Time to clean up Cebu

By Jobers R. Bersales |February 28,2018 - 10:19 PM

Three weeks ago, I had this eye-opening conversation with Cebuano-speaking visitors in Ilocos Sur who, like me, were stranded for three hours at the Laoag International Airport on the eve of my birthday.

(Our Philippine Airlines flight, which was supposed to leave at 8:45 p.m. was moved to 9:50 p.m. but we actually left at 10:45 p.m. due as usual to congestion at the airport in Manila)

They were of Ilocano parentage but were on their way back home to Davao City. Ostensibly our conversation dwelt on their impressions of Laoag City and the towns of the Ilocos provinces that they had been to.

These were middle-aged women who were here on a two-week vacation, reconnecting with relatives they had not seen for years. Their overall impression, which I too share, was of how clean and pristine Laoag and the towns leading to and including Vigan were.

When I asked them if they had been to Cebu, they all nodded in the affirmative. And their first impression? “The traffic,” they said, “we can tolerate. But Cebu is sadly so dirty.”

Come to think of it, we have never really seriously looked at how dirty the cities that make up Metro Cebu are. Never mind the dust: our lungs will have caused them to dissipate in a day of breathing in their toxicity while walking or riding on jeepneys and multicabs.

But the frayed and tattered ads and all kinds of whatnots nailed on electric poles full of spaghetti wires, the garbage strewn at certain corners of sidewalks; those open sewers reeking of dirty water, mud darkened by organic material.

All these are compounded by thousands of litterbugs and the absence of trash bins one would normally find attached to electric posts in other countries.

I suspect this absence is because of the constant fear of vandalism and theft of public property. Speaking of vandalism, graffiti have started sprouting again all over the metropolis.

Still, something has to be done to address dirt and pollution in the metropolis, not for tourists to be impressed but for our own well-being.

We cannot be known as a people who love dirt! I believe the Cebuano knows what cleanliness is all about because there are pockets of beauty and cleanliness in certain neighborhoods. All we need is for a renewed campaign to clean up our surroundings.

It’s as simple as asking barangay officials to survey neighborhoods and remove eyesores like tattered paper or tarp ads including faded election campaign materials hanging on posts or glued on walls and enforcing the anti-littering ordinances of all the cities that make up Metro Cebu.
Sadly it’s only the schools that constantly monitor cleanliness and carry out campaigns regularly. Which explains why public and private schools are clean with pocket gardens that provide much-needed greenery in a parched metropolis about to enter the summer months with the concomitant heat.

It seems, however, that as soon as they graduate, many students forget to clean their surroundings and become litterbugs, throwing garbage here and there with no regard for sanitation.

Let me challenge barangay chairs and officials to clean up and follow the lead of some barangays in Mandaue that have vigorously monitored their neighborhoods.

Here’s some food for thought: during the Japanese Occupation, one of those infractions that were heavily penalized was dirt and pollution in neighborhoods.

I do not think we need to arrest, cut off heads or bayonet people today in order to make our cities clean and pristine. But what if it will take that drastic of a measure in the way the samurai warriors imposed cleanliness in Edo-period Japan?

* * *

Let me congratulate Mathias “Bube” Mendezona and the late Roberto “Bobby” Aboitiz on the successful launch of their eye-opening book, “You Cant’ Save 80 Million Filipinos, But You Can Build me a Park.”

The long-winded title belies the difficult years that ushered in the West Cebu Industrial Park in Balamban, now home to the Tsuneishi Heavy Industries Inc., owned by the Japanese ship-building Kambara family.

Published under USC Press, it took just all of two months to get this book into its launch at Casa Gorordo Museum last Saturday, after all the hard work put into it by Bube, who worked feverishly on the book last year with the then-seriously ailing Bobby Aboitiz.

Sadly, Bobby did not live to see the book in print, but I am pretty certain he was around during the launch, smiling at the successful outcome not just of the book but also of the industrial park.

If you want to know the story behind the park, especially the problems faced by the Aboitiz and Kambara groups when they started the industrial park in the middle of rice fields and how they finally convinced locals to accept the park with the help of then mayor and now Cebu Provincial Board Member Alex Binghay, then grab this limited-edition book now.

Copies are available at Casa Gorordo and soon at the USC Museum Shop (at the USC Downtown Campus) and the USC Press Bookshop (at Gate 1 of the Talamban Campus).


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