The Founding Father
by Lope Lindio
9/11 will forever be itched indelibly in human
consciousness as the most cowardly attack in the
history of mankind. But to a great majority of
Filipino-Americans, the month of September is
even more dreaded for reasons other than what
happened in 2001 in the U.S. 9/11 is also the
birthday of Ferdinand Marcos, the one Filipino
who dishonored his race by putting them under
his heel when he declared martial law on 09/21/1972.
But be that as it may, the month of September
has other dates that could save it from ignominy.
September 9, 1878 is such a date. That the birthday
of the late President Sergio Osmena, a genuine
Filipino hero who should be remembered as the
first among equals of the founding fathers who
played midwife to the birth of the Philippine
Republic on 07/04/1946.
The lasting legacy of Sergio Osmena was in showing
to the American colonialists and the world kibitzing
at the sidelines that the Filipinos were capable
of running their own show in self-government.
He accomplished this by bridging and then fusing
the competing objectives of the colonizers out
to assert their imperial prerogatives and the
Filipino nationalists whose desire was immediate
independence. He also had to arbitrate the clashing
personalities and ideas of the Filipino leaders
themselves who came from assorted backgrounds,
as disparate as the elite of the old Spanish establishment,
the officer ranks of the revolution, the hierarchy
of the aborted short-lived Philippine republic,
and the never-say-die patriots who were still
fighting the Americans in the far-flung provinces
and islands of the country.
When Aguinaldo was captured in Palanan, Isabela,
and all the other leaders of the war between the
Philippine and the U.S. were either silenced or
exiled by the Americans, the renewed struggle
for independence had to take a new direction.
There was going to be no more armed conflict for
liberation. The new dispensation brought by the
Americans had a new face. It was no longer wearing
a cassock. And its declared policy was more in
teaching Filipinos, like English, and when they
could read already service manuals, in selling
them something made in U.S.A. , rather than in
saving their souls from hell or purgatory.
The newcomers were a new bred of colonials. The
recently vanquished revolutionaries against Spain
and the war leaders against the U.S. were ill
prepared to take them head-on, not ready that
they were in navigating the uncharted waters of
the parliamentary struggle for independence that
Already, prominent leaders of the short-lived
Philippine republic succumbed to the American
policy of attraction. They organized the Partido
Federalista, and collaborated openly with them
in trying to bring the country completely under
their control. The Partido Nacionalista was the
home of the so-called Mabini irreconcilables in
1899. It was reported that for a while, the party
had the support of Sergio Osmena and Rafael Palma.
But this soon evolved into the leadership of Osmena
and Quezon who turned it less combative and more
pragmatic in its approach to make it work as the
vehicle to carry the fight for Philippine independence.
Very little has been written about Sergio Osmena
because he lived long and had the misfortune of
outliving his great deeds. He was also overshadowed
in later life when, in the spirit of Filipino
unity, he agreed to run for vice president of
Quezon who eventually became a wartime president.
But the country owes him more recognition than
he has been given for his services to the fledgling
Philippine civil government, much in the same
way that Aguinaldo is less honored today than
if he died young at the eight of his heroic career.
Osmena was responsible for repackaging the demand
for independence in a way that it did not make
the Americans feel threatened. Quezon himself
conceded that much, and more, later in life when
he was asked of Osmena role at the time. He said
that it was only Osmena who was prepared and ready
to step up to the plate. He displayed unique knowledge
of American government and the political game
the Americans played by prepping himself up through
In Resil Mojares book, Resistance and Collaboration
in Cebu, he wrote that at the time the Philippine
revolution broke out in 1896, the 18-year old
law student Osmena, at the University of Santo
Tomas , was writing articles in the Manila newspaper,
El Comercio and the Cebu newspaper, El Boletin.
His writings were supportive of the Spanish government.
It was probably for this work, among others, that
he received the Medalla de Metito Civil, the highest
award given by the Spanish colonial government
to any civilian in the Philippines .
Three years later, he became a representative
in Manila of the Cebu junta that shepherded the
war against the Americans. He was directed to
contact Aguinaldo regarding the course of the
military campaign. A meeting apparently took place
in Tarlac, and he followed him to Pangasinan as
Osmena figured in the diary pages of Aguinaldo
physician, Dr. Santiago Barcelona, on 11/14/1899:
Our ¦rearguard was cut off by the enemy
[Americans]. The party consisted of President
Aguinaldo's mother and his son, secretaries Buencamino,
delas Alas, Ilagan, Gerona , Osmena , Col Leyba.
Author Mojares observed that around this time,
Osmena quickly saw, not long after the start of
the Filipino-American hostilities, the inevitability
of American victory. He saw that both personal
and national aspirations had to be pursued within
the realities of the American rule. Towards this
end, he assiduously applied himself to the understanding
of American law, politics, and government. He
was already learning English in Cebu and Manila
, from Josephine Bracken who, a couple of years
after becoming a Rizal widow, married a Cebuano,
Vicente Abad y Recio, a Tabacalera employee.
Osmena's wartime company with the Buencaminos,
delas Alases, cited above, and his having brought
to Cebu, Rafael Palma, the future UP president,
and Jaime de Veyra, who later became an eminent
writer/politician, to help him publish the first
daily newspaper in the province, demonstrated
that he was already well positioned and rightly
connected to the proper people and places in Manila
society. This was indeed heady stuff to one who
was born illegitimate to an unmarried shopkeeper,
although kept in respectable life style by the
patronage and support of very wealthy maternal
Osmena and Quezon took the same 1903 bar examinations.
Osmena was second placer; a certain J.L. Quintos
scored the highest. Quezon did not do badly either.
He was in the list of the first ten successful
barristers. Osmena was already a member of the
Cebu municipal council when he took the bar. He
was later appointed provincial fiscal of Cebu
and Negros Oriental after he got his law license.
The former Governor General and later US Secretary
of War William Howard Taft, visited Cebu in 1905.
Osmena led the local leaders in pressing the US
to declare its intentions with regard to the future
and definite status of the Philippines and in
stressing that such decision must be based solely
on the happiness of the inhabitants and the demonstration
that the Filipinos may have made of their capacity
for self-government as may be seen from the viewpoint
of Philippine interest. Taft commended him for
his work on the 24 propositions presented and
for the great reception given him.
When elected Cebu governor in 1906, he was also
chosen by his peers as presiding officer of the
convention of provincial governors in Manila .
Later, he was elected to the Philippine Assembly,
where he was elected Speaker at the age of 27.
At this age, he was younger than the average age
of the members, which was 37. Of the delegates,
47 were lawyers, including Manuel Quezon and old
guards Pedro Paterno, Vicente Singson Encarnacion,
etc; 57 had university education; 75 were educated
in Manila or Spain; 21 served in the Spanish government,
54 held civil or military office in the short-lived
Philippine republic, and 54 had served in the
American government in the Philippines. And it
was only four years ago that their newly elected
speaker, Osmena, had passed the bar examinations!
Now he was no. 2 in the government hierarchy;
second only to the American governor general in
terms of power, authority, and social rank.
The secret of the success of this countryside-based
(PROMDI) leader was, among others, Osmena's success
in handling lawless elements; pragmatic approach
to governance according to Taft and US Gov. Gen.
Henry C. Ide; executive ability, cunning, persistence,
quality as conciliator, trader, etc, according
to Governor Generals Forbes, Wood, etc.
Author Mojares wrote in his book that Teodoro
Kalaw, who later became a close aide of Quezon,
reported that Osmena began to impress a wide array
of leaders during his frequent trips to Manila
as early as 1905. He participated in the meetings
of the Nacionalista Party at the home of Don Pablo
Ocampo on Calle Palma and quickly established
his presence and credentials when he coined the
slogan Immediate Independence which was then considered
rather radical. Osmena, he said, recast the old
appeals for independence and placed them on a
more practical basis.
Thus, Osmena, in a speech at a banquet in honor
of American Commissioner W.Morgan Shuster in 1906,
laid the case of the Filipino people by saying
that independence would be the logical result
of the development of the American policy in the
Islands and to present for the first time the
issue of independence, not as a thesis wholly
and separately that of the Filipinos, but as the
logical result and final flowering of the American
occupation of the Philippines.
He later served as Senator of the realm, Vice-President,
and finally President when Quezon died in Lake
Saranak , New York.