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

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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

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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

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“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

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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

3:15

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

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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

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[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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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4:30 PM

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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May 9, 1949

Gentle Aurora Aragon Quezon was a well-loved figure in the Philippines. The wife of the late Manuel Quezon, first President of the Philippines, she had long led a quiet, austere life devoted to charities and the rearing of her family. When the President died, she turned down the pension awarded her by the government, so that the money might be used for needier war widows and orphans. Even the Communist-led Hukbalahaps, who spread terror through the hills of Central Luzon, could find no word to say against Doña Aurora.

Last week, with her eldest daughter Maria Aurora (“Baby”), her younger daughter’s husband and a handful of Filipino officials, Mrs. Quezon traveled by car from Manila to Baler, where she was to dedicate a memorial to her husband. Riding in a station wagon with her relatives and Major General Rafael Jalandoni, she led the party through the mountains northeast of Manila where the Huks are thickest. All her companions felt that there was no danger involved where Mrs. Quezon was concerned.

Then without warning, in a rocky cleft 88 airline miles northeast of Manila, the mountains were rent with the splat of machine-gun fire. Mayor Ponciano Bernardo of Quezon City stood up to shout, “Doña Aurora is in our party!” A slug from a Garand rifle brought him down.

More bullets riddled the station wagon. General Jalandoni threw himself in front of Mrs. Quezon and drew his revolver. A rifle butt slammed into his cheek, he fell unconscious. Before the police escort riding behind could open fire effectively, the attackers had seized what valuables they could and melted into the green hills. Soon afterward, General Jalandoni came to. About him were twelve dead, including the Philippines’ first lady, her daughter, and her son-in-law, whose pregnant wife had stayed at home.

“I can’t believe the Huks did it,” said shocked President Elpidio Quirino, when he heard the news. “Mrs. Quezon was loved too much.” Police assured Quirino that the Huks were responsible, all right. At Doña Aurora’s funeral, the sobbing President placed a single flower on the grave of the widow. Then, over the Philippine radio, he called for an all-out campaign against the terrorists.

As a nine-day period of national mourning was declared, Filipino planes and government troops combed the mountains in search of the slayers. From his hideout, Huk Leader Luis Taruc issued a statement which would scarcely comfort or reassure the bereaved islanders. If, he said, his own investigation revealed “a breach of Hukbalahap iron discipline,” punishment of the guilty party would be carried out swiftly. –Time Magazine, “Murder in the Mountains,” May 9, 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

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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.

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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

The Long View: Devolving nation

THE LONG VIEW

Devolving nation

 / 09:05 AM April 24, 2019

 

Because we started at it a generation or two ahead of our neighbors, the level of political organization we’d achieved prior to World War II was achieved by our neighbors between the 1950s and 1960s. But what would become common—one-party rule in our neighbors—had been fractured by the war in our case, so that the unintended (because an accidental offshoot of the guerrilla versus collaborationist divide in our society) two-party system we had in the ’50s to the ’60s is something our neighbors have only begun to experience since the 1990s.

Where our entire region seemed to converge was in the experiment with dictatorship in the ’70s and ’80s, but with us being the outliers once again. It led, in our case, to the creation of an urban nation within a nation, with Metro Manila and other cities developing civil society while the rest of the country became balkanized, with armed barons controlling provincial fiefdoms. After the dictatorship fell, we rewound things to where they stood in the early ’70s, as far as trying to imagine (and institute) a more liberal-democratic setup, but without understanding the effects of abolishing the old party system and replacing it with a free-for-all, which assured neither stability nor a means for an orderly succession.

On the other hand, our neighbors, not all of whom had competent dictators, had at least managed to crush the Communist threat, while in our case we failed to do so. And so dictatorial incompetence and institutional decay were compounded with a low-intensity conflict that continues to this day.

For 30 years then, our neighbors, with varying degrees of success, have been trying to move forward, while the best we’ve been able to manage is to dog-paddle in place, or get swept backward, for a time, until we can dog-paddle again to try to inch forward against the tide of populism and dictatorial nostalgia. Then in 2016, the dog-paddling came to an end, and we have been swiftly moving backward in a sort of national fit of renouncing any further attempt at trying to cope with the discomfort (and sacrifice) of modernizing our society, politics or economy.

It is the dying gasp of an identity we’d tried to assume since the time of the Propagandists, who’d hoped for a society and government along Western, rational (Enlightenment-inspired) lines. We are thus saying goodbye, not just to the Edsa era (1986-2016), but the much longer one from 1896-2016 that kept on colliding with the precolonial datu mentality of both the leaders and the led.

In the first three years of the new-old era we now live in, we have a President who acts no differently from the calculating rajahs of old who engaged in blood compacts, and in what has been described as the “raiding, trading and feasting” that was the precolonial occupation of those who held power in their locales. Slowly at first, but increasingly swiftly, every vestige of the political and institutional culture built up in the 20th century, when this country came to be as it currently is, is being abandoned. To be sure, much of that culture was already a parody of its former self; but so long as lip service was paid to what once was, there was the slender hope that what was could be, again.

So, these days, the President raises the hands of one faction not belonging to his nominally ruling party, his daughter then raises the hands of the candidates of that supposedly ruling party, though she herself presides over a coalition of local barons that has displaced the ruling party her father had formally associated himself with. In the past, when a president could not fulfill the expected role of arbiter of contending local contests, a “free zone” would be declared, at least calling a spade a spade.

Confucius, to stray away from the West and its habits for a moment, had insisted that the first duty of orderly government was to attach the appropriate names to things. Where we are thoroughly Asian and not Western is the expectation that the primary duty of presidents is to maintain order; yet if there is a guiding principle of the current dispensation, it is to spread disorder: The very essence of premodern living was the unpredictable, and thus highly malleable, condition in which chiefdoms rose and fell. Where, since the reason for things being the way they are was not understood, omens, gestures, whims, plots, raids, superstition, division, cruelty assured tribal loyalty.

There is no discernible design for the whole; there is not even much of an effort, on the part of observers, to try to identify patterns. We watch a parade of headlines, but aren’t being told what the story is. The local is ignored, while the national has lost all meaning.

 

The Long View: Gerrymandering is alive and well

THE LONG VIEW

Gerrymandering is alive and well

 / 09:04 AM April 17, 2019

 

As soon as the President signed a bill providing for a plebiscite that could possibly split one province into three, the jokes started. We will soon have Palawan, Palatu and Palatri — though they will, of course, be more boringly called Palawan del Norte, Palawan del Sur and Palawan Oriental.

Interestingly, the residents of Puerto Princesa will be prohibited from voting in the referendum. Even more interestingly, the following list started becoming buzz-worthy online, with people claiming it was a list of the four prospective candidates for the governorships of the three new provinces: (1) Jose Chaves Alvarez (governor); (2) Franz Chicoy Alvarez (representative); (3) Antonio Alvarez (former representative); and (4) Pie Alvarez (mayor of San Vicente, Palawan).

Which only serves to underline the wisdom of the late Lorenzo Tañada when he appealed to his supporters in 1951 to oppose the possibility that the then subprovince of Aurora might become separated from Quezon Province. As I pointed out in 2010, back then Tañada argued that dividing the province was not the solution to charting its future or a way to improve the prospects of progress for the whole province, as it would only create what he called a new homegrown principalia interested only in their personal economic advancement.

Our former colleague in the Opinion section, Juan Mercado of Cebu, used to strongly argue that subdividing provinces is a form of gerrymandering — redrawing political lines on the map for the benefit of its proponents. What it fosters is the political dominance of the political class that engineered the creation of the new province.

We’ve gone from 52 provinces in 1951 to 81 provinces in 2019, and from 61 chartered cities in 1996 to 117 by 2004. By way of contrast, Indonesia had 10 provinces when it became independent, and today, 33 (seven of which became provinces since 2000). Since independence, Malaysia has created only two additional states to its original 11. Thailand has reduced its provinces from 83 in 1915 to 76 (provinces were actively merged from 1915 to 1950, and since then, only about 10 new provinces have been created).

Even the President, in a veiled sort of way, seems to refer in nostalgic terms to the old undivided province of Davao, which once comprised what are Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao Occidental, Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley today.

To be sure, not every instance of winking and backslapping that leads to gerrymandering gets carried out. Efforts to divide Isabela, Cebu and Quezon, for example, failed in their respective plebiscites. By all accounts, the threefold cutting up of Palawan seems to have stirred up strong opposition in the province. But if the public has put on the brakes to some schemes, consolidation, on the other hand, is opposed by the powers-that-be, because it would create either too strong a territory or deprive too many dynasties of their turf.

Consider the obvious need to consolidate the local governments of Metro Manila:

Doing so would, on one hand, eliminate the fiefdoms of too many ruling local barons, while possibly creating an official — say, a governor of Metro Manila — of such potential stature as to give presidents sleepless nights. Perhaps a similar sense of insecurity led the President to immediately dismantle the Negros Island Region established under the previous administration.

The French, when they mounted their revolution and attempted to establish the government along scientific and rational lines in all things (giving us the metric system, for example), immediately set about abolishing all prerevolutionary provincial boundaries and established new departments, which aimed to break up historical regions and create political units that could be governed effectively. Borders were established so that component settlements would be within a day’s ride of the capital of the new department, which would have a name unrelated to old locations, adopting the names of natural features instead.

Not even the various confused (and confusing) federalism schemes dare, however, to take an axe to the cunningly gerrymandered provincial map of the country.

 

The Long View: Mimicry as survival mechanism

THE LONG VIEW

Mimicry as survival mechanism

 / 05:05 AM April 03, 2019

 

As strong as, and in many instances, even stronger than, the formal rules, are the informal ones that govern behavior. This applies to politics as much as any other human activity. It’s been said practically forever that if there’s one thing Filipinos won’t give up, it’s elections. Not out of any particular love for democracy, but because of the commercial and increasingly mercenary prospects elections guarantee every few years.

A few years from now, you’ll find that a few academic journal articles will have actually probed this, but quietly, ensuring no real danger to their authors who will be quoted by fellow academics but otherwise unnoticed by the public and the politicians.

For now, we have what we have, which is the noise pollution to prove that jingle-writing, recording and playing are reasonably good income generators; so is poster-printing and that analog foundation for computerized tabulations, the printing of sample ballots. The up-and-coming industry, however, as anyone traversing the Ortigas-Edsa corner will know, is that of LCD billboards which, so far, have proven beyond the comprehension (or clutches) of the Commission on Elections. And the truly big money, it will someday be revealed, has stampeded away from the TV networks and radio stations to YouTube, even as Facebook has scuttled the big administration network which, technologically speaking, was getting a bit long in the tooth, anyway.

The past three years has traumatized most normal (meaning, nonpolitically obsessed) people, who are more likely to share their thoughts with friends and family not on Facebook, but in instant messenger applications less likely to be susceptible to organized infiltration (though the Facebook of today is Instagram and “influencers” on the take).

But just as 2016 marked the end of anyone even trying to go through the motions of putting forward a platform, 2019 marks the end of parties as a national phenomenon. They are what some would say they’ve been all along for some time: personal, at most regional, vehicles. This is demonstrated not by the opposition but the administration, which has a nominal national party shell, Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), which has been so gutted and disregarded as to be relevant only to the extent they provided a vehicle for the President’s pet candidates (Caligula’s horse, Bong Go, mainly). Everyone knows, however, that the influence and action are in the regional jumble of an alliance known as Hugpong ng Pagbabago, which is carting around its own bloated slate—bigger than the official administration one, and more interested in doing the opening act of the trial balloon candidacy of the President’s daughter.

It’s become such a charade that a Magic Otso administration slate has materialized, riding on the public’s familiarity with the Otso Diretso slate of the opposition. Which basically tells you the opposition has succeeded — the concept of “Voting Straight Eight” is one people are aware of, though the same can’t be said of the actual names of the candidates. But the administration is hobbled by the fact that it has three slates: the President’s own pets, the coalition of regional barons known as Hugpong, and the passé, formerly formal ruling coalition known as PDP-Laban. All sides seem to concede that the President’s pets plus one or two big-name incumbents are in, and everyone is left scrambling for the remaining eight slots.

But ironically, this tells you that much as all sides seem to have given up on even pretending national parties exist, their current problems reveal how at this point, at least, cobbling together ad hoc coalitions of local kingpins can’t quite cut it. The President is using his national office, and the nationwide network that office commands, to simulate what a party ought to do, he himself being only capable of supporting a couple of names at most.

The opposition, starved and terrorized as it is, can reasonably count on at least two, possibly three, winners. The big incumbents are known enough to be confident of winning. But the end result? More of the same, which isn’t necessarily in the President’s favor — or that of his daughter’s embryonic presidential run. The only possible surprises are possible opposition wins, against the odds.

Who else, on the other hand, aside from Caligula’s horse, can claim either Caligula or his daughter made their victory possible? Powerful incumbents aping the opposition shows they’ve reached the conclusion that it’s every candidate for himself or herself.

 

The Long View: The Mahatma of Malacañang

THE LONG VIEW

The Mahatma of Malacañang

 / 05:04 AM March 27, 2019

 

A Great Soul — a Mahatma — is what Gandhi was once called. But as you, dear reader, will see, we have a Great Soul of our own who doesn’t waste any time on peace-loving foolishness. Consider the advice of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day.”

“Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood,” you, gentle reader (and Emerson’s interlocutor at the time), might say. To which Ralph Waldo (Emerson, that is) had this to say: “Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”

And is not the President great? Not for nothing has he been called the Great Eagle Father. A Mahatma in full flight. See him soar.

But former deputy director for administration of the Philippine National Police Drug Enforcement Group (DEG) Eduardo Acierto has dared to accuse the President, as well as former PNP chief and administration senatorial candidate Ronald dela Rosa, of having dismissed an intelligence report he submitted on Michael Yang and a Chinese, Allan Lim, allegedly being involved in drugs.

For critics of the President, Acierto’s statement is nothing less than one of the biggest connect-the-dots exposés ever, at least since those of Arturo Lascañas and Edgardo Matobato. But to those for whom the President is the Great Eagle Father, the exposé is nothing but character assassination by a disgraced crook. Acierto was ordered dismissed by the Ombudsman in 2015, not over drugs but over a deal between the PNP Firearms and Explosive Office, to which he belonged at the time, and a courier company called Werfast. (He was reinstated after an appeal, but dismissed again in 2018 over firearms that were licensed but later found with the New People’s Army.)

For them, being the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful Chief Executive — in other words, the Mahatma or Great Soul of Malacañang — means the President, even when he is wrong, is right, because by being wrong, he rights other wrongs. Confused? Let us stipulate that as one name for the liquidation scheme (Oplan Double Barrel) suggests, the so-called war on drugs takes a shotgun approach. There will be, as the President has told us frankly, collateral damage.

Let us also stipulate what the President has also said, that he was shocked — shocked! Dismayed! — to discover that some policemen were liquidating people without regard to his own carefully crafted rules of engagement. Two years ago, the President even shifted antidrug operations from the police to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) because of this.

Third, the President himself has pointed to various government agencies as the sources of information for his lists, saying he trusts them. This means that the escape clause in such statements is that it is entirely possible that officials will, from time to time, turn out to have abused the President’s trust.

With all of the above, he is right when he publicizes lists, and right when he says other lists, or even his own list, are wrong. And so, witness the Great Eagle Father in full Mahatma mode. Mike Rama appeared on a list, then the President raised his hand on Feb. 24, in an apparent act of endorsement for the May midterms (Rama is running for vice mayor, in what a SunStar item said was due to “the cloud of doubt raised by Mr. Duterte’s list”).

When the President says he speaks from personal knowledge, he is a lot more categorical, because he is right about others being wrong. Recall last October, when the President was asked about his supposed adviser, Michael Yang, being suspected of involvement in the drug trade. The President reacted by releasing a dossier on law enforcers suspected of being crooks. Reports were chock-full of photos of the intrepid Yang with the President, and his having reportedly attended the baptism of Nicanor Faeldon’s child.

While there is a growing number of officials accused of either coddling or turning a blind eye to, or being hapless in the face of, the smuggling of drugs, consider Isidro Lapeña or Nicanor Faeldon. The President, too, has, from time to time, intervened to clear them of any possible wrongdoing. It all makes sense—ask Emerson (Margate or Rosales, both of them directors in PDEA, that is).

 

The Long View: Go Diokno go

THE LONG VIEW

Go Diokno go

 / 05:06 AM March 20, 2019

 

Back in 2010, the Manila Standard’s Laylo surveys revealed that when voters were asked the most helpful means in deciding whom to vote for, they responded by saying, the news — specifically, on TV (83 percent; less than 10 percent said radio, only 2 percent said the papers). Asked about their top trusted sources of news, two out of three replied “TV Patrol,” and its rival, “24 Oras.” The third top trusted source of news: “Wowowee.” Similarly on radio, Bombo Radyo and dzRH appeared together with Love Radio on FM; for the papers, it was the Inquirer and Manila Bulletin, with the tabloid Bulgar.

So we have the boost to former and perhaps future senator Lito Lapid, courtesy of his cameos in “Ang Probinsyano.” But the biggest news — and proof, perhaps, of that old saying that there’s no such thing as bad publicity — is the fate of two other polar opposites in the ongoing senatorial race: Bong Go (“The horse Caligula wants to make a senator,” one wag from an older generation put it) and Chel Diokno (whose quip on who he will give the last life vest to — Gloria Macapagal Arroyo or President Duterte—on a sinking ship, spoke truth to power by saying he might as well be the one to take it).

The desiccated coconut known as the presidential spokesperson was asked what accounted for Go’s going up in the polls, and he ventured a guess: He’s always seen with the President, so that helps. But lots of aides have been seen with presidents, yet the public does not have any idea who those people are, which was precisely Go’s case at the start of the buzz over the coming campaign. Go enjoyed hardly any awareness at the time.

There are tales aplenty as to how Go went to solve this problem, essentially revolving around tried-and-tested activities: going everywhere, and practically every politically involved person has some sort of Go story to tell, whether it’s his appearing in obscure barrio events (appearing at the crowning of the local beauty queen, and making an impromptu song-and-dance-featured pitch for an hour and a half), or plastering the country from top to bottom with posters and handing out collaterals. The message being, money is no object and that the President’s ambitions are limited to ensuring Go is in, and everyone else can, to varying degrees, go to hell, as far as he’s concerned. (Still, from time to time he emerges from seclusion not only to give proofs of life, but to heckle particular opposition senatorial candidates who are making his coalition lose sleep.)

It may just be that the recent epidemic of reporting on Governor Gollum’s appointment to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas ironically aided his opposite in every noteworthy respect, Chel Diokno. If Ben Diokno is the price we have to pay for this fortunate phenomenon, so be it. And while Go’s going, growing and glowing in the surveys is not only remarkable but seemingly unstoppable, Diokno’s going up owes more to a genuine go, go, go attitude than a to-be-expected result of flooding the country with money and visits facilitated by fear of the Palace.

The President, of course, will be able to derive satisfaction from how his horse did in the race; he is no exception to the presidential compulsion to prove one’s self through the success of anointed candidates. What may be a future cause of concern is how his daughter fares as the heir presumptive to his position. Her Honor the Mayor of Davao essentially became campaign manager of the Hugpong ng Pagbabago coalition, except she’s been bedeviled by two things. The first is increasing concern that their loyalists might end up so loyal as to vote 13 or 14 candidates for the Senate (depending on how updated, or not, they are), which could cause complications in the counting. The other is, she makes good copy when she engages in verbal brawls but it can be counterproductive: After she snapped that honesty doesn’t matter, she had to backpedal, saying dear old mom told her off.

The moral of the tale is that in her first real foray into this whole succession scheme business, she’s proven less skilled than dear old dad, and was found wanting by the political class sniffing around to see if she really has what it takes to be a national candidate. Too much exposure, too soon, seems to be the verdict for now.

 

The Long View: Water and wealth

THE LONG VIEW

Water and wealth

 / 05:07 AM March 13, 2019

 

On Monday, Maynilad Water Services tried to reassure its customers by tweeting, “We source our raw water directly from Angat Dam, which is currently at a normal level, so Maynilad customers are not experiencing any water shortage at present.” Yesterday, it announced: “We are sharing our supply with Manila Water,” that company having shared its supply with Maynilad in 2010’s and 2015’s El Niño seasons.

Manila Water, in a press conference yesterday, said that even if it got an increased water allocation from Angat Dam, its systems would not be able to accommodate the supply. Things still have to be done, including the opening of a fourth tunnel to be completed by next year. (Raf Madrigal, who tweets on water and climate change content, helpfully tweeted a schematic of the water supply in Metro Manila, pointing out that “60% of Water Supply goes to Maynilad (West) while 40% goes to Manila Water (East).”)

Manila Water said infrastructure necessary to keep up with increasing demand has been delayed in the past. For example, Manila Water began trying, in March 2017, to get approval for a water treatment plant in Laguna de Bay which would have had a capacity of 250 million liters per day (MLD), but ran into objections from the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), which said its less expensive Kaliwa Dam project could treat 600 MLD. At the time the spat was reported in the papers, Manila Water warned that a water shortage would result in Metro Manila in 2021.

Even ongoing quick fixes, such as drilling deep wells, still takes time (hopefully “30 MLD by April and 80 MLD by July”). To complicate things further, the question has become, why is the water level at La Mesa Dam Raf Madrigal at critical levels, when Pagasa opined that it shouldn’t be at critical levels because there’s been plenty of rain? MWSS chimed in and said El Niño isn’t to blame either.

Manila Water, in its press conference yesterday, added a curious note: “People outside affected areas saved water, resulting in unusual demand.” The usual measures have been announced: the dispatch of water tankers to communities, and appeals to local government units to coordinate with the company.

The only thing missing, because it would be really bad PR, probably, was to appeal to everyone in its franchise area to pray an Oratio Imperata for rain.

An interesting—and alarming—complaint being registered by some consumers online concerns whether Manila Water is treating its customers fairly. This started when, on March 9, Manila Water had to make announcements that while it couldn’t provide a definite time on when water interruptions would end, it hoped they would end the next day, March 10. The thing is, it also announced that consumers would have to expect pressure reduction and no water hours for the rest of the summer.

The response was skepticism and hostility from quite a few people online. Among the observations made by these consumers is that water schedules are not being observed in places such as Pasig and Mandaluyong. Worse, when Manila Water pledged it was seeking to react to the shortage by making water distribution more equitable, it became apparent that there is the belief that Manila Water cuts off water supplies only in areas that aren’t developments of the Ayala Corp. and its subsidiaries, or villages in which the wealthy live (places like Barangay Forbes Park and Barangay Bel-Air, went one observation, aren’t included in the list of shortage-affected areas).

Such sentiments immediately invalidate whatever goodwill the company hoped to generate from its corporate social responsibility schemes like its “Tubig Para Sa Barangay” program, which benefits 1.6 million urban poor. Press conferences might eventually clarify the circumstances that led to the ongoing shortage, but the signs of the times are an eagle-eyed sensitivity among the public to any signs that some are enjoying uninterrupted water supplies, while everyone else goes waterless for extended periods of time.

Manila Water can start by giving more lead time to communities in announcing water interruptions. The other is to purge its announcements of industry jargon: One irritated consumer pointed out that “peak demand hours” aren’t defined for consumers.

The other is the observation that commercial establishments have water while residential areas have their supplies cut off: As one person put it, the sight of mall maintenance personnel watering their grounds is proof of this.

In the meantime, it’s every home for itself.

 

The Long View: Governor Gollum

THE LONG VIEW

Governor Gollum

 / 05:06 AM March 06, 2019

 

The new Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) governor, whom the care and worry of public service has aged so that he charmingly resembles Sméagol (in his Gollum phase), looked not only pleased, but relieved, he’s been kicked upstairs. The President, too, looked bemused and happy as he shook Governor Gollum’s hand at the end of Monday’s Cabinet meeting.

The Great Eagle Father looking bemused possibly stems from Benjamin Diokno’s relief at being relieved of the Department of Budget and Management portfolio without it looking like a defeat. He’s been a whipped man since the time he and the rest of the President’s economic team were summoned to the Batasan to be lectured by Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, to the continuing konfrontasi between Arroyo’s deputy speakers about the budget.

The happy part likely stems from Gollum now having supervision of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC). Gadflies like Antonio Trillanes IV buzz too much about bank accounts; no one can doubt the AMLC won’t be leaking in any way, shape, or form, under the new governorship.

The bluntest comment came from an emerging-market currency trader at Mizuho Bank Ltd. in Tokyo, Masakatsu Fukaya: “It is seen negative in view of the central bank’s independence as the new governor was selected from the government side,” he told Bloomberg.

Native observers contacted by Bloomberg for comment were, of course, cautiously optimistic. It does no one, domestically, to burn bridges on the first day of a new regime. The most one would go was when Jonathan Ravelas (chief market strategist at BDO Unibank Inc. in Manila) suggested, “The challenge he faces is assure investors that the central bank will stay independent and faithful to its critical role that it is the glue holding the economy together.”

Although he “is leaving the Department of Budget and Management at a time with somewhat of an uncertain outlook for spending,” the reason for the cautious optimism came from Christian de Guzman (vice president at Moody’s Investors Service in Singapore): the Monetary Board is there. “BSP’s monetary decisions are not reflective of one single person. Monetary policy is dictated by the board and as far as we know the broad membership remains intact apart from the change in the governor,” he told Bloomberg.

Governor Gollum himself texted his words of quiet triumph to the press: “Price stability is one goal of BSP. Financial stability is the other one. But it’s more than that,” texted he, savoring the opportunity to pull his new rank on his former naysayers: “BSP’s role is to ensure steady, strong growth. In order to achieve this, monetary policy has to be in sync with fiscal policy.” This of course sends the first policy signal to the Monetary Board, the analysts and reporters.

HSBC economist Noelan Arbis has blandly summarized this statement of intent as a “progrowth bias,” adding, “It seems Secretary Diokno is going to be focusing a little more on growth.” This suggests, Arbis added, “he could cut the reserve ratio requirement for banks within the year.” So, if the BSP had concentrated on tightening supply to soak up money and slow inflation, the Gollum-led BSP would now (depending on whether the Monetary Board agrees and reins him in or not) decide to make easy money the name of the game.

As summarized by Bloomberg, Manny Cruz (head of research at Papa Securities Corp. in Manila) disagrees that cutting reserve requirements is in the cards. “Diokno has consistently communicated as budget secretary that his primary aim is to boost economic growth, keep the Philippines on higher growth path and that high inflation is tolerable as long as the economy is growing correspondingly.” A direct quote: “We have a governor who is probably more aggressive than the other contenders when it comes to cutting interest rates. His presence raises the possibility of interest-rate cuts, particularly if inflation slows to below 3 percent,” explaining to Bloomberg that a rate reduction will have a quicker effect in boosting economic growth.

Our famously laissez-faire (about anything other than liquidations) Chief Executive, knows what matters. The AMLC is in good hands. Well into the next term.

The Long View: A lack of succession

 

THE LONG VIEW

A lack of succession

 / 05:03 AM February 27, 2019

 

On Edsa day, Mark Thompson appeared on ANC and expressed the opinion that Edsa failed to create strong institutions and an efficient political system. What struck me about his interview was not his observation about the actual formal institutions per se, but other ones, specifically what passes for political parties in our neck of the woods.

This was because of an opinion piece about former vice president Joe Biden’s prospects for 2020, and how Barack Obama, according to insiders, regrets having anointed Hillary Clinton as his successor. In retrospect, Obama apparently feels he should have allowed Clinton, Biden and Bernie Sanders to really duke it out in the Democratic Party’s primaries, instead of convincing Biden not to throw his hat in the ring.

Back in 2010, I had the opportunity to participate in a roundtable with Mark Thompson in Berlin where he suggested there is a division, or cleavage, of political movements and attitudes along two lines: populism and reformism. To quickly sketch things out in terms of personalities, Marcos and Estrada were populists; Ramos and the Aquinos were reformists. This aligns with my belief that, since martial law, there have really been only two coalitions competing for votes, and the result in presidential years owes its outcomes to which coalition fragments less than the other.

In 1992, the Edsa coalition broke up five ways, based on the candidates. The opponents of Edsa divided along two candidacies. In the noise and excitement over Miriam Defensor Santiago’s accusations against Fidel Ramos, people overlooked a disturbing reality: The combined votes of Danding Cojuangco and Imelda Marcos (18.7 percent and 10.32 percent respectively, or 29 percent give or take in total) would have defeated the strongest candidate of the Edsa forces, Ramos, who obtained 23.58 percent. A Marcos machine restoration, just six years after Edsa, was only narrowly averted.

The Marcos loyalist forces in many ways overlap with the fan base of the winner in the next presidential election, Joseph Ejercito Estrada in 1998. The non-Edsa forces combined more effectively than the Edsa groups, which continued to splinter. Estrada’s mandate of 39.86 percent was basically equivalent to the next top three candidates (Jose de Venecia Jr.’s 15.87 percent, Raul Roco’s 13.83 percent and Emilio Osmeña’s 12.44 percent). My colleague John Nery has pointed out that the single politician who might have put up not only a good fight but also quite possibly defeated him was Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who opted to take a less risky route to the presidency, running successfully for vice president.

The 2004 elections could have been convincingly won in turn by Arroyo if the Edsa Dos forces hadn’t split: Roco shaved off 6.45 percent and Eddie Villanueva 6.16 percent, when the official winning margin ended up a razor-thin 4 percent or so. Put another way, Fernando Poe Jr. might have made it if Lacson had not split the opposition, shaving off 10.88 percent.

In 2010, in many respects, large portions of the old Edsa coalition and of Edsa Dos combined in the candidacy of Benigno Aquino III (the vote was split only in terms of the vice presidency, between Roxas and Binay), while the parts that split off from them backed Villar. But Estrada, it could be argued, split the populist vote.

If 1992 was the first post-Edsa presidential race of the post-Edsa era, then 2016 can be considered the last.

And here comes the great failure, where the official rules — a multiparty system, in our case, with no run-off elections —combine with the behavior of those competing under the rules. In 1992, the first post-Edsa national contest, what went undetected was how resilient the Marcos machine proved to be, only losing because it was split. When it combined, it was unbeatable: Estrada obtained, in 1998, a plurality unmatched until Aquino III in 2010. And Aquino proved, in turn, the strength of the Edsa coalition (1986 and 2001 branches); his 42-percent plurality remains unbeaten. But, in turn, when the 2010 coalition split, it proved its vulnerability to the recombined Marcos-Estrada-Arroyo coalition.

The Edsa era began and ended on the failure of its different groups to figure out an orderly, democratic, nontop-heavy way to resolve leadership questions. In 1992, Ramon Mitra won the right to run for president by every standard political measure: experience and party leadership ratified in a convention. Ramos, for his part, bolted the convention, which proved to be the final nail in the coffin of party politics as a group and not just factional activity.

By 2010, the Aquino administration had no means to mobilize and enforce a consensus as to who could lead its coalition. It could not solve the basic question of who could compete for group allegiance, splintering instead on a factional basis. The same dilemma will face the current leadership, which is why the failure is systemic.

 

 

The Long View: The grand bargain

THE LONG VIEW

The grand bargain

 / 05:07 AM February 20, 2019

 

There was a brief spasm of soul-searching in the wake of the behavior of some nurses at Tuburan District Hospital. The behavior of the nurses — “shocking indifference to and deliberate neglect of” a man riddled with bullets from a supposed shoot-out with cops, as yesterday’s Inquirer editorial put it — was at least acted upon by the authorities, leading to the nurses being fired. If the behavior of the nurses was appalling, then at least what seemed to be widespread outrage over their behavior is somewhat reassuring. We haven’t fully lost our communal (and individual) ability to be shocked.

The soul-searching (along the lines of what kind of a society is this, that has its own health workers unmoved by suffering and seemingly disinclined to live up to the Hippocratic Oath) involved mulling over the long-term consequences of the President’s so-called “war on drugs.” An incident that happened the day before the shooting in Cebu reinforces my belief that there is a simple trade-off that’s taken place, one I’ve described previously but which bears repeating. The trade-off is that the President gets to place himself above the law, by taking upon himself total responsibility for acts he has ordered his subordinates to undertake.

I leave it to academics to elaborate on the philosophical and other underpinnings of this development (start with “Führerprinzip,” Weber and charismatic leadership, and Ian Kershaw’s “Working Towards the Führer”). But, in practical terms, what we have at work in this simple, stark, all-encompassing arrogation unto himself of all responsibility—legal, spiritual, moral—for any and all effects of his policies, such as the “war on drugs,” is combining our society’s age-old passivity in the face of assertions of power with our version of the social compact—that obedience is premised on results, the most fundamental being instilling order.

From people who have conducted fieldwork among different sectors, a common observation seems to be that the President’s policy of liquidations comes as no surprise, since the use of force to deadly effect is a common enough reality in local governments. The difference is that, instead of simply being for partisan or personal gain, here, in the national liquidation scheme, it is ostensibly being done for the public good—and there are surveys aplenty to underscore that it is a fact that the public accepts this basic assertion, though tempered by the fear that it may turn out otherwise, after all. Hence a public that applauds the policy of liquidation, while confessing fear over how those chosen for liquidation may not be rigorously vetted at all.

But again, it’s the simple trade-off that upholds the President as not only supreme law enforcer, but also supreme in that one-word expression of that innermost desire of the population for order to come out of chaos: “Will,” more often than not prefaced with “political,” which whitewashes a desire for ruthlessness with a layer of democratic legitimacy, as to be political assumes it is done with consent.

It is significant that the day before the gruesome video was filmed in that provincial hospital, the President was reported to have thundered and shrilled yet again, saying he’d told officers in a command conference, “Tapusin na natin ito sa panahon ko, while I’m still here ready to assume singly. I will assume full legal responsibility for whatever it is. And they can hang me if they want. No problem.”

The offer he made to the police still doesn’t seem to have many takers among the military. And while the military shows signs of having made its own uneasy alliance with the President—by means of his not just nullifying but reversing his previous policy of collaboration with the communists, and replacing their slots in the administration with retired officers—it apparently continues to balk at being drafted into liquidating neighborhood individuals.

It may simply be a cold calculus of accountability at work here on the part of the military. The President himself has complained that his clear formula for evading legal repercussions from liquidations was flouted by incompetent or corrupt cops, or both; a professional soldier, faced with this (to them) typical Philippine National Police mess, wouldn’t want to be associated with it in any way. On the other hand, the lines of authority, the room for maneuver, the rules of engagement, for liquidating the New People’s Army or those suspected of enabling them—here, the Armed Forces of the Philippines can say it knows its business.

 

The Long View: All roads lead to the status quo

THE LONG VIEW

All roads lead to the status quo

 / 05:05 AM February 13, 2019

 

At a dinner on Monday night, I asked a veteran former senator (not affiliated with the opposition) why the President seemed unconcerned with backing a full slate, and he responded with a shrug. He observed that “in 2016 he didn’t lift a finger for his Senate slate then,” adding that “the President only seems to be concerned with the candidacies of Bong Go and Bato dela Rosa. And maybe Tolentino.”

I asked the former senator if the candidacy of Go was a case of being kicked upstairs, meaning he’s lost favor, as some have suggested, or whether it has the full backing of the President. He answered in this manner: “No, Go wants it. Anyway, he will continue to hold office in the Palace; there’s no way he will spend much time in the Senate.” The former lawmaker believes Go has spent time and effort to knock out administration bets, supposedly on the premise that removing them will raise his rankings in the polls (two administration or friendly-to-the-administration bets are expected to be disqualified by the Comelec: Osmeña and Pimentel).

One could add, based on the President’s plugging them in recent speeches, that the President’s Senate slate extends to endorsing Freddie Aguilar and Imee Marcos besides the three mentioned by the veteran lawmaker. As recently as the Christmas holidays, though, it kept being floated that the President would announce a full slate then; but the holidays have come and gone, and the campaign season is upon us, without the President doing so. His personal list, which is the one that matters, remains five. For what it’s worth, his own list are mainly Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban): Go, Dela Rosa and Tolentino, while Aguilar was formerly PDP-Laban but is running as an independent; Marcos is Nacionalista Party (NP).

The five are part of the coalition of local barons known as Hugpong ng Pagbabago’s slate, to be sure. But that slate carries with it a blithe disregard for the possibility the overly obedient will take it literally. In Pampanga, yesterday, Gov. Lilia Pineda enthusiastically endorsed Hugpong’s list of 13 (five PDP-Laban; three NP; one Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino; one Nationalist People’s Coalition; one Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino; one Lakas–Christian Muslim Democrats; one independent) senatorial candidates, and aside from Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo chiming in to also endorse the bloated ticket, it’s the President’s daughter, the mayor of Davao City, who was front and center in the news, ensuring Hugpong, and not the supposed administration party, PDP-Laban, that got everyone’s attention. Conspicuously absent from Hugpong’s list are candidates who have been loudly, fiercely devoted to the President, like Raffy Alunan who ended up, at least while his candidacy lasted, in the outer fringes of presidential forgetfulness like Harry Roque.

Of course, the President’s seeming indifference can be attributed to a pragmatic reading of the possible results, which puts, at most, two slots in the column of the opposition, meaning the administration will retain its big, tame coalition in the Senate, regardless of how the various administration slates actually do. Enough to keep the administration comfortable to 2020 at least, before the realignments in anticipation of 2022 get in earnest by 2021.

While the field’s upper echelons are crowded with incumbent senators and former senators making a bid to return to the Senate (a natural enough advantage for such candidates), the opposition pushing a Straight Eight slate may have been disappointed to see slender improvements for most of its candidates. It would do well to double-check if such a campaign can gain the individual candidates the recognition they require. Repeating the slate’s handle imprints it in people’s minds, but there is no circle to shade with that name; while swiftly listing their names afterward might be counterproductive, though eight, as studies apparently show, is the maximum people can generally memorize, list-wise. Perhaps name them first and then mention they’re a slate last?

As it stands, the phenomenal growth in Go’s numbers only validates the crude strategy that throwing enough money at a candidacy can make the improbable possible, while Marcos and Dela Rosa’s dip in numbers (combined with what became an online sport in gleefully posting photos of empty showings of his biopic) suggests public opinion can still change as well.

 

The Long View: Chronicle of a city’s agony

THE LONG VIEW

Chronicle of a city’s agony

 / 05:05 AM February 06, 2019

 

In 1995, a Great Remembering began. That year marked the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Manila, and survivors who had spent decades focused on living began sharing their memories of the destruction of the capital.

That remembering continued — and continues — so that, as those who lived through that tragedy prepare for the 75th anniversary next year, those who weren’t around then have been able to learn a lot more over the past quarter-century than was the case in the immediate half-century that preceded the start of that process of sharing, and unburdening, of the horrific memories of a city’s desolation.

That Great Remembering, in articles, interviews and memoirs, have provided the raw material for books that serve to consolidate, and thus transmit, for future generations, the experiences of those who witnessed so much death and devastation that they couldn’t bear to recall it for decades.

Three British military historians, Richard Connaughton, John Pimlott and Duncan Anderson, did the first draft, so to speak, with the publication of their Battle of Manila in 1995. It was a grand tour d’horizon of the circumstances that combined to result in the street-by-street fighting for the capital.

Alfonso J. Aluit, for his part, in “By Sword and Fire: The Destruction of Manila in World War II, 3 February-3 March 1945,” told the story from the point of view of the civilians systematically exterminated by Japanese troops as survivors were caught in the crossfire. Six years later, in 2006, Jose Ma. Escoda would undertake a similar grisly compendium of first-person accounts in “Warsaw of Asia: The Rape of Manila.”

On Feb. 12, at 4:30 p.m., another book, “Rampage: MacArthur, Yamashita, and the Battle of Manila” by an American, James M. Scott, will be launched at the Ayala Museum under the auspices of the Filipinas Heritage Library (repository of the Roderick Hall Collection on World War II in the Philippines) and National Bookstore, distributor of the book. This book is different from the books that have come before, in the author’s fusing of interviews of survivors still living with the affidavits and testimonies in war crimes trial proceedings, and those of other survivors soon after the events took place, together with a quite astounding survey of eyewitness accounts and observations in diaries of individuals as diverse as an anonymous Japanese soldier recording their daily catalog of killings, and the renowned novelist John Dos Passos, who was a war correspondent covering American military operations.

The newspapers of the time were consulted, too, providing a contrast between the glowing accounts in the press and the private thoughts of the soldiers, civilians and journalists actually in the field.

What sets this book apart is its sense of place and not just time. Though the mania for renaming streets means that many specific street names might not ring a bell with present-day Filipino readers, there are places aplenty that still stand or existed recently enough for readers to grasp not only what was going on, but where — and how the day-by-day, hour-by-hour stories of events flow into each other. I have read the books mentioned above, but this volume tells the story best of all, because not only the what, who and where but the why is laid out, in a manner that assures you that the author didn’t just do the due diligence of poring over the contents of archives and the transcriptions of interviews, but also went and saw, and walked around, the city himself.

It may well be that this will be the last time a writer will be able to combine the records of the past with consultations with still-living witnesses to these events. Thus, its publication comes not a moment too soon — but also, as a fitting commemoration in anticipation of the last milestone commemoration. The Great Remembering is coming to an end; in this book, the various threads of Filipino, American and Japanese, of friends and foes, have been tied together, creating a tapestry that proves the pain of reliving memories was worth it. They did not die in vain, if there are those who will remember long after those who survived are themselves long gone.