Why stick with Night Cafe?

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By Susan Palmes-Dennis

Straight from Carolinas

Saturday, July 20, 2013


MAKE no mistake, the Night Café is a political issue and would remain as such until 2016. It is obvious there is one person who benefits at the expense of the “pobre (poor).”

An order was issued to stop Night Cafe operations on Fridays and Saturdays while the present Moreno administration is studying whether to transfer it to another suitable location or cancel it permanently. By studying I mean they're reviewing it, not just a spur of the moment decision whispered during a mahjong session.

A flashback is in order. The Night Cafe as featured in its infancy stage over at Channel 39 was meant as a venue for poor vendors to sell their wares on Saturdays and Sundays according to ex-mayor Vicente “Alas” Emano. An ordinance was passed to institutionalize his executive order, making the Night Cafe a permanent fixture in Divisoria.

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In its early days, drinking was minimal and the smell of urine, while undeniably present and unpleasant, was tolerable.

Then some smart boys and girls started whispering in Alas's ears. Then every Friday became a scene for fried foods and pots containing all sorts of street treats and was later followed by the smell of barbecue mingling with the familiar used scent of secondhand clothes, shoes and underwear.

This marketplace drowned the monuments of the city's heroes, notably its greatest mayor Justiniano Borja. The regular businesses in Divisoria closed early on Fridays and Saturdays as public restrooms were set up to accommodate the Night Cafe crowd.

What used to be an entertaining diversion for city residents became a nuisance not only to students of nearby Xavier University but to commuters who complain about the changing routes. Public safety was an issue too as reports surfaced of murders and thefts that occurred meters away from the Night Cafe site.

Overnight the Divisoria landmark area became the city's biggest urinal. I don't even have to mention about the so-called “lollipop” streetlights that architects I interviewed said was a mismatch, an odd fit to the long rectangular asphalt length of Divisoria. A scenic nightmare was born.

I've observed that most of those who sold their food and wares in Divisoria during the Night Cafe weren't poor at all. Some were middle class while a lot were businessmen making a profit at the expense of the riding public. Most of those issued permits were members of the Padayon Pilipino cult, er, party.

Do you think the poor can buy one bundle of “searching-searching” from a former kagawad engaged in the ukay-ukay (flea market) business? Of course not. Just exactly how do you define being poor? Is it being like those Night Cafe vendors who turn a tidy profit while they and their customers stink up and relieve themselves near monuments to the city's heroes? Are you kidding me?

If it was meant for the poor then my friends at the sidewalks of Cogon would be there. I am not sure if the poor vendor friend of mine named Efren Escalona is still alive. But Efren epitomizes what is poor, not the niece of a department head at City Hall.

The genuine poor, those who weren't part of the Padayon Pilipino clique, were excluded from the Night Café.

Another question: Did the Night Cafe ordinance provide specific guidelines on who can be admitted as vendors? Does being poor qualify one a spot in the area? These weren't defined, I think.

I've seen a beautiful flea market in Charleston, South Carolina last year. Located at the center of the city, it houses everything from antiques, farmer produce, jewelry, food, shoes and gifts to nearly everything under the sun. It's a tourist attraction open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

This can be replicated in Cagayan de Oro, I think. The present administration may want to try it out and city residents should give them a chance to do so.

Instead, the now opposition Padayon Pilipino bloc in the City Council is encouraging the vendors to demand a return of the Night Cafe in Divisoria.

It's nonsense. First of all, the complainants aren't even poor as can be seen in their branded cell phones. Some of them who speak for the vendors are rah-rah boys and girls of the Padayon Pilipino cult, er party. This is where the difference between ex-mayor Vicente “Alas” Emano and Mayor Oscar Moreno lie.

Alas is the mayor of the party, not the city.

For statesman, decisions are made for the welfare of the majority, not a chosen few. Moreno is proving to be a statesman without even trying and I don't think he would stoop obeying the whims and demands of the noisy few over the greater majority of the city residents.

[As previously written I would attempt to discuss the third “E.” in traffic which is education next Saturday. Straight from Carolinas would like to extend a belated happy third birthday to a wonderful boy named Sean Richard Kremer, the son of spouses Brent and Beth Kremer of Roanoke Virginia.]

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on July 20, 2013.

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