Before The Mortal Remains of Manuel L. Quezon, by Claro M. Recto
Funeral oration delivered by Mr. Claro M. Recto at the chapel of the University of Santo Tomas on July 29, 1946.
Our Lives are rivers
Windings to the sea
Which is our death:
There go all earthly power
Straightway and to be
Consumed in death.
These immortal lines from the poet-philosopher effortlessly come to mind as we view the last remains of Manuel Luis Quezon, that paladin of patriots who consecrated his privileged mind and his passion for liberty to the cause of his people’s honor and welfare; that modern argonaut who after a hazardous quest acquired the golden fleece of power and glory to offer it to his country, the cherished lady of his dreams; that fine and gallant spirit, like a cardinal of the renaissance, who in the same manner drank to the lees of the cup of life, that in mystic paroxysms confided the pain and grief of his soul to the God of all mercies.
“Our lives are rivers winding to the sea which is death.” But the river of that fully rounded life did not wind up to the sea of death, to confound its richly laden waters with those of other streams, baser and unknown, in the common reservoir of oblivion and definitive nothingness. No. Farther and beyond death, beyond the end of that journey from which no traveller returns, life reasserts its rights signing a compact with immortality when it has been lived in its full plenitude for the attainment of the ends of an elevated calling. And so much so that Fame rendered tribute to Manuel Luis Quezon carving for him a niche in the pantheon of the elect, for the glory of his country, the lodestar, inspiration, and pattern for future generations.
Providence, in its inscrutable designs, set aside for Manuel Luis Quezon a land for his birth and a peculiar medium in which to live and develop to fulfill the predetermined mandate of destiny. It was not through the workings of mere chance that the Philippines became his native land in which at the time when he first saw the light of day an interdict of centuries weighed heavily upon the riches of the spirit and the treasures of the soil. It was not a casual act that since the days of his infancy his soul was stamped with the seal which was to distinguish him as consummate example of human grandeur-not the soft ad lethal breezes of conformity with the then existing state of things, but the vivifying gusts of rebellion which were then beginning to shake the foundations of the old colonial system.
Nor was it a mere caprice of fate that Manuel Luis Quezon should reach adolescence when the tempest of the revolution, unleashed by the teachings of Rizal and Del Pilar, was roaring through the length and breadth of the archipelago, while the bolo of Bonifacio was projecting effulgent flames over the horizon and the cry of Balintawak echoed and re-echoed over hill and mountain bringing to the last cottage its message of redemption.
And finally, it was not in vain, that yielding in its infancy, to the torrent of a superior force, that first Republic which he himself had contributed to establish while fighting in the liberating forces of Aguinaldo, loyal to its ideals and faithful to the voice of its destiny, Manuel Luis Quezon, with Sergio Osmeña and other young patriots plunged once again into the field of battle exchanging the soldier’s gun with the oratory and the pen of the statesman, to save the country’s honor from chaos and the ignominy of defeat, redeeming for all time from oblivion, from desertion, and from complete abandonment the sacrosanct ideal of the revolution in order to keep it waving on high as the standard of liberty, a pledge of self-esteem and a symbol of protest against foreign domination.
If Manuel Luis Quezon had been under other skies, if the various periods which called for the overflow of the wealth of his energy and to inflame the fervor of his patriotism had been different, if he had not been the eminent leader that he was of his country, his name would not be now and forever like those of Rizal, Washington, Bolivar and Kosciuszko, symbol and token of all the oppressed races that aspire and fight, that live and die for liberty.
Like any one that comes upon the world emblazoned on the forehead with the sign of the elect, as a man who is born predestined to lead and to guide men and nations, Manuel L. Quezon received from the Supreme Dispenser of gifts the priceless boon of clear and quick perception of the reason and philosophy of all things. The psychology of individuals and of groups did not hold any secrets for his penetrating intelligence, and for that reason his powers for proselytizing were immense and irresistible. He was, in truth, a highly inspired being and what others came to understand through meditation and study he perceived by mere intuition. The great projects and creative ideas, the interpretation of contemporary events and the intentions of men-foes and friends alike-were revealed to him as if upon his head and descended the golden flame of the Paraclete.
He exercised his rights as a man in the fullest concept of the term; in spirit and matter. Conscious of the duality of his own nature, he gave unto clay what property belonged to clay and to the soul that which was the patrimony of the soul. He loved everything that was worth loving, sublimating everything which he considered the epitome of all loves on earth: love of country. And because his soul was pregnant with the restlessness of the century and as he was communicating to his age and generation his own restless spirit, and because his heart was the magnetic pole in which converged the people’s anxieties and fears, he infused all his acts with that inextinguishable passion of spirit, that indomitable firmness of will, which made of his life an eternal adolescence and one continuous battle for the most beautiful and the most sublime ideals, at times for the glory and the exultation of triumph, at others for the mere necessity of fighting, searching for difficulties that did not manifest themselves, on his way, in order to give himself the satisfaction of overcoming them; but at all times for the possession and attainment of that supreme good which was the pure and constant yearning of his heart: the honor and happiness of his people.
He felt as no one of his compatriots felt the pride of being a Filipino and calling himself a Filipino when in the midst of cosmopolitan groups, which were most incurably afflicted by prejudice born of what they claimed their racial superiority. And he was left us the lesson and the example of that virtuous pride, which is not the arrogance of the bull frog of the fable, but a manifestation of the total absence of even the minutest trace of servility and adulation in our conduct, and the serene dignity founded on the conviction that there are no superior races nor inferior peoples, but only degrees of culture and periods of civilization, that some advance or retreat or remain stagnant in accordance with conditions that the political medium offers, and that as we have produced a Rizal, a Del Pilar, a Luna, a Mabini, a Quezon , an Arellano, an Anacleto del Rosario and other magnificent examples of human greatness, in the arts, in the sciences, in politics, and in law, in the same manner we shall arrive at that stage where other nations have already arrived if from now on we become conscious that we are a nation and we have a high destiny to fulfill, and that our advancement shall not be attained only through foreign benevolence but because of our own efforts, our confidence in ourselves, and our faith and hope in a brighter future.
Manuel Luis Quezon quested for the flatteries of glory, because the possessor of the habiliments of power loved earthly pomp and grandeur but who ever believes that his motive was only to satisfy his personal vanity would be completely mistaken. All that was the external means, the aura of splendor, the dazzling apotheosis, with which he had to surround himself in order to adapt himself to his environment and to prepare properly the scene for his actions. The joust was held in that century, and among men of that century for the attainment of human objectives and in such a tournament, the knight could not present himself clothed in the rags of the penitent and reciting chapters from Ecclesiasticus.
The struggles, which in the United States Manuel Luis Quezon fought for our independence, constitute one of the greatest epics in the history of all nations for the consummation of their liberty. He fought using his voice and his pen in the halls of Congress, in the party conventions, in conference halls, in newspaper columns, in popular assemblies, in offices of political personages, and even in women’s boudoirs. He formed his circle of friends and enthusiastic admirers around him, enlisting them in his noble and patriotic crusade, and he made himself the arbiter of elegance that the world might see in him and not in the savage scantily covered with breechclouts the personification of the country, which he represented. And thus under the witchery of his personality and the magic of his word, appeared one after another those historical landmarks which signified the progress of our pilgrimage to our Promised Land: first, the independence provisions in the platforms of political parties; then the Autonomy act in l9l6: much later in l934 the Independence Act, the Constitution of the Commonwealth; and finally the Republic which on the fourth of July of the present year was born and became part and parcel of the international comity of nations.
Manuel Luis Quezon left traces of his life upon that road of hazard and glory even to the extent of dying far from his native soil without seeing the end of the conflict which had cast him to distant shores, without attaining the greatest prize which he might have desired for himself: to behold, while his heart was being drowned in a turbulent sea of emotions, how his country’s flag was hoisted majestically to wave free and sovereign in the sky, its sun and three stars more effulgent than those in the very firmament, sheltering in its folds the eternal yearnings of a people expressed in the immortal verses of our national anthem: “Ne’er shall invaders trample thy sacred shores…”
What a poignant pain, what an oppressive anguish must have assailed Manuel Luis Quezon when he failed to see the realization of his dreams, that which we all cherish and which Rizal immortalized in his verses-to die under the skies of our country, where the hours are sweet and where death is most pleasant! What rejoicing must be felt by his spirit now when he sees from the serene precincts in which he now rests that his mortal flesh shall sleep in the enchanted land the sleep of eternity.
The eminent leader returns to receive from this land of his affections the esteem and devotion of his compatriots. But he sees only pictures of desolation, of death and misery: the population decimated by the war, the coffers of the state in bankruptcy, the trade and commerce in alien hands, the agricultural fields lying fallow, the industries destroyed peace and order disturbed, the patrimony of our children menaced, the national unity destroyed, the entire nation divided between Tyrians and Trojans, the ancient virtues in complete bankruptcy and as the Dapitan exile had said, “the home destroyed, the faith sold to others, and ruins all around…”
Noble leader, may you rest in the peace of your sepulcher and my you never be disturbed by the spectacle of so many moral ills and so much physical misery which now afflict us–sordid derelicts of the flood that followed the last tempest which imperialist nations unleashed upon our soil. We are reputed to be a nation of heroes but the entire nation is one vast necropolis. We have been liberated but our cities and towns have been left in shambles. We are independent, but we are beggars for alien favors; we are citizens of a republic but we are still characterized by the habits and mentality of colonial peoples. To speak of Bataan is to speak of glory, loyalty and heroism, of the disappointment over vaunted altruism and the promises that were never fulfilled. Our dwellings are in deep mourning but not only because of the war dead but because of those who are still living. And total disenchantment gnaws at our hearts and beclouds our intelligence in the face of the serious affairs of our generation and the urgent questionings regarding the future to which we cannot find an adequate answer.
Manuel Luis Quezon, architect of our liberty and father of our people:
“This world is the pathway to the other which is the abode free from cares”,
but while we tread upon it we pray to God to give us your faith, your passion and your courage, that we may feel the same sacred pride that you felt with respect to your country, and your race, that we may love one another in the face of the bitter animosities of humanity; that our leader of the present in whom we established and recognized the highest possible glory of our generation, to whom with justice you have given the legacy of your genius and whom you regarded as the most worthy among your successors to carry on your noble task, may lead us along the right path that we must follow through all the crises confronting us; and that our independence and our Republic, more than in the law and official proclamations, more than in the rhetoric of banquets may live with genuinely pulsating graces in our conscience and our conduct, in the conscience and conduct of others, to the end that our martyrs may not be compelled to return to this earth to sacrifice their lives anew.
Manuel Luis Quezon! It matters not that your mortal remains now rest beneath the soil! Your people will not seek for you among the dead! You live even in death!
From the Quezon Memorial Book, compiled and edited by Filemon Poblador.