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In defense of patrimony

ESSENCE - Ligaya Rabago-Visaya (The Freeman) - January 21, 2021 - 12:00am

The influence of the past expressed in structures created by our ancestors enriches our lives and extends our understanding of history thus providing a sense of continuity for us. The presence of familiar and beautiful landmarks imparts a sense of stability, of timelessness, in a changing world. The protection of historical buildings and landscapes preserves the memories of the country by preserving a part of them.

The new year has brought refreshing news for artists and art lovers. The Metropolitan Theater (Met) has returned to its center of attention 25 years after its closure in 1996 and is considered a sanctuary for many significant artistic activities.

The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), together with the City of Manila headed by Mayor Francisco 'Isko' Moreno Domagoso and other collaborators, has been diligently getting the theater back to its former glory, said to be the country's largest renovation project, begun in 2017 with a budget of over P260 million. The quincentennial evening show will be hosted on April 27, 2021 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Victory at Mactan, which will serve as the maiden show.

Corollary, only operational in 2012, after nearly 2 decades of futility, the Cebu Cultural Center when there were a number of artistic endeavors, but when the extremely destructive earthquake struck Central Visayas specifically in Bohol and Cebu, the stage roof of the CCC collapsed and so it bid farewell to the art patrons. And then there was the change of administration, which until now had rendered the structure in vain.

Attempts were made, but to no avail, to revive the former haven for artists. Priorities have been taken into account. Hopefully, CCC will return to its grandeur and reclaim its original goal of being a hub where creative products and artistic minds converge.

But why do we need to restore it and other cultural structures as well? A nation's power is essentially constructed by its relation to its history. There seems to be no concern about this in the way the Filipinos are destroying historical sites.

Preserving the legacy of the past is now seen by many to be as critical as protecting forests and rivers from the natural world; the built environment is considered to be part of the broader environmental movement in many countries. Heritage today, once thought of only in terms of structures, encompasses the area surrounding buildings and monuments. No building stands on its own, if we think about it, but it is connected to its surroundings and other buildings around it.

If we had preserved our heritage better, Filipinos would have absorbed a sense of orientation from their historical and cultural roots. The preservation of historical buildings would have added sense and color to the lessons of history and helped us to remember significant events in the past.

No one can dispute the significance of change in today's complex world. But when poorly conceived technologies disfigure and transform regions beyond recognition, wiping out urban traditions inherited from centuries of history, civic leaders should speak out in defense of heritage and fight for the inheritance of our forefathers.

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