Thursday, June 20, 2019

World Refugee Day: In Memory of President Quezon

Photo courtesy of America Public Television 

A striking and heartfelt statement was uttered by President Manuel L. Quezon during the Philippine Commonwealth Period in the early 40s. And he said, 

"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 willing to extend a hand of welcome."

That statement was in response to the firm intent of Quezon to accept thousands of Refugees during the Nazi Germany Holocaust, where millions of European Jews were persecuted under the powerful command of their leader, Adolf Hitler.

Although physically weak and dying due to a pulmonary disease during that time, Quezon chose to be a humanitarian to give social justice to those persecuted. Of the potential 10,000 refugees that Quezon would want to accept, about 1,200 refugees were given shelter. We have opened our doors and welcomed them wholeheartedly. They were given a piece of land and a livelihood for security and survival.

Quezon was right, after all. Fast forward to that future which is our present day. In 2018, a film was produced in his honor entitled "Quezon's Game," which was shown to the world in December and in the Philippines in May 2019. The film showcased our solidarity and compassion to others that we have an open-door policy in accepting refugees.

I watched the film this month, and it gave me a sense of pride as a Filipino that we are indeed a Nation of kind-hearted people with a sense of humanity and social dignity.

When the world turned down those refugees, only one nation embraced them with open arms: the Filipinos. We gave them not only shelter, but we have helped them regain their identity and sense of humanity. That goodwill was recognized by the Jews when a statue of Quezon was built in Tel Aviv, Israel, in his memory and the friendliness of the entire Filipino nation.

When some of our present-day leaders would utter words of killing his own people, President Quezon was different and indeed a gentleman with the highest regard for human life by saving more than a thousand lives.

Today, we need a leader who is tough and values and upholds the sanctity of human life. Hundreds of millions of stateless people are currently seeking refuge due to wars, armed conflicts, persecution, and even economic downfall. They are sick, dying, and unwanted by their own people. However, they are still hopeful for a miracle for the second life they deserve.

Today, June 20, is World Refugee Day and a celebration for Filipinos of our dignity and pride. May our sense of humanity be upon us all for those who are abandoned, unwanted, and persecuted. We are Filipino and a life-saver from our past and forever.

© 2019 Del Cusay

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