Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mexico: Walking around Querétaro's centro historico

After spending the morning exploring San Miguel de Allende, we proceeded to Querétaro in the afternoon. The Historic Monuments Zone of Querétaro is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The sun was above us when we arrived and we decided to wait for things to cool down a bit before we started walking around the centro historico. So we went to the neighborhood lavandería to get our clothes ready for another round. Since it was nearing summer, days were longer. So we had more than enough time to explore later in the afternoon.

According to UNESCO, "The old colonial town of Querétaro is unusual in having retained the geometric street plan of the Spanish conquerors side by side with the twisting alleys of the Indian quarters. The Otomi, the Tarasco, the Chichimeca and the Spanish lived together peacefully in the town, which is notable for the many ornate civil and religious Baroque monuments from its golden age in the 17th and 18th centuries."

We began our walk around Querétaro at Plaza de la Constitucion. On one side is the Templo de San Francisco, which you can't miss because of its bright red orange facade. It served as the cathedral of Querétaro for two centuries. The church is decorated with tiles imported from Spain. Some of the smaller Baroque altars are still there. But the main altar was replaced with the current Neoclassic altar.

Walking along one of the streets beside the church, we found ourselves at Plaza de las Armas where one can find the Casa de la Corregidora. A very significant historical site of Mexico, it was in this building that Dona Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez (wife of the local corregidor), planned the initial stages of the Mexican War of Independence together with Miguel Hidalgo, Ignacio Allende and other intellectuals. For her role in the conspiracy, she was put on house arrest and later executed.

Of course, like many old cities in Mexico, there are many interesting churches. My favorites were the Templo de Santa Clara with its magnificent Baroque interior, and the Templo y Convento de Santa Rosa de Viterbo. Outside the Templo de Santa Clara, you would immediately notice its inverted flying buttresses with gargoyles and Mudejar-style cupola. Just like Santa Clara, the interior is a masterpiece of Baroque altars. Notice the pulpit with inlaid with ivory, nacre, turtle shell and silver. This is one church you've got to see when in Queretaro.

I really like walking around old Mexican cities. The plazas are well-maintained and kept open. If we had more time, it would have been a good idea just to sit down in those plazas and do nothing. After we visited most of the major sites, we proceeded back to the hostel and retired for the night. We had a 4 a.m. bus to Morelia to catch.

If you were wondering why it's called a historic monuments zone, the inscription includes an extensive archaeological site known as El Pueblito or El Cerrito, dominated by a 30-meter high pyramid, and situated seven kilometers from the centro. We didn't have time to get to it though. More photos in the Ivan About Town Facebook page.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Philippine Registry of Cultural Property (PRECUP) updated 10/17/2011

It's time to update the Philippine Registry of Cultural Property (PRECUP). Last Friday, we got the latest list from the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. They declared seven structures in 2010 and this year, four as of October 14, 2011.

Declared as National Historical Landmark are the Capitol Building of Tayabas (now Quezon Province) in Lucena; Santa Cruz Parish Convent in Tanza, Cavite; Church of Loon in Bohol; Old Legislative Building (National Museum) in Manila; Bahay Nakpil-Bautista in Quiapo, Manila and the University of Santo Tomas.

Declared as Heritage Houses are the Lichauco Residence in Sta. Ana, Manila (which I was surprised to find out, is the first declared Heritage House in Metro Manila); Augusto P. Hizon House in San Fernando, Pampanga; Alberta Uitangcoy House in Malolos, Bulacan and the Mira-Nila House in Cubao, Quezon City.

They also declared the the Old Town of Dapitan as the first Heritage Zone under RA 10066.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Preserve the Mountain Province Capitol in Bontoc!

Last night, I received word HCS Chairperson Gemma Cruz-Araneta that another heritage building, this time in Mountain Province, was proposed for demolition. I was told that provincial government wanted to replace the charming American colonial capitol building in Bontoc, Mountain Province with a new structure. The Mountain Province Capitol was in fact among the local government buildings featured in the 2007 HCS Calendar.

I verified with the National Historical Commission of the Philippines to check if they knew about it. And it turns out, they've already acted on it. But their recommendations are a a bit alarming too. Below are excerpts from the letter of NHCP chairperson Dr. Ma. Serena Diokno to Gov. Leonard G. Mayaen:

This has reference to your letter regarding the plan to reconstruct the old wooden provincial capitol building and inquiry if it has been declared Important Cultural Property pursuant to RA 10066.

Please be informed that Section 5 of Republic Act 10066 (National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009) states that all structures more than 50 years old are presumed to be Important Cultural Property. While there has been no formal declaration made by the National Museum (NM) or National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) on the provincial capitol building, it has been an important part of the history and cultural life of the province. We strongly suggest that a new and appropriately sized Capitol Building be constructed at another site to accommodate the various offices and functions of the provincial government, while the original front wing of the old capitol building be preserve and reused as a provincial museum, cultural and tourism office, or training and conference center.

The provincial government may also consider the following options:

1. Preserve the building shell and reconstruct the interior with reinforced concrete or steel framework. This will need prior approval of architectural design by the NHCP and extensive photo-documentation before, during and, after intervention.

2. Dismantle the wooden building wing and reconstruct its architecture using simulated concrete material. This will need prior approval of architectural design by the NHCP and extensive photo-documentation before, during and, after intervention.

3. Dismantle the wooden building wing and integrate its facade into the new (replacement) building. This will need prior approval of architectural design by the NHCP and extensive photo-documentation before, during and, after intervention.

We would appreciate a copy of the development plan for our assessment and recommendations.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Register now for the 6th Philippine Towns and Cities Conference (November 4, 2011)

The Heritage Conservation Society (HCS), Urban Partnerships Foundation (UPF), Philippine Institute of Environmental Planners (PIEP), the City Government of Manila, the Manila Historical and Heritage Commission, together with Far Eastern University, invite you to the 6th Annual Conference on Philippine Towns and Cities (PTC) at the FEU Auditorium, Far Eastern University on November 4, 2011, Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For the past six years, PTC has enhanced civic engagement with local governments units in order to inform and guide the LGUs on the proper care and utilization of a valuable asset — built heritage resources. This year's focus will be on the revitalization of inner city districts, particularly those in the City of Manila.

We encourage architects, urban planners, property developers, policy makers, national and local government officials, engineers, planners, building officials and tourism officers, heritage property owners, and all those interested in heritage to attend. The urban revitalization of old city centers and historic districts is the new big thing for urban planning, property developers and local government policy. This would be a good opportunity for everyone to get insights on opportunities in the revitalization of historic districts.

Conference fess are Php1000 for both government and private participants; and Php200 for undergraduate students with IDs. For more information, contact Dorie Soriano or Luz Regalado of the Heritage Conservation Society at (02) 5466367, (02) 3534494, (0917) 8668853, (0906) 2625631 or e-mail

08:00–08:30 Registration
08:30–08:40 Welcome Remarks - Ms. Gemma Cruz-Araneta, Chairperson, Heritage Conservation Society
08:40–08:50 Introduction of Participants - Mr. Ivan Anthony Henares, Vice President, Heritage Conservation Society
08:50–09:00 Conference Objectives and Expected Outcomes - Arch. Dominic Q. Galicia
09:00–09:20 Case Presentation: Kalibo (Aklan) - Ms. Ana Legaspi
09:20–09:40 Case Presentation: Taal (Batangas) - Mr. Ernie Villavicencio
09:40–10:00 Case Presentation: Santa Maria (Bulacan) - Dr. Sylvia Tomas Joaquin
10:00–10:20 Case Presentation: Binan (Laguna) - Dr. Rosauro Sta. Maria
10:20–10:45 Open Forum
10:45–11:00 Coffee Break
11:00–11:20 “The Challenges and Opportunities of Inner City Revitalization” - Mr. Florian Steinberg, Senior Urban Development Specialist, ADB
11:20–11:40 “The New Plan for the Restoration of Intramuros” - Mr. Jose A. Capistrano, Jr., Administrator, Intramuros Administration
11:40–12:00 Discussion
12:00–13:00 Lunch
13:00–13:20 “Manila: Past, Present and Future” - LArch. Paulo Alcasaren
13:20–13:40 “Binondo: A Past and Future Portal” - Prof. Fernando N. Zialcita
13:40–14:00 “BPO@ Escolta” - Arch. Dominic Q. Galicia
14:00–14:20 “The Legal, Institutional and Regulatory Aspects of the Redevelopment of Historic Districts” - EnP. Asteya Santiago, FPIEP
14:20–14:45 Open Forum
14:45-15:00 Coffee Break
15:00–15:20 “Plans for the Future Development of Metro Manila” - Hon. Francis Tolentino, Chairman, Metro Manila Development Authority
15:20–16:20 Panel Discussion - Arch/EnP. Joy Martinez, Prof. Asteya Santiago, Dr. Nathaniel von Einsiedel, LArch. Paulo Alcasaren, Prof. Fernando Zialcita, Arch. Augusto Villalon, Mr. Jos Ortega and Prof. Mike Luz (Facilitator)
16:20–16:30 Synthesis, Conclusion and Next Steps, Dr. Nathaniel von Einsiedel, President, Heritage Conservation Society

Monday, October 10, 2011

Four-day long weekend from October 29 to November 1, 2011 (All Saints Day)

We have another long weekend coming up! Aside from November 1 (Tuesday), Malacanang just declared October 31 (Monday) as a special non-working holiday through Proclamation No. 265 "to give full opportunity to our people to properly observe [All Saints Day] with all its religious fervor which invariably requires them to travel to and from different regions of the country."

So that's a four-day long weekend for us from October 29 to November 1, 2011. In the meantime, here's the list of Philippine holidays and long-weekend schedule for 2011.
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