How, what about the houses?
Now that everyone has agreed not to touch any of the heritage trees lining the route from Naga to Carcar cities, it is time to tackle the fate of ancestral houses.
There are two late Spanish-era ancestral houses along the route now being widened, one in Naga and another in San Fernando, the beloved hometown of my mother. There are also a handful of American era houses in both towns that will be likewise affected
I was a bit saddened that at least two of the owners have reportedly agreed to have sections of their houses demolished to give way to another two lanes of N. Bacalso Avenue, incidentally the longest highway in Cebu as it stretches from the corner of Cebu Central School and the Development Bank of the Philippines down to the tip of Santander!
When all else fails to save these houses right where they are standing now, then the final solution is not to merely demolish them. Rather, heritage conservation experts would certainly recommend that these be moved back or elsewhere where they can be better protected.
I had already proposed to Mayor Valdemar Chiong of Naga City to move the Spanish-era balayng bato in Langtad, Naga to the plaza, using basic building techniques recognized by heritage conservation experts. The house has been altered somewhat, with its rear portion already giving way to modern features. Still, the second floor planks and the coral stones that make up about 60 percent of the house walls are intact and are worth saving.
I understand he was discouraged by the high cost suggested to him by a private group. I too was quite surprised at the steep price. But surely there are ways to move this without incurring millions as long as one utilizes the building foremen and master builders of old, who were taught their craft not in schools but by life-long experience.
The same can be done with the other houses dating to the American colonial period that are in danger of eternal defacement with their facades about to be torn down to give way to a national highway. The better to buy them whole and move them to safer ground, preferably where the public can be better educated about their architectural and historic value.
No matter if we allow many of these houses to stay right where they are, the expected onslaught of more cars and trucks on a much expanded highway will eventually put a toll on these houses until it will be too late.
This is, therefore, an either/or situation: either we stop the road widening altogether or we carry out the most desperate drastic way of transferring these houses intact. This will cost some money but eventually these two towns will have something that is fast becoming rare to show to everyone in their plaza or some public space where these houses can finally exist without any more threats to their survival.
The good thing is that unlike the acacia trees that are not guaranteed by earth balling to grow back vibrantly (see the three balled acacia trees now at Plaza Independencia, right above the subway tunnel), these houses, when torn down bit by bit and marked and packed carefully, can be reconstructed piece by piece with much success.
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Incidentally, I think it is erroneous to say that the acacia trees now being threatened with destruction along Naga to Carcar were planted during the term of Gov. Dionisio Jakosalem “in 1915.” Jakosalem was governor of Cebu from 1907 to 1911. In January 1912, Gov. Manuel Roa took over and reigned until 1922. Since the Jakosalem family can recall with conviction that these trees were planted during the term of their illustrious ancestor, then these trees are already more than a century old. I believe these were planted in or around 1910, on orders of Governor Jakosalem, based on the Bureau of Public Works’ recommendations of three different species of trees, one of them the acacia tree. By 1915, the BPW Journal was already reporting that the national highway running the length of Cebu was already planted with these trees.
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