Friday, June 23, 2006

A Petition to the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines: Please Stop the Further Defacing of Philippine Heritage Churches

Most Reverend Eminences and Excellencies:

Almost every town in the Philippines has at least one church built during the Spanish colonial period, all of which are inherent parts of the architectural heritage of Filipinos and stand as testaments to the excellence and creativity of Filipino artisans and craftsmen of yesteryears who labored to create these works of art.

These properties of the Filipino people are under the custodianship of the Roman Catholic Church and their representatives in the Republic of the Philippines.

It must have come to your knowledge that several parish priests have taken it upon themselves to modernize and renovate heritage churches under their care without proper consultation with conservationists or representatives of agencies mandated to protect cultural and historical heritage. In their desire to "leave their mark" on the churches, parish priests have caused irreversible damage to our old churches during their short stints in their parishes.

Sadly, there have been instances where parish priests sold off priceless antiques and other church property to unscrupulous antique dealers and collectors to fund these renovations, with the treasures of the Church ending up in homes and other private collections.

In many occasions, the renovations are costly and unnecessary, and at times ostentatious. Priests and parish pastoral councils have undertaken and continue to undertake large-scale fundraising campaigns for these renovations when such funds could be put to better use, especially in a Third-world country such as the Philippines.

The funds could instead be directed toward the three-fold pastoral program of action of the CBCP, to build character, capability and community. Instead of spending on renovations, the various parishes could use the funds “to empower those who are needy to construct a better future” by supporting “social action programs, training programs and institutions, research centers, schools, charitable agencies and organizations, religious orders and congregations, lay organizations and movements, Basic Ecclesial Communities,” that would “help people grow in capacities, such as the capacity to govern themselves, the capacity to develop their abilities, the capacity to find meaningful and fruitful employment and work, the capacity to care for our environment, the capacity to make leadership accountable.”

We, the undersigned petitioners, thus urge the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to protect the cultural heritage of the Philippine Catholic Church from further damage by ordering the immediate stop to all ongoing and proposed renovations to heritage churches that have not been approved by the CBCP Committee for the Cultural Heritage of the Church or reviewed by representatives of agencies mandated to protect cultural and historical heritage.

We also urge the CBCP to declare all Catholic churches in the Philippines fifty years or older as part of the cultural heritage of the Church and create a comprehensive list of all these churches for the information of the Filipino people and to aid the CBCP Committee for the Cultural Heritage of the Church in monitoring the said churches.

It should also empower the CBCP Committee for the Cultural Heritage of the Church by giving it the sole authority to approve any restoration, construction or further improvements of heritage churches, with the aid of representatives of agencies mandated to protect cultural and historical heritage, and the power to order the halt any restoration, construction or further improvement that it deems damaging to a heritage church.

Finally, we urge the CBCP to adopt a policy of frugality with the renovation of churches. It would be best to channel the funds for unnecessary renovations to the pastoral program of action of the CBCP.


To sign the petition, visit

Thursday, June 15, 2006

War museum at train station eyed
By Albert B. Lacanlale

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- A granddaughter of a war veteran is sharing the City Government’s enthusiasm to convert the old San Fernando Train Station in Barangay Sto Niño here into a World War II museum.

Indira Manaay Kane, descendant of a soldier who died in the hands of the Japanese soldiers at Camp O’Donnell Concentration Camp in Capas, Tarlac, said the train station is rich in history.

“Though it had been historically significant even before World War 2, it played a crucial role in the history of WWII because it is where the Death March ended, and where the hell trek to Capas, Tarlac started,” Kane said.

The train station, historical accounts say, was where Dr. Jose P. Rizal disembarked on June 27, 1892 to recruit members of the La Liga Filipina.

On April 9, 1942, Gen. Edward P. King surrendered the Luzon Force in Bataan to the 14 Imperial Army under the command of Lt. Gen. Masaharu Homma. The surrendered men were ordered to gather in Mariveles, Bataan.

The Filipino and American soldiers were then forced to form columns of 100 to 400 men. These columns, guarded by Japanese soldiers, were forced to march to the train station in San Fernando, Pampanga.

The first two columns began the march on the evening of April 9 and the last column left Mariveles on April 16, 1942.

This march was to be completed in two phases: first, was from Mariveles to Balanga, Bataan; second, from Balanga to San Fernando, Pampanga.

This forced, four-to-six-day march was later memorialized by the name “Bataan Death March,” which for Filipinos and Americans symbolizes the greatest example of patriotic sacrifice, heroism and man’s inhumanity to man.

Upon arriving at the train station in Barangay Sto. Niño, the malnourished, dehydrated and diseased men collapsed from exhaustion in the area around the train station. Many citizens of San Fernando risked their lives, in full view of the Japanese, by attempting to give the Marchers food and water.

Most of the marchers ere kept in those open fields over night -- many died there. The next day, they were packed like sardines into steel box cars for their train ride to Capas, Tarlac.

Although the end of their journey was Camp O’Donell in Capas, the marching portion of the Death March ended in San Fernando.

“I believe that if we enforce that part of history in the minds of our people, we don’t only re-educate them, we are also making them aware of its importance, thus, we can get their support for this project,” Kane said, referring to the idea of housing WWII memorabilia in the train station.

Recently, the National Historical Institute (NHI) declared the train station as among the country’s protected historical sites.

“We need to develop the train station as tourists get to visit it all year round. Its preservation is a must. There are lots of WWII veterans here and abroad who are supporting this project so there is a need to make the people of Pampanga aware about it,” Kane said.

Kapampangans told to unite in nation-buidling

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- The local citizenry and all Filipinos were urged Monday to unite in order to achieve the freedom and prosperity for which thousands of Filipino revolutionary forces have laid their lives in the struggle for sovereignty against the Spanish colonizers.

This call for unity was aired by officials all over the province during their respective celebrations of the 108th Philippine Independence Monday.

At the Capitol, provincial executives said the people must be more nationalistic to realize unity, peace and development for the Filipinos, while at the City Hall, the Independence Day celebrations served to heighten the nationalism and patriotism of the government officials for the interest and welfare of the Filipinos.

In Angeles City, city officials said it is only through unity that the bickering among political forces would end and allow real economic progress to set in.

The Independence Day celebrations in the City of San Fernando started with a flag raising ceremony and the releasing of white doves in front of the City Hall, led by Mayor Oscar S. Rodriguez, Vice Mayor Edwin Santiago and councilors.

In his speech, Rodriguez reiterated the sacrifices of our heroes, who gave their lives for us to attain freedom.

“Many people forget these sacrifices that our heroes did for us to be free — a privilege they themselves did not enjoy at the hands of oppressors,” Rodriguez said.

This was then followed by a parade of floats together with students carrying flags who were accompanied by their teachers from Barangay Dolores to the Pampanga Sports Complex.

Among the guests during the parade were former tourism secretary Gemma Cruz Araneta, who is now the chairwoman of the Heritage Conservation Society; and Tofa awardees Eddie Chua and Ivan Henares.

Angeles top city councilor Vicky Vega Cabigting, meanwhile, said during Angeles City’s Independence Day celebrations, that if each and everyone of the Filipino people would continue to strive to become good citizens, the country would eventually realize the aspirations for sovereignty of Filipino revolutionary soldiers who shed their blood against the Spanish regime and later, the American forces.

The Kuliat Foundation Inc. (KFI), Angeles City’s keeper of historical and cultural heritage, also highlighted the city’s role in the revolution against the Spaniards and subsequently the Americans in a reenactment of the first anniversary of the Declaration of Philippine Independence at its actual site — the Pamintuan Mansion in Barangay Sto. Rosario.

Carmen McTavish, KFI president, said the foundation is committed to continue the annual reenactment to increase everyone’s awareness of city’s role in Philippine history, with the Pamintuan mansion serving as the headquarters of revolutionary forces and being the seat of the short-lived First Philippine Republic.

KFI presented the reenactment in cooperation with the Angeles City Tourism Office (Acto) headed by Ethel Galang.

Galang said the event highlighted the shining moment in Philippine history when Angeles was in the center of the struggle of the revolution.

Galang said actors from the local theater group The Academy’s Theater Ensemble (Tate) of The Academy of Performing Arts, composed the cast

“The Pamintuan Mansion, where the Central Bank Clearing House is presently located, is the very place where the said first and only celebration actually happened. The mansion became the general headquarters of Filipino Revolutionary Forces, and the seat of the first but short-lived Philippine Republic,” Galang said.

“The historical mansion was recently given its due recognition by the National Historical Institute, when its temporary stone marker was placed,” she added.

Meanwhile, the local government unit of Guagua, in observance of the Independence Day celebration, also held a civic military parade which coincided with the unveiling of the monument of the late President Diosdado Macapagal.

During the program,” 2nd District Representative Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo called for unity to obtain a strong republic.

“We must be united as one and work for peace, progress and prosperity for us to move as one nation towards a stronger republic,” the young Arroyo stressed.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Lack of support frustrates foundation

By Tonette Orejas

ANGELES CITY, Pampanga -- Officials of a foundation organizing commemoration rites for the first and last anniversary of Independence Day here held by the short-lived first Philippine Republic said they were frustrated by the national government’s lack of recognition of the event.

Despite invitations, no representatives from the executive, legislative or judicial departments had graced the reenactment of the June 12, 1899 episode at the Pamintuan mansion here since its centennial, according to Jose Paras Jr., Kuliat Foundation Inc. vice president and museum curator.

Paras said the events had remained local occasions although the National Historical Institute (NHI) installed a marker at the mansion in 2004.

The NHI recognized the mansion as the general headquarters of Filipino revolutionary forces led by Gen. Antonio Luna and the seat of the First Republic and a presidential palace.

It was President Emilio Aguinaldo who led the celebration of the first anniversary of the declaration of independence in Kawit, Cavite, on June 12, 1898. Generals Gregorio del Pilar of Bulacan and Manuel Tinio of Nueva Ecija led the Army parade.

From one of the windows of the stately European-style Pamintuan residence, Aguinaldo was said to have waved the original flag sewn in Hong Kong and raised during the Kawit rites.

However, the event turned out to be the last celebration because the republic started to crumble, leading to the eventual capture of Aguinaldo by Americans in Isabela province on March 23, 1901.

Paras said Aguinaldo regarded the 1899 rites significant.

A copy of an English translation of his speech that day quoted Aguinaldo as describing the event as a commemoration of the “greatest event in our political evolution.”

“[It was] the date on which the [Filipino] people, thirsting for liberty, justice and the exercise of their proper rights, thronged to Cavite, to carry out this highly patriotic manifestation, the beginning of a new era of progress and well-being for our idolized country, to the cry of ‘The Philippines free and independent,’” said Aguinaldo.

“The Philippines is for the Filipinos,” he said.

Luna protected the seat of the republic by putting up a defense line in the towns of Sta. Rita, Porac, Magalang, Mabalacat and Angeles.

These areas were secured by 25,000 soldiers with about 10,000 riflemen protecting Angeles as American forces captured Malolos in Bulacan and advanced toward San Fernando, Pampanga, according to local historian Daniel Dizon, 76.

The mansion served as headquarters of Gen. Arthur MacArthur until after the Filipino-American war in 1901.

“We are frustrated. Our national officials have given no value to this event when there are so much proof about its historical importance and to think that President Macapagal-Arroyo hails from Pampanga. We don’t know their reasons for not coming. We hope it’s not [because of] indifference,” Paras told the Inquirer on Thursday.

“We’re still not losing hope that they would come. Their presence is a statement that the 1899 event is just as important in the struggle for freedom,” he said.

The mansion still stands intact because the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, through its former governor, Jaime Laya, rescued it from dilapidation as well as sale by the heirs.

In 1976, the BSP spent P25 million to buy the lot and restore the house, said Dizon.

The BSP uses the mansion as an office, lending it only to the foundation every June 12.