Historical Mt Province provincial capitol

>> Monday, October 10, 2016

Gina Dizon
(Second of two parts)

The old Provincial Capitol is one of historical buildings in the province where the columns and the chimney were made of clay-bricks.
The building at the south end then served as official residence of the governor manifested by the demolished fireplace made of bricks.
The 2-storey rectangle-shaped building was protected by brick –made columns and walls at the first floor while the wall and columns of the second floor were of wooden materials.
The sidings of the  capitol building then made of  bricks  speaks of Bontoc once a brick town where able bodied and industrious people from Bontoc then carried clay from the central part of the town including  Samoki  and cooked this into bricks at Eyeb grounds.
The remnants of Bontoc as a brick town then in the early years at the turn of the 20th century are seen in  the Barracks then called Garrison and Saint Vincent’s School.
From colonial architecture of columns and attics come to remind the history  of a province  once part of the United States much as every part of the country holds a colonial past.
The capitol building with itsvery architecture tells the story. And history will unfold of a structural design which tells the story.
The late Architect Rene Luis Mata who heads the college of architecture of the  University of the Philippines (UP) once said during a heritage forum that a place with ‘no old building to see does not have a story to tell.’
Colonial past and beneficial cost
Mountain Province apart from its rich cultural ways  passed from generation to generation  holds proud stories of not having been colonized during the Spanish period and holds too a story of having been a part of the colonization of the country by the United States. That is history that cannot be ignored. Along with the history is a people who came under the beneficial benevolence of the American period with their church, school, and hospital benefitting the people of Mountain Province and other nearby provinces who studied in early schools such as St Mary School in nearby Sagada and All Saints Mission School in Bontoc and  get  treated to hospitals as St Theodore’s in Sagada and get to embrace a new religion as Anglicanism in early churches such as St Mary the Virgin  church in Sagada and  the Cathedral in Bontoc.
The Capitol in Bontoc while it tended to hold office  as a separate entity held political colonial control over the everyday undertakings of governance and stay of foreign presence in this mountainous part of the country. 
And with the country gaining its full independence in July 4, 1946 as the Philippine American  Friendship Day,  people in Mountain Province through their own leaders too led to chart  the people’s destiny within the very halls of the Capitol.  
The old capitol building stands to hold  history in the governance of the province and how the political system then and now leads harmonize the diversity and distinction of each tribe and peoples from the different parts of the province; and attempts to unite issues and concerns into one Provincial concern and resolution.
While it stands to show the colonial architecture such as an attic and colonial past of governance shows the materials in the  walls and posts are made of – bricks made from local clay that comes from the very resources of the locality of the place made by the lot of industrious people. Bricks that will remind the people of the Province that the province is rich in natural resources the people can make use of for their own benefit.
Reconstruction of the capital building were noted in past administrations who altered the looks and material of some parts of the Capitol but retained the façade.
While the frontage was maintained, the right and left wings of the main building were appended in the 1970’s during the incumbency of Gov. Jaime Gomez. The right wing became the office of the governor while the left wing was the office of the vice governor.
In 1989, under the leadership of the late Alfredo “Binky” Lament, Jr. who was then acting governor, the old brick columns at the first floor were changed to concrete but finished with a brick-like design.
The rickety wooden porch or the veranda at the second floor was also rehabilitated during the term of Gov. Maximo Dalog in the early 2000 and the shaky century-old veranda changed to  marble flooring.
And so through the years since the ‘70s, the old Capitol building was  reconstructed with a façade which persisted to be re-enacted with simulated material while conserving the architecture and story of the past.
The two storey seemingly fire hazardous  wooden building built in the 1930s then used for land assessment  and health offices at the back of the Capitol connected to the main building by wooden footbridge was replaced with a four storey concrete modern structure in 2008 to 2009  to accommodate expanding offices and personnel of the provincial government.
What remains to be physical history of Capitol ruins are the wooden floorings of the administrative offices, treasury offices  at the first floor and  galvanized iron (GI) roofings of the now other half  of the Capitol building. This to include  the strong and durable century-old  GI roofings from the demolished other half of the building which may still be kept to be used. 
Over a cup of coffee with some Bontoc folks, Dr Rodel Bagawi  asks what historical façade are we reliving, voicing his  frustration  that the overflowing façade of the Capitol had been destroyed with the building of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan  Hall and the NCIP office at both sides of the landscape fronting  the Capitol. A background similar to the design of the colonial-inspired La Trinidad Capitol with an overflowing view of the highway from the Capitol to Km 5 climbing up to a sight of the mountains of  Benguet.
Bagawi along with other folks then gathered at the coffee table wish there shall be no more structures to be built on the gardens fronting the Capitol building.  
Indeed, for whatever infrastructure to accommodate a growing government personnel may as well be built in other parts of the Provincial lot to leave space for history to talk about, a heritage to cherish, a space for children to play around, a space for people to gather around, and a space to breathe about in the central part of the capital town.
In this  contemporary times  where tourism is the by word of the day and a major source of livelihood, the presence of a Capitol building looking like the Capitol of yesterday would be a  story to talk about the history of Bontoc and Mountain Province. History unfolded. History as it was.
Ruins in other parts of the world remain preserved for purposes of historical legacy serve as tourism attractions. The capitol building is  a tourism attraction by itself.
Provincial architect Noel Fagyan holds a different view. The customary ‘tinuping’ of crazy cut design would be good to get etched on the columnar posts and the attic portraying  the rice granary look showing affirmation of a people who have their own cultural ways and practices they continue to pursue.
What now
Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Anthony Ballug from the eastern town of the Province shares the same view with former governors Gomez and Dalog. That is, to keep the old design with the same two-story building  and a frontage like the old one. 
Governor Bonifacio Lacwasan also wants a complete Capitol building  in place.
And for the funding to build a new one, Lacwasan said the P29 million from the previous P166 million Land Bank loan in 2011 is available for the building of  a new Capitol structure. Bulk of the said P166 million loan by the way was allotted for the construction of provincial roads in towns of the Province years ago and the loan getting paid from the internal revenue allotment (IRA) of the Province.
Is the P29 million enough is the question of some individuals and where to get additional funds if needed is left to incumbent officials to source this out.   
With voices retaining the old architectural design coupled with no proceedings done to either condemn or tear down the old structure, gets the Capitol building rest from its issues  and pursued peacefully for the completion of one.

And with the recent visit of Architect Ma.Luisa Valerio of  NHCP to “inspect and assess the remaining structure for possible restoration, rehabilitation, or development”, sounds promising of retaining the Capitol building’s  historical look  and building a Capitol, one that is complete and durable, a historical and a monumental jewel to be proud of.   


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