SORSOGON CITY. --- Last January 17, 2020, the province of Sorsogon through the leadership of Governor Francis “Chiz” Escudero held a Cultural Mapping Orientation Meeting for various stakeholders at the newly-restored Gabaldon Building of the Sorsogon East Central School in Barangay Burabod, Sorsogon City.
The Orientation was organized by the Sorsogon Provincial Tourism Office under the leadership of Mr. Bobby G. Gigantone, Tourism Officer and assisted by Mr. Jerome D. Dio, Project Officer of the Sorsogon Provincial Museum. Among those invited were teachers from the Department of Education (DepEd) and cultural and tourism officers from the various local government units (LGUs).
The featured guest speaker was Fr. Harold Rentoria, an Augustinian priest and native of Oas, Albay, who had served as the Commissioner for the Subcommission on Cultural Heritage (SCH) of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) for the past six years, from 2014-2019. During his term, various cultural mapping efforts were carried out by the six national committees under the SCH and these efforts continue even as he ends his two three-year terms.
Fr. Rentoria reminded the audience that the legal basis for conducting cultural mapping lies in Republic Act 10066, also known as the “Cultural Heritage Act of 2009.” The Act enjoins the government, through its LGUS, the NCCA with its allied government agencies and the state educational institutions under the DepEd and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to pursue efforts to “preserve, protect and promote our nation’s heritage.”
Thus, LGUs such as Sorsogon Province and Sorsogon City have to include in their long-term development plans the efforts to be undertaken to carry out the mandate given by R.A. 10066. For this reason, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between the NCCA, through Fr. Rentoria and the Province of Sorsogon as represented by the Hon. Roxan M. Escanilla, with the Committee on Culture and Arts and currently Provincial President of the Sangguniang Kabataan Federation of the Province of Sorsogon.
Among the attendees were faculty members of the Sorsogon State College (SSC) led by Dr. Stephen Henry S. Totanes, a resident of Gubat and Associate Professor at the School of Graduate Studies (SGS), who served concurrently with Fr. Rentoria at the NCCA as Vice-Head of the SCH and Head of the National Committee on Historical Research (NCHR). The SSC faculty were conducting a General Education Curriculum (GEC) Training Seminar on the teaching of courses on the “Life, Works and Writings of Dr. Jose Rizal” and “Readings in Philippine History,” thus the discussion on Cultural Mapping was very timely.
At present, there are already several tangible and immovable cultural heritage sites that have been marked and actively preserved by the province such as the Provincial Capitol Building (1916-present), more than a hundred years old and just last 2017, a commemorative marker was attached to it by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) under the Chairmanship of Dr. Rene Escalante, a Professor of History at De La Salle University and whose parents are from Bacon district in this city.
Likewise, the church in Barcelona, Sorsogon has been the site of restoration projects and cultural mapping efforts of the community for the past several years by NCCA teams led by Fr. Rentoria. Finally, for intangible cultural heritage, the PANTOMINA Dance has been actively promoted and last October 31, 2019 during the Kasanggayahan Festival, the province earned itself a recognition from the Guiness Book of World Records for having the highest number of dancers in a folk dance on the streets of Sorsogon City: 7,127 in all.
The meeting ended with group meetings by municipalities and the creation of a Local Technical Working Group and the Designation of a Project Manager. The appointees will soon be confirmed by Governor Chiz Escudero.
By way of ending this “historical exercise,” the participants were invited to visit the newly-opened Sorsogon Wartime Museum located at the back of the Gabaldon Building. The Museum features the various responses of Sorsoganons to the threat and the occupation of the province by Japanese forces in 1941-1945. At the helm of the resistance efforts by local guerillas was Governor Salvador Escudero Sr., who also became a popular governor after the war. He is the grandfather of the late Congressman of the First District Salvador H. Escudero III, the father of Governor Chiz.
The Museum was built through the collaborative efforts of NHCP under Dr. Escalante and the DepEd through its provincial leaders.
Thus, so many challenges await the cultural mappers of Sorsogon as they strive to “preserve, protect and promote Sorsogon’s heritage.”