Remembering President Ramon Magsaysay,the most loved president

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty Josephus B. Jimenez - The Freeman

I have never seen a head of state and head of government, other than President Ramon del Fiero Magsaysay, who was so loved and idolized by the masses, that even people who never met him were deeply in shock and terribly saddened when he died.

Exactly 63 years ago today, on March 17, 1957, the seventh president of the Republic, RM, as he was fondly called, perhaps the most beloved among the 16 presidents of our country, perished. The whole nation was shocked and Filipinos from all walks of life mourned deeply for many months, even years. I saw my mother and aunts, even my grandma cry for the man they never even met in person. My father also lamented for his fellow guerrilla warrior. RM died in a controversial plane crash on top of Mount Manunggal, a mountainous terrain, part of Balamban, 22 kilometers northwest of Cebu City.

RM, the day before that, was the commencement speaker in three institutions, one after another, first in the University of the Visayas (my alma mater), second in the Southwestern College, later university (also my alma mater, in high school and AB), and the University of San Carlos. He also attended a dinner hosted by then Cebu City Mayor Serging Osmeña (father of Serge and Tom). He left the party quite late and decided to go back to Manila past midnight. The crash took place after 1 a.m. of March 17. Of the 24 on board, only Nestor Mata, a journalist, survived with third degree burns, after he jumped from the plane and found himself in the branch of a balete tree.

Among those who died with RM was Senator Tomas Cabili, Education Secretary Gregorio Hernandez, and General Benito Ebuen, then commanding general of the Philippine Air Force. The vice president, Carlos P. Garcia, who was also the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, was in Australia attending a SEATO conference. After the president was confirmed dead, Garcia, from Talibon, Bohol, (married to Leonila Dimataga from Mactan) took his oath in the Philippine Embassy in Canberra and became the eighth president of our republic.

RM was only 49 years old when he died. He left a very elegant first lady, Luz Banzon Magsaysay (in whose honor the name Barangay Luz was named). Luz Banzon belonged to a rich family in Balanga, Bataan that owned a big transportation company. Ramon was a chief mechanic of that firm but he was a determined suitor who eventually married the daughter of the boss. RM left Luz with three children, one of whom, Ramon B. Magsaysay Jr., became a senator and a businessman. RM's brother, Genaro, was Serging Osmeña’s running mate in 1969 when he run against Marcos, and lost.

The Magsaysay name remains a very honorable mark of integrity in public service. SWU named one of its buildings the Ramon Magsaysay Building in honor of RM. I hope Phinma will not change the name because it is the only remaining monument of RM's last few hours on earth. He was a very good president, honest, hardworking, pro-poor, pro-labor, pro-farmers, and loved by all.

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