Edgardo Labella

Mayor Edgar Labella laid to rest in Cebu City

Ryan Macasero
Mayor Edgar Labella laid to rest in Cebu City

The remains of the late Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella were laid to rest after a mass at the Metropolitan Cathedral, Cebu City.

Ruy Martinez/Rappler

Residents of Cebu City line the streets as Labella’s remains are taken from the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral to its final resting place

After a seven-day wake, Cebu City Mayor Edgar Labella was laid to rest here on Friday, November 26.

The mayor’s necrological services took place at around 12 noon at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral. 

Loved ones, family, and friends of Labella wore white as they paid tribute to the late mayor. 

Newly-installed mayor Michael Rama said while he had been preparing for the top office in Cebu City, this was not the ideal way he would have liked to ascended to the city’s highest position.

“This is not the way we wish things to happen,” Rama said in Cebuano. “I have made a statement with my colleagues who are here, everytime, [the] term of Labella is not supposed to end until June 30, “ he added, addressing the attendees of Labella’s funeral.

Labella was Rama’s vice mayor from 2013 to 2016. He won as vice mayor again in 2016, while Tomas Osmeña was the mayor. 

Labella was elected as mayor for the first time in 2019.

When he began his term, Labella laid out his 10-point agenda for his priority reforms in Cebu City including cutting red tape, improving social housing for the urban poor, and addressing the city’s water and garbage issues. (READ: Labella’s first 100 days: No more business permit ‘purgatory’ in Cebu City)

Former Cebu City administrator Floro Casas Jr. said during the funeral that all of his 10-point agenda had either been already achieved or were “underway.” 

Labella, a lawyer who was only beginning his career in local politics at the time, had survived a near death experience in 1998 when the M/V Princess of the Orient sank off the coast of Batangas during Typhoon Vicky.

He hung on to a piece of debris for 32 straight hours until rescuers came.  

His sister Ethel Labella Matugas said that this was this same indomitable spirit that had kept him going, refusing to take a leave of absence in 2020 despite his illness.

“While battling on the frontlines of the ongoing pandemic, while facing public bashings, misplaced criticisms, and all the mudslinging to which our present political discourse has fallen. “nonoy” Edgar was quietly fighting his own battle against cancer,” Matugas said. 

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The cancer had been in remission for several years, but Matugas said the it had returned due to the stress of leading the city through the pandemic. 

“Constrained by lockdowns, ‘nonoy’ Edgar couldn’t receive the treatment he needed for the condition he believed had cleared. He refused appeals for him to take a medical leave to address the illness, he always said, unya na, kung mawala o mo (later, if the coronavirus surge is gone or) will die down,” the mayor’s sister said.

During the first surge, the city gained national attention and was called the “second epicenter” in the Philippines’ coronavirus pandemic because of the fast-rising cases. Later, the city was praised for its best practices under Labella’s leadership, which oversaw the development of the city’s COVID-19 emergency operations center.

“Noy, the cases are down now,” a tearful Matugas said.

Residents of Cebu City lined the streets as Labella’s remains were taken from the Cathedral to its final resting place at the Golden Haven Memorial Park in Barangay Binaliw.

Labella is the first mayor of Cebu City to pass away in office in recent history. He is survived by his wife Jocelyn and two children, Jaypee and Eugene Philippe. – Rappler.com

Ryan Macasero

Ryan covers Cebu and the Visayas for Rappler. He covers all news in the region, but is particularly interested in people stories, development issues and local policy making.