Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Manila: Save Manila's old markets too!

All our ASEAN neighbors take pride in their old markets. In fact, they go out of their way to preserve and even restore them. As a result, they are popular destinations among locals and tourists alike.

Kuala Lumpur still has its Central Market, an Art Deco building which is very popular with tourists. It is in fact a declared heritage site of Malaysia and even has its own website, complete with the story of its near demise. The website notes that "it became the first case for large scale adaptive re-use of a building by the private sector after plans to demolish it were scrapped following public protest." It adds that the market "is unlike any other soul-less modem shopping complex in the city."

Singapore has the Telok Ayer Market. Just like its counterpart in KL, this is a declared national monument of Singapore. When tunneling work for the MRT began in 1986, instead of demolishing the market, realizing the historical and architectural value of the market, Singapore dismantled it and put this heritage treasure in storage. It was rebuilt as soon as the MRT tunnel was completed.

Now for Manila. We got this message from Archt. Richard Tuason-Sanchez Bautista of the NCCA: "I happen to pass by three Markets in Manila: Central Market, Quinta, and Paco. All have sign boards that mention about a new market that will be erected in the same site. Quinta is already partially demolished, and demolition is on going. Paco Market, which is among the loveliest market will go the same way."

Above is a photo of the Paco Market which was built circa 1910, courtesy of Archt. Bautista. In the inset is one of the Art Deco buildings that surround the Paco Market. This area, with several Art Deco buildings still standing, would have been a great place for rehabilitation and urban renewal efforts if Manila's planners and engineers were only forward looking.

Mayor Lito Atienza, for the love of Philippine culture, please stop destroying the architectural heritage of Manila!

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Update: I just got a text message from Archt. Bautista who immediately called an engineer from the Manila City Hall. According to him, they will repair parts of the markets and re-layout the place, but not demolish. Let's hope and pray that this is true and that they will not modify the exteriors of these markets. But Richard added that based on what they have done before, such as the Trabajo Market, they changed the entire structure!

I also got to speak with Archt. Lorelei de Viana of the NHI who said that Paco Market must have been designed by Archt. William Parsons. Same goes for the Arranque Market which the City Government of Manila has already altered beyond recognition. So we better make sure Paco Market is preserved!

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.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Public hearings for cultural heritage and tourism bills scheduled at Senate

The Sub-Committee on Education, Arts & Culture of the Philippine Senate is set to discuss the following bills on December 12, 9:30 a.m. at the Sen. L.M. Tañada Room 2/F Right Wing:

1. House Bill No. 5577 – “An Act Declaring the Municipality of Carcar in the Province of Cebu as a Cultural Heritage Zone” (Photo of Carcar Church left)
2. Senate Bill No. 54 – “An Act Providing for the Protection and Preservation of Philippine Cultural Heritage and for Other Purposes”
3. Senate Bill Nos. 282, 725 & 2252 – “An Act Providing for the Protection and Conservation of All Objects of Underwater Cultural Heritage in Philippine Water”
4. Senate Bill No. 576 – “An Act to Promote Filipino Education and Heritage Through the Establishment of Philippine Community Schools Abroad for Children of Filipino Migrant Workers and Other Overseas Filipinos”
5. Senate Bill No. 913 – “An Act to Provide for the Preservation and Cultivation of the Filipino Heritage Among Filipino Overseas Through the Teaching of Filipino Language and History, Assistance in the Establishment and Operation of Philippine Schools and Filipiniana Resource Centers Abroad, and the Creation of a Committee on Heritage and Culture for Overseas Filipinos, and Appropriating Funds Therefor”
6. Senate Bill No. 1089“An Act to Promote the Protection and Conservation of the National Heritage, The Creation of a National Heritage Commission, and Providing Penalties and for other Purposes”
7. Senate Bill No. 2123 – “An Act Providing Mechanisms to Regulate the Import, transit, Export, and Repatriation of Cultural Property into and From the Philippines”
8. Senate Bill No. 2386 – “An Act to Provide for the Preservation and Cultivation of the Filipino Heritage Among Filipinos Overseas Through the Teaching of Filipino Language and History, Assistance in the Establishment and Operation of Philippine Schools and Filipiniana Centers Abroad and Establishing a Trust Fund Therefor”

You can read the HCS Position Paper for the said hearings here.

The Committee on Tourism joint with the Committees on Environment & Natural Resources and Ways & Means is set to discuss the following bills on the same day at 1:00 p.m. at the Sen. C.M. Recto Room 2/F Right Wing:

1. House Bill No. 187“An Act Declaring Malibik-Libik Falls of the Municipality of General Emilio Aguinaldo, Province of Cavite as a national tourist spot and for other purposes
2. House Bill No. 574“An Act Declaring the Island of Lahuy, Covitas, Guinahuan, Luksuhin, Malibagan and Masag, of the northeastern coast of the Municipality of Caramoan, Province of Camarines Sur as tourist zone
3. House Bill No. 591“An Act Declaring the Atulayan Island of the Municipality of Sagnay, Province of Camarines Sur as a tourist zone
4. House Bill No. 786“An Act Declaring the Island-towns of Biri, Capul, San Antonio and San Vicente, all in the Province of Northern Samar as eco-tourism zones
5. House Bill No. 2072“An Act Declaring the Province of Bohol as an eco-cultural zone” (Photo of Chocolate Hills above)

6. House Bill No. 3234“An Act Declaring as a tourist zone Barangay Consocep in the Municipality of Tigaon, Province of Camarines Sur, providing for the priority development thereof and for other purposes” (Photo of Tumaguiti Falls in Consocep left)
7. House Bill No. 3417“An Act Declaring not less than seven hectares within or around the vicinity of Malabsay Falls within the territorial jurisdiction of Naga City or its environs as a tourist zone and prescribing for its priority development
8. Senate Bill No. 772“An Act Granting certain incentives to resident Filipinos who will travel to domestic tourist destinations and for other purposes

* * *

Update: The public hearing at the Senate was cancelled at the last minute because the senators had to attend the Bicam in Batasan. It just shows the effects of all this unnecessary politics on their real job which is to legislate new laws that will benefit the country. Sigh! Anyway, the hearing was reset to next Monday, December 18.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Manila: Save the Jose Abad Santos High School and Rajah Soliman High School!

After a judge junked a TRO plea to stop the demolition of the Jose Abad Santos High School (JASHS) and Rajah Soliman High School (RSHS), two heritage schools in Binondo, it's time to campaign again to prevent another heritage disaster of Atienzic proportions!

Senators Alfredo Lim and Jamby Madrigal had "asked the court to declare null and void a city council resolution authorizing Atienza to enter into an agreement evicting JASHS and RSHS from their present site in Binondo," the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported. Lim added that "the transfer and conversion of the two schools would destroy the historical and cultural significance of the area, which used to be known as Cuartel Meisic." For the significance of the Cuartel Meisic area, check out this article.

According to article, the senators also pointed out that "another resolution would give way to Megaworld Corporation to convert the site to be vacated by the students “into a commercial complex, under the (guise) of a housing project condominium structure, (complete) with several business establishments.”

Things you could do to help
1. Write a letter to Mayor Lito Atienza with your thoughts on his latest heritage rampage. His e-mail address is You could tell him too not to use Manny Pacquiao to get votes for his son while you're at it.
2. You could also call his office at (02) 5275191, 5274974, 5274989, 5279536, 5279538 or 5274939.
3. Write a letter to the editor. You could send it to the Philippine Daily Inquirer at or; Manila Bulletin at; or Manila Standard at or
4. Visit a church and pray that Mayor Atienza sees the light.
5. Blog about it! Forward this link to all your friends and contacts.

Related articles
Meisic Cuartel going down in history
Local gov't selling school campuses
Lust for silver triumphs over Filipino heritage
Kwentong Kalye: Meisic, Alvarado and Reina Regente

Friday, December 01, 2006

Northern Marianas: More fun under the Saipan sun

A trip to Saipan would never be complete if you do not set foot on Managaha Island, which most tourists consider as the most beautiful spot in Saipan. Surrounded by a pristine white sand beach and cobalt blue water, the view of the island and the surrounding ocean was nothing but stunning!

Before visiting the island, we boarded the Submarine Sirena owned by Pacific Subsea. As they say, you can dive into Saipan's beautiful aquamarine lagoon without ever getting your feet wet and explore the wonders of this spectacular tropical underwater paradise from the large viewing ports of the big yellow sub. Indeed, this was another way of exploring the world under the ocean, and in style since you were in an air-conditioned submarine!

It was funny that the color of the submarine was yellow and our group was thus singing, “We all live in a yellow submarine, yellow submarine, yellow submarine…” while going on board. Sirena is the only genuine U.S. Coast Guard approved submarine in the Northern Mariana Islands. Under the water, you'll see coral formations, colorful reef fish, sea turtles, and manta rays. We also got to view the sunken wreck of a Japanese warship from World War II.

After one round in the sub, we boarded a ferry which took us to the island. Excitement levels were high as we neared the island since the view of the water and the islands, and the nearby reefs was so picturesque and postcard perfect. No matter which side of the boat you were on, the panorama was stunning for all 360 degrees.

When we got on the island, we first proceeded to the Tasi Tours area to get our snorkeling gear. The water around the island was shallow and the nearby reefs provide some really great opportunities to meet the marine life. Before we got in the water, we too a short walk on the white sand beach in front of the activity area and took some photos.

It was then time to jump in the water to snorkel. The guys on the island gave us fish food so that we could meet the fish up close. We were swarmed by schools of colorful fish when we released the small pellets. But ooops! I found out it was illegal to feed the fish in CNMI. I wonder why they encourage tourists.

You’ll never go hungry on the island since there is a Managaha Lunch Buffet to keep your stomachs filled. In the afternoon, while waiting for our ferry back to Saipan, we got some lounge chairs and took a quick nap under the shade of coconut trees.

We had dinner at Café at the Park where world cuisine meets the Pacific. Their food is a fusion of world-class recipes made with local ingredients. Our meal consisted of hanger steak and blackened parrot fish fillet with potato crouguet and salsa. And the mango sorbet they served for dessert was simply divine! Again, they had WiFi Internet access. Hehe!

We had to rush to the 9 p.m. cocktail show at SandCastle Saipan at the Hyatt Regency. Indeed it was a great show! Hats off to illusionist David Womach and the rest of the cast. I was especially dumbfounded as I watched the Chinese acrobats bend their bodies in extraordinary shapes I never thought humans were capable of doing.

No doubt, there is so much more to see and do in this island paradise and the other islands of the Northern Marianas. But I am most certain that the five days spent in Saipan was five days utilized to the fullest. And I am looking forward to my next adventure in the Northern Marianas.

I'll be back in the Philippines tomorrow, and back to school and more work. Hehe! Check out my photos at

Photo credits: Karlo de Leon who took most of my photos, Jodi Madridejos and Cheche Lazaro.

Philippines featured
I was delighted to read in the in-flight magazine of Continental Airlines that Manila is one of eight cities featured in the article "The List: Eight great places for a laugh." Seattle tops that list.

The entry for Manila reads: "According to a 2005 global survey. Filipinos - with their care free que sera sera ("bahala na") attitude and lack of words for depression and boredom - are the happiest people in Asia. Shiny Jeepney taxis ride to scores of street parties throughout the city and outskirts for endless revelry, raucous dancing, and crazy costumes. Festivals center around water fights, a parade of enormous lanterns and suckling pigs sitting in chairs, houses dripping in fruits and veggies, water buffalo races, and the best-dressed tuna. Other attractions include the Banaue rice terraces and the unofficial pastime - karaoke."

Funny but most festivals alluded to are in the outskirts of Manila like the Giant Lantern Festival of San Fernando, Pampanga; Parada ng mga Lechon of Balayan, Batangas; Pahiyas Festival of Lucban, Quezon; Carabao Festival of Pulilan, Bulacan; and the Tuna Festival of General Santos City way down south.
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