On heritage mapping

By: NESTOR B. RAMIREZ October 31,2017 - 09:16 PM


For many bustling cities like Cebu, the terms “heritage” and “development” are almost always taken in the context of being a protagonist and antagonist, always clashing with another when development is supposed to consider in all its expanses anything patrimonial to the community.

The lack of knowledge or little understanding of the value of heritage preservation as against the concept of development is the reason why many from the current generation could not anymore connect and get inspiration from life in the past.

The concept of heritage preservation is oftentimes taken in the context as a conflict between economy and culture as the former is understood to be an effort to improve the fiscal well-being of the community by creating more jobs and raising income without reflecting on the value of the latter.

Although my department at the University of San Jose-Recoletos is tasked to handle the course in humanities across the institution and in fact facilitated several field trips to heritage sites and structure both in the northern and southern parts of Cebu, I could not claim that I already have a total grasp of the necessary things to consider in heritage appreciation.

Not until I attended the first and the last day of the five-day heritage mapping workshop organized by the City Historical Affairs Office (Chao) and facilitated by the personnel of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).

Bryner Diaz, a former colleague in the media industry who now heads Chao, said that heritage mapping is a step towards any heritage conservation effort because it will identify what remains to be protected to sustain the value and meaning of cultural resources.

I would have wanted to attend the entire five-day workshop, but because of other commitments in school, I was only able to attend the juiciest part of the lecture series. But I still participated in the field work of actual mapping of a tangible movable heritage.

I belong to a group of three participants tasked to map wartime emergency notes issued by the Philippine Commonwealth from 1941 to 1945 that replaced the currency that failed to arrive after Japanese troops prevented movements of American vessels during their occupation.

I have encountered the presence of the wartime emergency notes in my previous readings but did not bother to look into its relevance to the life of the people in that generation who witnessed the horror of being executed by the Japanese for mere possession of the temporary currency.

It gives me a glimpse of irony that the temporary negotiable instrument at that time was supposed to ensure continuity of economic activity and survival during that period but served as a “death warrant” to Filipinos because it gives the Japanese invaders the notion that the possessor is on the side of their enemies.

After attending the training, I will push for the inclusion in the art appreciation class a module on the importance of heritage preservation through heritage mapping because this is the only way that the generation to come can connect to their past.

Felicitation should also be accorded to Prof. Arvin Villalon and Dr. Rolando Borrinaga of the NCCA for their invaluable inputs to the future heritage mappers of the city.

I am hoping that this heritage mapping effort of the present city administration will survive the volatile nature of politics because heritage preservation in a way should not only be a political agenda.

In reality, heritage belongs to the people and not to the political talking heads temporarily lurking at City Hall.

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