It may be natural, during this gloomy time, for the media to showcase Valentine’s Day and what it represents for the romantically inclined. The photos in SunStar’s Feb. 14 issue were apparently deemed apropos—such as the one showing a couple sitting embraced at the quayside while viewing the half-completed Cebu City to Cordova bridge, and the one of the couple with matching T-shirts at an unnamed “mountain resort” drinking coffee with a tidy bahay kubo in the background (they were described as having eight children).
Then there were photos of a couple, obviously belonging to Cebu’s upper class, shown amidst a profusion of roses, with the bride described as wearing a gown inspired by Carrie Bradshaw of Hollywood’s “Sex and the City” film series. All these were supposed to warm our hearts and turn our thoughts away from the pandemic.
But one obviously staged photograph made me grind my teeth. It showed a police officer bending down to offer a rose to a raggedy barefoot elderly woman sitting on the ground holding an empty begging cup. She was wearing a mask, so it was not possible to see if she was glad or disgusted about the policeman’s gift.
Were Cebu’s police officers given a budget to buy flowers to be given to the city’s street dwellers for Valentine’s Day? Was the thinking behind this that hungry folks would be assuaged by flowers? Did anyone pause for a second to consider that it would have been better instead to hand out, say, puso rice, budbud or bananas as a charitable gesture? Hasn’t Mayor Labella ordered that beggars be taken away from the streets and put in shelters? Do we really have adequate well-equipped shelters amidst the touted construction of office buildings and condominiums? Don’t we keep hearing from the governor who claims she’s doing her best to rescue the floundering economy, which is why she wants tourism to flourish? Does she truly believe that local and foreign tourists will make a beeline for our resorts in the face of the pandemic?
The questions could go and on. What is obvious is that the local authorities, like those in the national government, can be counted on to muddle along with their misplaced priorities, particularly vis-à-vis engaging in the mitigation of Covid-19 and providing jobs for the majority of Cebuanos bereft of jobs and, in the process, food.
What we see instead are dumb gestures like handing roses to the poor, which bring to mind Marie-Antoinette who said in the face of the clamoring classes during the French Revolution: “Let them eat cake!”