The Importance of Cultural Heritage Conservation and the Role of the Education Sector: A San Nicolas Experience
Convinced that understanding one's history and culture is the key to genuine development, the San Nicolas Cultural Heritage Conservation Program was developed in 2004. The program aimed to increase and deepen awareness in the municipality’s rich cultural heritage and at the same time, capacitate and empower cultural workers and target beneficiaries. The program’s slogan "Cultural Heritage, Makakain Ba 'Yan? Maituturo! (Cultural Heritage, Can It be Eaten? It's Taught!)", aims to address the negative perception that there is no means of livelihood in promoting one’s culture.
To jumpstart the program, San Nicolas created its municipal anthem in 2004 entitled, Ili Nagtaudak, which was sung in all important events of the municipality, barangays, schools, and business establishments. The program intensified partnerships with various organizations such as the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the Departments of Education (DepEd) and Tourism (DOT) as well as other stakeholders in the production of instructional modules; preservation of old, historical structures; mapping of cultural heritage, and other related initiatives. The San Nicolas Cultural Heritage Mappers (SNCHM), composed of volunteer teachers, barangay health workers, and municipal officials and personnel, identified and documented the municipality’s cultural heritage resources for development. It also assisted archaeologists from the National Museum in the conduct of archaeological investigation at the Daan nga Ili. The SNCHM and heritage societies in schools ventured on programs to sustain the cultural heritage galleries in schools and barangays.
With the assistance from NCCA, a book was published on the municipality’s folk song and dance, called Agdamdamili, which depicts the way of life of the earthenware workers and the steps in making clay pot. The book was lauded by the NCCA for its novelty and uniqueness, and was endorsed to form part of the Compendium of Philippine Folk Dances. In addition, the municipality supported the updating of the book on the history of San Nicolas by Atty. Manuel F. Aurelio. With the approval of DepEd, the book was integrated in the curriculum of the students to familiarize them with the rich history and culture of the municipality.
Under the program, the Museo San Nicoleño, School of Living Traditions, and the San Nicolas Damili Modular Production Center were established to conserve and promote history and the centuries old damili industry. Renowned 2006 San Nicolense of the Year Awardee and the oldest potter in the municipality, Paulina “Nana Paul” Rangcapan, serves as the cultural master. It is no surprise, the center has become a tourist destination for educational tours.
The program resulted in the revival of traditional industries and crafts, improved awareness on culture and history, and increased youth participation. It had also strengthened the participation of interest clubs in schools, classrooms, and cultural shows. The San Nicolas Cultural Troupe, composed of elementary, high school, and college students, joined various festivals and competitions in the province and the region. Presidential Proclamation No. 1832 was issued on 6 July 2009 which declared 2009 as the Centennial Year for the Reconstitution of the Town of San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte, recognizing the role of San Nicolas in Philippine history and national development, and promoted San Nicolas’ rich cultural heritage.
In December 2015, the conservation efforts of the municipality have taken a significant leap when five of the cultural properties situated in the municipality were simultaneously declared as Important Cultural Properties by the National Museum, namely, San Nicolas Roman Catholic Church including the convent and road-side Via Crucis (Stations ofthe Cross), Municipal Hall (Casa Tribunal), San Nicolas Elementary School (another Casa Tribunal), Valdez-Lardizabal House, and Archaeological Site at Brgy. 24 Sta. Monica (Nagrebcan). These declarations brought an increase in public awareness of the intrinsic part of the patrimony of the Filipino people and created significant tourism activities.
The municipality was further recognized by the Regional Development Council as the Regional Champion in the 2014 Search for LGU Best Practices with its cultural conservation program.