The Fighting Filipinos: Poster Story

the fighting filipinos

The Fighting Filipinos
Ink on paper (poster)
Lopez Museum and Library Collection

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Mr. Norman Sison writing for Vera Files: The year was 1944. It had been two years since 100,000 Filipino and American troops in Bataan and Corregidor surrendered to an invading Japanese army. Filipinos have been waiting for General Douglas MacArthur to fulfill his famous “I shall return” pledge and liberate the Philippines, then a US colony. Over 200,000 guerrillas have been working behind enemy lines, continuing the resistance.

To keep the Filipinos’ spirits up, the Philippine commonwealth government, in exile in the United States, commissioned a poster. The task fell on a Filipino immigrant, Manuel Rey Isip, who left the Philippines in 1925 and settled in New York City. A talented artist, Isip drew illustrations for newspapers and movie posters for Columbia Pictures and 20th Century Fox.

The result was a propaganda poster, measuring 27 by 41 inches, that would make Isip famous. It depicts a wounded Filipino soldier about to hurl a grenade. With his left hand he holds aloft a Philippine flag — tattered but defiant — with the red field up, signifying that the country is in a state of war.

Fifteen thousand copies of “The Fighting Filipinos” poster were smuggled into the Philippines. It was quickly welcomed, especially by guerrilla groups, for it embodied the Filipino spirit of freedom.