A. Paulita Roa .
MANY wondered why the middle name of Manuel Luis Quezon was his second baptismal name and not taken from his mother’s maiden surname, Molina, as it is done today. Well at that time, that was the practice of many Filipinos that was copied from the Spaniards. According to his grandson, Manuel L. Quezon III, even if his admirers sometimes called him “Kastila,” he demonstrated many Filipino characteristics like repaying debts of gratitude or “utang na loob” with appointments and favors. He would sometimes shock his Manila-born son by eating with his fingers with one foot on the bench. Each time he travelled abroad, he would bring his cook to make adobo. Once, when he had to undergo a gallstone operation of which he thought he would die, he asked his doctors to allow him to eat as his last meal — his favorite dish, the adobo.
Quezon suffered from a nervous breakdown in the 1920s and it was due to his very stressful political life. And his therapy was to go rowing in Manila Bay every morning. He also had “neurasthenia” that gave him the urge to jump from high places so he avoided being in the upper floors of tall buildings. His temper was legendary and he had mood swings. He contacted tuberculosis for he led a hectic life as he continually struggled to hold on to political power. Yes, power was his muse that would consume his life.
It has always been the fate of high-profile politicians to be judged by history and with Quezon, this speaks volumes since he alone dominated the Commonwealth period of the Philippines. When the Jones Law was passed in 1916, the granting of independence to the Filipinos was in a preamble provided by the US that stated that it will be realized “as soon as a stable government can be established therein.” But when the Commonwealth was founded, none of the Filipino leaders had economic and defense programs for an independent Philippines.
As one political historian wrote, Quezon’s political career personified “the ambivalences, turnabouts and Byzantine complexities of Philippine history.” Foremost nationalist Senator Claro M. Recto had this to say about Quezon: “If by a political philosophy we mean a system of integrated principles consistently followed as a guide for political action, then Quezon had none.’ He was a consummate politician… he was pro-American when the American administration was favorable to his party and to his leadership, and anti-American when it was not.”
The slogan of his Nacionalista Party was “immediate, absolute and complete independence” and it made Quezon very popular with the people. It was the Nacionalistas that controlled the drive for Philippine independence and used the idea of nationalism to preserve their political and economic interests and to protect themselves from the scrutiny of the masses and possible attacks from them. Their independence stance was only a way to hide a private and selfish end. History shows that Quezon ruled the Commonwealth like a dictator. His social justice program was hollow for he sided with the landowners and he wasted his chance to prepare the economy for independence by using government funds for political patronage. Even as the Commonwealth was gearing for the eventuality that the Philippines will become an independent nation, surprisingly, Quezon was entertaining the idea of continually being dependent on the United States. Then the war clouds were beginning to form in Europe and an Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany while China was overtaken by the Japanese. Quezon had a relapse and his tuberculosis came back with a vengeance. (to be continued)