I received a copy of the letter of the Kapunungan Hilongosnon sa Manila for Mayor Panfilo Go requesting that the old municipal building be preserved. I do appreciate their activist spirit, but it I am of the contrary opinion,my apologies.
First, I do not find the old municipal building to possess adequate attributes of authenticity that it is worthy of any preservation effort.The old municipal building, I was told, has had countless renovations from one administration to the next. There used to be an old panoramic photograph of the original building in the public library ( I believe it was taken during the funeral of a certain mayo), and the building as it is today is totally different from how in the picture.
Authenticity is an important aspect in the UNESCO guidelines. It means that it has to be imbued with a message from the past. It means that has not be unreasonably altered by modern hands which spoils the message it is carrying. It has to remain to the present day as living witness of age-old traditions and common heritage. ( Source: UNESCO Charter of Venice). What message does the old building carry? I could not think of any except of one that is: politicians should not be trusted with reconstruction and preservation because they usually have a weird sense of aesthetics.
I was in Bohol two or three years ago to see what is touted by many as the oldest church in the Philippines, the Baclayon Church (although some historians disagree claiming that the San Agustin Church in Manila deserves the title since the cornerstones of San Agustin Church was laid as early as 1571,25 years before the Baclayon Church was built in 1596). Anyhow, I am telling you this to an issue in authenticity. Baclayon Church is surely worth all the preservation efforts, but I was dismayed to see that the ceiling which used to boast of beautiful and authentic religious murals was newly and haphazardly repainted. The result was more of a cartoonish representation of religious icons. It was gross.
My point is : preservation and reconstruction according to UNESCO standard is an intricate, expensive, and time-consuming process. Short of such standard would just a practice in futility and mediocrity. Therefore, my important question would be: is the old municipal building worth preserving and reconstructing? Is it valuable by virtue of its authenticity to the culture and history of the Hilongosnons? I honestly do not think it is.
Second, there is a new municipal building beside it, which is just roughly a meter or two way. Not to demolish the old building would be a great impracticality and as inconvenience and the building cost is the least of my concern. I am more concerned of parking space, breathing space for its employees and landscaping space( this is mandatory in other countries). There are those who dislike the new building because it does not conform to their concept of what a municipal building should look like.Come on, people. Since when did we place barricades to our imagination? Since when did we legislate that a skirt can only be of color black, and of knee length?
The architectural design of the new building is very unusual. It is cosmopolitan and forward-looking. It connotes the mindset of a people who are ready for the challenges of a global village in the 21st century. It seems to signal the end of ways that are parochial, inept and ineffective in governance. It seems to signal that we as a people are now ready to practice professionalism, political maturity and enlightened, dynamic leadership.
Third, I personally could not stomach the sight of the old municipal building because I could not help but connect it to several despicable things in the past such as the fact that millions of people’s money suddenly disappeared in thin air. I wish that in the new municipal building, we start anew as a people without the ghosts and the baggage of the past. And this time, let us make it right, for heaven’s sake.
All in all. I find the advocacy of the Hilongosnons in Manila nothing more than a manifestation or nostalgia. I do feel nostalgic sometimes whenever I clean my room and refuse to throw away my pair of tattered jeans or my college test papers. But I tell myself that not all old items are worth keeping. Sometimes items have to be relegated to the wastebasket.
Similarly, I say that the old municipal building is not worth keeping. Let’s all do away with nostalgic idiocy and embrace what modern times has in store for us.