The Good Fight, by Manuel L. Quezon


LEST the reader may think that my days in Baler had been constantly spent in a gloomy atmosphere of pain for the death of my mother, indignation over the abuses of the Spanish officials, or the anguish resulting from the almost tragic incident with the Cabo de la Guardia Civil and my confinement in the school-house, I desire to tell a little episode of my youth which took place in the midst of these more serious events.

The town of Baler was always famous for having an abundance of beautiful girls. At the time of which I now write, although only seventeen years old, I was no longer indifferent to the attraction of beautiful eyes and well-shaped figures. There was one girl in particular whose eyes were irresistible to me, and I quickly fell in love with her. Courting in the Philippines during the Spanish days was indeed a most trying enterprise. Girls were always chaperoned whenever they attended a dance, nor were they allowed out of the house alone. Letters through the mail, addressed to a girl, were sure to fall into her parents’ hands and never reached the addressee. When a girl was visited in her home, she was not permitted to sit near her suitor, and some one was always present so that the conversation could never refer to anything so personal as the object of the call. In my own town the young man would be asked to sit on a bench — and the prevailing rules of etiquette required that one must not walk straight to the bench, but had to do it step by step, –stopping after each step, until the invitation to sit was repeated three times. Then at last the tortured victim would have the right to sit down. The girl would sit at the farthest point away, the mother or the chaperone sitting with solemn face between them.

This procedure was too elaborate, too formal, and too burdensome for my impatient temperament. So I never subjected myself to the ancient ritual. There was another permissible manner of courting a girl more agreeable to my inclinations, and that was by serenading. This consisted of standing in front of the girl’s house after the family had retired for the evening and, from the street playing melancholy tunes and singing love ditties. Some austere mothers would let the serenaders remain long in the street before inviting them to come up, doubtless in the hope that the intruders would get tired and leave. Usually, however, after the third musical selection, the lamps were lighted and the cavaliers invited to come up. Then would follow an impromptu dance which would last, depending upon the boldness of the suitor,
until two or three o’clock in the morning. The music on such occasion consisted usually of only a flute or a violin and a guitar. I chose the serenade as a means of promoting my pretentions, and with two old friends who played the guitar and the flute, I courted the girl of my dreams. She was an orphan, living with her aunt, the most stern and implacable old lady of the town. As soon as the latter noticed that I
was paying attention to her niece, her attitude toward me changed radically. She assumed that I would never marry her girl, and therefore condemned me a priori as a villain. I went about my business unperturbed. She would keep me waiting in front of her house with my musicians as long as courtesy under the code would permit, and then in a rather hard voice and not concealing displeasure, would ask us to come up, “if we wanted.” Of course, we did every time and then I would dance with the girl and although one had to hold his partner at least one foot away, I still managed to whisper a word or two indicative of my deep personal feeling. After noticing that the girl was not indifferent to my advances, I used to carry with me whenever I serenaded her, a sheet of paper containing the most romantic letter I have ever produced. She never answered my letters, much less ever said that she reciprocated my love, for that was bad form in those days. Finally, on one occasion, I succeeded in finding her alone and kissed her on the cheek.

There was no protest, but it was the end, for fate took me away shortly after this incident.

The law course in the University of Santo Tomas at that time took seven years — one of preparatory, and six of law proper — and no one was permitted to matriculate who did not have the degree of Bachelor of Arts. Santo Tomas being the only university in the Philippines then — it is older by twenty-five years than Harvard — all the A.B. graduates from the different colleges who wanted to take a university course met in its classrooms. There I made the acquaintance of Sergio Osmeña who came from the college of the religious order of Saint Paul established in Cebu, Vicente Singson Encarnacion, and many others who graduated from the Ateneo of Manila. This preparatory course in law was also attended by Vicente Madrigal, Juan Sumulong, Emilio Jacinto, Flaviano Yenko, and many more who graduated with me as Bachelors of Art from San Juan de Letran. Sergio Osmeña and Vicente Madrigal, besides being my classmates, were also boarders in Santo Tomas, and we formed a friendship that has lasted throughout these many years of our lives.

Emilio Jacinto became the secretary of the Katipunan and was the brains in the camp of Andres Bonifacio, the untutored leader during the early days of the revolution against Spain. Jacinto sealed with his life his love of freedom for his people. Flaviano Yenko became a general in Aguinaldo’s army in Cavite, and died gloriously in the defense of Sapote bridge a few months after the revolution of 1896 broke out.

Sumulong and Singson Encarnacion became the leaders of the party which in popular parlance was called “Americanista.” Sumulong became very influential during the first years of the American regime and was appointed by the President of the United States a member of the Philippine Commission, the
body which after the establishment of the Civil Government exercised exclusively both the executive and legislative powers of the Philippine Government, and was composed of a majority of Americans and a Filipino minority who took part only in the legislative functions.

Madrigal never entered politics, –but although he was so poor as a student that he was able to follow an academic career only by the charity of the Dominican Order, he was so brilliant, so hard-working and so keen a businessman that before he reached the age of fifty, he became one of the few multimillionaires in the Philippines. And may I add in passing that every cent he made, he made honestly and by the sweat of his brow.

Osmeña and I joined our political forces in the leadership of the Nacionalista Party — the party which from the start advocated immediate independence for the Philippines. For many years Osmena was the leader of the Party — from 1907 to 1922,– at that time I succeeded him as the head of the organization.

In my preparatory course, there were two notable professors— Father Farpon, the professor of physics and chemistry, who was a real scientist (which for a friar was exceptional, for generally their interest lay in the study of scholastic philosophy, theology, and classics),– and Father Valentin Marin, the professor of Spanish literature. Father Marin was not only a Spanish scholar, a playwright, and a poet, but also one of the most liberal-minded priests I have ever known in my life. I think only the Dominican Order, of all the religious orders, would have tolerated such an outspoken man. He went beyond the bounds of prudence at times in criticizing the Spanish Government and his own brothers of the Order. He was so popular among the students that I had a slight suspicion the Emilio Jacinto and Flaviano Yenko had hinted to him their connection with the Katipunan.

Years had not improved my conduct. I was the same gay and unruly student, more inclined to make than to avoid trouble. However, the need of earning a little money for my expenses, other than my tuition and room and board which were free, forced me to devote a great deal of time not only to coaching those students whom the Director of Santo Tomas, Father Tamayo, put under my charge, but also other students who came to me for help.

After finishing my preparatory course, I matriculated in the first year of law. An old Dominican priest who was teaching canonic law in Santo Tomas and who had become very much interested in me, advised me to take at the same time a course in dogmatic theology. “In case,” as he said, “you may discover later that you have a vocation for priesthood.” Remembering what my dear mother told me as a probable reason for my birthday falling on the feast of the patron saint of Baler, I readily followed the advice of the old priest. The professor of dogmatic theology that year was Father Vaquero who had been teaching in the College of San Juan de Letran during all the years that I was a boarder in that college. He of course
knew me very well, and seeing me enter the classroom, he bluntly and in the presence of other students, asked me this question: “What are you doing here?” Humbly and in a low voice, assuming that that was the proper attitude of a would-be priest, I answered: “I think I am going to study for the priesthood.” He burst into laughter and said: “Who has deceived you into believing that you should ever be a priest? Don’t waste your time. Get out of here and proceed with your law course.” Thus the career for which my mother so devoutly prayed was nipped in the bud.

Discontent in the Philippines against the Spanish rule had then become rampant. The Katipunan was rapidly being extended everywhere. Although I knew from my own personal experience in my home town how well-founded was the discontent, I would not join the secret society because of the pledged word of my father to the Military Governor of Baler.

When I was spending my Christmas vacation in the town of Aliaga, province of Nueva Ecija, Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Filipino people, was executed, after a cooked-up military trial, in Bagumbayan, afterwards the beautiful Luneta drive and park. The death of Rizal, which the Spanish Government thought would end the subversive agitation and the incipient rebellion in the Philippines, accomplished
just the opposite. More than any other Filipino before him or during his time, Jose Rizal had succeeded through his writings in arousing the dormant if not extinct national consciousness among his countrymen. He opened their eyes to the intolerable abuses that were being committed by their oppressors. His martyrdom, in a public plaza, before the startled and weeping eyes of his people, with deafening cries of “Viva España” from the Spaniards who witnessed the execution, was the spark that set off the Revolution. Shortly afterwards there was a general uprising.

The insurrection was started by Andres Bonifacio with his Gjrito de Balintawak — the Cry of Balintawak — and Aguinaldo immediately seconded the movement with the uprising in Cavite. Here the insurrectos, armed only with a few shotguns and bolos, won easy victories and captured the Spanish garrison in the province. The success of the insurrection in Cavite astonished the Spaniards and the Filipinos alike,
including Aguinaldo and his followers themselves. In my home town in Baler, at the instigation of one Luis Novicio Luna (an Ilocano born in Baler and up to that time the only one who was a member of the Katipunan), a group of about fifty men armed with bolos and clubs attacked by surprise the barracks of the Guardia Civil and another detachment of infantry under the command of a sergeant, –the revolutionaries took a number of Spanish prisoners and their rifles along with them. Among these prisoners was my old “friend,” Cabo Enriquez who, despite his cruelty and despicable treatment of
the people of Baler, was nevertheless spared from death. The larger part of the infantry garrison which was quartered in the ground floor of the Military Governor’s house under the command of a lieutenant, escaped this attack for the guards were alert. My brother Teodorico, who did not know of my father’s promise, led the attack against the Guardia Civil and captured Cabo Enriquez. That same night, the inhabitants of the town of Baler, including my father, took to the nearby hills with the exception of those who were caught by the remaining Spanish soldiers. Among them was the family of my future wife, whose father was sent to jail in Manila and was kept there as long as the first uprising started. The rest
of the people of the town remained in the hills until the Pact of Biaknabato, by virtue of which the first uprising against Spain was ended. I kept aloof studiously from anything that in any way might involve me in the revolution. I meant to honor my father’s word. I continued my studies and never went back again to Baler for my summer vacations.

The rules of the house in Santo Tomas University permitted the boarders who were full-fledged university students to go out by themselves twice a week from five to seven o’clock, at which time the doors were closed and supper was served. In my second year of law, I discovered that the cook went
home every night after supper through a side door which was opened for his exit. This discovery suggested to me the idea that whenever I pleased I could stay out until nine o’clock and use the cook’s door to reenter the building. It did not take long for Father Tamayo, the director of the house, to discover my scheme, and one night as I entered the door I found him waiting for me. Without further parley, he sent me away for good. Fortunately, the punishment did not include my expulsion from the classes. Thereafter I boarded in a students’ boarding-house in Intramuros, the Walled City, where the declaration of war between Spain and the United States found me residing.

When war was declared, the Spanish authorities and newspapers started a campaign of vilification against the Americans. They called them infidels, for in those days a non-Catholic was an infidel in the eyes of the Spanish friars in the Philippines. We were told, even from the pulpits, that the Americans, unlike the Spaniards who Christianized the Indians in Mexico, killed the Indians living in the United States and took their lands. They assured us that victory for the invincible Spanish arms was a foregone conclusion. It was widely advertised that the entrance to Manila Bay on either side of Corregidor was so well mined that no fleet would dare enter unless it sought its own destruction.

While this anti-American publicity was going on in the Philippines, the American Consul-General in Singapore, Mr. Pratt, was negotiating with Aguinaldo for the help of the Filipinos in the war against Spain. It will be remembered that after the Pact of Biaknabato in 1 896, Aguinaldo agreed to be exiled in Hongkong, and the beginning of hostilities in the Spanish-American War found him there. To this day
Aguinaldo maintains that the Consul-General Pratt and Admiral Dewey had both promised him that if the Filipinos took the side of the Americans in that war, upon the defeat of Spain and the signing of the peace treaty the independence of the Philippines would be recognized by the United States. Aguinaldo says that in his conferences with these American officials, it was pointed out to him that the war was
declared by the United States against Spain for the purpose of liberating Cuba and that, therefore, he easily believed that the country that fought for the liberation of Cuba would not deny the Filipinos their freedom. Commodore Dewey — later Admiral — denied most emphatically that he had ever made such commitment to Aguinaldo, although it is officially recorded that he did inform the Government of the United States, after the termination of the war, that the Filipinos were more capable of governing themselves than the Cubans.

Early on the morning of the first of May 1898, I heard the boom of heavy cannon from Manila Bay. I jumped up and told my fellow student-boarders who were in the same room with me that the American Fleet was attacking the Spanish Fleet lying over at the naval arsenal of Cavite, a few miles to the west. Nobody, including myself, believed what I said, but just the same we all went down and ran for the beach which was only about a thousand yards from the house. Americans who came to Manila a few years after the event I am narrating could not possibly understand what I mean when I say that the distance between Magallanes Street where I was staying and the beach was only about a thousand yards. The explanation is that during the American regime, this water area was filled in, from the Malecon Drive which bordered the beach, for several miles. This is now called the Port Area, at the end of which were built the piers of Manila.

From the beach I witnessed the Battle of Manila Bay which, as far as I can remember, did not last long. By
eight o’clock, Dewey’s fleet steamed away, and the Spaniards who were on the beach shouted, “Viva España!” doubtless believing that Dewey was on the run. Their cheers, however, were of short duration, for very soon we saw Admiral Montojo’s ships all afire.

After having destroyed the Spanish Fleet and captured the naval arsenal of Cavite, Dewey sent one of his ships to get Aguinaldo and his associates in Hongkong and bring them to the Philippines in accordance with their concerted plan. Dewey did not have with him any land forces, and until he could get them from the United States, he had to depend upon Aguinaldo and his insurgents.

On the other hand, the Spanish Government in Manila, from the time it became apparent that a war between the United States and Spain was imminent, called for Filipino volunteers to join the Spanish forces. Several battalions were organized. One contingent was composed of Macabebes from Pampanga under the command of the leading citizen of the town of Macabebe, Mr. Blanco, who was given the
rank of major and later was promoted to a full colonelcy, –another was under the command of Mr. Felipe Buencamino, a prominent lawyer of Manila, who was likewise given the rank of major. There were other battalions recruited form different provinces, and last but not least, there was the Manila Battalion and the Guerilla de San Miguel, all commanded by a majority of ranking Spanish civilian officials.

As soon as Aguinaldo landed in Cavite, he issued a manifesto addressed to the Filipino people telling them that the Divine Providence had at last heard their prayers and that their freedom and independence were at hand, –that America, the mother of republics, had through Admiral Dewey assured him that if the Filipino people sided with the United States in the war against Spain, they would be granted independence upon the termination of the war. The arrival of Aguinaldo in Cavite was the signal for a new uprising all over the Philippines, and the Spanish Governor-General then offered the Filipinos in the name of the government in Madrid, complete autonomy under the Spanish crown if they would remain loyal to Spain. Some of the leading Filipinos were inclined to accept this offer, but they soon found out that the masses of the people were flocking to the banner of Aguinaldo and that even entire battalions of volunteers in the provinces had forsaken the cause of Spain and had gone over to Aguinaldo. So no one dared to come out and advocate the acceptance of the offer. Before the American landing forces arrived in the Philippines, Aguinaldo, with the rifles that Dewey gave him from the Cavite arsenal, started a siege of Manila but was forbidden by the American high command to attack the city. After the required number
of American troops had landed, an ultimatum was sent by General Anderson and Admiral Dewey to the Spanish
Governor- General for the surrender of Manila. The answer was negative, but after a sham battle wherein only a few shots were fired, the white flag was raised and the Spanish conquest of the Philippines came to an inglorious end. I was then in the city and saw the American flag taking the place of the flag of Spain.

I confess to a feeling of deep sadness when I saw the old flag come down forever. After all, I inherited from my mother some Spanish blood, I spoke from childhood the language of Castile, and although the last Spanish friar, parish priest of my town, was far from what his vocation required him to be, one of his predecessors had been my teacher. Again I felt very grateful to the Dominican friars who had given me free tuition and free room and board for three years and who, despite my derelictions as a student, always treated me kindly. I felt, as I still do, grateful to them.

When Manila was occupied by the American forces, Aguinaldo nor his army was permitted by General Elwell S. Otis to enter the Walled City or any of its suburbs. In passing, I may add that the ultimatum, the sham battle, and the occupation of Manila took place on the 1 3th of August, 1898, after the armistice had already been signed by duly authorized representatives of Spain and the United States.

The denial of the fruits of victory to those who took a very important part in their achievement marked the beginning of suspicion, jealousies, and misunderstandings between the two former allies which culminated in the outbreak of hostilities on the 4th of February, 1899.

After the occupation of Manila by the United States Army, law classes having been closed since the beginning of the war and I have nothing to do, I decided to visit Baler. I had not been in communication with my father or any one from Baler since the siege of Manila and was naturally very anxious about the fate of my family. When I arrived in Baler, I learned that my father, with my young brother who had gone to the provinces before the siege of Manila, had been murdered by bandits on their way home. It appears that my father had succeeded in collecting his back salary and had gone to Nueva Ecija not only to fetch
my brother but to buy some merchandise with the idea of entering into the retail business. The bandits not only took everything they had, but murdered them besides. Years afterwards when I had become a prosecuting attorney, I succeeded in capturing every one of these bandits myself in the company of my other brother, and I then prosecuted them for murder and robbery, and succeeded in securing life imprisonment for them.

I stayed in my home town, living with the family of my future wife, whose mother was a sister of my mother. At that time my little cousin was only about ten years old and I used to play with her.

The old town was deserted by its inhabitants, all the houses having been burned. Only the church and the adjoining parish were standing and had been converted into a fortress by the Spanish garrison which was beleaguered for many months and had refused to surrender. No more glorious page in Spanish military history, I think, has been written than that which this small garrison wrote in the siege of Baler. Hunger and sickness had reduced the garrison from a hundred and fifty men to about fifty and only one
of the officers commanding the company remained alive —Lieutenant Martin. Emissaries from Manila were sent by the Spanish General ordering them to give up the fight on the ground that the Philippines were no longer Spanish territory, since the treaty of peace had already been signed between Spain and the United States. The commander of the garrison did not listen to the emissary but instead threatened to shoot him unless he went away. Finally Aguinaldo agreed to let these Spaniards come out from the church -fortress and go to Manila without surrendering and to carry with them all their rifles.

I was in Baler when the hostilities began between America and the Filipino forces. It was already known all over the world that in the treaty of peace America had insisted on the transfer by Spain of her sovereignty over the Philippines to the United States. President McKinley had issued his proclamation formally declaring that the people and territory of the Philippines be placed under the sovereignty of the United States, and General Otis was commanded to take steps that would bring about acceptance on the part of the Filipinos of the new situation. Although the language of the proclamation was couched in the most diplomatic terms, Aguinaldo and his advisers were in no way misled. They realized its full import and meaning, and as answer thereto, Aguinaldo convened at Malolos the First Filipino Congress, which was inaugurated with all the ceremonies and the solemnity demanded by the occasion. The Philippine
Republic was formally proclaimed. The joy and exultation of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos that gathered in Malolos from all parts of the Islands knew no bounds. Aguinaldo, however, deliberately avoided a serious clash with the Army of Occupation.

Meanwhile, President McKinley created the First Philippine Commission headed by Jacob Gould Schurman, the President of Cornell University, with instructions to go to the Philippines and explain to the Filipinos America’s purpose in taking the Philippines from Spain: namely, not to subjugate the people of the Islands, but to educate and train them in the art of self-government. In his message to Congress that year, President McKinley with uncanny premonition stated: “I believe and confidently expect that
the day will come when the Filipino people will bless the day when the Divine Providence placed their country under the protecting hand of the United States.” Unfortunately, when the Commission arrived in Manila, the peaceful, if strained, relations between the American and Filipino forces had terminated and war was actually in progress.

The news of the hostilities which began on February 4, 899, reached Baler almost overnight. I decided at once that my duty lay in fighting for the freedom of my country. Neither my father, while he was alive, nor I had any commitment with the United States Army. On the contrary, it was that army, as I thought, which had broken faith with my people.