Editorial: Savoring heritage

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

ON MAY 30, participants of “Gabii sa Kabilin (GSK)” face a most daunting challenge: how do you visit 35 heritage sites and museums in six hours?

When it was initiated by the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (Rafi) eight years ago, there were only three destinations. It was more than possible to dawdle around the sites—the longer, the better to steep into Cebu’s living past.

Enthusiastic word of mouth about the GSK event, bolstered by growing cultural awareness in the public and aggressiveness of local stakeholders in pursuing cultural promotion and education, has fixed the GSK as a prominent feature in Cebu’s observance of International Museums Day on May 18 and National Heritage Month in May.


Sampling the past

This year’s GSK ticket unlocks access, from 6 p.m. to midnight of May 30, a broad spectrum of 35 landmarks, ranging from the prominent to the less known and intriguing, such as the Iglesia Filipina Independiente Cathedral of the Sto. Niño, JRG Halad Museum, Fo Guang Shan Chu Un Temple, Sugbu Chinese Heritage Museum, Anthill Fabric Gallery and Aliño Brothers Monument.

Success brings fresh challenge. So how can one participate in the GSK without turning the whole experience into a mind-numbing crash course on the rise of Cebu, the Queen City of the South, this year’s theme?

Rafi and Innopub Media came up with an application that GSK guests can download on their smartphones. Rafi communications specialist Rene H. Martel e-mailed that with this application, guests can know more about the sites and plan their itinerary for the six-hour duration of GSK.

The key to enhancing the GSK experience is careful selection of the sites to visit, pointed out Dr. Jocelyn Gerra, Rafi Cultural and Heritage Unit executive director.

Althea Maye Ragpala, Rafi intern, also reported in Sun.Star Cebu last May 24 that a GSK magazine guide in participating sites details the schedule of service buses so guests can plan their routes.


Gerra’s best advice, though, is for GSK guests to talk to their neighbors in the bus.

If there is an essential lesson to be gleaned from history and culture, it is the connectedness of living past, present and future.

The horse-drawn “tartanilya” that brought past GSK guests from one destination to another did not just underscore local color but also jostled passengers into a reminder that protecting and promoting culture requires all stakeholders—from local governments to private institutions, tourists and residents—to act as one community.

The tourist’s truncated pursuit of novelty and transitory entertainment is not only misplaced but also inimical to culture and heritage. This may be as mindless and mean as littering, vandalizing landmarks or disrespecting local sensibilities.

An addiction to spectacles also imposes blinders on those who only appreciate the past when it is gussied up to seem trendy and piquant. Behind events like the GSK and the “Suroy-Suroy” tours organized by the Cebu Province should be an intention to educate and ignite in the apathetic a spark that can flare up into deeper interest and involvement in heritage.

The “Museums at Night” spectacle held in the UK is a three-day festival that opens museums, galleries and other heritage sites after hours. In 2013, organizers learned that the festival’s special events resulted in 97 percent of the visitors being inspired to visit other heritage and arts venues, reported museumsatnight.wordpress.com.

Three percent of these visits were made by those who had never been to an arts or heritage venue before participating in the “Museums at Night.”

Twenty-nine percent of the visits were initiated by people who were visiting a site for the first time.

As important as it is to chat with fellow travelers in between destinations, the GSK’s legacy may be to leave visitors wanting for more. One need not wait for next year’s GSK.

Boarding a bus for beyond the city, stepping out of a bus to explore a sleepy town, blogging, phlogging or vlogging about local history, not urinating against a wall that looks older than time, modernizing without sacrificing ancient trees—so limitless are the manifestations that attest one is dwelling in the past, and savoring every bit.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 26, 2014.


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