Fight for the Filipino (Excerpt)

From Fight for the Filipino, by Teofisto Guingona Jr., original edition, Academic Publishing Corporation, 2008. Republished, 2013,

The War Years

Our serene stay in Tubod did not last long. My dad was called back to Marawi because President Manuel L. Quezon was to visit. We went along and were told that the president’s party would include officials and family members but only for a brief rest before they proceed to Del Monte from where they would fly to Australia. It was the Philippine Commonwealth Government going to exile abroad.

The president’s visit came at a somber time. Bataan and Corregidor were being badly battered, and the rumor that the vaunted aid was coming became dimmer by the hour. Yet Quezon spoke bravely and inspired hope. Dad tendered a simple dinner after which Quezon conferred with him and other officials, and gave last minute instructions. I was introduced to Nonong Quezon and I wanted to take him around but he seemed shy and reticent, and before we knew it, the party rose to retire and rest at the Manila Hotel branch.

President Quezon left some luggage behind, with instructions to follow whenever possible. “Anyway,” said the aide, “they only contain playing cards hundreds of them, all brand new. That’s why he is such a good poker player!”

The next day, the party started its trek to Del Monte in Bukidnon, about three hours ride overland. A friend from Camp Keithley detailed with the party invited me to tag along and I did, riding in an extra vehicle behind the main party. It was hot and dusty. Halfway along the way, the vehicles ahead stopped. We noticed people disembarking. We followed suit. There, underneath the shade of a mango tree, sat Manuel L. Quezon on a propped seat surrounded by officials.

Puñeta,” he wailed, “I am tired. We will rest here.” His aide pointed out the danger of being a fixed target of enemy planes; he was berated. Another remonstrated about the consequences of night travel, he was dismissed. No one, it seemed, could placate the president. Then Doña Aurora, first lady of the land, alighted from her car and approached the president. “Manoling,” she said in fluent Spanish, “if you want to rest, it is alright, and if Japanese planes attack I will stay with you, no matter what happens, I will be with you… all the way.” I could discern the president’s demeanor swiftly mellowed. He rose and said, “Puñeta, let’s go. We can rest later.” And so we went. The tact and dedication of a gentle lady had won the day.

Teofisto Guingona Jr.
Author: Teofisto Guingona Jr.

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