- The Diplomat-Scholar: A Biography of Leon Ma. Guerrero by Erwin S. Fernandez
The Diplomat-Scholar: A Biography of Leon Ma. Guerrero
Singapore: ISEAS Publishing, 2017. 359 pages.
Erwin S. Fernandez is a biographer, poet, and local historian with graduate and baccalaureate degrees from the University of the Philippines-Diliman. He used to be a lecturer both at the Department of History and the Department of Filipino and Philippine Literature of the said university. At present, he is the director of Abung na Panagbasay Pangasinan (House of Pangasinan Studies), an independent research center promoting Pangasinan studies. He has published extensively on topics that include Philippine diplomacy, social movements, and the local history of his home province of Pangasinan. The Diplomat-Scholar: A Biography of Leon Ma. Guerrero is a historical and biographical account of one of the prominent Filipino diplomats in the Cold War.
Because Guerrero is a controversial figure in Philippine diplomacy and is widely known for his "Asia for Asians" advocacy and realist foreign policy approach during the Cold War, Fernandez situates his life in the evolution and development of Philippine diplomacy. Fernandez claims that this book is his interpretation of Guerrero's story, "holding on to the precepts of traditional and modern life-writing and relying on the sources and the recognition of their limitation" (5). By doing so, he applies "transnational and comparative contextual analyses" (5) in his inquiry into Guerrero's life, positing that a descriptive historical approach may suffice but will not be adequate to understand the diplomat-scholar amid the broader intellectual developments at that time. He asserts that, for the purpose of the book's authenticity, Guerrero's voice is reechoed from his speeches and interviews, although he admits that gaps might exist in his narrative which cannot be supplied by historical sources. [End Page 119]
The book is organized in five parts, with a total of twenty-five chapters. Each chapter describes an episode in Guerrero's life, starting from his bourgeois lineage and Jesuit education at the Ateneo de Manila to his career as a literary critic, playwright actor, journalist, government lawyer, and ultimately a pioneering Filipino diplomat. Fernandez shows that Guerrero's grounding as part of the landed Manila-based Guerrero family is contradictory to his nationalist and realist stand on Philippine foreign policy during the Cold War. Likewise, Guerrero's upbringing goes against his "Americanization" at the Ateneo, where he excelled in what Fernandez terms Guerrero's "Anglo-American models" for his literary writing and versatility. Fernandez narrates how Guerrero made use of the Guidon, Ateneo's student publication of which he was once editor-in-chief, as a literary medium not to support the American colonial masters but to defend the former Spanish rulers and ultimately the Roman Catholic Church, which Guerrero believed could eventually "save the world from itself" (35). Although Guerrero was proficient in English and appreciative of American culture as shown by his exemplary marks at the Ateneo, Fernandez argues that Guerrero maintained his "pro-Hispanic, pro-Catholic sentiments nurtured in his home," while also "denying the richness of indigenous culture" (35). Equally, while Guerrero can be considered a liberal progressive in his foreign policy stance, Fernandez depicts him as an avid defender of strong leaders like Manuel Quezon and Ferdinand Marcos. These paradoxes in Guerrero's life—which Fernandez presents to reveal the kind of nationalism Guerrero imbibed—are the main concerns of this book, as Fernandez traces the origins and resulting effects of Guerrero's nationalist standpoint. The author also demonstrates how institutions like the Ateneo created social networks for Guerrero in his later years in journalism, law, and diplomacy.
What is commendable about The Diplomat-Scholar is the meticulous utilization of sources. There is no doubt that Fernandez's employment of Guerrero's speeches and interviews allows him to reecho the diplomat-scholar's voice as Guerrero pursued his advocacy for close relations with socialist countries, diplomacy of development, the reexamination of Philippine–US relations, and defense of martial law in the international community. The narrative is engaging in that it invites readers to do further research to satisfy their thirst for...