Remembering a Real Hero

Jose Abad Santos was the fifth Chief Justice of the Philippine Supreme Court and served briefly as Acting President in 1942, at the beginning of the Second World War, when President Manuel Quezon and his cabinet escaped to the US. In 1909, Abad Santos was a DC resident, one of the first generation of government scholars. He received his MA in Law from the George Washington University.

Abad Santos refused to collaborate with the Japanese Imperial Army and was sentenced to death soon after his capture. The final moments of his life are recounted in numerous books, including in Ramon Aquino’s biography of Abad Santos, on which this post is based. All these accounts are based on the testimony of Keiji Fukui, a Japanese interpreter, and the recollections of Pepito, the young son of Abad Santos who was captured with him in Cebu.

Abad Santos was “was magnificently serene when he heard his death sentence,” according to Fukui. As he was led away by the imperial soldiers to his execution site, Pepito began to cry. Abad Santos paused and quietly asked his son to “show these people that you are brave.” It was, he told Pepito, a privilege to die for one’s country.

Later the soldiers showed Pepito his father’s shallow grave. Pepito asked to mark it, but they refused.

To this day, no one knows where Abad Santos is buried. There are cemeteries for heroes, both real and self-proclaimed. And then there are heroes who rest in unmarked graves; they are nowhere to be found.

Or maybe they are everywhere–their integrity and courage, waiting to be reclaimed.

(Photo: 1909 Abad Santos yearbook photo, courtesy of the GWU archives.)7 - GWU - Jose Abad Santos - used with permission


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