Manuel Luis Quezon, 144

By Herbert Vego

TODAY, we celebrate the 144th birth anniversary of the late Manuel Luis Molina Quezon, the first President of the Philippine Commonwealth, who was born on August 19, 1878. In fact, we remember Quezon the whole month of August, which was declared National Lung Month by the late dictator president Ferdinand Marcos on July 24, 1978 through Presidential Proclamation No. 1761.

Quezon died of tuberculosis, in his time a fatal lung disease, on August 1, 1944.

No doubt, all of us have heard of his most famous quotation: “I prefer a government run like hell by Filipinos to one run like heaven by the Americans.”

Quezon said it before the United States Congress in May 1910 when he was resident commissioner of the Philippine Assembly. Our country having been colonized by the US, Quezon was clamoring for the grant of Philippine Independence.

With that speech, Quezon was hoping to melt the contrary opinion in the homeland. Some people were wishing for annexation of the Philippines to the United States – just like Hawaii.

Of course, he could have been personally motivated.  That early, Quezon was hoping to be President of the Philippines.

By the time Franklin D. Roosevelt became the President of the United States in 1933, the majority of the Filipinos had shown solidarity behind Quezon’s clamor for self-rule. The US government agreed to a transitory commonwealth Philippine government under the supervision of an American high commissioner.

Earlier history tells us that when the revolutionary forces of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo declared revolution against the Spanish regime in 1898, the 20-year-young Quezon was among those who bravely took up arms. That must have fueled his yearning for self-governance.

After the Spanish-American war, Quezon resumed his law studies at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, passed the bar and practiced law.

In 1907, he won a seat in the Philippine Assembly. In 1916, he was elected to the Senate and became its president.

Leading a mission to the United States, he worked for a bill that would eventually be passed as the Tydings-McDuffie Law, providing for Philippine independence to take effect in 1946.

In September 1935, Manuel Quezon and Sergio Osmeña were elected President and Vice-President, respectively, of the Philippine Commonwealth.

In November 1941, Quezon was reelected president of the commonwealth. When the Japanese forces occupied Manila in 1942, he and his Cabinet fled to the United States and set up an exile government in Washington in May 1942.

He died of tuberculosis in Australia on Aug. 1, 1944, barely a year before the liberation of the Philippines from Japan.  Vice-President Sergio Osmeña took over the presidency.

History tells us that such “liberation” began with the amphibious landing of Gen. Douglas MacArthur – US military advisor to the Philippine commonwealth government — on Leyte on October 20, 1944.

On July 4, 1946, the United States granted Philippine Independence, recognizing Sergio Osmeña as President.

Had Quezon not spoken against foreign rule, could we have become the 51st state run like heaven by Uncle Sam?

Some of us who think we are run like hell by Filipinos today would wish that were the case.



TODAY marks the launch of the book “Padayon nga Maragtas sang UP sa Visayas: 75 Years of the UP Presence in Iloilo and Beyond” over lunch at Hotel del Rio.

The book chronicles the 75-year history of the University of the Philippines Visayas (UPV). In the words of its editor, retired UPV Professor Ma. Luisa E. Mabunay, their historical work on the institution is also “useful in guiding our contemporary directions and future actions.”

Published by retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza (AB Political Science, 1970), the book is a collaborative effort of authors Marilynn Hiponia-Quigley, Rey Carlo T. Gonzales, Emmanuel A. Lerona, Julie Prescott, and Rene C. Trance.

Proceeds from the publication of the book will fund the UPV Heritage Preservation Trust Fund for the Handumanan, a project aimed at reconstructing and preserving the old Woman’s Club and High School buildings at the Iloilo City campus.

As a UPIC student in 1966, I can truly shout, “Hep hep, hooray!”

UPIC, incidentally, was how UPV used to be known. It stood for the University of the Philippines Iloilo College. Right, Doc Bong?