Zeneida Quezon Avanceña
to the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation for the
posthumous awarding of the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation Medal to President Manuel L. Quezon
at the Inauguration of the Museo Ni Manuel Quezon
Quezon Memorial Shrine, Quezon City
August 19, 2015
In November we will mark 80 years since my father became the first president elected to office by the people. As my father climbed the stairs of Malacañan Palace, he remembered a story. It was a legend about the mother of our national hero, Jose Rizal. The legend goes that Rizal’s mother climbed those stairs on her knees, to beg for clemency for her son who had been condemned to die. He vowed that as a Filipino leading the Filipino nation, he would never be cruel or callous to calls for compassion.
This was not an idea that came to my father only in middle age. Eighty-eight years ago, in 1927, an Indonesian nationalist named Tan Malacca came to the Philippines and the Dutch authorities asked the Americans to deport him. Filipinos rallied to his cause. In his memoirs, Tan Malacca quoted my father as saying that “the right of asylum is one of the principles of democracy and humanity, which has been adopted by civilized nations.”
My father lived those words and opened the doors of our country to refugees from Shanghai, from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia, and as historians are discovering, ensured that our Immigration Act would give him and all his successors, the lawful means to respond to the needs of the dispossessed and persecuted seeking sanctuary in our shores.
In devoting his life to the freedom and independence of our country, he never forgot that freedom is the birthright of all. That what we demand and expect for ourselves, we must defend and uphold for others. Prosperity comes and goes but it is generosity, empathy, and solidarity that is the true measure of an individual and of nations. In these things the Filipino is the equal of anyone in the world.
In honoring my father today, you honor the people who trusted him to lead them—for while it was he who opened the door, it was the Filipino people who embraced as neighbors those who sought sanctuary in the Philippines. And it was, and is, as a people, that we have proven we are willing and able to be not just hosts, but friends.
On behalf of my father and our family and the country we love so much, I thank the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation for this great honor. May it encourage future generations of Filipinos to stay true to the compassionate ideals of our founding fathers.