THEY wore yellow shirts and released blue balloons outside the Capitol, talked at Cebu City Hall about freeing the rivers, raised a flag at Mactan Shrine, and offered flowers at the feet of Jose Rizal’s likeness in Mandaue.

These were some of the ways local officials celebrated the 117th Independence Day yesterday, while most of the public enjoyed a day off from work.

Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III and Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes were among those who flew to Iloilo, where President Benigno Aquino III led the celebration.

Those who celebrated in Cebu made various suggestions for making the celebration of freedom more meaningful.

“I think we should start with small deeds like being a very good citizen. We should follow the ordinances, even traffic rules, by just behaving accordingly, according to the rules and norms,” said Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale.

“I think that’s a way of celebrating our independence,” she said.

City of Naga Mayor Valdemar Chiong reminded constituents to gain self-reliance, which he said is what the City’s scholarship program hopes to give its beneficiaries.

Debt-free

In Cebu City, Mayor Michael Rama spoke about freeing the environment from further damage, but also freeing the City’s funds for more projects.

“Let us liberate City Hall from SRP debts,” he said, referring to the South Road Properties (SRP). City Hall has budgeted P3.2 billion this year for debt servicing.

In Lapu-Lapu, Mayor Paz Radaza paid tribute to the country’s heroes and pledged one way way to maintain the city’s independence.

“I don’t want the menace of graft and corruption to deprive our people from world-class service and world-class amenities. I don’t want the evils of graft and corruption to derail the economic growth and tourism boom that our city is experiencing,” she said.

With Independence Day being celebrated in several sites, there were variations in how organizers tried to make the celebrations memorable.

Color-coding

At the Capitol, Vice Governor led the flag-raising and wreath-laying in a red terno. Her son, Provincial Board Member Miguel Antonio Magpale, read the pledge of allegiance.

Flowers were then placed before the statue of Datu Lapu-Lapu in the Capitol’s garden.

Capitol employees, who wore yellow polo shirts, released blue balloons after the activity. Magpale said the color coding was intended to show the flag’s colors.

Pero sama sa giingon sa tanan, wa pa man gyud mahingpit ang atong gipangandoy nga kagawasan (But just like what everyone has said, we have not fully achieved freedom) from hunger, from poverty. This is the kind of independence that we also want to achieve,” Magpale said.

She said that Capitol officials will inaugurate next week different projects that the local government units have asked for.

As part of the celebration, the National Youth Commission and Koalisyong Mamayan para sa Reporma held on the Capitol grounds the Ramdam Ko ang Reporma Fair, a one-stop shop for services offered by various government agencies.

Butterflies

In Cebu City, Mayor Rama talked about reclaiming rivers and waterways.

“We must free our rivers from all those who are intruding and making God’s presence not much pronounced. We must liberate our coastal areas so that we will turn it over back to God. We must clean our esteros. We must liberate our canals,” Rama said.

“And most of all, we must liberate our surroundings from the invasion of the so-called people who are selfish and only thinking about themselves,” he said in his speech. He also mentioned his and Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella’s plan to seek reelection in 2016.

The mayor added he wants Acting City Treasurer Diwa Cuevas and the local finance committee to pay off the SRP loan before 2025.

In the same speech, Rama criticized former mayor and south district congressman Tomas Osmeña for filing several cases against officials of the executive department.

“Only those who have baggage should fear. Only those who are into corruption should be afraid. Let all cases be filed against you and do not be afraid. For that man who is in the business of suing, he will have his day not here on earth but his day before God,” he added.

Following the mayor’s speech, City Hall workers released white doves and butterflies as symbols of independence.

Stage play

City officials of Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu commemorated Independence Day with an early morning mass, a flag-raising ceremony, floral offering and stage plays.

Lapu-Lapu City’S Mayor Radaza led the flag-raising ceremony in the Mactan Liberty Shrine.

In Mandaue City, officials laid flowers before the monuments of Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio. A stage play was also a highlight of the celebration.

About 70 students, teachers and parents reenacted the killing of Rizal and the revolution led by Bonifacio. They also depicted the Mamasapano clash and the row between China and the Philippines over the West China Sea.

More than 2,000 City Hall employees, teachers and students joined the activities.

Scholarship

In the City of Naga, Mayor Chiong emphasized self-reliance and said that he hopes the City’s scholars would gain that by pursuing excellence in education.

Around 80 scholars, the first batch of students who availed themselves of the City’s scholarship program, are scheduled to graduate in March 2016.

The program is in coordination with 10 colleges and universities in Metro Cebu. It has 450 scholars.

Chiong and other city officials also offered flowers in front of a statue of Bonifacio in the city’s bay walk area.