Saturday, June 14, 2008

Unraveling heritage

What is heritage? Kinakain ba iyan? --used to be persistent questions, but not anymore for heritage is now mainstream; the awareness is spreading fast through instruments like the Heritage Identification and Documentation Training (HIDT), a 3-day workshop conducted by the Heritage Conservation Society (HCS) in Silang and Maragondon, Cavite .

There was an element of surprise as most participants did not quite know what to expect, but were pleasantly surprised to discover that heritage had always been close to their hearts. Of the fifty eight who joined HIDT, about 80 per cent were local government bureaucrats . “I expected architecture students to be the main bulk, “ said Arch. Melvin G. Patawaran, who designed the HIDT modules, in order to ” train Filipinos to identify and become more aware of built heritage structures in their communities, and expose them to techniques of cultural mapping and documentation. value of analysis of structures and interpretation of plans

To whet cultural appetites, the HIDT began with a tour of the La Salle University Museum at Dasmarinas, Cavite followed by a visit to the famous church in Silang. Eye-opening ectures were given by Arch. Augusto Villalon , former president, now Guru Council head of HCS, member of the UNESCO and ICOMOS; Eric Zerrudo, curator of the Manila Metropolitan Museum; Arch Rene Mata, director/trustee of HCS, restorer of the Lingayen Capitol building and Arch. M.G. Patawaran who is also a director/trustee of the HCS.

On the second day, the participants went to Maragondon and were warmly met by the Tourism Council, thanks to Mayor Monte Andaman. They toured the three heritage structures selected for study and documentation—the 17th century Maragondon church with its fabulous carved doors, , the Maragondon Elementary school, a Gabaldon-type built in 1925 and the 19th century Reyes “bahay na bato”, the site of Andres Bonifacio’s clandestine trial after the fatal Tejeros Convention in 1897. Then the HIDT participants were divided into three groups, working collectively at the above-mentioned spots. Each cluster had a facilitator , Arch. Melvin Patawaran was with the Gabaldon school group, Arch. Rene Mata with the Bonifacio Museum and Christian Aguilar with those who worked on the Maragondon church. Power point presentations were given by each cluster on the third day, followed by a lively open forum where participants commented on each other’s works with the facilitators sharing their observations.

Many participants said that before the HIDT, they could never explain why the old structures in their communities caused such strong emotions and deep feelings; but, now they understand why. By learning identification and documentation techniques they began to fathom the value and significance of built heritage.

Unraveling heritage proved to be an effective bond. The participants asked the HCS to create a blogspot specially for the HIDT “Maragondon batch” so they can continue networking, sharing news about heritage projects they intend to implement in their communities. There was also a demand for more materials like a glossary of basic terms related to conservation and restoration which should have been included in the conference kits. The HIDT was an eye-opener and the consensus was that it should be replicated in other parts of the Philippinesl to awaken “pride of place” in every Filipino.

Participants were housed at the Yen Center of the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction whose current president, Juan Miguel Luz, is the vice-president of the Heritage Conservation Society. This first HIDT was co-sponsored by PCSO, SSS, Legazpi Tiles, Tourism Council of Maragondon, Manila Historical & Heritage Commission.

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