A FEW years past, when local leaders talked about the 2021 celebration of the feast of the Child Jesus and the commemoration of the “battle” between Spanish expeditionary forces led by the Portuguese Ferdinand Magellan and natives led by Lapu-Lapu, their eyes would brighten. The year 2021 is the 500th year since Magellan’s attempt to be the first man to circumnavigate the globe ended on the shores of Mactan. It was another expeditionary leader who led the remnants of the expedition back to Spain, but even then the world’s eyes were focused on remembering that historic voyage 500 years ago and the places Magellan went to, most specifically where he was killed. A few years ago, our leaders thought of a commemoration that would be in keeping with its historic importance worldwide. Who would have expected the Covid-19 pandemic to happen in a period encompassing 2021?
Suddenly, all plans for the 2021 commemoration have been upset. And instead of being the main event for Cebu this year, focus is now on how to contain the virus that caused all our anxieties. The decision by the Augustinian priests to cancel many of the activities for this year’s fiesta is symbolic of this. While the veneration of the image of the Child Jesus became popular in the country only centuries later, Magellan’s expedition planted the seed of that veneration when he gave that image to the natives in Cebu and in a way planted the seeds of Catholicism in the country also. This year, Covid-19 anxieties have affected even this major Catholic activity.
Which is sad because this year would have been a big year for Cebu and the Catholic Church in the country. Sinulog 2021 would have been bigger than the previous Sinulog editions. But that is not meant to be. That is why I won’t blame Vice Mayor Michael Rama if he looked for ways to hold the Sinulog festivities despite warnings against the holding of activities that are potentially crowd drawers. Next time na lang, Vice, kun wa nay pandemic (when there is no more pandemic).
The pandemic is really testing our leaders’ leadership abilities. The balancing act between slowly bringing our lives back to normal and thus saving the economy from further ruin and preventing a resurgence of coronavirus afflictions is a difficult one. The problem is being compounded by traditional politics, or of politicians acting like crocodiles waiting to pounce on every failing by incumbents with an eye on the 2022 elections.
But leaders can also view the situation positively: as a learning experience. In the ‘70s, the abilities and character of leaders got tested by the surfacing of a dictator who ruled for two decades. Leaders who passed the test became major players of the country’s politics after the dictator was toppled. The diamonds in the rough became true gems when their brilliance was exposed during those trying times.
The pandemic is a different kind of challenge, true, but it is a challenge nevertheless. And it is testing the leadership ability of incumbents.