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Quezon and the church
By Frederic S. Marquardt
The Bible was near his bed.
JOSE Rizal and Manuel L. Quezon were both born into the Catholic religion. Both were educated in church schools. Both spend many of their adult years outside the church. But that’s the end of the parallel religious experiences of the two leading Philippine heroes. While historians differ as to whether Rizal reasserted his faith in the church, there is no doubt that Manuel Quezon died a Catholic.
There was an altar in the room in which death came to Quezon at Saranac Lake on August 1, 1944. A frequently read Bible was near his bed. Quezon took almost daily communion from his personal chaplain, the Rev. Pacifico J. Ortiz, S.J., during his long illness. He and the members of his family said the rosary together every night.
Quezon’s was no death bed conversion, or more accurately reconversion. For the last 14 years of his life he was a practicing Catholic. But for the previous 25 years he had nothing to do with the church. It was during this earlier period that he was married in a civil ceremony in Hong Kong, later repeating the vows before a priest almost an afterthought. During his break with the church he was the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the Philippines, an order generally regarded as anti-clerical. The Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite Masons in Washington, D.C., elected him to the 33rd degree, highest honor in Masonry. Caballero and Concepcion, in their biography on Quezon, date this event as October 23, 1929.
Less than a year later Quezon was back in the Catholic fold. Time, the American newsmagazine, reported in its issue of December 9, 1935: “Catholic-born Manuel Quezon retracted Masonry on his 52nd birthday, 1930, aboard the s.s. Empress of Japan, in the presence of Most Rev. Michael J. O’Doherty, Archbishop of Manila. Two years later he demitted (i.e. resigned) from his lodge.”
In his autobiography, The Good Fight, Quezon was amazingly sketchy about his religious experiences. It should be noted, of course, that the book was unfinished at the time of Quezon’s death, and was published posthumously after his friends and relatives had done some work on the manuscript. He was a sick man when he dictated the book, and he had no opportunity to put it in final shape. As the head of a government in exile, he was taking a high-level part in the struggle that would leave scars on his country for years to come. There was little time for reflection or research. Still, Quezon did indicate in his book one of the events that may have led him away from the church.
Describing his part in the Philippine Revolution, Quezon told how he came down with a bad case of malaria while serving on General Mascardo’s staff. The illness probably occurred in 1900, although the date is not definitely established. “I spent a month in the house of Cabesang Doro’s friend in Navotas”, wrote Quezon, undoubtedly referring to the town in Rizal province. “This old man had amassed so much money from the fishing business that he had been able to send his son to be educated in Europe. While convalescing at his house, I read books which left in my mind some doubt as to the certainty of the existence of hell as taught by my friar teachers—doubts which in after years contributed to my leaving for a long time the Catholic faith and joining the Masonic Order. I returned to the old church after my children had grown up.”
The foregoing pithy reference doesn’t throw much light on Quezon’s religious experience, but it is all he chose to include in his autobiography.
I have been able to find no published record of Quezon’s beliefs during the years when he was outside the church. However, I once examined an unpublished autobiography of the late Teodoro M. Kalaw, who had a distinguished career in Philippine politics during the first half of the American regime. In the manuscript (Chapter X) was a letter from Quezon to Kalaw. As nearly as I could ascertain, it must have bee written about 1915, when Quezon was representing the Philippines as resident commissioner in Washington. In the letter, written in Spanish, Quezon said:
“You know that I am a free thinker. I do not believe matrimony is an indissoluble tie, just as I do not see the necessity of any religion for any people and nation. Science should be, and has to be, the Religion of the future. This Religion will make the man of tomorrow more perfect, morally speaking, than the religious man of today, because the believer of our day is synonymous with the ignorant. To believe is ‘to see what we have not seen’; in other words to have faith in whatever hoaxes some people, who consider themselves semi-divine, preach and practice. Nevertheless, even when such are my honest convictions regarding divorce and religion, I still consider it very inopportune to pass the Divorce Law now.
“Because of the trouble between (Archbishop of Manila) Harty and the YMCA, Harty has written to American Catholics attacking our Government. For the first time the Catholics here are (word indecipherable) if it is good for Catholicism to have the American government in the Philippines. It is very convenient for us to let them ponder over this, while at the same time we show them what good Catholics we are. The Catholic vote may yet give us our independence.”
There seems to be an inconsistency in Quezon’s referring to himself as a “free thinker,” and then suggesting “we show them what good Catholics we are”. One can only surmise that Quezon was speaking ironically in the latter instance. As a matter of fact, Quezon was wrong if he thought the Catholic vote in the United States would bring about independence. Only a few years after this letter to Kalaw was written, the same Archbishop Harty sent a cablegram to the predominantly Catholic New York delegation in the House of Representatives urging he delegates to vote against immediate independence.
If Quezon didn’t write much about his experiences with the Catholic Church, he showed no reluctance in discussing them. On October 21, 1937, I made extensive notes of a press conference President Quezon had held the preceding Sunday in his study in Malacañan Palace. The conference lasted two hours. Originally called because the President wanted to discuss a forthcoming legislative message, the conference soon branched out into discussion of nearly everything under the sun, including religion. Other correspondents present were Walter Robb of the Chicago Daily News, Ray Cronin of The Associated Press, Dick Wilson of the United Press, Dave Boguslav, then editor of the Manila Tribune, now The Manila Times. I was associated editor of the Philippines Free Press, and correspondent for the International News Service.
I had always been curious about Quezon’s return to the church, and I kept the conversation on this subject as long as I could. The President was speaking “off the record”, so his statements were not published at the time. His story went like this, according to the notes made at the time and still in my possession.
“I first considered re-entering the church for the sake of my children. My wife was a very devout Catholic, and as the children grew older I knew they would wonder why she was so religious when I was apparently lacking in religion. And I was afraid they might, believing me to be more intelligent than their mother, follow in my footsteps without giving the question of religion serious thought.
“So I asked Father Villalonga, former head of the Jesuit Order in the Philippines, if he would give me some instruction in the Catholic religion.
“Father Villalonga, whom I had known for years, came out to see me and the first thing he wanted to do was say mass, I said to him, ‘Never mind the mass. Tell me why I should re-enter my faith.’
“He talked to me for a while, and then he sent me a book, saying it would instruct me in the Catholic religion. Well, I read the book, and one of the portions in it told about a good-for-nothing Spaniard who sailed from Spain for the Philippines. Before he left his home his mother gave him a Medal, bearing the likeness of the Virgin of the Rosary, and once a day this fellow would say a ‘Hail Mary’ to the Medal. The rest of the time he was the worst possible sort of a rake, committing all the crimes imaginable.
“When the boat he was on passed Mariveles, a storm came up and the man was shipwrecked. By dint of great effort, he managed to swim ashore to Cavite but he was so exhausted by the time he reached there that he fell down on the beach and died.
“The next day the people in Manila noticed that the Virgin of the Rosary in the chapel of the Dominican Church had dust on it. And do you know what the conclusion of the story was? That the Virgin in Manila, made of wood, had walked all the way to Cavite to help this sinful man into Heaven, merely because he had said one ‘Hail Mary’ a day!
“When I read that story, and considered that the Catholic Church expected grown-up, intelligent men to believe it, I decided that I had better stay outside the church.
“So I did nothing until once, when I was returning to Manila from the United States, I found myself on board the same boat with Archbishop Michael J. O’Doherty. I was chatting with the Archbishop one day when he asked me why I did not return to the church, pointing out that my children were growing up and that I owed it to them, if for no other reason, to again become a practicing Catholic.
“I said to the Archbishop, ‘I personally would like to return to the church. But I can’t join an organization which expects me to believe that a wooden image walked all the way from Manila to Cavite to help a sinner get into Heaven.’ Then I told him the entire story which I had read in the book.
“The Archbishop laughed and said, ‘Well, I don’t believe that story either, but I’m still a member of the church. It wasn’t long before he convinced me that I could rejoin the church without insulting my own intelligence. As I recall it, he said a mass on that occasion.”
I was anxious to find out Quezon’s attitude toward Masonry. So I pressed him on this subject. His statement, also taken from my notes of October 21, 1937, follows:
“I didn’t actually resign from the Masonic order until several months later, and I never denounced Masonry. There is a formal form which those returning to the church from the Masonic lodge are supposed to sign, but I refused to sign it. Instead, I wrote the Archbishop a personal note saying that I understood that I could not be readmitted to the Catholic Church so long as I remained a Mason for that reason I was resigning from Masonry.”
The “personal note” from Quezon to Archbishop O’Doherty is included in Sol Gwekoh’s Quezon, His Life and Career. The original was in Spanish, says Gwekoh, and was witnessed by Mrs. Quezon. It was dated August 18, 1930, which is one day off from the 52nd birthday mentioned in Times’s account. Since he was crossing the Pacific at the time, it is possible that Quezon was confused by the International Date Line.
In the document cited by Gwekoh, this statement is attributed to Quezon: “I abandon Masonry and I abandon it forever, not only because this is a condition sine qua non for a Catholic, but because the religious beliefs that I now sincerely profess, are in direct opposition to certain Masonic theories. I shall never again belong to any society condemned by the church. I deplore with all my heart having spent the best years of my life in complete forgetfulness of my God and outside His church.”
Not long after the press conference at which President Quezon spoke so freely of his religious experiences, I asked him if he would authorize publication of the facts that led to his readmission to the church. I pointed out the doubts that always arose regarding Rizal’s religious beliefs, and suggested that Quezon prevent all speculation in his own case by writing an article for the 1937 Christmas issue of the FREE PRESS, repeating what he had told us at the press conference.
The President thought about my request, then turned it down. It is only now, 10 years after his death, that I fell free to publish this personal version of Manuel Quezon’s religious beliefs. In his note to me, dated November 18, 1937, President Quezon said:
“I have been thinking over the question you submitted to me yesterday and I have come to the conclusion that it would not be proper for me at this time to write such an article. It is of no concern to the public what my religion is and why I belong to that church. The separation of church and state is fundamental constitutional mandate and people may suspect some ulterior motive in my writing such article.
‘Therefore I will not write the article you’ve suggested.”
The important thing about President Quezon’s letter, it seems to me, was his concern over the separation of church and state. The issue of religious education in the public schools was a live one. Only a veto by President Quezon prevented the enactment of a law that would have permitted religious education in the schools during regular time.
Despite the President’s veto, the bishops of Cebu announced their intention to continue the fight for religious education in the public schools. President Quezon then made a blistering statement ending all speculation as to where he stood on the question of separation of church and state.
“It should be unnecessary to remind the ecclesiastical authorities in the Philippines”, said Quezon, “that the separation of Church and State in this country is a reality and not a mere theory, and that as far as our people are concerned, it is forever settled that this separation will be maintained as one of the cardinal tenets of our government. They should realize, therefore, that any attempts on their part to interfere with matters that are within the province of government will not be tolerated. If the said ecclesiastical authorities desire to have the government respect their rights and afford them every kind of protection in the free exercise of their religion, they must not only abide by the laws and lawful orders of the government, but they must also acknowledge and respect the principle of the separation of church and state.”
If President Quezon’s message to the bishops was the highlight of his intensely religious period, his letter to Teodoro Kalaw was a similar highlight of his years as a free-thinker. When he was almost literally at war with the church, he advised Kalaw against any breakdown in the sanctity of marriage. And when he had again become a practicing Catholic, he warned a congregation of bishops to keep their hands off political affairs. Both events illustrate the essential balance that is a requisite of true statesmanship.
July 23, 1938
Is Quezon courting Japan?
by James G. Wingo
Free Press Correspondent in Washington
REPORTS about President Quezon’s dealing directly although unofficially with high Japanese officials on various international matters are harming the Philippines as far as the United States is concerned. Local observers of U.S.-Philippine affairs see eventual manifestations of U.S. resentment to Manuel Quezon’s activities in Japan, which will hurt Philippine interests.
Especially at a time when U.S.-Japanese relations are strained, President Quezon’s hobnobbing with Japanese officials is considered indiscreet, to put it mildly. Secretary of state Cordell Hull refused to comment on Mr. Quezon’s visit to Japan. He said the only thing he knew about it was that the commonwealth president was in Japan. Ordinarily he would have praised the visit of a high official of one country to another country as a splendid “good neighbor” gesture.
Purpose of Quezon’s visit
During Mr. Quezon’s last visit here after receiving flattering honors from the Chinese and Japanese, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who did not like the commonwealth president’s dealing with high foreign officials, let President Quezon know how he felt.
No territorial ambitions
“This correspondent has learned on high authority that Japanese officials are prepared to go to great lengths in assuring President Quezon that he need have no fear as far as Japan’s aim toward the Philippines is concerned. He will be told emphatically that Japan has no territorial ambitions in the Philippines, and Japanese officials may go as far as to propose the conclusion of a pact guaranteeing the independence of the Philippines-Japanese officials realize that Quezon has no jurisdiction over the foreign affairs of the Philippines as yet, but they may suggest that he propose such a pact to the United States.”
Flattering were the honors awaiting Mr. Quezon in Tokyo, according to Correspondent Fleisher, whose story was front-paged by the Herald Tribune together with Mr. Quezon’s photograph. High Japanese officials would meet him at the railroad station. He would have a conference with Foreign Minister General Kazushige Ugaki, who later would give a dinner in his honor to be attended by Premier Prince Fuminaro Konoye himself.
And had members of Mr. Quezon’s entourage not called his visit “incognito” he would have been received by Emperor Hirohito also. That makes President Quezon the first non-member of royalty or nobility to travel incognito. When Republican officials want to forego state honors due them, they travel unofficially or in disguise—never incognito.
Correspondent Fleisher reported further: Quezon’s present visit to Japan seems to have been arranged directly with his Japanese friends, without passing through the intermediary of American officialdom.
Puzzles U.S. observers
The report from Manila that President Quezon has submitted a proposal to buy some ships from the U.S. Shipping Board to haul iron from Mindanao to Japan and coal from Japan to Manila puzzled U.S. observers still more. They could not say for sure whether or not Mr. Quezon was beginning to tie up Philippine economy with Japan.
• • •
Current Washington interest in the proposed purchase of Church estates by the Commonwealth government has been aroused by constant news dribbles about Philippine tenant troubles and by Manuel Quezon’s letter last year to Chairman Francis B. Sayre of the Inter-departmental Committee on Philippine Affairs, in which the President of the Philippines stated that he would use part of the coconut oil excise tax refunds to buy Church lands.
The socialistic labor uprisings in recent months have caused concern among people here interested in Philippine affairs. Early in the U.S. regime Washington officialdom was made familiar with the unrest within the Church estates.
Gov. Gen. William H. Taft believed that the purchase of these estates and their reselling in subdivisions to the tenants would end the serious and oftentimes bloody agrarian controversies. To raise the money to buy some of the church estates the Philippine government in 1904 issued bonds worth P14,000,000.
Eventually the so-called friar lands did not go to worthy tenants but to politicos, many of whom, according to an authority, have not paid yet for their purchases. The tillers of the soil were not helped at all by the change of masters.
However, when Frank Murphy was governor general, the Philippine Legislature passed a resolution calling the Friar Land Purchase of 1904 a complete success and stating that purchase of additional church lands was the only practical means of terminating serious agrarian controversies. Governor Murphy was authorized to negotiate for the purchase of 15 more Church estates. Then the Coalition party which kept Sergio Osmeña from opposing Mr. Quezon for the presidency, included the purchase of these lands in its platform.
Just a few weeks before the Commonwealth inauguration Governor Murphy submitted a tentative report not too favorable to the purchase, in as much as the Church authorities were asking approximately twice the value placed on the estates by his secretary of agriculture and natural resources, Eulogio Rodriguez. Soon after Mr. Quezon became president, he told the National Assembly that further negotiations should be undertaken to determine the price and other conditions of purchase.
Pres. Quezon’s message
But as early as June, 1936, President Quezon stated: “After a careful study of this question, I have reached the conclusion that such a step would not remedy the situation, nor could it be carried out without exposing the country to great financial losses…. It is now my earnest conviction that the purchase of these haciendas by the government will not solve the agrarian and social problems existing therein, but will only transfer to the government the difficulties which the tenants now have with the present land owners….
“The investment, therefore, of several millions of pesos by the government in the purchase of the friar lands has only been, with a few exceptions, for the benefit of people not contemplated by the government…I, for one, despite the commitment in the Coalition platform do not wish to impose upon our people the burden of a national debt which our children will have to bear merely to give a few individuals the opportunity to acquire these particular areas at the expense of the people when there is so much available fertile and untouched public lands in many regions of the country, particularly in Mindanao.”
In connection with this message Mr. Quezon concluded by recommending the purchase of those portions of the estates which are urban in character and occupied by the tenants’ homes. A few months ago he signed a bill appropriating P2,000,000 for the purchase of barrios within Church lands. Another million was appropriated in 1937 for this same purpose.
The developments in recent years raise the question of why President Quezon, who had favored the plan to purchase Church estates, never did anything to carry it out when able to do so. He has already given the Assembly quoted above.
But to keen observes here a pertinent reason is that Mr. Quezon does not want to see the Church receive a large cash payment—not at this time anyway. The President of the Philippines is currently in an excellent position to tell the Roman Catholic Church a few things. And he will need all this advantage when the Church in its relentless fight for compulsory religious instruction in the public schools, attempts to apply punitive measures upon Mr. Quezon for his courageous and democratic veto of a bill which is a throwback to the time when church and state were one in the Philippines.
Mr. Quezon knows that the church is in difficulty with respect to its bonded indebtedness and that a cash payment would enable it to retire the bonds now due and probably leave it with a cash surplus. He also knows that the difficulty the church is having with its tenants is hurting the church’s prestige and the hierarchs’ popularity.
It is apparent Mr. Quezon is playing a long-range game with the Church. The scoreboard indicates that he is ahead.
July 2, 1938
WHEN President Quezon vetoed the bitterly contested religious instruction bill after its passage at the last session of the National Assembly, he did not put an end to the most violently discussed issue of the day.
That the fight would go on to a finish became evident last week when the Metropolitan Archbishop and the Suffragan Bishops of the ecclesiastical province of Cebu published a pastoral letter which replied to President Quezon’s memorable speech in Cebu on the occasion of the inauguration of the city’s capitol, in the course of which the chief executive advanced some of his reasons for vetoing the religious instruction bill.
To all, the pastoral said, “the future of Religion is of vital interest, particularly to those who will have to render an account of the souls committed to their care.” Hence it bemoaned the irreligion of the youth of today.
Mostly blamed for youth’s lack of religion by the ecclesiastical dignitaries is the present system of public education “based as it is on religious neutrality.”
Appeal to leaders
After saying that “the question of the constitutionality or unconstitutionality of the [religious instruction] bill” is “a question upon which only the supreme court can pass a final and decisive verdict,” the letter expressed the hope “that our leaders, ever devoted to the common good and incapable of remaining indifferent to the interests of our future citizens, will bear down all difficulties, and in the near future a measure will result which, without in the least infringing upon either the letter or the spirit of the Constitution, but by adapting the Constitution to the will of the people, and not the will of the people to the Constitution, will provide them with the desired efficacious religious instruction.”
Promptly, Catholic circles in Manila hailed the letter as a clear, firm, and accurate expression of the Catholic attitude toward the religious instruction issue. The Philippine Commonweal, official organ of Catholic Action in the Philippines, issued a special supplement containing the entire letter.
The President’s answer
A source of joy to many good Catholics, the pastoral letter was no less a source of irritation and disappointment to one bill-vetoing Catholic. Stung to the quick, President Quezon fumed in Malacañan, penned a statement which threatened to overshadow the Mayon eruption.
The President said:
“I am amazed at the boldness of the Metropolitan Archbishop and Suffragan bishops of the ecclesiastical province of Cebu in taking up at an episcopal conference a matter concerning the constitutional duties and prerogatives of the officials and branches of the government of the Commonwealth.
“I had so far ignored charges made to the effect that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in the Philippines had instigated and was behind the movement for the enactment of the bill regarding religious instruction in the Philippines. But the pastoral letter is incontrovertible evidence that we did face at the last session of the legislature, and we do face now, one of the most menacing evils that can confront the government and people of the Philippines, namely, the interference of the Church in the affairs of the State.”
“Blind to lessons of history”
“It seems that the Archbishop and bishops who have written this pastoral letter are blind to the lessons of history including our own during the Spanish regime. Being myself a Catholic, I am no less interested in preserving the independence of the church from the state than I am in preserving the independence of the government from the church.
“It should be unnecessary to remind the ecclesiastical authorities in the Philippines that the separation of church and state in this country is a reality and not a mere theory, and that as far as our people are concerned, it is forever settled that this separation shall be maintained as one of the cardinal tenets of our government. They should realize, therefore, that any attempts on their part to interfere with matters that are within the province of the government will not be tolerated.
“On matters purely ecclesiastical, the Catholic bishops may speak for the Filipino Catholics; but when it comes to expressing the will of the Filipino people as a political entity on any matter concerning legislation or governmental measures, the Catholic bishops, some of whom are not Filipinos, are assuming too much when they pretend to speak for our people as they do in the pastoral letter when they say that the majority of the Filipino people are demanding the enactment of the bill which I have vetoed. The fact that the majority of the National Assembly voted for the said bill does not necessarily prove that the majority of the people are for it. It only proves that the majority of the members of the National Assembly were for the bill.
“If I were inclined to interfere in the affairs of the church, as the Catholic bishops are attempting to do with the affairs of the state, I would tell the Archbishop and the bishops of the ecclesiastical province of Cebu that it is their lack of Sunday schools and catechists to teach the Catholic religion that is mainly responsible for the deplorable ignorance of their own religion that is found amongst the Catholic youth.”
“A very unfair campaign has been launched against the government, making it appear that we are not complying with the provisions of the constitution regarding optional teaching of religious instruction. The truth is the opposite, as evidenced by the fact that while the enrolment in classes in religious instruction during the academic year…1932-1933 was only 29,996, this had increased to 187,089 in the academic year 1937-1938. During this last school year, in the 817 schools where religious instruction was given, more than one-half of the children enrolled in said schools received religious instruction.
“Moreover, if the desire is to have hours exclusively devoted to religious instruction in the public schools, so that the regular school activities may not interfere with said instruction, I am placing Saturdays and Sundays at the disposal of all the ministers of all religions existing in the Philippines. On Saturdays and Sundays, the public schools are not being used for school purposes and, therefore, they may be used for religious instruction if it is so requested. What is prohibited in the existing legislation and by the constitution, and which, therefore, I may not allow is that any hour needed for public school proper be devoted to religious instruction.”
The Quezon blast produced a small counterblast. Speaking from the pulpit of the Manila Sampaloc church, Saturday, young Rev. Dr. Gregorio Villaceran defended the Catholic church and the signers of the pastoral. Clergymen, he retorted, have as much right as other citizens to deliberate on government matters, especially if those matters happen to affect the church most directly and vitally. The separation of church and state, he stressed, does not prohibit ecclesiastical authorities from exercising their constitutional rights.
Interviewed in Cebu, Archbishop Reyes disclaimed any intention to challenge or provoke the President. “In my name and in those of the bishops of the Cebu archdiocese,” he was quoted as saying, “I reiterate my respect for the government and those entrusted with its administration.” However, “with regard to the presidential veto, the bishops respect it, but within that respect they honestly believe there is nothing which would prevent them from entertaining any opinion and publicly expressing that opinion which under a democratic regime such as ours they have the right to do. It is hardly just to deny the bishops a right which is accorded to any other citizen of the land.”
Defense of chief executive
President Quezon boarded a Japanese freighter bound post-haste for Kobe shortly after issuing his philippic; but pending his return, Assemblymen Gregorio Perfecto and Eugenio Perez, both uncompromising opponents of the religious instruction bill, are preparing a resolution which they plan to introduce in the special session in the latter part of next month, endorsing the chief executive’s stand.
Meanwhile, “fighting” Rev. Samuel W. Stagg, Protestant pastor, defended the chief executive in a radio speech over KZIB, and at the same time accused the Catholic hierarchy of being “the sworn enemy of all democracy.” He lauded the President for his “great courage in taking issues with the hierarchy in defense of the hard-won liberties of the Filipino people.”
by Quijano de Manila
A current controversy is whether Manila’s old circumferential road should be renamed after Recto.
March 4, 1961—MANILA’S present city fathers should go down in its history as the most patriotic bunch of baptists ever to nurse a signpost. In the last year or so, they have subjected half a dozen streets with colonial names to a nationalistic rechristening. Trabajo became Manuel de la Fuente; Tuberías became Dra. Concepción A. Aguila; Morayta became Nicanor Reyes Sr., and Alejandro VI became Dr. Mariano de los Santos.
These changes drew only a disheartened protest from a citizenry inured to the shock of going to sleep on one street and waking up on another. But there was spirited resistance when Sta. Mesa Boulevard was turned into Ramón Magsaysay Boulevard and dear old Aviles, the street of Malacañang, became Dr. José P. Laurel Sr. Street.
Now, still another name-change that, in other circumstances, would have been welcomed as proper and fitting has met with opposition, chiefly because it comes as the last straw to a public exasperated by so much name-changing.
An ordinance renaming Calle Azcárraga after the late Claro M. Recto was twice passed by the municipal board, was twice vetoed by Mayor Lacson, is at this writing in the hands of President Garcia, who must decide which is the truer nationalist; the Manila municipal board, because it wants to replace the name of a Spanish premier with that of a Filipino patriot, or Mayor Lacson, because he wants to preserve one of the most famous place-names in the country.
One view is that nobody cares who the hell Azcárraga was; when Manileños say Azcárraga they don’t mean the street—and they don’t want the names of such important streets as Azcárraga, Sta. Mesa and Aviles to be tampered with. Indeed, even the names of unimportant streets, if they are old enough, should be respected, since many of these old place-names which seem merely capricious turn out to have, apart from the associations they have accumulated through the years, an original pertinence—like, for instance, the now-vanished Alejandro VI, named after the Borgia pope who fathered Cesar and Lucretia. Many have wondered why this evil man was honored with a street in Sampaloc. The fact is, Alexander Borgia had a very decisive finger in our fate; he authored the demarcation line which divide the new worlds beyond the Atlantic between Portugal and Spain—the demarcation line which, by a hair’s breadth (some say not even by that), included the Philippines in the Spanish sphere and thus decreed that our colonial history should be Spanish, not Portuguese. Borgia is no name to delight a nationalist, but it’s a pity the name has vanished from the landscape. The more gaudy-minded among us feel that it lent to that dingy alley in Sampaloc a touch of the color, the glamour of the Italian Renaissance, possibly prompting people, whenever they passed that alley, to realize that the history of this land goes far beyond the horizons that confine it and involves any number of unlikely people, from Renaissance popes to Elizabethan pirates. Anyway, a bit of racy atmosphere vanished from the city when Alejandro VI became Dr. Mariano de los Santos.
In this matter, the various conquerors of the land, with the exception of the Japs, have shown more piety than we do. The Spaniards kept the name of Soliman’s town and maintained the place-names around it: Tondo, Binondo, Pasig, Pasay. They gave Spanish names only to the new communities they founded and to the new streets they laid out. (We, on the other hand, have been vandal enough to obliterate such an old historic Malay place-name as Bangkusay.) The Americans, too, respected the place-names they found here and gave American names only to new sites: Dewey to a boulevard wrested from the sea; Lawton to a plaza formed by the opening of the Sta. Cruz Bridge; California, Colorado, Kansas, etc., to streets built in what was once the swampy interior of Malate.
The argument is that Filipinos are at last in possession of their land and should wipe out the vestiges of a painful colonial past. But Manila has been a Malay city, a Spanish city, an American city, and is now a Filipino city. It could be a Spanish city without any pulling out of its Malay roots, and an American city without any burying of its Malay or Spanish past; so why should its present keepers be so anxious to hide what this tough old town has been? A people as old as the Romans or the English may be able to afford to skip a few hundred years of history, abolish a few hundred monuments, in the name of progress; but a people as young as we have surely need of every bit of memory that can make us feel more intensely us.
If the Manileño seems, of all Filipinos, the most developed, it is because he is informed by a city soaked and drenched in history, a city where every spot of ground is encrusted with memories, where every place-name has emotional value, and where people consequently feel and think and live more intensely than anywhere else in the country. When a Manileño speaks, he speaks—whether he knows it or not—with all his past behind him, which is why his voice rings with such authority and pride. He is no cultural parvenu—or was not, anyway, in the days when every sign post, every street, every annual public ritual assured him of the antiquity of the traditions to which he was heir. The rest of the country may be willing to shed the dark past and start clean, but the Manileño is a creation of the baroque and should not be content with anything less than the totality of his city’s experience—Malay, Spanish, American, and whatever else there may be, including the latest invaders.
Alas, Manileños who have conveniently been blaming every postwar desecration of their city on the “outsiders” who have captured and are now running it may be dismayed to learn that the latest renovation—the proposal to rename Azcárraga after Recto—was authored by one of their own, by an authentic Manileño: Councilor Pablo V. Ocampo, who belongs to the Ocampos of Quiapo, a very distinguished Manila clan. In this ironic instance, it’s an “outsider,” Lacson of Negros, who is defending, against a true son of Manila, the heritage of the city.
Councilor Ocampo is a chubby young man who seems to be always abrim with mirth and energy. His paternal grandfather, after whom he was named, was the first resident commissioner to Washington and the first Filipino to demand independence for the Philippines in the halls of the American congress. The Ocampo house on R. Hidalgo is one of the oldest and largest on that street, where once dwelt Quiapo’s most splendid families: the Paternos, the Legardas and the Aranetas. An uncle of the councilor built that fantastic Japanese palace in an alley off R. Hidalgo.
Though the councilor’s roots are in Quiapo, he himself was born and grew up in the more modern district of Malate and he knew R. Hidalgo only during the 1930s, when its days of glory were over and it was already turning into a shabby semi-commercial street. Viewed from the sleek newness of Malate, all that old part of Quiapo, from Azcárraga to Arlegui, must have seemed indeed little more than a dump of dusty relics that should be cleared away. But it should be said that Councilor Ocampo is not always for abolishing the old; he has proposed that the pantheon in Paco be made a national cemetery, so it may be saved from ruin.
It was in October 3 last year, a few days after the death of Senator Recto, that Councilor Ocampo first proposed to the municipal board that Calle Azcárraga be renamed after Recto, “as an insignificant memorial to perpetrate [sic] the name and memory of this great man.”
The proposal was referred to the Philippine Historical Committee, which not only approved it but suggested that all Azcárraga plus Mendiola be turned into a single thoroughfare called Recto Boulevard. The name-change was also recommended by the Knights of Rizal, the national directorate of the Spirit of 1896 and the Palihan ng Bayan.
The Ocampo ordinance was passed by the board on January 17, was vetoed by Mayor Lacson nine days later.
Said Lacson: “We can give honor to Don Claro without obliterating important symbolic landmarks. General Azcárraga could probably be associated with many unpleasant things that happened during the Spanish regime. But the street named after him has already become deeply embedded in the history and culture of the city of Manila and has achieved such meaning that, if it is dropped and traded for another, the city may lose a landmark together with its historical associations.”
The mayor quoted the protest of the Manila Realty Board.
Said the realtors: “Whenever the name of a street is changed, property owners are confused, since they find their land suddenly situated on a street they never heard of. The Cadastral Plans are fast being outdated and confused by so many changes.” The realtors drily added that “we believe the purpose in naming streets is to help people find their way around.” And they suggested that the proposed new bridge at Nagtahan, instead of Azcárraga, be renamed after Recto. The mayor himself favored some streets like Colorado, Nebraska or Kansas.
To this, Councilor Alfredo Gómez retorted that to rename “an insignificant street to perpetrate [sic, again] the memory of a truly great Filipino patriot and nationalist may be considered an insult.” And he reproved the Manila Realty Board with a baffling non-sequitur: “Our is a changing world, so that we have continually to march forward with the progress of time. To subscribe to the contention of the Manila Realty Board that the frequent changes in the names of street lead to confusion is certainly not in keeping with the trend of progress.”
The Manila Times had come out with an editorial against the change, on the ground that historical traditions should be preserved and that Calle Azcárraga, an unsightly, traffic-jammed, commercial street, was hardly the proper one to bear the name of so august a statesman as Recto.
To this, historian Domingo Abella replied with two questions. What street in Manila has no tangled traffic? And what tradition could be invoked in the name of a street that had borne that name for only about 50 years? Dr. Abella warned that the defeat of the Ocampo ordinance would mean “victory for a certain element in our community which still maintains that the days of Spain in the Philippines were the ideal ones in our history, and which feels deeply nostalgic about that era.”
Stung, Lacson called Dr. Abella’s logic “a little shaky.” Following Dr. Abella’s reasoning, we would have to obliterate all things Spanish in the Philippines because they constitute a symbol of our servitude under the Spaniards. “This would be tragic,” said Lacson, “because even Dr. Abella’s name, Domingo, is Spanish.”
But Dr. Gumersindo García of the Knights of Rizal pointed out two special reasons why the name of Azcárraga should not be preserved by Filipinos: as Spanish minister of war in the 1890s, Azcárraga had sent reinforcements to the Philippines to suppress the Revolution, and he had ignored a petition of clemency that could have averted the execution of Rizal.
Lacson replied that Mexico City has preserved a colonial-era monument to Hernan Cortés, who was responsible for the rape and pillage of Mexico: “And yet no one can accuse the Mexicans of being less patriotic or less conscious of their national dignity than we Filipinos.”
Cries Lacson: “They’re calling me colonial-minded now! This country is suffering from ultra-nationalism. And yet, down in Mactan, there’s a magnificent monument to Magellan, only a shabby marker for Lapu-Lapu. Why don’t the nationalists do something about that? And all this name-changing! They changed the names of Trabajo and Morayta—and that’s illegal. Those streets were donated to the city by the Sulucan Subdivision with the stipulation that the names were not to be changed.”
While the controversy raged, the mayor happened to run into the author of the disputed ordinance. Councilor Ocampo asked what Lacson had against the ordinance. The mayor reiterated his wish to preserve the city’s historic landmarks. Ocampo replied that his ordinance had the approval of the nation’s leading historical societies, which, after all, should know better than the mayor what landmarks should be preserved. Then he told the mayor that the municipal board was going to override his veto and re-pass the ordinance. “That is your right,” said Lacson, “but my stand on the matter has not changed.”
On February 7, the board, declaring that public opinion pointed to “an overwhelming endorsement of the proposal,” reenacted the ordinance, with two-thirds of the councilors voting in its favor. Mayor Lacson vetoed it again and sent it back to the board the very next day, February 8, the 70th birthday of Don Claro.
“It’s now up to President García,” says Councilor Ocampo, “to uphold the autonomy of the municipal board of Manila.” He says he expects the President to sign it and does not doubt that the citizens of Manila are as keen over the measure as he is: “Oh, there will be confusion at first, yes, but the young will quickly get used to the new name.”
Far from being daunted by Mayor Lacson’s vetos, Manila’s city fathers seem to have been goaded to fresh feats of rechristening, becoming, indeed, even more avid to perpetrate, not to perpetuate. Right after the first veto, Councilor Herminio Astorga proposed that Dewey Boulevard be renamed Rizal Boulevard and that Rizal Avenue be renamed Bonifacio Avenue. One wonders how soon the Luneta, the Escolta and Plaza Miranda will suffer the fate that now threatens Calle Azcárraga.
The man whose name has provoked such bitter debate was a local boy who made good, though one would bring down the nationalists on one’s head if one were to call Marcelo de Azcárraga a Filipino simply because he was born in the Philippines, as were his immediate forbears on both sides. Azcárraga is a Basque name and the general was of practically pure Spanish blood. On his mother’s side, he was related to the Palmeros and Versosas of Cagayan; on his father’s side, to the Ugartes of Manila. An uncle of his was a Filipino delegate to the Spanish Cortes in 1820.
Azcárraga was born in Manila in 1836. His father had a bookstore on the Escolta; his mother ran a shop on the other side of the Pasig. In spite of their eminent relatives, the parents seem to have been poor and Azcárraga was able to study at Letrán only as a working student: he did kitchen chores in the school in exchange for his education. But he was a brilliant student and, while still very young, already spoke of someday becoming a famous general.
From Letrán, he went to a preparatory military school that had just been opened in Manila, completed his military training in Spain, and was sent to Cuba. He was a lieutenant at 18, a captain at 20, a major at 22. During the Carlist revolt in Spain, he fought on the side of the crown and is said never to have lost a battle. In 1871, at 35, he fulfilled his childhood dream and became a brigadier-general.
Eight years later, he retired from the army and entered politics. He started as a senator, rose to become minister of war, was prime minister of Spain in 1897, when the Philippines was on the brink of revolt.
Azcárraga’s attitude toward his native country has been hotly debated. He is said to have advocated reforms in the Philippines and to have been sympathetic to the cause of the Filipino propagandists in Madrid. But there is against him the sending of troops to quell the Philippine revolt and his refusal to grant clemency to Rizal. Don Francisco Pi y Margal claimed that he made the petition and that Azcárraga rejected it. In justice to the man, however, we should bear in mind that, in those times, all Spaniards as well as some Filipinos regarded the Philippines as an integral part of Spain. Their attitude toward the Revolution was, therefore, what our attitude would be if, say, the island of Palawan should try to secede from the Philippines.
Most quoted against Azcárraga are three lines that Ferdinand Blumentritt wrote in a letter to Rizal: “Azcárraga has written me about the defense of your Noli. I did not know he is a Filipino, but it seems he is that only by birth.”
Yet we know that Azcárraga attended Filipino gatherings in Madrid, that he was present and gave a speech (being then already the top man in the Spanish government) when Juan Luna won a prize for the Spoliarium, and that he referred to the Filipinos in Spain as his “paisanos,” bidding the government to take special effort in serving them because “they are separated from their country and far from their loved ones.”
In his home in Madrid was a painting by Luna of a woman in Philippine attire with a child. Azcárraga himself had sat for the child, and he told visitors that the woman represented Filipinas and the child the breed of the land.
Can Azcárraga be considered a Filipino? In the present advanced meaning of the word, definitely not, not only because he was of Spanish blood but because he could not see the interests of the Philippines apart from those of Spain. He was an imperialist, not a pioneer nationalist. Yet it can be said that he helped advance the idea of the Filipino simply by being born in this country and bringing prestige to it by rising to the highest government position in Spain.
The idea of the Filipino did not suddenly emerge full-blown in the 1890s; it was the result of an evolution that’s still in progress, like all other nationalisms. Athenian in the days of Pericles did not mean every native of Athens but only a small minority on top. Roman did not mean all the people of the empire or even of Rome but only the elite who were citizens. France, England and Spain, in feudal times, chiefly meant, first the barons, then the king—and a French monarch who had brought the nobles to heel could say that all France was gathered in his bedroom. It took a long process to develop the idea that nationhood resided not in the nobility, though they may have been the first to be conscious of it, but in the masses. Of the Congo today, its present premier says that it is not a people but many peoples, not a nation but many tribes. There is as yet not even a minority to start the idea of the Congolese. As another Congo official says: “The people here have no memories.”
Filipino, too, once meant only a minority on top: the Philippine-born Spaniards or Creoles. The name might have stopped there but for an event in our history. In the early 1800s, the Philippines sent its first representatives to the Spanish Cortes. The representatives may have been of pure Spanish blood, but they went to the Cortes not as Spaniards but as Filipinos; they represented not Spain but the Philippines. For the first time the world was made aware that there was such a thing as the Filipino, the native of a land called the Philippines. Once the idea had formed, the Creoles were powerless to keep it to themselves any longer. It was bound to grow and develop, to reach down to the Indios, to spread roots throughout the land till it meant, not the minority on top, but the masses below.
If regarded as a step in this development, Azcárraga, too, might be included in the term Filipino. He was born on our soil, he grew up under our skies, and many of our forbears must have felt the thrill of nascent nationalism when they heard that the poor little boy who had trod the streets of Manila had become the prime minister of that faraway Reina Regente in Spain.
Indeed the Ayuntamiento of Manila had already expressed its pride in the local boy who made good by naming a street after him, long before he became minister of war or premier. By 1872, Calle Azcárraga was already on the map of Manila. It was probably given that name the year before, to celebrate Azcárraga’s promotion to brigadier-general and his victories in the Cuban war. Contrary, therefore, to Dr. Domingo Abella’s assertion, Calle Azcárraga—or the Tondo-Binondo portion of it, anyway—has borne the general’s name for about 90, not merely 50, years.
The original street was known as the Paseo de Felipe II and did not extend beyond the Tondo boundary. Shortly after it was renamed Paseo de Azcárraga, the authorities saw the need for a circumferential road linking the western to the eastern side of north Manila, which was then a jigsaw puzzle of islands: Isla de Meisic, Isla de Binondo, Isla de Tanduay.
A street, called Nueva, was opened across the island of Meisic and connected to Azcárraga by a bridge across the Canal de la Reyna. At the other end, Nueva was joined by a bridge across the Estero de Magdalena to the Calle del Gen. Izquierdo in barrio Trozo. Another new street, later called Paz, was cut to link Gen. Izquierdo to the Calle de San Bernardo in Sta. Cruz. San Bernardo stopped at the present junction of Azcárraga and Quezon Boulevard. There was an estero there—the Estero de Bilibid—and across the bridge that spanned it was Calle Yriz, which ended where the Mendiola bridge now begins, and where once stood the Plaza de Sta. Ana.
The old circumferential road was, therefore, a wide winding thoroughfare beginning on Manila Bay and ending at the Estero de San Miguel, and was composed of six different sections divided from each other by esteros: Azcárraga, Nueva, Gen. Izquierdo, Paz, San Bernardo and Yriz. By late Spanish times, the name Calle Azcárraga already covered about half of the circumferential road, up to the Magdalena estero. The portion called San Bernardo was later renamed Bilibid.
In early American times, the circumferential road was further widened and straightened until it gained its present semblance of a single continuous thoroughfare. The Americans decided that four or five names were too many for one street and the name Azcárraga was extended to the entire road from Manila Bay to Bilibid. A few years later, the remaining portion, Yriz, was annexed to Azcárraga too. The downtown portion of Azcárraga has, therefore, borne the name for only some 50 years.
The old Paseo de Azcárraga was open to the sea at its Tondo end and what old folks most vividly remember of that seaside paseo is that it was where the gallows was set up for public hangings—not a very pretty “historical tradition” and an argument against this “landmark” the pro-Rectos have missed. The gallows rose where, very appropriately, the matadero now stands; and one wishes that slaughterhouse could be removed so the street, whatever its name will be, could again run right down to the sea, as in the days when it was a paseo.
Today, the Divisoria, Tutuban Station and the various bus depots have turned this part of Azcárraga into Babel town and its uproar, stinks and turmoil are, for provincial newcomers, their first taste of Manila life.
Around Tutuban used to be a nipa village. Here, Bonifacio was born; here, the Katipuneros held their first meetings. Just past Tutuban, near the corner of Reina Regente, was a bibingka stall that was the most famous in the city during the 1920s. Renaults and Studebakers succeeded each other at night in front of that humble shop, where a couple of old women took what seemed hours to cook one perfect bibingka.
Farther on, beside the estero, was the Meisic police station, which controlled the turbulence of Tondo and which was to gain a sinister fame during the Occupation as one of the Japs’ torture chambers. Also in this neighborhood stood the house of a sister of Rizal, Lucía Herbosa, where the hero’s family stayed during city visits. Next door to it was the house of Maximo Viola, who helped finance Rizal’s books. Both houses—large rococo edifices dating back to the mid-1800s—were destroyed during the war.
Across the estero was Calle Magdalena, at the Azcárraga corner of which lived the Lunas. The brothers Juan and Antonio introduced the bicycle to this country and in a coliseum just off Azcárraga they sponsored weekly bicycle races. A few blocks away, on the other side of the street, was the residence of Don Florentino Torres, one of the first Filipinos to be named to the Supreme Court. The old alley beside his house now bears his name. In front of his house stood the Star Theater, a poor man’s vaudeville house, where, however, some very bright stars (Pugo, for instance) had their start. This part of Azcárraga has now become Manila’s funeraria row.
Rizal Avenue used to be Dulumbayan and near its present intersection with Azcárraga was the Teatro Libertad, one of the most famous zarzuela houses of the 1900s. When the zarzuela declined, it changed its name to Majestic and became a cine. It was pulled down when Calle Oroquieta was given an outlet to Azcárraga. A block away was the Bilibid, which, in the old days, was a circular building within a quadrangle of stonewall, surrounded by open meadows. Opposite the Bilibid was the Teatro Zorilla, the number-one zarzuela theater of early American days. It, too, was a circular building with tiers of windows all around. Inside were a horse shoe of boxes, an upper gallery and the largest stage in the city. It, too, later became a cine, ended up as a bodega. A school building is now being built on this site, which had been occupied by the Naric since the Occupation.
Next door to the Zorilla was the Oriente cigar factory, standing right smack on what is now the intersection of Azcárraga and Quezon Boulevard. On the same site, in the late 1920s, the FEU was born. Across the Estero de Bilibid was an open field where the circus set up its big tent in October. This field was bordered by thick bamboo groves, which, according to legend, were haunted by cafres. The field is now the FEU campus. The estero was buried when Quezon Boulevard was built but a foul vile remnant of it is still visible in Bilibid Viejo and Arlegui.
Calle Yriz, now the final section of Azcárraga, was a lovely street shaded by giant acacias and rivaling R. Hidalgo in the splendor of its houses. Here stood the homes of the Carmelos, the De los Reyeses, the Padillas and the Arces. The Arce house is now the old Selecta; the other mansions have become squalid boarding houses.
At the end of the street was the Plaza de Sta. Ana, now Legarda, which was alongside a stream so clear you could see the pebbles at the bottom but which is now so black and stinking it’s one of the most repulsive sights in the city. At the Azcárraga corner of the plaza was the Club Carambola, where young blades played billiards in the front rooms, card games in the back rooms. Beside it was the old Centro Escolar de Señoritas, whose girls were famous for their good looks, their brains and the elegance of their Spanish. The old Centro was a squat three-story building laced with fire escapes and so many Lotharios tried to climb those fire escapes Doña Librada Avelino had to ask for a special police detail to guard her internas from naughty males.
Opposite the Centro was the rear patio of San Sebastian Church, where charity fairs used to be held. The gayest season of this east end of Azcárraga was toward the end of January, when San Sebastian and the Centro celebrated their respective fiestas at the same time and the Centro señoritas, in pink ternos, marched in the procession of La Virgen del Carmen.
The old Azcárraga began with the slums of Tondo and ended in the fashionable world of San Sebastian and was throughout a sedate residential street. Even the Bilibid was so quiet a lot of people grew up in its vicinity without realizing it was a prison. On Saturday and Sunday nights, the street came to life as carriages full of dressed-up folk converged on the Zorilla and the Libertad. A friskier note was added when a streetcar line to San Juan was opened on Azcárraga. On Saturday nights, one saw the streetcars crowded with wild young men on their way to the San Juan Cabaret.
The present Calle Azcárraga begins with the transportation jungle of Divisoria and ends with the educational jungle between Quezon Boulevard and Legarda. Now a center of commerce, it has lost its acacias, its streetcars, and its fine old houses—except one. Across the street from Carmelo and Bauerman’s is a very long, colonial-style building that has kept its old appurtenances: its azotea, its shell windows and carved rajas, even its original sidewalk. Here dwell two spinsters—the Del Rosario sisters—who have watched their neighborhood invaded by commerce but have, through the years, stubbornly refused to sell or lease their house or have it altered in any way. Inside are some two-dozen bedrooms, ancient furniture and life-size images of saints.
The sisters are the last of their line; they have no heirs, but have three adopted children. They have become a legend. Stories are told about the fabulous sums they have been offered for their house and lot. Once there was a rumor they had adopted some Negritoes. Few people have been able to enter their old house. All around them, their street, the city, the people have been changing; but the years pass and their house remains unchanged, save that during Holy Week, the withered blessed palm branches at the always-closed windows turn into green ones.
There it stands, a monstrous monument against progress, on a street where all the other town houses have either vanished or decayed. This house has survived Calle Yriz and it looks as if it will survive Calle Azcárraga too.
My Years with the FREE PRESS
By Frederic S. Marquardt
‘None of us worked for fame or glory, but I think we all had a sense of doing a good job at an exciting time in the life of a people emerging from colonial to independent status’
August 30, 1958—TWENTY-FIVE years ago I helped prepare the silver anniversary edition of the Philippines Free Press. The depression we wrestled with in those days has passed. The Japanese menace we wrote about has come and gone. The independence we discussed on all occasions is an established fact. Quezon and Osmeña and Roxas have left the scene. It’s a different world, a world of television, of Sputniks, of intercontinental ballistic missiles armed with hydrogen warheads. But the Free Press hasn’t changed, not really, during the second quarter century of its existence. It still holds fast to the high standards of good English that have marked every issue. It still is ready to break a lance on corruption in government. It still fights for a better Philippines in a world at least slightly mad. And I am happy indeed to be able to salute it on its golden anniversary.
Not many newspapers have managed to survive 50 years of what is, I suppose, the toughest competition that exists. I know of no other which has been edited and published by one man for half a century. Certainly none of the world’s other great national publications have had one hand at the tiller for so long.
Since R. McCulloch Dick probably will wield the red pencil on my copy if I say much more about him, let me get down to my assignment of describing the Free Press in the days before World War II.
When I joined the Free Press staff late in 1928, the ordinary edition contained 56 pages a week, of which 16 were in Spanish. All editorials were translated into Spanish, to achieve a maximum impact for editorial opinion. Although Don Alberto Campos and Roman Joven and the others who worked on the Spanish section were extremely able men, the times were against them. The advertisers got better results when their ads were in the English section, and the Spanish section was abandoned after it had shrunk to a meager six pages. The bilingual F. Theo Rogers, business manager and lifelong associate of Mr. Dick, felt badly when the glory that was Castile faded from the pages of the Free Press, but he too accepted the inevitable.
I think I should make at least a passing reference to the hard-headed business sense of the Dick-Rogers team. They have always known that financial stability was the only basis on which a newspaper can operate in a competitive economy. I recall reading to Mr. Dick the lead editorial in Volume I, Number 1, of one of the papers that were constantly springing up in those days. The editorial platform announced the highest possible motives, all of which Mr. Dick agreed with. “But,” said the Free Press owner, “I would give it more chance of surviving if it said it was determined to keep out of the red.” The Free Press kept out of the red. It didn’t amass a great fortune or erect a magnificent plant, but it wasn’t in hock to a bank and it always met its payrolls. The pay scale, by the way, was the highest in Manila.
For roughly the first 25 or 30 years of its existence the Free Press ran an ad on its front cover each week. The cover stock was blue, and the result was a distinctive appearance that could easily be spotted on newsstands. But the British example of printing ads on the front cover became gradually outmoded and by the early ’30s we switched over to photographs or other illustrations. I recall the indignant letters we received from old subscribers when the change was made. Some of them had failed to recognize the Free Press in its new dress, and at least one annoyed reader told us to quit copying the Saturday Evening Post. Oddly enough the change to what we considered a more attractive cover did not boost circulation, but those were depression days and new subscribers were hard to come by.
For years prior to my arrival the Free Press had occasionally been running an insert bearing the picture of a national hero, a distinguished citizen, or a Filipino beauty. It usually was printed on one side of a sheet of glossy paper, and slipped into the paper as a sort of bonus. These inserts were highly popular and they appeared throughout the Philippines as decorations in homes of all sorts. The beauty contest, glorifying Filipino womanhood in every province, was a great feature of the paper.
We expanded the insert to four pages on book stock, but made it the same size as the rest of the paper and stapled it in the center of the magazine. On special occasions we would use color, and gradually color reproductions spread throughout the paper until, shortly before Pearl Harbor, it was available for as many as 16 pages a week. The covers also blossomed like a rose, as the engravers became more proficient.
Mr. Dick never resisted change. He didn’t want to experiment needlessly, but when it came to setting type by machine instead of by hand, he quickly brought in the linotypes and Ludlows. Domingo Magsarili Sr., composing room foreman, and Agustin Foz Sr., who ran the press room, knew they could always get money for labor-saving and time-saving machinery. On the other hand, Mr. Dick vetoed the idea of a rotary printing press, which would have been faster and more economical than the Miehle flatbeds, because he knew the quality of printing would decline with the rotaries in those days before air-conditioning and other modern aids to printing.
As the years went on, Floro Santos Sr., a schoolteacher turned businessman, took on more and more of the business details of running the Free Press. I’m not sure what his title was—we didn’t put much stock in titles—but he was a combination treasurer, circulation manager, office manager, and general factotum who saw that the Free Press got out on time and was circulated into the most remote barrios. To those of us who knew it was stating the obvious to say that the Free Press would never have been the same without Floro Santos. Nor could the advertising department have developed without the patient, careful effort of Lino Gimeno.
But enough of the mechanical and business details. The heart of a newspaper is the newsroom, and its strength lies in the sincerity and honesty with which it reports the news. From 1929 through 1934 there was only one really important news story in the Philippines, and that was independence. Back in those days there were a lot of Americans and some Filipinos who felt that independence would never work. I doubt if we at the Free Press ever felt that way. It seemed to us that the only ultimate solution to Philippine-American relationships was a complete severance of political ties, although we also felt that the dictates of common sense would maintain intimate international relationships after American sovereignty had ended.
Once I discussed the problem with Ramon Navas, first of the great Filipino newspapermen I had a chance to work with. Independence, of course, was an emotional issue, and I recall Navas reading a statement by President Hoover about independence and saying, with tears in his eyes, “I’ll never live to see it.” I assured him he would, but I was wrong. He was drowned during a bad typhoon that raged across the city.
Next to the independence question, I should say the main running news stories were honesty in government (then as now) and law and order. Mr. Rogers used to say, “Unless the people learn to maintain law and order, independence will be worthless.” I agreed that there was a lot to what he said.
One of the biggest stories I recall was the Sakdal uprising of May 2, 1935. It was aimed at negating the plebiscite to be taken May 14, to ratify the Constitution of the Commonwealth of the Philippines. The Sakdalistas struck at municipal officials in 14 towns. The morning after the uprising, we assigned our top three reporters, Leon Ty, Filemon Tutay and D.L. Francisco, to go to Cavite, Pampanga and Laguna provinces. They brought back pictures and word stories that covered the uprising like one of these new sacque dresses. Malacañang Palace, then the residence of the governor-general, used our reports to guide its own fact-finding commissions.
For many years Tutay doubled as a cameraman, and set up the first darkroom we had. Then, as now, he was a fine sports writer. Ty was hired as an advertising solicitor, but at heart he was a crusading reporter. He would come in after a hard day of calling on the advertisers to sit down and write the first tentative thrusts at government abuses which were to become his hallmark. Jose Pereira and Esmeraldo Izon drew cartoons and illustrations that gave the paper a quality of its own.
We were the only Manila newspaper, back in those days, to keep a correspondent in Washington. James G. Wingo kept track of the independence bills, the congressional hearings, the resident commissioner’s office and the visiting Filipinos. His Independence Merry-Go-Round was a source of cold fact and choice gossip.
The constitutional convention was another big story, and I went to as many of the meetings as I could. But most of the reports were written by Juan Collas, whose legal mind stood him in good stead, and by Leon Ma. Guerrero, the first Filipino writer, I believe, to completely master the American idiom. Both Collas and Guerrero helped set the Free Press on its path as a patron of creative writing, by the attention they paid to our short stories and poems. Teodoro M. Locsin, who came late in my Free Press career, was another master of the English language. Two American staff members who made important contributions were Ralph Busick, now holding a high post with the US Information Agency in Washington, and Robert Yelton Robb, now a university professor in Detroit.
There are more, many more, who should be mentioned in even such a brief summary as this. But I know they will forgive me for omitting them. None of us worked for fame or glory, but I think we all had a sense of doing a good job at an exciting time in the life of a people emerging from colonial to independent status.
Mrs. Douglas MacArthur once expressed her feelings—and mine—when she said of those prewar days, “We didn’t have to wait until they were over before we knew we enjoyed them.” Filipinos and Americans alike, I believe, had a sense of destiny, a feeling of important work to be done.
When I returned to the Philippines during World War II, not long after MacArthur had landed in Leyte, an American GI handed me a copy of one of the issues of the Free Press that had been printed just before Pearl Harbor. He had found it in a home in Tacloban, and I read it with great interest.
The story I will always remember was one by Locsin. It was a piece on the tense world situation, and the current status of the Philippines. And it ended with the rejoinder, to American and Filipino readers alike: “Count your blessings, and prepare to defend them.”
I was proud to learn a little later, that many of the Free Press staff were leading the precarious life of guerrillas, as they defended those blessings. Shortly after the liberation of Manila I stood with Mr. Dick and looked at the gutted Free Press building and the twisted presses and wondered how the paper would ever be rebuilt. I should not have had any doubts. The spark that had driven the Free Press to its prewar status was still ready to push it to new postwar heights. In the 17 years since I left its editorial staff, the Free Press has become better and more powerful. But it has never lost sight of the basic aim of an honest newspaper. I, for one, am confident it never will.
The past is prelude. The second fifty years in the life of the Free Press should see it reaching new heights of journalistic achievement.
THE CHURCH UNDER ATTACK
May 5, 1956
There is a new outburst of anti-clericalism as Catholic politicians denounce the Catholic hierarchy’s opposition to the bill requiring Filipino students to read the two controversial novels of Rizal
By Teodoro M. Locsin
NOT for a long time has the Catholic Church, or, at any rate, the Catholic hierarchy in the Philippines, been subjected to such attacks as it has for the last two weeks. Archbishops, accustomed to having high government officials kiss the ring of their office, were mocked and ridiculed, were called enemies of freedom, to great applause. Catholic political leaders led the attack….
Did the hierarchy expect the attacks when it issued the pastoral letter objecting to the Senate bill which would make the two novels of Rizal required reading in all public schools—novels the hierarchy considered impious and heretical? If it did, and went ahead just the same and registered its objection, it could only be because of an overriding concern for the safety of the Faith; to read Rizal is to endanger it. A temporary embarrassment is nothing in the light of eternity; the Church is 2,000 years old; it will still be standing when the supporters of the bill are no longer around. The Senate, as it is presently composed, will not prevail against it. Thus, perhaps, wen the thought of the churchmen. It was a calculated risk.
It was all very surprising. A month ago, one could not have imagined a Filipino politician speaking in any but the most respectful terms of the prelates of the Church; he would have considered it political suicide to express himself critically of them. Now all caution seems to have been thrown to the wind. Anything goes. There is a new freedom, or, to put it another way, license.
The Church has grown in power and influence since the days immediately following the Revolution. Then every other Filipino leader seemed to be the critic if not the enemy of the Church. Many had lost their faith; even among those who retained it, there were not a few who were, in some degree, anti-clerical. The women were pious but the men were something else. During Mass, when the priest turned around to deliver a sermon, the men would walk out of the church; when the priest was done, they would come back. “Do what I say, but don’t do what I do,” the men would say, referring to the man of God.
In time, many Filipino leaders returned to the Church, abjuring Masonry as in the case of the late President Quezon; they became quite devout. It no longer seemed queer to be a priest or to listen to one. The Church grew in prestige. When a Protestant, Camilo Osias, made known his intention to run for president, he was told he couldn’t win; he was not a Catholic. He could be a senator; he was. He could never be president. He must face the facts of political life. When he wouldn’t, and bolted to the other side, he couldn’t even get elected as senator.
If Ramon Magsaysay is president of the Philippines today, it is due not a little to the help of the Church. The hierarchy, reluctantly coming to the conclusion that the perpetuation of the Quirino administration through electoral fraud and terrorism would eventually drive the people into Communism, urged the faithful to keep the elections free. Free elections would mean the defeat of the Quirino administration. The Church couldn’t help that. The elections were free, and there was a new administration.
The strangest dictator
by Fritz Marquardt
Taken from his book, Before Bataan and After (1942)
FOR Manuel Luis Quezon y Molina, small, explosive, tubercular President of the Philippines, life came full cycle during the Battle of Bataan. From the rocky eminences of Corregidor, when there were no air raids or artillery bombardments going on, he could look out onto the blood-drenched peninsula where he himself had been a sick, battle-weary soldier fighting against impossible odds. That had been forty years earlier, and he had finally surrendered to an American soldier named Roy Squires and Bingham. But the fight never went out of Quezon, in 1901 or in 1942. After the first defeat he rose to be the undisputed leader of his people in their struggle for independence, and after the second defeat to see his country given all the honors and prerogatives of an independent nation.
When his doctors finally told him that his health could not bear up much longer under the strain of living in the foul air of Corregidor’s tunnels, he went down to Cebu and finally slipped through the Japs’ hands and reached Mindanao, after a fearsome night ride in one of Lieutenant John Bulkeley’s P-T boats. From Mindanao he flew to Australia, and then went on to the United States to establish something utterly new under the sun, an American-sponsored government in exile.
The war robbed Quezon of his home and made him a president without a country, but it gave him the one thing he had fought for all his life—recognition of the Philippines as an independent nation. All possible military honors were bestowed upon him when he landed in San Francisco, and a special train carried him across the country.
In Washington he was the object of reception that must have thrilled him to the core, for down at the station to meet him were President Roosevelt and every former Governor General and High Commissioner available, including Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, Major General Dwight F. Davis, Supreme Court Justice Frank Murphy, Manpower Administrator Paul V. McNutt, and High Commissioner Francis B. Sayre. It was a splendid tribute to Don Manuel, and an even finer one to the Filipinos who had fought so well on Bataan.
Perhaps an even greater day for Quezon and the Filipinos occurred a few weeks later, for the independence of the Philippines as a political entity was virtually recognized when Quezon signed the United Nations agreement and became a member of the Pacific War Council.
Terrible as the war had been, it had given him one pledge which he could never have secured without it. As Manila was about to die, President Roosevelt broadcast a speech to the Philippines in which he said, “I give to the freedom will be redeemed and their independence established and protected. The entire resources in men and materials of the United States stand behind that pledge.” Other presidents had promised that the Philippines would eventually be given their independence, but never before had a responsible American official gone so far as to promise that independence would be “protected.” This pledge was the capstone of a life which Quezon had dedicated to fighting for Philippine independence—and to having a swell time.
Before the war Quezon never had a good press in the United States. Most American reporters looked at his loud neckties and colored shirts, counted up the size of the retinue with which he invariably traveled, heard him issue some peremptory orders to his attendant, and concluded he was a petty dictator on the Latin American plan. John Gunther helped build up the dictatorship tradition by a magazine article for which Quezon was determined to sue for libel, until Roy Howard pointed out how futile that would be.
I watched Quezon at work for thirteen years, and if he was a dictator, then certainly he was the world’s strangest.
In the Philippine elections held a month before Pearl Harbor, Quezon was re-elected President of the Philippines without having delivered a single campaign speech in his own behalf. Four out of every five votes were cast for him, and the elections were honestly run. Ballot-box stuffing was something beneath his dignity—and something which he never had any need to resort to, which can’t be said for most dictators.
The press of the Philippines was at least ninety-five percent pro-Quezon in the years before the Japanese invasion. And it was all a voluntary support of the President. There was no censorship, direct or indirect, and I can testify that far less pressure on the press was brought by “the interests” than is the case in the United States. The editor of a Philippine newspaper could say what he liked, subject only to the customary laws of libel.
Even when the biggest Manila broadcasting company was supported by the government Quezon’s political foes were given free time to air their views. For Quezon was one dictator who wanted an enlightened public opinion. He had no false modesty about his ability. He was so sure of himself that he used to think he would get all the votes, instead of a mere eighty percent, if the electorate had all the facts.
There was complete freedom of speech in the Philippines. Quezon’s critics attacked his personal honesty, his private morals and his government record with absolute impunity. There was no Gestapo in his government, and “protective custody” was unheard of. Arrests were made by the police or Constabulary, and trials were held in the regular courts. The Philippine Supreme Court always had the power to declare any of Quezon’s pet laws unconstitutional.
Why, then, did most Americans consider him a dictator? If there were honest elections, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and an independent judiciary, how could it reasonably be charged that the Commonwealth government was dictatorship?
The answer is to be found in the complex character of Manuel Quezon, a political genius who knew what sort of government would work best in his own country, a practical politician who never allowed visionary theories to interfere with the immediate task of ruling sixteen million people in one of the world’s most critical danger spots. No matter how much he believed in democratic principles, he would never allow them to tie hands in dealing with a specific problem.
Like almost everything else about the man, Quezon’s belief in the necessity of a strongly centralized government was not consistent. When Leonard Wood was governor general of the Philippines, and attempted to concentrate power in the hands of the executive, Quezon fought him bitterly all the way down the line on the theory that the legislative leaders—including Quezon—should be supreme over the executive. However, when Quezon became the chief executive, it didn’t take him long to reduce the legislative branch to a completely subordinate position. “I shall not be so remiss in my duties to the nation,” he said at a press conference, “as to admit that a Filipino President is as unworthy of great power as an American Governor General was.”
In 1922 Quezon fought his great and good friend Sergio Osmeña on the sole issue of whether the Nationalist Party would have “unipersonalista,” or single leadership. Quezon insisted that it shouldn’t, and won the fight. But he later assumed the single leadership of the party himself, apparently without the slightest idea that he was being inconsistent. Or possibly he had read Emerson, and agreed that “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”
Quezon bossed the Filipinos with an iron hand. After his election as President he brought all the important politicians into his own party, offering them good jobs if they joined up with him, threatening them with a political Siberia if they refused. So powerful was his party in the last elections that it elected all of the Senators and ninety percent of the Representatives to the new Congress, the one which never had a chance to meet because its inaugural was scheduled for the day before Manila fell.
Yet it is doubtful if this unusual dictator followed the one-party line of Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin merely for self-aggrandizement. Even in the days when there were two political parties of relatively equal strength in the Philippines, Quezon was always the Head Man. He gloried in a political fight, and liked nothing better than to tackle a tough opponent. And the creation of one dominating party made all of the prominent politicians, instead of just a majority of them, eligible for the limited patronage available.
No, I think Quezon built a monolithic party structure in the Philippines because he felt that the ten-year transition period leading to independence was no time for party rivalry. He figured—and quite rightly—that the Philippines needed all its able men in office, not half in and half out as there would have been with two parties of nearly equal strength. Quezon himself held no brief for the one-party system, he had set up, apparently considering it a temporary expedient. Once, in fact, he expressed an offhand opinion that there should be a “no party” system, in which candidates would be elected to office on their merits, not on the strength of their political affiliations or the size of their party’s campaign fund.
One of the things for which Quezon was the most bitterly criticized was the national defense plan, including the hiring of General MacArthur as his military adviser, and the inauguration in the peaceful days of 1936 of compulsory military training. Almost immediately charges of “dictator” were hurled at his head. I recall a press conference at his Pasay home, shortly before the Commonwealth was established, to which a group of visiting American newspapermen were invited. Over and over the “visiting firemen” wanted to know why Quezon needed an army, and what purpose he had in mind in instituting compulsory training. Was he interested in defending the Philippines from external aggression, or did he plan to use this great military force to put down domestic uprisings? A little later, in New York, Quezon was subjected to the same line of questioning when he was the guest of honor at a Civil Liberties banquet presided over by Oswald Garrison Villard. For years pacifists called him a warmonger, and liberals insisted he was building an army to keep himself in power after the United States forces left the Philippines. But the fact remains that there was a reservoir of one hundred fifty thousand trained men in the Philippines when war came. And no one was happier to have them there than the very elements which had criticized Quezon so vigorously a few years earlier.
Charges of dictatorship were heard again after the fall of France, when Quezon secured sweeping emergency powers from the National Assembly, including the right to take over industries and to move entire populations from one province to another. He never used the powers, as it turned out, but the fact that he had them strengthened his hand in dealing with problems of defense as they arose.
In fact, a good case can be made out against Quezon because he didn’t act more like a dictator in the months before the war started. For a long time he couldn’t bring himself to believe that Japan would dare attack the United States—a lot of other people made the same mistake—and when he finally came to the conclusion that war was certain he delivered a speech which sounded almost hysterical. Bombs might soon be falling in Manila, he shouted, and no one was prepared because the High Commissioner hadn’t allowed preparations to be made.
This was a great change in tune from the press conference which I attended in the late summer of 1940, during which Quezon had laughed off the possibility of any bombs falling on Manila. We had asked him what preparations were being made against the possibility of air attacks, pointing out that Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Batavia and every important city in the Far East, with the exception of Manila, had been practicing blackouts and getting ready for the worst.
Laughing heartily, Quezon said he had no fear of war in the Pacific, and that anyway the Filipinos liked picnics. If Manila should be bombed the people could all go out in the country for a fiesta, or they could spend their time at the favorite picnic ground of Montalban, where there were some famous caves.
There was, undoubtedly, some friction between President Quezon and High Commissioner Sayre regarding the organization of civilian defense. Quezon apparently pointed out that, under the Tydings-McDuffie Law, the United States was responsible for the defense of the Philippines. That, obviously, included civilian defense. Sayre probably answered that the Tydings-McDuffie Act contemplated only military defense. He also had the eminently sound argument on his side that his overburdened office, with a staff of twenty men, was not physically able to organize civilian defense. If anyone was going to do it, the Commonwealth government would have to.
One thing is fairly certain. If Quezon had plunged in with a large-scale civilian defense plan fourteen or fifteen months before the war began, on the strength of his emergency powers, there would have been a cry of “Dictator!” which would have resounded through every newspaper in the United States.
When Quezon had the Constitution amended so he could be re-elected President—the original provision was for a single, six-year term—critics in the Philippines and the United States called him a “tyrant” and cynics at the University of the Philippines formed a “Quezon-for-King” club. But when January 1, 1942, rolled around and Quezon grimly took his oath of office in a Corregidor tunnel, everyone was glad that a new President was not being inducted into office.
Temperamental, mercurial, unpredictable, Quezon never bore a grudge long. I have seen him give a subordinate a tongue-lashing which would make a Chinese coolie cringe, and then throw his arm over the poor devil’s shoulders and call him “Amigo.” Some of the men who attacked him most viciously in the past were holding down responsible government positions before the Japanese came in, including a particularly irresponsible newspaper editor who had repeatedly cast reflections upon Quezon’s private life.
One reason for Quezon’s unparalleled hold on the people was his constant support of the underdog. He established minimum wages for government laborers, put an eight-hour working day into effect, soaked the rich with higher taxes. Once his advisers recommended that he veto, on the grounds of economy, a law giving public-school teachers full pay while on maternity leave. I’ll sign that bill if it bankrupts the treasury,” said Quezon, reaching for a pen.
One of his most celebrated battles for an “underprivileged” was set off by an innocent question which I asked him at a press conference. It involved a laborer whose name was Cuevas and big contractor named Barredo. The contractor was working on a bridge across the Pasig River, and one of his crews was unloading logs. The river was swollen as a result of the heavy rains, and one of the logs got away from the men and started down the river. A foreman on the job saw the log going and yelled at the laborer Cuevas, “Get that log or you’ll have to pay for it.” Cuevas, whose pay probably was seventy-five cents (American money) a day, plunged in after the log but was drowned in his unsuccessful attempt. When Cuevas’ family claimed workingman’s compensation the contractor Barredo refused to pay, on the ground that the laborer had taken a foolish risk and the employer was not to blame.
Through some stupid miscarriage of justice, a judge in the court of first instance upheld the contractor and ruled that Cuevas’ dependents were not entitled to collect. We ran a blistering editorial on the case in the Philippines Free Press, and demanded that the decision be appealed—which was permissible under Philippine law. As a matter of fact, the Attorney General’s office was as incensed over the case as the Free Press, and had already determined to push it through to the Supreme Court if need be.
In the course of a regular press interview at Malacañan I asked Quezon if he had read the judge’s decision in the Cuevas-Barredo case? Thereupon the peppery President literally exploded. “That’s seventeenth-century justice,” he yelled. “I was dumfounded to think that any judge in this day and age could hand down such a decision.” And he went on at that pace for fifteen minutes.
A little later, after the conference was over and one of his staff members pointed out that the case was pending final decision, Quezon issued a statement saying he hadn’t realized the matter was sub judice but expressing his confidence that the members of the Supreme Court would not allow his remarks to influence their decision. Needless to say, they decided in favor of Cuevas’ heirs. The judge who had made the original decision retired from the bench for good, and Barredo went out of the contracting business.
“The Quezon dictatorship,” explained the razor-minded Manila publisher Carlos P. Romulo, “is like the Roosevelt dictatorship. You call it the New Deal. We call it Social Justice.”
But Quezon knew how to crack down on labor, as well as how to help it secure its rights. Any strike called before the workers had resorted to government machinery for mediation got scant consideration. When employees of the government-owned Manila Hotel went on strike on Quezon ordered them locked out. “There will be no strike against this government,” he said.
Quezon’s relations with the Catholic Church have been as inconstant as most of the rest of his life. When his father brought him over the mountains from Baler to obtain an education in Manila he worked as a houseboy for a priest at San Juan de Letran College, in order to get food and lodging. Later, when his father’s small amount of money had given out, the Dominican fathers made it possible for him to study law at Santo Tomas University.
But as young man Quezon fell away from the church and became a Mason, thus joining an organization which archenemy in the Philippines.
In 1918, when he married his first cousin, Aurora Aragon, in Hong Kong, the ceremony was a civil one, performed at the American Legation. But three days later the vows were repeated before the Archbishop of Hong Kong.
Quezon continued his active interest in Masonry until 1928, when tuberculosis forced him to spend several months in bed at the Monrovia Sanitorium in California. “I felt that I was going to die—just like an animal, without any spiritual consolation or hope,” he recalled later. For several years after leaving Monrovia he studied Catholicism, largely at his wife’s behest, and finally on one of the Empress liners sailing from Vancouver to Manila he attended a special mass said by Archbishop Michael J. O’Doherty of Manila, thus signalizing his return to his childhood faith.
He told us the story once, when he was in an expansive mood, how he had come to return to the Catholic fold. “When my wife and children kept asking me why I was not a churchgoer, I decided I had better do something about it,” he said. “So I asked Father Vilallonga, an old Spanish Jesuit friend of mine, if he would care to give me some religious instruction in the hopes that I would be reconverted.
“The father was glad to help, and after a long talk he left some books with me to read. One of these books, describing the church in the Philippines during Spanish times, told of image which disappeared from its church in Manila and was found some time later in a chapel in Cavite. Since the skirts of the saint were covered with dust, the church authorities concluded that the image had walked from Manila to Cavite.
“Well, that was too much for me. ‘For goodness’ sake,’ I said to myself, ‘how can they expect anyone to believe that the wooden image of saint could walk from Manila to Cavite?’ So I just gave up the whole idea.
“But a little while later I was talking to Archbishop O’Doherty and he asked me why I didn’t return to the church in which I had worshiped as a small boy. I told him I would be glad to get religious instruction, but I didn’t want any more of that stuff about wooden images walking thirty miles over a dusty road. The Archbishop laughed and said he didn’t believe that story himself. So I began to study with him, finally I decided to re-enter the church.”
Quezon’s return to Catholicism apparently was entirely a matter of conscience. Not even the most anti-Catholic person in the Philippines ever accused him of favoring the church. Quite to the contrary, when the Commonwealth Legislature passed a bill which would allow Catholic priests and lay teachers to give religious instruction in the public schools during regular schools hours, President Quezon promptly vetoed the bill on the ground that he believed firmly in the separation of church and state. Once, during the civil War in Spain from 1936 to 1938, Quezon was the guest of honor at a banquet given by his old friends, the Dominican fathers at the University of Santo Tomas. When he entered the hall a band struck up Franco’s National Anthem. When it came his turn to speak Quezon rebuked the Dominicans scathingly, telling them that they could take sides in the Spanish war if they wanted to, but that they could not use him even covertly to secure public sympathy for Franco.
One reason why so many people have called Quezon a dictator is because he invariably surrounds himself with a big retinue. Even on Corregidor, where he was instructed to take as few people along as possible, he had his usual complement of doctors, servants and aides. He always had a large number of advisers, but he frequently ignored their advice. He felt himself competent to decide any question personally. In legal problems, national policies, educational matters, public works—all the ramifications of government—he was the final arbiter. Even in the fields of art and architecture, which he had never seriously studied, he did not hesitate to set aside the recommendation of experts. Once he noticed that it was a long walk from one entrance of Manila’s city hall to the other entrance, and ordered that a new door be opened in the building, regardless of what it did to the architecture. He must have forgotten his order the next day, because the door was never cut. Against the recommendation of every city planner whom Quezon imported from the United States—and he had some of the best—the new government center was moved from Manila to nearby Quezon city.
Before the war tension rose to fever heat, plans were being laid to hold a great international exposition in the Philippines in November 1941, to coincide with the completion of Quezon’s first term in office. The committee appointed to make the arrangements wanted the exposition held in Manila, where it would be close to the great population centers. Quezon wanted it held in barren Quezon city, then rising out of the rice paddies ten miles northeast of Manila. Finally the committee chairman wrote a long report, listing all the reasons why the exposition should be held in Manila, and took it himself to Malacañang Palace. President Quezon received the report and read it through very carefully.
“That’s a fine report,” the President said to the chairman. “I’ll be honest with you. I can’t answer a single one of the arguments you have advanced for holding the exposition in Manila.” He thought for a moment, and his nose began to quiver as it does when he gets angry.
“No,” Quezon repeated, “I can’t answer your arguments. But there is one thing I can do. I can appoint a new committee to take charge of the exposition.” This is exactly what he did. As things turned out, the fair was never held. But if it had been, you may be sure it would have been held at Quezon City.
To all great men, sooner or later, comes the desire to see their names projected down the corridors of time. Just as Russia named towns, cities, dams, buildings and highways after Josef Stalin, so did the Philippines acquire a Quezon City, a Quezon Bridge, a Quezon Boulevard, a Quezon Avenue, a Quezon Sanitarium and a Quezon Preventorium. The object of this last-named institution was to prevent tuberculosis from developing among the children of tubercular parents. There was even a Quezon Society, dedicated to the collecting of biographical material, data and information about its namesake. Mrs. Quezon came in for her share of unsought but welcome glory, by allowing a dozen towns in different provinces to be named Aurora.
President Quezon was the sort of official who didn’t know one minute what he would be doing the next. His plans were always subject to change, and whoever was in charge of a Quezon itinerary needed infinite patience. I once collected a day-by-day series of headlines for two weeks before his departure from Manila on one of his numerous trips to the United States. It ran something like this:
Quezon Will Take President Taft Monday
President Cancels Passage
Quezon Definitely Going Wednesday on Empress Boat
Malacañang Announces Trip Off
President Sailing Saturday on Hoover
Quezon Sailing Postponed
Big Crowd To See Quezon Party Off Tuesday
And so it went, until finally, much to everyone’s amazement and relief, he got away.
On his provincial trips he used to keep thousands of his admirers waiting hours to see him visit an isolated town, and then change his itinerary at the last minute. On occasion, when he reversed his route, towns had to switch the “Welcome, Quezon” and “Good-by, Mr. President” signs, to be sure the right one would greet him when he entered the town.
Once the National Assembly passed a daylight-saving law and Quezon signed it. Not long after the law went into effect, he arose at 5:30 in the morning while it was still dark. After stumbling downstairs, because he couldn’t find the light switch, he ordered the restoration of standard time!
Judged by Wall Street standards, or compared with Oriental princes, Quezon was never rich. For a long time there were rumors that he had salted away a fortune in pounds sterling in the Bank of England. If he did, he probably regretted it when the pound skidded in value, and the government placed restrictions on the withdrawal of money. The bulk of his fortune was in land, with an assessed valuation in the neighborhood of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. But Quezon never needed millions. He lived in a palace more elaborate than the White House, and had a summer mansion in Baguio. He had a yacht and a fleet of high-powered limousines at his command. Across the Pasig River from Malacañan he had a “pleasure dome decreed,” a fairyland of beautiful gardens and sumptuous guest houses and elaborate pavilions.
But for all his imperious and regal habits Quezon was always essentially human, with a charm of manner that instantly won friends. Years ago, when he lived in Washington as Resident Commissioner, his fellow Congressmen insisted that he was an Irishman, because of his wit and his love of a fight, and they called him Casey, which they said was the proper translation of the Tagalog word “Quezon.”
I believe that it was at his first press conference after assuming the presidency that Quezon told us, “I’m going to have a human government here. We may make mistakes, but our hearts will be in the right place.”
One of his ways of being human was to go to Bilibid prison and walk down a line of prisoners asking them what they were in for.
“How long do you still have to serve?” he once asked a cochero, or rig driver, he found in the line-up.
“A month,” answered the cochero.
“What for?” asked Quezon.
Somewhat sheepishly the rig driver answered, “Well, sir, I had to answer the call of nature and I didn’t dare go back in the bushes because my horse would run away. So I relieved myself in public.”
“Get that man out of here,” Quezon roared. “Turn him free. What kind of government are we running here anyway? That man should never have been arrested, let alone sentenced to jail.”
The apologetic prison warden mumbled something about releasing the prisoner just as soon as the pardon papers were signed and delivered to him.
“Never mind about the pardon papers. I’ll sign them tomorrow. But you get that fellow out of here right now. I never heard of such a thing.”
The cochero was immediately turned loose, and the legal niceties were attended to later.
Mrs. Quezon also had a way of deciding moot questions of law without any nonsense.
When the eight-hour law went into effect a delegation of private nurses visited her and said they would prefer to work the same twelve-hour shifts they had been working, since a sick person would obviously not want to pay any more for three nurses working eight hours a day than he was already paying for two nurses working twelve hours a day. And the nurses didn’t want to take a cut in pay.
“All right,” said Mr. Quezon. “You go ahead working as you have been, and don’t say anything about it. It will be all right.”
Quezon’s people loved him for his impulsive humanity. It used to be seriously argued that half of the people in Manila would walk out to the end of Pier 7 and jump into the bay, if Quezon told them to.
That is why Quezon was, and continues to be, of such vital importance to the United States and to the United Nations. Not only does he keep the spirit of opposition to Japan alive in the Philippines, but his voice carries weight among all the enslaved peoples of Asia.
Before the war started he said, “We owe loyalty to America and we are bound to her, placing at her disposal all our man power and material resources to help her in achieving victory, for the cause for which America fights is our cause.”
Why should a dictator call America’s cause his cause, and throw his country’s weight into the struggle on the side of democracy? Simply because Manuel Quezon was not a dictator by choice. That was proved by his refusal to tamper with freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the independence of the judiciary and other basic rights guaranteed by a democratic constitution. No one doubts that he ruled the Philippines with an iron hand. But that was necessity. The Filipinos had had less than fifty years of firsthand experience with democratic institutions, as against centuries of acquaintance with despotism.
Yet even then it was only by Anglo-Saxon standards that Philippine democracy could be weighed and found wanting. To hundreds of millions of politically disenfranchised Asiatics, the Philippines was an oasis of freedom in a desert of oppression. Nowhere in the Far East did the beacon light of political liberty glow so brightly as in the Philippines. Quezon was a symbol of democracy at work.
July 23, 1938
WHEN President Manuel Quezon left recently for a vacation in Japan, he left in the dead of night, aboard a Japanese freighter, without fuss or fanfare.
But when he returned this week, board the Empress of Japan, tugboats whistled and puffed around the graceful white luxury liner, the flags were out at dawn, the city’s bay boulevards are bright with sunshine and posters, jammed with cheering thousands. The President might have been returning from the United States, with a new economic pact or another bankful of coconut millions, instead of from a quiet uneventful Japanese holiday.
It was true, however, that the quiet holiday had aroused a Japanese-teapot-storm of comment. The President had been reported seeking unofficial assurances from Japan that the independent republic of the Philippines would be left alone. In Japan, Visitor Quezon had called the report “ridiculous bunkum.” Two days after his arrival in Manila he was to expand that impulsive phrase into an involved 15-minute explanation.
But on the Luneta, a chain of sampaguitas around his neck, he had nothing new to offer. Instead, talking in Tagalog, he took up where he had left off on his departure, sailed with both fists into the Catholic Church.
“If they want showdown, they can have it,” he shouted, evidently still sore at the pastoral letter which had criticized his veto of the religious instruction bill, shortly before he left. He challenged the Church to a fight in the coming elections for the Assembly. He said the church could present its own candidates against those of the administration, to put the whole question up to the people.
Since most of the Church’s candidates would necessarily be the Assemblymen who voted for the bill in the Assembly, and since all of these Assemblymen are administration men too, the challenge was scarcely fair, and the proposed battle, scarcely possible.
Such a battle, moreover, and such a challenge would bring little good to good a country which needed every ounce of unity it had, in the face of freedom. The President himself had recognized this danger in previous declarations. He repeated it on the Luneta: “We should not sacrifice our national life, our national harmony and unity on matters of religion, which we should not even discuss because it is unnecessary to do so. We have freedom of worship and of conscience.”
The vigorous impromptu challenge was later toned down in the official text of the speech, released in English to the press. The President proposed that the National Assembly reconsider the bill. If it was not repassed despite his veto, he would reveto it. If it was not repassed, “the country may consider the matter settled, unless the people in the coming election should decide to elect a majority of members of the National Assembly who would commit themselves in their electoral campaign to enact a measure on religious instruction.”
Confident Mr. Quezon entertained no fears in that respect. The crowd that had jammed the Luneta to hear him was primarily a labor crowd, grateful for favors past and present. But he adroitly interpreted their presence: “It can have only one meaning and that is, that you have come here to assure me that both my veto… and my stand on the question of the separation of Church and State, have met and continue to meet with your entire approval…. You make me very happy.”
The President also tossed aside hurt Catholic arguments that even Catholic bishops, as citizens of the Philippines, had a right to criticize the President’s actions. “I shall not deny any bishop, priest, or minister, of any church, his right as a citizen to express his opinion on any public question, but I do emphatically deny the right of the constituted authorities of any religious organization, or of any Church or Faith, not in their capacity as citizens but as authorities of that religious organization… and speaking therefor, to try to influence the government or any of its branches.”
It was clear warning that there would be no mutual understanding between Church and State in the Philippines.
Two days later the President was almost as clear on another mutual understanding, this time between the Philippines and Japan. The U.S. press had commented widely on the Quezon trip to Japan, had insinuated that Quezon was courting Japan and Japan courting Quezon. Correspondent Wilfrid Fleisher had telephoned the New York Herald Tribune that the President had been invited to the Empire by Japanese friends, that his trip had been arranged by these friends, that the Japanese government was glad of the chance to show the President that Japan had no designs on the Philippines.
No fear of Japan
Radiocasting from his study in Malacañang, over KZRC to the Philippines, and over an NBC coast-to-coast hookup to the United States, the President burned with sarcasm: “One of the American press correspondents, gifted with a highly fantastic imagination, sent information to his newspaper in New York to the effect that I had made that trip for the purpose of starting negotiations with the Japanese government, looking toward the neutralization of the Philippines. The absurdity of the news should have been enough to discredit it.”
The U.S., the President said, still retained control of the commonwealth’s foreign relations. “In the second place, it is a matter of common knowledge that on several occasions spokesmen from the foreign office of the Imperial government of Japan have left it be known…that Japan was ready and willing if invited, to be one of the signatories to such a treaty of neutralization…. Why then should I go to Japan to learn of something about which I had no right to inquire, and which no longer a secret to any one?”
But the President proceeded to do much to credit, if not the report on neutralization negotiations, at least its background of Philippine-Japanese mutual confidence and understanding. “I may state, said the President, “that I am not one of those who entertain any misgivings as to the attitude of Japan toward the Philippines once we shall have become independent. Our preparation for national defense is not due to our fear that any nation has untoward designs against our independence and territorial integrity…. We are not so extraordinarily rich natural resources as to make it worthwhile for any nation to conquer our territory at an enormous cost, and our trade can always be had through mutual concessions. There is, therefore, nothing to justify the belief that a wanton aggression against us may be contemplated by any foreign power.”
Gone seemed the expressed fear of most Filipino leaders that Japan will conquer the islands, or that, if it does conquer the islands much harm will come of it. Gone also the traditional uncompromising attitude toward Japan. Instead, the President hinted, the Philippines must cultivate a more tolerant, a more realistic, policy.
“We are in the world and must live with the world. We must conceive and devise, adopt and execute our national policies, with a clear vision and full consciousness of the realities of the present state of international relationships. We must above all be fair and just, tolerant and neutral, so as not to give an excuse on the part of any foreign power to interfere in our affairs or to charge us with jeopardizing the rights of other nations.”
The President then said, half with a sigh of relief: “When we are independent, our fate will be entirely in our hands.”
That fate, he hinted, was in the Far East, and in “peace and mutual understanding…permanently established among the nations of the Far East.” The face of the Philippines seems turned to Japan.
House passes McDuffie Bill; Tydings measure before senate
By James Wingo
Free Press Washington correspondent
March 24, 1934–HISTORY repeated itself in the congress of the United States this week when, under suspension of rules, the house of representatives passed a Philippine independence bill with debate limited to 40 minutes.
Almost two years ago, on April 4, 1932, to be exact, the house passed the Hare bill. On March 19, 1934, it passed the McDuffie bill, in most respects a duplicate of the Hare-Hawes-Cutting bill which was finally substituted for the original Hare bill.
On both occasions that grizzled veteran of many a congressional battle, Resident Commissioner Pedro Guevara, rose to praise the measure being enacted. On both occasions one or two opponents of the bill spoke against it, although well recognizing the futility of doing so. Two years ago a vote was taken, and 306 members votes yea while only 42 answered nay. This week, so certain was the outcome, no vote was recorded; the bill was simply passed by acclamation.
Guevara praises bill
Rising to the opportunity presented him, Commissioner Guevara delivered a brilliant oration, until he was cut short by the presiding officer when his time was up.
Of the Filipinos in Washington only Isauro Gabaldon rose to oppose the measure. “This is the worst possible bill that could be passed for the Philippines,” he shouted, and refused to avail himself of his privilege, as a former member of congress, of sitting on the floor of the house when the bill was passed.
Real liberty measure
Senate President Quezon, also a former resident commissioner, did appear on the floor of the house and issued a formal statement declaring “This is a real independence measure.” He also had the pleasure of hearing his work praised by Rep. John McDuffie.
Congressmen who opposed the measure were scarcely heard in the rush to pass the McDuffie bill. But Rep. Robert L. Bacon, who once wanted to sever Mindanao from the rest of the Philippines, did cry out that “This bill was backed by the sugar and coconut oil lobbyists.” And Rep. Charles J. Colden, a newcomer in Philippine discussions, declared, “I am of the opinion that this whole so-called independence movement is financed by the sugar trust.”
Congressmen favoring the measure, sure of its passage, did not waste their time in supporting it. They were content with the house committee’s recommendation, which declared the bill would be accepted by the Filipino people, and added that changes deemed advisable would be made in the future.
When Representative McDuffie declared, in the course of the brief debate on the floor of the house, that the United States had agreed to give up its military bases in the Philippines, Republican members wanted to know what would happen to the naval bases. “They will be retained by the United States,” declared the author of the independence bill, “pending a conference between the president and the representatives of the independent Philippines.”
While the house thus rushed the McDuffie bill through in a hurry, the senate, ever jealous of its deliberative prerogatives, preferred to act somewhat more leisurely. So when the Tydings bill was called up, no gag rule was adopted, and everyone who wanted to speak was allowed to do so.
That perennial advocate of immediate independence, Sen. William King of beet-growing Utah, cried, “It’s an immoral outrage that we haven’t freed the Philippines long ago.”
Addressing the senate Arthur H. Vandenberg of Michigan insisted, “Let us make no mistake; this is the same bill that the Filipinos rejected. It is the same old bill that had been vetoed by President Hoover, pilloried by the American press and attacked by American agriculture.”
Senator Vandenberg recommended the King bill for senators who felt no responsibility toward the Philippines; his own bill, of immediate independence with 10 years of reciprocal trade relations, for those who felt a responsibility toward the Philippines.
But passage on the Tydings bill, described by the senate committee as “sound, feasible and orderly process granting independence under conditions which will be just and fair to American and Filipino interests,” was a foregone conclusion.
Gearing for elections
So sure of this were members of the Quezon mission that they began to pack up preparatory to leaving Washington. A mission spokesman said they would depart the end of the month, returning to Manila via Europe.
In the Philippines, with the enactment of the new legislation a certainty, interest was focused largely on the coming elections. In Cebu Sen. Sergio Osmeña was laying the groundwork for what he hoped would be a sweeping victory for his ticket.
In Bacon, Sorsogon, occurred the first serious fight of the current campaign, when Juan Diaz, pro member of the provincial board, pulled a revolver and seriously wounded Justo Dilloza, former municipal president. The shooting was preceded by a heated discussion about the H-H-C Act.
January 28, 1933
Independence in the Balance
Babel of Voices Rising on All Sides—Question Buried Under Volumes of Oratory Leaders’ Future Moves Uncertain
CONFUSION worse confounded marked the week’s developments in the unfolding of the drama of Philippine independence. From Bongao to Aparri raged the question of the hour: Should the Philippines approve the independence bill enacted by the United States congress? Of almost equal interest was the subsidiary question: Should the Philippine legislature act on the bill, or should a convention of specially elected delegates decide this momentous matter?
All eyes were focused upon the impetuous figure of Senate President Quezon, who effective ended discussion of the bill during the special session of the legislature by threatening to take an immediate vote on the question unless sponsors of the bill stopped their sniping tactics.
As staunchly opposed to the bill as ever, Senate President Quezon was unquestionably supported by a majority in both houses of the legislature. Should he have put the question to a vote, there was no doubt but that his wishes would have been followed. In spite of claims that the legislature could not act on the matter until an official copy of the bill had been received from Washington, the senate president insisted that all that was necessary for a vote was for the governor general to submit the radioed copy of the bill to the legislature.
“I have an agreement with the members of the mission not to act on the bill until they return and make their report, in order that they may defend their actions,” said Senate President Quezon, “but if sympathizers of the bill continue making speeches and waging a campaign to form public opinion in favor of the bill, the members of the legislature, in spite of my wishes, may force a vote on the measure.
Having thus effectively spiked discussion of the bill at the special session of the legislature, Senate President Quezon called a caucus of the majority party, and secured authorization to send a cable ordering the mission to return to the Philippines.
If the mission were to return, it seemed probable that Senate President Quezon had abandoned his plans to sail to the United States to work for the better bill which he felt he could secure from the forthcoming congress. Yet the next thing the mercurial leader did indicated the possibility of his departure. He had the senate elect Sen. Jose Clarin as president pro tempore, and Sen. Elpidio Quirino a majority floor leader. “As everybody knows, the question of my going to the United States has not been decided, but if I should leave there must be a president pro tempore,” explained Senate President Quezon.
The mission, in the meantime, were sitting tightly in Washington awaiting orders from Manila. Even Sen. Benigno Aquino, envoy extraordinary who joined the mission at the last moment and who had planned to start his return trip late this month, announced he had canceled his passage and would stay in Washington.
But while the senate president was charting his course in regard to the independence bill, a great barrage of opinion, pro and con, was laid down in Manila and throughout the provinces.
Among the many entities which expressed their opinions on the independence bill were: the municipal council of Manila, which opposed it after hearing a councilor make the sensational statement that the mission should be shot for treachery and the students of the Columbian institute of Manila, who “sincerely and wholeheartedly” endorsed the independence bill.
For and Against
Rafael Palma, president of the University of the Philippines, and once a member of the Big Three of Philippine politics, issued a statement deploring “the absence of perfect understanding among our leaders”. He favors the approval of the bill.
On the other side of the fence is Don Vicente Lopez, president of the International Chamber of Commerce of Iloilo, the Filipino businessman who declared before Secretary of War Hurley that independence would be ruinous without free trade for 20 years. He said:
“One need not be a prophet to predict now what will happen should the Philippine legislature accept the Hawes-Cutting Bill.
“1. Foreign capital, which constitutes more than 50% of our total, will be withdrawn as soon as possible, in two years at the most.
“2. Filipino capital, which is much more conservative than foreign capital will also be withdrawn and all the cash will be deposited with foreign banks.
“3. As a result of this withdrawal of all foreign and Filipino capital, the government of the Philippine commonwealth will be so poor after the lapse of five years that it will ask the United States to restore the Jones Bill.
“4. The Jones law may be restored but without such privileges or have gains as free trade.
“5. That, to cap it all—and in this I hope I am mistaken—we shall not say goodbye to the country, but we shall say goodbye to the home, because economic slavery will then prevail.”
Many observers chose the “middle path,” feeling that although the independence bill is far from an ideal one, it is better than nothing at all. For instance, Dr. Bernabe Africa, professor of political science at the University of the Philippines, holds that “We must meet the selfish American interests halfway. Immediate independence is impracticable. If we cannot have a whole loaf, we are wise if we take half a loaf. Under the next administration a worse bill, from the economic standpoint, might be passed.
The most interesting debate now being conducted in the daily press by Maximo Kalaw and Jorge Bocobo, the two politically minded deans of the University of the Philippines. Dean Kalaw, a member of the mission who returned early, is defending the bill, while Dean Bocobo is opposing it.
De Joya for Bill
A public clash between those favoring and those opposing the independence bill occurred Tuesday afternoon at that forum for the creation of public opinion, a convocation of students of the University of the Philippines.
For Judge Mariano H. de Joya, the principal speaker delivered a lengthy speech in favor of the bill declaring “We must accept the Hawes-Cutting-Hare Bill because it contains a definite and solemn promise of Independence, at the expiration of the ten year period of transition, thus eliminating the element of uncertainty.
“Furthermore, we must accept the Hawes-Cutting-Hare Bill, to be consistent with ourselves; and so that we may not become the laughing-stock of the World. To reject the Hawes-Cutting-Hare Bill would be impolitic, and treason to the rights and the welfare of future generations.
“Besides, if we should now reject the Hawes-Cutting-Hare Bill, the American Congress will charge us with ingratitude and with attempting to impose upon them, and they will treat our next petitions with scorn. We have no right to gamble away the gains already obtained, and thus be recreant to our duty to 13,000,000 souls.”
Judge De Joya then took up the controversial points of the bill one at a time, arguing that the retention of American naval bases in the Philippines would be a stabilizing influence in the Far East, that the trade relations provided in the bill are not unjust to the Philippines, that the limitation of immigration into the United States was a blessing in disguise and that the fears concerning the American high commissioner are unjustified.
The high spot of the convocation resulted from Judge De Joya’s statement that “What could President Quezon do, a sick man and alone, that the others, all strong and sound, could not do together?”
Securing permission to be heard, Dean Jorge Bocobo leaped to his feet and belabored Judge De Joya for “rejoicing over the failing health of our president, Manuel L. Quezon.” With anger surging through every word of his speech, he passionately declared, “If President Quezon’s health is failing, if he is a sick man, it is because he has spent all his life, has sacrificed it all for the welfare of the people.”
Judge De Joya protested that he had been maliciously misunderstood declaring, “I did not say I was rejoicing because President Quezon is a sick man. I was merely stating a simple fact as a lawyer ordinarily would.”
Opening shot of the Kalaw-Bocobo debate was fired Thursday morning when Dean Kalaw released to the press his first article, which he described as an account “of a once famous battle-cry whose echo has been lost in the recondite nooks and corners of Capitol hill.” The battle-cry was “immediate, complete and absolute independence,” which Dean Kalaw said “has served tremendously in arousing the people”. Therefore supporters of immediate independence, he argued, were barking up the wrong tree, were seeking something impossible to attain.
Probably one of the most vital pronouncements on the measure will be made by Senate President Quezon at one o’clock next Sunday morning, when he will address the people of the United States over a nationwide radio hook-up which will carry his voice into millions of American homes.
What the Filipino leader says then will undoubtedly have a very real and definite bearing on the final outcome of the problem.
And Now. . .
THE fevered excitement incidental to the unimagined passing of the Hawes-Cutting bill over President Hoover’s veto is subsiding, and we are moving into the more sober secondary stage.
While there is still interested discussion as to the merits and probable consequences of the measure, which debates in the press and on the platform will tend to keep alive, the general tendency seems to be toward suspended judgment.
The poll conducted by the daily press, mostly among businessmen, reveals complacence on the part of some and resignation, in lieu of the hope of anything better, on the part of others. A few, however, openly voice their dissatisfaction and apprehension and seem disposed to risk everything in an effort to avert the “slow strangulation,” the “creeping paralysis,” which they see as the inevitable outcome of the bill’s operation.
Meanwhile, in diametrical opposition, in apparently uncompromising antagonism dominating the welter of discussion and dissidence, are the well known views of the members of the mission in the United States, with Osmeña and Roxas in the forefront, and, here, Manuel Quezon. On neither side has there been the slightest sign of wavering, of change, of yielding.
For those who believe with Quezon, that there is hope of something better, the argument appears to run about as follows:
That the executive heads of the United States government, reference being had to President Hoover and four members of his cabinet, definitely opposed the bill; that in its essence it is unqualifiedly one-sided and arbitrary; that it was promoted by selfish and sordid interests; that the press of the United States generally condemns it; that it works a great moral and material wrong upon the Filipino people, gives the lie to the past lofty professions of the United States about being animated solely by motives of altruism in its dealings with the Filipino people and generally reflects dishonor upon the good name of America; and further, that it is inconceivable, if the worst came to the worst, that, with a whole people protesting against the injustice of the bill, the congress of the United States would be so cruel and inhuman as to force upon that people a bill still more drastic and merciless in its provisions.
On the other hand, apart from those who welcome the bill because of its more or less definite promise of independence, fear exists lest congress might be ruthless enough to enact a still more stringent measure. These advocates of acceptance say there is no telling what congress might do. Some Americans even go so far as to voice the belief that, should Quezon declare the Filipino people would prefer immediate and outright independence to the present bill, congress might—to use their words—“call his bluff” and pass such a bill. Better, they say, to take half a loaf than risk getting none.
Thus is the issue presented to the Filipino people, to the people of the Philippines. They stand at the crossroads of destiny, at a crisis in their history. Through their legislature or through a popular convention, they are to be called upon to play the part of the Lords of High Decision. Fate hangs in the balance.