looking back to the future

i came across this blog post that talks about the apparent plan of a major real estate firm to build a mall in the heart of san fernando’s downtown, which has been declared a heritage district.

while all towns and cities are dynamic, meaning that the evolution of people’s needs and wants and circumstances define their built environment, it is but proper that we hang on to what we were in the past and let permanent symbols (whether in literature, art, music, and well, architecture and urban design) of that remain, to constantly remind us of our identity, our culture, and our heritage. this way, we at least get to delay becoming part of the generic pulp that now defines much of cultures of the world.

however, in this age of cloning, that becomes a bigger challenge. you can’t stop “progress” (i.e, the mall and the revenues it will bring to the city’s coffers) from happening. i’m not going to go on a diatribe on the “mall-inization”of the philippine landscape because i used to work in a company that is engaged in the same business and refuse to be branded as a hypocrite. whether we accept it our not, they serve certain economic and social purposes, and have as much right to be part of the anthropological landscape when future scholars look back at these times. otherwise, they should have long not survived.

the key is in urban planning. to a certain extent, san fernando is lucky because it is protected by a specific heritage ordinance that restricts the kinds of structures that can be constructed within the heritage district in terms of height, density, design, etc. however, not most cities and municipalities are as advanced as san fernando when it comes to heritage conservation. in fact, in bagac, bataan stands a vast “cemetery” of heritage buildings that have been uprooted from their original locations and rebuilt in an artificial town that seeks to recreate the ways of times past. it’s like a disneyland of old (some say, haunted) houses. it does feel creepy in more ways than one.

again, there are two opinions on that development in bataan. some say it should be lauded because at least the buildings that otherwise would have been torn down (due to disrepair or the inability of the owners to maintain them) had been saved and are now being preserved. others maintain, however, that to preserve heritage means saving a house or a building within the context and environment where it was originally constructed. to literally uproot it from its history is to lose its heritage altogether.

he.he. so you always wondered and asked me what urban and regional planning is all about right? ha, that’s just the tip of the field, given that heritage planning and conservation is a relatively new, sexy practice within the multi-faceted discipline.

(photos were taken from the las casas filipinas project — www.lascasasfilipinas.com — in bataan)


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Guagua Girl says:

    i'm familiar with las cases. my aunt from california and some cousins went there earlier this year. i thought the houses looked gorgeous, but the whole place just felt weird (in the photos anyway). too sterile. i fall with the latter group on this one. i believe context/environment is very important in preservation.

    i would rather buildings such as the ones in las casas remain in their original locations and rehabilitated for another use. i've seen examples of this done quite well in dutchess county. historical houses that have been turned into inns, restaurants, etc. i'm sure the purists would gasp in horror but if enough of the structure's original design and character is kept despite some updates, then hooray!


  2. Betis Boy says:

    there was one interesting structure there — the one that served as a UP school building… i think it used to be located in the quiapo district. anyway, there was a time it became a brothel and a venue for live sex shows. hmmm. education takes a lot of forms, doesn't it? 😛


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