Philippine Daily Inquirer
3 Philippine monuments land in global endangered list
WORLD MONUMENTS FUND, A nonprofit organization headquartered in New York dedicated to preserving cultural heritage around the globe, recently announced its 2010 World Monuments Watch List that includes cultural heritage sites at risk in 47 countries. The Watch is World Monument Fund’s flagship advocacy program which calls international attention to threatened cultural heritage.
From the 97 sites on the 2010 Watch List, three Philippine sites are included: Santa Maria de la Asunción, a Spanish colonial church in Ilocos Sur; the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordillera in Ifugao province; and the cast-iron Gothic-style San Sebastián
Church in Manila.
Ranging from the famous Machu Picchu in Peru and the remote Phajoding Monastery high in the mountains of Bhutan, to the unexpected Merritt Parkway in Connecticut, USA, and littleknown desert castles of ancient Khorezm in Uzbekistan, the 2010 Watch tells compelling stories of human aspiration, imagination and adaptation.
The need for collective action and sustainable stewardship are common themes running through the 2010 list, and the 93 sites vividly illustrate the ever-more pressing need to create a balance between heritage concerns and the social, economic and environmental interests of communities around the world.
Sites inscribed on the Watch List are found in every type of environment, from urban centers and small towns to barren plains and riverside caves. Sites ranging from the prehistoric to the contemporary, including schools, places of worship, roadways, aqueducts, parks, follies, cultural landscapes, historic city centers, castles and private houses are among the many threatened by war, natural disasters, urban sprawl and neglect.
Continuity and conflict
Changing conditions are highlighted on the 2010 Watch by sites that embody both the continuity and conflict between past and present lifestyles and their effects on the environment.
The cultural landscape of Hadley, Massachusetts, for example, is a rare American survivor of 17th-century British agricultural traditions, boasting a 350-year history of continuous farming on land now zoned for development.
Other sites are affected by the changing nature of local cultures. The vernacular architecture of the Kazakh Steppe, comprising necropolises and mausoleums dating to the 18th century, enabled the nomadic tribes living on the steppe to remember their ancestors and physically mark their lands.
However, the Soviet nationalization of those lands, with the subsequent development of new towns and settlements, forever altered the nomadic way of life, and these structures and associated traditions were abandoned.
The Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordillera likewise underscore the challenge of conserving a once-dynamic environment that has lost both its primary function for agricultural productivity and the people who have traditionally maintained it.
By calling attention to these realities, WMF hopes to compel innovative approaches that encompass the changing conditions of both the community and the historic landscape.
Ensuring sustainable lifestyles and environments entails simultaneously promoting and managing growth so as to protect community values and quality of life. Tourism, for example, benefits local communities by bringing eco- nomic opportunities, and it benefits tourists—and international understanding—by exposing them to new cultures. But unmanaged visitorship can also harm fragile sites and interfere with traditional daily practices.
One 2010 Watch site—Taos Pueblo in New Mexico—has been continuously inhabited for 1,000 years, and its residents and governing council are directly engaged in preserving their structures and their way of life. However, increasing numbers of tourists visit the Pueblo every year, curious about its history and customs, endangering the site’s living heritage.
Santa María de la Asunción is a magnificent Spanish colonial era church in Ilocos Sur that is also inscribed on the prestigious Unesco World Heritage List.
The town of Santa Maria lies on a narrow, flat plain between the sea and the central mountain range of Ilocos Sur province on the island of Luzon.
In the 16th century, when Spanish Augustianians first settled in the area, Santa María was a mere visita, or mission outpost. By the mid-18th century, Santa María had become one of the most successful of the Augustinian missions in the Philippines, and construction of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción began in 1765.
A stairway of 85 steps leads up a hill from the edge of town to the church, which is perched like a citadel and fortified by a retaining wall of stone. Its elevated setting is unusual for Spanish colonial churches of the period, which were usually sited in plazas.
Flanked by two cylindrical columns, the church’s exposed brick façade—once covered in limestone—opens into a nave flooded by natural light. A massive octagonal bell tower, added in 1810, stands nearby.
Serious structural damage to the retaining walls has led to partial collapse, and portends further crises. Preservation efforts hope to address the issues of the church structure, and equally importantly wish to engage the local community in the stewardship of this important religious and historic heritage site.
Academy of Lorenzo Rocha adorn its walls. Thirty-four stained-glass windows shower the vast nave with rich, warm hues.
Since its completion in 1891, San Sebastian has continued to play a significant religious and social role as the community parish and through its involvement in outreach programs. The innovative steel construction remains unique and reflects the daringness of the design and the skill of local craftsmen.
Persistent corrosion, leaks and material loss threaten the basilica, but its most pervasive threat remains invisible: The structural bracing within cavity walls is severely deteriorating, potentially rendering the stability and continued functionality of San Sebastian precarious.
World Monuments Watch was launched in 1996. Issued every two years, it calls international attention to cultural heritage sites around the world that are threatened by neglect, vandalism, conflict or disaster.
Watch listing provides an opportunity for sites and their nominators to raise public awareness, foster local participation, advance innovation and collaboration, and demonstrate effective solutions. The process also serves as a vehicle for requesting WMF assistance for select projects.