The Good Fight, by Manuel L. Quezon


THE Mason case of course increased my popularity among my countrymen, but although Colonel Bandholtz and my immediate superior in the office of the Attorney General, Judge James Ross, became even stronger friends of mine thereafter, some unknown enemies started persecuting me. Behind my back I was investigated for several charges and when finally I learned what was going on, contrary to the advice of friend my Judge Ross, I insisted upon resigning as prosecuting attorney. I resumed immediately the practice of my profession in the province of Tayabas.

I must pause here to relate an event which later developed into one of the important steps in my life. To it I owe having been the happiest of husbands and the proudest of fathers.

Once I was installed in Tayabas as prosecuting attorney, I wrote a letter to my Aunt Zeneida, who was already a widow, inviting her to come and stay with me, with her two unmarried daughters, Amparo and Aurora. This aunt and my mother had loved each other dearly and had been the closest of friends even after their marriages. The youngest daughter of my aunt, Aurora, had been raised by my mother from childhood in my home, and the little girl had been my father’s pet. (Earlier in this book I mentioned that during my visit to Baler after the American occupation of Manila, I stayed in the house of my Aunt Zenaida.) The family accepted my invitation and came to live with me. My cousin Aurora looked very pretty. I sent her to Manila to study in the Normal School. The government had a boarding house for girls under the care of Miss Colman, and there Aurora stayed except during vacation time when she came and joined her mother and sister in my house.

On resuming my practice, I made more money than before albeit I continued to give free service to the poor. Within six months, I had clients from the remotest towns of the province.

When the election of 1905 for provincial governor was approaching, I was already a convert to the policy of cooperation with the Government of United States. Every pronouncement made by the highest spokesman of the American people was to effect that the America was in the Philippines as the liberator, not as the oppressor of the Filipino people.

General Bandholtz by this time had been transferred to Manila and I had met his successor, Colonel J. G. Harbord, now the chairman of the Board of Directors of the Radio Corporation of America. Colonel Harbord was a different type of man from General Bandholtz. I make no comparison of the two men who became very dear friends of mine, especially since one has died, while the other, thanks be to God, is still alive. But I must say that no American in those early days had as much influence in forming my high conception of public duty or gave me a better idea of American manhood than the then Colonel Harbord. General Harbord is, in my opinion, one of the greatest men I have ever met. After a conference with him I decided to run for governor and easily defeated my two other rivals for the office.

My first visit to my home town after my election as governor of Tayabas I made with Colonel Harbord, he wrote of that visit as follows:

As Constabulary District Commander I had a Coast Guard cutter under my orders, and asked the young Governor to let me take him back to his native Baler for his first visit since he had left it as a young insurrecto eight years before. He came on board the cutter at Atimonan on a June evening 1906 and the next morning found us opposite Baler. Once the fishermen along shore sighted us, the news quickly spread to the village. When we landed through the surf, the narrow sandy beach was filled by a great crowd of Filipinos of both sexes. The whole population of Baler was there on the rumor that the Governor had come back to his native village.

The procession formed in a long column headed by the young Governor. His parents were no longer living but dozens of relatives and older people who had known them and him in his youth crowded into the column. The village band played gay and patriotic airs all the way from the beach to the town. The officials, the teachers of the schools, the local businessmen, and most important, the Spanish parish priest who had known the Governor in his boyhood, and still remained in the town, marched at the head of the procession. Few Spanish priests still lived and headed their old parishes after the Insurrection had ended. Old women, who had known the boy from babyhood crowded to march in turn with arms around the young Governor, with many cries of “Manuelito,” and there was much joyous laughter and some weeping over the home town boy now grown into a great man.

At the village we found the plaza crowded with more people who were anxious to do honor to the distinguished visitor. The whole day was given over to rejoicing. Speeches were made in Tagalog, Spanish, and English. Native games were played all afternoon. Fencing contests showed the method of instructing young boys in the handling of native weapons. Dances were danced never before seen by Americans and the whole day was a gala day. That evening there was a great banquet* with more speeches, much music and more dancing. The full moon of tropic night lighted us down to the beach when the feasting and dancing were over, and we went down to accompanied by the whole village.

*If the name of banquet could be given to typical Filipino food served in the most ordinary plates, but with plenty of fish, crab, chicken, and vinegar.

In twelve years in the Philippines I saw many moving spectacles of joy and sorrow but that day at Baler remains in my memory as the most dramatic and touching day passed in those twelve crowded years. I never have seen my friend Governor Quezon again without a different feeling toward him than I have toward any other Filipino, and I have known the best and brightest of his contemporaries. Nearly forty years have passed and I am proud to say that our friendship is still the same. What I saw that day is the explanation to me of the wonderful hold he has over the hearts of his people, which has enabled him to lead them as a unit against the invader who followed Pearl Harbor.

As governor of Tayabas my main concern was to prove that the Filipinos were capable of governing themselves. I gave complete freedom to the town mayors and municipal councils to manage the affairs of their respective localities and insisted that I be given by the authorities in Manila a free hand in governing my province. The Executive Secretary of the Governor-General then was Frank W. Carpenter. It was he who did the actual supervision of the provincial and municipal governments and he did not interfere with my work. He was a very capable executive and a hard-working man.

By an Act of the United States Congress, it had been provided that two years after the taking of the census, if peace and public order prevailed in the Philippines, an election for members of a lower house of the legislature would be called by the Governor-General. Thus for the first time in their history the Filipino people would be allowed through their elected representatives to take part in the legislative department of their government. As pointed out heretofore, America had governed the Philippines, during the occupation and pacification of the Islands, through a military government, and after the organized resistance of the Filipinos had been overcome, a civil government was inaugurated, the powers of which, both executive and judicial, were concentrated in the hands of Philippine Commission headed by Mr. Taft who also was the Chief Executive. This body, in the early days of the Civil Government, was composed executively of Americans, but very soon three Filipinos — Legarda, Tavera, and Luzurriaga — were added as members of the Commission although possessing legislative powers only, and forming but a minority even in the legislative functions of that body.

The Judicial Department was constituted by Courts of Justices of the Peace, Courts of First Instance, and the Supreme Court. The Governor-General appointed the Justices of the Peace and Judges of the Court of First Instance, all removable at his discretion. The President of the United States appointed the members of the Supreme Court, likewise to hold office during the President’s pleasure. The majority of the members of this court were Americans, although from the beginning the Chief Justice has always been a Filipino.

When the election to the National Assembly was called in 1907, I announced my willingness to occupy a seat in the new elective body if my district wanted to elect me. By this mere announcement, I was elected to the Assembly by practically unanimous vote of my district.

In the first election of the Philippine Assembly, as was the case with every succeeding election, the Nationalist Party to which I belong — and which carried the banner of immediate, absolute, and complete independence — won by an overwhelming majority. The Governor-General was then the Honorable James L. Smith of California, while Mr. Taft had been promoted to the position of Secretary of War. Representing President Theodore Roosevelt, Secretary Taft went to Manila and inaugurated the National Assembly.

In his address at the inaugural ceremonies, Secretary Taft reiterated the American policy of granting the Filipino people an ever-increasing measure of self-government as they proved themselves to be capable of assuming and exercising greater responsibilities.

The law that created the National Assembly also provided for the election by the Philippine Commission, acting as the upper house, and by the Philippine assembly, acting as the lower house of the legislature, of two Resident Commissioners who would represent the Philippines before the Government of the United States, with a seat but no vote in Congress. Messrs. Legarda and Ocampo were elected the first two Commissioners.

At the first session of the Philippine Assembly, Sergio Osmeña, upon my motion, was chosen by unanimous vote Speaker of the House. This, despite the fact that sixteen members from the opposition had been elected as members of the body. I became the floor leader and was appointed by the Speaker Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, which also had jurisdiction over revenue bills.

My first clash with the American Government while serving in the National Assembly was about a bill pending in the United States Congress to provide for the trade relations between the United States and the Philippines. The bill contemplated the establishment of free trade relations between the said two countries. Certain private interests in the United States were opposed to the bill for selfish reasons and Secretary of War Taft, under whose department the Philippines then were, instructed the Philippine Commission to indorse the proposed bill and to secure the concurrence of the Philippine Assembly to its action. I fought the measure upon the ground that free trade relations between our countries would result in making the Philippines absolutely dependent upon the markets of the United States. This, I contended, would create a most serious situation in Philippine economic life, especially when the time came for the granting of our independence. The Assembly by overwhelming vote, supported me, only the opponents of immediate independence taking the other side. My contention was proved sound when finally the question of Philippine independence was taken up by the Congress of the United States.

After the first session of the National Assembly, Secretary of War Taft reported to President Theodore Roosevelt that the Filipinos had lived up to the expectations of their friends and proved a disappointment to their enemies.

In the closing days of the second session of the Philippine Assembly, the State Department in Washington transmitted to the Governor-General of the Philippines an invitation from the government of the Czar of Russia to an International Congress of Navigation which was to be held in Saint Petersburg. Governor-General Smith informed Speaker Osmeña of this invitation. I told the Speaker that I should like to go although I was as competent to take part in that Congress as a shoe-peddler would be. My purpose in mind was to have my first glimpse of the outside world which, as I thought, would prepare me for the next post to which I was then aspiring — that of Resident Commissioner to the United States. My wishes were fulfilled, but needless to say, I was attacked right and left by the press and properly so, although I might say that the trip eventually proved to be not a bad investment for Filipino taxpayers.

I took with me two secretaries — one to act as my interpreter, an American who knew Spanish well, and a Filipino newspaper man who, years afterwards, occupied positions in the executive and legislative departments of the Philippine Government. We took a Japanese steamer, for our itinerary contemplated going from Manila to Japan and thence to Russia by way of the Siberian railroad. Our ship called at the ports of Nagasaki and Shimunaseki, then we crossed the mainland of Japan by train and took a boat on the opposite coast, to Vladivostok.

Of my first impression of Japan, I wrote to a friend in the Philippines the following: “The Japanese people are less capable of self-government than we are.”

In Russia I met, among other persons, Alexander Kerensky who later played for a short time an important part during the days of the Russian Revolution. I was too late to participate in the Navigation Congress, but I had occasion to observe the extreme poverty and ignorance of the masses of the Russian people while their grand dukes were swimming in luxury.

From Russia I went to Berlin, thence to Paris, London, and finally to the United States. I arrived in New York in summer and President Theodore Roosevelt invited me to lunch with him at Oyster Bay. In my first meeting with President Theodore Roosevelt, what made the most striking impression on me was the simplicity and democratic manners of an American President. I had read of European monarchs and their courts and never suspected that America had truly discarded their ways and ceremonial practices! I had seen, if only from a distance, Spanish Governors-General riding in a carriage drawn by six white horses, preceded and followed by cavalry escorts!

President Theodore Roosevelt greeted me warmly and took me to his table without ceremony. The other two guests were Secretary Cortelyou of the Treasury, and my interpreter, Mr. Escamilla. After the luncheon, President Roosevelt had a short conference with me. He said he was pleased with the conduct of the Philippine Assembly and assured me that the policy of the United States was to grant the Philippines their independence in due time. Being only a very provincial Filipino, knowing nothing about protocol, nor of the injunction against quoting heads of state, I repeated to newspapermen what President Roosevelt had told me. I was promptly listed by presidential decree as a member of the “Ananias Club”!

On my return to Manila I was given a hearty welcome by the Nacionalista Party. Not unnaturally my partisans preferred to give credit to what I said rather than to the subsequent denial by the President of the United States.

At the second and last session of the first Philippine Assembly I was elected Resident Commissioner to the United States to succeed Pablo Ocampo. I arrived in Washington on the afternoon of December 24, 1 909, about the same hour that, years later, I arrived on Corregidor with my family, and in the company of High Commissioner Sayre, on December 24, 1941. Only there was a slight difference between the circumstances under which the two trips were made.