Cebu inches towards full recovery three years after
Stone after stone, brick by brick, the road to recovery from the 7.2-magnitude earthquake which jolted Central Philippines on October 15, 2013, was slow but sure.
In its epicenter, Bohol, the energy released by the powerful earthquake, said to be the equivalent of 32 Hiroshima bombs, left more than 200 people dead and close to 700 others injured.
But three years after that deadly quake, several structures reduced to rubble now stand proudly back on their feet; and tourist arrivals, currently pegged at 500,000, are bound to reach 1.7 million per year in 2017, according to government’s estimates.
In Cebu, the tremor and the aftershocks that followed shook the days and nights of many Cebuanos as the quake left several homes and buildings cracked, like the Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC), or crushed, like the centuries-old bell tower of the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño restored early this year.
Heritage site Fort San Pedro was also damaged by the earthquake along with the old Pasil Fish Market.
The old CCMC building along N. Bacalso Ave. was a pitiful site after the quake, as patients were forced out of the building while on their beds.
The nearby Barangay Pahina Central sports complex temporarily served as a ward until then mayor Michael Rama convinced the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) to allow the city to use its compound as a makeshift hospital as it was right across the CCMC.
Later, the old building of the Cebu City Transportation Office was also used as an expansion of the facility.
Rendered “unfit for occupancy” by structural engineers following the quake, moves to reconstruct CCMC began soon after.
Phase one of the project involved the laying of the foundation and structural framework for the entire 10-story building earlier pegged to cost the city around P1.5 billion.
A status report submitted by Engr. Archie Cairo of project contractor, C.E. Padilla Construction Inc., last June 19 said that they were 43 percent done with the first phase of the project.
But just a day after that report, in June 20, the city suspended the construction upon discovery that the project did not have an approved building permit from City Hall and that a portion of the project site encroached on a nearby road.
This prompted the contractor to work on the requirements, which were eventually accomplished last month.
Cebu City Engineer Josefa Ylanan said that while there had been bumps along the way, work on the project had already resumed.
“They are now working their way to the second level of the hospital. Some portions were not finished when we had the work stopped. But now, they will continue,” said Ylanan on the work needed to complete the P600 million first phase of the new CCMC.
Though a bit behind schedule, city officials were optimistic that the new CCMC will rise soon enough.
“Presently, it is a dream that is not too far to become a reality now,” said Cebu City Councilor Mary Ann de los Santos, deputy mayor for hospital services assigned to oversee the reconstruction project.
Fort San Pedro
Built in 1738 as a military defense structure during the Spanish settlement in the Philippines, Fort San Pedro was badly damaged by the 2013 quake.
At least 45 percent of the historical site, mostly cracked walls and fallen coral stones, had to be fixed with the help of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), which spent a total of P21.9 million to restore the facility.
According to NHCP Chairperson Maria Sereno Diokno, the very same stones that fell off from fort’s walls were placed back to ensure that the structure retained its iconic facade.
The restoration of the 278-year-old fort, completed in October 2015, took around six months.
Today, the fort — a popular tourist attraction — has regained domestic and foreign visitors after its closure to the public for months after the quake.
The garden, located at the center of the historic landmark, also serves as venue for events and activities.
The fort also houses a small museum chronicling the history of the place.
Pasil Fish Market
The old Pasil Fish Market was a witness to the death of five people during the earthquake when one of its concrete beams fell.
Among those crushed to death was Rene Bondoc, a vendor, who left home to fend for himself as his parents could not afford to raise eight children.
Bondoc, was taken in by 62-year old Carmen Zamora, whom he helped in selling fish in the market.
“Maguol gyud ko magtan-aw sa merkado sa una. Makahinumdom ko sa nahitabo (I always felt sad when I saw the market before. I always remembered what happened),” Zamora told CDN.
After parts of the market crumbled, the city government under then mayor Michael Rama decided to permanently demolish the structure to give way to the construction of a Children’s Park.
The park, developed by the city through a private-public partnership, opened last February as part of the city’s Charter Day celebration.
Where the old market once stood, a happy and colorful site was erected with slides, seesaws, monkey bars and swings.
Rama planned to further develop the area by adding tennis courts and basketball courts; but results of the May elections overtook Rama’s plans.
Today, eight months after it was opened, the once colorful park now looks more like a ghost town.
There are no children visible in the park and trash litter the ground.
The equipment have become rusty and the chains on the swings are broken.
Johndel Marino, 10, said he no longer wants to go to the park.
“Lingaw kaayo to sauna. Sige mi ug duwa didto. Pero karon kay bati naman. Dili na mi moadto (It was fun before. We would always play there. But now, it’s ugly. We don’t go there anymore,” he told CDN.
Maintenance of the park was assigned to City Hall’s Department of Engineering and Public Works (DEPW); but City Engineer Josefa Ylanan, said her office had been busy with other things over the past months.
Concerns on flooding, dredging works and other construction projects have kept the DEPW busy, said Ylanan.
“This is why I want to talk to Mayor Tom because I want to turn over the park to the Cebu City Parks and Playgrounds Commission so that they will be the one to maintain it,” she added.
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