In the recent events where social media made an uproar on Liza Soberano’s tweet equating being a Filipino by loving Sinigang, one can see that Filipinos are very nationalistic. It is seen by the support everyone shows when Filipinos or anyone who is half-blood thrive on international competitions and the nation moves mountain to support their bet.
However, nationalism in the country is selective, people only care of what’s seen on the international setting but almost everyone is ignorant of what’s happening in the country. An example of this are the demolition of Heritage structures that are the living and physical manifestation of the country’s glory before its downfall as the sick man of Asia.
On the last quarter of 2017, the demolition of Capitol theatre along Escolta has started to give way for a high-rise residential structure. What’s more appalling is that National Heritage Commission of the Philippines and National Museum of the Philippines gave a go-signal for the demolition on the grounds of public safety and the inauthenticity of the façade’s structure.
Capitol theatre is one of the latest victims of the government over destruction of heritage modernist structures. The theatre is made by a national artist Juan Nakpil in 1935 and it is in direct protection of the National Culture and Heritage Act of 2009 or RA 10066. One cannot stop thinking how this heritage institutions came up with their decision as without much of public’s notice.
Demolition of historical sites has been a long battle between heritage conservationist and profit driven private companies backed up by the City Government. RA 10066 was also a product from the uproar on the demolition of the historical Jai Alai building last 2000. However, the law fall dead to the greedy politicians and businessmen.
In the case of the Capitol theatre, NCCA, NHCP and NM instructed the developer of the high-rise residential structure, Ascott Resources and Development Corporation, to tear down the building and to create a perfect replica of the façade and to incorporate it to the high-rise structure. The façade sculpture by Francesco Monti will be retained and restored. This seems to be a win-win agreement but it is only a mask to cover the bastardization of the law.
It is true that retrofitting and adaptive reuse of the old buildings cost more than demolishing and building new structures but a lot fail to see the potential and the long term benefit of doing such. In terms of tourism if we are able to preserve our heritage buildings in the Metro, we can increase tourism in Metro Manila alone. What happens at the present is that the city center is ignored or completely avoided before going to our well-known beaches. This is one of the reason for the producers of Bourne legacy to choose Manila as a set location, it is definitely not due to the city’s “Beauty” but because it embodies the perfect description of “Gateway from Hell”.
The ignorance and lack of support from Filipinos only encourage the destruction of our national treasures. However, it is not the common people’s fault that most of them are not familiar with these structures but it makes the blame to our government and education system is bigger to allow such thing to happen.
Architects have big responsibility to promote and to fight for the country’s heritage, they are the forerunners of this advocacy but even this small group has factions that divides the community and fails to remember their social responsibility.
Preserving our national heritage might be a first world problem and might not be a priority for a third world country. Art, design and history may not be important for a country like The Philippines and the government’s efforts would go to the more practical aspects of the economy or politics, but a question comes to mind if we continue to think it only in this point of view.
There was a point in history that Art, Design, History, Literature and Sciences were tools for economic and political growth in the Renaissance period, how come we are not able to do a Paradigm Shift? Circumstances are relative and today’s age is in advantage due to technology, but how come we cannot use these the tools of the period to create our own renaissance?