A DAY after Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia offered to have the Provincial Government donate P20 million to the 2024 Sinulog Festival, Mayor Michael Rama announced to “the nation and the world” that the site used last January would still be the same: SRP or the South Road Properties.
The odd thing about the city mayor’s announcement: Throughout the XFM-Cebu interview by Johnley Bayking and Eric S. Manait -- Friday morning, December 8 (2023), with the mayor speaking from Australia where he has been on vacation for more than a month already -- Mayor Mike did not categorically and specifically say that SRP remains his site of choice.
Each time Bayking, XFM’s station manager, or Manait raised and brought back the talk to the basic purpose of the interview -- to know what Mayor Rama thought of Governor Gwen’s offer and his response to it -- the mayor would talk about things related to the Sinulog but not the issue at hand.
The governor has tied a string to the planned cash aid to the festival: that the activity be brought back to Cebu City Sports Complex, the old Abellana National School grounds. The condition was relayed last Wednesday, December 6, to Sinulog Foundation Inc. executive director Elmer “Jojo” Labella.
NOT CATEGORICAL OR DIRECT. One could gather from the XFM interview that Rama wasn’t budging from his position on the public quarrel preceding last January’s Sinulog, a long-running cold war of sorts between Cebu’s two top leaders, which prompted, notably, a meme/poster promo for a fight, titled “Civil War” featuring Gwen Garcia vs. Mike Rama.
What did the mayor think of the governor’s proposal regarding the 2024 Sinulog venue? Johnly Bayking asked. Mayor Mike answered with a seemingly random narration about (1) continuous, ceaseless (“way undang”) preparations for the Sinulog since last August, (2) the various plans: Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, Plan D, and (3) the over-all director he didn’t name but whose skills he profusely praised and who told him “all are in motion” and within the “time frame.”
No specific response to the matter of Governor Gwen’s suggestion. But from the answer, one can only infer that Mayor Mike wasn’t responding favorably to the offer. Something like, Look we’ve been at it for so long, we’re prepared with Plans A to D, we have a great and gifted manager on top of it, let us be.
FINALITY IN CHOICE OF SITE. Eric Manait dangled the governor’s P20 million cash offer. The mayor answered with something not clearly audible, like “they can do what they will with their money,” saying in effect that the Sinulog Foundation can raise funds elsewhere.
Is the SRP venue final then? Even on that, Mayor Mike dodged by saying that only God’s (word) is final and (man’s word) is not. Follow-up questions were expected but didn’t come, such as What did he mean, the site may still be changed, thus the plans A to D? Would it be like last year when the public was placed on edge of their seats because the actors at City Hall hemmed and hawed for a long time? Relevant here is that the reported response of SFI’s Jojo Labella to the governor’s idea: SFI was still “finalizing” the venue and would update her about their final decision.
It was apparent that hosts Johnley Bayking and Eric Manait gingerly handled the interview, maybe sensing that Mayor Mike didn’t want to be pressed on the issue that involved Governor Gwen. Even in the Sinulog 2023 tangling or clashing over venue, the mayor hadn’t engaged in a back-and-forth verbal public exchange with the governor. Surrogates spoke out for Mayor Mike or the mayor’s statements were drawn out by media from other news sources. Thus, the issues weren’t effectively joined.
THE IDEAL FOR THE ISSUE TO BE RESOLVED in the court of public opinion is to have a civil discourse that will list the pros and cons that may help bring an informed judgment, both on the shaping of the policy and people’s response to the adopted policy.
That may be hard to do if public leaders will skip and dodge by communicating in clichés and near-parables or resorting to matters of life, feeling and thought. Last year’s debate that raised issues of readiness of the SRP, the economics in downtown business, and unpredictability of weather was closer to the issue’s core.
Mayor Mike said they have at least four plans but wouldn’t mention the main plan or the three backups. He wouldn’t want to “telegraph” his other moves, if not his punches. But if they’ve long decided on the venue, why put off the disclosure?
Governor Gwen said returning to the old site and route would bring back the Sinulog’s “soul.” Many people may ask for a less complex take on how the old route and the Abellana Sports Center affect people’s spirituality and the SRP grounds do not.