General Santos City: Foundation Day misnomerBy Edwin Espejo Feb 26, 2013 8:48AM UTC
A day after the opening of the 2013 Annual Kalilangan Festival, I found myself seated in the same table with two grandsons of the late Gen. Paulino Santos, brothers Dr. Bobby (Jose Antonio) and Tito (Francisco) Santos, during the opening of the second Big Ben Steak and Grill House in the city at the arcade building of the newly opened 66-room Microtel international business hotel chain.
The US-based Dr. Bob is in town for a medical mission together with several Filipino physicians and nurses.
Our conversation eventually drifted into the official name of the occasion of annual Kalilangan Festival which is the Foundation Day.
Tito agreed that many have mistaken the Foundation Day as the foundation of General Santos City.
Another descendant of a pioneer in this part of Mindanao, George Phillip Palileo agreed, too. Phillip is the grandson of Walter K. Perett, an American who first landed in Kiamba in 1918. Perett was part of the contingent of American soldier-teachers who arrived in the country on board M/V Thomas, hence the name Thomasites. Perett was executed in Kalaong, Kiamba by the Japanese occupation forces during World War II.
The trio of descendants of pioneers here said many could not have been more erroneously misinformed about the foundation day.
The annual Foundation Day was then held, and is still being held today, in commemoration of the landing of the first batch of settlers from Luzon and Visayas when the southern part of the then undivided Cotabato Empire in 1939 was opened as a frontier settlement area by the National Land Settlement Administration.
But even before then, in 1913, non-Mindanaoan Christians from Cebu had already made headway in the province, particularly in Pikit that is now a town of what is left of the former undivided Cotabato, at the behest of the late Sergio Osmeña who was then Speaker of the American-era Philippine Commission. (Osmeña would later become Philippine president after World War II).
The first batch of government-sponsored settlers actually set foot in the shores of what would later become Dadiangas in the town of Buayan on February 28, 1939. They were led by Brig. Gen. Paulino Santos Sr. The first batch of settlers was called The Pioneers and that explains why the six-lane Pioneer Avenue fronting the City Hall is named as such.
Five days later, on March 3, Gen. Santos created the town of Lagao where the settlers eventually were awarded homelots. Lagao was to be divided later divided into three barrios (barangays) – the first, second and third barrios. Two more batches of settlers would follow in the same year.
Most of the third batch of settlers traveled more than 60 kilometers north to open and occupy agricultural lands in what is now the vast Koronadal Valley.
The settlements under NLSA would not end until 1950.
Before South Cotabato was carved out of the vast Cotabato Empire, settlers here would celebrate foundation day every February 27. It has since stuck for General Santos City even though it did not become one until September 5, 1968 when it was proclaimed as a chartered city.
It is therefore historically inappropriate and grossly inaccurate to observe February 27 as the 74th Foundation Day of General Santos City.
Ms. Rue Ramas, of the Sons and Daughters of General Paulino Santos, has correctly named February 27 as the Foundation Day of NLSA. I would rather that it be given its proper recognition as the 74th Settlement Foundation Day.
Dr. Bob and Tito, sons of Paulino Santos Jr., agreed that commemorating the landing of the first batch of settlers be given the proper historical context and recognition.
But they also said it would be up for the Sons and Daughters of General Santos, an organization of original settlers in the city, to correct the historical inaccuracies of the Foundation Day celebration.
Of course, it would help if the city government will officially correct these historical facts.