December 19, 1964
Passing of a tradition
By Filemon V. Tutay
The death of Don Yoyong leaves a void none of his prospective successors can possibly fill.
THE sudden death last week of Sen. Eulogio Rodriguez, president of the Nacionalista Party for the past 18 years, marked the “passing of a great tradition,” to quote President Macapagal.
With the death of Amang—as he was popularly known—ended a colorful era which spanned more than half a century in the history of local politics. Of his almost 82 years—he would have been that old come January 21—more than 55 were spent in the public service, 12 of them as president of the Senate. A self-made man, Amang pulled himself up by the bootstraps from his humble beginnings as a zacatero in his native Montalban to what he was at the time of his death—an institution and party symbol in Philippine politics.
Death claimed the Grand Old Man of Philippine politics a few days after he had announced that he was definitely not seeking reelection to the Senate in the 1965 elections. Previously, he had indicated to his close associates that he was retiring from public life upon the expiration of his term as senator next year.
Don Yoyong, as he was fondly called by his political followers, was a victim of heart attack. Death came painlessly and unexpectedly shortly after midnight Wednesday last week. It struck without warning. Despite his advanced years, he was apparently in the best of health. In fact, the night before, he had a hearty dinner at his Pasay City residence with former Nueva Ecija Governor Juan Chioco and Dr. Pedro Rodriguez, a brother, as dinner guests.
According to Mrs. Luisa Rodriguez, her husband went to bed at about nine o’clock Tuesday night last week in high spirits. At a little past midnight he woke her up. He did not complain of anything. But she saw that her husband was restless and she advised him to sit on a couch in the bedroom. Then, she went sleepily back to bed.
Mrs. Rodriguez said that she must have been asleep for about an hour when she woke up—at about 1:30 a.m.—and saw her husband still on the couch, apparently asleep. When she looked closer, however, she found that he was dead. Drs. Jose Silva and Pedro Cruz, the Rodriguez family physicians who were hastily summoned, said that Amang had succumbed to a heart attack.
In deference to the memory of Amang, President Macapagal proclaimed a period of national mourning until Wednesday this week when his remains were scheduled to be buried in Montalban, Rizal, where he was born on January 21, 1883. According to Mrs. Baby Rodriguez-Magsaysay, her father had expressed the wish that he buried in his native town.
From his Pasay City residence on Salud Street, the mortal remains of Amang were to be transferred Friday last week to the residence of his daughter, Mrs. Jose Lontok, in Quezon City. From there, the body would be transferred to the Rizal provincial capitol at Pasig where it would lie in state for 24 hours. He would be so honored because of his having served two terms as provincial governor of Rizal, once in 1916 and again in 1922.
From Pasig, the body would be taken to the Manila City Hall. Amang served two terms as mayor of Manila, first in 1923 and again in 1938 until shortly before the outbreak of World War II in 1941.
From the Manila City Hall, Amang’s mortal remains would be moved to the Senate session hall where necrological services were scheduled for Wednesday morning. From there, the former zacatero would make his last trip to his native Montalban where, more than 70 years ago, he cut grass for the calesa horses of the town and the cavalry mounts of the United States army at Fort McKinley, now known as Fort Bonifacio.
Amang made more sacrifices than any single individual in the Nacionalista Party so that the opposition might survive. He did much to ensure the continuance of the two-party system in the Philippines.
Having done so much for his party, it was small wonder that he had almost come to regard it as his private property. When the Young Turks, whom he had derisively referred to as Young Turkeys, tried repeatedly but vainly to oust him from the party presidency, he told them scornfully: “If I ever have to quit the party presidency, it shall be my decision.” The Young Turkeys could not do anything about it.
Amang lived politics, and, when it was time to retire from politics, he died. Politics was his very life.