Boulevard of broken dreams

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Saturday, April 12, 2014


LAST week, I decided to take a stroll along Osmeña Blvd. I needed to buy something at Robinsons and driving there from the office on P. del Rosario was just out of the question.

First, parking is hard to get by and it costs an arm and a leg. (Okay, so I exaggerate, more like the tip of a pinkie fingernail.) Second, traffic at the Fuente rotunda is unpredictable, almost bipolar. Third, it’s not that far. In fact, the walk only took me around 15 minutes.

And it’s such a shame not to take advantage of the boulevard’s wide sidewalks that are protected by the canopy of trees that dot the thoroughfare from Sanciangko all the way to Escario.

In 2011, the sidewalks received a much needed facelift. Mayor Michael Rama tapped philanthropist Mariquita Salimbangon-Yeung to raise funds, through the Beautiful Cebu Movement Foundation Inc., for the project.

The group wanted to install decorative lampposts and lay down red bricks to evoke a more colonial feel. It also wanted to clear the sidewalks of vendors that could be found in almost every corner.

In the end, the bricks were not laid down throughout the stretch. I don’t know why. The lampposts were indeed installed but I guess the bulbs are busted since I don’t see these turned on at night. As for the vendors, they’re not so plentiful until you get across Metrobank. They’ve made the area near the base of the skywalk their home.

Still, the initiative to restore the boulevard to its former “grandeur” was a noble one. That it was implemented was short of a miracle. But it takes more than a group of concerned citizens and the local government unit to maintain what was rehabilitated.

Everybody should pitch in to ensure the boulevard’s sidewalks are clean. At least devoid of any dog poop. Is that too much to ask? To saunter without fear of slipping on a puddle of canine turd? Assuming it’s not human, of course. Yes, people also do their business on the sidewalks (no pun intended).

Last week, during my walk, I encountered several half-naked children playing with a makeshift toy. They were too wrapped up in their game to notice me treading carefully to avoid stepping on their little bodies.

There were several grownups nearby, squatting on discarded cartons, their possessions crammed in backpacks and plastic bags. I assumed they were the parents. They were busy talking among themselves. One of them suddenly yelled at the children and told them to get off the street.

Yup, street children abound on Osmeña Blvd. Not all of them play, though. Some rummage through trash. Some sniff glue. Some beg. Some sleep. Some solicit sex for money. Some accost unsuspecting passers-by, grabbing a bag full of fastfood in one instance.

I‘ve seen all these happen, except for the sex solicitation, although I’ve heard many stories.

When my parents arrived from Davao earlier this month, my mom called me on the phone and told me that a teen had gotten in front of their car and laid down on the street, while his companions laughed by the sidewalk. This happened at the Landbank and City Central intersection.

The problem did not sprout overnight. The children were there before the beautification project was implemented.

I’m amazed the group of concerned citizens and the City Government didn’t notice them when they walked the length of the boulevard to check what needed fixing, restoring or improving.

At least the Police Regional Office 7 has, and it has done something about it without calling media attention.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 13, 2014.

Opinion

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