LAST Aug. 21, 1971, when bombs exploded during a Liberal Party meeting at Plaza Miranda in Quiapo, Manila, John “Sonny” Osmeña was among the persons who were wounded, along with his fellow candidates for senator Jovito Salonga, Eddie Ilarde, Ramon Mitra and Eva Estrada Kalaw.
Salonga lost his left eye and became deaf on one ear. Ramon Bagatsing, LP candidate for Manila mayor, lost his left leg and shattered his right arm. Serging Osmeña Jr., then an LP stalwart and uncle of Sonny Osmeña, and other LP bigwigs who were on stage suffered worse injuries.
Sonny must have borne only minor wounds. Accounts of the tragedy reported him among the 95 injured but didn’t say he came near death.
Rumor, not violence
The latest incident that reportedly killed him didn’t involve violence. It concerned a rumor that must have travelled a lot before it reached Sonny. His former wife, Lucy Urgello, called up his sister while he and other members of the Osmeña clan were visiting the cemetery last Nov. 1, to ask if he was still alive. “He is here, standing beside me,” Sonny’s sister told Lucy.
Sonny could’ve just issued a press statement, denying the rumor of his death. But that seemed not enough. He had to present himself last Sunday (Nov. 3) to news reporters to prove Cebu and the rest of the world that he was still alive if not literally kicking, and that he was a visitor, not the visited at the cemetery two days before.
Source tracked down
If this happened a year ago, in November 2018, within the last election season, the Osmeña campaign would’ve promptly blamed his rival, screaming dirty tactic. Sonny though had tracked down the original source of the rumor, “somebody I know,” he said, whom he didn’t identify.
Sonny said the rumor peddler cited “the news,” which is as lame and vague as can be, given what today many people regard as sources of “news.”
Election season or not, Sonny must know that there is no respite for mischief by those who genuinely wish him ill or someone who just likes to tickle his fun-weary bones.
What keeps him alive
He had been-–in ascending order–-councilor and vice mayor of the city, congressman, senator, then sliding down to city mayor, then back to congressman. He had a lot of wins--and a number of losses, the last one, in his congressional bid in Cebu’s third district, where the drubbing must have been so severe that he swore he wouldn’t run for public office in 2022.
Yet he has survived because of politics. Politics runs in the family: he is brother of former governor Lito Osmeña, grandson of former president Sergio Osmeña, nephew of political kingpin Serging Osmeña Jr., and cousin of former senator Serge and former mayor Tomas Osmeña. Politics flows in, or is fed into, his blood.
They say it is what has kept Sonny alive. He is 83, will be 84 this Jan. 17. He survived not just the Plaza Miranda bombing but also the host of curses or “tungo” by political enemies, which they say make one grow strong enough to climb aboard a pickup truck cum stage.
Odd that he now has to fend off publicity about his supposed death even though he is no longer chasing votes. An off-season joke?