Roxas The Man
By Sol H. Gwekoh
October 12, 1946–AS the president of the Republic Manuel Roxas has become familiar to the people. His daily pre-occupations, his commitments and achievements are given prominence in the metropolitan press. The result is, naturally, that Manuel Roxas, the man has been relegated to the background.
Very few people know that Roxas is “Manoling” to his mother and close friends. By acquaintances and political leaders he is remembered as the “Governor” of his native Capiz of the “Speaker,” which position he occupied for over a decade with credit and distinction.
Roxas starts his working day early. He wakes up usually between 6:30 and seven. Then for 16 hours or more he works continuously and assiduously in his desire to clean his desk of the various weighty and pressing problems of state submitted to him by different government entities for action and decision. He retires generally at 11 when most Manilans are already fast asleep.
When he accepts an invitation to speak, he prepares a speech on the eve of the occasion and keeps two stenographers beside him in the palace study room until, if necessary , as late as four o’clock in the morning. He works incessantly throughout the night until he is satisfied with the subject matter and the form of his address, and has clothed it with his strong personality and style.
Breakfast is timed for 7:30. He is served a cup of chocolate, some fried eggs, and toasted bread with butter or jam. Lunch is scheduled for one hour past noon; while supper comes at eight o’clock. Culinary favorites are fresh vegetables and fish, eggnog and orange juice, and mango and pineapple. Lechon (roasted pig) is served only on special occasions.
The President takes his meals together with his family, consisting of Mrs. Trinidad de Leon Roxas, daughter Ruby, and son Gerardo. Roxas eats little, but quite fast. Frugal in his diet, he has ordered the palace stewards—Wong Lee Din and Placido Felizidario — to prepare a one-course meal for all, including him. Perhaps he believes all other people in the palace eat as little as himself.
As for drinking, he sometime takes a Manhattan cocktail during the meal “warm” him up. He seldom drinks beer. Not a heavy drinker, he once remarked when asked by friends to taste a new concoction, “Fellows, this drink may be mild to you but certainly not for the President of the Philippines.”
On the other hand, Roxas is a heavy smoker, his taste running to cigarettes. He smokes continuously whenever the occasion permits and whatever he is doing. This is noticeable in his press conferences and cabinet meetings and on other important official occasions when, soon after settling down in the presidential chair, he pulls out a cigarette as the deliberations begin.
The schedule of official callers and appointments for the day starts early and ends late, thus leaving him little time for outdoor relaxation to keep himself physically, and mentally, in trim. It is only in the evenings and on Sunday that he puts aside his presidential preoccupation and takes time to exercise. Official holidays are to him no different from regular working days during which he studies either all by himself or in consultation with his closest confidential advisers, the subjects being naturally the national issues and problems of the moment.
Of evenings the President joins personal friends and relatives of the Roxas and De Leon families for an hour or two enjoying the latest talkies available in Manila. They are privately projected in the state dining hall of the palace. These special shows begin at 8:30 and are held almost nightly except when Roxas has visitors or is too occupied with affairs of the state.
On Sunday morning the presidential chaplain says two masses in the palace chapel. The early offering at seven o’clock is for Roxas who leaves immediately after for the Malacañan park across the Pasig river to play golf with friends up to 11 o’clock. The second mass at 10 o’clock is for Mrs. Roxas. Playing golf with Roxas are Secretary of Justice Ozaeta, former Chief Justice Jose Yulo, Presidential Secretary Abello, Lieut. Commander Edelstein, and Cousin-in-law Luis de Leon. An efficient and alert caddy follows Roxas all the way around the nine-hole course. In the park are also the gymnasium equipped with a basketball court and bowling alleys, the social hall for dancing and entertainment, the tennis court for day-and-night games, and the swimming pool, considered one of the best in the Philippines. While brimming with enthusiasm and interest, Roxas has not made use of them yet, except for the bowling, at which he and Mrs. Roxas drop in at times to play for a while and score a strike or spare, when favored with good luck.
Unlike the late President Quezon and former President Osmeña, Roxas does not motor to places outside of Manila. Except when he is the guest speaker at important function, makes an official call on a government dignitary, or inspects an office, his Packard bearing plate No. 1 and displaying the presidential ensign is not seen by the public. However, his driver, Federico Calar, stays in the palace garage 24 hours a day waiting for a possible call from his boss. Roxas is cautious, careful, and watchful in motoring; his car speed never goes beyond the limit.
In his spare moments the President works his truck garden of some 500 square meters in the park. Planted by him early in May to eggplants, string beans, corn, pechay and cabbage, he started harvesting last month. As a farmer he is not only practical but also progressive. Appreciative of mechanized farming, he recently acquired a new Bacon hand cultivator, known as the “all-purpose farm implement,” to improve his garden and increase its yield.
Soon Roxas expects to go horse-riding in the park. His two big American Army stallions, given him by General Castañeda, MPC, are now being fitted for their new master. Since they are not government property Roxas spends his own money for their feed. The horses were left behind by the fleeing Japanese forces in the Cagayan valley during the battle for liberation of the Philippines in 1945.
PHILIPPINES FREE PRESS
“Filipinos keep out”
By Leon O. Ty
October 5, 1946–OUR cover photo in this issue was taken in Tacloban, historic provincial capital of Leyte, two weeks ago today. The arresting signboard bearing the notice “FILIPINOS KEEP OUT—EWAS DEDA,”* may still be standing where the FREE PRESS photographer snapped it — near a dump on the left side of the road leading to the PAL and FEATI landing fields in a barrio called San Jose, some seven kilometers away from the town proper.
This writer inquired of a few friends from Tacloban if there were any other signboards in that locality bearing the same notice.
“Lots of them before but now no more,” replied a young lawyer from Tacloban, “except that one you saw on the way to the airstrip. We do not bother about it because it’s too far from town anyway.
“When those signboards were first placed here, we started a rumpus and demanded of the local American provost marshal that either the wording be changed or the signs be removed. Sensing that we were really hurt and that we meant business, the officer lost no time in having the wording altered. As you go around Tacloban today, you will notice that the notice has been changed to ‘MILITARY RESERVATION—CIVILIANS KEEP OUT’.”
The people of Tacloban as well as those of nearby municipalities will readily tell you that they and the American, GIs there, especially the Military Police, are not on friendly terms. And for a good reason. The Americans know that they are not welcomed there and the Leyteños make no bones about their detestation for the GIs.
“We American soldiers know that the people here hate us,” a young GI from Chicago who introduced himself to the writer as Bob, remarked in a conversation. “One night while sitting in a jeep in Tacloban, a Filipino hit me on the head with something hard and I became unconscious. I was not robbed, just clubbed. And I ended in the hospital.”
It may be recalled that two years or so ago, the Americans and the Leyteños were the best of friends. General MacArthur’s boys who landed there on October 20, 1944, to strike the first blow in the liberation of the Philippines were welcomed with songs and flowers upon their arrival. had they been as the Prodigal Son, they could not have been received with more rejoicing. The people, figuratively killed the fatted calf for the Liberators and the latter responded with a demonstration of incredible generosity, genuine American acts of tolerance and a deep sense of understanding of local habits and customs.
“Those boys were real heroes in every way,” remarked a prominent citizen of in the course of a lengthy conversation on the subject of American MPs and their reprehensible conduct in many places in the Philippines. “Nothing can make us forget them or diminish our love and respect for them. They were the Americans we have read of in books. They freed us from a savage enemy, clothed and fed us soon after they landed and took care of our sick. We owed them life and all, but inspite of that, they did not so much as attempt to abuse us or give us the slightest cause to dislike them.
“In contrast, look at these MPs and newly arrived GIs today. Though we owed them absolutely nothing, they look down upon us, as though we were objects of derision and contumely. The MPs raid Filipino homes without search warrants from the civil courts on the pretext of looking either for GI goods or “stolen Army firearms.” They hurl epithets at Filipinos, especially the ignorant ones, and call them such highly insulting names as “gooks, flips, and monkeys.”
But the GIs, it may be said, also that their stay here has not been a picnic. Many of them have been shot and nobody knows by whom. Others had been badly beaten up. If these new replacements persist in making a nuisance of themselves in this town and continue to entertain the idea that because they have a white skin they belong to a superior class of human being, hence, privileged to abuse us, they will be, as they are now, disappointed. We shall show them any time, anywhere, what monkeys can do when grossly abused and insulted beyond endurance.”
Indicative of the bad blood that exists between American GIs and many people of Leyte is the following incident related to the writer by a government official of Tacloban:
One night not long ago there was a heated altercation between a GI and a bar owner which arose over a disagreement on prices of drinks. Before long, the slightly tipsy American soldier started shouting.
“You Filipinos are ungrateful dog,” cried the GI. “We liberated you from the Japs but you do not show any appreciation for what we have done. If I had my way, I would give you back to those yellow savages.”
A hot reply
“So you liberated us from the Japs,” snarled back the bar owner with sarcasm in his voice. “Not your kind. You are not the type that can liberate a people, at least not a drunken fool like you. And remember, Yank, those who liberated us did not talk like you do. Those boys were gentlemen. And we are grateful to them. We fought with them, suffered and died with them because they proved to us that they were good. And we would still do anything for them. But not for you who came here only a month ago. Not for your kind who belittle and insult us as though you were any better. Get out of my place before I stick a knife in your belly. You need not pay for the drinks if you can’t afford it.”
The strained relations between American GIs and Filipino civilians in Leyte, southern Samar, Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Zambales, and other places where American air, naval and military reservations are located is bound to continue and worsen as time goes on. The cause of the difficulties is not, however, hard to explain, if one would but dig deep into the root of the matter.
The following conversation with a young enlisted American connected with the airforce in Leyte may shed some light on the question.
“I have heard that you Americans here are quite unpopular with the Filipino civilians. What’s the reason?” the writer asked.
“It’s a long story, bud,” he replied. “But if you are willing to listen, I’ll explain it. In the first place, I hate to stay in your country. I didn’t like to come to the Philippine Islands. And I can’t understand why I am here when the war was over long ago. Besides, you are and independent people now. You aren’t a part of us anymore, are you? I had a good job back home and a sweet girl I wanted to marry as soon as I had enough savings.
“My heart is not here. I’m always thinking of the folks back in America. I can’t help it. I want to go back to school, wear nice civilian clothes instead of this damn uniform. But how can I go home when the Army has got me tied up here? So, what do I do to keep me from thinking of home? I drink and drink liquor, any kind of liquor and then get into trouble with your people. Why do my buddies get into all kinds of mess here? Same reason.
“I know that some GIs are really first-class heels but the majority of the boys here are swell kids. Believe me. Don’t mind the snobs among us who call you all sorts of dirty names. They are not educated. They do not represent the real American people. They are the scum of America. That’s why they get into trouble often and when they get beaten up, they deserve it.”
The defiant and resentful attitude among Filipinos towards any act of prejudice and discrimination from local American soldiers has, in recent months, served notice on U.S. military and civil officials here that the former hate to be told to “KEEP OUT” IN THEIR OWN COUNTRY.