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Sep 01

Remembering RM

Not a postage stamp, commemorative banknote or coin, no official proclamation or holiday, nothing: the centenary of Ramon Magsaysay’s birth came and went and was, for all intents and purposes, officially ignored.

It sounds terrible to say it, but I think Ramon Magsaysay Jr.’s unearthing the Joc-Joc Bolante scam, his sympathy for the Philippine Marines in 2006, and his declining to replace Silvestre Afable, Jr. in the cabinet recently, has a lot to do with the official amnesia. And to think that for the Quezon and Osmena centennials in 1978, though their families were opposed to the Marcos, then-President Marcos pulled no stops in undertaking massive official commemorations of those dates. Which was the proper thing to do.

If you read the Time article, Needed: Two Fists from August 8, 1949 you’ll see why, by 1951, Magsaysay was the Man of the Year. How, by 1953, the Magsaysay boom was being editorialized, and how a generation showdown took place later that year during the Nacionalista Party convention. How, after his landslide victory he was being accused of dictatorship and of coddling the Church; and yet he was, at his death, poised to achieve reelection.

I’d like to reproduce my script for The Explainer, broadcast to commemorate the 50th anniversary of RM’s death last March.

From her secret perch overlooking Malacanan Palace, June Kiethley in February 1986, decided to play an old campaign jingle on the airwaves.

That jingle was Mambo Magsaysay, whose words and music were by Raul Manglapus.

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To play that song at that time, was a pointed jab at an Ilocano dictator, reminding him of another Ilocano president whose fame was built on redeeming the sanctity of the ballot, while Marcos’s notoriety was built on stealing ballots.

Perhaps you’ve heard that tune. But have you paused to reflect on its words? And why they captured the imagination of the electorate in 1953 and served as an inspiration to the electorate in 1986?

Everywhere that you would look
Was a bandit or a crook
Peace and order was a joke
‘Til Magsaysay pumasok
That is why, that is why
You will hear the people cry
Our democracy will die
Kung wala si Magsaysay.

Mambo, mambo Magsaysay
Mabu-mabu mabuhay
Our democracy will die
Kung wala si Magsaysay

Birds they voted in Lanao
At pati Aswang pa daw
Ang election lutong macaw
Till Magsaysay showed them how

Mambo, mambo Magsaysay
Mabu-mabu mabuhay
Our democracy will die
Kung wala si Magsaysay

We tend to overlook in our present era of pop songs recycled and repurposed as campaign jingles, how revolutionary -and subversive- the Mambo Magsaysay was.

A few years back I bought a Perez Prado album and in the liner notes, another Philippine president, Elpidio Quirino, did a cameo. He was quoted as saying that the Mambo craze that swept the Philippines was “a national calamity.” And indeed it was. A song helped sweep him out of office.

It’s often through photographs and music that we can recapture an era; and so here’s one more campaign song, also composed by Manglapus, from the Magsaysay campaign. It’s a more traditional one. It’s title is We Want Magsaysay.

We want the bell of liberty
Ringing for us once more
We want the people’s will to be
Free as it was before!
We want our native land to lie
Peaceful and clean again
We want our nation guided by
God-fearing honest men!

Men who;ll serve without the nerve
To cheat eternally
Who’ll do the job and never rob
The public treasury!

Only the man of destiny
can our freedom restore
This is The Guy for you and me
We want Magsaysay!

Ph Pres Magsaysay
This is the image of Magsaysay familiar to all of us: the official portrait painted when he was still Secretary of National Defense, and which hangs in Malacanan Palace to this day.
Goeffrey Bocca, President Macapagal’s biographer, said of the this famous portrait of Magsaysay that he looked “very much the tough guy: he probably chews glass.”

In our profoundly embittered and cynical times, it seems unimaginable that Filipinos would want, so mightily, a leader to lead them out of a time of Communist rebellion and seemingly total government corruption. Equally unimaginable, perhaps, to us today, is the idea that the political system could still produce leaders capable of delivering good government.

But in truth, I don’t think we’re very different then from the way we are today. We’ve always wanted to see three things in our presidents.

The first is, we understand our presidents are human but we want them to a little more honest, and a lot more dissatisfied, and somehow, a positive example. Veteran journalist Jess Sison, in his book “My Guy Magsaysay” recounts another reason the public adored the president:

On of the very first directives of Ramon Magsaysay when he became the President was to prohibit his relatives from staying in Malacanan Palace. He banned even his father and mother from staying at the Palace overnight. They had to get an appointment with the President before they could see him in Malacanan. Some people criticized the decision of the President. But he insisted on it.

When Executive Secretary and later Chief Justice Fred Ruiz Castro did a minor favor for one of the President’s relatives, Magsaysay fired him.

Second, we like it when presidents act as the scolder-in-chief, cracking the whip over inefficient or unresponsive officials.
Take a look, for example, at how Gringo Honasan’s father got fired.

Here’s Sison’s account of how it happened:

One early afternoon [Magsaysay’s temper] flared up when he saw many people standing outside the gates of Malacanan. He got off his car and talked to the people and found out that they were farmers from Central Luzon and they had been waiting outside the Palace gates since early morning. Magsaysay then asked the sentry guards at the gate why the people had not been allowed to enter. The guards replied that it was Col. Romeo Honasan, then the commanding officer of the Presidential Guard Battalion (now the Presidential Security Group or PSG), who gave the order.

When Col. Honasan arrived, the President gave him a tongue-lashing. His angry words were: “From the beginning, I told you guys that Malacanan is the Palace of the people. It belongs to the people and the people should be admitted anytime they want to enter the Palace. For disobeying my order, you are hereby fired, effective immediately, as commander of the PGB.” The President then ordered the gates opened and allowed the people to come in. He listened to their requests for a while before proceeding to the Palace.

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Third, we like presidents to attend to our basic problems: law and order, food, sanitation.
And so, a generation of Filipinos, Magsaysay was such a man.

I’d like to pause at this point to tackle a point often raised against Magsaysay, and that’s his unabashed pro-Americanism. That charge was first laid by people upset that Magsaysay not only won, but won with the largest first term victory of any president before or since.

In 1953, Magsaysay garnered 68.8% of the votes, in an undoubtedly clean election. His critics, to rationalize this, claimed it was because of American support. He undoubtedly had that support, because of the Cold War and the rise of the Huks.

And so the Americans were clever in taking credit for Magsaysay, and his enemies as a way of sour-graping, have been happy to attribute to America what should be attributed to Filipinos.

If you’d like to see how Magsaysay was no American stooge, read “Illusions of Influence: The Political Economy of United States-Philippines Relations, 1942-1960 (Modern America)” (Nick Cullather). Or simply reflect on how the some of the worst aspects of Philippine-American trade relations were addressed through the Laurel-Langley Agreement, undertaken during the Magsaysay administration.

But many other things helped endear Magsaysay to the public, and in a sense, the Americans did a great job in projecting themselves as the secret behind his success, though as in most things, the Americans took credit for something not entirely of their own doing.

Magsaysay gained public confidence for the reforms he instituted in the armed forces. Corrupt generals were swept aside, the welfare of the enlisted men attended to, and the armed forces trained to stop their previous habit of abusing the peasantry which only helped the cause of the Huks.

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He was also fanatical in his insistence on distinguishing public from private funds, something he could perhaps afford to do, because in today’s money, the president’s salary would be equivalent to five million pesos a year.
Here’s an example. I October, 1955, Magsaysay flew to Tacloban on a Philippine air force plane. The President then sent P1,642.57 to a very surprised AFP chief of staff, to reimburse the trip. Even the press was surprised. A reporter later asked Magsaysay, but wasn’t that an official trip as president? Magsaysay had been invited to deliver the main speech at the commemoration ceremonies of the landing of the American forces of liberation in that locality.

This is Magsaysay’s reply, as quoted in the Philippines Free Press:

If I had delivered only that speech during their commemoration ceremony while we were in Tacloban, that would have been a purely official trip. But don’t you remember that I also spoke before the Lion’s Club of Tacloban and followed that with another speech before provincial and municipal officials and public school teachers of Leyte? I talked politics in that last speech. Lest I be accused of using a government airplane for electioneering, I had to see to it that the air force was fully paid for the use of that plane we took to Leyte.

To understand why Magsaysay was so fantical about such things, you only have to look at his Own citation of his core beliefs, The Magsaysay Credo, says it all.

I believe that government starts at the bottom and moves upward, for government exists for the welfare of the masses of the nation.

I believe that he who has less in life should have more in law.

I believe that the little man is fundamentally entitled to a little bit more food in his stomach, a little more cloth in his back and a little more roof over his head.

I believe that this nation is endowed with a vibrant and stout heart, and possesses untapped capabilities and incredible resiliency.

I believe that a high and unwavering sense of morality should pervade all spheres of governmental activity.

I believe that the pulse of government should be strong and steady, and the men at the helm imbued with missionary zeal.

I believe in the majesty of constitutional and legal processes, in the inviolability of human rights.

I believe that the free world is collectively strong, and that there is neither need or reason to compromise the dignity of man.

I believe that communism is iniquity, as is the violence it does to the principles of Christianity.

I believe that the President should set the example of a big heart, an honest mind, sound instincts, the virtue of healthy impatience and an abiding love for the common man.

Doesn’t that say everything all classes of Filipinos want? And which most of us believe should be the case?

The Official Gazette, which used to chronicle the activities of our chief executives, used to feature The Official Month in Review. In Magsaysay’s time, the President’s activities became so numerous it had to be changed to The Official Week in Review. Here’s an entry from his first full day in office:

Friday, Jan. 1 The common people turned out en masse to attend President and Mrs. Magsaysay’s first “at home” in Malacanan today. Men, women and children, many of them barefooted, many others in slippers or in bakya, streamed through the palace gates, milled around the President and shook hands with him, and then walked in and out of the rooms. Although the reception was scheduled to start at 10 a.m., the people started gathering at 7:30. It was supposed to close at 5 p.m., but the people stayed till much later.

Protocol Officer Manuel Zamora said that around 80,000 people entered the palace grounds. The visitors drank 19,200 bottles of softdrinks and ate 10,000 sandwiches.

A feature of the President’s “at home” was the exchange of toasts between the chief executive and the diplomatic corps. For the first time, the President offered his toast with a cup of basi, the Ilocano drink, and some of the diplomats followed suit.

Magsaysay of course, wasn’t the first president to have an open house in Malacanan -but he was the first to have a totally open house, an event so open it drove officials nuts and after a while, the practice had to be stopped.

But that open house was enough to build a legend. An economy that grew at a rate of 7% throughout his term also helped.

The legend came to an end on March 17, 1957. President Magsaysay was returning from Cebu, where among the last pictures taken of him shows him with former president Sergio Osmena. The president’s party boarded his plane, the Mount Pinatubo early in the morning.

An article from the April 6, 1957 issue of the Philippines Free Press has Nestor Mata, recounting what happened.

We inquired if it was true that he was seated at the tail end of the plane.

“No,” he answered, “I sat in the second seat next to the President’s compartment”.

“As soon as I was seated, I fell asleep at once. I did not have the slightest premonition of what was to happen. I had full confidence in our pilot. I felt that if the President was safe in his hands, I, too, was safe. I had no reason to feel otherwise.”

Mata reiterated that after the momentary blinding flash, he fell unconscious.

“At about three o’clock that same morning, I regained consciousness.

“I found myself on the side of a steep cliff among dried bushes. Agonizing with pain, I was completely at a loss what to do. About three meters away from me were parts of the plane. They were still burning. Meanwhile, I heard the distant howling of a dog. It was only then that I felt hopeful of being rescued. Thinking that there were probably people living not far away from where I lay moaning with pain, I made an effort to shout. I noticed that my voice echoed in the nearby mountains.

“After that, I began shouting, ‘Mr. President! Mr. President! Mr. President!’ When no answer came, I shouted for Pablo Bautista, the reporter of the Liwayway magazine. ‘Pabling! Pabling!’ Still no answer. It began to dawn on me that there was no other survivor except me.”

Mata remembered that it was about eight o’clock in the morning when the rescuers found him.

March 17, 1957 was a Sunday, and as the day wore on, extra editions of the newspapers screamed the president’s plane was missing. Jess Sison recounts that Mrs. Luz Banzon Magsaysay spent those hours of uncertainty on her knees in the Malacanang chapel, praying the rosary. Finally, at around noon, it was confirmed. President Magsaysay had died, at the age of 49, when the presidential plane crashed into the side of Mount Manunggal in Cebu.

In 1953, the year Magsaysay was elected the Free Press published an Editorial. It observed that “the deed to establish a regime above personalities, a government of law instead of men, cannot be exaggerated. In a rule of law alone lies social stability. Those who are for chaos may welcome a personal regime; those who are for order know the need for an impersonal government.” It said that while notable Filipino leaders in the past had a “private conscience drew the line beyond which it would be dishonorable for a public official to go,” the country couldn’t continue pinning its hopes on officials privately drawing “a line which only an impersonal law should draw.” The editorial writer couldn’t know how prophetic he was being.

Rm1953
Ramon Magsaysay landslide had not been seen in Philippine politics since before World War II; such was the charisma and integrity of the man that he almost single-handedly rejuvenated public confidence in government. But by 1957 Magsaysay was dead; and the country was left with the painful realization the editorial writer had expressed three years before: in the absence of a genuine rule of law, the restoration of public confidence was an impossible task. We continue to look for that rule of law, just as we have never found a people’s champion to replace him.

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42 comments

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  1. Chabeli

    Wow, what a guy ! Sadly, they don’t make ’em RMs anymore..one tends to come to the conclusion that the Philippines regressed in 1957 (when RM died).

    The Magsaysay Credo should be revived.

  2. cvj

    My Dad (now 89) has fond memories of the Magsaysay administration. He especially liked the fact that RM opened Malacanang to the people. He told me that although RM was pro-American, he wouldn’t hesitate confronting them when provoked. My Dad told me that Magsaysay was once refused entry by the US soldiers guarding one of the US Bases so an angry Magsaysay left and came back a little later this time with his own group of Philippine Army soldiers. Is there a record of such an incident taking place?

  3. DJB

    Uncanny! That General Yano even looks like RM, but just a lil older. Both Ilocanos, but also something in the eyes, and set of the jaw…

  4. viking

    For a more balanced view of RM and his legacy, read Joseph Smith’s ‘Portrait of a Cold Warrior’ where the former bureau chief of the CIA built up and manipulated the guy to defeat the Huk insurgency. It might be out of print but my copy is available for circulation.

  5. Manila Bay Watch

    RM walked and talked his credo. In essence, he understood even as he fought the Communist insurgency annihilating the threat could only be achieved by ‘winning hearts and minds.’

    It was at about the same time when British Gen Templar who was a proponent of ‘winning hearts and minds’ (also recently adopted by Gen Patraeus in Iraq albeit a bit late) was neutralizing Malaysia’s communists – Malaysia succeeded but the Philippines failed.

    Perhaps, had RM lived longer, he would have been able to achieve his objectives (which by extension, were also US objectives at the time).

    I believe Yano may indeed understand the problem and knows the solution/s to the insurgency problems; he once said at a meeting with friends – quite adamantly at that -some 8 years ago that a purely military solution cannot be the only solution to the insurgency problems – in that, Djb may have seen through to Yano as a worthy leader.

    Yano’s problem now is convincing Gloria, his immediate military superior and his co-commanders that ‘winning hearts and minds’ should go hand in hand with the military solution. And Yano doesn’t have much time to effect doctrinal changes for the army.

  6. leo

    mlq3,

    Who’s funding the RM Awards?

  7. leo

    btw, mlq3,

    I asked my aunt who killed RM she said matter-of-factly ‘mga merikano’ same with another elderly man I asked.

    Can the americans claim credit for building-up RM then sabotaging his plane when RM started to take the pro-poor propaganda too seriously. CIA operative Landsale was a Malacanang fixture during RM’s time. Could it also be possible that the americans masterminded Ninoy’s assassination? The state dept was against Ninoy’s return and Ninoy’s declared agenda to meet with Marcos.

  8. hvrds

    The Great Yellow Peril and Magsaysay. Filipinos, Indios and Uncle Sam and the “dollar dollar Joe” culture. The dominant political economy of that time was the yellow peril and the domino theory in Asia. The East is RED

    On the economic front Magsaysay was famous for the nationalization of the retail trade that banned Chinese and other foreigners except Americans from engaging in the retail trade. He did not sign or veto the law but allowed the legislation to lapse into law.

    A critical ‘bumiputra’ policy that resulted in the creation of a Pinoy middle class so to speak. Since the industrial backbone of the country is foreign owned since that period it gave pinoys a critical leg up in the division of labor in the economic supply chain. He gave credence to the Indios.

    What could’ve, should’ve and would’ve happened is now pure conjecture. He might have understood the class distinctions in the country most especially the roots of agrarian unrest and by 1972 we had a raging insurgency again in the countryside and another financial crisis.

    Now the country has regressed to becoming a net food importer, net fuel importer and a net capital importer. It now survives on the value of labor produced off shore in other countries to pay for its import bills to maintain the semblance of first world conditions for the few.

    The “dollar dollar Joe” culture unfortunately still prevails in this country at the highest levels of the income strata. Now it is evolved to the OFW phenomena. The Philippines beating all countries in the world as to the share of OFW remittances as a percentage of GDP.

    It is about economics as defined simply by Bernanke, the ordinary business of life. American parity priveleges were shortened by RM.

    That parity right imposition more than anything else has held back this country and set it apart from its Asian neighbors. That bias towards Japan and against the Philippines by the U.S. government doomed this country. The U.S. did the same to the Vietnamese people by giving Vietnam back to the French after the Vietnamese already were in charge after the surrender of the Vichy French forces in Vietnam.

    In the early 70’s the U.S. was forced to withdraw from Vietnam and we got an American supported dictatorship.

    Dollar dollar Joe?

  9. Manila Bay Watch

    I think hvrds’ piece might provide an insight into why and who could have killed RM. But human error in piloting or a faulty aircraft can not be rejected either.

    (Incidentally, just like Leo’s aunt, my father believed RM was neutralized by those who helped get him elected.)

  10. Manila Bay Watch

    Hvrds,

    Just a correction: After WWII, ‘Vichy France’ (which by the way was how Petain’s govt was called then in opposition to the ‘government’ of France Libre or Free France headed de facto by de Gaulle) ceased to exist – there could therefore be no Vichy French forces in Vietnam in 1953-54.

  11. cvj

    Can the americans claim credit for building-up RM then sabotaging his plane when RM started to take the pro-poor propaganda too seriously. – Leo

    Something General Yano should take note of. 😉

  12. leo

    MBW,

    What about the amerikanos master-minding Ninoy’s assissination? The historical pattern is quite clear. And the subsequent events in the Philippines after Ninoy’s death were veered to favor the americans who had consolidated control during Cory-time. The People power phenomenon was used by the state dept/CIA to foment popular unrest that lead to the fall of communist states in Eastern Euope.

  13. rollchan

    i presume the reason why Mt. Pinatubo (Presidential Plane of Sir RM Sr.) crashed is because of sabotage. but that was in the past now and no one should dig it…

    reading all about our history since I was a kid and as of today, Pres. RM Sr. was one of my greatest inspirations together with Pres. Quezon and Pres. Garcia.

    when will there be another RM of today? sad…

  14. rollchan

    oh, btw Mr. Manolo Quezon, you should have an Internet Radio Show (Podcast) so that I could listen to your rants everyday playing it over in my digital music/sound player, the iPod. =D just a suggestion. that’ll benefit all of your dear readers like me here. thanks!

  15. Manila Bay Watch

    Leo,

    Afraid, can’t answer that. There’s been no evidence that the CIA was involved in Ninoy’s assasination and I don’t believe there ever will.

    If we are to believe Marcos that he did not order Ninoy’s assasination – logically, assasinating Ninoy was not in his interest – then all ‘sinister’ theories are possible. However, I don’t see either why the CIA would be involved. What could be America’s interest in liquidating him? He would be a better ally to them as president is what I think. Ninoy was a known Amboy through and through so why liquidate a potentially good, nay, excellent ally?

  16. rollchan

    all of our Presidents (except Aguinaldo and Laurel) were all AmBoys and AmGirls?

    oh well…hehe..

  17. leo

    MBW,

    About Ninoy being an Amboy,

    Ninoy went through a ‘born again’ experience while in prison — personal conversion and transformation. He’s become a different man as had averred in several of his speeches and in his written and unwritten pesonal communications with family and friends.

    Ninoy himself said that the state dept was against his coming back.

    He was returning with a mission — for his people not for US. And the Americans know this. Ninoy was out of their control. A meeting between a born-again Ninoy and vulnerable Marcos was pre-empted by the assasination. The Americans were obviously orchestrating behind the scenes in the run-up to the EDSA event. At a crucial point the Filipinos allowed themselves to be hoodwinked by the Americans (like when Agunaldo was hoodwinked by Dewey) who took control of the post EDSA scenario. Naive Cory was more manageable than the nationalist Marcos or wisened Ninoy. It’s history repeating itself both in the deaths of nationalist leaders RM and Ninoy and in US’s consolidation of control over the Philippines.
    In a way, Erap too was a victim of assassination, albeit ‘political’ assassination. Am-girl GMA took over. Again, history repeating itself.

  18. rollchan

    should we bring back FVR to the nation’s top post?

    give him a 2nd term by revising our constitution on the Presidency?

  19. Karl Garcia

    Question, has anyone from the magsaysay clan asked why there was not a single token of remembrance of the 100th birth anniversary Of RM?

  20. bogchimash

    Rollchan,

    FVR is in a better position, calling the shots without the accountabilities of a public office.

  21. Betol

    Mr. Quezon, III

    I find it hard to believe with all the verbiage above that you failed to mention at any length, if at all, Magsaysay’s association with Edward Landsdale, as it is well known that he orchestrated much of Mr. Magsaysay’s strategies in suppressing the Huk rebellion and even part of his presidential campaign. Landsdale was an important adviser to Magsaysay and his role should not be minimized or omitted unless you fear that any mention of him would prove unequivocally that the CIA (or OSS) was pulling the strings from behind.

  22. mlq3

    re: rm andf landsdale, cia, etc, that is an old view peddled by the americans and no longer supported by the latest evidence. again, let me point you in the direction of nick cullather’s book, or the original article on which his expanded book (tackling several administrations) was based:

    http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0030-8684(199308)62%3A3%3C305%3AABRMAT%3E2.0.CO%3B2-4

    it renders everything previous to it obsolete, to my mind.

    also, the efforts to try to pass off rm as an invention of the americans has never been a satisfactory one because:

    1. it was peddled by embittered opponents and those who want to think filipinos were totally bamboozled on all levels, all the time (used and abused, yes, but not always and the americans found themselves checkmated from time to time, too; again, you can judge the historian’s account of the process)
    2. it never adequately explained how he could have siezed the popular imagination so effectively; you cannot totally invent an image or maintain it at such a colossal level
    3. it isn’t a suitable explanation as to why the huks were defeated (and if you read cullather, it shows that tactics on the ground weren’t as affected as landsdale liked to claim to get credit for himself; at best there was a case of both men using each other, but landsdale proved his limitations in vietnam afterwards)

  23. mlq3

    leo, rockefeller foundation established the trust fund for the rm awards.

  24. mlq3

    rollchan, thanks, but right now i’m spread too thin as it is. trying to convince anc to put my show on youtube but no luck so far.

  25. leo

    Covert Operations and the CIA’s Hidden History in the Philippines

    “US military advisers of the Joint US Military Advisory Group (JUSMAG) and the CIA station in Manila designed and led the bloody suppression of the nationalist Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan (HMB) which was vehemently opposed to the post-war Parity Rights amendment and the onerous military agreements with the United States. The CIA’s success in crushing the peasant-based Huk rebellion in the 1950s made this operation the model for future counterinsurgency operations in Vietnam and Latin America. Colonel Lansdale and his Filipino sidekick, Col. Napoleon Valeriano were later to use their counterguerrilla experience in the Philippines for training covert operatives in Vietnam and in the US-administered School of the Americas, which trained counterguerrilla assassins for Latin America. Thus, the Philippines had become the CIA’s prototype in successful covert operations and psychological warfare. “http://www.derechos.org/nizkor/filipinas/doc/cia.html

    Was ‘People Power’ another CIA operation prototyped in the Philippines? The fall of Communist governments in Eastern Europe is attributed to ‘People power.’

  26. BrianB

    mlq3,

    Good to note many people in Magsaysay’ era were very good judges of character. Very rare in our age. But, of course, to be a good judge of good qualities in a human being, one must have those qualities, too, even if only in smaller portions.

  27. Bencard

    mlq3, i join viking and betol in wondering about your seeming omission of cia’s (through edward lansdale) reported involvement in magsaysay’s rise to popularity and eventual election to the presidency. if warranted, we have to separate the myth from the man. this matter was also discussed in “Waltzing with a Dictator” by raymond bonner, a well-documented book on the marcos’ dictatorship. i was 14 during rm’s campaign and one of his adoring fans. at that age, i was already so involved in politics that i managed to be in the front row of the audience on his inauguration. i was 16 when he died on the plane crash and mourned with thousands of stunned countrymen.

    although i believed he had a very good chance of getting re-elected, i wonder how he would have been exposed to public scrutiny, and portrayed negatively by his political enemies who were on the outside looking in. at the time of his death, criticism of his administration was already beginning with the likes of claro m. recto taking the cudgels for the opposition on the hot issue of the day – nationalism.

  28. DJB

    MLQ3,
    You’ve every reason to be sentimental over our dearth of great Chief Executives. The titans of the past overtower the pygmies and pygmalions of the present. And well you should see the barrio athletes that have made it to the High Bench and become Chief Justices. I’m gonna tell Antonio Callipje Go about them!

  29. DJB

    MLQ3,
    People think the Erap Case will end with him and whatever his fate will be. They are wrong, if we are right who have been saying greater crimes than plunder were committed in his removal, and not by him or her, but the men in robes who undertook a vast disrespect of the constitution (and our intelligence). They chose what they thought was Good for the People over what they knew was Right by the Constitution. Erap was only one instance of that towering vanity and other Decisions they have made will soon be revealed to be even more lethal, perhaps to the Republic itself!

  30. DJB

    “Erap Para Sa Mahirap” was his promise to save them from poverty. We all know he would surely have failed even if he were not removed from Office.

    But because Davide and “the elites” undemocratically removed him from Office by simply aborting his Impeachment Trial after it became clear he would be acquitted, and swore in GMA, he was never given the chance to prove to the people that he was indeed a False Hope too!

    And of course Davide et al did not deliver themselves on Erap’s promise.

    Summa totalLow brow Populism was saved by Davide, in the greatest paradox of intention and result.

  31. bogchimash

    I think primarily, our host wanted to point out the administration’s failure to observe protocol/tradition. To underscore the error, he gives an account of the good deeds of the late president which, decidedly, outweigh the bad.

    Of course, there is much merit in the argument that the man should be separated from the myth but is that proper in the middle of a eulogy?

    Let the parade pass without rain. At least in this web log, we honor him. Anyway, in the final analysis, the negative info on him, his close association with the US, proved to be more beneficial to the Philippines and not the other way around. Prior to his appointment as Defense Secretary, America only gave us meager assistance. And despite the gifts, he was his own man which makes the CIA assasination theory strong up to this day. If this closeness ushered in an age of abuse, that’s already the fault of his successors because it did not happen during his watch.

    President Ramon Magsaysay deserved a centennial. He was quite a leader. I can actually reconcile my admiration for him and the oppositionists then, our great nationalists Diokno, Tanada and Recto.

  32. vic

    And in that plane, bibs grandpa’s elder brother perished along with the President. Her own grandpa wanted to come along, but the President said there just one too many family clan already in the plane just in case. Don’t have much chance to talk to by bro-in-law about his great uncle, but judging from his own family, they are the good Magsaysays. Most of them are now settled all over the states, mostly in California. Like the bibs said there are just as many of the Magsaysays now in California as in Zambales…

  33. hvrds

    At the end of World War II, it was Ho Chi Minh’s forces that accepted the defeat of Vichy French forces in Vietnam. The U.S. then was supporting both guerrilla wars in China and in Vietnam. They were supporting both the forces of Mao and the nationalists in China vs. the Japanese. Similarly in the Philippines the Huks controlled much of Luzon in the Philippines during the Japanese occupation. The U.S. also supported the guerrilla movement in the Philippines. After the defeat of the Japanese the U.S. made sure the Huks who were also fighting for national liberation from the U.S. got defeated.

    The Americans reinstated the French back in charge of Vietnam.

    Korea which was a Japanese colony went to the communists forces.

    Once again the U.S. intervened. George Keenan along with Dulles were the policy wonks who drew the new re-division of Asia along the Cold War lines. After the victory of Mao’s forces in China – the communists took China’s seat in the U.N. The historic snub of Dulles refusing to shake the hand Chou En Lai became the most significant act that would determine U.S. foreign policy till Nixon’s recognition of China. Representation of China then was given to the Nationalists in who took over the island, Taiwan.

    Then you have the defeat of the communist insurgency in the Philippines in the 50’s, the Korean War which technically still is on today, the defeat of the French, then the recognition of Mao’s China, then the defeat of the U.S. in Vietnam. The communists were crushed in Malaysia, Indonesia and during Magasaysay’s time in the Philippines. History is fluid and not static.

    The Philippines is the only S.E. Asian country that still has an ongoing Maoist insurgency. In India you have one also going on, and the one in Nepal just ended. In India the communist party is in coalition majority with the present government. The Communist party is the majority government also in West Bengal of India.

    Hence the Philippines continues to this day to be America’s neo-colony.

    Please note that the process of globalization that was completed at the end of the 19th century into early 20th century has resulted in economic enclaves controlled by the G-7 economies in varying degrees. Today the dollar value of U.S. direct investments, equity investments and other investments as of 2006 total $13 trillion dollars in the world.

    If one were to remove the market value of foreign direct investments, equity investments and portfolio investments from the G-7, Greater China and S. Korea in the Philippines from the value of Filipino and Indio owned assets, the Philippine state would be thrown back to the medieval times value wise.

  34. mlq3

    prof. simbulan’s article is fascinating. except he kept getting the date of martial law wrong.

  35. mlq3

    hvrsd: i think just as cia-us influence (command and control) is overstated, so was the strength of the huks at the end of the war. this does not mean that they weren’t effective or committed, just that they overstated their strength and influence and the claims have been uncritically passed on ever since. i understand some historians have been working on this which, combined with contemporary testimony, should lead to a reexamination of what has become a basic assumption.

  36. Devilsadvc8

    Was Magsaysay the Philippines’ own JFK?

  37. Betol

    Mr. Quezon III, the Nick Cullather link doesn’t work, but I’ll look for him in the Library.

  38. spidamang

    I just want to ask, is there an mp3 copy of “mambo magsaysay” available for download? If I play this song to my lolo, it might trigger a treasure trove of anecdotes. thanks 🙂

  39. mlq3

    spidamang, you can download the taglish and ilocano versions here:

    http://www.quezon.ph/?p=1012

  40. mlq3

    betol, you can search through google scholar (scholar.google.com) but the journal article requires payment, or you can get the citation and request a copy from your library. also, reviews of the book, which covers several administrations, can be found on amazon.

  41. red's herring: Magsaysay, the people's guy, was America's nightmare

    […]The “basic assumption” that Ramon Magsayay was in fact packaged by the CIA as a rugs-to-power politician while “overstated” could have some grounding. For one, Magsaysay was not a poor mechanic from Zambales but himself a son of a wealthy merchant and landowner. Atypically of Filipino teenager of his time, he sported a Ford in high school, best-selling author Stanley Karnow pointed out in In Our Image. There are certain serious materials indicating that Magsaysay, as an aspiring politician of national standing, agreed to work “for” the CIA. However when as president he converted, his term was cut short by a fatal plane crash. The conversion was from acting out his supposedly assigned role in America’s battle for hearts and minds to becoming an earnest reformer in protecting the Filipino peasantry from abuse in the belief that “he who has less in life should have more in law.” In having done so, Magsaysay actually began to live his manufactured image as “man of the people,” as if a Jacksonian democrat, at a period of sensitive global strategic alliances […]

  42. Bencard

    just an afterthought. seems to me that raul manglapus had a lot to do with rm’s “conversion”, more than helping him articulate it. i remember the former as an ardently vocal “nationalist” albeit very americanized in orientation.

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