Davide Should Learn from Serging
Sergio Osmeña Jr., Serging to his generation, left his mark indelibly on the landscape of Cebu. He single-handedly expanded Cebu’s real estate with what has now come to be known as the North Reclamation Area. This was his pet project after he had served as governor of Cebu but which already occupied his mind long before, evincing a young visionary who knew what Cebu needed in the future. He also fought to expand the Mactan airstrip built by the Japanese during the war into an alternate international airport to that of Manila and, correspondingly, to build the first bridge to link Mactan to mainland Cebu.
Another legacy, which people no longer remember, comprise the four buildings that the judiciary once called home before the 2013 earthquake partially damaged them. Sitting behind the grand lady, the old Cebu Capitol, these edifices, then called the Cebu Capitol Annex, were designed along the lines of the Capitol building in front of it and started construction on August 25, 1952.
The total project cost was pegged at 901,600 pesos, according to the ‘Daily News’ of December 4, 1952, all paid for with provincial funds and not a single loan from the Rehabilitation Finance Corporation—precursor of today’s Development Bank of the Philippines—then the main conduit of infrastructure loans in the country.
Osmeña relied on two men in this construction project: Bureau of Public Works (BPW) district engineer Ambrosio ‘Boting’ Osmeña and BPW staff engineer, Antonio Aseniero. Serging could have built just one tall edifice to tower behind the by-then 14-year-old Capitol designed by Juan Marcos Arellano and Antonio Toledo. But he did not. He instead put up not one but four two-storey buildings to house the four judicial courts at the time, spread out akin to a fan. Today you do not even see these buildings protruding awkwardly when facing the grand old Capitol Building—a very respectful approach to a historic edifice even at a time when no heritage laws or covenants existed in the world.
Serging the visionary was also a listener. When he met opposition from people like Prof. Julian Jumalon and Dr. Suga Sotto-Yuvienco, among others, who assailed his plan to demolish Fort San Pedro to give way to a new Cebu City Hall during his mayorship in 1951, he listened to their calls and decided to back off.
Last week, Gov. Hilario Davide III continued with his intransigent position to foist a monstrous 20-storey building beside the grand old lady. Despite calls to have this standing matchbox of a building be redesigned he has not budged and in fact even withdrawn his request for the Provincial Board to approve his pet project.
Calls have previously been made by architects to dissuade him from this ill-planned path but he has persisted. Meanwhile, the four judicial buildings and a central one built later, remain to be retrofitted, a less costly alternative that would continue the respect Serging had for the Capitol while adding the spaces that the current governor needs.
Unlike Serging, the current governor will construct his pet project, his legacy, with a loan from the DBP. Unlike Serging, his building will stick out like a sore thumb, looking down like a standing matchbox on the horizon of a deeply historic precinct.
How then will history judge Governor Davide with this baffling hard-headedness?
I leave that to historians fifty years from now. For the moment, let it be known that there were among us people who would have wished that Serging was sitting in that gubernatorial seat right now, listening to the pulse of the people and forwarding a vision worthy of admiration.
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