Culture & heritage preservation: The city government's weak point?


GLORIOUS AND ABANDONED. Anne Agravante’s series of abandoned old buildings in Naga City that still stands today. The 416 Art Gallery tends to document these structures thru art as remembrance of their cultural and economic contributions to the city. Photo By Paulo DS. Papa.



NAGA CITY---"Cultural progress should be visible, simultaneous with commercial progress of the city," according to Dennis Gonzaga, an art curator and local artist.

The statement was made during an interview, few hours after the launching of "Abandonments and Visitations", an art exhibit sponsored by The 416 Art Gallery, at Avenue Square along Magsaysay Avenue here last Sunday evening, September 15.

The gallery exhibit featured abandoned buildings in the city which are considered as valuable in historical and cultural aspect, setting aside for the moment the people’s devotion to the Our Lady of Peñafrancia, which customarily is the highlight of various art exhibits in this city in the fiesta month of September.

Gonzaga said that the exhibit served as complementary to the Peñafrancia themed exhibits which give Naga some limitations in cultural aspect, despite being advertised as a cultural city and the heart of the Bicol region.

When asked what actions should be taken by the Local Government Unit of Naga to protect the city's old and abandoned buildings for heritage preservation, he responded that aside from the religious and economic identity of Naga, the LGU must also give attention to the city's cultural, historical, and heritage aspects.

Gonzaga stressed that cultural and heritage preservation is a weakness of the city government as shown by visible demolition and abandonments of old buildings despite existing laws about heritage preservation.

"Mayong problema kun maki-Ina an Naga. Alagad kaakibat kan kamalayan ki Ina, tawanan man nin kamalayan an mga rayaon sa peripheries" (There is no problem if Naga is centered to Ina. But except for the consciousness to Ina, consciousness must also be given to everything in the peripheries.) he said.

Meanwhile, he admitted that it would be difficult for the city government to preserve some of the old and abandoned buildings because in the first place jurisdiction over these structures are still subjects for contention and debate, such as the now privately-owned Spanish penal house in Brgy. San Francisco.

He called on the authorities to take actions before these buildings are erased by either nature or man.

The exhibit will stay for public viewing at the said venue until September 21, Saturday.

Gonzaga, a former social sciences professor in Ateneo de Naga University (AdNU) owns the art gallery that conducts trainings for local artists.

He is also known for participating in various art exhibits and providing illustrations for multiple books written by Bicolano writers.