Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras removed from List of World Heritage in Danger!

The Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras is officially removed from the List of World Heritage in Danger at the 36th Session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in Saint Petersburg, Russia! This good news was texted to me by Archt. Joy Mananghaya of the UNESCO National Commission (UNACOM) who is currently at the meeting.

According to UNESCO, "The Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras (Philippines) was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1995 as an outstanding cultural landscape that evolved over two millennia. It was placed on the Danger List in 2001 because of threats to its essential values which required the development of better management and planning. The Philippines sought danger listing as a way to raise national and international support and cooperation in the preservation of these remote high rice fields maintained thanks to the transmission of traditional knowledge from one generation to the next."

In his e-mail to me, ICOMOS Philippines President Archt. Augusto Villalon said, "All committee members were effusive in their compliments of the great work done by us for the terraces. We are the new examples for community based heritage conservation success!"

Congratulations to the Philippines and most especially to the Ifugao community who have worked so hard to remove the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras from the List of World Heritage in Danger! Congratulations as well to UNACOM and ICOMOS Philippines for the great work that was done!

But the work to conserve the rice terraces does not end there. We should continue to be vigilant and join in the efforts to safeguard the site. Removal from the list does not mean it is no longer in danger. One reason for the removal is that we have complied with the difficult process of producing infrastructure guidelines and cartographic maps. It is important to understand the context of the removal. It recognizes that we are moving towards the right direction, eleven years after it was first included in the danger list in 2001. And this is the good news we celebrate today!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Stop logging in Mindanao! Save our forests!

Let's play a game! How many logs can you count? These are photos I took within a few hours I was traveling through the Caraga Region. It represents just a small part of the trucks that we actually saw as we drove through (I also took cat naps on the way). Now imagine this happening on a daily basis, and that it happened for years and continues to happen.

I remember seeing this in 2010. So imagine how much of our forest cover we've lost in Mindanao. No wonder Sendong floods hit Mindanao! How many more Sendongs do we need to realize what needs to be done? I call on President Beningo Aquino III to implement his total log ban.

I will let the photos speak for themselves.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Oriental Mindoro: Things to do in Puerto Galera

Just a few hours from Metro Manila, Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro is a favorite for weekend travelers looking for a beach close enough to the city; but one that offers many options to fit your ideal beach destination. Be it a party, food adventure, a cultural encounter, an underwater paradise or a deserted stretch of white sand, Puerto Galera has something to offer. Here are some things you could see and do in Puerto Galera:

1. Experience some of the most diverse coral reefs in the world
It seems that most foreigners visit Puerto Galera to dive. Sabang Beach is teeming with dive resorts. The beach itself is nothing really. But many stay in Sabang Beach because it is the jump-off point for the wonderful dive areas of the coast of Mindoro. Remember that the waters in between Batangas and Mindoro are said to be the center of the center of the center of marine biodiversity in the world! You won't be disappointed when you choose Puerto Galera as your dive destination, definitely a diver's paradise!

2. Visit the many beaches
White Beach is of course the most popular. There are many places to stay, a lot of food options, and an active nightlife. So if you are looking for the party, then White Beach is the place. But since almost everyone is there, peace and quiet might be difficult to find. But don't fret, with over forty kilometers of coastline, Puerto Galera has other beach options.

We stayed at Aninuan Beach, a few minutes away from White Beach. But among the top five beaches are Bulabod, Aplayang Munti, Bayanan, Haligi Beach on Boquete Island, and Long Beach on San Antonio Island. Beach hopping tours are available at Minolo Port.

3. Meet the local Mangyan community
We got to visit the Talipanan Mangyan Village near Aninuan. They have a very active basket weaving venture and you can buy good quality baskets and other products, or have some made to order to your specifications. There is another Mangyan village further up the mountains in Baclayan where you can also arrange a cultural immersion.

4. Visit its many waterfalls
Tamaraw Falls is of course the most popular, being the most accessible. But if you're a fan of waterfalls, you can visit Tukuran, Aninuan and Talipanan Falls as well.

5. Drive up to the Ponderosa Golf Club
If you're a golfer, I'm sure you'll enjoy this one. But non-golfers will definitely enjoy the view of Puerto Galera Bay. And yes, they are constructing a zipline there as we speak.

6. Attend the music festivals
Mark your calendars for the Malasimbo Arts and Music Festival which happens early in the year. It's a chance to celebrate music, arts and nature in an outdoor natural amphitheater at the foot of Mount Malasimbo. Every Black Saturday, you can catch the Summer Music Festival to enjoy a night of reggae.

7. Go on a food adventure in Sabang Beach
Because of the many international tourists it caters to, Sabang Beach is host to many really great restaurants serving international cuisine. I definitely enjoyed dinner at Toko's in Atlantis Dive Resort. Aside from their really diverse menu, they have daily specials and serve really good pizza!

How to get to Puerto Galera
Please check out this detailed post on how to get to Puerto Galera (White Beach, Sabang and Muelle). It includes options for getting to Batangas Port and to Puerto Galera.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Malaysia: Melaka overnight

After visiting Georgetown in Penang, Malaysia, Ivan Man Dy explores Melaka, both of which are included in the UNESCO World Heritage inscription. Text and photos by Ivan Man Dy.

Melaka (Malacca), they say, is where Malaysia began. Founded in the 1400s this city can certainly claim historical pedigree more than any other in Malaysia. Its long list of narratives include Malay sultanates, Chinese migration, Portuguese, Dutch, British and Japanese occupations.

Similar to its northern sister city, Georgetown, Melaka boast of a multicultural legacy brought about by these currents of history. However, unlike the former, Melaka's historic center is noticeably smaller and in fact, may well just be zipped through for the obligatory photo opportunity as I noticed with a lot of day tour packages.

Not for me though. As a heritage junkie, historic towns like this appeal to me a lot and I opted to stay overnight.

The thing with Melaka is that the historic center is actually small enough and everything can be covered by foot. At the center of it is the red-colored Dutch Square whose landmarks include Christ Church (1753), the oldest Protestant church in Malaysia, and the Stadthuys, former residence and headquarters of the colonial Dutch governors, which today houses the Museum of History and Ethnography. This is where the trigger happy tourists let loose and it's interesting that just a few steps up (and RM10 entrance fee) will lead you to a fascinating and quiet crash course on the city's rich narrative.

At the back of the the Stadhuys is St. Paul's Hill where stands the ruins of Portuguese-built St. Paul's Church (1521). Inside are some old European tombstones as well as the temporary burial spot of the Catholic Jesuit St. Francis Xavier before his remains was transferred to Goa.

Also in the area is the A Famosa, the only remant of Melaka's original Portuguese fortifications. To further highlight this 130 odd years of Portuguese occupation, parts of the original city walls have been excavated and rebuilt. Think a super mini version of Manila's Intramuros walls.

End your walk of the area at English-colonial style Proclamation of Independence Memorial Hall, where the first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman announced the country's independence from Britain in 1957.

The history of Melaka has always been tied up with trading and the Melaka River certainly played a very big part in it. Take a stroll at the refurbished river promenade before heading on Chinatown across the river. Located on the three major streets (which are all parallel each other) very close the Dutch Square, this is perhaps the liveliest part of the old town. Lined with traditional shop houses that still function in their original purpose, they range from simple to really ornate.

Jalan Tokong is home to three places of worship: the Taoist Cheng Hoon Teng Temple (1645),the Hindu Sri Poyyatha Vinayagar Moorthi Temple (1785) and Islamic Kampong Kling Mosque (1868). The former two lay claim to the oldest in the country. And of course, a cliche we often heard in Malaysia, Jalan Tokong is a known as the 'Street of Harmony'.

Over at Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, don't miss the charming Baba Nyonya Museum for an insight on the lives of the culturally-rich Peranakan Cina (Chinese-Malay) community. And if you are so really historically-inclined, walk about 25 minutes from the Dutch Square to Bukit Cina (Chinese Hill), supposedly the largest Chinese cemetery outside China. Huff and puff your way up to view the burial mounds or light an incense at Sam Poh Kong. This temple is said to have links with the legendary Ming Dynasty explorer Cheng Ho, another of Melaka's great touchstones in her fabled history.

So much history, all captured within one overnight stay. Definitely worth the sleep.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Letter to Mayor Alfredo S. Lim on Manila's continuous violations of Heritage Law

529 Elcano Street (Photo by Ivan Man Dy)

18 May 2012

Hon. Alfredo S. Lim
City of Manila

Dear Mayor Lim:

A meaningful National Heritage Month to you and the City of Manila!

It has come to our attention that heritage houses in Binondo (three shop houses in one house at 529 Elcano Street; and another at the corner of Jaboneros and Camba Streets) are being demolished. Aside from being built during the Spanish colonial period and surviving the Second World War, the details of the said houses may be architecturally significant. This adds to the long list of demolitions in the City of Manila just in the first half of the year, most significant of which are the Meralco Building and Laperal Apartments, and the news of the planned demolition of the GSIS Headquarters right next to Manila City Hall.

We would like to remind your good office of Republic Act No. 10066 - National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009. Section 5 states that modification or demolition of properties at least 50 years and older need the consent of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). That means that this year, buildings built in 1962 or earlier are protected by the law and that the NCCA needs to evaluate its significance first before a permit is granted, if ever it is granted.

Obviously, buildings built during the Spanish and American colonial periods are covered by this law. And it is bewildering how your local building official has been issuing these permits for prewar heritage without the written approval of the NCCA. As we all know, "Ignorance of the law excuses no one." Or as the good mayor puts it, “The law applies to all, otherwise, none at all!” In Manila's case, looks like it's none at all.

There is a process that must be followed before a demolition permit is granted. This process is in place to help protect the last remaining significant heritage structures in our nation's capital.

Section 48 of the law provides that whoever intentionally destroys, demolishes, mutilates or damages a heritage building (that includes buildings 50 years or older) or modifies, alters, or destroys the original features of or undertakes construction or real state development in any site protected by the NHCP, shall be, upon conviction, "subject to a fine of not less than P200,000.00 or imprisonment for a term of not less than ten (10) years, or both upon the discretion of the Court." It provides further that "if the violation is committed by a juridical person, the president, manager, representative, director, agent or employee of said juridical person responsible for the act shall also be liable for the penalties provided."

It further states, "Heads of departments, commissions, bureaus, agencies or offices, officers and/or agents found to have intentionally failed to perform their required duty as prescribed by the deputization order under Section 28 of this Act shall be liable for nonfeasance and shall be penalized in accordance with applicable laws."

Here is a link to the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA10066 to guide you in its implementation: http://www.ncca.gov.ph/downloads/IRR-heritage.pdf

We hope that the demolition of these houses are halted immediately before any more damage is done to them.

Thank you very much!


Ivan Anthony S. Henares
Vice President
Heritage Conservation Society

Save the El Hogar Building!
Early last week, a meeting took place at the NHCP, or National Historical Commission of the Philippines, to listen to a presentation for proposed plans for El Hogar. The scheme involves demolishing the building and replacing it with a high rise, sporting street-level arches "reminiscent of El Hogar." The panel convened by NHCP rejected the proposal. (Archt. Dom Galicia)
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