Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween? (Or that other day of the year)

(This column appears in today's editon of the Leyte-Samar Daily Express)

Hi there! It’s another weekend. And yes, the signs are all over the place, everyone (well, almost) is greeting everybody Happy Halloween! Whew! It’s that other day of the year again. Anyway, more on that later.

Let’s pan our sights to Afghanistan. So what about that land of the Taliban and the famous Bactrian gold? Forget about the casualties of ambushes and suicide bombings. Things must be normalizing there. How can I say that? Well, they are accusing Karzai of irregularities in the recent polls. And yes, there’s going to be another election! (Oops, smile, it’s a weekend!)

A year ago this week: Miriam was among those IN the news, thanks to the Senate hearings on the euro generals; and so was Bolante and the media scramble during his arrival at the NAIA. So what about them? Thanks to the events in the past 12 months, yup to include Mar and Korina’s wedding, it seems like those issues will remain just that – issues and have nowhere else to go. Well, es la vida.

* * *

Mayor Mel Sarmiento is back from Japan. He planed in last Wednesday after attending the 2nd 3Rs Conference for Asian Local Government which was held in Fukuoka City, Japan last October 25 – 26, 2009.

The conference brought together officers of local governments with the aim to build stronger partnerships and promoting the importance of 3Rs activities in Asia.

Mayor Sarmiento’s traveling expenses were paid for by the organizers which included the Japan Environmental Sanitation Center (JESC), the Ministry of Environment, Fukuoka Prefectural Government, Fukuoka City Government and the Kitakyushu City Government.

Prior to his departure, Mayor Sarmiento informed the City Officials that no local funds are involved in his travel as the organizers have shouldered his traveling expenses. He further informed the city officials that his attendance in the said activity shall be greatly beneficial to the City Government as the program will have participation from other Asian countries who will discuss issues on the 3Rs; and that the opportunity to share with these representatives' problems related to the city's environment may open the door for possible sources of funding for the LGU's local environmental projects and logistical assistance for its other programs and initiatives.

* * *

So, we are into that other day of the year again. Tomorrow a good number of kids, as well as young (and not-so-young) people will be partying again and giving the costume providers some livelihood. It’s the celebration which I was never inclined to be a part of. Let me give you once again what I wrote in my column around this time last year:

If you have been following my columns, you ought to know that Valentine’s is what I refer to as ‘that day of the year’; and Halloween is ‘that other day of the year’. So, what’s with Halloween? It happens every year when I see signage all over the place greeting everyone Happy Halloween! That’s one greeting which makes me feel uneasy. After all, this day of the year is something that has to do with the dead and / or the supernatural. After ranting about it for the past few years, I have decided that it’s time to share what I got from encarta.msn.com. Here I go:

Halloween is a holiday observed on the evening of October 31 in most areas of North America and in some areas of Western Europe. The holiday is symbolically associated with death and the supernatural. Halloween falls on the eve of All Saints’ Day, also known as Allhallows or Hallowmas, a holy day in the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches. Originally a pagan festival of the dead, All Saints’ Day was established by the Catholic Church in the 9th century to honor Christian saints. All Souls’ Day, a holy day established by the Catholic Church in the 10th century, is also closely linked to Halloween. All Souls’ Day, on November 2, is observed to help purify the spirits of the dead.

Halloween is historically related to similar folk holidays celebrated in other countries. The Day of the Dead, a Mexican holiday that coincides with All Souls’ Day, blends Roman Catholic and Native American traditions about the souls of the dead. On the Day of the Dead, Mexicans decorate their homes with playful imagery of animated human skeletons, leave offerings of food for wandering spirits, and tend the graves of their deceased relatives.

Most Halloween festivities are based on folk beliefs concerning supernatural forces and spirits of the dead. Halloween decorations typically feature imagery associated with supernatural beings such as witches, werewolves, vampires, and ghosts. Images thought to symbolize bad omens - such as black cats, bats, and spiders - are also commonly featured in Halloween decorations. The most celebrated Halloween decoration is the jack-o’-lantern, traditionally a hollowed-out pumpkin carved to resemble a grotesque face and illuminated by a candle placed inside. The jack-o’-lantern derives its name from a character in British folktales. According to these tales, the soul of a deceased person named Jack O’ Lantern was barred from both heaven and hell and was condemned to wander the earth with his lantern. Orange and black, colors associated with pumpkins and darkness respectively, figure prominently in most Halloween decorations.

Now, having taken all that, you still feel like partying?

* * *

This is it for now. Have a nice weekend everyone! And yes, Happy Halloween everyone! (Well, if you can’t beat them, join them) Ciao!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Nagpakadati-dati (Part 3)

(This column appears in today's edition of the Leyte-Samar Daily Express)

Hi there! It’s another weekend. My apologies for today’s title. It’s the only way I can get your attention. Anyway today’s column still has something to do with an earlier column (many called it a rant) regarding the project at the Cathedral.

Last Monday, I enumerated the various findings as contained in the Technical Report submitted by the Conservation Specialist Group to Bishop Isabelo Abarquez. It will be recalled that the group was invited by the Bishop to inspect the Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral after some Calbayognons expressed concern about the ongoing LANDSCAPING project. Yup, mga concerned Calbayognon KUNU nga nagpakadati-dati as they were supposedly referred to by some people in the parish.

Anyway, let me now continue with the Conservation Specialist Group’s recommendations:

Recommendations:

1. Short Term Recommendations
  • It is the team’s recommendation that the stripping of the cement plaster be continued since this type of plaster is not compatible with the coral stones, bricks and river stones used on the original fabric.
  • It is recommended that the people involved in the stripping of the cement plaster be educated in the manner of stripping so as not to further damage the disintegrating surface of the bricks.
  • Once stripped of cement plaster, it is recommended that the brick and rubble stone buttresses be re-plastered using lime to ensure the prevention of further decay.
  • Please review the additions, ornamentations of the front facade, as well as the finishes used on the Portecochere so that it integrates homogeneously with the original architecture of the cathedral.

2. Long Term Recommendations
It is highly recommended that the custodians of the Cathedral come up with a Conservation Master Plan with a Preventive Maintenance Program to ensure the manageable conservation of the Cathedral.

  • The Conservation Master Plan should already envision the repair works and interventions, immediate and long term, that are to be undertaken;
  • Review the installation of the Rib-type Galvanized Iron Roof to prevent further leakage. This might require re-installation to correct over-lapping system;
  • Review design of Ceiling system. It is recommended that the cement plaster ceiling be replaced with Marine Plywood once the rotten wood nailers have been replaced.
  • It is recommended that heat insulation should be integrated into the Roof System.
  • An Inventory of all Church Holdings i.e. moveable objects, furniture, retablos, altar table, chandeliers, etc. should be undertaken.
  • It is recommended that a small Interpretation Corner or a small Exhibit of the Interventions being undertaken for the conservation of the Cathedral be put into place. This “media section” makes a brief explanation of what is being done and how the church will look like once all the works are completed.

Let me feature once again the names of the three architects who visited the Cathedral on October 2, 2009:

Professor Eric Zerrudo, the Director of the UST Center for Conservation of Cultural Property and Environment in the Tropics. He is the Administrative Director of Escuela Taller de Intramuros.

Architect Rino Fernandez, Professor at the UST College of Architecture. He is the Academic Coordinator of Escuela Taller de Intramuros.

Architect Carmen Betina Bulaong, Senior Lecturer at the UP College of Architecture . She is the Workshop Coordinator of Escuela Taller de Intramuros.

* * *

Wedding Bells. Armel Custodio and Jane Hambre will get married tomorrow. Fr. Bloi Guiuan will preside over their wedding mass at the Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral. Reception will be held at the CKC Auditorium.

* * *

This is it for now. Have a nice weekend everyone! Ciao!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Nagpakadati-dati (Part 2)

(This column appears in today's edition of the Leyte-Samar daily Express)

Hi there! Do you still remember my rant regarding that LANDSCAPING project at the Cathedral? To refresh ourselves, the LANDSCAPING project which included the tearing of plaster off the exterior buttresses of the cathedral caused some concerned Calbayognons to raise some questions. It turned out that those who complained were featured not in one, but in at least two homilies, as yet another priest castigated them in another sermon during another Sunday mass, you know by saying ini nga mga tawo, imbes nga mamulig, ada lugod an pagparapanreklamo. (I may never complain about the fees at the parish, but certainly not on a heritage structure like the cathedral. Well, the fees are another story)


Back to that complaint. Calbayognons are either nice or mga walang paki. My apologies for saying that. I think that realization hit me during the meeting with the three architects who were invited by the Bishop. They said that they have been to various places around the country because of just that – complaints over “careless” interventions on old heritage structures and / or churches (whew! In this case we have to be thankful then, hindi tayo nag-iisa). They said that the case of Calbayog is something mild compared to other places where in some instance you are talking about case being filed in court. Anyway, back to the project.

Three architects from Ecuela Taller de Intramuros were invited to come over and do some inspection on the project site last October 2, 2009. I got hold of a copy of the technical report which they sent to Bishop Abarquez. The good Bishop gave me permission to feature that report in this column and in my blog.

Let me begin by introducing the three architects who visited Calbayog: Professor Eric Zerrudo, the Director of the UST Center for Conservation of Cultural Property and Environment in the Tropics. He is also the Administrative Director of Escuela Taller de Intramuros; Architect Rino Fernandez, Professor at the UST College of Architecture. He is the Academic Coordinator of Escuela Taller de Intramuros; and Architect Carmen Betina Bulaong, Senior Lecturer at the UP College of Architecture. She is the Workshop Coordinator of Escuela Taller de Intramuros. In case you are wondering what Escuela Taller de Intramuros is, I will be giving you some info about it in my next column.

Some details from the report on initial findings at the cathedral:

  • Inspection of exterior buttresses at southeastern facade (this is the side facing Sen. Pres. Avelino Avenue)
  1. The exterior buttresses at the southeastern façade of the cathedral were stripped of cement plastering. These exposed buttresses are composed of two tiers. The lower tier, being more massive and thicker compared to the upper portion, is of bricks and stone rubble with lime mortar. The upper tier is made of coral stone blocks.
  2. Upon initial inspection by the team, it has been found that the exposed bricks are already disintegrating. Much of its surface has come off with the cement plaster. In view of this, stripping of the cement plaster must be done manually with extra care.
  • Inspection of the Present Church Holdings in the Interior (altar table, retablo, side altars, etc.)
  1. The apse of the cathedral containing the altar and retablo was also inspected. This area is severely altered. From old pictures, it can be determined that the side altars, pulpit, the wrought iron communion rail, the chandeliers and the frescoed ceiling have disappeared. The side and rear wall area has totally different wall treatment from the original. As for the retablo, the positioning of the saints have been altered.
  • Inspection of the Rear Facade
  1. In the exterior facade the team found some remnants of lime plaster on the coral stone blocks. It can then be assumed that the entire exterior wall of the Cathedral was originally plastered with lime.
  2. On the upper portion of the exterior facade wall the team discovered a seal bearing the year of the construction of the church. Unfortunately this year (the year starts with 18) is now partially erased due to the boaring of a hole right in the middle of the seal to receive what looked like a wooden beam.
  3. Flanking this seal are two hexagonal oculus which corresponds to the two windows behind the main retable at the altar area of the Cathedral.
  • Inspection of the Ceiling and the Roof Truss system:
  1. The team also inspected the roof trusses and the ceiling system. It has been determined that the 12”x12” ridge beam and the 8”x8” roof trusses made of molave wood are in very good condition. There are only a few members of the truss system that needs to be replaced.
  2. The ceiling system is comprised of 2”x2” ordinary wood nailers and is covered by cement plaster on chicken wire matting. Much of the wood nailers are rotting away due to leaks on the roof. It has been explained that the rib-type galvanized iron roofing has not been properly installed, hence the leakage.
  3. The cement plaster ceiling is disintegrating at some parts, especially those near the edges where it meets the interior walls. This system, which is heavy and odes not deflect heat coming from the roof, is posing a threat to the safety of the users of the Cathedral due to falling debris.
  • Inspection of the Portecochere, Bellfry and the Front Facade:
  1. The front façade of the Cathedral has been severely altered (based on old pictures). The original austere facade, quite commonplace in the Franciscan order’s architecture, is now lost to the neo-romanesque style adopted in the present facade. Noteworthy is the construction of the Bellfry and Portocochere which are made of modern materials and modern finishes.
to be continued)

* * *

This is it for now. Have a nice week everyone! Ciao!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Happy 61st Birthday Calbayog!

(This column appears in today's edition of the Leyte-Samar Daily Express)

Hi there! It’s going to be a long weekend for Calbayognons as we celebrate the 61st Charter Day Anniversary. Malacañang has proclaimed today, October 16, 2009 as a special non-working holiday in Calbayog by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 1915. Said proclamation was signed by Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita on October 12, 2009.

Today’s celebration will be a low-key one, that’s if we compare it to last year’s celebration when the city turned 60. Today’s events will include the following:
  • 6:00 am – Thanksgiving Mass at the Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral

  • 7:00 am – Flag-raising ceremony / Short Program at the City Hall Stage

  • 7:30 am – Parade

  • 9:00 am – Inauguration of the Calbayog City Sports Center

The short program at the City Hall stage will include the ceremonial signing of the Collective Negotiation Agreement (CNA) between the LGU and URGE-Calbayog. It will be followed by the ceremonial pinning of Calbayog’s Institute for Solidarity in Asia (ISA) Proficiency Seal. Expected to deliver their messages are Congressman Reynaldo Uy and Mayor Mel Sarmiento. Also in the program is the awarding of commendation and cash incentive to Mrs. Lourdes Matan of the Mag-ubay National High School. Ms. Matan was one of the national winners in the 2009 Metrobank Search for Outstanding Teachers.

Calbayog became a chartered city on October 16, 1948 by virtue of R.A. 328 which was authored by then Senate President Jose Avelino and Congressman Agripino Escareal.

* * *

The Department of Education is set to launch "Brigada Eskwela Plus" in Calbayog City. Let me give you part of the report which I got from DYOG’s Eleen Lim:
DepEd Central Office will launch the Brigada Eskwela Plus in Calbayog City tomorrow, October 17, 2009.

DepEd Secretary Jesli Lapus will lead the list of participants to the launching which will include Calbayog City Officials led by Mayor Mel Senen Sarmiento, and DepEd Officials for Region 8.

According to City Schools Division Superintendent Editha Paculan, since the Brigada Eskwela Program which empowers various communities nationwide in helping their schools prepare for the opening of classes in the month of June was very successful, the DepEd deemed it necessary to step up its Program efforts to harness the partnership of over 43,000 public schools with their community stakeholders, and to maximize each community’s potential for participation in the affairs of education through Brigada Eskwela Plus.

The Brigada Eskwela Plus shall focus on three main activities: school maintenance activities through out the school year, community-led efforts to improve student participation and reduce the incidence of drop-outs, and community –led efforts to improve student performance.

During the program-launching, Paculan said that other DepEd Programs implemented together with the community stakeholders will also be tackled, such as the Adopt-a School Program, Project Faces or Facilitating Access to Complete Elementary School, and the very successful Project “Sakay Na,” or Shuttle All Kids and Youngsters Needing Assistance of the city.

Also invited to this event are members of the Local School Board, Parents-Teachers’ Association presidents, Punong Barangays, Barangay Kagawads who chair the education committees, and SK Chairpersons.

Expected to provide entertainment during the whole-day program which will be held at the City Sports Complex are the students of Calbayog City National High School, DepEd Calbayog City Cultural Group, and popular singer Yeng Constantino.

* * *

For my column this Monday, I will give you an update on the restoration (landscaping) project at the Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral.

* * *

This is it for now. Have a nice long weekend everyone, I mean folks in Calbayog! Ciao!

Friday, October 9, 2009

nagpakadati-dati (or how do you do preservation and restoration)

(This column appears in today's edition of the Leyte-Samar Daily Express)

Hi there! It’s another weekend. Let’s go straight to the point today. I’m not in the mood to do some pa-sweet tweetums like making my usual comments (acerbic or not) about things around me. This is late. Today’s topic was supposed to be for last Monday yet.

So, what is it with today’s title? It takes inspiration from one of the priests in Calbayog. During a mass (on a Sunday before last), a priest delivered a sermon castigating some concerned Calbayognons who complained about the “landscaping project” at the Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral. I do not have a transcript or whatever of what that priest actually said. But I was able to get some points from a good number of friends who happen to be in that mass and had to endure listening to that sermon which in a way castigated those who asked questions about that landscaping project.

More or less, the priest supposedly said something like “kun san-o gintikangan na ini nga proyekto, mao man ini nga mga concerned Calbayognons kunu nga manreklamo. Nanu ini nga mga tawo nga nagpakadatidati. Wara ini politika nga proyekto, wara gender, wara race. Kaiha pa sini nga guin para-announce. Nagkunsulta man sini an parish council nga guin duyugan san Obispo.” Or something to that effect was said in the sermon.

It’s sad that I did not write a letter of protest to the Bishop, thus I did not qualify to be called a concerned Calbayohon kunu. Just the same, I was able to air my side to the Bishop and to also to the priest in the parish who is in charge of the project. To be called concerned Calbayognon KUNU is no big deal. But to be branded as nagpakadati-dati is another matter.

Dear Padre, I will not debate with your authority and ability to save souls or at least fish souls out of purgatory and or hell. I will not question your authority on morals and / or morality. I will not question your being our guide in preparation for the life after this one on earth. I will not entertain any small doubt about my faith because my upbringing and my faith taught me to be just that. But if you are going to do something not so nice about a built heritage in Cabayog, that is another matter.

Nagpakadati-dati. Yes, you have been announcing the project for the past few weeks. As far as I know, the announcement I heard was that it’s LANDSCAPING PROJECT. From my very limited knowledge, I understand that landscaping means beautifying the surrounding with plants and yes, the land around a structure, in this case, the Cathedral. I don’t think it should include removing the plaster off the age-old buttresses of the Cathedral. When I asked the architects from Escuela Taller about it, they agreed that it’s not landscaping. Sino yana an nagpakadati-dati?

Nagpakadati-dati. Nangunsulta man kami. My reply is: kanay? And when I asked some members as to what happens after you have exposed the bricks and the limestone (I agree exposing it adds beauty to the structure), the reply I got was either blank stare or a straightforward “dire pa kami maaram”. Let me tell you that you do not just expose bricks and stones - ancient bricks at that. Let me give you something which I got from page 17 of Balangkas, the NCCA Guidebook on the Care of Built Heritage in the Philippines: removing the plaster to show the stone actually hastens its deterioration. And let’s not even discuss why the stone at the Las Piñas church is eroding, simply because of the removal of its plaster.

Nagpakadati-dati. Why will you say wara ini politika, gender, or race? Indeed, when you talk about heritage, or heritage conservation, politics should be farthest from your mind, or so I would like to believe. And what’s with gender and race? And politics in the conservation of a heritage site in Calbayog? After castigating the politicians in the seemingly endless killings in Calbayog a few months ago, now you drag them into this mess?

Nagpakadati-dati. When you do conservation, you follow some steps, important steps if I may add. Let me share with you what I got from Architect/ Professor Tina Bulaong from the U.P. College of Architecture. First, let us inform ourselves that conservation is an extremely complex process involving a team of many professionals, specialists, trades and crafts workers. It is the preservation from loss, depletion waste and harm. It is a planned management of an object, structure or site to prevent its neglect and to prolong its life. It is a continuously documented process, a constant work in progress, multi-disciplinary and reversible.

And how do you go about doing conservation? You have at least six steps:

  1. Valuation
  2. RESEARCH (Historical background, documentation).
  3. Analysis and diagnosis.
  4. Design (Proposed interventions, solutions, programs).
  5. Physical Conservation (Interventions) and
  6. Building Maintenance (Preventive Maintenance Program).

Back to the Cathedral project, you went straight to step number 5. So, nagpakadati-dati an mga nag reklamo? And what happened to the consultations you were telling the mass-goers about?

Okey, you just wanted to show the bricks. So it’s not conservation. Call that landscaping or whatever, there was intervention (and yes did mention the use of maso and thus good portions of the bricks were chipped off?). You are doing intervention on a century-old structure. You should have at least complied with step number 2 before making step number 5 your first step. Well, nagpakadati-dati?

And let us not even start discussing on some guidelines about caring and / or tearing of structures that are more than 50 years old, be that structure a property of the government, the church or any private individual.

I have nothing against you padre. The cathedral is known for the renovations done in the 1960s and old folks can only sigh as to the loss of precious ornaments and the original looks of the structure; and could only wish for its return. Many interventions were made in the years that followed. It’s about time that we do it right.

* * *

Having said all that, I would like to appreciate (Calbayog) Bishop Boy Abarquez for being gracious enough to listen to our queries. I appreciate his invitation for me to attend the consultative meetings last week, first with the Parish Pastoral Council; and the second with the architects from various universities and who are also connected with Escuela Taller. As of the moment the LANDSCAPING work was ordered stopped, pending the recommendation of the three architects namely Professor Eric Zerrudo (of UST), Professor Tina Silao-Bulaong (of UP) and Architect Rino Fernandez (of UST) who visited the LANDSCAPING project site at the Cathedral a week ago today.

* * *

This is it for now. Have a nice weekend everyone! Ciao!

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