WITH the euphoria over the election of Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III as president starting to wane, the nation is now coming to grips with such realities as typhoons, dysfunctional government agencies, peace and order and poverty.
As the new government struggles to put its act together, people are focusing their attention on local officials who were sworn in to attend to their communities.
In Cebu City, for instance, the elevation of long-term mayor Tomas Osmeña to the House of Representatives has allowed former vice mayor Michael “Mike” Rama to get the post of chief executive of the Queen City of the South.
It was a slow ascent for Mike, whose professional background is that of a corporate lawyer, working as manager for the Human Resources Department of the now-defunct Cebu Oxygen & Acetylene Co. Rama was given the task of settling the labor row upon closure of the company.
During those times, Mike showed interest in getting into politics, with the desire to serve the people and to resurrect the name of the once influential Rama clan, whose most prestigious member was the city’s first mayor, Vicente Rama (who later served as congressman and senator). He authored the bill that made Cebu a chartered city in 1936.
The other prominent members of the clan are Dr. Osmundo Rama, who served as Cebu governor; Napoleon Rama, whose courageous pen put him among the Philippines’ finest pre-martial law writers (he later became Constitutional Convention delegate and publisher of the Manila Bulletin); and Annabelle Rama, whose daughter Ruffa and sons are among the popular actors today.
Unlike the Osmeñas, who continue to carry their weights both in national and local politics, the Rama clan stationed itself mainly in Cebu. The Ramas co-existed with the Osmeñas, in most instances under the latter’s shadow.
This was illustrated in the 18 years that Mike tiptoed his way through the reigns of Tomas Osmeña and Alvin Garcia. He accepted positions offered to him. This allowed him to eventually get the plum role in the Sinulog Foundation, as well as becoming vice mayor.
Rama was once enticed to challenge Tomas as mayor but he didn’t bite. Rightly so, knowing that Cebu remains enamored with the Osmeñas.
When Mike became acting mayor, he embarrassed himself when he tried to make friendly overtures to Gov. Gwen Garcia, something that irked Tomas. Short of calling Rama a coward or a puppet, critics and opponents lambasted him for failing to stand on his own. For his loyalty (which others may call “subservience”), Tomas had no choice but to support Mike’s bid for mayor.
With the slogan, “bayanihan, barangayan and boluntarismo,” Mike wants to make Cebu City a sustainable community. He put himself on a tightrope with his “first 100 days promise” of reorganizing City Hall, energizing health services and attending to public works. If he can deliver those promises, that will be impressive. But sustaining these will be the bigger challenge.
Tomas was outstanding in his first six years but skidded as he took on other, bigger things, like the South Reclamation Project, and made decisions based on political affiliation.
Cebu City has lost its shine against other cities in the Philippines.
That is the challenge for Mayor Rama today. If he succeeds in putting Cebu City in the list of the best places in the Philippines, then he will do proud not just the Father of Cebu City, Vicente Rama, and his clan but also the Cebuanos themselves.