A landmark honoring the late Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Jose Abad Santos, is the newest tourist attraction in the heritage town of Carcar in South Cebu.
Carcar is known as the shoe capital of Cebu. Its famous indigenous specialties are chicharon, bocarillo and rice chips commonly known as ampao. It is also known for the panoramic line and the canopy of century-old acacia trees of Perrelos.
The obelisk in honor of Abad Santos was erected at Tan-awan in Barangay Guadalupe – to mark his bravery and sacrifice. It was erected by Leon Kilat Masonic Lodge No. 437 (LKML) in honor of Abad Santos, who was captured by Japanese in Barili and executed in Lanao del Sur.
Abad Santos is honored as a hero who chose to stay in the country during the Japanese occupation when he could have fled abroad.
When captured, Abad Santos also refused to betray his countrymen and collaborate with the invaders.
Abad Santos was chosen to be the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1941 and was sworn in before President Manuel Quezon. Within days of its designation, Japanese forces began their invasion. As the enemy closed in, Abad Santos and other high officials such as President Quezon, Vice President Sergio Osmeña were advised by General MacArthur to evacuate Manila to Corregidor. The place, however, was also bombed and was no longer safe for them.
On February 2, 1942, General MacArthur again offered to evacuate from Corregidor to the Visayas and on the 19th they began their escape and headed south. The next day, the group with Abad Santos began sailing “when the moon had set” through an American submarine named Swordfish and reached San Jose de Buenavista, Antique, at 2:40 a.m. on February 22.
From there he, along with his son Pepito and Vice President Osmeña traveled to Iloilo City by an SS Don Esteban ship that the other group was sailing and they arrived on the night of the same day. After shopping for their necessities, the group departed Iloilo, then traveled to Bacolod City via the MV Princess of Negros on the 23rd. They lodged in the house of Provincial Governor Dr. Antonio A. Lizares.
President Quezon was then advised by General MacArthur to go abroad with him. The general also invited Abad Santos to flee the country but he refused. By choosing to remain in the country, he received from President Quezon such governmental powers as inspecting and supervising the needs of forces and taking action to combat invasion in unoccupied areas such as Cebu.
On Good Friday, before Abad Santos went to Cebu, he met Colonel Manuel Roxas who invited him to accompany him to Mindanao but he refused again. Abad Santos said he intended to go to Cebu and was warned by Colonel Roxas that he might be captured and killed by Japanese forces. The Chief Justice, however, said: “If such is my destiny, I am ready to face it; but in the meantime, I will continue to discharge the functions entrusted to me by the President.
Abad Santos arrived in Cebu City on April 7 by ferry with his son, Colonel Benidito Valeriano.
On April 10, 1942, after hearing the news of the fall of Bataan, Abad Santos evacuated to Naga. Upon hearing that Japanese forces had landed north and south of Cebu, he planned to return to Negros via Toledo, but the road and most areas had been blocked off and occupied by the Japanese.
Abad Santos and his company drove south via the Carcar-Barili highway. Along the way, they stop to inquire and a Maximo Noel warns them that the Japanese are landing in the Barili and heading towards Carcar. Noel advised them not to continue.
On the morning of April 11, 1942, they were captured. When Abad Santos refused to cooperate with his captors, he was executed by firing squad.
When he was to be executed in Malabang, Lanao Del Sur, in early May 1942, his son Pepito ran towards him. Abad Santos told him not to cry and to show the occupants that he was brave.
“It’s a rare opportunity for me to die for our country, not everyone has that chance,” Abad Santos reportedly told his son.
Many people now visit the obelisk to have their picture taken with it. The monument offers a panoramic view of the mountains of Cebu.
A buko vendor said it was a favorite spot for motorcyclists, especially on Sundays.
Marilyn Cubar is a Bachelor of Arts in Communication student at Cebu Normal University.