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President Manuel L. Quezon – patriot and statesman

The nation observes on August 19, 2016, the 138th birth anniversary of President Manuel Luis M. Quezon, the first president of the Philippine Commonwealth (1935-1944). The event is called “Quezon Day,” pursuant to Republic Act 6741 of August 4, 1989. It is a special non-working holiday in Quezon City, named in his honor, and in the provinces of Quezon and Aurora (formerly Tayabas), his birthplace.

President Quezon was president at the time Quezon City was inaugurated in 1939. His remains are at the Quezon Memorial Circle, where there will be flag-raising and wreath-laying rites today to extol his legacies of patriotism, leadership, good governance, and social justice.

President Quezon is remembered for the creation of Institute of National Language in 1936, which recommended a national language on Tagalog, to be taught in all schools. He is thus called the “Father of the National Language” and his birth month of August is celebrated every year as Buwan ng Wikang Pambansa.

His presidency resolved agrarian problems reorganized the bureaucracy, promoted Mindanao development, dealt with foreign interests in trade and commerce, and fought graft and corruption. He appointed the first all-Filipino Supreme Court in 1935. He created the Department of National Defense, Agriculture and Commerce, Public Works and Communications, Health and Public Welfare. He established the National Council of Education to upgrade public schools nationwide, as well as the National Economic Council and the National Rice and Corn Company. He initiated women’s suffrage during the Commonwealth period.

Born in Baler, Tayabas, in 1878, he studied law at University of Santo Tomas and placed fourth in the 1903 bar examinations. He served in the Philippine Army; after military service, he started his public service with his election to the first Philippine Assembly where he was majority floor leader (1907-1909). He was Resident Commissioner to United States House of Representatives (1909-1916), where4 he laid the groundwork for Philippine Independence, through the passage of the Philippine Autonomy Act or Jones Law that granted Philippine Independence on July 4, 1946.

He was elected to the Philippine Senate on August 29, 1916, becoming the first Senate president, serving for 19 years until November 15, 1935. He headed the first Independence Mission to United States Congress, and brought home the Tydings-McDuffie Independence Law in 1934. He became the first president elected through a national election on November 15, 1935, and the first incumbent to secure re-election for a second term, later extended, due to amendments to 1935 Constitution.

President Quezon died on August 1, 1944, in Saranac Lake, New York. His body was initially buried at American Arlington National Cemetery before it was moved to the Manila North Cemetery. His wife was Dona Aurora Aragon Quezon.