WHEN it became obvious that he would lose in the mayoral polls in Cebu City, Mayor Tomas Osmeña had me mildly surprised when he conceded, considering that the lead of his rival, Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella, was not that big. Traditional politicians usually use that as reason to file a protest and demand a recount.
I remember writing a column months back about Osmeña overstaying his welcome as mayor. I was a neophyte reporter assigned to the City Hall beat by then dyLA news director Leo Lastimosa when Osmeña was in the initial stage of what turned out to be a productive and colorful political career. He was young and brash and I admired him.
The Osmeña I see now is old and has been through serious health issues, from a stroke to cancer. I do think it is time for him to stay away from the pressures of an activity that the late patriarch of a political clan in the north famously described as “duwa sa yawa.” Going back to the private sector now could thus be timely for Osmeña.
But then politicians have a different mindset, that’s what a former SunStar official, a former mayor himself, would tell me once when we talked. He mentioned to me politicians who ran in previous elections even if they were already too old for it, or too sick for it. Politicians, he said, just don’t know when to quit.
But there are politicians who just don’t know what to do when retirement from politics beckons. Then again, that point is not actually limited to politicians. I heard somebody say somewhere that retiring is not about living one’s life out in relaxation. The body needs to move and the mind needs to work, otherwise the route to the end would shorten.
This reminds me of a relative in Tudela in the Camotes group of islands who lived until his 80s. Nobody actually forced him to stop going to the farm on the slope of a hill overlooking the poblacion. I saw him during my vacations there religiously go to the farm by himself, creaking knees and all, a basket slung from his shoulder and a bolo on his hips.
I was told the routine became his undoing. He fell down the hole in the “landahan” where wood and husks were burned to dry coconut meat to produce copra. The burn on his back eventually did him in. His age made healing and enduring difficult. Yet he did what he did because the alternative would have hastened the aging process.
Osmeña has left open the possibility of him making a political comeback because he seems to feed off the activity that it offers. But he will be three years older in 2022 and needs to fully heal. He obviously needs to slow down. He can do that as somebody in the periphery and not as a direct participant.
This apparently is one of the drawbacks of his leadership style. He failed to produce viable successors because he did not share the leadership mantle to the others in his party. This should be the time when leaders like, say, Joy Young or Dave Tumulak should have taken over. His running mate, Mary Ann de los Santos, developed as a leader outside of his party.