THIS is the first time in living memory that there is a cauldron (kawa or kaldero in Tagalog) that is so big and expensive at a tag price of P55.8 million that it has ignited an acrimonious debate in Congress, in traditional and social media, and in public.
The cauldron sits atop a 50-meter tall monument designed by the late architect and National Artist Francisco Manosa at the New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac. The cauldron will feature a continuous flame that will burn for 11 days – the whole duration of the Southeast Asian Games that the Philippines is hosting. The fire will also ignite the torch which will be carried by the leading athlete during the opening parade, to be held at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan.
First to fire the initial volley against this structure is Sen. Franklin Drilon, the Senate minority leader. He questioned the steep price for the cauldron, saying it is unnecessary and expensive.
Drilon said the money could have been used to build 50 more classrooms. The senator pointed out that the cauldron’s design alone costs P4.4 million; its foundation, P13.4 million, and its construction P32 million, plus an additional P6 million for “wrist tags.”
Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano went to the Senate to explain that the project was constructed at a cost of P45 million, is cheaper than a similar structure in Singapore, and is necessary for the Games.
President Duterte later defended the cauldron for being the “product of the mind of the creator,” meaning it being an art piece, coming as it does from the National Artist for Architecture, the cauldron is in fact priceless.
Albay Rep. Jose Salceda said, “If you look at the cauldron, it looks reasonable for its price, although it has an Imeldific aura. It has grandiosity.”
The Albay congressman added that such display was typical in “authoritarian regimes” in which leaders are keen to show symbols of their power. “Usually in periods such as this wherein there is a strong President and the nation is coming of age… it personifies the new character of the Philippines as a strong economy.”
It would seem that the P55.8 million cauldron has a preponderance of backers and supporters and thus Drilon’s objections may well take the back seat.