Sixty-four years ago on April 28, 1949, Aurora Quezon, widow of Commonwealth President Manuel Luis Quezon and First Lady of the Philippines from 1935 to 1944, was ambushed by Hukbalahap elements along the Bongabon-Baler provincial highway in Nueva Ecija. In the company of her daughter Maria Aurora “Baby,” son-in-law Felipe Buencamino, Quezon City Mayor Ponciano Bernardo, retired AFP chief of staff Maj. Gen. Rafael Jalandoni and others including two jeep-loads of armed escorts, Mrs. Quezon was on her way to Baler, Tayabas, to inaugurate the Quezon Memorial Hospital. Disregarding earlier warnings of possible insurgent activities in the area by Hukbalahaps, the military arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines, she proceeded to lead the convoy leaving the security elements to follow behind.
As the party moved along the mountainous route in the Sierra Madre area, it was ambushed by some 200 men led by Huk Commander Alexander Viernes, alias “Stalin.” Mrs. Quezon, Baby, and Mayor Bernardo were instantly killed and Felipe Buencamino mortally wounded in the initial strike. General Jalandoni survived the attack.
Although no Philippine president has ever been assassinated, Aurora Quezon is one of three presidential spouses who perished in a violent manner. Alicia Syquia Quirino died during the Battle for the Liberation of Manila in 1945 and Benigno Aquino Jr. was gunned down at the Manila International Airport in 1983.
Initially buried at the North Cemetery, Aurora Quezon’s remains were transferred on April 28, 2005 to the Quezon Memorial, beside her husband’s sarcophagus.
Additional notes on Aurora Quezon
In 1951, the Manila Provincial Road, passing from Quezon City to Manila, was renamed Aurora Boulevard. In the same year, President Elpidio Quirino created the sub-province of Aurora comprising Baler and surrounding areas. In 1978, Aurora was elevated to the status of a province. Earlier, Tayabas was renamed Quezon province. Manuel and Aurora Quezon are the only spouses in Philippine history with provinces named after them.
Sometime after returning from exile in the United States, Aurora Quezon was granted a pension of P1,000 a month by the Philippine Congress. She returned the check, explaining, “I feel that on account of countless war widows and
orphans … I should waive collection of a pension. I cannot, in good conscience, receive government assistance when so many of my less fortunate sisters and their children are not yet taken care of … I know if I accepted it, I would not be keeping faith with the memory of my beloved husband.” She declined to run for political office, but endorsed the candidacy of Manuel Roxas. (Time, April 1946)
Aurora Quezon was the first chairperson of the Philippine National Red Cross, a position she held until her death.
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Several days ago, Mayor Ruth de Lara Guingona, wife of former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr., was ambushed by NPA guerrillas on the outskirts of Gingoog City in Misamis Oriental. Mayor Guingona was returning from a village fiesta when her convoy failed to stop at a checkpoint established by NPA rebels. According to an NPA spokesperson, the unit involved was merely following orders “to implement revolutionary policies prohibiting candidates from carrying firearms while campaigning in guerrilla zones without prior coordination with revolutionary commands.”
Mayor Guingona was wounded in the arms and feet while two of her bodyguards were killed in the attack.
As in the Quezon ambush 64 years ago, the rebels decided that even women were legitimate targets in spite of Vice President Guingona’s “significant contribution to the Filipino’s struggle against dictatorship and his steadfast nationalist standpoint on various issues.”
In the aftermath of this latest NPA ambush—and there have been a number of similar attacks in the region, some involving the burning of equipment of private companies—the AFP announced the relief of Maj. Gen. Nestor Añonuevo, commander of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division in Camp Evangelista, Cagayan de Oro. Brig. Gen. Ricardo Visaya was designated officer-in-charge of the division. The 4th Infantry Division is responsible for security in Northern Mindanao and parts of the Caraga region.
Now comes the interesting part.
When interviewed about the exact status of General Añonuevo, the AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, a classmate of General Añonuevo (both belong to PMA Class 1981, of which the class topnotcher was a Thai cadet, Thawip Netniyom), Bautista did not categorically state that Añonuevo was relieved. Instead he said, “There was a re-shuffling of players to change our approach in dealing with the challenges in the field … We are looking for an approach that can be effective. It’s not necessarily just because of a single incident …. Analyzing the ongoing situation, we need a different approach.”
Bautista’s loyalty to his classmate is admirable. His language is that of a diplomat. But our people expect and appreciate straightforward answers, particularly from a soldier. There is such a thing as command responsibility in the military organization. When the wife of a former vice president of the Republic (who also served as secretary of foreign affairs), who is now mayor of a city, is ambushed at a checkpoint manned by rebels, something is wrong and someone must bear responsibility.
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For senior citizens.
Lately I have come across an increasing number of friends who proudly show me their newly acquired senior citizen identification cards. It has become a badge of distinction primarily because of the entitlements that such a card gives to the elderly.
However, there are still some establishments that pretend to be unaware of the privileges accorded the senior citizen.
The “Chinese Deli Marketing” at Virra Mall Greenhills Shopping Center allows discounts only for certain items and even these items are entitled only to a 5 percent reduction instead of the 20 percent plus VAT exemption mandated by law.
Eduardo Pascual complains about SM North Edsa (particularly its parking policies). This seems to be a chronic complaint from senior citizen patrons that Quezon City has not been able to address properly. On the other hand, Pascual says that Trinoma is senior citizen-friendly.