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Paris: An old city ready for the future!

For our special presentation on tonight’s Straight from the Sky, we bring you the Rotary Club of Cebu (Mother) to talk about its up and coming Gift of Life Concert, a concert of Cebu’s award winning Choral Ensemble. The Gift of Life program is an international undertaking designed to help the poor indigent children born with congenital heart defects. This was a program adopted by many Rotary Clubs all over the world.

 It is for this reason why the Rotary Club of Cebu held a choral concert a year ago and its proceeds led to the operation of 10 indigent children who otherwise would have died. The Gift of Life program came about with a memorandum of agreement between the Rotary Club of Cebu (Mother), the Cebu Doctors Hospital and Perpetual Succour Hospital, which provides discounted rates for its services, while the professional fees of the doctors involved in this program are for free. Perhaps the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) ought to look at the fact that many of our doctors give free services to many of our people.

 With us to talk about the Gift of Life program is our President Mr. Roy Lotzof, Dr. Ibarra “Baba” Panopio, Dr. Rudy Amatong and Dr. Monico Perez, who are amongst the doctors who give free services for this program. The doctors will explain what these indigent children with heart defects need and how the Rotary Club of Cebu brought them hope for a better future. See this very interesting show on SkyCable’s channel 15 at 8:00pm tonight.

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 Tonight is Halloween, which has become a commercial tradition in this country, where we call it “Kalag-Kalag” or All Saints’ Day on November 1 and All Souls’ Day on November 2.  These are holidays that are observed in most Catholic countries, especially in Europe and in Latin America. Call it luck that today Monday has been “sandwiched” between Sunday and All Saints’ Day, which means we have a very loooong holidays. But for me, it is an extra time to write our articles about our trip to Paris.

 Meanwhile, we got back from Paris last Friday, which gave me enough time to rest from that hectic 11-hour flight via Korean Air’s Airbus A-380 double Decker jumbo jet and a 4-hour layover in Incheon International Airport and another 4-hour flight from Korea back to Cebu. That means travelling time from Cebu to Paris takes almost a day.

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 In Paris, we stayed at the Novotel Est Hotel in Bangolet, just at the outskirts of Paris. Close to our hotel is one of the most famous cemeteries of all, the Pére Lachaise Cemetery, the largest one in the City of Paris (over 44 hectares) and considered “the most visited cemetery in the world” as many famous French poets, writers, artists or painters are buried there. Like in Hollywood, they also have a special macabre tour of the celebrating dead.

 If you know of any famous French artist or painter, chances are, they are buried in this cemetery like the famous mime Marcel Marceau and French actor Yves Montand, French actress Simone Signoret and the famous American songwriter and band leader of “The Doors” Jim Morrison, whose gravesite is guarded because of graffiti, and yes, there’s novelist Oscar Wilde whom we often quote. Unfortunately due to our hectic schedule we didn’t have time to go inside this famous cemetery.

 Paris is indeed an old city, its earliest inhabitants when France was called Gaul were called the Parisii. During the Roman Empire, it was called Lutetia and eventually renamed Paris in 360 AD. While it has ancient roots, the Paris that we see today was the result of the vision of Napoleon III, France’s last monarch and its 1st Titular duly elected President who got the services of an urban planner named Georges-Eugéne Haussmann who created the avenues, boulevards and the architectural design that you see in Paris today. While he destroyed most of medieval Paris, he transformed it into what it is today, where more than 60% of his designs are still in use.

 Today, we in Cebu are quarreling over an issue of the flyovers, opting for widened roads. That’s because the oppositors do not have any idea of the dynamics of traffic. Paris is the best example for us. Though it has grand avenues or boulevards like the Champs Elysees, most of its streets are narrow and yes, they did not widen these streets. Rather they made them one way, which allows only one side parking.  

 Paris may be an old city, but it is truly prepared for the future. For instance, they have city-owned and operated bicycles for anyone to use within the city limits (for as long as your return it to a bicycle station for a fee). This means, you can park your car and take a bicycle to where you want to go. Paris is the only city that I have seen where you can drive an electric (not a hybrid) car where certain streets are reserved with complete recharging stations on the sidewalks. Will this ever happen to us in Cebu? I hope so!

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