Restoring Plaza Independencia’s glory
Cebuanos are rediscovering Plaza Independencia near Pier 1.
Before malls started sprouting in Cebu City in the 1980s, there was Plaza Independencia.
It used to draw crowds of city residents, especially families, during weekends.
Long before that it was already a hub for civic activities. In the Spanish era, military parades and ceremonies were held there as it was strategically located in front of Fort San Pedro, where Spanish soldiers garrisoned.
Until the time came when dimly lit sidewalks and neglect gave it a reputation as a haven for thieves and pickpockets and a suitable place for trysts with its overgrowth of shrubs.
The mention of its name alone was a warning for people to avoid going near or around the park.
But a place that bore witness to Cebu’s rich cultural past can’t remain marred by the tradeoffs of modernity and the changing times.
Now Plaza Independencia is restored to some of its former glory after the Cebu city government gave it it a needed facelift after the park was closed for renovation with the constructon of the subway tunnel under it leading to the Japan-funded South Coastal Road.
People who come to visit the park walk on clean and concrete pavements surrounded by well-maintained landscapes of ornamental plants, flowers and old acacia trees.
With the park’s new look, people are starting to frequent the place again and tourists, both local and foreign, resume admiring the scenery of the historic place.
The park has the Ramon Magsaysay monument and landmarks for Cebu veterans and victims of the Japanese War in World War II.
The obelisk, a tall, pointed monument dedicated to the memory of the first Spanish governor-general of the Philippines Miguel Lopez de Legazpi stands at the center of the Plaza.
Security and order has improved. Security guards patrol in bicycles and the area is a no-smoking zone and off limits to vendors.
Sign boards stating “Keep off the grass” and “No sitting on this area” protect the well-trimmed Bermuda grass .
The park now attracts joggers and bikers in the early morning and afternoon.
As a multipurpose activity center, the park hosts groups of students rehearsing dance numbers or plays, or make their school projects there.
The plaza still draws photography enthusiasts who bring models for a fashion or fun photo shoot.
But most park goers bring their own digital cameras—parents taking photos of their children, families having their pictures taken, barkadas posing for a wacky shot couples trying a vanity photo.
Children also find the wide pavements a good place to run and play to their heart’s content.
Families trickle in during the late afternoon, filling up the park grounds and benches. A stroll in the park must be a good after-work stress reliever and bonding time for working parents.
Plaza Independecia may still evoke the image of a lovers lane with dating couples a noticeable sight once you enter the park in the morning or night. They are a sure competition for benches, but other visitors find their way to the gazebo near the entrance or stroll around.
Dating couples don’t seem too concerned about being discreet with their affections as people pass by. Maybe this is because dating in Plaza Independencia now has a more wholesome image in the family-friendly environment.
Situated near Pier 1, the plaza is also a welcome sight for travelers. Some who happen to pass by decide to stroll around or sit on the benches for a rest.
What brings the park to life isn’t the burst of activities alone but also the idle moments, especially when visitors slow down and just witness a sunset at the closing of a day.
At night, lampposts, flood lamps shining on monuments, and lighted balls hanging from trees are a festive sight.
Outside the park are food carts and stalls of peanuts, cotton candy and other street food. Balut vendors teem on the sidewalks.
The jovial and care-free spirit of Cebuanos and the love for simplicity are mirrored in the daily gatherings in the park.
As people from all walks of life rediscover Plaza Independencia, it offers lessons on how Cebu can fulfill its dream of becoming a truly liveable city that values heritage, civic life, and a clean environment. /Hannah Aranas, Editorial Assistant
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