TAGBILARAN CITY, April 12 (PIA)—The earthquake of 2013 has turned Bohol into a learning area for conservation and its recognized people’s democratic forms of conservation mitigating the effects of tropical climate. 

No less than the Thai Center Director of the South East Asian Ministers of Education Organization Regional Center for Archaeology and Fine Arts (SEAMEO-SPAFA) Dr. Rujaya Abhakorn declared this during his message during the fifth gathering of the Asia Pacific Tropical Climate Conservation Art Research Network (APTC CARN5) April 4 to 6 in Maribojoc and Tagbilaran City, Bohol. 

The National Museum of the Philippines hosted the international forum here in Bohol which bannered the theme "Natural Disasters and Cultural Heritage in the Philippines: Knowledge Sharing, Decision Making and Conservation." 

Art conservateurs and heritage conservation experts from Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines met community knowledge holders and cultural heritage practitioners in a bid to deepen people-to-people linkages across a diverse range of skills, capabilities and experiences of cultural heritage recovery and disaster management in Bohol, as well as in southeast Asia and the Pacific, explains National Museum Assistant Director Dr. Ana Labrador. 

From its foundation, APTC CARN has already seen the need of geographically focused cultural materials conservation, and in 8 years, it has built a community of practice which has revealed important information about culture and the conservation challenging conditions in the region, she added. 

The Bohol forum focused on the effect of natural disasters on the build and movable cultural heritage, the people and places. 

While the forum participants saw the impact of the 2013 earthquake, typhoon Haiyan proved to be the coup de grace for heritage structures and movable treasures surviving the tremor. 

During the forum’s site visits, participants and experts talked with local heritage keepers into salvage, rehabilitation and sustained management of Bohol’s cultural assets and heritage. 

This also presented to Dr. Abhakorn the chance to see and listen to Evasco, who detailed how the crumbled church of his hometown in Maribojoc stood as a people’s identity. 

Evasco recalled how his massive centuries old church, now a pile of coral stone tablets stacked for restoration, has marked milestones in the life of Maribocjanons. 

Himself already counted as a community knowledge holder, Evasco along with Bohol cultural heritage practitioners see a brighter future for heritage conservation, despite the fact that the Philippines ranks high in its vulnerability to the impacts of tropical climate and climate change and natural hazards.

From the experience, Dr. Abhakorn has declared that the country and the region would be looking at Bohol as a model for disaster management and teacher for cultural heritage conservation. 

“Here we have seen the birth of construction innovations and the rise of heritage consciousness,” the SPAFA Center director pointed out specifically hinting at Rev. Fr. Milan Ted Torralba’s works.

Fr. Torralba, a Boholano chair of the Commission on the Cultural Heritage of the Church in the Diocese of Tagbilaran, has long been sitting as executive secretary to the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines’ Episcopal Commission for the Cultural Heritage. 

Dr. Abhakorn, as well as the forum experts also interacted with Escuella Taller, an innovative initiative of the Spanish Embassy in coordination with the Philippine Government and Diocese of Tagbilaran. 

Escuela Taller is a program of retraining out-of-school youth on the lost arts of woodworks, stone masonry, painting and carpentry, in the long term vision of capacity building communities to help in the restoration and conservation of heritage structures. (rahc/PIA-7/Bohol)