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Reader Comments on 'Baclayon's Cultural Heritage under Threat'

Plans to widen and resurface the coastal ring-road of Bohol pose a threat to a number of one century old houses, as well as to one of the best known historical landmarks of Bohol, the church of Baclayon.

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Lukarette wrote:
Saturday, 6 August 2005 00:42:31 PHT
Only insane people would ever think of touching Baclayon church to give way to a road...instead, why don't you think of ways to preserve it? For over hundred years it had been standing there...nauna pa yang nag-exist kesa sa mga taong gustong sumira sa simbahan...WHAT RIGHT HAVE YOU????
Pol Monteverde wrote:
Wednesday, 3 August 2005 09:35:44 PHT
Well... Bohol has a special place in my heart. The fact is my ancestors hail from this island. I really love the scenic view of the old churches. I was entraced by it's antiquity and beauty. I also adore the coastlines of this island. But recently (just summer), I was distraught. Bohol was a total mess. It was dusty and the excavations or I say the development process is an eye sore. Oh well, I really hope they won't destroy the place in developing it. P.S. Due to the dust I didn't enjoy our vacation there due to occasional asthma attack.
Christine Tecson wrote:
Tuesday, 5 July 2005 14:32:58 PHT
Nice.... very memorable...
NDL wrote:
Friday, 24 June 2005 06:25:56 PHT
Cultural heritage is something that cannot be restored back when its gone. If the road will be re-routed to the seashore in order to spare the historical landmark (the baclayon church), I think the costs involved can be justified. Money can be replaced while historical landmark cannot, especially if the landmark is interwoven in the history of the island. Attention: caretaker of the baclayon church. I noticed that the interior wall of the church is gathering MOLDS, roofs are leaking, the belfry too is gathering molds (as seen in the picture). If you want this historial landmark spared from demolition, clean it up and maintain it well because if you don't, it will deteriorate over time and lost it anyway. I think this is a good trade-off. If you don't maintain it, it's not worth saving it. How about that? fair enough.

The road issue is resolved now, and no demolition will take place. I too have noticed a marked increase of molds and algea growing on the walls of Baclayon church. It is time to do something about it.--Jeroen

Benjie F. Galacio Jr. wrote:
Friday, 20 May 2005 16:36:48 PHT
Ive been to Bohol on a yearly basis coz its the native place of my Parents. My mother, Margarita Felisan hails from Guindulman and my father, BENJAMIN GALACIO SR., is from Garcia-Hernandez(East Canayaon). I was born and raised in Manila. When I first came there in 1997, I fell in love with my parent's homeland. Napakaganda. Nature. It is much beautiful than Cebu and Boracay. Yap, you can quote me on that! I am a civil engineer by profession and a graduate of Mapua Institute of technology. I know Hanjin as a good contractor. I hope I remain right. Im just hopeful they have the heart to preserve THE CENTURY OLD HOUSES near Baclayon. Its our link to the past. We should VALUE and RESPECT that. As a Civil Engineer, all I can say is, NO AMOUNT OF DEVELOPMENT CAN EVER REPLACE THE HISTORY THAT WE INTEND TO PRESERVE. If we are truly morally upright Constructors, HERITAGE AND CULTURE should be preserved!
R. G. wrote:
Tuesday, 19 April 2005 06:55:02 PHT
My uncle's sala is in jeopardy because of the road widening and I'm still not sure what is going to happen. I guess it's because the road widening has not affected our barangay (W. Ulbujan; Garcia-Hernandez) yet.
Jeroen wrote:
Thursday, 17 February 2005 18:44:06 PHT

From the Malacañang

GMA to inspect P1.73 billion Bohol road network

TAGBILARAN, Bohol – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will inspect tomorrow Package 1 of the 260.7-kilometer, Pl.73 billion Bohol Circumferential Road (BCR) improvement project that is expected to help accelerate the economic development of Central Visayas and enhance the delivery of government services in the area.

In her fourth visit to Bohol this year, the President will also inspect the ongoing construction of the 124.4-km. Phase 2 of the BCR.

The circumferential road project, the main trunk route covering the island province, is also part of the government’s National Arterial Road Network (NARN). Divided into two phases, the BCR system will provide the basic infrastructure support badly needed to hasten the economic development of Bohol, notably its agri-business sector.

The ongoing Phase 1 of the BCR project is funded by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), formerly the Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund (OECF). The 124.4-km. Phase 2 road system traverses the towns of Calape, Buenavista, Talibon and Candijay.

On the other hand, the 136.02-km Phase 2 of the project was divided into two contract packages -- the 84.24-km Calape-Valencia section, and the 51.78-km Candijay-Jagna-Valencia section.

Bohol Gov. Erico Aumentado said the BCR network will "upgrade, improve and expand" the road system in the province, reduce transport costs and enhance Bohol’s economic development.

Project director Choong Do Lee, of the Korean construction firm Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Co., Ltd., project contractor, said concreting of the Baclayon-Albur section has been finished. This is the longest stretch of the BCR that has been completed.

Expected to join the President in the ceremonial drive through the completed road section is Gov. Aumentado, Bohol 1st District Representative Edgar Chatto, Alburquerque Mayor Efren Tungol, and Public Works and Highways Secretary-designate Hermogenes Ebdane Jr.

The President led the groundbreaking ceremony of the BCR road improvement project during a trip to this province on April 24, 2004.

Jeroen wrote:
Thursday, 17 February 2005 18:42:54 PHT

From The Manilla Bulletin

President off to Cebu, Bohol today


CEBU CITY — President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will fly to Cebu and the neighboring island of Bohol today and tomorrow for a series of activities, including the national launching of the Kapitbisig Laban sa Kahirapan (Kalahi) Cultural Services for the Poor.

According to the media advisory released by the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) 7 yesterday, President Arroyo will fly to Cebu first for selected engagements and then will proceed to Bohol.

She is expected to speak before a gathering of the Provincial Board Members’ League of the Philippines at the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel today.

In Bohol, President Arroyo is expected to drive through part of Package 1 of the R1.58-million Bohol Circumferential Road Improvement Project Phase 2 (BCRIP 2).

The contractor, Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Co. Ltd., has finished concreting two lanes of the national highway, the longest completed stretch between Baclayon and Albur towns.

She is also set to grace the launching of the Kalahi Cultural Services for the Poor, one of the strategies included in her 10-point development agenda, which will be held in Loboc town.

The President is expected to promote arts and culture in line with the celebration of the National Arts Month this February. Strengthening of the arts is a potent weapon to combat corruption and poverty, she said.

Through National Arts Month, she added, the artistic capabilities of communities will be harnessed to organize people to fight poverty hunger and win people towards full development through education and the promotion of gender equality, among others.

The Kalahi program consists of workshops to train people in the arts.

The President’s itinerary in Bohol includes the President’s opening of the Holy Name University’s Photographic Museum and Archive of Boholano Life and Culture and a visit to the Suarez Heritage House, both in Tagbilaran City; an inspection of the Baclayon Museum extension in Baclayon town, and launching the website of the San Roque High School in Albur.

On the way to the Joventino A. Digal Cultural Center, she will pass through the plaza where Boholanos are staging a Heritage Fair where crafts, local cuisine, cottage industries, and others will be displayed and where workshops on paintings and crafts will be held.

Filipinas wrote:
Thursday, 17 February 2005 14:28:45 PHT
Hi, I hope you can put this artile in your website. thanks--Leo


Loay is the site of the Sandugo?

IF physical evidence and first-hand account through extant manuscripts would decide the real place where the Sandugo took place then Loay takes the cake as the new site of the historic blood compact and a rewriting of the history books could be underway.

A nine-man composite team from different agencies of the government went to Bohol last week to conduct an on-site inspection on the claims of Loay and Tagbilaran as the site of the Sandugo.

The team with representatives from the Solicitor General, Maritime Administration among others has gathered evidence and their report will be forwarded to the National Historical Institute.

The NHI's director Ambet Ocampo is expected to hand down its decision whether or not Loay is the real place where the blood compact transpired.

Loay Vice Mayor Tibbs Bullecer Jr. told the Post that every reliable evidence points to the town as the possible site of the Sandugo.

There are reports that NAMRIA, the national mapping agency has provided maps that strengthened the claim of Loay as the site of the blood compact.

The vice mayor said Loay has the harbor that would facilitate an easy docking of ships that carry the conquistador de Legaspi.

Also the town has recently discovered a shallow well located in barangay Villalimpia formerly known as barrio Hinawanan.

Bullecer said they are confident that indeed the blood compact happened in their shores if one would consider the more reliable evidence and physical characteristics based on historical accounts.

He said Loay is basing its claim to fame on the account on one of the crew of Miguel Lopez de Legaspi that is allegedly preserved in an archive in Madrid .

After the inspection, a round-table discussion was conducted last Thursday where the manifestation of the panels from Loay and Tagbilaran were taken.

The panel of Tagbilaran will submit their manifestation that will form part of the basis of Ocampo and NHI's decision whether to correct or not the fact that Sandugo happened in the shores of Bool district in Tagbilaran.

Radio reports said Kag. Dandan Bantugan and former Kag. Rizalito Israel are willing to accept the judgement of the NHI if ever Loay would be declared as the true site of the Sandugo.

The NHI under Ocampo has been on the trail of revising and correcting history foremost of which is the correction of the site of the first mass in the Philippines .

The Sandugo or the blood compact between Rajah Sikatuna and conquistador y adelantado Miguel Lopez de Legazpi is the first pact of friendship between the locals and the Spaniards.

The Sandugo has been the inspiration of the festival held every March on the streets of Tagbilaran retelling the historic event through music, dances and colorful costumes. (By: Dave Albarado)

Marianito Luspo wrote:
Thursday, 17 February 2005 14:23:07 PHT
Baclayon: Saying goodbye to all these

By: Marianito Jose Luspo

A hundred and five years ago, a young soldier who came with the first American troops sent to pacify the island of Bohol got the chance to travel down Bohol 's southern road on the way to Loay. What he saw along the way (and these are preserved until now in a yellowed diary kept at the archives of Duke University) must have truly impressed him because he wrote: If I were Robinson Crusoe, this would be my island!

So what did Percival Scriven, for that was the name of this young man, see on the road to Loay? An island so green as to be unbelievable, and the seawater clean and teeming with wildlife. Passing by the shore of Baclayon , he observed wading birds moving along the mangrove-covered beaches. He noticed the houses, bigger and more sturdily built than those he had seen in other islands. He also noticed the old stone church and marveled as its magnificent size. He even noticed the pleasant-looking maestra (how I wished he could have jotted down her name) conducting her class inside the church. He also saw the Baclayanons selling their wares at the old stone market and made the remark to the effect that, based on the good available account, those people must live truly prosperous lives.

Until now, it would still have been possible for Corporal Percival Scriven to drive down Baclayon and see sites familiar to him. Two wars and decades of human ignorance and plain indifference may have robbed the present generation of some of the things this remarkable American (he was not highly educated, as can be deducted from his grammatical errors, but he was completely devoid of xenophobia and racial bias). But the old stone school is still there, standing across from the imposing church of the pleasant-faced maestra. And the old houses that are bigger and sturdier than houses he saw elsewhere in the island are, well, at least some of them, still there.

These are sites that enchanted not just our proto-tourist American soldier but waves upon waves of subsequent travelers as well. They all came to Bohol attracted by the natural and cultural wealth it has to offer. Much of what they can see in this island have given way to modernization and misplaced sense of development elsewhere. They did not mind so much the bumpy ill-paved highways. They came to see relics of a past that has largely disappeared elsewhere in this archipelago. They came to experience modern life with a laid-back ambience that more industrialized provinces have lost forever. They came to taste life in its charming, provincial best. And because we still have this aplenty, they kept coming in and coming back for more. How the province of Bohol cashed in on the heavy tourism traffic. How we basked in the glow of pride after having been declared top tourist destination of the country.

Then, like a bolt out of the blue came the decision to widen and cement the highways, ostensibly to facilitate the flow of traffic along Bohol 's southern flank. This by itself was welcome news for every Boholano commuter who for ages traveled along this tortuous road system. What is difficult to explain was the decision to ram though the project without regard for heritage areas along the way that would be affected. In Tubigon and Candijay, some enlightened citizens tried to save the century-old acacia trees along the highway. When their protests came to no avail, they fell back on the rationalization that, well, at least they could always plant new trees along the widened highway. But in Baclayon, the situation takes on a different hue.

Standing along the national highway passing through historic Baclayon is a string of old houses. Many of these were built at the turn of the century close to the shoreline because their original owners were traders who raised their residences within sight of the sea because their prosperity depended on the arrival of trading vessels from across the sea. These are houses that witnessed two occupation armies that entered their town, and survived both of them. It was probably along this charming old road, within sight of the ancient church that Captain Municipal Timoteo Oppus met the marching American troops, offering them drinks and an invitation to party, thus saving the town of Baclayon from being burned, as was the lot of twenty other towns of Bohol who resisted the occupiers. This was the same liquor-loving Capitan Tiyoy who, when informed that the Americans had tortured the mayors of Tagbilaran and nearby Corella by water cure reportedly remarked, “I don't care if they would do that to me, for as long as they use cerveza instead.”

It was also past these old houses that soldiers of the Japanese Imperial Army marched on their way to take possession of the town, many of whom, as an old Baclayon hand once told me, were Christians from the Nagasaki area who would march into church on Sundays to attend mass, and who judiciously vacated the town to save the ancient church of Baclayon from being shelled.

More importantly, it was in these old houses-respectable residences of respectable town elders of their generations that Boholano domestic culture, blossoming forth after the final pacification of the island in 1829, would find its local expression and find acceptance in various parts of the island. It was this particular way of life, emanating from these old houses that the beauty and charm and timeless grace conjured in the mind every time the name Baclayon is uttered originated. It is these images, in juxtaposition of the outlines of the nearby old church that gives character to this otherwise ordinary Third World town.

In a more perfect world, these storied abodes would be revered and preserved by a grateful community and find protection from the political leadership, In Japan, wood beams of houses and temples of old Kyoto would rot after centuries, but would soon be replaced by concerned citizens and made to look like they have always been there. The Germans failed to save old Dresden from the bombs of Second World War, but it is now meticulously restored brick by brick, stone by stone.

In Rome, archeologists had to be called every time diggings were done in the older sections of town to ensure that nothing historical would be compromised in the course of fulfilling contemporary needs. More closer to home, we can just marvel at how the citizens of Vigan managed to ensure the future of their old mestizo district by banding together and declaring the area a heritage area.

Not in Baclayon today, where the fate of once genteel old houses are determined by a chalked white X on the walls, and where the gears of heavy construction wait on the road like vultures waiting for the spirit of determined homeowners to flag and surrender to the inevitable. It's sad to note that the Baclayon that stood united in its fight to save and preserve its magnificent old church had become divided over the fate of its ancestral houses.

When the threat was first realized months ago, the voices raised for the preservation of the town's old houses were strong and untied. The sign Bahandi dili gub-on plastered on the walls houses became a potent battle cry. Then, when a hurried consultative meeting was called last January 20 to resolve the problem once and for all, the pro-demolition sector had suddenly become vocal, and vociferous as that. They shouted down the voices of the few remaining ancestral homeowners, branding them as romantic anti-development fanatics and selfish obstructionists.

Far from being selfish obstructionists, the beleaguered ancestral home-owners of Baclayon believe the continued existence of their old houses has a contribution to make towards the community's well-being.

As Telly Ocampo, leader of the ancestral home-owners group, puts it, “our heritage is ours to share.” By keeping these houses, she believes they are giving their town fellows as icon they could hang on to as they search for their collective future.

Obviously, a sinister hand with eyes set on something less than philanthropic and humanitarian went around the affected houses days before, convincing their owners that even as their old houses would be destroyed, they would be compensated enough anyway to be able to build a new and more modern homes.

The question now for Baclayon is not whether they would agree to bulldoze their heritage or not, for its very obvious that, based on the turn-out and posturing of those who attended the January 20 fiasco, majority of the people of Baclayon do not understand what heritage is all about, much less how to keep it. In other countries, heritage is revered and jealously maintained as potent symbols of national pride and consciousness. In Baclayon today, heritage is seen by a mindless majority as a commodity to be used in exchange for bread, which is alright if man lives only for bread.

So, if you have the chance to do it now, take a good look at these venerable old structures. They may not be here tomorrow. And if you have tears weep, for unlike the trees of Tubigon and Candijay, heritage uprooted cannot be planted back.

Leo P. Udtohan wrote:
Tuesday, 15 February 2005 13:28:01 PHT
I am pro-preservation of the centuries old houses of Baclayon... but what I don't like is the home owners claimed that Francisco Sendrijas, better known as Francisco Dagohoy, once lived in one of the houses. As far as history is concerned, I don't believe in it because the houses were built after the death of Dagohoy.

I even helped spreading awareness/campaign to help stop the demolition of the houses, which unfortunately, left and abandoned by the owners who are residing in other countries.

It doesn't help to make false claims. It is even counter-productive, because it takes away your own credibility. So, everybody with an interest in preserving historic landmarks should also have a commitment to truth. Everybody with a little bit of historical sense will know that Dagahoy, who lived in the 18th century, can never have been in a 19th century house.

It is much to my concern that a lot of old houses in the Philippines are demolished, either because their owners have left the country, and leave ancestral property to decay, or because such buildings are sold off, and then destroyed to make place for modern constructions. At best, nice ornaments are sold as antiques to foreign buyers, at worst they are simply burned as fuel. As an example I can give the very interesting watch-tower in Panglao (see pictures on this website) or what appears to be a former presidentia or school, now completely decayed, not far from that tower. As an aside, why isn't it possible to respect traditional designs in modern buildings. If you look at, for example the Clarin ancestral house in Loay, you will notice it is well designed for the climate, and, as a result, requires little energy to remain cool and pleasant. Building with respect for heritage will be an big improvement on the current practice of frivolous architecture we see appearing in the province.

Another concern is that the DPWH, time and again starts some nice project, and never seems to be able to finish it. The Loboc bridge is a national monument of shame, but also the four-yearly ritual of taking measurements (some how by accident mostly a little before election-time), and other preparations for road-improvements, but never completing the work. As an example, I can mention the Antequera-San Isidro-Tubigon road, which is mostly useless since construction of a small bridge started some three years ago (after first demolishing an existing dam) and is still not finished.--Jeroen.

The Bohol Chronicle wrote:
Tuesday, 15 February 2005 09:40:43 PHT
DPWH assures to save Baclayon Church

The centuries-old Baclayon Church, including its belfry, will not be demolished despite the road widening project, assured District Engineer Celestino M. Adlaon of the Department of Public Work and Highways (DPWH).

In a signed letter sent to the Chronicle last Tuesday, the DPWH official denied allegations that the church and belfry will be affected due to the continuing acquisition of road-right-of-way.

He categorically stated that “it is not true that the belfry will not be spared from the high-impact project.”

The district engineer reacted sharply to the statement of the owners of ancestral houses that the DPWH-Bohol is continuing its plan of widening beyond what was agreed with the governor.

Adlaon clarified that “majority of the petitioners already manifested their consent and cooperation during the consultative meeting held at the SB Session Hall of Baclayon last Jan. 27, 2005.”

The DPWH personnel was invited to that meeting to shed light on the position, Adlaon recalled.

However, on the petition filed by owners of 10 old houses along the narrow highway, the DPWH official said that the matter “will be settled amicably to achieve safety and security.”

Engr. Adlaon informed the public that until to date, no house or improvement has been demolished within the said 2-kilometer where these old houses are located.

The petition to spare these 10 old houses landed in the limelight, both in local and national media, after multi-millionaire civic leader Bea Zobel Jr., together with other officials of the Manila Metropolitan Museum, met with the home owners to support their cry to spare their homes from demolition.

Zobel met with Gov. Erico Aumentado last Sunday in Loboc town where she reiterated the appeal for the governor’s intervention to preserve the Baclayon Church and the old houses situated within the 2-km. stretch before reaching the Baclayon Church.

Dotilie Sojucu wrote:
Monday, 14 February 2005 10:02:30 PHT
I can't, for the life of me, understand what these gov't officials want to do in accomplishing this project. Do they want to have a repeat of that ghastly structure in Loboc (please correct me if i'm wrong b/c i gotto see that 3 years ago)? Why, Bohol has even been featured in countless articles/tv features as a place where history, beautiful nature and good people can be found. It bespoke of a place rich in religious, cultural and historical significance. Why put it to waste for a stretch of highway? Baclayon Church has a special place in my heart for personal reasons. But then it is not just that reason why I disagree with the plan. I think we should value progress in a way that we will not overlook and ignore history that has helped much in making us what we are today. Development or progress does not just mean concrete roads and buildings. IMHO, development and progress goes with respect and understanding of one's cultural, historical and religious background and infusing new and better values that will not just upgrade (though they sometimes degrade) the aesthetic values of a place and its people but rather will help uplift the spirits of the people to make them more progressive but still take pride in their heritage.
Chivy wrote:
Monday, 14 February 2005 07:57:29 PHT
Distinguished landmarks and old buildings connect and relate us to our history and our ancestors. Most parts of the developed world take great pride in their historic landmarks and guard and protect them with considerable zeal. To destroy or change a landmark such as Baclayon church and nearby historically important buildings would truly be short sided and contrary to best interest to the community. Surely we can find a less damaging way of widening a road rather than tearing down or destroying a part of this landmark.
Joydel A wrote:
Monday, 7 February 2005 05:30:22 PHT
Why Can't They Make Another Road That Won't Hit The Century Old Houses And The Church? If They Plan To Widen Bohol's Narrow Roads, They Have To Make It Sure That These Historical Places Would Be Spared. It's A Pity If They Would Destroy These Historical Figures. Since Bohol Gained So Much From Tourism, It Would Be A Good Idea To Leave These Historical Figures Intact..

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