UNESCO Heritage Emergency Fund supports the conservation of the Historic City of Vigan in the Philippines

Syquia Mansion, one of the historical buildings in Vigan damaged by the earthquake in July 2022. It is among the historical buildings that benefits from the support of the Heritage Emergency Fund. Photo credit: MNL Solutions, Inc., August 9, 2023

23 October 2023, City of Vigan, Philippines – With the support of the Heritage Emergency Fund (HEF), UNESCO Jakarta, in partnership with ICOMOS Philippines, launched a 12-month project to enhance the protection of the Historic City of Vigan, a World Heritage Site since 1999. This activity aims to support post-earthquake technical standard enhancement on the conservation and protection of heritage houses and structures and contribute to the long-term recovery of the city following the earthquake in July 2022. It is also the first HEF activity implemented in the Philippines.

On 23 October, representatives of national and local government agencies, universities, NGOs specializing in heritage and conservation, private companies, homeowners and technical experts attended the official launch of the project.

Official project launch of the first UNESCO Heritage Emergency Fund (HEF) project
in the Republic of the Philippines at the Historic City of Vigan, Ilocos Sur

“We are so excited to be one of the recipients of the UNESCO Heritage Emergency Fund project. The research and evaluation of the different teams will assure us that we will be able to restore the Syquia Mansion back to its glory days. Gregorio Syquia and all our other ancestors are beaming from up there!” – Ms. Maria Milagros “Mitos” P. Belofsky, Ancestral Homeowner, Syquia Mansion

“The critical concern now is how to protect the integrity and authenticity of the UNESCO World Heritage Site as homeowners plan to repair, restore, and rehabilitate their damaged properties; thus, the assistance from UNESCO and ICOMOS Philippines for restoration studies and plan for the two selected representatives is a welcome development” – Ar. Fatima Nicetas Rabang-Alonzo, a member of Vigan Conservation Council

Within the framework of this activity, the structural, architectural and materials assessments will be carried out for the representative houses (pilot sites), namely, the Syquia Mansion and Cabildo (Old) house, which will contribute in proposing technical standards for post-disaster damage assessment, and shoring and repair design for the future restoration of the entirety of the Historic City of Vigan’s beneficiary houses.

The findings of the two pilot sites assessments will be shared with the local government, the ancestral homeowners and the Vigan Conservation Council through a series of lectures, training-workshops and town hall meetings, and support the update of Vigan’s existing 2010 Heritage Homeowners Preservation Manual with an addendum. The outcome of the assessment and technical studies will also contribute to enhancing the skills of practitioners, craftsperson and homeowners on the effective repairing methods compatible with original building systems and materials.

The Heritage Emergency Fund (HEF) is a multi-donor funding mechanism, established by UNESCO in 2015 with the goal of assisting Member States in responding quickly and effectively to crises resulting from armed conflicts and disasters all over the world. Its objective is to strengthen the ability of Member States to prevent, mitigate and recover the loss of cultural heritage, harnessing the potential of culture to strengthen resilience and support recovery. Since its establishment, the HEF has enabled UNESCO to support 84 countries through more than 120 emergency preparedness and response activities.

UNESCO thanks the donors of the Heritage Emergency Fund who make the activities possible: The Qatar Fund for Development, the Government of Canada, the Kingdom of Norway, the French Republic, the Principality of Monaco, the Republic of Estonia, ANA Holdings INC, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Slovak Republic, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, the Principality of Andorra, the Republic of Serbia.

More about the HEF:



UNESCO is the UN specialized agency with a mandate to protect and preserve cultural and natural heritage, in line with the international conventions.

Website: www.unesco.org/jakarta, Instagram, Facebook, X ➡️ @unescojakarta

Media contact: Eliana Bantchev e.bantchev@unesco.org

About ICOMOS Philippines

The International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) is a non-governmental international organization dedicated to the conservation of the world’s monuments and sites. ICOMOS Philippines is an SEC registered non-stock corporation and the duly recognized National Committee (NC) of ICOMOS International in the country from 113 worldwide.

Website:  https://philippines.icomos.org/, Instagram, Facebook, X ➡️ @icomosph

More about the UNESCO Jakarta – ICOMOS Philippines HEF Team ➡️ https://bitly.ws/YgER

Media contact: Ar. Kenneth Javier Tua kenneth.javier.tua@icomosphilippines.com

Heritage conservation, a driver for sustainable development

ICOMOS Philippines, the only heritage professional organization included in the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Stakeholder’s Chamber, led the discussion on heritage conservation as a driver for genuine and sustainable societal transformation during the agency’s 1st Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Summit held on November 22 to 23, 2022.

Dr. Laya Boquiren-Gonzales presenting ICOMOS Philippines’ PAMANA 2030 Project

Dr. Laya Boquiren-Gonzales presented ICOMOS Philippines’ PAMANA (Heritage) 2030 Project led by the organization’s SDG Working Group. With only 8 years left to achieve the SDGs by 2030, references to heritage in the global collective aspiration remain alarmingly scarce as evident in the insufficient discussions and practices by local and national government agencies related to heritage promotion and protection.

To bridge this gap, the Pamana (Heritage) 2030 Project of ICOMOS Philippines launched in 2021 aims to further accomplish the following in the near future:

  • Release a call for case profiles and will produce a policy guidance document with relevant stakeholders;
  • Gather key local government solutions in addressing societal concerns of inclusive social development, holistic economic development, environmental sustainability, peace and security, and key partnerships within their local realities; and
  • Provide timely baseline data and policy recommendations focused on the intersection of heritage and the SDGs in various parts of the country.
Ar. Harvey Vasquez presents the findings of the ICOMOS Philippines’ emergency assessment on the earthquake’s damage to some heritage structures in Vigan City

Meanwhile, Ar. Harvey Vasquez zoomed in on the importance of efficient pre-disaster recovery planning and concise post-disaster methodological actions in conserving heritage sites through the case of the World Heritage City of Vigan, impacted by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake in Northwestern Luzon in July this year.

ICOMOS Philippines joined the City Government of Vigan and the multi-sectoral Vigan Conservation Council in the rapid assessment of the damage, made possible by funding from UNESCO Jakarta.

NEDA Undersecretary for National Development Policy and Planning Rosemarie Edillon awards Certificate of Appreciation to ICOMOS Philippines

Through the summit, ICOMOS Philippines hopes that more individuals will become aware of the importance of heritage conservation in the present and future, and become involved in this encompassing, holistic, and transformative movement.