Former Cebu City mayor Tomas Osmeña and former Cebu governor Tingting de la Serna.
Former Cebu City mayor Tomas Osmeña and former Cebu governor Tingting de la Serna.File photos

Seares: Cebu City mayor, Cebu governor bickered over 1994 Palaro—but Osmeña, de la Serna forged a truce to win the bid for the city’s second hosting. Present third hosting isn’t without a splash of color from politicians.

THE SHORT OF IT.

[] Cebu City hosted national games twice before: first in 1954 (7th Palaro); second in 1994 (40th Palaro), and third in 2024 (54th Palaro)—40 and 30 years apart respectively.

THEN Cebu City mayor Tomas Osmeña (1988-1995) and Cebu governor Vicente de la Serna (1992-1995) were feuding over a number of things. And in December 1992, the venue of the 1994 Palarong Pambansa, the second time Cebu City would host, was among them.

Then congressman Eduardo R. Gullas wanted Talisay City while Osmeña wanted the Abellana Sports Complex (now the Cebu City Sports Center) as the principal site. De la Serna reportedly rooted for Gullas’s choice and other venues in the province.

Feuding city mayor and Cebu governor

The squabbling of local officials threatened Cebu City’s bid. Emissaries of Cebu City who had just returned that December from Manila to present the City Government’s bid were reported by local media as “brimming with confidence” but the city’s delegation cautioned for unity among Cebu leaders.

A SunStar editorial of December 21, 1992 was headlined thus: “Advice on Palaro issue: forget turf, think Cebu.” SunStar asked, “Why don’t they come to the negotiating table with a revised attitude: that what is good for the greater number of Cebuanos or for Cebu in general, not just one congressional district or city in the island province, is the better choice?”

Capitol, City Hall tiff: yet no call to back off

The chief executives quarreled on a number of local issues, although then mayor Osmeña didn’t tell governor Tingting to back off, particularly not on the Palaro hosting, even though clearly the 1994 host was not Cebu island but Cebu City. Tomas must have known that the Province and some cities that are components of the province could help.

A “Direct Line” column in SunStar of October 9, 1992 noted that for the quick defrosting of the Tomas-Tingting relations, each leader must avoid hostile or snide remarks on the way to the negotiating table.

Mayor Tomas, in agreeing to meet and talk with Tingting without conditions, said, “the governor can even keep his (dark) sunglasses on,” a not-so-subtle reference to the then governor’s penchant for shielding his eyes in public. What if, “Direct Line” asked, Tingting would return fire with the remark he wouldn’t mind if Tomas wouldn’t be totally sober during the meeting? De la Serna’s defenders then used Tomas’s drinking habit in teasing the mayor.

The meeting must have been productive—or the kink was removed even without the two leaders actually meeting. The 1994 or 40th Palaro, Cebu City’s second hosting of the national games, happened and became part of Cebu history.

Other LGUs’ help began in 2nd hosting

The arrangement that started then was that other local governments in Cebu island, not just Cebu City, would contribute sports facilities and venues to the national games.

As some Cebu LGUs did in 1994—notably the Provincial Government and Talisay City—this year, Cebu City’s third hosting, more LGUs in the island are pitching in. It’s some concession to unity (“One-Island Cebu”), this pooling of resources, although the LGU spending the biggest amount (P262 million, as of June 3, 2024) and officially the host is still Cebu City.

The current third hosting—30 years after the second hosting in 1994—is not without the color supplied by politicians.

There’s the suspension of Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, who was the prime force in bidding for the hosting (he formally accepted the “honor and burden” in Marikina City, the 2023 host) and starting the preparations, which Acting Mayor Raymond Alvin Garcia completed. And the noise over whether preventively suspended Mayor Mike Rama should be invited to the Palaro opening (he’d be invited, said A.M. Garcia) came amid the steaming heat from Gov. Gwen Garcia’s continuing friction with PSM Mike on other issues.

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