THE VIEW FROM RIZAL
By DR. JUN YNARES
What do people remember or know best about the late President Manuel Luis Quezon?
Some of our elders in Rizal recall that President Quezon – the second president of the country and the president of the Philippine Commonwealth – was a “mestizo.” He was “guwapo” based on how our countrymen understood that term in the early 1900s: he was dapper in his presidential white suit which accentuated his Filipino-Spanish features.
Others recall that he was an excellent orator. His speeches were fiery and inspired patriotism among our great-grandparents who had to live through several wars. He led the nation at a time when the world looked up to other great leaders of men, like Winston Churchill, Dwight Eisenhower, and Charles de Gaulle.
Many would remember him for his “colorful” language. By “colorful,” they meant “expletives.” In short, “mura.” Yes, he was capable of blurting out the classic “P___ I ___” in public, and its “kastila” variant. We cannot print out the entire word as it may not pass editorial standards.
Yet, President Quezon was a much-beloved leader. It is said that the Filipinos of his time did not mind his tendency to blurt out expletives at all. They attributed the tendency to his being “kastila” or to his being “temperamental.”
Others say that was part of his character. After all, he was a passionate person. He led our nation at a time when it called for leadership from one who had overwhelming passion for his country and for his countrymen.
He was passionately in love with the Filipino and believed passionately in his countrymen’s aspiration to be a free nation. That passion were echoed in his words.
He is remembered as having said:
“I would rather have a country run like hell by Filipinos than a country run like heaven by Americans.”
He expressed his faith in his countrymen in these words:
“I want our people to be like a Molave tree, strong and resilient, standing on the hillsides, unafraid of the rising tide, lightning, and the storm, confident of its strength.”
And finally, here are the words he said which have made him live forever in the national consciousness:
“My loyalty to my party ends where my loyalty to my countrymen begins.”
The Filipinos of his time returned the love he had for them. In the two national elections where he ran for president, he won via landslide. When he ran for reelection in 1941, he won in all the provinces of the country. It is said that such an election feat has not been matched by any other presidential candidate in the Philippines to this very day.
President Quezon is best known to today’s young generation as the “Ama ang Wikang Pambansa.” His advocacy for the adoption of a national language must have been his greatest legacy. Perhaps, he knew that if the Filipinos were to learn to govern themselves, they had to learn first to be one people. Perhaps, he believed that a common language would help them achieve that.
There are still discussion as to whether or not President Quezon’s aspirations for the Filipino have been realized. With humor, some say that his words were “prophetic” – that Filipino are still running their own country like hell. With humor, some say that his principle that his loyalty to his party ends where his loyalty to his country begins has been widely adopted by so-called “political butterflies” or party-switchers.
However, no one can question that the country was gifted with a leader who loved his countrymen with passion.
It is interesting that the only political personality who dared challenge a widely popular incumbent president in the 1941 general elections was an Antipoleño – Juan Sumulong, Sr. who was the great-grandfather of former President Noynoy Aquino.
In Philippine political history, Juan Sumulong was known to be one of the few who dared stand up against President Quezon. Recognized for his intellect and brilliance in the field of law, Juan Sumulong engaged then-Senate President Quezon in a spirited but heated debate on certain legislation.
This Antipoleño may have been one of the “privileged” few to have earned the presidential ire of MLQ and to whom the latter’s colorful language may have been directed.
Still, Antipolo has rendered special honors to President Quezon. One of the most important thoroughfares of Antipolo has been named after him. This is the street along which the Cathedral and the City Hall of Antipolo are located. This is the street that connects the city to the nearby Rizal towns of Angono and Binangonan.
This is a fitting tribute to a leader whose passion for a national language has strengthened our connections with one another.
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