In this corner: Lacson
By Quijano de Manila
Philippines Free Press
May 11, 1957–THE belief that the late President Magsaysay started the strenuous style in Philippine politics is more affectionate than accurate, for long before the guy attracted notice, another, younger fellow was already startling the nation with his loud shirts and louder mouth his high leaps and fast pace, and his general air of roughness, toughness, youthfulness and vitality.
To post-liberation voters, Arsenio Lacson of Talisay, Negros Occidental, seemed completely new kind of politician, a brute wind hurtling through a wasteland of old men. Quezon had fixed the type of the old-style politico, who was elegant, eloquent and imperious—and a rather jaded man of the world. Politics, before the war, created the only real aristocracy, in the country; the Commonwealth was purely a government by cronies: the affairs of the nation were in the hands of an elite whose members also laid down the law in fashion and manners. When Quezon combined a white silk suit with a dark-blue shirt and a pastel tie, he launched a style that became almost a uniform throughout the country in the late 1930’s. when his cabinet members took up the tango, every social-climber started dipping and sliding in the Argentine manner. The so-called stability of the prewar world was based on this feudal admiration that the country had for its leaders as rare beings set apart by talent and breeding and ability to direct the destinies of people of lesser clay. A phenomenon like Magsaysay would have been impossible during the Quezon era; everybody would have noted uneasily that he just didn’t “belong,” for the old political aristocrats valued gentility almost as much as they did money.
Government in the grand manner tried a comeback after the war—but the authority had vanished with Quezon and suave manners no longer awed the commonality. Mr. Osmeña had valid reasons for not campaigning for re-election; besides, begging for votes smacked of the vulgar. His wife gauged the postwar temper more accurately. Mr. Roxas was of the true Quezonian stamp—courtly and polished and vaguely jaded – but when he attempted Quezon’s grand manner he was rudely rapped by the rowdy new age in the person of Arsenio Lacson.
Lacson symbolized the postwar world almost too perfectly: he was not only a newspaperman and a columnist, he was also a radio commentator. He looked and talked like a stevedore; he was a gaudy dresser; and he didn’t dance the tango. He had no respect for political parties and no great liking for Americans—and he said so, in his newspaper column and over radio. When President Roxas barred him from the air on October 4, 1947, Lacson became the first popular idol of the postwar era. It became inevitable that he would enter politics. A generation that disliked everything old had found a voice..