‘These no longer belong to me and my family. These belong to the Filipino people and the children.’
Out of the four Philippine Constitutions, it was the 1935 Constitution that was said to be the best-written one according to a story by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP). While it is not perfect, it has contributed a lot to what our government today is and, ultimately, became one of the symbols of our nation’s independence.
A quick look back, it was on July 30, 1934 when over 200 men grouped together at the Legislative Building to write one of the most important documents in Philippine history, which was the 1935 Constitution. According to historian Jose Victor Z. Torre, “these men were elected by the people to frame the fundamental law that created the Commonwealth Government and began the nation’s road to independence from American rule.”
Leading those men is the bright Filipino statesman, the president of the 1934 Constitutional Convention, Claro M. Recto.
Although the 1935 Constitution is a vital part of our history, much of its paperwork have been illusive to public eye. Richard Recto, Claro’s grandson, has been doing the ground work in searching for materials related to the the Constitution.
“I checked with the Senate, the Congress, Malacañang, and other public libraries and government museums I can get my hands on, I have spoken to a lot of people, and there is no copy comparative to the ones I have,” Richard tells Manila Bulletin Lifestyle.
Passed on to him by his mother and father, the copies of the Constitution Richard have in his possession are the legitimate ones own and kept by his grandfather. With anecdotes, ink blots, and smudges to prove its authenticity, these copies have been safely hidden in a bank vault or in a personal vault. But now, things are about to change as these historical documents are about to make their public debut.
The León Exchange XIX will feature not just one but four important books all owned by Claro M. Recto. And to tell more about these, the former vice governor of Batangas shares exlcusive details Filipinos must know about the books.
The Constitution books
First is the “Discurso.” A book all written in Spanish is Claro’s last words to close the Convention and where he discussed the importance of the Constitution to the country. It was one of the two books dedicated to his wife Aurora Reyes. In the book, he penned her a message in Spanish that reads, “A mi adorada esposa (to my beloved wife),” with the date Feb. 8, 1935, the day the Constitution was approved by the Convention.
Next is a copy of the Constitution that bears the signature of Claro and the secretary of the Constitution, Narciso Pimentel, but not of the other delegates of the Convention. It was the other book Claro gifted to his wife. Inside it is a message to her, this time in English that says, “To my beloved wife.”
The third copy is written in English. It doesn’t have Claro’s signature, nor the secretary, but it has all the president’s notes regarding provisions and a portion of the Constitution.
“You can tell that he wrote these notes on the different pages of that copy on different days and times,” says Richard. “It is a portal into the mind of the Constitution’s president, of my grandfather. In his notes, he talks about the rights and privileges of Filipinos, the authority of the government, and so many things which we, up to this day, still discuss. People will certainly appreciate the genius of the man.”
The fourth copy has Claro’s signature, the secretary’s, and of everyone who was part of the Convention. It is the original copy belonging to the president of the Constitution, and, according to Richard, one of the delegates even tried to sign it with his own blood.
Gifts for the Filipino
Love for the country, appreciation for history, understanding our place in the world and who and what we are, and to move forward to make life better for all are some of the lessons Richard learned from the life of his grandfather. He believes that these books are not just vital in reminding everyone about the legacy of Claro M. Recto, but also in instilling in their minds the memories of the Constitution, what it stands for and what we should learn from it.
“I wish that these end up with an individual or an institution that is able to provide it a better home for the public to enjoy. They were given to me by my parents and so I figured it is about time they go back to where they belong, in the public domain,” he says. “These no longer belong to me and my family. These belongs to the Filipino people and the children.”