December 1938
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Month December 1938

December 27, 1938

Dr Elliott, President of Purdue University, Indiana, on board returning from advising on the proposed reorganization of the University of the Philippines. Says that before leaving he submitted his report which took 40 minutes to read. Gil told him it was the only time Quezon was ever known to have kept quiet that long!

Elliott says he saw students informally and “off the record,” and learned a lot that way. That the University is now disorganized, though Quezon is deeply interested in its success and asked Dr. Elliott whether he should take over the portfolio of Public Instruction ad interim, and Elliott replied: “I am sorry to say–no!! Mr President!” He remarked that Quezon though claiming to be an oriental, had more of the occidental outlook than any of the rest of them. Thinks him “like all dictators, rather ruthless.” He believes Quezon is running down physically, and that Roxas is training himself for the presidency–the latter is very abstemious and “the only Filipino who goes in for physical exercise.”

He (Elliott) came out to Manila at the instance of Manuel Roxas, the man whom he places highest of the Filipinos today. He said Roxas should not serve as Chairman of the Board of Regents of the University because he fills too many political posts, and there should be no politicians on the board.

The diary is suspended here, and not resumed until May 1942. War conditions made it impossible for me to see Quezon meanwhile. The war began on September 1st, 1939 while I was again in France.

December 24, 1938

Breakfast at seven o’clock. The President and I still alone together, and both rather sleepy. He woke up, however, when I began to talk of the great iron deposits in eastern Surigao, reserved since 1915 by Executive Order for the disposition of the government. Quezon said that Marsman would not press his Challenge as to the constitutionality of the Executive Order. Geologist Bain believes that the only way to work these iron fields is in conjunction with the South Manchuria Railway–he has just come back from there. I asked Quezon whether this would mean heavy industries in the Philippines, and that the Filipinos were going to make their own steel? He said “Yes.” This led to an exposition by him of the extreme awkwardness of the geographical position of the Philippine Islands, lying more or less between Japan and the United States. He had advised Mr. Bain that nothing could be done in this respect at this moment of great strain; he had also sent Bain’s report on this subject to High Commissioner McNutt, so that the American Government would not think that he was dealing directly with Japan, adding: “They already think in Washington that this was the purpose of my visit to Japan last summer. If we go on, however, opposing every single thing that the Japanese want, as the Chinese so foolishly did, we may meet the fate of China.”

Thereupon, I raised once more the thorny question as to whether the Filipinos were considering the raising of their tariff laws as to the importation of textiles, which would be possibly construed at being aimed at Japan. Quezon replied that he had taken up this question personally with President Roosevelt, telling him that on certain higher qualities of cotton goods it might be possible for them to favour the United States, but positively not on common cotton cloth, affecting every inhabitant of the Philippines. He could not stand for that, and Roosevelt remarked that he himself wondered why all the Filipinos should pay tribute to American textile companies; he added, however, that the Filipinos could start their own textile manufactures and protect them, and that, he said, would be “all right.” This was a thoroughly Satanic suggestion as it seems to me, for the American mills under free trade with the Philippines, will get all the protection ostensibly proposed for native industry in the Philippines, and the cost of clothing for every inhabitant in these islands will rise.

Quezon then turned again to the rather acute situation arising as regards Japanese holdings of hemp plantations in Davao. The province is so large that the fifteen thousand hectares held by the Japanese are, so the President explained, a mere “drop in the bucket” (?). A lot of their hemp land was obtained by them through dummy Filipino owners. Instead of cancelling leases and raising a direct issue with Japan, he proposes to wait for the expiration of these leases and then refuse to renew them.

One hundred and twenty guests assembled in the lower reception hall by the river, at Malacañan, for a luncheon given in my honor. The entertainment went off with a bang and real cordiality was shown me by both the Americans and the Filipinos present. In his address, Quezon was very effective in making the points of which a resume was later published in the press. All of the pleasant and very personal humour of the President’s remarks about me as well as my comments about him in return was omitted by the press.

At the little table with Quezon and myself, sat General MacArthur and High Commissioner McNutt. I concluded my own remarks on a serious note with the statement that I was sailing away from them tomorrow to the uncharted seas of a European war. As I sat down, MacArthur asked me what I meant by a European war? I replied to him that I had just recently come from France and was returning there, and that I was as certain as I could ever be of anything in the future that a war was coming very soon in Europe. General MacArthur replied: “They cannot afford a war, but if there were a war, Germany would go through Russia like a knife through cheese.”

5 p.m. Don Alejandro Roces, the proprietor of the influential chain of newspapers known as “T.V.T.” invited me by telephone to take a “cup of chocolate” with him at his residence this evening–“no butter,” he added. It turned out, of course, to be a four course banquet with Philippine delicacies. The guests were: President Quezon, Secretaries Manuel Roxas and Jose Abad Santos, Alberto Barretto, Miguel Unson, Paez and Jake Rosenthal. Quezon acted as Santa Claus in presenting me with a handsome gold wrist-watch as a joint Christmas gift from all those present.

After the sumptuous meal, they took me out doors a few yards to the corner of the park and the boulevard, both of which had been named in 1921. There they pointed out to me the site upon which they were going to erect a statue to me! Up to that moment, I had believed that our host, Alejandro Roces was making a broma but all of a sudden, I realized they were in earnest. I was really extremely embarrassed and could find nothing sensible to say. At first I pointed out that statues were not raised to living men, but they countered by referring to the statue of Lord Curzon in Calcutta. I refrained from answering with the statement: “Yes, and look at the pedestal of that statue, all covered with betel-nut saliva from the Indians.” I merely remarked feebly that the fashion in statues changed so rapidly and after a while, parents could hardly tell their children, “who that old guy was up there?” This made no impression, so I had to think rapidly, and came out with the reflection that in the passage of a few years, the only beings which made real use of statues in the parks were the pigeons and the sparrows. This brought a general laugh, and the situation was saved.

Miguel Unson then told me that the young people in the Philippines knew nothing about my administration of some twenty years earlier. I replied that this, perhaps, was the natural course of events, but he said “no”–that it was largely the result of the vigorous campaign made by my successor. Governor General Leonard Wood and his “Cavalry Cabinet” to discredit me. He added that they had even cut down the tree which I had planted, explaining that this was done so they might practice polo there, but Unson said it was intentional.

Young Roces then told me that his father often said that he made his successful start as a newspaper man by backing my administration throughout–and this was the only newspaper support I ever had either in the Philippines or in the United States.

December 23, 1938

Staying with the President alone at the Guest House across the Pasig River from Malacañan Palace.

At luncheon we had Don Alejandro Roces, proprietor of the T.V.T. newspapers and Paez, manager of the Manila Railroad Company. Paez told of the success of the new branch of the railroad in the Bicol Provinces –at last, they have through connection with Manila and it is no longer necessary to cross Ragay Gulf by steamer. Quezon mentioned that he had refused the request of residents of those provinces for a highway parallel with the railroad.

Roces came in excited by the press dispatches giving the exceedingly strong reply of Assistant Secretary of State Sumner Welles to the German Charge d’Affaires in which he refused to apologize for the very strong denunciations of Germany by Secretary Ickes. Parallel and even more aggressive statements had been made by Ickes himself, and by Key Pittman, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, which contained the language: “We do not like the government of Germany and we do not like the government of Japan.” Roces is expecting serious consequences –perhaps war. Quezon remarked: “The way to keep the peace nowadays is to use insults.”

Later Roces told me of his conversation about me with the late Governor General Leonard Wood, who had asked him what he thought of me. Roces replied enthusiastically about me, stating that before my coming here, the Filipinos had felt they were “nobodies.” Wood replied: “What wonderful friendship!” Roces answered him: “That is not merely friendship –it’s justice.”

Roces then went on to relate a conversation he had just after the defeat by the United States of the Philippine insurrection. He said tartly to a friar: “You gave us Heaven and Hell, but kept the earth for yourselves –now we want our earth, and you can take back your Heaven and Hell!”

This started the President talking about the present troubles on the Buenavista estate in Bulacan, belonging to the Church. These difficulties had come to a head this week. Quezon said: “The Archbishop is my friend, or used to be.” The Buenavista through its revenues supports the “San Juan de Dios” hospital in Manila. At the moment, the estate is in the hands of a receiver, who had ordered the new crop to be left untouched while the financial troubles were adjusted; the aperceros (or tenants) are to receive their share –there have been disorders, threats and danger of bloodshed. Secretary of Justice Santos recently called this serious situation to Quezon’s attention in a recent Cabinet meeting, and the President became indignant that he had not been earlier informed. He telephoned at once to Orense, the lawyer for the Church, to the Governor of the Province, to the Constabulary &c. to hold up everything for a week until he can get the situation straightened out. Quezon even threatened Orense with violent resistance from the Constabulary if his agents proceeded. States that he will not be like General Weyler who sent a company of Spanish artillery to the Calamba estate to shoot down the tenants there (vide Rizal). He then sent for the Archbishop and recalled to him the reason for the Filipino insurrection against Spain. The “Friar Estates.” He then offered to lease the estate for the government for an average rental equal to that which the Church had received from this estate for the past five years, plus ten per cent, which would make 115,000 pesos as an annual return for an estate assessed at four million pesos. Quezon said the government would buy the estate for three million pesos. The Archbishop withdrew to consider, and the matter is still pending.

I remarked that when Governor Taft had negotiated the famous Friar Lands purchase, it was a pity he did not buy all the Church estates for the government. Quezon explained that Taft bought only the Friar Estates because he thought that those belonging to the Archbishop would be protected by the Filipinos who are all Catholics.

Quezon then mentioned his last summer’s veto of the bill for religious instruction in the state schools –he said that over two thirds of the Assembly favored this bill.

Finally, he talked of the commencement exercises this year at San Juan Letran, the college he had attended as a boy. They had played during these exercises, not only the Filipino National Anthem, but that of Spain also –then everybody else present gave the Fascist salute but at that point, Quezon sat down. When he made his address, a little later, he slapped them severely for this incident, stressed the need for neutrality in the Spanish Civil War, and commended the attitude of High Commissioner McNutt in avoiding partisanship. Then in order to temper off the severity of his rebuke, he remarked to them: “I am glad to get even with the faculty, these padres did just what they wanted with me for eleven years!”

A little later, when he went to mass in some parish church, the friar organist started the old (Franco) Spanish anthem and immediately switched to the Philippine anthem, and he realized how directly the Filipinos had derived their anthem from the old Spanish one.

At dinner that night, the President developed a theory in favor of representative democracy instead of “mob democratic rule.” “The people care more for good government than they do for self-government,” he asserted, adding that “the fear is that the Head of State may either exceed his powers, or abuse them by improprieties. To keep order is his main purpose.”

As I felt there was more than a dash of unorthodoxy in his present philosophy, I then led him to a discussion of the qualities of those who are candidate to succeed him.

His present choice is Yulo, of whom he thinks so highly as a lawyer, and added that it was most important for an executive not to exceed his powers. He has consulted Yulo at every turn of his administration. Now he will make him speaker to “give him his chance.” At the same time he is bringing Manuel Roxas close to him as Secretary of Finance, to study him as well. I put several questions as to Yulo’s qualifications in handling other men, and in getting the best out of them. Quezon replied that if Yulo succeeded him he could sustain him and put him over. He admitted however that the frequent appearances of Yulo at the glittering social events of the sugar barons did not help him with “the people” adding the view that Joe’s (Yulo’s) only weakness is that his wife runs him: she is very extravagant. The President added that Yulo has no control whatever over Mrs. Yulo’s exhibitions of wealth; she used, moreover, to come to a banquet up to an hour late. He, Quezon, finally gave instructions to his staff at the Palace, that his dinners were to be kept waiting only ten minutes for Mrs. Yulo, and no longer. Shortly after this, she came to a dinner party half an hour late and was told at the door that the dinner was going on, and empty places at the table had been removed. This put a stop to her tardiness.

Roxas, he says, will certainly be President of the Philippines some day –“nothing can stop it” though he does not know whether Roxas will actually succeed him. Roxas has built up a great reputation throughout the Philippines; has matured and improved tremendously in the last three years.

I asked him what would be the position of Roxas if his new tax measures were rejected by the Assembly? He replied: “I will put them over.” Roxas has planned his new taxes on the mines in consultation with the principal representatives of the mining companies, and they have already agreed that the proposed taxes are fair.

Paredes, he says, is a very strong man and is the leader of all the Ilocanos; he has Tinguian blood, but not as much as had the late Ignacio Villamor, whom I had nominated as the first Filipino President of the University.

Paredes, he continued, is a very able man, but violent. Quezon greatly appreciates his support of Yulo for the speakership, and he spoke very highly of the former –but he knows, of course, how warmly I am attached to Paredes. I told Don Quintin the next day that Quezon had spoken so well of him, and he expressed the utmost skepticism then added: “if he wants to extricate me from my difficulties here, why does he not ‘deport’ me on one of those missions to the United States or Europe?” He added that he had no career in the Assembly, and that unless he keeps quiet for the next three years, it will just bring on a row with the administration; that if he does not keep quiet, he will lose his political influence.

This conversation was so confidential that I did not report it to Quezon, and the President made only one further comment at this period upon Quintin Paredes, which was to the effect that Paredes had a big personal following in the Assembly of which he was Speaker –while Roxas, as Speaker had only a dozen personal followers there, and had to be helped by Quezon and Osmeña.

My conversations with the President that night at the “Guest House” concluded early because he was so tired, and as we said “good night” he dwelt for a few minutes upon the subject of the book he wishes to write in collaboration with me. He suggested that I work up my own notes first and he will supply a thread of narrative for the administrations that came between mine and his! It is difficult to see how this would work out –I have no talent as a Boswell and not even an ambition to fill so exacting a role!

December 15, 1938

Celebration of commencement at the University of the Philippines, to which I was invited as an “alumnus” i.e., (hon. LL.D.). The fact that it is a state university is too much in evidence. According to the programme: the first number is to be the unveiling of an oil portrait of Quezon in a cap and gown; second a chorus by students entitled “Bathala, Bless our President” and then comes an address by Quezon’s secretary, George Vargas. Too much incense may become a trifle stifling.

December 2, 1938

Went aboard the new government yacht Casiana at 6:30 p.m. with Don Alejandro Roces, Colonel Eisenhower, Colonel Hutter, Major Speth, Jake Rosenthal, Bob Rogers and A. D. Williams–all close friends of Quezon, who brought with him also his elder daughter Maria Aurora and his son Manuel Jr.

Very luxurious vessel and admired by all.

Bridge took up most of our waking hours on this brief trip. I had only one conversation with Quezon produced a story to record. He says that on his last visit to the United States in March, 1937, he told President Roosevelt that he was in favour of independence for the Philippines in 1938 or 1939, because the existing situation was impossible since: (a) the relations of the High Commissioner to the Philippine Government were not defined and (b) trade relations under the Tydings-McDuffie Act were so disadvantageous. So far as President Roosevelt was concerned, he was then willing to grant immediate independence.

Quezon reports a scene at the reception then given him in Washington by the Secretary of War. Dr. Stanley Hornbeck, adviser on Far Eastern Affairs in the Department of State, whom he describes as “one of those imperialists” came up to him and sneered at the plight in which the Filipinos would find themselves if they got immediate independence. Quezon roared at him: “We Filipinos can live on rice and fish, and to hell with your sugar and oil.”

Quezon also commented that if Murphy really did not wish to return as High Commissioner when McNutt withdrew, he was in favour of Francis Sayre. He says Sayre is a fine fellow, and a son-in-law of the late President Wilson. He learned as Adviser to the King of Siam how to get on with Orientals. “But,” he added, “Sayre is opposed to commercial concessions by the United States to the Philippines.”

Manuel Roxas joined us for the last day of the trip, and I saw him win seven straight rubbers of bridge. He is singularly well up in American political history. He seems to me facile princeps after Quezon. He is shrewd enough, I think to steer his way through all the shoals around him as he enters the present Administration. Very agreeable and interesting man.