Some people say that there are three climate classifications in the Philippines: the tropical season, the rainy season, and the campaign season. The national election is almost a year away, and rainfalls of jingles and disgusting tarpaulins are coming in. They will be again on the streets, on media outlets, and even online. But back in the 1950s, probably no campaign jingle was as catchy and famous as "Mambo Magsaysay," the song used by then-Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Ramon Magsaysay when he ran against the incumbent President Elpidio Quirino. Its lyrics go: "Our democracy will die kung wala si (without) Magsaysay."
With his popular campaign jingle, he introduced a “barrio to barrio” style of campaigning that could ring his name from every barangay up to every street corner, especially to the masses. His slogan was "Magsaysay is my guy," which took advantage of his charming appearance.
Magsaysay certainly became a phenomenon. He rose from being an automobile mechanic to being the country's highest-ranking official in less than a decade. But this rags-to-riches story was not the sole reason why he had won the affection of the Filipino people.
There were other circumstances when you can lean on him, including the death of a person. What are these significant demises that made people love him more?
The Death of His Ardent Supporter
During the Elpidio Quirino presidency, no one tried to contest the undisputed kingpin of Negros Occidental, Governor Rafael Lacson, who was surrounded by his well-armed private army.
In 1951, Moises Padilla, a guerilla fighter during the war, decided to run as a mayoral candidate of the small town of Magallon in Negros Occidental. Lacson sent his words to Padilla to drop out of the race, but the latter did not concede to his opponent. He even sought the protection of Magsaysay, who was then the defense secretary. He was given only one but later recalled upon the governor's order who had the police and military power over the province.
Padilla was eventually defeated in a manipulated election. On the night after the polls, Padilla was abducted. He was then paraded around town with his body showing signs of torture. His mother approached her and heard his last words: "Communicate Monching." He trusted Magsaysay even if he was a party mate of Quirino and Lacson back then.
After three days, Padilla's body was found with 14 bullets in the back, on a bench right in front of a police station. Magsaysay hurriedly came to Magallon upon learning what happened. The secretary had himself carry the corpse for an autopsy in Manila. Despite his party mates' objections, President Quirino suspended his friend, Governor Lacson, upon his defense secretary's request. Magsaysay also disarmed Lacson's three thousand men.
Three years after, Lacson, together with three mayors and 22 henchmen, was convicted of murder and was sentenced to death through electric chair by Judge Eduardo Enriquez, governor's college classmate. During his trial, Lacson was also charged with raping his housemaid and sentenced to eight years in jail.
In his campaign, Magsaysay would always declare emotionally: "When I carried the body of Moises Padilla in my arms, it was not the body of Padilla but the body of the humble people of my country."
Magsaysay's Own Death
Magsaysay dedicated his last breath working for the Filipino people. His term was cut short to eight months before his supposedly last day in office. On March 16, 1957, President Magsaysay went to Cebu City for a series of speaking engagements at three educational institutions. His entourage then arrived at a party organized by Cebu City Mayor Serging Osmena. Before midnight, the president and his group boarded a newly reconditioned twin-engine C-47, Mount Pinatubo, going back to Manila. The send-off was led by the mayor's father, former President Sergio Osmena.
The aircraft took off from Lahug Airport at 1:15 AM on March 17. Eyewitnesses on the ground noticed that the plane had not gained enough altitude before crossing the mountains of Balamban. The plane radioed Malacañang to have the president fetched at Nichols Field at around 3:15 in the morning. It was the last communication ever conveyed by the plane.
The president's plane failed to arrive on schedule. First Lady Luz Magsaysay and her family were informed that the plane was missing by breakfast time. The Armed Forces initiated all-out air and sea search operations. By afternoon, Manuel Noya, the barangay captain of Mt. Manunggal, announced that the plane crashed on the mountain's slopes. Nestor Mata, a reporter of the Philippine Herald, was, later on, discovered a lone survivor. Military rescuers went to the crash site the following day, March 18. His brother identified the body of Magsaysay through his wristwatch and later confirmed it by dental records.
Hours after authorities found Magsaysay's body, his Vice President, Carlos P. Garcia, assumed the presidency to serve out the remaining term. An estimated two million people attended Magsaysay's burial at the Manila North Cemetery.
There were initial speculations of sabotage, planted bombs, drunk pilots, and overloading that came up, but investigations found that the crash was caused by metal fatigue.
On the other hand, the president's namesake, Senator Ramon Magsaysay, Jr., believes that a heavy load of mangoes caused the plane's crash carrying his father.
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