Antonio L. “Tony” Escoda ’49

Escoda '49

Antonio L. "Tony" Escoda '49

(1930–1981)

From Andover magazine Class Notes (Summer 2007), written by class secretary James P. McLane ’49

…This is a story about just another guy. He is from our class. It is a remarkable saga of the life and times of Tony Escoda. Remember him? Maybe a little. He came from a New Jersey high school, which was bad enough. And to make matters worse, he came as a lower, which put him at something of a disadvantage. The cliques were already formed. On top of all of this, he is Filipino. But he managed, in a quiet way, to adapt to our sometimes brutal social environment pretty well. He had a good sense of humor and played a fair game of tennis. People liked him. He steered himself away from other minority students. He probably didn’t see himself as that much different from the rest of us. He roomed with Dave Kopko and spent some vacations with the Kopko family. When she first heard Tony’s name, Dave’s mother, for some unaccountable reason, went into her files and fished out a clipping from the New York Times. No one knew why she had saved this particular clipping. It told the story of Antonio Escoda, Tony’s dad.

Tony’s father had received, posthumously, the U.S. Army’s Medal of Honor. Before the Japanese invasion, he was city editor of the Manila Bulletin and correspondent for the Herald Tribune. During the Japanese occupation he and Tony’s mother were active, behind-the-lines secret agents. They organized a group to smuggle supplies to American prisoners of war and get information about them to their families, and they were able to pass on vital intelligence, including troop movements, to the U.S. Army. Tony’s mother, Josepha Escoda, was so celebrated for her own accomplishments that her face was to appear on the 1,000-peso bill. She was famed as an advocate of women’s rights and founded the Girl Scouts of the Philippines. One could form a long list of her contributions to health, culture, and university teaching (she was a full professor).

In 1944 while traveling in a small boat on the way to a meeting with General MacArthur, Tony’s father was intercepted and captured by the Japanese and imprisoned at Fort Santiago in the Philippines. Shortly afterward, Tony’s mother was arrested and imprisoned behind the same dark walls of this notorious Japanese prison. You can imagine the inhuman deprivations and torture they faced at the hands of the Japanese occupiers. After four months of imprisonment, she was offered freedom, but she refused. She knew her husband faced death, and she preferred to die in prison near him, rather than go free without him. She was last seen in January 1945 suffering horribly from torture. She was not seen again. It is assumed she was executed.

Remember, Tony, at that time, would have been about 15. It was 1945, and we were all about to enter Andover. To the best of my knowledge, he never mentioned any of this to anyone. He went about his life at Andover like anybody else.

Escoda '49

Escoda (right) with friends at PA

After graduating from Andover, he entered Yale and then got a master’s degree at the Columbia School of Journalism. They were later to give him an award in 1959 for outstanding contributions to journalism. He went on to head the Associated Press bureaus in Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines. He became managing editor of the Philippines Times until Fernando Marcos shut it down.

Dave Kopko had difficulty keeping up with Tony’s movements around the Far East in those years but managed to reestablish contact because of a chance spotting of a family member’s name in the New York telephone directory. He found that Tony was in New York, grievously sick. Dave managed to have a last visit with his old friend and former roommate. In 1981, Tony died of cancer at age 51 in Sloan-Kettering Hospital in New York City.

Bill Millager’s wife, Gwendolyn, found in a trunk in her attic a faded picture of five tennis players on the Rockwell courts. The smiling young players: Dave Kopko, Bill, Andy Machain, Doc Savard, and, she asked, “Who is the one on the right?”

Just another guy from Andover: Tony Escoda.

2 Comments

Filed under Life in a War Zone

2 responses to “Antonio L. “Tony” Escoda ’49

  1. Just came across this, while I was looking for an online photo of my grandmother, Josefa Llanes, whom you so gracefully profiled here along with her husband, Antonio Escoda, and my dad, Tony. He never spoke to us about the terrible war years, except to tell us funny stories like the one about their neighborhood gang of kids who would run around after dark with ice picks to stab the tires of the Japanese vehicles. After the war, Andover and Yale, and his wonderful adoptive parents in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, Charles and Susan Griffith, opened up a new world to him and his sister. Thank you. – Carla Escoda

  2. very informative and moving for relatives like me , the cousin of Tony Escoda , Jose ma. Bonifacio M. Escoda

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s