248-year-old watchtower temporarily saved from demolition
The 18th century watchtower is a presumed important cultural property
Mar 11, 2019
An 18th century watchtower in Maasin City, Southern Leyte was set to be demolished to make room for a couple of school buildings for Saint Joseph College’s growing population, Inquirer.net reported. But here’s a bit of good news: The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) has temporarily stopped the demolition, citing that the watchtower is a presumed important cultural property.
The demolition of important cultural properties violates the national heritage law of 2009, which protects cultural structures from any kind of demolition, exportation, and modification. The watchtower was completed in 1771 and was “dedicated to San Carlos Borromeo and is one of at least two Spanish colonial edifices in Maasin.”
The report also revealed that the NHCP requested Bishop Cantillas of the Diocese of Maasin “to stop any activity affecting the structure and advised to submit development plans and site map, with respect to the edifice.” Historian Rolando Borrinaga said that the structure “was most likely started by the Jesuits but was finished by the Augustinians in 1768.”
During the Spanish colonial rule, watchtowers were built to strengthen security and protection against local and foreign assailants. It’s said that there are hundreds of watchtowers all over the country during those periods. While most watchhouses were severely damaged over the years, some of them have been preserved by local government units and cultural agencies.
Most watchhouses we see today are, in fact, over 200 years old. Take for example the 429-year-old Bantay Church Bell Tower in Ilocos or the 223-year-old Punta Cruz watchtower in Bohol. The latter used to be a lookout tower built by Spanish colonizers to combat Moro raiders. It’s known to be the “only perfect isosceles-triangle tower-fort structure” in the country.
Though it was heavily damaged in the Bohol earthquake in 2013, the watchtower has been successfully restored. If we only treat forgotten structures like the Maasin watchtower in the same light as Punta Cruz, then we wouldn’t have to constantly worry about our country’s dying heritage structures.
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