DNA test reveals ex-President Sergio Osmeña’s father
CEBU CITY, Cebu, Philippines — A 150-year-old mystery surrounding the paternity of the late President Sergio Osmeña Sr. was finally answered.
The family and relatives of the country’s fourth President, who served from 1944 to 1946, have announced the results of a project aimed at identifying the father of “Cebu’s Grand Old Man.”
Dr. Todd Lucero Sales, a renowned forensic genealogist, said Osmeña’s father was not Don Pedro Lee Gotiaoco, a Cebu Chinese tycoon many presumed to have sired the son of 16-year-old Juana Osmeña, but Don Antonio Sanson, a merchant from another illustrious Cebuano family during the Spanish era.
It was Sales who conducted a Y-DNA test, a genetic examination that analyzes the Y chromosome to trace a man’s paternal ancestry.
“As we all know, his (Osmeña) paternity has always been shrouded in mystery and is a historical question that continues to linger. The results of the [Y]-DNA test are in and they are conclusive,” said Annabelle Osmeña Aboitiz, a granddaughter of the late President, who, along with another Osmeña descendant, Maria Lourdes Bernardo, initiated the paternity project.
The official announcement of the real identity of Osmeña’s father was held at Casino Español de Cebu last Friday.
According to Aboitiz, the Osmeña family wanted to share the results of the paternity project to correct history.
“This is a momentous occasion because this is one of the first times in Philippine history that a historical mystery has been solved using [Y]-DNA testing. More importantly, the revelation of Sergio Osmeña’s paternity will require a revision of how his biography is taught in schools or is written in history books, as most have identified the wrong person as his father,” she said.
During the presentation of the results, Sales said they started collecting Y-DNA samples from male representatives of the Osmeña, Gotiaoco and Sanson clans, in March 2023, barely a month since they started discussing the project.
He said the results, which were released in April, showed a 99.98-percent match between the Osmeña and Sanson families.
The paternity project to identify the real father of Osmeña was done in preparation for the 145th birthday of the first Visayan President on Sept. 9.
A tribute to Juana
Osmeña’s grandson and former Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña said the revelation would not erase the many things his grandfather did for the country.
“Finally, we are certain who the father of Don Sergio, who assumed his mother’s surname, was. His mother was Juana Osmeña. No one knows who the father was when she gave birth at 16 years old,” said Tomas in a text message to the Inquirer on Sunday.
He added: “Most people received the news focusing on the revelation of Don Sergio’s father. I would rather pay tribute to Ms Juana, a 16-year-old mom. Give her credit for producing a son who became a bar topnotcher, governor who became the first and youngest Speaker of the House. Later, he became senator, vice president, and then President.
“In today’s world, Juana can be an inspiration for single mothers and the father could have well been convicted of statutory rape. Give credit where credit is due. I’m proud of my great grand lola.”
Michael Acebedo Lopez, a Cebuano history and genealogy enthusiast, said the Sansons are one of the 28 original families of the old Parian, Cebu’s first elite enclave that was home to Sangley Mestizos/Chinese Mestizos, a number of them comprising Cebu’s aristocracy during Spanish colonial rule.
“A 150-year-old mystery was finally answered by science. For probably more than a decade now, I have shared a dream of using science to settle the centuries-old chismis involving a Philippine President, being a genealogy aficionado and DNA science geek,” he said in a post on Facebook on Saturday.
“Yesterday (Friday) was really a great day for President Osmeña and his family (both the Osmeñas and the Sansons), for Cebu, for history, and for science! Kudos to everyone who made it possible,” he added.
Before he became President in 1944, Osmeña served as governor of Cebu from 1906 to 1907, member and first Speaker of the Philippine House of Representatives from 1907 to 1922, and senator for thirteen years, in which capacity he served as Senate president pro tempore.
He served as vice president under former President Manuel Quezon. When Quezon died in 1944, Osmeña succeeded him at age 65, becoming the oldest person to assume the Philippine presidency until former President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016 at age 71.
Osmeña first married Estefania Chiong Veloso in 1901 and had 10 children namely Nicasio, Vicenta, Edilberto, Milagros, Emilio, Maria Paloma, Jesus, Teodoro, José and Sergio Jr.
In January 1920, two years after the death of his first wife, Osmeña married Esperanza Limjap and had three children: Ramón, Rosalina and Victor.
Several of Osmeña’s descendants carrying his surname became prominent political figures. Among them were his son, the late Sergio Jr., a former senator; and grandsons Sergio III (former senator), the late John Henry (congressman, senator and mayor of Toledo City in Cebu), Tomas, (former congressman and mayor of Cebu City), the late Emilio Mario (governor of Cebu), Rogelio (former Cebu City councilor) and Renato (former Cebu City vice mayor).
Osmeña died on Oct. 19, 1961, at age 83 at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City.