THAN when it becomes a “gambling city.”
We know what life is in top gambling cities in the world, among them, Las Vegas, Reno and Atlantic City in the US, Macau City in China, Monte Carlo in Monaco, Marina Bay in Singapore, Paradise island and Nassau in the Bahamas, San Juan in Puerto Rico, and Aruba in the Caribbean.
Life for many in most gambling cities is hell amidst the glittering lights, glamorous lifestyles, and abundance of money and jewelry.
Several studies and testimonies revealed the high correlation between the proliferation of gambling with a higher incidence of illegal drugs use, sexual abuse, labor exploitation, legal problems, family breakups, mental and psychological problems of anxieties and depression and even suicide.
Bacolod had tasted this alluring and addicting lifestyle and thrills in the 60s,70s, and early 80s during the sugar boom. Casinos and other gambling hotspots sprawled like mushrooms, attracting and addicting landed rich and starving poor alike from local, neighboring islands as far as Manila, Baguio, Cagayan de Oro, and Davao because of round the clock air and ship services to and from the city.
Notwithstanding the opulent and prosperous life choking everyone, the city spawned hell, prostitution, illegal drugs, petty and sensational crimes, countless legal problems and broken families, perversion of Christian values, and no less, bureaucratic corruption afflicting not a few local officials who happened to be notorious figures drawn into the dark pit of the gambling world.
The decades that followed have seen the rise of a new breed of enlightened landed elites cross cultured with middle-class intelligentsia in local universities and colleges also swept by the nationalism and patriotism then spreading across the entire archipelago that ended the fascist dictatorial regime of Marcos and his ilk in uniforms and barongs, and brought a fresh start in reforming bureaucracy, governance, and economy.
Through the late 80s and 90s, we have seen tumultuous shifts, the shift of power from old elites to new ones, shift in economy thrust from sugar to other modes of production more oriented on the market and consumer demands, shift in governance so entrenched in past decades by feudal patronage and warlordism politics to a more liberal and populist politics, and the rise of the greater role and intervention of progressive organizations and parties in the economy and political processes.
The lavish lifestyles, gambling addiction and feudal landlordism culture gradually diminished and shifted to cultural responses which were more frugal and situational adaptive, to conditions generally reeling from the sugar crisis. Thus, the rise of masskara and similar festivals, sprouts of spirit of volunteerism, civil society organizations, PO-based and new bred of MSMEs’ sustainable development initiatives and the active involvement of academic institutions and churches in the fast-growing new scenarios.
Perhaps, no other city and municipality on the island which has experienced these power shifts, to borrow the title of a famous book by futuristic sociologist Alvin Toffler, than the city of Bacolod which consequently transformed itself from what used to be a despicable gambling city, a safe haven or hideaway, of the landed elites and sugar lords reigning and terrorizing the island rural areas and secondary urban centers - to what it is now, a melting pot, or a conjunctural point of all sorts of classes and cultures from different generations, capped in the mesmerizing vertical and horizontal structures of a highly urbanized city.
I salute the new breed of middle-class intelligentsia in and out of the Bacolod city government, in academes, in civil society organizations and formations, in churches, for concertedly turning the city from what was it once to what it has become now.
I cheer on the members of the incumbent city leadership, despite or in spite of their shortcomings and imperfections, have rejected and continued to defy the temptations of gambling culture and governance, and have chosen the path of civility, of the citizenry in their ways, and pursue a sustainable, resilient, and progressive development agenda and governance platform with inclusivity, accountability, and participatory in goals and process.
I hope they will not whither away from his stand, and remain ever resolute in raising the melting pot HUC to a city that simply realizes a prosperous life with dignity for everyone, and a city that makes human beings more humane.