FFE Magazine

Manuel L. Quezon

Image from the Presidential Museum & Library

2nd President of the Philippines

Term of Office: November 15, 1935 – August 1, 1944

Vice President: Sergio Osmena

Birth: August 19, 1878

Place: Baler, Tayabas

Death: August 1, 1944

Spouse: Aurora Aragon

Children: Maria Aurora Quezon, Maria Zenaida Quezon AvanceñaManuel L. Quezon Jr., Luisa Corazon Paz Quezon

Filipino statesman, leader of the independence movement, and first president of the Philippine Commonwealth established under United States tutelage in 1935.

Born in the small town of Baler province of Tayabas on August 19, 1878. His parents are Lucio Quezon and Maria Dolores Molina, school teacher and small landholder of Tagalog descent on the part of southern Luzon. Manuel spent the early years of his childhood in his hometown among the common people. His first teacher was his mother. He enrolled at the San Juan de Letran college, one of the leading institutions of learning in the capital city. Quezon years at San Juan de Letran as a self-supporting student brought out of his latent potentialities. He finished Bachelor of Arts degree at the age of sixteen.

He cut short his law studies at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila in 1899 to participate in the struggle for independence against the United States, led by Emilio Aguinaldo. After Aguinaldo surrendered in 1901, however, Quezon returned to the University, obtained his degree (1903), landed fourth place in the 1903 Bar examinations, and practiced law for a year. Convinced that the only way to independence was through cooperation with the United States, he ran for governor of Tayabas province in 1905. Once elected, he served for two years before being elected as representatives in 1907 to the newly established Philippine Assembly.

In 1909, Quezon was appointed resident commissioner for the Philippines,, entitled to speak, but not vote in the U.S. House of Representative; during his years in Washington D.C., he fought vigorously for a speedy grant of independence by the Unites States. Quezon played a major role in obtaining Congress passage in 1916 of the Jones Act, which pledged independence for the Philippines without giving a specific date when it would take effect. The act gave the Philippines greater autonomy and provided for the creation of a bicameral national legislature modeled after the U.S. Congress. Quezon resigned as a commissioner and returned to Manila to be elected to the newly formed Philippines senate in 1916; he subsequently served as its president until 1935. In 1922 he gained control of the Nacionalista party, which had previously been led by his rival Sergio Osmeña.

Quezon fought for passage of the Tydings McDuffie Act (1934) which provided for full independence for the Philippines ten years after the creation of a constitution and the establishment of a commonwealth government that would be the forerunner of an independence republic. Quezon was elected president of the newly formulated commonwealth on November 15, 1935. As president he reorganized the island military defense (aided by General Douglas McArthur as his special adviser). Tackled the huge problem of landless peasants in the countryside who still worked as tenants on large estates, promote the settlement and development of the large southern island of Mindanao, and fought graft and corruption in the government. A new national capital, later known as Quezon City, was build in the suburb of Manila.

Quezon was reelected president in 1941. After Japan invaded and occupied the Philippines in 1942, he went to the United States, where he formed a government in exile, served as a member of the Pacific war council, signed the declaration of the United Nations against the fascist nation, and wrote his autobiography, “The Good Fight” (1946). Quezon died of tuberculosis before full Philippine independence was established.

He died quietly in Saranac Lake, USA on August 1, 1944 at the age of sixty six.

Married to Doña Aurora Aragon Quezon, now deceased. Of their three children, two are alive, they are; Zenaida Quezon Avanceña and Manuel Quezon Jr.

Manuel L. Quezon best remembered as the “Father of Philippine Language” (Ama ng Wikang Filipino).

(By Charles Keng / The Presidents, Republic of the Philippines by Rheno A. Velasco. 1996)

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