A united Cebu City and Province

By: Jobers Reynes Bersales September 02,2019 - 06:40 AM

Oh the times are a-changin’!

The recently concluded “Pasigarbo sa Sugbo Festival of Festivals,” which showcased nearly 50 town and city festivals of Cebu, was held for the first time in Cebu City. After a six-year hiatus owing to the changing political conditions obtaining at the Capitol, it returned with huge bang, if one may say so, now that its founder, Gov. Gwen Garcia, is back at the helm.

It would have been held at the grounds of the once-glorious Cebu International Convention Center (CICC). However, former governor Hilario Davide III, rather than repair the damage it suffered following the 2013 earthquake, sold the CICC instead to the Mandaue City Government, the lot owner on which it was standing. Then-mayor Luigi Quisumbing in turn sold it to a private entity. 

There was therefore no alternative but to hold the “Pasigarbo” either in one of the towns under the jurisdiction of the province or in Cebu City, which hosts the ritual showdown of the Sinulog Festival annually at the Cebu City Sports Center (CCSC).

Now mind you, Batas Pambansa Blg. 51 passed in 1979, removed Cebu City, a highly urbanized entity, from the jurisdiction of their provincial “mother,” as it were. Therefore the city had actually no obligation to allow the province to use any of its facilities, including Osmeña Boulevard, for the street dancing of all the contingents starting at the Capitol grounds, much less the ritual showdown at the CCSC.

But times have really changed. Cebu has finally been given respite from the political divisiveness that saw its progress choked by the smog blown by arrogant and self-centered politicians.

The “Pasigarbo” event was the first test case for both city and province if they could come together to collaborate on an event that took all of just seven weeks to prepare. And it proved to be a resounding success.

The creative juices of the choreographers and dancers, suppressed for six long years, added to the overwhelming success as these finally burst forth in a show of talent upon talent. And if the cooperation between Cebu City and Cebu Province were not enough, one must note that not all the contingents came from towns whose mayors ran under the One Cebu Party of the governor. Even those who were on the other side of the fence also sent their beloved contingents to the event.

Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia and Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella on stage during the Unity and Solidarity Night hosted by Cebu Province at the Capitol Social Hall on Aug. 31, 2019.

It was therefore very fitting that six days later last Saturday, Gov. Garcia decided to dub the ceremony capping the monthlong celebrations of the 450th founding of Cebu Province as a “Unity and Solidarity Night.” Albeit Mayor Labella almost did not make it to the event due to a prior wedding commitment, so I was told, he did manage to arrive just as the governor had closed her extemporaneous speech. You know, speeches that are not pre-written or prepared and printed on hand, are usually those that come from the heart. And it was very clear that Gov. Garcia did not need a prepared speech to express what was inside her on the occasion, seeing the possibilities ahead as the city and province forge the future of Cebu together. 

The only surprise of the evening for me was when the former governor, now vice-governor, Davide, was seemingly all praises for the Pasigarbo sa Sugbo, waxing almost poetic at its role in forwarding culture and pride of place for Cebu. He too did not carry a prepared speech when he welcomed all the guests that night, often pausing longer than necessary between sentences as if trying to find what to say next. Was he too speaking from the heart? If so, why did he not continue the “Pasigarbo sa Sugbo” during what his critics calls a ‘lackluster’ six-year term? 

Ah, this is where I will say, as I often do, your guess is as good as mine.

As I wrote in a previous piece in this space, the Labella and Garcia victories in the city and province will augur well for Cebu. No doubt, the good and the great times have finally just begun.

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