(14 February 1948)

Since the coming Christ with His sublime message of love and good-will, humanity has not known a happier or a more memorable event than the foundation of the Red Cross in Switzerland over eight decades ago. It came into this world without fanfare, without noise, without publicity, but surely with the blessing of high Heaven. In fact, the man who first conceived the idea of establishing the Red Cross seemed to have been inspired by God. His moving appeal to his country and later to other civilized nations embodies the noblest and finest feeling of humanity and expresses in concrete form the teachings of the Man from Galilee.

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(Extemporaneous Speech before Manila Lions, August 19, 1950)

For almost two hours and a half I sat patiently by the side of the previous speakers listening to every word and scanning ever gesture during their delivery of their beautiful speeches, expecting to get or receive some illumination regarding the ways and means by which this government, so unpleasant, so apparently weak and powerless, may reconstruct and strengthen itself. At the same time, I expected to be able to find a way to achieve these purposes from the intelligent discussion with which we would be treated here this evening.

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Speech of the Vice-President before the Manila Chapter

A picture of stark and shocking tragedy by one of splendid heroism flashed before my mind’s eye as I entered this hall a few minutes ago. The picture was kaleidoscopic, painful, and bloody, almost to the end. It was a composite picture of the enemy occupation from the fall of Manila to the return of the victorious American forces of liberation, or from the day the ominous and dreadful shadow of Japanese tyranny darkened our land to the time the light of liberty swept it away.

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#QuirinoAt125 Lecture Series


The National Historical Commission of the Philippines
with The National Museum
in cooperation with
The President Elpido Quirino Foundation

#QuirinoAt125 Lecture Series
Bernard Kerblat’s (UNHCR Representative in the Philippines)
Philippines & Asylum: A Historical Perspective
“A retrospect on a nation that served as a home to some of history’s refugees, reflecting its character and that of its leaders.”

Senate Hall, The National Museum
Taft Avenue, Malate, Manila
June 25, 2015, Thursday
2:00 PM – 3:30 PM

REGISTER HERE and reserve your seat!

Speaking Out

By Ignacio R. Bunye

May 22, 2015

Battles that changed the course of history (Epilogue)

Like most Filipinos who suffered during the war, President Elpidio Quirino had every reason to hate the Japanese. Yet when he had the opportunity, he never exacted revenge. In an extra-ordinary display of national forgiveness and statesmanship, Quirino pardoned the Japanese war criminals.

Quirino’s action stunned most Filipinos who were not satisfied with just the hanging of General Yamashita and the execution by firing squad of General Homma. Filipinos were crying for more blood.

The anti-Japanese sentiment  simmered as soon as the occupation of Manila started.  The conquerors soon alienated the people with their  indiscriminate slapping and maltreatment of   men, women and children for no other reason than their failure to properly bow to a Japanese sentry. The people’s anger reached boiling point when news spread about atrocities committed during the Death March. The Manila Massacre which resulted in the death of tens of thousands of civilians finally uncorked the pent-up fury of the populace.

This explains why nobody complained about the massive destruction of  Manila. It was an acceptable price to pay to be able to pulverize the hated Japanese who were holed up inside Intramuros and other historical buildings.

This explains why even in the US Supreme Court, only two justices (one of them being  Justice Frank Murphy, the last American Governor General in the Philippines)  questioned the possible violation of the rights of the accused Yamashita and Homma during their trial before a military commission created by General McArthur.

A national artist – still under age during the war – confessed that his dream was  to enlist in the army as soon as he grew up so he could kill the first Japanese he encountered.

Against this backdrop, the writings of   Salvador P. Lopez (“The Judgment of History”)  and Jaime C. Laya (“The Calvary of Elpidio Quirino, 1945-53”) give us a  measure of Quirino’s self-sacrifice and statesmanship.

Lopez wrote:

“As the (allied troops)  shelled the Japanese military installations in the area the Japanese soldiers, in sheer desperation , knowing they could not escape alive , indulged in a cold-blooded massacre of the residents. It was in the course of this murderous rampage that tragedy overtook the Quirino family.

“Quirino had gathered his wife and childen about him on that fateful day of 9th February 1945 in the family residence on Colorado Street( presently Felipe Agoncillo), Ermita, to plan their escape from the area.

“It was four oclock in the afternoon. The Japanese had transformed the neighborhood into a holocaust of fire and death. A barrage of shells hit the roof of the Quirino residence. As the house burned, Elpidio decided to escape with his family to the home of his mother-in-law, Mrs. Concepcion Jimenez Syquia, on the same street.

“In a desperate attempt to get out of the hell-hole, Elpidio ordered his son, Tomas, to lead the group. Dona Alicia cuddled her two daughters, infant Fe and Norma. Another son, Armando, carried the family valuables. All the members of the family then dashed towards the Syquia residence. Tomas and Victoria led the group.

“Half-way across the street, four Japanese marines, camouflaged in leaves, machine-gunned them. Looking back, Tomas saw the bodies of his mother and two sisters lying lifeless on the ground. Mrs. Quirino died hugging Fe, while Norma lay dead beside her. Armando tried to retrieve their dead bodies but was stopped by machine-gun fire.”

Jaime C.  Laya (“The Calvary of Elpidio Quirino, 1945-53”) provided other gory details of the massacre. 

“Carrying the toddler Fe Angela, Mrs. Quirino flees with Tommy, Norma and Vicky to her mother’s home. Elpidio and Armando stay behind gathering food and valuables.

“The panicked group reaches the Syquia mansion’s gate, but from Leon Guinto, a machine gun fires. Mortally wounded, Alicia and Norma fall. Fe Angela, pinned under  her mother, is bayoneted. Tommy and Vicky escape. Another shell hits the Quirino home and Elpidio and Armando run. With Agoncillo Street perilous they go through fences, over walls, under houses, separated in the confusion.

“Early in the morning, Elpidio reaches the Syquia home, alone.

“Elpidio can only retrieve Fe Angela and buries her broken body by the garage”.

Indeed, Quirino must have agonized before he signed the Presidential pardon. He was practically alone in a nation that wanted to completely destroy the enemy.

To those who sought vengeance, he said: “I should be the last one to pardon them as the Japanese killed my wife and three children, and five other members of my family. I am doing this because I do not want my children and my people to inherit from me the hate for people who might yet be our friends, for the permanent interest of our country.”

At the Quirino household, Quirino’s surviving children – daughter Victoria and son Tomas did not, hereafter, hear their father dwell on the family misfortune. In his own book, The Memoirs,  there was no mention of the tragedy. 

In the end,  Quirino’s humanity prevailed. He decided to stop the violence. In the process, he did manage to destroy the enemy – by making them our friends.