Thursday, September 20, 2018

Lone Cebuano in Malacañang

"Our people have shown on the battlefield that they are not afraid to die. But the tasks of peace are at times more exacting than those of war. We are administering the affairs of 18 million people just delivered from three long years of enslavement. To them we owe justice, order and the means to live in contentment and happiness. I am aware that our means at the moment are inadequate. We are not able to provide our people with as much as they deserve. But we shall not falter in the line of duty." - Sergio Osmeña, Sr., State of the Nation Address on June 9, 1945

SERGIO Osmeña, Sr. was only 18 when he began writing in favor of the Spanish colonial administration, while Filipino revolutionaries pressed for independence. From 1896 to 1897, he worked part-time in Cebu as a court clerk and wrote articles where “he boldly expressed the loyalty of the Cebuanos to Spain.”

At 19, he received the Medalla de Merito Civil, which was Spain’s highest civilian award for its Philippine subjects.

Between that and Osmeña’s assumption of office as president, some 48 years stretched in which the journalist and lawyer did many things, from starting what was then Cebu’s first and only daily newspaper (El Nuevo Dia) in 1900 to occupying the highest bureaucratic and legislative positions in the province on his way to the national stage.

“Unlike the older generation of ilustrados, Osmeña perceived very early that the positions of power and prestige for Filipinos under the American regime would not be in the bureaucracy as they had been under Spain but in the newly instituted elective offices of the colonial government,” historian Michael Cullinane wrote in “Ilustrado Politics: Filipino Elite Responses to American Rule, 1898-1908.”

At 25, Osmeña placed second in the Philippine Bar Examination of 1903. A mere two years later, he was elected governor of Cebu. He was 65 by the time he assumed the presidency on Aug.1, 1944 in Washington, D.C. following the death of Manuel Quezon. By then, Cullinane observed, he had built firm connections with influential Americans as well as “the leading elements in Cebu’s urban, provincial and municipal elites.”

Osmeña served as president until May 28, 1946. No other Cebuano has held that office since then.

In 1951, Sergio Osmeña, Jr. was elected governor of Cebu. Of the president’s son, Dr. Resil Mojares wrote in “An Anarchy of Families”: “He charted a career that had as its goal nothing less than the Philippine presidency.” He was mayor of Cebu City for five terms, then congressman and senator, but lost the vice-presidential elections in 1961 and the presidential elections (to Ferdinand Marcos) in 1969.

In early 1900, “long before most ilustrados had given much thought to learning” the language, Osmeña began taking English lessons from Josephine Bracken, who was Dr. Jose Rizal’s widow.

In March 1905, a fire devastated the business district of Cebu City. William Cameron Forbes, who was then the American secretary of commerce and police, created a committee to study how to make the district look better and more modern, which would include widening the congested area’s streets. “Fiscal Osmeña was among the first to be named to this committee, and his far-reaching proposals and suggestions made him its most active member,” historian Michael Cullinane wrote.

“In the space of a few years, he built a track record as a ‘modern’, ‘rational’ official replete with achievements in such areas as urban planning, fiscal management, public health, peace and order, and bureaucratic reform. He was probably the Philippines’ first political technocrat,” historian Resil Mojares observed.

When Sergio Osmeña, Sr. established his law office in May 1903, he was one of 12 practicing lawyers in the entire province.


Born: Sept. 9, 1878

Died: Oct. 19, 1961

Parents: Juana Suico Osmeña and Don Pedro Lee Singson Gotiaoco

Spouse: Estefania Chiong Veloso (married in 1901); Esperanza Limjap (m. 1920)

Children: (by Estefania Chiong Veloso) Edilberto, Vicenta, Nicasio, Milagros, Emilio, Maria Paloma, Teodoro, Jose, Sergio, Jr. and (by Esperanza Limjap) Ramon, Rosalinda, Victor


• Primary, Seminario Colegio de San Carlos (1892)

• Bachelor of Arts, Colegio de San Juan de Letran (1894)

• Bachelor of Laws, University of Santo Tomas (1903)


Executive Positions

• Fiscal of Cebu (1904-1905)

• Governor of Cebu (1905-1907)

• Secretary of Public Instruction (1935-1939)

• Vice President (Nov. 15, 1935-Aug. 1, 1944)

• Secretary of Public Instruction, Health and Public Welfare (1941-1944)

Legislative Positions

• Municipal Councilor of Cebu (1903, reelected 1904)

• Speaker of the House of Representatives (1907-1922)

• Senate President pro tempore (1922-1933)

• Senator (1923-1935)