I can imagine all the other local chief executives in the country muttering under their breath as they try to comply with the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s memorandum circular that set a deadline of 60 calendar days to clear public roads of any obstruction.
They’re all probably blaming Manila City Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso for being Mr. Goody Two Shoes.
I mean, what the heck was the guy thinking, bringing back order to the chaotic streets of Recto, Divisioria, Soler and Carriedo in his first week of office?
Mind you, our very own Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella quickly followed suit, setting his sights on M.L. Quezon Blvd. in Barangay Ermita.
A week before President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his State of the Nation Address on July 22, 2019, members of the Prevention, Restoration, Order, Beautification and Enhancement (Probe) were at it, assisting vendors dismantle their stalls that had been illegally set up on the street.
And the Probe team didn’t stop there.
They then targeted that stretch of sidewalk at the corner of Colon St. and Osmena Blvd. to Sanciangko.
In fact, when I saw the photo of the cleared area on page 1 of SunStar Cebu last Wednesday, July 31, I went there that night to see for myself.
You see, I’m quite familiar with that corner.
It was there, a decade ago, that a small boy, the son of an egg vendor, recognized me.
He grabbed his father’s sleeve, tugged it, until he got the latter’s attention. He then pointed to me and loudly asked, “Pa, di ba mao ma na siya ang tambok sa P-- Feeds commercial (Isn’t that the ‘fat man’ from the local pig commercial)?”
I tried not to mind him. But you know how kids are when they’re ignored. They pump up the volume.
It wasn’t long before other passersby looked at where he was pointing. And as I stood there, waiting for the pedestrian light to turn green, I could feel their stares.
After what seemed like an eternity, it was finally time to cross. I turned to the kid and said, “Dili to ako (It wasn’t me),” and then left without looking back.
Over the years, I would always find the egg vendor on that spot right outside a fast-food establishment on my way to peruse the latest titles of pirated DVDs. His makeshift table had become a constant fixture. That is, until last Wednesday night.
The area was indeed clear of vendors. But farther down the sidewalk toward Sanciangko, the outdoor eateries were doing brisk business, dishing out steaming fish stews or scalding hot fried pork to hungry customers who decided to grab a bite to eat before going home instead of jostling with other passengers for a ride during rush hour.
I found out that the tables weren’t there during the day. That the eateries were only open at night.
It was then I realized that a compromise had to be reached.
Yes, the downtown area needs some sprucing up. But I don’t want it at the expense of Cebu City losing its heart and soul.
As much as I hate to admit it, the city wouldn’t be what it is without the chaos.
Right now, I don’t have any suggestions how this problem can be addressed. Maybe Labella can ask his Manila City counterpart.