Santander is a fairly younger town compared to the rest of Cebu, as it was not declared an independent political unit until the American occupation.
It was Macario Culanag, the elected “president” of the Municipality of Oslob and a native of the then Barrio Santander, who worked for the creation of Santander into a separate municipality. The move was successful sometime in 1918, when Santander became a town. Culanag ran and became Santander’s first political leader. He was followed by Pedro Vasaya, Maximo Bureros and Gil Miral.
Through the years Santander has been transformed from a town gripped by a political dynasty that ruled the place with iron fist- monopolizing businesses, cutting water connections of political rivals and treating government like a family empire. The scars from Santander’s violent and tumultuous years (late 1990s to early 2000) have slowly faded, and now the town has opened up itself to emerge as a destination both for local and foreign tourists. With little signs of growth scattered here and there, Santander has started treading on a gradual, yet certain and peaceful, path to economic development.
But long before Santander became a municipality, it used to be under the Parish of Boljoon just like Alcoy, Nueva Caceres and Oslob. This was in the 1600s. Its former name was Tanyong, after the waters of Tanon Strait. It was a Spanish priest who recommended that it be named after the place where he came from in Spain. When the Parish of Oslob was created in 1848, Santander became a “visita” of the new parish and Tanyonganons played a role in the construction of the Oslob Church.
During the Spanish period, Santander was ruled by a “cabeza de barangay” appointed by the Spanish Governor of Cebu Province. Among those who served as cabeza de barangay were Andalecio Ondangan, Toribio Bureros, Crisanto Hugo, Juan Abiera, Laurencio Luzano, Gregoria Miral, Anselmo Buscato, Sebastian Laurente, Pio Culanag and Nicodemus Bureros.
Santander was also part of the coastal areas wherein watchtowers were erected to protect Cebu island from the Muslim raiders. Built on orders of the priest in Boljoon, Fr. Julian Bermejo, two watchtowers still stand up to this day on the shores of Santander, in Barangays Poblacion and Liloan.