Road Czar

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Jujemay G. Awit takes a ride with the man tasked to put order on Cebu City’s streets

HE starts his day with coffee with a dose of news from Sun.Star Cebu online. By 8 a.m., he drives to his office and spends most of the day poring over documents.

“I need to know everything that goes on in the office,” said Citom Executive Director Rafael Yap, who adds he even does the “admin” task of signing leave forms.

But the Citom is more than just a traffic regulatory body, which means Yap, who has to attend meetings three out of the five working days of the week, is tasked with much broader responsibilities.

The 31-year-old lawyer intends to take things further: he wants the Cebu City Traffic Operations Management (Citom) to be part of decision-making in all development-related directives in the City.

He successfully included Citom as a member of the Police Coordinating and Advisory Council and is now working on making Citom a part of the Zoning Board.

“Transportation is an integral part in the development of major cities,” explains Yap, who faces a myriad of challenges as Citom chief.


Among his transportation frustrations is the “exponential” increase of motorcycles in Cebu City, as well as the popularity of multicabs, the Japan-made vehicles that are not meant to be driven on highways.

His dream is to finally see the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system running in Cebu City streets.

“BRT is not really about reducing traffic, but it is a side benefit. Cebu City is the second city of the Philippines, which needs a high-quality transport system,” said Yap.

Such aspirations sound like a tall order for any public servant, but Yap has pedigree when it comes to public service.

Yap said his mother, Court of Appeals Justice Marilyn Lagura-Yap, inspired him to be a public servant.

Road to public service

When he was still a high school student at the Sacred Heart School for Boys (now Sacred Heart School – Ateneo de Cebu) and had nothing better to do, he would spend his time with his mother, then a provincial prosecutor.

That was his first brush with public service, so it was no surprise that immediately after the Ateneo Law School graduate’s admission to the bar in 2008, Yap went straight to City Hall to work at the City Legal Office. (It was a bittersweet year, though, as he lost his father Ulysses Yap, a prominent corporate lawyer.)

Less than two years later, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama appointed Yap as executive director of Citom. Yap was just shy of becoming a department head, as the plan to turn Citom into the “Cebu City Traffic Department” never came to fruition.

Still, his position at Citom makes him the youngest head of office at City Hall. And over the years, Yap, with his cherubic face and likeable demeanor, has earned him a number of admirers, some of whom swoon at the mere mention of the bachelor’s name.

(Reporters and City Hall employees vie for his attention whenever he drops by.)
Despite his no-nonsense approach to work, Yap carries a more endearing side to him: he’s a self-confessed romantic who cries over drama shows.

While he can envision himself settling down, he’s still looking for “the one.” And the traits Yap seeks in a woman? Just a few: she must be intelligent, opinionated and wants to keep on learning. And she has to be family-oriented, added Yap, who happens to be the eldest in a brood of four.

Other pursuits

Career-wise, Yap looks to his future with the same earnestness. Asked what he would do after his stint with Citom, Yap said he will pursue higher studies on Urban Planning at an Ivy League institution abroad.

For the moment, Yap is pre-occupied running Citom, which is practically a 24-hour, seven-day a week obligation.

Still, he finds time for himself. (He managed to spare an hour with Sun.Star Weekend for this interview, after squeezing some time for the gym.) Like most guys, Yap knows how to enjoy his food and a few bottles of beer with friends every now and then.

But other stuff much closer to home gets him hooked as well: watching YouTube videos, for instance.

One of his favorites is the video of a Chinese baby girl who is woken up by her mom and smiles, but falls right back to sleep, smiles again after a few seconds, then dozes off again.

Though he has watched it a dozen times, the video never fails to crack Yap up. One reason he keeps watching the video is that the girl is how he envisions his future baby to look like.

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