Tanglaw Newsletter



A Tribute to the late MS3 Ronchester Santiago

By Virginia Jacildo

BOSTON - It was a sad day but a proud moment for Filipino-Americans as the galley aboard the USS Constitution, the Navy's oldest ship permanently moored in the old Charlestown Navy Yard in this town, was named in honor of the late Filipino-American Navyman, MS3 Ronchester Santiago. Petty Officer Santiago was among the 17 sailors killed during the terrorist bombing of the USS Cole inYemen harbor, in the Middle East, last October 12th. Prior to his recent assignment to the USS Cole, Petty Officer Santiago, or Chester, as friends call him, served aboard the USS Constitutionfor 3 years, earning the respect and friendship of his shipmates. As Captain William Foster, the USS Constitution's current Commanding Officer, said, "he had that look of adventure in his eyes when he checked out from me saying, ' Captain, I enjoyed my three years here, but I look forward to going out to sea on a ship on the line to see the world and serve my country.'" He always had a smile on his face, Captain Foster remembered.

In attendance during the ceremonies this cold, wintry day was Ronchester Santiago's parents, Rogelio and Simeona Santiago, his brother Rogelio, Jr., sister Angela and sister-in-law, Kathryn, accompanied by the Mayor of Corpus Christi, TX where they reside. They were flown in by the USO from Corpus Christi. In attendance were Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, a representative for Mayor Tom Menino of Boston, the State Representative of Charlestown, MA and 7 of Ronchester's shipmates from the USS Cole, along with the crew of the USS Constitution, and many others. Representing the Filipino-American community were Tony Mateo, Amanda Kalb and this writer, by invitation from the Navy via Phil Cronin of the USO, who called the Philippine Consulate General in New York, and was referred to call Tony Mateo and the PAMAS organization.

PAMAS has relayed an invitation to the Santiago family to have dinner with the Filipino community at the Shuttle Stop Thursday evening the night before the ceremonies, which was eagerly accepted, but due to some snafu with the flight schedule, they didn't arrive in Boston until 10:00 at night, instead of the initially scheduled 2:00 PM arrival. They had to regretfully bow out.

Coincidentally, the day marked the 59th anniversary of the bombing of the Philippines during WWII by the Japanese, the day after their surprise attack at Pearly Harbor in Hawaii. In many Filipinos mind, this was the day that started a long history of friendship and mutual support between the Filipino and American people, and Petty Officer Ronchester Santiago's untimely death is another example of the ultimate sacrifice that Filipino-Americans are willing to risk in service to this adopted country of ours, the United States of America.

A plaque bearing Ronchester Santiago's name states, "Cry not, our hearts and souls are full for having known him . . . He answered the call.", is now permanently displayed in the USS Constitution's galley.

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