Historical Mt Province provincial capitol

>> Friday, October 7, 2016

Gina Dizon
(First of two parts)

BONTOC, Mountain Province -- Looking forlorn and deserted, the site of the demolished part of the provincial capitol building here is a bone of contention for  officials and local folks whether a new building shall be built on the site now used as a parking lot, or whether to let it stay this way on a ghostlike lot.
The next question is whether to demolish the other half currently used as the provincial capitol or preserve it.
It is a pathetic site with the torn half of the capitol used as office of the governor, administrative quarters and basement as the treasury.    
The past provincial administration’s leadership was in a state of helplessness to push through with fully demolishing the building with a cease and desist order looming. 
Building  a new one since half part of the capitol was demolished  April 2013, even as it was backed by a resolution from the previous Sangguniang Panlalawigan authorizing  the late governor Leonard  Mayaen to pursue the project proved to be difficult.
With the new leadership under the watch of Gov. Bonifacio Lacwasan, it may also be the same unless there is a strong decision to go about things and build a complete one.
As it is, the cease and desist order issued by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines chairman Maria Serena Diokno in April 2013  stopped the demolition of the other half of the building prompted by opposing individuals and women of Bontoc. 
The capitol building carries a cultural and historical significance in accordance to Republic Act 10066 or the National Heritage Act of 2009 which provides structures more than 50 years old are “important cultural property buildings”.
One contested issue is the non-incorporation of the historical features of the old capitol building in the modern architectural and structural design of the supposed plan of the former leadership.
 Mayaen then wanted to build a 3-storey structure with an elevated entrance  to house a parking space at the basement to also serve as an assembly site for flag raising ceremonies doubling as a parking space. An entrance and exit leads inside and outside from the ground floor at both sides of the ground floor of the building like how it now shows. 
The supposed new structure was designed  to house the governor’s office at the left side and adjacent  administration offices, unit offices in the center and the legislative quarters on the second floor. At the 3rd floor is the plenary hall of the legislative office and adjacent is the vice governor’s office at the right side of the building.
At the left side is the conference hall and the middle is a department office on the third floor. The fourth level is designed to build the attics and a dome to reflect light on the ground floor. At the ground floor are two wide department units to serve as offices measuring 180 square meters to be found in both sides
Former governor Jaime Gomez has no question of how the offices inside shall look like and be used for, although he is concerned about the façade of the building on its front appearance -- a two- story building looking like the old one complete with a wide veranda, brick like structures on its columns and walls, and attics which currently shows in the undemolished half of the capitol building. 
In the same wavelength, former governor and now Rep. Maximo Dalog considers the capitol a historical monument that composes a “jewel” of the past.
Particular about following what the law says, lawyer by profession Dalog, a lawyer refers to Republic Act 10086 of 2010 on strengthening people’s nationalism and history on preserving  the capitol.
As provided in said RA 10086, “conservation”  refers to “all processes and measures of maintaining the cultural significance of a cultural property including, but not limited to, physical, social or legal preservation, restoration, reconstruction, protection, adaptation or any combination thereof”.
Dalog said the law mandates a return of the capitol building to its original state and preserving its physical condition by introducing technical interventions to conserve the capitol.
RA 10086 says it is “preservation to all activities that employ means to control, minimize or prevent damage or deterioration to cultural property; and restoration  to the action taken or the technical intervention to correct deterioration and alterations and return cultural property to its original state or condition.”
This practically means retaining the undemolished half of the historical building, preserving it, incorporating  new or simulating material if needed and keeping the  history alive and what remains from remnants of the past through technical means.  Otherwise what is there to preserve or to ‘restore? And that also means a return of the old look of the demolished one.
But with the looks of it, the new plan does not retain the old design. There is no veranda in the new plan, the columnar designs are done away with and it’s a 3-storey modern building, although attics would be in place.
Which brings us to the question of retaining the old structural design.
The National Heritage Act of 2009 and the Peoples Nationalism and History Act of 2010 are more than what these want to convey. 
The capitol then known as the Bontoc Government Building was built in 1909 at the turn of the century after the Americans took over the establishment of a civil government following General Emilio Aguinaldo’s capture on March 1901. The Lepanto-Bontoc province was divided into three sub-provinces namely Bontoc, Lepanto and Amburayan, each having its own governor. The Philippine Commission passed Act No. 1870 in 1920 organizing the (old) Mountain Province composed of seven sub provinces-Bontoc, Lepanto, Amburayan, Ifugao, Kalinga, Benguet and Apayao-which were then military commandancias during the Spanish regime. Bontoc was made the capital sub-province and the Bontoc Government Building was the structure to hold office.
Former governor Jaime Gomez now in his 80’s, holds a strong historical position  on significance of the veranda at the capitol. The veranda was then made of  pine wood was used as resting space by visiting constituents from Lepanto, Amburayan, Kalinga, Ifugao, Apayao, Benguet  after a long hike from their hometowns. They had to sleep on the wooden floors of the veranda to meet officials the next day or to continue their business.
“Those were the early days of the turn of the century when there were no inns or big houses to accommodate visitors coming to Bontoc,” Gomez said.
The capitol was a symbol of power as Bontoc was then the seat of governance of the province and building housed the administrative and political functions.
The veranda was more than a physical veranda. Attached to the capitol, it held a historical background of the making of Bontoc as capital town where people from different provinces then converged.
It is a story worth talking about and celebrating in the history of Mountain Province including significant days when the joint Lang-ay festival and the founding anniversary is celebrated every April 7.
It is a veranda where people from the then undivided Mountain Province converged to sleep for the night or sit to wait to talk with officials of the province. The veranda today continues to be a lobby for people to sit and wait for their time to talk with the Governor.
April 7 marked the day when the Provincial legislative Board in 1967 passed the first resolution declaring the birth of a new district and separate Mountain Province. Proclamation 144 was then signed by former president Fidel Ramos declaring April 7 as the Mt Province Foundation Day. 

And so it is on the first week of April when Mountain Province people composed of the five major tribes-Kankanaey and Aplai from western and southern Mt Province, Bontoc from the northern part of the province, Balangao and the Baliwon from the eastern part congregate to celebrate their oneness and distinction as diverse tribes of Mountain Province. 


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