Malilong: Hijacking the Sinulog

The other side

WE ENJOYED our (walk and talk) first trip abroad since Edgar Labella, who is a member, became the Cebu City mayor. We are not sure if he did. He acted as if he was not on a vacation but on a working tour.

When we went on a river cruise on our first night, he talked about cleaning up Cebu’s waterways and even exacted a pledge from us to participate in the cleanup of the Mahiga Creek, which will happen soon. He noticed the absence of shirtless men in Bangkok’s public places and wondered if that level of awareness could ever be achieved here. He envied Thailand’s abundant water supply. Even the fact that there were no security guards to frisk us upon entry to our hotel (the Amari) did not escape his attention.

But the concern that apparently occupied his mind most throughout the trip was about the street vendors. “People praised me for showing political will when I reclaimed Colon for the public,” he said. “What they did not know was that as I did that, my heart bled for the street vendors who had to be evicted.” He was looking for ways to allow them to ply their trade without forfeiting the gains he had already achieved in clearing the city’s streets of obstruction.

Thus, we were not surprised that the morning walk that we had previously scheduled in Bangkok on our last day turned out to be a tour of one of the city’s street markets instead. Stalls were lining the road in Thanon Phaya on our way in but to our amazement, there was no trace of them whatsoever when we came back at sunup. The mayor nodded knowingly as if he has found the secret potion.

What he did not know was that while he was away a storm was brewing in his city, whipped up by an executive order that he signed before he left. The order was not directed at anyone, but was aimed at rationalizing the City Government’s participation in an activity that has grown beyond its founder’s (my dearest friend Boy Odilao’s) expectations.

It was Odilao who conceptualized the idea of a festival to celebrate our veneration of the Santo Niño and executed it, but after a few years, some people hijacked the concept and over the past many Sinulogs, this time run by a Sinulog Foundation, Odilao’s name was hardly mentioned, if at all, as the festival’s creator.

“Nasuko kuno si Mike,” the mayor told me at the parking lot of the Mactan airport shortly after we landed. Mike, of course, was Michael Rama, with whom and with the people’s consent, Labella had switched places; Rama used to be Vice Mayor Labella’s mayor. Now he is Mayor Labella’s vice mayor.

Rama seethed because he thought that the Sinulog Governing Board that Labella’s executive order created was going to hijack the Sinulog from the Sinulog Foundation, which he heads, in the same way that it was hijacked from Odilao. Even after Labella arrived, Rama continued to rant in radio interviews, notably with DYCM station manager Jayson Monteclar even as he warned that someone was trying to drive a wedge between him and Labella.

To his credit, Labella remained level-headed, calmly explaining that he had no plans in creating the Sinulog Board to invade the turf of or steal the thunder from anyone. Instead, the Board will coordinate all activities related to the Sinulog, including addressing the traffic, security and even funding concerns.

About funding, it just so happened that the City has been shelling out public money to help run the Sinulog and has not received an accounting of these funds along with the millions generated from contributions to the foundation. There has to be full transparency in the raising and disbursement of these funds since they are imbued with public interest, Labella urged.

So there you go, Mike. Pipe down. If it is true, as you allege, that someone was trying to make you and Labella quarrel, then don’t fall into his trap. You said that Labella did not talk to you about the Board. Then call him and talk to him instead of loudly complaining that you are being marginalized.

In case, you haven’t noticed it yet, it’s not only one person but so many people who want you and Labella to quarrel because that will suit their agenda. Do not accommodate them, wittingly or unwittingly.


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