Don Sergio Osmeña Sr.: Perfect political gentleman

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Josephus Jimenez (The Freeman) - September 9, 2018 - 12:00am

FEDERAL WAY, WASHINGTON — Here in USA, the baby boomers like me remember the pride of Cebu, Don Sergio Osmeña Sr. Mayor Tomas Osmeña has a lot of virtues to learn from his grandfather like gentleness, humility, respect for people of lower social and economic status, patience and prudence. The grand old man of Cebu was the most revered, respected, and loved Cebuano leader then and now.

Today is the 140th birth anniversary of the only Cebuano to become president. He was the father of former Cebu governor and former Cebu City mayor, presidential candidate Sergio “Serging” Osmeña Jr. and grandfather of former senator Sergio “Serge” Osmeña III, Toledo City Mayor John Henry “Sonny” Osmeña, former Cebu governor Emilio Mario “Lito” Osmeña, and incumbent Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña. He, unlike today's generation of politicians, was a perfect gentleman, self-sacrificing, and humble.

He was a Law school classmate of Manuel Quezon. Osmeña placed second in the Bar, while Quezon placed fourth. But in politics, Osmeña allowed Quezon to be on top and always played second fiddle.

He became Governor of Cebu from 1906 to 1907, member of Congress and Speaker of the House from 1907 to 1922, and senator from 1922 to 1935. During the Commonwealth he became vice president while Quezon won the presidency. He allowed Quezon to remain president and even supported amending the Constitution to allow Quezon to seek re-election, remaining Quezon's vice president.

But with Quezon in exile in the US in 1944, Osmeña became president at 65. He joined General Douglas MacArthur and General Carlos P. Romulo when they landed in Palo, Leyte, on October 20, 1944. In 1945, Osmeña sent a delegation headed by Romulo, to the US to sign the UN charter. In 1946, Don Sergio, the founder of the Nacionalista Party, was beaten by Manuel Roxas, the founder of the Liberal Party. Ironically, Roxas was an NP member who bolted when Osmeña beat him in a convention.

Don Sergio was born on September 9, 1878, 20 years before General Emilio Aguinaldo's declared Philippine independence. His mother was Juana Suico Osmeña, only 14 years old. His father was never known. He married Estefania Chiong Veloso in 1901 with whom he had Nicasio, Vicenta, Edilberto, Milagros, Emilio (father of Sonny and Lito), Ma. Paloma, Jesus, Teodoro, Jose and Sergio Osmeña, Jr. (father of Serge and Tomas). Estefania died in 1918, and Don Sergio married Esperanza Limjap, with whom he had Ramon, Rosalina, and Victor.

By twist of fate, the grandchildren of Don Sergio: Sonny, Serge, and Tomas were, at one point, affiliated with the LP, the party that defeated their lolo. In fact, Tomas supported Mar Roxas, grandson of the man who trounced their grandfather. Yes, in politics there are no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests. But Don Sergio remained loyal to his party until he died in 1961. There are only two Cebuano leaders today who have the character of Don Sergio: Mayor Eduardo Gullas of Talisay and former chief justice Hilario Davide Jr. of Argao.

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