New Freedom Park to open in October

·4 min read

THE historic Freedom Park will be restored in downtown Cebu City, and its 2022 version with tree-lined pathways and 15-meter-high obelisk will be unveiled this October, according to the private developer undertaking the redevelopment of the Carbon Public Market.

The new 2,000-square-meter Freedom Park will rise at its original site across the University of San Jose-Recoletos (USJ-R) main campus on Magallanes St., bounded by Calderon and Escaño Streets on both sides, the Cebu City Government said.

It will feature a landscaped park, Cebu2World Development Inc. (C2W) President Manuel Louie Ferrer said.

“This was not the original location for the Freedom Park,” Ferrer said. “The original location was right across Interim (Market). It was really the mayor who fought for this location because he said this was the original location of Freedom Park. In fairness to the mayor, now it looks better because the main entrance (to the development) is a park, and the ending is also another park (Senior Citizens Park).”

C2W, a wholly owned subsidiary of Megawide Construction Corp., is undertaking the redevelopment of the century-old Carbon Public Market under a 50-year joint venture with the Cebu City Government.

Last July 31, Megawide officials and the Cebu City Government represented by Mayor Michael Rama signed a supplemental agreement to their January 11, 2021 joint venture agreement.

The supplemental agreement recognizes Freedom Park as a vital part of Cebuano culture and heritage and ensures its restoration and preservation at its original site as a “vital component” of the P8 billion Carbon Market redevelopment.

Lydwena Eco, C2W deputy general manager, said in a press briefing on July 30, 2022 that the park will have a 15-meter high obelisk instead of the nine meters that was originally planned.

“The mayor (Michael Rama) is very excited here because he would want the lights to change. On Valentine’s Day, he would want the lights to be red. He would want a ball drop in the New Year,” Eco said.

Until last month, Freedom Park and Warwick Barracks in Barangay Ermita were known to contemporary Cebuanos as markets occupied by vendors of dry goods, vegetables and flowers. They are two of the five markets in the Carbon Public Market complex, before these areas were cleared and their vendors transferred to the Interim Market at Unit 2 to make way for the redevelopment of those areas as a part of the new main public market.

History

These two areas, however, have a storied history.

In 2006, Dionisio Sy, consultant of the Cultural and Historical Affairs Commission, in a radio dyLA interview, said there was an area in Sitio Warwick Barracks in Ermita where public debates, particularly on religious issues, and political rallies were held.

The place was later known as Freedom Park.

Lawyer Democrito Barcenas, in the same radio interview, said it was in 1951 during the stint of then Cebu governor Sergio Osmeña Jr., that the park was officially named.

Barcenas recalled that in 1949, Jose P. Laurel, the presidential candidate of the Nacionalista Party, ran against Elpidio Quirino of the Liberal Party.

Laurel held one of his political rallies in the park. As he was making his speech, several unidentified goons arrived. But this did not stop Laurel from continuing his speech.

From then on, the area has been called Freedom Park, Barcenas said.

More than half a century before that, however, Freedom Park was called the Recollect Plaza, which the Americans renamed Plaza Washington, according to historian Resil Mojares in “Vestiges of War: The Philippine-American War and the Aftermath of an Imperial Dream 1899-1999.”

Mojares writes that in 1911, baseball games were played in Plaza Washington.

Rama’s motivations in restoring Freedom Park to its original purpose—as a place where Cebuanos could gather to freely air their views—may also have been prompted by the conditions for the City Government’s acquisition of the area.

In October 2020, lawyer Benjamin Cabrido Jr. revealed in a Facebook post that sometime around 2014, “we in the law faculty were told that the Freedom Park fronting USJ-R main campus in Carbon Market was donated by the Recollect Fathers to the Cebu City Government with the condition that it be made as a park where people can exercise their constitutional right to free speech and to remain as such.”

Warwick Barracks, on the other hand, was originally the Post of Cebu, set up by the Americans in 1899 during their occupation of Cebu, according to the Filipinas Heritage Library, citing Jose Quisumbing in “The American Occupation of Cebu: Warwick Barracks, 1899-1917” published in 1983.

Its name was changed to Camp Warwick in 1904 to honor Captain Oliver Warwick who had been killed fighting Filipinos in Passi, Iloilo in 1899. In 1905, it was renamed the Warwick Barracks where American soldiers were stationed, Quisumbing wrote.

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