Filipino-American Edwin Santos: Community pillar, Tylerite and true friend

COURTESY Tyler resident Edwin Santos is a pillar of Tyler’s thriving Filipino-American community.

Alfred Llave was a traveling physical therapist when he arrived in Tyler in 1993 from California, and the Filipino American thought East Texas would be just another quick tour before going elsewhere.

"I thought I'd be here a few months and then off to the next place," he said.

What Llave, now a Tyler doctor specializing in radiology, could not have counted on was the bubbly, happy and energetic Edwin Santos, who not only welcomed Llave to the community but introduced him to a thriving Filipino community.

The Filipino community changed Llave's mind and convinced him to claim Tyler as his home for years to come. 

"Because of his contact and friendship, I fell in love with this city and the people here," Llave said. "If you go other places and they learn you are from Tyler, all you hear is positive things. Tyler is known to have a really great Filipino community."

Santos, 46, arrived in Tyler in 1991 when he was hired by  East Texas Medical Center while completing his physical therapy internship at Emilio Aguinaldo College in Manila, Philippines. 

His parents came to Tyler in 1995 after they retired from their jobs. In 1996, Santos enlisted in the U.S. Navy for an eight-year stint but he did not become a naturalized citizen until 2005. 

Santos, who always seems to be smiling, said he is proud to live in Tyler.

"Tyler is a mint American city," he said from Forbes Park, Makati City, Philippines, where was visiting this past week. "We have so much in East Texas, and the key is knowing the right people to connect you."

Santos is a member of the Filipino-American Association of East Texas, whose purpose is to foster the welfare of the Filipino-Americans in East Texas.

"When people, especially new immigrants, arrive and feel their way around, I do my utter best to get them connected," Santos said. "Believe me, the ones who came before me did the same, although they may have done it more discreetly.

Mechele Agbayani Mills, Better Business Bureau Serving Central East Texas president and CEO, also said Santos was one of the first people who reached out to her when she moved to Tyler.

She said she became fast friends with Santos, and he even called her parents in Houston to check in on them. 

"Many friends walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart. Ed is that kind of friend to me," Mrs. Mills said.

Mrs. Mills said Santos inspires people and helps people be better members of their community.

"He takes a true interest in people, connecting them with others with similar interests, and connecting them with organizations in which they can be effective," she said. "Always with a smile on his face, a cheerful spirit and a corny joke or two or three, Ed is one of the most uplifting people I know."

Santos is part of Team Ross 500 Hands, which is raising money for the disabled.

Last year the group broke a world record for the most people rolling egg rolls here in Tyler.

In January Team Ross is holding a Philippine Tinkling (bamboo) Dance World Record attempt in AT&T Stadium in Dallas 

Santos said he is blessed to be able to assist others as they attempt to get connected in the Filipino community in Tyler. 

"I feel impeccably blessed and would much rather be giving that needing," he said.

Santos said he feels like being plugged into the community de-alienates a person allowing them to contribute more to the community. 

"Grow where you are planted," he said then laughing he added, "or grafted."


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