FINALLY, the Governor’s Gallery at the second floor of the Provincial Capitol was reopened Aug. 20 after undergoing a renovation. The gallery was first opened in 2004 but it was for a time closed. The idea to reopen it came from the governor’s wife, Jobel Angan Davide, who felt the need to show something, besides the Capitol building and its offices, to tourists and guests. With the gallery, the guests can now view a slice of the province’s history through the achievements of the 25 men who governed the province since 1900.
The first governor was Jose Llorente (1899-1901) who first served when he was appointed by the American military. He reorganized the towns of Cebu and organized the Peace Commission, and became governor under American civil rule in 1900. The next governor was Juan Climaco (1902-1903), during whose term the Cebu port was expanded, making it the first modern harbor in the country. It was also during his time that an electric system was established: Veco (Visayan Electric Co.).
Sergio Osmeña Sr. (1904-1906) prioritized peace and order. Eventually, he became speaker of the General Assembly. He also became vice president of the Philippine Commonwealth and, upon the death of the president, Manuel Quezon, became president during the Japanese war and until the birth of the Republic of the Philippines.
After Osmeña came Dionisio Jakosalem (1907-1912) whose major projects were the Osmeña waterworks system and the rail system under the Philippine Railway Company which was in operation even during the Japanese occupation. Then came Manuel Roa (1912-1921) who spent most of his time in office in relief and reconstruction as a big typhoon visited Cebu on the day of his oath taking. It was also Gov. Roa who petitioned to have a University of the Philippines (UP) branch in Cebu.
Like his predecessor, Gov. Arsenio Climaco (1922-1930) devoted most of his time to the repair of typhoon-caused damage to infrastructure. He governed at the time of the Great Depression. Mariano Jesus Cuenco (1931-1933) excelled in maintaining the fiscal resource of the province and eventually became senator. Sotero Cabahug (1934-1937) built roads and bridges and also the Rizal Memorial Library, the TB Pavilion of the Southern Islands Hospital, and the Cebu Junior College. It was during his term that the construction of the Capitol building started.
Buenaventura Rodriguez (1937-1940), a literary personality, was the first governor under the Philippine Commonwealth and it was during his term that the capitol building was inaugurated, on Dec. 14, 1938. Hilario Abellana (1940-1943) at first feigned cooperation with the Japanese but eventually escaped. He was executed on Jan. 5, 1945 by the Japanese. Jose Delgado (1943-1944) established the Cebu City Children’s Hospital and the Cebu City Vocational School. Jose Leyson (1944-1945) was forced by the Japanese to serve the government.
Fructuoso Cabahug (1945-1946) was appointed governor by the American military. He warned against profiteering and distributed seeds, encouraging the people to go into food cultivation. Manuel Cuenco (1945-1950) prioritized rebuilding of agriculture and education after the war. Sergio Osmeña (1951-1955) purged the provincial and municipal governments of civil service violators. Until 1972, he was acknowledged as the political kingpin of Cebu. Jose Briones (1956-1961) streamlined the provincial bureaucracy. Francisco Remotigue (1961-1963) embarked on a beautification program and province-wide tree-planting. Rene Espina (1963-1969) was into a road building and rehabilitation program. He was able to realize the construction of the Mandaue-Mactan bridge.
Eduardo Gullas (1975-1986) served the longest. He embarked on road and bridge construction and rehabilitation, as well as water systems and energization of towns. Osmundo Rama (1969-1975, 1986-1988) laid emphasis on agriculture and education.
Emilio Osmeña (1988-1992) drummed up Cebu as a prime investment area, creating “Ceboom,” meaning Cebu’s economic boom. It was during his term that the provincial government sold the lot that the Club Filipino golf course occupied, which is now the Ayala-owned Cebu Business Park. Vicente de la Serna (1992-1995) initiated a housing program and initiated the construction of the Sugbo Cultural Center on the UP-Cebu Campus. He also had a program to fast-track delivery of services.
Pablo Garcia (1995-2004) had the 57 km. Vegetable Highway, from Mantalongon in Dalaguete to Guadalupe, Carcar, as a major project. He also built a new provincial jail in Kalunasan, Cebu City. Gwendolyn Garcia (2004-2013) sought to make Cebu a prime tourist destination. She converted the old provincial jail into Museo Sugbo, and initiated the Suroy-Suroy trips to the towns. It was also during her term that the provincial jail inmates gained worldwide attention as the “Dancing Inmates” (which they still do, today).
The current governor, Hilario Davide III (2013-present) has a program that includes health and social services, agriculture and countryside development, education and vocational technology, infrastructure, tourism, culture and the arts, public sector participation, environment, disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation, and law and order.
Mrs. Davide credits heritage conservation expert Melva Java, writer/researcher Linda Alburo, Museo Sugbo curator Masi Cabañes and provincial tourism officer Grace Paulino for their help in the renovation on the Governor’s Gallery which is open to the public through the provincial tourism office. A visit there is a good way of viewing a slice of the Cebu provincial government history.