ICOMOS Day 2015 Opening Remarks

ICOMOS Day 2015 Opening Remarks
Dominic Galicia, President, ICOMOS Philippines
Saturday, April 18, 2015
Calvo Building, Escolta

Good afternoon, everybody!

We are in this wonderful space called the 75th Anniversary Hall of the Calvo Building, designed by the great architect Fernando Ocampo here on Escolta.  It is a wonderful day here on Escolta.  Some of you may have just come from the monthly Saturday Market @ Escolta, down the street at another wonderful building, the First United Building, the former Perez-Samanillo Building.  That was designed by another great architect, Andres Luna de San Pedro, son of the great painter Juan Luna.

In welcoming you, I am joined by members of the Board of Trustees of ICOMOS Philippines who are here: Tracey Santiago, Tats Manahan, as well as by the Advisor to the Board and our Emeritus President Augusto Villalon.  It is worth noting that “emeritus” is Latin for “veteran soldier” and Augusto Villalon continues to fight the good fight.   Not here, but with us in spirit, are Joy Mananghaya and Jojo Mata. 

So with them, and with the other members of ICOMOS Philippines, I welcome you on this wonderful day here on Escolta to our celebration of the 50th anniversary of the International Council of Monuments and Sites, or ICOMOS.

ICOMOS sounds like an ancient Greek word.  It rhymes with “Theotokos,” Greek for “Mother of God.”  It also rhymes with “Iconos,” Spanish for “Icons.”  Well, it’s not an ancient Greek word, but really, it should be.  And it’s meaning could be this: “the cultural significance that comes with the passing of time.” 

“The cultural significance that comes with the passing of time.”  The phrase comes from a 1964 document called the Venice Charter, the seminal document that is at the heart of ICOMOS, which was founded a year later, in 1965.  50 years ago.  Architect Augusto Villalon will shed more light on this later, in his presentation on the history of ICOMOS and of ICOMOS Philippines.

After him will be one of the newest members of ICOMOS Philippines:  Formerly of Paris, France, and now of Tacloban, Leyte, Richard Thomas, whose profession it is to shed more light, in his work as a lighting designer.  In fact, his work is to shed more light on heritage, on heritage sites such as the Louvre, Tower Bridge London, and Chateau de Chambord. 

Augusto Villalon is a founding member of ICOMOS Philippines, and Richard Thomas is a lighting designer.  I would like to take a brief opportunity to talk about our membership.  Although many are architects, archaeologists, engineers, archivists, and museum administrators, there are also lawyers, writers, tourism professionals, cultural networkers, and photographers.  They are all united by their experience and expertise in whatever field they are in, and the impact they have had on conservation and culture.  They are also all united by collegiality and respect for the opinion of the other, even if it may vary from yours.  The opinions may differ, but the dialogue abides.   

They are also united by their ability to lecture before an international audience of peers and experts.  We encourage membership in Scientific Committees within ICOMOS.  I, for example, am a member of the International Scientific Committee on 20th Century Heritage.  We encourage participation in international conferences.  We have developed a kind of protocol, a kind of ritual:  Before you travel, you give your paper here as a kind of dress rehearsal, then you give paper your there in the international conference, then you come back and share the conference highlights with us here.

This has led to one of our most recent developments, which is the ICOMOS Philippines YouTube Channel.  Go to YouTube.  In the search window, type “ICOMOS Philippines.”

The page opens to this list of videos:

Boj Capati: Defending an Archipelago: the Spanish Colonial Church-Fortress in the Philippines

Fung Yu: Immersive Imaging and the Heritage Site

Richard Uy: Manila Heritage and Urban Renewal via Public Private Partnership

Tina Paterno: Restoring San Sebastian Church, Manila

Tats Manahan: Restoring Alfonso Ossorio's The Angry Christ, St. Joseph the Worker Chapel, Victorias

That list will be updated after today with Augusto Villalon:  ICOMOS and ICOMOS Philippines, Richard Thomas: the Lighting of the Heritage Site, and Claire Vitug:  The Philippine Charter.

Thank you, by the way, to our videographer Jess Maramag.

Thank you also to ICOMOS Philippines social media consultant, Noel Alanguilan, for being the steward of the ICOMOS Philippines YouTube channel as well as our other social media.

The importance of international exposure of the national expert underscores the importance of Fundraising.  Since one of our goals is to enable our members to travel to international ICOMOS conferences, one of our other goals is to raise funds to help make that happen.

Let me just mention that one of our stalwart members here has had a series of his papers on various topics accepted at various international conferences abroad, but the challenge of international airfare remained insurmountable.  And his challenge is a challenge that we all want to help meet together.

On that note, let me introduce the Chair of our Fundraising Committee, Luisa Zaide.

After Richard Thomas’ presentation will be that of Claire Vitug, who will be speaking about an important project of ICOMOS Philippines, which is the Philippine Charter. 

I mentioned the Venice Charter of 1964, and here are some of its highlights: 
1.  The cultural significance that comes with the passing of time
2.  Works of art AND historical evidence
3.  A site is not just its history but also its setting
4.  In an intervention, there is the aspect of restoration and the aspect of the contemporary stamp.  The aspect of restoration must end where conjecture begins, and the aspect of the new must bear a contemporary stamp.

Fifty years after, of course, we realize the importance of adapting such foundational canons into specific contexts.  Specificity results from context, community and dialogue.  Claire will be sharing this with us later. 

After Claire Vitug’s presentation will be the Open Forum.  Always an important part of any ICOMOS gathering.  First part of it, we ask every member of ICOMOS to stand up, give a brief introduction of themselves and an update or brief description of a current project or concern.  This is an essential updating for all of us.  For me personally, the most important part of the meeting, the “Nerds Anonymous” part of the meeting.  After this first part will be the second part of the Open Forum.  This will be the Question and Answer part where anyone in the audience can ask a question of any of the speakers who gave presentations; this Question and Answer then evolves into an open Open Forum.

In conclusion, let me draw our attention once again to this space we are in.

Why are we here?

It is interesting that there was confusion among some people about the 50th anniversary.  People were congratulating me on the 75th anniversary of ICOMOS.  “No,” I had to explain, “the event is taking place in the 75th anniversary hall of Fernando Ocampo’s Calvo Building.” 

Why are we here, here in this high-ceiling space? 

If you look out those tall arched windows, you will see a physical expression of 50 years.  The Philippines at the height of her powers, the architect Carlos Arguelles at the height of his powers, the contractor David Consunji at the height of his, the former headquarters of Philippine National Bank, PNB.  The son-in-law of Carlos Arguelles is a friend of mine, and likes to talk about how his father-in-law would tell stories about how strong this building is, how deep the piles are, how impenetrable the concrete is of this building built for our country’s national bank when our country’s stature, our country’s self-image was that of top of the heap, or near the top of the heap, here in Asia. 

And here we are, 50 years later, looking at Bloomberg, looking at Wall Street Journal, reading with eyes popping out of their sockets, that our country is once again near the top of the heap.

Earlier this year, a few days before the Feast of the Black Nazarene, or the Traslacion of the Black Nazarene, in early January this year, fire struck the PNB.  Our own Black Nazarene, our own immaculate conflagration.  I say immaculate, because there is an almost immaculately clean line between the burnt upper half and the white lower half.

Is the glass half empty, or is the glass half full?

The PNB in the context of Escolta is a kind of prototype for the high-rise in the city.  I believe that the intelligent development of the high-rise in intelligent and respectful dialogue with its context is one of the keys of our future.

We cannot continue to expand our cities into our rice fields, into our forests, into our mountains, into our hills.  That will be the death of us.  It has already become the hunger of us. 

We must contain our expansion within the confines we have already established, within the horizontal parameters of our cities.

And our cities are an expression of not just our future but our past.

We have no other past than the past we have.  We cannot make up a past, though some may try.  We must engage with the past because, as many of you may have noticed, the present is inextricably linked to the past.  The future is inextricably linked to the present.   Past, present and future are man-made constructs in an ineffable reality called Time. 

ICOMOS, that imaginary ancient Greek word that could mean “the cultural significance that comes with the passing of time” is a precious resource.

Click on this link to view speech on the ICOMOS Philippines YouTube channel.