August 21, 2015

Remembering Quezon’s legacy

Ambassador’s speech during the posthumous awarding of the Raoul Wallenberg Medal to President Manuel Quezon through his daughter Ms. Zenaida Quezon-Avancena


Your Excellency, President Benigno Aquino, the 3rd

The Honorable Speaker, Feliciano Belmonte, Jr.

Ms Zenaida “Nini” Quezon Avancena and all the members of the Quezon family.

Secretary Ramon Paje

Prof.  Maris Diokno Chairperson, National Historical Commission of the Philippines, Secretary Patricia Licuanan

Mr. Lee Blumenthal, Secretary of the Jewish Community of the Philippines

Distinguished members of the diplomatic corps. Community and religious dignitaries, And dear guests.

It is a great honor to stand here today, at the renovated Manuel Quezon memorial and Museum, to pay tribute, deepest respect and recognition on behalf of the Raul Wallenberg Foundation to a great leader and humanitarian, the late President Manuel L. Quezon.

Coinciding with the opening of this renovated beautiful venue, the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, a global-reach NGO devoted to preserving and divulging the legacies of the rescuers, who showed exceptional courage in times of utmost trial, will posthumously bestow the Raoul Wallenberg Medal to President Quezon, through his dear daughter, “Tita Nini”, it is for his moral and humanitarian standing during the darkest chapter in human history- World War 2.

Between the rise and fall of Nazi Germany, Racism and Racial supremacy ideas nourished and led to the biggest manmade catastrophe in human history World War 2. Unfortunately, some of the most enlightened nations fell into darkness and suffered the worst moral defeat ever. These were desperate times for the Jewish communities in continental Europe with no beacon of hope around them.  Surprisingly, a ray of hope came from a faraway country that was blessed with a leader with strong moral convictions who led his nation with a good moral compass. This was the Philippines under President Manuel Quezon.

When he saw the plight and the desperation of the Jewish People in Europe, he decided to open the doors of this country to those people in dire need.  With the support of the United States High Commissioner, Paul McNutt, the leaders of the Jewish community in the Philippines- the Frieder brothers, and the JDC, he orchestrated an ambitious plan to save as many refuges as possible by creating the “Open Door Policy”.

As a result, some 1300 Jewish refugees managed to flee to the Philippines, thus saving their lives.

President Quezon’s plan was even more ambitious. He wanted to absorb a much greater number of refugees, but this was thwarted by other powerful events at that time-the outbreak of World War 2 and the Japanese invasion into the Philippines.

As an Individual, President Quezon went even further and he opened the gates of his private estate in Marikina to make it a home to many of those refugees.

On April 23, 1940, at the dedication ceremony of the community house, “the Marikina hall”, he declared: “It is my hope, and indeed my expectation, that the people of the Philippines will have in the future every reason to be glad that when the time of need came, their country was glad to extend to a persecuted people, a hand of welcome.”. President Quezon’s open door policy was met by the open hearts of the Filipino people and it earned him and this nation a great moral victory and a grateful Jewish Nation and People.

The Wallenberg Foundation believes in fostering Positive Pedagogy, focusing on research and education; trying to instill the courageous deeds of Raoul Wallenberg and his likes in the hearts and minds of the young generations. Amongst its members are more than 300 heads of States, Nobel Prize winners and distinguished personalities from all walks of life, including Pope Francis. President Manuel Quezon was a noble human being. Recognizing the goodness of his feats, on behalf of the Raul Wallenberg Foundation we are proud to bestow upon him, the Raoul Wallenberg Medal.

Thank you.