Biography of the Philippine presidents

Table of Content

Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy (Term: January 23,1899-April 1, 1901)

Emilio Aguinaldo was born on March 23, 1869 in Cavite Viejo (Kawit) to Carlos Aguinaldo and Trinidad Famy, a Chinese mestizo couple who had eight children, the seventh of whom was Emilio. The Aguinaldo family was quite well-to-do, as Carlos Aguinaldo was the community’s appointed gobernadorcillo. Emilio became the Cabeza de Barangay of Binakayan, a chief barrio of Cavite del Viejo, when he was only 17 years old. In 1895, a law that called for the reorganization of local governments was enacted. At the age of 26, Aguinaldo became Cavite Viejo’s first captain municipal.

Aguinaldo, a Filipino general, politician, and independence leader, played a vital role in the Philippines’ revolution against Spain and the subsequent Philippine-American War. He became the country’s first president and achieved this at the young age of 29. Aguinaldo holds the distinction of being the longest-lived former president, surviving until the age of 94. Moreover, he outlived the most number of his successors. Starting as a member of the Magdalo chapter of Katipunan in Cavite, Aguinaldo was elected as the president of the revolutionary government at the Tejeros Convention on March 22, 1897, and later led the Biak na Bato Republic. He proclaimed Philippine Independence on June 12, 1898, at Kawit. However, his capture marked the decline of large-scale armed resistance to American Rule.

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Manuel Luis Quezon y Molina (Term: November 15, 1935-August 1, 1944)

Quezon, originally from Baler in the district of El Principe (Baler, Aurora), was born to Spanish parents, Lucio Quezon and Maria Dolores Molina. His father, a retired sergeant of the Spanish colonial army and a primary grade school teacher from Paco, Manila, and his mother, a primary school teacher. In the September 1935 elections held to select the head of the Commonwealth Government, Quezon emerged as the winner. This government was made possible by the Tydings-McDuffie Law, which Quezon managed to secure from the U.S. Having become the recognized leader in Philippine politics, Quezon’s background and experience were highly appealing to Filipinos.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in arts, studied law, and placed fourth in the 1903 Bar examinations. He actively participated in the revolution, fighting in Tarlac, Pampanga, and Bataan, eventually becoming a major. From 1935 to 1944, he served as the first Filipino president of the Commonwealth of the Philippines during American rule. Known as the “Father of the National Language,” he advocated for amendments to the 1935 Constitution that promoted using Filipino-language. The Japanese invasion disrupted the Commonwealth Government in 1941, leading Quezon and his administration to seek exile in the United States. Tragically, he died on August 1, 1944 while in New York City.

Jose Paciano Laurel y Garcia (Term: October 14, 1943-August 17, 1945)

José Paciano Laurel y García was born on March 9, 1891 in Tanauan, Batangas. His parents were Sotero Laurel, Sr. and Jacoba García. Sotero Laurel, Sr. had served as a former official in Emilio Aguinaldo’s revolutionary government and was also a signatory to the 1898 Malolos Constitution.

During his youth, Laurel found himself facing legal trouble when he was charged with attempted murder. This happened after he nearly killed a rival suitor of his girlfriend using a Batangas fan knife. However, he skillfully defended himself in court and was acquitted.

In 1915, Laurel graduated from the University of the Philippines College of Law where Dean George A. Malcolm mentored him. Interestingly enough, he would go on to replace Malcolm on the Supreme Court later on.

Later in 1919, Laure earned a Master of Laws degree from the University of Santo Tomas before pursuing further studies at Yale Law School where he obtained his Doctorate of Law.

Laurel’s public service journey began during his time as a student. He started as a messenger in the Bureau of Forestry and later became a clerk in the Code Committee, responsible for codifying Philippine laws. It was during this time that he met Thomas A. Street, who would become a future Supreme Court Justice and serve as his mentor.

Throughout his career, Laurel held various positions. He served as President of the Second Republic from 1943 to 1945, Secretary of the Interior in 1923, Senator from 1925 to 1931, delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1934, and Chief Justice during the Commonwealth era.

During World War II, Quezon instructed Laurel to stay in Manila and negotiate with the Japanese forces to minimize their impact on Filipino interests. As President, he defended Filipino interests and resisted attempts by Japan to conscript Filipinos into their military.

After American forces returned, Laurel was imprisoned in Japan when Douglas Macarthur occupied the country. Eventually brought back to the Philippines, he faced treason charges which were dropped when President Roxas granted him amnesty.

In the Third Republic, Laurel was elected senator and played a crucial role in negotiating the Laurel-Langley Agreement.

Sergio Osmeña y Suico (Term: August 1, 1944-May 28, 1946)

Sergio Osmeña was born in Cebu to Cebu Chinese tycoon Don Pedro Lee Gotiaoco and Juana Osmeña y Suico. Juana was reportedly only 14 years old when she gave birth to him. Despite being illegitimate and his father’s identity being a closely guarded secret, this did not hinder his status in society. The Osmeña family, a wealthy and influential Chinese Filipino clan with significant business interests in Cebu, embraced him as he gained prominence in local society. He became the first Filipino national leader under the American regime as the speaker of the Philippine assembly and went on to serve as the second president of the Philippines from 1944 to 1946.

Manuel Acuña Roxas (Term: May 28, 1946-April 15, 1948)

Roxas was born on January 1, 1892 in Capiz (Roxas City) to Gerardo Roxas, Sr. and Rosario Acuña. Tragically, his father passed away the previous year from injuries inflicted by Spanish guardias civiles. Roxas and his older brother, Mamerto, were raised by their mother and grandfather, Don Eleuterio Acuña.
He received his early education in the public schools of Capiz and later attended St. Joseph’s Academy in Taiwan when he was twelve years old. However, he returned to Capiz due to homesickness. Afterward, he transferred to Manila High School (Araullo High School), where he graduated with honors in 1909.
Initially, Roxas began studying law at a private law school founded by George A. Malcolm, who served as the first dean of the University of the Philippines College of Law. In his second year, he switched to the University of the Philippines where he was elected president of both his class and the student council.
In 1913, Roxas completed his law degree and graduated as class valedictorian while also achieving the highest score on that year’s bar examinations with a grade of 92%.
Roxas served as both the last president of the Philippine Commonwealth and became the first president of the republic from 1946 to 1948.

Elpidio Rivera Quirino (Term: April 17, 1948-December 30, 1953)

Elpidio Quirino was born in Vigan, Ilocos Sur to Don Mariano Quirino of Caoayan and Doña Gregoria Mendoza Rivera of Agoo, La Union. He grew up in Aringay, La Union and studied in Caoayan for elementary school. Later, he attended Vigan High School before moving to Manila.

In Manila, he worked at the Bureau of Lands as a junior computer technician and at the Manila police department as a property clerk. In 1911, he graduated from Manila High School and passed the civil service examination for the first grade. He then pursued higher education at the University of the Philippines, where he obtained his law degree from the College of Law in 1915 and became a lawyer that same year.

Before becoming president, Quirino served as vice president during Manuel Roxas’s term and held the position of secretary of foreign affairs. After Roxas’s death in 1948, Quirino assumed the presidency and was elected as president in 1949.

Ramon del Fierro Magsaysay (Term: December 30, 1953-March 17,1957)

Ramón del Fierro Magsaysay, born on August 31, 1907 in Iba, Zambales, was the son of Exequiel Magsaysay (1874-1968), a blacksmith, and Perfecta del Fierro (1887-1980), a schoolteacher. He finished high school at Zambales Academy in San Narciso, Zambales while working as a chauffeur to support himself. In 1927, he enrolled in a pre-engineering course at the University of the Philippines before transferring to José Rizal College (1928–1932) where he obtained a commerce degree. After his studies, he worked as an automobile mechanic for a bus company and served as a shop superintendent.

Later on, Magsaysay became President Quirino’s secretary of defense and then went on to serve as the President of the Philippines from 1953 to 1957. During his presidency, he played a crucial role in suppressing the HUK rebellion and achieved significant milestones such as advocating for the passage of acts like the Agricultural Tenancy Act in 1954 and the Retail Trade Nationalization Act. He also focused on revising the Bell Trade Act and became recognized as the first president who successfully renegotiated the US Military Bases agreement to better align with Philippine interests.

Carlos Polistico Garcia (Term: March 18, 1957-December 30, 1961)

García was born in Talibon, Bohol. His parents were Policronio García and Ambrosia Polistico (from Bangued, Abra). García’s father served as a municipal mayor for four terms, so politics played a significant role in his upbringing. He received his primary education in Talibon and then attended Cebu Provincial High School for his secondary education. Initially, he went to Silliman University in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental for college but later transferred to the Philippine Law School (now Philippine College of Criminology), where he graduated with a law degree in 1923. Impressively, he ranked among the top ten in the bar examination.

Instead of immediately practicing law, García spent two years working as a teacher at Bohol Provincial High School. He gained recognition for his poetry in Bohol and was known as the “Prince of Visayan Poets” and the “Bard from Bohol”.

From 1957 to 1961, he served as the President of the Philippines and implemented the Filipino First Policy.

Furthermore, García was one of the founders of the Association for Southeast Asia (1963), which later evolved into the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Diosdado Pangan Macapagal (Term: December 30, 1961-December 30, 1965)

Diosdado Macapagal was born on September 28, 1910 in Lubao, Pampanga. He came from a humble family and had three siblings. His father, Urbano Macapagal, was a well-known poet in the Pampangan language, while his mother, Romana Pangan Macapagal, worked as a catechism schoolteacher. Diosdado’s ancestry can be traced back to Don Juan Macapagal, a prince of Tondo and the great-grandson of the last Rajah Lakandula. To supplement their income, the family raised pigs and took in boarders. Despite growing up in poverty, Diosdado excelled academically; he became valedictorian at Lubao Elementary School and salutatorian at Pampanga High School. He initially pursued pre-law studies at the University of the Philippines but had to discontinue after two years due to poor health and financial difficulties.

Macapagal returned to Pampanga and collaborated with his childhood friend Rogelio de la Rosa to create and star in Tagalog operettas. In 1938, he married Purita de la Rosa and they had two children, Cielo and Arturo. Despite financial difficulties, Macapagal continued his education at the University of Santo Tomas. He obtained his Bachelor of Laws degree in 1936 and performed exceptionally well in the bar examination that same year. He pursued further studies at his alma mater, completing a Master of Laws degree in 1941, a Doctor of Civil Law degree in 1947, and a PhD in Economics in 1957.

During his presidency from 1961 to 1965, Macapagal played a crucial role in passing the Agricultural Land Reform Code which sought to replace share tenancy with a leasehold system. This significant legislation was approved on August 8, 1963 as part of efforts to address agrarian issues affecting the country.

Another noteworthy accomplishment during Macapagal’s presidency was changing Independence Day from July 4 to June 12. This date commemorates General Aguinaldo’s declaration of Philippine independence in Cavite.

Ferdinand Emmanuel Edralin Marcos, Sr. (Term: December 30, 1965-February 25, 1986)

Ferdinand Edralin Marcos, born on September 11, 1917 in Sarrat, Ilocos Norte, was the President of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986. His parents were Mariano Marcos and Josefa Edralin. According to family history, their original surname was Quidit and they had Han Chinese and Japanese ancestry. Marcos once claimed descent from Limahong, a famous 15th century Chinese pirate. Rumors in the Chinese community suggest that he is the illegitimate child of Judge Chua and Josefa Edralin, making him half-Chinese by blood. On September 21, 1972, Marcos declared martial law. However, following the People Power revolution in February 1986, he was ousted from power and fled into exile in Honolulu, Hawaii.

María Corazón Sumulong “Cory” Cojuangco Aquino (Term: February 25, 1986-June 30, 1992)

María Corazón “Cory” Sumulong Cojuangco was born on January 25, 1933, in Paniqui, Tarlac. She was the fourth child of José Cojuangco, Sr. and Demetria Sumulong.

Aquino’s siblings included Pedro, Josephine, Teresita, Jose, Jr., and Maria Paz. Both of her parents came from prominent clans. Her father was a notable businessman and politician in Tarlac while her great-grandfather, Melecio Cojuangco, was a member of the historic Malolos Congress. Her mother Demetria belonged to the politically influential Sumulong family of Rizal.

Juan Sumulong, a prominent clan member ran against Manuel L. Quezon in the 1941 Commonwealth Presidential elections.

During her elementary school years at St. Scholastica’s College in Manila Aquino graduated as valedictorian at the top of her class. She then transferred to Assumption Convent for her first year of high school before continuing her education in the United States.

She attended the College of Mount Saint Vincent in New York City, where she studied Mathematics and French. From 1986 to 1992, she held the position of President of the Philippines. Alongside Salvador Laurel as her running mate, she led the opposition that effectively ousted Marcos’ authoritarian regime and caused his exile following the People’s Power revolution in 1986. At first, she established a revolutionary government through the Freedom Constitution, which was subsequently replaced by the Constitution of 1987, serving as a framework for restoring democracy.

Fidel Valdez Ramos (Term: June 30, 1992- June 30, 1998)

Fidel Ramos was born on March 18, 1928 in Lingayen, Pangasinan. His father, Narciso Ramos, was a lawyer, journalist and 5-term legislator of the House of Representatives. His mother, Angela Valdez-Ramos, was an educator, woman suffragette and daughter of the respected Valdez clan of Batac, Ilocos Norte making him a second degree cousin to Ferdinand Marcos. Ramos received secondary education at the Centro Escolar University in Manila. Afterwards he went to America and he graduated from the United States Military Academy, with Bachelor of Science and the University of Illinois, with a masters degree in civil engineering. He also holds a master’s degree in National Security Administration from the National Defense College of the Philippines and a Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) from the Ateneo de Manila University. President of the Philippines from 1992 to 1997. As head of the Constabulary under President Marcos, he was instrumental in helping to design and implement martial law. Together with General Ponce Enrile and the RAM, he defected from the government in 1986 and joined the People’s Power revolution that ousted Marcos from power. His presidency is remembered for better integrating the national economy in the global scheme.

Joseph “Erap” Ejercito Estrada (Term: June 30, 1998-January 20, 2001) Joseph

Born on April 19, 1937 in Tondo, Manila, Ejercito Estrada belonged to an upper-middle-class family. He was the eighth child out of ten, with his parents being Emilio Ejercito and Maria Marcelo. After being expelled from Ateneo de Manila University during his primary studies, he attempted to please his father by enrolling in an engineering course at Mapua Institute of Technology but later dropped out. Ejercito Estrada became the President of the Philippines from 1998 to 2001. However, his presidency was marred by allegations of bribery and corruption, leading to a congressional impeachment hearing. Although the trial was stopped after the senators voted against presenting incriminating evidence, he was still peacefully ousted from power due to the People’s Power II revolution and calls for his resignation.

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (Term: January 20, 2001-June 30, 2010)

María Gloria Macaraeg Macapagal was born to politician Diosdado Macapagal and his wife, Evangelina Macaraeg-Macapagal. She has two siblings, Dr. Diosdado “Boboy” Macapagal Jr. and Cielo Macapagal-Salgado. During her early years, she resided in Lubao, Pampanga along with her two older siblings from her father’s previous marriage. At the age of four, she opted to live with her maternal grandmother in Iligan City. After three years, she divided her time between Mindanao and Manila until she reached eleven. She is proficient in English, Tagalog, Spanish, as well as several other Philippine languages which include Kapampangan, Ilokano, and Cebuano. In 1961, at the age of 14, her father assumed the presidency and their entire family relocated to Malacañang Palace in Manila.

The municipality of Gloria in Oriental Mindoro was named in her honor. She attended Assumption Convent and graduated as valedictorian in 1964. Arroyo then studied at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service in Washington, D.C., where she was classmates with future United States President Bill Clinton and consistently achieved Dean’s list status. She later graduated magna cum laude from Assumption College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics in 1968. Currently, she is the president of the Philippines and previously served as vice president under President Estrada. She assumed the presidency through the People’s Power II revolution after President Estrada was forced to step down due to malfeasance. PGMA, like her father President Diosdado Macapagal, has faced similar challenges in combating corruption in government. Despite opposition, her government maintains its political legitimacy.

Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III, also known as Noynoy Aquino or PNoy, is a Filipino politician who has been the 15th President of the Philippines since June 2010. Born on February 8, 1960, in Manila, he is the third of the five children of Benigno S. Aquino, Jr., who was then the Vice Governor of Tarlac province, and Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino, former President of the Philippines. Aquino has four sisters: Maria Elena (Ballsy) Aquino-Cruz, Aurora Corazon (Pinky) Aquino-Abellada, Victoria Elisa (Viel) Aquino-Dee, and Kristina Bernadette (Kris) Aquino. He attended Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City for his elementary, high school, and college education. Aquino graduated in 1981 with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics.

The Presidency of Benigno S. Aquino III began at noon on June 30, 2010 when he became the fifteenth President of the Philippines, succeeding Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He holds the distinction of being the third youngest president and the first president to be a bachelor, being unmarried and having no children.

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Biography of the Philippine presidents. (2016, Nov 24). Retrieved from

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