I’ve seen similar projects promoting historical sites outside the country. Raising the awareness of the people that these places exist plays a major part in the whole conservation effort. Educating the mass on the value of historical sites would not only increase tourism, by doing so we are also encouraging our fellow Filipinos to take a personal stake in protecting these historical gems. People would naturally care for something that they know belongs to them and their children’s children. Who wouldn’t want to preserve their family’s legacy? Our cities and towns architecture and history deserves protection by responsible and controlled development. When we improve our districts, there should be consideration and respect towards our heritage. Because once we demolish houses, buildings and bridges, we can never reproduce them; we can never get them back. Depriving the future generations in savoring what our unique history has to offer.
I was surprised to read that there are several popular heritage conservationists that are voicing their opposition against the Acuzar project. Personally, I prefer to see old houses restored in their original place, this is the most ideal situation as it retains the history and character of the town. Who wouldn’t want it? But the realities of our times has deemed otherwise, we are fast losing these treasures to an unconcerned government and to families who inherited these Antillean houses, many no longer have the means to sustain their ancestors mansions-changing family fortunes has had a profound effect on them and its understandable why it’s tempting to sell, the land under these noble houses. You see, these houses would be discarded because buyers are not after the aging decrepit abode but the expensive earth beneath. So what can we do about it? We certainly can’t match their buying power; we are left with very little option.
This is the reason why I accept, with mix emotions of anger and joy, the Bataan project of the San Jose Builders. Some call it a vanity project, collecting historic houses like stamps, worst they say is that it’s being moved to a place where it doesn’t belong but at least someone’s doing something more than rant and complain. Unfortunately, like what that Rolling Stone song said, you don’t always get what you want – we are faced with dilemmas that are not in the best means of heritage conservation as a whole. We either bring them somewhere or let them perish. Such is the case of that old Alberto house in Biñan. I had a chance to interview Gerry, descendant of Alberto (Rizal’s uncle). He enumerated a number of problems facing the huge mansion, now slowly deteriorating (even the old portraits has been damaged by the leaking roof). He has decided to sell the property but he intends to transfer the house in Bataan. The place has so much history attached to it that he can’t imagine just letting a demolition crew bring it down. He has long been in contact with Acuzar and Ambeth Ocampo (even showed me the email) and their idea appeals to him. From the looks of it, Biñan’s grandest house, so well known that even dignitaries paid courtesy visits when they’re in town, would soon be part of Las Casas Filipinas in Bataan.
Its heart breaking to hear such stories, sometimes it feels like there is no more space for these magnificent relics of our glorious past.