During the three years of Japanese occupation of the Philippines, stocky, brilliant Tomás Confesor, 54, hid out in the lofty, mist-drenched mountains of Panay. There he calmly continued to conduct the affairs of his office as governor in exile of Iloilo Province and later of all Panay.
Last week, when U.S. troops swarmed on to Panay (see WORLD BATTLEFRONTS), Tomás Confesor was gone. He was in Manila, where President Sergio Osmena had appointed him Secretary of Interior in the new Cabinet (see cut). He was also the Mayor of Manila.
In his two new posts Tomás Confesor was both happy and busy. The long hideout had given him time to think of a lot that needed doing. His timetable of reconstruction and reform was a 25-year-plan for the Philippines.
First the Present. Confesor had been realistic enough not to let his dreams for the future interfere with the harsh needs of the present. For the Filipinos he had scheduled first the plain, hard job of rebuilding bridges, highways, railroads, schools, re-establishment of banking and retail trade, restoring the administrative functions of civil government.
For the future, workers were promised a 48-hour week, abolition of child labor, equal pay standards for men & women, medical and health benefits. Youths 18 to 20 would serve on forest and soil conservation projects. There would be Govern ment supervision of schools, and Confesor hoped that within 25 years illiteracy (reduced from approximately 90% to 51% since the U.S. took possession in 1899) could be eliminated. Water and land transportation would be socialized, and large retail cooperatives established.
Flight to Panay. The son of a farmer-schoolteacher in Iloilo, Confesor came to the U.S. as a youngster, worked his way through three years at the University of California. Later he graduated from the University of Chicago, where he majored in municipal government and economics. He was in Manila, as chief of the National Cooperatives Association and also gover nor of Iloilo, when the Japs arrived, got away to Panay in a small sailboat. When he struck out for the hills, he took with him his wife and three children.
When the Japs failed to capture Tomás Confesor, they tried persuasion. The puppet governor of Iloilo begged Confesor to return, to bring "peace and tranquillity to our people." Confesor's reply has become a classic of resistance literature: "This war has placed us in the crucible to assay the metal in our being. . . . You underrate the nobility and grandeur of the character and soul of the Filipino. . . . I will not surrender as long as I stand on my feet." Firmly on his feet last week, Confesor was ready to start clearing up battered Manila, preparing to rebuild the Philippines. His first principle for rebuilding: wide streets, no slums