Briones: Gentrifying Colon

On the go

DOWNTOWN Cebu City used to be the heart of Cebu.

It was where everybody went to buy their daily needs. You name it, they had it. It was and continues to be a haven for bargain hunters.

It was where everybody went for entertainment. Its many theaters offered latest Hollywood blockbusters, Tagalog melodramas, Kung Fu movies and soft porn.

It was where everybody went if they were hungry. Panciterias attracted customers rushing to go home to their hungry families, although many of the establishments have gone the way of the dodo except maybe for that joint on Osmeña Blvd. near the University of Cebu main campus, where, by the looks of it, time has stood still.

Of course, everything changed when the malls opened. People started bypassing the downtown area’s smelly alleys and crowded sidewalks, preferring the comfort of air-conditioned megastructures that housed everything under one roof.

Don’t get me wrong. Colon, the term used by Cebuanos to mean the downtown area, is not dead, although it may as well be since it looks like it has one foot in the grave. Most of the buildings in the area are covered in grime, having not felt the brush of fresh paint in well over a decade.

Let’s put it this way. Colon is old. And it has not aged well. Although you can still catch glimpses of its former beauty if you look hard enough.

Cebu Landmasters Inc. must have seen something it liked since it is willing to breathe new life into the place with its multi-billion-peso Patria de Cebu project, a mixed-used development in front of the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, a stone’s throw from the Plaza Independencia and the Basilica del Sto. Niño.

Now, world renowned industrial designer Kenneth Cobonpue wants to set up a heritage trail in downtown Cebu.

The recently appointed head of the Visayan Quincentennial Committee revealed that that was one of the things they discussed during their first meeting with the Archdiocese of Cebu.

“Definitely, there will be physical rehabilitation and renovation. We will have to map out a heritage walk and areas for development. Kind of like a master plan for that area,” he told SunStar Cebu’s Wenilyn Sabalo.

A colleague at work has high hopes for Cobonpue’s vision. He pictured pedestrian-only streets lined with outdoor cafes like what he had seen in his trips to Europe.

I had to bring him back to Earth. Immediately. No, I told him. It won’t be like Milan or Madrid. It will still be downtown Cebu, albeit with some streets may be closed to vehicular traffic.

Still, I understand where they’re coming from, although I have to admit that I’ve grown fond of the old hag.


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