Rufino Jiao Santos - Legacy


Caritas Manila’s history began with a Cardinal that "walked the talk".

Cardinal Santos, the first Filipino Cardinal, became the 29th Archbishop of Manila in a post-war scenario that saw a nation plagued with the following: a high dependency on the upper class in the country's social, economic and political growth; a growing inequality in the distribution of wealth; a critical unfairness in labor, land and tenancy—all catalysts to the resurgence of the communist movement. It was to this disparate social order that Cardinal Santos spoke upon his installation:

I have thought of organizing a social welfare for uplifting the spirit and soul of these unfortunate members of our community. The Archdiocese will lead in this undertaking with an initial amount of fifty to one hundred thousand pesos. Then I expect the more fortunate of the faithful in the Archdiocese to contribute their help in the amount of 1 peso a month for the same purpose, in order that we may budget some two hundred to two hundred fifty thousand pesos a year for buying food, clothing and medicines for distribution among our poor brethren, and the education of their children.

This plan took shape soon after when the Cardinal appointed an eleven-man Administrative Board on October 1, 1953. And so a new era had dawned, when the establishment of Caritas Manila (first known as Catholic Charities) brought structure and organization to the way the Church’s charitable works in the Archdiocese of Manila were being implemented.

The initial years were largely a period of identifying those who needed help the most, prioritizing and allocating medical aid, food and clothing when needed. These were superseded by programs that harnessed talents and opened up work opportunities for Manila's teeming masses, such as the educational assistance program and job placement program. Nonetheless it was medical assistance, crisis intervention and emergency relief that had the greatest impact, reaching thousands of the sick and indigent. Cardinal Santos was "reviled" for his "conservatism on social issues and business acumen" . However, it was his vision and altruism that had made Caritas Manila a success and his most noteworthy accomplishment. He died in Manila in 1973.

Santos established the Radio Veritas and built important structures including the Our Lady of Guadalupe Minor Seminary, Edsa, Makati City, the Pius XII Catholic Center in Paco, and the Villa San Miguel in Mandaluyong.

Following his death, a diplomatic report from the US Embassy in the Philippines assessed his activities as follows:

Santos' opposition to "Social Action" programs, which he frequently expressed in heavy-handed fashion, did much to perpetuate the Church's image as a conservative organization, allied with the country's economic and social elite.

The CBCP announced that Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales would lead the August 26, 2008 centennial rites for Santos at his hometown of Sto. Nino, Guagua, Immaculate Conception Parish Church. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was to lead the event by unveiling a historical marker and a 6-foot statue of Santos (sculpted by Edillardo Paras) and donated by Cesar L. Villanueva's wife, Arlyn Sicangco-Villanueva, president of Holy Angel University in Angeles City, Pampanga. The rites also included the exhibit of Cardinal Santos memorabilia, loaned by the Archdiocese of Manila and the Kapampangan Museum at Clark. The bronze statue will sit atop a 7-foot concrete pedestal outside the Rufino J. Cardinal Santos Convention Hall adjacent to the parish church. Villanueva also presented to the President, a copy of the book “Padre Pinong, the First Filipino Cardinal” authored by Augustinian brother Francis Musni.

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