Clearing the sidewalks of Gorordo Avenue

By: Morexette B. Erram February 05,2018 - 10:08 PM


Nestle Lapaz and her family are the only remaining makers of bamboo furniture in Sitio Kawayan, Barangay Lahug, Cebu City, after the Cebu City government conducted a clearing operation on the sidewalk of Gorordo Avenue last February 1. Furniture pieces such as chairs, tables and beds are made and displayed in the area located near UP Cebu. Photo by morexette erram


In the early hours of Saturday, February 3, in a sidewalk near the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu Arts and Sciences building, Nestle Lapaz sat beside a newly-assembled bamboo bed that she, her partner, and three others crafted for more than two weeks.

They had just finished smoothing the bed’s surface and were waiting for a customer to pick it up.

Although it was normal for Nestle to sit there waiting for her clients to fetch their orders, that morning, she felt something was amiss.

It had been five days since Cebu City’s Prevention, Restoration, Order, Beautification and Enhancement (Probe) team cleared the UP Cebu sidewalk along Gorordo Ave., Barangay Lahug where more than a dozen vendors sold an assortment of bamboo furniture.

Probe chief, Raquel Arce, who spearheaded the clearing operation, explained that the order to demolish stalls lining up the pavements of Sitio Kawayan was signed by Mayor Tomas Osmeña as early as July 2017 ; but was only finally enforced last week.

This meant that around 14 makeshift tents of other bamboo-makers and small stores in the area were taken down, save for a few unspent bamboo poles and products.

A clear sidewalk was an unusual sight to wake up to, said Nestle.

“Normally, by morning, it would be really noisy around here because of carpenters hammering, chopping down bamboo poles. But now, it’s quiet. The clearing is something my eyes still needs to adjust to,” she told Cebu Daily News in Visayan.

When Probe conducted the demolition on the morning of February 1, bamboo products owned by Nestle’s family were spared from confiscation after they were able to secure the items inside their property, just a few meters away from the sidewalk.

“We received the demolition notice a week before it happened. My family decided to place our products right outside our house before they came — just to make sure. But we are still in shock because we did not actually think it would push through,” she said.

Nestle, 32, works as a public school teacher. But like the rest of her family, she pours hours of labor making bamboo crafts, a skill passed on to her by her father.

According to Nestle, there were at least 10 groups of bamboo-makers who once lined the sidewalk.

Except for the Lapaz family, all of them, she said, came from far flung areas of the province.

“I believe they returned to their towns after the demolition. I’m sure it was hard for them when they lost their stalls here but they have no choice but to go back home,” said Nestle.

The evicted furniture sellers had asked for a relocation site from the city government but Probe’s Arce, in denying the request, explained that the vendors were not allowed, in the first place, to set up shop on the sidewalk.

Meanwhile, the Lapaz family: Nestle, her father Nestor, her partner Jay, and their seven year-old son, Summer, continue to ply their trade; but this time from a front yard near the sidewalk.

“After the demolition, it was not much of a burden on our part since our house is just behind UP Cebu,” said Nestle.

“What’s important is that our livelihood was not greatly affected since we can make furniture inside and outside our house,” she added even as selling their products has become a struggle for her family.

Nestle said that even before they were told to leave the sidewalk, they could barely earn enough money to pay for certain “extras”.

“Our income just depends on how much orders we are getting. If we spend P20,000 to order a truckload of freshly-harvested bamboo poles, our income is just enough to get us through the next days. It’s hard to come by now unlike before when we could actually pay for a little extras in life such as eating out at a restaurant as a family,” said Nestle.

To help keep the bamboo industry alive, Nestle has turned to social media.

“I’m still establishing a presence on social media to reach out to foreign tourists because we observed that they really love bamboo products.

We’re still trying our best to make sure that the bamboo trade in Cebu City will not die,” added Nestle.

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TAGS: Avenue, clearing, Gorordo, sidewalks

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