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Why PBBM should act on the destruction of the Relief Map of the Philippines

We need to put the spotlight on the demolition of an Important Cultural Property

At a Glance

  • The National Museum of the Philippines is correct that the Relief Map is not classified as cultural property because under RA 10066 it is classified higher—It is an Important Cultural Property (ICP).

FB_IMG_1686246711527.jpgA CAREFUL PROCESS A lot of thought and effort went into the planning of the park, every single detail including the Relief Map of the Philippines

Listening to the rationale behind the destruction of the Relief Map of the Philippines in Rizal Park, and hearing this heritage icon and artwork dismissed like a piece of weathered decorative landscape furniture—relegated with the same importance as a forgotten garden gnome—utterly filled me with dismay if not horror. A death sentence was meted out, as soon as the National Museum of the Philippines deemed the Relief Map, located in the Rizal Park to be in such a “dismal state,” that it was rendered unsalvageable.

The Relief Map of the Philippines is a sculpture created by Jose M. Mendoza. It is in the process of being demolished (if not demolished completely by now) by the National Museum of the Philippines (NMP). In 2019, Republic Act 11333 handed over the eastern end of the Rizal Park, where Relief Map is located, from the National Parks Development Committee, an agency of the Department of Tourism, to NMP. RA 11333 gave the NMP jurisdiction of this portion of the park to create a master plan for and to build a National Museum Complex. The law also awarded the NMP jurisdiction over the disposition of the land so they could sell and donate. RA 11333, however, did not give the NMP authority to destroy cultural property within the National Museum complex.

National Museum director Jeremy Barnes, during an interview on TV5’s The Big Story, June 1, 2023), defended the museum’s actions by pointing out that it did not consider the Relief Map as cultural property because one, there was no black marker indicating its historical significance, and two, the Relief Map was not made by a national artist. The NMP is correct that the Relief Map is not classified as cultural property because under RA 10066 it is classified higher—It is an Important Cultural Property (ICP). RA 10066 Sec. 5 Refers to Cultural Property Considered Important Cultural Property (ICP) as: “(f) structures dating at least fifty (50) years old.”

viber_image_2023-06-09_14-55-41-086.jpgTHE MAN IN CHARGE Teodoro ‘Ka Doroy’ Valencia was a print and broadcast journalist and columnist. He was head of the Parks Committee and was responsible for developing the Rizal Park into one of the best parks in Asia (Photo from Victoria Valencia Ferro)

The Relief Map was created during the first term of President Ferdinand E. Marcos (1965-1969), making it at least 54 years old. The National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA)’s Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of RA 10066 Sec 11 states modification and destruction of cultural property can only be done when “presumption of significance” is lifted. The NCCA is the only cultural agency mandated by Republic Act 10066 to lift this “presumption of significance” after due process. No clearance was given by the NCCA to the National Museum of the Philippines but the NMP continued its demolition.

When RA 11333 was signed on April 26, 2019, it made the National Museum answerable only to the President of the Republic of the Philippines and the courts. The NCCA has no jurisdiction over the National Museum, only on cultural properties under the museum’s jurisdiction. RA 11333 has made it very difficult, if not impossible, to hold the National Museum to account for any misstep or violation of laws. To see a resolution on the violation of RA 10066, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. should act on it or someone must bring the matter of the violation and those responsible to the Office of the Ombudsman.

When the National Parks Development Committee was created in January 1963, its mission was “to provide fully developed and well-maintained parks for the Filipinos’ wholesome recreation and socio-cultural education, which will contribute toward the enrichment of national identity and heritage.” In 1967, the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos signed Proclamation 299 renaming Luneta to Rizal Park and the late veteran journalist and columnist Teodoro “Ka Doroy” F. Valencia was made the head of the National Parks Development Committee.

received_225599473588422.jpegFORMER GLORY An old photo taken by Architect Gerard Lico shows the Relief Map in pristine condition

“Ka Doroy” was responsible for developing (a large portion of) Rizal Park into one of the Best Parks in Asia—the Relief Map of the Philippines was part of this development. When I was 12 years old, I had the privilege of being introduced to “Ka Doroy” by one of his granddaughters in his home in Makati. I remember a man of presence and dignity. There was a stillness to him as he read the newspaper. And then he opened his mouth. And then that voice! Then the wit! Later that day, when I told my father I had met “Ka Doroy,” my dad proceeded to tell me more about the man I met. He also showed me the newspaper with Ka Doroy’s column with the distinctive “Over a Cup of Coffee” logo.

When news of the Relief Map destruction came out, I received a message from a relation of Ka Doroy, it read, “He would have been so heartbroken!” My older relatives who knew Ka Doroy, recalls, “He really put a lot of effort and thought into that park. Every single detail of it.” Ka Doroy was responsible too for the Saturday Concerts at Paco Park and on Sundays, the “Concert at the Park” series.

The National Museum demolished Mendoza’s sculpture, the Relief Map of the Philippines, to pave the way for the revival of the Burnham plan of Manila of 1905. Daniel Burnham was an American architect, master planner, and father of the Skyscraper. He designed a number of buildings in the US and drew up the plans for the city of Chicago and downtown Washington DC during the American colonial period in the Philippines, Burnham was commissioned by then Governor General William Howard Taft (1901-1903) to redesign Manila and Baguio, the Americans’ summer capital in the archipelago. According to reports the Baguio project involved seizing land from the local indigenous group, the Igorots. Burnham’s plan was never completed.

Most of us have our own personal connection to the Relief Map and have expressed dismay at its destruction. Philippine Independence Day is soon approaching and how timely to have multi-awarded author, University of the Philippines professor in architecture, and architect Gerard Lico succinctly put it, on an FB post dated June 5, 2023: “Why destroy an iconic cultural landscape crafted to create a sense of nationalism in a post-colonial context just to favor an imposed urban plan of Burnham that reifies America’s imperial project in the early 20th century? What kind of mentality erases the tangible representation of our nation to recreate a colonial urban fantasy that never was and to nurture a kind of colonial nostalgia? Most of us have shared collective memory of the Relief Map of the Philippines in Luneta. The nation is invisible, it must be made tangible so that its citizens can profess their love for this nation. Regardless of age or political association, this well-loved cultural landscape has engendered an established place-attachment across generations. Lamentably, it died a swift and silent death without the benefit of a public discourse. It is now an urban memory, a parable of colonial mentality.”

— Eliza Romualdez Valtos

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Credit belongs to : www.mb.com.ph

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