“THERE will be a photo exhibit at the Capitol tomorrow to mark the Province’s 439th Founding Anniversary. Please come.” My reaction to the invitation was one of horror. “Oh God,” I said. “She’s doing it again!”

I’m familiar with those images: Gwen climbing the Capitol dome, Gwen riding a horse, Gwen dancing the Sinulog, Gwen hearing mass, Gwen shaking hands with Vidal, Gwen shaking hands with inmates, Gwen eating lechon, Gwen playing patintero, Gwen kissing children, Gwen hugging the elderly and the poor

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and the widow and the dirty. Gwen at work. Gwen at play. Gwen in her poster perfect best.

Didn’t we have enough of these images last year when Capitol held a photo contest of the governor in action? The title of the competition said something about “catching” her doing the rounds in the towns. Which was actually not a difficult thing for a photographer to do, considering that the governor in action did not actually make any attempt at hiding her good deeds from the media.

In our job in the newsroom, we learn to spot trends. Sometimes what’s charming to the ordinary reader

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is irritatingly predictable to us. And then just as we thought we are about to die from boredom, the same news personalities surprise us with rare acts of–for lack of better term–“selflessness” that embarrass us for having judged them in the first place.

Which was what happened to me when I went to the exhibit’s opening at the Capitol grounds yesterday. I went there bracing for Gwen climbing the Capitol dome, Gwen riding a horse, Gwen hearing mass… Gwen… Oh heck, just read again paragraph 2.

But to my surprise, there was no Gwen in most of the 50 photographs mounted on the fence in front of the Capitol building (and the other 35 scheduled for display at the Cebu International Convention Center this Friday, I was told). There’s one or two that I missed, a friend told me. But what’s one in 85, and considering our governor’s genius at catching a photographer’s attention?

Instead of celebrating Gwen, the frames celebrate the beauty of the province, from churches to caves to beaches and back to churches to caves and more beaches. It’s Suroy-Suroy Sugbo, on stills, minus the governor and municipal employees singing “Mabuhi, mabuhi, mabuhi, mabuhi. Mabuuu…hi ka Sugbuanooon…”

The exhibit is entitled “Seven Days in Cebu Province,” because all pictures were taken during a weeklong tour of the photographers in Cebu Province last year. The exhibit was first mounted in Intramuros last February. The organizers decided to bring it here to tell Cebuanos that many of the most well-preserved caves in the country are in, er, Pinamungajan.

The photographers are Melyn Acosta (from Malacañang), Revoli Cortez (Philippine Star) Chito Cleofas (Photographers’ Federation of the Philippines) Noel Celis (Manila Bulletin) Ryan Lim (Philippine Daily Inquirer), Tonee Despojo (Cebu Daily News), Ferdinand Edralin (The Freeman) and Cheryl Baldicantos (Cebu Provincial Capitol).

Cebuanos should check out the exhibit. Aside from the great works of art there, it’s not everyday that a politician does a tourism project great service by not appearing in it.

(photo by sun.star)

sun.star opinion, august 5, 2008