Rising consciousness for cultural heritage

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anastasisWITH ITS reputation as a paragon of heritage and cultural preservation, the University is unreasonably pressured in the way it preserves its national cultural treasures.

Along with the current clamor for the renovation of the Manila Metropolitan Theater, the University, well-known for withstanding the test of time not only for its 400-year-old establishment but also for its preservation of almost century-old structures, faced clamor as remnants of its grandiose past seemed to have undergone refinements, including the use of pressurized cleaning, due to its noticeable and intriguing changes.

Recently, in pursuit of maintaining the structural stability of the Main Building and the Arch of the Centuries, physical refinements were applied to the two structures, causing some parts to chip off and decolor—reportedly due to the use of a high-pressure cleaner.

The preventive maintenance applied to the cultural treasures faced hubbubs and criticisms as photos of its newly refined parts, accompanied by a specific caption about the evident change in color of the Main Building’s exteriors and the small, chipped off parts of the façade of the original arch, which faces the Main Building, circulated on social media, triggering most Thomasians to question the presence and knowledge of architectural experts in the duration of the refinement.

This recent incident has indeed added pressure on the University’s heritage conservation experts who gradually face challenges as they maintain the structural stability of the historical landmarks which are exposed to naturally deteriorating elements such as pollution, weather and movements caused by nearby construction works.

It seemed to have slipped off their minds that they were referring to well-respected structures which, by common sense, are not allowed to be cleaned or much more refined by people who were not entrusted by those with expertise on the field.

A conservation management plan is always done prior to every refinement or renovation which, according to one of Manila Metropolitan Theater heritage conservationists, acquaints all the workers with the guidelines and policies regarding the preservation.

Every refinement done on historical structures are not single-handedly applied. These undergo months of rigid planning by architectural experts. It lies on conservationists to document and analyze thoroughly every applied change, may it be a fragment or moss found in the structure.

Pressurized technique, on the other hand, is a vital part in the application of preventive maintenance as confirmed to me by Rino Fernandez, an architect and instructor from the College of Architecture.

Such approach and results in refining is not new and should not be worthy to be viral about. It only proves the shallowness of Netizens reacting to every popular opinion circulating on social media.

Fernandez noted that the high-pressure cleaning technique is continually used by the National Museum and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.

“Pressurized cleaning is part of preventive maintenance and acceptable iyon kasi kailangan mo talagang linisin nang maigi iyung structure,” Fernandez said in an interview. “Ginagamit ang approach na iyon kapag hard ‘yung surface and we all know that the Main Building [is made of] reinforced concrete kaya okay lang iyon.”

Reinforced concrete is a composite material of cement and steel that evokes a compressive strength as the concrete resists the squeezing as well as tensile strength as it resists the bending and stretching.

The fact that the Main Building and the original surface of the triumphal arch from the old Intramuros campus (which now is placed to face the Main Building to avoid being openly exposed to the smokes of Espana Boulevard) proves the effective efforts of heritage conservation experts whom netizens called for after viewing the first phases of a recently refined subject.

Every part and parcel of these declared national cultural treasures that have withstood the test of time but also natural deteriorations still contribute to the historical significance of UST.

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