Cebu: Pockets of beauty or haven of bullies?
- Fidel O Abalos () - January 31, 2011 - 12:00am

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever; its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness”, thus wrote, John Keats, a popular English romantic poet who lived in 1795-1821 era. This quote was true then and is still very much real today. Riding on such undying phrases, local government units in the entire archipelago are harping on beauty to promote their cities’ or municipalities’ tourism potentials. Cebu City is one of them. In fact, has an overdose of plans for it. It is sometimes confusing though because after some laudable pronouncements about great beautification drives are made, in a few months later, another one comes along. 

To recall, a few months ago, Mayor Mike Rama embarked on a high profile thrust of beautifying the streets of the city. Picking a socialite to head the super body added much glitz into an already glittering arena of intriguing developments. Before it can even take off, Hon. Margot Osmeña launched her own more pragmatic “pockets of beauty” program. Whether these two beautification programs or drives are coordinated, we do not know. Certainly though, there seems to be an honest effort from the city government to put the streets pleasing to our eyes. 

However, while the honest intent to beautify the city is laudable, this does not necessarily mean that it would result to a safer and more orderly street. For instance, to put sidewalk vendors in one side of the street may make it pleasing to the eyes and ease pedestrians’ traffic but it does not necessarily mean it would improve sidewalk vendors’ wares or stuffs. 

Just keenly observe them in the streets and you’ll see the obvious. They are so untidy and so unhealthy. They didn’t realize that they thrive on pedestrians’ patronage. These are pedestrians who largely consider food safety. Sidewalk vendors seem not to be aware that pedestrians refrain from buying food that are messily prepared, such as those reportedly fried with used cooking oil. 

Instead of just toying the idea of making one of our streets look like that one in Paris, why not do something that is more appropriate for us? For instance, to make it more mutually beneficial, our ordinances should establish, among others, location restrictions, design requirements and operational guidelines. Location restriction should include prohibitions in setting up carts within intersections, access ramps for handicapped and in jeepney stops. To ensure viability, the distance between carts must also be established. Design requirements should include the allowable length and height, use of carts, and the use of umbrella or canopy. Operating guidelines shall include prominent display of business licenses (in securing for a permit, health certificate is a must), maintenance of cleanliness and orderliness in the area, obedience of lawful order of a police officer when they are requested to transfer to another location, pushing out the cart from the streets after business hours, and items allowed to be sold.

Moreover, to make our city truly pleasing, our beautification drive shouldn’t be limited on structure improvements and arrangements alone. As we are all aware, our streets are filled with thugs and hoodlums. Take the case of our regular port users. As they disembark from the ship, the feeling of security inside the port is overwhelming. Security guards are so visible and are apparently implementing the rules. As they stepped out of the port, however, the sight is in total contrast. The place is cluttered with men dangling car keys to unsuspecting inbound commuters pretending they are taxi drivers. Once approached, they bring these unsuspecting commuters to some parked taxis and forcibly demand a sum from them or from the taxi drivers or both. Rushing to get home or be on their appointments on time, they pay.

The same scenarios abound in our bus terminals as well.

Our brothers and sisters “probinsyanos” have been victims of these hoodlums who are bracing against each other in trying to snatch their bags in the guise of assisting them for a seat and forcibly demanding payments later for the alleged services rendered. Fearing for their lives, they give in. Undeniably, these dispatchers right outside our bus terminals are unforgiving. They prey on both taxi drivers and commuters in every ride they took. 

Apparently, these bullying individuals are everywhere. They are plying their trade even in legitimate spaces where unsuspecting motorists pay legitimately. It is common sight that as car owners park their cars in the city designated areas along the streets, not only shall they deal with CITOM personnel for parking fees. As they leave, “watch your car” boys suddenly appear for allegedly watching their cars. They seem to mark cars that don’t pay and dent them when the opportunity comes. In trying to avoid cost for repairs, car owners succumb to pressure.

Barkers and dispatchers abound in pedestrian lanes and jeepney stops too. As if our streets are terminals, they are holding jeepneys until these are filled up and collect a sum for doing it. They are not only annoying, they are certainly, not necessary. These thugs are bold enough to show their faces. Their hooliganism is done in broad daylight and in total public view. Yet, they continue to thrive and are growing in number day by day.  

Indeed, extortions nowadays are undertaken in many ways. Perpetrators appear in different looks. In purpose, however, they are still one and the same, forcibly extracting money from hapless individuals. Before they grow uncontrollable, however, the authorities should realize how worrying their presence has been for us. Definitely, measures can be adopted to eliminate these malpractices. Something was successfully done in the past and can be similarly done again now.

Not long ago, the Cebu Ports Authority (CPA) undertook a very remarkable undertaking. The CPA successfully uprooted the informal settlers near the Cebu International Port. The hundreds of trisikads that used to congest the area can no longer be found. If these men and women who are doing honest livelihood in the area were successfully convinced to leave the place, why can’t we apprehend these brutes preying inbound passengers.

We’ve lauded the strong-willed position of the City of Cebu many years ago in removing structures basically attached at the basilica’s fence along Osmeña Boulevard. However, we are wondering why we can’t rid our street parking areas with these unpleasant “watch your car” boys despite the presence of our CITOM personnel.

Yes, we are trying to discipline our jeepney drivers with stiff penalties and yet we cannot protect them from these unruly dispatchers who are demanding a share from their day’s

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