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People participation in urban governance in Cebu

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Prof. Felisa U. Etemadi of the University of the Philippines has been serving Cebu for 30 years and even more. Now she provides not only Cebu and the nation but also the world with this Reader.

The book launching was such a beautiful experience, very appropriate to the very special person of the trailblazing author and breakthrough that the publication brings about.

After the usual preliminaries, Resil B. Mojares, professor emeritus of the University of San Carlos, mentor of Prof . Etemadi  introduced the writer and the book.

“Felisa U. Etemadi is a model of the serious, socially-engaged academic. She has had an exemplary career as a teacher and researcher, and has impressed everyone she has worked with not only with her record of academic excellence, but her personal qualities. In a culture where seriousness is an under-appreciated virtue, she approaches her work with uncommon deliberation and diligence. Soft-spoken but sharply focused, she is the consummate professional, concerned about doing a job well and sensitive to questions of utility and ethicality in her work.”

Regarding the content of the Reader he said: “All deal with what has been her major concern, urban governance in Cebu City, with the stress on people participation, as expressed in the dynamic interaction of government, non-government and people’s organizations, development institutions, civil society groups, and the academe. The issues dealt with in her studies — poverty alleviation, socialized housing, watershed management, the informal economy, the rights of women and children — are not only current but benchmark issues for decades to come. If urban governance in contemporary Cebu City is one of the best documented in the country, much of the credit goes to Etemadi.”

The heart of the launching was Feliz’s narration of her journey in action research. We were moved by the Oriental opening:  paying respect to her parents. This was made possible by the stage arrangement which was very relevant to the activity. Highlighted were her parents through enlarged photographs and the picture of Feliz as a kindergarten pupil reciting. Feliz explained that this moment started, a while ago, with the upbringing of her parents.  Her loving parents had provided examples of justice, service, sensitivity to the plight of the disadvantaged. They had early on initiated her in gentleness and generosity.

I loved the idea that she included her personal journey in this book on the evolution of the governance of Cebu City. This is very helpful and encouraging for young scholars and researchers. For the students in UP, they are fortunate to have the actual exposure to Feliz; but with the Reader there is a solid source. To intertwine the personal with the political is very appealing to the female in me.

I am actually familiar with the material in the book because I have included sections of it in the Sourcebook for Integrating Local History in the Teaching of Philippine History with the permission of Feliz. I totally agree with Prof. Mojares on the value of the documentation done by Feliz. Since I had been present in the forum where Feliz first reported on her findings on the post-Martial Law GO-NGO interaction; when I worked on the sourcebook I selected her work to represent this historical period. Here, she made a very discerning observation of the shift of the ngo posture of “oppose and oppose” to “oppose and propose”. In the book you will read about the many interesting consequences of this shift.

Now, with the emphasis on “inclusiveness”, People Participation in Urban Governance in Cebu is a document of great significance. Through-out the book Feliz notes the various opportunities that marginalized groups had to voice out their needs, aspirations, and decisions. In fact, she shows the development of this trend. But she herself asserts that she has not been “naïve” and points out the limitations.

For those concerned about gender, “Gender Mainstreaming in City Governance” will be particularly helpful, especially the portion on challenges. There is a call for representatives of the local government unit to take a more active role.

I cannot stress enough how blessed our community, the youth and students, the marginalized groups to have Felisa U. Etemadi and People Participation in Urban Governance in Cebu.


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