Ex-Presidential house demolition worries Culture and Arts Commissioner

Tacloban City- Situated along T. Claudio Street, the 80-year old Redoña Residence has stood firm as evidence that at one point in the history of Eastern Visayas, the poverty-stricken region was once the seat of government power in a country forcefully involved in World War II.

After American troops grappled against Japanese forces for control over Leyte island in 1944, the Osmena government chose Tacloban as the temporary national capital. Then President Sergio Osmena took up residence in the two-floor wooden home of Margarito Redoña while General Douglas McArthur and other American military officials resided in the Price Mansion located along present-day Justice Romualdez street.

Considered an integral part of the region’s local history, the residence was a validation for the need to have a Filipino-led government at a time when the country was under turmoil as two of the most powerful countries in the world fought to win the right to rule the Philippines.

The demolition of the Redoña Residence came as a shock to many Taclobanons after the structure was torn down last March 7 by Margarito Redoña’s daughter Cristina Pablo, who lamented a lack of government support in preserving the historical site. The demolition has also sparked criticism from noted cultural workers and heritage experts in the region. Among the people who have voiced their complaints is former National Culture and the Arts commissioner Prof. Joycie Dorado Alegre.

Alegre, who hails from both the University of the Philippines and the New York University, was the former chair of the Committee on Cultural Communities and Traditional Art under the Commission and has been vocal of late regarding her indignation over the surprise demolition of the said residence.

“From the standpoint of cultural anthropology, it alarms me to think that the demolition of the Redoña Residence is evidence that our government lacks the awareness to value cultural sites within its purvey and jurisdiction. Shall it then be the norm to allow our heritage sites to fall under ruin, only to have it demolished in the following years?” Alegre tells Eastern Vista.

Alegre also considers the demolition an indicator that the government has policy-based weaknesses in the appreciation of cultural preservation and more so in the promotion of local heritage.

“The demolition of a historically significant cultural property is absolutely lamentable. The local government must put in place strong heritage conservation programs and support systems to fund people’s organizations willing to help in protecting structures integral to our memory as a people” Alegre added.

Existing legislation is, however, available to local government agencies. Laws like the National Heritage Act provide guidelines for the preservation of heritage sites while the Department of Tourism has also made it a practice to provide demarcations to noting the historic value of certain spaces in a city.

On top of the National Heritage Act which grants protection to 50-year old sites and above, a local ordinance from the City Council of Tacloban in 2009 has also mandated the preservation of the Redoña Residence but both laws have since been poorly implemented.

Today, the Redoña Residence still has remnants of the old house. Some wooden posts remain intact and the carvings of Spanish architecture and interior design can still be seen in some dangling window frames from the offcuts of what used to be the second floor.

What has happened to the building speaks volumes of the public’s appreciation over local heritage and the extent government will go to protect it. People like Prof. Joycie Alegre are expecting the demolition and the uproar it caused to be treated as a learning point for officials in power to be more particular about their people’s culture and history.

Photo by: Nestor L. Abrematea

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Eastern Vista

Eastern Vista is an alternative media organization in Eastern Visayas. Stories of people in the struggle for justice and aid after super typhoon Yolanda inspired its creation in 2014. Eastern Vista is also a co-producer of Lingganay han Kamatuoran, a Waray-based radio magazine program airing since 2003. From Eastern Philippines, Eastern Vista shares the news and views from a people rising.

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