THE REHABILITATION of the damaged churches in Bohol should be an opportunity to develop Philippine standards for heritage conservation, a cultural heritage official said during the UST J. Elizalde Navarro (JEN) Roundtable Discussion on Critical and Cultural Heritage Issues last May 4.

“Our principal end is the restoration of our heritage or historic structures but these intentions can only be executable and forcible if guided by standards articulately charted and elaborated,” Fr. Milan Ted Torralba, executive secretary of the Permanent Committee for the Cultural Heritage of the Church of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said before other cultural heritage experts at the Buenaventura G. Parades, O.P. building.

The 7.2-magnitude earthquake that hit Bohol in October 2013 damaged more than 20 churches in the Central Visayas, including Baclayon and Dauis Church, both declared National Historical Landmarks in the island-province.

Torralba cited four factors where these standards should apply: policy, guidelines, conservation management plans, and heritage owners’ preservation management plan.

Lucille Karen Malilong-Isberto, head of the Committee on Monuments and Sites of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), added that it is important to make concrete steps in the preservation of cultural heritage.

“The Heritage Law says that conservation should follow international standards, but it does not say how,” she said during the panel discussion. “We need to institutionalize what we [experts] talk about in conferences and cite specific steps.”

Rehabilitation process

The NCCA, Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Authority, National Historical Commission of the Philippines, and National Museum are working together for the rehabilitation of the damaged historical and heritage landmarks and churches, for which the Aquino administration has so far earmarked P650 million.

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The rehabilitation has three phases: pre-restoration, the master restoration plan or reconstruction plan–both of which are already completed–and implementation plan, or associated site development, which is set to start by the end of May.

Father Torralba, a Central Seminary alumnus where he’s now finishing his doctorate, is also the chairman of theDiocese of Tagbilaran's church heritage commission. Hesaid that the rebuilding process should take its inspiration from St. Francis of Assisi.

“Learning from him we need to rebuild our damaged historic and non-historic churches and create new ones and see this worship places full of Filipino people who need to be drawn to the building,” he said. “The church is a city of God, a respite from the chaotic city of man which offers us a glimpse of heaven to us living on earth.”

The panel discussion was part of the celebration of the National Heritage Month (NHM) in line with the Taoid Heritage Program, the flagship program of the NCCA Subcommisson on Cultural Heritage, headed by NCCA Commissioner Fr. Harold Rentoria, an Augustinian friar who’s also a UST Central Seminary alumnus. “Taoid” is the Ilocano term for “inheritance.”

Theme of the NHM celebration this year was “Heritage: New Fruits, Ancient Roots.”

The discussion was organized by the Varsitatian under its JEN National Workshop on Critical and Cultural Heritage Studies program, with the UST Office for Grants, Endowments and Partnerships in Higher Education and the NCCA Subcommission on Cultural Hertiage.

The University–which houses four National Cultural Treasures such as the Main Building, Central Seminary, Arch of the Centuries, and Open Spaces–has officially allied with the NCCA to collaborate on programs on heritage conservation and protection.

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UST and the NCCA also signed a memorandum of understanding to further protect and preserve the country's cultural heritage.

Fr. Rolando de la Rosa, O.P., director of the UST Research and Endowment Foundation Inc. (UST-REFI) and Fr. Harold Rentoria, OSA, NCCA commissioner for cultural heritage formalized the partnership.

“It could mean a series of activities or conferences that we are going to [hold] with UST in the future, so that it will be easier for us to request UST to help us conduct research or to be the host of a particular conference or gathering of cultural workers or historians related to cultural heritage,” said Fr. Rentoria. Elyssa Christine A. Lopez and Aliliana Margarette T. Uyao


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