It began with an unexpected phone call and a startling statement: “You don’t know me, but your mother saved my life.”
The late night conversation with an American World War II veteran revealed to Elizabeth Ann Besa Quirino the untold stories of her mother’s remarkable wartime heroism and sparked a twenty-year journey of discovery about her lifelong acts of bravery and compassion.
Lourdes “Lulu” Reyes Besa channeled the heartbreak of a childhood tragedy into a profound sense of compassion and service. She helped raise three brothers while still a child herself in the early years of the 20th century. Then, as a young socialite in the heydays of 1930s Manila, she focused on meaningful philanthropy and charity work. During the merciless Japanese occupation of the Philippines, Lulu embarked unflinchingly on dangerous missions to bring aid and comfort that meant the difference between life and death to countless Filipino and American prisoners of war. She continued to face personal grief and adversity in the later decades of her life but met each challenge as before – with every ounce of courage, fortitude and grace.
Elizabeth Ann delved into a trove of old letters, photographs and recipes in search of the source of her mother’s courageous spirit. In Lulu’s story, she found a complex life full of joy, sorrow, selflessness and survival, and learned precious lessons about how the timeless bonds of family, the steadfast strength of faith and the power of an indomitable will can provide solace and sense in a world of uncertainty.