Burgis Conservation

photo courtesy of www.ivanhenares.com
photo courtesy of http://www.ivanhenares.com

OF COURSE, you’ve already read about the buzz created by conservationists regarding the construction of a mall in downtown Laoag. They claim that there are two Gabaldon buildings in the compound where it is to be built, and that the structures must be preserved on account of their historical and cultural significance.

It started when Ivan Henares—a travel blogger, heritage conservationist, and fraternity brod of Provincial Board member Kris Ablan—visited the province last December to deliver a lecture on blogging. Incidentally, he got wind of the issues surrounding the Laoag City Central Elementary School where the shopping monstrosity is to rise.

He immediately blogged about it at www.ivanhenares.com, and his post generated a moderate amount of comments. Here are some excerpts:

Herdy: What we need is a careful balance between conservation and development. If it is any consolation, there’s a Gabaldon in almost every town, so that architectural delight won’t really missed.

You preserve some, you lose some. This world thrives on compromise. Material culture evolves, and this is mainly a zoning issue. No more ‘black or white’ fallacies, please.

While I feel for conservation, I strive, as Aristotle would urge, for the golden mean.

Ivan Henares: Herdy, while I agree with you that some structures will inevitably go, I do not agree that heritage should be sacrificed in the name of development. Have you been to Europe or even our neighbors like Singapore and Malaysia? Look at the way they preserve heritage in prime real estate. As an urban and regional planning major, I believe that heritage conservation plays a strong role in the development and progress of any urban area. Sadly, many politicians in the Philippines are blind to that reality.

On the Gabaldon in particular, we fight to preserve the best examples in the country. And LCES is one of the best! It’s not the ordinary Gabaldon you just see in every town. So your argument does not hold.

Herdy: Ivan, I agree that heritage should not be sacrificed in the name of development.

Yes, have traveled to Europe and to our neighbors, and understand what you mean.
Unfortunately, there are times when art becomes a baggage so heavy to be borne by a third-world nation struggling for survival.

Yes, it does not help that we have a dearth of thinking politicians.

Let me make it clear where I stand. I am not for the mall construction in the Central lot, but my opposition is not fueled by the conservation advocacy this time. I think it’s so burgis.

I am against it for three reasons.

1. I don’t believe it will deliver what it promises–More revenues, more jobs. It will only favor big business and promote exploitative job contractualization.

2. I love downtown Laoag’s maaliwalas feel, something the mall will rob us of. (And no to more pollution,too.)

3. Third and most important–I abhor the message it sends: that the church meddles with things so material. It’s bad enough that the spiritual-political divide is a blur. Don’t add “commercial” to the picture as well.

“Of course, it’s about the money.” the Bishop Utleg was candid enough to tell me.

The other year, they built a swimming pool in the bishop’s residence. What do their hearts yearn for this time?

Ivan Henares: Thanks Herdy! One of our advocacies in the HCS is bringing down heritage conservation to the grassroots, taking away the burgis tag from it.

Cultural tourism has become a powerful tool for poverty alleviation worldwide. So to say heritage conservation is a burgis advocacy is not fair. I am giving you a copy of the Hue Declaration on Cultural Tourism and Poverty Alleviation which you might like to read for your reference.

photo courtesy of www.ivanhenares.com
photo courtesy of http://www.ivanhenares.com

Then Banjo, another blogger, picks up from the exchange…

Banjo: When people are jobless, desperate, hungry and sick, saving a building is the least of immediate concerns. NSO reports more than 40% poverty rate, and more than 60% underemployment – all these support the view that jobs take precedence over aesthetic values of physical structures such as this school.

It is easy to shout “save this school, this building, etc.” when one can afford the basic necessities of life. but for those who are hungry, saving a building is the least of his concern – no matter how precious that building is.

Ivan Henares: Now tell me how the new mall in downtown Laoag will help with the unemployment problem. Ah yes! The mall will bring a lot of new jobs! But how about the jobs that will be lost because of the small businesses that will close as a result? How about the businesses themselves? You want to throw them into the unemployment margin?

How about the school children that will be displaced? How about the quality of life that will be diminished as a result of the loss of this heritage?

Sad to say, ang ibang Pinoy, mababaw mag-isip, lalo na kung pera ang katapat. Mas mabuting masaya ngayon, bahala na kung sira ang buhay bukas basta kumita ng pera ngayon.

Throw that mall in an undeveloped area to spur development there. Now that’s what is logical! Unless people are thinking of campaign kitties this early or building another swimming pool, I don’t see any decision wiser than placing the new mall in a new development to spur progress.


Herdy’s Riknakem: The conservation argument is weak. In fact, Ivan is even more convincing when he employs urban planning and economic arguments.

Some years back, I met Bambi Harper, founding president of the Heritage Conservation Society (HCS), and discussed with her about one missing element in their crusade: popular support. They were then fighting for the conservation of the Jai Alai building in Manila, a playground by the rich and glamorous in the 1940s. They were pushing for the preservation of memories, but the memories of who? The elite. The poor had no business safeguarding souvenirs of ostentatious parties and rendezvous of the Manila’s 40.

Socialite conservationist Bambi Harper, Sociologist Joan Tenda, and your Karikna
Socialite conservationist Bambi Harper, Sociologist Joan Tenda, and your Karikna

Today, HCS is led by beauty queen Gemma Cruz-Araneta, and I understand that they have channeled the group’s energy into preserving Gabaldon buildings which are, by no means, burgis. These are structures that have nurtured the masses, the clientele of the public education system. Today as then, however, the group has not gained the support of a critical mass.

In a thirld-world country at a time like this, burgis advocacies don’t succeed.


Read the Philippine Daily Inquirer Feature

Author: Herdy La. Yumul

A hesitant academic pimp, writer

15 thoughts on “Burgis Conservation”

  1. Hi…. are you really Herdy L. Yumul? the nursing student?




    my oration went well, if you mean the few first paragraphs… I was doing well until I got to the second page…. Man!

    and our prof had a time limit, 4 minutes… well, the oration was all in all… 10 minutes max…

    so well, all in all it was kind of a disaster….

    but I think I did well.

    Thanks for the comment on xanga!

    1. I never took up nursing though. I only wrote the piece for a competition where I was a coach. Then, I used it in my speech classes. If ever you suffered, please take consolation in the thought that many others have endured the same fate.. hehe.. and do accept my apologies as well.

      Looking forward to seeing you serve the nation well. Kudos.

  2. ..when I heard that they will build a mall in Laoag, I was ecstatic. I am a typical woman who loves shopping, so I thought, wow, no need to go to Manila. But I didn’t realize that they will have to demolish a school for this. Ano ba iyan..wala na bang ibang place sa Laoag? I know that some filipinos’ favorite past time is malling, so gaano man kalayo iyan, dadayuhin nila. So why not look for a place somewhere else?

    1. Makitid nga ang utak ng mga pinuno, at sabik naman sa pera ang simbahan. Hayyy… At huwag pong maging excited. Bellagio Inc. ang nanalo sa bidding. BELLAGIO WHAT? Their most popular franchise daw is Puregold Supermart. Mall ba ‘yun?

  3. Ha..ha..ha..Baka sa iba, mall na iyon sa kanila. Akala ko eh Robinson’s or SM ang itatayo. Anyway, let’s wait and see.

    1. Wait… did you hear that a Robinson’s mall will rise in San Nicolas? They wanted to build a mall in Laoag so they could call it Robinson’s Laoag, but could not find a good space. Then they found that place near the Laoag-San Nicolas boundary. They are calling it Robinson’s Ilocos Norte.

  4. i saw the place on my way to laoag last time i was there.what a waste.they should be building parks with lots of flowers and trees.not that i do not like malls but i think there is enough of them already. maybe a cross country course for bikers and hikers?

    1. That’s what we have been saying: parks instead. But the bishop won’t earn from parks. It’s all about the money.

  5. i would rather be poor and happy than rich but miserable. that is the reason why at one time or another i did not want to get involved in church .until now i just go and pray pay my respect to GOD and that’s it.if i have money i give some.nobody can tell me i have to give 20% of my earnings.

    1. Right. At the end of the day, faith is a personal relationship with God. But church leaders have a long history of materialism, some bishops are receiving from Jueteng until today.

  6. make no mistake about it there are fresh eggs in a basket of rotten eggs fr. erickson where are you? i still have to hear from him.are priests that busy that they cannot answer their e mails even it is line or two?

  7. i was very happy when i heard the news about the mall that they will build in laoag. but when they say that they will demolish the school, i am very sad… Saan pupunta ang mga bata? Mahalaga ang edukasyon dahil ito ang susi sa magandang buhay… OO tama iniisip nila na para mabigyan ng trabho ang mga tao, pero ang mga tanong… mabibigyan ba nila lahat ang mga tao, uunlad ba ang bayan kung ganun.. At hindi rin nila naisip na masasakripisyo rin ang mga “heritage” na matagal ng pinangalagaan natin na nakakatulong din sa pag-unlad natin. Minsan kasi ang mga pilipino sige ng sige, they didnt think what are the consequences of their plan, why not humanap sila ng ibang place for the mall. Masyado kasing ambisyoso uhhhhmmmmm, i know gawa nanaman to ng mga politicians… dont get me wrong po….. for the development sabi nila pero sa iba iniisip nila ay ang pupunta sa kanilang bulsa,,,… haiiiizzzztt…. curapt politicians.. ano kaya ang magiging buhay nila if they continue their plan, magiging maganda kaya…. paano yung mga batang mawawalan ng school!!?? paanu yung mga small bussiness dun sa pagpapatayuan nila, panu yung mga “heritage” na mawawala?,,,.. hay naku, hindi pa rin nawawala ang “bahala na system” nating mga Pinoy…

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daytoy ti bunga ti rimkuas nga iliw ken abrasa dagiti lagip iti selsel met la a nagtaudanna...

Herdy Yumul

Blogger/Columnist/Book Author


Got Stuck Beneath the Ink of Pen And Aperture of Lens

When will things happen?

like how I want them to be...

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