We are in danger of losing another of our country’s remaining cultural landmarks. On Jan. 8, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) posted an official notice about a petition filed to delist the Pao Ong Hu Taoist Temple as an Important Cultural Property (ICP).
Pao Ong Hu Taoist Temple is located at 2502 B. Lamayan Street in Santa Ana, Manila—just behind the Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados Church. Declared an ICP by the National Museum in 2016, it was reportedly sold to an anonymous buyer in November 2019.
According to the law, establishments declared as ICP have “exceptional cultural, artistic and/or historical significance” to the country. This shall be determined by the National Museum and/or the National Historical Institute. Works by people declared as Manlilikha ng Bayan, national artists and national heroes are among those qualified to be ICP, alongside archaeological and traditional ethnographic materials and structures that have historical markers, or are at least 50 years old.
However, owners or stakeholders of establishments declared as ICP may file a petition to NCCA to delist their property and revoke its protected status under the National Cultural Heritage Law.
Being an ICP is important to most heritage sites because it protects them from damage, modification and demolition under Republic Act No. 10066 or the National Cultural Heritage Law. In fact, earlier news of the temple’s sale raised fears about the building’s impending demolition.
Tasked with jurisdiction on the matter, NCCA included in its notice that anyone “adversely affected” by the petition to delist the temple as an ICP have until Jan. 29 to send their written support or opposition to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
According to Manila Heritage Tours Sta. Ana (MHTSA) tours director Boyet Magale in 2019, the setup of Pao Ong Hu Taoist Temple and Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados Church is unique because these are “two different worship centers built in the early period side by side.”
The MHTSA also wrote in November 2020 that the Taoist temple “could be the oldest and the last (if not the only) Chinese temple in the land built right beside a 17th-century Catholic church, where future generations could still learn and personally experience how syncretism transpired in the country and could still be much alive today and the years to come.”
Aside from sharing fears over the possibility of the building’s demolition, the MHTSA also called attention to reported water leaks in the building which are gradually but continuously destroying the structure.