AusHeritage participation in Cultural Mapping Conference in Manila, Philippines – Nov 2013

Directors Ian Cook and Ken Taylor, authors of the ASEANCOCI-AusHeritage publication ‘A contemporary guide to cultural mapping – An ASEAN-Australia perspective’ (CMG) were invited to attend the first conference on cultural mapping in Southeast Asia. The conference was organised by the Center for Conservation of Cultural Property and Environment in the Tropics (CCCPET), The Graduate School, University of Santo Tomas (USTGS) in Manila. The Director of USTGSCCCPET, Associate Professor Eric B. Zerrudo worked closely with Ian Cook and Ken Taylor in developing the heritage mapping case study on the heritage city of Vigan considered a highlight in the CMG.

Group photo at the CCCPET Cultural Heritage Mapping Conference – November 4-5 2013

A little over a hundred delegates participated in the meeting. It ran over two days and incorporated 17 presentations including one by co-authors Cook and Taylor on developing the CMG and current trends in cultural mapping. The coverage of recent Philippine initiatives was thorough and provided valuable insights regarding the take-up of the Vigan cultural mapping model across this part of Southeast Asia. Many of the presentations focused on developing tourism and related strategies as an outcome of cultural mapping, in fact, there was a very strong economic/sustainability focus in most presentations.

In her welcome address Professor Marilu Rañosa-Madrunio, Dean, University of Santo Tomas Graduate School made the following remarks.

“The tragedies brought about by the devastating earthquakes in Bohol and Cebu last month opened our eyes to the challenging realities surrounding conservation or preservation efforts for historical monuments and other relics. We regret the loss of lives and heavy damage, if not complete destruction, of heritage sites such as the Spanish-era churches in Bohol and Cebu. Now, how can you even talk about conservation or preservation when the relics have been totally destroyed?”

“More than the monuments and memorabilia, the one at stake is really the value that these relics represent in our history as a people. Put together, all these relics help define our national character.”

“While continuing infrastructure development paves the way for the growth of human settlements, nothing defines the human character more intimately than their heritage. Indeed, it is very crucial that we map our country and heritage through a system that will look into significant resource areas and natural heritage places. In view of its rich cultural heritage, the Philippines is one country that should undertake significant use of mapping, especially in the light of threats from natural disasters such as earthquakes and flooding.”

“Mostly, I have known cultural mapping to be taking place in such provinces as Ilocos, Cebu, Iloilo, Laguna, Negros as well as in some other places whose historical pasts were associated with heavy Spanish or ancient native culture. But apart from these, we can boast of rich cultural heritage in places in the Visayas and Mindanao. The reason why such topics like cultural mapping of Boac in Marinduque, Butuan City in Agusan del Norte, Guian in Eastern Samar, Angeles City in Pampanga, Casiguran in Aurora, Sta. Maria in Romblon have been included as areas of discussion in today’s conference.”

“To my mind, research on cultural values around natural heritage, along with the documentation of cultural places, make for a truly interesting and challenging dimension in cultural management. Places grounded in cultural values are an essential part of cultural heritage preservation. For if and when we talk of culture, the discussion would naturally encompass both the tangible and intangible.”

“As in the broader and more comprehensive definition of cultural mapping, cultural heritage research becomes far more challenging as to include erosion, mine rehabilitation concerns, theft of natural resources and, from our experience recently, the restoration or rebuilding of national monuments.”

“Most people I know view the field of cultural heritage management as a discipline reserved for intellectuals and academics. That is not surprising. But I see this area as some kind of a frontier for upcoming professionals who wish to be engaged in the heroic search about who we are and how we came to be as a people.”

“So it is on this note that I extend to you our warmest welcome most especially to our plenary speaker, Hon. Eva Marie Medina of Vigan, Ilocos Sur, our foreign guest speakers, Mr. Ian Cook and Prof. Ken Taylor, as well as our other lecturers. We are truly proud that the UST Graduate School has remained in the forefront of this endeavor. To Professor Eric Zerrudo, our Director for the Center for Cultural Conservation of Property and Environment in the Tropics, referred to as CCCPET for short, and of course, our Director of the UST Museum, Rev. Fr. Isidro C. Abaño, OP.”

Conference delegates visit Binondo China Town, in Manila Promoted as the oldest China Town in the world. (Photos: Ken Taylor)

As part of the conference there was an afternoon site visit around Manila, including Binondo China Town. Professor Ken Taylor commented that whilst it wouldn’t win any architectural prizes, China Town has a zing about it as a thriving, vibrant urban area with life on the streets a dominant image. It typifies in many ways the UNESCO Historic Urban Landscape concept and developing approach to urban conservation where historic towns and cities are seen as communities of people rather than just mute collections of buildings. Here communities through time add layers of meaning and values: this is analogous to the cultural landscape idea where layers through time reflect human occupation and shaping the landscape whether its rural or urban.

Crisologo Street in the Heritage City of Vigan (Photo: Ian Cook)

At the conclusion of the conference Ian Cook and Ken Taylor undertook a site visit to the World Heritage Listed, Heritage City of Vigan which lies approximately 400 kilometers due north of Manila. The visit was hosted by the Mayor of Vigan, the Hon. Eva Marie S. Medina who was the plenary speaker at the Cultural Heritage Mapping Conference.

The cultural mapping work undertaken by the CCCPET and Vigan City has resulted in a broad range of projects and programs that enrich the city and will support its long-term sustainability. One notable endeavor is the Vigan Children’s Museum established as a key outcome of cultural mapping activities.

Buridek Vigan Children’s Museum (Photo: Ian Cook)

If you would like further information on the conference, the Heritage City of Vigan or the ASEANCOCI-AusHeritage publication A contemporary guide to cultural mapping – An ASEAN-Australia perspective (CMG) please contact:

Ian Cook: or Ken Taylor: