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Too early the birds of prey, January 13, 2002

Free Press cover story

January 13, 2002 issue

Too early the birds of prey

by Manuel L. Quezon III

 

MAKING an ass of one’s self should be a basic human right, if only politicians could be denied this right because of the problems it causes other politicians and most of all, the public. To put matters in historical perspective, of the past presidents of this country, two were reelected to office (Manuel L. Quezon and Ferdinand E. Marcos), and only two former presidents ran for the position of president after having served as head of state: Emilio Aguinaldo, who went down in grumpy defeat in 1935, and Jose P. Laurel in 1949, though Laurel was the nobler in at least telling his supporters, who were as angry as Aguinaldo’s had been, not to mount a revolution.

Yet in the case of Aguinaldo and Laurel, there were extenuating circumstances in the cases of their candidacies. Aguinaldo was a political enemy of Quezon from 1922 to 1941, and was pushed by his supporters to run as a symbol of the aspirations of the Revolution; Laurel ran as much to vindicate his name as to achieve a mandate, never having been directly elected by the people to a position he served as a well-meaning head of a puppet government -indeed, it is interesting to note that both Aguinaldo, who ran in the first national presidential elections in 1935, and Laurel, who ran in the elections of 1949, were haunted by a desire to achieve what they never had when they were president: a genuine national mandate at the polls.

But one must consider, on the other hand, the cases of the only two presidents reelected: Quezon in 1935 and 1941, and Marcos in 1965 and 1969. Both tarnished their reputations by clinging to power beyond the terms allowed them by the Constitution under which they were elected. To this must be added the inevitability in the minds of many that had Quezon lived, he would have stepped down for a brief 2 years in order to run again in 1946 to be the first president of the independent Republic, and that Ramon Magsaysay would have run —and won— again, after his first term (and there are even those who suspect that Magsaysay, who imitated Quezon in so many ways, would have found a way to stay in office as long as possible as well). But fate decreed Quezon’s death in large part because of the strain of his final battle with Sergio Osmeña to cling to power, and fate had it in the cards that Ramon Magsaysay, like Manuel Roxas, would die before his first term ended, leaving Ferdinand Marcos to make every liberty-loving and democratic Filipinos’ nightmare come true: scrapping the Constitution, ignoring the laws, setting up a dictatorship that only fell when a country regained its dignity and courage and threw the man out of Malacañang.

Now to these negative examples add the examples of past presidents who could have run for office after the Constitutional limitations passed, and yet did not: the list is long. Sergio Osmena; Elpidio Quirino; Carlos P. Garcia; Diosdado Macapagal; Corazon Aquino. Except for Aquino, all the rest suffered defeat in their quest for reelection to a second term, yet had an opportunity (at least in the cases of Osmena, Garcia and Macapagal) to run for president again if they wished. But they never wished to. None of them ever fully retired from politics; they preferred to be consulted as elder statesmen; two of them, Garcia and Macapagal, chose to run for, be elected delegates to, and then presidents of, the 1971-73 Constitutional Convention. But the presidency, having been denied them in the past, was something they never sought again as a political prize.

The fact is that it should be enough for a former president to have had the honor and privilege of serving the country once, or in the old days twice, and end it at that. The exemplar of how a former president should conduct himself after leaving office is of course, Sergio Osmena, who represented many of the political virtues of the country, anyway; to a lesser extent, there are the examples of Aguinaldo and Laurel, the former reconciling himself to playing elder statesman, the latter choosing to serve in the senate as long as he could and even serve other presidents. There are the examples, too, of Garcia and Macapagal: the former went into quiet retirement until the ConCon and then died 24 hours after being sworn in as president of the convention; Macapagal, after a checkered experience with presiding and eventually losing control over the ConCon at least followed Aguinaldo’s path and quietly learned to enjoy the role of elder statesman; poor Elpidio Quirino lived too briefly after leaving office to accomplish much more than begin his memoirs and reach a touching reconciliation with his erstwhile protégé, Magsaysay.

Enter Fidel V. Ramos, former and, to the minds of too many, including quite possibly the mind of Mr. Ramos himself, future President of the Republic of the Philippines. Enter Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, present president and, almost indubitably, candidate for the position in 2004. What of them?

Of Fidel Ramos, one should note immediately what has been whispered about town almost from the moment he left office -the man has never grown accustomed to not wielding the reins of power. He wanted to amend the Constitution to allow himself either two more years in the manner of Quezon, or transform the country to a parliamentary system which was the original Marcos plan to perpetuate himself in power. This grand design failed in the face of the intransigence of Corazon Aquino (former president who seems not to miss being president at all), Cardinal Sin, a multitude of Filipinos, and one Joseph Ejercito Estrada who would be damned if his sure election to the presidency would be postponed even for a minute by a man he loathed.

Result? A lost kibbitzer, which Mr. Ramos is of the first order, as proven by his most unpresidential behavior during Joseph Estrada’s inauguration at Barasoain. The man tried to steal the limelight every moment he could, and then loftily proclaimed that under Estrada, he would be pleased to play the role of Elder Statesman in an official capacity, much to the amusement of everyone who head Ramos say these things. However, neither public derision, or skepticism, or outright hostility has ever deterred Mr. Ramos from doing what he pleases, and it has pleased him to use the time in between his never-ending globetrotting to keep himself in the limelight, including first, playing a lecturing uncle to Estrada, and then supposed pillar of the opposition when Estrada grew impatient with his “advice,” and now, gadfly and thorn in the side of Mrs. Arroyo. Perhaps Mr. Ramos feels that if Cory Aquino can bring down one government after stopping the attempts at charter change of two other presidents dead in their tracks, he has similar powers.

Perhaps. Although if this is the case, then it only proves that the man has an axe to grind against the woman who broke tradition to attend his inauguration (for perfectly legitimate symbolic reasons, the inauguration of Ramos was the first democratic handover of power since 1965) and put country ahead of her having given him her previous blessings in firmly saying “no” to his obvious desire to prolong his stay in office. One is forced to wonder if Fidel Ramos is not only ungrateful when it comes to Cory Aquino, but whether he actively dislikes her now -which would make him a petty, mean, and small-minded man.

Or could it be Fidel Ramos simply is getting old and too dense to realize the reason Cory Aquino can be an influential ex-president and Fidel Ramos may be influential, but not popular, and lacks what he seems to crave: a nation, on bended knee, begging him to return to Malacanang? Were this the case, then at least one can conclude Fidel Ramos is not petty, mean and small-minded but suffering from well-intentioned delusions: of being an irreplaceable man, of believing as gospel truth the insincere flattery of the sycophants that surround any politician, and the quite human refusal to recognize his own mortality and accept being put out to political pasture, since he is by no means, ancient. The reason Cory Aquino has the influence and respect she has, and Ramos does not, is that she is the only president in our history to say one term is enough, I’ve had it, and left Malacanang without looking back and probably murmuring “good riddance” the whole time. In short, she has what Fidel Ramos has never, ever, had in his life or career: moral ascendancy.

Fidel Ramos is too fidgety, too eager the attention-seeker, too enthusiastic the opiner, too happy the meddler, to be respected or have moral ascendancy of any sort. This is not to say he does not have influence, for he does; this is not to say he does not have political supporters, for he does; but it is to say that as far as the public is concerned, Fidel Ramos is history and had better accept the fact that he belongs to the past and not the future. One need only listen to the verbal abuse he was subjected to by the great unwashed at Edsa III to recognize this; and aside from the usual businessmen who value the illusion of Fidel Ramos being “Steady Eddie,” and who crave a man who will be content to go on junkets and turn a blind eye to anything so long as he gets the perks (a bad executive habit he shared with Joseph Estrada except in comparison to Estrada’s being uncouth about corruption, even Ramos’s most vicious detractors give him credit for being suave when it came to the corruption they are convinced he was a party to  during his term).

To be a president or past president is, of course, not to be divine; which means Fidel Ramos is as likely to fall prey to illusions as much as the next man. He probably thinks the can still do good for the country, that the country needs him, and if the country were only given a chance it would fall to the ground in gratitude and kiss his feet were he to have the chance to be president again. This explains the never-ending and, really, tiring controversy of the day, which is the alleged rift between President Arroyo and former president Ramos over an election two years away. Fidel Ramos already suffers from the perception too widely held that he at one point pulled all the strings in the new Arroyo administration, or tried to, which made him as much the object of the poor’s equally deluded wrath in May 2001, as President Arroyo herself. And as for President Arroyo, she suffers from two insecurities: the fact that she was elevated to the presidency by succession and not election, and under the most confused of circumstances at that; and that she is the first child of a president who seems to have a chance to break the long curse, it seems, that has afflicted the children of past presidents -none of them ever make it to Malacanang although the senate and Vice-Presidency have been proven to not be beyond their reach.

For a politician and a businessman and even a soldier, and even for certain members of our uncivilized civil society, Fidel Ramos has the virtue of exuding an aura of dynamism, of calm, of precise, methodical working habits and discipline. How close perceptions are to the truth only those truly close to him can answer; but the fact is that there are those with influence and money who believe there exists a Steady Eddie and wouldn’t mind Ramos back. For the same politicians and businessmen, the problem with President Arroyo is that even if she is equally hard working, she happens to be frugal, as hot-tempered as Ramos but far from being his peer in hiding the fact, and she is a woman who suffers from the idea she has nothing to lose by actually giving the country as honest an administration as is possible given our society’s limitations. That, and the fact there is that onus on presidential children and that they might get stuck with her for nine uninterrupted years. The ramifications of a fairly clean, competent, and hard-working government are simply too frightening for these people to contemplate.

And thus the need to at least obtain leverage on Mrs. Arroyo by way of using Fidel Ramos as a threat. After all, Mr. Ramos is willing and able to be used as such a tool, indeed he may have thought up the idea of using the bogey of a Ramos for President campaign in 2004 as a potential spoiler to exact concessions from the administration, which has enough of a problem on its hands with fulfilling its promises, neutralizing its enemies, and keeping the country together during tough times.

Fidel Ramos would never win another presidential election even if Mrs. Arroyo dropped dead and a way was found to make monkeys run against Ramos the way Marcos engineered his farcical martial law presidential elections. What can happen is Fidel Ramos could ensure that if he can’t win, neither can Mrs. Arroyo, but it wouldn’t be in the interest of either to give away the election in 2004 to the opposition, which is indeed vicious, ruthless, has many axes to grind, and much dirt to dish out against the two.

Hence the view of this writer than Mr. Ramos is either extremely delusional or out to keep himself in the political loop and be a powerbroker of sorts, if not an actual shadow president (the best of both worlds). The fact that Joe de Venecia, who has the biggest chance of being Prime Minister for life were we to go parliamentary, is as usual going out of his way to get into trouble trying to patch things up between former president Ramos and President Macapagal, is no surprise or mystery. De Venecia is simply too nice, too compleat the politician, to give the opposition ammunition when things could all be quietly smoothed out to his party’s advantage.

The spoiler of course is Mrs. Arroyo’s determination not to be anyone’s patsy; she may have, as all presidents have done, tried to pay her dues in the early part of her administration, but she can clearly see, if she has half a brain (and no one doubts she has not just half but quite a complete one), that she needs a mandate, a real mandate, and that her political destiny must be played out as her father’s was -either to a happier conclusion by way of election in 2004, or defeat, as her father endured in 1965. But she has no other option but to stay the course and fight.

That having been said, this is all, then, a testing of the waters. The West Pointer in Ramos is probing the defenses of the administration, looking for its weaknesses. His archskeptics are under the impression his real aim is to simply be done with a Constitution that he could not amend to satisfy his ambitions, and be called upon to trot out on a white horse and restore the lost era of Philippines 2000. No one with any intellectual honesty can deny that Mr. Ramos’s actions to date, down to calling a radio station to muse on the need to file a test case to figure out if he’s entitled to run legitimately in the next election, only serve to reinforce the worst perceptions that exist of the man. Nor can anyone deny the political and even personal imperatives that would drive Mrs. Arroyo to seek election in 2004 come hell or high water, if only to prove her critics wrong, and be remembered not as a woman who inherited the presidential mantle, but who earned it in her own right.

So Fidel Ramos says he is not running —period, period, period. Though the country is used to his three periods being the ellipse that leads to a pregnant pause that leads others to begin to have paranoid attacks (which Ramos surely enjoys). The President, on the other hand, truthfully says she is too busy worrying about the here and now to fuss over 2004, though even in that she is being disingenuous -but then which president entitled to reelection, with the exception of Cory Aquino- ever was anything but disingenuous about the possibility of their running again? Even Cory Aquino, who was not bound by the term limitations of the Charter approved during her term, kept her options open if only to keep from becoming a lame duck. The only president in our history who ever committed political suicide was Joseph Estrada and neither Ramos nor Arroyo are Estrada. There is no surer way to commit political hara-kiri than to say you have no intention of running for reelection when you can -and be believed.

The whole non-issue then boils down to a rift between the Lakas-NUCD people who grew fat and soft under Ramos, and who aren’t pleased that they are expected to stay relatively lean during the Arroyo New Era Part 2. The whole issue is that having abandoned the Liberals, and never having established a cohesive hard-core party of loyalists of her own, Mrs. Arroyo is not in full control of the party she is putatively the chief of, but which recalls its salad days as having been under Fidel Ramos. Ramos may be circulating offering them a chance of reliving the good old days when boys could be boys, businessmen could do business under a regime that was all light and sound, and not hard work as it is at present.

Pie in the sky, Ramos-style, versus the drudgery of the dirty kitchen, Arroyo-style. Were you a politician you would at least give pause to the thought that life would be tough under another six years of Arroyo, and positively miserable if not dangerous to life and limb under a Ping Lacson regime: so why not, indeed, a return to steady Eddie.

We shall have to see who has the last wink. Or who raises her eyebrow last in satisfaction as her opponent folds.

Re-constructing Colonial Philippines: 1900-1910

Special to the Century Book

Re-constructing Colonial Philippines: 1900-1910
Patricio N. Abinales

THE birth of the Philippines in 1896 was one thing; consolidating the territory was another matter. While most Filipinos would attribute the unification of the Philippines to the 1896 Revolution, in reality it was a series of local revolts against the Spanish, and later against the Americans. It remains debatable as to whether these revolts either identified wholly with Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo’s Malolos Republic, or whether, had they all succeeded, whether would unite under one contiguous territory. Already when the first American troops landed in Negros Island, Negrenses were threatening to create their own republic.

The Americans were actually responsible for giving territorial reality to Las Islas Filipinas, the basis of the future Republic. They did this first by employing force against those who opposed American rule. They waged brutal military campaigns against forces loyal to the Malolos Revolutionary Government of Pres. Emilio Aguinaldo, pushing the latter as far back as the mountain fastness of northern Luzon and scattering his troops in southern Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao. The American use of armed might was so brutish that in Samar Island, for example, hundreds of women and children were killed when Gen. Jacob Smith ordered to turn the island into a “howling wilderness.” After Aguinaldo’s capture at Palanan, Isabela, there were attempts to re-establish a new revolutionary center, but all this was quashed by the Americans.

In the towns and in Manila, American suppression of Filipino revolutionary nationalism took the form of proscribing the publication of “seditious” materials that could be disseminated through the emergent print media and the ever-popular plays. Public display of pro-revolutionary sentiments were also prohibited, with the most notable ban being the Flag Law that disallowed any showing of flags associated with the Katipunan and the Malolos Republic. The Americans also sped up the organization of police forces to oversee “peace and order” and this successor of the hated Spanish Guardia Civil proved up to the task of suppressing urban dissent.

Once sure that their control would not be seriously challenged anymore, the Americans turned their attention to governing “the new possessions.” The foremost problem that immediately confronted them was the generating money for the colony and then developing the personnel necessary to run the government.

The U.S. Congress approved the colonization of the Philippines but refused to provide sustained financial support for the undertaking. In fact, the Congress allotted only $3 million for the Philippines in the entire period from 1903 to the formation of the Philippine Commonwealth. One economist called it colonial administration “accomplished ‘on the cheap.’” Financial constraints were also complicated by the difficulty of attracting Americans to govern the colony. The solution to these problems was found in generating revenues from the colony’s own resources, particularly the existing crops that the colony was exporting abroad later years of Spanish rule. Enhancing this export economy, however, was not easy. American legislators, especially those coming from the agricultural regions of the U.S., vigorously opposed proposals that Philippine products enter the country tariff-free. As a consequence, the so-called “free trade” that introduced under American rule was not so free. The U.S. was very selective in the choice of Philippine products that could be exported to the American mainland. Only sugar, hemp and coconut were allowed open access to the U.S. market; and even these products would later be taxed in American ports. Selective entry of these goods however was enough to resurrect the export economy, and by the end of the decade much of it was re-energized because of the American market.

The second issue—putting people into the administrative and political structure—proved more successful because the Americans early on opened up the structure to Filipino participation. It is general knowledge that even as the war against Aguinaldo was raging, the Americans were already able to recruit prominent Filipinos to their side. These collaborators became the backbone of the Federalista Party, a party committed to full American control as well as the medium for introducing the party system to the Philippines. The Federalistas were also supposed to become the dominant Filipino party in the soon-to-be formed Philippine Assembly and American backing initially helped them to mobilize Filipino support.

The Americans transformed the Philippine Commission from its original function as a fact-finding and policy-recommending body created by Pres. McKinley, to the highest policy-making body of the colony. Through the Commission, the Americans were also able to bring in Filipinos into the leadership (although they had limited powers) and further legitimize their rule. With the Federalistas supporting them and the pacification campaigns winding down, especially after Gen. Macario Sakay, the last of the revolutionaries fighting for a Tagalog Republic in 1905, the Americans proceeded to prepare the grounds for eventual self-rule.

The Commission ordered a colony-wide census to ascertain the exact population of the Philippines. The census was followed by provincial elections in 1906 where a new group of Filipinos emerged to challenge the Federalistas. The former consisted of local elites who saw the value of the nationalism of 1896 and how it made many Filipinos suspicious of the pro-American Federalistas. Using their provincial positions, this group began to present themselves as the real alternative to the Federalistas. Americans increasingly recognized the strength of this sentiment, especially at the provincial and municipal levels, and began to turn their attention to these new elites. The result of this new collaboration was the creation of the Nacionalista Party, a coalition of provincial elites who promised to fight for the cause of nationalism but within the framework of the American policy of eventual self-rule.

On July 30, 1907, the first elections to the Philippine Assembly—the legislative body which would act as the “lower house” to the more “senatorial” Philippine Commission—was held and the Nacionalista won a majority. From their ranks emerged Manuel L. Quezon (from Tayabas province) and Sergio Osmeña (from Cebu), who would lead the fight to expand Filipino power inside the government and eventually become the dominant leaders of the American period. Under Quezon and Osmeña, a colony-wide party system began to take shape, its power derived from a combination of clan-based alliances, patronage and a commitment to Filipinization. As more Americans chose to return to the mainland instead of staying to serve the colonial government, Filipinos increasingly took over their position.

By the end of the first decade, “regular provinces” comprised half of the Philippines. These provinces had elected and appointive Filipino officials, many of whom owed their positions to Quezon, Osmeña and the Nacionalistas. Combining their local political experiences learned from the last years of Spanish rule, with the “political education” they were getting from the Americans, the Filipinos proved within a short period of time that they had the ability to be equally adept at governing the colony. In its first year at work, the Philippine Assembly had already shown a marked adeptness in introducing additional provisions or new amendments to existing colonial laws, and in negotiating with the Philippine Commission and the Governor General over matters of policy formulation, funding and government personnel changes. Quezon and Osmeña were at the top of all these processes. They were fast becoming astute leaders of the political party they helped build, of the Assembly that they presided over, and of the colonial regime they co-governed with the Americans. If Rizal was credited for having conceived of the “Filipino,” and if Bonifacio and Aguinaldo were the leaders who gave this imagination a reality with the Revolution, to Quezon and Osmeña must be given the distinction of helping construct the political and administrative structure that would be associated with the term “Filipino.” The Americans may have created the colonial state, but it was these two leaders who gave flesh to it and putting the foundations that the future Republic would stand on.

This type of political and administrative consolidation however was only happening in one part of the colony—the “Christian” Filipino dominated “lowlands” in Luzon, the Visayas and northern Mindanao. In the other half of the colony, the U.S. army administered the “special provinces” on the grounds that their population—the so-called “non-Christian tribes”—were more backward than the Filipinos and were prone to more “warfare.” The Americans saw their “civilizing mission” as special given that the underdeveloped character of the Cordillerans and Muslims required a longer time for them to become familiar with self-government. They also had to be thoroughly “pacified.”

Surprisingly, the pacification process was fast and relatively easy. There was hardly any resistance from the various indigenous communities in the Cordilleras, while Muslim resistance was scattered and unsustained. At the middle of the first decade, the Cordilleras and “Moro Mindanao” had become very stable and peaceful areas.

A major reason for the American success was the cooperation extended by Muslim and Cordilleran leaders to the Americans. They regarded colonial rule as a means of protecting themselves against Christians and “lowlanders.” American military officials reciprocated this cooperation by resisting the efforts of Filipinos to extend their power to the “special provinces.” A working relationship eventually developed between these community leaders and the Americans whereby the former were given minor posts in the provincial government (“tribal wards” in the case of the Muslims) in exchange for agreeing to recognize American sovereignty. U.S. army officers who administered these areas also became their protectors against Filipino leaders, doing everything they can to limit the presence of Manila and the Nacionalista party in the Cordilleras and “Moro Mindanao.”

The only major resistance came from the Muslims at the hills of Bud Dajo and Bud Bagsak, when the army declared a ban on weapons and raised head taxes. American military superiority prevailed and over a hundred Muslim men, women and children were killed. Politically, however, these actions eroded the army’s standing and opened up an opportunity for Quezon to attack military rule in Mindanao. After the massacres, the army was forced slowly to concede authority to Manila and the Filipinos. The army’s powers were also clipped once the U.S. Congress authorized its partial demobilization, and once the American president ordered its withdrawal from the special provinces and its replacement by Philippine Constabulary units. Many American officers also preferred to continue their military careers in the U.S. mainland, seeing very little prospects in just limiting themselves to the Philippines. All these problems emboldened the Filipinos to assert their political presence in these special provinces. This was something that a weakened military government could not repulse anymore. In 1913, the army conceded its power to the Department of Mindanao and Sulu, a body controlled from Manila and by Filipinos. The Cordilleras’ status as a special province was also terminated and the Nacionalista Party began recruiting its first “Cordillerans” to join the organization.

Two major features therefore characterized the first decade of colonial rule. First was the full and effective unification of Las Islas Filipinas under American rule, and second was the division of colony into two major zones of administration reflecting the histories of their respective populations. These two zones were eventually unified under the Filipinization policy, but the distinctiveness upon which they were based continued to affect overall colonial development. Muslims and Cordillerans remained staunchly pro-American and anti-Filipino, while Christian “lowlanders” continued to mistrust and maintain a low regard for these “wild tribes.”

About half a century later, a separatist movement threatened to disengage “Moro Mindanao” from the Philippines, while in the Cordilleras, the quest for autonomy remained strong.

End

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The National Centennial: Who cares? August 30, 1998

August 30, 1998

The National Centennial: Who cares?

Filipinos will have nothing to celebrate but every reason to curse the government for yet another great waste of taxpayers’ money

by Manuel L. Quezon III

ITS logo can be seen everywhere: a stylized red, white and blue ribbon forming the number 100, surmounted by three gold stars and bearing the legend “Freedom, wealth of the nation” underneath. You can see this logo emblazoned on the aircraft of Philippine airlines, on vanity license plates, on stickers and in advertisements on television and newspapers.

The logo is that of the National Centennial, which Filipinos will be celebrating in 1998. Well, some people in government at the very least.

Befuddled.

The Centennial and the patriotic events leading up to it are the concerns of the National Centennial Commission, headed by Salvador H. Laurel, an honest and decent man who, obviously, is not much of an executive. The commission over which he presides with well-meaning good humor is attached to the Office of the President. In keeping with the nature of the administration under which it was created, and to whose largesse it owes its existence, the centennial commission has found itself the subject of criticism for such things us fact-finding missions to observe the Tournament of Roses parade in the United States, for saying some very nice things that are then made a mockery of by its actions, and for generally allowing itself to be dragged into controversies as a result of the President’s tendency to unilaterally announce hare-brained schemes without warning his subordinates that they should expect some heat. In other words, the centennial commission is a characteristically Philippines 2000 institution, headed by people who have their hearts in the right place but who end up befuddled by the shady politicking that swirls around the administration.

The vague nature of the centennial commission’s mandate is at the root of the impression many people have that Laurel’s agency is adrift, and thus incapable of focusing its energies, much less mustering the popular support needed to make the Centennial meaningful.

Laurel’s commission is supposed to come up with programs and events to commemorate the Centennial. But what the Centennial actually is remains unclear. At first, sensibly enough, the commission said that the Centennial, which will take place on June 12, 1998, is no less than the hundredth anniversary of the proclamation of Philippine independence from a window of the Aguinaldo mansion in Kawit, Cavite.

Sounds clear enough. But every Independence Day since the creation of the commission—that is, the five June 12th’s celebrated since President Ramos took his oath of office—featured enormous placards and billboards proclaiming that June 12th to be the 94th, 95th, 97th, 98th, or 99th anniversary of independence.

Distinction.

Now there is very clearly a difference between commemorating the anniversary of the proclamation of independence and observing the anniversary of actual independence. The first is the anniversary of the particular moment in time when, with flags waving, bands playing and people cheering, Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed that the Philippines and the Filipinos were, and ought to be, free. The second is the ritual commemoration of a reality that began at a certain point and has continued existing up to the present without interruption.

So which is it? Will we, in 1998, be commemorating the proclamation of our nation’s freedom, or will we be joyously celebrating four generations’ worth of emancipation from colonial rule?

To commemorate the former would be justified and grand; to commemorate the latter would be a self-induced deception and a lie. And yet, after the simple and lucid definition of purpose made when Laurel’s commission was created, it has done nothing to clarify this issue.

And this issue is vital. If the commission cannot even figure out its true mandate, how can the nation be expected to have a sense of purpose? A nation and a people should not be made to expend their energies in a nationwide fiesta celebrating an ambiguous state of affairs. One doesn’t need a degree in Philippine history to realize that our country has been independent for only two generations, that is, since July 4, 1946. In fact, a serious case could be made for dating our independence to an event as recent as the removal of the US bases. To assert that we have enjoyed the blessings of freedom uninterruptedly since 1898 is to go against the experience of the generation that fought the Japanese in anticipation of the independence promised—and fulfilled—in 1946. A generation whose members are still very much around to challenge any claims to a century of freedom.

There’s more. Apparently unsure of its true purpose, lacking the will to grapple with the problem, content with trying to please everyone and thus alienating almost everyone, the commission has spent the past five years on the defensive, trying to wriggle out of controversies instead of taking up the initiative. It has devoted its time to planning colorful events that have fallen flat because they were extravaganzas without a crucial component: the Filipino people.

With less than a year to go before the grand finale of the Centennial effort, it would be useful to look into the other reasons why the Centennial effort has been an unqualified flop.

The master plan hinged on the commemoration of a series of events, particularly the centennial of the beginning of the Philippine Revolution and the martyrdom of Rizal.

In both of these great anniversaries, the commission immediately handicapped itself by placing too much importance on the descendants of those who participated in the Philippine Revolution, among them the relatives of Rizal and ardent Rizalists. Not that the descendants of our freedom fighters should have been ignored; far from it. It is both necessary and proper that their patriotic legacies should be honored. But in settling for organizing reunions among the families that formed Kaanak and similar organizations, the commission set itself up in a position for which it was manifestly unqualified: arbiter among the factions that started to squabble over star billing in the Centennial celebrations.

The descendants of the Katipuneros from Tondo began to fight with the descendants of the fighters from Cavite; Magdiwang and Magdalo divisions sprang up once more with a ferocity intensified by a century of familial resentments. The commission, sensibly enough for a body tasked with focusing its attention on the proclamation of independence at Cavite, featured a number of descendants and sympathizers of Emilio Aguinaldo. Only to find itself being taken to task by admirers and relatives of Andres Bonifacio. To complicate things further, contending ideological points of view that have already been boiling since the 1960s, the last time the nation focused its attention on the revolutionary heroes, come to the forefront once more. The commission accused of being cozy club of ilustrados who were pointedly playing down the importance of the proletarian revolution led by Bonifacio.

The enormous amount of energy and media attention focused on these intramurals diverted attention from the fact that other than the Aguinaldistas and Bonifacionistas, the Caviteños and the Department of History of the University of the Philippines, no one else seemed to give a damn about what was going on. This marked the derailment of the Centennial effort from what should have been its primary purpose: to excite the majority of Filipinos who cannot trace their family trees to a veteran of the Revolution so that they will be inspired to proclaim that while they may not be able to trace an ancestor to the fight for freedom, they are prepared to exult in the fact that they are around today to enjoy that freedom.

In yet another example of how close the commission came to fulfilling its greatest task—only to swerve away from it—it got as far as proclaiming 1996, the year in which Bonifacio’s revolt and Rizal’s sacrifice were commemorated, the “Year of Filipino Heroes.” This took the spotlight away from personalities and finally gave recognition to the legions of heroes whose names have been lost to us. The commission’s lack of focus made the proclamation an empty slogan.

Folly.

To make things even worse, the commission ended up holding the bag for the President, who decided he wanted a tower erected in Rizal Park ostensibly in commemoration of the Centennial but actually to glorify his incumbency. The resulting furor from artistic circles, gleefully echoed by the media, alienated the commission further from the very people in the best position to help it achieve its aims. Things went downhill from there. A convocation of scholars from around the world was held in Manila to tackle the significance of the Philippine Revolution. It ended up being a convention of Rizalists who delivered papers on every subject conceivable, except on the Philippine Revolution, and, most of all, Andres Bonifacio. Which further alienated the groups already convinced that the August 1896 anniversary was deliberately being turned into a nonevent, a suspicion confirmed on the centennial of the start of the Revolution when the deputy prime minister of Malaysia was made a Knight of Rizal in an official, face-saving gesture to make up for the embarrassment inflicted by Malaysia when it convened a conference on Rizal ahead of the Philippines.

Creating a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Knights of Rizal was the least the admirers of our national hero and the government could do to thank Malaysia for its friendly interest. But it was absolutely the worst thing anyone could do as far as slighting the admirers of Bonifacio was concerned. The commission became a party to this highly undiplomatic act undertaken in the name of diplomacy, which achieved nothing internationally while making enemies of a significant section of the already small number of people who cared about the Centennial in the first place.

The commemoration of the martyrdom of Rizal was accomplished with a little more success and less bruised feelings, something owed to the long-standing cohesiveness of the admirers of Rizal than to any effort of the government, whose single strike of genius was to put the ceremonies under the direction of Zeneida Amador, who managed to pull off a moving reenactment of Rizal’s final moments.

Since the storm and stress of 1996, things have been quiet, almost comatose, as far as the Centennial front is concerned. The most newsworthy Centennial-related event was a negative one—a tongue-lashing from a fuming Ramos offended by the apathy of the tiny audience that listened to his proclamation of the Centennial theme for this year. (What’s the theme for 1997? Can anyone remember? Anyone?) A presidential scolding that Laurel mercifully missed because he was out of the country.

The good news this year is courtesy of the Armed Forces, which raised the funds for the purchase of the house where the Tejeros Convention took place. The happy event was negated, however, by the scandal associated with the “restoration” of the Malolos Cathedral.

Patriotism and nationalism cannot be conjured from people’s hearts at the drop of a hat. All the balloons and brass bands in the world will never be able to evoke feelings of pride in one’s country, of solemn appreciation for the long and bloody history of our struggle for freedom. A people must understand that a nation’s history, like our lives is a combination of the sacred and the profane, the noble and disgraceful, the silly and the sublime. Instead of fostering understanding and an appreciation of our past and its contradictions and unifying themes, what was sown was division and discord. Instead of reaping public support, the commission has found itself subjected to derision and active opposition. It has provoked discord among intellectuals and factions, without achieving the mobilization of the majority of citizens as part of the effort to render homage to our heroes.

Saddest of all, all along it has meant well.

The hollowness, the emptiness of the Centennial effort is best demonstrated by an event that was reported to have taken place recently when a new monument to Andres Bonifacio was unveiled in Manila.

A few news reports mentioned that during the unveiling ceremonies, the descendants of Andres Bonifacio and the descendants of Emilio Aguinaldo came forward and publicly declared that they were putting an end to the animosity and resentment between their two clans as a consequence of the execution of the Supremo. And that they were calling on all their friends to forgive and forget in the name of national unity.

Pathetic.

This declaration should have been an occasion for national rejoicing. In another era, it would have been reason for a Te Deum to be sung at the cathedral. For the declaration marked one of the noblest, most admirable, and meaningful events of the Centennial period.

And yet, no further mention of it was made in the papers. NO effort was made to propagate this joyful news in the media. The commission did not say a word.

Why not? Because the event took place at a ceremony under the auspices of Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim? Perhaps. A pathetic, petty reason, if true. Reason enough to understand why the Filipino people will not be filled with pride and awe on June 12, 1998. What will they have to celebrate? Pomp and circumstance at a scandalous cost, of no relevance to themselves and their loved ones, and of no consequence for a country that will be witnessing one more example of official extravagance.

To understand why no one cares about the Centennial is to understand why no one cares about the government, save those who directly benefit from it. It does not belong to the people. It belongs to a different world that feeds off us.

The reader may be tempted to ask, at the end of this catalogue of lost opportunities and squandered resources, if such an analysis isn’t counterproductive, leading to a feeling of cynicism that does nothing to salvage what must surely be one remaining opportunity to sort things out in time for the Centennial.

The answer would be: It is precisely to try to salvage something out of this sad state of affairs that harsh criticism such as this need to be made in public.

If it is important—and most people will agree it is important—to commemorate the anniversary of the proclamation of our independence, on the eve of the birth of the Malolos Republic, then we cannot leave such an important event in the hands of elected officials. It would be as futile as waiting for reforms from Spain in the time of the Propagandists. It is up to ourselves to make the Centennial meaningful just as it was up to ourselves to wrest our freedom from Spain and cajole it back from the hands of the Americans.

The Centennial of the beginning of our Revolution against Spain (which, incidentally, was the centennial of our first declaration of independence, reiterated in Kawit two years later) resulted in a marvelous musical, 1896, staged by Peta and which owed nothing to official support. It was a triumph in all respects, and lifted the hearts of the young and old, without glossing over the more sordid aspects of our freedom struggle. Watching it, one experienced in an hour and a half the exhilaration, the tearful pride, the compassion, the joy, anger and resolve that well all should feel when we think of the Revolution and the Centennial Feelings made possible by the songs and acting of a small group of young men and women. One saw what a true love for our past combined with dedication to make it mean something for people here, today, could accomplish.

Legacy.

So let those whose hearts and minds are in the right place take over. Stop waiting for the parade. Seek those who are doing the things that count and make people think.

As for the National Centennial Commission, its only legacy to us, besides the millions of pesos in taxpayers’ money wasted on its account, will be a concrete and ignoble one: the alteration of our flag.

On flagpoles everywhere, a new and different flag is masquerading as the emblem of our country. The color of its blue stripe is a neither-here-nor-there shade of blue lighter than that of the flag that three generations had honored; its red stripe is different, too. The proportions of the white triangle, with its sun and three stars, however, continue to be those of the flag specified by executive order during the Commonwealth, making this new flag neither a restoration of the slightly different proportions of the flag raised at Kawit nor a complete abolition of the flag we all know. These, without any enabling law, without public consultations, without even bothering to inform the very people who swear allegiance to it every morning.

The bastardized flag may owe something to the flag that went down in defeat under Aguinaldo, but it also harks back to the same flag raised at the inauguration of the Puppet Republic in 1943, and a variation of which was inflicted on a subjugated nation under Marcos. A flag dishonored through association, and whose legitimacy was long supplanted by the flag Filipinos fought for in Bataan, raised in triumph in 1946, borne at Ninoy Aquino’s funeral, waved at EDSA, and finally raised over the former US bases in 1992.

This is not the sort of legacy Salvador H. Laurel should want to leave us.

End

Quezon and his fights, August 1, 1961

Quezon and his fights

by Rodrigo C. Lim

 

Everything he did, he did with style and elegance, which is why even his political feuds seem so dramatic and glamorous, especially when compared to the sordid political squabbles of today.

 

THE CURRENT POWER STRUGGLE among the country’s top political leaders, particularly that between President Garcia and NP and Senate President “Amang” Rodriguez, reminds us of the fights the late President Quezon had in in his over 30 years of public life.

 

In one respect Quezon’s political career was unique, singular. It could be perhaps duplicated but surely not surpassed by that of any other Filipino leader, or any other country for that matter. For not once in his incessant political strifes did he suffer a single defeat – and in many of them he was pitted against the most formidable opponents of his time.

Foremost of these battles was his historic fight for political supremacy in the early 20s against then Speaker Osmeña on the issue of collective versus unipersonal leadership. For over 15 years the two leaders had been disinterestingly and unselfishly collaborating in the common effort of nation building, forming a political partnership without parallel anywhere else then or today. Times there were when, because of conflict of opinion on vital national questions and of diametrically opposed characters and temperaments, a clash appeared imminent and inevitable. Each time, however, one or the other sacrificed personal prid and ambition for the good of the country, particularly the cause for which both had fought in war and in peace – Philippine independence.

But even the sweetest of honeymoons cannot last forever and in due time, the Quezon-Osmeña combine ended as any such political alliance is bound to end somehow, sometime. The formal parting of the ways came in the evening of February 17, 1922 when, before a mammoth crowd that overflowed the pre-war Manila Grand Opera House, Quezon declared war against his life-long friend and partner.

“When one is convinced that the conduct of a party is no longer in consonance with the will of the people and does not respect the demands of public opinion”, he told the teeming thousands that jammed that huge theater, “then no member is under any obligation to remain in that party.” It was then that he pronounced his classic now off-quoted dogma: “My loyalty to my party ends where my loyalty to my country begins.”

Talking of the conflict, which some wiseacres of the time called a fight between autocracy as represented by Osmeña and democracy as typified by Quezon, the late Teodoro M. Kalaw, then secretary of interior and one of the geatest minds the Philippins has ever produced, said:

“The split came as a result of the disagreement over the leadership which question. Our faction stood for the so-called collective leadership which puts responsibilty in each department of the government. In other wotds the unipersonalists supported the introduction of the parliamentary form of government in the Philippines and the collectivitists the presidential form.”

While a good many people sincerely believed that Quezon only wanted to establish “a government by the people by means of a voluntary expression of sovereign will of the people” and “not the people’s rule without the expression of the popular will”, there were others who accused him of provoking the split to take control of the party and pertpetuate himself in power.

To those critics he retorted:

“Can I find a position in the Philippine government and in the gift of the Filipino people higher than that of president of the Senate, the highest position to which a Filipino could be sent by his countrymen? If I wanted to perpetuate myself in power, is there anything better for me than to remain in the Nacionalista Party?”

From the thundeous ovation the greeted his memorable pronouncements that evening at the Opera House, could be foreseen the outcome of the first clash between the two Filipino titans. In the subsequent election, in June, 1922, during which both were in the United States as joint chiefs of an independence mission, Quezon’s Collectivistas won with such a convincing majority that he thereafter became the acknowledged leader of Filipino participation in the government.

The Quezon-Osmeña divorce did not last long however. Quezon did not have a sufficient majority in the Lower House to elect the speaker of his choice, the then rising political star from Capiz, Manuel Roxas, and as between his former partner and the Democratas, he chose to coalesce with former. Neither did the Cebuano leader want any coalition with the oppositionists. Thus was formed the Nacionalista Consolidado Party with Quezon as head.

No sooner had Quezon and Osmeña kissed and made up when MLQ had to face a greater fight with no less than the representative of American sovereignty in his country – Governor-General Wood.

OPEN BREAK

An arch-enemy of Philippine Independence, Wood was set on undoing all that his predecessor, Francis Burton Harrison, ahd done to give the Filipinos ample powers and responsibilities in preparation for self-government. Among other things, he turned his cabinet secretaries into glorified office clerks, solely responsible to him and under his absolute control, although their appointments were subject to control and approval of the Philippine legislature. To advise him in matters that were purely the concern of the Filipinos, he insteaf formed what then Editor Carlos P. Romulo called the “Kitchen Cabinet” or “Cavalry Cabinet” as others dubbed it, composed of U.S. Army officers including his playboy son, Lt. Osborne C. Wood.

Quezon was not one to take such affront to Filipino dignity lying down. The open break was precipitated by Governor Wood’s reinstatement of an American police detective who had been suspended by the city mayor with the approval of the interior. Quezon considered this act a clear violation of the fundamental law of the land and “a backward step and a curtailment of Filipino autonomy guaranteed by the organic act and enjoyed by the Filipino people continously since the operation of the Jones Law”. Shortly before midnight of July 17, 1922, the department secretaries led by Quezon and Speaker Roxas marched to Malacañan and presented their resignations from the cabinet and the council of state.

Wood accepted the resignations which he considered “a challenge and a threat which cannot ignore”. He likewise accepted the resignation of City Mayor Ramon J. Fernandez which was simultaneously presented with those of the cabinet men.

Quezon had so presented the issue that the people readily rallied around him. Only dissenters who saw in the crisis a chance to assume the powers formerly enjoyed by Quezon and company, were the Democratas led by Judge Juan Sumulong who branded the resignations as “fictitious, artificial, ridiculous and frivilous”. The case was later submitted to the people when a special election was held in the fourth senatorila district to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Senator Pedro Guevara who was chosen resident commissioner to Washington.

BATTLE ROYAL

Never had the people witnessed such a battle royal in which all available instruments of political warfare were utilized. Quezon went to the people to the people in behalf of his man, Ex-Mayor Fernandez, with no other issue but “A vote for Fernandez is a vote for the people; a vote for Sumulong is a vote for Wood”. The result was an overwhelming majority for Fernandez and once again, Quezon scored one of the biggest victories in his political career.

A consequence of his rift with Wood which ended with the latter’s death on August 7, 1927, was Quezon’s equally acrimonious controversy with his former revolutionary chief, General Aguinaldo, whom he had served as an aide with the rank of major. Aguinaldo did not only express support for Wood but tried to strengthen the latter’s position here and in America by expelling Quezon from his Veterans of the Revolution Association. The bomb that was expected to discredit the Filipino leader in the eyes of both Filipinos and Americans proved a dud however. It turned out that Quezon had never been a member of the association and he could not therefore be expelled therefrom.

“While I am a veteran I have never affiliated with the association”. Quezon pointed out, “and from the time General Aguinaldo, for purely personal motives, came out in support of General Wood I have considered any association with it not only an inconsistency but a betrayal of public trust on my part.”

Offshoot of that controversy which lasted for quite a time was the withdrawal by the legislature of Aguinaldo’s P12,000 annual pension.

SECOND BREAK

Last but not least of Quezon’s major political battles was his second break with Osmeña on the question of the H-H-C (Hare-Hawes-Cutting) Law. As everyone failiar with Philippine history knows, that law which provided for independence after a transition period of ten years, was passed by the U.S. Congress through the efforts of the so-called OSROX mission headed by Senator Osmeña and Speaker Roxas. Quezon objected however to the economic provisions of the law and caused the legislature to reject it.

With the OSROX group, aside from Osmeña and Roxas, were such political stalwarts as Rep. Benigno Aquino, Sen. Jose O. Vera, Commissioner Osias and U.P. President Palma. On Quezon’s side were his righthand men Senator Jose Ma. Clarin, Senator Elpidio Quirino and Reps. Quintin Paredes and Jose Zulueta. A tribute to Quezon’s political sagacity, he won to his side such former enemies as Aguinaldo, Sumulong, Recto and other lesser oppositionists.

The bitter fight had its first repercussions in the legislature when Osmeña men or “pros” were eliminated from key positions. Foremost of those “decapitated” was Speaker Roxas who was replaced by Rep. Paredes. The senate re-elected Quezon as president; Clarin, president-protempore, and Quirino, floor leader. There was then no question that Quezon and his “antis” were masters of the situation.

Quezon’s stock rose to greater heights when, despite dark predictions of failure voiced by the “pros”, he went to America and came back with another law – the Tydings-McDuffie Act – which was admittedly a much better law in so far as the Filipinos were concerned. Without a dissenting vote the legislature later accepted the law which became the foundation of the present Republic.

ELOQUENT EVIDENCE

Once more, the people gave eloquent evidence of their confidence in Quezon when, in the election held barely a month after the acceptance of the T-M law, his men swept to victory throughout the country.

The foregoing are but a few of the fights that made Quezon’s political career colorful and dramatic. As has been already said, is not one of them did he ever taste the bitter pill of defeat. This, many of those who knew him attributed to his great and winning personality, his deep insight into human nature and his fighting spirit. To this the writer would add: if Quezon never lost a fight, it was because before he plunged into a battle he made sure of his backing, political or otherwise. I still remember that on the eve of his declaration of war against Osmeña and Roxas on the H-H-C law, he gathered at his home in Pasay the biggest men in business, finance and industry to ask for their support.

“Somos or no somos” he asked them, and when everyone chorused “Somos,” he fired the following day the first salvo against the OSROX.

How our flag flew again, June 9, 1956

HOW OUR FLAG FLEW AGAIN

June 9, 1956

The flag was prohibited for 12 years. Tears of joy were shed when flag law was repealed

By Jose A. Quirino

 

ONE of the saddest events in Philippine history occurred on September 6, 1907, the day the Filipino flag was proscribed. The incidents which led to the first proscription of the Sun and Stars (the public display of the flag was also prohibited during the early part of the Japanese occupation) and the subsequent lifting of such a proscription bear recalling.

By the time the first Philippine republic was proclaimed and by the time the flag was proclaimed as the republic’s political symbol on June 12, 1898, almost all Filipinos realized the importance of a national standard in united them in the fight for independence.

Even with the establishment of a civil government by the American authorities of the turn of the century, Filipinos still kept their own versions of the national standard. Long before the Flag Act was approved, the public display of the Filipino flag was banned. Any person who used any button, pin, watch chain, or trinket with the colors or design of the Philippine flag could be prosecuted and incarcerated by the Constabulary.

The ban was an unwritten one, though according to international customs and usage, the ruling power could formally proscribe the display of the flag. But still, during the military occupation, the display or possession of the flag was considered an act of disloyalty, if not hostility, to the United States and its constituted government in the islands.

Although the unwritten ban on the public use of the national colors was relaxed after the establishment of a civil government, many Filipinos hid or destroyed their national standard because they did not want to be questioned by the authorities. The bolder ones, however, began publicly displaying the national colors, occasionally even during parades. This resulted in several incidents which, finally, led to the formal proscription of the flag.

For example, during the campaign for the election of deputies to the Philippine Assembly on July 30, 1907, political supporters organized parades in which were displayed Filipino flags. In several instances, the local banners were bigger than the American flags and were displayed at the right side of the latter. Then, during a public celebration in Caloocan, Rizal, a group of patriots, shouted: “Down with the Americans! Out with the Americanistas.” This caused an uproar which embarrassed the American community.

Such patriotic and revolutionary outbursts on the part of the Filipinos prompted the newspapers to editorialize on the matter. Members of the American community, on the other hand, held public meeting demanding the formal proscription of the Filipino flag.

The Manila Times, then an American newspaper, plugged for tolerance on the part of the Americans. In its editorial of August 12, 1907, it observed:

“The Filipino flag and the Filipino anthem may not be to our liking and may cause us a wry face in the swallowing, but Washington apparently thinks they are not improper and it is Washington which is running things in the Philippines: THE PHILIPPINES FOR THE FILIPINOS.”

El Renacimiento, the fighting periodical, took up the cudgels for the Filipinos and their flag. In its August 21, 1907 editorial, the paper declared:

“The prohibition of the flag is an offense to the people, we repeat. The flag is the symbol of our ideal of liberty. To prohibit it, is it not tantamount to an attempt against the most sacred of our aspirations?…”

Governor General James. F. Smith’s reaction to all of this was one of understanding when he stated: “I am interested in the welfare of the Filipino people, but I love and am interested in my mother country, the United States. I wish to be tolerant, and when the army authorities told me that such tolerance would be of evil results in the future, I answered that we should not be very exacting because the Filipino flag symbolized an ideal bathed in blood and tears.”

On August 23, 1907, members of the American community held a meeting at the Manila Grand Opera House and passed a resolution urging the proscription of the Filipino flag. On September 6, 1907, the Philippine Commission passed Act No. 1696, common known as the Flag Law, entitled: “An act to prohibit the display of flags, banners, emblems, or devices used in the Philippine islands for the purpose of rebellion or insurrection against the authorities of the United States and the display of Katipunan flags, banners, emblems, or devices and for other purposes.”

According to the late Major Emmanuel A. Baja, one of our most noted authorities on the Filipino flag, 13 bills and one resolution were drafted from 1908 to 1914 to repeal the Flag Law. Five of these were passed by the Philippine Assembly while the rest were pigeonholed. The Philippine Commission, however, did not act on the five bills passed by the Assembly.

Ban Scrapped

After the creation of a Philippine legislature consisting of an upper and lower house, attempts to abrogate the Flag Law fizzled out.

On October 6, 1919, after the first World War, Speaker Sergio Osmeña, then vacationing in Japan, wrote Senate President Manuel L. Quezon and said, among other things: “In view of the fact that circumstances have totally changed…I believe that the occasion has come to submit again to the governor-general the question of our flag, that he may be persuaded this time to withdraw his objection to the repeal of the law which prohibits its use.”

Gov. Gen. Francis Burton Harrison, a man who was sympathetic toward the Filipino cause, urged the repeal of the Flag Law in his 17th annual message to the Legislature. That same day, October 16, 1919, Senator Rafael Palma, taking a cue from Harrison’s message, sponsored House Senate Bill No. 1 scrapping the ban on the flag. The senators crossed party lines and the bill was passed. The following day, October 17, the bill was sent to the House of Representatives. The fiery solon from Batangas, Rep. Claro Mayo Recto, delivered a speech on the floor in behalf of the Democratas and declared:

“…On this day, gentlemen, the representatives of the people, in the exercise of their high attributes and prerogatives, will resolve unanimously that there be hoisted, never again to lowered down… where it may be kissed by the sun or caressed by the storms, and where it may not be reached by the mud splatter of our journey or the noise of our petty grudges, that immortal banner…”

The bill repealing the Flag Law was approved in both houses and became Act No. 2871 on October 22, 1919. On October 24, 1919, Harrison issued Proclamation No. 18 setting aside October 30, 1919 as a public holiday to be known as “Flag Day.” (Since then there have been other flag days such as May 28 and June 12.)

Filipinos all over the country rejoiced over the repeal of the Flag Law and expressed their joy by holding parades and programs. Every house “blossomed” with replicas of the national standard. Even the trees were decorated with small flags.

Center of the celebration was Manila where people shouted with joy and the children waved the national colors. Jose P. Bautista, Manila Times editor, told this writer that there was one incident which marred the festivities when one American tried to haul down a Filipino flag at the Luneta. The culprit was arrested by the police.

On October 27, 1919, Gen. Aguinaldo, who was then sick and confined in the Philippine General Hospital, wrote Senate President Quezon for the honor of bearing the flag during the main program to be held on the occasion of Flag Day, October 30. But Quezon denied the request of the Grand Old Man of the revolution and was severely criticized by the newspapers for refusing to grant what one paper termed “a very reasonable request and which the old general deserves.”

The Cablenews-American, in its issue of November 1, 1919, reported: “The presence of a delegation of marines and sailors (in Cavite) together with a band from the Naval Base contributed much to make the occasion more impressive. The American and Filipino flags were hoisted simultaneously by the Provincial Governor and the Commandant of the Naval Base respectively, while the Marine Band played. The celebration was made still more impressive by the fact that the Filipino Flag which was hoisted was a historic one, it being the second Filipino Flag made, the one used by the battalion of General Trias during the revolution.”

It is said that many people shed tears of joy when the Filipino flag was publicly displayed after 12 long years (1907 to 1919) of proscription.

The Church under attack, May 5, 1956

THE CHURCH UNDER ATTACK
May 5, 1956

There is a new outburst of anti-clericalism as Catholic politicians denounce the Catholic hierarchy’s opposition to the bill requiring Filipino students to read the two controversial novels of Rizal

By Teodoro M. Locsin
Staff Member

NOT for a long time has the Catholic Church, or, at any rate, the Catholic hierarchy in the Philippines, been subjected to such attacks as it has for the last two weeks. Archbishops, accustomed to having high government officials kiss the ring of their office, were mocked and ridiculed, were called enemies of freedom, to great applause. Catholic political leaders led the attack….

Did the hierarchy expect the attacks when it issued the pastoral letter objecting to the Senate bill which would make the two novels of Rizal required reading in all public schools—novels the hierarchy considered impious and heretical? If it did, and went ahead just the same and registered its objection, it could only be because of an overriding concern for the safety of the Faith; to read Rizal is to endanger it. A temporary embarrassment is nothing in the light of eternity; the Church is 2,000 years old; it will still be standing when the supporters of the bill are no longer around. The Senate, as it is presently composed, will not prevail against it. Thus, perhaps, wen the thought of the churchmen. It was a calculated risk.

It was all very surprising. A month ago, one could not have imagined a Filipino politician speaking in any but the most respectful terms of the prelates of the Church; he would have considered it political suicide to express himself critically of them. Now all caution seems to have been thrown to the wind. Anything goes. There is a new freedom, or, to put it another way, license.

The Church has grown in power and influence since the days immediately following the Revolution. Then every other Filipino leader seemed to be the critic if not the enemy of the Church. Many had lost their faith; even among those who retained it, there were not a few who were, in some degree, anti-clerical. The women were pious but the men were something else. During Mass, when the priest turned around to deliver a sermon, the men would walk out of the church; when the priest was done, they would come back. “Do what I say, but don’t do what I do,” the men would say, referring to the man of God.

In time, many Filipino leaders returned to the Church, abjuring Masonry as in the case of the late President Quezon; they became quite devout. It no longer seemed queer to be a priest or to listen to one. The Church grew in prestige. When a Protestant, Camilo Osias, made known his intention to run for president, he was told he couldn’t win; he was not a Catholic. He could be a senator; he was. He could never be president. He must face the facts of political life. When he wouldn’t, and bolted to the other side, he couldn’t even get elected as senator.

If Ramon Magsaysay is president of the Philippines today, it is due not a little to the help of the Church. The hierarchy, reluctantly coming to the conclusion that the perpetuation of the Quirino administration through electoral fraud and terrorism would eventually drive the people into Communism, urged the faithful to keep the elections free. Free elections would mean the defeat of the Quirino administration. The Church couldn’t help that. The elections were free, and there was a new administration.
(more…)

Rizal in the American Congress, December 27, 1952

Rizal in the American Congress
By Vicente Albano Pacis

December 27, 1952–IN the semi darkness of the ground floor of the US Capitol in Washington, I entered an office by mistake—and stumbled upon the author of the Philippine Bill of 1902—and an interesting episode in Rizalian lore.

It was 1926. Though perhaps not as critical as that of 1902, the American congressional situation with respect to the Philippines was serious. In Manila, General Leonard Wood, the Governor-General, and Manuel L. Quezon, the Senate President, were in the midst of a knock-down-and-dug-out fight. And friends of the general on Capitol Hill were active. One of them, tough and determined Congressman Robert Bacon of New York, had introduced a bill separating Mindanao and Jolo from the Philippines and retaining them under US sovereignty, should Luzon and the Visayas become independent, Senator Sergio Osmeña has rushed to Washington in alarm to try and block the shocking proposal.

A young Associated Press correspondent, I was closely watching the developments on the measure and was that day on my way to the office of Congressman Kiess of Pennsylvania, chairman of the House Committee on Insular Affairs, when I entered the wrong door. I was about to withdraw, having started to offer my excuses, but what the elderly female secretary said rang a bell in my head.

She said. “This is the office of Congressman Henry A. Cooper; can I help you?”

“Cooper of Wisconsin?” I inquired.

I had been in and out of the Capitol for five or six months and had not heard any mention of his name now seen him in the house session hall. I had no idea that he was still a member of Congress. But feeling sure now that the man into whose office I had gotten by mistake was none other than the man for whom the Cooper Act—the first Philippine Organic Law—was named, I decided to see him. I asked the secretary if I could do so.

She slipped into the dim inner office and almost right away came back to usher me in. Seated beside an ancient roll-top desk, the completely white-haired, short, thin old man trembled visibly as he rose slowly and offered me his hand.

“I’m Cooper,” he stated simply.

I explained who I was and added for its possible psychological effect that I had just left the University of Wisconsin the previous summer. But it was not necessary. The mere fact that I was a Filipino seemed to have had a tonic effect on both his strength and memory.

“Well, sir, so you’re from the Philippines?” he said in a reedy voice as he motioned me to a seat.

Having himself sunk back into his swivel chair, he continued, “I’m always glad to meet Filipinos. In all modesty, one of the highlights—one of the most thrilling moments—of my long congressional service was my participation in the drafting and enactment of the first enabling act for the Philippines. And, sir, President McKinley, Governor Taft, and the rest of us met obstacles on every side. But do you know who came to our rescue, sir? None other than you great martyr and hero, Jose Rizal.”

I had gone in, glad of the opportunity to meet a history-book name. His reference to Rizal left me in a state of trembling expectation. What he did next heightened the suspense.

He leaned back in his chair, pressed interlaced fingers on his breast and closed his eyes. He remained thus for some time. I began to wonder if he had gone to sleep as old people often do at the oddest moments. I was about to call his secretary when he suddenly opened his eyes, sat erect, gripped the arms of his chair with each hand as if he had just remembered something very important. His mind had evidently traveled some two decades back, and now he resumed talking.

“Philippine-American relations started very badly, sir!” he recalled. “Those of us who were trying to formulate what might be a just and wise Philippine policy were harassed on every side. Do you know, sir, that President McKinley finally had to resort to nightly prayer?”

With a faraway look in his eyes, he related how the president, criticized on all sides and offered conflicting advice, had finally decided to go on his knees every night in the White House. And one night there had come to him what appeared to be the ultimate solution of the situation. Give back the Philippines to Spain? Leave them to another power in the Orient—Germany, Great Britain, Japan? Abandon the Filipinos? Each of these questions had brought an unsatisfactory answer. So the president had inescapably reached the decision that the only honorable course left to America was to take over the Philippines “to civilize, to educate and to train in self-government.”

The old congressman talked of the Anti-imperialist League, headed by powerful men like Ex-President Grover Cleveland, Andrew Carnegie, and Justice Joseph Story, which was “spreading fear and indignation by alleging that the Republican Administration, in taking over the Philippines, was embarking on a career of imperialism and wrecking America’s constitutional principles.” The Democratic Party, having promised independence to the Filipinos as early as in the presidential campaign of 1900, announced itself in favor of giving that independence immediately.

“But sir,” Congressman Cooper pointed out, “the Democrats were less interested in the Filipinos than in their own skins. Do you know that their official platform declared, ‘The Filipinos cannot be citizens without endangering our civilization. . . .'”?

Although by 1902 General Aguinaldo had already been captured in Palana, Isabela, by Colonel Funston, and the backbone of the insurrection had been broken, Filipino guerrillas were still active. Americans and Filipinos were still killing each other and the American press continued to carry lurid and gory tales of alleged Filipino brutalities and atrocities. As a consequence American public opinion was bitterly anti-Filipino.

“Most Americans, including prominent Republicans and Democrats, believed that your people were unfit for self-government,” Congressman Cooper went on. “In fact, many of them, including our leading newspapers and responsible statesmen, were convinced the Filipinos were barbarians, pirates, and savages.”

Then he recalled the day when, as chairman of the house Committee on Insular Affairs, which handled Philippine legislation, and as principal author of the Bill of 1902, he made his sponsorship speech. The date was June 19.

“Soon after I’d started speaking,” he recounted, “gentlemen on both sides of the House stood up and demanded to be heard. They badgered and interrupted me often. Finally I refused to yield the floor. I made a long speech; I covered every phase of the Philippine problem—economic, social, political, and Philanthropic. But the strongest argument which I had to demolish was the claim that the Filipinos were savages unfit for self-government. Therefore, I had to address myself especially to this particular point; and, just as President McKinley looked upon God for guidance, so I called upon your Rizal for support. He didn’t fail me.”

The Congressional record for that day chronicles that Congressman Cooper opened his argument against the detractors of the Philippines as follows:

“Everyday we hear men declare that the people of the Philippines are ‘pirate,’ ‘barbarians,’ ‘savages,’ ‘incapable of civilization’. . . newspapers of prominence have repeatedly endorsed this view.

“Mr. Chairman, I am not here to join in this cry so often hear. . . . Before we say that the Filipino people are barbarians and savages whose future is hopeless, we should remember the past and not forget how largely human beings are the products of environment. . . . Think of their history! For three hundred hopeless years they had seen Spanish officials treat office merely as a means by which to rob the helpless people. For three hundred years they lived under a government which deliberately kept the mass of the people in ignorance, which deliberately sought to close to them every avenue of social and political advancement; a government under which it was well-nigh useless for a man even to attempt to acquire property, because his accumulations furnished only so much more of temptation and opportunity for the rapacity of government officials; a government which punished even the most respectful protest against its infamous executions with banishment or death. . . .

“What the Filipinos think, what they feel what they do, are only the natural results of what they have undergone. Yet, sir, despite this environment, this deprivation, this wrong and contumely and outrage, this unfortunate race has given to the world not a few examples of intellectual and moral worth—men in the height of mind and power of character.”

Then the talked of Rizal:

“It has been said that if American institutions had done nothing else than furnish to the world the character of George Washington, ‘that alone would entitle them to the respect of mankind.’ So, sir, I say to all those who denounce the Filipinos indiscriminately as barbarians and savages, without possibility of a civilized future, that this despised race proved itself entitled to their respect and to the respect of mankind when it furnished to the world and character of Jose Rizal.”

Briefly, he narrated the life of the hero from his birth in Calamba to his sentence to death by a Spanish court-martial in Manila.

“On the night before his death, he wrote a poem,” Cooper continued. “I will read it, that the house may know what were the last thoughts of this ‘pirate,’ this ‘barbarian,’ this ‘savage,’ of a race ‘incapable of civilization’!”

With eloquence and feeling, Cooper recited Mi Ultimo Adios as translated into English by Derbyshire. When the last line, “Farewell, dear ones, farewell! To die is to rest from our labors,” had faded away, there was a long, deep silence. Then the entire House broke into prolonged applause.

“Encouraged by the demonstration,” Congressman Cooper continued his narration to me, “I plunged into my climax. Even now I can remember the words; I fairly thundered them:

“Pirates! Barbarians! Savages! Incapable of civilization. How many of the civilized, Caucasian slanderers of his race could ever be capable of thoughts like these, which on the awful night, as he sat alone amidst silence unbroken save by the rustling of the black plumes of the death angel at his side, poured from the soul of the martyred Filipino? Search the long and bloody roll of the world’s martyred dead, and where—on what soil, under what sky—did Tyranny ever claim a nobler victim?

“Sir, the future is not without hope for a people which, from the midst of such an environment, has furnished to the world a character so lofty and so pure as that of Jose Rizal.”

Now visibly tired from his memory and oratorical exertions, he rested. Yet, though faintly panting, his seamy face wore more than the suggestion of a smile. He was reliving his years of power and triumph, and he was happy. His next words confirmed what his countenance had already proclaimed.

“The result was a complete triumph for Rizal, the Filipinos and justice,” he said, “and, I think I should add in all candor, myself.”

He stopped to savor the thought with relish.

“The story and poetry of Rizal did something to the House akin to a miracle,” he continued. “Your great patriot made congressmen — as well as senators — forget the Philippine insurrection and remember only your people’s travails. Rizal kindled a light by which, for the first time, Americans had done in 1776. Out of Rizal’s life and labors there was born an American-Philippine kinship that he has endured.” Almost as an after-thought, he added, “In the voting on the bill which followed shortly, American statesmen gave Rizal a sizeable majority: the measure was soon ready for the signature of the President. Theodore Roosevelt for, alas, the gentle McKinley had been assassinated the previous years.

I could not help asking him a question. For even as we were talking the Quezon-Wood quarrel raged in Manila and produced serious repercussions in Washington. “A kinship that has endured, Mr. Congressman?” I inquired rhetorically.

“Don’t ever worry for a moment.” he replied, raising a thin hand in a reassuring gesture. “The basic American policy in the Philippines is embodied in law and honored in practice. It is gradual self-government inevitably leading to independence. Having gathered the momentum of time, there’s no turning it back. Men are mere incidents; America’s policy is a matter of national honor.

“The law of 1902 gave your people their first adequate opportunity to show their political capacity. And your statesmen — Osmeña, Quezon and others — have vindicated your people and justified the faith of those of us who, in 1898-1902, saw in the Filipino with his bolo, not a brute savage, but a man defending his motherland and his freedom. You’ve made good. No American can alter that record — ever.

“And when you’re free at last — and I hope it’ll be before I die — you’ll honor Rizal even more. For he not only awakened the Filipinos and wrote finis to Spanish imperialism but also lighted the way for America.”

The interview was over. Nothing more needed to be said. We shook hands. He sank back in his chair and I turned and left.

 

Del Pilar, December 13, 1952

Del Pilar

 By Leon Ma. Guerrero

 

December 13, 1952—OF all our national heroes, Marcelo H. del Pilar was, perhaps, nearest to the modern Filipino. Modern in his concept of political activity, modern in his belief in organization, modern in his skillful and efficient use of propaganda, he was the prototype of the modern politician, lawyer, newspaperman and civic leader. Del Pilar should surely be ranked on equal terms with Rizal, Bonifacio and Aguinaldo as a leader of the victorious revolution against Spain.

Few Filipinos realize that the Spaniards, who were after all the best judges of their enemies, placed Del Pilar ahead of Rizal and the others. General Ramon Blanco, governor-general of the Philippines at the outbreak of the Revolution, said that Del Pilar was “the most intelligent [of the Filipino politicians], the true soul of the independence movement, very superior to Rizal.”

We do not have to take the judgment of the Spanish Governor-General. Our own historians uphold the proposition that Del Pilar inspired the organization of the Katipunan, if he did not actually found and direct it. Proof of this are the facts that the by-laws of the Katipunan were submitted for approval by Bonifacio to Del Pilar, that Bonifacio used the letter of Del Pilar sanctioning the organization to recruit adherents, and that the Kalayaan, official organ of the Katipunan, carried the name of the absent Del Pilar as editor. Thus was explicit and formal recognition given to the man whose ideas and ideals inspired the revolutionary movement. So intimately was Del Pilar connected with the Katipunan, and so highly was he regarded by its leaders, that Bonifacio reverently copied the letters of Del Pilar to his brother-in-law, Deodato Arellano, considering them as sacred relics and, together with the letters that he himself received, as guides for action.

Marcelo Hilario del Pilar was born on the 30th of August 1850. It is a pity that our people did not see fit to celebrate the centenary of his birth two years ago, but the opportunity has passed forever. His birthplace was the sitio of Cupang in the barrio of San Nicolas, municipality of Bulacan.

The real surname of the family was Hilario. Del Pilar was added only in obedience to the famous decree of Claveria in 1849, the same that added Rizal to the name of the Mercados. It is probable that noble blood ran in Del Pilar’s veins. His mother was a Gatmaytan, and the prefix Gat indicated her descent from the ancient Tagalog aristocracy.

From the beginning he came in conflict with the friars, who were to become his lifelong enemies. He was a fourth-year law student at the University of Santo Tomas when he quarreled with the parish priest of San Miguel, Manila, over some baptismal fees. He seems to have been so deeply affected by this incident that he interrupted his studies for eight years, during which he worked as a government clerk. When he was finally admitted to the bar, he was already 30 years old and married to his cousin, Marciana Hilario del Pilar.

To understand his subsequent career, it is necessary to realize the political situation at the time. The real and effective political power in the Philippines during the close of the Spanish regime was exercised by the religious orders. We had what Del Pilar termed “La Frailocracia” in one of his most renowned works, that is to say, a government by friars.

They had attained this position through a shrewd and masterful strategy. To the Filipinos they denounced the abuses of the civil government, and proclaimed themselves the only protectors of the common people. To the civil government, in turn, they accused the Filipinos of being anti-Spanish and proclaimed themselves the most effective defenders of the Spanish sovereignty.

Thus, playing one against the other, the friars were able to maintain their predominance over both, in much the same way that certain elements in our own time proclaim themselves the only ones who can get American assistance for the common people, and brand their political opponents as anti-American and anti-democratic (the present equivalent of the terms mason, filibustero, and libre-pensador, so useful to the friars.)

Such a strategy of duplicity and deceit could not then, as it cannot now, succeed forever. In the end it was exposed and defeated, as it will again be discredited and repudiated in our own time. But it still worked when Del Pilar, as a young lawyer, returned to his native province and immediately proceeded to oppose it.

His counterstrategy was simple, but it reveals his political talent. He allied himself in every possible way with the Spanish civilian officials, who did not relish any more than he did the soberanía monacal, the monkish regime. Most of us, looking back at the past through the pages of a textbook, have grown to believe that all the Spaniards were bad, that their government was uniformly oppressive, that they knew nothing of constitutions, democratic rights and modern political institutions.

The fact is that Spain itself had undergone a long and ferocious revolution and civil war, and that the Spanish people had proved with their blood their understanding, devotion and right to constitutional government. There were Spanish liberals as well as Spanish reactionaries; the issue in the Philippines, as Del Pilar and Rizal saw it, was whether the liberals or the reactionaries, as represented by the friars and their supporters, would gain the upper hand in the distant colony, and whether or not the Spanish constitution and its bill of rights, and the Spanish system of representative government through the Cortes, would be extended to the Filipinos.

One may appreciate this in a flash from the title of one of Del Pilar’s pamphlets, which was called simply: “Viva España! Viva el Rey! Viva el Ejercito! Fuera los Frailes!” That is to say, “Long live Spain! Long live the King! Long live the Army! Throw the friars out!”

Such was Del Pilar’s political slogan, and he put it into practice by winning to his side liberal Spanish laymen, Filipino local officials, and the officers of the guardia civil. His father had been three times gobernadorcillo of Bulacan, and Del Pilar was used to the ways of provincial politics. He maneuvered to have one of his relatives, Manuel Crisostomo, named gobernadorcillo of Malolos, and, when the latter was relieved on suspicion of subversive activities, to have another relative, Vicente Gatmaytan, appointed in his place. Del Pilar also seems to have exercised great influence on the Spanish governor of the province, Manuel Gomez Florio.

With this organization behind him, Del Pilar took the side of the cabezas de barangay of Malolos in a bitter dispute with the parish priest over the collection of excessive taxes. Subsequently, in another controversy over the control of the civilian authorities in public funerals, he even convinced the Spanish governor to order the arrest of the friar-curate. In 1887 and 1888 he expanded his field of activities and prepared eloquent denunciations and memorials directed to the Governor-General and to the Queen Regent herself.

Obviously, the daring provincial politician could not for long escape the vengeance of the religious orders. At their instigation, a confidential investigation was held. Del Pilar was accused of being “anti-Spanish”—familiar phrase—and the counsel of subversive elements against the friars. The case was taken to Malacañan itself. This time, even his friend, the Spanish governor of Bulacan, was unable to protect him. On the 28th of October 1888, Del Pilar hurriedly took a ship to Spain as the decree for his exile from his native province was about to be signed.

In the Spanish metropolis, he plunged once more into political activity. He intrigued with the principal Spanish politicians, trying to secure promises and concessions. But above all he embarked on the gigantic one-man propaganda campaign which was to become his lifework and his main contribution to the Revolution. He edited La Solidaridad almost single-handedly, but with such rare ability that Rizal contented himself with occasional contributions from abroad.

Unlike Rizal, furthermore, Del Pilar had a modern sense of mass publicity. While the poet-hero wrote his tremendous novels in Spanish, a language that few Filipinos could read, Del Pilar flooded his native country with smuggled pamphlets written in simple Tagalog, a Tagalog that is still a model of lucidity, directness and force.

Del Pilar was no academician or theorist; he was ribald, sometimes coarse, even blasphemous. He wrote parodies of the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Apostles’ Creed, the catechism—all ridiculing his enemy the friar—and as a masterstroke of propaganda, he printed them in the same size and the same format as the pious catechism and novenas distributed by the friars to the faithful in the provinces.

It was modern propaganda; ruthless, unscrupulous, popular and tremendously effective. Yet Del Pilar was, also, a generous enemy. When his hated antagonist in polemics, the simple friar Rodriguez died, Del Pilar paid a heartfelt tribute to his sincerity, charity, love of truth, and honor, pointing out that the good father had received an exceedingly mystical education and was not to blame if he stubbornly idealized the facts of life.

When he learned from his wife that enemies, probably agents of the friars, had burned their house in Bulacan, he wrote to her: “I am not surprised over the burning of our house. Our enemies are capable of worse misdeeds! If the criminal hired for the job is one of our people, I know he was misled by his ignorance of my sincere love for him, for I cannot believe he would otherwise have sunk so low to do me harm. There is not a bit of resentment in my heart.”

How painful it was for this man to live separated from his wife and children! It was not only the penury which he suffered in Madrid; it was most of all the absence of his loved ones that drove him to distraction. His letters to his family reveal all the goodness of that heart, hidden under the truculent and combative visage of the propagandist.

His heart bled when his youngest daughter Anita, hearing that her father needed money in Spain, sent him one peso, which she had hoarded out of the Christmas gifts given to her. Upon receiving the touching present, Del Pilar wrote to his wife: “I can’t seem to forget the peso Anita sent me. I wish you had contrived somehow not to send it so that you could have bought her a pair of shoes instead. My heart bleeds every time I think of the hard life you and our children lead, and so I am very eager to return home to be able to take care of you and our children.”

Why did he not go back? He was not living in Madrid in the style of those of our contemporaries who have access to the favors of the Central Bank. He had no dollars for nightclubs and gifts. Indeed, as he said in one of his letters to his wife: “For my meals I have to approach friends for loans, day after day. To be able to smoke, I have gone to the extreme of picking up cigarette butts in the streets.…” But his friends in Spain, as well as the family council in his native land, urged him to stay, and conscious of his duties to his people, he himself knew he had to stay.

Besides, and this is a revealing episode in his life, he did not want to bring disaster upon his family and native town. It was not without bitterness that he saw the entire population of Calamba dispossessed in the furore over Rizal’s return. He wrote to his wife: “Regarding your advice about not following the example of Rizal…it is indeed very unfortunate! That man not only does not build, but also wrecks what others have built inch by inch by dint of hard labor. Of course, he really does not mean it, but because of his headlong ways, he brings misery to others. If my misfortunes bring blessing to others, I really would not mind them; but if they bring misery and disaster to many, then they are useless indeed!”

It is difficult to believe that these are words of Del Pilar on Rizal. But heroes are also human; they disagree among themselves. Rizal had his own reasons for returning, just as Del Pilar had his own for remaining in Spain. They had, one might say, two different concepts of sacrifice: Both were prepared to make a supreme sacrifice; Rizal was ready to die; Del Pilar was willing to face what was, to him, worse than death: exile.

But in the end, Del Pilar himself was convinced that it was useless to remain in Spain any longer. The time for practical politics had passed. Concessions would no longer be sufficient. He had learned enough from Bonifacio’s messages to know that the hour had struck for armed revolution.

Racked with tuberculosis, his constitution broken by years of hardships and hunger, penniless in a foreign land, Del Pilar dragged himself to Barcelona to wait for a ship back home. He was so wretchedly sick that, like an animal, he had to climb on hands and knees up to the poor garret where he lived.

He grew so much worse that he had to suspend his trip. He was taken to a charity ward. There, on the 4th of July 1896, a few days before the Cry of Balintawak, a few months before the execution of Rizal, and half a century exactly to the day before the proclamation of our independent Republic, Del Pilar died, a pauper, almost deserted, far from his beloved family, consoled only by the last sacraments of his old enemy the Church. There was not even enough money to pay for a grave. His body was buried in the private crypt of the family of a friend, on a hill overlooking the sea that lay between him and home.

Thus died the greatest of the Bulakeños, and one of the greatest of the Filipinos.

How many of us know even now where the remains of Del Pilar are buried?

With characteristic indifference, we let his body rot in a borrowed grave in Barcelona until a passing traveler took initiative, many years later, to bring back the poor bones and ashes. Today he rests in the mausoleum of the Veterans of the Revolution in Manila. He does not even have a grave to call his own. Perhaps he would rather rest there, in a common grave with those who fought for his ideals. Del Pilar was always a believer in unity, cooperation, brotherhood. That was, after all, the name he chose for the newspaper which was his lifework: La Solidaridad.

There are many kinds of heroism. There is the heroism of the martyrs like Rizal, pure and spotless victims offered in atonement for the sins of mankind. There is the heroism of the fighters like Bonifacio, bold and gallant in the vanguard of the struggle.

And there is also the heroism of those who, like Del Pilar, work and make their sacrifices in the sustained devotion of their daily tasks. Theirs is not the spectacular glory of the battlefield or the tragic splendor of the scaffold. But it is nonetheless heroic to starve for an ideal, to be lonely among many enemies, to suffer indifference and ignorance, to die a beggar and lie buried in a borrowed grave. Such was the heroism of Del Pilar.

 

Presidents at play, July 9, 1949

Presidents at Play
July 9, 1949

By Filemon V. Tutay
Staff Member

EVEN heads of state must also play. And the present President of the Philippines and those before him provide no exception. Whit it is true that presidents are very busy people, they always manage to find a little spare time for some kind of sport to divert themselves from the manifold worries of running a government. And, of course, it is not always poker, as some people think.

When in Manila, the President loves to go swimming in the elaborate swimming pool of Malacañan park at least once a week. And when he does go swimming, one of the palace physicians is also in the pool. Sometimes, the President also invites friends to go swimming with him. Very rarely does he avail himself of the well-kept miniature golf course on the park just across the river from the palace although he can swing a mean club when he is in the mood.

President Quirino saves his golf for his visits to Baguio. This is probably because swimming pools in the summer capital are too cold for him to enjoy his swimming routine. His son, Tommy, keeps him company around the course of the Baguio Country Club. No betting, Tommy is a pretty good golfer.

As a senator and later as member of the cabinet, Quirino used to play bowling at the old Columbian club. Since he landed in Malacañan, however, the Apo has not been known to bowl. Indoor diversions include poker, but no bridge.

The late President Roxas’ favorite sport was golf. he was the one who authorized the laying out of the miniature 9-hole course at Malacañan park. he had told friends that he wanted to save time by having a golf course close at hand. Wack Wack and Caloocan were too far off to suit him. When in the mood to play, if playing companions were not available, Roxas played against himself. But playing either alone or with companions, he always had an aide following him with an umbrella. The late President made pretty poor scores in his golf, but those who should know say that Roxas was great at poker.

Most Athletic

Roxas’ other pet diversion was truck gardening. he started a truck garden in Malacañan park to inaugurate a food production campaign, probably as a publicity stunt. But his interest in the garden did not end there. He put in more and more of his leisure time in the cultivation of the plants with his own hands. Roxas had a lush luck garden going at the time of his death.

Former President Osmeña does not have any know athletic proclivities. This does not mean, however, that he lacked exercise, for he went in strong for dancing. With the possible exception of the late President Quezon, Osmeña should rank highest as a dancer among former occupants of Malacañan. Unlike other presidents, Osmeña was not choosy in his partners. he danced with anybody.

The present “Private Citizen No. 1” did not confine his exercise to dancing. When he could not dance, he hiked. He used to take early-morning walks when he was president. And he enjoys the long walks he now has time to take in his extensive hacienda in Cebu.

Quezon was perhaps the most athletic of Philippine presidents. he loved to play golf and did so every time he had a chance, either at the Manila Golf club in Caloocan or at Wack Wack in Mandaluyong. His favorite playing companions were Sen. Vicente Madrigal, former Speaker Jose Yulo, Dr. Jose P. Laurel and sometimes Archbishop Michael O’Doherty. it was said of the late fiery leader that when his score was low he used to call out his score to friends playing one hole behind. But it was different when his ball was always “in the rough,” and his score was high. It was then that Don Manuel was at his vitriolic best. He swore in at least three languages and a couple of dialects. It was just too bad if one of his playing companions happened to be the archbishop of Manila. The other players had a merry time laughing behind Quezon’s back.

Horseback riding was also a great love of Don Manuel’s. He did most of his riding early in the morning and it is said that he made his greatest decisions while on horseback. it is related that he was riding horseback one morning when he suddenly realized that the then house of representatives was getting out of hand under Quintin Paredes and he decided then and there to start the necessary maneuvers to unseat Paredes and install in his place Gil Montilla who, later on, was referred to as the “silent speaker.”

Dancing Lessons

Dancing was another pet diversion of Quezon. Those who have seen him dance agree that the late President was a very elegant dancer and would do credit to any dance floor. His favorite music was the tango. Because of his dancing proclivities, his detractors used to say that his was the cabaretista type of leadership in the government.

Generally, he did not give a hoot to what his critics said about his cabaretista leadership. He learned how to dance from the most exclusive dancing maestros in New York. Even after he became an accomplished dancer, Quezon used to take dancing lessons whenever he was in the United States, not so much for the instruction as for the pleasure of dancing with pretty and graceful partners.

Quezon did much to promote athletics on a national scale. he was president of the Philippine Amateur Athletic Federation from 1917 to 1935, and ceased as such only upon his election as President of the Philippine Commonwealth. He started the movement which culminated in the participation of Philippine tennis players in the Davis cup championships.

This being a straight sports story without any political implications, we include Dr. Jose P. Laurel, president of the republic, under the Japanese. Laurel is a pretty good golfer. He played golf even before he got to Malacañan. His most memorable round of golf was played at Wack Wack some time in 1943, with Dr. Nicanor Jacinto, Dean Leoncio Munson, and Enrique Katigbak.

Prize Crocodile

Everything went well until the foursome got to the seventh hole, which is near the road. Laurel was making a putt on the seventh green when shots rent the air. The occupation president fell, seriously wounded by four heavy slugs. The injury was serious but Laurel’s life was saved by the best surgical skill the whole Japanese army in the Philippines could muster. He was patched up as good as new and he is still able to play the game.

It may be of interest to add that Laurel’s favorite indoor pastime is to fiddle. He frequently plays the violin in the presence of friends. And they say that he plays well indeed for an amateur.

General Emilio Aguinaldo, having been the first and only president of the first Philippine Republic, should be given space in this story. In his younger days, the general rode horseback a lot, more for duty, of course, than for pleasure. He also put in a little swimming when he got the time. As a hunter, the general once bagged a prize crocodile in the Cagayan river in the early ’20s. The croc was mounted and at one time decorated the hallway of the University of the Philippines.

Aguinaldo has no “vices.” He takes no liquor, does not smoke and does not gamble. In his old age, the general’s main interest is looking after his veteranos. The thinning ranks of his followers have not dimmed his hope of eventual recognition for their sacrifices from the government in the form of token aid or pension in their old age. The general’s pension was stopped in 1935. He is not interested in the revival of the pension for himself, but he would like to bring satisfaction to his veteranos who have, after all, only a few more years to live.

Interview with the General, June 11, 1949

FP-Aguinaldo

In the Philippines’ postwar era, Emilio Aguinaldo (who died in 1964, the year of Beatlemania, at the age of 94) was, of course, widely regarded as a living legend. His company was sought by many, including this magazine’s staffers at that time, who became chummy with the General. Here is T.M. Locsin’s interview with Aguinaldo.—Ed.

Interview with the General

By Teodoro M. Locsin

 

On the “violent” Bonifacio, the “slanderer” Mabini and other topics Emilio Aguinaldo would rather not talk about. 

 

June 11, 1949Aguinaldo, at 80, is a spry old gentleman who seems to run as he walks. He holds himself straight; he talks with animation and authority; he is no sad echo from the past but still very much the man who had headed the army of the revolution against Spain.

“Historians make much of the Cry of Balintawak,” he observed without vainglory, only with the earnest air of a man setting history right, “but it was only, after all, a cry. The first shots were fired in Cavite. It was there that the door was actually opened to Philippine independence. It was there that the first independent revolutionary government was established.”

What about Bonifacio?

“I do not like to talk about it.”

But he should. People still hold him responsible for Bonifacio’s death.

“Bonifacio was executed after being found guilty by a court-martial of treason and sedition. I had nothing to do with it. He was a good man, but violent.…”

What about Mabini?

“He was a good man, too. They were both good men. But it was he who, after a political defeat, spread the slander that I was responsible for Bonifacio’s death. They were both good men and we were friends. We were friends until politics destroyed our friendship….”

He shook his gray head.

“I do not like to speak of those things now. We must keep their names bright. We must have as many heroes as possible, for the glory of our country.”

Aguinaldo was born in Kawit, Cavite, on March 22, 1869. His father died when he was nine and his mother supported the eight children. Aguinaldo, the seventh child, returned to Kawit when his mother could no longer maintain four children in school in Manila. He helped his mother work their piece of land, then went into the “buy-and-sell” business. With a small boat he sold clothes, rice, salt, cattle and general merchandise in Mindoro, Romblon, Masbate, Panay, making from P300 to P500 per trip. In those days a teacher earned P10 a month.

He was elected capitan municipal or mayor by the prominent men of Kawit, called Cavite Viejo then. On the night of his election he joined the Masons at their secret lodge in Imus. Masonry was forbidden. The grandmaster of the lodge was Juan Castañeda, father of General Castañeda. Then came the revolution.

Spanish Saber

Aguinaldo joined the rebels at Kawit and was designated as abanderado—the man who held the flag and marched at the head of the column in an attack. The rebels—or insurgents, as Aguinaldo prefers to call them—surrounded the Spanish garrison in Imus.

“We killed three friars. The friars were well-armed. They had Winchesters.” Aguinaldo here made the motion of aiming a rifle and pulling the trigger. “We had only three rifles, and bolos.”

During the battle, Aguinaldo left the front in Imus to meet the column of General Aguirre in Bacoor. The Spaniards had cavalry and artillery, and routed the insurgents. General Aguirre then proceeded to Imus to relieve the Spanish forces there. But the Spaniards had surrendered and the insurgents now had many rifles and even a cannon from the hacienda of the friars.

“We cut the bridge and waited for the Spaniards at the bank of the river. When the Spaniards appeared, we gave it to them. The first cannon shot killed many. Most of those killed were Filipinos in the forces of the Spaniard. When General Aguirre fled, his saber fell. That is the saber I am holding in the picture.”

Aguinaldo fought the Spaniard “almost every day” in Zapote, Bacoor. The Spaniard could not advance. An independent government was set up in Cavite and many Filipinos came to live under the free regime.

“Many, many people came.”

The Spaniards, under Capt. Gen. Ramon Blanco—“El Excelentisimo Don Ramon Blanco, Marques de Estella,” Aguinaldo rolled the name laughingly over his tongue—took the outpost in Binakayan. Aguinaldo and his men retook it, the Spaniards having been maneuvered into and caught between three fires.

Congress

An election was held at Tejeros for the General Revolutionary Assembly. Andres Bonifacio convoked and presided over the convention.

“I was in the field,” Aguinaldo said. “ I was not even present.”

Bonifacio was a candidate for president of the coalition government. (“There were two revolutionary governments in Cavite, one the Magdiwang, headed by Bonifacio, and the other the Magdalo, led by me,” Aguinaldo explained.) Aguinaldo was elected president.

“Bonifacio ran for vice president and was again defeated. Bonifacio ran for secretary of war and was once more defeated. He ran for secretary of interior and that was when he won.

“But upon the proclamation of Bonifacio as secretary of interior, Gen. Daniel Tirona protested the election, saying that the secretary should be a lawyer. Bonifacio reminded Tirona that the agreement was to recognize whoever was elected. Bonifacio was angry, very angry. He drew his gun. Tirona disappeared among the crowd. I was told of what happened by those who had witnessed it. Bonifacio left the convention in rage.”

The committee appointed to notify Aguinaldo of his election found him in the field. Aguinaldo, asked to assume the presidency, refused to leave his post. The Spaniards had taken two towns. The committee returned to Tejeros and a second one was sent this time headed by Gen. Crispulo Aguinaldo, Emilio’s older brother. To Emilio his brother said: “Turn over to me this command and the Spaniard will take the line only over my dead body.” The Spaniards later did, over the body of Crispulo Aguinaldo.

Meanwhile, Emilio took his oath of office as president in Tejeros on March 22, 1897—on his birthday. He was then 28 years old.

“As president I called the forces of Magdiwang to help our forces in Pasong Santol. Bonifacio, I was told, opposed it. Instead, he urged the men to attack me. It was only, of course, a report, and I ignored it.

“After the execution of Bonifacio, I asked Mabini to resign as president of the cabinet upon a resolution of the congress. Mabini’s draft of a constitution had been turned down, hence the congressional resolution. Mabini blamed me for the alleged failure of the revolution. He started the calumny that I had ordered Bonifacio killed.

“It was all politics, of course, and I wish you would not ask me more about it.”

Pact

After nine months of revolutionary independence, the insurgents signed the Pact of Biaknabato with the Spaniard. The Spaniards promised equal rights and reforms. And P800,000 to the revolutionary government. The Spaniard gave only P400,000, no equal right, no reforms. Aguinaldo and company used the money to buy arms and returned from exile in Hong Kong with Admiral Dewey.

On June 12, 1898, Philippine independence from Spain was proclaimed in Kawit. The Filipino flag, as we know it today, was first unfurled, the national anthem first officially played. American officials were present. An American colonel of artillery, L.M. Johnson, was one of the 98 signers of the proclamation of independence.

“First we were friends with the Americans. Then we were enemies. Then friends again. Friends, enemies, then friends again.”

The Philippine legislature granted Aguinaldo a pension of P1,000 a month in 1920.

“The pension was cut off in 1935. You know, Apo Quezon was very angry with me. Even land formerly belonging to the friars which I had bought on the installment plan was taken away from me when I failed to keep up with the installment payments. I had already paid much, but the land was taken anyway.”

When the Japanese invaded the Philippines, Aguinaldo issued a proclamation calling on General McArthur to stop the fighting.

“I did not want our youth to be killed uselessly. It was no use fighting then. I wanted the young men to wait—to wait and prepare for a new battle.”

An old Kawit resident recalls how, when the Japanese visited Aguinaldo and offered him a Japanese sword, Aguinaldo refused the sword. He wanted the Japanese to leave him alone.

“ I am too old,” he said to the Japanese.

What does Aguinaldo think of the future of the Philippines? From the vantage point of his eighty years, what did he think the future holds for the country? What of the Communist victories in China? And what did he think of the present political situation? Whom did he favor among the candidates for the presidency—he who was the first president of the first Philippine republic?

Aguinaldo would rather not say anything.

“Please,” he said.

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