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July 21, 2013

Cebu, Thus Far

When people find out that I am from Cebu, the topic of conversation easily turns to animated stories of frolicking on white sand beaches in Mactan, eating copious amounts of lechon in Carcar, dancing on the streets at Sinulog, swimming with the whale sharks in Oslob, and the like.

Since the unexpected turn of events in the past few months, my conversations with people on and in Cebu have largely been focused on what happened to my mom – Cebu Governor, now Congresswoman, Gwen Garcia.

A few days before Christmas, and five months before the 2013 elections, Governor Garcia was suspended from office for six months. She contested the legality of the suspension and the matter is now before the courts.

As it had been widely reported in media, the suspension of a governor who was not a member of the ruling party at a time so close to the elections was seen by many sectors to have been purely political. To me, it was not only that. It was also personal.

Much has been written and said about the political crisis that gripped Cebu as of late. Stripped of all legalities and commentary, I relate as a daughter what my mother went through during those days.

Governor Garcia stood her ground from inside her office for more than forty days. Our family spent Christmas and New Year with her at the Governor’s Office. We watched with bated breath as events beyond our control unfurled with the thought that the armed men that surrounded us would swarm in at any given minute.

As my family and I saw my mom forge on amidst those strenuous circumstances, I often wondered if we were alone in this fight. But when thousands of Cebuanos from all walks of life marched to the Capitol and chanted “Padayon, Gwen!” (Go on, Gwen!) Stand Up, Cebu!”, I knew then that we were not. Those were not normal times for Cebu. And the Cebuanos knew it, too.

446px-Governor_Gwen_Garcia_Sinulog_2010_Harry_WadThe show of force and political maneuvering that fueled those forty-plus days are still incomprehensible to me. Here was a governor elected by the people for three consecutive terms. During those three terms, she worked and fought tirelessly for Cebu to become the premiere province in the country.

Just months before the governor’s suspension, the late DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo even awarded the Cebu Provincial Government with the Seal of Good Housekeeping – a prestigious award given only to those with a track record of good governance and transparency. For almost an entire decade of our lives, so devoted was my mom to her job that it was a running joke in our family that if we wanted to see her we would have to make an appointment.

As a daughter, my heart breaks from all that my mother has had to endure these past few months. As a lawyer, my heart cries for justice. But most of all, as a Cebuano, my soul that burns with the pride of being Cebuano, is enraged. Never in our beloved province’s glorious history has there been a virtual overturn of the people’s will. Shamefully, dirty politics marred Cebu’s sterling image. Due to the raging political conflict, government services were hindered, and ultimately, the Cebuanos suffered.

When Governor Garcia’s suspension ended, only a few days remained of her term. As her last act as governor, she reached across party lines and formally turned over the reins of the province to the new governor to pave the way for a smooth transition.

According to the province’s DILG director, the formal turnover was historic because it had never been done before. It was important because it illustrates to the new administration how far Cebu has come and sets the benchmark from which it can proceed. The move that surprised many was explained by Governor Garcia in these words: “For beyond political divides and narrow interests, there is and should always be the nobler goal of doing what is best for Cebu and the Cebuanos.”

As the province begins a new chapter from the polarizing events of the last few months, we move on and look forward hopeful that politics aside, Cebu and the Cebuanos will continue to thrive.

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One Comment on “Cebu, Thus Far”

  • Kristoffer says July 24, 2013 at 3:54 am

    what they did to Gov. Gwen was also an assault to all Cebuanos. I’m proud we had Gov. Gwen and we have Cong. Gwen now. Proud Cebuano ko!



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