Heritage conservationists push for the preservation of the old Spanish district in Naga

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Irvin P. Sto. Tomas is a community organizer, cultural activist, poet, photography enthusiast and a Wikimedia volunteer since 2006 from the Philippines. Currently, he serves as board treasurer of the Commons Photographers User Group and a member of the ESEAP Preparatory Council.

Heritage conservation groups with Naga City mayor Nelson Legacion
Nueva Caceres Heritage Movement Inc, United Architects of the Philippines – Camarines, and PhilWiki Community with the Naga City mayor Nelson S. Legacion and his staff

For many years, various interest groups have been initiating several advocacy activities, including symposia, photography and cultural walks, and awareness campaigns pushing for the conservation of cultural heritage of Naga City, Camarines Sur in the Philippines.

Recently, representatives from the public sector including the officers of the Nueva Caceres Heritage Movement Inc., United Architects of the Philippines – Camarines, and the Philippine Wikimedia Community Inc. had a dialogue with the city authorities on the city’s plan to rehabilitate the public plaza named after the Philippine Commonwealth president Manuel L. Quezon. The heritage conservation groups presented its proposed master development plan of the Nueva Caceres Heritage District. The proposed design of the new plaza was also presented by the City Engineer’s Office.

Last October, NCHMI, PhilWiki Community, Centro Naga Business Club, UAP – Camarines, Sumaro Bikolnon cultural organization, the city government and several academic institutions collaborated in hosting a dinner-lecture celebrating the 437th founding anniversary of Ciudad de Nueva Caceres. Dr. Danilo M. Gerona in his lecture on Revisiting La Ciudad de Nueva Caceres talked about the glorious past of the former Spanish royal city in Asia. He delivered a comprehensive presentation supported with documents from Archivo Franciscano Ibero Oriental, Museo Naval, Real Academia de la Historia and Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid, and the Archivo General de Indias in Seville.

According to Wikipedia, Nueva Caceres was established in 1575 by order of Spanish Governor-General Francisco de Sande. The city, then named Ciudad de Nueva Cáceres (New Cáceres City), was one of the Spanish royal cities in the Spanish East Indies, along with Manila and Cebu. With the advent of American rule, the city was reduced to a municipality and became officially known as Naga.

In the online petition Save Naga City’s old Post Office and Provincial Jail from Demolition! started by NCHMI on Change.org, the page has gathered 1,218 signatures in support of the appeal to save the Administracion de Coreo (circa 1826), which served as the provincial jail and is one of the remaining built heritage in the city. The signatories strongly oppose the de-listing of this historical structure from the Philippine Registry of Cultural Property (PRECUP). Last year, PhilWiki Community and the Commons Photographers User Group conducted a photography walk dubbed Wiki Takes Nueva Caceres within the old business district as part of the satellite events during Wikimania 2022. The participants managed to document the remnants of a Spanish-era architectural structure before the clearing and developing of the property by its owner.

In 2018, as part of the Wiki Loves Monuments photography contest, Architecture students of Bicol State College of Applied Sciences and Technology (BISCAST) conducted a photo walk with the theme “LITRATO: Capturing The Historical Growth Through Synergy of Cultural Diversity.” The Bikol Wikipedia Community in partnership with the city government among others, organized a similar activity called Wikipedia Takes Naga, in celebration of the 5th Bikol Wikipedia Day with the aim to increase the coverage of free licensed photographs involving the city of Naga back in 2012.

Happening on 17-19 December 2023 is the WikiCommons Philippines Conference with the theme “Preserving Our Heritage: Safeguarding Digital Assets Through Wikimedia” organized by PhilWiki Community in collaboration with Commons Photographers User Group, the Naga City Government, University of Nueva Caceres Museum, Ateneo de Naga University – ADNU Social Sciences Department, and Camarines Sur Polytechnic College – CSPC Center for Rinconada Culture and The Arts. During the opening day, Mr. Ian Christopher Alfonso, Officer-in-Charge – Research Publications and Heraldry Division (RPHD) of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, will give a presentation on “Liberating Philippine Historical Sources” while Mr. Juan Paolo Suzara, president of the Naga City Museums Association, and the curator of UNC Museum will present a talk on “Youth Engagement in Heritage Conservation.”

The 3-day national conference on Wikimedia Commons, an open educational resource, will bring participants from different Wiki Loves photography contests, photography enthusiasts and heritage advocates together to strengthen collaboration and better understand the issues faced among the contributors, and to look for solutions.

WikiCommons PH Conference happening on December 17-19, 2023 in Naga City

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