The Leaning Tower of Pisa it’s not, but the Spanish-era baluarte (watchtower) of the town of Luna in the province of La Union is no less historic and deserves the preservation efforts of both local and national governments.

Already tilting at an alarming 20 degrees, the watchtower is in danger of collapse in the event of a powerful storm. All it needs for the watchtower to come crashing down is for it to tilt just one more degree, according to AMH Philippines Inc., the engineering consulting firm that is working to save the seaside landmark. In the report by Inquirer correspondent Yolanda Sotelo, AMH project manager Egbert Abiad concedes that conservationists should “accept that the structure is already tilted.” He is hopeful, however, that something can be done to “stop it from tilting more.”

Made of adobe and coral blocks held together by lime and egg whites—typical of the structures of the Spanish colonial era—the  watchtower served as a fortress and a lookout for pirates. No one is sure exactly how old it is, but Luna Mayor Victor Marvin Marron describes it as “the town’s tourism landmark” and an “important heritage.”

AMH has conducted a feasibility study on the preservation of the watchtower (and has waived its professional fees as part of its corporate social responsibility). Its findings show that the watchtower would have collapsed 10 years ago had it not been for some emergency structural repair. That was then; permanent restoration is required now. The La Union provincial government is looking for private help even as it marshals its resources to preserve the landmark.

Here is a project worthy of the pork barrel had government officials been mindful of history and the necessity of the people’s awareness of their past.

Many more landmarks nationwide are slowly crumbling because of a lack of funds to preserve and restore them. These landmarks are virtual hostages in the back-and-forth between the forces that seek to preserve and the forces that seek to demolish or build over. The city of Manila, because of its own history as the old capital, is full of such structures. The Meralco Building in Ermita with its bas-relief façade by Italian sculptor Francesco Riccardo Monti, the Philamlife Theater on United Nations Avenue, the old Government Service Insurance System building on Arroceros Street, and the old houses in Binondo are only some of those endangered examples. “It is difficult to balance the commercial needs of development and the preservation needs of a city that wants to balance its special and unique personality,” Gemma Cruz-Araneta, vice chair of the Manila Historical and Heritage Commission under then Mayor Alfredo Lim, once remarked. Indeed, where malls and condominium buildings rise, the past is literally bulldozed.

As heritage advocates fight their battles in Manila, they have been successful elsewhere, such as in San Fernando, Pampanga, where they saved an old train station that was inaugurated back in 1892 and that symbolized the fight for freedom during World War II. But these success stories are few, and many of the landmarks are now decaying and fading from the collective memory. There are churches, lighthouses, family homes. If these landmarks have deteriorated badly by the time the government gets around to them, they will be too fragile to save and will become ruins in every sense of the word.

Ironically, the watchtower in Luna, La Union, has to be declared a national landmark or national treasure before government funds like the pork barrel can be released for conservation efforts. Because it has yet to be declared as such, the historic baluarte has missed out on “priority assistance.” Imagine what those precious funds—hopefully not dissipated in some ghost project—could have achieved.

It is up to the local governments to make the preservation of their own historical sites and structures a priority. And it falls upon concerned citizens to continue their efforts to bolster their communal pride by fighting to save the landmarks through the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, whose task it is to declare heritage sites and national landmarks.

Let’s hope there’s time for such bureaucratic rituals. Otherwise, just one more degree of tilting and the Luna watchtower, another significant link to our past, will be reduced to a heap of rubble.

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  • Oscuro

    We were never really good at preserving our past.

    Maybe one cause for that attitude of neglect has been our current system of education which is derived or modeled from the American system which I once read from someone, skewered our own version of history in order to favor the Americans. Our elementary history books took an overemphasis of the ills of the Spanish colonization and glorified everything that was American to some extent.

    Maybe that made us all crave for everything modern and never look back.

    The Simbahan ng Balayan (Immaculate Conception Parish Church) which stood for 400 years is set to become SM (Save More). At least some part of it. And who is allowing it? No less than the archdiocese of Lipa.

    I’ve found that most of us Filipinos aren’t fond of history. You’d think that some cuchero working in Intramuros would at least know something about the place he works around in but no. I’ve rode some 3 old cucheros calesa and none could say anything.

    That’s one reason maybe that many are also nostalgic for the Marcos era. What surprises me about them are they’re just my age and most likely too young to even remember living through it.

    I’m sure the national historical society knows about this but funding the repair?

    • gryzyxwoz

      “What surprises me about them are they’re just my age and most likely too young to even remember living through it”

      .No thanks to the revisionist loyalist propaganda that is precisely aimed at today’s unknowing youth. It sickens me how some of them are falling for the myths these loyalists are propagating.

  • farmerpo

    Walang pera sa restoration kaya walang nagmamalasakit sa mga taga gobyerno. Walang makukurakot. Ibenta na sa isang collector ng mga historical structures na taga Bataan. Buti pa siya, ni re restore ang mga historical structures.
    Our historical values are only a little further than the tip of our noses.

  • Fulpol

    it has no use.. let it be crumbled to pieces..

    only restore and preserve those that are still in use.. those are not paintings just for display only.. those are structures in purpose for valuable uses..

    heritage only if the culture behind it is still exist.. old churches are still in use for worship.. old houses are still in use for abode..

    I was laughing how China copied historical structures of other countries.. for display, without any culture behind it..

    preserve the heritage if only the culture that built it still exist… it is useless to preserve Banaue Rice terraces if the Ifugao people no longer plant rice..

    • manual47

      Yah…just like yourself, your head is useless because there’s no brain inside.
      Have you seen the “Leaning tower of Pisa”. I have. It’s is not being used but Italian is still preserving it because of it’s heritage and as a tourists spot. So, there’s still purpose and use for it. Rice Terraces doesn’t need to be farmed by Ifugao. It can serve with two purposes…… it can still be farmed not just by Ifugao but other farmers and it can also and still be a tourist spot. So friend, sometime you have to use a little analysis before giving your two cents opinion. It may not sound smart and intelligent…..

    • Oscuro

      Tell me of one culture that didn’t copy from another?

  • Fulpol

    you can just call it a museum by itself, an artifact for educational purposes only.. now serves as tourist attraction too..

    not a cultural heritage..

    • Oscuro

      Stonehenge. The culture that built it was never clear. So far today they have an hypothesis on its constructions but not the people who built them. Yet it is the most popular cultural heritage of Britain. Because the culture that succeeded it built upon its mere existence.

      But you’re Fulpol to know that.

      • manual47

        And it’s mere existence fascinate us all…….

  • JosengSisiw1

    Most of our politicians don’t see those decaying landmarks because they usually travel outside, out of the public eyes & with their alipores, enjoying other countries’ heritage, courtesy of none other but the Filipino taxpayers.

  • dimasalang

    This has always bothered me for long. As a nation, we have no sense of history. While other countries fight to preserve theirs, we are wont to lose ours, having no inkling of its importance. We choose ignorance rather than cultivate an appreciation of things past and antiquities. So that we go forward as a nation with little or no memory of the events that shaped us as a nation. As Rizal said “He who does not know how to look back at where he came from will never get to his destination.” And that is exactly, where we’re headed, nowhere. Such a vicious cycle.

    • Rogelio Y. Dela Cruz

      A fine example is the Jai-Alai Bldng. in Taft Avenue, Some people want to conserve and preserve it, but no then Mayor Atienza want it to be demolished to paved the way for a city court building, the landmark was destroyed and do we have the city court building??? No!!! just metal post that is now rusted and decaying….

  • tra6Gpeche

    What landmark? Our public officials have no time to think of that. Why? Most, if not all of them, are busy stealing the peoples’ money and making themselves very rich! Every Filipino should know it by now!

  • aristeosj

    This is one aspect where we are sorely lacking in initiative—preservation of historical landmarks.It could be one reason why we are lagging very much behind in the number of tourist arrivals.Some tourists look for culture and history of a place. Just look at Rome in Italy and you marvel at how they were able to preserve the Colesseum,Forum and other Roman relics and sites. And some commentators here are right—our so-called leaders do not really care about it simply because there is no moner to steal from it.Pathetic!!!

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