First Philippines Commonwealth President. Born to Spanish parents in the little remote town of Baler, Tayabas (now Quezon) located on the east coast of Luzon, his father was a former soldier in the Spanish army. His parents operated a small rice farm and he was tutored at home by his mother and the village priest until at age nine was given the opportunity for an excellent education after being sent and boarded at the Colgio de San Juan de Letran school in Manila. Manuel continued his higher education at the University of Santo Tomas where he studied law. Although he had supported the Spanish against Filipino nationalists, he joined Aquinaldo's guerrilla war against the Americans eventually being jailed but released for lack of evidence. American colonial officials were instrumental for his political ascent. He was appointed a prosecutor in Mindoro leading to election as governor of Tayabas while becoming co-founder of the Nacionalista party which would serve him well in the years to come. Quezon became President of the Philippine Senate and a leading force for Philippine independence. Douglas MacArthur was head of the Philippine Department and a strong friendship developed between the two. He headed the first independence mission to the U.S. Congress. Quezon lobbied for legislation in Washington which would give his country independence and was partially successful when President Roosevelt signed a bill which granted the Islands commonwealth status in 1934. Complete autonomy was to take effect in 1946. However, Japanese imperialism was on the march and the road to freedom was derailed. The Philippines was vulnerable and Quezon aware of their invasion plans turned to his old friend General MacArthur as a military advisor. They worked closely together to build an army to confront an invasion. in 1938 Quezon made a failed, secret trip to Tokyo to discuss neutrality. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese invaded the Philippines and with the Japanese army in control of most of the Philippines, The Commonwealth government of President Quezon huddled with the Americans at the besieged fort on Coregidor Island. MacArthur and Manuel Quezon would say goodbye for the last time He gave his ring to the general saying, "When they find your body, I want them to know you fought for my country." President Quezon left by American submarine on a journey which would take him, his War Cabinet, his wife and children to San Francisco. At the invitation of President Roosevelt, he set up the Commonwealth government-in-exile in Washington D.C. His stay would be short, only two years. He served as a member of the Pacific War Council addressing both Houses of the Congress urging liberation of the Philippines. He battled tuberculosis his entire life and his condition steadily worsened leading to admittance to a tuberculosis sanitarium in Saranac Lake, New York where he died less than three months before MacArthur's dramatic return to Philippine soil. He would never see his goal of complete independence for his homeland which was granted by the U.S. on the 4th of July,1946. His remains were kept at Arlington Cemetery in the turret base of the Maine Memorial. His wife Dona Aurora moved to California to await the conclusion of the Pacific War and return home. Quezon's remains were repatriated to Manila in 1946 conveyed aboard the USS Princeton. The Spanish Malacanang Palace became the home of chief executives in 1936 when President Quezon assumed residency. It was captured intact by American troops during the war and in 1946 became the site of the lying-in-state for President Quezon before being interred in Manila's North Cemetery. He was exhumed and moved to the Quezon City (namesake) area of Manila and placed in a crypt at the foot of a huge towering memorial shrine where one can ascend to the top by elevator with a panoramic view of the city while looking down on the grave of the man who's labors produced an independent nation. The tower contains a museum housing many relics and memorabilia. A park encircles the shrine and is used today by the average citizen for many ordinary activities. Legacy...Of course his greatest achievement was independence for the Islands but many physical monuments remain. Towns, streets, squares, statues and schools in the Philippines bare his name with a National Holiday observed in August. Paper money and coins carry his image. He wrote his own autobiography "Good Fight" which was published posthumously in 1946. Historic sad footnote...Dona Aurora was killed in 1949 in a cowardly ambush by members of the Hukbong Bayan Laban sa mga Hapon, an underground communist alliance formed during World War II against the Japanese army. She was buried in the family plot in North Cemetery but was eventually reunited with her husband in 1992 and buried beside him at the Shrine. In recent years, the family astonished by the carnival atmosphere and activities which take place surrounding the tomb, have threatened to return both coffins back to the family plot at North Cemetery.
Bio by: Donald Greyfield
Aurora Molina Aragón Quezon