Ex-First Lady of the Philippines Gunned Down

On April 28, 1949, Aurora Aragon Quezon, 60, the beloved widow of former Philippines president Manuel Quezon, was traveling with a party of 50 on their way to her husband’s hometown of Baler to dedicate a memorial to his birthplace.

As chairwoman of the Philippine Red Cross, Quezon devoted much of her time to charity and had turned down her pension as the president’s widow so that the money could be given to other widows and orphans.

In Nueva Ecija province, the entourage was ambushed by about 100 men believed to be members of the communist-led Hukbalahaps, a terrorist group of peasant outlaws that controlled the central Luzon hills area. Machine gun fire left 12 dead, including Quezon, her daughter Maria Aurora Quezon, her son-in-law, and Major General Rafael Jalandoni.

Responding to the news, President Elpido Quirino at first said he thought the killers were simply bandits, but later called for an all-out campaign against the “Huks.” Manila papers reported that the attack may have been aimed at Quirino, who was originally scheduled to travel with the party but had canceled.

On May 1, Hukbalahaps leader Luis M. Taruc denied that his group had ambushed the travelers and said that Quezon had contributed money to their cause. On January 10, 1952, five Filipinos were sentenced to die in the electric chair for the killings. They were described as renegade members of the Hukbalahaps.

Admirers of the Quezon family recalled that when World War II broke out, 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 February 19, 1942, when they had to leave the country. They went to the United States via Australia in June 1942 and lived in exile as war raged in the Pacific.

After Manuel L. Quezon’s death in New York on August 1, 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.

On April 28, 2013, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines and descendants of Aurora Aragon Quezon unveiled and rededicated a historical marker in Bongabon, Nueva Ecija, at the site of the ambush where the former first lady was killed. The old marker was mysteriously removed from the site.

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