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On (re)making Philippine history

My husband revels in the intricacies of history and politics.

He would lose himself for hours at a time in Reddit posts, Wikipedia entries and YouTube videos, revisiting controversial figures, epic wars and political entanglements. Afterwards, he would patiently explain the facts to me, who is allergic to politically-charged conversations, and enjoys more looking into the twinkling eyes of baby animals on the Love Nature channel or watching a good old Alfred Hitchcock film.

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He would enlighten me on the meaning behind the crests and symbols etched on the houses and buildings we pass by on our way home. From how I understood him, these markers entailed, among others, an obligation on the part of the owners and the local government to maintain these structures for being culturally and historically significant to Dutch society.

Whether these structures have witnessed a grim or vibrant chapter of history, I am awed by the beauty that these structures now bring. Indeed, as English historian Edward Gibbons said, “History… is little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind.”

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As with the Dutch, the Philippine government has sought to protect and preserve museums, structures and other properties of historical and cultural significance. This advocacy ultimately aims to fulfill the government’s constitutional mandate to conserve, develop, promote and popularize its cultural and historical heritage and resources.

Thus, under the National Cultural Heritage Act (NCHA), the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) and the National Museum shall consult with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and other concerned agencies in designating heritage zones to protect the cultural and historical integrity of a geographical area.

Local government units shall maintain these zones, such that: (a) adaptive reuse of cultural property shall be implemented; (b) the appearance of streets, parks, monuments, buildings, and natural bodies of water, canals, paths, and barangays within a locality shall be maintained as close to their appearance at the time the area was of most importance to Philippine history; and (c) sociocultural practices that are unique to that locality shall be documented and maintained.

In this context, “adaptive reuse” refers to the utilization of buildings, other built structures and sites of value for purposes other than that for which they were intended originally, in order to conserve the site, their engineering integrity and the authenticity of the design.

Moreover, the appropriate cultural agency shall closely collaborate with the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) National Commission of the Philippines in ensuring the conservation and management of world heritage sites in the Philippines.

All national historic landmarks, sites, or monuments shall be entitled to the following privileges: (a) priority government funding for protection, conservation, and restoration; (b) incentive for private support of conservation and restoration through the NCCA’s Conservation Incentive Program; (c) an official heritage marker placed by the cultural agency concerned, which identifies the property as a national historical landmark, site, or monument; and (d) in times of armed conflict, natural disasters and exceptional events that endanger the cultural heritage of the country, all such landmarks, sites or monuments shall be given priority protection by the government.

Names of historical streets, parks, buildings, shrines, landmarks, monuments and sites designated as national cultural treasures or important cultural property shall not be renamed by way of local or national legislation, unless approved by the NHCP, and only after due hearing on the matter.

Meanwhile, upon the advice of the concerned cultural agency, NCAA may execute agreements with private owners of cultural properties as to their preservation. In this regard, these agreements shall include, but are not limited to: (a) public access to the property; (b) value of the encumbrance; (c) duration of the servitude of the property; (d) restriction on the right of the owner or occupant to perform acts on or near the place; (e) maintenance and management of the property; (f) provision of financial assistance for the conservation of the property; and (g) procedure for the resolution of any dispute arising from these agreements.

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