Torre de Manila and the State of Our Historical Preservation

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A month ago, the Supreme Court decided to lift the TRO on the construction of the Torre de Manila. Despite many arguments against the building, the SC found no law prohibiting its construction. Notoriously known as the “national photobomber”, the 49-storey condominium by DMCI Project Developer Inc. will now permanently ruin Rizal Monument’s skyline.

The unfortunate thing about this is that the Torre de Manila isn’t the only atrocity committed against historical conservation. Andres Bonifacio’s own monument in Caloocan City is surrounded by commercial buildings and constant traffic. The demolition of the old Meralco building, the Admiral Hotel, and the Army-Navy Club was actually permitted to make way for the Torre de Manila and another condominium.

Dr. Olivia Habana, chair of the department of history in the Ateneo de Manila University, gave her two cents on the state of historical preservation in our society. There are, in fact, laws that are supposed to protect these sites. Many were cited by the Knights of Rizal in filing the temporary restraining order against DMCI.  One of these is the Republic Act No., 10066 or the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009,which explicitly requires the protection of these heritage zones. “But it’sanother thing in practice,” she said. “From what I’ve seen it’s mostly ignorance and the prioritization of money over heritage, history, and identity.”

The lack of historical preservation is not a problem that only existed in the current government. “Remember, the Torre de Manila happened under PNoy’s watch,” she clarified. Blaming the entire Aquino administration for this would be fallacious, however. According to the same article, local governments are in charge of maintaining these heritage zones. It is also local governments that issue the zoning permits to allow the demolition of these sites and the replacement with commercial structures.

On the other hand, “Some local governments do [preserve them] and are very good about it,” she explained. The Ilocos region is a prime example of how a local government prioritizes heritage. The province is home to Vigan City, a declared UNESCO heritage site for its well-preserved colonial Spanish architecture. It owes its success to empowering its citizens to partake in the process, such as letting them produce and sell souvenirs in the vicinity.

“For locals, historical preservation or conservation is a sense of pride of the place, appreciation of culture and history,” Dr. Habana said. It also creates an industry for cultural tourism. She explained that as long as they continue to train historians and other heritage personalities, there will always be someone fighting for historical conservation.

There is still hope even in the Metro. Two years ago, the Department of Budget Management announced an allocation of  P9.4M for the rehabilitation of the Manila Metropolitan Theater. Dubbed as “The Grand Old Dame,” what used to be the gathering place of many socialites before World War II deteriorated it to an abandoned graffiti-clad shell. As of 2016, the NCCA was able to call for volunteers using their Facebook page for a total of five cleanups. Now, the theater is going through amajor reconstruction that will restore it to its previous grandeur.

Torre de Manila is just one of the losses in the battle for historical preservation. With social media bringing more awareness to these issues and gathering Filipinos to work as a community to help the preservation, the future for our heritage isn’t so dim.

 

Photo courtesy of Inquirer.net

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