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A notable year

/ 08:39 AM December 29, 2013

As 2013 draws to a close, I look back to a very interesting year. For the first half of the year, in the local scene the year started with the growing tension at the Capitol when the former governor Gwen Garcia defied the suspension order of the DILG and refused to leave the building. Public attention was focused on the daily scene at the Capitol with the media closely monitoring every move and every statement made by the camp of the suspended governor and the people in charge at the Capitol. TRO became the word of the day and it generated various, mostly humorous, meanings.

The first quarter was abuzz with the election campaign in full swing and the continuing tension at the Capitol. It was heartening to know that the two contenders for governor were my former students at UP Cebu High School. Fortunately, I was not a voter for the province so I was spared from making a difficult choice, although any of the two was a good candidate for governor. Then the results came and a change was taking place in the political scene not just at the Capitol but in some local government units which was a good sign.

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Then the Catholic Church was jolted with the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. But soon after, Pope Francis I, the first non-European and first Jesuit pope, was chosen. A few months later the world saw a papacy and the church brought closer to the people.

The trailblazing Carcar Lecture Series organized by the Cebuano Studies Center headed by Dr. Hope S. Yu was held monthly from January to September (interrupted only by the election months) at the St. Catherine’s College Audio Visual Room in Carcar.

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Fourteen writers of Carcar were studied and discussed in the series (two per month) by the faculty of the Literature Division of the University of San Carlos. Most of the writers presented in the forum were not just local writers but contributors to Cebu’s leading magazines and newspapers like Bisaya, Ang Suga, Freeman and the others. My favorite was Marcel Navarra whose writings revealed an exciting Tuyom, his home in Carcar. The other was, of course, Maria Cabigon whose Manding Karya columns provided relief , humor and practical advice to readers from all walks of life. I was honored to have been asked to give the opening but mostly the closing remarks of the forum.

The event I was greatly involved in was the Golden Jubilee Celebration of my high school class (Class ’63) at St. Catherine’s School, Carcar, Cebu. Literally, it took two years in the making, the first year, tracking the whereabouts of 39 girls, and the second year, gathering them for a monthly meeting. Thankfully, 19 could make it to the July celebration. It was a joy to meet our classmates fifty years after graduation!

The second half of the year was filled with great challenges. The pork barrel scam rocked the whole citizenry and Janet Napoles became a household name. As more big people were involved in the scam, the war in Zamboanga broke out. While the war was going on and the investigation of the scam widened, the MV Thomas Aquinas crashed into a 2GO cargo vessel and sank just a distance from the SRP. The sinking caused an oil spill which endangered the shores of Cordova island. There was a massive effort to clean up the mess using indigenous materials such as the bunot or coconut husk and human hair as oil containment booms. It was interesting to note how hairdressers and barbers donated their customers’ hair only to be stopped later by local scientists due to the chemicals applied to the hair. The bunot was more reliable, readily available and inexpensive. Relief efforts were launched to help displaced fishermen of Cordova.

Then the 7.2-magnitude earthquake shook the equanimity of Boholanos and Cebuanos and the rest of Central Visayas. The footages of ruined heritage churches and other historic buildings were horrifying but the efforts initiated by various sectors accelerated the speed to recovery. I marvel at the response of donors and volunteers and organizers and facilitators of the relief work from packing, repacking and shipping to Bohol. A colleague of mine did not accept any teaching load for the second semester to devote her time to rehabilitating a particular town in Bohol. A month after, supertyphoon Yolanda bludgeoned Eastern Visayas and Northern Cebu and its devastation was beyond words and it brought the whole world rushing in with aid for the survivors. A taxi driver was ecstatic at how in two days time the cash donations given at the Fuente by taxi drivers and other low-income workers would reach two million pesos. It was also encouraging to learn that ship owners and company managers volunteered their workers and vessels to facilitate the shipping of the relief goods. I congratulate the returning Barangay Captain Joel Garganera (my former student at UP Cebu High School) for volunteering and managing the Transient Center at Tinago gym.

But the year ended with two book launchings on Cebu: “Hikay: Cebu’s Culinary Heritage” by Louella Alix, and “Romancing With Words: The Life and Works of Greg M. Mercado (1919-1967) by Dr. Erlinda K. Alburo. Both were published by the USC Press. It was just a notable year!

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