BOOK REVIEW: My MacArthur, A Novel

by Rose Churma

Most Filipinos are familiar with the iconic image of Douglas MacArthur as he waded into the island of Leyte to fulfill the promise he made during the retreat of the American forces from the Philippines during the early stages of WWII.

“I shall return,” he promised, and he did, becoming the hero that liberated the Philippines and rebuilt Japan.In April 1930, MacArthur was the Commander of the Philippine Department of the U.S. Army, whose mission was to defend the Philippine Islands and train the Philippine Army.

He was in his 50s, divorced and considered one of the most powerful persons back then, when the Philippines was an American colony. He was also romantically obsessed with a young aspiring actress, a mestiza of Scottish-Chinese-Filipino ancestry named Isabel Rosario Cooper.

By November of that year, MacArthur was appointed the U.S. Army chief of staff, becoming the youngest four-star general of the US, eventually moving back to Washington D.C.—and persuading Isabel to join him in America without marrying her.

After four years of being MacArthur’s mistress, the relationship ended. To prevent a political scandal, MacArthur left Isabel. He moved on to become the U.S. military adviser to the Philippines during the pre-war years, eventually becoming the first Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers and a WWII hero.

Isabel Rosario Cooper’s fate was more tragic. Although both parties in the relationship broke many taboos during that era—MacArthur risked his career to have that liaison with Isabel—it was Isabel who paid the price.

When the relationship ended, Isabel could not find enough courage to return to Manila, moving to Los Angeles instead, getting married and divorced twice, and eventually meeting a tragic death.

This fictional account of MacArthur’s love affair with Isabel Rosario Cooper was based on available data and books on MacArthur’s well-documented life, which always mention this affair.

But very little was written about Isabel, and whatever was written about her was noted in the footnotes. Thus, the author, Cindy Fazzi, calls her “the Filipino girl in the MacArthur footnotes,” and this is her attempt to shine a light on this Filipina “who, against all odds, was not afraid to live the life she wanted.”

MacArthur was generally seen as the Philippines’ liberator, a WWII hero. Others view him as an opportunist who used the Philippines to advance his career. He is probably a bit of both.

This book evokes the complicated relationship MacArthur had with the Philippines, and to some degree reflects the complex and conflicting links of the Philippines with its former colonizer.

Cindy Fazzi is a Filipino-American writer who has worked as a journalist in the Philippines, Taiwan, and the United States. A former Associated Press reporter, this book is her literary debut. She also writes romance novels under a pen name and is soon to release a mystery thriller novel. She also writes short stories that have been published in various literary publications.

ROSE CHURMA
 established a career in architecture 40 years ago, specializing in judicial facilities planning. As a retired architect, she now has the time to do the things she always wanted to do: read books and write about them, as well as encourage others to write.

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