World War II had left the Philippines reeling from poverty, unrest, and lawlessness. Rampant graft and corruption characterized the government of President Elpidio Quirino. The farmers in Central Luzon, resentful and angry over agrarian problems, swelled the ranks of the Hukbalahap (a contraction of the name in the vernacular, Hukbong Bayan Laban sa Hapon, literally translated to National Army Fighting the Japanese). They were a rag-tag guerrilla force that fought the Japanese occupation in 1941-1945.
At the height of the Huk power, the Philippine militaryweak and undisciplinedwas unable to counter the Huk attacks throughout the country. The Huks relentless drive to bring down the government in the early 1950s threatened the Philippines with a communist takeover.
RM is the story of an extraordinary man who faced these problems against all odds. His integrity and perseverance in trying to ameliorate the plight of the downtrodden and the helpless in Philippine society cast him in the limelight. As a result, he was elected on November 10, 1953, as the third president of the Philippines, after the United States had granted independence on July 4, 1946. RM was the seventh elected leader since June 12, 1898, when Emilio Aguinaldo became the first leader after the Filipino revolution against Spain in 1898 and the United States in 1899-1902.
RM takes the reader back to his unpretentious beginnings in Zambales, where all towns face the China Sea. The province was generally poor and the people predominantly Ilocanos, except for the northern and southern areas. In the north lived a smattering of natives that spoke Zambal, and to the south, Tagalog, because of the proximity to Bataan, a Tagalog province.
RMs great-grandparents were not Ilocanos, however. On his fathers side, his great-grandmother, Paulina Toleido (she was blonde with blue eyes) was a peninsular Castilian who lived in Makati, Rizal. Her husband, Gregorio Magsaysay, an educated man, worked as a clerk in an early American firm, Smith, Bell, & Co. One of their sons became the father of Exequiel, Ramons father.
On his mothers side, the del Fierro families were mestizos, an admixture of Spanish and native, from Catbalogan, Samar. The Moro pirate attacks, during the early part of the nineteenth century, drove the del Fierro family northward where they settled in Zambales. The Spanish mestizo, Juan del Fierro and Maria Quimzon of Cavite became the parents of Perfecta, the mother of Ramon.
RM was a target of several assassination attempts. After Bataan and Corregidor fell (April 9 and May 6, 1942), the Japanese Kempei Tai (secret police) wanted him dead because of his guerrilla activities. He worked closely with the USAFFE (U.S. Armed Forces in the Far East), and was subsequently appointed by General Charles P.Hall as the military governor of Zambales. Because of his sincerity in dealing with his guerrilla followers and what he did for the people during the war years, everyone recognized his leadership abilities. This paved the way for his entry into politics.
Monching, as people came to call him, saw and felt what poverty can do to peoples lives, compounded by what politicians promised and never lived up to. The shenanigans of RM and his political friends leading up to his nomination as the Nacionalista Party standard bearer could be construed by his foes as machiavellian. In many ways, he was an uncommon politician who drew the ire of friend and foe alike--the infighting of senators and congressmen in the Philippine Congress, and the paradoxical support of people who wanted the status quo to continue during his adminstration.
As Secretary of Defense under President Elpidio Quirino, he fought the Huk menace on all fronts, resulting in blood and tears for the people of Zambales. During the Huk insurrection, their assassins stalked his every move. Lack of security p