Saturday, April 26, 2008

Saving Pila

The Pila Historical Society Foundation, Inc. was
founded during the incumbency of Mayor Q. Relova
who made sure the town council would appoint it the
official caretaker of the plaza.That made possible
the demolition of historically irrelevant and
illegal structures that had mushroomed on
the Pila plaza.

By that time, Apollo del Rio was mayor the town
council had become allies of heritage so
conservation work was on track. Parish priest
Fr.Melchor Barcenas did such a remarkable job in
restoring the Pila church which was declared the
Diocesan Shrine of St. Anthony of Padua.

Happily, incumbent Mayor Wilfredo Quiat
believes in continuity.Upon request,he demolished
a mini police station, an eyesore tucked under the
right wing of the municipio and built new one near
the public school. Even if it means losing votes,he
has not allowed vendors to reclaim the plaza to
peddle their wares.Once, Mayor Quiat invited Santiago
Bacelona, then mayor of Escalante, Negros Occidental,
to take his staff to Pila to exchange ideas and
experiences about heritage conservation.

Yet, Pila’s inhabitants have not let their
guard down as heritage conservation is always under
threat. Last year, they battled a cellular phone
company which posted banners on all the lamp posts
around the Pila plaza, just when Pila had become a
must- see for cultural tours. Advertising blitz was
also tacked on the trees along the main road leading
to the town and also along the national highway.

The Pila Historical Society appealed to its
friends in and outside Pila and the ensuing campaign
was so heart-rending it sparked a blaze of unsolicited
assistance from champions of“corporate responsibility”.
Banners and streamers were taken down,ugly food stalls
and push carts were replaced with donated ones designed
by Pila residents; electric posts were suddenly
reminiscent of the First Philippine Republic.

When you visit Pila, never be in a hurry.
Prepare yourself for a leisurely,tranquil day where
there is nothing more delightful than to stroll up
and down its shady roads, tracing the medieval
“cuadricula”. If you let the Pila Historical Society
know about your visit, they will most probably
arrange for merienda at Cora Relova’s living-room
or at Monina Rivera’s two-storey home. The
St. Anthony of Padua Church is worth a visit,
admire its retablo and intricacies of its wall
designs. After you have rested under embracing
coolness of its nave, find your way to the
Escuela Pia and marvel at the Chinese, Thai and
local earthenware excavated in ancient gravesites
of Pinagbayanan.

We could very well have more Pilas in the
Philippines but the race against the ravages of time,
ignorance and indifference is so perilous that one
sighs with relief when national andmarks like Pila
are saved through tireless community effort.

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