Monday, April 23, 2007


MAGALANG COMMONWEALTH RITES. Pampanga’s towns celebrated the inauguration of the Commonwealth like this simple rite in Magalang. The Kapampangan’s joie de vivre was never more spirited than in the Quezon years, when our independence was but a grasp away.
Instead of granting outright independence, the American Congress chose to make the Philippines pass through a transition period of ten years, to prepare the country, in a more orderly manner, for eventual full sovereignty. On a fine clear Friday morning, the Philippine Commonwealth was inaugurated on 15 November 1935 at the Legislative Building in Manila. Manuel L. Quezon and his family, were whisked away from their Pasay home to the Legislature promptly at 7 a.m., at just about the same time that U.S. Secretary of War George H. Dern and Mr. Frank Murphy, the last Governor General and the 1st High Commissioner of the Philippine Islands were being driven out of Malacañang in a Cadillac, escorted by a cavalry of soldiers.

On the grandstand, before an audience of over a quarter of a million Filipinos, were assembled the guests of honor: U.S. Vice President John Nance Garner, Mr. and Mrs Francis Burton Harrison, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representative Joseph W. Byrns and General Douglas MacArthur, handsome in a gray double breasted suit and red-banded straw hat. Conspicuously absent (“but not missed,” as a Tribune columnist sneered) was Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo who was living in seclusion at Kawit .

VIP guests were dressed to the nines, the ladies in expensive jusi (expensive pineapple fiber fabric) with panuelo (kerchiefs) and flowing trains. Gentlemen came in vests and derby hats while others looked smart in crisp military uniforms. With everyone standing in full attention, Cebu Archbishop Gabriel Reyes opened with an invocation and at exactly 8:58 a.m., Sec. Dern, Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s personal representative, read the Washington proclamation. Immediately after, Justice Ramon Avanceña swore in Hon. Manuel L. Quezon as President of the Commonwealth of the Philippines. Sworn with Quezon were Vice President Sergio Osmeña and the 98 members of the incoming unicameral National Assembly. Pampanga was represented by assemblymen-elect Eligio Lagman (1st district) of Guagua and Jose P. Fausto (2nd district) of Sta. Ana.

Pres. Quezon displayed his fiery temper by unleashing a stream of “punyetas” (cuss words) at poor Mr. Jorge Vargas, when he could not find the pens with which to sign his oath of office. Eventually, these were found inside Pres. Quezon’s pockets. His inaugural address, which talked about the challenges and problems faced by the Commonwealth, lasted for just 20 minutes, ending with a call for “national cooperation and union… and pervading patriotism among our people as the basis of a successful solution of our problems during the Commonwealth”.

A bugle call was then sounded to indicate the start of the grand inaugural parade from Plaza Lawton. After the ceremonies, Pres. Quezon drove to Malacañang to take formal residence of the Palace, the first Filipino to do so. Columnist A.G. Dayrit wrote that “for weeks, Manila was rich with the stench of provincianos (provincial folks)”, who had come to attend the inauguration. Attention was focused on proud Moro chiefs in rainbow jackets, green turbans and tight red trousers, with kampilans and pistols at their waist. The mood in the city was bright and festive, with sports events scheduled at the Rizal Memorial, gala night at the Sta. Ana Cabaret and firework displays at the Luneta. While high-society Visayans were holding their Kahirup ball, members of the Mancomunidad Pampangueña were holding their own talk-of-the town party at some posh hotel.

The exultant spirit of the “day of days” spilled over to Pampanga. As Quezon was being sworn into office at the ceremonies attended by Americans and paid for by Filipinos at a cost of P600,000, a more austere rite was being held in Magalang, participated by local town folks. This historic picture showing a simple decorated platform set up in front of the municipal hall with Mount Arayat in the background, looming majestically as a witness, captured the restrained mood of the moment, when a nation not yet fully sovereign was still naïve enough to believe in the American promise that was too long in coming.
(16 November 2002)
(*Getting Ready)


bernie said...

the photographer took this picture with his back facing the town church. The townsfolk were standing on what is now the 'patio'. The town hall is still the same as it was taken in 1935. I look at the children, they are in their 70's now. I wonder who among them is still alive today to retell the story of that memorable day.

alex r. castro said...

When I look at old sepia fotos and stare at these young, nameless faces, I have the same musings too. Whatever became of them? Did they become professionals, heroes, led happy lives? I continue to wonder.