Malilong: The Sunday we finally had a railway?

The Other Side

I CAME in late to witness the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between Mayor Edgar Labella and British Embassy Deputy Head of Mission Alastair Totty at City Hall Friday afternoon. Still, I considered myself lucky because I could have arrived even much much later had I not been able to beg the police to let me pass.

All the roads in the vicinity were closed and we ended up making several turns so we could reach City Hall only to find our way blocked by a big “No Entry” sign. Finally, I spoke to a nearby policeman and lied that the mayor was waiting for me. I did not feel good about lying but it worked: I arrived just in time when the mayor proposed a toast for a stronger and mutually beneficial British presence in Cebu City.

The last two days before the grand parade had seen our patience sorely tested on the road. Traffic, already a splitting headache in the city and its neighbors, had worsened because of the Sinulog. I thus decided to pass up the chance to watch it at the Cebu City Sports Center and stayed home last Sunday. After all, the mayor had already ordered that TV broadcast of the Sinulog be open to anyone so I had a wide array of choices of television channels.

That, I think, is what we, Cebu City residents, should do in the succeeding Sinulog celebrations. We should give way to our visitors, some of whom traveled hundreds of miles to experience the exhilaration of being “in” the Sinulog. Let’s be generous to them and also to ourselves by avoiding unnecessary stress.

I did not regret my decision to stay home. I had control over which contingents to watch perform by switching to other programs when I got bored. I saw Gov. Gwen Garcia dance, wondering how much more entertaining it would have been had the plan for Labella to partner her not been aborted because of President Duterte’s presence.

And, yes, I was able to hear every word the President said in his brief remarks, including his early endorsement of Secretary Martin Andanar and Rep. Karlo Nograles as senatorial bets, most probably in 2022.

The best part of the President’s speech, however, was his promise to help find money to build a railway to address what he called the city’s horrendous traffic situation. I found it significant because in the recent list of big-ticket projects allocated for Cebu, the proposed railway was no longer included purportedly because of the huge cost that it entailed.

Now that no less than Duterte has revived it, I am sure Secretary Mike Dino, Mayor Labella and other Cebuano leaders will vigorously lobby for it with the various government offices that have a say on project planning and implementation. With the President’s strong endorsement, paperwork in these agencies should be easier and faster than usual.

A modern railway would be the legacy that Labella has frequently been saying he dreamed of giving to the city apart from his “inclusive and ego-less governance.” It will probably take years to build it, long after Duterte’s only constitutionally-allowed term and Labella’s first have ended, but people will always look up to them--and Dino--as the ones who caused the installation of the bolts and nuts of what has until now looked like another pipe dream.

And then we will remember Sinulog 2020 no longer as just the Sunday that the planned precedent-setting dance of the provincial governor and the city mayor was aborted or the first one that a sitting President graced with his presence but the one in which Someone up there heard our plea for Batobalani sa gugma to intervene.


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