I RECENTLY saw the movie “Quezon’s Game” which is admirably unique in terms of historical significance.
The movie vividly captures the leadership style of President Manuel Luis Quezon when he assailed America’s indifference to the plight of thousands of European Jews who endured persecution by Hitler’s government.
Raymond Bagatsing ably played the role of Manuel L. Quezon while Rachel Alejandro portrayed the role of Aurora Quezon.
I forgot the actors who fittingly played the roles of Gen. Douglas Mac Arthur, Col. Dwight Eisenhower (who later on became the 34th United States president), Resident Commissioner Paul V. McNutt, Commonwealth Vice President Sergio Osmeña, and Senator Manuel A. Roxas, who both became presidents of our country. The movie highlighted Quezon’s character as a statesman when confronted with difficult situations as president of the Commonwealth.
At the time when Hitler’s hordes overrun most of Europe and were persecuting the Jews, President Quezon decided to welcome them in the Philippines.
Since we were under the US as a Commonwealth, the grant of visas to the Jewish immigrants, depended upon the US State Department.
President Quezon originally demanded visas for thousands of immigrants from Europe but he was thumbed down by the US government.
One could imagine the excruciating pain and agony suffered by President Quezon whose passion for the oppressed was beyond dispute.
Not easily discouraged, President Quezon hastily called a press conference and announced to the nation and to the whole world that he was dismayed by the inhuman act of America, contrary to its claim as the bastion of freedom and the haven of the dispossessed. Spontaneous rallies, marches and demonstrations erupted in Manila in support of President Quezon on the issue of opening our door for Jewish immigrants.
Bowing to popular clamor, the US government relented and announced that the State Department decided to grant 1,200 visas to Jewish immigrants and promised to grant 1,200 yearly until the figure would reach 10,000. This did not, however, materialize because of the Japanese invasion of our country.
Thus, President Quezon’s exemplary humanitarian act saved at least 1,200 Jews from possible extermination by the Nazis. Quezon did not live to see the grant of “independence” to our country by the U.S. on July 4, 1946 because he died of tuberculosis in Saranac Lake, New York, USA. on Aug. 1, 1944.
It is the tragedy of our time that statesmen like Manuel L. Quezon are gone forever and replaced by blasphemous, mendacious and murderous politicians. (By Democrito C. Barcenas)