Bohol: International experts are currently on a visit to the country to further assess the damage sustained by heritage sites from recent calamities and to discuss efforts to restore these natural and man-made structures.
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Dr Stefano de Caro, director general for the International Centre for the Study and Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), paid a courtesy call on DFA Undersecretary Rafael Seguis last May 13.
Their discussions tackled issues concerning the restoration of Philippine heritage sites in the aftermath of two recent calamities — the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck the islands of Bohol and Cebu on October 15 last year, and Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the Eastern Visayas region on November 8.
Caro visited Vigan from May 14 to 15 and is in Bohol from May 16 to 17.
From December 2 to 12, 2013, a team of specialists from ICCROM, the Philippines' National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) went to Manila and Central Visayas to assess the damage caused by the natural disasters.
ICCROM is an inter-governmental organisation dedicated to the conservation of cultural heritage site including monuments.
The assessment efforts similarly tried to identify immediate needs and emergency safeguarding measures, as well as medium-term interventions needed for rehabilitation and recovery.
In the case of Bohol, the island, more than 800 kilometres south of Manila, is heavily dependent on tourism. A large number of the visitors to the area go there to marvel at its rich heritage and natural wonders. This wealth in history and culture is evidenced by the Spanish colonial era churches as well as the famed Chocolate Hills that dominate the landscape of its central portions.
On April 15, various government and non-government bodies, including the Philippine Embassy in the United States, Governor Edgar Chatto and Bishop Leonardo Medroso, among others, signed a declaration of Acknowledgement of Support to rebuild centuries-old Churches and cultural heritage sites that were damaged by the earthquake that struck Bohol.
Aside from these bodies, the national government, through Budget Secretary Butch Abad, committed P600 million (Dh50 million) in assistance for the restoration and reconstruction of the destroyed old churches.
According to Father Milan Ted Torralba, executive secretary of the Permanent Committee for the Cultural Heritage of the Church (PCCHC) of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, several heritage churches in Bohol were already in the process of restoration.
Among the churches that were severely damaged by the quake were the famed Baclayon and Loboc Churches, the Nuestra Senora dela Luz in Loon, the Loay Church, the Church of Our Lady of Assumption in Dauis, Paroquia dela Santa Cruz in Maribojoc.
Aside from the houses of worship, a number of the Chocolate Hills were also damaged, including its viewing deck.
The earthquake displaced some 65,000 people.