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.