Manuel L. Quezon, Philippine statesman, born in Baler, and educated at the University of San Tomás. He cut short his law studies at the University of Santo Tomás in Manila in 1899 to participate in the struggle for independence against the United States, led by Emilio Aguinaldo. After Aguinaldo surrendered in 1901, however, Quezon returned to the university, obtained his degree (1903), and practiced law for a few years. Convinced that the only way to independence was through cooperation with the United States, he ran for governor of Tayabas province in 1905. Once elected, he served for two years before being elected a representative in 1907 to the newly established Philippine Assembly.
He won the elections held in September 1935 to choose the head of the Commonwealth Government. It was a government made possible by the Tydings-McDuffie Law, which Quezon secured from the U.S.
Quezon had emerged as the acknowledged leader of Philippine politics and possessed the kind of background and experience that appealed to Filipinos. He had a bachelor of arts degree, studied law, and landed fourth place in the 1903 Bar examinations. He served in the revolution, fighting in Tarlac, Pampanga, and Bataan, and ended up with the rank of major. He was appointed provincial fiscal of Mindoro and Tayabas, his home province. He was elected governor of Tayabas in 1905 and in 1907, first assemblyman from the province to the First Philippine National Assembly. In 1909, he was appointed resident commissioner to the U.S. and when he finished his term after eight years, he returned to the Philippines to become President of the Philippine Senate, created by the Jones Law. He was also top man of the ruling Nacionalista Party.
He was reelected president in 1941. After Japan invaded and occupied the Philippines in 1942, he went to the United States, where he formed a government in exile, served as a member of the Pacific War Council, signed the declaration of the United Nations against the Fascist nations, and wrote his autobiography, The Good Fight (1946). Quezon died of tuberculosis before full Philippine independence was established.
Quezon’s term (1935 – 1944), though chiefly known for making Pilipino the national language, tried to solve nagging problems inherited from the Spanish and American administrations. He directed his main efforts to bring about political stability, build up national defense against the threat of Japanese militarism, and strengthen an economy that was extremely dependent upon the U.S. He was also remembered for taking executive and legislative actions to implement his “social justice” program aimed at the underprivileged.
The Commonwealth Government was interrupted by the Japanese invasion of 1941. Quezon and his government were forced to go into exile in the U.S. He died on August 1, 1944, in New York.