ICOMOS Philippines Participation at the 16th ICOMOS General Assembly

The 16th General Assembly of ICOMOS took place in Québec City from September 28 to October 4, 2008, a triennial event attended by members of ICOMOS National Committees throughout the world. The Philippines was represented by Augusto Villalón, President of ICOMOS National Committee Philippines and Expert Member of the International Scientific Committee for Vernacular Architecture (CIAV). The second delegation member was Ivan Anthony Henares who was the Philippine representative to the International Forum of Young Researchers and Professionals in Cultural Heritage, an Expert Member of the International Cultural Tourism Committee (ICTC), and a voting delegate to the General Assembly.

Villalon represented ICOMOS Philippines at the Advisory Committee Meeting on September 28 that was attended by all National Committee Presidents. Issues discussed were the strengthening of National Committees and revitalization of dormant ones, formation of new National Committees. Also the relationship of ICOMOS to the World Heritage Committee as its primary cultural heritage advisory body was discussed.

At the September 29 Annual Meeting of the International Scientific Committee on Vernacular Architecture (CIAV) Augusto Villalón was elected Vice-President. CIAV members thanked the Philippine Committee for organizing the 2007 Annual CIAV Meeting in Banaue, Ifugao Province, and further pledged their support for conservation activities in the rice terraces undertaken by both the Government of Ifugao and Save the Terraces Movement (SITMo).

During the General Assembly held on September 30, Villalón was elected Chairman of the Candidature Committee charged with verifying documentation for each candidate standing for election to office during the 2008-2011 triennium. Resolutions were read and passed during the General assembly, notably Resolution No. 14 proposed by Ivan Anthony Henares (Philippines), and Cliff Ogleby (Australia) on the institutionalization of youth participation is all future ICOMOS activities.

During the Forum on October 2-3, Villalón presented a well-received paper “Is Spirit of Place Enough?” which was a case study and status report on the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras, currently on the World Heritage In Danger List.

The Québec City Declaration on the Preservation of the Spirit of Place was adopted by the Assembly on 04 October.

Resolution No. 14 – Institutionalization of Youth Participation
Proponents: Cliff Ocleby (ICOMOS Australia) & Ivan Anthony S. Henares (ICOMOS Philippines)

Considering :
– the necessity of encouraging and supporting the involvement of young researchers and professionals in the field of heritage in ICOMOS
– the success of the First International Forum of Young Researchers and Professionals in Cultural Heritage held in Quebec, Canada from September 27 to 28, 2008

The 16th General Assembly of ICOMOS, meeting in Quebec, Canada, in October 2008, resolves that .
– ICOMOS and its committees must pursue efforts to welcome and encourage the involvement of a greater number of young researchers and professionals;
– ICOMOS will continue the initiative of organizing the International Forum of Young Researchers and Professionals in Cultural Heritage;
– The involvement of young researchers and professionals should be integrated in the issues, goals and actions discussed by the Executive Committee, the Consultative Committee and the General Assembly;
– The international scientific committees will inform young professionals, especially participants of the Forum, of their activities via the ICOMOS Secretariat;
– The national committees will take the necessary proactive measures to welcome and involve a greater number of young researchers and professionals, and assure them a sufficient representation.

Protecting endangered traditional landscapes

International heritage luminaries are meeting in the Philippines for the first time from 2-8 December 2007. They are members of ICOMOS (International Council of Monuments and Sites), the official international organization of architects, landscape architects, urban planners, archaeologists, anthropologists, historians, tourism professionals, lawyers, and other professionals involved in the heritage conservation profession who are recognized as international leaders in the field.

Headquartered in Paris, ICOMOS is the international organization that regulates the worldwide conservation profession and is the only NGO accredited to advise the UNESCO World Heritage Committee on cultural heritage matters. Its Philippine members are prominently involved in conservation projects for the government or private sectors and are also members of the academe.

On 2-8 December the ICOMOS National Committee Philippines hosts the 2007 meeting of the ICOMOS International Committee on Vernacular Architecture (CIAV), to be held at the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Respected heritage specialists from Italy, Finland, France, Germany, Macedonia, United States, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Japan and Korea are joining their Philippine counterparts to meet on “Protecting Endangered Traditional Landscapes”, focusing on the current status of the 5 terrace clusters located in Ifugao province inscribed in the World Heritage in Danger List. The “In Danger” designation simply means that conservation measures for a site on the World Heritage List must be stepped up to prevent its rapid deterioration.

The experts will discuss conservation and the socio-economic issues that can support heritage conservation in countries like the Philippines. On the meeting agenda are:

a) The Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras, a UNESCO-inscribed World Heritage Site, is endangered today because of physical deterioration but more importantly, the resident population who has always maintained the site is having difficulty bridging the task of preserving their heritage with 21st century lifestyle. Case studies will be presented showing steps taken by other international sites with similar issues.

(b) In countries like the Philippines preserving heritage is really a lost cause unless preservation becomes more relevant to its host communities through tying preservation in with development and income generation. Therefore methods have to be found to use heritage as a resource for income generation i.e through community tourism programs, craft development, or harnessing natural resources for sustainable development such as mini-hydroelectric plants, etc.

At this moment, physical repair of the terraces is necessary. However restoring the terraces and their walls must come together with establishment of cultural and economic opportunities that make terrace life more viable for the 21st century. Among the positive measures suggested by UNESCO, is the establishment of additional income-generating opportunities such as community-based cultural and eco tourism programs.

Therefore the meeting’s sub-theme is identifying methods to use the underutilized rice terraces heritage as a resource to increase present income levels. One program is the establishment of community-based tourism.

Conserving heritage has little relevance to most site residents who live from day to day in survival mode. Therefore ICOMOS aims to make them aware that among the values of heritage is its use (not exploitation) as a sustainable cultural and eco tourism resource. Therefore heritage must be preserved as a livelihood opportunity and also to provide community identity.

Successful community-based heritage projects in the Philippines will be presented such as the Freedom Trail that unites seaside towns in south Cebu province in a trail of conserved heritage and community-led tourism sponsored by the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, the heritage tourism project by the Bohol community, Taal heritage program, and the Save Ifugao Terraces Movement (SITMO) community development programs in Ifugao province. These success stories prove that the Filipino, contrary to popular opinion, has actually done well in conserving his heritage. The Philippine presentations will show that good community-oriented conservation work is being done in the country, proving that our heritage is not going down the drain like everyone else thinks.

Training of Philippine conservation practitioners is another objective of the meeting. Since conservation courses are not offered in Philippine universities, the presence of foreign colleagues is a rare opportunity for ICOMOS Philippine Committee members and other heritage professionals to widen their personal international networks and to upgrade professional. Most of the Philippine participants will be from the youth sector.

Institutions supporting the ICOMOS endeavor are the US Ambassadors’ Fund for Cultural Preservation, e8/TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company), Fundación Santiago, Ayala Foundation, Ramón Aboitiz Foundation, Department of Tourism, and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).

New Book on World Heritage Sites in the Philippines

Living Landscapes and Cultural Landmarks: World Heritage Sites in the Philippines by Augusto F. Villalon,
Photographs by Neal M. Oshima,
Publisher: ArtPostAsia Pte. Ltd, Manila, the Philippines

This attractive book is the first publication to present all five World Heritage properties located in the Philippines in a single volume. Widely acknowledged by the international scientific community as a “biodiversity hotspot”, the Philippines hosts an astoundingly rich and varied network of terrestrial and marine life. Moreover, the distinctive blend of Eastern and Western architectural principles and technology that has evolved in the Philippines has given rise to sites of outstanding aesthetic and cultural values. For example, the Rice Terraces Cultural Landscape of the Philippine Cordilleras, inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1995, has been shaped by traditional know-how handed down from successive generations. Furthermore, these magnificent rice terraces provide an exquisite setting for the traditional Hudhud chants of the local Ifugao people, which were recognized in 2001 by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Consequently, this unique yet fragile cultural landscape has come down through the ages as a testimony to the harmonious balance between heritage of humankind – both tangible and intangible – and the environment.

This publication received financial support from the World Heritage Fund. It was launched at UNESCO Headquarters in June 2007 to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the adoption of the 1972 UNESCO World Heritage Convention. UNESCO considers that such activities contribute positively to the ongoing debates on the many issues and challenges concerning the implementation of the World Heritage Convention in developing countries.