It is definitely not a statement that just anyone can throw around. Then again, if you are the incumbent mayor of a progressive city like Cebu, there is sure to be a lot of grit anchoring it. Mayor Michael “Mike” Rama has had nineteen astounding years in public service, but after winning the 2010 elections for the esteemed post, he has never been more motivated, or been busier.
It took some prodding on our part before we could finally squeeze into the city manager’s hectic schedule for a midday photo shoot with his son, Mikel. We were to have approximately two hours with him before his next appointment. Since our location was off the main road, we offered to meet Mayor Rama at a nearby landmark and form a convoy.
A maroon pick-up with the “MAYOR” license plate arrived, a Philippine flag mounted on its hood. As we “escorted” the mayor, we couldn’t help but notice other vehicles giving way without a moment’s hesitation. There could not have been a more distorted prelude to our discovery of just how down-to-earth Mayor Rama actually was.
He came in a white, button-down, short-sleeved shirt and denim trousers, and his raspy voice immediately filled the studio as he greeted everyone; his presence was anything but intimidating.
Mayor Rama beamed a smile of surprise when he caught sight of Mikel dappered up in a suit. “I didn’t know we were doing the shoot together!” he told kidded. The father and his twenty-five-year-old son now live in separate houses but make it a point to see each other at least once a week despite the former’s demanding daily itinerary. “He calls me all the time throughout the day,” Mikel shared.
The same goes for his daughter, Micheline, a fine arts graduate from the University of the Philippines (UP)-Diliman, whom Mayor Rama stays in close contact with. Having served as a creative consultant for various advocacies and NGOs in Manila, she is currently the publicity head and a member of the board of directors of Dakila, a group of artists, writers, students, and other individuals promoting social awareness and involvement.
“That’s the advantage of having a small family,” Mayor Rama said. “We can give each child more undivided attention.”
Quite the contrary, however, Mayor Rama has come from a family that is not exactly small. He grew up with twelve other siblings at their compound in Barangay San Nicolas in Cebu.
But theirs is a lineage entrenched in the political arena. His grandfather, the late Don Vicente Rama, whom he refers to as “the old man,” was a Cebu City councilor, and was mayor, congressman, and senator besides. His uncle, Osmundo Rama, is a former governor of Cebu Province, and his brother, Eduardo L. Rama, Sr., the former governor and congressman of Agusan del Norte.
Numerous as these influences are, it was from his father, the late Fernando Rama, a former Cebu City councilor, that Mayor Rama acquired a most important trait:
“I learned about the value of hard work from my dad,” the mayor said. “We used to work for our poultry business in the morning—selling eggs and doing chores—before we would attend school in the afternoon. In a way, you can say that at a young age, we were already helping others,” he joked.
“I was the inquisitive son. I was young but I liked to interact with old people and observe what was happening around me.” Rama as a boy clearly showed potential in following the footsteps of his politically prominent relatives—he was a cub scout, the valedictorian of his high school batch at the University of Southern Philippines and responsible son and brother. “My four sisters were not allowed to go on dates by themselves so I would chaperone for each of them. Helping out became natural to me. It’s just automatic.”
Mike Rama took a pre-medicine course at Velez College in Cebu, but then proceeded to Manila to finish a law degree at San Beda College. With determination, he passed the bar exam in 1983.
He started in public service as a Cebu City councilor in 1992. He successfully served three consecutive terms, during which he was appointed chairman of the Area Vocational Rehabilitation Center II Advisory Council, and was duly recognized by colleagues as he gained the title of National President of the Philippine Councilors League (PCL).
It seemed only inevitable that he would land the major municipal post of vice mayor in June 2001 and would hold it for the next nine years. He was appointed chairman of several government and non-government agencies, most notably the Zoning Board of Cebu City, the Cebu City Tourism Commission, the Police Coordinating and Advisory Council (PCAC), and the People’s Law Enforcement Board (PLEB). He was also elected as the president of the Vice Mayors League of the Philippines (VLMP). During his three terms, his trademark projects—the annual Sinulog Festival, Pasko sa V. Rama, and the revitalization of Colon in downtown Cebu earned him votes of appreciation from fellow Cebuanos, so that when he ran for the coveted post of Cebu City mayor in 2010, he won by a wide margin.
Said Mayor Rama, “Many would not like to be in politics, some of them even wondering how I have been able to survive amidst many challenges. I told them I’m very clear with my purpose in government; I’m taking it as a vocation. Therefore, public service for me is a means of mortification and giving hope that there is still a career in it. I want the youth to regain hope and to trust the government.”
His campaign slogan during the last election was, “Together we make things happen.” It has given way to an inverted-pyramid style of management wherein, according to Mayor Rama, “everyone is a participant. Rather than me directing or imposing, we start on the same plane and implement together. It’s the people who are the force.” The development framework he has introduced envisions beautiful coastal barangays, a revitalized downtown, a progressive uptown, and upland development balanced with environment conservation.
And what does he have to say about his detractors, the most recent ones arising from his controversial separation from his long-time political party, BO-PK?
“I try to look at the bigger picture,” Mayor Rama said. “I want to leave a legacy—that when I became mayor, I did what I was supposed to do. What matters is making Cebu a sustainable community.”
Rama shows his dedication to the cause by exhausting his daily schedule. He said, “I wake up as early as 5:30 in the morning. If I will not do that, I won’t have enough time to interact with people. I make sure to go through the documents to be signed because there is never a good reason for the government to be delayed.” Chuckling, he continued, “And then I go through a bond paper sheet’s worth of activities.”
Though his eight-hour shifts often extend to twelve hours, the mayor never seems to run out of gusto. “I love it!” he told us. “The passion to serve is in my system.”
This commitment we were delighted to see as he stepped in front of the camera and internalized a character for each pose, to the point of creating scenarios and a dialogue around them.
“Every moment should be injected with seriousness,” Mayor Rama said.
He kept us entertained by an impressive repertoire of expressions (think Barrack Obama meets Donald Trump) with matching hand gestures, and had Mikel and the rest of us laughing as he verbalized lines like “Oh, come on!” or “You want a piece of me?” He even sang a few verses of The Way You Look Tonight, which was one of two songs he performed for a recent event. The other was the Visayan classic, Usahay.
Mikel recalled his fondest childhood memory with his father: “My dad used to read bedtime stories to me and my sister. He loves to sing and really likes speaking. Whenever he reached the end of the book and didn’t want to stop talking yet, he would sing the titles of the other books mentioned in the publication’s credits. Even up to now, I can still remember the sequence of those book titles and the way he sang it. It was so funny!”
This being their first photo shoot together, the mayor helped his son loosen up by reeling him in on his spiels and offering actual advice about life and love as they walked together on the cemented path beside the studio. Described by Rama as “a very obedient son,” Mikel had gone to Sacred Heart School-Jesuit, now Ateneo de Cebu, and obtained a law degree after finishing his undergraduate studies, just like his dad, at the University of San Carlos.
Mikel shared with us his father’s reaction to his passing the bar exam last March: “He was really happy. I only remembered seeing my dad cry once, and that was when my grandfather died when I was still a kid. But then I saw him do it again during our thanksgiving dinner. He’s usually very talkative but when he was asked to give a toast, he was speechless and in tears. It really meant a lot to him.”
The young lawyer took his oath in April and started working in mid-June for an established Cebu-based law firm. Seeing as how his career path seems like history repeating itself, we wanted to know if Mikel could see himself entering politics as well.
“For now,” he replied, “I have no immediate plans and want to practice law first. Being in public service is a responsibility and it isn’t easy. You need to gain enough knowledge, be committed, and be ready for it. Politics has been in our family for a long time and we have built a reputation, so you can say that I am predisposed to it. It’s a calling and if I were to be called, it would be an honor.”
Embarking on his first job, Mikel would like to emulate qualities he admires in his father: “My dad doesn’t seem to have a tough exterior but he’s really disciplined. He’s been through a lot. It seems like nothing fazes him. You can never see him worried. He controls his emotions very well. And he never gets tired. His dedication…it’s the opposite of lazy. That’s what I want to achieve.”
But for the honorable Mike Rama, it is only a matter of time before a person develops his full potential as long as the intent to learn is there, just as it has always been for him: “Growing and learning are two different things. You can grow in age but it doesn’t mean that you are wiser. The desire to learn should never be lost. One must do things with significance.”
From a father who somehow always knew what he wanted from the get-go, to a son who just might find his way down the same road, the future of Cebu continues to hold strong promise.
by Pia Echevarria sittings editor Katsy Borromeo editorial assistant Kurt Jarabilo grooming Romero Vergara grooming assistant Jessie Egos photography Dan Ong
THROWBACK THURSDAY: Thanksgiving with the Woolbrights
THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING
The holiday season kicks off officially with Thanksgiving. A time to be grateful for family, friends and blessings. Although this is not usually practiced in our tropical country, there are, however, families like the Woolbrights for whom this is a time-honored tradition.
by Janine Taylor sittings editor Katsy Borromeo fashion stylist Mikey Sanchez food stylist Nicolette Gaw-Yu production manager David Jones Cua intern Danica Ronquillo hair and make-up Jessie Glova assistant Jojo Embalzado photography Joseph Ong locale Woolbright Residence
Eddie Woolbright was among the thousands of G.I.’s that landed on the shores of the Philippines during the Japanese occupation. After the war, a few enterprising American soldiers came back, including the 24-year old Eddie who made Tacloban his home, before settling down in Cebu in the 1950s and opened a restaurant and a hardware store downtown—Eddie’s Log Cabin and Eddie’s Hardware and Auto Supply, respectively.
Eddie’s Log Cabin quickly became the hub of social, political and even military scene. It was the first air-conditioned café in town, and more importantly, it offered American diner food including a soda fountain and an ice cream parlor. It was patronized by one and all for its reputation for good food and service.
It also didn’t take long for the fearless Eddie Woolbright to realize that the real estate in the sleepy hillside suburbs was ripe for development. “I will show Cebu what a good planned subdivision is,” Eddie had said, when the late Senator Marcelo Fernan, then a young legal counselor for Columbian Rope Co., took Eddie to see the property. Pretty soon, Eddie had purchased over thirty-three hectares of otherwise undeveloped land from the heirs of the late Arlington Pond.
“Buy land,” Eddie Woolbright was known to quote the late humorist Will Rogers, “because they ain’t gonna make more.”
With his added access to army surplus, he bulldozed tracts of land, and a decade later, Beverly Hills, the first major subdivision in Cebu City, was created, and marketed to the city’s growing well-to-do locals, with the subdivision’s connotations of Hollywood and colonial American aesthetic. Eddie’s belief in the business potentials of central Cebu city enabled him to see much growth in his investments in land development, water drilling, construction, and general trading.
Eddie had nine children: Rick, Anita, Marc, Gilbert, Alice, Kathy, Kristy, Karen and Joy. All recall that each holiday was as important to them as Christmas. Turkey Thanksgiving dinners, for example, as it was known in the Woolbright household, began when Eddie’s mom, Nell, came to visit sometimes in the 1960s. Eddie would buy a butterball turkey from the American base in Clark and she whipped up a traditional feast complete with cornbread stuffing, cranberry jelly, candied yams, garlic mashed potatoes and her famous giblet gravy which was poured literally all over the bird, as they do back in her home in Oklahoma. Grandma Nell also taught the cooks at Eddie’s Log Cabin to make the famous Coconut Cream Pie, another Eddie’s Log Cabin standard. Kathy also recollects, “It was also dad’s idea that the restaurant and the hotel should serve breakfast 24 hours, and since I loved my Mexican omelet, sliced ham, buttered toast I enjoyed being able to eat breakfast any time of the day.”
My dad taught me how to be humble. He told us stories about his younger days jumping trains, eating nothing but grapes for days just to go pick cotton. He had a hard life growing up and I guess he wanted us, his children, to know the meaning of hard work. He would say, “Nobody owes you a life in this world”. I didn’t understand it then but I do now. -Alice Woolbright
Shortly after, turkey was introduced in the menu of Eddie’s Log Cabin, both Americans and Cebuanos, with a penchant for this wholesome meal, look for it when November came, and more especially on Thanksgiving Day. “Dad loved quality meat, and passed on this fondness to us, his children,” noted Karen, “So special meals always consisted of a good steak or the tender Prime Rib Roast. Of course, the year was never complete without a Turkey once or twice.”
As the sisters change into various outfits for the photo shoot in their childhood home, each one recalled the happy memories this holiday brings.
Alice, recalls disliking the giblet gravy as a child but since her dad would serve her at the dinner table she had no choice but to eat it. She adds, “He would get upset if we did not try everything.” Funnily enough, she now looks forward to the giblet gravy and can’t imagine turkey without it. Her dad, she said, employed the same tactic with his customers at the restaurant so after a while, they ended up getting used to it, and will not have their turkey any other way.
Between brothers and sisters coming home from out of town and family members in the States, there was always some degree of traveling or entertaining company. Dad valued the family bond and holidays were the best time to reinforce that. –Karen Woolbright
Joy Woolbright-Sotto fondly remembers watching her dad carve the bird. “He made sure that each one of the kids learned how to do it properly, with the white meat sliced thinly enough, and followed last by the dark meat,” she says. A feat she now does with ease. Future doctor Karen says that her dad would always carve the wings and serve it to her, which is still her favorite part of the fowl. Kathy though, considers turkey her comfort food. But she says that she loves the Coconut Cream Pie, which is also served on the restaurant’s menu, and that as a child she could eat half a pie in bed.
Cebu in the 60s and 70s was a very small town, if you wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving, you went to Eddie’s. Eddie’s Log Cabin, like its owner was a trailblazer, the balut dice game originated there, many singers’ careers such as Elizabeth Ramsey’s were given their first break there.
The torch has been passed on to his children, and they too celebrate it with turkey dinners and all the trimmings, ensuring that the restaurant still serves the traditional menu, down to the Coconut Cream Pie. Thanksgiving will always be celebrated at their homes, and the Beverly Hotel, the last legacy that Eddie Woolbright gave his children to run.
Another legacy that Eddie left to his children was a love for food and Alice was quick share that she got it too, “I’m usually home during the day and I find myself in the kitchen trying to cook up new dishes to serve.”
Back at the Woolbright ancestral home, which is also now Alice’s home, the dining table has been set, evoking autumn and harvest, the candles are lit, the wine is being poured, the buffet table is groaning under the weight of the Thanksgiving repast. The sisters are seated at the table, each with a glass of wine discussing whose turn it is to carve. The annual Woolbright turkey dinner is about to start and I am glad to be invited to join them at their family home. Happy Thanksgiving, indeed.
(This article has already been published in Zee Lifestyle’s November 2011 Entertaining Issue, “The Gift that Keeps on Giving” on pages 72-77.)
LADY CYCLISTS HIT THE ROADS AND SLOPES OF CEBU.
Cycling has been a growing sport and hobby for many years but it’s popularity has erupted since the Covid pandemic. People biking to work and for recreation is an everyday sight in Cebu. More and more are joining the ride. Many are quite serious about cycling. I know three ladies who are among those who’ve gone long distances across Cebu.
How did you get into serious cycling? What was your motivation?
Blinky de Leon. Event Host, Product Endorser & Influencer
“ I’ve been into cycling since I was a kid. A little backstory, I was around 10 years old when my dad surprised me with my first custom-made mountain bike. I still keep it until now, in fact I had it refurbished. It’s the most sentimental thing I ever received since it was his way/gesture to catch up with me after not seeing each other for almost 6 yrs. My dad is based in Germany and he also loves cycling and makes his own bamboo bike.”
“Just a year ago though, my friend Gazini randomly, out of nowhere, picked me up from home to bike with her to the South of Cebu. I felt really excited and motivated to get back on track because it’s very nostalgic and brings back so many great memories. And since then, the rest was history. We’ve been joining different groups, tried different routes and conquered different heights. I’ve met so many cyclists with very inspiring stories in the bike community who kept me feeling motivated too. I also look forward to the sights and the adventure that comes along with it.”
Yumz Mariot. Branding & Marketing Consultant
“I used to bike along with rock and wall climbing. I am lousy with ballgames which is why. Our usual route were Talamban and Mactan but one time, managed to ship gears all the way to Dumaguete for a quick ride to Valencia, the next town located at a higher elevation. Those were days when I did it for fun and what bike I was using did not matter.”
“Fast forward to 2021, a year after the pandemic lockdown began, I realized I have been lazy to do any fitness routine. Too caught up on juggling between house chores and Work from Home deliverables (I work as a Branding and Marketing Consultant), I started to feel my body needs to move as much as my brain does. A hysical fitness routine is as important as what I eat, or what I read or watch. So I decided to invest on a decent MTB, just very recently and got myself a much necessary restart. What motivates me even more is the area where I currently reside at. It is vast, fresh, green and safe for solo bikers like me.”
Prime Sarino. Digital Media Creative
“I started biking as a young teenager and I got the idea to start it as an adult hobby 3 years ago. I was already into running and I thought it would be great to venture into another outdoor activity to keep me occupied after work hours and weekends. I was set to travel for a year so I had to put aside the idea first but came pandemic. We were all forced to stay put and everything was put on hold. Cycling became my diversion. My cyclists friends invited me to quick and short rides. I enjoyed my first 50km ride and the sceneries and routes most of all. It also helped channel a positive mindset during the hard hit season of the pandemic. Not to mention it’s also another way to stay fit when we were forced into inactivity during the quarantine.”
Next in Part 2, we ask the ladies about their cycling experiences and memorable moments…
#CebuPride: Cebuanos in Multi-awarded Pride-Themed Films
Multi-awarded International Gay Movies with Cebuano Lead Casts
By: Allain Dumon Fonte
Pride-themed movies are starting to invade the film industry as people become more accepting and are more intrigued on the stories about LGBTIQ. Many have shared the intensity of emotions and laughed with the craziest jokes on gay-themed movies. In the Philippines, these kinds of movies were questioned as to their morality and their message to the society. The strong influence of the country’s religious standards had branded gay-themed movies as sex-oriented and nothing more. Yet, with Thailand’s more tolerant culture, Thai BL (Boy’s Love) movies and television series have created a new perception to the viewers; and that is gay-themed movies are remarkably alike to all other movies – there is romance, comedy, drama, and the continuing struggle of living like normal people. Hence, Thai BL TV series have a massive following all over Asia. At the end of 2019, they became available in Netflix and are being watched by millions of viewers all over the world.
The Philippine film industry is not that far from Thailand’s. Some of the LGBTIQ-themed movies and television series are slowly getting a following in Asia and are now accessible to viewers worldwide. A few of these pride-themed movies that casted or directed by a Filipino have already been receiving nominations and awards from Golden Globe, The Berlin Film Festival, the Venezia Film Awards, and even the Emmy’s…and the Filipinos in these films hail their roots from Cebu!
1. Lingua Franca
Lingua Franca is a film directed by a Cebuana, Isabel Sandoval. Sandoval also plays the main character of the movie, and she even wrote the screenplay. Lingua Franca tells the story of Olivia, an undocumented transgender woman in New York who works as a caregiver to a senile old-lady of Russian-decent. When Olivia is challenged to attain legal status in the US, she is left with a “marriage-based green card”. While in search for her groom-to-be, she becomes romantically involved with Alex, Olga’s grandson.
The film is now available on Netflix and has received positive reviews from the media. Stephen Dalton of the Hollywood Reporter wrote Lingua Franca is a “heartfelt personal statement rooted in timely, gripping issues that obviously resonate deeply with its author, notably trans rights and Trump-era immigration anxieties”.
Isabel Sandoval graduated summa cum laude with the degree in psychology from the University of San Carlos in Cebu, Philippines. In New York, she pursued graduate studies in Film at NYU. She is now currently residing in NYC, and already has award-winning films under her belt like Apparition, Lingua Franca, Senorita, Ritwal, The Unstoppable, and Judgement.
2. The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
This television series was aired in Netflix and has gained so much popularity because it showed the murder of world-renowned fashion designer, Gianni Versace, by a serial killer, Andrew Cunanan. Based on Maureen Orth’s book Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History, this television series has 9 episodes of suspenseful scenes, and is star-studded with casts like Ricky Martin and Penelope Cruz. However, the main actor who played Andrew Cunanan is Darren Criss who gained his popularity after being a regular on the top rating TV show, Glee. Darren Criss hails his roots from Cebu, Philippines.
The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story received positive reviews from critics. At the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards, it received 9 nominations, and won 3 awards, including Outstanding Limited Series and Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for Darren Criss.
Criss was born and raised in San Francisco, California, USA. Criss was raised as a Roman Catholic and attended roman catholic schools. He later moved to Michigan where he studied Bachelor of Fine Arts major in Theatre Performance and minor in music at the University of Michigan. Criss’s father, Charles William Criss, is a banker and served as CEO of the East West bank in Honolulu, Hawaii. Criss’s mom, Cerina, is a native of Talisay, Cebu, Philippines. When he was younger, he visited Cebu a couple of times with his mother. Darren Criss is very proud of his Cebuano roots and wants to portray Filipino characters in films and in theatres to promote visibility of the Filipinos in the American films.
3. The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela
The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela premiered at the 2008 Berlin International Film Festival where it grabbed the Teddy Award for Best Feature Film. It was also awarded the Grand Jury Prize in the 10th 2008 Cinemanila International Film Festival at Malacañang Palace’s Kalayaan Hall. It starred Raquela Rios also known as Minerva to her Cebuano friends. Raquela is a local of Mandaue City, Cebu, Philippines. The film is directed by Icelandic film director, scriptwriter, and producer, Olaf de Fleur Johannesson.
Raquella Rios is a native of Mandaue City, Cebu, Philippines, and she went to the University of San Carlos in Cebu, studying sociology and anthropology. Before finishing her studies, Raquella left the Cebu and went to Iceland after being casted by Icelandic film director, scriptwriter, and producer, Olaf de Fleur Johannesson for the movie The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela. She is now based in Bangkok, Thailand as a fashion stylist and wardrobe assistant to some local Thai movies. Raquella is also an activist for sex workers rights and trans rights in Southeast Asia; pushing for the recognition on the choice of their gender and the right to change their birth names.
There are still plenty of pride-themed films in the Philippines that gained recognition all over the world; yet these movies mentioned are special because of the talented Cebuanos that have brought Cebu to world. They truly are #CebuPride.
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