NCCA-PIA Cultural Heritage Caravan Hits The Road
By Bill F. Gabay
(This article was first published in the April 23-29, 2017 issue
of the Romblon Sun newspaper.)
The “Cultural Heritage Caravan-Seminar with On-Site Immersion”, a joint project of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Philippine Information Agency, took off on Tuesday, April 25, for a 5-day promotional tour of heritage sites in Northern and Central Luzon.
The caravan, the culminating activity of the 2016 project named NCCA-PIA Luzon-wide Promotion of Culture and Arts, covered four regions and eleven provinces in Luzon.
More than 60 media practitioners from Calabarzon, Regions 1, 2, 3, the Cordillera Autonomous Region, Bicol, and the Mimaropa, that included people from the print media, radio and television, journalists and bloggers, together with NCCA officers and PIA regional directors, joined the caravan.
The province of Romblon was represented by Mr. Dinnes Manzo, PIA-Romblon chief and this writer.
Aside from “making people aware and understand the stories about the heritage, the culture and the traditions of the people of Northern and Central Luzon,” the caravan also aimed to “connect people and provide a sense of community and belongingness as Filipinos, promote cultural and heritage sites while learning to become culture-sensitive,” the NCCA said in a statement.
PIA-Mimaropa Regional Director Vicky S. Mendoza said the caravan is intended to promote social awareness of the country’s rich cultural heritage, customs and traditions by actually visiting places declared by the NCCA as heritage sites.
Among the heritage sites visited were centuries-old churches, church ruins, historical landmarks, museums, and an authentic Igorot village.
The cultural tour on wheels kicked off with a program on opening day held at the Roma Hotel in Tuguegarao City. All the participants were introduced one by one followed by a cultural presentation provided by host PIA-Region 2.
On Day 2, the media entourage consisting of eight vans, began to hit the roads and made visits to the St. Peter Metropolitan Cathedral, St. Paul University, Ermita de Jacinto church in Tuguegarao City, San Jacinto de Polonia church and the old Spanish Horno in Camalaniugan town, and the St. Dominic church in the historic town of Lal-lo, all in Cagayan province.
After an overnight stay in the town of Claveria which borders Cagayan and Ilocos Norte, the caravan took to the road again the next morning, dropping by for a brief stopover at the popular tourist destination, the 1.3 kilometer-long Patapat Viaduct in Pagudpod, to buy souvenirs. Also lined up were visits to the famous windmills of Bangui, the 127 – year old Cape Bojeador, said to be the oldest lighthouse in the Philippines, and the Church of Paoay, a UNESCO-declared world heritage site.
Moving on to Ilocos Sur later in the afternoon, the entourage viewed an elaborate display of relics and artifacts at the Vigan Museum in Vigan city, many of them dating back to old Spanish times. When evening came, the tour participants were invited to watch the Dancing Fountain, a spectacular 45-minute lights and sounds display at the city plaza. Also included in the itinerary was a night visit to Calle Crisologo, Vigan’s most popular tourist attraction and also a UNESCO-declared world heritage site.
On Day 4, it was time for the caravan to go up to Baguio city. The convoy passed through San Fernando city in La Union and the Cordillera mountains. Of course, a visit to Baguio city is not complete without climbing up the Tam-awan village where the visitors witnessed a tribal dance of the Igorots with some even joining the natives. They also saw what a “fertility hut” looked like. According to traditions, the “fertility hut” which measures about 6 x 8 meters in area, is where childless Igorot couples are quartered for about a year to determine if the husband or the wife is capable of bearing an offspring.
This was followed by the Urban Heritage Walk, a fast-paced walk at the city proper that included briefings on the historical and cultural significance of every place visited. These included visits to the Museo Kordillero, the Baguio Convention Center where the Anatoly Karpov-Boris Spassky chess duel for the world championship was held decades ago, the historic Casa Vallejo that was built in 1909 and later converted into a restaurant, the Session Road Rotonda where eight large stones that symbolized the eight officials who comprised the Taft Commission can be found. It was the Taft Commission that declared Baguio as the summer capital of the Philippines. Near the Rotonda is the well-preserved Baden Powel Hotel where the Taft Commission held its very first session.
Last stop in Baguio was the Baguio Museum.
Strictly following the pre-arranged schedules, the entourage left Baguio city just before midnight. The convoy zigzagged its way down to Sison town in Pangasinan where the tour participants took a late dinner before proceeding to San Fernando city in Pampanga arriving there early morning the following day.
The tourism officers of San Fernando briefed the participants on the historical significance of the San Fernando Train Station which exists up to now. In it are exhibits of World War II memorabilia. Also included in the exhibits are life-size statues of Dr. Jose Rizal who once made a brief stopover at the train station, American and Japanese soldiers, Death March kilometer posts, old wartime newspaper clippings, old Japanese and Philippine peso bills, large portraits of Gen. Yamashita, Supreme Commander of the Japanese Imperial Army in the Philippines, and Gen. Homma, author of the infamous Death March, and many more.
Now in Manila late in the afternoon of the same day, the group made brief visits to the Manila Cathedral and the San Agustin church in Intramuros before proceeding to nearby Fort Santiago where Dr. Rizal spent his last hours before facing the firing squad at the Bagumbayan, now the Luneta.
The Cultural Heritage caravan winded up its Luzon tour at the Luneta by witnessing the performance of 10 Filipino dance troupes led by the world-famous Bayanihan Dance Company at the International Dance Day Concert held at the open-air auditorium near the planetarium.
The 5-day Luzon tour on wheels, the first leg of the NCCA-PIA joint project, covered the provinces of Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, Isabela, Cagayan, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Mt. Province, Pangasinan and Metro Manila.