Speech: Quezon: Relevant Today?

Quezon: Relevant Today?
speech delivered at Quezon Day observance, Quezon Memorial Circle, QC, on August 19, 1995
by Manuel L. Quezon, III

I have been invited to talk to you, today, on the subject of Manuel L. Quezon and the Youth. Let me begin, then, by quoting something he said on this day, fifty-seven years ago: on August 19, 1938, to be exact.

Quezon said,
We shall be a flowing stream, a rippling brook, a deep and roaring torrent, full of life, of hope, of faith and strength. Through self-discipline we shall harness all our energies, so that our power, spreading over the length and breadth of this land, will develop its resources, advance its culture, secure social justice, give puissance to the Nation, and insure happiness and contentment for the people, under the aegis of liberty and peace.

Other peoples of the world are straining themselves to attain higher levels of progress and national security. We shall not, we must not lag behind.

The Filipino people are on the march, towards their destiny, to conquer their place in the sun.

Now, let me tell you, how I think most young people would react to his words, today. They would look at you and make a face. And behind that face would lie a question that expresses so well the cynicism, and the despair that consumes so many Filipinos today, as they look around them, and see the situation our country is in. And that question is this: What happened?

To be fair, this is a question many older people ask themselves. Remembering with nostalgia the pre-war days when Quezon governed with such flair, they probably wonder what went wrong. Why hasn’t our country fulfilled its potential, the way Quezon envisioned?

For the older generation, I would ask you to think back to the days when Quezon dominated the political landscape. Let me point out immediately that nostalgia is properly defined as a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place and time; a time that may have been happy in retrospect. And for those, like me, who never saw him in the flesh, who have grown up knowing leaders who themselves were youths, or were not even born yet, during the days of the Commonwealth, I ask you to compare what you know of the past, with present-day realities. And from these two perspectives I will make my point.

In his day, Quezon was said to have been popular with the young. His political style was innovative. He was considered modern. Nick Joaquin once wrote something that illustrates this difference. He described how Osmena, in his office in the Ayuntamiento, entertained members of the press by offering them light wines and biscuits, in the best tradition of Spanish hospitality and taste. Quezon, in his office in the Intendencia, served sandwiches and beer to the members of the press. And who do you imagine endeared himself more to the reporters of his day? Certainly as a journalist, I can tell you that I will take beer and sandwiches over wine and biscuits, anytime!

In many ways Quezon’s political style -garrulous, intimate, relaxed- was in itself an innovation. By contrast, Osmena was criticized for being aloof, detached, formal, which in itself was not bad, following, after all, the rules of decorum of the 19th century. The only problem was that this was already the 20th century. And while Osmena harked back to the best things of the century he was born in, his exact contemporary Quezon knew that the times were changing, and that with the introduction of the New American Order -and its style of governance- a change in leadership style was advantageous.

That is why he went to the best school for learning politics, American-style: The Congress of the United States. Since his generation had to secure their goal -independence- by playing a game whose rules were drawn up, and refereed by Americans, the logical thing was for Filipinos to learn how to play American-style, and play well. By the time he returned to the Philippines, in 1916, he had mastered American-style wheeling-and-dealing. He immediately set out to practice what he learned and, in the progress, recast the political landscape.

A piece of trivia, to illustrate my point: It was not until 1922 that English began to be used in the Philippine Legislature. Interestingly enough, this was one year after the Unipersonalista-Collectevista split had rocked the Nacionalista party to its foundations. 1922 was also the year when the Democrata party reached the pinnacle of its strength as the opposition. 1922 saw Quezon -and his political style- gain the upper hand, marking his emergence as the No. 1 political leader. He had learned his lessons in the US Congress well. Historians today state, as a matter of conventional wisdom, that the crisis that led to a change in the Nacionalista Party’s leadership -the Unipersonalista-Collectevista split, as I mentioned- was simply an example of political manuevering on Quezon’s part, and that, after he had assumed the mantle of party leadership, Quezon displayed leadership more Unipersonalista than Osmena’s ever was.

This is, I think unfair to Quezon, and also, to Osmena. Let me just say that the historian Alfred McCoy has mentioned that today few people realize that until his election to the presidency, in 1935, Quezon’s leadership was never absolute. He was perpetually faced with rivalries and new alliances of politicians. And you cannot maintain your leadership in the face of numerous mutinies or near-mutinies, simply by being autocratic. Simply put, volleys of punetas hurled at your fellow politicos does not a dictator make.

No, he maintained his position through endless consultations and conciliatory gestures. His personal temparament may have been autocratic, and his temper was mercurial, but when it came to sustaining his influence, he relied on mastering the game -its rules, its methods. And of course the politics he learned with such virtuosity were the politics of the US Congress at the time. That is to say, Big Machine-style politics, as exemplified by Tammany Hall in New York, a form that survived until the 1940s: remember that Harry Truman became a US Senator through the machinations of the Pendergast Machine in his state. A form that did not become extinct until the demise of Chicago’s Mayor Daley in the early 1970s.

This was real politics. Not the efforts of a directing class, a group of gentlemen leading the nation according to the ethos of noblesse oblige. This was sweaty, rough, ruthless politics. The politics of the poker table, of rooms heavy with cigar smoke. Of ward leaders and party machines. This was politics as modern as the inventions revolutionizing the age: wireless radio, airplanes. This was politics geared towards winning, winning,and winning, through the systematic demolition of one’s opponents and their resources. It was modern at the time. It was daring and lusty, not meant for gentlemen of the old school, with their standards of conduct that dated back to the Victorian-era. This was the politics of the Jazz Age. And that’s why the youth idolized him.

Machine politics, Tammany Hall politics, the politics that gave Quezon a nickname among American friends (Tammany Hall sachems nicknamed him Casey), and gave us the wonderfuly elegant and pliable Gov. Francis Burton Harrison, the politics that flourished so well here before World War II, became something of an anachronism after it. Before the war it was the normal kind of politics, and something of an achievement for us Filipinos -we had, after all, made a quantum leap from Spanish inquisitorial government to Little Brown Brother paternalism. But after the war, it was outdated. In the United States alone, politics changed with the era of Franklin D. Roosevelt: the era of big local kingpins gave way to the power of the party with its national (no longer merely a group of local alliances) constituency and leadership.

In the Philippines, the opposition called Young Philippines had already begun questioning the Big Chief style of Quezon’s administration before the war. The Japanese Occupation, and the rise of alternative movements, such as the Huks, resulted in the limitations of the pre-war tayo-tayo system being graphically exposed. More people wanted to be included in the tayo of tayo-tayo. And until Magsaysay came about, it seemed that no one could figure out how this was to be done.

Magsaysay, who exerted as much of a revolutionary influence on the politics of his day, as Quezon had a generation earlier, died all too soon. But he did leave a precious legacy: Quezon made Filipino politicians world-class players, and in so doing made the spectators proud to see such pros being fielded; Magsaysay made ordinary people realize that they weren’t just there to watch; after all, they were both parts of, and the owners of, the teams (we can call them parties) being fielded.

The problem, since then, has been how to go beyond that wonderful realization, in order to accomplish something more substantive: the phasing out of the old-style political game, so that a new game, not based on groups scrambling for their slice of the pie, can be introduced. It has been fifty-one years since Quezon died, and almost thirty years since Magsaysay died, but all our politicians have been able to accomplish is to prove that they know the rules of game inside and out, backwards and forwards. They are little virtuosi puffed up with pride, when all they have accomplished is to prove that they can get -and hold- power just as effectively as their political forebears could.

But so what? The same things, repeated over and over again, get infinitely more tiresome every time around. The same strategies, repeated often enough, no longer dazzle. The politics that made things so much fun, and exciting, for the young people of the 1920’s -and even the 1950’s- is, in the 1990’s, old, old hat.

And so my point is this. The things that made Quezon memorable -his personality, and yes, his skill, but most of all his unorthodoxy and creativeness- will always be the things that will inspire the youth. Those things should be remembered. But the ends to which he applied these qualities, his tactics, his style of politics: those should be interred in the history books and be eliminated from our national life. They are outmoded today. They cannot inspire the youth today. They have no relevance today. What we need, is someone who can shake up the game and revolutionize it the way he did sixty years ago. That is all.

Speech: Glory through progressive laws

Glory through progressive laws
by Manuel L. Quezon, III
Speech delivered at the Senate Session Hall on the occassion of the 87th anniversary of the Philippine Assembly and the 78th anniversary of the Philippine Senate, October 16, 1994

Mr. President, Honorable Senators, Mr. Mayor, Distinguished members of the Manila Historical Committee and the National Historical Institute, Honored Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:

My Aunt, Mrs. Avanceña, was the one originally invited to share her recollections of, as the letter of invitation put it, “your reminiscences of the Senate and is significant role in the lives of the Filipino people”; however she is out of the country. My father, Manuel Jr. would have been the next logical choice to share recollections of the years during which my grandfather was Senate President, but his disability precludes his presence in today’s ceremony. I myself was born twenty-six years after Manuel L. Quezon’s death (the fiftieth anniversary of which was observed just a few months ago). I would therefore, with your indulgence, like to talk about the significance of the Senate Manuel L. Quezon presided over on the lives of the Filipino people, from the perspective of a member of today’s youth.

Going over the reminiscences of other people, and reading through some works of history, I am constantly surprised to find that many issues and controversies that took place then are still, or have recently become, burning issues of our day. I think I can actually find an issue that was tackled by Manuel L. Quezon and his colleagues that has a counterpart for today’s Senators.

The late Ambassador Proceso Sebastian once recounted an anecdote concerning the general election of 1928. He wrote,

“Although I belonged to the Democrata Party, the opposition, I invited the provincial and municipal officials, prominent persons, and political leaders of the province to come to Tuguegarao to meet the Quezon-Roxas party…
During the public meeting at the town plaza of Tuguegarao, after informing our distinguished visitors of the needs of the province and our request for help as stated by the previous local speakers, President Quezon got up and among other things said,
“I am a great admirer of Governor Sebastian. He went with me to the U.S. as a member of the first parliamentary mission. I must confess that I have learned to like and admire him. As you probably have read in the papers, when Governor Wood gave a luncheon at Malacanang in honor of the provincial governors, I asked Governor Sebastian to speak fro the governors.
“Governor Sebastian is not only a very competent and very able man, but” he continued, ” he has a VERY BIG DEFECT.”
President Quezon paused to observe the effect of his words. The public was astounded. An ominous silence followed. President Quezon… then released a bombshell saying:
“Governor Sebastian has a big defect, because he is a Democrata. He should be a Nacionalista. If he were a Nacionalista, he would get more funds for you and more improvements would come to your province. I have tried to convince him to join our party but he invariably answered that having been elected as a Democrata he should remain Democrata. Let us admire him for his manly stand and for his loyalty to his party. Very few people have this courage.
“However I wish to tell you that although he is a Democrata, if I were a voter of Cagayan, I would gladly vote for Governor Sebastian.”
…. The above incident… clinched my reelection as provincial governor to the chagrin of my vulnerable opponent, former governor.. Lasam… Some Nacionalista leaders told the President that former Governor Lasam was disgusted, to which Quezon retorted: “I have already sounded and talked to all leaders, who openly admitted that the people of Cagayan would like to see Governor Sebastian reelected, because he has done very well. We should not thwart the people’s will.”

Sebastian’s story brings to mind the current brouhaha about the equity of the incumbent, which is such a thorn in today’s Senate President’s side.

On December 10, 1926, just as the Legislative Committee headed by Segio Osmeña left the United States, a Representative Bacon introduced a bill that would have separated Mindanao, Sulu, and Palawan, from the jurisdiction of the Philippines. Historian Bernardita Reyes-Churchill says that this was to allow American rubber plantations to be set up without having to worry about limitations in Philippine laws on foreigners owning land. Churchill writes that, “The Filipinos did not oppose the cultivation of rubber, but they insisted that foreign capital operate within existing Philippine laws. They, in fact, expressed their willingness to aid the American rubber consumer by growing rubber on small plantations under Filipino ownership. But American rubber interests… rejected the possibility of operating small holdings within the conditions defined by existing Philippine land and labor laws.”

This, and other tariff-connected issues, upon examination will probably give Senators like Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo a strange feeling of deja-vu. The big controversy involving the Philippine National Bank, in which Quezon and Osmena were bitterly attacked by the Democratas in the early 1920’s, probably gives Senator Roco the satisfaction of knowing that past legislators have had to deal with controversies involving our banking system. Efforts to retain Mindanao as an integral part of the country while taking into account the needs and aspirations of Muslims are represented today by Senator Rasul. The nationalist desire to make national development primarily benefit Filipinos is today kept alive by Senator Tanada.

A famous encounter between Manuel L. Quezon and Sergio Osmeña will doubtlessly please Senator Maceda:

Teodoro Kalaw in his autobiography wrote,
“Time and again [Quezon] tells his technicians, “the trouble with you bookworms is that you neglect your conclusions in your diligence for figures.”
In contrast, Osmena has the scholar’s love for completeness… He deals with both sides of an issue before making a decision.
“I also come to the same decisions,” Quezon tells him, “only it takes me less time.”
“But I never make your mistakes,” Osmena answers.
“When I do make mistakes, ” Quezon counters, “I use the time you waste making studies in rectifying them.”
Osmena shrugs his shoulders. Quezon, like a housewife, must always have the last word.

I think Senator Maceda’s rejoinder to this would be that today he notices a lamentable inability both to plan things and get them done… Or even correct any mistakes that occur.

Senator Tolentino, who was, once upon a time, a young oppositionist against Quezon during the Commonwealth, must certainly remember the Collectevista-Unipersonalista struggle that occurred in the Senate. In this struggle some view that Quezon advocated a Republican system, against a Parliamentary system favored by Osmena. That issue, and the Cabinet Crisis of 1923, over a legalistic or broader interpretation of the Jones law, considered our Organic Act, must be dear to the heart of such a veteran constitutionalist. The Unipersonalista stand of Don Sergio Osmena, representing his sincere, thought-out views on government, are echoed today in Senator Osmena’s advocacy of a Federal system for our country.

Senator Biazon’s efforts on behalf of our armed forces were echoed in earlier attempts by the legislature, during and after the First World War, to establish a National Militia, which would have been a precursor of the Philippine Army.

I could go on and on, and I probably could dig up accounts somewhere of incidents that involved Quezon and his Senatorial colleagues which have counterparts in current events. But I have cited just a few of them to show how the Senators of his generation have something in common with today’s Senators. And how Senators today are striving to formulate laws that will adequately address issues that will probably come up again and again, generation after generation.

Since we see that may of yesterday’s controversies seem to be upon us again, we must bear in mind that the solutions and policies adopted by Quezon’s generation of leaders may no longer apply to us today. But then, as now, the Senate has always been at the vanguard of impassioned yet intelligent discussion about what course our ship of state must take. This is a privileged role that on the whole the Senate has played with distinction. Let it continue that way. Let me end by quoting the words of a foreigner, a Frenchman. Napoleon III, in his Life of Julius Ceasar, wrote,
“The Roman Kings vanished because their mission was accomplished. There appears to be some supreme law establishing a useful period of life for institutions as well as human beings. Until this period is over, nothing can resist them; plots and revolts all fail against the invulnerable power they seek to demolish. But when an institution, apparently invulnerable, ceases to assist human progress, then neither traditions, nor courage, nor the memories of a glorious history can postpone for a single day the debacle decreed by fate.”

The Senate of 1916-1935 I think did assist our progress. Senators like Manuel L. Quezon, over the years have displayed courage and leadership, establishing a tradition of critical and intelligent deliberation on national affairs. Its history for the most part can be considered glorious. The need then, is to reflect on this glorious history and ensure that it continues through the formulation of progressive laws.

Thank you.

Adolf Rizal (and his Half Brother, Rizal Zedong)

Adolf Rizal (and his Half Brother, Rizal Zedong)

Manuel L. Quezon III, Today Newspaper Saturday, September 17, 1994

Here is the craziest thing I’ve heard (and I’ve heard it more than once, at parties): Adolf Hitler was really the illegitimate son of Jose Rizal. Here is the second craziest thing I’ve heard: Mao Zedong was actually Rizal’s illegitimate son. Two variations, I suppose, on the idea that “Yes, the Filipino Can!”

Sadly, I found the two theories so funny that I never thought of asking the people who told them to me to explain on what grounds they based their claim about Der Fuehrer and the Great Helmsman. A dentistry student friend from UE has also heard these fanciful theories, but it also did not occur to him to ask on what evidence these fanciful claims were based. So I did a little research to find out how people could make up such a story.

The claim that Adolf Hitler was Rizal’s progeny must be based on the following facts:


Adolf Hitler was born on April 20, 1889 (that means he could have been conceived sometime in August 1888), in the little village of Braunau, near the German- Austrian border.
· He was born an Austrian and remained one until the 1930s.
· The name of Hitler mother was Klara Polz.
· At one time she was a maid in Vienna.
· Hitler always considers a town Linz, in Austria, as his hometown (in his Political Testament he referred to ” my hometown of Linz on the Danube”).
· Hitler’s oldest brother, Gustav born on May 17, 1885, and his sister Ida, born in 1886, both died before he was born.
· Bavaria was considered the “cradle” of Nazism.
· The Nazis made Japan one of the Axis powers. At one point they tried to prove that the Japanese were Aryans, to make the Japanese members of the “master race.”

Now combine the above information with the following, culled from the life of Rizal:

· On February 1, 1886, he left Paris for Germany. He went to Heidelberg, Wilhelmsfeld, Munich (in Bavaria), all somewhat near a German–Austrian border; on August 9, 1886 he left for Leipzig (“visiting various German cities along the way,” one book says), arriving there on August 14. In October he went to Dresden and then to Berlin.
· In Berlin he finished Noli Me Tangere. One of the book’s characters is named Maria Clara.
· On May 11, 1887, Rizal began his Grand Tour of Europe. He went to Dresden, Teschen (now Decin in the former Czechoslovakia), Prague, and then Brunn (where he lost a diamond stickpin), and Vienna (where he got back his diamond stickpin, which was found by maid in the hotel he stayed in Brunn) in Austria.
· On May 24, 1887, he left Vienna by riverboat to see sights on the Danube River (on the boat he saw paper napkins for the first time). His voyage ended at Linz.
· From Linz he went to Munich (where Hitler attempted a putsch in 1923) and Nuremberg (site of the Nazi Party rallies and the War Crimes trials), and other German cities.
· Rizal was in the German Empire, sometimes past the German-Austrian border, from February 1886 until he went to Switzerland in early June 1887.
· Rizal was again in Europe from May 24, 1888, until October 18, 1891. He was in London, Paris, Brussels, Madrid, Biarritz, Ghent. He was in Europe during the time Hitler was conceived and when he was born.
· Rizal in 1888 had an affair with a Japanese woman, Seiko Usui, when he visited Japan. She had an only daughter, Yuriko, by a foreign husband some years after her encounter with Rizal. Yuriko later married the son of a Japanese politician.

Put all these information together and you may be able to conclude the following: Hitler was conceived either in 1887 when Rizal passed through Linz or other towns (such as Brunn – How do you think he lost the diamond stickpin? And who was the “maid” who found it later and gave it to Blumentritt who forwarded it to Vienna?) near the Austrian border. In which case Hitler’s older siblings were fictitious, to cover up his mother’s being pregnant with him. In other words, Hitler was actually born before 1889.

Or he was conceived in August 1888, when Rizal was supposedly in London. Or perhaps in September 1888, when Rizal went to Paris for a week (to have a rendezvous with Klara?). Maybe he went to Paris in 1889 so he could communicate more easily with the now-expecting Klara? Klara Polzl’s affair with Rizal may have centered around Linz, which is why the Hitler family moved there later (so Mama Hitler could live where she had An affair to Remember), which would explain Hitler’s fondness for the town.

Finally, Seiko Usui’s only daughter was not really fathered by her husband, Alfred Charlton. He was simply a front. Yuriko, you see, was Rizal’s daughter! And Hitler knew she was his half-sister. She used her influence on her brother Adolf to persuade him to enter into an alliance with Japan (making it one of the Axis powers). Which is why Japan invaded the Philippines!

Yuriko made it clear to Hirohito that Hitler would appreciate it if his ally were to take over his father’s homeland. And of course the reason why Hitler wanted to become dictator of Germany was because his natural father had spent some of the most interesting years of his life there!

That, I think, is the rationale behind such a fantastic claim based on information that can be gathered from any high school textbook on Rizal and any good biography of Adolf Hitler. Naturally, this can only be done through selective use of the evidence, but it does make for an amusing piece of historical fiction.

Now, as to the idea that Mao Zedong was also Rizal’s son. Unfortunately this claim cannot be supported by even the most spurious evidence. Mao Zedong was born in 1893, in Hunan Province, which you could say is kind of near Hong Kong. But at that time (1893), Rizal was in exile in Dapitan. Now it would have been possible for Rizal to scamper around Europe and get Klara pregnant without anybody noticing, but he couldn’t possibly have jumped into a boat and rowed to Hongkong without being caught. He did pass through Hong Kong in 1888 and 1891 but he never seems to have visited other parts of China (unless you count Xiamen and Macao). So there are no details that can be manipulated.

These exercises in foolishness prove how creative Filipinos can be. What other people would be able to make the bogus claim that one of their heroes fathered the man who almost turned Europe into a “howling wilderness” (to borrow from the instructions for the extermination of Samar by American forces at the turn of the century). That would have been poetic justice, I suppose. The brown man strikes back and all that sort of thing.

Message to the Mountains by Yay Marking

Message to the Mountains
by Yay Marking
This Week (Sunday Magazine of the Manila Chronicle) 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.