READER response has been high regarding the proposed conversion of the American-colonial structure Laoag Central Elementary School into a shopping mall, and the planned demolition of the Spanish-colonial church façade in Dingras, Ilocos Norte.
Ilocos Norte board member Kristian Ablan says a public hearing was conducted on the proposed Provincial Ordinance No. 2009-02-083, “An Ordinance Imposing a Moratorium on the Conversion, Use and Demolition of Buildings, Edifices, Relics, and Other Structures Deemed as Part of the Cultural and Historical Heritage Found and Situated within Ilocos Norte.” It was conducted with the provincial board’s committees on laws and tourism on Feb. 6.
Ivan Henares of the Heritage Conservation Society and Icomos Philippines wrote to Ablan: “Congratulations on a very successful public hearing! I was elated by the news that the attendance was astounding—the session hall was packed to the brim and could not accommodate all those who came, so another room had to be opened to allow people to listen. It’s heartwarming to learn this issue has generated so much interest among the local community of Laoag. Heritage is, indeed, in the mainstream!”
It was argued the building was not a heritage building because it did not appear in the DepEd’s roster of Gabaldon-type schools dating from the American colonial period.
But architect Reynaldo Inovero of the National Historical Institute debunked the argument, stating the structure was clearly of the Gabaldon type and definitely a heritage structure built during the American colonial period.
Moreover, generations of graduates, numbering in the thousands, share the school’s heritage, adding a wealth of intangible value to the structure and its surroundings.
It was also argued that since the school stood on church property, due to church-state separation, its future use was immune from civil and citizen intervention, a view overturned by the voice of the citizens who demanded that their school remain.
The National Historical Institute’s certification that the historic value of the school merited conservation gave strong substantiation to the preservation demands of local citizens.
Gov. Michael Keon held a press conference later and announced the passage of “the ordinance that will precipitate the NHI [National Historical Institute] and National Museum in declaring the Laoag Central Elementary School a historical landmark which will block the demolition of the school and block the mall.”
Now passed and enacted, Ordinance 2009-02-083, which recognizes the value of heritage within the province, defining what structures are considered heritage structures despite their status of being publicly or privately (or Church-) owned, and providing for the preservation of these structures to the benefit of future generations, is a landmark heritage legislation in the Philippines.
That citizens supported the ordinance by attending the public hearings showed public concern for heritage. Thank you to the people of Ilocos Norte and all the provincial officials of Ilocos Norte.