Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Filipino Martyr: PAULINO T. SANTOS

Military Leader and Land Resettlement Pioneer
Epitome of Filipino courage and perseverance, General Paulino Santos was born in
Camiling, Tarlac on June 22, 1890 to Rosa Torres and Remigio Santos.
He was educated in Spanish-run schools from 1897 to 1900, and in American-run schools
from 1901 to 1907. He became a municipal teacher in 1907, serving as such until 1908. That year,
he tried to join the United States Navy in Cavite. Unable to, because of a moratorium on the
enlistment of natives at the time, he proceeded to Manila. He got employed at a Tondo factory of
aerated water, working everyday for seven pesos a month.
A year later, he enlisted in the Philippine Constabulary. He was assigned to its First
General Service Company. In 1912, he was promoted from private to supply sergeant, serving as
such for two years. Simultaneously, he strove to upgrade his skills and knowledge by pursuing his
studies. His perseverance paid off, for he soon finished high school.
In 1913, he passed the entrance examinations to the Philippine Military Academy in
Baguio, then known as the Constabulary Officers School. In 1914, he graduated, not surprisingly,
as class valedictorian, and was commissioned third lieutenant in the regular force in February of
the same year. Thereafter, his rise through the ranks was swift: second lieutenant in 1917, captain
in 1918, major in 1923. He was adjutant of the Headquarters, of the Philippine Constabulary before
retiring as lieutenant colonel in 1930.
As soldier, Santos served in the Lanao campaign in 1916, where he sustained wounds from
a Moro spear, and in the Bayang Cota campaign in 1917, where he was wounded anew, but this
time by bullets. It was in the latter campaign that he demonstrated extraordinary courage and
As government cannons were bombarding the Muslim bulwark of Lumamba, then 2nd
Lieutenant Santos led his platoon in penetrating the formerly secure redoubt, through an opening
made in the barricade, and immediately erected a ladder to scale the first kota. Immediately, he
and his men engaged its defenders in a bloody hand-to-hand combat, killing 30 of them, and thus
preserving the lives of government soldiers. For this exceptional military feat, Governor General
Frank Murphy bestowed on him, the medal of valor, the highest military award, for “gallantry in
action”, just before the inauguration of the Commonwealth government in 1935. He was named
President Quezon’s aide for the inaugural ceremony.
He served as ex-officio Justice of the Peace at large for the Provinces of Lanao and Sulu,
and then Deputy Provincial Treasurer of Lanao, before finally becoming Provincial Governor of
He was appointed Director of the Bureau of Prisons in 1930, serving thus until 1936,
founding the Davao Penal Colony in 1932 and transferring the Bilibid Prisons from its old site to a
new one in Muntinlupa, Rizal.
In 1936, he was recalled to military service through his appointment as Brigadier General
and Assistant chief of staff of the Philippine Army by President Quezon. Before the year’s end,
however, he was named Chief of Staff of the Philippine Army with the rank of Major General.
In 1937, President Quezon gave him the difficult and dangerous task of minimizing, if not
eliminating the problem of Moro piracy in the south through the destruction of the pirates’ kotas,
particularly Kota Dilausan, in Lanao.
His term as Army chief of staff ended in December 1938. In January 1939, he was named
general manager of the National Land Settlement Administration. He served in this capacity until
1941, when World War II broke out.
In 1939, as NLSA chief, Santos led the first group of 200 migrants from Luzon and the
Visayas who transformed the primeval Lagao area in Koronadal Valley into a productive and
progressive colony of six communities. Being the man of action that he was Santos usually stayed
with the men in the field, constantly exhorting them to give their best to the arduous task with
discipline and high purpose.
During the Japanese Occupation, he was picked by the Japanese-backed civilian
government to serve as manager of the Koronadal and Allah Valley projects. In 1943, he became
commissioner for Mindanao and Sulu. A year later, against his better judgment and convictions,
he accepted the post of commanding general of the Philippine Constabulary.
Before the Japanese surrender in 1945, he was taken prisoner and commandeered to the
North, first to Nueva Vizcaya, and then to the Ifugao mountains in the Mountain Province, where
the Japanese forces had retreated.
According to official Army files, he died of pneumonia in 1945. However, what truly
caused his demise remains unknown. It is said that during the last three months of his life, he was
made to eat only rice and kangkong, thereby weakening him until he contracted the fatal illness. It
was his aide, Juan Ablan, who buried him without a casket in a crude, shallow pit in the sitio of
Tammangan, barrio Wangwang, Hunduon town.
General Santos was married to Elisa Angeles of Bulacan, with whom he had seven
For his pioneering efforts in the Koronadal and Allah Valleys, the town of Dadiangas was
renamed after him when it was made a city on September 5, 1968.
In his honor, a historical marker was unveiled on September 5, 1981 in General Santos
City, Cotabato.
Cornejo, Miguel R. Cornejo’s Commonwealth Directory of the Philippines,1939.
De los Reyes, Cornelio, editor. Who Is Who in the Philippines, 1936-37, 1936.
Dizon Jr., Roque. Manila’s Social Register ,1938.
Historical Markers Regions V-XII. Manila: National Historical Institute, 1994.
Quiason, Serafin D. “A Homage to a Great Filipino” in NHI files
Photo in: Cornejo’s Commonwealth Directory

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