Aurora Aragon Quezon

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Aurora Aragon Quezon (19 February 1888-28 April 1949) is the wife of Philippine President Manuel L. Quezon and the second First Lady of the Republic of the Philippines.

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Early Life

Aurora Aragon was born on 19 February 1888 to Pedro Aragon and Zeneida Molina in Baler, Tayabas (now Aurora province). The youngest among the brood, she was only nine years old when her family sought refuge in the local church during the Siege of Baler while her father was imprisoned in Fort Santiago because of allegations that he was a member of the Katipunan.

After the revolution against Spain, her father was reunited with her family, and in 1911 she went to the Philippine Normal College in Manila to study. However, she had to stop her schooling because of poor health.

Marriage to Quezon

In 1918 Aragon married Manuel L. Quezon, who was her first cousin on her mother's side (Zeneida Molina and Quezon's mother Ma. Dolores Molina were sisters). At that time Manuel L. Quezon was serving as the first president of the Philippine Senate, and to avoid what he described in a privilege speech as “public demonstrations, and the pomp of a marriage,” the couple got married in Hong Kong. They later had four children: Maria Aurora (“Baby”), born in 1919 and died in 1949; Maria Zeneida (“Nini”), born in 1921; Luisa Corazon Paz, who died at birth; and Manuel Jr., born in 1926 and died in 1998.

All throughout her husband's political career, Aurora Quezon did not meddle in politics; despite being the first First Lady to reside in Malacañang, she preferred to stay in a nipa house in Malacañang Park or their property in Arayat, Pampanga.

She chose instead to get involved in women's organizations such as the National Federation of Women's Clubs of the Philippines (NFWCP), of which she was the honorary chair. Through the organization, she became part of the campaign to give Filipino women the right of suffrage, which was achieved in 1937 under her husband's term.

World War II

As World War II broke out, however, officials of the Philippine Commonwealth government were forced to evacuate to Corregidor in December 1941. The group included the entire Quezon family, who lived in the tunnels just behind the front lines of war until 19 February 1942, when they had to leave the country, arriving in the United States via Australia in June 1942. There they lived in exile as war raged in the Pacific.

After Manuel L. Quezon's death in New York on 1 August 1944 from tuberculosis, Aurora Quezon and the family went to California. While awaiting their return to the Philippines, she and her daughters volunteered as nurses for the Red Cross.

Return to the Philippines

Returning to the Philippines in 1945, Aurora Quezon still chose not to get involved in politics, declining a slot in the Liberal Party senatorial slate for the May 1945 elections. Instead, she campaigned for Manuel Roxas, who won the presidency.

She also turned down a pension offered to her by the Philippine Congress, arguing that she could not accept it while many who had been widowed or orphaned by the war were still suffering.

Quezon remained active in civic work, becoming the first Chair of the Philippine National Red Cross when it was established as an independent Red Cross organization in 1947. She held the position until her death two years later.

Ambush

It was her dedication to civic work that indirectly led to her demise. Despite the brewing conflict with the Hukbalahap, the convoy of Aurora Quezon left Manila on 28 April 1949 to inaugurate the Quezon Memorial Hospital in Baler. The convoy included her daughter Maria Aurora, son-in-law Felipe Buencamino III, Major General Rafael Jalandoni, and Quezon City Mayor Ponciano Bernardo.

Shrugging off the danger from the rebellion—Luis Taruc, leader of the Hukbalahap, was once a guest of the Quezons—the convoy journeyed unhindered until Bongabong, Nueva Ecija, where they were met by machine-gun fire by alleged renegade members of the Huks. Twelve members of the convoy died in the ambush, among them Aurora Quezon and her daughter, Buencamino III and Bernardo.

The outrage over the ambush heightened the tension between the government and the Huk rebellion, with then President Elpidio Quirino calling for an all-out war against the rebels. Taruc, meanwhile, issued a statement condemning the incident and declaring that if his own investigation revealed that the suspects came from their ranks, punishment would be swiftly meted out.

In memory of the First Lady, the Aurora sub-province was created by Quirino in 1951. It became a full-fledged province in 1979. The Manila Provincial Road, going through Quezon City to Manila, was also renamed to Aurora Boulevard that same year. Her remains, which were originally buried in North Cemetery, were transferred beside her husband's remains at the Quezon Memorial Circle in 2003 via Presidential Proclamation No. 836.

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