CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- “Paskuhan is part of our historical heritage so it is not for sale. It is part of our soul and soul is not for sale. And today, we have a chance to recover this heritage.”
Thus said City of San Fernando Mayor Edwin Santiago following the formal filing of a complaint by the Office of the Solicitor General and local government here against Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) and Premier Central, Inc. for the alleged questionable sale of the heritage site Paskuhan Village.
Santiago, together with Third District Representative Aurelio “Dong” Gonzales, Jr. Assistant Solicitor General Joseph Guevarra, Associate Solicitor II Eric Lavadia, City Legal Officer Atlee Viray, filed the civil case complaint before the Regional Trial Court of Pampanga on Tuesday morning.
Santiago, during the “kapihan” and briefing that followed at city hall, said that the Christmas-themed park also known as Hilaga is a cultural heritage that belongs to the City of San Fernando as it reinforces the city’s title as “The Lantern Capital of the World.”
He recalled how the Paskuhan Village was established in 1989 by then Governor Bren Guiao and Department of Tourism Secretary Mina Gabor in a land donated by the Lazatin family through a deed where the purpose was specified for a lantern village.
“We are known as the lantern capital of the world and it is but proper that the lantern village be located in our town and it came to be. The Paskuhan Village came into being and it was right in our midst,” he said.
However, Santiago lamented its “sudden loss” in the hands of the government after it was apparently sold to SM Prime Holdings by TIEZA on May 4, 2015 without consulting the city government here.
He likened the situation to the iconic Kapampangan song “Atin Cu Pung Singsing” where the ring symbolizing the Paskuhan Village, was lost without the knowledge of the owner.
“It is like saying ‘Atin ku pung singsing — metung yang timpukan. Mewala ya iti, eku kamalayan.’ Singsing (ring) is our heritage. Singsing is our Paskuhan Village,” he noted.
A chance for recovery
With the filing of the complaint for rescission of the sale of Paskuhan Village, Santiago expressed optimism that the iconic cultural site will be returned to the City of San Fernando and will be revived as the home of Christmas lanterns.
He lauded the initiative and sustained efforts of Gonzales to declare Paskuhan Village as an important part of the Pampanga’s culture and heritage and pushing for the nullification of its sale.
Santiago likewise expressed the local government’s gratitude to the Solicitor General (SolGen headed by Jose Calida for taking the step in filing the complaint for the rescission of the sale between TIEZA and Premier Central, Inc.
“We are still fortunate that the buyer has not completely transferred the title to its name. As the place of lanterns, our local government has the right of refusal. We are exercising that right. The property should have been offered to the Fernandinos first so we filed an Affidavit of Adverse Claim on March 28, 2017. Therefore, we gladly join the SolGen in the complaint on the rescind of the sale,” he stated.
While the complaint is still in court, Santiago still assured the public that the national and local government will join hands in the revival and development of the Paskuhan Village and make it a landmark of Central Luzon.
He stressed that the city has an urgent need in having a lantern village in its jurisdiction and the return of Paskuhan Village to which it belongs is the best and only solution considered by the city government.
“The Paskuhan Village is the backbone of San Fernando’s culture and heritage. We are not only reclaiming it, rather we will come up with a development plan to restore and revive its beauty as the only Christmas-themed park in the country,” he said.
Santiago said he is urging his provincemates and countrymen to help the government in convincing the court to rule in the city government’s favor and recover Paskuhan Village by voicing out their stand.
“Let us all together recover our “singsing.” Let us keep this heritage in our house,” he stressed.