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After serving barely seven months as the chief shepherd of the province’s Catholic flock, the award came as a surprise. “I haven’t done a lot for Cebu,” said Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma after receiving an Award of Distinction and Medal of Merit in last night’s Governor’s Ball at the Capitol Social Hall. It was the evening’s highest award in the annual Garbo sa Sugbo (Pride of Cebu) recognition marking Cebu province’s 442nd founding anniversary.

Six achievers were recognized as Garbo sa Sugbo awardees, including Ambassador Francisco Benedicto, who served in the consular corps for 25 years. He was cited for his contribution to international relations. Chester Cokaliong, founder and chief executive officer of Cokaliong Shipping Lines Inc., was recognized for entrepreneurship.

“(The award) becomes a pledge of commitment that as a church leader, I will try to do my utmost best to bring about renewal and development in the faith and also in the community,” Palma told reporters last night. The Provincial Board (PB) passed a resolution during last Wednesday’s special session confirming the governor’s choice of special awardee.

It cited Palma’s recent election as the new president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines and his “preferential care for the poor and the underprivileged by actively attending to their concerns on relocation sites and decent shelters for their families.”

Gloria Sevilla, considered “the Queen of Visayan Movies,” was honored as Garbo sa Sugbo awardee for the performing arts along with businesswoman-philanthropist Mariquita Salimbangon-Yeung, chairperson of the Cebu Beautification Movement Inc. who was recognized for humanitarian social service.

Suzette Ranillo, Gloria Sevilla’s daughter, handed a CD containing the 10 official soundtracks of her parents’ Visayan movies to Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale and Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama.

The municipality of San Francisco in Camotes Island was likewise honored after winning this year’s 2011 United Nations Sasakawa Award for Disaster Reduction. The town was represented by Mayor Alfredo Arquillano.

The Sasakawa Award “is a symbol of excellence and outstanding achievement in environmental inspiration and action,” said the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which sponsors the prize. Msgr. Rodolfo Villanueva, a poet, novelist and composer, was a Garbo sa Sugbo awardee for music and literature.

Governor’s Citations were given to the Catmon Elementary School Volleyball Team-Girls for winning the gold medal in the Palarong Pambansa for three years and the Mandaue Children’s Choir for getting two gold medals during the recent international choir competition in Hong Kong.

A Garbo sa Sugbo billboard in front of the Capitol grounds was unveiled before the awarding ceremonies. A five-minute grand fireworks display welcomed the guests and visitors last night. Rep. Pablo John Garcia of Cebu’s 3rd district thanked the awardees for their “contributions” to the Cebuano community.