The last time our city organized the “National Games,” as the Palarong Pambansa are called, the president was Fidel V. Ramos, our track oval at the Abellana grounds was brand-new and named the Cebu City Sports Center, and Alvin Garcia and Tommy Osmeña were best friends as vice mayor and mayor.
That was 1994. Since then, cities like Naga, Iloilo, Lingayen, Bacolod, Tacloban, Puerto Princesa and, just concluded yesterday, Tarlac, among others, have hosted one of the largest sports meets of the Philippines.
In fact, when I researched the history of The Palaro, which was restarted in 1974 after a brief hiatus during Martial Law (it was previously named the Bureau of Public Schools-Interscholastic Athletics Association or BPISAA Games), a total of 27 Palarong Pambansa hostings were organized and, lo and behold, Cebu City hosted it only once. Yes. This Queen City of the South, the land preferred by athletes and officials because of our Cebuano hospitality, our showmanship (“Pit Senyor!”), our SM City mall and Ayala Center restaurants, our location at the center of the archipelago—yes, despite all these advantages, we’ve only hosted one Palaro the past 27 times.
Unbelievable. Preposterous. Sure, there are dozens of other cities spanning Batanes to Tawi-Tawi that can host these every-summer-Games, but, if a survey were to be conducted with the question, posed to competitors and sports leaders nationwide, “Which city would you want to go to next?” I bet the query would yield an answer that has four letters.
For Cebu has proven itself. Just look at the Milo Little Olympics. Last year, the first-ever nationwide competition (it used to be divided among the Luz-Vis-Min regions) were held at our backyard. Guess what? We electrified the 1,223 participants. During the Opening and Closing Ceremonies—thanks in large part to the overall architect, Ricky Ballesteros—fireworks brightened the black night ceiling, Dancesport Team Cebu City shakers and movers enthralled the audiences, the venues were well-manicured and prepared—everybody was impressed. At the event’s conclusion, my ears opened wide to listen to the comments from our NCR and Mindanao neighbors and, if a rating were to be made, we scored an A+.
For we are Cebu. And when Cebuanos host, we host not a mediocre, so-so banquet but an awe-inspiring party. For here’s the shortcut for the name Cebu: Celebration.
The Palarong Pambansa? The event that’s called The Olympics for the elementary and high school students? Why, I ask, after 27 stagings, have we hosted it only once and, in the past 15 years, have we not hosted any?
The answer, I realized, is elementary. It’s our Sports Center. It’s rotten. It’s oval surface, which used to be called rubber, is now soft clay. It’s decomposing, it’s soft, it has formed corrugated snake lines, it’s crumbling. (In one incident not long ago, a spectator during the Sinulog couldn’t stand up after her pants got glued to the ground’s rubbery surface.)
Ka uwaw. That’s sad. For, like hosting visitors at home, how can we invite guests over if our house is broken? Not for long. Thanks to the P40,000,000 that has been allocated by the city, the oval will finally—after it was built in time for the 1994 Palaro Games—be fixed.
When? Supposedly, now. But, because of the ban on construction projects nearing the elections, our officials have scheduled it after May 10. Which means one beautiful realization: By year’s end, we should have a new Cebu City Sports Center.
Next year’s Palarong Pambansa hosting? Ha-ha. That’s too soon. Two years from now? Yes. That’s perfect. London hosts the Olympics. Cebu, the 2012 Palaro.