Preserving Heritage for Progress: Urban Renewal on the Lines of Heritage Conservation and Cultural Revival
At the heart of downton San Fernando City is the historic poblacion, with remnants of the rich architectural heritage. There was the Baluyut Bridge, Manila’s only link to northern Luzon in early 20th century; the Monumento Ferdinando, representing the people’s struggle and triumph; the old City Hall, the Plaza de Arrozal, and others.
In 1995, San Fernando was still gloomy from the effects of lahar and floods. Remarks one newspaper columnist: “In San Fernando, absolutely no clue exists of its former grandeur.” Fernando culture was fast disappearing. The citizens lacked historical and cultural awareness. And no one realized that the city was celebrating its 250th anniversary in 2004.
In August 2001, the local government unit launched a recovery program to save the historic poblacion and recapture the city’s former glory. The city formulated an urban renewal master plan. Executive orders were issued and ordinances passed to implement the program, which involved large-scale restoration projects and massive information campaign and awareness-raising activities.
The city got the support and participation of rich families, schools, and groups in raising funds. Many monuments approved for restoration or reconstruction were financed by the foundations of rich families. The program has become a tool for progress. An ordinance in 2002 created the City of San Fernando Heritage District to be the center of festivals and cultural activities. Among the agencies that became actively involved were the Department of Education and the National Historical Institute.
Slowly the face of San Fernando has changed. More opportunities for business and investments have been opened. The program has become a model and inspiration for political leaders and aspirants in neighboring local government units, where culture and the arts have been included in their programs and agenda.
This program is recognized as a Trailblazing Program, a finalist for the 2004 Galing Pook Awards.