Patria de Cebu
TO THE QUICK - Jerry S. Tundag (The Freeman) - January 18, 2019 - 12:00am

The full name of that building owned by the Archdiocese of Cebu in front of the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral is Patria de Cebu. But to most people, it is simply Patria. When you take a taxi or ride a jeep to get there, you do not say Patria de Cebu. You simply say Patria. When you ask for directions, you only say Patria. Saying more could land you somewhere else.


But what really is Patria? Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, defending the decision to tear the building down to give way to a commercial development, tried to belittle its importance by saying it is just a building. It is not a structure with religious, cultural, and historical value, which is what critics of the planned development seemed to imply.

As a young boy studying at the nearby Colegio del Sto. Niño in the 1960s, Patria was where you go when you want to go bowling, play billiards, and for a short while later, race slot cars. To us who were young then, Patria was an amusement center, the exact opposite of what the Cathedral across the street meant to us boys.

Here is a secret our Augustinian priests probably never found out at the time --the Cathedral grounds was where we had fistfights, which can never happen inside campus under pain of expulsion. So whenever boys got into arguments that somehow just cannot be settled any other way but a fistfight, the challenge always was: “Unya, unsa man? Cathedral ta?”

The other option was to have the fistfight at a vacant warehouse behind where once was the old Aboitiz Shipping Company. So instead of challenging one to a fistfight at the Cathedral grounds, the brave words would change slightly to: “Unsa man? Sa Aboitiz inig recess?”

If we did not sneak out (the Santo Niño compound used to be closed during school hours in the 1960s) to have fistfights, we would go to the Aboitiz building and take its elevator up and down (it had one of the first elevators in Cebu at the time) until the time security guard caught us and hauled us to the rector, for which we spent an hour kneeling along the corridor.

School discipline at Sto. Niño during the 1960s was mostly corporal punishment. Most of our priests then were still tonsured Spanish reverends who never hesitated to collar anyone who failed to say good morning or good afternoon or whack the particularly mischievous with those leather belts that seemed to accessorize their cassocks.

Anyway, from what I know of Patria, I cannot but agree with Archbishop Palma. It was a place of recreation in our time, a place to where we repaired to escape the humdrum of school life. The only other thing we knew Patria to be was as a cheap lodging house. The only thing going for it is sentimental value. Otherwise, as Palma said, it is just a building.

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