Lourdes Castro (1926-2011): The story of a rare and great hero
Lourdes Castro, a rare and great hero, lived an extraordinary life. She was a pioneering “veterana” of World War II, and a quiet warrior as well as a civil rights activist. She was a successful entrepreneur, devoted wife, and matriarch of the Castro clan.
Servant leader and military service
During WWII, Lourdes Castro was a member of the recognized guerrilla forces, a member of the Philippine Commonwealth Army and served in the Medical Corps. She volunteered as medical staff to help wounded American soldiers and also worked as a courier for the US soldiers.
Two valiant acts attributed to this young 18 year old soldier were: (1) her role in the liberation of the POWs in the Los Baños, Laguna concentration camp and (2) going “beyond the call of duty” by risking “limb and life” as she went into the battlefield, pulling wounded soldiers to safety and treating the wounded as a first responder.
This is how Lourdes Castro got inducted as a member of the US Army during the Japanese occupation in the Philippines, World War II. She was one of only two female Filipino WWII US veterans.
Mrs. Castro was a member of the American Legion Northside Post 858 based in San Jose, CA. She was one of the charter members who started the veterans’ organization, where most of the members are WWII Filipino veterans who had fought with the United States Armed Forces of the Far East.
Her volunteer work included being an advocate who pushed US Congress to pass laws that would recognize the services of Filipino soldiers and guerrilla fighters during WWII. Mrs. Castro also advocated for Congress to pass laws that would provide equitable services and compensation for their military services. These laws were to be part of the “Equity for Filipino Veterans of WWII.”
Lourdes’ dream came true, together with thousands of Filipino WWII veterans in the US and the Philippines, when the United States Congress passed the bill that gave these “Forgotten Heroes” their due recognition: “Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Act” (FVEC) into law (PL 111-5 Title X Sec. 1002) in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, February 2009.
Honoring Lourdes Castro
Lourdes Castro is a true unsung hero who risked not only her life but her family’s lives as well when, as a guerrilla fighter, she aided in fulfilling crucial needs of the US military forces and later, as a member of the Medical Corps, was eventually given official US military status during WWII in the Philippines.
Not only was Mrs. Castro a hero in the largest conflict in American history, she also served the United States as an advocate for veterans’ civil rights, especially Filipino WWII’s “Forgotten Heroes” or “veteranos.” She was unique, selfless, caring and courageous as a “Modern Day Hero” at the age of 85.
Home grown hero
Lourdes Castro hailed from Paete, Laguna, graduated high school from Holy Ghost College in Manila, and graduated from University of Santo Tomas where she earned a BS Degree in Pharmacy and a Masters Degree in Pharmacy. She worked as a Pharmacist at Fort Bonifacio right out of college. Mrs. Castro owned and managed Farmacia Castro for 25 years. She was also crowned Miss Independence Day sometime in the 1950s.
Academic trailblazer and civic leader
Mrs. Castro and her husband, Luis Castro, owned a private college, Cabanatuan City Colleges, where she served as Chief Financial Officer. Her community involvements included a Rotary club and Jaycees chapter in Nueva Ecija. She was also President of the Nueva Ecija Pharmaceutical Association. They also owned and managed several rural banks in Licab, Aliaga, and San Antonio in Nueva Ecija, and rice farm lands in Ablang, Nueva Ecija.
Role model and caregiver
In 1986, Lourdes Castro, with her six children, migrated and retired in San Jose, California. She dedicated the rest of her life to caring for her children and grandchildren. Lourdes is survived by her husband Luis; children Marisa Castro Otto of San Jose, CA; Luis Castro Jr. of Modesto, CA; Mary Ann Castro of San Jose, CA; Ramon Castro of Mountain House, CA; Cathy Castro of San Jose, CA; Antonio Castro of Woodside, CA; and loving grandchildren Ethel, Austin, Maddie, Katrina, Allysa, JM, JR, John, and Ellen Jane; and great grandson Collin.
Mrs. Castro was one of the first residents of the Mabuhay Court Apartments on East Empire and Sixth Streets, San Jose, California in 2003. She volunteered at the Jacinto “Tony” Siquig Northside Community Center, located next to the apartments, as one of the pioneers to serve the veterans, seniors, and families of the Filipino American Community Development Council, Inc. She continued to volunteer up to the time of her passing.
Lourdes Castro’s legacy will live on with the vigor “to be the best” — and commitment to her family, community, and country as well as the pursuit for peace and equality.
She was buried on December 12, 2011 in San Jose, California.
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