Today in Philippine History, April 7, 1871, Epifanio de los Santos was born in Malabon

Friday April 06, 2012 ()

On April 7, 1871, Epifanio de los Santos, nationalist, writer and scholar, lawyer, researcher, musician, politician, painter, among others, was born in Malabon Rizal, now a city of Metro Manila. His father was Escolastico de los Santos, an educated and wealthy hacendero. His mother was Antonina Cristobal, noted for her ability to play the piano and harp.

   Epifanio de los Santos
   (Epifanio de los Santos)

At only seven years old, he was sent to the Ateneo Municipal, a Jesuit boarding school in Manila, and later he graduated from the Dominican University of Santo Tomas as a licentiate in law. After his graduation he became private secretary to an important Spanish official whose position was somewhat similar to that of a solicitor-general.

Don Panong, as he was known to his friends, was not generally considered a poet, although he did make an excellent Spanish translation of the famous Tagalog poem "Florante and Laura" by Francisco Balagtas, which, under a classic disguise, exposed the evils which the Filipinos suffered. Nor did he write two such monumental novels of protest as Rizal's "Noli me Tangere" and "El Filibusterismo". He lived at a later day, and the time for such works was past. But he did leave behind him important biographical and historical sketches of Rizal, Balagtas, Jacinto, Yusay, Del Pan, Bonifacio, Del Pilar, and Pardo de Tavera, and many brilliant essays on Tagalog literature, the Tagalog theater, and Philippine art and folkmusic.

He was the first highly educated and cultured Filipino to direct the attention of his countrymen to their own illustrious men, and to their own art, literature, poetry, and music. And he did this critically, without chauvinism and undue sentimentality. But he believed in his people. He once said:

"We Filipinos are the most promising people in the world. We have unheard of possibilities. There never has been a people similarly situated. Here we are in the Orient, with our Oriental thoughts and sentiments, but living amidst a civilization more Western than was ever known in the East. The Philippines is the only country where East meets West. The Filipino is a true cosmopolite. From him the world may expect something new and distinctive."

During the Philippine Revolution he was on the staff of La Independencia, and wrote articles and stories under the pen-name "G. Solon". Associated with him under General Antonio Luna, the editor-in-chief, were Palma, Guerrero, Apostol, Zulueta, Abreu, and the Del Rosario brothers. Under the American regime, he was elected Governor of Nueva Ecija in 1900, a position he held for four years. After that he was for nearly twenty years fiscal (prosecuting attorney) of Bulacan Province.

He was well traveled, going to many places in Europe, Asia and the Americas, searching for rare Philippine documents in big museums, archives and libraries.

The last and key position he held was director of the Philippine Library and Museum during the American Period.

He was married twice, the first time in 1899 to Ursula Paez, and after her death he married Margarita Torralba in 1908. Both were intelligent and charming women, and his family life was happy. He had four children by his first wife and eight by the second. He was a kind and thoughtful father, and his children loved and respected him.

Don Panong died on April 18, 1928 at the age of 57.

In his honor, the former Highway 54 from Pasay City to Caloocan City was renamed Epifanio delos Santos Avenue (EDSA), as well as several schools, streets, a college, and a hospital.

There is also an Epifanio de los Santos Auditorium in the Philippine National Library.

Sources:

  • Philippine News Agency archives
  • The Education Philippine Magazine, Volume 26, Number 1, June 1929

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