Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Requiem Mass for President Ramon Magsaysay at the Brompton Oratory, 1957


 The late Leon Ma. Guerrero, of the prominent Guerrero clan of Manila was probably one of the most interesting figures to have served his nation. A dyed in the wool aristocrat (he spoke with an impeccable Oxford accent, to the delight of the British where he served as ambassador for seven years), it has been said of his family (to paraphrase Nick Joaquin) that they were at once marked by the most intense Catholicism and by the most intense nationalism; at once the fiercest defenders of tradition, while also fostering revolution on the other.

Mr. Guerrero served under the government of Ramon Magsaysay, who is, perhaps, one of the most beloved Presidents the Philippines has ever had. Magsaysay was as populist as they came, serving as a mechanic for a time and inviting the poor to come into the halls of Malacanang Palace where he would wine and dine with them. There too, is a story told that Magsaysay was able to bring about the surrender of communist rebels by circulating tales of aswangs -- blood-sucking, flesh-eating vampires-- loose in the mountains. President Magsaysay, sadly, died in a plane crash, and his body was never found.

The photo above shows the catafalque of President Magsaysay draped in the Philippine flag. Please excuse the somewhat poor quality of the photo, as I had no means to properly scan the book in which I found it. Rather, I just used my phone to snap a photo of said photo.

Here now is an excerpt from The Diplomatist about the Requiem Mass in honor of the fallen president, held in the London Oratory at Brompton in March of 1957.

... at the Brompton Oratory at 11 o'clock on the morning of Friday, 22 March the Earl of Scarborough, the Lord Chamberlain, representing H.M. the Queen at the Solemn Requiem Mass sung on the occasion of the funeral in Manila of the late President of the Philippines, Ramon Magsaysay. Her Majesty's Ambassador in the Philippines, Mr. G.L. Clutton, represented Her Majesty at the funeral. The Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop Gerald O'Hara, presided, Father P. Bushell was the celebrant, assisted by Father Mark Taylor and Father D. Wood, and the Archbishop of Westminster was represented by the Right Rev. Msgr. Morrough Bernard. Among the large congregation were diplomatic representatives of 67 countries including 25 ambassadors. Attending with the Philippine Ambassador and Mrs. Guerrero were members of the staff of the Embassy and others of the Filipino community in the United Kingdom, and members of the Philippine Society of London.

And finally, some choice words from Mr. Guerrero about his fallen commander in chief.

Yet none was closer to the ordinary Filipino than President Magsaysay. Perhaps it was because he never made his fortune, because he rose to power so quickly and so soon. Or perhaps the common people always took him as their own because he made them feel important, because he knew he would worry as much about an artesian well for their mountain village as about a new oil refinery, or about a poor postman's promotion as a change in the Cabinet.

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