Philippine Daily Inquirer

3 Philippine monuments land in global endangered list

- Augusto F. Villalon

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.

San Sebastian

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.

 ??  ?? THE RETAINING walls shoring up the hill where Santa Maria Church in Ilocos Sur stands has collapsed and is in serious need of repair. Rusting steel panels in Manila’s San Sebastian Church (right) threaten the interior painted finish.
THE RETAINING walls shoring up the hill where Santa Maria Church in Ilocos Sur stands has collapsed and is in serious need of repair. Rusting steel panels in Manila’s San Sebastian Church (right) threaten the interior painted finish.
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 ??  ?? THE RICE Terraces of the Philippine Cordillera are a landmark cultural landscape illustrati­ng the interconne­ction of man and nature.
THE RICE Terraces of the Philippine Cordillera are a landmark cultural landscape illustrati­ng the interconne­ction of man and nature.

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