NHCP asserts its authority against Alimodian Mayor

Finally, we have good tidings in favor of built heritage conservation (a rarity nowadays)!¬†ūüėÉ

Two months ago, news broke out that Mayor Geefre Alonsabe of Alimodian, Ilo√≠lo Province was planning to desecrate their centuries-old town plaza by constructing a ‚āĪ4.6-million multipurpose building which will take up about ¬ľ of the area. This, of course, didn’t sit well with the townsfolk, heritage advocates, and even concerned netizens, not to mention that the planned structure is a violation of Republic Act No. 10066, otherwise known as the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009. But the mayor was stubborn, claiming that the plaza is not even half a century old, and that majority of Alimodianons are backing him up on the planned building.


How Mayor Alonsabe’s multipurpose building would have eaten up considerable space of his town’s plaza had its construction pushed through (image: Raymond Deza).

The¬†National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) stepped in to enforce the said heritage law to protect Alimodian’s town plaza from being disrespected by its own mayor, thus putting a halt to the construction of the building. Mayor Alonsabe made a formal appeal early last month. On September 20, the NHCP finally released its decision regarding the matter…

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Copy of NCHP letter furnished by¬†Nereo Cajilig Luj√°n, chief of Ilo√≠lo Provincial Government’s Public Information and Community Affairs Office.

The NHCP decision, signed by its chairman, Dr. Ren√© Escalante, proved to be a major blow to the mayor and this project’s contractors, but it is a huge victory nonetheless for Alimodian’s heritage and history. It is even a much bigger victory for our country’s struggle in conserving its built heritage considering the alarming fact that we have been losing several heritage structures to both greedy and apathetic people through the years: the¬†Manila Jai Alai¬†Building¬†in Ermita,¬†the Alberto Mansion in Bi√Ī√°n, the Michel Apartments¬†in Malate, and the list just goes on and on. I haven’t even mentioned the countless ancestral houses or¬†bahay na bat√≥¬†all over the country that have been lost to wear and tear and total neglect.

And even as I write this, several more heritage structures such as¬†El Hogar Filipino¬†in Binondo,¬† the Puente de Barit in Laoag, and Life Theater¬†in Quiap√≤ just to name a few are in grave danger of disappearing to give way to “progress”. And while some structures were saved from the wrecking ball, others were not as fortunate as they still suffered the shame of defacement (remember the¬†sorry state of the¬†Church of Calumpit when it was turned into a “wedding cake”?). And whatever happened to the people behind the demolition and/or defacement of our few remaining historic structures? They remain free from the penalties of R.A.¬†10066. That could be one major reason as to why the said law is still being flagrantly violated. That is why this recent move from the NHCP is a cause for celebration as this could be the impetus that tired heritage advocates have been waiting for. At last, R.A. 10066 is now showing some teeth!

Protecting a town plaza, no matter how cumbersome looking it may be to the general populace, is not a derisory activity. Same thing goes to protesting the planned demolition of a rickety looking bridge over a polluted river, or an old toppled-down jailhouse in the midst of a slum. Remember: built heritage is another facet of our national identity. It tells a locality’s story. These cultural treasures are remnants of a once glorious past that even today’s progress could never equal.

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