NCCA exec cautions Caloocan City on altering Bonifacio monument
MANILA, Philippines — A government heritage expert has said that as much as possible, national monuments should be left untouched in reaction to the unveiling last week of an ambitious plan by Caloocan officials to revamp the Bonifacio Monument Circle.
Lawyer Trixie Angeles of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) said that existing culture and heritage laws forbid the modification of recognized national monuments such as the Bonifacio Monument.
“Usually, if the monument is of a very high stature, we don’t allow or we don’t suggest that it be modified,” Angeles said. “The reason is that, if we really value and [have] such a high regard [for] a monument, we don’t want to change it but instead, we change its surroundings.”
Angeles, along with other stakeholders, were among those invited on Friday as Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice unveiled a plan to revitalize the Caloocan Monument.
The plan called for the raising of the entire Bonifacio Monument by about seven meters above ground level so that it would be visible from afar. The monument will also be accessible to pedestrians through an underpass lined with shops and a museum. It will be surrounded by a manicured garden and water fountain.
Erice said the plan was still in its infancy and would have to go through more consultation with stakeholders, but he estimated the project cost at P400 million.
Angeles said that to do a project on the monument, the local government would have to seek permits from four different agencies: the National Historical Institute (NHI), which has declared it a national monument; the NCCA, which has been overseeing its maintenance because it was made by National Artist Guillermo Tolentino; the National Museum, which has declared it a national cultural treasure; and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which has declared it an environmentally critical area as a cultural site.
Despite its concerns, Angeles said the NCCA would be willing to listen to project proponents, and thanked local officials for inviting them for consultations from the beginning.
“We have concerns about the structural integrity of the monument if it will be raised up, but we welcome the idea of examining the project. We, along with the National Historical Institute and the National Museum can look at it and give expert advice on what you want to do, and so that it would be easier for you to get the necessary approval,” she said.
Angeles said the NCCA would like to be careful with such projects, saying that many projects and “interventions” at the Rizal Park have supposedly diminished the value of the national park.
“The building of fast-food chains, letting roads pass through the park, putting up the National Library and the NHI offices there, and the erection of Lapu-Lapu’s statue were belatedly recognized as wrong interventions, because if we really hold Rizal in such a high esteem as our national hero, then we wouldn’t have built such structures or buildings that would diminish the regard we have for a park named after our national hero,” she said.
Angeles also called Erice’s attention to one glaring omission about Bonifacio that should be addressed in the more immediate time.
“Bonifacio is not yet declared a hero. There is no legislation appointing him as such. So we need to formally recognize him as a hero first. Maybe the good congressman here can lead that cause,” she said.
The Bonifacio Monument, which sits at the center of the junction of EDSA, Rizal Avenue, Samson Road, and MacArthur Highway, was created by National Artist Guillermo Tolentino, who took three years before unveiling his work in 1933.
Over the years, city officials have raised plans relating to the monument, specifically relocating it. There was a plan in 2003 by then mayor Rey Malonzo to have it transferred to faraway Tala in North Caloocan to ease the traffic congestion in the area.
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