The last time I was in Fuente Osmeña was one evening the other week. I bought some items from the drug store nearby, checked my watch and just decided to cross the street and spend time in the park while waiting for my wife to text me that it’s time for me to fetch her at the office. I thought that was much cheaper than entering a fastfood store.
Having spent most of my earlier years in nearby Sitio Kawayan, Barangay Sambag 2, I therefore have fond memories of this park. Our place was once part of the Redemptorist parish and we pass by Fuente going to masses every Sunday. At dawn, our barkada would jog around the rotunda before going to Capitol or Beverly Hills and back.
I would watch in awe at Chinese looking old men doing tai chi and ape boxers shadow fighting in the park. (One time, we saw this fighter called Rusty Kid doing his thing while sporting a black eye. When asked about it, he said he just sparred with a hard-hitting world beater named Rolando Navarrete.) Fuente was like a big playground for us.
Those were the days when traffic around the rotunda was light, especially at dawn, and the air was not that polluted. What I missed was dating in that park—which many lovers are still doing now—simply because I didn’t have girlfriends when I was in my teens. But we went there at night, notably when a skating rink was put up in the park.
My first attempt at earning money was when I sold newspapers early in the morning and roamed around Fuente and the establishments around it. My first major participation in a protest action against the then Marcos dictatorship was in, yes, in that park. Firemen hosed us with water, then nabbed Fr. Rudy Romano and another priest.
When we grow older, our perception of things changes, too. Drawn to other endeavors, I stopped being romantic about Fuente. I once jogged there a few years ago and could no longer conjure the attachment I once had to the place. The grasses were no longer green and the grounds were largely bald. Cracks in cemented areas were a turnoff.
Sitting there last week, I concede there were some valiant efforts to prevent the park’s decay. Its former centerpiece, the fountain, is still running, although the sight is no longer captivating. Having a guard there is also good, considering the crime rate of the areas surrounding it. But other than that, Fuente does not deserve to be in our postcards.
In a sense, the park has become less of a park and more of an accessory to major celebrations and a staging ground for mass gatherings. Stalls sprout there during Sinulog festivities. And didn’t Team Unity bets hold their miting de avance in the park in the last elections? We can change Fuente’s name to Freedom Park and it would be appropriate.
This is probably the reason why when the Provincial Capitol initiated a move to recover ownership of Fuente Osmeña, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña acted cool. That park, by the way it is being managed, is obviously not in the list of City Hall’s priority concerns, efforts of the city’s parks and playground commission notwithstanding.
I don’t really mind which local government unit will eventually own Fuente Osmeña, as long as officials understand its value not only as a park but as a historic site and important tourist come-on. It’s time to give Fuente Osmeña the attention it deserves.
–I wrote this for the June 13, 2007 issue of Sun.Star Cebu