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”.
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.