I VISITED the Cebu Provincial Capitol yesterday to get of the copy of my book, “The History of Tudela.” I have only been to the Legislative Building once or twice after it was constructed. Yesterday was the first time I tarried long. I went to the fourth floor where the vice governor's office was located.
Capitol has changed since I roamed the place as reporter of The Freeman when Vicente “Tingting” de la Serna was governor from 1992 to 1995. The Legislative building wasn't constructed at that time and the offices of the members of the Provincial Board (PB) were still in the crowded old building, so too the session hall where I sometimes dozed off when the session got boring.
The vice governor's office was at the left side (or to your “left” if you are facing the building) of the second floor. That was the late “Vice Guv” Apolonio Abines's turf. I visited the place often to fish for news, making friends with the members of his staff in the process. That office, by my reckoning, wasn't as spacious as Vice Guv Agnes Magpale's office now. Magpale also has a bigger staff.
I actually paused for a few minutes, hiding from the blistering early afternoon heat in the shade of a giant tree, to recall those times when I was with the “Magnificent O,” the name Capitol beat reporters called their group then. So what has changed, aside from Capitol's look, after two decades?
I don't know where most of the “Magnificent O” members are now but some of them have become media veterans, like Michelle So, who is now editor-in-chief of Sun.Star Superbalita, Titus Borromeo is with the Cebu news team of TV 5, Lloyd Suarez is dySS broadcaster and Cebu Daily News columnist and Jess Villarba was El Nuevo Bantay Radyo news director until it ceased broadcasting for months now. Yody Sanchez was also with Bantay Radyo but shone more in politics as former Busay barangay captain (now that barangay's councilor) and candidate for the Cebu City Council in the May 9 elections.
As for the Capitol, I think only Vice Guv Magpale has remained constant. From being PB member representing the fifth district, she has been the body's presiding officer for two terms now. I don't know where the then PB majority leader, Juan Bolo is now but his political stock plunged when the controversial Balili lot purchase became fodder for news. And where is former PB member Victor Maambong?
I think former PB member Fermin “Nanding Celeste” Celestial, who went on to become vice governor, still has a radio program. His office became our “tambayan” at that time because of the graciousness of the staff and for the coffee being served there. A favorite interviewee was former PB member Emmanuel Pepito who, like Abines, has gone to the great beyond. He did not shy away from answering reporters' queries.
Another favorite, until he slowly faded from the scene, was then PB member Winston Garcia, who is running for governor in the May elections under the One Cebu party against the Liberal Party's Hilario Davide III. Garcia was an ally of de la Serna's predecessor, Emilio “Lito” Osmeña and was therefore with the opposition. But de la Serna's hold on the PB at that time was almost absolute.
De la Serna as governor was unique because he refused to implement major infra projects, which is a source of corruption through commissions or the so-called SOP. That he didn't enrich himself while in office was obvious and that this affected his political career was apparent also. He ended up becoming a one-term governor. I think he is better off financially now that he is with the private sector again.
(firstname.lastname@example.org/ twitter: @khanwens)