Speech of His Excellency
President of the Philippines
Eulogy on the Life of the Late President Manuel L. Quezon
[July 28, 1946, Delivered before the 1st Congress of the Republic]
We do not gather here to grieve or weep. Time has stanched our tears. The sorrow now in our hearts is not alone for him who lies in blissful sleep before us, but also for ourselves, the living, who yearn still for the strength and comfort of his presence.
This was a man whom we loved with all devotion; this was a man whom we honored with all the gifts at our command. Today we pay formal tribute to his mortal remains. Today our nation, the Republic of the Philippines, enshrines him as a hero on the altar of our love and gratitude.
Manuel L. Quezon has at last returned to his native land. For him, it has been a long voyage home. But as we prepare to yield his body to the good earth which first nurtured him, we know that we will not inter, we cannot inter, the essence of his being. That essence is as much a part of us as the free air we breathe. We are a free people and a free nation, in large part, because of him. This Republic, its Government and its institutions are as much his works as they could be of any single man. These are his perpetual monuments. Across the trackless and virgin territory of time, Manuel Quezon’s wisdom led the way, through four critical decades, through two great world wars, to victory and finally to independence.
The entire world is similarly in his debt. To him it owes a portion of that flaming spirit of leadership, which guided mankind through the valley of evil and darkness to salvation and redemption. In this larger sense, we cannot claim him for ourselves alone. This death took both a father from his country and a leader from the world. The pain of loss is felt wherever men are free. In our sorrow we are one with all mankind.
The sad bugle notes of death sounded for Manuel Quezon even as the forces of world freedom gathered for their final forward thrust. The critical battles had been fought; his work was done. His strife had ended. Victory lay soon ahead. But the leader of his people, the captain of our hosts was not to see the moment of triumph. In an alien but spiritually native land, in the land where he had helped arouse the legions of redemption, he died. On the beautiful wooded shores of Lake Saranac in New York, heartland of the nation he had learned to love second only to his own, the great soul, which had clung so long to a frail and hard-spent body, joined the immortals of all ages.
Perhaps the Almighty, in His surpassing goodness, saw fit to claim the life of Manuel Quezon, after his great work was ended, that he might be spared the trial and pain of seeing the cost his countrymen were to pay for liberty. Perhaps the Divine Mercy was extended that he might one day return home in glory, beloved and mourned, but blissfully blind to the scars of ruin spread across this grotto of tropic beauty, the land whose grace and charm he loved so well.
In this critical epoch, he was the first of the mighty leaders of liberty to pass from the world scene. Eight brief months later, Manuel Quezon’s great and good friend, Franklin D. Roosevelt, joined him in death, on the very eve of those final triumphs which brought peace to mankind. But Franklin Roosevelt lived long enough to see the redemption of the pledges he had made to the Filipino people, to see MacArthur’s men return in irresistible power to wrest Manila and the Philippines from the enemy. From Franklin Roosevelt, from that weary body, too, the mantle of life slipped away.
These two men, fast and devoted friends, had ascended beyond the limits of race and nation and reached the blinding heights of universality…one an American, one a Filipino. They were of the chosen race of benefactors of mankind.
It is difficult to evaluate the works of Manuel Quezon at this short space from death, because all of our present is in a sense a product of his past. The record of that past is a continuous canvas of our history in this century. In recalling his life, we recall the story of the modern growth of our nation. His climb to fame and leadership is a tale which must be told to all our generations. The impetuous spirit which broke the bonds of personal poverty, which hurdled every obstacle because there was none great enough to stay him, is one of the proudest products of our race. His name is truly a glittering ornament of this nation.
In Baler, that storied seacoast town of Tayabas, steeped in historic lore and crossed by all the currents of his time, Manuel Quezon grew to manhood in the typical atmosphere of the Spanish era. His rebellious soul declined to bear the indignities of alien rule and national inferiority. Scholarly in spirit, hungry for knowledge, and ambitious, yet he bridled angrily at the plight of his people. With the frank eyes of youth, he learned to distinguish the dignity of worth from the trappings of authority. Although bound to inaction by parental pledge, he was spiritually one with Rizal, with Bonifacio, with Del Pilar , and the other great patriots of that day. When the armies of revolution took the field in 1898, he was quick to join the struggle for liberty. When the antagonist became not Spain but America, when it was feared that the Republic across the seas came but to replace the former tyrant, Quezon fought while there was yet hope, and in the jungles of Bataan suffered privations and dangers which 40 years later he had new occasion to know. But it was not until American deeds and American policies had received the basic doubts in the questioning mind of Major Quezon that he obeyed his orders to surrender.
Suddenly clapped into an American military prison and held without charge for four long months, and then as suddenly released, Manuel Quezon was not conditioned to trust or love the new rulers of his land. The more credit to him, then, and to America, that in the vista he observed in the following years he comprehended in the detail of events the firm pattern of basic benevolence; he saw imported from America not only economic goods for sale but the priceless wares of liberty, of justice and of democracy. He saw American soldiers build hospitals and roads and bridges. He saw schools spring up, and Americans teaching the ways of freedom in them. He saw American judges dispense the law impartially between American and Filipino. He perceived the cult of fair play being preached and practiced by the conqueror. He heard from an American Civil Governor, William Howard Taft, that the Philippines were to be governed for the benefit of the Filipinos. A former revolutionist, Quezon was named prosecutor, then Governor of his proud province.
Elected to the first Philippine Assembly, an avowed advocate of immediate and absolute independence, Manuel Quezon revealed for the first time the great talents endowed him…the lightning speed of thought, the brilliance of intuition, the unerring judgment of decision, the unswerving devotion to principle and ideal, and the keen incisiveness which enabled him to distinguish between truth and illusion, between appearance and reality, between honesty and pretense. These were the faculties in rare and multifold combination which marked Manuel Quezon for the role of leadership among his people.
In 1912, having already spent some years in the United States Congress as Resident Commissioner and having mastered for his purpose the American language, he helped secure from the Democratic Party a firm pledge of Philippine independence. By a scholarly presentation of the Philippine position, he won President-elect Woodrow Wilson to his side, and through personal persuasion, gained the interest and intercession of Representative Jones of Virginia. The historic product of those labors was the Jones Act of 1916 which promised, to the great wonder of the world, independence to the Philippines as soon as the Filipinos were ready to govern themselves.
In the blazing glory of that accomplishment, Manuel Quezon returned to his homeland to receive a hero’s welcome such as few have ever witnessed. In triumph he was elevated to the supreme leadership of his party and of his people, a leadership he never lost in the 22 remaining years of his life. Seldom if ever has one man attained such power and influence among his people and held it unchecked for so long. Yet it was not power held through force or intimidation; there was no Gestapo to retain him in his rule. It was a leadership exercised by the prestige of his person, by the stature of his accomplishments, by the dominating proportions of his talents, and by the unswerving loyalty of his followers. Few men in all history, unclothed in the purple of royalty, have equaled Manuel Quezon’s tenure as a people’s leader. It has no counterpart anywhere in the world in our time. How did he use this authority, this power, this influence? That is the statesman’s test, perhaps the answer to his greatness. He used it mildly, carefully and skillfully in the interests of his people, in the interests not of vested wealth which sought his favor, not of the socially elite who courted him, but in the interests of the great trusting mass of people, inarticulate, plain and poor. To them he was devoted. For them he was a spokesman and a champion. In their name he espoused, against the opposition of intrenched wealth and power, the cause of social justice. We, today, carry forward with renewed and steadfast resolve the program he so nobly advanced…the struggle against the inhumanity of man to man. We pledge in his name that we will not falter on the path he blazed so well.
He feared no man; often he dared defeat; he was unimpressed by danger. Quick in his anger, and quick to forgive, warmly loving and cordially hating, enjoying ease, yet indefatigable in labor, stern and soft by speedy turn, sentimental yet realistic, the unquestioned master of the spoken word, loving people so much that he hated solitude—this was the man behind the statesman. This was the sum of things which added up to that magic and unforgettable personality. This was the presence which inspired his followers, which awed or won over his enemies, which impressed presidents and kings, which delighted friends, which made him the tender husband and the loving father that he was throughout his life.
Manuel Quezon was no ordinary man. He was beloved by Providence. In his later political career, his decisions were occasionally inscrutable, but almost always right. Through the flat decade of the twenties, when the vessel of independence was becalmed in a sluggish sea, he kept up the flagging will of his countrymen, continued to beat the drums of freedom, and never once lost sight of his goal.
As the tempo of events quickened in the world, Manuel Quezon was ready. With enthusiasm undimmed by a quarter century of public life, with energy apparently undiminished by the drain of the dread illness which was so common among our people, he plunged into the crisis of his lifelong battle for independence. That battle, too, he won.
It was in 1935 and an exulting people voiced overwhelming will that Manuel Quezon be the first President of the Philippines. It seemed that he had reached the high plateau of his career. He toyed indulgently with the thought of retiring at the end of his term in office, to tend his health, to take his ease, to travel, to spend his reclining years in the warm and comforting circle of a devoted and cherished family.
In his first historic term, he set the new Commonwealth well on the road to freedom. He obtained from President Roosevelt a pledge of’ special economic concessions after independence. He dreamed and designed the construction of a magnificent capital city, the crowning jewel of the fame that was to outlast him. He made a goodwill trip to Cuba and to Mexico, and in accents which rang clear in those lands, he told of his faith in America, in democracy, and in world unity.
Then, from a narrow strip of land called the Polish Corridor, there burst the lightning of war. Guns grew louder; throughout Europe freedom was vanquished; a new tyranny ran rampant over the ancient seats of western civilization. In the Orient, deep out of the north China Sea, there rose the menacing clouds of war. Closer and closer they drew to the Philippines, still only a mark in the sky, but to the wise and practiced eye of Manuel Quezon, they tokened danger .
The time for retirement of the leader was not yet come. This new danger had to be met. In the United States, ideologically pledged to the support of the western allies. Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected for an unprecedented third term. In the Philippines Manuel Quezon was chosen for his second. In the few remaining lands of freedom and peace, men girded their loins for battle. Our leader called on his countrymen to rally without question to the cause to which the United States was pledged―the sacred cause for which he had fought all his life, for justice and liberty. The youth, who had fought America with desperate fury in 1898, poured out his eloquence and spent his magnificent spirit in support of that nation now.
The rest of the story of Manuel Quezon is the history of Philippine participation in the war. When the mailed fist of Japan struck without warning, first at Pearl Harbor and then at Manila, Quezon’s choice was already made. It was not an easy choice. It was a choice previously faced by Norway, Denmark, Bulgaria, Hungary, Greece, Siam, and Malaya. It was a choice between resisting for the sake of principle, or yielding for the sake of relative safety. Not all these nations made the same choice. At that time the issue on which hung the future of the world was in grave doubt. The forces of evil were on the march; there were many men of impartial mind who thought the age of barbarism had already won. But the lion heart of Manuel Quezon would admit neither doubt nor despair. He threw, not without question without hesitation, the force of eighteen million Filipinos into the struggle on the side of right, on the side of the United States. In a major sense, of course, Manuel Quezon’s choice was gathered, from the hearts of his people. There was no question in their minds. There was no unwillingness on their part. The die was cast. And when the time came, when he was asked to leave his beloved land, and to wage the fight from afar, he acceded, but with painful sorrow. His heart ached at the thought of leaving his people to face their fate alone. First from Australia and then from Washington, he urged his countrymen to resist, to keep high their hopes, to maintain intact their faith in the eventual triumph of liberty.
He plunged with all his heart and soul into his new task…on the one hand as supreme leader of the forces of resistance, and on the other as the eloquent advocate, for the gathering and launching of the offensive against Japan, for the rescue of our people from their brutal bondage.
The flickering flame of physical vitality burned lower now that he was drawing from unseen reserves the last elements of energy for his final work. The fragile body which supported with so much strain the explosive energy of a dynamic mind served its fatal warning. But death was no stranger to Manuel Quezon. Often it had beckoned, never perched far distant from him. The sultry veil, which those who live call death because they cannot see beyond it, drew closer to him. Still he fought it, refused it. But as to all, even so to Manuel Quezon, death finally came. The essential task accomplished, his glorious achievements lying in brilliant array behind him, the great soul, with the strong surge of the upward flying eagle, wrenched itself from its mortal house. This life was ended.
The American nation and the American people mourned him as one of their own. The leaders of state of many lands paid him tribute. The muffled drums which sounded as the
funeral cortege wound its way through Arlington National Cemetery reverberated across distant waters. They were heard in the Philippines, and the millions here wept in unison.
I remember that day. I was at morning mass in the House of God when the tragic news was spread. Choked with grief, I prayed with all my heart for the repose of his soul, for the solace of his widow and his children, for the salvation of our people, smitten anew with this irreparable loss.
Now the storm and terror of the recent past are ended. The dark and angry clouds which long enveloped us are rolling away. The golden fingers of the new day’s light rest with healing touch upon the pain and wounds which this, our people suffered. Strong and willing hands rebuild that which is destroyed. This rich, kind earth renews itself; the blossoms of tomorrow will hide the scars of yesterday.
Now the body of our leader returns to rest. From the voiceless lips of the unreplying dead come reassurance, courage and hope. The spirit of Manuel Quezon which never left us, soothes with gentle balm our heavy sorrow. In the Night of Death in which he dwells, our love can hear the rustle of a wing, and the seraphic song of angels to lull our grief, to give us strength, to bring us peace. Let there then be peace, too, for Manuel Quezon; for now he belongs to the ages. May the causes for which he lived and in whose names he died…Liberty, Justice and Democracy…exult in eternal triumph!
NOTE.─The remains of President Manuel L. Quezon arrived in Manila on July 27, 1946, at 9 o’clock in the morning, on board the United States aircraft carrier, Princeton. The last American Governor General of the Philippines, Justice Frank Murphy, in representation of the President of the United States, accompanied! The casket in its voyage across the Pacific. The arrival gave occasion for the delivery of the foregoing eulogy.
President Quezon died at 10: 05 a.m. on August 1, 1944 (American time) at Saranac Lake, New York State. In the afternoon of the next day, his body arrived in Washington, D.C., and was taken from the Union Station to St. Matthews Cathedral, where a mass for the repose of his soul was celebrated the following morning. After the religious ceremony which was attended by high officials of the Philippines, the United States and other countries, and by many Filipinos living in and around Washington, the remains were transferred to the Arlington Cemetery where they were deposited until their transfer to the Philippines.
It is of interest to note in this connection that the second Act passed by the First Congress of the new Republic appropriated P50,000.00 to defray the expenses for a state funeral and for the erection of a mausoleum to contain the remains of the late President. This mausoleum will only be temporary, for there has been created a Quezon Memorial Committee entrusted with the task of soliciting funds from the public for the construction of a permanent Quezon Memorial.