NM turns over key cultural treasures

The National Museum turned over the restored Panglao Watchtower and the St. Augustine Church, two national cultural treasurers impacted by the 2013 Bohol earthquake on Wednesday.

The turnover ceremony in Panglao is a follow up of the ceremonies held in Maribojoc town on Tuesday where the Punta Cruz Watchtower was turned over by the National Museum to local government.

National Museum director Jeremy Barnes was on hand to turnover the two Panglao cultural edifices to Bishop Alberto Uy of the Diocese of Tagbilaran. He was also in Maribjoc the day before to hand the Punta Cruz Watch Tower to the local government on Tuesday.

Secretary to the Cabinet Leoncio “Tuloy” Evasco Jr. gave a brief history lesson about the construction of watch towers in key areas in Bohol.

Bohol has six watch towers built as a network for early warning against raiding marauders who, at that time, shanghaied young people in an early form of human trafficking.

Evasco said during the 16th century, marauders frequently stage raids to kidnap young men or women. The kidnapped young people then sold to the slave trade.

Watch towers in Bohol are located in Loay town, Pamilacan Island, Balilihan town, Dauis town, Maribojoc and Panglao. All of the watch towers have been declared as national cultural treasures.

Evasco said the watch towers were used as a messaging network to bring a message to the Spanish military headquarters about the raiders.

The restoration of the watch towers is a way to preserve the lessons of the past and to make the next generation realize the labor of forefathers that led to the construction of the watch towers.

Evasco said the structures were built with the sweat, tears, and blood of our forefathers who were engaged in forced labor, called the polo system.

Lawmakers in different towns are being urged to create resolutions to protect the national cultural treasures from vandalism and other destructive moves.

CONTINUED SUPPORT FOR OTHER CULTURAL TREASURES

Barnes bared on Wednesday his office asked for more budget from Congress to complete several projects to preserve the national cultural treasurers located in this town.

He spoke to reporters at the sidelines of the turnover ceremonies and the unveiling of the marker at the Panglao town watch tower and the St. Augustine Parish Church.

The watch tower and the church were declared as national cultural treasures by the National Museum.

Both were partly damaged by the 2013 earthquake that shook Bohol. The National Museum funded the restoration efforts not just of the two edifices in Panglao, but several other national cultural treasures identified in the province.

Barnes said the National Museum asked for a budget of P40 million to fund restoration work on several identified national cultural treasures in Panglao town.

Panglao is a fast-rising tourism town located about 22.3 kilometers away from Bohol’s capital Tagbilaran.

The other day, the National Museum turned over to the local government of Maribojoc the Punta Cruz Watch Tower, another national cultural treasure.

Maribojoc is a town located 13.3 kilometers away from capital Tagbilaran.

Barnes said the restoration work would help attract more tourists to the town hinging the tourism attractions on the various heritage sites.

He is excited about the opening of the new airport by next year, and the restoration work should be done on time to receive the surge in the influx of tourists.

Meanwhile, Barnes said the new National Museum branch in Tagbilaran would be opened by Bohol Day in July next year.

The old Capitol building has been transformed into a National Museum branch, which will feature cultural, historical and geological displays about Bohol.

Barnes said the National Museum envisions the facility as a cultural and historical hub for the people of Bohol as well as the visitors.

He said toexpect the new museum to feature more artifacts, which is not displayed in the current museum due to space constraints.

As a hub, the museum has areas for poetry reading and other cultural shows, at the same time can accommodate small programs and gatherings.

WATCH TOWERS’ IMPORTANCE

More than just a security blanket, the watchtowers were used as communication lines sending messages to higher headquarters.

Evasco made a history lecture during the two events as he narrated how the watchtower works in conjunction with the town’s parish church.

The parish church had been built with solid walls as the edifice also doubled as an evacuation center.

People from the town would evacuate to the local parish church to seek shelter both for natural and man-made disasters.

During raids, the watchtower serves an early warning system for the folks. At the same time, the watchtower serves as a disaster risk reduction system. The watchtower helps in keeping the marauders at bay and prevent the young people of the town from being kidnapped, said Evasco.

The Cabinet Secretary said the polo y servicio or forced labor was used for labor to build key structures at that time. Our forefathers were subjected to hard labor or face penalties for refusal. Some families with able-bodied members gave their time to community projects based on this forced labor system.

With the labor and toil of early Filipinos, it only fits to preserve the legacy and the history of these structures as a fitting reminder for future generations. (Dave Albarado)

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