ABOUT 25 years ago, Ricardo Cardinal Vidal requested the papal nuncio to reconsider the decision to transfer him to Cebu, because he did not know the language.

Now, “I wouldn’t choose any other place to stay but Cebu,” said the archbishop.

He was conferred last night the Order of Lapu-Lapu, the first time the Cebu Provincial Government gave its highest award.

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He said it was his best award yet.

Although born in Lipa City, Batangas, the cardinal has previously announced he would like to stay in Cebu after his retirement. (Of that time when he expressed doubt about being transferred here, he recalled then Pope John Paul II telling him, “At least you are being transferred in a place only in the Philippines. I was transferred from Poland to the Vatican.”)

Being Cebuano by choice and holding on to the best values of Cebuanos, wherever they may be, emerged as themes in the brief responses of seven other awardees.

As part of its anniversary celebration, the Province gave the Garbo sa Sugbo Awards. Among the recipients were business leaders John Gokongwei Jr., chairman emeritus of JG Summit Holdings, and Norberto Quisumbing, chairman of the Norkis Group of Companies, for their achievement in entrepreneurship.

Energy Secretary Rene Jose Almendras received the award for his achievement in corporate leadership. University of San Carlos educators Dr. Resil Mojares and Dr. Ramon del Fierro were also recognized—Mojares for his contributions in Cebuano literature and history, and del Fierro for the promotion and development of higher education.

Visual artist Sofronio Mendoza received an award for his contributions to the contemporary visual arts. Singer Maria Teresa “Dulce” Llamedo Cruzata was the lone awardee who delivered her acceptance speech in Cebuano. She was teary-eyed.

Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia said the awardees were Cebuanos by birth, by choice or in conscience, who have made Cebuanos proud.

“I am proud to be Cebuano,” said Gokongwei, of Robinson’s and Cebu Pacific Air.

Quisumbing said he was not born in Cebu but came here 56 years ago when the streets of Cebu were occupied by carriages, rather than the Hondas and Mercedes Benzes of this time.

Infrastructure may have changed in five decades but Quisumbing said Cebuanos remain the same kind-hearted, humble, courteous and respectful people he has come to admire.

Almendras, recently commended in the State of the Nation Address for his swift solution to a problem, said he takes pride in calling himself “Bisdak” (for “Bisayang dako”) especially when he’s in another country, meeting other “Bisdaks.”

“We never stop being a Cebuano anywhere in the world,” Almendras added.

Citations went to the Cebu Normal University and Cebu Technological University for their “significant contributions” to the Province of Cebu’s scholarship program for valedictorians.

Also included in the list was the St. Benedict Childhood Education Center, for winning the gold medal in contemporary music and silver medals in the Children’s Choir and Music of the Religions categories in the recent 6th World Choir Games in Shaoxing, China.

Some of the guests during the Governor’s Ball and Garbo sa Sugbu Awarding were Rep. Imelda Marcos and Sen. Miguel Zubiri. (JGA/RSA)