CRIES for help met suspended Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama yesterday as he walked through the ruins of a packed community hit by fire in Barangay Lahug.
A woman, upon seeing Rama, hugged her husband and sobbed. A man also shouted, “Mayor, wala na mi panginabuhian. Among mga manok naapil og kaugdaw (Our Mayor, we no longer have livelihood. Our chickens were charred, too).”
The Sitio Avocado community, where most alleys are too narrow a person had to walk sideways, saw the flames eat up roughly a hundred homes during its fiesta celebration for the Holy Family last Saturday night.
Some of the residents were busy entertaining visitors, while others were cooking in their dirty kitchen when the fire broke out at 6:22 p.m.
“Among mga sud-an para sa pista, naapil og kasunog (The food we cooked for the feast was also burnt),” Larry Arsolon, 42, said.
Rama stopped randomly to talk with some of the tragedy’s survivors while they scoured through the ashes in their gutted houses.
“Ang mayor suspended pero mayor-elect, pwede pa mo-estorya, pwede gani mangampanya, pero karon di ta mangampanya kay nasunogan man (Your mayor might be suspended but he is still the mayor-elect, who has the right to talk with you and campaign, but we won’t campaign here because you’ve just been victimized by tragedy),” Rama said, drawing smiles and laughter from the crowd.
One of the men said, “Huwat lang mi, mayor (We’ll wait for your help, Mayor),” to which Rama replied, “Huwat lang gyud, ang importante (We have to wait, but the important thing here is that) you will be standing better than before.”
He kept telling the survivors that re-blocking their community is the best way to achieve complete recovery.
During his visit at 12:07 p.m., the suspended mayor was surrounded by his body guards, who took turns in taking his photos, and staff of the City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office.
Later in his tour, Rama told Sun.Star Cebu that he went there primarily because “I am the mayor-elect. Kahibalo na ang acting mayor sa template sa SM (The acting mayor already knows the template of the suspended mayor).”
“I’m running for mayor again and di mahimong di ko magpakita dinhi. Abi na lang nahadlok ko. Therefore, naa ko dinhi (I shouldn’t be absent here. The enemies might think I’m afraid. Therefore, I’m here),” he said.
As Rama left the area shortly before 1 p.m., some fire survivors clapped and cheered for him.
Arsolon, one of the survivors, said he is still optimistic for the New Year.
“Bahala’g way kwarta kay naapil kasunog, basta kompleto ang pamilya (I don’t care about the burnt money, as long as my family is still complete),” he smiled, noting that the incident might just be a trial from God.
That the incident happened early at night while the community was celebrating the feast of Sagrada Familia was a good thing nonetheless, he said.
“Og dugay sa gabii pa to, daghang patay gyud to kay natulog na ang mga tawo (Had it happened later in the evening, there would have been fatalities as the people are sleeping),” he said.