Saturday, August 08, 2015

Branding Cebu

NOWADAYS, Cebu is known for something else other than dried mangoes and “danggit (rabbit fish)”.

Tagalog-speaking plane stewards planning their overnight stay in Cebu discuss it. Bureaucrats from a Manila head office plot their Cebu City tour around it.

Searching on Yahoo for sites linking this to Cebu yielded 844,000 results. It’s a trifle, compared to “Cebu and dried mango,” 8,770,000 results; and “Cebu and danggit,” 11,100,000.

But for this Cebuano “lumad (native),” the illusion of consolation afforded by the Yahoo search dissipated instantly after we left the Mactan-Cebu International Airport to crawl for hours to go to Cebu City on a Friday afternoon.

Tragic but true: traffic in Cebu is as ugly as its cousin, the road snarls decongesting Metro Manila.

Many write about traffic in Metro Manila as if it were an actual person. Rich or poor, one tries to know its moods and whims and adjusts to these as a matter of coexistence.

At 76, my mother treats traffic in Lapu-Lapu, Mandaue and Cebu—cities she traverses daily to visit her mother—as if it were another teenager: predictably unpredictable.

I caught up with her in Cebu City after four hours on the road from Mactan: just three hours longer than my plane trip from Manila to Cebu. While gazing outside the taxi at the varying expressions of commuters crawling like us, I mused aloud about the timing of Cebu’s rush hours.

Sonya C. Solon Quintana, 76, road warrior: “Cebu has no rush hours. Cebu traffic is for the entire day.”

Ma’s stoicism is startling. She belongs to a generation that fetched their children from school to take lunch at home and bring them back just before the afternoon bell rang at 1 p.m.

When we were in our lower years, “rush hour” meant that in between noontime dismissal and the lunch that had to be eaten hot at home, we dropped by a family friend from whom we sometimes ordered home-cooked meals because my parents worked.

The essence of many terms other than “rush hour” and “noon break” has changed, too. Many private schools, once gender-exclusive, have turned coed in Cebu. Parental time to drive sons to an all-boys’ school and daughters, to an institution exclusively for girls is a privilege removed by urbanization.

Car pools were operated then by relatives or friends. It was unthinkable for one’s children to be fetched by strangers; family drivers, engaged for years, were entrusted with one’s children. These days, you pick a car pool covering your route and offering the best price.

So perhaps, the Metro Manilans who love/hate their traffic are right. It’s an entity you co-exist with; it’s not just a problem to solve.

Thus, city leaders must consult and listen to the citizens living daily with Cebu traffic. Unlike investors, tourists and other visitors, Cebuanos have a pretty good idea what goes on to transform overripe mango slices to dried mango, or danggit isda (fish) to danggit buwad (dried fish).

“Surreal” is a polite way of describing the colorful pennants decorating Mactan center island while crawling in traffic to and fro the international airport. “Free yourself from stress” and “Free yourself from daily commute” may set a record for branding a city but for the wrong reasons.

( 09173226131)

*First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s August 9, 2015 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”

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