Serging O’s ‘human’ side remembered

Posted on December 5, 2012

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Families, friends and city officials commemorate the  96th birthday of Cebu City's longest serving mayor at his monument in the North Reclamation Area, Cebu City (JUNJIE MENDOZA)

Families, friends and city officials commemorate the 96th birthday of Cebu City’s longest serving mayor at his monument in the North Reclamation Area, Cebu City (JUNJIE MENDOZA)

The “vulnerable, human” side of the late Sergio “Serging” Osmeña Jr. came to life yesterday when clan members, Cebu City government officials and supporters gathered for the 96th birth anniversary of Cebu city’s longest serving mayor.

Flowers were laid at his monument at the parking lot of SM City at the North Reclamation Area where Mass was celebrated at 7:30 a.m. amid rains brought by typhoon Pablo.

The highlight was a speech by Serging’s grand niece, Ma. Lourdes Bernardo. The wheelchair-bound Bernardo, who spoke on behalf of the Osmeña family, fondly described the private side of Serging, who had trusted her mother to handle household expenses and even liaison with political allies.

“Serging is the vulnerable manghod (younger son) of my grandmother, and the aging great grand lolo (grandfather) who liked to play with babies,” she told the audience.

She said Serging was well loved by her mother, Pepang Veloso Enriquez, who never missed campaigning for him as Cebu governor, mayor, congressman senator, vice president and president – 10 campaigns in 20 years.

“If he were a rock-star, my mother would have been a groupie,” she said.

The former mayor, she said, “never knew his mother” who died when he was 1 year old and “scarcely had a family life” since he was packed off to boarding school at Ateneo de Manila at the age of 7 after his father remarried.

Bernardo later recalled how, during Serging’s Martial Law self-exile in California after he was badly wounded in the 1971 Plaza Miranda bombing, the once-powerful and now lonely political leader would play with her 3-year-old son, letting the boy tweak his “bulbous nose”, perhaps, she said, because the boy looked like his own son Tomas, who today is a Cebu City congressman running for mayor.

She said this was a more “human” image she wanted to share than the public persona of Serging as the “well admired political strategist” who was Cebu City’s only elected mayor from 1955 to 1971 and the “capitalist visionary” behind the Reclamation Area, the first Mactan bridge, the transfer of the airport from Lahug to Mactan and expansion of the Cebu port.

Bernardo said history will remember him as a “champion of democratic governance, never ever using goons, guns, and gold but instead being the first Cebuano to create a modern political machinery with a web of ward leaders, shrewdly utilizing propaganda and media, making speeches in cool measured tones that marshaled facts and figures which appealed to the audience’s intelligence.” /Edison A. delos Angeles, Correspondent

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