The last time I passed the Heritage of Cebu monument was the other week, when coincidentally I was about to attend a gathering of struggling historians at the Aboitiz building nearby. Like Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, I noted the telltale signs of decay and felt sad. Here’s another historical site left unattended and allowed to rot.
I don’t know where sculptor Eduardo Castrillo is now. I watched, in the mid-‘90s, this frail-looking artist bend metal in the yard of a house near Parian, and admired his commitment to his work and patience. Who would have imagined this masterpiece to rise in the place where once stood but a fence made of used and rusty corrugated iron sheets?
The cardinal mentioned something about calling back Castrillo from Poland to assess the situation—and he wanted to “reconstruct” the monument for P3 million. That’s peanuts when one considers the importance of the structure as a memorial but it’s a lot of money wasted if, after its rehabilitation, we go back to the old practice of neglecting it.
Visiting the monument and discussing the message of the tableau is an enriching experience, for tourists and students alike. The administration of then mayor Alvin Garcia used to promote a “Heritage Walk,” that included the Magellan’s Cross, Basilica del Sto. Niño, Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, Plaza Hamabar, Heritage of Cebu monument, etc.
Unlike Mactan Island, whose beaches are the major tourist come-ons, Cebu City should have concentrated on promoting its rich heritage and protecting and developing historical sites, something that is also a magnet for tourists. It’s just sad that some of our political leaders, especially in an old city like Cebu, just don’t have a sense of history.
The Heritage of Cebu monument, which was completed through donations of private individuals and groups, was identified with the Garcia administration, like the short-lived Heritage Walk. No wonder the monument has been left unattended and the guided tours no longer organized under the administration of Mayor Tomas Osmeña.
It is not mere coincidence, then, that the cardinal turned over the Heritage of Cebu monument to Cebu City when Vice Mayor Michael Rama is at the helm as acting mayor. Osmeña is in the US for medical treatment and that monument may be the least of his concerns now. But we know he hates anything that would remind him of the Garcia administration. Rama is less combative and more open-minded, which means the monument will be in good hands—at least for now.
(I wrote this for my December 18, 2008 column in Sun.Star Cebu)