February 15, 1950

Had conference with Jacinto, Milleres and Foster Knight at custom House. Jacinto had appeared before Budget Committees of House of Representatives this morning, and had told them that the Commissioner of Customs should be ex officio Collector of the port of Manila. He did not mention my alternative plan, i.e., complete separation of Commissioner and Collector. In view of the position he took, I said it would be a waste of time for me to draw up details of this alternative plan. Jacinto and Milleres both said that my plan might be the better in normal circumstances but, with the present set-up in the Custom House, the Commissioner must be the ex officio Collector in order to check malpractice by the present Deputy Commissioner and ex officio Collector Melicio Fabros!! And he must maintain his office in the Custom House in order to watch Fabros and company. A pretty nasty situation.

To dinner at Bing Escoda’s. She lives with two aunts — one single and one married — in a lovely house in Quezon City. Other guests were Mr. and Mrs. Hendry (he was born in China; she is part Filipina and very lovely); Mr. and Mrs. Ford Wilkins; Mr. Escoda (Bing’s uncle; Press Officer of House of Representatives); Mr. Roy, Chairman of the Banking Committee of the House of Representatives; and 2 other attractive Filipino couples. We had a delicious Filipino dinner — a whole pig, and Spanish rice and several other dishes. Excellent conversation. One of the guests was
formerly Philippine Cultural Attaché at the Legation in Buenos Aires. While in Rome last year, he called on Santayana, who was living in a hospital, cared for by English nuns. Santayana is 90-odd years old, but (except for deafness) in command of all his faculties. Mr. Escoda drove home with me, and we talked a long time in the hotel. I asked him about the Huks, and he said that the government had made progress against them recently. He said that he thought they would not be eliminated for 30 years; after the Americans took the Philippines in 1900, the rebels had only about 500 old-fashioned rifles, but it took the American army 5 years to suppress them. The Huks have 200,000 rifles, and plenty of machine-guns. Mr. Escoda said that the Huks live off the country, and are often cruel to the peasants, but that the Constabulary have treated the peasants even worse than the Huks! The Huks take one of his chickens; the Constabulary take two. Escoda referred to the US “surplus” scandal and said that a good many American Army officers made a lot of illegal money. One of his friends — a small saloon-keeper — was approached by an American officer who drove a truck-load of silk piece goods up to his shop and offered them to him for US $200. The saloon-keeper had only a few pesos at the time, but a wealthy Chinese came along, examined that silk, and a offered the officer $300. The officer said: “For $300 you have the silk and the truck.” The Chinese sold the silk for over US $100,000.

(At Lion’s Club lunch yesterday, the Sec. of Finance was dragged into the discussion. An awkward question was asked, and he said: “I feel like the fish in the market, who
remarked ‘If I’d kept my mouth shut, I wouldn’t be here.’” Ford Wilkins next to whom I was sitting, said that the original motto under the stuffed fish was:

“My address would still be Pacific South If I’d only remembered to close my mouth”.

Second line would be better thus:

“If I hadn’t opened my big, old mouth.”

February 14, 1950

To lunch at Lion’s Club as guest of Pio Pedrosa, Secretary of Finance. 9-10 had conference with Pedrosa, Jacinto, Jastram and Knight. Handed my memorandum re relationship between Commissioner of Customs and Collector of the Port of Manila to the Secretary. We had general discussion of the two alternatives I proposed, and the Secretary asked me to work out details of the two proposed, which he can submit to the Legislature. In the course of our talk, it was made shockingly clear how much the Customs is involved in politics. The present Deputy Commissioner and ex officio Collector at Manila (Fabros) has far more power than his nominal superior (Jacinto), and has placed relatives in several of the key posts in the Customs. He has very powerful political connections, and is, I fear, a thorough-going rascal.

The discussion at the Lion’s Club was about the desirability of creating a free-port, or foreign trade zone at Manila, and I have seldom heard more uninformed and half-baked ideas. It was a nice affair, however. The service clubs (Rotary, Lions, etc.) seem to be very popular in the Philippines. There must have been 150-200 men at today’s lunch. Called on Col. Soriano, president of Philippine Air Lines, San Miguel Brewery, etc. – one of the world’s rich men, I’m told. He was once a Spaniard, then a
Filipino, and is now an American citizen. We had half an hour’s talk about the Customs. Like everybody else, he says get politics out of the Customs and pay the staff a living wage. With Foster Knight, inspected the two principal piers with Delgado, the Arrestre contractor. The storage sheds are very capacious and well-built, and the stacking and handling of cargo are very well done. Lift-trucks and other mechanized equipment was in full use. Delgado took over the Arrestre contract last month, and his predecessor company did everything possible to sabotage the property and equipment. A very disgraceful performance. I had following to dinner here: Dr. and Mrs. Ray Moyer; Jim Ivy; Doris Bebb; Mrs. Pedigo. We had amusing time watching the dancing (it was Valentine’s Night). Many of the young Filipino couples were dancing the ?, which consists chiefly of facing each other 2 feet
apart and wiggling their behinds. Most of them kept very sober faces, and seemed to be taking their pleasures sadly.