Showing posts with label Heritage Town. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Heritage Town. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Laguna: A day in charming Pila Town

Ivan Man Dy writes about our visit to the heritage town of Pila, Laguna last summer. Text by Ivan Man Dy. Photos by Ivan Henares.

One lazy weekday, I suddenly found myself itching to go out and escape the city, an impromptu day trip. A few calls here and there and I found out that my tokayo Ivan Henares is heading south to the town of Los BaƱos in Laguna. I hitched a ride and that's how we found ourselves in the town of Pila.

As a heritage junkie, Pila Historical Landmark has been on my list of historic towns to visit. Funny that I've been to the farther ones like Vigan, Taal, Silay, Carcar and even Sabtang (Batanes) but never to this one which is as close as it can get to the Metro.

Now, exploring a place at your own pace has its advantages but having an insider and knowledgeable host and guide is something of a treat. And it's something that I really welcomed upon meeting Cora Relova of the Pila Historical Society Foundation.

To be honest, there is not much activity happening in Pila, a quaint little town surrounded by rice fields in this lush part of Laguna. No dramatic history, grand edifices nor high-spirited fiestas here. Not even a mall or a fast food chain. What it has however, is something that an urban rat like me find refreshing: provincial innocence and countryside charm.

Over a lunch of house specialties that included pako salad, pork chops, atsarang ubod, fresh coconut juice and an amazingly savory ginataang hipon na tabang, Cora regaled us with historical tidbits and stories of a city girl growing up in the town. According to her, Pila's fortunes are linked with its surrounding agricultural lands, no surprise really. And that wealth was eventually translated to the good life best seen in the houses around the Pila's central plaza.

Any visit to the the town will ultimately lead you here, a lovely patch of green (during the heat of summer) dominated on both sides by the Church of San Antonio de Padua (1578) and the Pila Municipal Hall (1931). This traditional colonial-era pattern has sadly been disfigured in many old towns today. As I explored the latter, I saw a plaque inside that mentions one of Cora's ancestors (grandfather perhaps) as being the municipal president in the 1900s. Roots to the town go really deep for the Relovas of Pila. Surrounding the plaza is Pila's prized collection of historic homes, most dating back to the early 1900s when that generation, alas, perhaps the last of them, still adopted the traditional bahay na bato architecture for their homes.

A century hence, most of these houses are quite well maintained and still with their traditonal details like big kapis windows, intricate kalado patterns and fluted columns. As an extra treat, Cora invited us to her cute 1920s home that was built by her grandmother and regaled us with more stories.

Over a merienda of halo-halo by the verandah, we listened to the 1970s pop band VST at the recently installed speakers in the plaza. We whiled away the afternoon and watch the day end in this small town. "Pila is is not grand. It's charming," Cora says. I couldn't agree more. For a brief moment, time suddenly slowed down in this lovely town called Pila.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Zamboanga del Norte: Old Town of Dapitan is the first declared Heritage Zone

With the enactment of the R.A. No. 10066 - National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009 last year, a new designation for built heritage was created: the Heritage Zone or Historic Center. On May 24, 2011, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines declared its first Heritage Zone, the Old Town of Dapitan, through Resolution No. 03, s. 2011, in time for the 150th Birth Anniversary of Dr. Jose Rizal.

The NHCP, in its resolution, notes that "Dapitan is one of the oldest settlements in Northern Mindanao inhabited by Subanens" and that "according to Horacio de la Costa, S.J., the Dapitan mission was founded by Pedro Gutierrez, S.J. (in) 1629."

We all know the connection of Rizal with Dapitan. As the resolution states, "Jose Rizal lived in exile in Casa Real, the official residence and administration building of the politico-military governor of the District, from July 1892 to March 1893; and transferred to Talisay, now the Rizal Shrine Dapitan, where he spent a productive life."

The Old Town of Dapitan Heritage Zone includes "the established Heritage Dapitan district, the Rizal Shrine in Talisay and the buffer strip of creek along northern and eastern Heritage Dapitan." It is where "historic sites and structures such as Rizal National Shrine, Rizal's Disembarkation Site, Dapitan Plaza and Rizal Monument, Rizal's Relief Map of Mindanao, Town Hall Building (City Hall), Old Rizal Memorial District Hospital, Ilihan Hill, Parochial School, Casa Real, Gabaldon Building, St. James Church, the Sta. Cruz marker, Gabaldon school building, and old ancestral houses are located."

In fact, the zone is quite significant because the Relief Map of Mindanao and the Dapitan Town Plaza were previously declared as National Cultural Treasure and National Historical Landmark respectively. Dapitan's declaration as a Heritage Zone is indeed a welcome development.

Anyway, we look forward to the declaration of more Heritage Zones or Historic Centers in the near future!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pampanga: Save the San Fernando Heritage District!

At the heart of downtown San Fernando, Pampanga is the historic poblacion, replete with remnants of the city's rich architectural heritage and history. These architectural legacies, together with the intangible culture of the city, are the focus of the urban renewal program of the City of San Fernando called Preserving Heritage for Progress. In fact, the program was recognized as one of the Top 10 Best Practices of the League of Cities of the Philippines, and a Trailblazing Program of the Galing Pook Awards both in 2004.

In 2006, the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines (ATOP) selected the program as the winner of the Heritage Tourism Award of the Best Tourism Practices – Special Award Category "in cognizance of the innovative and valuable effort, passion and commitment of the City Government to ensure the protection and promotion of the City's priceless architectural heritage by restoring and preserving the same for the benefit of the future generation of Fernandinos and the Filipino people."

In line with a popular salawikain "Ang hindi lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan," San Fernando firmly believes that its history, heritage and culture are vital tools in the advance towards further progress.

In 2004, the historic core of the city was declared the City of San Fernando Heritage District through a city ordinance. Several of the structures have been declared by the National Historical Institute as part of our national heritage. While all heritage structures are protected by the ordinance.

Most of the structures are concentrated along Consunji Street, Tiomico Street and Capitol Boulevard. These include the Metropolitan Cathedral of San Fernando, San Fernando Train Station and Death March Marker, Pampanga Capitol and Provincial Jail, and the Lazatin, Hizon-Singian, Consunji, Ocampo, Henson-Hizon, and Hizon Houses among many others. Four houses are already declared by the National Historical Institute as Heritage Houses.

Then there's the PASUDECO Sugar Central along Capitol Boulevard. It stands as a testament to the resiliency of the Kapampangans as a people and their continuous drive towards progress and development. An inherent part of the heritage district of the City of San Fernando, this storied structure, a fine example of industrial heritage, is ripe for adaptive reuse and conservation. This proposition yearns for an architect or urban planner with the vision, imagination and genius to incorporate this historical structure into the 21st century community that will be built around it.

Unknown to many, the town proper of San Fernando may be the only city in the country where motorized tricycles are prohibited thanks to the political will of its leaders throughout the years. You can in fact, still enjoy a kalesa ride around the old quarter. Why not take a journey back to San Fernando's storied past with a visit to the city's heritage district?

The city is very historical in fact, it has a large assemblage of markers from the National Historical Institute. I've counted eighteen markers so far. Later this year, markers for the Pampanga High School and Hizon House will be installed bringing the count to twenty.

Just a few days ago, I got a text message from Dom Martin Gomez inviting me to lunch since they plan to reconstruct and restore another Hizon House which will add luster to the heritage district.

There is no doubt, the citizens of San Fernando indeed value the city's architectural heritage. Which is why news of an SM City San Fernando to be built right smack in the center of the heritage district will be met with stiff opposition. I was told the mall is going to be built along Consunji Street, between PNB and Pampanga Hotel, all the way to V. Tiomico Street.

I was all praises for SM when they built SM City Pampanga away from the poblacion. I can't understand why they have to build another one in our historic downtown area. Right now, I'm already thinking about the damage the proposed five or six-floor mall building will do to the cultural landscape of San Fernando. It will tower over the Cathedral! The height alone will destroy the character of the district. The idiots!

For the love of Philippine heritage, will SM please find another place for their mall (as if they don't have enough already). Stay away from our heritage district please!

Save the City of San Fernando Heritage District! No to SM City San Fernando in our heritage district!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Cebu: Around the historic center of Carcar

Carcar is Cebu's best-preserved colonial town. It has dozens of ancestral houses, a charming church complex, elegant government buildings, schools and monuments among others. A visit to Southern Cebu is not complete if you do not stopover in Carcar.

I wonder when they'll print a walking map of Carcar's historic center because the architecture is quite interesting. I've walked around Carcar several times already and it never fails to amaze me. Aside from the very visible ancestral homes along the National Highway, there are even more grand old houses off the main road.

For the longest time, none of the structures in Carcar were even declared, which was quite ironic given the large concentration of built heritage in the town. But this year, four ancestral houses were declared Heritage Houses by the National Historical Institute. They are the Balay na Tisa Heritage House, Mercado Mansion Heritage House, Sa Dakong Balay / Don Florencio Noel House, and the Silva House Heritage House.

Other interesting structures include the Carcar Church (Santa Catalina Church), its convent and parochial school, Upland Elementary School, the Carcar Dispensary which is now a museum, and the Carcar Rotunda.

For more information on Carcar, read Lechon, chicharon and more from Carcar. Aside from its architectural heritage, Carcar is of course famous for lechon and chicharon. So make sure to get some when you're there. Both the chicharon and lechon are sold in the Carcar Public Market.
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