The National Historical Commission of the Philipines (NHCP) has stopped the planned demolition of the 18th-century watchtower in Maasin City, Southern Leyte.
The tower was set to be torn down to make way for school buildings of the Saint Joseph College.
Located at the corner of Cabrera and Rosales streets, the structure was completed in 1771 and dedicated to San Carlos Borromeo and is one of at least two Spanish colonial edifices in Maasin, the other is Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral.
In the cease-and-desist order dated Feb. 27, and addressed to Bishop Precioso Cantillas of the Diocese of Maasin, NHCP chair Rene Escalante said the watchtower is a presumed important cultural property under the national heritage law of 2009 (Republic Act 10066) and “must be protected from any modification or alteration.”
He directed Bishop Cantillas to stop any activity affecting the structure and advised to submit “development plans and site map, with respect” to the edifice.
Historian Rolando Borrinaga said the Maasin watchtower has very high heritage value and it served as a lookout point against raiders during the Spanish period.
“We have to realize that Maasin is a late-Jesuit creation. It became a pueblo with church only in 1755, less than 20 years before the expulsion of the Jesuits,” he said.
Borrinaga explained that the watchtower was most likely started by the Jesuits but was finished by the Augustinians in 1768.
“It was these Augustinians who gave Maasin the importance as a religious center that it enjoys until the present,” said.
The watchtower, he said, “served as one of the required structures of this pueblo’s existence, of the same importance as the casa real and the church.”
“That is how historical this one should be treated,” he added. –CONTRIBUTED