Santander as a town sailed a long and tedious road to singlehood.
In its early years during the Spanish era, Santander was called Tañon or Tañong, the last of eight vicarages established under the parish of Carcar in 1599.
For about four centuries, it was a visita passed from Carcar, to Boljoon, and then Oslob before being established as a parish under the patronage of San Gabriel Arcangel in 1898.
Macario Culanag, a native of Santander, worked for its transition into a municipality when he was elected municipal president of Oslob.
In 1918, Santander became a separate political unit after a successful representation in the Philippine Assembly by Miguel Cuenco.
When Santander officially became a town, Culanag ran as municipal president and won. He was the town president until he died.
Among the notable names who were Santander’s previous leaders were Pedro Vasaya, Maximo Bureros, Gil Miral, Celestino Bureros, Onesimo Buscato, Apolinar Luzano, Patricio Ypil, Francisco Vasaya, Jesus Filipinas, Crisologo Abines, Willy Wenceslao, Encarnacion Go, Priscilla Abines, James Arnold Abines, Wilson Wenceslao and Marilyn Wenceslao, the current mayor.
It is said that before liberty, tranquility, and progress were savored by Santander locals, they first faced violence and monopoly.
Before the 21st century, a long period of aggression by local leaders marred Santander’s political scene, with the people and economy controlled and dominated by the powerful Abines political clan.
At the height of the Abineses’ preeminence in decades leading to the early 2000s, child labor and the employment of uneducated people in harmful fishing activities were rampant across Santander.
It was not until 2001 when the town’s image was consequently transformed with the election of new leaders who advocated marine and coastal resource protection.
Along with this came a renewed hope for people’s rights and interests to be protected as well.
In the early 2000s, the church served not only a place for religious veneration. It became a place of refuge of the people in times of political persecution.
Santander, situated 135 kilometers south of Cebu City, came to overcome the setbacks of being farthest from the seat of provincial government.
Santander is slowly moving from its mainly agriculture-based economy as resorts equipped with diving facilities and well-trained divers continue to sprout in Barangays Poblacion, Looc, Liloan and, Canlumacad.
The town has also embarked on improving its marine resources and boosting both eco and cultural tourism.
Facing the Philippines’ largest marine reserves, the Tañon Strait in its east, and the Cebu Strait on the west, the town has become the beacon of the diving industry. Santander is flocked by thousands of local and foreign divers and those seeking exceptional adventures.
The municipality has also a marine sanctuary located at Sanayon site in Barangay Pasil.
The town encompasses a land area of 3,567 hectares or around 35 square kilometers, 34 percent of which are coastal areas having gentle slopes suitable for agriculture and industrial uses. Some 31 percent of its area is made up of hilly lands.
With an economy based on sustainable fishing, farming, trading and tourism, the town is well on its way to a development that is balanced and non-destructive to its environment.
Today, Santander serves as Cebu’s gateway to neighboring tourist spots in Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental, Bohol, and Siquijor.
Population: 17,000 (2014 estimate)
Coastal: Poblacion, Canlumacad, Looc, Liloan, Pasil and Talisay
Mountain: Liptong, Kandamiang, Bunlan and Cabutongan
Major Agricultural Products: copra, corn, root crops, cassava, bananas, sweet potatoes
Delicacies: Tostado (native cookies), bibingka, bodbod and biko
Day Care Centers: 11
Kindergarten: 8 public/1 private
Primary: 1 public
Elementary: 8 public/1 private
Secondary: 1 public/1 private
A district hospital is located in the Municipality of Oslob, aside from the hospitals in Negros Oriental. The number of operational ambulances is 3. There is 1 municipal health center and 10 barangay health centers.