Cebu's racetrack
- Junald Dawa Ango () - September 3, 2011 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - Where once there were horses, now there are people… and cars and trisikads in Hipodromo.

This barangay, notorious as refuge of thieves, was once famous for horse racing. If you look at a Cebu City map, you will find an oval road with perpendicular interior streets near Cebu Business Park that appeared as a uniquely designed subdivision. This was the Hippodrome, a former racetrack for horses.

Before the war, the Hippodrome was attracting horse aficionados all over the province. The race starting block was near the entrance along M. J. Cuenco Avenue opposite the Chinese cemetery. Pacific Foundry, the old metal casting company at the corner of the entrance, was the location of the clubhouse where spectators watched and bet on the horses.

Long time resident Mellie Ong Zack remembers the bell that signals the start of the races. At its sound, Cebuanos living near rush to the racetrack to glimpse the races; it was part of Cebuano lifestyle then. When the war came, the horse racing business was forced to close. The track reopened for races after the war, but it was no longer profitable; the business closed permanently and the oval was abandoned.

Barangay Secretary Ernesto Gacrama traces the origin of the barangay to the huge fire that hit thickly populated Carreta and T. Padilla in the late 1950s which reduced to ashes hundreds of houses. Mayor Serging Osmeña, faced with the problem of finding new homes for the victims who were then taking shelter in government offices, plazas, and even in the Cathedral’s yard, opened the abandoned racetrack as relocation site. This began the migration of fire victims to the Hippodrome. Other people followed and also built homes there.

Mr. Gacrama adds that the Hippodrome was part of Mabolo, but his parents and other settlers petitioned to secede from the barangay. In the early 1960s, the new barangay was officially recognized, adopting the name Hipodromo after the racetrack called Hippodrome. A decade later, the relocation site was converted into socialized housing by the National Housing Authority; the settlers were no longer squatters but homeowners of a new subdivision called Mary Immaculate Conception Village. It was named so because to the residents the oval and its interior roads reminded them of a rosary.

Hipodromo’s former reputation as haven of thieves is now gone. The barangay had been awarded “2nd Best Barangay Peace and Order Council” of Cebu City in 2008, an indication of decreased crime incidents. Hipodromo’s beginning as a squatter settlement is also gone. If you take time to walk around the oval road, you will see that the people, like the horses that precede them, have raced towards a better life. (FREEMAN)

BARANGAY BARANGAY SECRETARY ERNESTO GACRAMA BEST BARANGAY PEACE AND ORDER COUNCIL CARRETA AND T CEBU BUSINESS PARK CEBU CITY CUENCO AVENUE HIPODROMO MARY IMMACULATE CONCEPTION VILLAGE MAYOR SERGING OSME MELLIE ONG ZACK
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