by Arsenio H. Lacson
May 3, 1949
Until now, I can’t quite get over Philip’s tragic death. He was first of all, a very close friend of mine. I saw him married, and was one of the best men at his wedding. I also saw him buried, and it is not a pleasant thing to remember.
Philip was such a nice, clean boy, friendly, warm-hearted and generous, so full of life, and laughter, that I learned to love him. Of course he had his faults, but you take your friends as they are, not as you want them to be. And Philip, for all his faults, was quite a man. In all the years that we kept close together, I never knew him to deliberately do a mean thing.
Because he was by nature easy-going and amiable, he exasperated me at time by failing to take things more seriously and using his considerable talents to point out the many evils with which our government is cursed. Actually, he was not wholly indifferent to them. He could on occasions become quite angry over certain injustices, but he had no capacity for sustained indignation, and it was not in him to fret and worry over the disgraceful and scandalous way this country is being run. Life to him was one swell adventure, to be lived and savored to the full, with very little time left for crusades. The world cannot be changed or saved in a day.
And because he was Philip, he would gaily twit me about being afflicted with a messianic itch. Relax, he would say. Take it easy. Things are not as bad as they look. In time, everything would be alright. Perhaps, he had the right answer. I wouldn’t know. But I shudder to think what would happen if all of us adopted a carely and carefree attitude and paraphrasing archie, Don Marquis’ cockroach reporter, say:
no trick nor kick of fate
can raise me from a yell,
serene I sit and wait
for the Philippines to go to hell.
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.
And now he is dead, along with that fine and noble lady who was his mother-in-law, and that vivid, great-hearted, spirited girl who was so much like her great and illustrious father, foully murdered by hunted and persecuted men turned into wild, insensate beasts by grave injustices — men who, in laying ambush for Mr. Quirino and other government officials, brutally and mercilessly struck down innocent victims instead.
Philip Buencamino III had so much to live for: a charming, gracious wife who adored him, a chubby little son who will one day grow up into sturdy manhood with only a dim memory of his father, and another child on the way whomPhilip now will never see. Handsome and talented, Philip had his whole future before him. His was a life so full of brilliant promise, and it is a great tragedy that it should have ended soon. He had been a top reporter before he entered the foreign serivice. With his charm and affability, his personal gifts and family prestige, there was no height he could not have scaled as a diplomat. The pity of it, the futile pitiful waste of it! A nice, clean, promising youngster sacrificed to the warring passions of men who have turned Central Luzon into a charnel house.
Mr. Qurino has so much to answer for. These are the wages of impatient ambition, these are the wages of his double-cross of the Huks, and his brutal policy of extermination. Daily in Central Luzon, innocent men, women and children die, caught between those two conteding knights in shining armor. The Huks one one saide, and the PC and their civilian guard allies on the other. Thousands have already died, and many more will die in the days to come now that Mr. Qurino, in an effort to ease his trouble conscience, insanely cries all-out war. Whole barrios and poblaciones will again be shelled and blown to bits, there will be savage retaliation, and the bloody butcher’s list will grow long. It is ironic that a socially prominent and beloved family had to be wiped out before the whole nation wake up to the terrible and tragic fact that Filipinos are dying every day in bloody Central Luzon.
In the final analysis, it is Mr. Quirino who is responsible for the death of Doña Aurora, Baby, Philip and nine others who were trapped in that Huk ambuscade. Because of Mr. Quirino, they went to Baler. They went trusting his boastful assurance as President and Commander-in-Chief of all the armed forces of the Philippines that peace and order has been completely restored, and they met their death on the highway, riddled by bullets that were meant for Elpidio Quirino.
The blame for this rests on the conscience of Elpidio Quirino. I hope it rests there heavily. God damn him, and God damn the men who killed my friend!