Sunday, November 9, 2014

Sex and Crime in Cebu, Philippines: The Fuente Osmena Murders

I watched The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden, about unsolved crimes in the Galapagos in 1934, and I was reminded of Cebu's own murder mystery referred to as the Fuente Osmena Murders.

This sensational event happened in 1915, and involved the murders of two people, Ramon Santiago and Natividad Garcia Reyes.  Just like the Galapagos Affair, this case involved sex: it was said that Ramon Santiago was having an affair with a married woman, Natividad Garcia Reyes.

My maternal grandfather, Mariano Jesus Cuenco, was part of the team of lawyers on the prosecuting side representing Reyes and Santiago.

Mariano Jesus Cuenco is standing, second from right

I first read about these murders in Concepcion Briones' book, Life in Parian. Lucy Miller also mentions the case in her coffee table book, Glimpses of Old Cebu: Images of the Colonial Era.

What reportedly happened is this: Natividad, who was described as "a tall, slim, Junoesque goddess with jet black hair falling down to her waist," was married to Carlos Reyes, a wealthy businessman. It was said that Natividad had an affair with a single man, Ramon Santiago, who came from the island of Negros.

On Sunday, March 21. 1915, while her husband was away on business, Natividad met her lover at the then-remote park, the Fuente Osmena. The next day, their bodies were discovered at the park, with multiple stab wounds; Santiago's face was said to have been crushed.

Because Natividad's husband had not been in Cebu, it was his brother Elias, Elias' friend, and servants who were accused of committing the murders.

The case went on for two years, with Cebu's Constabulary (police) asking for Manila's help in the matter. Eventually, the judge passed judgement that the accused, except for one, were guilty. The accused appealed to the Supreme Court, which acquitted them, saying the Constabulary had tampered with the testimonies of the witness. The accused were then set free.

The Fuente Osmena Murders remains mysterious and titillating to those who have heard of it.

The photo of Santiago and Reyes are courtesy of Lucy Miller. It is part of the Lucy Miller Collection and included in Miller's coffee table book, Glimpses of Old Cebu: Images of the Colonial Era, published by the Cebuano Studies Center. The old picture of the Fuente Osmena is courtesy of The other pictures are part of my private collection.

Read also
Cuenco Family
The Old Families of Colon Street
Four Generations of Filipina Women

This is all for now,

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