March 23, 2023

Baguio will present the initial list of the cultural heritage sites identified and documented through the first and official cultural mapping project of the city government.

With the City Planning and Development Office at the helm, leading a team composed of 16 cultural mappers, the output of the cultural mapping project to be contained in the project’s first book is set for launching and presentation to the people of Baguio in September in time for the 113th Baguio Charter Day.

Book one will contain 235 of the cultural heritage sites and objects that have completed mapping and verified by the Baguio community.

CPDO Chief Donna Tabangin said after completing the first part of the project, they will continue with the mapping since they identified more than 600 heritage sites based on suggestions by community members that are worthy of being mapped.

The city has earlier allotted P5.7 million for the project, which started in October 2021. A budget of the same amount for the second part of the mapping project is included in the list of additional projects of the city for 2022 which the city council approved during its regular session on June 13. 

Brensen Bengwayan, senior research specialist leading the cultural heritage mapping team, said the cultural mapping project is in compliance with Republic Act 10066 or the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009 which mandates the identification, documentation, and preservation of the cultural heritage and resources of a city or region which shall serve as a guide in building communities.

He said the city-funded project is implemented with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, which is providing technical assistance through trainings and assistance during the mapping process itself.

This will be the first cultural mapping project done by the city government using in-depth research under the guidance of the NCCA and based on Unesco standards.

The project covers six domains, namely tangible sites and movable objects, natural resources (flora and fauna), intangible (songs, dances, rituals), immovable (sites, heritage buildings and structures), cultural institutions, and personalities or those who had made a big impact in the community, all of which have been identified in the city.

He said cultural heritage do not have to be endemic to a place. If a thing, practice, or ritual had been introduced but embraced by its inhabitants and inculcate in the communities for a long time, it is already their part of their cultural heritage.

Bengwayan explained the need to conduct cultural mapping is urgent, as Baguio is running out of time to preserve and conserve its cultural heritage.

“Most of our cultural heritage are already fading, and we may not be aware of it, these are already gone or no longer ours,” he said.

He cited as examples songs and dances of Baguio ancestors that are no longer practiced or known to the current generation.

He said there are numerous buildings and structures in the in the city that can no longer be called Baguio’s own as these are either owned by the national government or private citizens.

Along the course of the project, Bengwayan said they have been encountering roadblocks as some owners of these government and privately-owned structures that are cultural heritage sites do not want their structures to be mapped because they want them renovated or developed.

He said while improvements may be introduced in cultural heritage sites, these have to be according to the standards of the NCCA. The structure should also look the same and the same materials as much as possible should be used. 

“That’s what we are running after because wala na talaga tayong oras,” Bengwayan said, citing the fact that sites like Camp John Hay, the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence there, the bunkers at Navy Base which is owned by the Philippine Military Academy, the PMA itself, and a private property at the central business district are either no longer owned by the city or cannot be preserved.

He said they try to contact and coordinate with the owners, including sending communications to as far as Washington D.C. in the case of the Ambassador’s Residence, in order to get its consent for the mapping, convince them that their structure is a cultural heritage of the city, and explain to them the importance of preserving such cultural heritage.

He said for some structures identified as cultural heritage sites but are not owned by the city, the process of acquiring consent to be mapped and documented is still ongoing.

Bengwayan said not being able to map the identified heritage sites and structures will greatly affect the culture of the city.

“The mapping is not only used to preserve the heritage, but also in planning, such as in zoning, and mapping of city land use so malaki ang magiging effect. If we take away the City Hall, the city’s center, or John Hay for instance, what will we be teaching to our kids? Hindi na makikita ng next generation ang heritage ng city, which is important because every generation needs to find and go back to their roots. It is their identity,” he said.

Bengwayan said the 235 cultural heritage sites in book one were approved by the Baguio community and the mapping will continue until they complete the process and validate all identified heritage sites in the city.

The team of cultural mappers conducting the project is composed of experts from varied fields such as architects, engineers, forensic experts, and a film team that documents the process. – Hanna C. Lacsamana