The Philippine government had moved from Manila on MacArthur’s recommendation, with Quezon himself continuing to lead the government from Corregidor in cooperation with the U.S. commander of the Far East.

Quezon had originally declined MacArthur’s request to withdraw from the capital, claiming that his first duty was to take care of the civilian population and maintain public order while MacArthur was fighting the enemy.

MacArthur’s real intention was to make sure that Quezon was not captured, thus preventing the Japanese from using the head of the Philippine government as a symbol of their glorious triumph. 

President Manuel L. Quezon, together with his family, Vice President Sergio Osmeña, Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos, Colonel Manuel Nieto, Major General Basilio J. Valdes, and a few others boarded the submarine USS Swordfish bound for Antique on February 20, 1942.

The president’s son Manuel L. Quezon, Jr. recalls in his unpublished memoirs:

“At midnight that night we boarded the submarine Swordfish. During the night we traveled on the surface, where the sub could make better speed, above 20 knots.  Underwater it could make only about 8 knots. After a good night’s sleep, there was an alarming sound of a siren, the signal that we were submerging.”  

“On the surface the sub had moved with the waves like any other ship. The moment we submerged the sub became almost completely motionless, as there were no waves underwater. We spent the whole day submerged until we landed at San Jose de Antique.”  

From Antique, Quezon’s party travelled by land to Iloilo, where they boarded the MV Princess of Negros.

MV Princess of Negros  arrived brand-new from Hongkong in 1933, she plied the Bacolod-Iloilo route. Seized and pressed into service by the Japanese in 1942, she was bombed and sank by US warplanes in 1944.
(Photo The Commonwealth and Gorio Belen)

“That night we boarded the Princess of Negros, which must have been a slow ship.  We went to Guimaras on the way to Negros, but spent the day there, taking a lunch, up to the river to a house where Father Ortiz baptized an infant with me as sponsor.  I never saw the baby again and do not even recall his name.  We disembarked from the Princess because we might be spotted by Japanese planes.  We reembarked at night and went on to Bacolod where we arrived the following morning,” Quezon Jr. recalls.

Manuel L. Quezon Jr., Aurora A. Quezon, , Pres. Manuel L. Quezon, Ma. Aurora Quezon on Corregidor.
(Philippine Free Press)

They arrived the following morning in Bacolod, where the party stayed for a couple of days before traveling again to Dumaguete.

President Quezon and his party, lingered on the island of Negros, where he made his headquarters for nearly a month.

Members of his government scattered to the nearby islands, where they organized local resistance to the Japanese, and arranged food shipments to the beleaguered American and Filipino troops in Bataan.

The President was in frequent communication with General MacArthur and his staff on Corregidor, but was not informed in advance of the General’s orders to go to Australia.

“On March 17, I flew from Del Monte, in the southern island of Mindanao, to Bacolod. I had seen the General board a Flying Fortress the day before, and had brought a letter from him.”

General MacArthur visits President Quezon shortly after his wedding anniversary (December 17, 1941)

With this news came a message from MacArthur himself, asking the Quezon party to come to Melbourne at the earliest opportunity.  Two motor torpedo boats, the note added, would be waiting at a certain fishing village in Dumaguete to transfer everyone across 100 miles of inland sea to the air fields of Mindanao on March 18.

“About midnight, we drove down to the pier for our rendezvous,” President Quezon recalled later. “The PT boats had not arrived yet. Instead, I found a telegram from General Wainwright, advising me to cancel the trip because a number of Japanese destroyers had been reported cruising in the Mindanao Sea that day. Obediently, we turned around and drove back toward the place where we were staying.

Lt John D. Bulkeley’s PT-41 at Cavite Navy Yard. 
(Roy Gerald King collection, USS Alchiba, AKA-6)

“A few minutes later we were overtaken by a car that was literally flying up the road. A tough  looking sea wolf, wearing a heavy black beard and a fierce expression, jumped out and introduced himself as Lieutenant Bulkeley.”

“I most strongly urge you to reconsider,” he told me. “I’ll guarantee to get you through safely to Mindanao.”

“The young pirate was so self-confident and seemed so capable that I promptly decided to disregard General Wainwright’s warning. I was ready to let  Bulkely try to take me past all the Japanese destroyers in the world . Of course, if  Bulkeley had come to me in his shore uniform and without his beard, as he did in Australia the next time I saw him, I never would have put my life in his hands. Shaved, he looked like such a youngster.”

Lt. John D. Bulkeley, commander of MTB Ron 3 and skipper of PT-41 that ferried MacArthur and Quezon to Mindanao in March 1942. Photographed while on board a Patrol Torpedo Boat (PT), circa 1942. Official U.S. Navy Photo (NARA)80-G-14252

“The trip was rough but we landed safely, early the following morning, at Oroquieta, on the north shore of the great island of Mindanao.”

Bulkeley’s  cool confidence was responsible for President Quezon’s escape from the Japanese, who almost certainly would have captured him had he remained on the island.

But it was Bulkeley’s equally cool courage that saved the group from death before morning. Nearly 100 persons owe their lives to the quick work of Bulkeley, Ensign George Cox, Jr. of Niagara Falls, New York; Chief Torpedoman James D. Light of Vallejo, California, and Torpedoman First Class John L. Houlihan Jr. of Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts.

Had it not been for the skill and courage of Bulkeley and his crew, Quezon told his friends later, the President of the Philippines would probably had been a prisoner of the Japanese, or dead in the Mindanao Sea.

Lieutenant Commander John D. Bulkeley receiving his Medal of Honor from President Roosevelt at the Oval Office 04 August 1942
(U.S. Navy photo NH 44324)

For his bringing out General MacArthur and President Quezon from certain capture by the Japanese, and his other exploits as the leader of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 3 in defense of the Philippines, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt personally awarded Bulkeley the Medal of Honor in a ceremony in the Oval Office on 4 August 1942 when he was but 32 years old.

(View archival film footage of Lieutenant John D Bulkeley here.)

“After only a brief pause, we continued to Jimenez, then to Dansalan, and from there proceeded to the headquarters of General Sharp, where we waited a few days for the planes that were to take us to Australia.”

President Manuel L. Quezon, his family and Vice President Sergio Osmena flew to Australia from Del Monte on March 26, 1942.

“Three Flying Fortresses dropped down on our field at dusk of March 26. We boarded them about midnight, and nine hours later we were breakfasting in Northern Australia.”

MacArthur Memorial Marker at Bgy. Dicklum. Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon (RMB).

On the terminus of Del Monte No. 1, the heavy bomber field in Tankulan (present day Bgy. Dicklum, Manolo Fortich) is a small memorial marking Quezon and MacArthur’s departure to Australia on March 26 and March 17, 1942, respectively, built by the Rotary Club of Northern Bukidnon and inaugurated on March 13, 2008 during the 66th anniversary of both events.

A simple marker tells the story of the last time these two great men in history would ever see Mindanao. (RMB)

The site is historically significant because it was the last piece of Philippine soil that Quezon ever stepped on, since of tuberculosis at Saranac Lake, New York  on August 1, 1944 during his exile in the U.S. He was buried in the Arlington National Cemetery until the end of World War II, when his remains were moved to Manila. His final resting place is the Quezon Memorial Circle.

An all-weather road leads to the marker. (RMB)

It is likewise significant in local history since it was the last time MacArthur was ever in Mindanao.

Officers, members and guests of RC North Bukidnon on Oct. 21, 2016. (RMB)

-30-

Sources/References:

MacArthur in Asia: The General and His Staff in the Philippines, Japan and Korea

Planning the Escape from Corregidor, Early February to Late February 1942

By Hiroshi Masuda, Reiko Yamamoto

DOI:10.7591/cornell/9780801449390.003.0005

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780801449390

Published to University Press Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801449390.001.0001

[2] Manuel L. Quezon Jr.,“Escape from Corregidor,” Philippines Free Press, December 8, 2001, accessed on October 16, 2020, https://philippinesfreepress.wordpress.com/tag/manuel-l-quezon-jr/.

[3] Ricardo Jose, “Governments in Exile,” Asian and Pacific Migration Journal 8, nos. 1-2 (1999): 182, http://www.smc.org.ph/administrator/uploads/apmj_pdf/APMJ1999N1-2ART8.pdf.

Escape from Corregidor, December 8, 2001, Escape from Corregidor by Manuel L. Quezon Jr. (From the late author’s unpublished memoirs.) The Philippine Free Press Online, accessed on October 16, 2020. https://philippinesfreepress.wordpress.com/2001/12/08/escape-from-corregidor-december-8-2001/

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