DARAGA, Albay, Jan. 23 (PNA) -- The more than two-century-old Cagsawa Ruins, recently declared as a historical treasure in the country by the National Museum of the Philippines (NMP), will soon undergo refurbishing as a means to protect, preserve and promote this national historical property.
Cristina Agapita Pacres, Daraga town tourism officer, said the national and local governments will spend this year some Php42 million to finance the restoration project of the 202-year-old cultural asset.
Pacres said the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) of the Department of Tourism (DOT) has approved the release of Php35 million to be used for the construction of structures that will improve the vast landscape of the historical treasure.
The TIEZA project has been bid out and implementation will start this year.
Pacres, however, said the original structural design by TIEZA will have to be changed to complement the view of the ruins.
“The design is too modern that it doesn’t match with the ruins’ landscape,” she stressed.
She said the design includes a tourist visitor center, function hall, water and electrical facilities and concrete fence.
The local government of Daraga set aside some Php2 million for the preservation works that include cordon structure around the ruins to prevent visitors to go near the ruins.
As for the contribution of the province, Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said it will put in additional Php5 million for the restoration works of the other items, especially holograms or glass showcase of three elements: the iglesia, convent, ayuntamiento and the municipio.
The Albay History and Culture Unit will take charge of the “conservation” vision for the Cagsawa Ruins as they are working with the UNESCO National Office for its recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Salceda said.
“The Cagsawa Ruins is now tentatively listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site,” he said.
The Cagsawa Ruins lies on a 1.5-hectare land that showcases the Cagsawa Ruins Belfry.
It is 11 kilometers from the Majestic Mayon Volcano, two kilometers from the town proper and eight kilometers from Legazpi City.
Albay now has three national cultural treasures: the Cagsawa Ruins and the Church of Our Lady of the Gate -- both in Daraga, and the Church of Saint John the Baptist in Tabaco City.
Father Jose Victor Lobrigo, the former parish priest of Our Lady of the Gate, said in an interview that there are other ruined churches in Albay that need declaration and preservation.
These are the Sinimbahanan in Barangay Budiao in Daraga, another one in Tiwi and the church ruins in Bacacay, among others. Lobrigo said in the declaration and preservation of historical treasures “we have two things in mind: preservation of national patrimony and support.” Ana Lorilla, an architect and co-chair of the Sub-Commission on Buildings, Lands, Sites and Cultural Heritage of the Diocese of Legazpi said that aside from the three cultural religious properties declared as historical treasures, there are several other religious sites that are being explored and studied. Data from the Diocese of Legazpi indicate that there are 45 churches under the three vicariates. Of these number, seven churches are considered with historical value as they were built in year 1700. These old churches are St. John the Baptist Parish in Tabaco City, Saints Joachim and Anne Parish in Malinao town, Saint Lawrence the Maryr Parish in Tiwi, St. Dominic of Guzman Parish in Sto Domingo, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Malilipot, Saint John the Baptist in Camalig town and Our Lady of Gates Parish in Daraga town. "A national cultural treasure is defined as a unique cultural property found locally, possessing outstanding historical, cultural, artistic and with scientific value, which is significant and important to the country,” the NMP said.
Pacres said that aside from the Cagsawa Ruins, one of Albay’s most popular tourist attractions, the local government of Daraga has embarked on a festival dubbed as The Cagsawa Festival, which has been observed every month of February since 2012.
She said that in February 2014, the province of Albay commemorated the 200th anniversary of the 1814 eruption by holding the Cagsawa Festival’s “Cagsawa Dos Siglos.”
The celebration aimed to pay tribute to the strength and resiliency of the people of Albay, according to Salceda.
Pacres said Albayanos are aware that they live within the shadow of a beautiful yet dangerous volcano .
Thus, the anniversary of the 1814 eruption also served as a reminder of the town's commitment to disaster risk reduction as part of the Daragueños' way of life to be able to achieve their goals of development for the community.
The festival showcases various activities and entertainment such as outdoor and sport events, culinary activities and cultural presentations of dances and plays.
Maria Ong-Ravanilla, DOT regional director, said in an interview that Cagsawa is considered as the historical landmark that molded the Albayanos in being resilient, determined, passionate and fun-loving people.
The Cagsawa Ruins is the most visited place by day visitors, both foreign and local, hitting the number of 350,000 tourist visitors every year, she said.
“Declaring it as a national treasure will help boost more our tourism industry, culturally and economically,” Ravanilla said.
Salceda said the declaration by National Museum Director Jeremy R. Barns issued on Dec. 23 and published in the NMP’s web site, affirms the Cagsawa Ruins’ landmark role and significance in the richness of the country’s cultural heritage.
In December last year, the NMP declared Cagsawa Ruins in Daraga, Albay as among the new batch of cultural properties to be included as “Important Cultural Properties” and “National Cultural Treasures” after going through thorough research, recommendations, and petitions in 2015.
To be declared as an Important Cultural Property, a land must possess “exceptional cultural, artistic and/or historical significance,” it said.(PNA) RMA/FGS/MSA/CBD/pjn