Carvajal: Specious Christmas gift

I should not be talking of sépulchers with the spirit of Christmas hanging heavy in the air. But it was utterly beyond my control that when I saw the be-ribboned Compania Maritima building what came to mind were the whitened sépulchers to which Christ likened the hypocritical Pharisees of his time. Attractive outside but hiding death and decay inside.

In the first place, it is presumptuous of Megawide to use a building it does not even own to symbolize its gift to Cebu City. But in the second and more pertinent place, what Christmas gift exactly does the stylishly gift-wrapped building hide?

Cebu City has a lot of people. Some are rich and not so rich while most others are poor and very poor. Hence, I find it pharisaical of Megawide to brag about a gift to Cebu City when in fact it is only the City’s rich folks and tourists that it is gifting with a world-class mall.

To the City’s poor and very poor, however, Megawide has no gift. None whatsoever, unless one considers lost livelihood a gift; for Megawide has instead given small ambulant vendors a grim Christmas by taking away their livelihoods.

Cebu City’s rich local citizens and foreign tourists will soon have an admittedly beautiful new mall. But before one rejoices at what Mayor Michael Rama calls “the best tourist destination” of Cebu, one ought to realize it is paid for by the blood, sweat and tears of small ambulant vendors who have lost or are losing the small businesses that built a roof over their heads, fed their families, sent their children to school but also provided their otherwise humdrum lives with a modicum of leisure.

I don’t mind sounding like a broken record on this one, but this gift to the wealthy also deprives Cebu’s little people of a market where they can get life’s basic necessities at affordable prices. It moreover takes away from small farmers and manufacturers a hassle-free ready market for their products at better than middlewomen/men’s prices.

In the end, therefore, if you peel the Christmas wrapping away, Megawide is really gifting itself with a sure-fire profitable investment. It must need this so badly that, its spokesperson’s lies to the contrary, it is ramming the project down the throats of small vendors, even pre-empting a court’s hearing and decision on the case the latter have filed against it.

Megawide, of course, is a legal person and has neither heart nor soul. But real persons own and manage Megawide and they should have heart strings I can tug at like I’m trying to do now. It is not too late for them and their cohorts at City Hall to heed the gripe of suffering small people. Carbon’s modernization does not have to rise from the ashes of small people’s businesses.

I also write to tug at the heart-strings of the rest of Cebu society (that now sees only an elegantly decked out old building) to take a closer look and see it for what it really is, a specious or deceptively attractive Christmas gift.