There was a terrible automobile accident. The traffic was jammed up for miles. Amid all the chaos there was a long dark limousine with tinted windows. You knew whoever was inside was important because he had a police escort. The police motorcycles turned on their lights and sirens attempting to clear the way for the huge car. The window slowly rolled down and a man leaned out, in a strong firm voice he said, “Turn off the lights and sirens. We do not own the road”. When the man heard that some people had been hurt he gave up his limousine and let the injured use it as an ambulance. He finished his trip in a common everyday car.
In a small way the man was wrong; he did own the road. You see that man was Ramon Magsaysay, the President of the Philippines.
Outside of the Philippines few people know or remember this magnificent man but he is one of my personal heroes.
Magsaysay’s early life was not unlike millions of other young Filipinos. He was the son of a poor blacksmith and a school teacher. He worked as a chauffeur, mechanic or any other job that would pay his way through school. At the outbreak of World War Two he and several other Filipinos organized the Western Luzon Guerrilla Forces. He became a battle hardened professional Army officer. While serving in a variety of post-war government jobs, Magsaysay earned the respect of the Philippine people.
Magsaysay even came to Negros. There was a heated political contest in Negros Occidental. Magsaysay came down to mediate the two warring factions. He was too late. Moises Padilla was publicly tortured and killed. There are pictures of Magsaysay personally carrying the man’s mutilated bloody body to the morgue. The murderers were eventually convicted and sentenced to die.
Ramon Magsaysay was elected President in 1953. He was the first President sworn into office wearing the traditional Barong Tagalog. His political philosophy was that government was there to protect the little people; the rich can protect themselves. Magsaysay is the only President of the Philippines, so loved; he did not need a body guard. His administration was considered one of the cleanest and most corruption-free; his presidency was cited as the “Philippines' Golden Age”.
Most Filipinos already know this story; a few foreigners will find this mildly interesting but I have a greater reason for writing this column. I am convinced the next Magsaysay is walking the streets of Dumaguete City right at this moment. All he or she needs is the confidence to try. If you believe in yourself there are no limits. Your nation needs you. You can lead this beautiful country out of poverty and corruption into a second “Golden Age”. Do not give up on her; she won’t give up on you.