A Road to Heal

It was in June 2014 that my family moved to an apartment in Mandaue City, Cebu. On the way to our new home, I noticed the transition from rural to urban. In Talisay City, roads are too narrow which get jammed easily. During the rainy season, it is very much hard for small public utility vehicles and pedestrians to get past the area near Gaisano Tabunok due to clogged drainage. It is only past the flyover in Mambaling where I can say that the road is more decongested. I used to endure heavy traffic in this area long ago because of road widening projects. Yet despite the efforts of the local government to widen and improve the road from Mambaling going to Cebu City, the problem now appears not to be the quantity of lanes, but the quality of these roads. From the old One Cebu Terminal, more commonly known as Citilink, straight to St. Joseph Church in Mabolo, I remember that the road was very bumpy and uneven. This situation worsened when we reached Mandaue City. It was as if progress in relation to infrastructures has an inverse relationship with progress of the roads. In trudging the unfamiliar bumpy roads of Mandaue, I also had to endure the heavy air pollution of the area. Though we travelled at six in the morning, the amount of dust in the air was already the worst I have ever experienced. But setting that aside, we have comfortably settled in our new home.

Let me take you to the present, December 2015. After more than a year of living in Mandaue, I have come to realize that there are more disadvantages of living here than the advantages. The only positive thing I have in my mind so far is accessibility. Everything is so much nearer compared to our house back then at Talisay. Though you have to take multiple jeepney rides to arrive at prime destinations in Cebu City like Ayala Center Cebu and SM City Cebu, the time it takes to travel to these places is only 45 minutes, excluding traffic; but at times where there are road accidents, it would take almost an hour and 30 minutes. The disadvantages of living in Mandaue are traffic, pollution, and infrastructures. Given the half-round-the-clock rush hour in this city, the least thing to be expected is to be stuck in a 500-meter radius for 20 minutes. This is either caused by two cars colliding, flood, road repairs, or too much trucks passing by. The latter causes so much pollution since a lot of trailer and ten-wheeler trucks use the main roads of Mandaue to transport products. The dust from either their wheels or exhaust gets swept by the air. From these first two points, health risk is the main concern to consider specifically to those who have weak respiratory systems. All these issues are juggling around the idea of the last point — infrastructure. There is a despairing quality of roads in most of Mandaue. And take note, the main roads in Mandaue mostly consist of only two lanes. In other words, the roads are too narrow that cause the first stage of the endless cycle of disadvantage — traffic. Take for example the junction between the roads leading to J Center Mall and Cebu City. They were able to partially repair the broken drainage system within three months. But in less than a month, the same drainage leaked again, flooding the entire junction and causing heavy traffic. To this, another attempt was made to fix the drainage. Yet not even finishing this task, they have added another which was to fix the entire A. S. Fortuna Road leading to the center of Mandaue. As a result, public utility jeepneys or PUJs utilizing that road were rerouted to the main road. And as expected, this caused so much traffic and nuisance to commuters and motorists. Not only time was wasted, but also money — money which was supposed to be earned by PUJ drivers in 10 rounds of driving the exact same route and money which could have circulated in the economy — because of the poor quality of public infrastructures. This is mostly the case for main highways, but what about the smaller roads in Mandaue City, considering that these lead to the residential areas?

For my case, I pass by M. L. Quezon Avenue more commonly known as Cabancalan, a barangay in Mandaue which connects it to Talamban. I then take the smaller road E. Aguirre Street in order to reach our house in Sitio Pilit. It was just early this year that I came to know of an alternate road that can be taken to reach our house. The first path, the one I often take, is through E. Aguirre Street that stretches along the village entrances of Garden Ridge and Aberdeen. The second path is also named E. Aguirre Street, but takes up the space of a private lot. The problem is that all vehicles — tricycles, trailer and ten-wheeler trucks, and private vehicles — are rerouted to the first path because the second path is always flooded. As someone who just moved to Cabancalan, I am bothered that from the time I started living there up to the present, I can still see the floodwater, untouched and unattended by the local chief executives. This bothers me because instead of lessening the traffic by using two routes to reach Sitio Pilit, all vehicles are forced to use the smaller road. I know that this cannot go on for the entirety of my stay in Cabancalan and I had to know the reason why at the barangay level, no action is being made. So I interviewed Cynthia Remedio, the present Barangay Captain of Cabancalan. She pointed out this flooding in the second path as the number one unresolved issue in Cabancalan.

Gusto gud ko ma-interview para pag-awaken sa atong gobyerno ba na matagaan na nag aksyon (I personally wanted to be interviewed [about that issue] to awaken the government that the problem needs a solution),” Remedio said. The flooding started during the administration of then barangay captain Simeon Antolihao (two administrations before). From what I have heard from tricycle drivers, they named the second path ‘Mini Boracay’ which Remedio jokingly explained that it was because water never evaporates or runs out in the area. She explained that this flood water, both from rain and the canal, has started to leak at the nearby Butuanon River. Since garbage was determined as the cause of the worsening case of flood in Mini Boracay, what the administration of Antolihao did was drainage clearing operations wherein garbage stuck in the sewage was extracted. This was also what his successor, Captain Corregidor Cosido, did in addition to water extraction operations. When asked what the actions of her government were, Remedio immediately answered that for the past months, they have been regularly following up the request to repair the drainage and road at Mini Boracay raised in the office of Mayor Jonas Cortes at the Mandaue City Hall. Luckily for her and the constituents of Cabancalan, Remedio got a reply from the Mayor’s Office which promised to inspect Mini Boracay a day after my interview with her, December 3, 2015. She explained that it took long for Mayor Cortes to act on the problem because the owner of the private lot, the Gamallos, was very difficult to contact since they were scattered. This was a necessary step to be made by the local government in order for them to be able to discuss their plans with the family regarding Mini Boracay; and it was only recently that they were able to contact and set an appointment with the Gamallos who owned the lot.

For now, aside from the inspection of Mini Boracay, everything else is uncertain. As to when the rehabilitation of the area will happen and how much money will be allocated for it, Remedio still does not know. Since the start of her term, one of her hopes was for the problem of Mini Boracay to be resolved. And now that Mayor Cortes finally approved their request, Remedio is very much delighted that after more than 10 years, action was finally made to solve the problem. “Na-timing lang sad na sa akong administration. So swerte lang pud mi… Ato na siyang tawgon na damgo sa Cabancalan (It was just a coincidence that action was made under my administration. We are just lucky… That is the dream of Cabancalan),” she said. It is, for her, the greatest achievement that any administration of Barangay Cabancalan would ever have. She also disclosed that after the inspection of Mini Boracay by the sheriff and a representative of the Gamallo Clan, they will immediately plan a new drainage system for the area. “Daghan kaayong mga bata ug mga katigulangan nga nangasakit ug nag suffer tungod anang Mini Boracay. (A lot of children and elderly got sick and suffered because of Mini Boracay),” Remedio revealed. With the new and improved drainage system, she hopes that no one else’s life will be harmed and that they can prevent the leakage of floodwater in the Butuanon River.

Dako kaayo mig pasalamat sa akong mga konsehal kay mao ra man gyud nay ignon na biggest achievement during my administration na mabilin namo (My councilors and I are very thankful [that action is finally taken] since it is the biggest achievement that my administration can leave behind),” Remedio said, extending her sincere gratitude to Mayor Jonas Cortes. Despite the initiative of the local government to solve this pressing issue in Cabancalan, the residents living near the area will only be safe from harm if the rehabilitation will be completed. Until then, Remedio cannot say that this is the highlight for her administration this year.