FORMER Cebu City mayor Michael Rama can be faulted for many things when he was mayor for two terms, but one thing that even his political rival and Mayor Tomas Osmeña will find difficult to deny was Rama’s focus on the city’s mountain barangays. His infra projects there were what endeared him to the farmers.

To counter it before last year’s elections, Osmeña was reduced to setting up a private market for farmers in the city proper to make the farmers feel he cares for them. After he won, we still have to hear his plans for mountain folks.

Rama actually tried to do more for the hinterland barangays than just implementing infra projects. There was, for example, the attempt to promote potential tourist sites there. But like what usually happened with many of Rama’s plans during his term, that didn’t have a follow-through. He assigned one of his people to lead efforts to develop the city’s hinterlands but that didn’t work.

What Rama and now Osmeña have overlooked is that the city’s hinterlands are rich not only in sites with the potential to become tourist destinations, but also in culture. While the economic development in the lowlands has ensured the taking hold of foreign influences, the relative backwardness in the hinterlands has also ensured the retention of the culture and traditions of old Cebu.

Cebu City has its Cultural and Historical Affairs Commission (CHAC) but its activities have been limited to activities held mostly in the lowlands. In fact, one good question to ask its members is whether they know that some villages in the city’s hinterlands still showed “Linambay,” a Spanish era play, and that some of the rituals there can be traced back to the pre-Spanish period.

Even the All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day practices need to be observed and documented considering that these date back to the Spanish period. Indeed, if we want to know the culture of old Cebu, we just have to immerse ourselves with the people in the mountain barangays and be discerning.

With urbanization starting to reach the uplands, the City needs to find ways to preserve what has remained of Cebu’s rich cultural traditions. But will the Osmeña administration bother?