Apr 28

Timeline of an ambush, 1949-2019

Four books of clippings (Aurora Aragon Quezon ScrapbookHuk Ambush Scrapbook AHuk Ambush Scrapbook 2. and Huk Ambush Scrapbook C) and a biography (Aurora A. Quezon: Her Life and Deeds, by Sol Gwekoh) provide the source material for the following timeline, based on contemporary sources, on the ambush in which Aurora A. Quezon, Maria Aurora Quezon, Felipe Buencamino III and nine others perished on April 28, 1949. 

Arranging the different articles, gives an insight into how the story, as it was reported, developed at the time, particularly in terms of eyewitness accounts and which ones remained consistent or which ones changed; the excerpts from Gwekoh’s book, written by a newsman, gives a fair representation on the consensus on events, a year after the events transpired.

The most recent published retelling was by Manuel F. Martinez in Assassinations & Conspiracies: From Rajah Humabon to Imelda Marcos, Anvil, 2002, which, however, leaves a lot to be desired. A deeper dive into the event, in particular the differences in eyewitness accounts, still remains to be done. To give just a few examples of where the record remains problematic, there are some details that were correctly reported at the time, such as Mrs. Quezon having one earring when her body was recovered, the body (or bodies) having been dragged through the dust by the killers, the place where Maria Aurora Quezon’s body was found (beneath the steering wheel), while, however, her having been killed not by a gunshot wound, but by being bayoneted, is not mentioned in any press reports; this would tie in with one account of one of the gunshot wounds of Philip Buencamino having been done at such close range that it left burn marks. What these facts (and details that require some sort of corroboration) suggest is that the ambuscade was conducted with a ferocity that the press reports gloss over to large extent. 

The details and variations on details also give an insight into the reportage of the period, and what editors and reports found interesting and of note. The views of some writers who knew the victims, is also included to round-out this look back at the events of 1949, seventy years later.

A note on the times given: unless specified in the source, the times given are estimates, based on conjectures from other details or estimates provided in the various testimonies.

April 26, 1949

Baby’s friends from the YLAC recalled that she had been unusually gay ay the YLAC meeting over which she presided last Tuesday [April 26, 1949]. That night she bubbled with enthusiasm as she showed to Gin Mata an evening dress to which she meant to wear to a dance… –Rosalinda Orosa, “Grieving Hundreds Crowd Funeral Parlor to View Mrs. Quezon’s Body,” Manila Chronicle, April 29, 1949

Friends of Baby, especially YLAC girls who swarmed the Quezon residence, believed Baby had several premonitions about the impending disaster. She told friends several days ago that she did not know what it could mean, but that she had been having dreams about her father for three nights. –Manila Times, “Nini, With Child, Bears Up Bravely In Triple Tragedy,” April 29, 1949

In the dream President Quezon was beckoning to her: “Come with me, hija.”

Baby didn’t put much stock in dreams. But she was troubled enough to confide details of this particular dream to friends, who counselled her not to give too much thought to it. . –Rosario Mencias Querol, “Premonitions: Beads, Dreams,” Evening News, April 29, 1949

The last time I saw Philip was two days before his death. Linking his arm to mine with a gay laugh, he dragged me to Astoria for a cup of coffee. We joined a boisterous group of newsmen who flung good-natured jibes at Philip when he announced that he was quitting the government foreign service to settle down to a life of a country farmer. Somebody brought up the subject of a certain Malacañan reporter who always made it a point to take a malicious crack at Philip and his influential family connections, and Philip agreed the guy was nasty. It was typical of Philip, however, that when I curtly suggested that he punch the offensive reporter on the nose, he smilingly shook his head saying: ‘How can I? Every time I get sore, the fellow embraces me and tells me with that silly laugh of his ‘Sport lang, Chief.’ I can’t get mad at him.’

“That was Philip. He couldn’t get mad at anyone for long. He liked everybody, even those who, regarding him with envious eyes as a darling Child of Fortune, spoke harshly of him. He was essentially a nice, friendly guy. It was not in him to harm anybody, including those who tried to harm him.” –-Arsenio LacsonStar Reporter, May 3, 1949

April 27, 1949

There were several civilian captives who were being used as pack carriers and cooks. These civilians were taken near barrio Calaanan the previous night [April 27, 1949] where they also collected rice and some cash. –Manila Times, “Eyewitness Story of Ambush Told by Captured Huk,” Saturday, May 7, 1949.

Manantan told investigators that prior to the ambuscade he and his companions had waylaid around 30 freight trucks and jeeps. The ambuscade, according to Manantan, planned jointly by Majors Paredes, Liwayway and Ramson and Commanders Luningning, Aladin and Marzo. –Manila Bulletin, “Ambusher Pleads Guilty to Charge,” May 19, 1949

According to Dr. Victor Buencamino, his son Philip had no intentions of making the trip. Up to 9:30 the previous night [April 27, 1949] he had made no preparations for the trip. His wife nini (Quezon) was very much against his going. Friends of Baby said last night [April 28] that Nini cried bitterly when her husband bade her good-bye. –Rosalinda Orosa, “Grieving Hundreds Crowd Funeral Parlor to View Mrs. Quezon’s Body,” Manila Chronicle, April 29, 1949

April 28, 1949

5:00 AM

On that particular day Doña Aurora woke up very early in the morning and, together with her daughter, Maria Aurora (Baby), she heard an early mass and received the Holy Communion. In her preparation for this trip, she did not forget to place her old rosary into her bag as she always subscribed to the belief that this rosary, with several beads already missing and which she had inherited  from her mother, had great power against harm as had been demonstrated many a time in the past. Sol GwekohAurora Quezon Her Life And Deeds, 1951

There was, however, a hint that she [Baby Quezon] knew she would die. Yesterday morning [April 28, 1949], before making the fateful trip, she gave a picture of herself to one of the maids –a thing she had never done before, her friends said. –Rosalinda Orosa, “Grieving Hundreds Crowd Funeral Parlor to View Mrs. Quezon’s Body,” Manila Chronicle, April 29, 1949

Before setting out on that fatal trip to Baler yesterday [April 28, 1949] morning, Mrs. Quezon and Baby heard early mass and received holy communion.

“Then,” Mrs. Dolores Buencamino, mother of Philip Buencamino III told me last night, “Mrs. Quezon placed an old rosary, several beads of which were missing, into her bag. She believed the rosary had stood between her and certain harm many a time.”

It was an old, old rosary which seemed to go to pieces every time one touched it. It belonged to Mrs. Quezon’s mother and had (so Mrs. Quezon believed) great power against harm. –Rosario Mencias Querol, “Premonitions: Beads, Dreams,” Evening News, April 29, 1949

5:30 AM

The Quezon party of thirty-eight persons was in a motorcade of ten cars and two jeeps bearing Constabulary officers and soldiers on security detail. They were bound for Baler, the hometown of the Quezons which is located in the remote northern strip of Quezon province, to witness the ceremonies for the unveiling of the historical marker at the birthplace of the late President Manuel L. Quezon, to inaugurate the Baler memorial hospital, and to attend the traditional town fiesta…

The party left the Quezon home on Gilmore Avenue in Quezon City as early as 5:30 o’clock in the morning of that eventful day. It was due to return after May 2 as Doña Aurora wanted to attend on that day the celebration marking the second anniversary of the rebuilding of the Baler Catholic church which was mainly done through her help. Sol GwekohAurora Quezon Her Life And Deeds, 1951

As Mrs. Quezon and Baby stepped aboard Mayor Ponciano Bernardo’s car at their residence on Gilmore avenue, the atmosphere was jovial. There was even room for a cynical remark or two. “I’m glad our party is big,” said Baby. “There’s safety in numbers.” . –Rosario Mencias Querol, “Premonitions: Beads, Dreams,” Evening News, April 29, 1949

7:30 AM

“There were about 80 Huks whop held us up,” said one driver. “That was about 7:30 a.m.” The drivers said they were made to join other captives, some of whom were held up the day previous. –Gregorio G. Niespla, “Ambush Was Intended For Quirino, Claim,” Evening News, May 2, 1949

9:00 AM

Silayan says he was saved from certain death by two blowouts on the way. He said his car was third from the Quezon car when he suffered his first blowout and had to change a tire. This delayed him and put him back several cars behind. About a half hour later another blowout occurred and the second accident relegated him again further down the line, placing him seventh in the line of cars…

At the start of the trip, Mr. Quisumbing’s car was second in the entourage but was elbowed out later by two PC jeeps, in one of which was Primitivo San Agustin and his driver, both of whom were killed. –Manila Times, “Quezon Murder Shocks Nation; Felipe Buencamino, III, Dies,” April 29, 1949

9:30 AM

They said the party stopped at Calaanan, near the junction of the road branching to Bituloc in Laur, and asked constabulary personnel stationed there whether the way was safe. They were assured hat the road was comparatively clear of possible danger from dissidents, so the party resumed its way up to Baler. –Manila Chronicle, “Survivors Recount Treacherous Attack on Mrs. Quezon’s Party,” April 29, 1949

10:00 AM

Desiring to avoid the cloud of dust from the dirt road. Doña Aurora preferred to be ahead of the other cars — ahead even of the security guards’ jeeps. In Mayor Bernardo’s Buick sedan, between Jalandoni on the right and Bernardo on the left, Doña Aurora sat, with no thought of danger. At the driver’s seat were, from left, Lieut. Col. Antonio San Agustin, assistant manager of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, who was at the steering wheel, Felipe Buencamino III, and Maria Aurora (Baby) Quezon. —Sol GwekohAurora Quezon Her Life And Deeds, 1951

[Mrs. Amparo Aragon de Angara]: “I remember telling our driver not to drive too fast because the dust made it hard to see what was ahead. But that was our order when we left for Baler, as far as I can remember: Mrs. Quezon, an automobile, two jeeps, our station wagon and several other vehicles…

“I was unable to tell the precise spot where it began. I remember the terrain looked rough and forebidding: thick underbrush and trees ranged along the course we followed. We had to draw in deep within the station wagon to keep away from the dust churned up by the vehicles in front of us.” –Manila Chronicle, “Survivors Recount Treacherous Attack on Mrs. Quezon’s Party,” April 29, 1949

In the leading car, Col. Antonio San Agustin was behind the steering wheel. Immediately to his right was Felipe Buencamino, III while Miss Baby Quezon sat next to Philip.

In the back seat were Mrs. Quezon, who was behind Antonio San Agustin. Next to her sat General Jalandoni, who was in the middle, and Mayor Ponciano Bernardo. –Manila Times, “Dna. Aurora, Baby Quezon, Ten Others Murdered,” April 29, 1949

Mrs. Quezon was in the first car, a Buick sedan owned by Mayor Ponciano Bernardo of Quezon City. At the wheels was Lt. Col. Antonio San Agustin, assistant manager of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes office. Seated on his right was Philip Buencamino III and to Philip’s right was Baby Quezon.

Seated in the rear were Mrs. Quezon, who was right behind San Agustin, Maj. Gen. Rafael Jalandoni, retired AFP chief of staff (in center), and Mayor Bernardo. –Evening News, “The Ambuscade: How It Happened,” April 29, 1949

10:30 AM


At about 10:30 a. m., the motorcade was crossing the Nueva Ecija border on the steep winding road leading to Quezon province. As they reached the Villa Aurora bend of that solitary place whose thick underbrush and tall shaggy trees made it an ideal site for a man armed with a rifle planted himself in the middle of he road and menacingly motioned them to stop. When the leading car was about 15 feet from the man, Mayor Ponciano A. Bernardo of Quezon City, sensing some danger ahead, got out of it, then raised his hands in token of surrender and shouted in Tagalog, “This is Mrs Quezon’s party ” His plea, however, was only answered by an intense attack concentrated on his car, resulting in the death in cold blood of all, except Major General .Rafael Jalandoni, retired chief-of-staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Shot dead himself, Bernardo’s body fell from where he had stood and was soon covered with thick dust. —Sol GwekohAurora Quezon Her Life And Deeds, 1951

Accounts of the ambush said Mayor Bernardo, at the first volley, tried to shout at the attackers that they were shooting at Mrs. Quezon. The cry failed to stop the splutter of machine-gun fire. –Gonzalo Cuizon, “Huks Kill Mrs. Quezon, Baby Quezon and Mayor Bernardo,” Evening Chronicle, Second Extra, April 28, 1949

General Jalandoni, somewhat incoherent from shock, was able to recall that the motorcade carrying the Quezon party was approachinf the Nueva Ecija-Quezon boundary, a desolate, mountainous region, when the car he was riding in with Mrs. Quezon suddenly met a heavy hail of machine gun bullets as it was rounding a curve on the highway. The car was leading the motorcade and in it were Mrs. Quezon, Baby Quezon, General Jalandoni,  Philip Buencamino III, Mayor Ponciano Bernardo, with Lt-Col. Antonio San Agustin at the wheel.

All the occupants of the car except General Jalandoni, were hit by the fusillade and killed. Jalandoni related how the car stopped dead and how he went for his revolver as he saw a group of Huks approaching. Before he could shoot, he was struck on the face with a rifle butt by one of the assailants. He lost consciousness and was apparently given up for dead by the Huks.  –Gonzalo A. Cuizon, “Eyewitnesses Tell of Attack”, Manila Chronicle, April 28, 1949

General Rafael Jalandoni, former chief of staff of the Philippine army and lone survivor in Mrs. Quezon’s car, said the group of outlaws fired a volley of shots at the defenseless occupants of Mrs. Quezon’s car which was way ahead of the motorcade.

Gen. Jalandoni reported also that after the first volley Mayor Bernardo got out of the car and with raised hands yelled to the attackers: “Doña Aurora Quezon is in this party.” The Quezon City executive was shot down and the attack was intensified, Jalandoni said.

“The ambush was so sudden that the Philippine constabulary escorts were not able to fire even a single shot,” Jalandoni recounted. He said the car immediately stopped after the first volley of fire from the dissidents.

“I was about to draw my gun when a member of the gang hit my right face with the butt of his gun,” he recalled, adding “I was the first in the party to be knocked down.” He saiud the impact was so hard it rendered him unconscious. –Manila Chronicle, “Survivors Recount Treacherous Attack on Mrs. Quezon’s Party,” April 29, 1949

The place of the attacks, according to the general, was in Nueva Ecija a few miles from the Quezon boundary on the of Bongabon. Col. Antonio San Agustin, sweepstakes official, was at the wheel. Baby Aurora Quezon sat beside him, and Philip Buencamino III was at the opposite end in the front seat. The car was owned by Mayor Bernardo.

After the sudden barrage from outside, Tony San Agustin was first hit and he slumped dead, General Jalandoni narrated. Mrs. Quezon and Mayor Bernardo mortally wounded, fell on Jalandoni who presently lost consciousness when he was hit in the head by the butt of a gun presumably from one of the ambushers on the road…

General Jalandoni said Mayor Bernardo told the attackers in Tagalog Mrs. Quezon was with the party. Notwithstanding the admonition, the barrge continued. –Manila Times, “Dna. Aurora, Baby Quezon, Ten Others Murdered,” April 29, 1949

Cabanatuan, April 28 –…As one of the dissidents approached, General Jalandoni drew his gun in an effort to kill his attacker. Before he could draw, he was hit on the head with a rifle butt. Jalandoni slumped behind the wheel, unconscious. Believing he was dead, the dissidents ran to the other cars to see the rest of the members of the party. –Manila Times, “Dna. Aurora, Baby Quezon, Ten Others Murdered,” April 29, 1949

The party was approaching Villa Aurora, still on Nueva Ecija soil, and was passing through a zig-zag road on hilly terrain when the leading cards were subjected to heavy enfilading fire.

Quezon City Mayor Ponciano Bernardo, who was in the leading car with Mrs. Quezon, Baby Quezon, Maj. Gen. Rafael Jalandoni, Philip Buencamino III and Antonio San Agustin, left the car with his hands up in token of surrender and shouted: “This is Mrs. Quezon’s party.” He was shot dead as he yelled.

As all cars screeched to a stop, men swarmed around the leading car. When Gen. Jalandoni saw the outlaws, he grabbed a .45 caliber automatic pistol and was cocking it when an outlaw struck him on the check with the butt of a rifle. As he dropped to the floor of the car, he heard volleys fired into its occupants. –Manila Bulletin, “Mrs. Quezon, ‘Baby,’ Nine Others Die in Huk Ambush,” April 29, 1949

Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija, April 28. –…General Jalandoni is the lone survivor in the car of Mrs. Quezon. He related that when the ambushers came near the car he was given up for dead also because he was buried under the bodies of the Quezons, Mayor Bernardo and Tony San Agustin. –Jovito N. Reyes, special to the Manila Bulletin, April 29, 1949

General Jalandoni said that he and Mayor Ponciano Bernardo of Quezon City, who were then riding with Mrs. Quezon, immediately jumped out of the besieged car with hands up in the air. Mayor Bernardo shouted to the attackers that Mrs. Quezon was inside, probably in the belief that she would be spared by them.

Before he could gather his wits, however, Jalandoni stated that he was rendered unconscious by a gun butt blow on the right cheek. –Star Reporter, “Survivors’ Account of Ambuscade,” April 29, 1949

Cabanatuan, May 6 –The captive, Pedro Manantan, 26, an escaped convict from the Nueva Vizcaya provincial jail… confirmed previous reports that Mayor Ponciano Bernardo shouted to the Huks “Don’t shoot, Doña Aurora is here.” But Mayor Bernardo was heard only by the outposts who apparently without orders from Col. Viernes started firing at the vehicle for fear of being first fired upon by the PC escort in the jeeps following the car of Mrs. Quezon. –Manila Times, “Eyewitness Story of Ambush Told by Captured Huk,” Saturday, May 7, 1949. 

Cabanatuan, May 10 –…Pedro Manantan, who participated in the ambuscade… declared that the ambush band did not know beforehand that Mrs. Quezon was with the party. “The first car in which Doña Aurora was riding was machine-gunned when it tried to turn back upon being stopped by our companions,” he said. He himself fired four times at the Quezon car with his Garand…

When the first car attempted to get away, he declared, the Huks deployed along the road fired simultaneously at the motorcade. –Manila Times, “Huk Prisoner Gives Details of Quezon Massacre Near Baler,” May 11, 1949

10:35 AM

The dissidents, totalling* about 100 heavily armed jungle fighters, were strategically deployed about 15 meters further on the high embankments ol the zigzag road which was firmly barricaded of cut timber. Ihey continued firing from all directions on the different cars as these approached the bend until the arrival of the re-enforcement of Constabulary soldiers from Nueva Ecija when they started to flee to the forests and disperse in small groups. —Sol GwekohAurora Quezon Her Life And Deeds, 1951 

Mrs. Quezon was hit in the temple and her daughter in the chest. Buencamino was wounded also in the chest. –Gonzalo Cuizon, “Huks Kill Mrs. Quezon, Baby Quezon and Mayor Bernardo,” Evening Chronicle, Second Extra, April 28, 1949

Buencamino was hit in the chest and thigh but remained alive for a few hours after he was brought to the provincial hospital here [in Cabanatuan]. Mrs. Aurora Quezon was hit in the head, while most of the others received fatal wounds in the chest. These were Baby Quezon, Quezon City Mayor Ponciano Bernardo, Col. Primitivo San Agustin and Lt. Col. Antonio San Agustin. Lt. Juan Molina, a driver in the party, was hit in the abdomen, and Pedro Payumo, Quezon family cook in the neck. –Enrique Santos, “Buencamino Dies in NE Hospital,” Manila Chronicle, April 28, 1949

Alandy said… Buencamino was fatally shot in the left arm pit with a high caliber gun. The weapon must have been pressed against his chest by his assailant because the flesh around the entry point of the bullet was burned, he added. –Manila Chronicle, “Survivors Recount Treacherous Attack on Mrs. Quezon’s Party,” April 29, 1949

Mrs. Quezon, Baby Quezon and Mayor Bernardo were killed on the spot in the first volley. –Manila Times, “Dna. Aurora, Baby Quezon, Ten Others Murdered,” April 29, 1949


After the first volley which crippled the leading car Huk fire was concentrated on the constabulary guards. Capt. Manalang and Cpl. Silverio were able to escape death by jumping out of their jeep and taking cover under the vehicle. Manalang was wounded in the left leg and arms while Silverio, who said he feigned death, was wounded in the right leg.  –Evening News, “The Ambuscade: How It Happened,” April 29, 1949

Cpl. Raymundo said in a statement here the attackers were in a roadside ditch and opened up on the Quezon party with a machinegun. The Quezon car was followed by a PC jeep in which he, Capt. Manalang, Lazam and two other soldiers were riding. Three of them were killed instantly but Manalang and Raymundo managed to jump out of the vehicle.

Raymundo said there was a brief exchange of gunfire. He believed he was able to kill three of the attackers.. –Gonzalo A. Cuizon, “Eyewitnesses Tell of Attack”, Manila Chronicle, April 28, 1949

The second vehicle was a jeep with a constabulary guard detail under the command of Captain Olimpio Manalang. Pedro Payumo, Mrs. Quezon’s cook, was in this car together with Cpl. Raymundo Silverio and other constabulary personnel.

Third came a jeep with Juan Molina as driver. Beside him was seated Col. Primitivo San Agustin, chief of the military intelligence section, G-2, AFP. Seated behind were five constabulary men.

The fourth vehicle was a station wagon owned by Mrs. Quezon with Teodulo Villadelgado, Nonong Quezon’s driver, and two passengers whom the driver was unable to identify…–Evening News, “The Ambuscade: How It Happened,” April 29, 1949

[Joaquin Villadelgado ]: He said there were three others with him in the jeep, which was the fourth vehicle from Mrs. Quezon’s car.Two of his pssengers were killed but one, whose name he did not know, survived.

The youthful chauffeur said the convoy was going up a hill along a zig-zag road at Kilometer 168 when the ambuscade took place. Firing was from the elevated ridges on both sides of the road, but the chauffeur said “bullets came from all directions.” In the first volley he saw Col. San Agustin and his lone companion in the jeep just ahead of his, killed instantly. –Manila Chronicle, “Survivors Recount Treacherous Attack on Mrs. Quezon’s Party,” April 29, 1949

[Teodolo Villadelgado] “I remember we were driving near kilometer 168 (from Manila) when we were attacked. The road was winding up. Without any warning, I heard machine gun fire from the top of an incline overlooking us and from all around us.

“The first casualty I saw was Col. Primitivo San Agustin who was in the jeep in front of me. He died instantly with a bullet in the head. His driver was killed, too.

“When I saw the dead around me, I got scared stiff. I jumped out of my jeep and prepared to hide my watch while I was seeking cover. I thought if the bandits did not find any valuable in my possession, they would not kill me. –Manila Times, “Quezon Murder Shocks Nation,” April 29, 1949

Driver Juan Payumo of the third car was seriously wounded. Occupants of the fourth car, Dr. Alandy, Dr. Bigornia and Dr. Quisumbing, and Mrs. Angara, an elder sister of Doña Aurora, managed to escape unhurt. Seeing the cars ahead came to a dead stop as bullets pierced their sides, Car No. 4 backed out and then made a U-turn, speeding away from the scene. The dissidents were apparently determined to kill every member of the party in the first three cars. –Manila Times, “Dna. Aurora, Baby Quezon, Ten Others Murdered,” April 29, 1949

Dr. Luis Alandy, personal secretary of Mrs. Quezon gave a more coherent account of the ambuscade. He was in the fourth car and was able to turn back while the attackers were concentrating their attention on the first three cars.

Alandy said the assailants fired at close range with machine guns, instantly killing all the occupants of the first three vehicles. Machine guns raked the Buick in which the Quezons following. In the second jeep were Col. Primitivo San Agustin with five PC escorts.

The PC escort was unable to fire a single shot, so sudden was the attack. –Gonzalo A. Cuizon, “Eyewitnesses Tell of Attack”, Manila Chronicle, April 28, 1949

The fourth car was occupied by Dr. Eduardo Quisumbing, Dr. Francisco Bigornia, Dr. Luis Alandy, and Mrs. Ampara A. Angara, Mrs. Quezon’s sister. –Evening News, “The Ambuscade: How It Happened,” April 29, 1949

Mrs. Amparo Aragon de Angara, one of Mrs. Quezon’s two living sisters, told a tale of sudden death climaxed by a spectacular dash back to Bongabon in a jeep crowded with 13 persons.

“We were fourth or fifth in the motorcade,” she said with little indication of the harrowing experience she had only recently gone through. “It must have been 10:30 a.m. when it began.

“Our station wagon carried five persons – Dr. Eduardo Quisumbing, Dr. and Mrs. Francisco Vicuna, the driver and myself. In front of us was a jeep loaded with soldiers. There was another jeep said to have been cruising ahead of the former vehicle, another car and finally at the head, Mrs. Quezon and her family…

“I think it was around a bend when the first warning shots reached our ears.

“There were two or three heights well above our motorcade, and even while we heard the vehicles in front screeching to a stop bullets began to whine from those heights.

“There were shouts and loud cries, punctuated by staccato reports in rapid succession. Our station wagon lurched to a stop; and somehow we were were able to crawl out of it. Bullets were kicking up dust all around as we sought cover in ditches and shallows along the roadside. I was too frightened to even think of what was happening ahead and around us. It was plain to see that that people were being killed; there were many voices raised in pain and anguish.” –Manila Chronicle, “Survivors Recount Treacherous Attack on Mrs. Quezon’s Party,” April 29, 1949

Dr. Quisumbing said he was in a car about 15 yards behind Mrs. Quezon’s car and that he did not see the attackers… He was aware at the time, however, that the raid was conducted at close range and the brief battle was almost a hand to hand encounter…

When the firing started, Quisumbing said, he crawled under his car for safety, and after some fifteen minutes or so, managed to gather about twelve persons, including Mrs. Amparo Aragon Angara, Mrs. Quezon’s sister, inside one jeep and drive further down the zigzag trail. –Manila Times, “Quezon Murder Shocks Nation; Felipe Buencamino, III, Dies,” April 29, 1949

The driver of the fourth car was quick enough to back up his vehicle, make a U-turn and speed away to safety and brings news of the tragedy to Cabanatuan. –Evening News, “The Ambuscade: How It Happened,” April 29, 1949

Manantan estimated that there were around 200 well armed Huks in the vicinity when the Quezon ambuscade occurred. . –Manila Times, “Eyewitness Story of Ambush Told by Captured Huk,” Saturday, May 7, 1949.

10:40 AM

So sudden was the attack of a heavy hail of machine-gun bullets on the party that the escort guards did not have time to fire back even a single shot. Everybody immediately scampered for safety. —Sol GwekohAurora Quezon Her Life And Deeds, 1951

[Mrs. Amparo Aragon de Angara]: “As we lay around trying to burrow deeper away from the maddening fusillade which ripped into our area from the mountain tops and along the sides of the road, some soldiers rushed up from the rear.

“They ordered us to abandon our positions and to take to the rear and return to the town. Somehow an empty jeep was found.

“All five persons in our party piled inside and eight others from other vehicles joined us. The firing grew more intense as as we groped past the litter. Someone took the wheel and in a short time we were speeding away from the scene of the ambuscade.

“I don’t think there were any injured in our party.” –Manila Chronicle, “Survivors Recount Treacherous Attack on Mrs. Quezon’s Party,” April 29, 1949

Mrs. Amparo Aragon de Angara, sister to Mrs. Quezon, declared that she was riding in a station wagon some four or five cars behind that of Mrs. Quezon. Among those with her were Dr. Eduardo Quisumbing, director of the national museum, and others.

Then all of a sudden, they heard machine gun fire way up ahead followed by shrieks and yells of pain. In a sudden dash for life, she and companions rushed out of their car and hugged the nearby ditches to escape the bullets which menaced them from all directions.

Shortly afterwards, their PC escorts caught up with them from the rear and instructed them to return to Bongabong awaited the arrival of casualties. She said she was too confused and dazed to be able to determine who their ambushers were. Star Reporter, “Survivors’ Account of Ambuscade,” April 29, 1949

Several other cars at the tail of the party also were able to make a getaway. In one of these was Director Silayan who sped to Bongabon and was able to ask Capt. Dominador Alo’s A Company, 1st combat battalion, PC to rush to the scene. –Evening News, “The Ambuscade: How It Happened,” April 29, 1949

Francisco D. Marquez, administrative officer of the department of agriculture and executive officer of the food production campaign, and P.C. Guevarra of the bureau of public works said they missed the shooting by about 20 minutes.

The two officials, who were riding in separate cars, said they got lost on the way. They recalled that when they were about to arrive at the scene of the shooting they met constabulary soldiers in a jeep who were on their way to get reinforcements from the Bongabon detachment. They said the soldiers told them to return. –Manila Chronicle, “Survivors Recount Treacherous Attack on Mrs. Quezon’s Party,” April 29, 1949

According to Francisco Marquez, administrative officer of the department of agriculture… he was riding in the seventh car from Mrs. Quezon’s. After the party had reached the boundary separating Quezon and Nueva Ecija, they heard a volley of shots and a PC courier came rushing to them. “Si Mrs. Quezon naharang” he breathlessly announced to them. This was between 10:30 and 11 o’clock yesterday morning. –Rosalinda Orosa, “Grieving Hundreds Crowd Funeral Parlor to View Mrs. Quezon’s Body,” Manila Chronicle, April 29, 1949

Silayan’s car was the seventh in the motorcade, and it was about two kilometers behind when the shooting took place. Silayan said he and his companion in the car, Arturo Nitorreda, district engineer of Nueva Ecija, heard the rat-tat-tat of machine guns.

A few minutes later they saw the cars in front of them returning and warning all the rest to turn back. –Manila Times, “Quezon Murder Shocks Nation; Felipe Buencamino, III, Dies,” April 29, 1949

…Hilarion Silayan, member of the Philippine presidential committee on social amelioration… said that he owed his life to the fact that his car had dropped back to seventh place in the caravan.

Silayan said that one rebel leaped out onto the road and ordered the first vehicle to stop. The bandit ordered Maj. Gen. Rafael Jalandoni, former chief of staff of the Philippine Army, out of the auto, and struck him in the head with the butt of his rife.

Gen. Jalandoni collapsed, Silayan related, and this was followed immediately by burst of machine gun and small arms fire from men hidden in bushes along the side of the highway.

The gunfire instantly killed the occupants of the first few cars of the group, Silayan reported, while the other motorists fled towards the rear of the caravan. Firing continued for several minutes between the bandits and constabularymen before the bandits were driven off. –Evening Chronicle, “Asistio Heads PC Expedition,” April 29, 1949

10:45 AM

From their victims the dissidents stole whatever they could. Robbed from Doña Aurora were her money and all the jewelry she wore —an engagement ring, a wedding ring, a diamond studded wrist watch, and a necklace closely resembling the rosary beads. Later the Constabulary recovered her bullet-ridden residence certificate for the year 1945 when taken from the body of an unidentified dissident during an operation of the famous Nenita commandoes in  Nueva Ecija on the lawless elements, and a black bag of alligator skin which still contained the unfinished bed- spread which she had started to knit in Manila. —Sol GwekohAurora Quezon Her Life And Deeds, 1951

It was believed that the ambush perpetrators dragged the victims on the ground after they were killed. –Gonzalo A. Cuizon, “Eyewitnesses Tell of Attack”, Manila Chronicle, April 28, 1949 

After the ambush, the dissidents filed onto the road, stripped the dead of jewelry and valuables, and robbed the survivors, Raymundo said he feigned death probably saving his life, and was picked up by PC rescuers 15 minutes later. –Gonzalo A. Cuizon, “Eyewitnesses Tell of Attack”, Manila Chronicle, April 28, 1949

Indications are that the bodies of all the occupants of the first car were dragged outside and shorn of all jewelry. —–Evening News, “The Ambuscade: How It Happened,” April 29, 1949

The former army chief of staff said the band looted the dead wounded. He said the outlaws stripped Mrs. Quezon of all her jewelry and took his own wrist watch and gold identification wrist tag. –Manila Chronicle, “Survivors Recount Treacherous Attack on Mrs. Quezon’s Party,” April 29, 1949

The general also disclosed that the bandits stripped Mrs. Quezon’s body of the jewels she wore. The gang also robbed Jalandoni of his signet ring while he was unconscious. –Manila Times, “Dna. Aurora, Baby Quezon, Ten Others Murdered,” April 29, 1949

Mrs. Quezon was shorn of everything except an earring in the right ear. –Manila Chronicle, “Mrs. Quezon Funeral Today; 11 Others Slain In Massacre,” April 29, 1949

…in addition to looting their bodies of money and jewelry, he [Jalandoni] heard some of the killers shout, “Buhay pa iyan. Todasin ninyo silang lahat.” (That one is still alive. Wipe them all out). –Manila Times, “Ex-Chief of Staff Givs First-Hand Story of Massacre,” April 30, 1949

“After a while,” he continued, “we stopped firing and our companions, mostly Huk officers, approached the cars and started relieving the victims of their money and valuables.” –Manila Times, “Huk Prisoner Gives Details of Quezon Massacre Near Baler,” May 11, 1949

11:00 AM

The dissidents, totalling about 100 heavily armed jungle fighters, were strategically deployed about 15 meters further on the high embankments ol the zigzag road which was firmly barricaded of cut timber. they continued firing from all directions on the different cars as these approached the bend until the arrival of the re-enforcement of Constabulary soldiers from Nueva Ecija when they started to flee to the forests and disperse in small groups… Sol GwekohAurora Quezon Her Life And Deeds, 1951

Dr. Quisumbing said the… Huks fled, however, he said, when the constabulary soldiers arrived. Dr. Quisumbing recalled that all those in his car immediately got off when the shooting had cleared and assisted Gen. Jalandoni and PC soldiers in placing the bodies in one car. –Manila Chronicle, “Survivors Recount Treacherous Attack on Mrs. Quezon’s Party,” April 29, 1949

11:30 AM

When Jalandoni regained consciousness later, he found the life- less bodies of Doha Aurora and her daughter, Maria Aurora, piled on top of him. The wounds inflicted in her head caused the instant death of Doña Aurora… Sol GwekohAurora Quezon Her Life And Deeds, 1951

General Jalandoni said that when he recovered consciousness, all the Huks had gone. He looked around and saw that all the occupants of the car and jeep were either dead or seriously wounded. The bodies had been stripped of valuables. Pedro Payumo, a Malacañan driver riding in the third jeep was seriously wounded. –Gonzalo A. Cuizon, “Eyewitnesses Tell of Attack”, Manila Chronicle, April 28, 1949

Jalandoni said that after regaining consciousness, he saw the lifeless bodies of Miss Maria Aurora “Baby” Quezon, Mrs. Quezon and Mayor Ponciano Bernardo piled on top of him. He said he did not know how he came out alive. –Manila Chronicle, “Survivors Recount Treacherous Attack on Mrs. Quezon’s Party,” April 29, 1949.

[Jalandoni] said he regained consciousness when the PC troops led by Major Burgosino Fausto started firing at the outlaws who then retreated in disorderly fashion towards the Sierra Madre mountains. –Manila Bulletin, “Mrs. Quezon, ‘Baby,’ Nine Others Die in Huk Ambush,” April 29, 1949

When he came to, after several minutes, Jalandoni found that all his companions in the automobile were already dead, except Philip Buencamino, III, who was seriously wounded. On closer scrutiny the retired army boss further discovered that the attackers had also relieved Mrs. Quezon and the other victims of their jewelry and valuables. –Star Reporter, “Survivors’ Account of Ambuscade,” April 29, 1949

[JVilladelgado ]:  The chauffeur said that when he realized it was an ambush he jumped out of the car into a ditch on the side of the road. After the firing had died down, an armed man came and stood right over him and poised his rifle to shoot. At that moment, however, one of the ambushers yelled: “The PC’s are coming” and the man ran away.

Checking up after the outlaws had withdrawn, the chauffeur said that he thought every one in Mrs. Quezon’s car had been killed but later he saw that Gen. Jalandoni was alive. –Manila Chronicle, “Survivors Recount Treacherous Attack on Mrs. Quezon’s Party,” April 29, 1949


“While I was in the act of hiding my watch, I saw men about two steps away from me, looking down at me fron an elevated position. One of them wanted to kill me and prepared to aim. Then I heard someone shout, “Don’t kill him!”

“Suddenly a man shouted at the top of the voice, “PC! PC! PC!”

“The bandits withdrew hurriedly when PC reinforcements started firing back at them. When the soldiers arrived, I gathered enough courage and stood up. I rushed to Mrs. Quezon’s car and saw her dead, hit at the back of her head. They also killed Mayor Ponciano Bernardo. The only passenger in the death car who escaped unscathed was General Jalandoni.

“Col. Antonio San Agustin, who was driving the car, was killed on the spot. I saw Philip Buencamino III at San Agustin’s right, slumped on his seat, while Baby Quezon remained sprawled on her seat.” –Manila Times, “Quezon Murder Shocks Nation,” April 29, 1949

Seeing the reinforcements come, the attackers scampered away. The bodies of the dead and wounded were then gathered and taken to Cabanatuan. –Evening News, “The Ambuscade: How It Happened,” April 29, 1949

Adiong, the youthful-looking Quezon family driver, was left to live during the ambush, because the murderers, in an unexplainable stroke of charity, thought him too young to die. Rushing to the front car when the ambushers had gone, Adiong found Philip lying on the front seat, his side dripping red blood. Philip smiled at Adiong and in his usual confident way said clear, natural tones “Malakas pa ako” – “I am still strong”. To demonstrate his strength Philip said, “Tingan mo” – “Look”, and dipping his finger in his own blood wrote on the back rest of the front seat the words “HOPE IN GOD”.

When they placed him on the jitney for Cabanatuan, Philip’s bloody hands were fingering his rosary and his parched lips were moving in prayer to Mary, the Mother of God. –Raul S. Manglapus, “Philip Buencamino: A message spelled in blood,” The Cross, May, 1949

11:45 AM

The ambushers were later identified by the drivers and passengers of several trucks to be a gang of marauders. The former were herded together under a tree about 200 meters from the spot where Dona Aurora was murdered and detained until the attack on the Quezon party was over, when one member of the gang told them, “Go now as your white-haired Mrs. Quezon is already dead.“ —Sol GwekohAurora Quezon Her Life And Deeds, 1951

Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija, April 28. — Reports that the Huks were waiting for the party of Doña Aurora were brought here by drivers of the Cabanatuan lumber company who were held up near the scene of the ambush early this morning reached this capital.

The drivers, who were stripped of all valuables, were not released until after the ambuscade of Doña Aurora was over.

The Huks, before releasing the drivers said: “You can go now as your Mrs. Quezon with the white hair is already dead.” –Manila Chronicle, Friday, April 29, 1949

The identity of the ambush gang as Huks was confirmed by drivers of the Cabanatuan Lumber company who were ambushed on the same spot earlier. The drivers said that they were detained by the Huks until the attack was over, following which they were released. One of the Huks the drivers said, told them: “Go now as your white-haired Mrs. Quezon is already dead.” –Evening News, “The Ambuscade: How It Happened,” April 29, 1949

12:00 PM

Several cars and jeeps following behind the two cars were able to return to Bongabon before noon today. –Gonzalo Cuizon, “Huks Kill Mrs. Quezon, Baby Quezon and Mayor Bernardo,” Evening Chronicle Final Second Extra, April 28, 1949

[Mrs. Amparo Aragon de Angara]: “We reached Bongabon crushed and bruised. Someone helped me out; I felt very weak since Dr. Quisumbing and other equally hefty persons sat hard by me or on top.” –Manila Chronicle, “Survivors Recount Treacherous Attack on Mrs. Quezon’s Party,” April 29, 1949

News of the ambuscade reached Col. Angel Magallanes, provincial commander, while he was conferring with Governor Juan O. Chioco yesterday noon [April 28, 1949]. Magallanes immediately left taking along all available reinforcements and rushed to the scene of the ambush.

Chioco wired Secretary Sotero Baluyot for a reconnaissance plane to be dispatched to the area. –Evening News, “The Ambuscade: How It Happened,” April 29, 1949

Captain Hernandez said that when he arrived on the scene of the ambuscade, he saw only Captains Manalang and Burgosino Fausto exchanging shots with the Huks, the other members of the escort guard having either been killed or wounded.

Badly wounded, Captain Manalang, his ammunition exhausted, reserved his last bullet for any of the Huks who might have come near him. Captain Fausto made it hot for the Huks, fighting savagely behind a big trunk of a tree. –Manila Times, “Ex-Chief of Staff Givs First-Hand Story of Massacre,” April 30, 1949 

1:00 PM

[Mrs. Amparo Aragon de Angara]: “I remember saying we should all go to church for prayer. We prayed for a long time. It was past noon when we emerged to find the bodies of Mrs. Quezon and others in the group had already been brought to town. Philip was not yet dead then. There were many whose clothes were stained with blood. But I could not tell nor count the dead and the wounded. I was too exhausted.” –Manila Chronicle, “Survivors Recount Treacherous Attack on Mrs. Quezon’s Party,” April 29, 1949

The victim’s vehicles, including the Buick car of Mrs. Quezon, were all left on the scene of the ambush as they were all riddled with machine gun bullets, including the vital parts of the machines.

The bodies of the victims were rushed to the provincial hospital in a station wagon and an army ambulance. The bodies of Mrs. Quezon and her daughter Baby were placed inside the station wagon, while those of the two San Agustin brothers and driver Molina were tucked on the rear compartment with their feet sticking out to the rear.

The exposed dead bodies attracted immediate attention as the vehicles rushed through this town…

All the bodies could not be recognized with thick dust which enveloped the faces and exposed parts. –Gonzalo A. Cuizon, “Eyewitnesses Tell of Attack”, Manila Chronicle, April 28, 1949

The former PA chief of staff said that after the smoke had cleared, the bodies of the victims together with the wounded were rushed to Cabanatuan. –Manila Chronicle, “Survivors Recount Treacherous Attack on Mrs. Quezon’s Party,” April 29, 1949

2:00 PM

News of the tragedy was immediately communicated to the surviving children. Maria Zeneida (Nini), who was first contacted at her Gilmore Avenue home, was prostrate with shock upon getting the information. She in turn notified her brother, Manuel, Jr. (Nonong), then vacationing at the home of Mrs. Consuelo Cuyugan in Baclaran, Rizal, about the massacre. Upon learning of the tragedy, Mrs.  Cuyugan’* recalled that during Doha Aurora’s visit to her home the previous Monday, Doha Aurora told her “to look after Nonong who is not so strong.” She wondered if Doha Aurora had any premonition that something fatal would happen to her soon. —Sol GwekohAurora Quezon Her Life And Deeds, 1951


Philip Buencamino III arrived at the provincial hospital at 2:00 o’clock this afternoon still alive, but died after two and half hours of agony. He sustained four fatal wounds. Gen. Jalandoni was desparately looking for a plane to carry Philip to Manila for the necessary blood transfusion but there was no available plane.

Gov. Juan O. Chioco and Board Member Sixto Lustre, who were the first provincial official to reach the hospital this afternoon, also tried to aid in locating a plane. Gov. Chioco even wired for blood from the Manila Red Cross bnlood bank. –Gonzalo A. Cuizon, “Eyewitnesses Tell of Attack”, Manila Chronicle, April 28, 1949

The wounded arrived at the Cabanatuan provincial hospital by mid-afternoon. A serious problem of blood plasma supply faced the doctors. –Evening News, “The Ambuscade: How It Happened,” April 29, 1949

Baguio, April 28. –President Quirino was shocked by the news of Mrs. Quezon’s tragic death. It rendered him speechless for some minutes just after he had awakened from his siesta this afternoon. The news was breached to him by his son, Tommy, in the presence of Chief Justice and Mrs. Manuel V. Moran, Mrs. Nila Mendoza, Mrs. Filadelfo Rojas and his physician, Dr. Fernando Martires.

Dr. Martires, who stood by ready with coramine ampule, saw no need for injection, however, when he saw the Apo recover from paleness. –Manila Chronicle, “The President’s Day,” April 28, 1949

Physicians who attended to Felipe Buencamino III, recalled having been informed by Mrs. Quezon’s son-in-law, before expiring, that the men who committed the massacre were Huks. –Manila Times, “Ex-Chief of Staff Givs First-Hand Story of Massacre,” April 30, 1949

3:00 PM

Philip Buencamino III’s last words were “Dios ko!” He lapsed into a coma after uttering this cry and expired at 3 o’clock this afternoon.

Earlier he had asked that his father, Dr. Victor Buencamino, be notified by telegram to Manila. “Call a priest, I am dying,” he said. He was given the last sacraments of the Catholic church. –Enrique Santos, “Buencamino Dies in NE Hospital,” Manila Chronicle, April 28, 1949

Mrs. [Miss] Amador said she was beside Philip when he died. His last words were: “Enriqueta, please take a good care of my darlings”, referring to his wife, the former Zenaida Quezon, and baby. –Manila Times, “Dna. Aurora, Baby Quezon, Ten Others Murdered,” April 29, 1949


Buencamino died at 3:15 p.m. and Payumo three hours later…

Blood plasma intended for him arrived in Cabanatuan aboard a Philippine Army headquarters plane two hours late. –Manila Chronicle, “Mrs. Quezon Funeral Today; 11 Others Slain In Massacre,” April 29, 1949

3:30 PM

Buencamino however expired at around 3:30.

Mrs. Enriqueta de Amador who was at Buencamino’s bedside till the last said that as Philip was about to die he said: “Enriqueta, please take good care of my darlings.” Then he gasped, “My God,” and died. Earlier he asked for a priest. –Evening News, “The Ambuscade: How It Happened,” April 29, 1949

4:00 PM

As the merciless murder was perpetuated about 168 kilometers away from Manila, the capital city of the Philippines, nothing was known about the fateful event until late in the afternoon when the metropolitan newspapers issued their first “extra” closely followed by a second, and the radio broadcasting stations made special news flashes at regular intervals of the tragedy.

The Manila Times Extra of that day carried the banner, Dna. Aurora, Baby Quezon, Eight Others, Killed by Huks, while the Evening Chronicle Extra ran this streamer, Huks Kill Mrs. Quezon, Baby Quezon and Mayor Bernardo. Both the newspaper readers and the radio listeners were stunned, shocked by the news!  Sol GwekohAurora Quezon Her Life And Deeds, 1951

The death of Mrs. Quezon, her daughter Baby, and Mayor Ponciano Bernardo of Quezon City was reported to Manila by Governor Juan Chioco of Nueva Ecija in a telegram received at 4 o’clock this afternoon by Dr. Herminio Yanzon, manager of the Philippine Red Cross. –Gonzalo Cuizon, “Huks Kill Mrs. Quezon, Baby Quezon and Mayor Bernardo,” Evening Chronicle, Second Extra, April 28, 1949

When news of the ambuscade was flashed and Philip was reported only “slightly wounded,” Nini remained in a state of dry-eyed disquiet. “Are you sure you are not withholding anything from me?” she asked friends. “If he is only slightly wounded, then why doesn’t he wire or phone me?” She insisted on flying to Bongabon, but they wouldn’t let her go. . –Rosario Mencias Querol, “Premonitions: Beads, Dreams,” Evening News, April 29, 1949

Mrs. Nini Quezon Buencamino, here in Manila, learned of the tragic incident through a phone call. Wanting to vertify she called up Mansion House, and was informed that her mother and siser Baby were dead.  She then relayed the news by phone to her brother Nonong who had gone to spend the day with Mrs. Consuelo Cuyugan, whom the family calls “Ninang.” . –Manila Times, “Nini, With Child, Bears Up Bravely In Triple Tragedy,” April 29, 1949

4:10 PM

…Villadelgado was driving Mrs. Quezon’s jeep bearing plate No. 7470, with two members of the party he could not identify…

The two members of the party who rode in Villadelgado’s jeep were killed. After his miraculous escape from the ambuscade, the driver turned back his bullet-ridden jeep to Cabanatuan. He left Cabanatuan at 4:10 p.m. and arrived at Malacañan at 7:30 in the evening,

Villadelgado, who is known as Master Nonong Quezon’s driver, reported to Secretary Evangelista upon arrival at Malacañan. His khaki pants and shirts were stained with blood, which he said must have come from his passengers who were killed. –Manila Times, “Quezon Murder Shocks Nation,” April 29, 1949


4:30 PM

At 4:30 p.m. the Red Cross was able to dispatch a Philippine Army plane to Cabanatuan bringing with it 20,000 cubic centimeters of plasma and 5,000 cubic centimeters of fresh blood. –Manila Times, “Rush To Give Blood To Massacre Victims,” April 29, 1949

4:50 PM


[M]ore than 200 persons persons… presented themselves at Philippine Red Cross headquarters and offered to give their blood in response to a radio appeal which had been broadcast shortly before 5 p.m. yesterday… [April 28, 1949]. –Manila Times, “Rush To Give Blood To Massacre Victims,” April 29, 1949

5:00 PM 

As the funeral cortege went through Nueva Ecija and Bulacan yesterday [April 28, 1949], people in towns and barrios looked in silence at the three coffins being brought by a funeral car and ambulance to Manila… –Enrique B. Santos, “Bulacan, Nueva Ecija Folk Aghast Over Shocking Murder,” Manila Bulletin, April 29, 1949

7:10 PM

Seven bodies, including those of Doña Aurora, her daughter, Baby; Philip Buencamino, Mayor Ponciano Bernardo, Cols. Primitivo San Agustin , and a driver arrived in Manila at 7:10 o’ clock last night. They were taken directly to the Funeraria Nacional in Rizal Avenue.

A large crowd went to the funeral parlor to view the remains and talk to the members of the party. So large was the crowd that the police had to suspend the traffic on Rizal Avenue and to close the Funeraria.  –Manila Times, “Dna. Aurora, Baby Quezon, Ten Others Murdered,” April 29, 1949

7:30 PM

Hundreds of shocked mutely grieving people poured into the Funeraria Nacional last night in the hope of catching a glimpse of the bodies of their beloved Mrs. Aurora A. Quezon and her daughter “Baby.” The sad news of their deaths had spread with such rapidity and had so electrified Manilans that by 7:30 the doorway of the funeral parlor had become almost impassable.

People from all walks of life came and went for hours on end. There were the rich, the poor, and the middle classes. There were Chinese in undershirts and Spaniards impeccably dressed. There were the old and the fretting young. And in that motley group were expressions which ran the gamut of emotion. Men cried unashamedly while women sat huddled together sobbing and moaning. –Rosalinda Orosa, “Grieving Hundreds Crowd Funeral Parlor to View Mrs. Quezon’s Body,” Manila Chronicle, April 29, 1949

The bodies of seven victims, including the Quezons, were brought back to Manila at 7:30 last night [April 28, 1949] in motorcars, escorted by Governor Juan O. Chioco of Nueva Ecija and a detachment of Constabulary armored cars. –Manila Chronicle, “Quirino Will Be at Rites,” April 29, 1949

7:45 PM


As soon as the seven caskets bearing the bodies arrived, they were immediately rushed to the morgue behind the parlor and guards barred the curious from its doors. Observers went home disappointed. –Rosalinda Orosa, “Grieving Hundreds Crowd Funeral Parlor to View Mrs. Quezon’s Body,” Manila Chronicle, April 29, 1949

Joaquin Villadelgado, chauffeur of Mrs. Quezon since 1946. After the shooting, he drove the jeep he was driving to Cabanatuan and later from Cabanatuan to Manila alone.

He arrived at Malacañan shortly before 8 p.m., his khaki shirt and pants splattered with blood stains. –Manila Chronicle, “Survivors Recount Treacherous Attack on Mrs. Quezon’s Party,” April 29, 1949

8:00 PM

The bodies of the Quezons arrived in Manila late in the night of that ill-fated Thursday, accompanied by Jalandoni. Upon instructions of the living children, the remains were immediately sealed in bronze caskets, so the eager hut sorrowing public was not allowed a view of them. Then, as the remains were brought to the Santo Rosario chapel of the University of Santo Tomas a large crowd of people from all walks of life not only followed but kept vigil day and night until the hour of interment on Friday afternoon…

At the chapel a small group of distinguished women and selected Red Cross workers stood guard at the casket containing the body of Dona Aurora. It was draped with the flag of the Philippines, “symbolic of the nation’s ac-knowledgment of her greatness.*’ The thick lei of fresh sampaguita and ilang-ilang blossoms, placed by her family on top of the casket, reminded the persons closed to her of the flowers that she was fond of wearing in her life time. —Sol GwekohAurora Quezon Her Life And Deeds, 1951

[Mrs. Amparo Aragon vda. de Angara] was remarkably composed while was relating the unfortunate incident broke down completely when her sister Mrs. Emilia Aragon Vda. de Angara [Amador]  arrived at the parlor. The two who are the only remaining sisters of the late Mrs. Quezon embraced each other and fell into pitiable weeping. –Rosalinda Orosa, “Grieving Hundreds Crowd Funeral Parlor to View Mrs. Quezon’s Body,” Manila Chronicle, April 29, 1949

Funeral arrangements were made according to the request of the children of the deceased. Jose Yulo is taking charge of all arrangements, and these include early mass at the Quezon home in Gilmore, which is a personal request of Nonong’s…

The bodies will most probably not be embalmed as Nini and Nonong wish they they be buried as soon as possible without much fuss. She also requested that the coffins remain covered as she had known her sister Baby to dislike such a practice. . –Manila Times, “Nini, With Child, Bears Up Bravely In Triple Tragedy,” April 29, 1949


9:00 PM

The casualty list as officially reported in Malacañan as of 9 o’clock last night [April 28, 1949].

Known dead:

1.   Doña Aurora A. Quezon

2.   Miss Maria Aurora (Baby) Quezon, Mrs. Quezon’s daughter.

3.   Philip Buencamino III, Mrs. Quezon’s son-in-law.

4.   Mayor Ponciano Bernardo of Quezon City.

5.   Col. Primitivo San Agustin, chief of the army military intelligence service.

6.   Major Antonio San Agustin, assistant manager of the Philippine charity sweepstakes office.

7.   Juan Molina, relative of Mrs. Quezon.

8.   Pedro Payumo, President Quezon’s cook and driver.

9.   Lt. Diosdado Lazam, PC

10.                Corporal Quirino Almarines, PC

11.                Corporal Brigido Almarines, PC

Known wounded:

1.   General Rafael Jalandoni, former army chief of staff.

2.   Captain Olimpio Manalang, PC.

3.   Captain Raymundo Silvero, PC.

Reported missing Antonio Arabejo, driver of Col. Primitivo San Agustin.

The survivors included: General Rafael Jalandoni, Dr. Eduardo Quisumbing, former Governor and Mrs. Maximo Rodriguez, Mrs. Sixto de la Costa, Dr. Luis Alandy, Mayor and Mrs. Pedro Alcantara, Dr. and Mrs. Francisco Vicuña, Mrs. and Mrs. Ciceron Guerrero, Francisco D. Marquez, Jose Alejandrino, P.C. Guevarra, Cesar Valenzuela, David Valenzuela, Jose Salvosa, Engineer Nitoreda, Mrs. Amparo de Angara, Mrs. Enriqueta Amador and Mrs. Calara de Zubia. –Manila Bulletin, “Mrs. Quezon, ‘Baby,’ Nine Others Die in Huk Ambush,” April 29, 1949

10:00 PM

Up to 10 o’clock last night more than 200 persons of all nationalities, with Filipinos and Americans predominating, had presented themselves at Philippine Red Cross headquarters and offered to give their blood in response to a radio appeal which had been broadcast shortly before 5 p.m. yesterday [April 28, 1949]…

Although many offered to give blood, a considerable number was rejected due to the fact that what was desired was only Type O blood, the universal type. Of the total number of persons who were examined by Red Cross doctors, only about 50 had been accepted up to shortly before 10 o’clock last night.

To Francisco Ortigas, Jr. belongs the honor of being the first successful donor of Type O blood. –Manila Times, “Rush To Give Blood To Massacre Victims,” April 29, 1949

11:00 PM

The bodies of Mrs. Quezon, Baby Quezon and Philip Buencamino III were transferred last night [April 28, 1949]  to the Santo Tomas University chapel from the Funeraria Nacional, where they were first taken. . –Manila Chronicle, “Quirino Will Be at Rites,” April 29, 1949

April 29, 1949

As Dona Aurora was buried on that Friday afternoon, the Philippine official tricolor flew at half-mast at all public buildings and government offices throughout the country “in memory of the great and noble lady.” —Sol GwekohAurora Quezon Her Life And Deeds, 1951


April 29. –[T]he body of Lieut. Deogracias M. Arabejo was recovered from the scene of the ambush this morning and was transferred to Manila. It was further learned the body of Lieut. Joaquin R. Lasam, one of the PC escorts killed, was looted by the Huks of P700. The automobile of Mayor Ponciano Bernardo, where Mrs. Quezon was killed, was towed to Cabanatuan. It was riddled by more than 30 bullet holes. –Manila Times, “Ex-Chief of Staff Givs First-Hand Story of Massacre,” April 30, 1949

At the second PC dispensary, the body of Lt. Diosdado Lasam lay in a silk-lined coffin, dressed in his white gala uniform. He was brought home to his mother this morning, One of his enlisted men told me that the night before the ambuscade, the lieutenant had invited two of his men to go around the town with him. These two, Pfc. Brigido Valdes and Corp. Quirino Almarines, were also killed with him the jeep of Capt. Manalang.

The bodies of the PC enlisted men and Lt. D.M. Arabejo were also in the dispensary. Each had at least five bullet holes in different parts of the body. –Enrique B. Santos, “Bulacan, Nueva Ecija Folk Aghast Over Shocking Murder,” Manila Bulletin, April 29, 1949


Arrangements for the funeral of Mrs. Quezon were made by a committee created on direction of President Quirino, composed of former Speaker Jose Yulo, chairman; Dr. Manuel Lim (Red Cross), vice chairman; and Miss Manuela Gay  (Catholic Women’s League), Mrs. Francisca T. Benitez (Civic organizations), Secretary of Labor Primitivo Lovina (cabinet), Delfin Buencamino (government corporations), Senator Lorenzo Tañada (senate), Congressman Tomas Morato (congress), Mayor Manuel de la Fuente (Manila), Aurerlio Intertas (labor), Felipe Buencamino, Jr. (family),. Mrs. Trinidad F. Legarda (National Federation of Women’s Clubs), Maj. Gen. Mariano N. Castañeda (armed forces), Dr. Antonio G. Sison and Minister Ramon Fernandez, members.

The committee will meet at 8 a.m. today at the council of state room, Malacañan, to mke arrangements on the vigils and the funeral details.

The VSAC, YLAC, and Girl Scouts of the Philippines will take charge of the vigil and funderal arrangements for Baby Quezon. The Ateneo Alumni Association, Malacañan Press Association and the department of foreign affairs will be in charge of the vigil and funeral arrangementsfor Philip Buencamino III.

From 6 a.m. today there will be masses at the University of Santo Tomas chapel, the final mass to be at 9 or 9:30 a.m. when the President will be in attendance, Bishop Rufino Santos, of Manila, will say the last mass and will give the last blessing at the cemetery during interment. –Manila Bulletin, “Mrs. Quezon, ‘Baby,’ Nine Others Die in Huk Ambush,” April 29, 1949

More than 5,000 people from all walks of life lingered in grim silence inside the jam-[acked chapel and the adjacent grounds of the university…

President Quirino will be the principal pall bearer from the altar of the UST chapel to the door of the chapel in the funeral of Mrs. Quezon and her two children, which will be held at 4:30 this afternoon.

Other pall bearers from the chapel to the door are Acting Senate President Mariano Cuenco, Speaker Eugenio Perez, Chief Justice Manuel Moran, Mrs. Francisca Benitez.

The pall bearers for “Baby” Quezon are: representatives of the YSAC, the Girl Scouts, the YLAC, Assumption, and UST.

The pall bearers for Philip Buencamnio will be Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Felipe Neri, and representatives from the Ateneo Alumni association, Malacañan Press Association, UST, and USAFFE veterans.

The route of the motorized cortege is as follows:

UST chapel, P. Noval, P. Campa, España-P. Paredes, Quezon Boulevard, Azcarraga, Rizal Avenue, Blumentritt, North Cemetery…

The coffins will be taken out of the funeral cars in front of the veteran’s mausoleum in the cemetery, and will be carried by members of the Quezon and Buencamino families from that spot to the funeral lot. –Evening Chronicle, “Quirino Here for Quezon Last Rites,” Friday, April 29, 1949

9:26 AM


The President in a white linen suit, with a black tie and a black band around his left arm, entered the chapel about 9:26 a.m. today with his daughter Vicky. A hush fell on the chapel as he came escorted by aides. He had just arrived by plane from Baguio a few minutes before…

Almost at the same time, Nini and Nonong Quezon appeared at the altar, to which they had quietly slipped by a backdoor. Nonong, his eyes red, immediately proceeded to pray. Nini looked at the caskets for a while then told a friend, “I want to know where they are,” meaning she wished to findf out which body was in what coffin. She refused to have the caskets opened.

The caskets of Mrs. Quezon and Mayor Ponciano Bernardo were draped with Red Cross flags. Quezon City policemen stood vigil over Bernardo’s casket, Red Cross personnel over Mrs. Quezon’s, and Girl Scouts over Baby’s and Philip Buencamino’s…

Many of those who went to the chapel were disappointed at not having been able to have a last look at Mrs. Quezon. They said they had no opportunity to see the late President’s widow in person in her lifetime. –Evening News, “Quirino Mourns at Quezon Bier,” Friday, April 29, 1949


12:00 PM

[T]he cabinet, with President Quirino presiding, yesterday [April 29, 1949] noon heard the first eye-witness account of the tragedy… by Major General Rafael Jalandoni… who had been summoned by President Quirino. –Manila Times, “Ex-Chief of Staff Givs First-Hand Story of Massacre,” April 30, 1949

2:00 PM


As early as 2 o’clock in the afternoon, thousands upon thousands gathered at the UST grounds, lined up both sides of the streets where the funeral would pass and filled the North Cemetery. The blazing sun beat down mercilessly on the milling crowd. But they stood their ground patiently.  –Manila Chronicle, “Thousands Grieve as Bodies of Quezons Are Laid to Rest,” April 30, 1949

4:00 PM


Although the funeral ceremony was scheduled at four o’clock in the afternoon, yet long before that hour the mourners and the general public had started gathering at the chapel. By the time the religious rites had begun, the chapel became so crowded that guards of honor were posted by the different organizations to which Dona Aurora and her daughter, Maria Aurora (Baby), had belonged, like the Philippine National Red Cross, the Girl Scouts of the Philippines, the National Federation of Women’s Clubs, and the Young Ladies Association of Charity (YLAC). —Sol GwekohAurora Quezon Her Life And Deeds, 1951


The three bronze caskets were in a row just in front of the chancel rail, with Mrs. Quezon in the center. The coffin containing the body of the of the former first Lady was draped in the flag of the Republic of the Philippines. Lying on top was a thick lei of sampaguita and ilang-ilang blossoms, like those she was always so fond of wearing. It had been placed there by her family… Baby Quezon’s casket was draped in the red and white YLAC banner and the gold and green flag of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines. –Manila Bulletin, “Mrs. Quezon Laid to Rest; Quirino Wars on Outlaws,” April 30, 1949

Three hundred thousand people turned out yesterday [April 29, 1949] either to take part in or witness the funeral cortege as it wended its way slowly and solemnly from the University of Santo Tomas chapel to the cemetery… A great number of cars, estimated at no less than 1,000, formed part of the procession. –Manila Chronicle, “Thousands Grieve as Bodies of Quezons Are Laid to Rest,” April 30, 1949


4:30 PM


After the 25-minute religious ceremony in the chapel, the casket was moved from the altar to the chapel door with President of the Philippines Elpidio Quirino acting as one of the principal pallbearers.

As the casket was lifted into a motorized unit outside the chapel, the Philippine Army band played Nearer My God To Thee. The pallbearers accompanied the casket to the university campus gate where the procession was formed. The solemn funeral cortege which inched slowly passed P. Noval, P. Tampa, Espana, Quezon Boulevard, Rizal Avenue, and Blumentritt, and then proceeded to the North Cemetery.

At the head of the cortege were the Philippine flag and a motorcycle escort ; then followed closely the three funeral coaches loaded with floral tributes, a contingent of uniformed Manila policemen, a detail of the city firemen, and the Philippine Army band led by Major Laureano Carino.

The leading car was a black Packard limousine in which rode President Quirino with his daughter, Miss Victoria (Vicky) Quirino, and his senior aide. Trailing behind were car No. 12-J which was occupied by the Quezon family, the car of acting Senate President Cuenco, and that of Speaker Perez which had the widow ot the President of the Philippines Manuel Roxas in it. —Sol GwekohAurora Quezon Her Life And Deeds, 1951


5:00 PM

Near the corner of Rizal Avenue and Bambang street, the hearse bearing the casket of Dona Aurora broke down,so that the hearse bearing the casket of her (laughter had to push it all the way to the cemetery. From the Filipinoveterans’ mausoleum in the cemetery, members of the Quezon family relieved the honorary pallbearers up to the Quezon burial ground.

While the crowd at the University of Santo Tomas chapel filled every available space and others hung through the windows to witness the ceremonies, the bigger number of people at the cemetery perched atop neighboring mausoleums. boys clung to the huge and standing crosses of nearby tombs while women pressed against the wrought-iron railings enclosing the Quezon family lot to view the mortal remains of Dona Aurora for the last time.

As the cortege was nearing the Quezon lot, the mournful crowd was startled by the sudden flash of two successive lightnings that had forked against the sunset, followed by rolls of thunder, which heavenly phenomenon set the people “to thinking dark forboding thoughts.” —Sol GwekohAurora Quezon Her Life And Deeds, 1951


Somewhere at Bambang along Rizal Avenue, the hearse bearing Mrs. Quezon’s casket broke down and had to be pushed all the way to the cemetery by Baby Quezon’s. –Jim Austria, “300,000 Line Route; Sobs Break Silence,” Manila Times, April 30, 1949


5:30 PM

Unmindful of the overcast sky that afternoon, a sorrowing throng conservatively estimated at 300,000 people from all walks of life lined the long funeral route from the University of Santo Tomas chapel to the North Cemetery and bowed their heads in grief to pay her their last tribute as the hearse bearing the body of Dona Aurora rolled past them. —Sol GwekohAurora Quezon Her Life And Deeds, 1951

6:00 PM

At six p. m., the casket of Dona Aurora arrived at the burial site preceded by mournful dirges. As the last notes of Chopin’s Funeral March died away, the Most Reverend Rufino Santos, auxiliary bishop of Manila, prepared to conduct the last religious rites for the adored dead.

There was complete silence as the bishop took his place at the head of Dona Aurora’s bier, and then opened his missal. The brief rites lasting two minutes ended as he reached for the font and blessed the departed lady. All this time the people bowed their heads in reverence and sorrow.

Then the flag-draped casket of Dona Aurora was carried to its permanent resting place inside the lot by Speaker Eugenio Perez, acting Senate President Mariano Jesus Cuenco, former Speaker Jose Yulo, Dr. Manuel Lim, cabinet secretaries, and congressmen. The flag removed, the bronze casket was slipped into the new concrete crypt a few yards to the left side of the marble tomb of her illustrious husband. Then President Quirino, with face frozen with grief, laid a sprig of flowers on the tomb and later knelt down for a moment as he said a prayer together with his daughter. —Sol GwekohAurora Quezon Her Life And Deeds, 1950.


Preceded by mournful dirges, the three caskets arrived at the cemetery at the precise hour of six, minutes after two successive lightnings had forked against the sunset, followed by rolls of thunder which set the people to thinking dark forbidding thoughts. –Jim Austria, “300,000 Line Route; Sobs Break Silence,” Manila Times, April 30, 1949

6:04 PM

Mrs. Zeneida Quezon Buencamino and Nonong Quezon, Jr. survivors of the triple tragedy which stunned the nation only a little less than they, were absent from the grounds.

At 6:04, Msgr. Rufino took his place at the head of Mrs. Quezon’s bier and opened his missal. Two minutes later, he reached for the font and blessed first Mrs. Quezon, then Baby then Philip. –Jim Austria, “300,000 Line Route; Sobs Break Silence,” Manila Times, April 30, 1949

6:15 PM

After the biers were blessed, the pall-bearers once more lifted Mrs. Quezon’s casket and carried it to the niche that was still wet and soft built beside that of her husband. At exactly 6:15 it was slowly pushed in the crypt. –Manila Chronicle, “Thousands Grieve as Bodies of Quezons Are Laid to Rest,” April 30, 1949


6:20 PM

Then with their eyes dimmed by tears, Baby’s co-members of the Ylac, lifted her bier and slowly carried it to her assigned place on the far end of the lot. Philip’s turn came later. Baby’s and Philip’s tombs were built side by side.

At 6:20 the crowd slowly dispersed… –Manila Chronicle, “Thousands Grieve as Bodies of Quezons Are Laid to Rest,” April 30, 1949

April 30, 1949

The late Pedro Payumo, Malacañan chauffeur who was one of the victims of the Huk ambuscade of Mrs. Aurora Quezon’s party, April 28, was laid to rest at the North Cemetery at 4 p.m. last Saturday [April 30, 1949]. Payumo was the cook and chauffeur of the Quezon family before the war. –Evening Chronicle, “Palace Driver Is Laid To Rest,” Monday, May 2, 1949.

The site on which Mrs. Aurora Aragon Quezon died will be converted into a national forest preserve to be known as the Aurora Memorial Park.

The measure was taken up by the cabinet at its special meeting Saturday (April 30) as a further step to honor the memory of the late former First Lady.—Sunday Times, “Quezon Murder Area Designated National Preserve,” May 1, 1949

May 1, 1949

Constabulary soldiers recovered from fleeing Huks after an encounter last Sundy night [May 1, 1949] part of the jewelry and other articles looted from the Quezon party. –Manila Chronicle, “Fleeing Huks Abandon Jewelry,” May 3, 1949

May 2, 1949

Mayor Bernardo, one of the victims in the ambush of Mrs. Quezon’s party by Huks on the Nueva Ecija-Quezon boundary, was laid to rest in the North Cemetery at 12:25 p.m. –Manila Bulletin, “QC Mayor Bernardo, Victim of Huk Ambush, Is Buried At North Cemetery,” May 2, 1949

Immediately after the ambush, the band proceeded eastward towards Rizal where half of the group staged another daylight hold-up on April 30, two days after the Quezon ambuscade. The other half stayed in barrio Tamale, several kilometers west of Calaanan.

Manantan revealed that during the following days of intensive manhunt conducted by the government forces, the group which was left behind in Tamale holed up in small creeks and dense undergrowth, eating nothing but wild roots and fruits.

The PC raid on this hideout four days ago [May 2, 1949] caused heavy casualties among them. Since then, they were ordered to disperse towards the lowlands in small groups. Manantan was captured while trying to force a farmer near Rizal to give him food. . –Manila Times, “Eyewitness Story of Ambush Told by Captured Huk,” Saturday, May 7, 1949.

May 3, 1949

Internment of the San Agustin brothers, Primitivo and and Antonio… will take place Tuesday morning at the Cementerio del Norte. –Sunday Times, “San Agustin Brothers Laid To Rest Tuesday,” May 1, 1949

May 5, 1949

There is not yet a very definite plan for the disposal of the things of Baby Quezon, although it is one thing sure that all will go to the poor… one gesture which Nini believes would be in accordance the devotion that Baby had kept for the poor. The things may be given through some charitable institutions, say the leper colony, or some other… –Manila Times, “Potpourri,” May 5, 1949

May 7, 1949


Pedro Manantan, 26-year-old escapee from the Nueva Vizcaya provincial jail, was the first of the Quezon killers to be caught alive. –Evening News, “Ambusher,” Saturday, May 7, 1949

I knew Philip slightly before the war. We were together when the Americans entered Manila in February, 1945. We were given a job by Frederic S. Marquardt, chief of the Office of War Information, Southwest Pacific Area, and formerly associate editor of the Free Press. Afterward, Philip would say that he owed his first postwar job to me: I had introduced him to Marquardt.

Philip and I helped put out the first issues of the Free Philippines. We worked together and wrote our stories while shells were going overhead. Philip was never happier; he was in his element. He was at last a newspaperman. He had done some newspaper work before the war, but this was big time. We were covering a city at war. Afterward, we resigned from the OWI, or were fired. Anyway, we went out together.

Meanwhile, we had, 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…

…Philip, he was eager to work, willing to listen, and devoted to the ideals of his craft. He was always smiling—perhaps because he was quite young. He had no enemy in the world—he thought.

After the paper closed up, Philip went to the Manila Post, which suffered a similar fate. Philip went on the radio, as a news commentator. He had a good radio voice; he spoke clearly, forcefully, well. He married the daughter of the late President Manuel L. Quezon, later joined the foreign service. But he never stopped wanting to be again a newspaperman. He would have dropped his work in the government at any time had there been an opening in the press for him…

…He had all the advantages, and he had, within the framework of the existing social order, what is called a great future. He was married to a fine girl and all the newspapermen were his friends. They kidded him; they called him Philip Buencamino the Tired, but they all liked him. He wanted so much to be everybody’s friend. he got along with everyone—including myself and Arsenio H. Lacson.

When he returned from Europe to which he had been sent in the foreign service of the Philippines, he was happy, he said, to be home again, and he still wanted to be a newspaperman. His wife was expecting a second child and life was wonderful…

…I remember him as a decent young man who tried to be and was a good newspaperman, who used to walk home with me in the afternoon in the early days of Liberation, munching roasted corn and hating no one at all in the world. –Teodoro M. Locsin, “One must die,” Philippines Free Press, May 7, 1949

May 8, 1949

“Tell them I am Viernes.”

Yes, you are Viernes. You are a little god with a great big gun on your hip. Originally you had a Cause with which few of us, considering ourselves decent, had quarrel: but you have grown bigger than your cause and now you are Viernes and you boast of woman-killing. Off and on there is drivel that “it was not the Huks.” No, it very likely was not the Huks as an organization, but certainly it was some of the Huks in an organization running amuck for lack of leadership control. Definitely it was Viernes, so proudly claiming credit for his armed prowess.

Down here in the lethargic lowlands, Viernes, there is a moral and mental evasiveness which avers we didn’t do it, you didn’t do it, “they” did it… “they” indicating the imaginary margin for banditry. Thus we play politics with the devil. Thus we avoid saying anything nasty about the likes of you lest we ourselves get a bullet in the back. The word for this, of course, is cowardice, the language not having changed since the days the guerrillas scouted for and held the camps you now use. But the people can become only so afraid, Viernes, then no more; once the saturation point is reached, you will still be Viernes, yes, but the people will be The People.

Though we of small stature cannot answer for a nation, each human, in the name of humanity, can answer for himself, and by that token I for me. You acclaim yourself one of the “little people” –the exploited tenant, the underpaid laborer, the nameless men and women in millions of as against the unjustly favored few. As one of the “little people,” you have spoken with blind and final hatred in the merciless murder of Mother Quezon, Baby, Philip, Bernardo, the others I may not have known personally but whose lives were equally precious. Nor have their human rights been more savagely denied, than the lives of men, women and childrenslain in bloody continuity through four years of pretended peace.

Think you, Viernes, that all the “little people” are you? How about me, and millions like me? We have known labor in the fields, dishwashing in restaurants, the picking and packing of fruit. We are the little people too, come earlier to maturity perhaps than you. Perhaps our fight for the same things is longer and harder but, God give us strength to keep it so, cleaner. We reason with ideas, not with bullets. Bullets are for defense against aggressors, not for our brothers, not for the few truly noble in an admittedly contemptible landlord class, certainly not for those hundreds of simple, ignorant, struggling workers men like you have killed as atrociously as your ambush of Mother Quezon and her party. For yours has hardly proved itself a class war, Viernes: it’s just a war, shooting blind, more for the establishment of your own ego than the cause of the workers. By what you have done for your own brutish satisfaction, you have lost most of the gains made by labor and peasant unions throughout the country, inch by inch, “two steps forward, one step backward,” they were getting somewhere. You have robbed them of gains… and what have you substituted? –the unremitting enmity, resistance active and passive, contempt of hundreds of thousands of people of which the “big shot” class is a small and not very admirable percentage. I, who never loved the tenant system, have nowhere to go now, for I hate the likes of you as much as the cacique and his usurious wife… Essentially you are the same kind, both of you abusing power, he the power of money, you the power of a gun. You’re both ruthless, both cruel, both violently egoistic. I hope it gives you surprise to discover to whom you are blood-brother. I am even willing to admit, while claiming neither of you has the right, that you, Viernes, dispose of your victims swiftly while your landlord-brother in vicious inhumanity kills by a slower process.

In your ego, you naturally think you accomplished your ambush all by your little self. Never will you realize that the landlords and the tycoons are your real commanders, that it is less inconvenience to them to have you fighting and dying in the hills than driving them to their wits’ end with strikes, court cases, fairer laws. And they do not weep too greatly nor at long length over Mother Quezon’s death, for she was your friend more than theirs. Believe me, they are even pleased that you have made this horrible deed that finally gets the field action against you that they themselves have never been able to marshal. Where they lie, Mother Quezon knows this, Baby knows it, Philip knows it, and if the dead can weep, and this I wish I did not know, they weep for you. Hesitating on Nini’s doorstep, fumbling for words of comforty, needing to receive as give it, I cannot find the kind word of explanation, I cannot tell her why this had to happen, why a maniac by the name of Viernes takes pride in slaughter, why the grieving is short-lived. For what you have done to Nini, which equals what you did to all the rest, I hate you. Believe me, you can never hate me as I hate you. And hating you, I bless the memory of Colonel Roberto Mata who hunted down and killed in a cornfield one of us who committed highway robbery. I cherish the memory of Colonel Leon Z. Cabalhin, who tried and executed a rapist; I am even humble before Marking whose headquarters was not only a guerrilla military school and hospital but also a reformatory where he personally by a combination of persuasion and force made his followers into “gentleman fighters or I’ll break your goddam head.” I might quarrel with his language but never with his results.

If Quezon were alive he would rip down the fence, toss the sitters to their sides, talk votes with voters, say it with bullets to killers. For crime, corruption, for the distressing bad behavior found in the highest offices in the land, he would turn this our beloved country upside down to set it right again. And it would not have needed the death of Mother Quezon to pinpoint the raging of a civil war. Anybody’s violent and unmerited death would have sufficed.

Who first fought for Social Justice? Who went to you under the burning Pampanga sun, through the Muñoz floods, to the furthest outposts to see you, hear you, help you? Who had long conferences with that other great man, Pedro Abad Santos, and for hours stood before a hundred thousand of you at a time in simple, honest debate? It was neither politics nor patience: it was for love of you.

He knew about the creek dammed by a rich man to make a fishpond at the expense of living water for hundreds of your families along the dried waterway… He knew about the cacique’s usurious wife and the 10-centavo bottle of mercurochrome she debited against you for P2.00. He knew how insufficient your share of the crops and too, how barren the earth for so many mouths… I know he knew, for he allowed me to study reports meant only for him and his Cabinet and to study them only under Vargas’ watchful eye lest I make off with one he would himself study further: many times I studied until 11 o’clock or midnight in Vargas’ Malacanan office. And who was I? – just a cub reporter, for a long time with more of a haircut than a name, yet I could ask this great man questions, even if I could quench the thirst for knowledge with a President’s secretary my librarian.

None of us was too humble for his attention, neither you nor I. As he helped an ignorant, eager girl, so did he valiantly help you. He knew what you wanted, the familiar, but barren land under your feet, was at best an empty heritage, so he pointed you to new land, to virgin land, and he loaned you the money to go, gave you NLSA supervision, focused national interest on you. Do you think the landlords were happy to have him ease you out of bondage? He stood strong and alone in his humanity, and for this you slew his family. Your own revered Pedro Abad Santos would cry out against your savagery. Wherever the gentle old bachelor lies in his hero’s grave surely his heart must ache for his political children who have become what?

All through a great President’s years of service, Mother Quezon helped her husband and in that capacity was our first, and last, Lady of the Land. Wherever there were those in service to country she was there, not in self-glorification but in assistance to him and to them… among the teachers, the nurses, the writers, the doctors… and among the factory workers rolling cigars by hand, the students timidly choosing a walk of life, the mothers in the puericulture centers, the workers who had built the bridge… ever among the poor, to whom she gave her life, only to have it taken by force.

Baby was the girl who should have been a boy. For her who is dead and cannot herself ask, in what way did Baby harm you? – by blasting public indifference toward the lepers’ misery? Sweating for funds for the Ylac slum schools? Cramming law into her head, the better to carry on her father’s work? A fragile body, driven by an untiring spirit? Baby’s sharp tongue and cutting wit were only for us inured to it, understanding and loving her for it. Never did she jab at you, to whom she was fiercely loyal. It is even possible that she was a friend to me because she considered me one of you. “Hi,” she would say, “How’s Yay the Underprivileged? Madrigal still overworking and underfeeding you?” And if I mourned my financial state, she would jibe, “Don’t be stupid! Strike!” Through the years, I was grateful for her frankness, for her rough, unpitying, challenging friendship, for her equality and because once, when we quarreled, and she stamped her foot and I stalked out in anger, when I reached the office she was on the telephone to apologize.

Philip, too, is dead. What dramatic irony that you butchered him. For Philip and Baby were your open door to a half-million hectares of free virgin land… Only one other person knows that there was a place for you to go, land for you, a new start. That person is Judge Barrera. Ask him.

It started in the time of President Roxas, the time when people, despite atrocities, gave you the benefit of the doubt. They could not see what Roxas saw then, that the language you understand is the language of violence. They had no quarrel with your cause, and only doubt as to your methods. Fatuously they thought that secretly siphoning you out of congested areas, spiriting you away under the noses of the soldiers, leaving them with nothing to fight and thereby saving their lives too, would rescue you from circumstances of injustice and hunger which justified your desperate rebellion.

It was so agreed. Baby and Philip would let you know if and when… I would point where. All your problems were being considered –food, tools, instruction, free medicine, schools, markets for your produce, immunity from the past…

It is your friends you have killed, your friends more than mine, more than anybody’s. You snatched a necklace, and lost a loving heart. You tore a jewel from the one ear in the Philippines that would still listen to you. You poured bullets into frail Baby at the dawn of a legal career for the underprivileged. You mowed down a man who called out to you, not for himself but those who defended you where you could not defend yourselves. There is little loss in hating you: you cannot do worse to your enemies than you have done to your friends. —Yay Marking, “Message to the Mountains,” This Week (Sunday Magazine of the Manila Chronicle) May 8, 1949


May 10, 1949

Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija, May 10. — T]he revelation of Corazon de los Reyes, 23, widow of Cpl. Patricio Delag of the 2nd PC light tank company who was executed by the Huks… limped into the command post of Capt. Tommy Misayas, commanding officer of the 24th PC company in the town of Rizal in this province [Nueva Ecija].

Here is her story:…

She declared that in one of their conversations she overheard the outlaws talk about how they divided the spoils of the ambush attack on the Quezons.

There was some talk about a certain Luningning getting Mrs. Quezon’s ring and one, Kulafu, getting Maj. Gen. Rafael Jalandoni’s signet ring. –Evening News, “Division of Quezon Ambush Spoils Told,” Tuesday, May 11, 1949

May 12, 1949

Fifteen top Huk commanders headed by Colonel Mauricio Razon alias Ramzon, were accused of multiple murder… for the cold-blooded murder of Mrs. Aurora A. Quezon and 11 members of her party along the Bongabon-Baler highway last April 28…

The defendants in the multiple murder complant were identified by Pedro Manantan, who, in an affidavit before the PCs, gave his version of the Quezon party massacre.

He identified some of the defendants as Colonel Razon, Col. Alexander Viernes, alias Stalin, Majors Paulino Viernes, alias Liwayway, and Crisanto Marzo, Commanders Guerrero, Viray, Langit and Aladin. All the defendants except Manantan, who was included in the complaint, are still at large. –Manila Chronicle, “Quezon Killers Accused in Court,” May 12, 1949

The accused, among them including top Huk commanders, are Majors Paredes, Paulino Viernes alias “Liwayway,” Crisanto Marzo, Alexander Viernes alias “Stalin,” one identified only with the alias “Viray,” one with the alias “Mulong,” Commanders Luningning, Aladdin, and Ramson, one with the alias “Langit,” Guerrero, Douglas, one with the alias “Pablo,” another with the alias “Sagasa,” and Huk Pvt. Pedro Manantan. –Manila Times, “15 Known Huks in Murder Rap,” May 12, 1949


The personal effects of Mrs. Aurora A. Quezon, Maria Aurora (Baby) her daughter, and those of three others who perished in Bongabon, Nueva Ecija, ambuscade last April 28, were delivered by the Philippine National Red Cross yesterday afternoon [May 18, 1949] to Nini Quezon Buencamino at the Quezon residence at Gilmore Avenue, Quezon City. Dr. Manuel Lim, acting PNRC chairman, headed the Red Cross delegation.

A total of ten bags were recovered and delivered yesterday, two of which belonged to Mrs. Quezon, one to Baby Quezon, two to Mayor Ponciano Bernardo, one to Col. Primitivo San Agustin, one to Col. Antonio San Agustin, one to Lt. D.M. Arabejo, while one was identified as belonging to Hilarion Nebril, driver of Mayor Bernardo. Nebril is one of the survivors.

One of the bags of black alligator skin, originally marked unknown when brought to the Quezon Gilmore residence, was finally identified by Nini when she opened it, as belonging to her mother. “It belongs to mother” Nini exclaimed upon opening the bag and tenderly pulling out an unfinished bedspread which Mrs. Quezon had apparently started to knit even while in Manila. Presumably, Mrs. Quezon expected to finish the embroidery in Baler. Another previously unidentified small bag was also found by Nini as belonging to Mrs. Quezon.

It was further learned yesterday that the personal effects of Philip Buencamino had been brought to Manila earlier. Nini said that what Philip must have lost were his watch, wallet, camera, and their wedding ring. The jewelry of Mrs. Quezon too is still unrecovered. –Evening Chronicle, “Mrs. Quezon’s Bags Recovered,” Thursday, May 19, 1949

May 19, 1949

A posthumous son was born to Mrs. Philip Buencamino III (nee Nini Quezon) early this morning at the Our Lady of Lourdes hospital. Attending the mother was Dr. Constantino Manahan. The child is the second boy of Mrs. Buencamino. –Evening News, “Second Son Born to Nini Buencamino,” Thursday, May 19, 1949.


By some coincidence I got to know both Doña Aurora and Baby Quezon well at about the same time, on Corregidor. I had met them before that, of course, but it was only during the first days of that historic siege that I had the privilege of more than a casual acquaintance. I was on Corregidor at that time awaiting an assignment from General (then Major) Romulo, and President Quezon was kind enough to give me a berth in his own tunnel. They were days of very great strain and tension. The enemy was bombing Corregidor continuously and the news from the front was bad. The enormous burden of responsibility, together with the dank air of the underground tunnel, made the President haggard and worn. But I never saw Doña Aurora lose her poise. She was a very pious lady, with a profound faith in God and His saints, and I daresay she found in religion a secure refuge that even the whine of enemy bombs could not penetrate. She had a small chapel put up at the end of the lateral tunnel where we were staying and there was Mass every day.

The last time I saw her before I left for Bataan, she was sitting serenely in the midst of the chatter and clatter of the hospital tunnel, reading the life of Saint Elizabeth, Queen of Hungary. She smiled when I said goodbye and told me to pray that God should keep and bless us all. I was very deeply moved because I suddenly remembered my mother in Manila; it was just exactly what she would have told me and my mind gave a start of recognition, made a brief but tender identification between my mother and this pious lady quietly reading the life of a saint.

Baby –she hated to be called Baby– was the child of her father, whom she adored. I have often thought that she never married because she never did find anyone who could measure up to that vivid and gallant genius. She was quarreling with him at that time. She wanted to go to the front. Baby hated hypocrisy and histrionics, and she meant what she said. “She should have been a man,” the President told me. I could see he was pleased with her. If it had been left to the two of them probably he would have let her go and he would have gone with her. But to headquarters it was unthinkable. Baby never did get to the front. I was fatuous enough to tell her once she had a masculine mind. She was frank, uncompromising, even ruthless. If she learned anything from her father, it was to have a mind of her own and to say it out loud.

In Bataan I shared the same tent with Philip Buencamino, who was later to marry Nini Quezon. He was the aide of General de Jesus, the chief of military intelligence, to which I had been assigned. I remember distinctly that one of the first things Philip and I ever did was to ride out in the general’s command car along the east coast out of pure curiosity. The enemy’s January offensive was turning the USAFFE flank and all along the highway we met retreating units. Then there was nothing: only the open road, the dry and brittle stubble of the abandoned fields, and in the distance the smoke of a burning town. We turned back hurriedly; we had gone too far. I am afraid we never got any closer to the front lines. Our duties were behind the lines. We were quite close during the entire campaign until I was evacuated to the Corregidor hospital, and I developed a sincere admiration for Philip. He was a passionate nationalist who could not stomach racial discrimination, and I remember him best in a violent quarrel with an American non-commissioned officer whom he considered insolent toward his Filipino superiors.

Nationalism was a trait of all the Quezons; it was the secret of their greatness. There was nothing personal in the feeling for they themselves were never in a position where they might be subject to discrimination. But for them it was a matter of principle that the Filipino was just as good as anybody else. Even the serene and gentle Doña Aurora had an intense feeling for the dignity of the race. She insisted for instance on the independence of the Philippine Red Cross.

That was a great part of the tragedy of her death, and of the deaths of Baby and Philip. Surely it is a bitter and shameful irony that they should have died at the hands of their own countrymen, whom they loved so uncompromisingly. But their death is also tragic because it was dealt to them by those who considered themselves victims of social injustice. For the administration of Manuel Quezon as first President of the Commonwealth was devoted precisely to the cause of social justice. There is in every man a secret and obscure instinct that gives him a warning of his fate, and it is possible Quezon had a premonition of tragedy that intensified his great crusade. He came from the poor and he knew the blind rage that can blaze in the dry and shriveled hearts of the dispossessed. Perhaps, in the stately halls of Malacañan, he foresaw in a flash of prophecy that bend in a narrow road, the cruel talahib tall as a man, the thorny forest, the sombre mountains, and then suddenly the ripping slash of a machine-gun.

There are still many things we do not understand about the tragedy of the Quezons. Was the ambush intended for them or for another? If for them, to what purpose? Was it to shock the country into remembrance that it was still at war, civil war? Was it to complete the discredit of the administration? Was it purely robbery or indiscriminate reprisal?

Luis Taruc was a frequent visitor in the Quezon house before he took to the field. He had long hours of conversation with Baby, who admired his mind and his inflexible will, so rare among the men she knew. Taruc denied that the Huk high command had any designs against the Quezons and pledged the punishment of those who had broken their “iron discipline”. The local Huk commander, for his part, declared that the ambush was only an ordinary hold-up and that he would have stopped the massacre, if he could.

One thing was sure. We could no longer under-estimate the emotional drive behind the peasant rebellion. Most people, when they heard of the Baler murders, asked themselves in sincere confusion: “But why? How could they do such a thing? How could they shoot down a lady like Doña Aurora and rob her lifeless corpse? She never did them any harm. On the contrary, she tended to their needs. She begged for them. She fought for them. How could they do it?”

People who has this have never been hunted. They have never starved and shivered in hiding. They have never felt that the hand of every man was turned against them. But the outcasts of society, or those whom society has made outcasts, no longer recognizes any duties to it. Humanity is their enemy. All those who have homes while they lack a roof over their heads; who have food on their tables while they must pick the fruits and berries of the forest; who have clothes on their backs while their own rags are torn in the underbrush; who can sleep secure while they must start with panic at the sound of every twig breaking in the night -all these are their enemies. And they watch for the time when they can hit back, briefly, blindly, but enough to soothe their wild envy and humbled pride; they watch the laborers clearing the winding road; they watch the bright banners of welcome waving in the forbidden towns -an enemy comes, one of the happy and secure- they watch the long rich plumes of dust sweeping across the gorges from the road –their hand is eager on the smooth barrel of the gun– one more chance to get back at them, no matter who, no matter if the gentle lady in the official car is a friend, for they have no friends, and so they press the trigger. –Leon Ma. Guerrero, “Mrs. Quezon,” (originally published under the byline of Ignacio Javier, The Sentinel, May 19, 1949 and reprinted under the author’s name in We Filipinos, 1953)

May 20, 1949

The car in which Mrs. Aurora A. Quezon, Baby Quezon, Mayor Ponciano A. Bernardo and others met their death in Bongabong, Nueva Ecija, will be preserved as an object of historical interest in the Quezon Memorial, according to a spokesman of the Capital City Planning Commission. –Manila Bulletin, “Gov’t Car In Which Quezons Met Death To Be Preserved,” Friday Morning, May 20, 1949

Mrs. Philip Buencamino III, is resting well at the Lourdes Hospital following the birth yesterday of her second son, Jose Antonio. –Manila Bulletin, “Jose Antonio Born to Nini Buencamino,” Friday Morning, May 20, 1949

May 21, 1949

Benjamin Castillo was picked up yesterday by agents of the Nenita unit at barrio Macapsing, Rizal municipality. Last Thursday, Antonio Reyes, 21, another member of the ambush gang was caught by the constabulary at barrio Salubsob, Bongabong…

…Castillo readily admitted he was with the band that murdered Mrs. Quezon and her companions. He claimed, however, that he was far from the firing line and therefore could not furnish any details.

…[Reyes] admitted that he was with the ambush party. He claimed, however, that he was not a real Huk since he was kidnaped last April 27 and forced to join the squadron of Commander Paulino Viernes.

Reyes claimed he was armed with a Garand rifle at the Quezon ambuscade and that he fired a while clip of bullets but aimed his gun where he could hit nobody. –Manila Bulletin, “3 Ambushers of Mrs. Quezon Caught; Taruc Escapes PC Encirclement,” Saturday morning, May 21, 1949

May 26, 1949

Nini Buencamino and baby are back to the Quezon home on Gilmore Avenue having left the hospital yesterday. But before leaving, Nini saw to it that her boy was baptized first and so there was the rites performed at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital…

The baby, by the way, was christened Jose Antonio in fulfillment of a promise made by Nini to Saint Joseph and Saint Anthony even before she got married… –Esther S. Asuncion, “Potpourri,” Manila Times, Thursday, May 26, 1949

…Federico Cachuela and Vicente Marquez were captured by a PC patrol at Sabani Estate, Laur, Tuesday, and admitted their participation in the massacre. This brings to five the number of members of the ambush gang now in custody of the constabulary…

The two captured Huks admitted they were with the Quezon ambush party but declared they took no part in the shooting as they were merely carried away their share of the loot. –Evening News, ”PC Nab 2 More Men For Quezon Ambush,” Thursday, May 26, 1949

May 20

Readings for LSPCON 2018 Attendees

Here are ten readings and five books for you. You might recall that I mentioned some of these during our time together.


1. Freedom of the editor, by Teodoro M. Locsin, Philippines Free Press, April 10, 1965:

What is freedom—of the editor or of anyone?

It is freedom to be intelligent and informed. Freedom to be ignorant is not freedom, for what is freedom? Is it not liberation? And what is ignorance but a prison?

One should be prepared to die for freedom—and how silly it would be to die for one’s ignorance!

Freedom is responsibility and the affluent as well as the slave hate it.

Freedom is a dirty word to those who do not believe in freedom but merely preach it. It is Luce talk, a loose expression, and can be made to mean anything. Freedom is slavery in George Orwell’s 1984. Freedom is freedom to be fired—in the usual democracy.

What is freedom? What is the freedom of an editor? It is freedom—

To study. (And having to go over so much in order to turn out a respectable paper—a paper one can respect—makes study almost impossible.)

To think. (And how can one think in a hurry?)

To express oneself. Freedom not to say the opposite of what one thinks.

See also The Masks of Filipinos, by Teodoro M. Locsin, Philippines Free Press, June 17, 1961:

To cultivate the virtues of honesty, industry and justice, to learn how to love, is to be human. To be a Filipino, in the best sense of the word. Whether as Spaniard or American or Japanese, or as Nationalist, the Filipino must reckon with himself at last. He has no excuse for what he does; he should blame nobody but himself for what he is. If he has courage, he is brave; if he is honest, he is true; if he loves justice, he is decent, and if he loves rather than hates, he is at ease. The rest is merely economics, politics and the movies.

2. Velvet Revolution: The Prospects by Timothy Garton Ash in The New York Times Review of Books, Volume 56, Number 19 · December 3, 2009:

1789 in France, 1917 in Russia, 1949 in China—all were at some point professedly utopian; all promised a heaven on earth. [Velvet Rervolution or VR] is typically anti-utopian, or at the very least non-utopian. In a given place, it aspires to create political and legal institutions, and social and economic arrangements, that already exist elsewhere (for example, in established liberal democracies) and/or that are claimed (often wrongly, or with much retrospective idealization) to have existed in the same place at an earlier time. François Furet, the historiographer of the French Revolution, doubted if the velvet revolutions of 1989 should properly be called “revolutions” at all, since they produced “not a single new idea.” In this sense, they were closer to an earlier, pre-1789 version of revolution, the one that gave the thing its name: a revolution, a revolving, a turning of the wheel back to a real or imagined better past.

Hannah Arendt quotes, as a perfect encapsulation of this idea of revolution-as-restoration, the inscription on the 1651 great seal of Cromwell’s Commonwealth, at the height of the English Revolution: “freedom by God’s blessing restored.” Poland in 1989 could have put those very same words on its seal, had it had one. “The return to Europe,” one of the great mottoes of Central Europe’s 1989, is also a version of the revolution-restoration theme. Most of the subsequent claimants to the title of VR display some such mixture of an idealized national past and a better present located elsewhere. While these movements manifest some unrealistic, idealistic expectations, none of them are decisively shaped by a utopian ideology, a vision of a new heaven on earth. The “new idea” is the form of revolutionary change itself, not the content of its ideological aspirations.

To say that the 1789–1917–1949 revolutions were class-based is of course a gross historical oversimplification, and even misrepresentation. As we know, the Bolshevik Revolution was not actually a heroic mass action of the working class. But it is fair to say that revolutionary leaders such as Lenin and Mao often claimed to be acting in the name of a class or classes—”workers and peasants,“ and so on. In VR, the appeals are typically to a whole society, the nation, the people. Nationalism (or patriotism, according to circumstance and interpretation) is often a driving force of these, as it can be of more violent movements. In practice, the strategic key to mass mobilization—to getting those inestimable peaceful crowds out on the streets, to generating “people power”—often lies precisely in building the broadest possible coalitions between classes, sections of society, and interest groups that do not normally cooperate, and among which nondemocratic powerholders had previously been able to “divide and rule.”

In old-style revolution, the angry masses on the street are stirred up by extremist revolutionary leaders—Jacobins, Bolsheviks, Mao—to support radicalization, including violence and terror, in the name of utopia. Bring on the red guards! In new-style revolution, the masses on the street are there to bring the powerholders to the negotiating table. The moment of maximum mass mobilization is the moment of turn to negotiation; that is, to compromise. Or in some cases, to violent repression—at least for the time being. For also characteristic of VR is that it often takes a long time to succeed, after many failed attempts, in the course of which opposition organizers, but also some of those in power, learn from their own mistakes and failures—as, for example, in Poland, Serbia, and Ukraine. Protesters “fail again, fail better,” to adopt Samuel Beckett’s memorable phrasing. Both sides do it differently next time. Eventually, the moment comes when there are two to tango.

So another name for the genus is “negotiated revolution.” Exit prospects for the ruling elites are critical. Instead of losing their heads on the guillotine, or ending up hanging from lampposts, transition-ready members of an ancien régime, from a president such as F.W. de Klerk all the way down to local apparatchiks and secret policemen, see a bearable, even a rosier future for themselves under a new dispensation. Not merely will they get away with their lives; not only will they remain at liberty; they will also get to retain some of their social position and wealth, or to convert their former political power into economic power (the “privatization of the nomenklatura”), which sometimes helps them to make startling returns to political power under more democratic rules (as, for example, have post-communists all over post- communist Europe). In VR, it is not just the Abbé Sieyès who survives. Louis XVI gets to keep a nice little palace in Versailles, and Marie Antoinette starts a successful line in upmarket lingerie.

These uneasy and even morally distasteful compromises with members of the ancien régime are an intrinsic, unavoidable part of velvet revolution. They are, as Ernest Gellner once memorably put it, the price of velvet. They produce, however, their own kinds of postrevolutionary pathology. As the years go by, there is a sense of a missing revolutionary catharsis; suspicious talk of tawdry deals concluded between old and new elites behind closed doors; and, among many, a feeling of profound historical injustice. Here I am, a middle-aged shipyard worker in Gdan´sk, left unemployed as a result of a painful neoliberal transition to capitalism, while over there, in their high-walled new villas, with their swimming pools full of half-naked girls quaffing champagne, the former communist spokesman and the former secret policeman are whooping it up as millionaires. And their first million came from ripping off the state in the period of negotiated revolution.

There is no perfect answer to this problem, but I will suggest two partial ones. First, absent both the catharsis of revolutionary purging (that orgiastic moment as the king’s severed head is held aloft) and retroactive sanctions of criminal justice, it becomes all the more important to make a public, symbolic, honest reckoning with your country’s difficult past. This alone can establish a bright line between bad past and better future. That is why I have argued that the essential complement to a velvet revolution is a truth commission. Second, establishing the rule of law as fast as possible is vital to lasting success, and corruption is deeply corrosive of it. “Speed is more important than accuracy,” the famous motto of the no-holds-barred Czech privatizer and free marketeer Václav Klaus, sacrifices the long-term prospects to the short.

One other feature of some velvet revolutions needs to be mentioned. Traditionally, we would think of a revolution as diametrically counterposed to an election: here, the violent overthrow of a dictatorship; there, the peaceful transfer of power in a democracy. But many examples of VR over the last decade, from Serbia to Ukraine to Iran, had an election as the catalytic moment of the new-style revolution.

In hybrid, semiauthoritarian regimes, the holding of an election—albeit not under fully free conditions, with a key distortion being regime control of television—provides the occasion for an initial mobilization behind an opposition candidate, whether Voji-slav Ko tunica in Serbia, Viktor Yushchenko in Ukraine, or Mir Hussein Moussavi in Iran. Real or alleged rigging of the election by incumbent powerholders is then the spark for a wider social mobilization, with burgeoning demands for change not merely in but of the system. The color symbolic of the opposition candidate—orange in Ukraine, green in Iran—becomes, or at least is now claimed to be, the color of the whole cheated nation, the color of the “color revolution.” So yet another name for this phenomenon, or a large subset of it, is “electoral revolution.”

Looking at the recent history of electoral revolutions, a prudent authoritarian ruler might reasonably draw this conclusion: Don’t risk holding any elections at all! But it is striking how few of them actually do draw this conclusion. Formal democracy, in the sense of holding public ceremonies called elections from time to time, has become established as one of the most widespread international norms. Elections are not just, so to speak, the tribute vice pays to virtue; they also seem to be part of the accepted panoply of legitimation for any self-respecting dictator. And nine times out of ten, authoritarian rulers can emerge victorious from these elections, or “elections,” with some combination of genuine popular support, tribal loyalties, media control, propaganda, bribery, intimidation, and outright vote-rigging. In the case of Serbia, for example, Slobodan Miloevic´ did win a series of at least semifree, even three-quarters-free elections, with only some vote-rigging, before losing power in an electoral revolution in 2000. Hubris, based on past successes, helpfully nudges such rulers down the road to nemesis.

See also This tale of two revolutions and two anniversaries may yet have a twist, by Timothy Garton Ash, The Guardian, May 8, 2008.

3. Two samples of Randy David’s thinking. The first is the summary of a speech he delivered, the second, a quote from one of his columns. How do you boil down the crisis that seems to be perpetual? David has.

4. Where the drug war began, by Patricia Evangelista, Rapper. This will be a modern classic.

5. A two part series. The blueprint for the ‘War on Drugs’ and Lies, damned lies, and drug statistics. For bsckground, see: My answers to questions on the War on Drugs.

6. Digital Maoism: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism, by Jaron Lanier, Edge, May 29, 2006. You can also watch his recent April 2018 TED Talk, How we need to remake the Internet. He has done much to study, and explain why the net is the way it is and why we act as we do, when online.

7. The groundbreaking three-part report by Rappler on social media and elections: see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

8. The $10bn question: what happened to the Marcos millions? by Nick Davies in The Guardian, May 7, 2016. You should do your part to widely share this article. It spares no one, and goes a long way to explain the enduring power of the Marcoses.

9. My own article, Ferdinand Marcos and Us, in SPOT.ph. Includes links to additional readings.

10. This isn’t a reading, but i’ts someone who’s written powerful books and put together powerful documentaries. In this 2012 Maastricht University lecture, Laurence Reese tries to explain why otherwise decent people fall under the spell of monstrous leaders.


  1. The Emperor and Shah of Shahs, by Ryszard Kapu?ci?ski. A fellow writer who’d also served in government once told me, we are all students of power, and these two books to my mind are some of the most engrossing and truth-filled explorations of power, the powerful, and the powerless ever written.

2. The Philippine Revolution, by Apolinario Mabini (translated by Leon Ma. Guerrero). A slim book but massive in terms of what it has to teach the reader.

3. State and Society in the Philippines (Second edition), by Patricio N. Abinales and Donna J. Amoroso. One of those books that renders all that came before it (it’s meant to be a textbook) obsolete. If you want a crash course in how our country came to be, the developments and trends that made –and make– it what it is, this is the book to trust.

4. Light of Liberty: Documents and Studies on the Katipunan, 1892-1897 by Jim Richardson. Another book that marks the before and after, in terms of our understanding of the topic it covers. The essays and other documents that form the book are also freely available online in his website, Katipunan: Documents and Studies.

5. Five e-pubs: Put together by my team, 2010-2016 and hopefully, of practical and informative use to you.

a. Philippine Electoral Almanac Revised And Expanded

b. Historical Atlas Of The Republic

c. Heroism, Heritage And Nationhood

d. Official Calendar Of The Republic

e. Style Guide for the Government (Gabay sa Estilo para sa Gobyerno)

And of course, don’t forget the book that could dramatically improve your academic prospects — Researching Philippine Realities: A Guide to Qualitative, Quantitative, and Humanities Research by Jose Eos Trinidad.


Nov 15

The Long View: The waiting game


The waiting game

 / 05:06 AM November 15, 2017

The waiting now begins to see if President Duterte and his people will resume their campaign to proclaim a revolutionary government.

My colleague, John Nery, has made a convincing case that the President has wanted to do so all along, even prior to assuming the presidency. An additional case has to be made: There are far too many people up and down the line who need the assurance of the present regime’s continuity, but who lack confidence that a viable successor — who can continue to provide them the protection they currently enjoy — exists.

Not every police station, for example, can go the way of the most controversial one in the country (Caloocan) that went up in flames the other day. You cannot, at this point, suddenly have Camp Crame go up in smoke, destroying all records. Since there is an expiration date for the President’s pledge to mobilize his powers to protect cooperative policemen, which is sooner rather than later given that trial balloons to extend his term as part of Charter change have not sparked popular enthusiasm, something has to give: a nationally-elected leadership.

But what can the President give in return? The thing that makes the world go round.

When Enrique Razon told Asean businessmen that dictatorships were better for infrastructure, he was speaking not only with the power of his billions but the bloc he maintained in the House of Representatives. His National Unity Party (20 seats) is the second-largest among the corporate blocs in the House, the others being Cojuangco-Ang’s Nationalist People’s Coalition (33 seats), itself a breakaway from the Villars’ Nacionalista Party (19 seats).

The combined 72-seat House corporate bloc (with four seats in the Senate), cannot, in and of itself, achieve things such as impeachment, which requires 97 votes at the current membership. But it can make it much easier—or difficult, if it comes to that—to enact legislation to the extent that the corporate bloc bosses cannot be ignored. When a bloc boss says dictatorship is a good idea, he does so as the spokesman of 72 districts: Presumably, the 123 districts under Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan will likewise fall in line.

Not least because quietly, but significantly, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo some weeks back took her oath as a member of that party. Unlike Antonio Floirendo Jr., or more recently, Dionisio Santiago, she knows — having been president — that you could have been a powerful patron of a future president yesterday, but the moment your protege becomes chief executive, the relationship changes and you had better never forget it. As Floirendo and Santiago found out, the moment you start being uppity, the instinct of all presidents is to punish the fool who thinks they can treat the president the way they treated him or her before they assumed office. So she has done what is allowed, and which matters: boost the party line, and be helpful in maintaining the coalition. Her reward has been to be not only taken into the fold in a subordinate position to the current Speaker she once fired from her Cabinet, but also to be trotted out in Asean events, overshadowing every potential successor to the President, including the Speaker and the current secretary of foreign affairs. The signal to anyone who cares to notice is we have a future prime minister-in-waiting.

Everyone who is anyone in the current dispensation can live with that. The signal of the business blocs is that they can live with that. It is a sure thing compared to taking a gamble on either Ferdinand Marcos Jr. or Alan Peter Cayetano, neither of whom are certain to win a national election, or can fully be trusted to have both the skill and the resolve to protect everyone. Arroyo would be the first to point out that a repeat of 2010 in 2022 must be avoided at all costs.

Nov 13

The Explainer: The costs of competition

The costs of competition

Manolo Quezon — The Explainer

Posted at Nov 13 2017 01:18 PM


There’s no such thing as a free summit. The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in 2015 involving 21 economies cost P10 billion, including P2.6 billion for the Office of the President, with P118.2 million for representation and entertainment.

The ongoing ASEAN Summit, involving 10 ASEAN countries plus 10 dialogue partners, has an allocated budget of P17 billion, down from the P19 billion originally asked for, with a projected P15.5 billion actually having been spent, including P11.5 billion for the Office of the President with P7.5 billion for representation and entertainment. The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility has pointed out that Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno complained about the APEC Budget in 2015. But that was then.

This is now: ASEAN 2017 isn’t just what’s going on in Metro Manila, it comprises 137 meetings, with 2 summits, the ASEAN-leaders only earlier this year last April, and the ASEAN leaders plus dialogue partners ongoing now, 17 ministerial meetings, 42 senior officials’ meetings, and 76 technical working group meetings.

That’s a lot, though it begs the question of whether the amount being spent is worth it—that was Congress’ job to look into back when it approved the budget last year.

ASEAN is moving in bold directions but aside from economists and radical critics, most seem unaware of the implications of these moves.


Take what is perhaps the most significant of ASEAN aspirations as far as most people are concerned: the dream of ASEAN economic integration, which aims at a kind of European Union (EU)-style open borders system among ASEAN member-states.

Like in the EU, the dream is for people from ASEAN to be able to travel, live, and work freely in member-countries, and for goods and services to flow freely with minimal taxes and fees between member-states. It was supposed to happen, but as things stand after economic ministers met last July, it seems more likely to become a reality in 2025.

The devil, as they say, is in the details. Five-hundred-six measures to make integration a reality were envisioned and most approved, except for 105—the hardest ones.

It’s easy to cheer economic integration. It’s not easy to implement it with local opinion breathing down your neck.

For example, tariffs or fees on imports have been reduced to zero or near zero for 96 percent of previous tariff lines. But by next year, the number will only inch up to 98.67 percent. It’s the remaining 4 percent that’s proving tough to iron out—for example, for Filipino farmers, could you really commit, as a government, to duty-free rice importation?

While ASEAN can brag that more than 70 percent of intra-ASEAN trade is now at the Most-Favored Nation rate of zero percent, it’s the thirty percent that will require tough bargains. And what you drop in tariffs, you can raise in others. So, what are called non-tariff measures have actually increased from 1,634 to 5,975 from the year 2000 to 2015.

ASEAN countries are also proving not as enthusiastic about allowing the free flow of services; and in terms of ASEAN countries recognizing the professional qualifications of member-countries, agreement has only been reached for 8 professions amounting to only 1.5 percent of the ASEAN workforce. No country, it seems, is willing to embrace the free flow of unskilled labor, for example.

So, that’s the nosebleed-inducing reality of ASEAN and its many meetings. Yet we’ve gotten glimpses of how summitry works in the big leagues.

Even as reporters and photographers who somehow were allowed to witnesses the start of our President’s bilateral meeting with his Chinese counterpart in Vietnam, they overheard the President mentioning to Xi Jinping something about smoothening out misunderstandings.

Donald Trump, for his part, announced he was willing to arbitrate between ASEAN and China on the West Philippine Sea and other issues. These are things that sometimes only happen when heads of state or government meet and talk.

Which is why, aside from the formal arena of meetings, leaders take time to socialize and get to size each other up. This is the reason some observers regret our President’s skipping ASEAN dinners.


ASEAN matters. Which means we have home-court advantage as host this year. Consider those making the effort to come here.

Much as we’ve been interested in China and America, take, for example, the case of India, a country we should be far more interested in for a couple of reasons. In a neighborhood of basically far-from-democratic countries, including regional superpowers like Russia and China, the other emerging regional power, India, is a fellow democracy. It has aligned itself with Australia, Japan, and America over concerns of China becoming too strong. The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, comes to Manila keenly aware that ASEAN has invested 70 billion dollars in his country, 17 percent of all Foreign Direct Investments, while India’s invested 40 billion dollars in the same period. 10.2 percent of all India’s trade is with ASEAN.

Among the interesting things he’s doing in Manila is visiting the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Baños—because IRRI is setting up its first research center outside the Philippines—its South Asia Regional Centre at Varanasi, India, approved by Modi’s cabinet last July.

You can be sure the Indians among others are sizing us up. The eyes and ears of many nations are watching and what they see is people saying online foreign leaders should go away because it causes traffic. What do we gain from ASEAN anyway?

To be sure, it’s government’s job to make the often difficult— because abstract due to its being macro, and not micro—case for ASEAN. But it also requires a little common sense. There’s widespread opinion that it ought to have been held in Clark. But the simple answer to that is where can you find the hotel rooms needed for 20 national delegations plus-plus?

It’s discouraging to note that the foot we’ve put forward is not only uninformed, but self-defeating. In a dog-eat-dog world, the pack will have little time or sympathy for the one that whines instead of hunting for opportunities.

Nov 12

DemocracyPost Commentary: When strongmen meet: Trump and Duterte in Manila


When strongmen meet: Trump and Duterte in Manila

November 12 at 1:19 PM

President Trump talks with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte during a gala dinner marking in Manila on Nov. 12. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Manuel Quezon III is a columnist for the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper and the host of the political affairs show “The Explainer” on the ABS-CBN TV news channel.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte wants one thing from his main meeting with President Trump in Manila on Monday: a Ferdinand Marcos moment. Back in 1981, then-Vice President George H.W. Bush toasted the dictator’s third inauguration by cooing, “We love your adherence to democratic principle and to the democratic processes.”

Bush’s support confounded Marcos’s critics and burnished his strongman image. Today, compliments from Trump are likely to have the same benefits for Duterte. The Philippine president will almost certainly find an opportunity to point out that a Pew Research Center poll published in June placed Filipino confidence in Trump at 69 percent. (Of course, their subordinates won’t be reminding the two men that President Barack Obama enjoyed 94 percent confidence among Filipinos in 2015.)

Duterte’s infatuation with China and Russia will be of little use to him while he plays host to his fellow Southeast Asian leaders at a regional summit meeting. Neither Xi Jinping nor Vladimir Putin is going to Manila. In the Philippines, which remains one of the most pro-American countries in the world, the public still measure their leaders by the Washington yardstick.

By that standard, Duterte has a lot to be happy about. Trump’s advisers originally envisioned an overnight visit to the Philippines, but that has now been extended to two days. A simple pull-aside on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit has been elevated to a bilateral meeting. Notably, Duterte managed to get through the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit without making any major gaffes. Because by now everyone knows Duterte is only uncouth when politically expedient, it’s well worth asking why he has been on his best behavior with his global peers. The reason is domestic: As Tip O’Neill famously observed, all politics is local.

Duterte’s illiberal political agenda is running out of steam. He has been meeting strong resistance in the form of criticism from human rights advocates at home and abroad, cautious but increasingly public concern on the part of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, and growing alarm among civil society groups and the media. All this has been accompanied by a sharp drop in public support for the president and his methods. Even more ominously, the business community has been expressing quiet but steady concern over the economy losing steam.

The president has had to beat a strategic retreat on two fronts. First, and most painfully, was in the case of his war on drugs. In October, Duterte had to publicly — though grudgingly — relieve the police of responsibility for conducting operations, giving the job to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency while announcing he fully expected the effort to fail. The previous head of the agency had been fired for contesting Duterte’s claim of 4 million drug addicts, and the agency’s supervisor, retired Gen. Dionisio Santiago, was fired last week for daring to suggest that an immense rehab facility funded by a Chinese billionaire was a white elephant. This, despite Santiago having provided Duterte with dossiers that provided the intelligence basis for the drug war itself. It may be that the cosmetic changes (such as rolling out the harmless but unsatisfyingly unbloody slogan “Love Life. Fight Drugs”) Santiago proposed to the drug war had already riled up the president.

Second, Duterte has had to temporarily shelve an idea proposed by some of his supporters, who have suggested that he simply scrap the 1987 Philippine constitution and proclaim a revolutionary government with himself at its head — effectively an old-fashioned Latin American-style self-coup. Duterte’s official agenda is extraordinarily ambitious. It encompasses tax reform, reorganizing the executive branch, shifting the form of government from presidential to parliamentary and the adoption of federalism.

The start of impeachment proceedings against the chief justice of the Supreme Court and the widely expected impeachment of the ombudsman (who has stirred Duterte’s ire by investigating killings in the war on drugs and allegations of malfeasance by administration officials, including Duterte’s own son), has caused additional delays. As a result, there is almost no chance that Duterte will be able to push his plans through before the 2019 midterms, as he had originally planned. Hence the temptation to leapfrog constitutional and procedural obstacles by proclaiming a revolutionary government.

But such a high-risk move requires three things. Public opinion would have to embrace it. The military would have to allow it. And foreign governments would have to turn a blind eye to it. The first two requirements have foundered on embarrassing realities. First, Duterte supporters have been notably lax about attending pro-government rallies, in stark contrast to the days when they reliably turned out in huge numbers. Second, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and the armed forces chief of staff were both reported to have told the vice president that they would not support a revolutionary government. So Duterte has been forced to shelve the proposal for now.

In short, the chance to burnish his standing by playing host to Trump and his Southeast Asian peers couldn’t come at a better time. At the very least, it gives him an occasion to remind friends and foe alike that he is still the man who matters in Manila.

Nov 01

The Long View: Garbage in, garbage out


Garbage in, garbage out

 / 05:08 AM November 01, 2017

Deng Xiaoping famously remarked, “It doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white. As long as it catches mice, it is a good cat.” His pragmatic point of view created decades of prosperity for China — at the cost of the Tiananmen Square massacre — after the ideological cannibalism of the Cultural Revolution. With the ongoing Great About-face to China, one would think this sort of pragmatism would provide some sort of lesson to our local paramount leader. Some, in fact, believe this is happening. One example is the general lessening of tensions after responsibility for the conduct of the so-called war on drugs to be moved from the police to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA). After all no one can object to the recently-rolled-out slogan, “Love Life, Fight Drugs,” of the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB), which is PDEA’s mother agency (and makes policy in contrast to PDEA, which implements it).

Slogans are one thing, but there are two troubling realities that should make people pause before they prematurely start praising PDEA. The first involves the overall leadership of the DDB. Last May, President Duterte fired Benjamin Reyes as its head for sticking to its official 2015 numbers. In Reyes’ place, the President appointed retired general Dionisio Santiago, who headed PDEA for a time under Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Back in 2009, he stated the agency sometimes planted evidence: “We sometimes do this although this is against the rule of law. Definitely we only apply this matter to some cases, like a subject who is publicly known to be peddling drugs but always escapes arrest. This is when we enter the picture.” This was after months of the agency being embroiled in the “Alabang Boys” controversy, with allegations of agents trying to shake down suspects for bribes, and the agents arguing they were being stymied by well-connected suspects on the other. The solution put forward was typical and, in retrospect, a sign of things to come: Why not appoint Jovito Palparan to head the anti-drug campaign?

Toward the end of 2009, Santiago then submitted a list of drug suspects (that he put together in “less than a month”) to Arroyo who, however, declined to release it. It seems by March of 2010, Arroyo had given Norberto Gonzales, her national security adviser, a list of suspects. Gonzales told a foreign reporter that “reports linking some congressmen, councilors, and local government officials with drug syndicates or drug lords” had been “received,” but then defense secretary Gilbert Teodoro commented that “the problem does not involve politicians at the national level.” Santiago then peddled his list to Voltaire Gazmin and then president Aquino, and later, to Duterte, a man who — as he himself said in August 2016 — isn’t afraid to cut corners, such as planting evidence, to get the results he desires. He has taken to using Santiago’s list as a prop, mistakes and all. And so the first thing to make you pause is that there has been no change, whatsoever, in methods and intent, as far as the campaign against drugs is concerned. Santiago is living proof of this.

Which brings us to the second reason to pause before engaging in praise. The President has been candid in his dissatisfaction with the police, not necessarily for the body count it has racked up (or, which has been racked up by gangs rubbing out their own assets), but for being too public, messy, and careless about it, to the extent that this forced him to repeatedly put the campaign on hold or slow it down, as domestic and global opinion criticized the liquidations that have taken place. The frustration of the President and the police leadership over this can be measured by the irritation over how a supposed-to-be publicity coup — the official finding that the lady in the famous photo by Raffy Lerma was rubbed out by a drug gang and not the cops — doesn’t seem to have calmed the public or redeemed the cops. More to the point, the President has been vocal about expecting PDEA to fail. Which suggests he is grudgingly beating a strategic retreat for now, but chomping at the bit to resume the means and methods he has preferred all along, once public opinion subsides.

Yet the fate of Iloilo mayor Jed Mabilog is a case in point, as old as the FBI in its war on gangsters in the 1930s when it put Al Capone behind bars for the unexciting but thoroughly proven offense of failing to pay proper taxes. It took the Ombudsman to take Mabilog out of the picture after the President thundered and shrilled, only to have police intramurals vomit out his preferred mayor-buster from being assigned to the city, and having (as chatter from Iloilo has it) 20 conventions cancelled and Ilonggos in general upset. Find a good cat. Do not arm an old one with napalm.

Oct 31

Spot.ph Commentary: The Taxonomy of Terror

The Taxonomy of Terror

We have a uniquely Filipino way of looking at the supernatural.

(SPOT.ph) Recently The New Yorker published an interesting article about the unexpected revival of “Dungeons and Dragons” in the United States. The article mentions how Stranger Things (a lot of you, gentle readers, are probably going to spend part of the long holiday watching its second season) sparked a wave of nostalgia among ’80s kids who’d spent their teen years playing “Dungeons and Dragons.” The Philippines in the ’80s experienced this craze, sparking here, as it did in America, the raising of the alarm among conservative Christians who considered all the lore on mythical creatures to be the Satan’s beachhead in conquering young minds. The Bible-thumpers lost that argument, considering the Halloween mania we now have in our country. As recently as the ’80s, Halloween was a fringe observance for the irredeemably American-minded. Now everyone gets into it, encouraged by the candy companies, the malls, and bosses who are willing to let drones in the corporate workplace let off a little steam once in a while. It’s also an annual excuse for dressing up in costume, leading to wild nights like those movies set in the 18th Century where aristocrats broke every possible rule on the excuse that if you have a mask on no one will possibly hold you accountable for what you do during the party.

But lost in all the Halloween revelry with its plastic pumpkins, rubber bats, spray-on cobwebs and witch, vampire, and zombie costumes—excuse me, it’s cosplay—are our own spooky denizens of dark and dangerous places. To be sure God knows how the logistics of a manananggal costume might work, and not everyone is either tall enough to be a kapre or tiny enough to be a nuno sa punso—okay so maybe our native creepy-crawlies are a cosplayer’s nightmare in ways I didn’t think through. But it’s still a pity.

For most of us, we probably learned about the night and its terrors from our elders, and the supernatural from even their daytime habits. Now we are a people who are said to love democracy, but it’s interesting what we believe democracy to be. A friend recently recounted a Filipino recently returned from the United States answer the question, “Which is more democratic, the Philippines or America?” in this manner. Definitely, the Philippines, the balikbayan said, because in America you can’t pee anywhere you like, but here at home, you can—therefore, the Philippines is more democratic. To which, being in a Halloween frame of mind, I immediately responded, we cannot pee anywhere we like. Beware of mounds! How often have we been told that? You do not want to piss off a dwarf by pissing on his home. How’s that for supernatural civic consciousness?

But even if we don’t dress up like tianaks the old tales won’t go away. They turn into urban legends like the White Lady of Balete Drive who hasn’t been seen in a generation after condominiums took over the neighborhood. But more than one late-night returner from Tagaytay has a story they heard from a friend who heard it from a friend (so it must be true!) of the friend whose SUV has scratch-marks on its roof from the claw marks of a manananggal attack.

The past literally haunts us. I have listened to scholars solemnly dispute the origins of some our mythical creatures. Was the name of the kapre derived from kaffir, an insulting term for black Africans, and did it thus suggest that friars, concerned about escaped slaves, told such tales to warn indios about aiding and abetting their escape? Was the mananggal a more recent, American-era invention, as Filipinos were herded into hamlets to keep them from supporting our dying First Republic? And scientists too, have long argued about the bangungot, tracing it to a uniquely Asian reaction to sleeping on a stomach full of rice.

Even as the past haunts us, our modern present collides with it and affects it. And here we return to what made “Dungeons and Dragons” so much fun, besides the game-play itself, with your needing a Dungeon Master, and graph paper, and rolling the dice to determine your character’s fate as you engaged in an adventure. Because for every hour you spent quarreling with the Dungeon Master over his judgment calls, you spent an equal amount of time or even more, poring over the compendiums of gods, monsters, and beasts the D&D publishers churned out. Reading, memorizing—classifying.

Classification is a uniquely human compulsion. We like to draw up lists, order things on the basis of what we consider to be their characteristics and the mechanics of their behavior. The Middle Ages had bestiaries, the first encyclopedias had as much fiction as fact in their pages, the figure that systematized and tried to make the process scientific being Carl Linnaeus, who put together the system of classifying all living things we still memorize in school (genus, order, species). Even as science marched on and it became conclusively proven there were no dragons, giants, or unicorns, the system for classifying the real could just as well serve to classify the unreal. But for most of us today the Mother of All such Linnaean efforts was D&D. Such heresy! D&D thus became demonically dangerous but it didn’t end with the Gary Gygax books and the many-sided dice gathering dust in cupboards. Aside from The Chronicles of Narnia which are considered wholesome and Christian (Aslan the lion is the Redeemer), much of Fantasy remains too sexy, violent, or spooky for conservatives. Why, even the Harry Potter saga has gone in for its share of condemnations from pulpit-thumpers everywhere. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, is one; The Zombie Survival Guide is another. I list, therefore, it exists.

Which is why I was delighted when a colleague in the Inquirer first told me about the Aswang Project, which has been going on for years but surely deserves a hell of a lot more exposure. We made it the topic of last Sunday’s Inquirer Briefing (sorry, you’d have to have bought the paper edition of the paper to see it), and it has, besides a web page, its own Facebook, Twitter and even a nifty YouTube channel. Fun for the whole family! But really, what sets it apart is the effort at classifying our national menagerie of supernatural creatures.

It’s all there, scientifically-arranged. Benevolent and Malevolent. Deities (major and minor), Heroes and Supernatural Beings: one could go on and on, which the Briefing team did in the Inquirer, broadly speaking. From giants to dwarves, flying, creeping, forest-, sea-, or town-dwelling beings, the opportunities to classify is vast considering the Aswang Project’s database comprises over 200 creatures. But as we were studying the site, it quickly emerged that there is something uniquely Filipino about this vast catalog of beings.

As one of our researchers put it to me, “Most of these creatures want to be left alone. Only the manananggal is really predatory.” Of course others more steeped in the subject might contest this. I myself find it interesting that quite a few could be classified, in the taxonomy of the supernatural, as tax-collectors. By which I mean they will exact tribute, or a cut—a kind of spooky tong—from humans they encounter. I recall conversations long ago from archeologists and one was developing a theory that it would be better to think of the ancient pre-colonial political units less as kingdoms with all that suggests in the Western-sense, and more like pockets of power that made a living from charging toll. You paid a cut for every transaction that went through that territory. Why, all these things seem strangely familiar, in terms of the creatures imbued with power in our lives today, from barangay kagawad to mayors and even presidents: tax, toll, demands, violence, terror—if you cross them the wrong way.

I wish I could write fiction, but reality in our country, which is far stranger than anything a fictionist could come up with, keeps getting in the way. But for those gifted with the ability to imagine, or reimagine, alternative worlds or our world colliding with unknown ones, not enough credit is due. Not least because by means of their imagination, they lead others to being able to imagine, too. And this suggests something that is, to a commentator like me, the most magical thing of all when it comes to feats of the imagination. Sometimes myths tell us basic truths; think of it as passive-aggressive truth-telling. It does no one any good to make a pointed comment about the powerful. But to describe the powerful, in the guise of a forest giant, a sea serpent, a flying, predatory, giant bird—who can argue with that?

Our elders were on to something.

Oct 30

The Explainer: The Philippine Connection

The Philippine Connection

Manolo Quezon — The Explainer

Posted at Oct 30 2017 06:58 PM


Here are some dots. Opium, Morphine, Fentanyl, China, America, the Philippines, Germany, Hitler, Narcos, Rizal, Teddy Roosevelt Trump, and our very own President Duterte. We’re going to connect them in a quick exercise in surprising connections in the War on Drugs.

A few days ago, US President Donald Trump proclaimed a medical emergency, because of the ongoing Opioid epidemic in the United States. As this chart shows, Now a quick definition. There are opiates, which are painkillers made from the Opium poppy, and there are opioids, which are chemical substitutes for opium-derived products, also meant to be painkillers and, in some cases, much more powerful.

While opioid abuse is going down in places like Europe, it’s spiking in America, particularly among white people. Along the way, when doctors aren’t prescribing drugs like Fentanyl, addicted individuals are looking for heroin on the streets as a cheaper alternative.

Speaking of Fentanyl, because of the chronic pain he endures because of some chronic diseases he has, our very own President has pointed out he had to resort to Fentanyl in the past to the extent his doctors got worried. That’s the point as far as he’s concerned. He has medical supervision. As for other drugs, he himself believes as we all know, that there is a dangerous intersection between criminals distributing drugs, and politicians on the take from drug dealers. Hence, our home-grown War on Drugs which he took the time to explain to his favorite author, Ioan Grillo, whom we’ve covered before.

Now, here’s where we start laying out the dots and connecting them. This Free Press editorial cartoon from the 1920s. It could be published today and still be relevant. There’s a Chinese opium dealer. There are supposedly helpless policemen. There are high officials turning a blind eye to the problem.

Even before the Flower-power 1960s with its Jimmy Hendrix and marijuana, drugs were known here. As Ambeth Ocampo once pointed out in a column, even Rizal, writing to a fellow scholar, said he’d tried hashish, a sticky, concentrated derivative of marijuana. He said it had been strictly for scientific purposes. He also pointed out that opium was known in the Philippines.

Now, as we proceed from our first dots, we’re going to rely on two books, El Narcoby Ioan Grillo, about the rise of the Mexican drug cartels which started with the distribution of Opium and marijuana at the turn of the 20th Century, and Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany, by Norman Ohler, about how the Nazis and Hitler got hooked on artificial stimulants and sedatives during the Third Reich.

Let’s start with Ioan Grillo’s book, which gives a fascinating background to why the Chinese were so instrumental in the growth of the drug trade in opiates and later got involved, too, in the trade in opioids.

Opium from the opium poppy has been known since the most ancient times, and for millennia it was the only source of narcotics. The poppy produces a sap which is can be gathered and concentrated to make opium which can be smoked.

The British in the mid 1800s started importing opium from their colonies bordering on Afghanistan to China, and the Chinese government tried to ban it. Britain went to war to force China to allow their sale of drugs, taking over Hong Kong and other places, inflicting a humiliation still powerfully felt in China to this day.

Chinese workers and settlers all over the world, whether to the Philippines or to Mexico, would set up opium dens and mastered the business of bribing officials. In Mexico and America, Grillo says, Chinese laborers brought in to build railroads brought with them not only the opium habit, but poppy seeds, which is how Mexico started growing opium.

By the turn of the 20th Century, Teddy Roosevelt, the US President who, as Vice President, had schemed to send the US Navy to Manila in 1898 and have America conquer our country, had gotten so alarmed by the spread of opium that he lobbied for international gatherings and treaties to limit the opium trade. American missionaries in the Philippines went back to the United States with horror stories of Chinese opium dens, and Americans began to discover there were opium dens in San Francisco and other places, too.

The alarm over opium which also had racist elements to it—the fear of drug-crazed Chinese taking advantage of drug-dazed American women was a particularly horrifying thought to white Americans—soon included other drugs, such as cocaine which as we all know had gotten so popular even soft drinks included it. And here comes another dot: a gentleman named Francis Burton Harrison, who later became Governor-General of the Philippines, adviser to three Philippine presidents, and a Filipino citizen who chose to be buried in Manila. As a congressman, he sponsored the Harrison Narcotics Act, the first laws aimed at suppressing the spread of illegal drugs –in fact it’s the law that made marijuana, opium and cocaine illegal in the first place.

Which now brings us to our next dots, far from Manila and Washington in the 1910s, and on to Berlin in the 1920s. Norman Ohler, in his book, says the Nazis, like so many authoritarian populist movements, found a War on Drugs to be very popular and very convenient. The Nazis promised a crackdown on opium and cocaine.

Pain killers had gotten a big boost among the Germans and indeed all armies that fought in World War I, because so many wounded, meant doctors needed a way to keep soldiers pain-free and calm as they waited to either die or undergo surgery. The use and abuse of painkillers like Morphine led to thousands of addictions, fueling demand and crimes among veterans in the 1920s.

Hitler, campaigning for, and after achieving, power, blamed the Jews and other groups for the criminal underground peddling drugs to what he said were innocent Aryans. Hitler’s anti-drugs campaign was focused not on curing addiction, but eliminating places like music halls and cabarets where people made fun of the powerful, and cracking down on practically anyone who could be accused of favoring drugs and were therefore, anti-German.

Never mind that there remained high-profile addicts like Hermann Goering, Hitler’s air force chief and designated successor, who had gotten addicted to morphine when he was wounded in Hitler’s attempt to grab power in Munich in the 1920s. But Goering, for one, was addicted to an opiate—morphine is derived from opium. Something else was happening in Germany in the 20s and 30s: the invention of something unrelated to pain killers. This was what we now know as speed.

The German genius for chemistry gave us things like Aspirin but also, what is more technically known as methamphetamines, chemicals that rev up the system, meaning you can go without sleep for days, you lose appetite, and feel like superman. In the 1920s the first such amphetamine, known as Pervitin, was marketed. It proclaimed you would be energized for work and lose weight in the process. It sold like crazy. It was even mixed into chocolates for housewives to stimulate them to do more housework.

When Hitler went to war against Poland, the fast pace of the German way of waging war meant ways had to be found to keep soldiers on the move and awake. Eventually, a so-called Stimulants Decree was issued, which ordered German soldiers to receive doses of amphetamines. In contrast, French soldiers were getting a liter of wine a day while German soldiers got stimulant pills. So, the Germans kept winning and as time went on, a side effect of amphetamines—aggression, for example—meant it became easy to dose soldiers with drugs so they could more easily round up Jews and shoot them.

Even Hitler got addicted. His doctor, Theodore Morrel, mastered what addicts call a speedball: a combination of uppers and downers. So, Hitler functioned for the last two years of his life on a cocktail of cocaine, amphetamines, and sedatives. His generals, not knowing he was on drugs, thought he was glowing with a supernatural brilliance as he would speak for hours in meetings, going from one random topic to another, shouting and cursing at the world. Then Hitler’s doctor ran out of drugs, Hitler crashed, got depressed, and shot himself.

The Allies soon discovered this German secret and started dosing their own troops with both uppers and downers. American and British versions of amphetamines were issued to troops. Wounded troops were dosed on morphine, as you know from watching Band of Brothers, where syrettes were issued to medics to inject into wounded troops. So it was in Korea and in Vietnam—with generations of troops introduced to drugs.

It was the hangover from wartime—dosing people in pain on the battlefield became dosing people in pain in civilian life—that fueled the rise of the drug culture, and the waves of changes since, as doctors and drug dealers keep finding new waves to satisfy public cravings. And among these dots, you now see, the surprising place the Philippines has played in this global tragedy. So, if you have something left over from your end of the month pay, why not spend some of it in a bookstore, and get Grillo’s and Ohler’s books? You definitely won’t regret it.

Oct 27

Spot.ph Commentary: Haunting and Horror

Haunting and Horror

There’s a difference between spooky and scary.

(SPOT.ph) Words can spook you without resorting to chainsaw type tricks. We all know this from childhood, as our elders told us stories that caused goosebumps and raised the hairs on the back of our necks in the same manner as cave-dwelling children must have experienced huddled around the communal fire at night. The basic reason for such stories is therefore as old as humanity itself—to build tribal solidarity, to warn of the dangers of the unknown, the “Other,” who might grab you and gobble you up or somehow leave you changed, endangering not only yourself but the group.

Whether our fear and fascination with monsters dates to the time when Neanderthals co-existed with our homo sapien ancestors (preying on early humans, allegedly; though early DNA studies suggest people with red hair carry Neanderthal DNA, which has since been disproved, Eurasians carrying 1-4% of Neanderthal DNA has been taken by some to suggest a kind of opposite theory, that early humans raped Neanderthals), or to earlier, residual memories of giant and dangerous beasts, is something being explored by scientists.

In the end, human behavior includes different ways of coping with fear: the fight or flight instinct; the innate caution that comes from experiencing inexplicable and thus possibly lethal, phenomenon and the need to communicate these lessons however hazily the causes are understood; and the ability to communicate, in turn, fear from an individual to the community. When we gather in a movie house to watch a horror movie, we do so out of individual choice but also, to have a communal experience.

We can experience fear in two ways: we can be spooked or horrified. Spookiness requires the active assistance of our often hyperactive imaginations; horror requires big doses of gore and violence.

As chronicled by John Markoff in one essay in The Rise and Fall of the French Revolution, the “Great Fear” was an outbreak of paranoia in rural areas, as a political crisis engulfed France in 1789. Rumors began to spread that the King, bandits, merchants, what have you, were going to swoop down on farmers to take their grain. The farmers formed militias; urban residents panicked. The government panicked. The French Revolution followed.

The reason everyone was paranoid about their grain, we now know, was something called the Little Ice Age, which lasted three centuries (from the 1300s to the mid-1800s!).

I was reminded of this when I was listening to one of the Halloween episodes of a remarkable podcast called Lore. Titled “Silver Lining,” its description tantalizes without revealing what’s in store for the listener: “We’ve conquered much of our world, but even with all of our great cities and urban sprawl, there are still shadows on the edge. And it’s in the shadows that the greatest threats still exist—creatures from our darkest nightmares that threaten our feeling of safety. Which has led some to strike out into the dark and hunt them.”

What it’s really about is France, about a generation before the French Revolution, and thus a few decades before the “Great Fear,” but about an outbreak of a great fear—over sightings of giant wolf-like beasts roaming the woods, snatching children playing on the outskirts of towns, and growing in frequency and ferocity as Winter sets in and food becomes scarce. The writer and reader, Aaron Mahnke, has a youthful yet serious voice, and tells his stories—his Lore, accumulated from old tales—quietly, truly hauntingly. No dramatic effects, but lots of mood-setting, equally haunting, music. You won’t get nightmares from his tales, but you will, as you listen to them, feel uneasy, not least because much that is already familiar is presented from a different perspective.

Who hasn’t heard about werewolves? But these are werewolf stories you haven’t heard before, and what is uniquely Lore-like are things like the clincher that comes at the end of the tale—that of one hunter who was quickly forgotten after his 15 minutes of fame in the reign of Louis XV—but who had set out after having had a priest bless his bullets, which were made of silver. Aha! So that’s where that essential element of fighting the supernatural with guns began.

Mahnke’s Lore has turned into a small industry, and deservedly so. Lore is all over. It has a website which links to his podcasts, Facebook, and a Twitter account, promoting the book version of his accumulated stories. The man behind all of these, Aaron Mahnke, even has his own site. But Lore is a constantly evolving creative undertaking. Now it’s gone visual. In case you have Amazon Prime, you can watch the TV series of Lore. Featuring a collaboration with two individuals connected with the TV series’ The Walking Dead and The X-Files, Mahnke’s stories have become multimedia experiments, each episode having a different feel in terms of how it’s visually expressed, with the essential elements any regular listener has come to love: the quiet, deliberate, understated voice of Mahnke, the mood-setting music; and now, animation and pictures and, if you watch it on your computer screen, simultaneous sidebars providing historical and other backgrounds to the unfolding tale.

Season 1 has six episodes, ranging from the belief in New England in the 1800s that the only way to prevent the spread of tuberculosis—commonly called “consumption’ in the 19th Century—was to make sure that “the dead are actually dead,” to a doctor named Walter Freeman who decided lobotomies using an icepick were a dandy cure for mental illness afflicting the criminally insane, to the belief in Ireland that someone you know could suddenly be replaced by fairies with a changeling —and how people came to believe this and what solutions they resorted to.

Lore isn’t an old-style radio drama. It’s storytelling with a modern sensibility while tackling tales as old as humanity’s fear of the unknown and inexplicable have existed. Prepare for a proper haunting.

Oct 25

The Long View: The problem of the Gordian knot


The problem of the Gordian knot

 / 05:05 AM October 25, 2017

When a leader solves a problem with bold action, it’s often referred to as cutting the Gordian knot. This comes from a legend about Alexander the Great reaching the city of Gordium, whose ancient founder, Gordius, had left behind a chariot tied to a pole by means of a complicated knot. The one able to untie it, the legend went, would be the conqueror of Asia. Alexander promptly took out his sword and sliced through the knot. Success!

Here is the fundamental difference between the public and government. The public is motivated by the fierce urgency of now; government’s concern revolves around the precise determination of how. This was a very useful definition put forward by a longtime Washington journalist. Another journalist put it more simply: Washington, he remarked, is not about the why, it’s about the how. In turn, whether framed in the language of Washington or Manila, this reveals the fundamental, enduring, dilemma every new administration faces once it promises its way to power: How do you accomplish the how, not later, but now. Government is a wholesale undertaking; politics is retail. What makes sense taken as a whole, can prove counter-intuitive and thus unbelievable to the voter. This is a harsh lesson learned by every administration, and the present dispensation is no exception.

In other words the public expects — and will applaud — Alexander-type action that slices through Gordian knots, but it is also fearful that slicing through every problem with a blade risks exceeding what is permissible, not only as to means, but methods. Not every problem can be hacked through. So long as the slicing is done in a manner that does not cause more problems than it solves (such as causing instability), and so long as it achieves results (sooner rather than later), the public will not only accept it, but reward it with approval—but approval is a passive gift; it is not active participation precisely because the public expects leaders to do what is required, without bothering the public.

As a Filipino political leader put it bluntly in 1922: “The problem with you is that you take the game of politics too seriously. You look too far behind you and too far ahead of you. Our people do not understand that. They do not want it. All they want is to have the present problem solved, and solved with the least pain. That is all.” A decade later, somewhat the wiser, came a follow-up reflection in 1938: “The people care more for good government than they do for self-government… the fear is that the Head of State may either exceed his powers, or abuse them by improprieties. To keep order is his main purpose.”

Take the so-called “war on drugs.” Government loves its statistics: hundreds of thousands “surrendered,” dramatic confrontations with mayors. But a growing percentage of the public feels fear, despite assurances that if you don’t do wrong, you have nothing to fear.

The problem with the war on drugs, based on the President’s own statements on the matter, boils down to three things. First, he did not realize the scale of the problem even though he campaigned on the problem being at the core of his motivations to seek the presidency. If his predecessor was perceived to spend too much time on the how leading to dissatisfaction over the now, still, the previous regime’s mantra that the “correct identification of the problem leads to identifying the correct solution” remains valid.

Second, while he had some police generals on his radar, the President has said that he did not realize the police would be so corrupt and stupid in fulfilling his orders. He had a hunch, which I think will eventually be proven at least partially correct, that the first wave of slaughter even before he assumed office was due to corrupt cops liquidating assets and networks they’d benefited from. But he seems convinced this continued even after he assumed office. Add to this his repeated expressions of frustration with cops over what are unforgivable acts of brutality stupid enough to be caught on camera or which leave witnesses, when everything would be easy if each fatality was preceded with a blackout of CCTVs, and an officially-believable assertion of being a response to armed resistance. This is at the core of his repeated insistence that as a lawyer he would never be so dumb as to issue explicit orders for liquidations. He is right—in the sense that what he laid out was a path that could be guarded by cooperative fiscals and judges.

Third, he did not foresee how stubborn civil society and the Church would be; how media, both foreign and domestic, would focus on methods rather than what he considers wonderful outcomes; and how the public would start faltering in its support of not only his objective, but his methods. Now he has had to beat a retreat, hoping his gesture to pacify public opinion—putting the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in charge of cracking down on drugs — will fail.

Oct 23

The Explainer: Winner take all

Winner take all

Manolo Quezon – The Explainer

Posted at Oct 23 2017 03:01 PM


The one thing you have to know about a revolution is that by its nature, it is illegal unless and until it wins. Then the revolution dictates what is legal or not.

When Emilio Aguinaldo established a new government in June 1898, what he set up was a dictatorial government. Our proclamation of independence in fact referred to him as our “egregious dictator,” in the old sense of the word, meaning remarkable or excellent.

A witness to the event, Apolinario Mabini, objected to this. A country’s freedom, he argued, required not just speaking in the name of the people, but getting the people’s involvement as well.

That is why soon after the dictatorial government was set up, it was abolished and replaced with a revolutionary government that lasted until we set up a republic in January 1899.

Mabini, writing after the First Republic was defeated, explained what a revolution is. He said, a revolution requires violent change to three things: the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. He clarified that a revolution is only worthy of the name if it is done by the people, in answer to needs they feel, and not by and on behalf, of a smaller group or interest.

The Polish journalist Ryzsard Kapuskinski, in his wonderful book “Shah of Shahs,” writing almost a century later, added something else, based on the world’s 20th Century experiences.

A revolution, according to him, is different from a simple revolt, a coup d’etat, or a palace takeover. In the first place, he argued, it is spontaneous: it cannot be planned. It happens so quickly, that even those who’ve been wanting one, can be surprised by what takes place, including the destruction of the ideals that had motivated the revolution.

So, if soldiers march out of the barracks to depose a president, that is a coup d’etat, not a revolution. Guerrillas in the hills fighting to achieve a change in government are waging a revolt but it’s not a revolution.

The thing is, the idea of revolution is exciting. It is even convenient, since most people have little time or patience for the definitions of lawyers, political scientists or even journalists. Ferdinand Marcos laid down the case for what would be a power grab—but not a revolution—by hiding his plans under the name of a revolution, which he said would be different from the Left or the Right in that it would come from the Center.

But Marcos was a wide reader of history and knew what Mabini argued: violence is the key. Just as a revolution can be stopped by force of arms, force of arms can be used to simulate a revolution.

Again, borrowing Mabini’s definition, we can see Marcos, using the armed forces, neutralized the three branches of government. Anyone in the executive disagreeing with him could be arrested under martial law. He padlocked Congress, neutralizing the legislature. He told the Supreme Court, leave me alone or I will abolish you.

In Latin America, they have a name for what Marcos did, and it’s not revolucion. It’s autogolpe. The dictionary defines an autogolpe as a military coup with a difference: it is initiated by the elected leader, to establish total control of the state.

In 1986, we had a different kind of revolution, peaceful because the military disobeyed Marcos’ orders to fire on Camps Crame and Aguinaldo and to plow, shell, or bomb their way through the crowds on EDSA. With the military having changed allegiance, President Cory Aquino proclaimed a revolutionary government, abolishing the Marcos-era institutions. By 1987, this was replaced by the democracy we now have.

But this democracy is far from being universally loved. Since last year, some supporters of the President have argued that the system is corrupt, dysfunctional, and inefficient. It too easily allows individuals and groups to use the system to slow down or even stop, some of the President’s advocacies.

In response to the defects they see in our system of government, these supporters have argued, publicly, and passionately, for a Revolutionary Government to be proclaimed. This call has been made time and again, in August, September, and December last year, and February and June this year.

These supporters have tried to organize locally and nationally. The idea is to prove that there is a massive demand for a revolution to happen.

These supporters argue that since it’s obvious there is wide public support for the President, then it is time to show these numbers not just online, but in the real world. And not just in Metro Manila, but throughout the country.

Their dream is gatherings of passionate citizens demanding four things. First, to proclaim the 1987 Constitution null and void, and to use the 1973 Constitution that was abolished in 1986 as the basis for a new one. Second, to establish a Federal government suited to local behavior and conditions. Third, to crush corruption in government and in the private sector, including reclaiming all stolen wealth. Fourth, to crush drug syndicates and other criminal gangs. The petition circulated by these advocates envisions a two-year revolutionary government to accomplish these things.

The latest measure of public opinion, for its part, tells us that these objectives, at this point, may be pretty far removed from what people really want government to fix. For example, locally, the top three issues are bad roads, flooding, and drugs.

Nationally speaking, public opinion tells us that controlling inflation, higher salaries, more jobs and fighting corruption are the top concerns. Changing the constitution is at the very bottom, with only two percent of people having the opinion this is a priority.

The challenge for advocates of a revolution is to connect these dots. As early as last June, advocates of revolutionary government online used real world problems to justify why a revolution is needed. Now that the President has said he is willing to consider a revolution as an option, the debate is a serious one, since it essentially involves a saying lawyers love: “When the guns speak, the law falls silent.”

Other supporters of the President are pushing Charter Change through normal channels as an alternative. The President himself has publicly stated he prefers this path. But he is showing signs of impatience and frustration.

Oct 18

The Long View: Unintended consequences


Unintended consequences

 / 05:04 AM October 18, 2017

A two-day holiday for kids in school is a wonderful thing — for the kids. By the time you get to college, it’s still rather nice but by then you’re old enough to worry about what will be done to compensate for lost time. For adults in the real world, an unexpected holiday presents headaches. For school administrators, it requires revisiting the academic calendar, rescheduling exams, and other related headaches. For workers and bosses alike, it raises problems ranging from what kind of compensation is required by law, as well as lost opportunities and income due to diminished productivity.

As soon as the Palace announced it would respond to the PISTON (Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide) jeepney strike by cancelling government work and classes on all levels nationwide last Monday, a business reporter immediately observed that one consequence would be no check clearing and possibly, the shutdown of financial markets for a day. This was in response to a terse statement from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) deputy governor that there would be no Philpass and BSP Treasury operations. Sure enough, the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) then announced there would be no trading, nor clearing and settlement at the Securities Clearing Corp. of the Philippines.

As it turned out, Monday did feature the PISTON strike but also news that a whole bunch of jeepney operators did not participate in the strike. Local governments in many places mounted ad hoc transportation services, complete with tarpaulins blaring the goodness of the mayors concerned, to ferry stranded workers. The Department of Transportation (DOTr), for its part, went on the offensive and pointed out that contrary to allegations by PISTON and friends, the planned PUV modernization scheme was not anti-poor due to the alleged high cost in procuring new vehicles.

In the first place, according to DOTr, a major component of the program is a financing scheme available to public utility jeepney (PUJ) operators and drivers who are willing to borrow money to buy new units. DOTr said the financial package for the acquisition of vehicles endorsed by the Department of Finance is actually “generous” with equity as low as 5 percent, a 6-percent interest rate, and a repayment period as long as seven years. It pointed out that bus operators applying for bank loans to acquire new buses currently saddle themselves with 20-30 percent equity, with an interest rate of 7 percent, and a repayment period of three to five years.

And there’s more! DOTr said it would offer a subsidy of up to P80,000 per vehicle to cover equity payment, which actually comes out to a bigger value because of zero or low maintenance costs for the first three years. In turn, this translates to higher earnings for the driver and increased confidence and capacity to repay the loan.

A financial analyst responded to this with a comment on Twitter: “[For] Modern jeepney lowest price P1.2m less 80k subsidy = P1.12m. At 6% p[er] a[nnum], 7 yrs to pay, monthly amort[ization] = P16,360. Is this affordable?” A response to this tweet said: “Poor ROE [return on investment] right? Moreso with traffic.” To which the analyst responded: “Very. Especially for drivers who will probably see a big increase in their daily boundary;” adding further that the cost of the new vehicles exceeded diesel Innovas marketed at P1 million.

The truth is, the present administration is on the horns of a dilemma: Something ought to be done but it’s not possible for government to either nationalize public transport or simply replace obsolete jeeps with something new without jeepney operators having to foot the bill. So only partial solutions are offered, such as offering loans to drivers and operators who are unwilling to take on debt. Not least for unproven vehicles that may or may not work as advertised. (Batteries? In a nation where brownouts happen for all sorts of reasons?)

The best that the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board could do in response to the whole thing was to trot out one of its officials to scream that the transport strike was a destabilization plot against the government. Except that, a strike by a minority of operators is nothing new. Why did it result in the shutdown of government nationwide, the cancellation of classes, and a day’s lost opportunities in the markets as well as a paralysis in business because checks couldn’t be cleared (after a weekend at that)? To top it all off, government excitedly decided work and classes would be called off for another day. Despite the suspension, the BSP operated PhilPass, which allowed the stock market to reopen.

Destabilization? As the Great Eagle Father himself likes to say: “He, who is the cause of the cause is the cause of them all.”


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