Luz Banzon Magsaysay
An Unforgettable First Lady
“LUZ BANZON MAGSAYSAY, An Unforgettable First Lady” is an unauthorized biography of the wife of President Ramon F. Magsaysay who administered the affairs of the Philippines from 1954 until 1957. The former Luz Rosauro Banzon was a native of Bataan and the first and only “First Lady” from the province.
Mrs. Magsaysay is best remembered as one of the most admired First Ladies of the Philippines who distinguished herself for her warmth and simplicity. She was devoted to her family, relatives and friends and worked for the upliftment of the Filipinos in her own way.
This book is divided in five (5) parts: the first part (Chapters 1, 2, 3 and 4) covers the early lives of Luz and Ramon from childhood until they met, got married and bore three children. The second part (Chapters 5 and 6) covers the Japanese Occupation (1942, 1943, 1944 and 1945) as well as the Liberation period. The third part (Chapters 7, 8, and 9) covers the period when Ramon Magsaysay became an elected congressman of Zambales until he became the Secretary of the Department of National Defense. The fourth part (Chapters 10, 11, 12, and 13) covers the administration of Ramon Magsaysay as President of the Philippines. The fifth part (Chapters 14, and 15) details the untimely demise of President Magsaysay and later on, of Mrs. Luz Banzon Magsaysay.
About one-half of all the narratives on Luz Banzon Magsaysay and Ramon Magsaysay mentioned in this book are reprints from the book entitled “Ramon Magsaysay, A Political Biography” written by Jose Veloso Abueva, former Secretary of the 1971 Constitutional Convention. The book was published by the Solidaridad Publishing House in Manila in 1971.
All the other historical narratives about World War II and the Liberation in the Philippines are reprints from the US War Department Battle Report and the original pieces of work by different authors/war historians.
The rest of the materials are products of intensive researches and interviews conducted by this writer with relatives of Mrs. Luz Banzon Magsaysay, namely Teresita Pizarro, Manuel Camacho, Atty. Eliodoro Baluyot and many others.
I hope this book brings back good memories of Mrs. Luz Banzon Magsaysay, a beloved and well-respected woman in the Philippines, especially Bataan and Zambales,
Luz Banzon of Balanga…
Luz Banzon-Magsaysay (1915-2004) was a native of Balanga, the capital town of Bataan, who became the wife of President Ramon Magsaysay (1954-1957). She was the seventh First Lady of the Philippines.
The former Luz Rosauro Banzon was the daughter of Jose Puzon Banzon, a rich landlord and politician in Balanga, and Lucila Tiangco Rosauro, a woman of high status in Bataan.
Luz was born in Poblacion, Balanga, on July 25, 1915. She was the fifth of nine children, namely: Encarnacion1 (born in 1910), Rosario2 (1912), Aurelio3 (1913), Consuelo4 (1914), Luz5, Agustin6 (1916), Elisa7 (1918), Antonio8 (1919) and Teodoro9 (1921).
In 1933, Luz married Ramon Magsaysay, a native of Zambales, and they had three children: Teresita Magsaysay (born, 1934), Milagros “Mila” Banzon Magsaysay (1936) and Ramon Banzon Magsaysay, Jr. (1938).
Ramon Magsaysay, a guerrilla leader during the Japanense Occupation, briefly served as military governor of Zambales after the Liberation. He was elected as congressman of the lone district of Zambales (1946-1949 and 1950-1953). Midway on his second congressional term, he was appointed by President Elpidio Quirino as Secretary of the National Defense. In November 1953, he ran and won as President of the Philippines.
Starting on December 30, 1953, Luz Banzon Magsaysay became the country’s First Lady, probably the most admired who distinguished herself for her simplicity and devotion to her family and the Filipino people.
She became very active in many socio-civic programs especially with the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) where she was the chairperson from 1954 until 1958.
Luz Magsaysay was widowed at the young age of 41 after President Ramon Magsaysay, then 50 years old, died in a tragic airplane crash in a mountain in Cebu on March 17, 1957. The death came exactly three years and two months into his presidency. It was the shortest presidential terms in Philippine history.
Even after the death of her husband, Luz Magsaysay continued to serve the PNRC post as honorary chairperson for 12 more years (1958-1970). She led a simple life and dedicated it to the preservation of her husband’s legacy.
Luz Magsaysay was the former Luz Rosauro Banzon,daughter of Jose Puzon Banzon(1866-1942), a rich landlord who served as municipal mayor of Balanga. Her mother was Lucila Tiangco Rosauro (1884-1950), also of Balanga. She also came from a rich family reported to be a lot richer than the Banzons.
JosePuzon Banzon, more popularly known as Jose “Mameng,” was the only child of Teodoro Paguio Banzon and Carmen “Mameng” Puzon. The family of TeodoroPaguio Banzon, as well as the Banson and Bauzon families in Bataan came from the same ancestors who migrated to Balanga from Pangasinan during the Spanish time. Carmen Puzon, on the other hand, was a native of Pilar, a neighboring town of Balanga.
The landholdings of Jose Mameng’s parents (Teodoro and Carmen) afforded him an education at the Ateneo de Manila Municipal where he completed his primary and high school education. He was already 20 years old and a second year college student when he chose to quit his studies after he was involved in the activities of so-called “Juventud Escolar Liberal, ”a rebellious organization according to the Spanish authorities.
The “Juventud” was a movement of college students in Manila pushing for the secularization of parishes in the country. Its members came from various colleges, the likes of Paciano Rizal (brother of Dr. Jose Rizal of Laguna), Gregorio Sanciangco, Mariano Alejandrino, Basilio Teodoro, and many others who had been arrested and jailed by the Spanish military authorities for their alleged “subversive” activities.
The Juventud organization, it turned out, was founded by Filipino secular priests like Frs. Jose Burgos, Mariano Gomez, Jacinto Zamora, and layman Joaquin Pardo de Tavera who were executed by the Spaniards due to their alleged involvement in the so-called “Cavite Mutiny” of 1872.
Because of Jose Mameng’s involvement in the “Juventud Escolar Liberal” chapter at the Ateneo de Manila Municipal, he became a “wanted” man. Fortunately, he was able to escape arrest, boarded a freight ship in Pangasinan and hid in Hongkong starting in 1896.
While staying in the so-called British Crown Colony, Jose Mameng and Lorenzo Zialcita (another rich boy from Orani) got involved in the activities of several Filipino expatriates like Emilio Aguinaldo, Gregorio del Pilar, Pedro Arellano, Tomas Arellano, Joaquin Alejandrino, Celestino Aragon, Jose Aragon, Isabelo Artacho, Primitivo Artacho, Vito Belarmino, Agapito Bonzon, Antonio Carlos, Eugenio dela Cruz, Agustin dela Rosa, Valentin Diaz, Salvador Estrella, Vitaliano Famular, Dr. Anastacio Francisco, Pedro Francisco, Francisco Frani, Maximo Kabigting, Vicente Kayton, Silvestre Legaspi, Teodoro Legaspi, Mariano Llanera, Doroteo Lopez, Vicente Lukban, Lazaro Macapagal, MiguelMalvar, Tomas Mascardo, Antonio Montenegro, Benito Natividad, Carlos Ronquillo, Manuel Tinio, Miguel Valenzuela, Wenceslao Viniegra. Escolastico Viola and Lino Viola. These expatriates, it turned out, were deported to Hongkong in late December 1897 as a condition of the “Treaty of Biak-na-Bato.”
Emilo Aguinaldo, through the help of his English interpreter Lorenzo Zialcita, connived with the Americans in Hongkong for his return to Manila in May 1898. Aguinaldo’s homecoming led to the successful liberation of the country from the Spaniards.
In 1899, Philippine President Emlio Aguinaldo led the Filipinos in the so-called Filipino-American War against the American colonizers. The latter won the struggle and started their occupation of the Philippines. In 1901, a civil government was established in the country.
Back to Bataan
Jose Mameng returned to the country in 1907, during the early years of American domination. It was the time when his friend and former exile Lorenzo Zialcita was already serving as governor of Bataan, from 1905 until 1907.
Unlike Jose Mameng, Zialcita returned to Manila in 1898 and became a Philippine Army officer. He joined President Emilo Aguinaldo’s Philippine Army with a rank of captain and became one of the unsung heroes of the war against the Spaniards in 1898 and against the Americans in 1899. Unfortunately, Jose Mameng was not a participant in those wars.
Upon his return to Balanga, Jose Mameng reunited with his parents and then married a childhood acquaintance named Lucila Tiangco Rosauro, sister of Mariano Rosauro who became the fifth governor of Bataan from 1910 until 1912. The Tiangcos were extremely rich and believed to have owned nearly half of Poblacion, Balanga, during the Spanish and American periods.
Lucila Tiangco Rosauro, a woman of high status in Balanga, had another sister named Rosa Tiangco Rosauro who was married to another Balanga landlord named Antonio Tuason Sr. (who became the town mayor of Balanga from 1928 until 1931).
The Tuason couple, Rosa and Antonio, were the parents of Emilia Tuason-Garcia, the mother of Enrique Tuason Garcia Jr.(who became governor and currently the congressman of Bataan, 2013-2016).
Jose Mameng also became a rich landowner by inheritance starting in 1915, or before the birth of his fifth child, Luz. He and Lucila built a seven-bedroom house along Zulueta Street in the Poblacion-Cataning area of Balanga. Said property is currently occupied by the Mormons Church.
Jose Mameng was also able to send his five daughters (Encarnacion, Rosario, Consuelo,Luz and Elisa) to study as internists at the Instituto de Mujeres in Tayuman Street, Manila. His four sons (Aurelio, Agustin, Antonio and Teodoro) studied at the Ateneo de Manila Municipal (his own alma mater) in Intramuros.
Luz, the fourth daughter, initially studied in Balanga. After completing her initial three years of primary education, she joined her elder sisters (Encarnacion, Rosario and Consuelo) at the Instituto de Mujeres in Manila where she continued and finished her elementary studies from Grades IV to VI and her high school education.
Jose Mameng, as expected of a man of high social and economic standing, took the political road and was elected as mayor of Balanga in 1916. He defeated the incumbent mayor and second cousin, Andres de Leon, during the June 4, 1916 polls. Luz was only one year old when her father ruled Balanga as town mayor.
Jose Mameng reigned from 1916 until 1919. His administration was the second four-year term in the history of Philippine politics. He was the town mayor of the capital town when Conrado Lerma, the seventh and incumbent governor of Bataan (1916-1918), was shot and killed by a former Bataan board member named Jose Baluyut of Orion inside the governor’s office of the Bataan capitol in the morning of August 3, 1918.
During the mayoralty polls held on June 3, 1919, Jose Mameng ran again for the same post but lost in his reelection bid against another cousin, Venancio Banzon, the father of Dr. Melanio Banzon Sr.,(former Balanga municipal health officer) and grandfather of Dr. Venancio Banzon, Dr. Cynthia Banzon, Engineer Melanio “Boyeng” Banzon Jr. and Raul Banzon of the Balanga Rural Bank. Venancio Banzon’s first administration covered from 1919 until 1922.
Despite the initial political setback in 1919, Jose Mameng continued spending a good part of his wealth to the fascinating power game. Unfortunately, he lost two more times to Mayor Venancio Banzon who was re-elected in 1922 (until 1925) and for the third time, in 1925 (until 1929). After a four-year break, Venancio Banzon ruled again in Balanga from 1931 until 1934.
Jose Mameng, meanwhile, finally learned his lessons. Instead of spending his wealth in politics, he aspired to become a transportation magnate in Balanga. He bought a small fleet of buses which plied the Balanga-Manila and Balanga-Olongapo routes.
He was very much alive and kicking when he was introduced to Ramon Magsaysay of Zambales who, in turned out, was an ardent suitor of his 16-year old daughter Luz. At that time, the young lady was still a third-year high school student at the Instituto de Mujeres in Manila.
It turned out that the two (Ramon and Luz) met for the first time at the TRY-TRAN bus terminal in Manila in 1931 when his wife Lucila and three daughters, including Luz, went to the terminal to collect the payment for the buses he sold to the Manila-based transportation company. He later found out that Ramon worked at TRY-TRAN as a mechanic.
The courtship lasted for two years, from 1931 until 1933. Jose Mameng cried when Ramon and Luz were married at the Lourdes Church of the Capuchin Order located inside the walls of Intramuros on June 10, 1933.
Ramon was almost twenty-six years old at that time and Luz had just completed her secondary education and would be 19 years old a month later. The couple resided in Manila after the wedding
After the sale of his buses, Jose Mameng returned and concentrated in agriculture. During the Japanese Occupation, in late 1942, Jose Mameng passed away at an evacuation camp in Hagonoy, Bulacan,due to lingering illness. His remains were brought to Balanga immediately after the war and buried at the Tenejero municipal cemetery.
His remains were later transferred to the Manila North Cemetery during the administration of President Ramon Magsaysay which covered from 1954 until 1957. Lucila Rosauro Banzon, a widow since 1942, took care of her eight remaining children until they were ready to go on their own. She witnessed the wedding of all her children and became a happy grandmother.
She also found time to regularly visit Luz and Ramon and their three children (Teresita, Milagros and Ramon Jr.) either in Manila or in Zambales. Sometimes, the Magsaysay family visited her and the whole Banzon family in Balanga, most specially during the town fiesta of St. Joseph, the patron of the capital town.
Lucila, the wife of Jose Mameng and mother of Luz Banzon, passed away in Manila in the 1950s. She too was buried at the North Cemetery in Manila.
To be continued……