Behind the accoladeBy Jobers Bersales
Cebu Daily News
I still am not certain if I truly deserve the Garbo sa Sugbo Award in the field of Cebuano culture and heritage but I am nonetheless humbled by this prestigious accolade bestowed upon me by the Province of Cebu and most especially by Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia.
In my acceptance speech at the Governor’s Ball last Friday, incidentally her last as she will move on to the Senate next year, I paid tribute to the governor herself, who should have been the one given the award instead of me. At the end of the day, when all is said and done, what remains clear is that had it not been for her, the heritage movement and the awe-inspiring awareness by Cebuanos all over about our past and the need to appreciate, preserve and protect it, would have truly been an uphill battle. The lesson to be learned here is simple: recognize government as the most important partner in any undertaking that is for the good of your fellow citizens.
The local government aside, there are other people who have helped the governor in the heritage cause in Cebu and it is with them that I share the award. They are too many to mention that I decided not to do so in my speech otherwise it would take an hour. Let me therefore thank some of them here (again this column will not suffice to mention them all). Foremost on the list is Ruel Rigor, lecturer on tourism and culture at the University of San Jose-Recoletos. It was he who helped design the heritage caravans and the conservation training programs that began in 2004, which resulted in the community-level inventory and documentation of the thousands of tangible and intangible heritage resources in the province. Many of these eventually found their way into the Kabilin television show which I host at SugboTV.
Whereas other provinces today hire outsiders, mainly from a university in Manila, to do the inventory, paying millions of pesos as a result, we decided early on that the entire process would rest on the active commitment and participation of local government officials together with teachers, youths, barangay health workers, barangay officials and private individuals. This formula for success was eventually proven correct as the years progressed into the second term of the governor.
With Ruel were Rosebelle Daculan, who ably handled the team building exercises in between our lectures, and Eda Mongaya, who documented the entire process. I also wish to acknowledge the other lecturers in the heritage caravans, architects Melva Rodriguez-Java and Carmencita Solis. Beyond us, however, are the 52 tourism and heritage councils in each of the 52 towns and cities under the jurisdiction of the province, which submitted their cultural maps and inventories after the trainings, many of them shelling out their own money and climbing mountains to look for old houses and artifacts as well as local histories and folklore.
Some of these intangible heritage resources later became the basis for festival dances, while the movable or tangible ones were exhibited in municipal, city and even barangay museums.
There is one institution that I must pay homage to in all of these: the University of San Carlos. In all my work moving from town to town and city to city all over the province, the USC administration patiently waited for me to show up from time to time in the university to attend to my duties, which were piling high. USC, especially under its president, Fr. Dionisio Miranda, SVD, has never shirked from funding the annual archaeological excavations, to cite just one example, which we conducted in tandem with the National Museum of the Philippines and the Cebu Provincial Tourism and Heritage Council. As a result, we now know more than ever about Cebu’s unwritten past in our bid to hopefully complete the picture of our prehistory in our lifetime.
It is also at USC where the 55-volume Cebu Provincial History project was carried out, soon to be launched this year by the governor. This commitment to heritage research and to academic publishing by USC is unparalleled in its history.
Thankfully, I am still young enough to be true to the ideals on which the Garbo sa Sugbo Awards were founded. While my right knee often causes me to limp a little as I climb some steps – an injury that I think some archaeologists get to acquire as they age – heritage work does not end when one gets an award. On the contrary, it is there to encourage one to do more. And so we shall.
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I am now in Zamboanga to make final preparations for the second museum to be set up by the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), following the first one last year in Cebu. The BPI Museum Zamboanga will be inaugurated tomorrow by high officials of the bank who will plane in for the occasion. The four months of restoring a house that since 1912 has been the main branch of BPI here, and converting its second floor into a lifetime museum, is finally at hand. More about this work next week.
Tags: Garbo sa Sugbo Awards