The Philippines had a significant role during the Second World War. Being known as the United States’ closest ally, the country served as one of its strongholds in the Pacific. The Philippines, in turn, supported the Americans’ crusade in the fight against Germany, even if it meant taking massive casualties under the hands of the Japanese. It was during this period when one man decided to take a stand to do what he saw fit, even if it meant going against his closest ally’s wishes.
In Matthew Rosen’s film, Quezon’s Game, the story revolves around the heroic efforts of President Manuel L. Quezon (Raymond Bagatsing) to open the nation’s doors to thousands of Jewish refugees facing persecution under the Nazi regime. He, along with his friends, U.S. Army Colonel Dwight Eisenhower (David Bianco), High Commissioner Paul McNutt (James Paoleli), and Jewish cigar magnate Alex Frieder (Billy Ray Gallion), devised a plan to issue 10,000 visas to the Philippines for European Jews who were seeking asylum. Despite all the odds, and his tuberculosis relapsing in the process, Quezon managed to not only provide safe haven for 1,200 Jews, but he also managed to assert our sovereignty in doing so, proving to the United States that the Philippines was not like them, and that we should have the right to decide who to allow or prevent from entering our own soil.
The film not only focuses on the evacuation efforts, but also portrays the struggles of living under the Commonwealth during the war, as well as the bigotry that was widespread throughout America, even going so far as banning Filipinos from American establishments in the Philippines (the Army-Navy Club in Dewey Boulevard—now known as Roxas Boulevard—had a sign that infamously stated “No Dogs and Filipinos Allowed”). It was almost metaphorical to the Jews being banned in certain places just because of their identity.
Most importantly, the film shows the unwavering faith Quezon had in the Filipino people, who in turn supported his cause not only because the President said so, but because they understood that everyone deserves freedom. Throughout the film, the message is said loud and clear: let it be known that when the rest of the world decided to do nothing, the Philippines decided to do something, not because it was what they were told, but because it was right. It may seem impossible in today’s perspective, especially with the current political climate, but this film can serve as a reminder of when we, as a nation, decided to put our foot down and tell foreigners that they cannot tell us what to do. We should carry our identity
with pride and never forget the blood, tears, and sweat that have been poured into making our independence a reality.
President Quezon may be remembered for a lot of things, but may we remember him most as a man who proved to the world that intellect and wit is nothing if you do not have the heart to do what is right.
Quezon’s Game is currently showing in cinemas nationwide.