MARIBOJOC, Bohol, April 12 (PIA)—The Philippine Government continues to affirm its commitment to the protection of the vitality of the country’s cultural heritage. 

The statement of affirmation came from no less than Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco who met international delegates and participants of the Asia Pacific Tropical Climate Conservation Art Research Network (APTC-CARN) meeting at the Holy Cross Parish in Maribojoc, Bohol on April 4 to 6. 

Sec. Evasco said among their meeting agenda was preparing for the “Big One,” a projected earthquake that could originate from the Marikina Valley Fault. 

“If it will happen, it will hit our people and our cultural heritage,” said Evasco, who delivered the government’s commitment to the emerging concern on heritage and natural resource protection against tropical climate and the effects of climate change. 

Truly a new challenge, heritage conservation and protection with the adverse effects of climate change and natural disasters have made it necessary for governmenet to implement steps to mitigate and project plans, said Evasco to the 45 participants during the first day of the international experts’ forum held in Maribojoc. 

Admitting that heritage conservation is not part of the educational curriculum for priests, Evasco said that many of the Bohol churches have been managed by parish priests who see conservation differently. 

“Everytime [you] see decay in the structures, [they] demolish and replace [them] with hollow blocks," he said.

Now seeing the cultural and the emotional value of built heritage in centuries old coral stone churches, Evasco called the magnificent structure now laid to ruins a tangible repository of people’s fond memories.

The earthquake of 2013, however, toppled the church and had many of its movable heritage including its priceless gothic retables, antique icons, and rare archival books that detail the history of the town once called Karaang Dunggu-an. 

Before the community could dig through the pile of rubbles for the buried treasures, typhoon Haiyan ravished the region and sent rains, further rendering the archival documents beyond salvage. 

Recalling how he played as a child in the ruined church courtyards of Maribojoc, Evasco admitted that the country has not been as bullish with heritage conservation until recently. 

In the Philippine Development Plan, there is now a separate chapter on culture and another separate chapter on mitigating the impacts of disaster, Evasco revealed to the delegates which included international conservation experts from Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Vietnam, The Philippines and Australia. 

Citing the importance of the APTC CARN to foster regional collaboration, Evasco also urged more proactive policies on the conservation of retables, heritage structures, antique canonical books and movable heritage against unfavorable weather, termite and insect infestation as well as property inventory and capacity building trainings for communities.

The APTC CARN in Bohol, hosted by the National Museum of the Philippines, banners the theme "Natural Disasters and Cultural Heritage in the Philippines: Knowledge Sharing, Decision Making and Conservation." (rmn/rahc/PIA-7/Bohol)