" as she was fondly called by her unit remained childless and was widowed shortly after the Japanese Occupation. She sold all her properties in Iloilo to help finance the guerrilla resistance movement (by the liberators together with the Allied Filipino soldiers of the Infantry Division of the Philippine Commonwealth Army, Infantry Regiment of the Philippine Constabulary and Ilonggo guerrillas) against the Japanese.

She migrated to Mindanao after the war and lived with her sister, Maria, in Pagadian, Zamboanga del Sur where she died in August 1947 at the age of 78 with a rare distinction of having fought all of her country's conquerors.

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