Beyond their stiff portraits hanging at Malacañang, Philippine presidents are actually fascinating specimens worth studying again and again.
Just like many of us, these iconic leaders once struggled to find their true identity, committed mistakes and even fought in the name of love.
And since you loved these vintage presidential photos, let’s once again travel back in time and uncover some of the lesser-known facts about our beloved Philippine presidents.
6. Sergio Osmeña was an illegitimate child
Sergio Osmeña (left) and Don Pedro Lee Gotiaoco (right). Source: The Philippine STAR
Sergio Osmeña, also known as the oldest Philippine president to hold office, was an illegitimate child. He was born in Cebu to 14-year old Chinese mestiza named Juana Suico Osmeña. His father, on the other hand, is long believed to be Don Pedro Lee Gotiaoco, a wealthy 19th-century Chinese immigrant who became well-known in Cebu as an entrepreneur, philanthropist and community leader.
Born out of wedlock, the late president used his mother’s surname to avoid the stigma from the Catholic society. But this doesn’t mean Gotiaoco completely abandoned his son. John L. Gokongwei, Jr., Gotiaoco’s great-grandson, confirmed in The Philippine STAR that he had personally seen documents proving that the Chinese immigrant indeed financed the late president’s education.
5. Ferdinand Marcos and his dirty, naughty sex scandal
Ferdinand Marcos (left) had a short-lived affair with Hollywood starlet Dovie Beams (right) between 1968 and 1970.
On November 11, 1970, the whole nation was shocked when American actress Dovie Beams called a press conference, bringing with her a tape recorder containing erotic murmurs, moans and the genuine voice of President Marcos while making love with Beams.
The actress came in the Philippines to film Maharlika, a movie about the president’s war exploits and partially funded by Marcos himself. As the casual encounter blossomed into a full-blown love affair, so did the start of Beam’s penchant for hiding a tape recorder every time they made love.
Her affair with Marcos, although secretly guarded by the presidential aides, was finally pushed to the public spotlight after Beams received several death threats. Marcos then denied all allegations, even putting Beams to shame by branding her as a “psychiatry case” and releasing nude Polaroid photographs of her in the newspapers.
In turn, Beams released more sex tapes as well as clippings of the president’s pubic hair.
4. Jose P. Laurel was involved in a bloody fight and nearly killed someone–all after kissing a girl
A young Jose P. Laurel as a student at Yale University, where he obtained a doctorate in Civil Law. Source: malacanang.gov.ph
On December 26, 1909, a young woman named Concepcion Lat was walking along a street in Tanauan, Batangas with several other young people, including her suitor Exequiel Castillo.
Then, out of the blue, Jose P. Laurel, who was only 18 years old at that time, approached Concepcion and gave her a quick kiss. It was later revealed that Laurel courted the girl for a year until Castillo took over.
The following night, a confrontation between the two men occurred within the parochial building of the pueblo. The invitation was allegedly given by Castillo, who was obviously offended by Laurel’s action towards his sweetheart the night before. After a brief verbal exchange, Castillo allegedly struck Laurel with a cane. The latter, in self-defense, attacked Castillo with a pocketknife.
The young Laurel was indicted for attempted murder but was later acquitted after Castillo was proven guilty of provoking the incident.
3. A disgruntled barber almost killed Manuel Roxas
The late President Manuel Roxas (left) and his would-be assassin, Julio Guillen (right). Source: The Manila Standard (November 8, 1989 issue, page 21).
On the night of March 10, 1947, President Manuel Roxas was speaking about the parity rights in front of nearly 25, 000 people in Plaza Miranda. Then, at exactly 10:43 PM, a man later identified as Julio Guillen y Corpuz stood up on a rattan chair, grabbed a hand grenade from the bag of peanuts he was carrying and threw it into the platform.
Fortunately, then-Senate President Jose Avelino was vigilant enough to saw the grenade and kicked it away. As the explosive rolled towards the stairs, Brig. Gen. Mariano Castañeda gave it another kick as he covered President Roxas with his body. It eventually exploded near the audience, killing two and leaving a dozen people wounded.
Thanks to eyewitnesses, the culprit was arrested merely two hours after the assassination attempt. Guillen, a barber by profession and also the owner of a barber shop, was executed using an electric chair on April 26, 1950.
2. As a terrific hunter, Emilio Aguinaldo once killed an eighteen-foot crocodile.
An old halftone image of young General Emilio Aguinaldo (left). Source: Flickr
In the article “Presidents At Play”, author Filemon V. Tutay explored the lives of some of the earliest Philippine presidents and their favorite recreational activities. Among its fascinating discoveries was that of the late President Emilio Aguinaldo. As a man with no “vices”, the young general spent most of his time riding horses, swimming and hunting.
Interestingly, the young Aguinaldo once killed a prize eighteen-foot crocodile in the marshes somewhere along the northern shore of Manila Bay. The preserved body of this humongous animal once decorated the Rizal Hall at the University of the Philippines.
1. Noynoy Aquino has one bullet still embedded in his neck
A screencap of Noynoy Aquino gesturing to the patched-up gunshot wound in his neck. Source: National Geographic Channel
On August 28, 1987, rebel soldiers of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) led by Colonel Gregorio Honasan staged a coup attempt with the desire to seize control of Malacañang.
The group gunned down members of the Presidential Security Group and wounded the President’s son, Benigno S. Aquino III. In total, three of Noynoy’s security escorts were killed while leaving another one seriously wounded. Noynoy, on the other hand, was hit by five bullets, one of which is still lodged in his neck.
Later in his political career, Aquino trained to become a sharpshooter, probably due to his near-death experience in 1987. He was the 2003 champion of the 1st Speaker Jose de Venecia Cup Shooting Competition held in Marikina City.
- Manuel Quezon saved 1,200 Holocaust Jews. Read full story here.
- Elpidio Quirino was the first Filipino to appear on television. Read full story here.
- Ramon Magsaysay’s plane crash was probably caused by several baskets of mangoes. Read full story here.
- Cory Aquino’s favorite color was RED, not YELLOW. Read full story here.