by Joy Rosal-Sumagaysay
The word heritage comes from two Latin words – heri (past) and tangere (to touch). Literally, it means “touching the past.”
Heritage is the sum total of all cultural goods we inherit from our ancestors. As inheritance, we have the obligation to take good care of it (preserve) and hand on. In our language, heritage can best be translated as paranubli-on. Its root word, the verb subli connotes not absolute ownership of something inherited from an elder; rather, it carries with it a duty to handle it with care (paranubli-on like duta, alahas, manggad…) so that it can be further passed on to future generations.
Heritage can be classified into two general categories: intangible heritage and tangible heritage. Examples of intangible heritage are our oral history, songs, lullabies, values and beliefs. Tangible heritage consists of everyday objects, food, clothing, paintings, sculptures and structures among others.
In particular, the architectural or built heritage of our place, its structures or monuments, is one concrete link to our forefathers long gone. Here we have actual, physical evidence–structures we can gaze at, explore with our bare hands—-to jolt us into realizing that “Hey, these are real people; my great great grandparents participated in the building of these; they sweated it out in backbreaking labor to leave us with reminders from their era.”
For us living in the present, our built heritage helps define the identity of our town and its inhabitants, bringing out what is distinct and outstanding in our locality and positively setting us apart from our neighbors. Being conscious of our heritage develops in us a ‘pride of place.’
A heritage structure is important because of its cultural heritage significance. This can be assessed based on social, aesthetic, historic and scientific values. Miagao church, for example, ranks high on aesthetic significance because of the exceptional bas-relief on its façade.
In a publication entitled “Protecting Local Heritage Places” are listed the reasons why we need to protect our heritage places:
• they are a link with the past, a reminder of special moments in lives, history and culture
• they are part of a location’s special identity which could bring economic as well as other benefits to the area
• they have natural or cultural values which should be handed on to future generations
• there are social, spiritual or ethical (including respect for existence or intrinsic values) obligations to do so