Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama meets with Fil-Am community in Los Angeles

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama
AJPress photo by Donnabelle Gatdula-Arevalo

LOS ANGELES — Incumbent Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama urged Filipino Americans to support the Philippine government’s initiatives in uplifting the lives of fellow Filipinos.

A meet and greet event was hosted by Rama’s Fil-Am supporters and friends on Wednesday, August 16 at the historic cultural center of the Filipino American Community of Los Angeles (FACLA) located in Historic Filipinotown.

During Wednesday’s event, Rama was also presented a Certificate of Recognition by Filipino-American Press Club of California (FAPCCA) board member Mic Diaz and FACLA president Trinity Foliente.

Being a public servant for more than three decades, Rama said there is nothing more important than people working together as one for a common good.

“I cannot do it by myself. I need the help of all. It must be a multi-sectoral efforts,” said the mayor from the Queen City of the South.

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama with Mic Diaz (left) of the Fil-Am Press Club of Los Angeles and Trinity Foliente (right), the president of the Filipino American Community Center of Los Angeles AJPress photos by Donnabelle Gatdula-Arevalo

“I understand that you are all living here comfortably in the United States. But please do remember your home country. Visit us sometimes. Help the Philippines achieve its goal of greatness. I am here to bring goodwill. I invite you all, please visit your home. Also be in Cebu,” he said.

Cebu City is a first-class highly-urbanized city in the Central Visayas region of the Philippines. It is the capital of the Cebu Province, where it is geographically located but is one of three cities (together with Lapu-Lapu City and Mandaue City) that are administratively independent of the provincial government. Based on recent data, the city has a population of 964,169 people, making it the sixth-most populated city in the nation and the most populous in the Visayas.

“There are a lot of occasions where you can celebrate with us. There’s All Saints’ and All Soul’s Day where you can visit your dearly departed family, friends or relatives, [or] Christmas. You can join us and enjoy what Cebu has to offer to all our balikbayans like our Sinulog Festival. We are also famous for our beaches, our historical sites,” he added.

To be held on Jan. 21, 2024, the Sinulog Festival is an annual cultural and religious feast held on the third Sunday of January in Cebu City and is the center of the Santo Niño Catholic Christian celebrations in the Philippines.

“Please come and dance with us at Sinulog,” Rama told the Fil-Am crowd, adding that they have this practice right now in Cebu City wherein every Monday everybody dances to a City jingle, as a way for all to celebrate life and camaraderie.

The floricking, he said, is like practicing Sinulog once every week. Sinulog is the ritual prayer-dance honoring Señor Santo Niño or the Child Jesus. An image of the Child Jesus is said to be the baptismal gift the Portuguese conquistador Ferdinand Magellan gave to Hara Amihan (Humanay) of Zebu (now Cebu) in April 1521. The image, believed to be miraculous, is housed at the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño in downtown Cebu City.

The festival is also considered to be the biggest fete in the Philippines, with every celebration luring almost 2 million international and local tourists/ participants each year.

Also dubbed as the “Grandest Festival” in the country, the Sinulog is also famous for its street parties, usually happening the night before and the night of the main festival.

The word Sinulog comes from the Cebuano adverb sulog, which means “like water current movement.” The Sinulog dance moves are often identified to be two steps forward and one step backward as the dancer sways to a distinct rhythm of drums. This movement is made to resemble the current (sulog) of what was known as Cebu’s Pahina River.

Rama, who has been advocating to transform the province to be more like Singapore in terms of economic development, social discipline, security and tourism, also invited his kababayans to witness Cebu City’s hosting of the Palarong Pambansa in July of next year.

Rama encourages Fil-Ams to visit and invest in the Philippines.

“After more than 30 years, we are finally hosting this big annual sporting and educational event,” he said.

The Palarong Pambansa is an annual multi-sport event involving student-athletes from 17 regions of the Philippines. The event, started in 1948, is organized and governed by the Department of Education.

According to Rama, Cebu is thriving in terms of attracting investors but there is a need to help spur the inclusivity in the city.

“Cebu is already an attractive investment venue. What we need to do is to address and help the start-ups, the small-to-medium enterprises and so on, bringing everybody up. Number one…there should be discipline, like Singapore,” he said.

“I serve with conviction, with a heart. I want to make a difference in the lives of the poor. I want to uplift the lives of my constituents as a whole,” he added.

In his inaugural speech in June last year, Rama laid out his concrete plans and projects, foremost of which is making Cebu City as great as Singapore.

“To borrow my mentor’s mantra: We will make Cebu City second to none. That is not far-fetched. That is not impossible, with God, with [Bongbong Marcos], with Sara [Duterte], the speaker, the senate president, they are all on our side,” the mayor said, in his inaugural message.

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama was the guest of honor at the Filipino American Community Center of Los Angeles.

Rama has been in office since 2021, and previously held the same position from 2010 to 2016.

He served as the Vice Mayor of Cebu City from 2001 to 2010 and from 2019 to 2021, and was a member of the Cebu City Council from 1992 to 2001. He was elected the National President of the League of Cities of the Philippines (LGP) in 2022. LGP, an organization of all cities in the Philippines, has 149 city-members as of July 2023.

Part of a 100-year family legacy of public service, Rama started his political career as councilor of Cebu City for three successive terms from 1992 to 2001, filling in the slot of his uncle, Clemente Rama, a veteran councilor.

In his third term, as the councilor who was the recipient of the most votes in the election, Rama became the first councilor who often assumed the roles of vice mayor and even as acting mayor. Also during his third term, he served as national president of the Philippine Councilors League (PCL).

Rama also served three consecutive terms as vice mayor of Cebu City from 2001 to 2010 with Tomas Osmeña as mayor, and was elected the national president of the Vice Mayors League of the Philippines (VMLP).

Rama ran and won for the city mayorship in 2010, and was proclaimed as the twenty-seventh mayor of Cebu City, defeating former mayor Alvin Garcia.

In 2013, Rama was re-elected as mayor for a second term, defeating his former ally and mayor Tomas Osmeña.

In 2019, Rama returned to his former post as vice mayor of Cebu City, together with ally Edgardo Labella as mayor, defeating the incumbent Osmeña.

Rama once again took oath as mayor on November 20, 2021 following the death of Labella the day before. Rama retained his post as city mayor in 2022, defeating city councilors Margot Osmeña and Dave Tumulak.

The 68-year-old public servant is a member of the Rama family, a prominent political family from Cebu City. He is the son of Fernando Rama, a former Cebu City councilor, and brother of Eduardo L. Rama, the former congressman and governor of Agusan del Norte. His nephew is Cebu City Congressman Edu Rama Jr., son of his late brother governor Eduardo Rama Sr. He has two children, Micheline and Mikel.

He is the grandson of Don Vicente Rama, known to be the “Father of Cebu City,” who served as senator, Cebu City’s first inaugural mayor, first national assemblyman, congressman, and councilor.

He is also the nephew of Osmundo G. Rama, governor of Cebu Province; and of Commissioner Napoleon G. Rama, 1986 Constitutional Commission floor leader, Philippine Legion of Honor (Grand Commander) February 2011 awardee.

Capt. George Rama is his first cousin, the Barangay Captain of Basak San Nicolas of Cebu City and in addition, his first cousin is talent manager, celebrity businesswoman Annabelle Rama, the mother of Ruffa, Richard, and Raymond Gutierrez.

Rama was also in Los Angeles to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the America Excellence Award.

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