When the provinces of Bohol and Cebu was hit by a destructive earthquake last year, the country mourned not only for the loss of lives of many people and for the devastation of many homes but also for the many century old structures, churches in particular, that were brought into rubble and wrecked by an intensity 8 tremor. Three weeks after that, the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded hit the Visayas Region killing more lives, damaged countless of infrastructure and destroyed a number of century old historical sites.
Many grieved for such loss saddened and shocked by such successive mishap. Many, including myself, grieved not only for the lives and homes that were lost but also for the heritage sites that was shaken and destroyed in just hours – built heritage that was inherited from our great ancestors.
While my heart bleeds for those who perished in this disastrous mishap and for those who survived yet remained unsound, another part of me laments for the chances I missed beholding some of the most important ancient historical structures we have in the country. I regret for not being able to marvel at these heritage sites long before earthquake and typhoons battered and vanished them.
The same sorrow I felt when Typhoon Pablo ravaged my hometown of Cateel in the east coast of Davao Oriental devastating almost every structure we have there including institutions that molded my education. Old houses and buildings were destroyed and what remained are few remnants of our olden timest. Until today, I can still feel the sadness for all the things that were taken away from us – including built heritage that would have served as a great reminder of our past.
But somehow, these ill-timed misfortunes teach us to love, to value more of what we have – including those that we consider things and sights of great history and heritage of our ancient times. It opened our eyes to see the importance of these sites in molding our country to be become what it is now and shaping its people to become who we are at present – a country and people of great history and heritage.
I may have regrets and lamentations for not traveling around discovering more heritage sites in different corners of the country, somehow I feel so privileged that in one of my humble wanderings, I was led to see and marvel at places that once shaped this nation and its people. Seeing those numbers of sites made me prouder of my race as a Filipino.
Today I say enough of lamentations, enough of so much regret. These 7,107 islands so called the Philippines host to thousands of heritage discoveries waiting to be seen, to be unearthed. I still get all the reason to wander around and see all these for myself. And I vow to see them, if not all least half of what we have.
Call me fortunate, I was among the chosen few flown to Manila last week to join the Wikimedia Philippines Cultural Heritage Mapping Volunteer Workshop sponsored by the Wikimedia Philippines and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. It aimed to teach the participant/volunteer the fundamentals of built heritage in the Philippines, as well as training with the necessary skills in heritage documentation, heritage photography, geographic mapping and content creation using the Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons and other Wikimedia projects. The workshop is an eye opener for me to understand more the value of our built heritage and why do we need to protect them.
Built Heritage is our identity. It is what makes us different from others. It shows our wealth as a nation and shows our diversity. Heritage is something that, once lost, can never be found again. And that I came to realize that we should protect it, preserve it because it is the remnants of in our glorious past that without doubt defines our present. We are part of that heritage and it is apt to preserve it.
Our built heritage represents the way of life of those who went before us – our forefathers who fought for us. It signifies their vision and aspirations and today it is bequeathed to us for us to enjoy, to enhance and to hand on to future generations.Thus, the need to protect it.
Along with millions of heritage admirers across the globe, I pray that heritage conservation in this country will flourish and I pledge to take part of that conservation in my own little way. For I am a Filipino, I’m proud of my race, my history and my heritage.
By the way, just so you know, Built Heritage is described by law as any building 50 years and older.