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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Pangilinan: A heritage of architecture, architects of heritage

Culturati

LAST July 17, 2018, I was privileged to have been invited as one of the guest speakers in the chartering and induction of the newest organization of architects in our City, the United Architects of the Philippines (UAP)-Cabalen Pampanga chapter, a proud son of the historic UAP San Fernando, Pampanga chapter. The event was aptly called “suli,” referring to a seedling, which in turn must be nourished and nurtured.

I am grateful to UAP Cabalen for the humbling opportunity given to me, to be standing on the shoulders of giants, as I was the only non-architect, non-politician, to address the group of architects during that said event. I even got to rub elbows with the new UAP national president, Ar. Benjamin Panganiban Jr., also a Davaoeno who is bound to leave his legacy as the first ever UAP president coming from Mindanao.

During my talk, I shared some of my insights on heritage and how architects play a profound and lasting role in its development, and ultimately, preservation, which I would also be sharing in today's column. Putting it simply, heritage, or what I call pimamanan in Kapampangan, is what we value as a people which we would like to pass on to the next generation. It is rooted in our nature and culture, and reflects what makes us not just human, but humane.

Works of architecture, within the domains of the arts, form part of what we call tangible, immovable, cultural heritage. Akakit, atatalan, agagamit, apupuntalan. Architecture, as a cultural resource, also qualifies as a cultural industry. I believe that architecture is one of the most democratic of the domains of art. It is that art that we live in or live with, go to school in, worship in, get married in, celebrate in, and eventually die in.

Does heritage only live in the past? We have to recognize that heritage is dynamic, and viably co-exists in the contemporary world. However, this does not mean that heritage is not endangered because every day, natural and man-made threats loom over our structures.

Kapampangans are fortunate to have within their midst rich architectural heritage that spans the historic journey of our people, from the Spanish colonial period to the contemporary times. We have several National Cultural Treasures and Important Cultural properties in our province, which means that our structures are not only of value to us Kapampangans but to all Filipinos. Is heritage exclusively for the rich? How about the poor? Heritage cuts across cultural, social, and even economic divides. Vernacular architecture such as the Bahay Kubo is part of our heritage, in as much as the bahay na bato is.

Looking back, Kapampangans have made their marks in the story of Philippine architecture throughout the years. Recently we unveiled the monument of Fernando Hizon Ocampo, dubbed as the Father of Philippine Modern Architecture, the first Fernandino cultural hero who received such a distinction. We also remember the examples of early Kapampangan architect Pablo Panlilio who won the design competition for the American Veterans Memorial hospital in 1951.

Among female architects, we are very proud of the achievements of Ar. Yolanda David Reyes, daughter of pioneer Kapampangan architect Norberto David, the first Filipina Gusi International Peace Prize winner in the field of Architecture. 50 years from now, for all we know, the architectural works of renowned Kapampangan architects Normandy Canlas and Ar. Jose Juico, and members of the UAP Cabalen will be presumed to be Important Cultural Properties too.

Let me reiterate my message to our Dear UAP Cabalen members:

"As Kapampangan architects and architects practicing in Pampanga, and members of this prestigious organization, you are following the footsteps and continuing the journey of the trailblazers who came before you. But in chartering this new chapter, an opportunity and a challenge are also present. Nanu ing pamana yu king kekatamung balen? King makananung paralan buri yung mikilala ya ing UAP Cabalen? Yes, the opportunity is there to make a name for this organization, craft your legacy and build your heritage for the future members of UAP Cabalen. In building your legacy and defining your heritage, my challenge for you is, to pursue, not only a heritage of beauty, but a heritage of service. Datang ing panaun a kebaluwan la ring UAP Cabalen king pakamal at lugud makabalen.

While in the City of San Fernando we take pride in our efforts to preserve our heritage treasures, it is quite sad and ironic that heritage architects and practitioners who have been helping us for the past decade are mostly not from here. Among the heritage and cultural workers of Pampanga, only a few come from the ranks of architects. I hope that from among your ranks there will be those who will pursue further studies in the field of heritage architecture, since not everyone may like heritage architecture.

The success of heritage preservation programs is anchored on strong community awareness and involvement, especially within the context of public and private partnerships. It is with high hopes that we look forward to many years of meaningful partnership with the members and officers of UAP Cabalen Pampanga, UAP Sinukwan Pampanga, and UAP San Fernando, Pampanga, especially in preserving our heritage and designing the heritage of our future. I hope that in your journey, as architects and as an organization, you will continually be guided by your love for our Kapampangan heritage and fueled by a deep sense of pride of place."

Again, congratulations the members and officers of UAP Cabalen led by President Ar. Hermel Gulapa, together with my friends Ar. Oliver Gadia, Ar. Joseph Lideson Mallari, Ar. Joseph Edward Dela Cruz, and Ar. Aldrin Gatus. Arkitektung Kapampangan, biasa, malugud, at matenakan! Luid ya ing Arkitektung Cabalen!


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