Reasons to celebrate monumental honors

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By Fe San Juan Hidalgo

Citizen Fe

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


THE United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (Unesco) has added the Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary in Davao Oriental to the World Heritage List.

Tourism asst. sec. Arturo Boncato Jr. first broke the news in his Facebook page while attending the 38th meeting of the World Heritage Committee in Doha, Qatar. Special thanks were extended to the International Union for Conservation of Nature for the evaluation data of the site. The sites are classified into cultural or natural cites or both cultural and natural sites. The Mt. Hamiguitan Range is classified as natural. It is the only protected sanctuary well-known for its century-old pygmy forest. It covers 31,879 hectares of land with its flora and fauna of the mossy forests. The endangered Philippine Eagle and endemic plants as the carnivorous pitcher plants are found here.

The Provincial Government has policies to ensure the protection of the forests. The tourism program of the province is a product of a congressional act signed by Pres. Benigno Aquino III identifying it as a tourism development area. We have all the reason to celebrate this event. It is the sixth World Heritage Site of the Philippines. I will take this opportunity to write about the other five World Heritage Cites.

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This is full of exciting bits of information some of us might not have heard of. Number 1 is the Historic Town of Vigan in Ilocos Sur. It is classified as cultural. It is the outstanding Colonial Town in Asia. It has its cobbled streets and unique architecture of homes combining the Asian and European townscape. It has no parallel in the whole East and Southeast Asia. Their costumes are unique and elegant. Their modes of transportation are the quaint carromatas and the vintage cars for the rich. What astounds me is the preservation of all this old townscapes until now. Vigan is always included in the itinerary of tourists, both local and foreign. The Vigan " langonisa " is famous for its unique taste. The town folks are courteous and hospitable. The lines of houses of the rich families are usually huge with mortar walls occupying four streets surrounding it. The rich send their children to the prestigious schools in Manila.

Number 2 in my list is the Subterranean River National Park in Puerto Princesa, Palawan. I was lucky to have visited this place as a summer tour gift of my school where I taught. The trip was very eventful and educational. We took a tourist boat at the entrance of the cave. We were given helmets to protect us from the droppings of the bats roosting inside the cave at daytime. Our guide carried a big search light to show us the exquisite beauty of the cave's interior. Stalactites and stalagmites, picturesque lime stone and coral formations on the walls and ceilings left me gaping imagining formed images on the rocks. The art of nature is at its best. The bonus in this tour is the free entrance of senior citizens. Outside the cave, monitor lizards were roaming around, monkeys were jumping around playfully. There was a notice to take care of our bags because the monkeys may get them and feast on lipsticks to paint their faces. At twilight we were invited to view the bats going out of the cave in hordes practically blackening the sky. This underground river really deserves the title. In another international competition it earned the title as the eighth wonder of the Modern World.

Number 3 in the list is Ifugao Rice Terraces in the Cordilleras, Mountain Province classified as cultural. I visited this, too, courtesy of my school again. This is 2000 years old. Rice puddies were built by the natives with bare hands following the contour of the mountain sides. There were miles and miles of the terraces as far as your eyes can see. It is a marvel of man's handiwork. I took pictures for my album. The rice grown here is a delicacy in Baguio. When some parts of the terraces were destroyed the World Heritage Sites financed its rehabilitation. Around the terraces, the natives dressed in their typical costumes posed for photographers for souvenir photos for a fee. It was ok with us as a help for them. The rice terraces photo is seen in our money denomination.

Number 4 in the list classified as cultural are the Baroque Churches of the Philippines made up of San Agustine Church in Intramuros, Manila, Miag-ao in Iloilo; Paoay Church in Ilocos Sur, and Santa Maria Church also in Ilocos Sur. These are all Baroque Churches in the Philippines built in the 16th century during the Spanish Regime. I saw some of this. Curiously, I learned that the mortars used here were welded together by using the white of raw eggs. They even said the dish, the leche flan was made using the yolk of the eggs. It makes sense, I think. The churches are massive and have artistic icons, windows, and doors. I saw Paoay church. I even saw a church buried showing only its turret, the effect of a major earthquake. That must have been a lot of egg whites.

Number 5 in the list is Tubbataha Reefs National Park near the Sulu Sea. It is classified as Natural. Maybe you are familiar with this since it was in the news lately when it was destroyed by a USA vessel. The case remains unsolved till now. This site covers 130,028 hectares of an atoll reef housing rare marine species of plants and animals. It includes 11 lagoons and 2 coral islands. A German writer wrote a book about Tubbataha. My late husband, an expert in German language, was requested by his university to translate the book into English, with this I learned much about the uniqueness and wealth of the reef in marine plants and animals.

There are still 29 sites to be presented to UNESCO. Mt. Apo and Liguasan Marsh in Central Mindanao are in this list. For the Filipinos, knowing about our natural wealth will make you appreciate our creator's bountiful gifts. For comments text cp no. 09202112534.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on July 01, 2014.

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