IF IT was a boxing contest – and it was not – Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama is the fighter standing on the ring, with the hand raised by the referee. If it was just a disagreement on the risks of holding the Sinulog street parade and final showdown at South Road Properties – and it was – Mayor Mike would be the leader who could tell critics, I told you so.
WHAT EACH KNEW AND DID. The facts were: One, they weren’t slugging it out; there was no heated public verbal exchange between them; they just latched on to their respective position: mayor for SRP; governor for Abellana sports center. Two, each chief executive knew the separate realms of power: Mayor Mike, as chairman of the Sinulog Foundation that controls the activity. Guv Gwen, as leader of the local governments under her dominance or influence. Three, it was the governor who used the dance contingents from nine towns and one city as bargaining chip: Move it to Abellana or they keep out of the Sinulog. Consequently, the mayor didn’t budge.
ODDS AGAINST MAYOR. The state of things in the five days before D-Day – which Guv Gwen highlighted in at least two media briefings -- were clearly against the mayor. The daily rains, the images of mud and muck at the SRP Grounds, the risk to the safety of children dancers (which Talisay City Mayor Samsam Gullas highlighted and the governor used as her immediate reason for the pullout), the lack of amenities such as CRs and food outlets, and the threat of horrendous traffic were compelling arguments, at the time, for returning to the “tried and tested” venue, the City Sports Center, and against Mayor Mike’s “experiment” in running the event.
The mayor appeared like a stubborn non-pragmatist who deserved to be thrashed for exposing young dancers to danger and creating a lot of inconvenience for spectators. The governor looked like a knight in glistening armor coming to rescue the youthful performers and the viewing public.
THE RAIN DIDN’T COME, enough sun shone, and there was no mud anywhere. And as things turned out, no accident befell any dancer; the show came and went with no one placed in danger from an unsafe venue. How about the asphalt that critics said wouldn’t harden in time to cover the mud of the past days? The asphalt and the matting, used to cover the area near the grandstand, held. The absence of rain helped. But the marvel of wonders was the work of contractors who battled weather and time to make the site ready. The images before and after the mud were starkly chastening to naysayers. More than 24 hours before the event, Councilor Jerry Guardo, chairman of the City Council committee on infrastructure who coordinated work at the SRP Grounds, posted on Facebook the promise, “There will be no mud at the parade route.”
BASING ON THE OUTCOME. Mayor Mike’s “gamble” paid off. City Hall may claim “an overall success.” Largely because the principal fear raised by the governor didn’t happen: The dancing was unimpeded and not endangered by the condition of the roads and the grounds near the grandstand. It didn’t mean all the usual Sinulog problems were overcome.
There were complaints on accommodation of paying viewers (“Mag-usab pa’y maglayog,” said columnist Bong Wenceslao). Traffic of vehicles to and from the south was "terrible"(“Grabeee,” wailed one social media post). An after-event assessment will tell us more. But the doomsayers’ prediction of dire things didn’t come. On that alone, Mayor Mike scored high and thus, in effect, won.
DOESN’T MEAN GUV WAS WRONG, not totally. Her fears of danger to children dancers’ safety and unspeakable traffic jams were not whipped out of thin air. They were based on decades of Sinulog’s experience, which Mayor Mike himself must also know, having managed the event for several years and watched it up close. It also didn’t automatically earn him the title “visionary,” a recognition that comes only after one is gone, when history starts judging a leader. Mayor Mike himself must not have been certain about the result of the venture, not until after it was done. If he were so sure, he could’ve told and convinced the governor -- in their make-or-break phone talk -- that things wouldn’t go south, that they’d pull it off. And he could’ve made the same assurance to the public. He didn’t, except to say “All roads lead to SRP.”
WHAT THE DISPUTE INSTRUCTS is that there must be a more efficient and less abrasive mechanism to resolve a dispute between or among local leaders. At least in activities that could impair their vaunted and laudable “One Cebu Island” thrust.