By Jose Paulino Amado Santos Munda, JR.
Marawi, formerly known as “DANSALAN” has a special place in our family’s history.
In 1920, my grandfather, Gen. Paulino T. Santos, then a Captain, was ordered back to the province of Lanao to become the first Filipino Provincial Commander and concurrent Provincial Governor, relieving Major M. L. Stephens. Governor General Francis Burton Harrison of the Philippines, writing in 1922 in his book entitled, “The Cornerstone of Philippine Independence – A Narrative of Seven Years, recounted:
“The most dangerous district of the Muslim regions today, potentially, is Lanao, where the vast regions of the interior offer an easy avenue of escape to disturbers of the peace. The datus of that region are proud and may at any moment become turbulent. The present governor of Lanao, Capt. Santos, a young constabulary officer, is cool, intrepid, tactful, and vigilant. No better man could be found for that position.” (The Century Co., New York, 1922)
Due to differences with General Wood, then governor general of the Philippines, over conflicting policies affecting relations between Christian and Muslim Filipinos, Capt. Santos resigned as governor of Lanao. He remained as provincial commander of the battalion in Camp Keithley, Dansalan (now Marawi City), capital of Lanao del Sur.”
On October 1, 1918, my mother Rosa Santos-Munda, the eldest child of Paulino and Elisa Angeles Santos, was born in Tamparan, on the shores of Lake Ranao, the largest natural lake in Mindanao. Tamparan is a few kilometers away from Dansalan (now Marawi).
Because my Lola had no milk of her own to nurse Rosa (later Rosky), 2 young Maranow new mothers nursed my mother, along with their own newborns.
In March 1917, Lt. Santos was assigned in Gnassi, Lanao which was the scene of many Moro uprisings. There, he 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 Justice of the Peace.
1917 marked a defining moment in the young Paulino’s career as an officer in 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 insurgent 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 the 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. 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 of 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. The officer was Lieutenant Paulino Santos.”
On his biography “His Journey Through History” with my aunt, ISABEL A. SANTOS, my mother, and I wrote about his exploit:
“The tall slim brown-skinned Constabulary officer, a newly-promoted lieutenant, stared 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.”
To date, there have been only 3 AFP Chiefs of Staff who have been awarded the Medal of Valor: my lolo, Gen. Castaneda, and Gen. Sobejana, the current C.o. S. (To be continued)
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