WikiExpedition in historic Santa Ana
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - October 12, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Smart Communications, Inc., the country’s leading wireless provider, has partnered with Wikimedia Philippines for the country’s first WikiExpedition held recently in historic Sta. Ana, Manila.

Twenty-three Wikimedia Philippines representatives and certified volunteers mapped over 40 heritage sites and structures. The support for Wikimedia’s cultural mapping project is part of Smart’s digital inclusion advocacy.

Wikimedia chose Sta. Ana for the first leg of the WikiExpedition due to the district’s high concentration of historic and heritage sites, including the Sta. Ana Church and the Lichauco Heritage House.

During the 1960s, pre-Hispanic burial sites and Chinese ceramics were excavated in the Sta. Ana Church compound, while the Lichauco Heritage House, built in the 1850s, bore witness to different chapters of Philippine history.

“Sta. Ana is one of the few officially declared heritage zones by the government. It was a very affluent neighborhood during the Spanish and American periods, where most heritage sites are ancestral houses. It was their Forbes Park back then,” explains Eugene Alvin Villar, Wikimedia Philippines chairman.

According to Joel Aldor, Wikimedia Philippines Cultural Heritage Mapping Project lead, “The mapping project would not be possible if not for the connectivity provided by Smart. Mapping Sta. Ana’s historic sites was a data-heavy undertaking. Hundreds of photos and articles were uploaded to Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons, and GPS coordinates were plotted onto the Philippine Heritage Map. Smart connectivity proved crucial to the success of WikiExpedition Sta. Ana.”

“WikiExpedition is a series of cultural mapping activities which forms part of Wikimedia’s Philippine Cultural Mapping Project. Our road map runs until 2020. It’s really nice to have partners like the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) which supports the Wikimedia volunteers by giving them the official lists of heritage sites. Another good partner is the Sta. Ana Heritage Tourism Association, who wants the heritage of their town preserved for future generations,” Aldor elaborates.

“Plotting the historic sites on the map will drive certain users to those locations. Tourism associations could use them to promote tourism in their towns,” says Villar.

“It can also be used to help preserve historic sites. Some infrastructure projects may impact on them like road widening projects, just like the damage done to the 200-year-old Dampol Bridge in Nueva Vizcaya. This mapping activity will build data crucial in the decision making process of agencies involved in or mandated to protect heritage sites,” he adds.

Smart’s support for the WikiExpedition comes on the heels of the recent announcement of the collaboration between Smart and the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit organization that operates Wikipedia and its sister projects, to offer the global Wikipedia Zero program in the Philippines.

Under Wikipedia Zero, until Feb. 3, 2015, close to 70 million Smart, Talk ‘N Text and Sun Cellular subscribers all over the country can access,, the Wikipedia apps (available for iOS and Android devices), or any other Wikimedia site on their cellphone, for free. This means that all the information mapped during the WikiExpedition, and uploaded to any Wikipedia site, may be accessed for free by any Smart, Talk ‘N Text or Sun Cellular subscriber.

“Support for activities encouraging local content generation are part of Smart’s digital inclusion advocacy. We also complement this with offerings such as Wikipedia Zero because we want more people to use the Internet as a resource for learning and promoting heritage and tourism,” said Ramon Isberto, Public Affairs Group head at Smart.

Aside from WikiExpedition, Smart has also collaborated with Wikimedia Philippines on the Tap & Learn project, an initiative that promotes the use of tablets inside the classroom. Primary and secondary teachers are trained on how they can maximize tablets for teaching and learning. And through free and unlimited access to articles and photos in Wikipedia via the tablets, the students’ learning experience is enhanced.

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