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October 23, 2013

National Treasure


The damage to the many cultural heritage sites in the recent 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck Bohol and Cebu is truly saddening, aside from the huge number of lives lost.

In my interview with National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) legal counsel Atty. Trixie Angeles, she explained that the six churches in Bohol that were damaged by the quake are all declared national cultural treasures: Loboc, Baclayon, Loon, Duway, Dawis and Maribohoc churches. A place in Albor was also declared an important cultural property.


REY:  Magkano ang maaaring kailangang gastusin sa restoration ng isang lumang gusali?

(How much is needed to be spent to restore these structures?)

ATTY. ANGELES: Subject sa budgetary constraints natin kung magkano ang pondo. Pero wala namang batas na nagsasabing limitado ang amount na dapat gastusin. Hindi pa namin nako-conduct ang on-site assessment pero nakikita na namin na ang pag-restore sa mga gusaling ito will run into hundreds of millions.

(The budget is subject to constraints. But there is no law that says that only a limited account is to be spent. We have not yet conducted an on-site assessment but we see that the restoration will run into hundreds of millions.)


They had to convince the Commission of Audit (COA) why the commission can restore private structures. When they had these cleared, a budget was allotted—albeit the amount being severely limited.

ATTY. ANGELES: Nung umpisa po ay mga 20 million pesos lang ang budget namin so enough lang ito para dun sa engineering study at conservation management lang.

(In the beginning, we only had a 20 million peso budget. It was only enough to conduct an engineering study and enact conservation management.)


REY: Hindi ba retrofitting ang kailangan talaga sa mga gusaling ito?

(Don’t these buildings really need retrofitting instead?)

ATTY. ANGELES: Hindi natin masasabing puwede ang retrofitting sa lahat ng mga gusaling ito kasi intervention yan. Ibig sabihin may portion talagang babaklasin para mag-introduce ng mga bagong materials. Everytime mag-intervention tayo, naaapektuhan ang buong gusali.

Ang iba rito ay 1600’s pa itinayo at na-survive na ang ilang earthquakes.

(We cannot say that retrofitting should be done with all these buildings since this can be considered as an intervention. Everytime we do an intervention, entire building will be effected. Some of these structures were built as far back as the 1600s and have survived a number of earthquakes.)


ATTY. ANGELES: Ito ay pag-pre-preserve sa most important period ng kasaysayan ng gusali o kaya ay prine-preserve natin ang iba’t ibang bahagi ng kasaysayan ng isang istraktura .

Halimbawa yung Loboc at Baclayon, mayroong mga additions made noong 1700 at 1800 na hindi na ginalaw noon.  Pero yung iba hindi na nire-reconstruct. For example ang ruins sa Albay na Cagsawa Ruins are preserved as ruins kasi mahalaga na makita natin ang pinakaimportanteng bahagi niyan ay explosion ng volcano kung saan nasira ang simbahan.

(This is the preservation of the most important part of the history of these structures. This is why we preserve the different parts with their own individual histories of each of these structures.

For example, Loboc and Baclyaon Churches had additions to its structure during the 1700s and the 1800s. These weren’t touched. The other parts were not reconstructed anymore due to this. For example, the Cagasawa Ruins in Albay were preserved as they were because the most important part of its history is its relation to the Mayon Volcano explosion.)


In an interview we did with Cebu Governor Hilario Davide III, he shared with us the importance of the National Treasure of Cebu.

GOV. DAVIDE: Ito po ang Sto. Niño Basilica dito sa Cebu City. As a matter of fact, next year it will be 250 years old already. ‘Yun ang severely damaged landmark dito. Yung tower niya ay nag-collapse yesterday dulot nga ng earthquake. This is sad for Cebuanos kasi for centuries, ito ang talaga ang pinag-dedebotohan nila.

(This is the Sto. Nino Basilica here in Cebu City. As a matter of fact, next yeat it will be 250 years old already. This was the severely damaged landmark here. The tower collapsed due to the earthquake. This is sad for Cebuanos because for centuries this is where they held their devotions.)


On how the Cebuanos reacted and responded to this sad event:

GOV. DAVIDE:  But of course, that does not dampen the spirit of the Cebuanos. As a matter of fact, it will strengthen their faith in the Santo Niño. Right now, the priests are holding holy masses in the pilgrim center in front of the Basilica.


In our interview with Bohol Governor Edgar Chatto:

GOV. CHATTO:  Nag-usap na po kami ni Tourism Secretary Jimenez. There are planned rehabilitation programs for these structures in coordination with the National Historical Institute and even the National Museum. These are heritage churches. These are assets of the country.

(Tourism Secretary Jimenez and I talked about the planned rehabilitation programs for these structures in coordination with National Historical Institute and even the National Museum. These are heritage churches. These are assets of the country.)


As a structure ages, the more its authentic value is revealed.

What was considered beautiful in periods past can be seen in the symbolisms embedded in the structures, moveable treasures, statues, wooden carvings, saints, and the altars themselves.

This is a big part of a place’s history. Structures are important because they symbolize the periods in Philippine history.



In my visit to Rome, I was able to see the historic ruins of the Roman Empire that was in the center of a modern city. It serves as a historical landmark and tourist attraction. The old ruins from AD 476 are blended with the modern age.


Let us all remember that it is not only the Boholonas and Cebuanos that value these structures but the entire country as well. Even if the cost is high, the restoration of these structures must be undertaken through the cooperation of the local government and the Catholic church.



Photo credit: CBS News, AFP, Reuters

Photos used under the Fair Use Exemption of the IP Code.

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