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Remembering Teodoro M. Locsin
by Manuel L. Quezon III
January 26,2002—ANECDOTES told by those who knew him in his prime assure me that Teodoro M. Locsin was a man who possessed a sense of humor, indeed a sense of fun, even what could be said to be an impish wit. He liked good drink and song; we all know he wrote well. But it is the elusiveness of this characteristic that has always intrigued me. If the sons of a man are any reflection of the father, then the assurances given me by my elders that Teddy Locsin, Sr. had a sense of humor must be true; one only has to see his two elder sons to know they have a sense of humor in spades. Yet Teddy Locsin, Sr., if one depends on his writings, comes across as a man of manic anger, of near-hysterical indignation. That was the public man, the crusading journalist.
He described himself, many years ago, reminiscing right after the death of a close friend and recalling the days of Liberation then merely a few years back:
“We had,” he wrote in 1949, recalling the time before the FREE PRESS reopened after being shut down by the Japanese, “with Jose Diokno, the son of Senator Diokno, put out a new paper, the Philippines Press. Diokno was at the desk and more or less kept the paper from going to pieces as it threatened to do every day. I thundered and shrilled; that is, I wrote the editorials. Philip was the objective reporter, the impartial journalist, who gave the paper many a scoop. That was Philip’s particular pride: to give every man, even the devil, his due. While I jumped on a man, Philip would patiently listen to his side.”
Teddy Locsin, Sr. was famous –or infamous, depending on who was reading his editorials and articles and who was being attacked in them– for “jumping on people.” His was the the anger of the man who had fought for his country as a guerrilla; his was the highly-developed moral conscience inculcated by his love of books and the mentorship of Robert McCullough Dick; his was the mind of a poet turned to penning the philippics and jeremiads of a reformist, a man who would give and take no quarter as he was proxy for Juan de la Cruz in fighting corruption, stupidity, cupidity and avarice in and out of government.
Yet there is one instance of his writing reflecting a wit, though, since written as a journalist, the merciless kind of wit. One of my favorite pieces is one he wrote on then Senatorial Candidate Pacita M. Warns on October 22, 1955.
He began the piece self-deprecatingly, writing, that when it came to tackling controversies involving women leaders, “It is difficult to write critically about a woman. Whether you are right or wrong makes no difference; you are being hard, it will be said, on the weaker sex. At the same time, it isn’t fair that just because a woman occupies an office, it should be above reproach. Where does chivalry end and civic duty begin? One cannot always tell. A gentleman has been defined as one who never inflicts pain; a newspaperman sometimes seems to do nothing else but inflict it. It is no use arguing, with people and with oneself, that it is a job that must be done. ‘How can you be so cruel to a lady!’ is the first and last reaction. And when the official, upon meeting you, instead of scratching your eyes out, speaks of the high standard of your paper and how, in only this case, it has fallen from that high standard, how she has admired your writing and thought you a man of principles, fair and objective in your reporting, and how disappointing that you have been less than fair and objective in dealing with her, what a gentleman she always thought you were, and look at you now—as she goes on heaping compliments and reproaches on your head, what can you do but say, ‘I am a dog?’”
In the process of the interview, the self-deprecation remained even as he let his subject pillory herself:
“. . . .Last Wednesday, we had an interview with Mrs. Warns. It was arranged by an officer of the SWA, Victor Baltazar, who came to the office and asked us if we would talk things over with the former SWA head. Certainly, we said.
“We met Mrs. Warns at the Jai Alai Keg Room. With her were Baltazar and two women connected with SWA. With us was Melecio Castaños of the FREE PRESS….”
Locsin asked a question concerning the controversy of the day: “How about those pictures of yours which we saw in the SWA? They were glamour shots and were autographed. Is the SWA supposed to distribute them?”
And Mrs. Warns replied, “Oh, they are my personal property, left there when I resigned. People kept asking for my pictures while I was administrator. The poor pasted them on the wall of their huts alongside the picture of the Virgin Mary. . . .”
Locsin writes that he responded,”No.” And the interview goes on to its –to this writer, anyway– hilarious conclusion:
“Yes.” [replied Mrs. Warns] “ If you could only see how the poor greet me wherever I go! They kiss my hand and tell their children to kiss the hem of my dress.”
“’Do they really paste your picture along that of the Virgin Mary?’
“’You may find it hard to believe, but they do. If you could come with me, I would show you. . . . Ah, you do not know what it is like to be poor! If you had lived with them, eaten with them, seen how wretched they are, you would understand how they feel toward me, why they would paste my picture beside that of the Virgin Mary and kiss my hand and tell their children to kiss the hem of my dress.’
“Speechless, we listened. She went on.
“’I have always admired the FREE PRESS for its crusading spirit and I have read your articles and thought you to be fair, just, principled newspaperman and when you do not even give me a chance to explain. . . .’
“’But I did give you a chance. I called you up, you will remember, and you told me you did not know how much the SWA spent for photographic materials but you gave your salary to the poor. . . .’
“’Not only my salary, I gave my own money daily to the poor. I only wish I could go on helping the poor. . .’
“’I am sure you can afford to do that immediately.’
“She looked at us with eyes full of pity.
“’Do you know what they are saying about the FREE PRESS now? In the provinces, in the barrios, wherever I go, the people are saying, having read your story about me and the SWA, ‘The FREE PRESS has become just like of the tabloids. It has attacked our Virgin Mary.’ That is what some would say. Others would correct them: ‘Not our Virgin Mary but our goddess.’ That is what the people of this country are saying about the FREE PRESS after your article.’
“’Will you please repeat that.’
“’Well, to show you how objective the FREE PRESS is, I am going to report what people are saying about it and about you in my next article.’
“’But do not say that I said I am the Virgin Mary and a goddess. It is the people who are saying that.’
“’I shall say that the people are saying that the FREE PRESS has become just like one of the tabloids because it has attacked their Virgin Mary or goddess. Is that correct?’
Magnificent. And one of the few examples I’ve found of Locsin letting his sense of humor shine through any of his articles.
He was always a shrewd observer; his journalism is replete with telling details and observations that endure. A short piece he wrote on August 10, 1946, titled “The Big Scramble,” could have been written yesterday, and can be written tomorrow. Just change the names, and the scramble is still there –the only thing different is the uncompromising morality of Locsin, then and always anti-collaborator.
“The young men of Capiz,” Locsin wrote, (referring to the new administration of Manuel Roxas), “according to reports reaching the FREE PRESS, are flocking to Manila, to shake the hand of their province mate, the President of the Philippines, to congratulate him on his election—and to ask for a job.
“Thus it was in Quezon’s time, and it was no different during the Osmeña administration. When Malacañan corridors still echoed with the oaths and curses of the High-Strung One [Quezon] as some cabinet member was called to account for some act of omission or commission, as the Church puts it, the Chosen People came from Tayabas. During the brief reign of Sergio the First and probably the Last, the Lucky Ones spoke English with a thick Cebuano accent. In the 2604th year of the reign of Showa, when Laurel was ‘President,’ Malacañan was a home away from home for Batangueños. Now, in the first year of Roxas, the Palace by the Pasig is being stormed by determined Capiceños, all animated by one single thought—a government job.
“In the palace itself, according to intelligence reports received by the Minority Camp, there are intra-mural hostilities between the De Leon side and the Acuña side of the Presidential family. The Acuñas are said to be increasingly bitter at the way the Bulakeños are getting the best jobs, and there are many dark references to blood, how it should be thicker than water.
“Meanwhile press communiqués indicate that while the Bulakeños and the Capiceños were arguing with each other who should have this job and who should have that, the Ilocanos—Quirinos—boys—have quietly infiltrated the lines and taken over the choicest offices. Determined to hold their positions at all cost, the Ilocanos were last reported to be forming suicide squadrons and building road blocks against future counter-attack by the boys from Bulacan and Capiz. In the face of a common enemy, they may even join forces and as one united army attack the Ilocano positions.
“From Capiz itself comes a report—the author keeps himself anonymous, and wisely, too, probably—that school teachers who made the simply unforgivable error of voting for Osmeña are finding themselves either dropped or assigned to distant barrios where nothing more is heard of them. Osmeña himself was given an honorary elder statesman’s job, but those who voted for him the last time are being slowly—and not so slowly — frozen out of the government, the report concludes.
“In Manila, things are not so bad. Many government employees took the precaution of voting for Roxas during the last election. If Osmeña won, they would still have their jobs, but if Roxas won—well they voted for him, didn’t they?”
And Locsin concluded with an observation that still speaks to us, today:
“Most government jobs are low paid, and one wonders why there is such scramble for them. Then one recalls the story of the pre-war Bureau of Customs employee who had a two story house, a car, and who sent his two daughters to an expensive private school—all on a salary of less than P100 a month. Who knows, once you are in the government, when such an opportunity will strike? The thing is, be prepared—and enter the government.”
Teddy Locsin, Sr. was not a prophet; he was a journalist, but the best kind; from his early post-war writing one is moved to jump to one of his last pre-martial law interviews, this one of his close friend Ninoy Aquino. The same Ninoy he advised, in 1983, not to return to the Philippines because, as Locsin’s middle son once recalled, “bravery achieves nothing, my father told him [Aquino], especially in a country of cowards. Yet that putdown of courage may have tipped the scale for Ninoy’s return. The worse the odds, the more inviting the challenge.”
This is only part of an interview, titled “Mission Impossible?” Locsin wrote on March 21, 1971. The issue of the day was the Jabidah massacre; there was an officer whose wife was looking for her husband. Locsin wrote,
“Captain Titong’s wife wonders, not only where her family’s next meal will come from, but where the hell her husband is.
“What happened to Captain Titong?
“’Five possibilities,’ said Aquino:
“’First, he could be absent without leave. The law demands that if he is AWOL, he should be court-martialed. But, thus far, no charge has been filed against him.’
“’Second, he could have been killed in action.’
“’Third, he could be missing in action.’
“’If the second or the third, then his dependents must receive a decent compensation, but this has been denied them.’
“Fourth, he could have deserted. But before one can prove desertion, one must first prove that the accused has no intention of returning or that he has joined the enemy. If he has deserted, then the officer who sent him on this last mission, even while he was facing charges before a General Court-Martial, has a lot to answer for.’
“’The fifth possibility is that he could be on a mission. This is the army position. But who would be so stupid as to send an exposed agent on a mission? Even the foreign press knew of Captain Titong.’”
Having allowed his readers to see Ninoy’s mind at work, now came Locsin’s turn to reach his own sinister conclusions:
“To send an exposed agent into the field of espionage,” Locsin continued, surely speaking from experience during the War, “again is like leading a sheep to slaughter. In October 1970 a Filipino secret agent identified as Capt. Solferiano Titong was reported to have been apprehended by Malaysian security forces. Some sources say that he has already been executed; others that he is still a prisoner in Kota Kinabalu.
“Where is Captain Titong and what is his fate? If he has been killed while on a mission his dependents should be supported. It is not only the humane, but also the legal thing to do. But if he is on a mission—or was, if he has been captured or killed—why was he sent on a mission while he still faced charges before a General Court-Martial? If he is a deserter or AWOL it could only be because he was given more freedom of movement than he was entitled to. He should have been closely watched. Why was he not?”
Locsin steps back to let Ninoy pose a question that Locsin then answers:
“’I will continue blocking General Ramos’s appointment until he satisfactorily explains what happened to Captain Titong,’ Aquino told the press. It is not true that he is blocking it because General Ramos is President Marcos’s second cousin or because he is ‘an anti-Huk fighter,’ as Malacañang has alleged…
“’Who is more responsible,’ Aquino retorted, ‘I or the man who put the lives of our young men in danger and most probably pushed this country to the brink of conflict?’
“Suddenly Senator Aquino realized that there was something odd about Malacañang’s reaction to his questions about Captain Titong’s fate. Why its deep concern? At the same time he heard from Moslem leaders about a certain individual who stood to profit greatly if the Sabah claim was pressed.
“Malacañang called Aquino, ‘unpatriotic.’
“Against whom? Aquino asked. President Marcos is not the Filipino nation. Or is he? …” Locsin goes on to go into the details on the claim on Sabah and the claim by Ferdinand Marcos that he had a power of attorney from the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu –a complicated question, but which, in the end, boils down to a question pregnant with foreboding:
“Either President Marcos does not envision anyone ever succeeding him as President or it is legal for a private individual to deal with himself as the highest official of the government.”
And so it came to pass. Locsin could see it coming. When the knock came on September 23 he was ready; he went into capitivity willingly. A country unwilling to resist tyranny might as well have examples of those willing to suffer imprisonment for principles upheld. Released, he kept silent –he would not dignify the dictatorship with his journalism. He took up his pen and wrote poetry, his true love; he wrote short stories, he brooded in his library and advised his friend Ninoy that a nation of cowards deserved what it was getting.
But when Ninoy died –the time had come for Locsin’s last crusade. In a sense, it was his Indian Summer, the last hoorah of a mind rejuvenated; he would praise Ninoy and exalt his widow; he would nod at the way a nation redeemed itself –only to keep pounding away at his typewriter as his country degenerated into the same sort of scrambling he had so trenchantly written about as a young man.
The mind of Teodoro M. Locsin, Sr. is best understood as the mind of a romantic; and like any lover of romance, he had his paramour –his country. He had the heart of a minstrel poet yet set it aside in order to be the guardian of the country he loved, betray her though she might, dissapoint her as often she may have done; still –to the end, the would be the man of the days of Liberation who would jump on anyone should they try to take advantage of the country he loved.
There is no other way to make sense of a man who seemed to be so violent in his prose and so forbiddingly distant when it came to his public persona, and yet who was the doting father and loving husband who would sing and drink his scotch and later, wine. The man who, in the twilight of his life said so little, even as he decided to write no more, is the man we see all over. The man who loved, and loved true; and yet refused all recognition for his long arduous hours of guardianship.
Free Press cover story
January 13, 2002 issue
Too early the birds of prey
by Manuel L. Quezon III
MAKING an ass of one’s self should be a basic human right, if only politicians could be denied this right because of the problems it causes other politicians and most of all, the public. To put matters in historical perspective, of the past presidents of this country, two were reelected to office (Manuel L. Quezon and Ferdinand E. Marcos), and only two former presidents ran for the position of president after having served as head of state: Emilio Aguinaldo, who went down in grumpy defeat in 1935, and Jose P. Laurel in 1949, though Laurel was the nobler in at least telling his supporters, who were as angry as Aguinaldo’s had been, not to mount a revolution.
Yet in the case of Aguinaldo and Laurel, there were extenuating circumstances in the cases of their candidacies. Aguinaldo was a political enemy of Quezon from 1922 to 1941, and was pushed by his supporters to run as a symbol of the aspirations of the Revolution; Laurel ran as much to vindicate his name as to achieve a mandate, never having been directly elected by the people to a position he served as a well-meaning head of a puppet government -indeed, it is interesting to note that both Aguinaldo, who ran in the first national presidential elections in 1935, and Laurel, who ran in the elections of 1949, were haunted by a desire to achieve what they never had when they were president: a genuine national mandate at the polls.
But one must consider, on the other hand, the cases of the only two presidents reelected: Quezon in 1935 and 1941, and Marcos in 1965 and 1969. Both tarnished their reputations by clinging to power beyond the terms allowed them by the Constitution under which they were elected. To this must be added the inevitability in the minds of many that had Quezon lived, he would have stepped down for a brief 2 years in order to run again in 1946 to be the first president of the independent Republic, and that Ramon Magsaysay would have run —and won— again, after his first term (and there are even those who suspect that Magsaysay, who imitated Quezon in so many ways, would have found a way to stay in office as long as possible as well). But fate decreed Quezon’s death in large part because of the strain of his final battle with Sergio Osmeña to cling to power, and fate had it in the cards that Ramon Magsaysay, like Manuel Roxas, would die before his first term ended, leaving Ferdinand Marcos to make every liberty-loving and democratic Filipinos’ nightmare come true: scrapping the Constitution, ignoring the laws, setting up a dictatorship that only fell when a country regained its dignity and courage and threw the man out of Malacañang.
Now to these negative examples add the examples of past presidents who could have run for office after the Constitutional limitations passed, and yet did not: the list is long. Sergio Osmena; Elpidio Quirino; Carlos P. Garcia; Diosdado Macapagal; Corazon Aquino. Except for Aquino, all the rest suffered defeat in their quest for reelection to a second term, yet had an opportunity (at least in the cases of Osmena, Garcia and Macapagal) to run for president again if they wished. But they never wished to. None of them ever fully retired from politics; they preferred to be consulted as elder statesmen; two of them, Garcia and Macapagal, chose to run for, be elected delegates to, and then presidents of, the 1971-73 Constitutional Convention. But the presidency, having been denied them in the past, was something they never sought again as a political prize.
The fact is that it should be enough for a former president to have had the honor and privilege of serving the country once, or in the old days twice, and end it at that. The exemplar of how a former president should conduct himself after leaving office is of course, Sergio Osmena, who represented many of the political virtues of the country, anyway; to a lesser extent, there are the examples of Aguinaldo and Laurel, the former reconciling himself to playing elder statesman, the latter choosing to serve in the senate as long as he could and even serve other presidents. There are the examples, too, of Garcia and Macapagal: the former went into quiet retirement until the ConCon and then died 24 hours after being sworn in as president of the convention; Macapagal, after a checkered experience with presiding and eventually losing control over the ConCon at least followed Aguinaldo’s path and quietly learned to enjoy the role of elder statesman; poor Elpidio Quirino lived too briefly after leaving office to accomplish much more than begin his memoirs and reach a touching reconciliation with his erstwhile protégé, Magsaysay.
Enter Fidel V. Ramos, former and, to the minds of too many, including quite possibly the mind of Mr. Ramos himself, future President of the Republic of the Philippines. Enter Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, present president and, almost indubitably, candidate for the position in 2004. What of them?
Of Fidel Ramos, one should note immediately what has been whispered about town almost from the moment he left office -the man has never grown accustomed to not wielding the reins of power. He wanted to amend the Constitution to allow himself either two more years in the manner of Quezon, or transform the country to a parliamentary system which was the original Marcos plan to perpetuate himself in power. This grand design failed in the face of the intransigence of Corazon Aquino (former president who seems not to miss being president at all), Cardinal Sin, a multitude of Filipinos, and one Joseph Ejercito Estrada who would be damned if his sure election to the presidency would be postponed even for a minute by a man he loathed.
Result? A lost kibbitzer, which Mr. Ramos is of the first order, as proven by his most unpresidential behavior during Joseph Estrada’s inauguration at Barasoain. The man tried to steal the limelight every moment he could, and then loftily proclaimed that under Estrada, he would be pleased to play the role of Elder Statesman in an official capacity, much to the amusement of everyone who head Ramos say these things. However, neither public derision, or skepticism, or outright hostility has ever deterred Mr. Ramos from doing what he pleases, and it has pleased him to use the time in between his never-ending globetrotting to keep himself in the limelight, including first, playing a lecturing uncle to Estrada, and then supposed pillar of the opposition when Estrada grew impatient with his “advice,” and now, gadfly and thorn in the side of Mrs. Arroyo. Perhaps Mr. Ramos feels that if Cory Aquino can bring down one government after stopping the attempts at charter change of two other presidents dead in their tracks, he has similar powers.
Perhaps. Although if this is the case, then it only proves that the man has an axe to grind against the woman who broke tradition to attend his inauguration (for perfectly legitimate symbolic reasons, the inauguration of Ramos was the first democratic handover of power since 1965) and put country ahead of her having given him her previous blessings in firmly saying “no” to his obvious desire to prolong his stay in office. One is forced to wonder if Fidel Ramos is not only ungrateful when it comes to Cory Aquino, but whether he actively dislikes her now -which would make him a petty, mean, and small-minded man.
Or could it be Fidel Ramos simply is getting old and too dense to realize the reason Cory Aquino can be an influential ex-president and Fidel Ramos may be influential, but not popular, and lacks what he seems to crave: a nation, on bended knee, begging him to return to Malacanang? Were this the case, then at least one can conclude Fidel Ramos is not petty, mean and small-minded but suffering from well-intentioned delusions: of being an irreplaceable man, of believing as gospel truth the insincere flattery of the sycophants that surround any politician, and the quite human refusal to recognize his own mortality and accept being put out to political pasture, since he is by no means, ancient. The reason Cory Aquino has the influence and respect she has, and Ramos does not, is that she is the only president in our history to say one term is enough, I’ve had it, and left Malacanang without looking back and probably murmuring “good riddance” the whole time. In short, she has what Fidel Ramos has never, ever, had in his life or career: moral ascendancy.
Fidel Ramos is too fidgety, too eager the attention-seeker, too enthusiastic the opiner, too happy the meddler, to be respected or have moral ascendancy of any sort. This is not to say he does not have influence, for he does; this is not to say he does not have political supporters, for he does; but it is to say that as far as the public is concerned, Fidel Ramos is history and had better accept the fact that he belongs to the past and not the future. One need only listen to the verbal abuse he was subjected to by the great unwashed at Edsa III to recognize this; and aside from the usual businessmen who value the illusion of Fidel Ramos being “Steady Eddie,” and who crave a man who will be content to go on junkets and turn a blind eye to anything so long as he gets the perks (a bad executive habit he shared with Joseph Estrada except in comparison to Estrada’s being uncouth about corruption, even Ramos’s most vicious detractors give him credit for being suave when it came to the corruption they are convinced he was a party to during his term).
To be a president or past president is, of course, not to be divine; which means Fidel Ramos is as likely to fall prey to illusions as much as the next man. He probably thinks the can still do good for the country, that the country needs him, and if the country were only given a chance it would fall to the ground in gratitude and kiss his feet were he to have the chance to be president again. This explains the never-ending and, really, tiring controversy of the day, which is the alleged rift between President Arroyo and former president Ramos over an election two years away. Fidel Ramos already suffers from the perception too widely held that he at one point pulled all the strings in the new Arroyo administration, or tried to, which made him as much the object of the poor’s equally deluded wrath in May 2001, as President Arroyo herself. And as for President Arroyo, she suffers from two insecurities: the fact that she was elevated to the presidency by succession and not election, and under the most confused of circumstances at that; and that she is the first child of a president who seems to have a chance to break the long curse, it seems, that has afflicted the children of past presidents -none of them ever make it to Malacanang although the senate and Vice-Presidency have been proven to not be beyond their reach.
For a politician and a businessman and even a soldier, and even for certain members of our uncivilized civil society, Fidel Ramos has the virtue of exuding an aura of dynamism, of calm, of precise, methodical working habits and discipline. How close perceptions are to the truth only those truly close to him can answer; but the fact is that there are those with influence and money who believe there exists a Steady Eddie and wouldn’t mind Ramos back. For the same politicians and businessmen, the problem with President Arroyo is that even if she is equally hard working, she happens to be frugal, as hot-tempered as Ramos but far from being his peer in hiding the fact, and she is a woman who suffers from the idea she has nothing to lose by actually giving the country as honest an administration as is possible given our society’s limitations. That, and the fact there is that onus on presidential children and that they might get stuck with her for nine uninterrupted years. The ramifications of a fairly clean, competent, and hard-working government are simply too frightening for these people to contemplate.
And thus the need to at least obtain leverage on Mrs. Arroyo by way of using Fidel Ramos as a threat. After all, Mr. Ramos is willing and able to be used as such a tool, indeed he may have thought up the idea of using the bogey of a Ramos for President campaign in 2004 as a potential spoiler to exact concessions from the administration, which has enough of a problem on its hands with fulfilling its promises, neutralizing its enemies, and keeping the country together during tough times.
Fidel Ramos would never win another presidential election even if Mrs. Arroyo dropped dead and a way was found to make monkeys run against Ramos the way Marcos engineered his farcical martial law presidential elections. What can happen is Fidel Ramos could ensure that if he can’t win, neither can Mrs. Arroyo, but it wouldn’t be in the interest of either to give away the election in 2004 to the opposition, which is indeed vicious, ruthless, has many axes to grind, and much dirt to dish out against the two.
Hence the view of this writer than Mr. Ramos is either extremely delusional or out to keep himself in the political loop and be a powerbroker of sorts, if not an actual shadow president (the best of both worlds). The fact that Joe de Venecia, who has the biggest chance of being Prime Minister for life were we to go parliamentary, is as usual going out of his way to get into trouble trying to patch things up between former president Ramos and President Macapagal, is no surprise or mystery. De Venecia is simply too nice, too compleat the politician, to give the opposition ammunition when things could all be quietly smoothed out to his party’s advantage.
The spoiler of course is Mrs. Arroyo’s determination not to be anyone’s patsy; she may have, as all presidents have done, tried to pay her dues in the early part of her administration, but she can clearly see, if she has half a brain (and no one doubts she has not just half but quite a complete one), that she needs a mandate, a real mandate, and that her political destiny must be played out as her father’s was -either to a happier conclusion by way of election in 2004, or defeat, as her father endured in 1965. But she has no other option but to stay the course and fight.
That having been said, this is all, then, a testing of the waters. The West Pointer in Ramos is probing the defenses of the administration, looking for its weaknesses. His archskeptics are under the impression his real aim is to simply be done with a Constitution that he could not amend to satisfy his ambitions, and be called upon to trot out on a white horse and restore the lost era of Philippines 2000. No one with any intellectual honesty can deny that Mr. Ramos’s actions to date, down to calling a radio station to muse on the need to file a test case to figure out if he’s entitled to run legitimately in the next election, only serve to reinforce the worst perceptions that exist of the man. Nor can anyone deny the political and even personal imperatives that would drive Mrs. Arroyo to seek election in 2004 come hell or high water, if only to prove her critics wrong, and be remembered not as a woman who inherited the presidential mantle, but who earned it in her own right.
So Fidel Ramos says he is not running —period, period, period. Though the country is used to his three periods being the ellipse that leads to a pregnant pause that leads others to begin to have paranoid attacks (which Ramos surely enjoys). The President, on the other hand, truthfully says she is too busy worrying about the here and now to fuss over 2004, though even in that she is being disingenuous -but then which president entitled to reelection, with the exception of Cory Aquino- ever was anything but disingenuous about the possibility of their running again? Even Cory Aquino, who was not bound by the term limitations of the Charter approved during her term, kept her options open if only to keep from becoming a lame duck. The only president in our history who ever committed political suicide was Joseph Estrada and neither Ramos nor Arroyo are Estrada. There is no surer way to commit political hara-kiri than to say you have no intention of running for reelection when you can -and be believed.
The whole non-issue then boils down to a rift between the Lakas-NUCD people who grew fat and soft under Ramos, and who aren’t pleased that they are expected to stay relatively lean during the Arroyo New Era Part 2. The whole issue is that having abandoned the Liberals, and never having established a cohesive hard-core party of loyalists of her own, Mrs. Arroyo is not in full control of the party she is putatively the chief of, but which recalls its salad days as having been under Fidel Ramos. Ramos may be circulating offering them a chance of reliving the good old days when boys could be boys, businessmen could do business under a regime that was all light and sound, and not hard work as it is at present.
Pie in the sky, Ramos-style, versus the drudgery of the dirty kitchen, Arroyo-style. Were you a politician you would at least give pause to the thought that life would be tough under another six years of Arroyo, and positively miserable if not dangerous to life and limb under a Ping Lacson regime: so why not, indeed, a return to steady Eddie.
We shall have to see who has the last wink. Or who raises her eyebrow last in satisfaction as her opponent folds.
Escape from Corregidor
by Manuel L. Quezon Jr.
(Fom the late author’s unpublished memoirs.
December 8, 2001–THE last public occasion I attended with my father (I was then 15) was when my father told the UP audience on Taft Avenue that if bombs started to drop and people was killed because there were no shelters, it would be because of the Civil Liberties Union. My father had planned to build air raid shelters all over for the safety of the people but Roosevelt had asked him not to use the special powers given him by the National Assembly because of the Civil Liberties Union. I have never liked the CLU since. If widespread bombing had occured in Manila, people would have died because of the CLU. In their self-righteous so-called defense of rights, they sometimes block higher rights —and those people should have been hanged from the lamp posts.
During the speech, my father was shouting. I never remembered any of the subject matter of my father’s speeches — what 15 years old wants to sit through hour-long public speeches — at least they seemed hours long — but that speech I do recall. The smart-alec UP students laughed.
In 1941 — December 8— the war came. The day World War II started in the Philippines, my mother, my sister Baby, Jovita Fuentes and I were at our (then) hacienda in Arayat, Pampanga, just about half an hour from the Buencamino hacienda in Cabiao, Nueva Ecija. As it was the Feast of the Immaculate Concepcion, Patroness of the Philippines and also of Cabiao, we went to Cabiao; we had the usual enormous breakfast of adobo, tinapa, eggs and God knows what else. I suppose Jovita Fuentes had to sing at Mass. Then we went back to Arayat, where we soon saw the smoke rising above Fort Stotsenberg, as the Japanese that had bombed it flew right over us. Jovita Fuentes fell into a ditch from fright. My mother signalled me to join her under a shrub or trees lower than her (she was only five feet tall). My sister Baby did not join us in hiding. She was one of those enviable individuals who was inmune of from fear, and bent over double with laughter at my mother and myself, hiding under the little shrub. My father was in Baguio resting at the outbreak of war — apparently he was having a resurgence of his TB, although I did not know.
That evening my father picked us all up and we we moved back to our country house in Marikina for safety. Marikina had a very well designed air raid shelter.
Government people kept coming and going. There were lots of meetings, and finally what turned out to be my father’s last cabinet meeting before evacuating to Corregidor. It was held under the shade of a large mango tree in our Marikina house, where PSBA is now.
What I was doing in the open-air Cabinet meeting I do not know but I do recall that my father got telephone reconfirmation of MacArthur’s approval of my father’s instructions — the cabinet members were to do everything to protect the Filipino people, short of swearing allegiance to Japan and the rule was followed by the Filipinos. It did them little good, as they were all tried for collaboration. Only Pres. Roxas’s amnesty saved them.
Except for our departure for Corregidor — perhaps not that — I was never told what my father intended — I was just told to move whenever we were to move.
On December 24, 1941, when we were brought to the Presidential landing to board the Mayon, the largest interisland steamer at the time, painted all white — it was obvious we were going to Corregidor. We were given life jackets. An air raid started and the ship could not move — I think the ship’s engineer was missing. But the Japanese did not know who were on board — the Philippine government. Perhaps they did not care. It was especially frightening for a terrible scary-cat like me — a terrible experience, being marooned in the bay not far from the Manila Hotel. Fortunately, no bombs were dropped on the ships. Perhaps the Japanese intended to use the ships later.
Finally, the all clear was sounded and finally we got underway. As I recall it, we reached Corregidor towards evening. The previous time my father had brought me to Corregidor, months or a year before, we were received with a 19 gun salute, in broad daylight. Now it was a humble arrival. We were brought to the hospital side-tunnel of the Malinta tunnel. At midnight Father Pacifico Ortiz, S.J., our Chaplain, said mass for us and the soldiers, in Latin of course. It was either at that mass or the New Year’s Mass that he preached to comfort us, speaking in our Lord’s words “Put your hand in mine,” referring to the darkness of the war.
Corregidor became our home from Dec. 24, 1941 to Feb. 20, 1942. If the war had not come, we should have been hearing Midnight Mass in the richly carved wooden chapel in our home in Pasay. Noche Buena was meant to be the re-inauguration of our own house in Pasay, where we were to live instead of in Malacañan. We never saw our home again, except in ruins, as was the case with our Marikina house — the Japanese or the Makapilis, or in the case of Pasay, perhaps the Americans had destroyed them.
As our Corregidor stay was prolonged, things became worse. At first we had some minutes’ air raid warning, then Cavite fell and there was no warning — shells from Maragondon would just come over, my eldest sister, Baby with her mission in life (as Nini said) of perpetually making puns, punned — May Aragon doon. The lovely presidential yacht, the Casiana had been sunk of Corregidor and US soldiers used to dive underwater to bring up bottles of liquor, champagne, etc.
I recall one air-raid that was terrifying. We were sitting outside the hospital tunnel on the small platform under a tent, where my father used to spend the day. Suddenly, siren! How we got my father inside, I don’t remember, but obviously he could still walk. But I recall my mother starting to run but with just a half-step she stopped dead and looked around for her children. Baby who was one of those irritating people who literally never experienced fear, was bent over in laughter. She had spotted Carlos P. Romulo running down the hills towards the tunnel as fast as he could, which anyone in his right mind would do. But when he saw Baby laughing, bent over, he suddenly stopped and walked. His rather foolish male pride came into operation, even though he and Baby could both have been killed. My mother shouted “Baby!” I still remember her voice and we all made it safely to the tunnel. Then the bombs started to drop closer and closer until an absolutely deafening explosion came. I thought a bomb had entered the tunnel and the lights went out. We were already in the sub-lateral we occupied, with the only light being the sanctuary lamp of the curtained-off little chapel. How long we continued sitting in the dark I do not recall.
During the raids, my father made no sound at all that I recall. He used to say that the brave man was not the one who had no fear — but the one who felt fear and still did his duty.
In the tunnel my mother prayed of course and we were comforted by the presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. I imagine my father prayed too, but he must have prayed in silence.
As the days went on, the shelling became more and more frequent, though I think never at night.
When my father and Don Sergio Osmeña were reinaugurated, on December 30, 1941, the ceremony was held outside one main entrance of the Malinta Tunnel. All I remember is that High Commissioner Sayre addressed Vice-President Osmeña as “Don Serjoe Osmanyo.”
On the 19th of February, 1942, Fr. Francisco Avendaño came to Corregidor to say mass on my mother’s birthday and complained to my father about the lack of food on Bataan. He also complained of the American treatment of the Filipino soldiers. One Filipino who I think was too sick to stand, was kicked by an American.
At midnight that night we boarded the submarine Swordfish. During the night we traveled on the surface, where the sub could make better speed, above 20 knots per hour. Underwater it could make only about 8 knots per hour. After a good night’s sleep, there was an alarming sound of a siren, the signal that we were submerging. On the surface the sub had moved with the waves like any other ship. The moment we submerged the sub became almost completely motionless, as there were no waves underwater. We spent the whole day submerged until we landed at San Jose de Antique. I must be one of the very people who ever received Communion under water. We were given tongue sandwiches and I threw up. The reason was the heat. Commander Smith had decided to attack Japanese troopships in Subic before picking us up (most irresponsible really) and naturally the Japanese dropped depth charges. As a result, half the air-conditioning system did not work and it was hot as hell. There were a lot of red lights meaning no smoking but the sailors were merrily smoking away.
As we were passing Mindoro, we were allowed to peep through the periscope. The sky looked a non descript color. At one time also there seemed to be sound of propellers which was alarming —possibly an enemy war ship — but it turned out to be the movement of fish tails. We remained submerged all day and surfaced after dark when the sea was quite rough. Then we approached the shore, I seem to recall there was some problem with identifying the people signaling from a boat to pick us up. If only the people on the boat had realized how close they came to being sunk, but finally we were put ashore to drive to Iloilo. I recall distinctly leaning my head and shoulders against my father’s dark brown leather jacket in relaxation, feeling safe. Fortunately during reminder of our stay in the Philippines I did not realize we were in danger all the time.
When we arrived in Iloilo later that night, we went to sleep in comfortable beds and awoke to the sound of the thin horns of Iloilo streetcars the following day. I am under the impression that we stayed at the Cacho mansion, but it may have been one of the Lopez Mansions. We spent the day there — I do not know whether my father saw any government officials. Of course, Iloilo at that time had not yet been occupied by the Japanese. Our nighttime ride from Antique to Iloilo was the first of a series of night time drives in the Philippines until we escaped.
That night we boarded the Princess of Negros, which must have been a slow ship. We went to Guimaras on the way to Negros, but spent the day there, taking a lunch, up to the river to a house where Father Ortiz baptized an infant with me as sponsor. I never saw the baby again and do not even recall his name. We disembarked from the Princess because we might be spotted by Japanese planes. We reembarked at night and went on to Bacolod where we arrived the following morning.
Humor is always involved with our family. My chronology is shaky so I am not sure whether the following funny episode happened when we landed in Bacolod or later at some other part. My father covered his face with his usual large white handkerchief and told the rest of us to do the same, which we did or did not, depending on whether or not we had suitable handkerchiefs. Some local officials approached and greeted my father, “Good morning, Mr. President”. He got quite angry at us for not covering our faces, which he blamed for his being recognized. He did not realize that his get-up, with his jodhpurs and large handkerchief and, I think, a soft white hat, and riding whip were instantly recognizable all over the Philippines, whereas our faces were not. We (the rest of the family) had a good secret laugh over it, not openly because he would have been even angrier.
I do not know who provided the cars, but we drove to the Lizares hacienda where Sonia and Lety Lizares were staying. I do not recall whether their respective husbands Peping Coroninias and Manuel del Rosario were there, but definitely Letty’s daughters and Minnie were, and became my playmates while we luxuriated there. Luxuriated is the word, after our stay in Corrigidor and our brief stop-over in Iloilo. Sonia and Lety had known me since I was a little boy. I do not remember how long we stayed, but my father took advantage of our stay to confer with government officials, among them Gov. Alfredo Montelibano, who was the uncle and later apparently guerrilla commander of Teddy Locsin. I suppose our stay there was supposed to be a secret, though how any kind of secret can be kept among Filipinos with their wagging tongues is beyond me.
One evening we drove up a zigzag to a lovely but not large house in an hacienda owned by the Aranetas. It was called Buenos Aires a very appropriate name because it was so nice and cool. I do not recall whether we went back to the Lizares hacienda or went on to our next stop on the trip which ended up in a rest house in Canlaon Volcano. We stayed there for some time, how long I don’t recall. It seems I felt quite safe there. The rest of our party must have been there too. I remember that at some time Don Andres Soriano went on a reconnaissance flight. I suppose the plane belonged to our Army Air Corps but I can’t be sure. I think they spotted a Japanese destroyer, probably the one which finally towed away the Princess of Negros, and which ended up with the Japanese announcing on the air that my father was dead. How we learned of the broadcast I don’t know; it was very brave of Don Andres and his pilot to be scouting because they could have been shot down by the destroyer. I do not think there were many, or any, Japanese Air Force planes in the area as yet.
After sometime, for purposes of security I suppose, or perhaps my father received a message from MacArthur that we should join him in Australia, we set off again. The move was supposed to be a secret but somehow my sister Baby knew where we were going and with her predilection for punning , she said “A donde Bais.” According to my sister Nini, Baby felt her mission in life was punning. I believe Bais was in Negros Oriental and belonged then to Tabacalera or some other Spanish company.
Later —how much later escapes me– we went on our usual long caravan at night. I was in the back seat of the car with Dr. Trepp my father’s Swiss TB expert and Director of Quezon Institute. It seems my mother’s driver Pedro Payumo (“Pedro Taba”) was driving — how he managed to come along I don’t know — but I distinctly remember his asking us to keep talking as he was sleepy and it was dark but we — at least I — paid no attention and went back to sleep even though we could easily have fallen into a ditch.
It turned out that our destination was Dumaguete , which was pitch dark. There were a lot of people on the side of the road with bundles or cardboard boxes on their heads and also the church bells were ringing. It turned out that the people were alarmed by the sound of the PT boat’s engines which sounded like airplane engines. The PT boat had been sent to pick us up. We drove to the wharf and boarded the PT – boat. How we all fitted in the PT-boat, I don’t know. My mother and I entered the cabin where I put my head on her lap. I suppose the rest of the family were in the cabin but I remember only my mother and the cabin was pitch dark.
After sometime there was a loud conversation on the deck and sparks could be seen. I was scared to death as usual but after a short time the sparks and the commotion stopped and everything went back to normal and we continued the high speed trip. Later on I learned that, with the rough pitching of the PT-boat a torpedo had slipped about half way out of the deck torpedo tube, the sparks being the result of the torpedo’s motor having been started. Someone had the presence of mind to fire off the torpedo. If the torpedo’s fuse had struck the deck, the torpedo would have exploded and that would have been the end of us.
In the early morning light, we were put ashore in Misamis Oriental in Oroquieta. That silly episode of my father’s being recognized the moment we went ashore may have been then.
We went to two places, one of them being Oroquieta, where we met the Ozamis sisters and, I think , Senator Jose Ozamis also, then Governor of Misamis Oriental. Perhaps it was then that my father talked to Commissioner Teofisto Guingona, whom somehow I understood was in charge of Mindanao. I turned over to him for safekeeping the case that contained my two .22 cal rifles and my .25 cal automatic pistol. For some reason I remember the encounter as being at night and I usually have a pictorial memory.
After spending the day with the Ozamis family —very mestizo looking— we set off by car for Bukidnon and the Del Monte plantation where we arrived at night. We were put in very comfortable company houses. I was put in a room with Dr. Trepp and fell sound asleep.
The following morning I was shaken awake by Dr. Trepp saying in a loud voice, “ Nonong wake up, wake up, it is air raid.” There were twin engine Japanese planes which flew over the area and went on, but no air raid.
I had been to the Del Monte plantation once before with my father and it was so beautiful. This time it was still beautiful but there was an overpowering smell of rotting pineapples, because no one was picking the fruit. Many years later, someone wrote that, during the days we spent waiting for the Flying Fortresses to take us to Australia, we spent every day in the hills surrounding Del Monte. I have no such recollection and when I checked with my sister Nini, she had no such recollection either. She recalled something else, Americans in Del Monte, which I do not recall.
We knew we were waiting for Flying Fortresses to take us to Australia and after a few days we were roused in the dead of night and drive to the airfield where there were two Fortresses waiting for us. As we drove to the Fortresses, I started to talk and my mother told me to keep quiet —I suppose my father was very pensive and my talk was out of place.
The fortresses were new models (I knew all about practically every airplane and its various models). This model had tail turrets, the latest version. Some of us — my family and others, but I do not remember who, climbed into one Fortress and the others climbed into the other. It turned out that we were in one plane and Vice-President Osmeña in the other, I suppose to increase the chance of either my father or Osmeña surviving if anything went wrong — the planes being shot down or crashing, I suppose.
My father and mother sat on a mattress on the floor. I think my father was given oxygen during the night —the cabin was not pressurized. I do not know where my sisters sat. I sat at the radio-operator’s seat, at a table. I suppose the radio transmitter could not be used or the Japanese would have spotted us.
I had always wanted to be a pilot, but as the plane picked up speed I was not excited, I was scared. I started asking God not to allow the plane to take off, but of course it did. As the plane climbed I fell asleep with my head on the table. All through the night we were bouncing up and down –it was a very rough flight. We could not really fly very high, among other reasons because of my father’s condition I suppose. Also, perhaps there were not enough oxygen masks to go around. Through the night I slept on and off. At one point of I noticed it was raining, then I saw clouds over the ocean. My nervousness at take off was gone. As day dawned the sky cleared and finally we landed at Bachelor’s Field in Northern Australia. I did not realize from my aviation reading that touch down was a little rough, not perfectly smooth.
I remember getting off the plane and being taken to a mess-hall for breakfast, together with the rest of the party, then were set to prepare to take off for Alice Springs.
Anyway, we were transferred at Bachelor’s Field to another plane, a Douglas DC-5, a bit smaller than a DC-3 and intended to replace the DC-3, but war broke out in Europe and Douglas changed to producing twin engine bombers. KLM was always up to date and the DC-5 had been delivered to KLM. The Dutch Airline had a very reliable service from Holland to the Dutch East Indies and the DC-5 had escaped to Australia, having an auxiliary gas tank in the cabin. Aside from the Dutch pilot and co-pilot, there was a young American US Air Forces man on board, whose presence I do not understand because I think he was a machine-gunner and there was not machine gun on the DC-5.
As we walked out to the DC-5, a smartly dressed Dutchman in a KLM uniform saluted. My father asked him “how do we fly?” and the Dutchman answered — “About 3,000 meters” (about 10,000 feet ) which apparently disturbed my father. He asked the next smartly dressed Dutchman the same question and the man, apparently the Captain, answered “We fly as Your Excellency wishes.” which pleased my father. Apparently some agreement was arrived at and we took off. This was in the morning and as the air started to warm up unevenly, I had one of the bumpiest flight have ever had.
My mother sat beside me and I tied a white hanky over my eyes. Every time the plane bounced my mother called out — “Sagrado Corazon de Jesus,” or “Corazon Sagrado de mi Jesus!”— I would lift the blindfold from my eyes to see if we were about to crash. We were flying over the Australian desert, with rocks all over the place. I finally started to sing hymns to my mother to calm her down. All through the flight, there would be a slight increase and then decrease in the vibration of the engines and I could see that the propellers would be rotating smoothly and then slightly roughly and smoothly again. I turned out that there was a slight nick in the propeller, how acquired I can’t guess. This went on until we landed at Alice Springs five hours later. We made a slightly rough landing in Alice Springs. When we got out of the plane, it turned out that the men were wearing sun helmets with long veils over their faces because there were large horse flies all over the place, a phenomenon I had never seen before and have never seen again. They were what we call bangaos and would not be driven away. If you tried to drive them away, you might squash them with your hand.
Vice-President Osmeña’s Fortress did not land after us. As it took longer to arrive, someone —I forget who— urged my father to continue our flight but he flatly announced that we would not continue until the Vice-President arrived. Our original Fortress had continued the flight with us and looked for the Vice-President’s Fortresses, but to no avail. Night fell and we stayed at a small inn. My mother and I saw a cat catch a small mouse, which disgusted us. All through the night we could hear drunks throwing up.
The following morning we had breakfast and our Dutch plane took off to search for the Vice-President’s plane. In a very short time the DC-5 returned followed by the missing Fortress. It seems the Dutchmen were better pilots than the Americans. While our original Fortress had no trouble finding Alice Springs — possibly by following our little twin-engine DC-5, the Vice-President’s place was lost. At least the pilot had enough sense to land in the desert before running out of fuel. Then the Americans spent the night firing off flares and rockets. When the Dutchman found the Fortress, it took off for Alice Springs. Finally Don Sergio was able to continue with us, to Adelaide this time. It was another five hours’ flight. This time, I sat beside my sister Nini, to get away from mother’s exclamations. I did not overcome the fear of flying then instilled by my mother for years.
When we landed in Adelaide towards evening we spent the night. The following morning we went to a church to give thanks for our safe flight. As we came out, my father had his first encounter with Australian English. Perhaps we were the first non-Caucasians those Australians had ever met and they were very friendly and also curious. They asked “Did you come today?” which they pronounced “to-die.” I am sure he was able to figure the question out right there but later on he embellished the exchange by saying that he had answered, “I came to live, not to die!”
We took an overnight train to Melbourne. During the day, I saw a plane overhead, and for the first time since Dec. 8, I was not afraid. The following morning we arrived in Melbourne where we were met by Gen. MacArthur.
We heard of the fall of Bataan on April 9, my sister Nini’s birthday, in Australia
However, discussions started in our government over going to the States. I do not know whose idea it was originally, but my father wanted to stay in Australia, I suppose to return more quickly to the Philippines after liberation. Don Sergio Osmeña wanted to go to Washington and when my father disagreed he said: “Send me.” I don’t know why it was decided that our whole group should go to the States — perhaps MacArthur urged it, to pressure Roosevelt to send more aid quickly to the Philippines. We sailed for the States on the President Coolidge. The Coolidge had been converted into a troopship but some twin cabin had been left in their original condition and the dining room and lounge had been left untouched. It seems there was some kind of band because there was dancing in the evenings.
At the beginning of the voyage — I had no map and thus did not realize what a long voyage it was to be — we were escorted by a New Zealand warship. Sometime later, the escort duty was taken by a US navy ship which accompanied us until we reached San Francisco. As usual my roommate was Dr. Trepp. We were a large number. From the Philippines we had lost one member of the party, Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos who had insisted on remaining in Mindanao — he was finally executed by the Japanese for refusing to swear allegiance to the Japanese and for maintaining his loyalty to the United States.
However, while we were sailing to the United States, I still thought we would be going home anytime. During our voyage, we had one little exciting episode. We started to zig-zag violently; probably they had detected a submarine. But after a while, the zig-zagging stopped. It was probably a false alarm or, the submarine being under water and therefore very slow, we outran it. The rest of the voyage to the States was uneventful. Finally, we passed beneath the Golden Gate Bridge, which was still undergoing its finishing touches of paint when we went to the States in 1937. We were safely in port.
We were taken to the Mark Hopkins Hotel, considered one of the best at the time, where we stayed for about a week. This time my roommate was Col. Jaime Velasquez. There were newsmen swarming outside my father’s suite and when they knew who I was, they started to interview me but one of our group stopped me.
After some days in San Francisco, to give us a rest from the voyage I suppose, President Roosevelt’s special railroad carriage (called the Ferdinand Magellan) was sent for us and attached to a transcontinental train. It was a four or four and a half day train ride to Washington.
The start of a journey has always excited me. We had to drive to Oakland, CA, to catch the eastward train there. When we arrived at Union Station in Washington, DC, at the exit to the Station there was FDR standing beside his car and we were photographed in memorable poses. I was so moved my lips were trembling. We were driven to the White House where we had lunch and dinner. We were entertained by President Roosevelt who was a great raconteur. Mrs. Roosevelt kept walking in and out and when I met her in a corridor, she smiled “The mail, always the mail.” She seemed terribly tall, as did every one else, which is no wonder since I was only 5’2”. We spent that night at the White House, where I was put in an enormous (to me) bedroom alone. I had the impression it was the Lincoln Bedroom but I may very well be wrong.
The following morning we were taken to the eighth floor suite of the Shell Oil Company at the Shoreham Hotel, where we stayed for a time. Then we moved to the Pat Hurley estate in Leesburg, Virginia, about forty minutes from Washington, where we stayed for the summer, until our permanent quarters at the Shoreham, were ready.
Before deciding to stay at the Shoreham, we took a look at a Waldorf Towers suite way up — the Waldorf is about 34 stories high. Since my father was terribly acrophobic, the project was dropped and thereafter whenever we went to New York we stayed at an 8th floor suite at the Waldorf.
On Corregidor my father was always outdoors in a tent, away from the dust in the tunnels, but of course he had to be active when we went to the Visayas then Australia via Mindanao; and then in the United States, having settling down in Washington, he resumed a normal life, which was a mistake. His condition worsened. Dr. Edward Hayes, the doctor who had treated him in the Monrovia Sanitarium in the thirties, came to Washington and the plan was for us to go out to California. Unfortunately, my father changed the plans.
When I graduated from high school in June of 1944, my father was already bedridden in Saranac Lake, New York.
By the first of August, 1944, a month and a half after my eighteenth birthday, my father was dead.
Special to the Century Book
Re-constructing Colonial Philippines: 1900-1910
Patricio N. Abinales
THE birth of the Philippines in 1896 was one thing; consolidating the territory was another matter. While most Filipinos would attribute the unification of the Philippines to the 1896 Revolution, in reality it was a series of local revolts against the Spanish, and later against the Americans. It remains debatable as to whether these revolts either identified wholly with Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo’s Malolos Republic, or whether, had they all succeeded, whether would unite under one contiguous territory. Already when the first American troops landed in Negros Island, Negrenses were threatening to create their own republic.
The Americans were actually responsible for giving territorial reality to Las Islas Filipinas, the basis of the future Republic. They did this first by employing force against those who opposed American rule. They waged brutal military campaigns against forces loyal to the Malolos Revolutionary Government of Pres. Emilio Aguinaldo, pushing the latter as far back as the mountain fastness of northern Luzon and scattering his troops in southern Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao. The American use of armed might was so brutish that in Samar Island, for example, hundreds of women and children were killed when Gen. Jacob Smith ordered to turn the island into a “howling wilderness.” After Aguinaldo’s capture at Palanan, Isabela, there were attempts to re-establish a new revolutionary center, but all this was quashed by the Americans.
In the towns and in Manila, American suppression of Filipino revolutionary nationalism took the form of proscribing the publication of “seditious” materials that could be disseminated through the emergent print media and the ever-popular plays. Public display of pro-revolutionary sentiments were also prohibited, with the most notable ban being the Flag Law that disallowed any showing of flags associated with the Katipunan and the Malolos Republic. The Americans also sped up the organization of police forces to oversee “peace and order” and this successor of the hated Spanish Guardia Civil proved up to the task of suppressing urban dissent.
Once sure that their control would not be seriously challenged anymore, the Americans turned their attention to governing “the new possessions.” The foremost problem that immediately confronted them was the generating money for the colony and then developing the personnel necessary to run the government.
The U.S. Congress approved the colonization of the Philippines but refused to provide sustained financial support for the undertaking. In fact, the Congress allotted only $3 million for the Philippines in the entire period from 1903 to the formation of the Philippine Commonwealth. One economist called it colonial administration “accomplished ‘on the cheap.’” Financial constraints were also complicated by the difficulty of attracting Americans to govern the colony. The solution to these problems was found in generating revenues from the colony’s own resources, particularly the existing crops that the colony was exporting abroad later years of Spanish rule. Enhancing this export economy, however, was not easy. American legislators, especially those coming from the agricultural regions of the U.S., vigorously opposed proposals that Philippine products enter the country tariff-free. As a consequence, the so-called “free trade” that introduced under American rule was not so free. The U.S. was very selective in the choice of Philippine products that could be exported to the American mainland. Only sugar, hemp and coconut were allowed open access to the U.S. market; and even these products would later be taxed in American ports. Selective entry of these goods however was enough to resurrect the export economy, and by the end of the decade much of it was re-energized because of the American market.
The second issue—putting people into the administrative and political structure—proved more successful because the Americans early on opened up the structure to Filipino participation. It is general knowledge that even as the war against Aguinaldo was raging, the Americans were already able to recruit prominent Filipinos to their side. These collaborators became the backbone of the Federalista Party, a party committed to full American control as well as the medium for introducing the party system to the Philippines. The Federalistas were also supposed to become the dominant Filipino party in the soon-to-be formed Philippine Assembly and American backing initially helped them to mobilize Filipino support.
The Americans transformed the Philippine Commission from its original function as a fact-finding and policy-recommending body created by Pres. McKinley, to the highest policy-making body of the colony. Through the Commission, the Americans were also able to bring in Filipinos into the leadership (although they had limited powers) and further legitimize their rule. With the Federalistas supporting them and the pacification campaigns winding down, especially after Gen. Macario Sakay, the last of the revolutionaries fighting for a Tagalog Republic in 1905, the Americans proceeded to prepare the grounds for eventual self-rule.
The Commission ordered a colony-wide census to ascertain the exact population of the Philippines. The census was followed by provincial elections in 1906 where a new group of Filipinos emerged to challenge the Federalistas. The former consisted of local elites who saw the value of the nationalism of 1896 and how it made many Filipinos suspicious of the pro-American Federalistas. Using their provincial positions, this group began to present themselves as the real alternative to the Federalistas. Americans increasingly recognized the strength of this sentiment, especially at the provincial and municipal levels, and began to turn their attention to these new elites. The result of this new collaboration was the creation of the Nacionalista Party, a coalition of provincial elites who promised to fight for the cause of nationalism but within the framework of the American policy of eventual self-rule.
On July 30, 1907, the first elections to the Philippine Assembly—the legislative body which would act as the “lower house” to the more “senatorial” Philippine Commission—was held and the Nacionalista won a majority. From their ranks emerged Manuel L. Quezon (from Tayabas province) and Sergio Osmeña (from Cebu), who would lead the fight to expand Filipino power inside the government and eventually become the dominant leaders of the American period. Under Quezon and Osmeña, a colony-wide party system began to take shape, its power derived from a combination of clan-based alliances, patronage and a commitment to Filipinization. As more Americans chose to return to the mainland instead of staying to serve the colonial government, Filipinos increasingly took over their position.
By the end of the first decade, “regular provinces” comprised half of the Philippines. These provinces had elected and appointive Filipino officials, many of whom owed their positions to Quezon, Osmeña and the Nacionalistas. Combining their local political experiences learned from the last years of Spanish rule, with the “political education” they were getting from the Americans, the Filipinos proved within a short period of time that they had the ability to be equally adept at governing the colony. In its first year at work, the Philippine Assembly had already shown a marked adeptness in introducing additional provisions or new amendments to existing colonial laws, and in negotiating with the Philippine Commission and the Governor General over matters of policy formulation, funding and government personnel changes. Quezon and Osmeña were at the top of all these processes. They were fast becoming astute leaders of the political party they helped build, of the Assembly that they presided over, and of the colonial regime they co-governed with the Americans. If Rizal was credited for having conceived of the “Filipino,” and if Bonifacio and Aguinaldo were the leaders who gave this imagination a reality with the Revolution, to Quezon and Osmeña must be given the distinction of helping construct the political and administrative structure that would be associated with the term “Filipino.” The Americans may have created the colonial state, but it was these two leaders who gave flesh to it and putting the foundations that the future Republic would stand on.
This type of political and administrative consolidation however was only happening in one part of the colony—the “Christian” Filipino dominated “lowlands” in Luzon, the Visayas and northern Mindanao. In the other half of the colony, the U.S. army administered the “special provinces” on the grounds that their population—the so-called “non-Christian tribes”—were more backward than the Filipinos and were prone to more “warfare.” The Americans saw their “civilizing mission” as special given that the underdeveloped character of the Cordillerans and Muslims required a longer time for them to become familiar with self-government. They also had to be thoroughly “pacified.”
Surprisingly, the pacification process was fast and relatively easy. There was hardly any resistance from the various indigenous communities in the Cordilleras, while Muslim resistance was scattered and unsustained. At the middle of the first decade, the Cordilleras and “Moro Mindanao” had become very stable and peaceful areas.
A major reason for the American success was the cooperation extended by Muslim and Cordilleran leaders to the Americans. They regarded colonial rule as a means of protecting themselves against Christians and “lowlanders.” American military officials reciprocated this cooperation by resisting the efforts of Filipinos to extend their power to the “special provinces.” A working relationship eventually developed between these community leaders and the Americans whereby the former were given minor posts in the provincial government (“tribal wards” in the case of the Muslims) in exchange for agreeing to recognize American sovereignty. U.S. army officers who administered these areas also became their protectors against Filipino leaders, doing everything they can to limit the presence of Manila and the Nacionalista party in the Cordilleras and “Moro Mindanao.”
The only major resistance came from the Muslims at the hills of Bud Dajo and Bud Bagsak, when the army declared a ban on weapons and raised head taxes. American military superiority prevailed and over a hundred Muslim men, women and children were killed. Politically, however, these actions eroded the army’s standing and opened up an opportunity for Quezon to attack military rule in Mindanao. After the massacres, the army was forced slowly to concede authority to Manila and the Filipinos. The army’s powers were also clipped once the U.S. Congress authorized its partial demobilization, and once the American president ordered its withdrawal from the special provinces and its replacement by Philippine Constabulary units. Many American officers also preferred to continue their military careers in the U.S. mainland, seeing very little prospects in just limiting themselves to the Philippines. All these problems emboldened the Filipinos to assert their political presence in these special provinces. This was something that a weakened military government could not repulse anymore. In 1913, the army conceded its power to the Department of Mindanao and Sulu, a body controlled from Manila and by Filipinos. The Cordilleras’ status as a special province was also terminated and the Nacionalista Party began recruiting its first “Cordillerans” to join the organization.
Two major features therefore characterized the first decade of colonial rule. First was the full and effective unification of Las Islas Filipinas under American rule, and second was the division of colony into two major zones of administration reflecting the histories of their respective populations. These two zones were eventually unified under the Filipinization policy, but the distinctiveness upon which they were based continued to affect overall colonial development. Muslims and Cordillerans remained staunchly pro-American and anti-Filipino, while Christian “lowlanders” continued to mistrust and maintain a low regard for these “wild tribes.”
About half a century later, a separatist movement threatened to disengage “Moro Mindanao” from the Philippines, while in the Cordilleras, the quest for autonomy remained strong.
Philippines Free Press Person of the Century:
Corazon C. Aquino
By Manuel L. Quezon III
December 30, 1999–YEAR after year, for nearly three generations, the Philippines FREE PRESS has bestowed the distinction of Man or Woman of the Year on the Filipino who has had the most influence on the country for the year in question. Over the past 91 years of its existence, this magazine has seen leaders come and go; it has seen them rise and fall; and it knows, as no other institution can, which leaders have made a positive difference in the destiny of the Philippines and its people. Having covered leaders, having seen them up close -faults, foibles, virtues and all- the FREE PRESS knows that the leaders (and the leadership) that counts is what the American writer Garry Wills defined as “Trinitarian”: not just the push and pull between a leader and his followers, not merely the stories of people who have had great numbers either pushing them forward or being hectored onward by them, but rather the leaders who mobilized “others toward a goal shared by leader and followers.” As Wills points out, “one-legged and two-legged chairs do not, of themselves, stand. A third leg is needed. Leaders, followers, and goals make up the three equally necessary supports for leadership.”
Of the leaders entitled to consideration as the Philippines Free Press’s Person of the Century a short list of six comes to mind: Manuel L. Quezon, Sergio Osmeña, Ramon Magsaysay, Claro M. Recto, Ninoy Aquino and Corazon Aquino. All of them were leaders, successful in their political careers and admired by their contemporaries; they had followers and they had goals which their followers shared. All of them have been both hailed and lambasted in the pages of this magazine over the years. And yet, time and again throughout its long history, the FREE PRESS has always returned to these leaders as exemplars of positive leadership –in contrast to that other Filipino, Ferdinand E. Marcos, who affected our lives and our history completely negatively: he was, after all, a leader, and had followers; but his goals, many of them achieved only at gunpoint, were rejected by the majority of his people.
The First Gentleman of Cebu
By Manuel L. Quezon III
IN many respects, he was a modern-day Jose Yulo. A gentle, self-effacing and accomplished man, privileged to have served in all three branches of government, and in two of them with distinction. For like Jose Yulo, Marcelo Fernan had the distinction of not only heading a chamber of the legislature, but of becoming the Chief Justice of the land. Yulo became Speaker of the National Assembly after serving in the cabinet, and then became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; Mercelo Fernan, after being in the puppet Assembly of the Marcos regime, became Chief Justice and then ended his career as a senator who had become Senate President.
Marcelo Fernan, too, was compared to the man Free Press readers used to call the “Private Citizen No. 1″ during his long retirement from active politics: Sergio Osmeña. Indeed, in his many years as the most prominent politician from Cebu, Marcelo Fernan did all he could do keep the memory of that exemplar of the gentleman-politico alive. Fernan would help establish the Sergio Osmeña memorial lectures. And like Osmeña, Fernan, while being considered an accomplished politician in his own right, was primarily considered by his peers to be something much more special: a kind, considerate gentlemen who was not too obsessed with power and privilege. And while he did not obsessively seek honors, honors sought him out. At the time of his death his walls were covered with plaques and citations and awards, both for his political achievements and for what he did as a private lawyer, educator, and loyal son of the Church.
Born in 1927, he belonged to the generation that found its childhood cut short by the war; he was even detained by the Japanese. Returning to school after peace was restored, he would tell his friends he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his uncle, Manuel Briones, one time senator, failed candidate for vice-president, and then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. In one sense the ambition he confessed to his friends would find fruition: he would be all that his uncle was, and more. He became Senate President.
Fernan succesfully took the bar (he graduated from the University of the Philippines and yet bring more honor to his alma mater than that other famous Upean, Ferdinand Marcos),and became a succesful lawyer, making himself an honest and comfortable living. He began to teach; he married; he became a father and life was prosperous.
In 1959, Fernan’s political career began with his succesful candidacy for for membership in the Cebu City Planning Board. In 1962 he would run succesfully for membership in the Cebu Provincial Board. In 1971, he declared his candidacy for the position of delegate to the Constitutional Convention and won.
It was as a member of the ill-fated Con-Con that he would achieve greatness.
When, in 1973, cowed, bribed or deluded delegates meekly voted to approve the Marcos charter, Marcelo Fernan became one of only 16 delegates who did not succumb to the temptation to sell out, in the hope of preferment from the dictator or the pious hope that having voted for the charter, they would be in a position to convert Marcos back to the ways of democracy. Fernan voted “no” to the Charter; so many others voted yes. Years later, when delegates led by Diosdado Macapagal would try to undo what they had gamely acceded to previously by reconvening a rump Convention and declaring the 1973 Constitution null and void, Fernan could repeat what he said of the Marcos charter: “I did not sire it; it’s not even my bastard.” That dubious distinction would haunt the other delegates to their graves. He was not greedy, and so he could not be bribed; he was not that ambitious, and so he did not sell his vote for the chimerical expectation of a seat in the Interim National Assembly. He was not so short-sighted as to think that his countrymen would forget which way he voted when the roll call was called.
The greatness Fernan achieved in the moment he voted against the Marcos Constitution was never sullied by his eventually joining the ranks of the dictator’s party machine. He participated in the elections of 1982 and became a member of the rubber-stamp Batasang Pambansa â‚¬â€œbut as a member of the opposition, becoming minority floor leader. His good friends the Osmenas reduced to political impotence, he alone at time represented the old guard of the anti-Marcos opposition in Cebu. And when the time came for him to do his part to add to the final push that toppled the dictatorship, he did so. It was as a member of that dubious assembly that Fernan participated in the efforts to expose Marcos’s attempts to rig the 1986 snap elections. And unlike so many members of the Batasan, when it was quietly dissolved, Fernan went quietly. He was never one to hold on to a position at the expense of his dignity.
A grateful President Aquino elevated him to the Supreme Court. In three short years he found himself the 19th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines. And under his watch the Supreme Court maintained its newly-restored independence. He did not leave elective office in order to become a toady. Indeed, the Fernan Court handed down decisions that irked the Aquino administration; and yet it gained the respect of that administration precisely because of the Fernan Court refusing to succumb to any political pressure, real or imagined. And when, in 1989, Fernan was offered the titular leadership of a Junta to be established by the putschists, Fernan turned them down just as he had turned down an offer by Ferdinand Marcos to put him in the Supreme Court. Fernan would be loyal to his Republic: he did not fight Marcos, he declared on national television, only to be a party to the destruction of consitutional government by the military.
As Chief Justice, Fernan was proud of having established the system of having continuous trials which, if it did not radically improve the quality of justice that was dispensed, at least caused the wheels of justice to grind less slowly.
But in 1991 Fernan relinquished the supreme magistracy of the land in order to porsue an altogether different ambition: to be president, or, if he would not be president, to be vice-president. He would, in the end, become neither. He had agonized too long over the question of resigning from the Supreme Court; he had been too slow to answer the call of ambition. And when he did, he found himself outspent and outfoxed, even when he decided to accept the nomination for the vice-presidency instead. There he found himself pitted against the unbeatable Joseph Estrada. He lost.
Like Sergio Osmena, he accepted the will of the people and returned to the practice of law, focusing on giving legal assistance to those who needed it most: the poor.
1995 and the senatorial election in that year found him given a new breath of political life, this time as a member of the Philippine Senate. He was elected on the Lakas-Laban ticket. It would turn out to be the last position of public trust to be given him by an admiring people. In the Senate, he became Assistant Majority Leader and sponsored his share of legislation. Three years later, on July 27, 1998, he was elected Senate President, succeeding Neptali Gonzalez.
As senator and Senate President, Marcelo Fernan would again achieve greatness, but not because of any particular political act on his part, but because of who he was. While his very elevation to the position of Senate President had less to do with his clout as a senator and more to do with his seniority and lack of ambition making him a soothing paterfamilias for the fractuous Senate- as Senate President he demonstrated what his life was all about: courage, dignity, duty.
Shortly after becoming Senate President, Fernan was diagnosed as having a lesion in the lung; he went to the United States to have it removed. But the cancer was metastizing too fast. This was one battle he could not win; but like other battles he fought, Fernan decided that it was not winning that mattered; it was how one fought. He decided he would stick to his post as long as he was able, and do the job the people had elected him to do. But he would do little to disguise the toll the cancer was taking on his health and appearance.
Always a dapper man, he caused a stir when he acknowledged in public what his nemesis Marcos had so earnestly tried to hide from his people: Marcelo Fernan admitted he was ill and showed the signs of his ailment, although he and his family would remain mum on the subject of what his illness actually was.
But the public knew, and the public sympathized with the sight of a chemotherapy-ravaged Senate President being wheeled to the podium to preside over tedious sessions.
Under his watch, the Senate found its debates reach a low point during the deliberations on the Visiting Forces Agreement; but what would be of consequence was not the actual vote on the VFA, but the quiet courage of the man who almost single-handedly tried to maintain the dignity of the chamber he presided over. Indeed the Senate passed no distinguished legislation while Fernan was Senate President, save for the VFA and one law that will go down in history as significant: the decision, by the Senate, to relinquish its pork barrel, a bold move that the lower house did not approve of.
And then it was time to go. And Marcelo Fernan did go, not stubbornly holding on to the position he had achieved to the bitter end as others might have done and so many expected. His battle with cancer lost, the time had come to make peace with his maker, and this he did. He resigned the Senate presidency, though not his position as senator, and the next thing the public knew, he was gone.
With his passing the country paused to take stock of the career of a man who represented something that will not be seen again: the seasoned politician who never forgot what it meant to be a gentleman. He was good, kind, studious and refined; most of all, he had principles.
He was like Sergio Osmeña, he was like Jose Yulo; and like the peers of those two men, his contemporaries were found by the public to be wanting in the characteristics that evoke the gratitude of a people. Even as Fernan faced death, his fellow senators began the bruising and humiliating battle for the Senate that resulted in a Solomonic solution that made no one happy, and which necessitated the intervention of the President: something against the most cherished traditions of the chamber Fernan once headed. Fernan did not bow to Marcos when in the Con-con, he did not bow to Marcos when he was in the Batasan, he did not bow to Aquino in the Supreme Court and he did not bow to Ramos and Estrada when he was in the Senate. But as he lay dying, it was not to his fellow senators that those fighting over his mantle as Senate chief ran to; it was to the President. And it was the President, as the Free Press suggested, who weighed in and decreed the new leadership in contravention of conventional wisdom: Old Marcos hand Blas Ople got the Senate presidency, while Franklin Drilon, who did so much to foster the impression he was Fernan’s anointed, was told to cool his heels until his time would come. And all the while, as Fernan lay dying, the Senate too was giving up the ghost on whatever pretentions to independence it still had. When Blas Ople and Franklin Drilon took turns orating before Fernan’s bier, paying him the unprecedented honor of holding his necrological service during the session, they were bidding farewell not only to a rare individual, but to one of the most cherished —and most often lost, if not often regained— pretentions of the chamber they belonged to: its independence from the Palace.
How quickly can the meaning of a life be forgotten by those who claim to have admired it.
Marcelo Fernan, near the end of his life, mused to a writer that his final illness had taught him that political power and official positions were as nothing in the larger scheme of things. He saw what too few of his fellow politicians have come to realize; the pity is that with his death there will be no more like him, capable of realizing such humbling truths.
Filipino Political Humor
February 1986–“Amang” Rodriguez, known as “Mr Nacionalista” and famous for his malapropisms, congratulated U.S. Pres. Dwight Eisenhower on a speech the latter had just delivered saying, with a radiant smile:
“That was a great speech! It should be published posthumously.”
Sebastian Ugarte of football fame and after whom the field in Makati is named liked to tell this story about an aide of Commonwealth Pres. Manuel Quezon in exile in the United States during World War II. Vice-Pres. Sergio Osmeña Sr. should have succeeded Quezon as President when the latter’s term expired under the Constitution, but Quezon would remain President. His aide loudly supported him, referring contemptuously to Osmeña as:
Quezon died and Osmeña became President.
“At last,” exclaimed the former Quezon aide, “we have a statesman!”
When Manuel Roxas, who had been accused of collaboration with the Japanese invader, split the Nacionalist Party, formed the Liberal and announced his candidacy for the Presidency against Osmeña the professional nay-yea sayer expressed the highest indignation at Roxas’s action:
The Roxas won.
“Now, we have an economist!” rejoiced the man of all politcal seasons.
The wittiest of the lot was Mayor Arsenio Lacson of Manila, a man of “infinite jest” and well, invention. Lacson, who was also the best sports writer the country ever had, and even up to now, described a fistic encounter between two old senators right in the Senate hall as:”The battle of a couple of centuries.”
Then Pres. Elpidio Quirino who was suffering from a severe case of gout, received this accolade from Lacson: “He has one foot in the grave and the other foot goosing the Filipino people.”
Lacson called Manuel de la Fuente, the preceeding mayor of Manila, “Canvas-back De la Fuente,” from the once-upon-a-time pugilist’s alleged propensity for hitting the canvas.
It was all in fun, of course. That was the Age of Innocence.
Lacson’s best was probably this:
After a senator involved in a war-surplus scandal decided to run for President, he went to Quiapo Church for reassurance on his candidacy from the Black Nazarene.
“Lord, what are my chances in the election?” asked the kneeling candidate.
“May suerte, ka,” said the Black Nazarene. “May suerte, ka.”
“Thank you, Lord,” said the happy man.
The following month, he sought further reassurance and once more received the same comforting reply.
But how could be possibly win against the formidable advantages of his opponent? In an anguish of doubt he went to the church for the third time and on his knees, torn between the previous answers of the Black Nazarene and his new uncertainty, cried:
“Lord, Lord, what are my chances in the election?”
Said the Black Nazarene:
“May suerte ka nga nakapako ang aking paa, kung hindi, sisipain kita!”
What’s been happening to the Filipino people, what’s being done to them is no laughing matter. Humor out of such suffering should be as difficult of extraction as water from stone, blood from turnip – but humor issues, just the same. Filipino wit is irrespressible. It may amount to nothing more than whistling past a graveyard. But if one can still laugh at one’s situation however grim it may be, it can’t be as bad as all that. Laughter wards off despair. It is also the oppressor’s secret weapon, though not wielded by him; he is a mere beneficiary. For while one is laughing, one can’t be mad.
The best practising wit around these days is probably Alejandro Roces, former secretary of education and author of one published book on the Filipino fiesta and several more awaiting publication. Here’s Anding:
Of a KBL candidate for the National Ass. in l978, Anding said that the man was so old “he was godfather at the baptism of Andres Bonifacio” – which the man troubled himself to deny.
Another KBL bet of similar vintage was quoted by Anding as saying, in denial of his alleged senility: “That’s a lie! I’m not senile.What are the signs of senility? No. 1. Loss of memory. No.2. . . No. 2. . . No. 2. . No. 2 . . .”
And there was the man who, because of the recurrent shortages, got so fed up with having to line up for water, rice, sugar, every necessity, he got his bolo and proceeded to Malacañang where he was stopped at the gate by a presidential guard.
“What have you come here for?” the guard asked the bolo-waving man.
“I have come to kill the President!” said the man, throwing all caution to the wind.
“Then.” said the guard,”you will have to fall in line.”
The Marcos press headlined it as advocacy of assasination of the President by the Opposition.
Anding’s best is probably:
Farmers were constantly being pressed to attend regular barangay meetings where they were endlessly dosed with government propaganda.One farmer was conspicuous by his absence. The, one day, he showed up.When the barangay captain saw him, he said:
“Ah, there you are. At last! Do you know what you have been missing for not attending these meetings? Do you know what’s going on in our country? What’s what, who’s who?”
The farmer said nothing.
“Do you know who is the minister of tourism?” pressed the barangay captain.
“I don’t know,” confessed the farmer.
“You see, you don’t know. It is Aspiras. Do you know who is the minister of labor?
“I don’t know,” said the farmer humbly.
“That’s the price you pay for non-attendance. Ignorance! The minister of labor of our glorious republic is Blas Ople.
Now it was the turn of the farmer to ask questions. Just one, it turned out.
“Do you know who is Pedro Espadista?” he askedthe barangay captain.
“No,” said the barangay captain after searching his memory.
“I don’t know Pedro Espadista.”
“You see,” said the farmer triumphantly, “that’s what you get for attending these meetings all the time. You don’t know who he is. He is the man who has been sleeping with your wife.”
Last but not least, Arturo Tolentino, running-mate of the Great Dictator:
“Twenty years is already too long a period for anybody to be governing the country, and perhaps it is time for the President to retire.”
“I will not support Marcos . .”
“I will follow the rule of law and prosecute (the Marcos and Romualdez families) if there is evidence.”
“The election is unconstitutional!”
And have you heard this one about the American woman columnist and former high government official who distinguishes between totalitarianism and authoritarianism Marcos-style, chiding the American press for its anti-Marcos “bias,” arguing that the Marcos dictatorship is nicer than other dictatorships?
“I wonder if she has read the Amnesty International report on the widespread use of torture by the Philippine dictatorship. You know, burning the pubic hair of prisoners with cigarette lighter, water cure, forcing water down the throat of a prisoner under interrogation until he or she is almost ready to burst?”
“I don’t know.”
“Maybe, if she were given the same treatment by the Marcos military, she would sing a different tune.”
“Singing in the rain.”
The Conscience of the Filipino
by Teodoro M. Locsin
February 2, 1986–DEFEAT is usually termed ignominious unless one fights to the end, against overwhelming odds, then it is called honorable. Thus, Spartan mothers told their sons setting forth to war to return with their shields or on them. But there is another kind of defeat, and it’s a rare one. Rare in history, and most rare in political history, for politics seems to bring out the worst, the meanest in men. It’s more than just honorable, it’s glorious, and that is defeat from self-denial: to lose when one might have won, out of a sense of high purpose. Such was the defeat of Pres. Sergio Osmeña in the 1946 presidential election. He lost in his presidential reelection bid because he would make no promise he was not certain of fulfilling. He would not stretch the meaning of the word “promise” to cover mere attempt. Surely, one may not be expected to do more than one can, but he would not equate mere attempt with performance and what he was not sure he could do, he would not promise. Presidential candidates promise to balance the budget and get elected only to unbalance the budget even more, and people do not hold it too much against them. Failure to fulfill a political promise is taken as just one of those things, like death and taxes. One learns to live with it. Not to promise what one is not sure one can do is, surely, naive. After all, one might be able to do it. Things might improve. To hold promise under so strict a definition is not, well, not common. But Sergio Osmeña was not a common man.
He might have been President earlier if he had not yielded his right to a sick man who would cling on to the office. Too long had he played a secondary role to the flamboyant Quezon, now he would be first at last! Quezon’s term as President of the Philippine Commonwealth expired in 1943 and Osmeña was to succeed him in the office under the Constitution. But Quezon argued that the war had suspended the Constitution and he should be allowed to serve as President indefinitely. For life, if the war went on. Well, he did, remaining President until death took him. Though convinced that he should be President, with every legal reason supporting his position, Osmeña acceded to Quezon’s plea. The Filipino people had come to think of him, Quezon, as the symbol of the Philippine government-in-exile and Osmeña’s taking over might create confusion, the ailing man argued. Osmeña listened and gave way. Let his old political rival have his way since he wanted the office so much! He himself suffered from no such obsession. And if it was good for the Filipino people that he should step aside, that is the way it should be. Told after Quezon’s death that he was now President, all Osmeña said was: “Am I?”
Asked when he would take the oath of office, Osmeña said he would first attend to the funeral arrangements, then asked to be left alone so he could compose a tribute to his dead associate. Later, he offered Quezon’s widow and children the continued use of their elegant quarters at the Shoreham Hotel and a pension, the law being silent then on such provision for the widows of past presidents.
When the U.S. government ordered the prosecution of Filipinos who had collaborated with the Japanese during the war, Osmeña asked General MacArthur to release them on his personal guarantee. He thought they had served in the Japanese puppet government to act as buffers between the people and the brute force of the invaders. But MacArthur could not go against Washington and so herded them all in the Iwahig penal colony.
But while understanding toward collaborators — the political ones like Roxas, who would afterward take the Presidency away from him, Laurel and Recto — Osmeña would show no favor to two of his sons who were charged with collaboration with the Japanese for money, and when one of them tried to see him in Leyte, wearing a guerrilla outfit, he refused to see him. The son stayed under a tree all morning waiting for his father to change his mind, but the old man was unrelenting. The other son, whom we visited in prison, cursed him. But the law, as Osmeña held it to be, is impersonal, whatever heartbreak that might mean to the enforcer. When, during the trial of that son, he had to be confined at the Quezon Institute for the tubercular, and asked for “better facilities,” the father said his son should be given the same facilities the others had, not more, not less.
When Roxas split from the Nacionalista Party and created the Liberal Party to run for president, Osmeña, in the interest of national unity, prepared to retire and let Roxas have the field to himself. But those who wanted to hold on to their government positions argued with Osmeña that he should run to demonstrate that the Philippines was capable of holding a true election, a democratic electoral contest even amidst the ruins of war, that an orderly succession was possible — the ultimate test of political maturity. National unity would be served and Americans who held that Filipinos were incapable of self-rule and therefore unworthy of independence would be confounded.
So, Osmeña decided to run. But run in his own fashion.
Under the law then, the Nacionalista Party, as the majority party, was entitled to two election inspectors and the Commission on Elections to one, with none for the splinter party. Osmeña had the law amended so that the Roxas party would be entitled to one inspector in each precinct and would not be cheated without detection.
An act of political madness, the usual practitioners of politics would say. Well, Osmeña was mad — mad for fairness. Before the election, Osmeña was scheduled to leave for Washington with Roxas and Jose Zulueta, then Speaker of the House. When their names were forwarded to Washington for the necessary clearance, Roxas was not “cleared” for the trip. A newspaperman heard of the Washington message and asked for a copy so it could be published, demoralizing the Roxas camp. Osmeña would have nothing to do with it.
“Let me keep that in my safe,” said the President then of the Philippines (How such a President made a Filipino feel clean!) He would not hit the man who sought to remove him from his position “below the belt.”
When it was suggested that he use the Philippine Air Force for an island-hopping election campaign, he ordered all units grounded. Then, when told that Eulogio Rodriguez — “Mr. Nacionalista” — had used an Air Force plane in campaigning for the party’s ticket outside Luzon, to deliver campaign material, Osmeña ordered his secretary of defense, Alfredo Montelibano, to call up Roxas and offer the use of an Air Force plane to equalize advantages. The offer was made twice.
“The fight is over,” said Rodriguez. “Roxas is really fortunate. His campaign manager is Osmeña.”
When an appointment of a Roxas supporter to provincial fiscal was up for approval by Osmeña, he was advised to turn it down because of the man’s political affiliation. That was one of the few times Osmeña showed anger.
“Tell them,” he said, “a man is appointed to an office because his qualifications call for it, not because of his political sympathies.”
Government employees held a rally before Malacañan demanding backpay for services to the government under the Japanese and Osmeña was urged to promise them backpay if elected, even though Washington had not yet set aside the money as it had promised.
“I can’t do that.”
“You need their votes.”
“No, I have to tell them the truth.”
So, he told the rallyists who represented a multitude of government employees all over the country that he would not fool them, he would make no promise he was not certain of fulfilling. And they shouted, “Long live Roxas!”
He would not campaign for election as he would not lie. He had the duties of his office to do, work to do for a ruined country.
“I will just stand before the electorate on the basis of my record and what I have done for the country all these years.”
He did make an election-eve speech — on the state of the nation.
He had served the Filipino people well. If they were not satisfied with his service, if they believed another would serve them better, he was happy to go. He lost by 200,000 votes. If he had lied to that howling mob before Malacañan, he might have gained their votes and those of their families and friends, and won. But he would not lie.
He lost — and felt no rancor toward the winner. Not one word could be extracted from him by a journalist in derogation of Roxas. He was a gentleman to the end.
Why did he refuse to campaign?
“Those were abnormal times,” he said later, “those days after the liberation. There were tens of thousands of loose firearms in the hands of private citizens. The peace and order situation was uncertain. If I had gone out to denounce my political opponents and urged my leaders in the provinces to win the election at all costs, perhaps I could have won, but there would have been bloodshed. Political wrangles might have aggravated the prevailing situation. So, I told my leaders to allow the opposition to say anything its spokesmen wanted to say in their meetings and in the newspapers. I believed then as I do now, that as President it was my highest duty to set an example to the rest of the candidates, to avoid trouble that might endanger the nation and cause our people to lose faith in the government and its officials.”
His old rival and beneficiary, Quezon, said, after defeating him—yet not defeating him in the disgraceful sense of the word:
“It is useless to try to defeat him; he is in alliance with God.”
He set an example for his people and those who led them after him — in vain. The motivation behind the degradation of democracy that came after was best expressed in the words of a high government official:
“What are we in power for?”
Osmeña set an example. He set a standard for those who would govern a people, and it was not enough. He had done his best. I visited him in retirement and found a man—a gentleman—at rest.
November 29, 1969
How Lopez Won
by Edward R. Kiunisala
A YEAR AGO, he was probably the most underrated among the administration’s high elective officials. Not a few considered him a political jalopy, if not electoral junk. ready to be mothballed or fit only to be jettisoned. Some well-meaningPalace advisers thought that he was too old, too weak and colorless for the rough-and-tumble, no-holds-barred political game.
Earlier, rumors had it tha President Marcos was casting about for a younger and charismatic running mate. There was Rafael Salas, the new darling of Western Visayas, and Senator Emmanuel Pelaez, the political charmer from Minadanao. Either of the two, it was argued, would make a good Vice-President and would bolster the administration’s chances for another mandate.
It seemed then that Fernando Lopez’s political stock was at its lowest ebb. A possible reason was his lackluster performance in the 1965 elections when he beat his opponent, Gerardo Roxas, by an uncomfortably slim margin of only 26,500 votes. Added to this was his celebrated friction with the President on forestry matters, which almost led to an open break.
One thing about Lopez — he is no yes man. He may not have the eloquence of a Jovito Salonga, but he has the temper of a Manuel L. Quezon and the single-mindedness of an Elpidio Quirino. When he believe he is right, he will defy anyone except, perhaps, God and his brother, Eugenio. But there’s nothing personal about Lopez’s defiance. Prove him wrong and your alternative right — and he will cooperate with you to the limit.
It is this particular trait that made Lopez vulnerable to intra-party intrigues. And the intrigues almost succeeded in splitting the Marcos-Lopez partnership. What saved it was Marcos’s sense of fairness and Lopez’s political bahala na attitude. He knew he had served the people well. Not a taint of scandal marred his name. Even his bitterest critics believed in his honesty and integrity in public service.
Long before the party convention in June, Lopez was ready to give up politics if that was will of the party. After all, unlike most politicians, public office, to him, meant a life of dedication and sacrifice. Few high elective officials in the country today can honestly say that they are, like Lopez, in politics to serve. Rare is the politician who, like Lopez, has remained a gentleman.
But if Lopez was ready to hang up his political gloves, his close friends were dead set against it. When the chips were down, they including President Marcos, rallied behind him, and the Nacionalista Party finally chose him as the vice-presidential standard-bearer. But despite the party’s unanimous choice, only a handful gave Lopez a chinaman’s chance against his youthful opponent, Genaro Magsaysay, an indefatigable campaigner and reportedly the idol of the masses. For one, Magsaysay was many things that Lopez was not – he was much younger, he was a better speaker, more energetic and charismatic than Lopez. He was full of political tricks and had in fact been campaigning for years. He had been to practically every barrio in the country. He certainly had more exposure than Lopez and, what’s more, he had the 600,000 Iglesia votes in his pocket.
In the matter of logistics, it was a tossup between the two, though many believed Lopez had the edge. Some, however, swore Magsaysay could match Lopez’s campaign fund peso for peso. During the LP convention, Magsaysay surprised everyone with his ready cash. His delegates were billeted in first-class hotels. In fact, it was bruited around that he was financially ready for a presidential contest.
But Lopez had what Magsaysay didn’t have — an efficient machine, performance, sincerity and good taste. While “Carry On” Gene overacted, Toto Nanading simply acted himself. Soon, the electorate saw through Gene’s overacting and recognized him for what he was. The Magsaysay cult lost much of its appeal and the Iglesia Ni Cristo was shown to be less potent politically than it was billed to be.
As of the last OQC count, with only about 500 precints left unreported, Magsaysay was trailing behind Lopez by almost 2,000,000 votes. If the Iglesia had not helped Magsaysay, Magsaysay would have been worse off. But what is more significant is that even if the Iglesia votes for Magsaysay were doubled, Lopez would still emerge the decisive winner.
Lopez’s victory over Magsaysay has blasted the myth of Iglesia political power. Bishop Eraño Manalo may still receive the homage of political jellyfish, but no longer will he be taken seriously by responsible politicians. What Joseph Estrada started in the local elections of San Juan, Rizal, Manalo’s own homegrounds, Lopez completed in the last national elections.
We sought out Lopez again last week for an interview. He was relaxed, smiling and, as usual, garrulous. He had just been to church and a group of well-wishers had gathered to congratulate him. It was the same Lopez we had seen three weeks before the elections. He had not chnaged. One had expected his well-earned victory to cause him to puff up a bit.
“Well, I made it,” he said rather shyly.
“What made you in, Mr. Vice-President?”
“I believe my performance. Yes, it is my performance, I think so. Gene’s public record is practically zero. And I repeat, he has no personal friends worked for me even without my knowledge. Frienship is an investment, yes. It pays dividends.”
“But Mr. Vice- President, Gene has a powerful personal friends – Bishop Manalo….”
Lopez perked up. We had never heard him so eloquent and grammatical before. On the subject of Iglesia Ni Cristo, he was the expert, the master coversationalist. he has debunked Iglesia political power, he said, adding that he did so with the help of responsible voters. The recent elections meant two things to him: first, the Iglesia political balloon was deflated and second, dedicated public service is still highly valued by the people.
The best politics, according to the Vice-President, is still good public service. A politician who wants sincerely to serve the people does not have to kowtow to any vested political group to win. All he has to do to get reelected is to discharge his duties as best he can. In the past, candidates for national office paid homage to the Iglesia to win. He has proved, he said, that the so-called solid Iglesia vote cannot frustrate the will of the intelligent electorate.
“Do you know that the Iglesia had been abusing? It wanted to have so many public postions for its members – it even wanted to dictate as to who should occupy this or that cabinet position. Not only that. It even wanted to have say on what kind of laws we are going to have. Sobra naman sila. i would rather lose than surrender to them. Ti, abi, I still won.”
But Lopez admitted that he won because of President Marcos. The President, he said, carried him in Northern Luzon and in many other areas of the country. Marcos really worked hard for him, said Lopez, and he, too, spared no effort to get the President reelected. It was a team effort — there was no double-crossing, no junking.
“You saw how I campaigned in Western Visayas. You were with me. You can testify. I campaigned mainly for the President. An that was what the President did in Ilocos. He campaigned hard for me. The votes he got in Ilocos, I got, too. In the Western Visayas, he did not get the votes I got — because, you know, for one thing, Serging’s wife is from there. But another thing. They are really matigas ang ulo. They didn’t even vote for Jose Yulo against Macapagal.
“That’s why you see, i promised not to take my oath of office if I won in Western Visayas and the President lost there. Now, I can still take my oath of office. The President won in Western Visayas. Of course, I have helped the President also. But I am not ashamed to say that he has helped me more. I do not know how I can thank the President for it.”
The Vice-President reserved his “most hearfelt gratitude” to the First Lady. “I owe a lot to her — ay, she really campaigned for me. She won a lot of votes for me. I do not know how to repay her. You know that it was the First Lady who told me to work hard because I was behind. She showed us the survey and she told us that i was not doing so well. If she did not want me to win, she would have remained silent.”
Indeed, early last July, Lopez was running a poor second to Magsaysay, though Marcos was already ahead of Osmeña, according to an administration survey. Informed of it, Mrs. Marcos called Lopez’s key leaders to Malacanang. Alfredo Montelibano, Eugenio Lopez, Jr., Undersecretary Raul Inocentes and a communications expert met with the First Lady in the music room. The First Lady gave Montelibano and Company the lowdown on the Vice-President’s chances.
It was a lonf talk – the First Lady wanted Lopez to put up his own political machinery. Though Lopez was nagging behind, the large number of uncommitted votes could turn the tide in Lopez’s favor. The First Lady wanted a Marcos-Lopez victory, not just a Marcos triumph. Mrs. Marcos pointed out to the Montelibano group where Lopez was weak and what should be done to boost the Vice-President’s campaign.
The Montelibano group immediately got in touch with the Vice-President. If Lopez was discouraged, he did not show it. After all, he had had 24 years of political experience. He was no political tyro. If another campaign organization was needed, it would be put up. At the time, the Vice-President’s brother, Eugenio, was in his U.S. residence in Seacliff, San Francisco. The Vice-President rang up his brother by overseas phone.
Eugenio Lopez, Sr., apparently gave the green light for the setting up of a campaign machine for the Veep. For in less than 30 minutes, the political mobilazation of the Lopez business empire was under way. In an hour, top communications experts, political analysts, researchers, idea men, statisticians, had been tapped for the Lopez machine.
Alfredo Montelibano, Sr., became top strategic aviser. All policies had to be cleared with him. Eugenio Lopez, Jr., was in charge of logistics. Ike Inocentes served as liaison between the Vice-President and the new political machine manned by top communications experts. Antonio Bareiro handled radio-TV while Ernesto Granada supervised the print medium.
The first thing the Lopez organization did was conduct a survey. The results showed that Lopez, although more popular than his opponenet in urban centers, was weak in many rural areas. In the overall, however, the survey showed Lopez leading Magsaysay by about 3%. However, it was noted that the uncommitted votes – 17% of the voting population – were mostly in the rural areas.
So the Lopez machine concentrated on the rural areas. The communications media came out with a lot of materials depicting Lopez as the friend of the farmer, the worker and the common man. His leaflets carried the picture of the vice-President holding up rice stalks. The Lopez machine worked to buikd up the Vice-President’s image as Marcos’s top performance man in rice production.
Meanwhile, radio and television commentators all over the country were supplied with Magsaysay’ record as a public servant. The idea was to debunk Magsaysay’s claim that he was the idol of the masses and to portray him as a demagogue with no solid achivements to his name. On the other hand, the communications experts in the Lopez’s performance as an executive and a legislator.
It was at this time that political candidates went out of their way to win the Iglesia support. Some pragmatic Lopez advisers suggested the Veep take a crack at the Iglesia votes. And he got mad, spewing yawa and sonamagun. He would not pay homage to Manalo merely to win the Iglesia support. If the sect voted for him, they were welcome, but he wouldn’t go out of his way to woo the INC.
Manalo reportedly got wind of Lopez’s reactions and he decided to teach Lopez a lesson or two in practical politics. The INC boss directed his followers to go all out for Magsaysay. Some NP congressional bets were told to junk Lopez in exchange for Iglesia suppor. Others were even asked to surrender their sample ballots, it was reported, to the Iglesia so that Lopez’s name could be replaced with Magsaysay’s.
Ateneo priests and Catholic lay leaders who heards of the Iglesia political ploy to down Lopez were scandalized and angered. They decided to band together behind Lopez. They put up two headquarters silently worked behind the scenes. They got in touch with no fewer than 30,000 Catholic leaders all over the country and pleaded with them to vote for the Marcos-Lopez team.
Other religious setc, too, didn’t like the way Manalo was wielding political power – and they, too, got into the act. Two Aglipayan bishops and one Protestant sect came out openly for Lopez. It was a silent religious-political war. The Îglesia versus the Catholics and other religious sects. In a sense, Manalo’s support of Magsaysay proved to be a kiss of death – it served to unite other religious elelments against him.
Early in October, the Lopez machine made another survey – and the result was encouraging. lopez was leading by about 400,000 votes over Magsaysay. When informed about it, Lopez could hardly believe it. But instead of being complacent, Lopez worked even harder. Working closely with the NP machine, the Lopez machine proved effective. A few of its key people were able to infiltrate the opposite camp and discover Magsaysay’s political sttrategems, some of which were below the belt.
Lopez’s technopols wanted the Veep to pay back Magsaysay in kind, but Lopez put his foot down. He did not believe that Gene would resort to foul trickery. Perhaps Gene strategists, but not Gene, said Lopez. Even when news broke that Gene allegedly tried to finance a student organization to demonstrate against the Lopez interests, the Veep still gave Gene the benefit of the doubt.
Meanwhile, the entire Lopez clan fanned out to rural areas to help Toto Nanding. Mrs. Mariquit Lopez, fondly called Inday Mariquit by her friends, campaigned with the Blue Ladies. Even Mrs. Eugenio Lopez, Sr., went to the hustings to plug for her brother-in-law. Mrs. Eugenio Lopez, Jr., too, joined Mrs. Marcos’s Blue Ladies.
All the Veep’s children, except who is abroad, campaigned for their father, Albertito usually went along with his father in Luzon. Mila also accompanied her father throughout Western Visayas. Fernando, Jr., and Bobby helped entertain political leaders in the Veep’s Iloilo mansion.
Even the sons of the Mr. Eugenio Lopez, Sr., joined their uncle’s campaign trail. Eugenio Jr., took charge of finances while Manolo and Oscar put up the Friends of Lopez Kami (FOLK) organization. Manolo, too, organized his own version of Blue Ladies and Blue Boys, with the latter composed mainly of junior executives in their 20’s.
Meanwhile, the Lopez machine suceeded in putting up an organization which reached down to the town level and, in sesitive areas, down to the precint level. All these served as nerve cells of the vast Lopez political machine. Information was sent to the Lopez coordinating center in Quezon City where it was compiled, analyzed and acted upon. A group of creative writers made up the Lopez Machine Think Tank.
Lopez expressly directed his technopols to stress the performance theme. Not once was it ever a Lopez machine for Lopez alone. It was a Marcos-Lopez team campaign all the way, though the bulk of the campaign was directed at the areas where Lopez was supposedly weak. In Cebu and Iloilo, Osmeña-Lopez groups for some mushroomed. But Lopez ordered his men to plead with these groups to disband. It was found that these groups were LPs who could not stomach Magsaysay.
In Iloilo, one NP congressional bet reportedly campaigned lukewarmly for Marcos and the congressional candidate got a tongue-lashing from the Veep in front of the many people. In Sulu, despite the advice of some Muslim leaders not to campaign for Marcos, Lopez batted for Marcos all the way. At one time, he even asked the Muslims not to vote for him if they would not vote for Marcos, too.
By the first week of November, another survey showed that Lopez was ahead by about 700,000 votes. he couldn’t believe it. He had thought he would win over Magsaysay by only about 200,000 0r 300,000 votes. But he assumed that even if the survey had mistakenly counted 500,000 votes in his favor, he would still win th balloting by a comfortable margin.
But when the votes were counted, Lopez was the most surprised of them all in many precints, even in so-called Magsaysay stronghlds, Lopez got twice more votes than Magsaysay did. Lopez bested Magsaysay even in rural areas. In about 67 provinces, Lopez lost only in Zambales and Pampanga Greater Manila went all out for Lopez. Despite the Iglesia’s support of Marcos, Lopez got almost as many voted as the President..
Lopez was in Manila Tuesday night. He slept all night in his Forbes Park residence. Early Wednesday morning, he received reports that the NP won in the Western Visayas. After a dip in the pool and a mass in the San Antonio Church, Lopez motored to Malacañang. The President was asleep and Lopez exchanged pleasantries with other top NP leaders in the Palace.
When Mrs. Marcos emerged, the Veep kissed her hand and gave her a big buss. He owed much of his recent political success to Mrs. Marcos, he openly said. He would have been happy if he had won even by only 200,000, but a margin of 2,000,000 votes was beyond his wildest dreams. He promised to work harder to merit the people’s trust.
From Malacañang, Lopez went to his office in the Bureau of Lands Building. There, he received congratulatory messages from his friends and symphatizers. When the Lopez victory trend reached irreversible proportions, Lopez thanked all his supporters for their labor. He hastened to add, however, that he had not solicited any political financiers and was, therefore, not beholden to anyone but the electorate for his political victory.
His political fund, he said, came only from his brother and relatives. As Vice-President, he continued, he had granted many favors to many businessmen, industrialists and millionaire-agriculturists. But he did not ask any favor from any of them. This was because he did not want compromise national interests with the private interests of the political financiers.
In an interview, Lopez left to President Marcos what role the Veep should play in the next four years. But if he were to have his way, he would prefer to remain the concurrent Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “I know this job very well. I don’t have to study anymore. Besides, there are still many things that I have to do here.”
Lopez obsession now is to achieve self-sufficiency in meat and fish and to conserve the antional forests. His plan is to seed the country’s lakes and rivers with bangus and carps. He also wants to increase animal breeding stations throughout the country. The Veep believes that massive reforestations is necessary, if Philippine civilization is to be preserved.
The Vice-President started his public life when then President Sergio Osmeña, Sr., appointed him mayor of Iloilo. At that time, Iloilo City was no-man’s land. Criminality was rampant; nobody was safe after six in the evening. He accepted Osmeña’s challenge to clean Iloilo on condition that he be free to resign after three months. But public service got into his blood and three months became a lifetime.
Lopez’s honesty is almost legendary. While manager of his family’s bus company, he caught the conductress cheating by five centavos. Lopez sued the girl who was sentenced to 25 days in jail. But while the girl was in jail, Lopez supported her family and got her another job after she had served her sentence. in later years, this was to be the Veep’s code of conduct.
His employees still remembered how Lopez, some years ago, fulminated at one of his political supporters who asked him to help him with his customs duties. A call to the customs disclosed that this man was one of those blacklisted by customs. Lopez shouted at him, saying: “What? You want me to help you cheat the government? “You, sonamagan, I don’t want to see you anymore.”
And when the son of another political supporter asked the Veep to get him a job in the onternal revenue bureau even without pay, Lopez reddened: “Why you want to work without pay? Because you will steal? You want me to help you so you can steal? Get out! Get out!”
Lopez is an apolitical politician. he both loves and hates politics. His father, he said, a former Iloilo governor, was assassinated. To Lopez, politics summed up all that he disliked in htis world: dishonesty, double-dealing, and back-stabbing. Paradoxically, it was the only way by which he could help so many people he has helped while a politician has sustained his political career.
The Vice-President is married to the former Mariquit Javellana by whom he has six children, Yolanda Benito, Fernando Jr., Albert, Milagros and Manuel. In addition, they have 12 proteges, now all married, whom they have informally adopted as children. Every Friday, in the Lopez mansion in LaPaz, Iloilo, is a day for the poor to whom the Lopezes distribute cash and goods.
Mr. and Mrs. Fernando Lopez are devout Catholics. Wherever Lopez goes, his first stop is the church. He makes the sign of the cross every time he goes out of the car, helicopter or plane. Both Mr. and Mrs. Lopez are music lovers; she loves to play the piano and the Hammand organ; he loves to listen to Mendelssohn or Chopin.
Many have asked him where he will go from here. Will he run for presidency? To this, he displays shock. “Please, please, don’t ask me that. Thatis farthest from my mind now. All I want to do is work to be worthy of the people’s trust. you know, I am already old.”
But when reminded of his campaign slogan, “Matigas pa ito —ang tuhod ko,” Lopez would break into loud, unrestrained, plebeian laughter that endears him to his supporters. Just the same, he entertains no questions about his political future. This is no time to talk politics, he insists.
But whether Lopez likes it or not, he has to think about his political future. by national mandate, he is now, for the third time, only a heartbeat away from the presidency. His decisive political victory in the last elections has catapulted him to the forefront of his party’s presidential possiblitis. Next to Marcos, he is the people’s choice. If he doubted that in the 1965 elections, he doesn’t doubt it now.
Besides, Lopez cannot be running for Vice-President all the time. If he chooses to continue serving the people after his third term as the No. 2 public official, he deserves, by equity of the electorate, a promotion. Who knows, with the help of God and his brother, Eugenio, the three-time Veep, once an underrated administration high official, may pull another surprise and run away with the highest position a people whom he has served long and well can give him.
The Week the Free Press Said Goodbye
By Gregorio C. Brillantes
The January 3, 1942, issue marked the end of a world, the close of an era: never again would the country recapture the peace and the relative innocence of the 1930s, and the war would spawn changes more enduring than physical ruins.
December 12, 1964—ACROSS the bay, in the late afternoon sun, a black cloud hung over Manila: smoke from burning oil dumps in Pandacan. The crowd gathered about the wooden platform erected near the mouth of Malinta Tunnel could hear the explosions rolling across the graying water from Cavite and Nielson Field, as demolition squads, the tail end of a retreating army, set fire to ammunition stores that could not be transported to Bataan. There were about a hundred and fifty of them gathered about the platform, soldiers and marines and a few civilian officials, a quiet, subdued group, without the easy bravado that they wore so well in the earlier days of that disastrous month, their eyes straying from the ceremony before them to watch for the approach of bombers. For now the skies belonged to the enemy, and so did a large portion of the land.
But the words they heard as the day dimmed across the country spoke of hope, pride, courage, and, incongruous as it might have seemed then, of victory. It was the second inaugural of President Quezon and Vice-President Osmeña, who had swept the elections that previous November. There were no cheering throngs, as in 1935; no parades except for ragged processions of USAFFE troops withdrawing into Bataan; and in the place of brass bands, an American nurse played a faltering “Hail to the Chief” on an accordion. Quezon and Osmeña were inducted into office by Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos, there was a ripple of applause, and then the President began to speak, haggard in his wheelchair but his voice strong and youthful with the old eloquence.
It was Tuesday, December 30, 1941—and it is a measure of how far the nation has traveled since then that the words should reach us now with a hollow, ancient, stilted echo, the faith they expressed remote and almost unrecognizable.
“At the present time we have but one task—fight with America for America and the Philippines,” Quezon said. “Ours is a great cause. We are fighting for human liberty and justice, for those principles of individual freedom which we all cherish and without which life would not be worth living….The war may be long-drawn and hard-fought, but with the determination of freedom-loving people everywhere to stamp out the rule of violence and terrorism from the face of the earth, I am absolutely convinced that final and complete victory will be ours.” He had been feeling dejected for days; the rumored convoy from San Francisco had failed to arrive, and he was considering, it was later said, some sort of accommodation with Japan that might take the Philippines out of the war. But he had reason that afternoon for optimism: he had just received from President Roosevelt a radiogram assuring the Filipino people that “their freedom will be redeemed, and their independence established and protected” and that the “entire resources of the United States stand behind that pledge.”
Quezon read Roosevelt’s message to his Corregidor audience, adding: “My heart, and I know, the hearts of all Americans and Filipinos in this country are filled with gratitude for the reassuring words of the President of the United States. My answer, our answer to him, is that every man, woman and child in the Philippines will do his duty. No matter what sufferings this war may impose upon us, we shall stand by America with undaunted spirit, for we know that upon the outcome of this war depend the happiness, liberty and security not only of this generation, but of the generations yet unborn….” Replying, US High Commissioner Frances B. Sayre expressed “America’s gratitude and pride for the loyalty, devotion, the gallantry, with which the Filipino people have entered this great struggle by America’s side.” General MacArthur’s brief remarks brought the ceremony to a close: “For 400 years the Philippines has struggled toward self-government. On the threshold of independence came the great hour of decision. There was no hesitation, no moment of doubt. The whole country followed its great leader in choosing the side of freedom against the side of slavery….This basic and fundamental issue will be fought through to victory….”
At the command post of Brig. Gen. Albert Jones in Plaridel, Bulacan, the men had neither the time nor the inclination for such lofty rhetoric. Officers chain-smoked over maps; dispatch riders came and went on motorcycles; truck convoys rumbled by in a storm of dust, headed south for Calumpit. Formerly commander of the Southern Luzon Force, Jones had been ordered north of Manila to delay Homma’s advance across the central plains and cover the last stages of the USAFFE withdrawal over the Calumpit Bridge.
Earlier in the day, a Japanese tank-infantry force had reached Baliuag, some five miles north of Jones’s command post. As a result of some mix-up in command, Wainwright’s 71st division, which was supposed to hold the town, had retreated to Bataan. Jones knew he had to push the Japanese back from Baliuag, to keep Calumpit Bridge open at least until New Year’s Eve and save the general withdrawal from total disaster. For the crucial job he had only ten tanks and half-a-dozen 75 mm. self-propelled guns.
After a covering barrage the tanks, commanded by Lt. Col. William Gentry, smashed into Baliuag and knocked out eight of their armored adversaries. As Gentry pulled out of the burning town, the 75’s again opened up, routing what remained of the Japanese force. The successful counterthrust gave Jones the respite he needed; a deadline, on which depended thousands of lives, would be met; and the bridge at Calumpit would not be blown up until after 5:00 a.m. on New Year’s Day, when, with the last of his rear guard, he crossed the Pampanga River and headed west for Bataan.
In Manila, in a building facing Mori’s Bicycle Store on Rizal Avenue, on the day of the inaugural rites on Corregidor and the tank battle in Bulacan, another group of men were also engaged in a concerted effort to beat a deadline, to finish a job before the enemy arrived.
On the third floor of the Free Press building—the editorial offices of the magazine since 1922 and its third home since 1908—Mr. Dick’s staffers were working with a sort of controlled frenzy on the last sections of the FP’s “Farewell Issue.” Outside the sun shone palely through the smoke rising from the piers, and on the Avenida, only an occasional streetcar passed, or a gang of looters, or a truck loaded with evacuees; and in the office there was the sense of an entire world ending, the knowledge that the Japanese were not far from the city, but also there was the conviction somehow that help from America was on the way: America had lost the first round but it was the next one that counted, and the war would soon be over, in three months at the most. Meanwhile, Mr. Dick spoke uneasily of what had happened in Nanking, T.M. Locsin was worried about the safety of his treasured books, and Filemon Tutay announced that he had hidden a revolver—“just in case”—in a sack of rice. Was it true that fifth-columnists had poisoned the water supply? Was it safer to stay in Manila than in the provinces? No one, it seemed, knew the right answers; the present was a dreadful question mark, but by next summer, almost everyone felt sure, they would be back at their desks.
The Japanese took over the Free Press building as enemy property, confiscated magazine files and carted away most of the office equipment; liberation, ironically, destroyed what the Japanese spared, reducing the building to a gutted hulk. Mr. Dick spent the war years as an internee, first in Fort Santiago and later in a hospital. During the first months of the occupation, Mr. Dick’s men used to meet at office manager Floro A. Santos’s home in San Juan; but the group broke up finally as the war dragged on and each man went his own way: one worked as a bartender, another drew portraits for a living, a number joined the resistance. The Free Press was not to resume publication until February 23, 1946; but scarcely anyone on the staff during those last days of 1941 doubted that the Free Press would be back in the streets before the end of the coming year.
The Free Press printed only about 15,000 copies of its 24-page “Farewell Issue” for distribution in Manila. Dated Saturday, January 3, 1942, the magazine was being sold in the streets on the afternoon of Thursday, New Year’s Day, even as the Japanese entered the city from the north and south. One of those who bought copies was F.L. Pimentel, who lived then in Pasay City. For the last 22 years Pimentel kept his copy, but recently decided to “donate it to the Free Press.” In a letter to the FP editor, Pimentel recalls that he “bought it from a newsboy at the intersection of Taft Avenue and San Andres Street early on the morning of January 2nd. I rushed back to my house on Taft Ave. Extension, afraid that the Japs, who were said to be in Baclaran already, might catch me with it….I have since moved my residence a number of times—from Pasay to Sta. Cruz, Manila, then to San Miguel and later to Sta. Ana and finally to San Miguel Village, in Makati; but I brought my copy of the “Farewell Issue” with me wherever I moved. During the war and in the years since then, I have lost valuable things, but not this issue of the Free Press. I just can’t throw it away, after keeping it for so long….”
Pimentel’s copy looks its age: faded, torn in places, stained by decay, and half of the back cover missing, but otherwise intact, legible, a repository, as it were, of the heartbreaking gallantry, the pride and glory and also the fear and the chilling uncertainty of that distant time. The issue marked the end of a world, the close of an era: never again would the country recapture the peace and the relative innocence of the 1930s, and the war would spawn changes more enduring than physical ruins. To read it now is to marvel at those changes of spirit and attitude, sentiment and feeling the nation has undergone since 1941—more than half a century ago, more than enough time for two generations to be born and grow into adulthood and learn of that period of history only from books and old newsreels, as strange and unreal now in the age of the supersonic jet and the space-shuttle countdown as Verdun and the Treaty of Versailles must have been to the youth who went to war the year the Free Press said goodbye. How easy it seems today under the new nationalism to scoff at the brave slogans of those days; to pretend, even, that they never were, and that we had always been masters of our destiny—a comforting illusion but a denial of history. A nation builds on its memories, grows up and away from them; and whatever we have lost or gained as a people must be measured against what we once were.
The “Farewell Issue” of the Free Press carried on the inside front cover, under the legend “help is surely coming,” this message from the High Commissioner’s Office:
“This is the time when the courage of all the people of these islands, whatever their nationality, is being put to test. We are being afforded a rare opportunity to show stuff of which we are made.
“Anyone who has been in Manila since the outbreak of the war must be convinced that we can take it as well as the people of London, of Moscow, or of Chungking. We have all been thrilled as we read of the valor of the troops that are defending us. Let us continue to show the same courage as the boys at the front….
“Help is surely coming—help of such adequacy and power that the invader will be driven from our midst, and he will be rendered powerless ever to threaten us again. Obviously we are all hungry for news but details cannot be disclosed. It is part of our duty not to demand details, but to have an abiding faith that help is on its way….”
The editorial cartoon on the first page, entitled “Heroes All,” showed Uncle Sam telling an American soldier and his Filipino comrade-in-arms, “Boys, America is proud of you!” The text was unabashedly inspirational. “To the thousands and tens of thousands of Filipinos and Americans out there on the front lines America takes off its hat. America is thrilled by their gallant defense, by their heroic stand against tremendous odds, by their stirring feats of valor.
“Here in Manila we may think we are suffering or have been suffering, but we know nothing of the thirst, the hunger, the utter exhaustion, the weariness unto death of the men out there at the front….Stories innumerable of their fearlessness, their fortitude are pouring into Manila. No sacrifice seems too great for them, there is no hazard that they will not dare.
“Among all of them—the Filipinos—there is the consciousness that they are fighting for their homes, their loved ones, their native land. For them they are ready to lay down their lives, and gladly.
“Lacking such inspiration, the Americans, as the world everywhere has come to expect of them, fight not one whit less courageously. Over them flies their beloved flag, proud symbol of ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave,’ and they think of what the folks back home are saying of them.
“No wonder America, yes, and free men everywhere, are thrilled. For these our men, Filipinos and Americans, Americans and Filipinos, out there in the bloody field are writing a dateless page not only in the Philippines but in world history. Heroes All.”
The Free Press reprinted the cartoon editorial in its first issue after the war.
The next seven pages traced the daily progress of the war, from Monday, December 23, when “a huge enemy fleet estimated at 80 transports” was sighted off Lingayen Gulf, to Sunday, December 29, when “Manila was again bombed by Japanese planes and once more, the ships lying in the Pasig River, still there despite the fact that they drew Japanese fire yesterday, were largely responsible for attacks on the open city.
“Beginning at about 11:45 a.m., Japanese bombers carried out an unceasing attack along the Pasig River, with most of the bombs falling on civilian property. The raid lasted until approximately 1:10 p.m. casualties were light since most of Intramuros had been evacuated. However, the bombers inflicted heavy damage. Letran College and the dmhm plant burned down. The Intendencia building was again on fire. Most of the buildings near Letran College and Santo Domingo Church were wiped out by fire. The Naric [warehouse] on the south side of the Pasig went up in flames….”
According to Usaffe headquarters, “the fighting was desultory in the north but very heavy in the south.” The Japanese had reinforced their troops in the north as well as in the Atimonan area, and “continued to advance slowly.” There was “heavy enemy air activity” throughout the country. The British were retreating in Hong Kong and Malaya, but were on the offensive in Libya; the Nazis were suffering “serious reverses” in Russia. In Washington “as well as throughout the [United States], people were horrified by the continued bombing of Manila—an open city.”
The last Usaffe communiqué received and printed by the Free Press was issued at 8:03 a.m. of New Year’s Day: “In order to prevent the enemy’s infiltration from the east from separating our northern and southern forces, the Southern Luzon Force for several days has been moving north and has now successfully completed junction with the North Luzon Force.
“This movement will uncover the free city of Manila which, because of the previous evacuation of our forces, has no longer any practical military value. The entrance to Manila Bay is completely covered by our forces, and its use is hereby denied the enemy.”
The regular editorial page urged President Quezon “to take a day or two off and visit the firing line and sit down with the boys, those young heroes who are fighting like lions…..What an electrifying effect such a visit would have! For days the boys would be talking about it. How they would be nerved to greater feats, to still greater heroism!” Another editorial stressed that the government “keep the people informed of the war situation” to offset the “insidious work of fifth-columnists who are spreading rumors of the wildest nature to terrify and demoralize the populace.” A third editorial noted that “the most encouraging sign in the heroic struggle being waged today is the eagerness of the boys who have been relieved from the front for a day or two, many of them with wounds, to go back to the fighting.” The same page carried a reprint of an editorial from the December 31 issue of the Philippine Herald:
“Japan is racing with time. That is why she has tried to employ Germany’s blitzkrieg tactics in the campaign against Hawaii, Midway, Wake, Guam, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Malaya, hoping thereby to get a firm hold in these regions before American help arrives….
“Our job in the Philippines therefore is to hold the enemy until help from America reaches us. We have held our lines for 23 days, and gained that much time for America to recognize her power for a telling blow against the enemy….”
Staff writer Locsin wrote his impressions of that final week, with a kind of philosophical detachment: “The war has blacked out everything in our lives but a few essentials—books as in my case, the instruments of my craft. A man has few needs, really. Peace multiplies them and gives the superfluous the urgency of the necessary. We confuse indulgence with need. The war leaves man with only the bare wish to survive with honor, the obligation to do one’s work as well as ever, without deterioration, and a new humility….
“The war reveals the parasite, the nonessential man self-confessed. He who does not produce is regarded, with suddenly clear eyes, as an enemy. In peacetime he occupies an honorable position, being then only a thief who is allowed to live on what his neighbors make.
“The war leaves only human values and human worth. It either shows a man or shows him up. Out of this new revelation may yet come a new society—a true society—a society of men.”
The Japanese bombed the city on December 24: “I was in the Wilson building and I had a ringside seat. We saw the bombers—there were nine of them, in perfect formation—gleaming in the sun….There were three strong explosions and the building shook. I crouched against a wall, changed my mind and ran to the window. I saw the bombs flower—as young Mussolini so prettily put it—in Port Area….
On December 28, “the city authorities lifted the blackout order. The city is now open night and day. The people may keep their lights shining. Few did.
“I have just gone out of the house for a breath of fresh air. I saw two or three lighted windows. The rest along the street were dark. Intramuros, however, burning on my left, made up for them.
“The city is lighted up, all right.
“Seven days a week. Three weeks now. Twenty-one days. More coming up!”
An unsigned article, illustrated with a pen-and-ink portrait of fighter pilot Jesus Villamor, paid tribute to “those who fight in the air.” They introduced a new element into the “mechanical, collective murder that is modern war…the personal element of individual skill and initiative….And when they died, they died—not as their comrades on the ground did, in the mud, but amid the stars….
“What do these men of the air, men such as Capt. Jesus Villamor, take with them when they go up, usually outnumbered, to meet the enemy? One likes to think that they take with them the loftiest sentiments of which they, with their unclipped wings, are such stirring symbols. And certainly, in the lull between battles, they must think often and long of the rights and obligations of free men…those ideals that fall so smugly from the lips of our orators.”
The advertisements—the few that found space in the issue—also offered their own commentary on the times. “Uncle Sam has never let you down,” declared an ad of the San Juan Heights Co., J.L. Myers, general manager. “you can be absolutely sure of that! The San Juan Heights Co. wishes to reassure its purchasers that their interests will be protected….Records of purchases are in Uncle Sam’s hands in New York City vaults and he is pledged to protect them. we wish you a new year as happy and prosperous as possible.” The monthly first-prize winners of La Estrella del Norte’s silhouette contest, held from July 1 to December 20, 1941, revealed in their entries the favorite idols of the time: Uncle Sam, Joe Dimaggio, Simon La O, the Ateneo basketball star. Yco offered camouflage paints “to make your factory or building blend with its surroundings,” and presumably save them from enemy bombs.
The last four pages contained “Sidelights on the War.” The lead item reported the death of Buenaventura Bello, president of the Northern Colleges of Vigan, Ilocos Sur, who was shot by the Japanese when he refused to remove the American flag draped on the wall of his home. Two of his sons, noted the Free Press, were serving the Usaffe. There was an account of the Japanese landing at Mauban, Quezon, by Sgt. Regulo Lippago of Abra: “We waited until they were 70 yards and then we let go. We mowed down the first wave, but as the succeeding ones came on and stretched the battle line around the bay we had to retreat. During a two-day period, we halted the enemy four times, twice in the daytime, and twice at night.” As the Japanese approached a town in Tayabas, the mayor ordered his people to evacuate orderly; while the evacuation went on, the mayor continued working “as usual”; he was the last to leave the town. “We were not robbed,” the evacuees told each other, “when we elected this man.” Another town mayor, Nicomedes Suller of San Manuel, Pangasinan, led civilians against a Japanese tank. He was killed, but not before he had clambered up the tank and emptied his revolver into its occupants. “He, too, justified his election.” According to a report from Baguio, “the Igorots know the [United States] is at war with Japan and that all Filipinos are under the solemn obligation to fight the invader side by side with the Americans. Because they are Filipinos, too, the Igorots have armed themselves and are out looking for the enemy to put him out of business.” American bombers attacked Japanese transports in Davao Gulf, sinking one. A number of Japanese planes were shot down over Corregidor. While the fighting raged in Pangasinan, farmers went about their harvesting—“a banner crop this year.” There were more accounts of the “indomitable spirit and courage of our men” in the Lingayen area—a trooper was wounded when he tried to open the hatch of an enemy tank, a company commander routed single-handedly a 30-man Japanese patrol. Thousands of civilians had returned to Manila from evacuation sites in Laguna and Rizal after learning the capital had been declared an open city. Manila Mayor Juan Nolasco appealed to all citizens to “remain calm during the present emergency….”
The last page bore, in boldface, a quotation from US High Commissioner Sayre: “Death is preferable to slavery.”
The back cover appealed to all and sundry to “stop stampeding! don’t get panicky! keep your chin up! show the world we can take it!”
And then, from the direction of Grace Park, Maj. Gen. Koichi Abe marched down Rizal Avenue at the head of three battalions of his 48th Division.
It was four months before the fall of Bataan and the men dying on the road to Capas, five months before the surrender of Corregidor; three years before Leyte, and four before the liberation of Manila and the death of the old city; and two confused crowded decades before Filipino First, the Twelfth of June and Maphilindo. The war ended long ago—“a war not of our own making,” some would remind us now—and we have traveled an almost immeasurable distance since the first bombs fell on Cavite and Nichols Field.
How vast the difference between the country then and now—more than time separates us from the “Keep ’em Flying” posters and “God Bless America,” the soldiers in denim and pith helmets riding off to the front in commandeered buses, and Manila waiting for the drone of planes in the blackout. We have since grown in nationalistic age and wisdom, and the suave slogans and the simple loyalties of that era are perhaps best forgotten, together with the ugliness, the terror. But certainly some memories from 1941 are worth cherishing: the country was still young and unmaimed in spirit, patriotism was not an uncommon virtue, and men believed enough in a way of life to fight for it with courage and honor.