Protecting Our Filipino Heritage

Arts & Culture

July 21, 2017 | BY Dorynna Untivero

We sit down with Charles Salazar, head of the NCCA’s Cultural Heritage section, to talk about what it takes to preserve the very fabric of our Filipino culture and legacy

WSK .jpgWSK Installation at the Art Fair PH 2017 celebrates sound art

With several bazaars, street fairs, and art festivals taking place more often– with more goers and participants alike– it is evident that there is a continued support (one may even say, “renewed”), for the community of local culture and arts.

With these initiatives permeating into our everyday lives, one begins to ask: what more can I do?

Once, art (and its permutations) were inaccessible to the layman, having been an intricate discipline available to the elite class or those who were fortunate enough to have access to the proper influences and mentors. 

However today, we get to see artists (and art pieces) all-over the internet. In the world of film, music, fashion, theatre, visual art, sculpture, and architecture – it is apparent that there is a harking back to local aesthetics and design.

Numerous local artisans have gained more traction and spotlight in the eyes of the general public. We can easily note here the National Museum’s now-permanent weaving displays, local products now pervading the public markets through bags, clothing, and gastronomy, and the increasing count of young travellers exploring the Philippines.

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Department of Tourism Booth exhibits local produce and artisan goodies

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A modern interpretation of classic ventanillas - a collaboration with Anna Sy & Jason Chai | Photo from "Filipino Modern

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Fried tamban (saltwater sardine) is served with young corn and moringa oil at Toyo Eatery in Manila | (Photo: George Tapan)

After hundreds of years of colonisation, one can dare to hope, are we finally embracing (in a larger scale) our own diverse and ethnic culture?

Great as this might be, all this could do with a bit more push. With that in mind, we sit down with Charles Salazar of the NCCA to talk about what more we can do to preserve and push for the appreciation of our local culture.

 

With regards to Cultural Heritage, what are the current projects of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts?

With the enactment of Republic Act No. 10066 of the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009, the NCCA and its attached cultural agencies have a common reference document as the basis of all initiatives.

For the general public, increasing their appreciation of cultural heritage is made possible through their participation in the annual celebrations of National Heritage Month every May, International Museums Day every May 18, History Month every August, Museums and Galleries Month and Indigenous Peoples Month every October, Archives Day every October 21, and Libraries and Information Services Month every November.

Details on a local weave product

Cultural heritage preservation is highly dependent on the technical competence of heritage experts and workers. One of the NCCA programs towards this endeavor is the support it has extended to the Escuela Taller de Filipinas Foundation, Inc.

A joint initiative of the Kingdom of Spain and the Republic of the Philippines, Escuela Taller is a vocational school that trains out-of-school youth in traditional construction and conservation methods.

11694897_10153722354035283_5910870856778834410_n.jpgWash day from the Art and Picture Collection; NYPL The New York Public Library (1900 - 1940) | Photo: Courtesy of NCCA Facebook

Another program is the Cultural Mapping Training Program which aims to train local government units in mapping their cultural resources, developing cultural profiles, and using these profiles to build their local inventory of cultural properties and in incorporating them in local development plans.

Heritage trainings are also organised, not only by NCCA, but also by organisations, schools, and local government units which are supported by NCCA through its competitive grants program. Under this programme, the researches and publications of individual experts are also supported.

International opportunities for heritage experts and workers are made available by NCCA. The attendance of experts in international conferences to present their research may be supported through the International Travel Grants Program.

Under the aegis of cultural agreements with other countries, the Philippines is able to send its heritage experts abroad and for international experts to come to the country.

How about conservation projects?

The Commission has entered into an agreement with the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) to fund infrastructure projects involving World Heritage Sites of cultural significance.

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Photo: Courtesy of NCCA Facebook

Preparatory works for the restoration of the Manila Metropolitan Theater is ongoing. Other conservation projects for built heritage initiated by other institutions are supported by NCCA through its competitive grants programme.

Why is it important to support these projects?

Support for these projects is a step towards shaping our shared identity.

19693494_10155370415065283_1747627988187925765_o.jpgPlaza Goiti (now called Plaza Lacson), Manila, the 1920s | Photo: Courtesy of NCCA Facebook

The concept of cultural heritage is strongly rooted in the legacy of those who went ahead of us, but what we do about their tangible and intangible legacies have strong implications for our future as well as the future of the succeeding generations.

Thus, our support to these projects also becomes our contribution to an ongoing story which runs along a continuum of generations.

What are some ways we can embrace our heritage more?

It would be easy to embrace heritage if it becomes experiential and personal.

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Casco traffic on estero going north toward Santa Cruz Church, Manila, Philippines, 1898-1899 

Photo: Courtesy of John Tewell via Flickr (from the Denver Public Library Collection) | NCCA Facebook

One can begin by looking into his family history. The experience of listening to stories of relatives, going through photos and documents, and visiting hometowns is a personal journey towards one’s identity. Through this, we understand how buildings, sites, and objects carry meanings and are rendered significant which is how heritage works. 

Take time to travel around the Philippines and even abroad.

An object of the past becomes heritage if it is considered significant by a society. When we travel, we get to know about other societies through the things they cherish. Learning about other cultures is also a means to learn about ourselves more. It is not only about the sites/sights but also the cuisine, language, values, and beliefs that must be appreciated.

Any other private advocacy groups that promote Filipino Heritage we should support or pay attention to?

As an advocacy group, there is the Heritage Conservation Society which focuses on built heritage preservation. Other groups are highly technical in nature and their membership is limited to professionals such as the regional museum associations for museum workers, professional historical associations, librarian associations, etc. There are also local movements which are informal in structure that advocate strongly for the preservation of local cultural properties.

Sometimes, even professional, educational, and civic organizations can become vehicles of advocacy for cultural heritage.

An alumni association can become the strongest advocate for the preservation of an old school building. An employees’ union can lobby against the demolition of a corporate facility for the sake of institutional and industrial memory.

 

To know more (and do more), start by visiting the NCCA’s website to get to know their latest initiatives. 

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