• Quezon feted for rescuing Jews

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    GREAT DEED President Benigno Aquino 3rd (center) and Israeli Ambassador to Manila Effie Ben Matityau present the Raoul Wallenberg Award to Zenaida Quezon-Avanceña, daughter of President Manuel L. Quezon in a ceremony marking the late president’s birth anniversary on Wednesday. MALACAÑANG PHOTO

    GREAT DEED President Benigno Aquino 3rd (center) and Israeli Ambassador to Manila Effie Ben Matityau present the Raoul Wallenberg Award to Zenaida Quezon-Avanceña, daughter of President Manuel L. Quezon in a ceremony marking the late president’s birth anniversary on Wednesday. MALACAÑANG PHOTO

    Benigno Aquino 3rd led the inauguration of the modernized museum at the Quezon Memorial Shrine on Wednesday, the 137th birth anniversary of former President Manuel Luis Quezon.

    Aquino, together with National Historical Commission of the Philippines chairman Maria Serena Diokno, led the flag-raising and wreath-laying ceremonies in honor of the first President of the Commonwealth of the Philippines from 1935 until his death in 1944, when he succumbed to tuberculosis in Saranac Lake in New York.

    Effie Ben-Matityau, Israel’s Ambassador to the Philippines, presented a posthumous award, the Raoul Wallenberg Medal, to Quezon’s daughter Zenaida Quezon-Avanceña, in recognition of her father’s open policy that allowed 1,200 Jews to migrate to the Philippines to escape the horror of the Holocaust during the Second World War.

    Ambassador Ben-Matitayo, who presented the award to Quezon’s descendants, called the late President a “great leader and humanitarian.”

    “When he saw the plight of Jews in Europe, he opened the door for those in need,” the envoy said.

    According to President Quezon’s daughter as his father ascended the stairs of Malacañan Palace after he took his oath of office, he remembered the story on how the mother of national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, pleaded for clemency on the same stairwell.

    Quezon then vowed that as the leader of the Filipino nation, he would never be cruel on calls for compassion.

    Quezon-Avanceña said her father lived his words. “The right of asylum is one of the principles of democracy and humanity which has been adopted by civilized nations.” And so he opened the doors of the country to Jewish refugees from Shanghai, Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia, thus extricating and saving them from the Nazis.

    Communications Undersecretary Manolo Quezon, the late President’s grandson, urged the Filipino youth to emulate his grandfather’s compassion toward those in need.

    “May this encourage future generations of Filipinos to stay true to the compassionate ideals of our founding fathers,” Undersecretary Quezon said.

    President Aquino later toured the museum that features the life and political career of Quezon.

    On display are a sizeable collection of memorabilia, a hologram of the President delivering his inaugural address, and various interactive booths and terminals providing information about the Commonwealth period.

    The museum also offers other facilities such as the audio-visual room, which presents a brief documentary about Quezon and the museum; a gallery dedicated to Aurora A. Quezon; and re-creation of Manuel Quezon’s inauguration as Commonwealth president.

    President Corazon Aquino declared August 19 as a special non-working holiday in the provinces of Aurora and Quezon and Quezon City, pursuant to Republic Act 6741.

    President Aquino also declared August 19 a special non-working holiday in the municipality of Quezon in Isabela.

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    1. Thank God for a leader and statesman like the late President Manuel L. Quezon. He had the heart and compassion for the Jewish people who were trying to escape the brutality of Nazi Germany. I do not know of what he did until recently when I saw a movie about the rescue of some Jews to the Philippines and also saw what was actually happening at that time at a museum. His deeds will be a guiding light to all people seeking peace and continually inspire me to be proud Filipino. I pointed out this story to my sons and they were happy to learn it. Now, we always remember President Quezon whenever we interact with our Jewish friends and our boy scout troop here in St. Louis, Missouri. He was a true leader and a champion of social justice. Thanks for the news article.