[English translation of the speech of Minister of Foreign Affairs Claro M. Recto, in response to the speech of His Excellency, the President of the Republic of the Philippines, at the oath-taking of the new Ministers in Malacañan Palace, Manila, October 20, 1943]
To express the sentiments which animate my colleagues and myself on this unusual occasion, words are inadequate and yet superfluous. Words are superfluous because more eloquent than the most expressive human speech is the emotion you see reflected upon our countenance. On the other hand, words are inadequate because, while the Spanish language has a rich store of jewelled phrases, these, Mr. President, become as dross when utilized to depict the unutterable sentiments that spring from the depths of the soul and are known to God alone.
These feelings which overwhelm us at this moment and which defy expression are manifold: gratitude to Your Excellency for having deemed us worthy to share in the tasks of the Government of the Republic; pride because, if you have judged us deserving of this honor it is because we are citizens of this Republic, and this feeling is in no way inferior to that which moved him who in olden times said, placing his hand over the fire, civis romanus sum; firmness and determination because, like Hernan Cortes in the heroic age of the Conquistadores, we too have burned our ships. For us the die is cast, and we must go forward, cost what it may, in order to defend against one and all the life and sovereignty of our Republic, and the glory and majesty of our Flag. For this Republic, as you once said on a certain occasion, shall be a real republic only if we Filipinos know how to live and die for it. To turn backward after having achieved that which we have so long desired, would be like attempting to swim across an ocean which separates two continents only for the purpose of returning to the point of departure.
We have answered your call, Mr. President, not because we desire power or because we wish to surround ourselves with the pomp and circumstance that go with power, because if desire for power has been, throughout the ages, vanity of vanities and miserable tinsel, in these times when the life of a man, whether humble or powerful, is worth no more than that of a barnyard fowl, it would signify in the wretch who harbored it, folly or madness. We have responded to your invitation, Mr. President, from the same motives that impelled you to accept the highest magistracy of the nation against the counsels of egoism, namely: the public service which permits of no cunning evasions, hedgings or desertions, and the sincere desire to save the nation. For if the nation be lost, everything would be lost with it, including those who believe themselves secure in their retirement and abstention. But it is not the nation precisely that must be saved, since nations, despite bitter tragedy and transient eclipse, do not perish. What needs rather to be saved is this generation of which so many are incredulous, vacillating and fainthearted, and it must be saved in the present crisis, in spite of itself, whatever the final outcome may be, and even if we ourselves should perish in the attempt.
As the immediate members of your official family, you will find us, Mr. President loyal and enthusiastic collaborators, with a loyalty all the more enduring for being based not only upon an old friendship and our long years of association in the tasks of government, but also upon the spiritual bedrock wherein lies the secret of all conversion and natural leadership: the deep and sincere admiration we feel for Your Excellency—an admiration inspired by your patriotism, wisdom and valor, by your detachment and your disdain of worldly frivolity, and the austerity of your private life; in a word, by those splendid gifts of intellect and those priceless virtues of character, those civic merits and excellences of soul which are gathered in your person, and together constitute an impregnable bulwark of the honor and liberties of our people, making of Your Excellency the ideal leader to guide them in this difficult times along the path of salvation.
We are aware, Mr. President, that more than once during your term of office you will savor the bitter gall of popular misunderstanding and ingratitude; that while upon the narrow and precipitous path which you will travel as our guide, you will feel not merely fatigue but vertigo, not indeed the vertigo of power, since vanity has found no sanctuary in your bosom, but the vertigo of the abyss, for the path runs between two black chasms. More than once you will perhaps feel your faith weaken and your will falter upon finding that the trust you have reposed in high altruistic ideals has been defrauded, and that the promises which have been made in the name of a new morality in the Law of Nations have not been fulfilled. In those moments of pain and anguish, it will comfort and solace you to know that you can rely upon our unshakable adherence which is rooted not only in our communion of ideas and our profession of faith in the same principles, but also in our steadfast belief, strong as revealed truth, that the hand of the Almighty that has more than once snatched you from the very jaws of Death is the same hand that lavished blessings upon our Flag when it was unfurled in the wind to the heroic strains of our national anthem, while the bells rang out the glad tidings of the birth of our Republic; the same hand that will save our people from the grave perils lurking everywhere and lead them on to the heights of victory and felicity, to the Promised Land for which we yearn, of which in the deep night centuries past our forefathers dreamed, and for which our heroes and martyrs gave then lives on scaffold or battlefield—that Promised Land which the Lord God of heaven and earth, the fountainhead of all power, goodness and justice, has reserved for our people from dawn of the world.
Source: Office of the Solicitor General Library