The local government of Baliuag, Bulacan, will be restoring its old municipal hall building for its importance as a heritage structure.
The municipio, located in the poblacion or town center, was a 19th-century bahay-na-bato that had been owned by the family of Dr. Joaquin Gonzalez, the first rector of the Universidad Cientifica Literaria de Filipinas in 1898, and one of two representatives of the province of Pampanga to the Malolos Congress also on the same year.
Gonzalez was a member of the committee that drafted the Malolos Constitution, promulgated in 1899 by then President Emilio Aguinaldo.
In 1982, the National Historical Institute (NHI) now the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), installed a marker in his honor across the street from the house.
The local government of Baliuag purchased the house and lot in 1915, although it had been using the property as a municipal hall since the first decade of American rule. It served as a government office building even after a new municipio was constructed in the 1970s.
In the ’90s it was converted into the Baliuag Library and Museum through the request of the Baliuag Historical Society then headed Rolando E. Villacorte, author of the book “Baliuag Then and Now,” first published in 1970.
“It is one of our heritage sites in Baliuag, kaya itinaas na namin sa Sangguniang Panlalawigan (Bulacan Provincial Board) because the local government unit could not cough up the money [needed for the project], some P10 to P15 million,” said Mayor Carolina Dellosa.
She pointed out that the cost estimates were made by two companies interested in the project, which involves complete restoration and museum redevelopment.
She added the Baliuag government will get the approval of the NHCP for the final restoration blueprint.
Mayor Dellosa said the local government is planning to raise the money through private individuals. She noted that the government is likewise seeking assistance from the Department of Tourism and Department of Public Works and Highways.
The building is listed on the database of the Heritage Conservation Society (HCS) Philippines as one of the heritage structures in the province of Bulacan.
HCS chair Gemma Cruz Araneta said the building was restored in 1998, and a plaque was placed by the DOT and the NHI.
“Whatever they want to do now, they should ask for NHCP guidance,” said Araneta.
Meanwhile, experts urged the local government to make a thorough study first before planning the restoration.
Unesco Philippines Commissioner Mico Manalo said a “detailed engineering study (DES)” should be made.
Manalo, an architect, said the building might be already falling apart since it is located on a busy street.
Another architect, Rino Fernandez of the University of Santo Tomas College of Architecture, said DES “is the complete assessment of an existing building covering not only its architectural and structural elements but even its building utilities systems.”
DES “determines the structural capacity of the building and all its defects that need to be addressed,” he explained.
Meantime, Escuela Taller Intramuros has denied any involvement in the project. One of the companies interested in undertaking the restoration work has put the name of the Spanish-funded vocational school in its proposal.
“A project proposal by AADG Design and Construction in cooperation with Escuela Taller Intramuros,” reads a framed design plan inside the building.
Heritage expert Eric Zerrudo said Escuela Taller has no project in Baliuag, Bulacan.