Heritage advocates have condemned kiosks that were put up by street vendors at the San Joaquin Church convent in Iloilo, which has been declared a National Cultural Treasure (NCT) by the National Museum.
Heritage advocates said the illegal occupancy violated the NCT declaration as well as the National Heritage Law of 2009.
The kiosks of light materials, which included a cage for chickens, were put up by vendors selling goods to the nearby elementary school.
Local heritage advocates denounced the blatant violation of the law.
They said the convent had an ancient kiln that the vendors were using for their cooking activities.
Protesters noted the vendors had reinforced the kiln by applying cement on its base without the knowledge and permission of the NM.
Church historian and former NCCA commissioner Regalado Trota José, himself an Iloilo native, expressed dismay at the development, saying local authorities seemed not to have learned from the lessons of the past.
San Joaquin Church, José said, has suffered heavily from renovations and interventions since the 1980s. He explained the local priests had the side and back walls and the altar area cemented, thereby losing its integrity and authenticity.
Also in the 1990s, an office of the Knight of Columbus was constructed on one portion of the convent ruins using cement and heavy trusses, which now burden the 19th-century structure, added José.
The convent, ruined after World War II, is noted in the country for its big well and kilns which were used for baking bread.
The convent, together with the church, was declared NCT in 2001. The church is famous for the bas-relief on its façade, “Rendicion de Tetuan.”
Before its declaration as an NCT, the church was marked by then National Historical Institute in 1980 as a National Historical Site, pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 260 in 1973 and PD No. 375 in 1974.
The town’s late 19th-century cemetery was also declared an NCT in 2015.
Other heritage sites in the town include a Spanish-era watchtower and five stone bridges. —CONTRIBUTED