Survey on the Protection of Cultural Heritage in the Republic of the Philippines
Cultural Heritage in Philippines
Cultural Heritage in Philippines
Located in Southeast Asia, the Republic of the Philippines is a nation of approximately 7,100 islands that are home to the Malayan and multiple other ethnic groups. The nation’s diversity appears in its rich cultural heritage, a heritage that includes archeological remains from the prehistoric age, a distinctive landscape of terraced paddy fields, and towns and churches from the colonial period. Following the independence of this multiethnic nation, a nation that has a history of colonial occupation and wars which have exacted tragic damage, Japan and a number of other countries have engaged in cooperative projects with the goal of providing assistance.
Cooperation for cultural heritage in the Philippines provided by Japan has generally taken the form of Grant Assistance for Cultural Grassroots Projects by the Japanese government and specialized research in different fields such as architecture, cultural anthropology, and archaeology. Absent, however, has been cross-sectoral research aimed at clarifying the overall state of cultural heritage. In fact, compared with assistance for cultural heritage protection that Japan has provided to neighboring countries in Southeast Asia, the one for the Philippines has been quite limited. For this reason, information on cultural heritage protection in the Philippines is also limited. Furthermore, security in certain regions such as northern Luzon in the past and Mindanao now has made it difficult for Japan to ascertain its cultural heritage status.
In addition, like Japan, natural disaster often occurs in the Philippines. In 2013, Cebu and Bohol received significant damage in earthquakes, and Visayas was also damaged extensively by typhoon Haiyan. Cultural heritage in those regions was damaged, highlighting the urgent need for the establishment of a risk management system.
In 2013, Japan and the Philippines were expected to enhance their relationship with respect to the 40th year of ASEAN-Japan friendship and cooperation, and JCIC-Heritage determined to dispatch a group to conduct a International Cooperation Survey for the purpose of understanding the state of cultural heritage protection in the Philippines and to examine the potential cooperation. The survey was conducted in February 2013, and focused on the clarification of requests for cooperation from the Philippines with visits to archaeological remains in northwest area of Luzon, historical cities in Vigan, churches and colonial structures in Cebu and Bohol, and museums and libraries in different regions, all of which comprise representative cultural heritage in the country, and discussions with responsible personnel to collect information and exchange opinions. We also had meetings with the Embassy of Japan in the Philippines and the JICA Philippines Office, and examined the movement of international institutions and the vision of Japanese institutions to collect information on the support system. Liaison in the Philippines during the survey was handled by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) International Department.
The survey group included Kunikazu UENO, specialist in Japanese architectural history and Chairman of the Subcommittee for Southeast Asia; Kazuhiko TANAKA, a lecturer at Sophia University specializing in Philippine, and Juan Ramon JIMENEZ VERDEJO, associate professor at the University of Shiga Prefecture specializing in the urban history during the Spain's colonial period.
Status of Cultural Heritage in the Philippines
Results revealed that the state and value of cultural heritage in the Philippines have not yet been sufficiently surveyed due to the lack of specialists in the field both in and outside of the Philippines. It is also obvious that the Philippines is behind in the establishment of educational system for cultural heritage protection and that it requires the urgent development of human resources. It is expected that enhancement of the educational system and increased awareness of cultural heritage will promote the protection of cultural heritage in the country. In addition, our survey also revealed that cooperation with local governments is the key for cultural heritage protection and the execution of protection relies on the state of local governments.
Requests from the Philippines
The government of the Philippines indicated that it expects Japan’s assistance in increasing awareness of cultural heritage, establishing cooperative systems among countries in Asia, strengthening academic cooperation, and developing human resources. Japan is able to utilize its experience in cooperation for cultural heritage protection in other Asian countries to provide support for the protection of cultural heritage in the Philippines in cooperation with other Asian countries.
Creation of a Support System by JCIC-Heritage
JCIC-Heritage has discussed desirable cooperation from Japan with concerned parties at Southeast Asia and South Asia Subcommittee meetings to advance the creation of a framework to support cultural heritage protection in the Philippines. As a result, we have provided assistance through the Supporting Program of the Technological Improvement for the Identification of Dates and Kiln Sites of Ceramic Sherds as Archaeological Artifacts – Mainly of the Imari Wares (Hizen Porcelain) (applicant: TANAKA) funded by the Japan Foundation in October 2013. An expert from the Philippines was invited to participate in this project.
We also shared information with Japanese experts on the pre-earthquake conditions of cultural heritage, which led to assistance for the Japanese-Philippine Conference for Restoration and Conservation of Cebu and Bohol Island’s Cultural Heritage (applicant: JIMENEZ VERDEJO). They held joint workshops on risk management for cultural heritage with the University of San Carlos in Cebu. Mr. Tanaka took the initiative in preparing for the establishment of the Research Organization for Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region in Japan. In response to the survey results, the establishment of a prompt support system and provision of actual assistance have begun. JCIC-Heritage continues to provide effective international cooperation for cultural heritage.