Diary of Francis Burton Harrison

February 25, 1943

Shoreham Hotel.

Quezon says that when he first came to Washington as Resident Commissioner he, like most Filipinos, believed that when they saw an American man and woman out driving together, whom they knew not to be married to one another, they were sexually intimate. This was the old Spanish idea. But when he got to Washington and made friends with American girls, he soon found out the truth as to our views on the sexes–he was delighted, and when he went back to the Philippines, he convinced them as to the real American situation in these matters.

This conversation arose from an amusing incident–he was at his desk writing a letter to a well-known Washington hostess–a widow, but still young. She had recently entertained him in her house at a diner a deux. This was the first and only time they had met, and she terrified him by stories of the spying of the various secret services which, apparently, has always gone on in Washington. She told how, during the last war, she had warned Bernard Baruch, then a most important official, that she knew there were six police dictaphones in “his” house. He thought the statement ridiculous, but went home, made a search and found six of them–two under his bed! He was so furious that he went at once to President Wilson and resigned his office. The President finally calmed him down. Well, this lady, in return for some orchids which Quezon had sent her after the dinner, wrote him a rather empresse letter–a little coy and pleasantly familiar. He was struggling with his English vocabulary in writing his reply and asked me to help him. I read his letter and told him that it wouldn’t do at all–his phrase: “I was to find that, as the Spanish say, you carry your heart in your hand”–I protested that it was dangerous for a statesman to write such a letter–if a third party found it, use might be made of it. He jumped as if he had been shot–he was only trying to be polite. He explained that the phrase above quoted meant in Spanish only “sincere” or “virtuous” but I again objected that in English “virtue” meant not the old Latin sense of the word, but only referred to sex! He was horrified, entirely rewrote the letter in uncompromising phrases and thanked me rather effusively for saving him. He made a great story for his family out of this!

Quezon, Andres Soriano, Secretary of Finance and myself in conversation. More talk on news from the Philippines, which comes from Colonel Peralta, chief of guerrillas in Panay, through MacArthur in Australia, from time to time, and also, in bits, from returned travelers like Consul Willoquet, etc.

George Vargas, altho head of the government commission under the Japanese is not trusted by them. He is always attended by Japanese “aide-de-camp” when he goes out; Japanese officers live in his house. His wife confessed to Willoquet who saw her alone, that they are not free agents.

Quezon thinks the Japanese have disposed of Manuel Roxas by a feigned airplane accident. Soriano thinks that they have taken him to Japan to hold as a hostage. When Quezon was in the tunnel at Corregidor, he thought he was dying, and wanted to go back to Malacañan. Roxas begged him not to do so. Later when the time came for Quezon to leave Corregidor to join to MacArthur in Australia (an event which was not then anticipated), Manuel Roxas begged him with tears in his eyes not to go from Corregidor. He exhorted him to “think of your fame.” Roxas followed Quezon to Dumaguete, and went with him to Mindanao, though he did not wish to leave Wainwright at Corregidor. Refused to leave Mindanao and joined General Sharp’s forces there. Sharp was ordered by Wainwright from Corregidor, when the latter fell, to surrender explaining that the Japanese would not give any terms to those on Corregidor unless all the military forces in the Islands also surrendered themselves. So, to save the men and women on Corregidor, Sharp and Roxas came in and gave themselves up to the nearest Japanese command. (NOTE–later–Roxas and Commander Worcester, U.S.N.R. fled to the mountains of Bukidnon). General Paulino Santos and Guingona, [who were not in the army, are in Mindanao. They have “gone over” to the Japanese.] Quezon says that Guingona was with him when Vargas’ co-operation with the Japanese was mentioned in Quezon’s presence, and, as Quezon says, when he heard no adverse comment upon Vargas’ action, being a “bright fellow” (Q.), Guingona followed suit. Quezon expressed a desire to know what Guingona had done with the four million pesos of Philippine currency he took to Mindanao to pay the army there–“if he kept it for himself…” I protested vigorously that nobody who knew Guingona could believe such a thing possible. Quezon agreed. “But,” I said “I have now heard you say twice that–if he kept it for himself.” Finally we agreed that he had probably burned the money, as his instructions required.

Soriano asked if he could bring the Spanish Cabinet Minister of War (Bergdorfer?), who is now in Washington, to call on Quezon tomorrow morning? Soriano said B. was an anti-Nazi, and had remarked that Quezon’s fame was now great in Spain. Quezon replied that he could squeeze in a half-hour for the call from B. “which should be long enough if I don’t start making speeches–which I always do!”

It appears that Justice Frank Murphy presented to Roosevelt the plan for the recent announcement that Roosevelt has already recognized the Philippines as possessing the attributes of an independent nation by putting Quezon on the Pacific War Council and asking him to sign the United Nations declaration. Murphy then told Roosevelt quite heatedly that he disapproved the decision to make Hitler the No. 1 enemy, and concentrate on him to the disadvantage of the Pacific area. Roosevelt took Murphy’s objections in good temper and told Murphy to “cool off.”

Somehow, the conversation turned back to Dr. Dominador Gomez. Quezon described him as a pure Malay type, but very big and a tremendous orator in the Spanish style, who swayed his audiences as he pleased. He had been a colonel in the Spanish Army. Was elected in 1907 as a delegate to the First Philippine Assembly. The election was declared void by the Assembly because there was no proof that Gomez was a Philippine citizen. Another election, and Gomez was returned by an even larger majority amid tumults and mob fighting. So they let him in!

When Quezon was Resident Commissioner in Washington he had occasion to make some uncomplimentary remark about Gomez. Quezon, traveling homewards, got to Shanghai on the steamer where he received a letter from Gomez challenging him to a duel. On arrival in Manila Quezon received a visit from the famous Colonel Blanco, also formerly a colonel in the Spanish Army in the Philippines and founder of the Macabebe Scouts, who appeared as Gomez’s second to challenge Quezon and asking who his second would be. Quezon replied: “I shall appoint no second. I do not wish to fight a duel with Dr. Gomez. But you may tell him this: ‘I give him leave to shoot me any time he sees me. Also tell him that any time he comes within one metre of me, I shall immediately shoot him.'” Shortly afterwards, Quezon attended a burial in Manila. With him were his cousin Miss Aurora Aragon–now Mrs. Quezon and Mary Buencamino. They knew about the challenge and were horrified to see Dominador Gomez standing near Quezon and all the more so since Gomez had his hand in his side pocket! Mrs. Buencamino slipped right behind Gomez and stood there to grab his arm, but Quezon pushed right in front of him to look down into the grave. Gomez drew out his hand from his pocket, but produced only a pocket handkerchief to mop his face!

Quezon then told of his marriage to Miss Aragon in Hong Kong in 1919. I (the present writer) was on the Ocean (Pacific) en route for New York when I received a radio from Quezon. “Married Hong Kong.” I went down to Dr. Oñate’s cabin to wake him, and demanded that he should tell me who Quezon had married. He was afraid to commit himself and it was a half-hour before I could get out of him the guess that it was Quezon’s cousin, Miss Aurora Aragon.

The marriage was secretly decided on when Quezon and Miss Aragon were in Hong Kong. Quezon sent his a.d.c. to the American Consul and requested that he should ask the Governor to waive the required 10 days residence, which was done. When the guests and the principals had met in rickshaws at the civil marriage bureau, Quezon turned to Luis Yancko and said: “Do you know why we are gathered here? I am going to be married right now!” Yancko’s mouth fell open with surprise and he stammered “but to whom?” Quezon replied: “To this young lady who stands beside me.” “But, but that’s impossible” said Yancko (meaning because they were within the degrees of relationship prohibited by the Church). “Impossible–how do you mean?” “Well” said Yancko “not impossible but improbable!”

Yancko gave them a beautiful wedding breakfast at the leading Hong Kong hotel.

At lunch today Mrs. Quezon and General Valdes were describing the discomforts of life in the tunnel at Corregidor. Mrs. Quezon got tired of waiting in line before support to get her shower, so she would wait until 2 a.m. and bathe then. Soon others discovered the way, and they began standing in line in the middle of the night. No curtain hung on the alcove which contained the shower. After the heavy bombings, the water main was broken, and for two weeks they had not only to bathe in salt water, but also to cook their rice and make their coffee in salt water, which entirely upset their stomachs.

Colonel Velasquez, a West Pointer, who was in the front lines at Bataan and Corregidor, was recently at the military school at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he says he made himself rather unpopular when the meals were discussed by saying: “Sometimes we may have to go hungry for a long time.” Velasquez told me he thought a campaign like that in Tunisia was necessary to harden the American troops, who were now overfed and thinking and talking all the time about their three big meals a day. He said he thought our American troops were pampered.

Quezon has started work again on his book. Has rewritten the foreword. Warner Bros have offered to make a film of it. Much talk with Bernstein about terms and arrangements. Quezon does not think that Morgan Shuster has been careful enough in editing the English of his ms. He evidently wishes to be thought letter-perfect in English. He says he now wants to finish the book–can’t do it in Washington–too many interruptions. Requests me to go off with him for 20-30 days and work with him on the book.

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