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Señor Moments | Gen. Santos: An officer and a gentleman, our hero, our grandfather

To welcome our Santos relatives who are braving the COVID-19 scare, to come to our grand reunion in General Santos City on Feb 22-26 and in Davao on Feb 27-29, I’m writing this, since I’m the oldest grandchild, the only one that Gen. Santos saw and held in his arms in 1944. I think it is almost my filial duty to tell my pinsans and readers about this truly great man.

Thus, I am reprinting two excerpts from his biography. This book was written by my late mother Rosa Santos Munda and Isabel Santos, my late aunt and myself. The book is entitled: “Gen. Santos — his journey through history.

“A great biography should, like the close of a great drama, leave behind it a feeling of serenity. We collect a small bunch of flowers, the few flowers, which brought sweetness into a life, and present it as an offering to an accomplished destiny. It is the dying refrain of a complete song, the final verse of a finished poem.” – Andre Maurois

The biography gathers flowers from whose personal lives were very closely intertwined with the life of General Paulino Santos. Isabel Santos and Rosa Santos Munda are his daughters. Amado Santos Munda Jr. is his grandson. Together they recall, from documents and personal memories, the story of a man who journeyed through history.

The journey lives on in the hearts of his daughters, as shown in the stories of this book. It also lives on in his grandson, Amado Jr. as he recalls images from stories that are most vivid to him.

“The tall slim brown-skinned Constabulary officer, a newly-promoted lieutenant, started unflinchingly at the heavily-fortified Moro cotta 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. This despite his receiving a near-fatal wound in the neck.

This officer was Lieutenant Paulino Santos – Private in 1909, Lieutenant in 1914,and Major General commanding the Philippine Army in 1936. For his act of bravery on this bloody day in 1917,on this fort called Bayang Cotta by the placid waters of Lake Lanao, Lt. Santos would later be awarded his country’s highest honor for bravery – the Medal for Valor.

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, 1944. At that time he and his family did not realize that in about a year and 6 months, he would be dead, a POW 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, General Santos City in South Cotabato, Mindanao.

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.

This is the legend of my grandfather.”

A Tribute to Father
By Rosa Santos Munda

Paulino is not dead. He lives.
He lives in each blade of grass, in every particle of the rich, loam fields of this burgeoning city
Which he and his intrepid band of pioneers carved out from what then seemed vast cogon wastelands of Koronadal.
He lives in every wave that now gently, now violently laps Dadiangas shores, just as fifty years ago today these same waves brought across Sarangani Bay the “SS Basilan” with him and his first group of seventy employees and sixty two settlers.
To these valleys and for these men, Paulino Santos brought his love for the land, inherited from his Ilocano forebears. He came with the dauntless daring, the moral courage and discipline born of half a lifetime of soldering in the non-Christian fastness of Mindanao.
He brought his humaneness, his compassionate understanding of human faults and foibles culled from his experience in administering the country’s prisons and penal colonies.
He came with patriotism and his innate love for his fellowmen.
And he brought a dream: This dream of a free people living together in peace, in the valleys around the lordly Mt. Matutum, under God’s open sky. A people freed from the shackles of tenancy and serfdom, a people tilling their own land, self-sufficient, independent, looking his former haciendero straight in the eye, an equal to every other man.
With his loyal and dedicated pioneers he fashioned this dream into reality. The cogon was cleared, homes were built, the backyard trees grew laden with fruits. The housewife learned to look to forward to “the General’s” greeting as he passed by each morning to say “hello”,
to ask about the children, to remark on the tidiness of the yard.
Soon roads ribboned through the settlements. Along the highways, brown cogon lands turned to green fields of rice, corn, peanuts and cotton. Farmers paused happily from work to wave back at “the General” as he motored by shouting “good work there” or “what is that carabao doing in the hot sun? ”
Schools, health and recreational tents, chapels were built. The missionaries came – priests of the Faith who made every man, woman and child of the valleys realize that each was made to the image and likeness of God and was created to bear witness forevermore to Christ, His Son.
This faith in the providence of God saw the settlers through the hazards of the new life. There was the usual share of sickness and discouragement and death; sometimes the locusts came instead of the rains; for all of them it was work, work and work.
But the rewards came. After the first year over 5,000 men, women and children were located in well planned communities through Lagao, Polomolok, Tupi and Maribel. By the second year, the population had magnified. Settlements reached up to Banga and Norala in the Allah Valley.
Then came the war.
Through the dark days of the Japanese occupation Paulino Santos stood by the men he brought to Mindanao. He gave up personal ambitions of military glory. The thousands of families he directed in the great adventure of settlement needed his leadership to save them from marauding bands of lawless men, unscrupulous men who would take advantage of the chaos of war to pillage and plunder innocent civilians. Men with big ambitions but small minds, smaller hearts were to use this later in vain attempts to downgrade what had been achieved here. But Paulino Santos knew only on duty: to make sure that these brave men and women who left their homes in Luzon and the Visayas to find a new life in Koronadal and Allah should survive the war that they may live their dream in peace.
And that is why through the selfless sacrifice of Paulino Santos and the bountiful grace of God we are here today.
He lives in your father: the man who worked side by side with him through blood sweat and tears fifty years ago to fashion a dream. He lives in you and me and every man who has come to this place to rebuild these valleys from the holocaust of war and start new lives with hope. We all have caught the dream. We too share this legacy of courage, patriotism, humanity and faith.
The courage to stand up for our convictions. The courage to fight corruption, immortality, the breakdown in law and order.
The patriotism and nationalism to spur us to develop these lands, these forests, these seas, to loosen the stranglehold of the greedy alien or his weak Filipino dummy.
The willingness to sacrifice personal discomforts to reach the good, to live and die for our country if need be.
The love for our fellowmen that those who have may share with those who have not, loving kindness to give of that which is the exercise of man’s humanity to man.
That abiding faith in God which strengthens and sustains us through present trials because it promises the rewards of life eternal.
Fellow countrymen, these compose the legacy of Paulino Santos. Even when we ourselves are no longer here and the name.

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