A Million Dollar Aid for the Walled City

By Vince G. Lopez – Intamuros is about to regain its old prestige as the center of heritage and history with a possible million dollar aid from the Global Heritage Fund (GHF).

The walled city of Intramuros propelled the Philippines into globalization during the Spanish period. Since then, it has become a vital part of the country’s history and culture. Though it has been frequently restored through the efforts of the Intramuros Administration, the walled city is still in need of financial and technical assistance to expand its tourism potential.

“The Philippines is in danger of taking away something very important from the next generation. History and culture provided by the heritage site such as Intramuros can possibly be a distant memory if we don’t do something about it. Through this project we can be assured that such a thing will not happen,” said John Hurd, GHF International Conservation Director.

The Global Heritage Fund Mission is a distinguished non-profit conservation group that provides assistance to developing countries in preserving their cultural sites. The group has recently pledged technical and financial aid to the Department of Tourism for the preservation of Intramuros.

The GHF’s financial and technical aids are not the only means of assistance being provided by the group. They will also help in fundraising activities and sourcing out help from stakeholders in culture preservation.

The formal commencement of the project was recently held during the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between GHF International Conservation Director John Hurd and DoT Secretary Ace Durano in Ilustrado Restaurant in Intramuros.

“As one of the country’s significant cultural heritage icons, Intramuros needs a long-term and systematic preservation program to protect its centuries-old structures and collections. The assistance of the respected Global Heritage Fund enables both the DoT and Intramuros Administration to adopt an internationally recognized conservation methodology in preserving the walled city,” said Durano.

The GHF will send its technical team later this year for a feasibility study of Intramuros. The GHF team will then finalize the kind of aid it will provide the historic city. The group is internationally renowned for its intensive conservation methodology called “Preservation by Design.” This approach includes site management, planning, scientific conservation and community development of areas deemed as endangered heritage sites.

“Heritage site preservation has been a challenge for countries like ours which have modest resources. With environmental effects, climate changes and other causes beyond our control, our heritage sites do need all the support especially from experts like the GHF,” expressed Eduardo Jarque, Jr., Tourism Undersecretary for Planning and Promotion.

The grant will be used for the restoration of San Ignacio Church, which will be the future site of Museo de Intramuros. The said museum will showcase 7,000 pieces of furniture, jewelry and ecclesiastical art that belong to the Intramuros Administration. Some of the grant will be used for other renovations needed within the walled city including redesigning its facade.

The grant was made possible by the San Francisco-Manila Sister City Committee (SFMSCC) serving as a liaison for the Philippines and the GHF. The SFMSCC serves as a preeminent cultural and economic link between San Francisco and Manila. It has organized business and cultural missions to the Philippines in the past years.

“Hopefully, the conservation and preservation (of Intramuros) will bring back the Filipino’s interest in our own heritage sites, initially providing an enticing destination for Filipinos, then later on as a place where tourists can enjoy the history and culture of the Philippines,” concluded Durano.

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