TWO AGES OF HIS GRACE. Most Rev. Pedro P. Santos D.D., of Porac, Pampanga as he looked in his younger years and at a later stage of his religious life. He rose to become the Archbishop of Nueva Caceres, making him one of the highest ranking and powerful figures of the Philippine Catholic Church.
One of the highest-ranking religious figures in the Catholic hierarchy is a humble Kapampangan from Porac, the Most Rev. Pedro P. Santos, D.D., who rose to be come the Archbishop of Nueva Caceres in 1951. True, while another Kapampangan Santos gained more national prominence by attaining the higher rank of a Cardinal—Rufino Santos—the achievements of Pedro P. Santos as Servant of God, especially in the field of Christian education, are no less significant, a legacy that continues to benefit Kapampangans of today.
Pedro P. Santos was born in Porac on 29 June 1889. At age 11, he enrolled at the Ateneo de Manila in June 1900. Four years later, he was accepted at the Central Seminary of Saint Francis Xavier. On 15 March 1913, he was ordained priest by His Excellency, Archbishop Jeremias Harty, at the age of 24. He was immediately assigned as Assistant Priest and at the same time as sub-secretary to the Archbishop of Manila.
Just a few months into his job, he secured his first parochial assignment in his own province as Assistant Priest of Mexico, Pampanga in October. On November 1914, he was appointed chaplain of the chaplaincy of barrio Calulut, San Fernando, Pampanga. There, he undertook the construction of a church enabling the chaplaincy to become a parish. He then assumed the post as its first parish priest.
On 9 July 1917, he was assigned to Bacolor by the Most Rev. Michael O’Doherty, Archbishop of Manila. It was in this town that he set up the first of the schools he would organize later in his life: St. Mary’s Academy, founded in 1922. The high school closed in 1925 when a branch of St. Scholastica’s College opened in San Fernando, but the elementary level operation continued, interrupted only by the war. During his long tenure in Bacolor, he also repaired the church and constructed a rectory.
On September 1932, Rev. Santos took on the parish of Angeles as his next assignment. Here, he left his mark with the establishment of catechetical centers in Angeles barrios. He also encouraged the practice of spiritual retreats. Likewise, he fostered the growth of the Solidarity of the Children of Mary and published “Ing Cuyug”, (The Echo), a missionary newsletter that he circulated to thousands of subscribers. He organized fund-raising programs for the restoration of the old convent occupied by the Benedictine Sisters, thus re-invigorating the Holy Family Academy, originally founded in 1910 by Augustinian Sisters. In 1933, he also co-founded Holy Angel College (with Juan Nepomuceno), later to become a university, the biggest in Central Luzon. With his track record, Rev. Santos was appointed Vicar Forane of the northeast district of the province.
Bigger things were in store for the Reverend, for on 21 May 1938, he was named Bishop of Nueva Caceres (Naga) by His Holiness, Pope Pius XI. he was solemnly consecreated at the Manila cathedral on 15 August by the Apostolic Delegate, Msgr. Guillermo Piani, with hundreds of Angeleños in attendance. A banquet in his honor was held at the Colegio de Tiples. On 16 September 1938, he was installed in his Diocesan See. It can be said that Rev. Santos reached the zenith of his religious life when he was named as Archbishop of Nueva Caceres in 1951, at that time, a venerable title reserved for the privileged few.
Though uprooted from his beloved province, he continued to keep a special eye on Pampanga’s spiritual growth. In 1956, he went back to San Fernando to lead the canonical coronation of the Virgen de los Remedios, the holy image that became the guiding light of the Cruzada de Caridad y Bena Voluntad. In 1965, His Grace, Most Rev. Pedro P. Santos, D.D., departed this life at age 76, a dedicated Servant of God and Porac’s very own son.