This year’s celebration of May as National Heritage Month opened in Romblon, setting the annual NCCA-led festivities in, so to speak, in marble stone.
Leading the themed celebration – “Taoid: Crossing, Caring, Carrying on…” – is NCCA’s Subcommission on Cultural Heritage (SCH), headed by Regalado Trota Jose. This year, the theme is aimed at giving us “a glimpse of the legacies of the past and how it remains to shape the present and the future.” It is also “a recognition and celebration of the different aspects of our national cultural heritage – our traditional art forms and practices, important cultural structures both movable and immovable, and other objects of national importance whether tangible or intangible.”
Primarily known as the country’s leading producer of quality marble, Romblon is also home to many heritage sites. Located at the southern part of the Luzon island-cluster, the province is composed of 20 islands strewn on the Sibuyan Sea, with the islands of Romblon, Tablas and Sibuyan as the major ones. It is composed of 17 municipalities, namely, Alcantara, Banton, Cajidiocan, Calatrava, Concepcion, Corcuera, Ferrol, Looc, Magdiwang, Odiongan, Romblon, San Agustin, San Andres, San Fernando, San Jose, Santa Fe and Santa Maria.
With Romblon’s abundant natural and cultural heritage, the NCCA together with local government officials saw fit to create from here a broad based awareness campaign for the heritage to be valued, owned and used by the people.
Among the heritage sites here are the 18th-century Cathedral of San Jose in the capital town of Romblon in Romblon Island, one of the 37 colonial churches declared as National Cultural Treasures; Fort San Andres; the old municipal hall; 18th-century Spanish bridges; and heritage houses.
The launch happened last May 1 and 2, opening with an archaeological exhibit at the Romblon Capitol Building, accompanied by a culinary festival, a weaving demonstration and a marble sculpture demonstration.
The formal ceremonies began at sunset, graced by NCCA chairman Felipe M. De Leon, SCH Commissioner Regalado Trota Jose, SCH committee heads and members, SSCTA Commissioner Joycie Dorado-Alegre, Romblon governor Eduardo C. Firmalo, vice governor Manuel Madrid, Sangguniang Panlalawigan member Samuel Romero (representing congressman Eleandro Jesus Madrona) and other local officials.
A serenata at the courtyward of St. Joseph’s Cathedral was later held, featuring homegrown band 1622: Unang Usbor, which sang “Kabataang Subatey,” “Pailig” and “Oho;” tenor Marc Dexter F. Famini, who sang “Litrato nga Luma;” Ella Marie B. Muros, who gave a reading of the poems “Ikaw Lang Handum Ko” and “Mamay;” and Salvacion Malayo, who sang “Ang Imo Guintog-an nga Gugma,” “Maghirupay Kita” and “Lumabay nga daw Aso.”
The following day, there was a walking-tour of heritage sites in the town of Romblon, including St. Joseph’s Cathedral, the old Spanish cuartel, the old municipal building, Fuente de Belen, 18th-century Spanish bridges and selected old houses. The tour continued, visiting a mable quarry site, Fort San Andres, Fort Santiago and a secret tunnel.
The day ended with a lecture on the experience of the Tam-awan Artists’ Village in Baguio by Chit Asignacion.
The National Committee on Museums with representatives from the National Museum and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines proceeded to Banton Island the next day to assess its cultural properties.
Aside from the grand launch, there were also other National Heritage Month activities. The Cultural Mapping and Planning Workshop, facilitated by heritage management expert Eric B. Zerrudo, was held in March and April. Participated in by cultural workers, tourism officers and teachers of Romblon, the workshop aimed to “document the significance heritages of the province, not just as a cold reference of future generations but to adapt them in contemporary contexts towards the creation of a meaningful and enriching life of every Romblomanon.”
Conducted in Romblon and Odiongan, topics included heritage and development and natural heritage (March 22 to 23, 2012), built heritage (March 29 to 30), documentation of intangible heritage (March 30 and April 20), local history and movable heritage (April 20 to 21), and heritage and cultural tourism (April 27 to 28).
Incidentally, the SCH has decided to extend the celebration up to the end of the year with activities being lined up throughout the year. The closing of the celebration is set for December.
The NHMC steering committee is composed of Regalado Trota Jose, head of SCH and the National Committee on Archives; Imelda Loste, head of the National Committee on Art Galleries; Dr. Maria Nela Florendo, head of the National Committee on Historical Research; Antonio M. Santos, head of the National Committee on Libraries and Information Service; Dr. Jaime C. Laya, head of the National Committee on Monuments and Sites; and Dr. Antonio Julian Montalvan, head of the National Committee on Museums.
The NCCA Plan/Policy Formulation and Programming Division is headed by Marichu Tellano. The Heritage Section is headed by Urbana Cadiz, while the project director of the National Heritage Month celebration is Bely R. Ygot.
The National Heritage Month was also celebrated by the Filipino Heritage Festival, Inc. (FHFI), headed by Armita Rufino and Araceli Salas, with a lineup of activities that included exhibits, performances, heritage tours and traditional santacruzans.