The city of General Santos has a number of commemoration days that it celebrates every year; the Tuna Fest and Kalilangan Festival spring to mind. But neither of them, despite popular conception, actually celebrated the date when the community was incorporated as a city. For those who do know of the city charter anniversary, there’s a chance that they also got the actual date wrong. The common reckoning of GenSan getting its city charter was that it was in September of 1968. In the rainy morning of Thursday June 15 the city government braved the downpour to celebrate the anniversary at what is to be designated its official date henceforth.

Mayor Ronnel C. Rivera presided over a necessarily small ceremony at the Plaza General Santos where, in the middle of the pouring rain the Philippine flag was hoisted up the main flagpole to a military band rendition of the national anthem. Accompanied by LGU officials in Filipiniana attire, Mayor Rivera oversaw the ritual ceremonies of laying wreaths at the statue of General Paulino Santos among other activities.

The celebration was supposed to begin at 5 AM with a large civic military-parade through the main thoroughfares and up Pioneer Avenue, but as stated, due to some significant rainfall the parade was called off in the middle, with the military marchers stepping out from the big soak.

The ceremonial wreath-laying at the monument of the city’s namesake was the focal point of the whole celebration, as multiple wreaths were offered by groups of city officials, police and military personnel, and even representatives from descendants of the original pioneers that arrived at the area with General Santos in 1939. That was about the extent of the ceremony, even foregoing the honorary 21-gun salute that should have punctuated the wreath-laying.

The City Charter Anniversary celebration was also attended and witnessed by several civilian passersby, although some of them were surprised that it was being done in June rather than three months from now. In the past 48 years any commemoration of the city charter had been done in September 5 of the year, more recently as a component of the week-long Tuna Festival celebration of the city’s fishing industry.

Mayor Rivera would explain the date change in his commemoration address. It was in Jun 15, 1968 when then-President Ferdinand Marcos actually signed Republic Act 5412 which incorporated the Municipality of General Santos into a city. September 5 was only remembered as the anniversary due to President Marcos personally visiting GenSan on that date to take part in the (delayed) celebrations.

The city council voted the change in commemoration date for this year, but the rush to do so meant that no resolution was passed making June 15 a city-wide non-working holiday. The least that was done was to declare a special non-working holiday for City Hall employees. Consequently, September 5 would lose its original local holiday status.

Despite the cancellation of the civic military parade, their presence was still felt with the amount of security present around Plaza General Santos for the proceedings. Army, police and fire department vehicles were on standby all through the morning as the main celebration proceeded. GSC Police Office Chief Supt. Maximo Layugan assured that there were no existing terror threats leveled at the city, but owing to the precarious situation up north in Marawi, there can be no such thing as security overkill for this event.

Owing to the quickness of events in changing the date, the simplicity of the 49th City Charter Anniversary for GenSan was understandable. But Mayor Rivera guarantees that there will be a much better ceremony in store for next year on June 15, 2018 which will be the City’s Golden Anniversary.

Photo courtesy of bomboradyo

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