Sunday, April 07, 2019
6:49 PM |
Myopia as a Challenge in Heritage
Part 11 of the Dumaguete Heritage Series
The problems in heritage and cultural work can be myriad. Each one is complex. Each one demands to be understood in very specific terms. Each one is very much a challenge, some of them not for the faint-hearted.
One such problem is myopia
—the inability to see things properly because of sheer nearsightedness, hence the inability to see a totality of vision. This is an understandable problem if we talk about the regular Juan, because not every one of us has enough information about everything else to make justifiable stands on most things.
But when myopia comes from a politician, it becomes something else. It becomes a warning.
In the March 24 issue of the Dumaguete MetroPost
, where this column will soon land, I read with astonished incredulity the following words from William Ablong, who penned an article titled “Dumaguete’s Presidencia, A Legacy?”
in his column Eye Opener
, where he wrote: “I am just wondering why the city is into this ‘museum thing’ and spending millions when in fact, they know that there are so many Dumaguetnons right now who are hungry, who are jobless, and who are homeless. There are roads that until this time have not been rebuilt or fixed. Will this museum provide the solutions we need?”
He continued: “Can this museum bring food to our table? Can the homeless stay inside that building to have a roof over their heads? So that when it rains, they can take cover? Can the out-of-school children get inside there to obtain a semblance of education? Can our street children have a family they can finally call their own? Can our jobless be finally employed? Can it lower our unemployment rate? Can it improve the skills and knowledge of our underemployed so that they can finally secure better, higher-paying jobs?”
Still more: “Just to be very clear—I am not against working for something that will bring us pride as a people. And I am not against having museums here in the city. I believe, to become a city of refinement, a museum or anything that represents the arts is very much a necessity. BUT, we need to have proper timing. Who can appreciate a museum if more than half of the population do not have food on their tables or are struggling to make both ends meet? For sure, only the rich and the noble can give value to what this museum stands for.”
Usually, in this space, I steer clear of politics, it is not my cup of tea—but since this one touches on a topic closest to things I fight for in Dumaguete City, let me offer a rebuttal.
Ablong happens to be running for mayor of Dumaguete—and this article is clearly a pot shot. But it made me think: IF THIS IS THE TYPE OF PERSON ASPIRING TO BE A LEADER OF THE CITY, WHO NEEDS BARBARIANS AT THE GATE?
Because a city leader who cannot see heritage and culture as part of the very soul of the city he wants to lead clearly does not have that city’s best interests at heart. Ablong calls it a mere “museum thing,” denigrating this worthwhile project to something that sounds like whimsy. He decries the “millions” being spent on the project, when he should know that the City is not spending a single centavo
on this. The funds for the restoration of the Presidencia comes from the coffers of the National Museum, which had allocated a budget for preserving an important architectural heritage designed by the great Filipino architect Juan Arellano. [Truth to tell, we almost lost this budget because the City was a little slow in accepting the invitation of the National Museum. Good thing then that things started changing in 2017, especially with the creation of the City Heritage Council, which is how we are finally getting this much-needed restoration, a fitting project that respects the history of Dumaguete City.]
That restoration budget was allocated precisely for that very purpose, and it would be foolhardy to think that Ablong can ask the National Museum to spend it instead on the problems he highlighted—joblessness, homelessness, education, etc., when those things are not the mandate of the National Museum.
What are the mandates of the National Museum for the country? One of these is to identify heritage buildings, and to set aside money for their preservation, because they are part of our cultural patrimony, and the Constitution provides for that very purpose. In fact, the National Museum is now proposing another round of national funding for a planned restoration of the bell tower or the campanario
, which is now slowly deteriorating because of various causes, including plants taking root in its structure.
What Ablong wants is akin to asking the one government department to set aside part of its budget for another department’s projects. Didn’t he know the intricacies of government project management when he was City Administrator?
It is like scolding the fish for not running the marathon.
It is like begrudging the sun for not rising in the west.
It is like asking a trapo
to be truthful during campaign season.
It is a foolish proposition—and only fools will believe this.
His second paragraph is composed of nothing more than a spewing off of motherhood statements all politicians love to trumpet when they are seeking public office. They are designed to make people shake their heads in commiseration, because they sound beguiling in their portrait of political neglect. Ablong was City Vice Mayor for six years (2001-2007), City Agriculture Officer for ten years (2008-2018), and City Administrator for six years (2010-2016). Not including the Agriculture job, that’s twelve years
. Those are positions of such high power in City Hall, and such roles of great responsibility. He had inroads to power that could have helped solve many of the problems he is now complaining about. He couldn’t even install proper street signs, for twelve years. What did he do about the homeless and the street children in his twelve years combined as City Vice Mayor and City Administrator? What did he do about the garbage problem in his twelve years combined as City Vice Mayor and City Administrator? What did he do about education in his twelve years combined as City Vice Mayor and City Administrator? What did he do about culture and heritage in his twelve years combined as City Vice Mayor and City Administrator?
He talks big about “proper timing.” To quote the popular version of the rabbinic sage Hillel the Elder’s famous aphorism, “If not now, when? If not us, who?” There is no such thing as proper timing when the proper timing is now and is congruent with proper vision. What is proper timing for him? In 20 years, when the Presidencia’s original designs would have been totally erased because of ignorance and neglect?
To be continued...
Labels: dumaguete, heritage, politics
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