I AM familiar with the Bonbon of the ‘80s. Bonbon, an upland barangay, is right behind the mountain range visible from the city’s lowlands.

Before the Cebu Transcentral Highway was built and a decent road branching from it towards Bonbon was concreted, transport of goods and people from the barangay to the urban areas followed a tricky route. It crisscrossed the main tributary of the Mananga river and then linked up with the road from Campo 4 to Tabunok in Talisay. The route was tricky because of the water, which could rise and turn violent when heavy rain poured.

A rough road connected the city’s lowlands to such barangays as Busay, Malubog and Babag (specifically Sitio Babag II), which is nearest to Bonbon. This was later widened and concreted to become part of the transcentral highway. A road branched out from that stretch in Babag II towards Bonbon proper via Sitio Mawmawan. But it was so rough and neglected vehicles largely steered clear from it.

A part of the barangay straddles a valley whose lowest part is the Bonbon river. But its jurisdiction also reaches up to Amaga, a village at the peak of a mountain that rises from the valley and which stands opposite the slopes of Babag. Bonbon’s geographical location plus government neglect ensured its economic backwardness in the ‘80s.

The transcentral highway and the concreting of roads in the city’s upland barangays changed the setup considerably. In the mid-‘90s, I went back to Bonbon to interview a World War II veteran for a feature story on the liberation of Cebu that I wrote for The Freeman newspaper, my previous employer. I was amazed by what I saw.

In the ‘80s, Mawmawan in Bonbon was a lonely agricultural village even if a rough road cut through it. That road had been asphalted and houses had sprouted like mushrooms along it. Accessibility did wonders for Mawmawan and other parts of the barangay.

No wonder Bonbon has become the center of the current tug-of-war between Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama and south district Rep. Rodrigo Abellanosa. Even then, the subject of the conflict--the setting up of an extension of the Cebu Technological University (CTU)—surprised me.

Abellanosa, whose dismissal from Congress has been ordered by the Office of the Ombudsman for conflict of interest involving the city’s scholarship program, has on his own initiative pushed for the setting up of a CTU extension in Bonbon. Abellanosa is with the opposition Bando Osmena-Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK).

Because Abellanosa did not seek the help of the city, the project ended up lacking one major component: classrooms. But it wasn’t the only thing needed, per CTU’s Jerlito Letrondo. He said no memorandum of agreement has been signed and the project has not been approved by the Board of Regents of CTU.

Those problems would have merited a postponement of the opening of the CTU extension until next year. But school year 2016-2017 opens next June, or right after next year’s polls. Meaning, it would no longer serve an election purpose.

So what Abellanosa did was push for the use of the barangay gym to house temporary classrooms. He put up tarpaulins with CTU logos prematurely announcing the enrollment for the “extension campus” luring in around a hundred unsuspecting mountain folk.

Rama reacted by ordering the City Legal Office to look into the legality of Abellanosa’s move, eventually exposing his scheme. Yet Abellanosa is insisting that the CTU extension will operate this school year. Like in the scholarship program, he seems willing to sacrifice the CTU “enrollees” for political mileage.

(khanwens@gmail.com)