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Feb 03rd
Home Columns The Way I See It Sergio Osmeña, the Founding Father
Sergio Osmeña, the Founding Father PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - The Way I See It
Tuesday, 09 September 2008 11:55

By Atty. Lope Lindio of Houston, Texas. He is also a member of the Illinois Bar Association.

I happened to read in Philippine newspapers this morning that today is the birthday of the late President Sergio Osmeña.  He was born in the capital town of Cebu, Cebu, Philippines, on Sept. 9, 1878.  If all other Filipino expatriates are like me, I would say that no one would remember him today or any other day.

      What they don’t know, just like most Filipinos everywhere, is that there would have been no independence on July 4, 1946, if it were not for the labors of Sergio Osmeña and his partner and rival, Manuel L. Quezon, who eventually eclipsed him in their struggle for power. They were the first among equals of the founding fathers who worked for the restoration of Philippine independence of 06/19/1898, which the Americans hijacked by force of arms and money purchase. But it was Osmeña who skippered the Philippine team that proved to the Americans that the Filipinos were capable of self-government.  They passed the test because Sergio Osmeña acquitted himself well as the first speaker of the Philippine Assembly at the age of 29.


      He accomplished this by bridging and fusing the competing objectives of the colonizers out to assert their imperial prerogatives and the Filipino nationalists who were for immediate and absolute independence. He arbitrated the clashing personalities and competing 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.  Its declared policy was more in teaching Filipinos learn English, so that they could read service manuals of goods and machineries Made in USA, unlike the Spaniards who were for savings souls from hell or purgatory.


        The newly-vanquished insurrectos, ill prepared to take the new colonials head-on, had to learn to navigate the uncharted waters of the parliamentary struggle for independence. This was the way pointed to them by the Americans where they could pursue peacefully their desire of becoming independent. 


       Prominent leaders of the short-lived Philippine republic already succumbed to the American policy of attraction. The Partido Federalista collaborated openly with them in trying to bring the country completely under their control.  The Mabini “irreconcilables” were in the Partido Nacionalista, which had “the support of Sergio Osmeña and Rafael Palma.”  Leadership soon passed to Osmeña and Quezon, who turned its orientation less combative and more pragmatic, if it was to succeed as the vehicle to carry the fight for Philippine independence.


       Very little has been written about Sergio Osmeña because he lived to fight in contemporary political contests, and thus, outlived his great deeds. Ever a consensus builder, and in the spirit of Filipino unity, he agreed to play second fiddle to the more aggressive Quezon who eventually became a wartime President.  Like Emilio Aguinaldo, he lived too long to be overtaken by more dramatic historical events, that he is honored today less than if he died younger at the height of his political power.


       Quezon admitted that it was Osmeña who repackaged the demand for independence in a way that it did not make the Americans feel threatened.  He also said that it was only Osmeña who was prepared and ready to step up to the plate at the critical time when the Americans needed a national leader because of his unique knowledge of American government he learned by prepping himself up through self-study!


         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 UST law student  Sergio Osmeña, 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 Osmeña figured in the diary pages of  Aguinaldo’s  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, Osmeña, Col. Leyba.”


       Author Mojares observed that around this time, “Osmeña 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.

      Osmeña’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 El Nuevo Dia, 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 an illegitimate child of an unmarried shopkeeper, although kept in respectable life style by the patronage and support of very wealthy maternal uncles.


       Osmeña and Quezon took the same 1903 bar examinations.  Already a member of the Cebu municipal council when he took the bar examinations, Osmeña was second placer; a certain J.L. Quintos scored the highest. Quezon was in the first ten successful barristers. 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.  Osmeña 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.


      As Cebu governor, he was elected president of the convention of provincial governors in Manila.  He later became the Speaker of the Philippine Assembly in 1907 at the age of 29,  when the average age of the members 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, Osmeña, 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 Cebu, countryside-based  (PROMDI) leader was, among others, his 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 Osmeña 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.” Osmeña, he said, “recast the old appeals for independence and placed them on a more ‘practical basis’.”


        Thus, Osmeña, 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.  # # #  Comments to


Last Updated on Thursday, 10 September 2015 13:48
Comments (3)
1 Wednesday, 09 September 2009 15:27
In a message dated 9/9/2009 5:17:15 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, frednati writes:

Today is Apin's birthday as it is for Sergio Osmena.

Sergio Osmena was the Philippine president who waded ashore at Leyte on October 20, 1944 BEHIND the triumphant "leading man," General Douglas Macarthur, who retuned after his humiliating defeat at Bataan and Corregidor in early 1942.

Dear Manong Fred:

Thank you for remembering the birth anniversary of Don Sergio Osmena.

Our publication actually published an article about President Osmena on Sept. 9, 2008, (last year) as written by Atty. Lope Lindio. Today, we brought the article back to the Front Page of our website.

Here is its URL:

Happy reading,


Bobby M. Reyes
and Director, Cebu Brotherhood, Inc., of Los Angeles, CA

CC: Atty. Lope Lindio
Cebu Brotherhood Officers
2 Wednesday, 09 September 2009 15:28

I'm glad, and grateful, that you have circulated my Osmena article. He's one authentic Filipino hero who has been ignored and almost already forgotten. I'm afraid that, over time, nobody would remember him anymore. After all, contemporary heroes are fast coming up, even, the newly sainted Cory Aquino.

Thanks again.

3 Wednesday, 09 September 2009 15:30
Thanks for the article. Feels great to be a Cebuano.


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