I was asked by Rene Gatlo and Dr. Cuanang of Sitio Remedios to make a statement regarding the lastest controversy hounding the City of Laoag today. Apparently, culturally challenged Pure Gold Mall owner Lucio Co (along withe the blessings of Laoag government and the local Catholic Hierarchy) will be destroying the American-era Laoag Elementary School near the town plaza to erect one of Co's hideous Dark Green box type malls.
Apparently, Ilocos Governor Mike Keon and a few concerned Ilocos citizens are up in arms and are desperately pleading with the town council to pass a heritage ordinance so that demolition can be delayed and the project given further study. Rene will present to the council my short message illuminating how heritage can be a source of income and how heritage can actually be profitable for all - and not just for a few.
Please consider this letter as an appeal to rethink your approach towards the project being done at the Laoag Central Elementary School. Not only are you destroying an irreplaceable heritage structure and scarring the beautiful Laoag urban landscape, but you are also destroying a great income generating tourism/commercial opportunity.
As a tour guide of Intramuros for the last six years, I can tell you first hand about the benefits one can gain from heritage sites and structures. Using only the history of Intramuros as my script, and the structures of Intramuros as my stage, I have been able to build a personal business that not only pays taxes, but also provides livelihood for others. My tours provide/complement the employment of kalesa drivers, taxi drivers, restaurateurs, museums, retail establishments, and fellow tour guides. And the driving force for why thousands of tourists - and publications like Time Magazine, Travel and Leisure, and Vogue Espana - flock to my tours in Intramuros is precisely because of Intramuros' historical value and heritage structures.
Now, I do understand that there is a need for income to be generated and employment created, but there are more sustainable and creative ways to do this than by obliterating a valuable cultural icon. By taking pride in one's culture, everyone benefits and a society gains respect. Replacing Laoag Central Elementary School with a mall will only benefit - well, the mall owner at the end of the day. Simultaneously, it also projects the image that Laoag citizens have no respect for their culture - and ultimately, no respect for themselves.
Please rethink what you are doing. There are more ways to gain employment and generate income than by sacrificing the Laoag Central Elementary School.
Now, I totally doubt they would give a half rat's ass about what my opinion is, but at least I tried.