Folks petition to declare Casa Vallejo as heritage site

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014


THE cause of preserving the city’s oldest hotel is gathering more online support from Baguio residents, heritage conservationists and netizens who loved the old Baguio.

Concerned residents recently came up with an online petition seeking the help of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) to declare the more than a century old Casa Vallejo building as a heritage site or important cultural property.

The petition posted at the website change.org by the Save Casa Vallejo Movement as of press time has more than 1,600 signatures and now has gone viral over social networking site Facebook.

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It called on NCCA Chairman Felipe De Leon Jr. to declare the American era structure and the city’s oldest hotel as a heritage site or important cultural property and ensure its future protection and preservation.

This after the more than 2,000 square meter property’s tenants and structure was recently placed in danger by a recent issuance of an ancestral land title over the area by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

Tenants in the area were surprised to receive a notice to vacate on January 10 from the Office of the City Sheriff effecting a writ of possession issued by the NCIP in favor to the heirs of Cosen Piraso represented by a certain Richard Acop.

However, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ National Resources Development Corporation, through its president Felix Mariñas, and the city government, led by Mayor Mauricio Domogan, maintained the issuance of title to the claimants is unlawful and highly questionable.

Both the NRDC and the City Legal Office are filing nullification cases through the Office of the Solicitor General for the reversal of the NCIP decision.

Mayor Domogan said while the City Government recognizes legitimate ancestral land claims it will continue to file adverse claims to spurious and questionable claims in various public parks, reservations and lands occupied by national line agencies.

Meantime, the local community is expressing continued concern over heritage sites through a citizens' action against the spurious issuance of ancestral claims. Residents will conduct a peaceful sit-in show of unity in front of Casa Vallejo today, Tuesday, 8 to 10 a.m., 12 to 2 p.m. and 3 to 5 p.m., to gather support for the preservation of the building.

“As concerned citizens, we urgently seek protection for Casa Vallejo as it is currently the subject of a property dispute. We fear that the outcomes of this dispute may lead to the destruction of an important heritage site,” the online petition reads.

“The legal possession of the property is a complex issue, but with the recognition of Casa Vallejo as an important cultural property, we hope to at least protect it from any future demolition and to preserve it as part of Baguio’s heritage Regardless of ownership of the property, it is in the interest of Baguio City that it is not demolished,” the petition added.

Casa Vallejo was originally built in 1909 as a dormitory for construction workers building up the city during the American occupation.

The building is one of the few remaining historical, pre-World War II structures in Baguio as the city was almost flattened during World War II.

In 1923, according to the online petition, the building was leased to Salvador Vallejo, a Spaniard who came with the Spanish army who turned the building into a hotel whom his family members operated until 2000.

The building currently houses a hotel, a restaurant, a bookshop, a spa, and a cinematheque, but much of the original structure remains as it is today.

Several city councilors have also expressed of crafting a similar resolution based on the petition which moves to declare the historic building as a heritage site.

Recently, Councilors Elmer Datuin and Richard Cariño also sponsored a resolution urging the Department of Education and the Heritage Conservation Society to maintain and preserve Teachers Camp as a heritage site.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on January 14, 2014.

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