THE NATIONAL Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) has defended its actions on the churches of Loay, Dauis and Baclayon in Bohol, which heritage advocates have attacked as a “demolition derby.”
In a statement posted on its official Facebook page, the NHCP defended its work on the churches and reacted particularly to the Facebook post of Ivan Henares of the Heritage Conservation Society on Sept. 5 which criticized the NHCP.
The commission said that during the 2014 international conference on how to rehabilitate the churches in Bohol destroyed or heavily damaged by the Oct. 15, 2013 earthquake, the NHCP and foreign experts recommended the removal of the entire concrete pediment, which was a later addition, since it posed danger to public safety while the still intact statue on top of it was removed for safekeeping. The statue will be duplicated, NHCP added.
The copy will then be mounted on the new pediment, it said, which will be constructed with “lightweight material that can at least match the load capacity and safety standards of the old masonry walls.”
It also explained that the Baclayon column and the portico columns of Dauis Church collapsed during the earthquake, but it was “necessary to remove the remaining rubble core because of material fatigue and public safety,” which enabled their structural engineers to test and ensure the stability of the column.
The surviving column of Dauis Church will be saved “to serve as the material memory of the church prior to the earthquake,” NHCP said.
“The structural aspect of the restoration plan calls for the stabilization of the substructure using concrete, as recommended by our structural engineering consultant.” Traditional stone masonry will be used for the construction of the column upwards, it added.
The commission also said it “left the column ruins as they are pending the decision of the community to preserve them as such—a tangible memory of the past—or to reconstruct the entire portico.”
“In the stakeholders’ dialogue in Dauis in August 2015,” the historical agency said, “the parish informed the NHCP that they preferred to have the entire portico rebuilt. The NHCP will therefore reconstruct the portico integrating compatible new and lighter material with traditional stone masonry.”
The commission pointed to its “long history of restoration projects,” which, it said, dates back to the 1970s.
NHCP added it had hired structural engineer Carlos Villaraza, whom it claimed to have expertise in earthquake engineering.
“The NHCP, therefore, asserts its capability to undertake restoration projects and continues to collaborate with reputable professionals in the field.”
The Inquirer asked the NHCP for comment on the removal of the palitada on the inner walls of Baclayon Church and its alleged threat to withdraw from the projects should criticism continue, but the commission did not reply.
Heritage at stake
Henares said the NHCP “missed the whole point” why the issues were being raised.
“We are all primary stakeholders of the work that they are doing in Bohol,” he said.
“First, they are using taxpayers’ money. Second, the churches are nationally declared. Thus, it is the heritage of the Philippines, and not just of the Boholanos. While it is good they are engaging the clergy and the local community, most if not all of them are not trained conservators.
“What we are saying is that the NHCP should consult conservation professionals, in the same way that the National Museum vets its detailed engineering studies and methodology with private professionals first before proceeding. He said the country had a lot of conservation experts which the NHCP could also invite and consult.
“I hope they understand that our country’s heritage is at stake. And they can’t act like they are the only experts and shut everyone else out. We owe it to the Filipino nation to do things right,” he added.