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Osmeñista, a meaning lost over time

I do not know if this is true, but this was one of the stories I heard as a young man who was starting to show a keen interest in journalism. According to the story, Pete Calomarde, then editor of the now-defunct Morning Times, had a secret formula to make his paper sell.

According to the story, Calomarde discovered that whenever there was a picture of Serging Osmeña on the front page, the Morning Times would sell like hot cakes. At first, he thought that Serging was just good copy for the Cebuanos.

But when Calomarde allegedly put a picture of Serging on the front page by accident, even if there was no accompanying story about the Cebuano leader, the paper still sold like hot cakes.

And so the story goes that every now and then, if Calomarde sees the need to spike the sales of the Morning Times, he would put the picture of Serging on page one even if there was no story about him.

As I said, I do not know if the story was true. What is true is that there was such a story circulating at the time. And my recounting it here is not intended to cast aspersions on the dedication, skill and professionalism of the late Calomarde, may his soul rest in peace.

I just felt I need to resurrect the story about Serging because he is the father of the current mayor of Cebu City, Tomas Osmeña, and of his younger sister Georgia, who is said to be aspiring for the position soon to be vacated by Tomas.

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As a young boy, I was witness to the great attraction Serging had over the Cebuanos. My father would often bring me along to listen to the political oratory of the Osmeña speakers bureau at the old Bando Osmeña headquarters whenever election time swings around.

When I was a boy growing up in the 1960s in Subangdaku, in what is now Mandaue City, there were probably only two television sets in the neighborhood. Radio was the thing then. But even radio could not match the fire of live oratory.

So my father, whose being overly-politicized was exceeded only by his being a diehard Osmeñista, would slink over at night to the Bando Osmeña headquarters in Cebu City to get his high of political oratory.

The Bando Osmeña headquarters, if I remember right, was a single story wooden structure that stood across what is now the Gaisano Metro at the corner of Colon and P. Lopez streets in the downtown area.

The building was always brightly-lit and loudspeakers blared the oratory from two sides of the building. One thing I always looked forward to was the free paper stickers bearing the names of candidates.

In school, the number and variety of the paper stickers became some sort of a measure of one’s status until the Augustinian priests at the Colegio del Santo Niño became alarmed at the number of students sporting stickers on their foreheads and banned the darn things.

Anyway, most people nowadays do not know or remember Serging, so they will never be able to appreciate what the term Osmeñista means. The mention of the name Osmeña brings to mind only Tomas primarily, and given the reputation he has, putting Osmeñista into context is hard.

Another term associated with being an Osmeñista is “Bisag Unsaon Kang Serging Gihapon.” This probably had reference to Serging’s penchant for running for one position and then leaving it for another, a fact that never flustered his supporters.

If there was a time to put the meaning of diehard into context, that was the time. Female Osmeñistas once marched to the headquarters of Serging’s opponent, squatted around it, and threatened to drown everyone there with their collective urine.

I doubt if the supporters of Tomas can qualify as Osmeñistas in this context. Sister Georgia said she will be counting on the support of the Osmeñistas. I doubt that very much too. When life was simpler, support was in earnest. A vote now is but a cold statistic.

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