When President Quezon broke into tears
by Lt. Col. Emigdio Cruz
PRESIDENT QUEZON could not believe that the men he had left in charge of the government had betrayed him and turned disloyal to the United States. Then the question of succession to the presidency had come up, and he wanted, if possible, to consult the Filipino people and the men in the government in Manila regarding it. Although the constitution definitely provided that the Vice-President automatically would succeed to the presidency on November 14, 1943, that provision had been drafted and approved when the exigencies of war had not even been thought of, Quezon’s health was very poor, but he did not wish to run the risk of being charged with having deserted his post of leadership in time of great peril. He had left his nation in defeat and disaster to undertake the dangerous trip across the ocean to America, not to seek refuge or rest, but to work for its early liberation. He felt he had to continue to serve his country until his people decided otherwise. Consideration of health and family were secondary. Therefore, it was imperative that he should get some direct, trustworthy word from those left behind. He had to know their wish in the matter, for their wish would be his command.
Early in the morning of April 28, 1943, after the usual Mass in the private chapel of the Quezon suite in the Shoreham Hotel, the President remarked that he was not satisfied with the people he had sent to the Philippines because they had not succeeded in getting into Manila. He said that he was at a loss on whom to send.
It was then that I volunteered to go, saying that I would like to return to the Islands.
The President asked me if I was in earnest and if I was really willing to undertake the mission, which would very probably cost me my life. I answered that I was very willing to take the assignment. The President then said that since I was one of the family physicians, I should ask the permission of Mrs. Quezon, who was then listening without saying a word.
Mrs. Quezon, who regarded me as one of the family, was reluctant to let me go. She said I was not trained for such a mission. She was afraid that, like those who had gone before me, I would fail to reach Manila.
Still, I felt I could not convince myself of having contributed anything to the war effort if I did nothing more than serve the President in my capacity as a physician. So I told Mrs. Quezon that since we were already in the States where we had all the hospital facilities and the best doctors, I thought I was no longer of any use to the family. Nothing would make me happier, I told her, than to undertake the mission.
Mrs. Quezon, who was like a mother to me, gave her consent with tears in her eyes.
That same morning, the President sent a cable to Gen. MacArthur. Two days later, he announced that General MacArthur had answered: “Cruz is all right. Send him over.”
The personal and official instructions of the President and his family were given to me. As per instructions, I reported at Ft. Hamilton for embarkation.
I arrived in Australia on June 9. I reported to the headquarters of General MacArthur. He gave me a friendly welcome, and I gave General MacArthur the secret message and letters of President Quezon.
I left Perth, Australia on June 19, 1943. When Zamboanga was sighted the skipper called me up to look through the periscope. The island did not look any different from other Pacific islands, but knowing that I was looking at one of the islands of my country, which I thought I might never see again, I was overcome with joy and could not help shedding tears of happiness.
When I got to Manila I stayed for several days more, contacting some more of the men I had been instructed to see. I started back with the documents given me by Roxas hidden at the bottom of a bamboo trunk and covered by boxes of cigars, handbags, and wooden shoes.
The return trip to Australia which took 10 days was uneventful.
When I returned to the United States, I found the President very ill in bed. He was terribly excited. With tears in his eyes, he congratulated me upon the successful accomplishment of my mission.
I gave him a verbal report of my mission. I told him that the people wanted him to remain at the head of the government for the duration of the war, that they were loyal and were expecting that they would be liberated soon. My arrival in the Philippines, I said, convinced those I had met that the islands had not been abandoned, and that liberation from the Japanese yoke would soon be effected.
President Quezon was deeply moved. He asked me about Laurel. I replied that General Roxas thought that Laurel was honest in his conviction that what he (Laurel) was doing was in the best interests of the Filipino people. President Quezon said, “I agree with Manoling in his opinion of Laurel.”
I gave him General MacArthur’s message not to concern himself with anything except his health so he could take part in the landing when MacArthur returned to the Philippines. He smiled and told me he was awarding me the Congressional Medal of Valor as per recommendation of General MacArthur. He said I was the first and only Filipino to receive the medal of valor, the highest decoration of the Philippines, and he was presenting it to me with full satisfaction over the accomplishment of my mission.
The President appointed me permanent major and promoted me to the temporary rank of lieutenant colonel. I had an assignment in the Surgical Service of Walter Reed Hospital, but the condition of the President had taken a turn for the worse, and it was decided that I should stay with him as he was moved from one hospital to another in search of a drier climate.
On the morning of August 1st, 1944, I entered the room at a quarter to eight to relieve Dr. Diño. The President was awake and reclining against the back rest. He asked me to read the Sermon on the Mount to him.
After I had finished reading, the President snapped his fingers and pointed at the back of his left wrist. I looked at my watch and said, “time for the broadcast, Mr. President,” at the same time turning on the radio.
“Gen. MacArthur made a successful landing on Noonfar just 600 miles from the Philippines,” came the announcement. Almost simultaneously we clapped our hands. “It won’t be long now,” he said, and told me to step out of the room as he needed the attendant. I stayed in the lobby just outside the door, looking for the President’s favorite passage in the Bible.
All of a sudden I heard a noise. I rushed into the room and found the President coughing spasmodically, with blood coming out his mouth and nose. He was being held by the attendant. When I got near his side he said, “Trepp.”
I rushed downstairs and called Dr. Trepp and dashed to the chapel and told Mrs. Quezon to pray hard for the President.
Then I went up again and gave the President stimulants. I requested Dr. Diño to call up Dr. Hayes.
Dr. Trepp was holding the President, who was at that time in a very cyanotic condition. His pulse became very weak, so I went down and called Mrs. Quezon.
Mrs. Quezon and the children entered the room. She tried to go to the bedside of the President. The President waved her aside to spare her feelings. Then I saw the President gasp so we turned him upside down to get the blood clots out of his air passages. A big clot was recovered. I started giving him artificial respiration. I was still astride him giving artificial respiration when Dr. Hayes arrived. The President breathed a few more gasps. He died fifteen minutes after ten o’clock in the morning of August 1st, 1944.