In the Philippines as well as in other countries in Asia, conservation and protection of their Heritage Sites and Places is a must. The Philippines and the rest of Asia have a wealth of national treasures and world heritage sites that require constant protection and conservation not only for the present but also for the future generations.
The country’s strong foundation for the future is bounded on the strength of her people’s knowledge about who they are, what they are now and where they will be going as a people and as a country. The conservation and preservation of these heritage sites and places as well the those declared as national treasures and those included in the world heritage list will increase the people’s awareness of their country’s past and therefore increase their pride of their country.
This topic will focus on what the Local Government Unit or a Community must do to conserve and protect their heritage sites and places. According to Wikipedia, National Heritage is anything of national significance which is handed down and preserved through generations, specially architecture, landscapes, documents, and other artifacts. It means that before we go to the macro level, the national level let us first take the issue to the micro level or the Local Government Unit or the Community.
What is the significance of National Heritage to the Local Government Unit or the Community?
Other than the knowledge of their culture, the present generation have a greater sense of pride of their community or LGU. That pride is anchored on the visible things and objects that remind the present generations of the progress their community had achieved because of the efforts of their forefathers and the realization of how capable their forefathers were in facing the challenges of those times. Those achievements are visible through the historical data, artifacts, documents, landscapes, architecture, among others. With this in mind, the present generation has a greater knowledge of Where They Are Now.
What is the significance of National Heritage to the Future?
The people’s inheritance or heritage can tell the stories of how their forefathers lived and the way of life that they pursued. These are also the things that will inspire, strengthen the community’s resolve and encourage them to follow the examples set by their forefathers or even surpass their achievements. The present generation learns from these heritage icons or symbols and so they will exert efforts to preserve them for the future generations. With this knowledge, the present generation is aware what specific future they wanted to pursue. So, they have answer to the question, Where Are We Going? These answers are in the form of Programs and Projects that the LGU will formulate together with the Community so that they can achieve their goals of conserving and protecting their Heritage Sites and Places.
So, what must the LGU or the Community do in order to conserve and protect their heritage sites and places? Here, we are going to discuss the Australian Experience. I will discuss a few steps borrowed from the Department of Environment Australia’s Clean Environment articles as well as my own suggestions on how to start or enhance the conservation and protection of the LGUs heritage sites and places, and these are:
1. Organize a TWG or Technical Working Group with members coming from various stakeholders.
2. Involve the Community in identifying and listing the Heritage Sites and Places.
3. Historic Sites Protection and Conservation Program
4. Create a Heritage Icons Program
4. Provide Funds or Grants for the Conservation and Protection of Heritage Sites and Places.
5. Pass local laws or legislations to institutionalize or strengthen the LGUs Local Heritage Program.
6. Pass local laws Prohibiting the destruction, demolition and sales of identified sites and/or heritage icons.
What are the examples of National Heritage in the Philippine Setting?
1. Banaue Rice Terraces. In the Province of Ifugao, in the Philippines, the Banaue Rice Terraces is considered by the locals as the Eighth Wonder of the World. The terraces where carved into the mountains by the ancestors of the indigenous peoples 2,000 years ago. The terraces is located 5,000 feet above sea level. It is fed by ancient irrigation systems from the rainforests above the terraces. It was believed that if the steps is put end to end it would encircle half of the globe. The United Nations has declared the Banaue Rice Terraces a world heritage site. It is preserved and maintained by the present generations of Igorots to remind them of their rich culture and traditions, their ingenuity in building a multi-tiered rice terraces.
2. The Tabon Cave of Palawan is a heritage site because that is where the skeletal remains of one of the oldest inhabitants of the Philippines were found and it is called the Tabon Man. The cave was discovered by Robert B. Fox in 1962. Found in the caves were human remains which dates back 22,000- 24,000 years old. Also found there were: burial jars, earthenwares, jade ornaments and human fossils dating back to 47,000 years ago, the oldest human remains found in the Philippines. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
3. The Spanish Heritages Churches in the Philippines like the Miag-ao Church is a UN declared Heritage Site. It was built in the 1760s and it had witnessed the rich history and culture of the 18th Century Iloilo.
4. The Puerto Princesa Underground River of Palawan is considered a national treasure. It is the current 7 Wonders of Nature. Its hidden caves revealed an array of stalactites and stalagmites, cave minerals not found elsewhere in the world, and others. The La Venta Expedition group of Italy, also discovered the still intact 20 Million Years Old Serenia fossil otherwise known as the Sea Cow. The PPUR is a Protected Area.
5. The Intramuros. The “walled city” can tell a thousand stories about the people of the Philippines, their culture, sufferings and victories as well as the rich history of a nation as unique as every brick in this walled city. This City Within A City must be conserved, preserved and protected for future generations.
Because of the recent controversies on the construction of Torre de Manila, a condominium fronting the Luneta or Dr. Jose Rizal Park, the national hero of the Philippines, it could not be avoided that people will react if not object to the construction of that condominium. People are aware that in other countries like United States, the Mall or the Washington D.C. Park does not allow the construction of edifices like this Torre de Manila if it will destroy the heritage site and the aesthetic sense and historical sense of the place. I just wonder if Community Consultation was done prior to the ground breaking of this condominium. Why did the national government agencies like DENR issued the ECC or let it pass during EIA or Environmental Impact Assessment since historical site and heritage considerations are part of the Environment and Urban Planning and Design?
Now, therefore, the ideas on how the National Government handles or manages the conservation and protection of these National Heritage Sites and Places shall be mainstreamed to the Local Government Unit. The latter should implement the national laws requiring the LGU to conserve and protect their Local Heritage Sites and Places too. If the Local Government Code had devolved the functions of conserving the local heritage sites and places to the LGU, the latter in this case should pass their own local laws or ordinances to implement their own Local Heritage Sites and Places Conservation and Protection Program.
Here, I am enclosing 2 pictures. The first one is the Tabon Cave, South of Palawan Island. The second picture is the Woolmers Estate (Part of the World Heritage Listed Australian Convict Sites). Everybody knows that Australia was once peopled by the convicts from England other than the Aboriginals of Australia. But look at what they have done to conserve and protect this heritage site for future generations of Australians to see. I just hope that our local leadership in the Philippines and the LGU will learn from this Best Practice.
(Writer’s note: Some ideas were borrowed from the Department of Environment Australia. Photo Credit No. 1 – To the Palawan Council For Sustainable Development for the picture of The Tabon Cave. Photo Credit No. 2 – To the Department of Environment Australia for the photo of Woolmers Estate Convict Site. The pictures of other heritage sites I mentioned are available in their websites. Thank you.)