SORE eyes are just as clear as a tour guide’s lies. If truth is ugly, trust him to lead a bevy of visitors where everything is lovely till leaving compels them to turn back as if everywhere hereabouts is a walk in the park.

It takes someone with a cold glare of conviction, however, to see the sand-buried head of an ostrich from a flock of peacocks preening for tourists who believe life is a beach. "There are almost no beautiful cities in America,” informed the essayist and professor Noel Perrin, “though there are many beautiful parts of cities and some sections that are glorious without being beautiful, like downtown Chicago.”

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Even as Perrin waxed cynical that “cities are too big and too rich for beauty,” a humorist could only concur with a cackle: “Things are so tough in Chicago that at Easter time, for bunnies the little kids use porcupines."

Never mind if visitors to the “Windy City” may have been blown away by the majesty of Millennium Park beside Lake Michigan.

Aptly hyped as “an award-winning center for art, music, architecture and landscape design,” the 24.5-acre piece of realty boasts of royalty: the Lurie Garden and its whole gamut of green; the outdoor concert venue hailed as the “most sophisticated of its kind in the United States”; the Cloud Gate sculpture literally reflecting how small and fragile we are in the face of awe.

But it is the interactive Crown Fountain—-a pair of 50-foot glass towers at each end of a shallow pool—-that celebrates the community, projecting the faces of Chicago out of the broad spectrum of its citizens on a gigantic video screen.

It’s the people who give a place its face, after all.

Will foreigners flock in droves to Cebu and end up charmed by their experience of holidays hereabouts? Will they light up at seeing its leaders who leap to claw at each other’s faces over the paltry state of the city’s parks or its trash-strewn streets?

“While Cebu City Councilor Margarita “Margot” Osmeña turned down the invitation to join the Super Beautification Council (SBC), her husband Rep. Tomas Osmeña said the body is designed to bypass the Parks and Playgrounds Commission (PPC),” reads a report about City Hall’s project to spruce up the sidewalk.

Elsewhere in this so-called “Island in the Pacific,” Rep. Red Durano (Cebu, fifth district) is afoot with a bill to reclassify the idyll of Camotes as alienable or disposable for the construction of resorts and hotels. Where displacement rears its head, the locals need not worry as long as the prospective law allows them to let their hair down to the tune of eco-tourism. Ah, let the Gauguin-wannabe go somewhere else if they’re green with envy instead at fellow foreigners who enjoy the exotic and mystic light of “lingam massage.”

Break a leg and make a mark, folks. Let’s leave a lasting impression to the visitors.

But it would be a break for us, too, if our leaders would take their cue from the wishful goodwill of Chicago’s neighborhood website: “Help locals experience the fascination of a tourist, and the tourist feel the comfort of a local.”

Then again, we’d be in an isle sunk deep into our sleep if we dream things were fair and equal.

(geemyko@gmail.com)