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CEBU, Philippines – A DNA test commissioned by family members of the Osmeña bloodline revealed the late president Sergio Osmeña Sr.’s biological father was a mestizo Chinese businessman named “Don Antonio Sanson”.
For more than a hundred years, the identity of the late president’s father remained a mystery to archivists and historians alike. Even after his death, records could only narrow down the list of names to two people: “Don Pedro Lee Gotiaoco” and Sanson.
This was the case until a paternity project finally revealed on Friday, June 2, that Sanson was the true biological father of Osmeña after all of these years.
“It’s not a secret that he was an illegitimate child – someone who during Spanish times was identified as a padre no conocido or father unknown, someone who all his life used his mother’s last name: Osmeña,” Marilou Bernardo, a descendant and initiator of the project said.
Bernardo explained that her aunt, Annabelle Osmeña Aboitiz, wished to have the DNA test as the latter was the oldest living grandchild of the late president and wanted to settle questions about family history.
To do so, they acquired the help of forensic genealogist Todd Lucero Sales who used samples from the Gotiaco and Sanson clans. Former Mayor Tommy Osmeña donated a sample to be used as a reference for the Osmeña bloodline.
Who is Antonio Sanson?
“Antonio Sanson was a member of the Sanson Clan of Pari-an, also one of the most prominent families there…they were also merchants, businessmen, and landowners,“ Sales said.
According to Sales, Don Antonio Sanson owned a vast tract of land in Borbon town, Cebu where he spent most of his time with his own family.
Historical records also showed Sanson’s branch of the clan had originated from Surigao del Norte and other parts of Mindanao.
“Sanson was also a Hués de Pas of Borbon which means he was not only wealthy and socially prominent because the position of Hués de Pas, later on during the American period, it became ‘justice of the peace’ – you had to have a certain level of higher education to get that position,” Sales added.
Some archived documents also revealed Sanson married three different women and was believed to have had only one daughter.
Despite not being able to have a legitimate bond with the late president’s mother as the businessman was already married, Sanson’s properties in Borbon were eventually transferred to Osmeña.
“The one thing that one can draw from this long-standing mystery, I suppose, is what it says about Don Sergio about himself, as a person, and in my own sense, is that despite being a public figure… he was still essentially a very private person,” Dr. Resil Mojares, National Artist for Literature and historian said during the reveal.
Mojares, a literary critic himself, questioned why the identity of the late president’s father was left unresolved for so long.
“He was very proper, kind of completely devoted to what he had chosen to be his vocation, and yet, he was somewhat distant from things that were purely personal…he was focused on the work of governance and public service,” Mojares added.
Tommy Osmeña, the grandson of the late president, appreciated the efforts that were put into finding the identity of his great-grandfather and emphasized how the revelation would not diminish what the late president had done for his country.
A mother’s story
In a phone interview on June 5, Tommy Osmeña told Rappler that Juana Osmeña was only around 15 years old when she gave birth to the late president.
“I’d like to point out that during that period, society was very conservative. Things like that are scandalous, so I wonder how she was able to cope with that pressure,” the former mayor said.
Based on available records, Juana Osmeña was born around 1863 and died in 1941. Sergio Osmeña was born in 1878.
Despite the challenges she faced, Osmeña said Juana still managed to raise a son who was a bar topnotcher, a rising politician who became a senator, a congressman, and later the first Visayan president.
The former mayor wished to pay tribute to his great-grandmother who he believes is a good example to many single mothers in the country.
“She represents what you can do and to not give up hope,” Osmeña added. – Rappler.com