The National Heritage Month of May ushered in the Taoid celebration of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).
The Ilocano word for “heritage,” Taoid is the flagship program of NCCA’s Subcommission on Cultural Heritage (SCH), headed by Commissioner Fr. Harold Rentoria, OSA. The theme this year was “Pamanang Pinoy: Taoid 2014.”
Heritage clinics all over the country were being conducted by the NCCA national committees on archives, art galleries, historical research, libraries and information services, monuments and sites, and museums.
The Taoid tour was held recently in Bicol to focus on heritage structures and sites in the provinces of Albay, Masbate and Sorsogon, known collectively as Almasor.
The main celebration was held in Albay to focus on Daraga Church and Mayon Volcano. Declared a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum in 2007, Daraga Church has its eastern and western façades and baptistery still intact.
Also considered a cultural landmark are the ruins of Cagsawa Church, which was buried by lava from the eruption of Mayon Volcano in 1814.
“Cagsawa Church is a historical site, and, behind it, Mayon Volcano, is a natural heritage,” explained Father Rentoria. “We would like to send the message that we need to protect both built and natural heritage.”
The Augustinian friar added that Taoid and the NCCA sought to foster awareness about heritage and to look for structures and sites that could be formally declared of cultural or historical importance.
Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said his administration was united with the NCCA in conserving cultural landmarks and fostering public awareness of their significance.
Salceda said Albay sustained “cultural practices” so that they could form part of the people’s “muscle memory.”
“Unang-una talaga, kailangan you should practice culture para maging kasama sa muscle memory mo,” he pointed out. “Katulad dito sa Albay, ang paggawa ng handicraft ay parang muscle memory dahil sa practice.”
Salceda added that all tourism programs in the province were “culture-based.”
He explained that an “investment-driven” tourism program might put up resorts and tourist facilities that could be wiped out by storms and disasters. He said it was best to anchor tourism on culture and creative practices.
“So our cultural assets are immune from natural disasters,” he added.
Salceda emphasized that tourists were looking for a tourist site’s distinct cultural identity and look. He said it was culture that united the people and provided them a distinct identity.
“Mahirap magpagalaw ng bayan in one direction but through culture, and because 92 percent of Albay is Christian, it became easy,” Salceda said. “Everybody paddles in the same direction, therefore we’re closer and closer to the aspirations of our own people and we have done that because of culture.”
First Catholic Mass
Even before May, there had been run-up festivities such as the one on Limasawa Island, Southern Leyte, the site of the first Catholic Mass in the country, in line with the 493rd anniversary of the historic event.
SCH conducted an ocular inspection and technical assessment of cultural properties, sites and structures on Limasawa, as well as natural heritage sites.
There was a heritage cleanup drive as part of the Bayanihan Project Series (BPS).
Taoid held heritage school tours called “Mga Kuwentong Pamana sa Mga Batang Bida,” which aimed to spread the message of heritage conservation advocacy to the younger generation.
Because of recent disasters in the Visayas, the 2014 Taoid also touched on disaster preparedness and risk reduction.
The steering committee of Taoid 2014 was composed of Fr. Rentoria, head of SCH and the National Committee on Archives; Stephen S. Totanes, vice head of SCH and head of the National Committee on Historical Research; Lucille Karen E. Malilong-Isberto, head of the National Committee on Monuments and Sites; Marilou P. Tadlip, head of the National Committee on Libraries and Information Service; Robert Bjorn O. Santos, head of the National Committee on Art Galleries, as represented by Delan Robillos, vice head of the Galleries group; and Amado R. Alvarez, head of the National Committee on Museums.
Proclamation No. 439, signed on Aug. 11, 2003, declares the month of May as National Heritage Month “in recognition of the need to create among the people a consciousness, respect, and pride for the legacies of Filipino cultural history and love of country.”
In 2009, the government formally made heritage conservation a legal mandate, by ratifying and implementing Republic Act 10066, the National Heritage Act of 2009, empowering NCCA and its affiliated agencies in policy-making and conservation enforcement.
The original article is published at Philippine Daily Inquirer on June 2, 2014.