Thursday, April 02, 2009

Manila: Camarin de la Virgen and more Sta. Ana treasures

Sta. Ana, Manila has a huge potential to become a cultural tourism destination if proper planning and urban renewal is undertaken by the local community, with focus on its build heritage. The Heritage Conservation Society went on a quick tour of Sta. Ana to assess the area.

We all met at the Lichauco Residence, the Lichaucos being our hosts for the morning. Of course, right beside their wonderful house, the Emilio Aguinaldo College was almost gone. But despite this setback (I still pray SM will see the light and make sure the facade of their new supermarket will conform to the historicity of the district and not build their hideous box type malls), Sta. Ana can still be enhanced to highlight its remaining heritage structures.

From the Lichauco Residence, we walked to Xavier House next door. I've already mentioned this in a previous post and we all know that it will be up for sale soon. Again, this is a major heritage structure of Sta. Ana, most especially because of its history.

After meeting with Fr. Reuter, we boarded a coaster that took us around Sta. Ana. The district has two plazas namely Plaza Calderon and Plaza Hugo. Plaza Hugo in particular was of great interest to the restoration architects in our group since it can be developed as the tourism center of the heritage district with sidewalk cafes, restaurants, souvenir shops and bed & breakfast inns.

We then proceeded to the Sta. Ana Church where former NCCA chairperson Jaime Laya talked about Sta. Ana heritage its possible conversion into a heritage tourism district. The highlight of the day was the visit to the Camarin de la Virgen, the dressing room of the Virgen de los Desamparados right behind the main altar of the church. This was recently declared a National Cultural Treasure. And when you're in the room, there's no question why it deserves the designation.

The room is used when her vestments are changed for the observance of the Sta. Ana fiesta on May 12 and other special occasions. On the ceiling are eleven large mural paintings on wood depicting scenes from the life of Mary and Jesus, said to be the oldest paintings in the country. The statue of the virgin is a replica of the original one in Valencia, Spain which I saw last year. Legend has it that to christen the new image, they allowed both images to touch before sending the new one on its voyage to Manila.

Beside the church is the Taoist Temple which also has an image of the Virgen de los Desamparados. Again, with the proper gilding, this will definitely become another attraction. We ended the tour with lunch at the Lichauco Residence.

The Heritage Conservation Society will be organizing a Heritage Tourism Workshop in Sta. Ana from May 27 to 30 to help the local community of Sta. Ana and other heritage communities in Metro Manila plan their heritage tourism programs. It's open to the public. Just call the HCS office at 5212239 for details.

Part 1: Sta. Ana, Manila heritage lost to the malls too! Save Sta. Ana heritage!
Part 3: More on Xavier House and Sta. Ana
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