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PAULINO SANTOS: A GENERAL,
AND MY GRANDFATHER
BY AMADO SANTOS MUNDA
- The tall slim brown-skinned Constabulary officer, a newly-promoted lieutenant, stared unflinchingly at the heavily-fortified Moro kota
then confidently spoke to his American commanding officer:“Colonel Waloe, Sir, this is a Filipino fight so let me have the honor of leading the attack.” When his leader consented, he took a bamboo ladder, leaned it against the ramparts, climbed it and led his American and Filipino men. He personally killed many Moro rebels and his troops finally overpowered and conquered the Moro stronghold despite receiving a near-fatal wound in the neck.
- This gallant Filipino officer was 1st Lieutenant Paulino Santos and for his act of bravery on this bloody day in 1917, on this fort called
Bayang Cota, by the placid waters of Lake Lanao, Lt. Santos would later be awarded his country’s highest honor for bravery – the Medal of Valor.
- But let me backtrack to the beginning of the legend of my grandfather.
II. THE EARLY YEARS
- My mother, the General’s eldest child, tells me that I have the distinction of being the only grandchild that my grandfather held in his
arms when I was born on February 19, 1945. At the time he and his family did realize that in about a year and 6 months, he would be dead, a victim of the war.
- One of the most remarkable facts about my grandfather, the General was that he was only 55 years old when he died – yet he
accomplished many feats: he was a teacher, a soldier who rose from Private to Major General heading the Philippine Army, a National Director of Penal Institutions, and the founder of a city later named after him.
- He lived through three colonization eras: he was born in 1890 and spent his boyhood years when the Philippines was still under Spain;
lived most of his adult life during the American Commonwealth times; and then died in 1945 during the waning years of the Japanese occupation.
- In 1898 when Santos was 8 years old, the Spanish colonial rule effectively ended with the defeat of Montojo’s Spanish naval fleet at the
Battle of Manila Bay by Commodore George Dewey’s American forces. Santos was 11 years old when General Emilio Aguinaldo was captured by the Americans an event which marked effectively the start of the American Colonial rule – a government headed by a succession of American Governor Generals: Francis Harrison (1913-20), Leonard Wood (1921-7), Henry Stimson (1928-9), Dwight Davis (1927-32), Theodore Roosevelt (1932-3) and Frank Murphy (1933-5). It must be noted that much of Santos’ military career was served under these American Governor Generals.
- November 15, 1935 saw the inauguration of the Philippine Commonwealth government with Manuel Quezon and Sergio Osmeña as
President and Vice –President respectively.
- Paulino Santos’ rise in the military was remarkably swift: a Private at 19 years in 1909; a Lieutenant by 1914; a Captain by 1918; a Major
by 1923; a Lt. Colonel in 1930; and by 1936 a Major General and Chief of Staff of the Philippine Army at age 46.
- He was born on June 22, 1890 in the Ilocano half of Camiling, Tarlac to Remigio Santos and Rosa Torres, one of six children. From his
early childhood up to 11 years old, he studied at a parochial school run by Spanish friars. After the Spanish rule was ended by the Americans, Paulino continued his studies at American-run public schools until 1906 where, at 16, he graduated with a seventh grade diploma.
- With this certificate, he was hired as a Municipal Teacher in the Tarlac towns of Camiling and Gerona, where he taught for two years.
He had ambitions to further his studies and planned to become a lawyer possibly abroad in the U.S. But despite having very limited resources, Paulino quit his teaching job and decided to go to Manila to enlist in the U.S. Navy. About this time an outbreak of cholera happened in Manila so all enlistment was terminated.
III. THE AMERICAN MILITARY YEARS
- Without a job and with dwindling resources, Paulino tried to find a job – any job – as soon as possible. After many days he was finally
hired in a carbonated water factory on Calle Juan Luna, Tondo. He barely survived on his 7-peso a month salary, working an average of 14 hours each day. Always looking for a better opportunity, the 18 - year old Paulino decided in 1909 to enlist in the 1st General Services Company. By 1910 he was assigned as an orderly to the American Secretary of War when the Secretary visited the Philippines. Later, he was detailed to the acting Chief of the Philippine Constabulary, General James Harbord. From 1909 to 1912, Paulino steadily rose from the ranks from Private to Corporal then to Sergeant upon his honorable discharge in 1912. He remained in General Harbord’s headquarters working as a clerk until 1914.
- During this time, he prepared for the entrance examinations of the Constabulary School by spending his free time reading at the Santa
Cruz public library in Manila. On February 1914, he took the exam and placed second among the 48 successful American and Filipino candidates.
- Being a top notcher, Paulino was commissioned 3rd Lieutenant and assigned to study at the Constabulary Officers School where he later
graduated at the top of his class.
IV. THE MORO CAMPAIGNS
- The Moro rebellion against the Spaniards’ colonizing efforts in the 17th century continued on during the American era of the 1900’s. It was
during this era that Lt. Santos saw action and distinguished himself in the Moro military campaigns. But to put things in perspective, let us review several incidents that illustrate the Moro’s struggle for independence.
- The Governor General of the Philippines then was William H. Taft while Leonard Wood was the Governor of the Moro provinces: Sulu, Jolo,
Zamboanga and Cotabato. Since the Americans were kept busy putting down the Filipino rebellions in Luzon and Visayas, they decided to negotiate with the Sultans and Datus of Mindanao and this resulted in the Bates Trenty (1899) which many datus later considered to be one-sidedly pro-American. Thus, the datus staged several rebellions against the Americans: first in Lanao (1902-1912) led by Datus Sajiducinan, Ampuanagus, Grande, Tungkul and Sultans Ganduli and Tawagan. In Maciu, about 200 warriors led by the 2 sultans fought valiantly against the Americans in a battle where only 3 of the 200 survived.
- From 1903 to 1905, Sulu Datu Panglima Hassan staged a rebellion which ultimately led to his death. The Moros where never conquered
by the Spaniards or by the Americans – thus the Moro fight for independence continues on today with the MNLF and the MILF.
- After a brief stint in Malolos Bulacan, 3rd Lieutenant Santos was transferred to the Mindanao and Sulu District. He was assigned to the
4th Moro Company under the command of Lt. W. A. Sirmon. In 1916, the 26-year old Lt. Santos saw action against Muslim rebels and insurgents operating in the province of Lanao. During this campaign, Lt. Santos was wounded by a Moro spear.
- In March 1917, Lt. Santos was assigned in Gnassi, Lanao the scene of many Moro uprisings. There, Lt. Santos distinguished himself and
was promoted Station Commander and Deputy Governor of the Gnassi district replacing Capt. F. A. Williams, an American officer. As Deputy Governor, not only was he the chief military officer of that district but he was also the deputy PTPJP.
- 1917 marked a defining moment in the young officer’s career – an event which propelled him into the pantheon of Philippine heroes. This
incident happened in the Lake Lanao – Bayang area. Here is a first - hand account of the skirmish with Moro insurgents as reported in “The Story of the Philippine Constabulary” by Lt. Col. Harold Hanne Elarth, Editor, (Globe Printing Co., L. A., Calif. 1949, pp. 118) –
- “When, therefore, the remnants of the Ampuan-Agaos and other Lanao outlaw
- bands gathered at Bayang cotta under Amai Lumamba and challenged the
- authority of the government, it was deemed important that they be dealt with
- promptly and decisively.
- Colonel Waloe came to Lanao to take personal charge of the operation and the
- Constabulary forces under his command in this engagement were Captain Minor
- L. Stephens, five lieutenants and one hundred thirty-four soldiers. Two mountain
- guns were borrowed from the Army, and in support, available at Waloe’s call,
- were two companies of Scouts under Major Beck.
- The Moros, numbering more than five hundred, occupied a group
- well constructed and strongly fortified cottas at Bayang, on the shores of Lake Lanao.
- Around these forts they had constructed elaborate obstructions of bamboo and
- barbed wire to prevent the troops from emplacing scaling ladders.
- Colonel Waloe opened the attack with his mountain guns, and after several hours
- the high explosive shells had cleared a path through the obstructions surrounding
- the nearest cotta. When he ordered an assault a gallant young Filipino lieutenant
- pleaded for the honor of leading the platoon which was to place the scaling
- ladders. The request was granted. The assault was successful,the first cotta was
- stormed and some thirty of its garrison were slain; but one soldier was killed and
- the lieutenant and five men were wounded.
- This officer was Lieutenant Paulino Santos – Private in 1909, Lieutenant in 1914,
- and Major-General Commanding the Philippine Army in 1936. For his gallant
- conduct in this fight he was awarded – eighteen years later – the Medal for
- After suffering a near-fatal gunshot wound in the neck, Santos took a medical leave and headed back to Bulacan in order to marry his
long-time fiancée Elisa Angeles.
- My grandfather first met my grandmother Elisa Angeles at the public library in Sta. Cruz, Manila which they frequented because both loved
to read. Even today, grandfather’s sets of the Harvard Classics and of the International Encyclopedia are in our library. After a brief courtship, Lt. Santos asked for her hand in marriage from Lola’s cousin and guardian (since her mother had died) Tio Pepe Perez. Tio Pepe was the father of Dr. Jose Perez who later would head Sampaguita Pictures and Vera-Perez Productions. They were married on January 22, 1918 and first lived in Tamparan, Lanao del Sur (where my mother, Rosa, was born) and where Lt. Santos was the only Christian commander of a constabulary battalion composed of all Moros.
- On April 18, 1918 he relieved Lt. J. T. Polk as Station Commander and Deputy Governor of the Tamparan district in Lanao, one of the
government’s most troublesome areas. For his accomplishments there, he was promoted Captain – ahead of 36 more senior First Lieutenants – and was transferred to command the barracks at Marawi, Lanao del Sur’s capital.
- Capt. Santos won the respect and love of the Moros because he treated them fairly with generosity and kindness. He sponsored scholarships
for many bright Muslim students to study in Manila. One of them was Judge Macapanton Abbas, Sr. who in the 1950/60’s was assigned to head the Court of First Instance in Davao City. Judge Abbas’ 2 sons Jun and Firdausi were my and my brother’s high school classmates in Ateneo de Davao.
- One of grandfather’s best friends was Sultan Alonto. When my uncle, Paulino Jr. was born as the first son in the family, the whole Alonto
family – wives and children – came to my grandparent’s baptismal party. Later in 1935-41, Alonto’s 2 sons Damocao and Ahmed were to be my mother’s classmates at the U.P. Law School.
- In March 1919, the newly-promoted Captain was appointed the Provincial Commander, (concurrently the Justice of the Peace and Deputy
Governor) of the province of Sulu by Frank W. Carpenter, the Governor of Mindanao and Sulu replaced Major M. L. Stephens.
- In August 1920, Capt. Santos the Provincial Commander and Deputy Governor of the province of Lanao was praised by then Governor
General Francis Burton Harrison the Governor General of the Philippines in his book “The Cornerstone of Philippine Independence” (The Century Co., N. Y., 1922):
- “The most dangerous district of Muslim regions today is Lanao… The datus of
- that region are proud and may at any moment become turbulent. The present
- Governor of Lanao, Capt. Santos, a young Filipino constabulary officer, is cool,
- intrepid, tactful and vigilant. No better man could be found for that position.”
- As Governor of Lanao, Capt. Santos was proudest of his accomplishments in improving public education by establishing many Muslim
schools thus increasing enrolment. He also improved the agricultural infrastructure so not only was Lanao self-sufficient in rice, corn and other staples but also was able to export these to the other provinces. He started establishing barrios where Christian settlers and Moros lived peacefully side-by-side.
V. THE BILIBID YEARS
- After this successful stint in Lanao, he was promoted Major in 1923 and appointed as District Inspector for Southern Luzon. Later in
March 1924, he became the Adjutant of the Constabulary, a position he headed until October 15 1930. In this post, he improved the Constabulary Pension and Personnel policies working closely with his Chief of Constabulary, Brig. Gen. Charles E. Narthorst. For his accomplishments he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and appointed assistant District Commander of Southern Luzon on October 16, 1930.
- Later in 1930, due to the scandalous conditions in the country’s prison system, the Governor General of the Philippines, Dwight F. Davis
requested Lt. Col. Santos to become the National Director of Prisons after he retired from the Constabulary at 40 years old.
- Governor General Davis convinced Lt. Colonel Santos to accept the position of Director of Prisons, which he had earlier declined when first
offered by the Secretary of Justice Jose Abad Santos (no relation). So on Dec. 22, 1930 he retired from the Constabulary – and the next day, he was appointed the Director of Prisons.
- As National Director of Prisons, he greatly improved the penal system by instituting reforms such as prisoner rehabilitation by learning
self-sufficiency from crafts and farming. At the same time prisons like Bilibid, Iwahig, San Ramon – and later Muntinlupa and the Davao Penal Colony became practically self-sufficient, a tremendous economic help to the Philippine government. He was well-loved and respected not only by prison officials but also by the prisoners – so much so that he walked the prison grounds without bodyguards and weapons.
- In January 1932, he and his staff cleared out a 30,000 hectare area from the forests of Panabo, Davao to start the Davao Penal Colony.
With the goal to make this prison as economically self-sufficient as possible, Director Santos hired technical experts in craft-making (woodcarving), agriculture and animal care and undertook a 5-year economic program working closely with then Governor General Frank Murphy. Santos was responsible for the Indeterminate Sentence Probation Law and for creating a Special Fund for the development of Agriculture and Industry in the prison system. To further his knowledge of penal institutions, Director Santos went on a round- the-world study mission to learn more about penal systems in other countries.
- As Director of Prisons, grandfather’s family lived within the Bilibid Prisons on Azcarraga St., Manila in a Spanish mansion. It had a wide
grand staircase which taken to the left led to the rooms of the Director of Prisons’ family; and to the right were the living quarters of the Assistant Director of Prisons, Mr. Eriberto Misa. Thus, the Misa’s only daughter Maria Fe grew up with my mother and was a good friend of my mother’s sister Tita Ely. Later, Maria Fe would become the wife of Mr. Jose “Chito” Ayala, one of the banana magnates in Davao.
- My mother truly enjoyed their stay at the Bilibid house and she would tell us many stories about the good old days there.
- Very simply, they were pampered like royalty by a whole staff of household help – all prison trustees called “colonos”. These were coveted
posts for prisoners and were rewards and “promotions” for excellent conduct and they were selected for specific expertise. One Japanese trustee’s sole duty was to mop the stairs after anyone passed on them. A woman “colono” was assigned to clean each room. The Chinese chef and his several assistants, cooks, dishwashers made sure that each meal was prepared to rival the top restaurants. There was also a maitre d’ hotel who supervised about 5 waiters.
The Chinese chef was in prison because he had burned his restaurant in a failed fire-insurance scam. My mom, her 3 brothers and 2 sisters had colono-tutors to help them with schoolwork. Their math tutor was serving time for swindling – probably good at Math because his scam was not unraveled until he had stolen millions! Even today, my mother is convinced that their life in Bilibid was better than that of the President Quezon’s in Malacañang Palace.
VI. THE ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF
- At the inauguration of the Philippines on November 15, 1935 President Manuel Quezon chose the 45-year old Santos as his chief military
aide. On the eve of the Commonwealth Inauguration, Governor General Frank Murphy as his parting act before handing the reins of Government to Quezon awarded Santos the Medal of Valor (our country’s highest award and equivalent to the U. S. Congressional Medal of Honor) for his bravery in Lanao’s Bayang Cotta battle 18 years ago.
- Upon the recommendation of General Douglas McArthur, the President’s military adviser, Quezon re-instituted Santos into the military as
a Brigadier General in the Philippine Army, continuing as Quezon’s top presidential aide.
- On May 4 1936, Santos was promoted to Major General and installed as the Chief of Staff of the Philippine Army. He remained Chief until
December 31, 1938 and it was during his two-year term of duty that the Military Cadre Training Program was established.
- My grandfather was not a very religious man – but my grandmother was a devout Catholic. As a matter of fact, grandfather was a
high-ranking Mason – like the other top officials in President Quezon’s cabinet. When the First International Catholic Congress was scheduled in Manila in 1936, grandfather told my grandmother that there was going to be an Army Day during the Congress and that they were expected to attend Mass. My grandmother being the good Catholic she was – told him that she would rather not go since he was a Mason and thus was considered ex-communicated. A week before the Army Day, grandfather told her to dress up early for a dinner at Malacañang. Instead, they went to the Manila Cathedral to see Archbishop O’Doherty, his golfing buddy. There he renounced Masonry, asked to confess and be re-baptised. Then the Archbishop married them in the Catholic rite. Thus the General and his lady attended Mass and received communion on Army Day.
- As Chief of Staff of the Philippine Army, his aide de camp was then Capt. Jaime Velasquez, who later became the manager of the
wealthy Makati estates of the Ayala-Zobel. An incident my mother remembers involves Capt. Velasquez: when the General was finalizing the plans for the new prison complex in Muntinlupa, one man visited Gen. Santos in his office. The man offered my grandfather several hectares of fishpond if the prisons were built instead in Novaliches (where the man obviously had stakes). The general was so infuriated that he called his aide Capt. Velasquez and said: “Get this man out of my office right now, before I throw him out the window!” The man left in shame – but a few days later came back to apologize to the general: “Please forgive me, sir. I did not realize that there are still men in our government as righteous as you.”
- With fond memories, my mother tells of an incident that happened when her father was Chief of Staff:
- “There was a state dinner at Malacañang Palace which my mother who was ill could not attend, so my father brought me instead – and who would my dinner partner turn out to be? Dwight E. Eisenhower – then a young colonel in General MacArthur’s staff and my father’s personal friend.”
It is too bad that my grandfather did not live long enough to see his friend Ike as the President of the United States.
- 1937 saw the resurgence of the Muslim revolt in Lanao, so the Philippine Army headed by Gen. Santos conducted intensive plans to
combat the heavily-fortified cottas in Lanao. For the first time, he ordered airplanes to bomb these practically invulnerable “cottas” or forts.
VII. THE NATIONAL LAND SETTLEMENT AGENCY
- In 1938, President Quezon consulted with General Santos on how the President’s pet program The Philippines Social Justice Program
could be effectively implemented. General Santos because of his vast experience in administering programs in Luzon and Mindanao suggested that new settlements be established in the government’s unused lands in the country’s northern and southern provinces. Quezon agreed with the General’s recommendations and put him in charge of implementing the Land Settlement Program. So on December 31 1938, Gen. Santos now 48 years old retired once more from the Army and then was appointed as Manager of the newly-created National Land Settlement Administration. The objective of this agency was the establishment of middle-class communities in Luzon’s Cagayan Valley, Mindanao’s Koronadal and Allah Valleys, and the Compostela Valley. Gen. Santos was successful in establishing farming communities – most notably in one of Mindanao’s most progressive southern cities today – General Santos city, now named after him and today known worldwide as the Filipino boxing champion Manny Pacquiao’s hometown.
- There were hundreds of applicants for settlers, but only 62 were selected to be the pioneers, the first batchers composed mostly of
carpenters, drivers, blacksmiths, and graduates of agricultural and trade schools. Manager Santos personally interviewed and selected each applicant. My mother recalls her father telling her his selection technique: as he shook hands, he noted if the applicants’ grip was weak (not firm) and their hands smooth and soft (rather than calloused and strong), these applicants were rejected.
- President Quezon was all praises for Gen. Santos’ efforts and stated so in this letter:
- “Your original selection as chief of staff was based primarily upon my intimate
- knowledge, gained through many years of observation and friendly contact, of
- your qualifications as a leader and executive. Upon the end of your tour, I am
- happy to say that you have under new and difficult conditions, so conducted the
- affairs of your office as to confirm and enhance my former good opinion of your
- abilities and of your value as a public servant. In going to your new position in the
- Mindanao resettlement project, you take with you in addition to your wealth of
- experience and administration, the deserved administration and confidence of
- your fellow citizens, both in and out of government service. This combination
- ensures you a future of even greater usefulness to the Philippines than the brilliant
- one you have so far achieved.”
VIII. WORLD WAR II
- Despite the start of World War II, Gen. Santos was able to establish six settlements in Cotabato, two in Davao and
two in Cagayan and Isabela. All these settlements are today first-class productive communities.
- Before the final fall of the Phlippines to the Japanese in 1941, President Quezon asked Chief Justice Jose Laurel to head the
Philippine government while Quezon and his other top cabinet officials escaped to Corregidor and wait for the end of the war. Thus Laurel was named in 1943, President of the Philippines during the Japanese occupation serving in this capacity until the end of WWII in 1945.
- Davao City and Pearl Harbor were bombed by the Japanese on December 08, 1941 that infamous date which forced the U.S. and the
Philippines to declare war on Japan. On that day, my mother had just attended the feast of the Immaculate Mass at the Davao Cathedral when word came that her father was sending their Buick sedan to take their whole family to the settlements in Lagao and Dadiangas – there to await the end of the war.
- My grandfather, being the staunch military nationalist, immediately wired Pres. Quezon to offer his services to the army. But Pres.
Quezon wired back to tell him to instead stay put and protect the settlements. Santos, to help the cause, sent all their tractors to Cagayan de Oro, where a U.S. army unit was stationed. He did his best to protect the settlers, not only from the Japanese who had by then occupied Mindanao but also from the self-declared guerillas headed by a Moro, Salipada Pendatun (a U.P. Law classmate of my mother). Pendatun probably tried to take advantage of the situation and saw an opportunity to re-claim the setters’ lands. But Gen. Santos stood up to him and told him to leave the settlers alone and instead go fight their common enemy – the Japanese. After the war, the frustrated Pendatun, then a congressman, in a privilege speech at the First Congress accused my grandfather of being a “ Japanese collaborator” since he was in Pres Laurel’s cabinet – a charge without basis and subsequently dismissed.
- When my mother first introduced my father to my grandfather, he later told her to ask my father to exercise with barbells – “… para tumaas
pa siya ng kaunti” (so perhaps he might grow a little taller). My grandfather was tall especially for a Filipino in those days – as a matter of fact, all his sons were over 6 feet tall. My father was about 5’6” – about an inch shorter than my mother.
- My parents were married on May 5, 1943 in the Lagao-Dadiangas settlement – where they planned to live until the end of the war.
However, their plan was changed when the Americans started bombing the area in 1944. The retreating Japanese army was rumored to be looking for the family of General Santos (who the Japanese had taken prisoner in the Mountain Province, Luzon), – so my parents – along with my wife’s relatives – fled first to Polomolok about 5 kilometers away. But their host and my grandfather’s best friend, Don Paco Natividad, advised them to go to Kiamba much farther away and there they lived until the Philippines was fully liberated in 1946.
- During the Japanese occupation, President Jose P. Laurel had asked the 54-year old Gen. Santos in August 1944 to be the
Commanding General of the Constabulary. Santos felt it was his duty as a military man to obey his President’s summon. Thus despite misgivings about leaving his family and his beloved Mindanao settlements, he went back to Luzon during the waning days of the Japanese occupation. As the Japanese Imperial Army led by Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita retreated into the Mountain Province, General Santos was taken as a prisoner of war in June 1945. There General Santos spent his last days slowly starving to death, alone, away from his family (who had remained in Mindanao), assisted only by one aide, Sgt. Ablang. He died on August 29, 1945 and was buried in a shallow grave by Sgt. Ablang in Barrio Calapang, Bontoc, Mt. Province. He was only 55.
- After the war, his remains were re-buried at the Manila Memorial Park. Today, his remains as well as those of his wife are buried at the
Town Plaza beneath his statue in the place he founded and loved – now named after him,