Filipino nationalist politician, president 1935–44. Quezon was elected the first president of the Philippine Commonwealth. He established a highly centralized government, verging on one-man rule, but displayed great courage during the Japanese onslaught on General Douglas MacArthur's defences in 1941, refusing to evacuate to the USA until appealed to by President Franklin Roosevelt. From 1942 he led a government in exile, until his death at Saranac Lake, New York, USA.
Quezon served in the first native Filipino assembly 1907–09, where he was elected speaker and began his long political association with Sergio Osmeña, champion of the Filipino independence movement. In 1909 he went to Washington, DC, as one of the resident Philippine commissioners and began to work for his country's independence. His efforts resulted in the Jones Act (1916), which provided for greater autonomy and eventual independence. He was elected to the senate in 1916 and chosen as its president, the highest elective office in the country at the time; he remained in this position until 1935. He spoke out against the imperious administration of Governor General Leonard Wood 1921–27, and in 1934 helped secure the passage of the Tydings–McDuffie Bill, which established the Commonwealth of the Philippines and promised full independence in 1946. Elected president in 1935, he invited the US general, Douglas MacArthur, to become his military adviser and organize the Philippine's armed forces. His second term was inaugurated in an air-raid shelter in December 1941, and in 1942 he left the island and joined MacArthur in Australia. A bill was passed by the US congress to enable him to retain the office of president until the islands were cleared of Japanese, but he died from tuberculosis in 1944.
Quezon was born in Baler, Luzon, and studied at Manila, graduating from the College of San Juan de Letran in 1893. While still a law student, he joined Emilio Aguinaldo's insurrectionary army, which fought US forces 1898–1901. He was briefly imprisoned for his role in the insurrection. Later he studied law at the University of San Tomás, and in 1903 was admitted to the bar. In 1905 he was elected governor of Tayabas province, marking the beginning of his political career.
The new capital of the Philippines on the island of Luzon is named after him, as was Tayabas province, in 1946.