Seares: Kons Mabatid won't name 'ungo' at City Hall, can't compare the terror to 'ungo sa Parian.' Would City Council colleagues press for specifics?

Pachico A. Seares
·4 min read

"WHY should I identify the person when most everyone at (Cebu) City Hall, especially my fellow councilors, already know?"

That was Councilor Prisca Niña Mabatid's comment when I told her in a phone interview Tuesday, February 9, that the City Council might want to know more about her Facebook post last weekend: six paragraphs of text, with her photo graphically mounted, topped by the title "Cebu City is a big mess."

The post in effect alleges irregularities at City Hall, perpetrated by a shadowy figure, an "ungo" or "witch" who "dictates" things and people. It impliedly accuses the mayor of not being in control or tolerating or allowing the "big mess."

Would colleagues push it?

In her post's second paragraph, Kons Niña talked about the "ungo" who allegedly rules over City Hall ("magbuotx2") and calls the shots there, particularly the purchase of thousands of sacks of rice and other supplies and materials for the city's response to the Covid-19 crisis, with the campaign supported by a P3.5-billion standby fund.

Councilor Niña's colleagues would probably want to know what she meant when she said the "ungo" "dictates" councilors on what to do with the budget, "who should be given and who should not." If true, those are "puppet" councilors who allegedly get marching orders, not from the mayor but from the "witch."

Comparing witches

But first, I asked her, why "ungo" was the word of choice. Could she be comparing the "witch" at City Hall to "Ungo sa Parian," an urban legend that was so popular in the city that it was made into a Cebuano-Bisaya movie?

Kons Niña, born in the 70s, didn't know about "Ungo sa Parian," whose popularity was at its height in the late 50s and early 60s.

She didn't know about Doña Consolacion Alba de Rodriguez who was mistakenly condemned as the witch in the Parian District, which used to comprise of Tinago towards the sea and Zapatera up to the edge of Talamban. Nannies would use the "ungo" to scare unruly kids and discourage teenagers with raging hormones from going out late.

At most, the comparison is figurative and speculative. There was no evidence of blood-sucking in Parian. The poor woman was a victim of gossip and warped culture. There is still no evidence of irregularities in the Covid fund use; the liquidation the Sanggunian has been asking for is not yet complete. Yet the metaphor of blood-sucking horrifies and fascinates.

Ties to the past

A bit of retro trivia about "Ungo sa Parian," in relation to "Ungo sa City Hall," culled from a November 2020 article by veteran writer Gavin Sanson Bagares in iNews.Ph --

[] Cebu City charter author Vicente Rama, grandfather of Vice Mayor Mike Rama, printed in the newspaper "Bag-ong Kusog" the story about Alba. The late Gene Labella, father of Mayor Edgardo Labella, filmed "Ang Ungo sa Pari-an," basing on Alba's story.

[] Now, the newspaper owner's grandson is presiding officer of the City Council some of whose members are alleged "puppets" of the City Hall witch. And the "Ungo sa Parian" film maker's son is mayor of City Hall where the "ungo" allegedly runs things.

Coincidence of blood ties in personalities involved, then at Parian and now at City Hall, is interesting, if not startling.

Why 'ungo'

Not for blood-sucking, even figuratively, Kons Mabatid said, but for the look of the man -- yes, he is male, not a woman as Alba was -- and how he "appears and disappears" at City Hall, "quickly like a witch."

Another source said the "ungo" could look like a witch to a woman like Councilor Mabatid who knows who's good-looking and who's not. Still another City Hall source told me the "witch" has an office at City Hall although he is neither an elective nor appointed official of the City Government.

The problem with that is accountability. His signature would not appear in any document. Investigators and prosecutors would have to link him with others for answer to any malfeasance.

The cost or price

How about Councilor Mabatid? She may be considered a whistleblower of sort, whatever her personal motive, in condemning the "big mess" at City Hall in the time of the pandemic.

She has become more controversial than ever. And she must know that fame or notoriety does not come without a price.

Yet she knows a lot more, and is more informed, about City Government doings than the city's voters and taxpayers. She works at City Hall and is a ruling party Barug insider.

What she just talked about Cebu City Hall must not be the general garbage many netizens feed on. She deserves to be heard, that is, if she cares to tell more. But most likely, we may not know the rest of it.