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Save the narra trees on Osmeña Blvd

POINTILLISMS - Mike Acebedo Lopez (The Freeman) - September 20, 2014 - 12:00am

"Is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud monuments, until there will be nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children? If they are not inspired by the past of our city, where will they find the strength to fight for her future? Americans care about their past, but for short term gain they ignore it and tear down everything that matters. Maybe… this is the time to take a stand, to reverse the tide, so that we won't all end up in a uniform world of steel and glass boxes."

These are not my words but Jackie Kennedy's. The revered former first lady of the United States wrote them in a handwritten letter in 1975 urging then New York City Mayor Abe Beame to remain steadfast in a court battle to defeat a proposed development plan that would've destroyed the iconic Grand Central Station's façade and Man Waiting Room.

Fast-forward to the present, forty years later, halfway across the world, right here at the very heart of the proud Queen City of the Philippine South, Cebu City. Our efforts to preserve our heritage face a danger so unthinkable, so careless, so thoughtless you'd think no Cebuano would ever dare support it, much less conjure such madness.

The planned Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), claims its proponents and the CITOM, would require road widening at either side of the Osmeña Boulevard (formerly Jones Avenue) — our  city's Main Street and major arterial thoroughfare — from Abellana and Central Bank, down to Fuente Osmeña, and further down to the Cebu Provincial Capitol where the Cebu Kilometer Zero marker is situated.

And this required road-widening translates to the massacre of the decades-old narra trees that line Osmeña Boulevard, our only ceremonial route. Each and every one of them. Not even Malacañang, the Senate, or the House of Representatives have a ceremonial route so beautiful, so historic, as the one we have here leading to the Capitol, the seat of power in this, the oldest of all Philippine cities and provinces.

CITOM even says that the public shouldn't worry because the fountain will be preserved. F*ck the fountain, the trees of Fuente and the entire boulevard are what make the area so beautiful, so compelling, so distinctly and unmistakably Cebu. Said to be patterned after Washington D.C. (the Capitol, Dupont Circle), the entire boulevard, with Fuente, the Rizal Library and the Capitol must be treated as one, all of them having survived World War II and many more highs and lows in our country's history. 

I am not averse to the BRT (even if some experts say it is a short-term fix and would be rendered obsolete in a decade), but the Osmeña Boulevard must be spared. It's not even as densely populated as other areas not considered in the list of proposed BRT routes. Feeder buses can collect passengers and connect this heritage area to the other BRT terminals and routes.

There are other ways. So please, don't destroy the beauty of the most recognizable street in all of Cebu — the trees that line either side of the road, the green canopy that connects the Capitol, the Rizal Library, Fuente — oh, the collective heritage and communal memory we will lose if this pushes through. These are trees that have stood witness to both our glorious and bitter past, to the heroism and martyrdom of our Cebuano forebears who bravely fought oppression and who dreamed of a free and prosperous Cebu. Let us honor our fathers by preserving and protecting these majestic and historic trees, living witnesses to their courage and unfailing love for Cebu. 

We are not even talking about the impact on the environment yet. The floods in Cebu City are getting worse, not only because of poor drainage or bad city planning and short-term or band-aid interventions, but because we have fewer trees. It is an established fact that trees help in flood mitigation.

The social and cultural and environmental and economic (tourism) impact of this extremely reckless proposal should be enough to abandon it without batting an eyelash. Why is it even being considered? Are our leaders so heartless, so brainless that they would wantonly take all of this away from us? Like Jackie Kennedy, I ask, is it not cruel?

Anyone who pushes for the massacre of these trees should never be forgiven.

***

Her Majesty's realm is intact: Scots vote "no" at yesterday's independence referendum, with 55% rejecting proposals for Scotland to extricate itself from the union (the United Kingdom).

I wonder how Cebuanos would vote if we were given a similar choice. Secession has been a lingering dream for some Cebuanos wishing to detach ourselves from imperial Manila, asserting that as a city-state like Singapore, the entire Province of Cebu is better off on its own, not weighed down by Manila's perennially destructive politics and counter-progressive policies and mindset.

What do you think? What say you to the idea of a "Republic of Cebu, Philippine Islands?" Or a federal state, at least? Let's revive the discussions.

mikeacebedolopez@gmail.com

 

ABELLANA AND CENTRAL BANK BUS RAPID TRANSIT CEBU CEBU CITY CEBU KILOMETER ZERO CITY FUENTE OSME TREES
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