July 27, 1929
The Manuel L. Quezon That I Know
(By A Friend)
IN THE belief that I am one of the most intimate friends of the senate president, the editor of the Free Press asks me to write about Mr. Quezon and to reveal some intimate events of his life. Because of the dictates of delicacy, I refrain from allowing the use of my name.
I first met Mr. Quezon seventeen years ago upon one of his periodic returns from the United States. It was at this time that President Quezon was beginning to wear down the dislike for him of American residents here and was fast making friends amongst them just as he had made American friends in Washington.
Winning a Friend
Here is one incident which will show how at that time he was liked and disliked by Americans. It was at an Army and Navy Club dance. Mr. Quezon was dancing with a lady in whom a junior officer was interested. The officer, who evidently disliked the then Commissioner, approached the two dancers with the evident intention of stopping their dancing and was proceeding to make some derogatory remarks when a senior officer, then a general commanding that Constabulary, later a major general in the World War, and now at the head of one of the greatest corporations in the United States, planted himself squarely in front of the junior officer and told him:
“If you insult that gentleman (referring to Mr. Quezon) you insult me. If you fight him, you will have to fight me first.” The young officer drew back, calmed down, the dance went on, and before the evening was over he was drinking at the club bar to the health of Mr. Quezon.
No Accounting Asked
I had the privilege of keeping myself in close touch with Mr. Quezon at the time that the independence propaganda in the United States was intensest. That was in 1914. It was being financed from the Philippines by contributions from the richest men and from the common people. Don Tomas Earnshaw was the treasurer of the collections and he forwarded the money to the United States every month. A considerable sum was being sent every month and all of it was being spent to good purpose. No accounting was expected by the contributors and none was demanded. To show you Mr. Quezon’s utter disregard for financial matters, upon arrival of the drafts, he would sign them and turn them over to his then secretary, Felipe Buencamino, Jr., or to Maximo Kalaw, and after that he never inquired about the money. Sometimes though, Buencamino and Kalaw had to sweat blood in order to meet the bills that came in. Some day, when it is proper to do so, I suppose Buencamino or Kalaw will take the time to tell how the money was spent. In the meantime, let all judge if the discretion of the contributors of that day was not conductive to a successful campaign. I believe that the demand in later years for an accounting is not conducive to the best results.
Some people might think that with a generous fund requiring no accounting for at his disposal, being a single, unattached man and in the prime of his life, it was all fun and a bed of roses for Mr. Quezon in the United States at that time. That is all wrong, the fun and frolic were the means of insinuating himself into the good graces of those who had it in their hands to legislate upon our future political status. Oftentimes, upon returning home from some party at one or two o’clock in the morning, Mr. Quezon would sit up for another two or three hours working on the draft of the Jones Bill and planning his campaign for its approval.
When Lim Graduated
In the midst of all of these cares, Mr. Quezon never overlooked the welfare of the Filipinos in the United States and always took pride in their success. Let me tell you of two instances illustrating this. One was Vicente Lim’s graduation from West Point, the first Filipino to graduate from that military academy. Mr. Quezon made a special trip from Washington to West Point and took along with him as many of us as he could gather to witness the ceremony, and when Lim’s name was called and he stood up and walked to the rostrum to receive his diploma and was greeted by warm applause, I could see pride for his people oozing out of Mr. Quezon and a trace of tears appearing in his eyes indicating his emotion.
The other incident concerns a Filipino, the son of one of the most powerful men in the Philippine Islands during the Spanish regime, who had moved to Washington with his wife and three or four children. The temptations of the capital city were too much for him and he was sliding down hill fast. For a period of two or three months he lived on the generosity of Mr. Quezon and other Filipinos residing in Washington. Whenever he came to Mr. Quezon for help, he was given some money, but one day Mr. Quezon remarked to me he thought he was not doing the man any good by giving him money. The next time he came for help Mr. Quezon refused to give him money and told him, “I am going over to your house and talk to your wife.” He called me and the two of us went to the Filipino’s home and we saw there a picture of desolation. It seemed that the children and the wife had not had anything to eat for two days. He used the telephone, had some milk, bread and butter brought in immediately, and after the wife and children had taken some food Mr. Quezon asked the wife to make a budget of her monthly expenses for food and rent right then and there. When the budget was drawn up, Mr. Quezon called the real estate agent and guaranteed the rental for three months and called the grocery stores and likewise guaranteed the food bills for three months. Then he pulled out a revolver from his pocket, gave it to the young Filipino and said, “I am sick and tired of your promises to behave. There will not be another centavo to cash for you. If you had any spunk in you, you would take this revolver, go somewhere and shoot yourself, or else go to Mexico, join the rebels and become a general in the Mexican forces. Then I might be glad to shake your hand again after you had recovered your self-respect.” The Filipino broke down and cried as we left the house. The man’s reformation was fast and within two months he got a job as Spanish instructor in a famous academy and I understand is now a noted professor of languages and is making good money.
Considerate of Companions
The Filipino Club in Washington always met at Mr. Quezon’s house and at every meeting there was chow and everything free.
To show how considerate he was of those around him, I might say that whenever travelling in the lavish way in which he did, with four or five pieces of baggage even thought his stay would be only for a day or two, he always looked after himself, packing his clothes, etc., whenever a paid valet was not available, he never ordered anyone around.
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So thereafter Mr. Quezon was called Casey by the Tammany congressmen and soon after that by the whole Congress of the United States as well as many of his American friends.
In concluding, let me say that all this talk about Mr. Quezon being a fabulously rich man is the bunk. To my knowledge, and I have reason to know of his holdings, all he owns is some life insurance taken out when he was married and every time one of his children was born, and certain properties. All these, however, are not free from indebtedness for Mr. Quezon has always been careless of his finances, and has no conception of money values when the necessity to spend arises. I know that he would not be indebted were it not for the fact that in the performance of his duties as president of the senate and the acknowledged leader of the Filipino people, he has had to spend more than the people have paid him as salary
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