Monday, December 11, 2006

Issue on transfer of heritage structures makes front page

Check out the front page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. The Pio Chapel and Bagac project issue is discussed. This is an example of how a community and an entire province can unite to save its architectural heritage. Indeed, this is good news for Pampanga which celebrates its 435th anniversary today.

New ‘old town’ of heritage houses fuels furor
By Tonette Orejas

PORAC, PAMPANGA -- Sitting on a bamboo bench by the roadside, 86-year-old Felicidad Lising let out an expression of outrage her neighbors in the village of Pio here do not usually hear from the mild-mannered grandmother.

“Ay Dios ko! E ustu ita (Oh my God! That’s a wrong thing to do),” Lising said, casting her droopy eyes on the village’s 145-year-old Catholic chapel.

It has unsettled her, she said, that the chapel has been bought and destined for transfer to Bagac town, Bataan province. Read more...

The second part of the special report has been published. Check out
‘Old town’ for posterity, says developer in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. I would agree with Acuzar on the point that he is not breaking the law since the structures are not NHI-declared. That simply means that the NHI is slow and is not doing its job since Acuzar himself admitted that two of the structures he is currently transferring are historically important! Which is why he wants to keep quiet about it first so that it doesn't raise any howls until the transfer is completed. I also agree with his chief architect Joel Rico that most of the heritage laws in the Philippines only ensure protection, not funding. Which is why Congress better enact the heritage bills fast!

But sad to say, Rico is not a trained restoration architect. Even if Acuzar says houses are transferred "as is," visitors to his project have commented that the houses were not assembled properly.

The main issue here is not simply the transfer but the fact that Acuzar is actively shopping for old houses, trying to woo the owners into selling their properties to him! How ironic that he mentions Scandanavia where "culture is preserved in structures." If he was indeed to follow the example he cited, structures should remain where they are, preserved together with the environment they were built in!

As I always say, the best way to preserve a structure is to educate the local community about its importance to the history and heritage of the place, as well as its economic potential if preserved properly.

I would have more respect for Acuzar if instead of uprooting all these structures from the communities where they form an inherent part of the historical and cultural fabric; since he has all the money to spend anyway, he should instead build replicas! In that manner, communities get to keep their heritage.
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