GENERAL TRIAS CITY, Cavite – Villagers here have thanked advocates for creating the needed buzz that finally called the attention to their old bridge but some 50 members of the General Parents-Teachers Association (GPTA) of Governor Ferrer Memorial National High School (GFMNHS) at Buenavista II village here are also worried that lobbying for the bridge’s cultural preservation might lead to the stoppage of the Department of Public Works and Highways’ (DPWH) project.
The GPTA, led by its president Ricardo Poliante, village officials and students, requested PNA over the weekend to also hear out their side after PNA ran a story on the advocates’ call for the preservation of what was used to be known as ‘Camaren/Camarin’ (dressing, storage room) and now called ‘Buenavista’ (good view) bridge.
DPWH District 1 Engineer Oscar Dela Cruz earlier said that the old bridge would be ‘partially affected’ by the ongoing construction of the new Buenavista bridge.
Right now, the students and residents make use of a single lane Daly bridge with metal fencing installed on the sides to restrict the number of people passing by.
But even the Daly bridge being used by the public now shows signs of wear and tear.
“Me kalawang na sa ilalim” (There is rust underneath),” said Councilman Danilo Fortun, a village resident since 1964.
It was installed in 2013 when Typhoon Maring rendered the old Buenavista bridge impassable due to flood, Fortun said.
As to the old bridge’s state, the total weight of people that could pass on it started to be restricted in 2000.
“Kasi umuuga na siya (It was already shaking), said Councilman Rodel Juliano.
But prior to this restriction on pedestrians, Juliano said the old bridge had already been a ‘no entry’ for vehicles since the 1990s.
“So kung preservation ang gagawin, dapat nuon pa, ngayon sobrang damaged na ang bridge (If we opted for preservation, it should have been done long time ago, the bridge is now badly damaged),” he said.
A major access for the community, students and teachers even made use of a village hall as their temporary classroom for two months, until the Daly bridge was finished, said Master Teacher Marilie C. Dimapilis.
School head Melinda A. Tapawan, on the other hand, stressed their value and love for the bridge.
In fact, they have a school paper named “Ang Tulay”, because “if not for it (the bridge) we won’t be able to go to school.”
But will DPWH demolish the old bridge?
The new bridge will be 20 meters high, a bit higher than the old bridge, according to DPWH.
Engr. Dela Cruz is keen about finishing the project by 2018.
“Kasi cash basis na tayo, back to zero kami (referring to budget), ibabalik ang hindi namin magagamit na pondo.” (Because we are on cash basis now. We are back to zero, and we have to return all unused funds to the national government),” he said.
As far as the village folks and school community are concerned, they have no idea on any plan to demolish the bridge.
“Ang alam nga namin, base sa pagtatanong ko sa DPWH dati, eh hindi sisirain,” (Based on our conversation with DPWH, it will not be demolished),” Potante said.
Advocates' call to preserve
On Aug. 3 (Monday,) heritage advocates, led by De La Salle University Dasmariñas (DLSU-D) Associate Professor Jeffrey Alfaro Lubang, initiated a public move via social and traditional media to save the village’s Hispanic bridge.
Cong. Ferrer immediately made the appeal to the DPWH to spare as much as it can (of the bridge), without losing the viability of the project.
Lubang and four other apolitically-aligned members were conducting a cultural mapping of General Trias, from a National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) grant where fund was channeled through the local government unit (LGU), in this case, the city government of General Trias.
Lubang, who serves as the team’s historian, is working with DLSU-Manila Cultural Arts Director Glorife "Jill" Soberano Samodio – the Project Director, and Mark Parin Dela Cruz, a graduate student of University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, together with unnamed Architect and Civil Engineer, both teaching at DLSUD, who managed the ‘technical expertise’ aspect for this NCCA-funded cultural mapping.
Lubang, Samodio and Dela Cruz are all from General Trias.
Lubang shared that his group made the discovery of the said bridge as they were wrapping up the leg work and learned from local residents that it will be totally demolished “to pave the way for a new and safer bridge”, which was why they banded together and mobilized to save the bridge.
Lubang said his group “were the proponents of this initiative as we felt it as a moral and civic obligation to do something for our town, until we stumbled upon these bridges...and we never looked back since”.
When verified with Charles Salazar, NCCA Cultural Heritage Section Head, the grant was initiated and given to the LGU.
“Mayor Antonio A. Ferrer submitted a proposal, for the development of General Trias built heritage inventory, and was approved last year,” Salazar said.
The PHP200,000 grant was given to General Trias City, as ‘per NCCA laws, the said grant can only be given to LGUs,” added Salazar.
The LGU proposal is not for cultural mapping but simply an inventory of the built heritage in the municipality, Salazar said.
But Samodio explained that the team, on their initiative and “not part of the grant, is doing our cultural mapping, as we are doing the rounds anyway.”
Government issuances on cultural preservation
A DPWH Department Order (DO 138 s. 2014) was issued on Dec. 1, 2014 on the "Consideration for Historical Sites and Structures in the Preparation of Design Plans and Additional Construction Affecting Cultural Heritages" which specifies that to ensure proper protection and preservation of our cultural identity and patrimony, and to avoid unnecessary delays, revisions and alterations during construction, all Regional Offices/Project Management Offices/District Engineering Offices, are hereby directed to consult and coordinate with NCCA in conducting feasibility studies for the design or improvement of infrastructure projects.
Another DPWH Memorandum Circular No. 2 s. 2018 was issued in April this year directing all building officials and city/municipal engineers “to consult, with the NCCA and the national cultural agencies (NCAs) prior to any issuance of permits/certificates for any proposed construction, renovation, retrofitting or demolition activities of existing buildings/structures declared as cultural heritage structures or near or adjoining any such heritage structure/s or heritage site/s in their areas of jurisdiction.”
Likewise, Section 34 of General Appropriations Act of 2018 on the Protection of Built Heritage, Cultural Properties and Cultural Landscapes states that alteration, renovation or demolition of government buildings and open spaces declared or presumed to be important cultural properties by government cultural agencies concerned shall be undertaken only upon prior approval of the said government cultural agencies and proper consultation with stakeholders and cultural groups to be administered by the NCCA. This includes the protection of the sight line with regards to built heritage, cultural properties and cultural landscape.
In addition, the DPWH shall be responsible in the planning, design, construction and maintenance of national roads and bridges as they impact on heritage structures or aspects or heritage conservation pursuant to R.A. No. 10066.
However, the Buenavista or Camarin/Camaren bridge has not been declared a historical landmark although it could be a candidate as a built heritage (per RA 10066 otherwise known as the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009).
The ongoing DPWH bridge construction project started in May of 2016 and budget was said to be approved since 2013..
Hearing out the pleas
On Monday, Samodio stepped in to campaign for a win-win resolution of the issue.
“We support the locals’ plea but if the DPWH bridge project can be done without touching the bridge, then there will be no more argument or discussion,” he said
“If the ongoing DPWH bridge work will, in any way, damage the old structure due to its design, we need their commitment to restore the affected part, under the guidance of course of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, or NCCA,” Samodio added. (PNA)