Birthday: August 19, 1878
Died At Age: 65
Sun Sign: Leo
Also Known As: Manuel Luis Quezón y Molina
Born in: Baler
Famous as: Former President of the Philippines
Spouse/Ex-: Aurora Quezon
father: Lucio Quezón
mother: María Dolores Molina
siblings: Pedro Quezón
children: Jr, Luisa Corazon Paz Quezon, Ma. Aurora Quezon, Manuel L. Quezon, Maria Zeneida Quezon-Avanceña
Died on: August 1, 1944
place of death: Manila
Cause of Death: Tuberculosis
Founder/Co-Founder: Nacionalista Party
education: Colegio de San Juan de Letran, University of Santo Tomas
Who was Manuel L. Quezon?
Manuel L. Quezon was a statesman, soldier, and politician who was the first elected Filipino to head a government of the entire Philippines, even though he is considered the second president of the country after Emilio Aguinaldo. The son of primary schoolteacher parents, Quezon participated in the independence movement during the Philippine–American War and later joined politics after getting a law degree. Remaining true to his pledge of "More Government and less politics", he introduced several major reforms and reorganizations during his presidency, including strengthening military defense, reshuffling government positions, introducing land reforms, anti-corruption measures, new tenancy laws, social reforms pertaining to the working class and farmers, and pushing for women's suffrage. He also saved nearly 2,500 European Jews from the Holocaust, for which he was posthumously bestowed the Wallenberg Medal by the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation. Following the Japanese invasion of the Philippines during the Second World War, Quezon took shelter in the United States and ran government-in-exile from there until his death.
Childhood & Early Life
Manuel L. Quezon was born as Manuel Luís Quezon y Molina on August 19, 1878, in Baler in the district of El Príncipe, which is now known as Aurora, named after his wife. His father Lucio Quezon was a retired Sergeant of the Spanish colonial army who became a primary schoolteacher in Paco, Manila, while his mother María Dolores Molina taught at a primary school in their hometown.
Quezon initially attended a public school established by the Spanish government, but later completed his secondary education from the Colegio de San Juan de Letran. He went to the University of Santo Tomas to study law, but dropped out and joined the independence movement in 1899, a year after his father and brother were accosted and murdered.
He served as an aide-de-camp to Emilio Aguinaldo during the Philippine–American War and quickly rose up the ranks to become a major who fought in the Bataan sector. In 1900, he was imprisoned for six months for allegedly murdering an American prisoner of war. He later returned to the university to complete his degree and passed the bar in 1903.
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Early Political Career
Manuel L. Quezon began working as a clerk and surveyor, and was appointed treasurer in Mindoro in 1905. He later took charge of Tayabas as well, and was elected its governor following a tough election in 1906. Same year, he also established the Nacionalista Party with his friend Sergio Osmena.
In 1907, he was elected as the majority floor leader and chairman of the inaugural Philippine Assembly, which later became the House of Representatives. He moved to the US in 1909 as one of two resident commissioners of the US House of Representatives, in which position he lobbied for the passage of the Philippine Autonomy Act.
He returned to Manila in 1916 after the law was passed, following which he was elected to the Philippine Senate, first as a Senator and then as the Senate President, serving for the longest time till 1935.
He led the first Independent Mission to the U.S. Congress in 1919. Quezon became the leader of the Nacionalista Party alliance in 1922. He secured the passage of the Tydings–McDuffie Act in 1934.
In 1935, Manuel L. Quezon headed a Filipino delegation to the US, which witnessed US President Franklin Roosevelt signing a new constitution for the Philippines to grant it semi-autonomous commonwealth status. Later that year, Quezon won the first national presidential election in the Philippines. He beat Emilio Aguinaldo and Gregorio Aglipay with 68% votes.
Soon after assuming the presidential office, Quezon introduced several policies aimed at reorganizing various sections of the government. He appointed the first all-Filipino cabinet in the Philippines, established the Government Survey Board, revamped the Executive Department, and created new offices and boards as necessary.
He undertook an enormous social justice program which introduced a minimum wage law, eight-hour work day, a tenancy law for the Filipino farmers in addition to establishing the court of Industrial Relations to mediate disputes. On the agricultural field, he fixed many loopholes in the Rice Share Tenancy Act of 1933, allowing the redistribution of agricultural land to tenant farmers.
He not only dedicated funds for the maintenance of public schools across the country but also for building new schools. He promoted women's suffrage in the Philippines, which was finally achieved in April 1937, following a plebiscite which saw an impressive turnout of female voters.
Through an executive order in December 1937, he established Tagalog as the basis of the Philippines’ national language. It became the official language of the Philippines, along with English and Spanish.
As he neared the end of his six-year term, a 1941 national plebiscite led to an amendment in the constitution that allowed presidents to serve two four-year terms, giving Quezon the option for reelection. In the 1941 presidential elections, he got a landslide victory, beating former Senator Juan Sumulong with nearly 82% votes.
Between 1937 and 1941, Quezon had opened the Philippines to nearly 2,500 Jewish refugees, fleeing fascist regimes in Europe, at the request of the US High Commissioner. As the Second World War broke out, he reshuffled the cabinet and made drastic changes in the government structure to prepare for a Japanese invasion.
When the Japanese forces invaded the Philippines on December 8, 1941, Quezon and the top government officials evacuated to Corregidor, then fled to Mindanao in a submarine, and finally reached the United States via Australia. He set up a government-in-exile in Washington D.C. and addressed the United States House of Representatives to push for American troops to liberate the Philippines.
Manuel L. Quezon was a social justice champion, and he introduced laws to set a minimum wage and limit workdays to eight-hours. He also amended the tenancy act and introduced a tenancy law for the landless Filipino farmers
He funded the construction of new public schools to promote education and introduced women's suffrage to the Philippines. He also established Tagalog as an official language.
Family & Personal Life
Manuel L. Quezon fell in love with his first cousin Aurora Aragón, with whom he eloped to Hong Kong in 1918. They got married on December 17, 1918. They had four children; daughters, María Aurora, María Zeneida and Luisa Corazón Paz, and son Manuel L. Quezon, Jr.
While still in exile in the US, he died from tuberculosis on August 1, 1944, at a 'cure cottage' in Saranac Lake, New York. His body was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. In 1946, his remains were moved to the USS Princeton and re-interred at the Manila North Cemetery, before being moved to the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City in 1979.
Manuel L. Quezon was a gifted pianist who once single-handedly taught an orchestra of a trans-Atlantic ship to play the Philippines’ national anthem. He was also considered one of the best poker players during his lifetime.