Roa: The loss of public memory

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By Paulita R. Roa

Past Speaks

Sunday, December 22, 2013

WE, KAGAY-ANONS, like the rest of the peoples of the world, have memories about certain places in our land.

We often bring our children and friends to those sites in order to reminisce and share why these places are memorable to us.

This is in part an exercise of what is known as "public memory."

The community amphitheater, popularly called the “Amphi,” has evoked countless wonderful memories since it was the center of the city's cultural, social and political events for many decades.

This was built during the administration of Mayor Justiniano R. Borja and part of the funds came from the then Miss Cagayan de Oro beauty contests.

We were proud of our Amphi for its unique design and location.

Then, by a mere stroke of a pen, this heritage structure was ordered demolished and replaced by an ugly one that has kept many guessing if it is an unfinished bridge or a diving board.

Below is a police station and a haven for the blind “masahistas” and their clients in the evening.

Until now, the public memory of the amphi is still strong as I hear friends who shared with me why it was special to them and of the collective anger and sadness felt by the locals over its loss.

“The celebration of American heritage can often be read from the American landscape, and it can be reinforced through material culture such as museums and monuments.” Paul A. Shackel, “Public Memory and the Search for Power in American Historical Archaeology” (2007)

We have nothing to celebrate and be proud of in our city as our heritage resources are dwindling and in danger of being obliterated like in the case of our lost amphi; because we have the misfortune of having officials who are either culturally insensitive or do not know our history.

As you travel in Europe, you see centuries-old buildings and parks that are well preserved with the locals helping to maintain their heritage resources.

Here, no such thought and even respect is given by the powers that be as they pull down a heritage structure or renovate a heritage site without bothering to know its historicity and even the feelings of the Kagay-anons.

This is what happened to the Amphi and Gaston Park. And God forbid if in the near future Plaza Divisoria will be further renovated to the point that we will feel that we are in an alien land with no public memory or association of the place at all.

Then, there is the recent case where our national historical marker known as the "Labanan sa Cagayan de Misamis" has been removed in its hallowed spot in Gaston Park.

The Cagayan de Oro Historical and Cultural Commission was not consulted about this transfer and Mayor Oscar S. Moreno has yet to answer the letter of appeal from our Chair, Lourdes M. la Viña to return this marker to its original site.

For the information of the public, this is a prestigious historical marker that is owned by the national government and the city government is mandated to care for it in perpetuity.

Its installation in Gaston Park in April 7, 2000 during the centennial of the Battle of Cagayan de Misamis by no less than the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), formerly the National Historical Institute, indicates that this battle is now part of national history.

Because of this, Gaston Park is included in the Registry of National Heritage Sites of the country by the NHCP.

As of now, we do not know where the marker is stored while the renovation of the park is going on.

Also, since the discovery of many artifacts in Gaston Park last June, 2011, the area has been declared by the National Museum as an archaeological site and we have a letter signed by Wilfredo P. Ronquillo, head of the Archaeology Division who examined the artifacts and attested to its genuineness.

But we have lost forever the only park in the whole city that has lots of grass for it is now cemented and tiled.

So how can we do further archaeological investigations there?

I like what R.F. Langford wrote – that “our past, our culture and heritage forms part of our present life. And as such, it is ours to control and it is ours to share on our terms.”

However, with what is going in recent years, it seems that our heritage resources have dwindled because they are in the hands of a few who controlled it and has succeeded in doing whatever they wished, based on their own ideas and terms. Pastilan!

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on December 23, 2013.


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