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09:23 PM February 17th, 2017

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By: Cris Evert Lato-Ruffolo, February 17th, 2017 09:23 PM

RUFFOLO
I am working on a personal inventory of “green spaces” in Cebu.

By green spaces, I mean playground and parks where I can take my children on our regular “Nanay-Nicholas/ Nanay-Antoinette/ Nanay-Jeff Jr.” weekly dates to a place where they can actually run after a dragonfly and roll on the grass like I used to do when I was three years old.

So maybe I’m waxing nostalgic here and wanted some things in my childhood which are almost impossible to accomplish when governments and private companies have “paved paradise and put up a parking lot” in the words of Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell.

But is it too much for a mother of three children to request for somebody — the government, private companies or maybe my fairy godmother — to create more green spaces where families can actually spend time on weekends? Is it too much to ask for a patch of green grass where we can park ourselves for an hour or two, take out our picnic blankets, bring forth the basket of food and share a meal while connecting with nature?

I am tired and bored of the playhouses, trains and carousels found in malls. I’d like to see my children run, fall, get up and run again. We come home with dirty clothes and that’s perfectly fine. Washing machines and detergent powders are made for that purpose.

In this personal quest for green spaces, our family discovered the Montebello Villa Hotel. I am writing this as a happy mother and not as an endorser or social media influencer of this property. When most hotels in this city are seemingly made from the same cookie cutter, for the past 45 years, Montebello has retained its old rustic charm, and its vast lush gardens is the reason why my family loves it more than any international chain found on this island province.

There is wide and green space for children to run. There is a playground where our twins and our resident cutie pie (Jeff Jr.) go to whenever we take them for a short weekend getaway. I suspect this is the reason why Montebello has thrived in the hotel business all these decades, despite the cutthroat competition of the hospitality industry.

The Family Park in Talamban, near the University of San Carlos, is another alternative. Families can dip in the pool for a minimal fee. Up in Camp 7, Minglanilla, within the 100-year-old Osmeña Reforestation Project, is an experimental forest under the supervision of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources that is host to a clonal nursery, herb garden and three nature trails fit for children and adults.

Cebu Holdings Inc. has done a pretty good job in Ayala Terraces. I personally love that space — that patch of green grass — in between the Terraces and Cebu City Marriott Hotel.

It’s like a secret refuge from the frantic shopping activity happening inside the mall. I hosted a Book Share session there once that was attended by just five people. It was a great experience just sitting on the grass and discussing Neil Gaiman’s “The Graveyard Book.”

But did you notice these limited green spaces are all initiated by the private sector? Which made me ask a friend who works for the Cebu City Hall, “why is it so difficult for local government units to put up a park that is safe and clean for the public?”

In October 2010, the Cebu City government closed Plaza Independencia for its long overdue makeover. This historic Cebuano landmark had a facelift and reopened on May 2011. The Cebu City government spent P37.2 million for the renovation of the plaza and P3.3 million for the rehabilitation of the stage and playground.

I remember writing about this for a feature story that came out in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

The historic landmark looks so much better.

There are no more “fright nights” and horror stories hiding behind the bushes in the plaza.

Or, at least, when I checked last month.

As a mother and concerned citizen, I am interested to know what plans are in store for Fuente Osmeña Circle. More trees, less pavement perhaps?
In the not-so-distant future, I hope to take Nicholas and Antoinette there, sit on one of the benches and point at the nearby Chong Hua Hospital as I

tell them the colorful story of their birth in this city so dear to me that I chose to come back and live and work here again.

I hate seeing it crumble in the face of cement and concrete.

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